Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 21, 2008

Obama Gets the Tartuffe Treatment

It really is striking to see Barack Obama having to  deal with the sticky, gooey, confused and deliberately confusing attacks hurled at him by Hillary Clinton. He is voicing precisely the same kind of exasperated frustration that used to tie Republicans and conservatives in knots when they had to deal with a classic Bill Clinton attack (i.e., that they supported cuts in Medicare when they supported only a cut in the size of the increase of Medicare). The brilliance of a Clinton attack is that it need not be consistent or even logical — what matters is that it can be joined to an easily digested soundbite (“you won’t take responsibility for your vote”) and that there is a tiny sunbeam of truth dwarfed by a giant cloud of delibeate obfuscation. I wrote a piece in 1996 comparing Bill Clinton to Tartuffe, Moliere’s formidable character who used overt and false piety to pursue his own ambitions and assassinate the characters of others while always claiming to be modest and holy. Judging from this debate, Hillary has decided to succeed her husband as the Tartuffe of the Democrats.

It really is striking to see Barack Obama having to  deal with the sticky, gooey, confused and deliberately confusing attacks hurled at him by Hillary Clinton. He is voicing precisely the same kind of exasperated frustration that used to tie Republicans and conservatives in knots when they had to deal with a classic Bill Clinton attack (i.e., that they supported cuts in Medicare when they supported only a cut in the size of the increase of Medicare). The brilliance of a Clinton attack is that it need not be consistent or even logical — what matters is that it can be joined to an easily digested soundbite (“you won’t take responsibility for your vote”) and that there is a tiny sunbeam of truth dwarfed by a giant cloud of delibeate obfuscation. I wrote a piece in 1996 comparing Bill Clinton to Tartuffe, Moliere’s formidable character who used overt and false piety to pursue his own ambitions and assassinate the characters of others while always claiming to be modest and holy. Judging from this debate, Hillary has decided to succeed her husband as the Tartuffe of the Democrats.

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Prediction: Swift-Boating Obama

“Senator Obama…it’s very difficult to get a straight answer from you.”

If Obama is the nominee, there will be an independently-funded commercial campaign using Hillary Clinton’s words during this debate against him. Don’t listen to us–listen to the Democrats themselves!

“Senator Obama…it’s very difficult to get a straight answer from you.”

If Obama is the nominee, there will be an independently-funded commercial campaign using Hillary Clinton’s words during this debate against him. Don’t listen to us–listen to the Democrats themselves!

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Hillary Clinton As Disney Villainess

Because Barack Obama dared make reference to Hillary Clinton’s husband — who has been taking a rather startlingly front-and-center role in her campaign — she called Obama a mouthpiece for a slumlord. It was not a good moment for her, to put it mildly. Angry and condescending in the same instant, not to mention proudly triumphant, she looked like a Disney villainess at the second she finished her attack.

Because Barack Obama dared make reference to Hillary Clinton’s husband — who has been taking a rather startlingly front-and-center role in her campaign — she called Obama a mouthpiece for a slumlord. It was not a good moment for her, to put it mildly. Angry and condescending in the same instant, not to mention proudly triumphant, she looked like a Disney villainess at the second she finished her attack.

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Barack Obama About the Clintons

“I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.”

“I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.”

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Democratic Debate: Hillary and Stimulus

“I had hoped to do it with spending and not tax cuts.”

“I had hoped to do it with spending and not tax cuts.”

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Juan Cole: Palestinians are Israel’s slaves

Apparently dissatisfied with the comparative leniency of apartheid rhetoric, Cole ups the ante and says the following in a post on Gaza:

The Israelis are going to have to live in the midst of the Palestinian people for the rest of the century. The Palestinians are not going away. The Israelis cannot wish them away or intimidate them into accepting statelessness, dire poverty, foreign domination and a condition analogous to slavery.

Keep in mind that this man is the preferred Middle East expert for much of the American Left.

Apparently dissatisfied with the comparative leniency of apartheid rhetoric, Cole ups the ante and says the following in a post on Gaza:

The Israelis are going to have to live in the midst of the Palestinian people for the rest of the century. The Palestinians are not going away. The Israelis cannot wish them away or intimidate them into accepting statelessness, dire poverty, foreign domination and a condition analogous to slavery.

Keep in mind that this man is the preferred Middle East expert for much of the American Left.

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Calling Egypt to Account

As Israel shut off electricity supplies to Gaza and blocked other shipments to the Strip, Khaled Mashal made an emotional appeal to the Arab world to stand together against the latest “Zionist crime.” As the crisis once again deepens in Gaza (as it periodically does), calls mount again for Israel to re-open the crossings. If Gaza lacks supplies, Israel must be blamed.

But according to this top-secret map of the Middle East, Gaza shares a border with Egypt too! A call to Egypt to let humanitarian aid through the Egypt-Gaza border would have sufficed.

Hamas has now been waging a war against Israel for two years. As I asked six months ago, why should Israel supply them with anything or keep the border open, given that 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?

Egypt, on the other hand, has been turning a blind eye as weapons flow into Gaza. Clearly then, unless it is Ivorian illegal immigrants, Egypt keeps the border open enough for something to go through. How about UNRWA and UNDP food and drugs supplies, oil and gas, milk and flour, instead of weapons?

Given that the international community is powerless to stop Hamas from waging war against Israel, it should turn to Egypt to take responsibility for the suffering of ordinary Gazans. Israel’s decision to seal its borders is not only reasonable, it’s long overdue.

As Israel shut off electricity supplies to Gaza and blocked other shipments to the Strip, Khaled Mashal made an emotional appeal to the Arab world to stand together against the latest “Zionist crime.” As the crisis once again deepens in Gaza (as it periodically does), calls mount again for Israel to re-open the crossings. If Gaza lacks supplies, Israel must be blamed.

But according to this top-secret map of the Middle East, Gaza shares a border with Egypt too! A call to Egypt to let humanitarian aid through the Egypt-Gaza border would have sufficed.

Hamas has now been waging a war against Israel for two years. As I asked six months ago, why should Israel supply them with anything or keep the border open, given that 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?

Egypt, on the other hand, has been turning a blind eye as weapons flow into Gaza. Clearly then, unless it is Ivorian illegal immigrants, Egypt keeps the border open enough for something to go through. How about UNRWA and UNDP food and drugs supplies, oil and gas, milk and flour, instead of weapons?

Given that the international community is powerless to stop Hamas from waging war against Israel, it should turn to Egypt to take responsibility for the suffering of ordinary Gazans. Israel’s decision to seal its borders is not only reasonable, it’s long overdue.

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What Hath Talk Radio Wrought?

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

Michael Medved, the polymathic conservative writer, has worked for the past dozen years as a radio talk-show host. Unlike many of his fellow conservative talk-show hosts, he has not spent the past year and a half in a toxic rage against immigration. Nor has he concluded that John McCain represents a dagger aimed at the heart of the Right.

In a brave post on his blog, Medved posits that McCain’s victory in South Carolina (along with the strong showing of Mike Huckabee) represents a threat not to conservatism but rather to the viability and influence of talk radio, and that the wound is self-inflicted:

For more than a month, the leading conservative talkers in the country have broadcast identical messages in an effort to demonize Mike Huckabee and John McCain. If you’ve tuned in at all to Rush, Sean, Savage, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and two dozen others you’ve heard a consistent drum beat of hostility toward Mac and Huck.

As always, led by Rush Limbaugh (who because of talent and seniority continues to dominate the medium) the talk radio herd has ridden in precisely the same direction, insisting that McCain and Huckabee deserve no support because they’re not “real conservatives.”

A month ago, the angry right launched the slogan that Mike Huckabee is a “pro-life liberal.” More recently, after McCain’s energizing victory in New Hampshire, they trotted out the mantra that the Arizona Senator (with a lifetime rating for his Congressional voting record of 83 percent from the American Conservative Union) is a “pro-war liberal.”

Well, the two alleged “liberals,” McCain and Huckabee, just swept a total of 63 percent of the Republican vote in deeply conservative South Carolina. Meanwhile, the two darlings of talk radio — Mitt Romney and, to a lesser extent, Fred Thompson—combined for an anemic 31 percent of the vote….In other words, even among the most right wing segment of the South Carolina electorate, talk radio failed – and failed miserably – in efforts to destroy and discredit Huckabee and McCain.

As the campaign moves forward, my colleagues in talk radio (along with program directors, general managers, advertisers and the other segments of our industry) ought to reconsider the one-sided, embittered negativity toward two of our four surviving candidates for President….

South Carolina demonstrates the utter ineffectiveness of concerted efforts by the conservative media elite to derail the campaigns of two popular candidates. Continued efforts in that direction will prove no more effective, and will hurt both our industry and the Republican Party.

In other words, the talk radio jihad against Mac and Huck hasn’t destroyed or even visibly damaged those candidates. But it has damaged, and may help destroy, talk radio.

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McCain and Giuliani: Now They Must Fight

In eight days, the Florida primary will either a) bring new life to Rudy Giuliani’s dying campaign, b) become a crucial victory in John McCain’s now-relentless march to the nomination, or c) muddy the muddiest political picture in the GOP’s history still further by handing an unexpected win to Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee.

Choices A and B are antagonisms. Giuliani can only win Florida by doing exceptionally well among voters who might otherwise choose McCain. The reverse is true as well. McCain’s rise has been fueled state by state and nationally by the energy that has drained out of the Giuliani candidacy. That needs to continue in Florida.

The candidates and candidacies are going to have to go after each other. For the most part, during this very long year, they have refused to do so. They are fond of each other and they agree with each other on a host of issues. But that was then and this is now. This morning, over e-mail, came a blast from Giuliani’s press shop:

JOHN MCCAIN: NOT A FI$CAL CONSERVATIVE

“Rudy Giuliani is the only fiscal conservative in the race and it’s easy to see why.  John McCain not only voted with the Democrats against the Bush tax cuts twice, he’s voted over 50 times for higher taxes. With a record like that, you can’t tell if John McCain will stand up to the Democrats in Washington who want to raise taxes or stand with them.” — Katie Levinson, Rudy Giuliani Communications Director

The document featured chapter and verse on McCain’s negative votes on tax cuts and his characterization of the Bush 2001 plan as coming at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same — a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani’s political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain’s recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy’s way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond — and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.

Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.

In eight days, the Florida primary will either a) bring new life to Rudy Giuliani’s dying campaign, b) become a crucial victory in John McCain’s now-relentless march to the nomination, or c) muddy the muddiest political picture in the GOP’s history still further by handing an unexpected win to Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee.

Choices A and B are antagonisms. Giuliani can only win Florida by doing exceptionally well among voters who might otherwise choose McCain. The reverse is true as well. McCain’s rise has been fueled state by state and nationally by the energy that has drained out of the Giuliani candidacy. That needs to continue in Florida.

The candidates and candidacies are going to have to go after each other. For the most part, during this very long year, they have refused to do so. They are fond of each other and they agree with each other on a host of issues. But that was then and this is now. This morning, over e-mail, came a blast from Giuliani’s press shop:

JOHN MCCAIN: NOT A FI$CAL CONSERVATIVE

“Rudy Giuliani is the only fiscal conservative in the race and it’s easy to see why.  John McCain not only voted with the Democrats against the Bush tax cuts twice, he’s voted over 50 times for higher taxes. With a record like that, you can’t tell if John McCain will stand up to the Democrats in Washington who want to raise taxes or stand with them.” — Katie Levinson, Rudy Giuliani Communications Director

The document featured chapter and verse on McCain’s negative votes on tax cuts and his characterization of the Bush 2001 plan as coming at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same — a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani’s political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain’s recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy’s way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond — and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.

Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.

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Spain’s Failed Pacificism

On the morning of March 11, 2004, Islamists detonated 10 bombs on commuter trains in a Madrid train station killing 191 people. The Spanish electorate thought the attack a direct result of their country’s involvement in the Iraq war, and, three days later, voted out Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar was a tremendous ally of the U.S. and one of the few European leaders to call Islamism out as the fascistic threat that it is. The Spanish voted in the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez, who announced immediately that Spain would withdraw her 1,300 troops fighting in Iraq.

From an Associated Press report two hours ago:

Spanish police have asked the National Court for more time to question 14 suspected Islamic militants detained on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Barcelona, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

[…]

The suspects — 12 Pakistanis and two Indian nationals — were arrested in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, home to many Arabic-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

Three years after the Madrid bombing, and the Spanish attempt at pacification, jihad lives on in Spain. This should surprise no one, as jihadists consider Spain a crucial lost chunk of the Islamic caliphate. The Iraq war hasn’t a thing to do with this centuries-old gripe.

On the morning of March 11, 2004, Islamists detonated 10 bombs on commuter trains in a Madrid train station killing 191 people. The Spanish electorate thought the attack a direct result of their country’s involvement in the Iraq war, and, three days later, voted out Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar was a tremendous ally of the U.S. and one of the few European leaders to call Islamism out as the fascistic threat that it is. The Spanish voted in the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez, who announced immediately that Spain would withdraw her 1,300 troops fighting in Iraq.

From an Associated Press report two hours ago:

Spanish police have asked the National Court for more time to question 14 suspected Islamic militants detained on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Barcelona, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

[…]

The suspects — 12 Pakistanis and two Indian nationals — were arrested in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, home to many Arabic-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

Three years after the Madrid bombing, and the Spanish attempt at pacification, jihad lives on in Spain. This should surprise no one, as jihadists consider Spain a crucial lost chunk of the Islamic caliphate. The Iraq war hasn’t a thing to do with this centuries-old gripe.

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Re: Lefkowitz on North Korea

I’ve just learned that the State Department, in an act of childish pique masquerading as diplomatic maturity, has literally “disappeared” its own envoy Jay Lefkowitz’s Thursday speech on North Korea from its website. No matter; the American Enterprise Institute, where Lefkowitz spoke, has saved it from the going down the memory hole by posting it here.

I’ve just learned that the State Department, in an act of childish pique masquerading as diplomatic maturity, has literally “disappeared” its own envoy Jay Lefkowitz’s Thursday speech on North Korea from its website. No matter; the American Enterprise Institute, where Lefkowitz spoke, has saved it from the going down the memory hole by posting it here.

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Re: State Eats One Of Its Own

Gordon, we should note that Jay Lefkowitz, this country’s special envoy on human rights in North Korea and the subject of your shocking post this morning, is a COMMENTARY author whose eye-opening article in the January issue, “Stem Cells and the President,” has been much remarked-upon.

Gordon, we should note that Jay Lefkowitz, this country’s special envoy on human rights in North Korea and the subject of your shocking post this morning, is a COMMENTARY author whose eye-opening article in the January issue, “Stem Cells and the President,” has been much remarked-upon.

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Syria and Iran Gain in Lebanon

On Sunday, the Lebanese parliament postponed its election of a new president until February 11, marking the thirteenth time it has done so since Syrian puppet Emile Lahoud’s term officially ended on November 23. The ongoing political crisis has pitted the western-backed parliamentary majority, which has long supported the election of General Michel Suleiman, against the Hezbollah-led opposition, which has blocked a necessary two-thirds quorum from approving him; the opposition has further demanded a national unity government that would give it veto power. Officials fear that the continued standoff will erupt in political violence, and Hezbollah has threatened civil disobedience.

Thus far, western attempts to end the crisis have gone nowhere. Earlier this month, France boldly accused Syria of exacerbating the situation, punishing Damascus with a rare diplomatic boycott. At the time, I argued that this created an opening for the Bush administration, which could use the suddenly unified western front vis-à-vis Syria as leverage against the Assad regime, offering broad normalization in exchange for a serious Syrian-Israeli peace effort. The Bush administration, I reasoned, could thus avoid sacrificing the U.N.’s investigation into the Hariri assassination—in which Damascus has been implicated—which has long been seen as the price for Syrian-Israeli peace.

Yet on his recent tour of the Middle East, President Bush barely mentioned the crisis in Lebanon, instead emphasizing the pipedream of Israeli-Palestinian peace as the primary means for countering Iran. This approach was disastrous, opening the door for players far less committed to containing Iran to mediate—a boon for Iran and its allies.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa’s mediation attempt in Beirut last week is case-in-point. Moussa’s plan provided for Suleiman’s immediate election, further denying the ruling collation an absolute majority and the opposition a veto. These terms were largely favorable towards Syria, given that they blunted the power of the anti-Syrian majority while enhancing the role of Suleiman, who is seen as friendly towards Syria’s interests in Lebanon. When majority leader Saad Hariri endorsed the terms of the proposal earlier this month, it represented a victory for the pro-Syrian opposition.

But the opposition was hardly satisfied. After Moussa departed, Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri of the Shiite Amal Party declared the initiative dead, insisting that Arab foreign ministers draw up new terms—ones much more favorable to the Hezbollah-led opposition. Shortly thereafter, Berri announced a new condition for resolving the crisis: reconciling Syria with Saudi Arabia. In this condition, Berri mortgaged Lebanese stability on Iranian geostrategy: Saudi-Syrian rapprochement would represent a breach of the U.S.-Saudi alliance and strengthen Iran’s regional position. Indeed, it is hardly coincidental that Berri’s statements included a profession of support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

As I have written previously, the fate of Lebanon is critical to countering Iranian ascendancy. The longer the Bush administration waits to address the current Lebanese presidential crisis seriously, the better the terms of a future political settlement will be for Iran and its local allies.

On Sunday, the Lebanese parliament postponed its election of a new president until February 11, marking the thirteenth time it has done so since Syrian puppet Emile Lahoud’s term officially ended on November 23. The ongoing political crisis has pitted the western-backed parliamentary majority, which has long supported the election of General Michel Suleiman, against the Hezbollah-led opposition, which has blocked a necessary two-thirds quorum from approving him; the opposition has further demanded a national unity government that would give it veto power. Officials fear that the continued standoff will erupt in political violence, and Hezbollah has threatened civil disobedience.

Thus far, western attempts to end the crisis have gone nowhere. Earlier this month, France boldly accused Syria of exacerbating the situation, punishing Damascus with a rare diplomatic boycott. At the time, I argued that this created an opening for the Bush administration, which could use the suddenly unified western front vis-à-vis Syria as leverage against the Assad regime, offering broad normalization in exchange for a serious Syrian-Israeli peace effort. The Bush administration, I reasoned, could thus avoid sacrificing the U.N.’s investigation into the Hariri assassination—in which Damascus has been implicated—which has long been seen as the price for Syrian-Israeli peace.

Yet on his recent tour of the Middle East, President Bush barely mentioned the crisis in Lebanon, instead emphasizing the pipedream of Israeli-Palestinian peace as the primary means for countering Iran. This approach was disastrous, opening the door for players far less committed to containing Iran to mediate—a boon for Iran and its allies.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa’s mediation attempt in Beirut last week is case-in-point. Moussa’s plan provided for Suleiman’s immediate election, further denying the ruling collation an absolute majority and the opposition a veto. These terms were largely favorable towards Syria, given that they blunted the power of the anti-Syrian majority while enhancing the role of Suleiman, who is seen as friendly towards Syria’s interests in Lebanon. When majority leader Saad Hariri endorsed the terms of the proposal earlier this month, it represented a victory for the pro-Syrian opposition.

But the opposition was hardly satisfied. After Moussa departed, Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri of the Shiite Amal Party declared the initiative dead, insisting that Arab foreign ministers draw up new terms—ones much more favorable to the Hezbollah-led opposition. Shortly thereafter, Berri announced a new condition for resolving the crisis: reconciling Syria with Saudi Arabia. In this condition, Berri mortgaged Lebanese stability on Iranian geostrategy: Saudi-Syrian rapprochement would represent a breach of the U.S.-Saudi alliance and strengthen Iran’s regional position. Indeed, it is hardly coincidental that Berri’s statements included a profession of support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

As I have written previously, the fate of Lebanon is critical to countering Iranian ascendancy. The longer the Bush administration waits to address the current Lebanese presidential crisis seriously, the better the terms of a future political settlement will be for Iran and its local allies.

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Primary Fun in the Sun

In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

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In Florida, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie heading into the January 29th winner take-all GOP primary. But I would have never known that from talking to people during my trip to Florida last week. That’s because my ambit extended no further than Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton along the Atlantic coast, an area that’s heavily settled by pro-Rudy people from the New York Metropolitan area. Giuliani will do very well in this heavily Jewish area as there are even Democrats who have switched their registration to the GOP to support him. And he has support further south where refugees from Castro and other Latin American thugs are drawn to both Giuliani and McCain. But it’s not clear how well he will do in the other Floridas, such as the central Florida farming areas, the Tampa-Orlando tourism and high-tech corridor, and the northern tier with close ties to the military that stretches from Jacksonville on the Atlantic to Pensacola snuggled up against Alabama on the Gulf Coast. McCain has ties to this northern tier. He trained in Pensacola and his family spent his years of captivity in Jacksonville. Huckabee has a strong network of Christian support on the Florida Panhandle and Romney has a natural affinity with the Republican business community.

Romney has sometimes been written off regarding Florida despite the support of Jeb Bush. But in a multi-polar state with 10 major media markets, Romney’s money gives him an important advantage in an election where marked support for four strong candidates means that it’s possible to take all of Florida’s bounty of delegates which as little as 30 percent of the vote. And that’s where the Giuliani strategies come in. Absentee mail balloting began two weeks ago and by some estimates, almost half of all votes will have been cast by primary day. First and foremost Giuliani who, first began contacting voters here in the summer of 2007, has been working Florida at the cost of his national poll standing, is counting on winning the absentee balloting. He concludes every appearance, every rally, every speech with the cry of “let’s go vote.” Another part of his strategy is to target specific issues that appeal to the non-New Yorkers. Besides talking tough on Castro, he’s detailed plans for 1) a national disaster fund, a concept that appeals to a state that’s been so hard hit by hurricanes and 2) an expansion of the space program.

But for all that the election might well come down to the economy. Overall Florida is teetering on the edge of recession. Home sales fell about 20 percent nationally in 2007, but 30 percent in Florida where home prices decline by 10 percent compared to the three percent nationally. Retails sales, a proxy for consumer spending dropped 5 percent in the state last year and even more sharply in some areas. In Pompano, where I was staying and even in tony Boca, there are numerous empty stores. In one, previously very successful Pompano mall, 30 percent of the retail space is now unoccupied with, I’m told scant prospect of being rented out during this cycle. Housing wise, the local brokers have their heads in their hands as the inventory of condos that can’t be moved pile up and prices sink further.

The former Massachusetts Governor and New Yorker mayor are the two who have spoken with the most authority and depth on the economy. Romney who won Michigan with pie in the sky rhetoric finally has an issue with the economy where he comes off as genuine. Giuliani has outlined a well thought out tax-cutting agenda for dealing with Global competition. But from my conversations, and what I read and saw neither has been able to speak to the effects of the bursting the mortgage asset bubble which in turn has sharply reduced consumption. It’s reasonably likely, unforeseen events aside, that the candidate best able to speak to that issue over the next nine days will win Florida and the momentum need to go on to Super Tuesday.

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Martin Luther King Day at the CIA

Back in April, CIA director Michael Hayden declared racial and ethnic diversity to be a “a mission-critical objective.” The agency is evidently making significant progress toward that end. “[O]ne-third of the officers who have joined CIA since the beginning of this fiscal year identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities, a significant increase over the figures for the past two fiscal years,” reported CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes to a standing-room-only crowd at the agency’s celebration of Martin Luther King day.

But is the affirmative action program truly proceeding smoothly? There are hints that it is not. As the CIA becomes more diverse, it evidently has had to work harder to build “diversity awareness.” Among other initiatives, the agency’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs has been compelled to enhance its efforts at “engendering an environment based on trust and wedded to inclusion.”

How does it accomplish that? It sponsors “’Love ‘em or Lose ‘em’ and ‘SatisfACTION Power’ workshops,” which it then follows up with intensive “reinforcement activities.” In other words, the CIA has had to invest a great deal of energy in establishing a reign of political correctness among its spies.

Connecting the Dots is left wondering if time and resources would be better spent teaching agents the languages that terrorists speak, like Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, where it continues to have critical shortages.

Connecting the Dots also wants to know if the politically-correct “reinforcement activities” the CIA inflicts on its own agents are more painful than the interrogation techniques its employs against America’s adversaries.

Another questions might also be posed: does any or all of this CIA affirmative-action activity make the United States safer today than we were on September 12, 2001?

Back in April, CIA director Michael Hayden declared racial and ethnic diversity to be a “a mission-critical objective.” The agency is evidently making significant progress toward that end. “[O]ne-third of the officers who have joined CIA since the beginning of this fiscal year identify themselves as racial or ethnic minorities, a significant increase over the figures for the past two fiscal years,” reported CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes to a standing-room-only crowd at the agency’s celebration of Martin Luther King day.

But is the affirmative action program truly proceeding smoothly? There are hints that it is not. As the CIA becomes more diverse, it evidently has had to work harder to build “diversity awareness.” Among other initiatives, the agency’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs has been compelled to enhance its efforts at “engendering an environment based on trust and wedded to inclusion.”

How does it accomplish that? It sponsors “’Love ‘em or Lose ‘em’ and ‘SatisfACTION Power’ workshops,” which it then follows up with intensive “reinforcement activities.” In other words, the CIA has had to invest a great deal of energy in establishing a reign of political correctness among its spies.

Connecting the Dots is left wondering if time and resources would be better spent teaching agents the languages that terrorists speak, like Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic, where it continues to have critical shortages.

Connecting the Dots also wants to know if the politically-correct “reinforcement activities” the CIA inflicts on its own agents are more painful than the interrogation techniques its employs against America’s adversaries.

Another questions might also be posed: does any or all of this CIA affirmative-action activity make the United States safer today than we were on September 12, 2001?

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State Eats One of Its Own

On Friday the State Department disavowed the comments of its special envoy for human rights in North Korea. During the daily press briefing, spokesman Sean McCormack said that Jay Lefkowitz was not representing the views of the Bush administration on Thursday when he criticized the six-party talks to disarm Kim Jong Il.

“North Korea is not serious about disarming in a timely manner,” the envoy stated in widely publicized remarks to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Yet what really stung the State Department were comments that received no attention. “Policy should rest on assumptions that correlate with recent facts and events,” Lefkowitz said. “One key assumption that turned out to be incorrect was that China and South Korea would apply significant pressure to North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.”

South Korea has indeed been a disappointment since the six-party negotiations began in Beijing more than four years ago. Yet Lee Myung-bak, elected president last month, is already beginning to align Seoul’s policy closer to Washington’s. Therefore, the critical issue is now China. Lefkowitz discussed many wonderful ideas about how to disarm North Korea with Helsinki-type human rights dialogues, but he did not mention how we could persuade Beijing to help us.

And now is the time to talk about how to do so. With South Korea moving to our side, the Chinese will be alone in their support of Pyongyang. So skilful—and coercive—diplomacy can maneuver the Chinese into a position where they have to take a clear stand. Unfortunately, no one in the Bush administration is willing to force them to choose between their future, cooperation with us, and their past, their alliance with North Korea.

With China, we must be prepared to make nuclear proliferation the litmus test of our relations and use all the leverage we have. We have been patiently engaging the Chinese for decades, and now is the time for them to act responsibly. After all, what’s the point of trying to integrate them into an international community that they are working to destabilize through their support of dangerous rouges?

The spread of nukes to unstable and hostile regimes–and their terrorist proxies– is the world’s gravest threat. Nothing else comes close. China is either with us or against us. Someone in the Bush administration needs to say that because it’s better to learn the answer sooner rather than later. It’s right for Jay Lefkowitz to talk about the failure of the six-party process, and now it’s time for President Bush to discuss the real issue.

On Friday the State Department disavowed the comments of its special envoy for human rights in North Korea. During the daily press briefing, spokesman Sean McCormack said that Jay Lefkowitz was not representing the views of the Bush administration on Thursday when he criticized the six-party talks to disarm Kim Jong Il.

“North Korea is not serious about disarming in a timely manner,” the envoy stated in widely publicized remarks to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Yet what really stung the State Department were comments that received no attention. “Policy should rest on assumptions that correlate with recent facts and events,” Lefkowitz said. “One key assumption that turned out to be incorrect was that China and South Korea would apply significant pressure to North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.”

South Korea has indeed been a disappointment since the six-party negotiations began in Beijing more than four years ago. Yet Lee Myung-bak, elected president last month, is already beginning to align Seoul’s policy closer to Washington’s. Therefore, the critical issue is now China. Lefkowitz discussed many wonderful ideas about how to disarm North Korea with Helsinki-type human rights dialogues, but he did not mention how we could persuade Beijing to help us.

And now is the time to talk about how to do so. With South Korea moving to our side, the Chinese will be alone in their support of Pyongyang. So skilful—and coercive—diplomacy can maneuver the Chinese into a position where they have to take a clear stand. Unfortunately, no one in the Bush administration is willing to force them to choose between their future, cooperation with us, and their past, their alliance with North Korea.

With China, we must be prepared to make nuclear proliferation the litmus test of our relations and use all the leverage we have. We have been patiently engaging the Chinese for decades, and now is the time for them to act responsibly. After all, what’s the point of trying to integrate them into an international community that they are working to destabilize through their support of dangerous rouges?

The spread of nukes to unstable and hostile regimes–and their terrorist proxies– is the world’s gravest threat. Nothing else comes close. China is either with us or against us. Someone in the Bush administration needs to say that because it’s better to learn the answer sooner rather than later. It’s right for Jay Lefkowitz to talk about the failure of the six-party process, and now it’s time for President Bush to discuss the real issue.

Read Less

Lewis v. Franklin

The trouble with shock-horror revelations is that they can be made only once before they lose a good deal of their shock-horror quotient. For this reason I was surprised when, browsing in the current issue of The New Republic, I came across a piece by Ruth Franklin promising readers the “nasty truth about a new literary heroine.” Just how new? The hardcover edition of Suite Française, translated by Sandra Smith, was released by Knopf in Spring 2006. It was in Autumn of that year that Tess Lewis, writing in The Hudson Review, delivered most of the dirt piled up in Franklin’s essay on Némirovsky. Here’s Lewis:

By now most readers have heard the dramatic story of Irène Némirovsky’s unfinished epic, Suite Française. Against all odds, the manuscript, a leather-bound notebook, survived World War II hidden in a suitcase the author’s adolescent daughter, Denise Epstein, carried faithfully from one hiding place to another in tiny villages, convents, and cellars throughout occupied France. . . . As an adult, Denise had occasionally tried to decipher her mother’s miniscule handwriting—paper was hard to come by in Vichy France . . .

Here’s Franklin:

The writer: a Jew who had fled to the French countryside seeking refuge from occupied Paris, eventually deported to Auschwitz, where she would die in a typhus epidemic soon after her arrival. The book: scribbled in minuscule letters, so as to conserve paper and ink, in a leather-bound journal that would be carried into hiding by the writer’s eldest daughter. She would survive the war and keep it as a memento of her mother, once a well-known novelist, daring to read its contents only sixty years later.

Lewis:

Yet few readers outside of France are aware of a disturbing side to Irène Némirovsky’s story. The English translation of Suite Française . . . includes a shortened version of the scholar Myriam Anissimov’s preface to the French edition with Anissimov’s detailed account of Némirovsky’s tragedy, but not her discussion of the extent to which Némirovsky’s previous novels were riddled with anti-Semitic stereotypes. Jewish characters in her books are marked, with few exceptions, by hooked noses, flaring nostrils, flaccid hands, sallow complexions, dark, oily curls, hysteria, avarice, unscrupulous business practices, and an atavistic ability to trade in commodities and goods. The list goes on.

Franklin:

The real irony of the Suite Francaise sensation is not that a great work of literature was waiting unread in a notebook for sixty years before finally being brought to light. It is that this accomplished but unexceptional novel, having acquired the dark frame of Auschwitz, posthumously capped the career of a writer who made her name by trafficking in the most sordid anti-Semitic stereotypes.

And so on. Both pieces are well worth reading. There’s no harm in bringing this unpleasant and complicating truth to new readers—I can’t imagine The Hudson Review has half the circulation of The New Republic—but Franklin ought to have acknowledged that Lewis beat her to this earth-shaking discovery by somewhere in the neighborhood of a year and a half.

The trouble with shock-horror revelations is that they can be made only once before they lose a good deal of their shock-horror quotient. For this reason I was surprised when, browsing in the current issue of The New Republic, I came across a piece by Ruth Franklin promising readers the “nasty truth about a new literary heroine.” Just how new? The hardcover edition of Suite Française, translated by Sandra Smith, was released by Knopf in Spring 2006. It was in Autumn of that year that Tess Lewis, writing in The Hudson Review, delivered most of the dirt piled up in Franklin’s essay on Némirovsky. Here’s Lewis:

By now most readers have heard the dramatic story of Irène Némirovsky’s unfinished epic, Suite Française. Against all odds, the manuscript, a leather-bound notebook, survived World War II hidden in a suitcase the author’s adolescent daughter, Denise Epstein, carried faithfully from one hiding place to another in tiny villages, convents, and cellars throughout occupied France. . . . As an adult, Denise had occasionally tried to decipher her mother’s miniscule handwriting—paper was hard to come by in Vichy France . . .

Here’s Franklin:

The writer: a Jew who had fled to the French countryside seeking refuge from occupied Paris, eventually deported to Auschwitz, where she would die in a typhus epidemic soon after her arrival. The book: scribbled in minuscule letters, so as to conserve paper and ink, in a leather-bound journal that would be carried into hiding by the writer’s eldest daughter. She would survive the war and keep it as a memento of her mother, once a well-known novelist, daring to read its contents only sixty years later.

Lewis:

Yet few readers outside of France are aware of a disturbing side to Irène Némirovsky’s story. The English translation of Suite Française . . . includes a shortened version of the scholar Myriam Anissimov’s preface to the French edition with Anissimov’s detailed account of Némirovsky’s tragedy, but not her discussion of the extent to which Némirovsky’s previous novels were riddled with anti-Semitic stereotypes. Jewish characters in her books are marked, with few exceptions, by hooked noses, flaring nostrils, flaccid hands, sallow complexions, dark, oily curls, hysteria, avarice, unscrupulous business practices, and an atavistic ability to trade in commodities and goods. The list goes on.

Franklin:

The real irony of the Suite Francaise sensation is not that a great work of literature was waiting unread in a notebook for sixty years before finally being brought to light. It is that this accomplished but unexceptional novel, having acquired the dark frame of Auschwitz, posthumously capped the career of a writer who made her name by trafficking in the most sordid anti-Semitic stereotypes.

And so on. Both pieces are well worth reading. There’s no harm in bringing this unpleasant and complicating truth to new readers—I can’t imagine The Hudson Review has half the circulation of The New Republic—but Franklin ought to have acknowledged that Lewis beat her to this earth-shaking discovery by somewhere in the neighborhood of a year and a half.

Read Less




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