Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 25, 2008

Identity Hits the GOP

An article at Politico quotes Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway:

Republicans will need to exercise less deafness and more deftness in dealing with a different looking candidate, whether it is a woman or a black man.

If only I could have exercised more blindness before reading that. Apparently there’s a big GOP plan underway to ensure that Republicans aren’t insensitive to race or gender and don’t succumb to “undisciplined messaging” while campaigning against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. David Paul Kuhn writes: “Many expect to be held to a higher rhetorical standard than is customary in campaigns, in part because of perceptions of intolerance that still dog the party.” Has is not been this season’s Democrats who’ve demonstrated a base reliance on the “perceptions of intolerance”? Frankly, the Republicans would have to go pretty far to match the “undisciplined messaging” displayed by Bill Clinton in his effort to convince White voters that his wife was with them. Here’s more:

Republicans will be told to “be sensitive to tone and stick to the substance of the discussion” and that “the key is that you have to be sensitive to the fact that you are running against historic firsts,” the strategist explained.

What about policy and ability? Must the whole country take part in this obsession with “historic firsts” or can we view the identity-poisoned Democratic race as a cautionary tale and move on? Having watched the Democrats use identity as a deadly weapon while pretending to celebrate diversity, I’ve had enough deftness to last me a lifetime.

An article at Politico quotes Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway:

Republicans will need to exercise less deafness and more deftness in dealing with a different looking candidate, whether it is a woman or a black man.

If only I could have exercised more blindness before reading that. Apparently there’s a big GOP plan underway to ensure that Republicans aren’t insensitive to race or gender and don’t succumb to “undisciplined messaging” while campaigning against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. David Paul Kuhn writes: “Many expect to be held to a higher rhetorical standard than is customary in campaigns, in part because of perceptions of intolerance that still dog the party.” Has is not been this season’s Democrats who’ve demonstrated a base reliance on the “perceptions of intolerance”? Frankly, the Republicans would have to go pretty far to match the “undisciplined messaging” displayed by Bill Clinton in his effort to convince White voters that his wife was with them. Here’s more:

Republicans will be told to “be sensitive to tone and stick to the substance of the discussion” and that “the key is that you have to be sensitive to the fact that you are running against historic firsts,” the strategist explained.

What about policy and ability? Must the whole country take part in this obsession with “historic firsts” or can we view the identity-poisoned Democratic race as a cautionary tale and move on? Having watched the Democrats use identity as a deadly weapon while pretending to celebrate diversity, I’ve had enough deftness to last me a lifetime.

Read Less

Hillary Takes On Obama On Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton delivered (amidst the distraction of costume-gate, which makes me think this was not an official Clinton tactic) a foreign policy address in Washington D.C. today. The full text is here. There is much standard fare: immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a strong dose of protectionism and lots of shots at President Bush. But the message is also clear: she is no softy, and Barack Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief. On Cuba she had this to say:

We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

She also threw this jab:

If I am entrusted with the presidency, America will have the courage once again to meet with our adversaries. But I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions, until we have assessed through lower level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators. Raul Castro, for example, has a stark choice. He can continue to stifle human rights and economic freedom in Cuba, or he can chart a new course toward democratic reform. We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

There are a few problems with this approach as a campaign strategy (other than the fact it comes too late). First, she needs to say it directly in a debate when eyes are trained on both of them, not in a speech no cable network chose to carry. Unless she is willing to do that, it is not only too late –it’s too little. Second, she tries to do the best she can with her own resume (traveling to China, sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee), but it is rather thin and the obvious response from Obama is that she is hardly more experienced than he. And finally, the their policy positions ( more restrictionist trade policy, get tough with China, get out of Iraq) are not very different at all. Voters are left to stratch their heads about how in practice a Clinton foreign policy would differ from an Obama foreign policy (other than in willingness to lunch with tyrants). Now, she does rough him up a bit, and the language is worth saving for a general election attack by John McCain. But is this enough to knock Obama off his glide path to the nomination? Not likely, I think.

Hillary Clinton delivered (amidst the distraction of costume-gate, which makes me think this was not an official Clinton tactic) a foreign policy address in Washington D.C. today. The full text is here. There is much standard fare: immediate withdrawal from Iraq, a strong dose of protectionism and lots of shots at President Bush. But the message is also clear: she is no softy, and Barack Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief. On Cuba she had this to say:

We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

She also threw this jab:

If I am entrusted with the presidency, America will have the courage once again to meet with our adversaries. But I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions, until we have assessed through lower level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators. Raul Castro, for example, has a stark choice. He can continue to stifle human rights and economic freedom in Cuba, or he can chart a new course toward democratic reform. We need to engage with our allies in Latin America and Europe to encourage Cuba on to the right path. But we simply cannot legitimize rouge regimes or weaken American prestige by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions. It may sound good but it doesn’t meet the real world test of foreign policy. I have traveled to so many countries working on issues involving some of the most intractable challenges we face. And as we see people respond to their own conditions, we have to be ready to act.

There are a few problems with this approach as a campaign strategy (other than the fact it comes too late). First, she needs to say it directly in a debate when eyes are trained on both of them, not in a speech no cable network chose to carry. Unless she is willing to do that, it is not only too late –it’s too little. Second, she tries to do the best she can with her own resume (traveling to China, sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee), but it is rather thin and the obvious response from Obama is that she is hardly more experienced than he. And finally, the their policy positions ( more restrictionist trade policy, get tough with China, get out of Iraq) are not very different at all. Voters are left to stratch their heads about how in practice a Clinton foreign policy would differ from an Obama foreign policy (other than in willingness to lunch with tyrants). Now, she does rough him up a bit, and the language is worth saving for a general election attack by John McCain. But is this enough to knock Obama off his glide path to the nomination? Not likely, I think.

Read Less

An Inconvenient Truth

Matt Yglesias writes a fun attack on me today in which he says:

Spencer Ackerman flags a Shmuel Rosner article on Samantha Power in which she responds to allegations that she hates Jews, etc., etc. The article’s not terrible, but anything that refers to Noah Pollack, who’s been peddling these smears, as a “yound and talented writer,” is bound to be at least somewhat problematic. To make a long story short, though, first Obama was an anti-semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to Pollack it’s Power who who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.

I have a very simple challenge for Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, although I suspect they’re both too lazy and dishonest to take it up: Please do me and your readers the favor of linking to the posts in which I have accused Power — or anyone associated with the Obama campaign — of “Jew-hatred,” or anything that could be construed as Jew-hatred. I’ll even do the hard work for you guys and provide, in reverse chronological order, links to everything I’ve written about Power: see here, here, here, and here.

Have at it, boys.

Matt Yglesias writes a fun attack on me today in which he says:

Spencer Ackerman flags a Shmuel Rosner article on Samantha Power in which she responds to allegations that she hates Jews, etc., etc. The article’s not terrible, but anything that refers to Noah Pollack, who’s been peddling these smears, as a “yound and talented writer,” is bound to be at least somewhat problematic. To make a long story short, though, first Obama was an anti-semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to Pollack it’s Power who who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.

I have a very simple challenge for Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, although I suspect they’re both too lazy and dishonest to take it up: Please do me and your readers the favor of linking to the posts in which I have accused Power — or anyone associated with the Obama campaign — of “Jew-hatred,” or anything that could be construed as Jew-hatred. I’ll even do the hard work for you guys and provide, in reverse chronological order, links to everything I’ve written about Power: see here, here, here, and here.

Have at it, boys.

Read Less

Obama and “The Patriotism Thing”

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Barack Obama saying:

There is always some nonsense going on in general elections. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else… First it was my name that was the problem, and then there was the Muslim email thing, and that … hasn’t worked out so well, and now it’s the patriotism thing.

Is “the patriotism thing” merely fantastic propaganda, like the nasty, fictional email campaign, or is there more there? When Obama was questioned about why he chose to stop wearing an American flag lapel pin after 9/11, he said:

I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.

People do make too much of symbols, it’s true. But in defending his choice to discard the pin, Obama implies that the country is not at the present time “great”; instead it is in need of his corrective wisdom. So, let’s listen to the patriot testify. During last Thursday’s debate Barack Obama said of George Bush’s diplomatic approach:

If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.

And . . .we don’t?

It’s impossible not to infer that Obama suffers from genuine queasiness about even benign nationalism. The evidence is in, and it looks very bad. He has an aversion to displaying the flag; he doesn’t always put his hand to his heart during the National Anthem; his wife wasn’t proud of America until rapturous citizens formed a chanting army behind her husband; and he rejects America’s superiority among nations.

What’s most frightening is that if Hillary pointed this out it may do her more harm than good among Democratic voters. This past July, a poll showed that 76 percent of Republicans described themselves as very patriotic compared to 53 percent of Democrats. Given the margin of error, it’s conceivable that less than half of the Democratic voters consider themselves very patriotic. Also pertinent to this race: patriotism increases with age.

The Journal finds Obama countering charges with a remark that demonstrates his increasing knack for the self-incriminating defense. In typical Obama fashion, his statement has something for patriots and anti-Americans alike: “The way I will respond to [criticisms] is with the truth,” he said. “That I owe everything I am to this country.” People say the same thing about their mistakes, do they not?

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Barack Obama saying:

There is always some nonsense going on in general elections. If it wasn’t this, it would be something else… First it was my name that was the problem, and then there was the Muslim email thing, and that … hasn’t worked out so well, and now it’s the patriotism thing.

Is “the patriotism thing” merely fantastic propaganda, like the nasty, fictional email campaign, or is there more there? When Obama was questioned about why he chose to stop wearing an American flag lapel pin after 9/11, he said:

I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.

People do make too much of symbols, it’s true. But in defending his choice to discard the pin, Obama implies that the country is not at the present time “great”; instead it is in need of his corrective wisdom. So, let’s listen to the patriot testify. During last Thursday’s debate Barack Obama said of George Bush’s diplomatic approach:

If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.

And . . .we don’t?

It’s impossible not to infer that Obama suffers from genuine queasiness about even benign nationalism. The evidence is in, and it looks very bad. He has an aversion to displaying the flag; he doesn’t always put his hand to his heart during the National Anthem; his wife wasn’t proud of America until rapturous citizens formed a chanting army behind her husband; and he rejects America’s superiority among nations.

What’s most frightening is that if Hillary pointed this out it may do her more harm than good among Democratic voters. This past July, a poll showed that 76 percent of Republicans described themselves as very patriotic compared to 53 percent of Democrats. Given the margin of error, it’s conceivable that less than half of the Democratic voters consider themselves very patriotic. Also pertinent to this race: patriotism increases with age.

The Journal finds Obama countering charges with a remark that demonstrates his increasing knack for the self-incriminating defense. In typical Obama fashion, his statement has something for patriots and anti-Americans alike: “The way I will respond to [criticisms] is with the truth,” he said. “That I owe everything I am to this country.” People say the same thing about their mistakes, do they not?

Read Less

Dvorak Diplomacy

Today, the New York Philharmonic arrived in Pyongyang, the cold and barren capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The orchestra will perform a concert tomorrow, and Lorin Maazel, its music director, hopes to make a “tiny contribution” to warming up America’s relations with the world’s most repugnant state. “I am a musician and not a politician, but music has always been an arena or area where people can make contact.”

Contact? The hope in the West is that increased contact, starting with the Phil’s visit, will open up North Korea, the world’s most isolated nation. Many argue that friendly relations will weaken the regime, which has been built on hostility to the United States. “I don’t see why Kim is doing it,” says Andrei Lankov, a longtime observer of the Kimist state. “If I were him, I wouldn’t do it.”

So why did North Korea’s leader invite America’s premier orchestra to play in his capital? The answer may be found in Seoul, the capital of the better version of Korea. South Korea today inaugurated its 17th president, Lee Myung-bak. The conservative Lee looks set to reverse a decade of the Sunshine Policy of his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Lee has already set a new tone in Seoul by signaling that he will condition major assistance to North Korea on adherence to its commitment to give up its atomic bombs. Since the beginning of this year Pyongyang has failed to provide a promised declaration of its nuclear weapons programs, and, as a result, the international community has slowed aid deliveries.

There are signs that the North is headed toward another economic downturn, so Kim Jong Il is undoubtedly looking for new sources of assistance. The North Korean government has stockpiled at least six months’ worth of fuel and other supplies, so it can last through the year. Although it’s unlikely that Beijing would let the regime fall, Kim does not either trust or like the Chinese and would prefer to find other sources of support, especially because multiple benefactors would allow him to play one off against the others, as his father so skillfully did during the Cold War.

The risk is that the United States will fall for the euphoria surrounding the New York Phil’s visit, which has the blessing of the Bush administration. “I don’t think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea,” said Condoleezza Rice, who attended Lee’s inauguration. I agree, but her recent Korean policy has been marked by unimaginative strategy, humiliating moments, and unseemly compromises. Kim is a grandmaster of tactics, and if there will be any victim of “Dvorak Diplomacy,” it may be us, not him.

Today, the New York Philharmonic arrived in Pyongyang, the cold and barren capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The orchestra will perform a concert tomorrow, and Lorin Maazel, its music director, hopes to make a “tiny contribution” to warming up America’s relations with the world’s most repugnant state. “I am a musician and not a politician, but music has always been an arena or area where people can make contact.”

Contact? The hope in the West is that increased contact, starting with the Phil’s visit, will open up North Korea, the world’s most isolated nation. Many argue that friendly relations will weaken the regime, which has been built on hostility to the United States. “I don’t see why Kim is doing it,” says Andrei Lankov, a longtime observer of the Kimist state. “If I were him, I wouldn’t do it.”

So why did North Korea’s leader invite America’s premier orchestra to play in his capital? The answer may be found in Seoul, the capital of the better version of Korea. South Korea today inaugurated its 17th president, Lee Myung-bak. The conservative Lee looks set to reverse a decade of the Sunshine Policy of his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Lee has already set a new tone in Seoul by signaling that he will condition major assistance to North Korea on adherence to its commitment to give up its atomic bombs. Since the beginning of this year Pyongyang has failed to provide a promised declaration of its nuclear weapons programs, and, as a result, the international community has slowed aid deliveries.

There are signs that the North is headed toward another economic downturn, so Kim Jong Il is undoubtedly looking for new sources of assistance. The North Korean government has stockpiled at least six months’ worth of fuel and other supplies, so it can last through the year. Although it’s unlikely that Beijing would let the regime fall, Kim does not either trust or like the Chinese and would prefer to find other sources of support, especially because multiple benefactors would allow him to play one off against the others, as his father so skillfully did during the Cold War.

The risk is that the United States will fall for the euphoria surrounding the New York Phil’s visit, which has the blessing of the Bush administration. “I don’t think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea,” said Condoleezza Rice, who attended Lee’s inauguration. I agree, but her recent Korean policy has been marked by unimaginative strategy, humiliating moments, and unseemly compromises. Kim is a grandmaster of tactics, and if there will be any victim of “Dvorak Diplomacy,” it may be us, not him.

Read Less

Abbas Knew?

Here’s something that has gone almost completely unremarked upon in America:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his security chiefs had detailed evidence of Hamas’ plans to seize Gaza, yet did not mobilize to stop the Islamic militants, an investigation concluded Saturday.

The 76-page report, which was ordered by Abbas, did not hold him, security adviser Mohammed Dahlan or any other political leaders responsible for the takeover in June.

So this is the crew that the U.S. government is currently dumping hundreds of millions of dollars on? This is the gang of buffoons and incompetents that the world demands Israel trust to deal with terrorists in the West Bank? According to the very report Abbas commissioned, when he received information that his own government was going to be usurped in Gaza, he shrugged his shoulders and did nothing — but we expect that he is going to leap into action like a superhero to stop the same terrorists from killing Jews in Israel?

Someone should really ask Condi about this.

Here’s something that has gone almost completely unremarked upon in America:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his security chiefs had detailed evidence of Hamas’ plans to seize Gaza, yet did not mobilize to stop the Islamic militants, an investigation concluded Saturday.

The 76-page report, which was ordered by Abbas, did not hold him, security adviser Mohammed Dahlan or any other political leaders responsible for the takeover in June.

So this is the crew that the U.S. government is currently dumping hundreds of millions of dollars on? This is the gang of buffoons and incompetents that the world demands Israel trust to deal with terrorists in the West Bank? According to the very report Abbas commissioned, when he received information that his own government was going to be usurped in Gaza, he shrugged his shoulders and did nothing — but we expect that he is going to leap into action like a superhero to stop the same terrorists from killing Jews in Israel?

Someone should really ask Condi about this.

Read Less

Hillary’s New Low

This is what desperation looks like. If reports are correct and Hillary’s campaign circulated the picture of Barack Obama in a turban over the weekend, then this tasteless hail-Mary was executed while she simultaneously scolded Obama for fighting dirty and using “tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.” (As someone pointed out to me, her Karl Rove analogy is correct insofar as Karl Rove’s tactics (if not his strategies) tend to be effective.) Hillary’s moves have been, at best, temporary band-aids and at worst, catastrophic set-backs. But whether it’s tears, scolding, or race-baiting, it all seems desperate and defensive.

One wonders how long she’s sat on this picture. And what will her continued descent into ever-more-shameless territory look like? As Allahpundit points out: “At this point I half-expect her to accuse [Obama] of being a Muslim at the debate tomorrow night.” I suppose she’ll interject such accusations between charges of being unscrupulous. There’s a genuine flailing quality at work. Having just challenged Obama to “have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign,” Hillary has lapped him in the race to the bottom and forfeited any pretense of moral superiority. Switching campaign managers was more like pulling the goalie. Team Hillary is now trying to score at any cost in the ugliest last minute of her career.

This is what desperation looks like. If reports are correct and Hillary’s campaign circulated the picture of Barack Obama in a turban over the weekend, then this tasteless hail-Mary was executed while she simultaneously scolded Obama for fighting dirty and using “tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.” (As someone pointed out to me, her Karl Rove analogy is correct insofar as Karl Rove’s tactics (if not his strategies) tend to be effective.) Hillary’s moves have been, at best, temporary band-aids and at worst, catastrophic set-backs. But whether it’s tears, scolding, or race-baiting, it all seems desperate and defensive.

One wonders how long she’s sat on this picture. And what will her continued descent into ever-more-shameless territory look like? As Allahpundit points out: “At this point I half-expect her to accuse [Obama] of being a Muslim at the debate tomorrow night.” I suppose she’ll interject such accusations between charges of being unscrupulous. There’s a genuine flailing quality at work. Having just challenged Obama to “have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign,” Hillary has lapped him in the race to the bottom and forfeited any pretense of moral superiority. Switching campaign managers was more like pulling the goalie. Team Hillary is now trying to score at any cost in the ugliest last minute of her career.

Read Less

Crisis Averted . . .

All I can say is: what a relief — the Israel-Gaza border is calm today. Last night, at almost 10 PM, expecting the worst, the Israeli embassy in Washington took the unusual step of issuing a preemptive statement on what was believed to be an impending public-relations disaster:

Hamas is behind an intentional action that yet again places Palestinian civilians on the front lines. Israel does not interfere in demonstrations taking place inside the Gaza Strip, but Israel will protect its borders and will prevent any violations of its sovereign territory. Israel is acting to prevent any deterioration of the situation but wishes to unequivocally clarify that if this does happen, the sole responsibility lies directly on Hamas’ shoulders.

An Israeli government contact who I spoke with last night was anxious, saying that the IDF and police were anticipating a horrible turn of events: a massive attempt, orchestrated by Hamas, to push civilians by the thousands into Israel. The Israelis would be forced to choose between two terrible options: either contain the incursion through force of arms, or let it through — there would really be no middle choice. Would the IDF and police send rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that included women and children? Would they have any other choice, short of simply permitting a Hamas invasion of Israel?

All of this was intended by Hamas and its Iranian patron to take the fight to Israel in the most reliable arena that exists for them today: the media. Put images of tear-gassed Palestinian children on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, and enjoy, for a few blissful days, watching Israel get engulfed by paroxysms of false moral outrage. It would have been a brilliant strategy — if only the crowds had shown up. Perhaps today the people of Gaza feel that they don’t owe so much to Hamas, after all.

All I can say is: what a relief — the Israel-Gaza border is calm today. Last night, at almost 10 PM, expecting the worst, the Israeli embassy in Washington took the unusual step of issuing a preemptive statement on what was believed to be an impending public-relations disaster:

Hamas is behind an intentional action that yet again places Palestinian civilians on the front lines. Israel does not interfere in demonstrations taking place inside the Gaza Strip, but Israel will protect its borders and will prevent any violations of its sovereign territory. Israel is acting to prevent any deterioration of the situation but wishes to unequivocally clarify that if this does happen, the sole responsibility lies directly on Hamas’ shoulders.

An Israeli government contact who I spoke with last night was anxious, saying that the IDF and police were anticipating a horrible turn of events: a massive attempt, orchestrated by Hamas, to push civilians by the thousands into Israel. The Israelis would be forced to choose between two terrible options: either contain the incursion through force of arms, or let it through — there would really be no middle choice. Would the IDF and police send rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that included women and children? Would they have any other choice, short of simply permitting a Hamas invasion of Israel?

All of this was intended by Hamas and its Iranian patron to take the fight to Israel in the most reliable arena that exists for them today: the media. Put images of tear-gassed Palestinian children on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, and enjoy, for a few blissful days, watching Israel get engulfed by paroxysms of false moral outrage. It would have been a brilliant strategy — if only the crowds had shown up. Perhaps today the people of Gaza feel that they don’t owe so much to Hamas, after all.

Read Less

Nader Raises Obama’s Israel Issue

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

Read Less

Why Go Now?

From the Right and from mainstream media pundits the message is the same: Hillary Clinton should get out. This seems to be premised on the assumption that she is approaching a Huckabeean math problem: she cannot overtake the leader on delegates. To do that she would have to win big, really big, in Ohio and Texas. But let’s say she wins by small amounts in Texas and Ohio. (She is, after all, leading solidily in Ohio.) Does the Barack Obama juggernaut look so formidable then?

At the very least, she will then be in a battle for Pennsylvania on April 22 and be ending the delegate race on a high note. What she needs, in lieu of an almost impossible lead in the pledged delegate count, is: a shift in momentum, bragging rights that she has won every big state (except Illinois), a halt to the media’s “Hillary’s a has-been” storyline and a new image for herself as an indomitable fighter. If she does all that, she can then make her pitch to the superdelegates. It is not the most likely or probable scenario, but there is zero reason, other than to protect the leader’s image and prevent some damaging misstep on his part, for her to get out now. It’s a different story, of course, if she fails to win on March 4.

From the Right and from mainstream media pundits the message is the same: Hillary Clinton should get out. This seems to be premised on the assumption that she is approaching a Huckabeean math problem: she cannot overtake the leader on delegates. To do that she would have to win big, really big, in Ohio and Texas. But let’s say she wins by small amounts in Texas and Ohio. (She is, after all, leading solidily in Ohio.) Does the Barack Obama juggernaut look so formidable then?

At the very least, she will then be in a battle for Pennsylvania on April 22 and be ending the delegate race on a high note. What she needs, in lieu of an almost impossible lead in the pledged delegate count, is: a shift in momentum, bragging rights that she has won every big state (except Illinois), a halt to the media’s “Hillary’s a has-been” storyline and a new image for herself as an indomitable fighter. If she does all that, she can then make her pitch to the superdelegates. It is not the most likely or probable scenario, but there is zero reason, other than to protect the leader’s image and prevent some damaging misstep on his part, for her to get out now. It’s a different story, of course, if she fails to win on March 4.

Read Less

Oops!

Today was supposed to be Ismail Haniyeh’s big day. A huge demonstration of Gazans was slated to protest the Israeli blockade. The “longest human chain in the world,” we were told, was going to link arms from Gaza City to Rafiah. Maybe they would storm the border, like they did with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even more. Israelis warned that they would respond in force, and sent reinforcements pouring towards the border. Hamas, we were told, was in a “win-win” situation; either they would succeed in breaking the blockade, or they would get such great coverage of Israeli brutality that no one would care if they failed.

But only 5,000 people showed up.

We have no idea exactly what went wrong. But we are left with two possibilities, and two alone: (1) Gazans don’t really care so much about the blockade, or (2) Israel outmaneuvered Hamas in its diplomatic and military preparations, and Haniyeh understood he had little to gain–in which case, we should never again believe that Gaza protests are spontaneous displays of genuine outrage, but rather programmed rallies dictated from above, as we always thought.

Looks like it’s lose-lose for Hamas.

Today was supposed to be Ismail Haniyeh’s big day. A huge demonstration of Gazans was slated to protest the Israeli blockade. The “longest human chain in the world,” we were told, was going to link arms from Gaza City to Rafiah. Maybe they would storm the border, like they did with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even more. Israelis warned that they would respond in force, and sent reinforcements pouring towards the border. Hamas, we were told, was in a “win-win” situation; either they would succeed in breaking the blockade, or they would get such great coverage of Israeli brutality that no one would care if they failed.

But only 5,000 people showed up.

We have no idea exactly what went wrong. But we are left with two possibilities, and two alone: (1) Gazans don’t really care so much about the blockade, or (2) Israel outmaneuvered Hamas in its diplomatic and military preparations, and Haniyeh understood he had little to gain–in which case, we should never again believe that Gaza protests are spontaneous displays of genuine outrage, but rather programmed rallies dictated from above, as we always thought.

Looks like it’s lose-lose for Hamas.

Read Less

Totalitarianism Tourism

 All it costs is $5895 for “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a planned society.”

Our journey to North and South Korea begins with a “briefing” in Beijing’s Mao-inspired Red Capital Club nestled deep inside a historic hutong. Then it’s off to isolated Pyongyang — eerie yet appealing like East Berlin of the 1980’s — where you’ll witness North Korea’s most exuberant festival alongside 150,000 spectators in May Day Stadium. Several statues of Kim Il Sung later, you peer across the world’s most heavily armed border (the Demilitarized Zone).

Hmmm: “eerie yet appealing like East Berlin of the 1980’s.” I’ve been to both North Korea and Berlin in the 1980’s, and I can confirm that both were “eerie.” But “appealing”? Different folks, different strokes.

 All it costs is $5895 for “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a planned society.”

Our journey to North and South Korea begins with a “briefing” in Beijing’s Mao-inspired Red Capital Club nestled deep inside a historic hutong. Then it’s off to isolated Pyongyang — eerie yet appealing like East Berlin of the 1980’s — where you’ll witness North Korea’s most exuberant festival alongside 150,000 spectators in May Day Stadium. Several statues of Kim Il Sung later, you peer across the world’s most heavily armed border (the Demilitarized Zone).

Hmmm: “eerie yet appealing like East Berlin of the 1980’s.” I’ve been to both North Korea and Berlin in the 1980’s, and I can confirm that both were “eerie.” But “appealing”? Different folks, different strokes.

Read Less

Adel’s Contradiction

Addressing a delegation of Italian parliamentarians during their recent visit to Tehran, Majlis speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel commented that “the Islamic Revolution is of no threat to other states and their national security.” But now the Speaker has changed his mind and in an interview to an Iranian newspaper he has said that “the countdown to Israel’s destruction has begun.” (No doubt, among those Europeans who support dialogue with Tehran at all costs, this statement will be interpreted as a sign of moderation–after all, if the Speaker said “Israel,” he must recognizes its existence!) Fools will be fools no matter what, and they’ll accept Adel’s first statement at face value. But for those whose mind still functions, the contradiction should be evidence of two things: Iran’s duplicity and the folly of dialogue with bloodthirsty warmongers.

Addressing a delegation of Italian parliamentarians during their recent visit to Tehran, Majlis speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel commented that “the Islamic Revolution is of no threat to other states and their national security.” But now the Speaker has changed his mind and in an interview to an Iranian newspaper he has said that “the countdown to Israel’s destruction has begun.” (No doubt, among those Europeans who support dialogue with Tehran at all costs, this statement will be interpreted as a sign of moderation–after all, if the Speaker said “Israel,” he must recognizes its existence!) Fools will be fools no matter what, and they’ll accept Adel’s first statement at face value. But for those whose mind still functions, the contradiction should be evidence of two things: Iran’s duplicity and the folly of dialogue with bloodthirsty warmongers.

Read Less

Don’t You Believe It

Hillary Clinton is turning up the rhetoric a bit. At a rally on Sunday she had this to say:

“Now, I could stand up here and say let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified…the sky will open, the light will come down celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect. Maybe I’ve just lived a little long but I have no illusions about how hard this will be.”

She sounded a similar message in an interview with CBN:

“I think that there is a certain phenomenon associated with this candidacy, and I am really struck by that, because it is very much about him and his personality and his presentation, and that’s perfectly legitimate in politics or any other walk of life, but I think it endangers or oversimplifies the complexity of the problems we face, the challenges of navigating our country through some difficult uncharted waters. We are a nation at war; that seems to be forgotten.”

She is right, but the message is a downer. She is telling audiences that this nice young man is selling you a bill of goods and it is not as easy as he makes it all sound. For a Democratic base that wants to believe it really is that easy (good intentions will melt the heart of dictators and the “special interests”) it is not going to warm their hearts. The reality, of course, is that there are huge philosophical differences separating the parties domestically, as well as dangerous, intractable enemies abroad. There is a good case to be made–one that McCain will surely take up–that an ultra-liberal novice is not the right person to bridge domestic divisions and stare down international foes. However, a liberal Democratic primary electorate that doesn’t believe Barack Obama is too liberal and doesn’t believe the world is all that dangerous is more disposed to favor the “celestial choir” guy than the “you gotta be kidding” gal.

Hillary Clinton is turning up the rhetoric a bit. At a rally on Sunday she had this to say:

“Now, I could stand up here and say let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified…the sky will open, the light will come down celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect. Maybe I’ve just lived a little long but I have no illusions about how hard this will be.”

She sounded a similar message in an interview with CBN:

“I think that there is a certain phenomenon associated with this candidacy, and I am really struck by that, because it is very much about him and his personality and his presentation, and that’s perfectly legitimate in politics or any other walk of life, but I think it endangers or oversimplifies the complexity of the problems we face, the challenges of navigating our country through some difficult uncharted waters. We are a nation at war; that seems to be forgotten.”

She is right, but the message is a downer. She is telling audiences that this nice young man is selling you a bill of goods and it is not as easy as he makes it all sound. For a Democratic base that wants to believe it really is that easy (good intentions will melt the heart of dictators and the “special interests”) it is not going to warm their hearts. The reality, of course, is that there are huge philosophical differences separating the parties domestically, as well as dangerous, intractable enemies abroad. There is a good case to be made–one that McCain will surely take up–that an ultra-liberal novice is not the right person to bridge domestic divisions and stare down international foes. However, a liberal Democratic primary electorate that doesn’t believe Barack Obama is too liberal and doesn’t believe the world is all that dangerous is more disposed to favor the “celestial choir” guy than the “you gotta be kidding” gal.

Read Less