Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 17, 2008

Barack and the Boss

Yesterday, in endorsing Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen wrote on his website:

He speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that’s interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where “. . . nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.”

It’s true that Obama speaks to the America Springsteen usually writes about. But I’m not sure what he’s referring to in this description. Springsteen’s America is a soot-covered wasteland of junked cars, violent townies, shotgun weddings, racist cops, closed factories, and endless unemployment lines. If you think Obama was tough on small town mentalities, consider the lyrics of Springsteen’s “Born to Run”:

Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Wherever the tramps wound up, let’s hope they didn’t join the work force. Being out of work in this traumatized dystopia is paradise compared to what happens if you actually ever find a job:

Early in the morning factory whistle blows,
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes,
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.

Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain,
I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain,
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,
The working, the working, just the working life.

End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.

When, in 1980, Springsteen wrote

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember, Mary acts like she don’t care

who could blame him? It was less than a year after Jimmy Carter had gone on television and made a speech diagnosing the country as clinically depressed and spiritually bankrupt:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us.

Springsteen took the nation’s pulse and wrote about it. The problem is that his sense of America–forged during the Carter years–has not changed since. Sure, he came out with an inspirational post-9/11 album. But that came and went as fast as Yasir Arafat’s blood donation to the victims.

Springsteen said in his Obama letter: “After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken.” But it’s hard to imagine what exactly he wants to reclaim. The last time Springsteen’s lyrics reflected any consistent sense of romance and adventure in connection with America was during the Nixon years. Personally, I’d love to see him make music like that again. But somehow I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at.

Yesterday, in endorsing Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen wrote on his website:

He speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that’s interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where “. . . nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.”

It’s true that Obama speaks to the America Springsteen usually writes about. But I’m not sure what he’s referring to in this description. Springsteen’s America is a soot-covered wasteland of junked cars, violent townies, shotgun weddings, racist cops, closed factories, and endless unemployment lines. If you think Obama was tough on small town mentalities, consider the lyrics of Springsteen’s “Born to Run”:

Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Wherever the tramps wound up, let’s hope they didn’t join the work force. Being out of work in this traumatized dystopia is paradise compared to what happens if you actually ever find a job:

Early in the morning factory whistle blows,
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes,
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning light,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.

Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain,
I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain,
Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,
The working, the working, just the working life.

End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy,
somebody’s gonna get hurt tonight,
It’s the working, the working, just the working life.

When, in 1980, Springsteen wrote

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember, Mary acts like she don’t care

who could blame him? It was less than a year after Jimmy Carter had gone on television and made a speech diagnosing the country as clinically depressed and spiritually bankrupt:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us.

Springsteen took the nation’s pulse and wrote about it. The problem is that his sense of America–forged during the Carter years–has not changed since. Sure, he came out with an inspirational post-9/11 album. But that came and went as fast as Yasir Arafat’s blood donation to the victims.

Springsteen said in his Obama letter: “After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken.” But it’s hard to imagine what exactly he wants to reclaim. The last time Springsteen’s lyrics reflected any consistent sense of romance and adventure in connection with America was during the Nixon years. Personally, I’d love to see him make music like that again. But somehow I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at.

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Jimmy Street

Over at the HuffPo, Robert Naiman has a puff-post about J Street, the final sentence of which reads:

If you think Carter is doing the right thing, consider giving this new organization your support.

Now there’s a winning sales pitch.

Over at the HuffPo, Robert Naiman has a puff-post about J Street, the final sentence of which reads:

If you think Carter is doing the right thing, consider giving this new organization your support.

Now there’s a winning sales pitch.

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Not That Good on Substance, Either

Supporters are complaining that Barack Obama did poorly at the debate only because the moderators asked non-substantive, ad hominem questions. But Obama didn’t do so well on policy, either. On Israel he sputtered. Here’s the exchange:

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

SENATOR OBAMA: As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we — one whose security we consider paramount, and that — that would be an act of aggression that we — that I would — that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.

He sounded, frankly, like he had no clue what our current policy is. He also wound up sounding weak, agreeing only to “appropriate action.”

Then he got caught implying he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 while saying that that he would raise the payroll tax cap:

MR. GIBSON: Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200 and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that’s going to raise taxes on them.

SENATOR OBAMA: And that’s — and that’s — and that’s why I’ve said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

But the point is, we’re going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can’t — you can’t get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system. And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we’re going to do that and not just say that we’re going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

I think that means he really is going to raise taxes on those making under six figures because we really need the money for social security. That’s fine. But it’s not a “no taxes on less than $200K” pledge.

Then we had a question on the D.C. gun ban, where he, as a constitutional law professor, should have shone:

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven’t listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence. As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

He goes on and on without answering the questions raised by the case: does the Second Amendment confer an individual right to own a handgun and does an absolute ban violate that right? It seems fairly obvious that Obama doesn’t want to tell voters what he thinks. Which is odd: he refused to sign the Congressional brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the ban, so I think his opinion is clear.

In short, character and policy are both valid subjects at a debate. And Obama didn’t do well on either.

Supporters are complaining that Barack Obama did poorly at the debate only because the moderators asked non-substantive, ad hominem questions. But Obama didn’t do so well on policy, either. On Israel he sputtered. Here’s the exchange:

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

SENATOR OBAMA: As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we — one whose security we consider paramount, and that — that would be an act of aggression that we — that I would — that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.

He sounded, frankly, like he had no clue what our current policy is. He also wound up sounding weak, agreeing only to “appropriate action.”

Then he got caught implying he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 while saying that that he would raise the payroll tax cap:

MR. GIBSON: Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200 and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that’s going to raise taxes on them.

SENATOR OBAMA: And that’s — and that’s — and that’s why I’ve said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

But the point is, we’re going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can’t — you can’t get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system. And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we’re going to do that and not just say that we’re going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

I think that means he really is going to raise taxes on those making under six figures because we really need the money for social security. That’s fine. But it’s not a “no taxes on less than $200K” pledge.

Then we had a question on the D.C. gun ban, where he, as a constitutional law professor, should have shone:

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven’t listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence. As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

He goes on and on without answering the questions raised by the case: does the Second Amendment confer an individual right to own a handgun and does an absolute ban violate that right? It seems fairly obvious that Obama doesn’t want to tell voters what he thinks. Which is odd: he refused to sign the Congressional brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the ban, so I think his opinion is clear.

In short, character and policy are both valid subjects at a debate. And Obama didn’t do well on either.

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It’s A Mixed-Up, Crazy World

For the second time in a week, Hamas gunmen have assaulted a transportation hub supplying Gaza. Last week the fuel transfer station at Nachal Oz was attacked. Today Hamas attacked both the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which humanitarian aid is supplied to Gaza, and, once again, the Nachal Oz station.

But wait: aren’t the Israelis the ones who want to stop fuel and humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza? In a strange new twist, Israel and Hamas have reversed their alleged roles: Israel is trying to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Hamas is trying to create one.

The reason for these attacks? Hamas needs media attention to survive. The worst thing that could happen to Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshaal is for the world to stop paying attention to the disaster they’ve created. So if Hamas can’t convince Israel to shut the lights off with Qassam rockets (which the group routinely aims at the power station inside Israel that supplies Gaza with most of its electricity), or by confiscating half the fuel supplies that do make it into Gaza, it attacks Nachal Oz and Kerem Shalom directly. Anything to advance the false narrative of the Israeli blockade, keep Gaza in the headlines, and demonstrate the efficacy of Hamas’s resistance.

I wonder whether those members of the international community whose consciences are finely attuned to Palestinian suffering will respond to all of this by denouncing Hamas for its collective punishment of Gaza, for attempting to instigate a humanitarian crisis, for endangering the ability of hospitals to remain open, etc. You know: all the things Israel is routinely accused of doing, but which only Hamas ever seems to perpetrate.

For the second time in a week, Hamas gunmen have assaulted a transportation hub supplying Gaza. Last week the fuel transfer station at Nachal Oz was attacked. Today Hamas attacked both the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which humanitarian aid is supplied to Gaza, and, once again, the Nachal Oz station.

But wait: aren’t the Israelis the ones who want to stop fuel and humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza? In a strange new twist, Israel and Hamas have reversed their alleged roles: Israel is trying to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Hamas is trying to create one.

The reason for these attacks? Hamas needs media attention to survive. The worst thing that could happen to Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshaal is for the world to stop paying attention to the disaster they’ve created. So if Hamas can’t convince Israel to shut the lights off with Qassam rockets (which the group routinely aims at the power station inside Israel that supplies Gaza with most of its electricity), or by confiscating half the fuel supplies that do make it into Gaza, it attacks Nachal Oz and Kerem Shalom directly. Anything to advance the false narrative of the Israeli blockade, keep Gaza in the headlines, and demonstrate the efficacy of Hamas’s resistance.

I wonder whether those members of the international community whose consciences are finely attuned to Palestinian suffering will respond to all of this by denouncing Hamas for its collective punishment of Gaza, for attempting to instigate a humanitarian crisis, for endangering the ability of hospitals to remain open, etc. You know: all the things Israel is routinely accused of doing, but which only Hamas ever seems to perpetrate.

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Carter’s Historic Relationship with Hamas

In defending his meetings with high-ranking members of Hamas, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has argued that Hamas’s participation is essential to any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

For Carter, this is a useful argument. After all, in the aftermath of Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and subsequent coup in Gaza last June, many in the policy world have reached the same conclusion. For example, in the run-up to the Annapolis peace conference in November, prominent foreign policy figures from both Republican and Democratic administrations–including Thomas Pickering, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Lee Hamilton–similarly wrote that “a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas’s cooperation.”

But Carter’s current round of meetings with Hamas officials is not the result of pragmatism. Rather, it represents the most recent–and most public–chapter in Carter’s longtime relationship with the organization. According to the Jerusalem Post‘s archives, Carter has advocated for Hamas’ legitimization since at least 1990, when he called on Yasser Arafat to include Hamas in the PLO. And according to a Voice of Palestine transcript retrieved on Lexis-Nexis, Carter met with top-ranking Hamas officials–including the organization’s co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar–six years later, exacting a promise that the group wouldn’t disrupt the first-ever Palestinian Authority elections.

Interestingly, these early interactions with Hamas left a bad taste in Carter’s mouth. As Carter wrote in a 2004 New York Times op-ed, Hamas ultimately rejected his efforts to have them accept Arafat’s leadership, instead undertaking a campaign of suicide bombings that derailed the Oslo peace process. As a consequence, Carter declined to meet with Hamas officials for nearly a decade, lifting his boycott in the weeks prior to the 2006 elections.

Yet, by this time, Carter was ripe for Hamas’s courtship. In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter gives a typically uncritical account of his meeting with Hamas official Mahmoud Ramahi:

When I questioned him about the necessity for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, he responded that they had not committed an act of violence since a ceasefire was declared in August 2004 and were willing and able to extend and enforce their cease-fire (hudna) for “two, ten, or fifty years” if Israel would reciprocate by refraining from attacks on the Palestinians. He added that there had been no allegations of terrorism or corruption among their serving local leaders, and that Israel had so far refused to recognize the Palestinian National Authority (only the PLO) and had rejected the key provisions of the Oslo Agreement. Hamas’s first priorities would be to form a government, to maintain order, and to deal with the financial crisis.

Of course, contrary to Ramahi’s promises to Carter, Hamas’s priorities hardly changed following the elections. Indeed, Hamas has strengthened its relationship with Iran, dedicated substantial resources to building its arsenal and smuggling weapons, and intensified its rocket attacks against Israel.

In short, Carter’s own dealings with Hamas have twice proven that engaging terrorists is detrimental to peace prospects. This should silence the growing chorus that views dialogue with Hamas as a pragmatic necessity. After all, aside from winning elections, how has Hamas–or its openness to peaceful compromise–changed?

In defending his meetings with high-ranking members of Hamas, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has argued that Hamas’s participation is essential to any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

For Carter, this is a useful argument. After all, in the aftermath of Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and subsequent coup in Gaza last June, many in the policy world have reached the same conclusion. For example, in the run-up to the Annapolis peace conference in November, prominent foreign policy figures from both Republican and Democratic administrations–including Thomas Pickering, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Lee Hamilton–similarly wrote that “a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas’s cooperation.”

But Carter’s current round of meetings with Hamas officials is not the result of pragmatism. Rather, it represents the most recent–and most public–chapter in Carter’s longtime relationship with the organization. According to the Jerusalem Post‘s archives, Carter has advocated for Hamas’ legitimization since at least 1990, when he called on Yasser Arafat to include Hamas in the PLO. And according to a Voice of Palestine transcript retrieved on Lexis-Nexis, Carter met with top-ranking Hamas officials–including the organization’s co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar–six years later, exacting a promise that the group wouldn’t disrupt the first-ever Palestinian Authority elections.

Interestingly, these early interactions with Hamas left a bad taste in Carter’s mouth. As Carter wrote in a 2004 New York Times op-ed, Hamas ultimately rejected his efforts to have them accept Arafat’s leadership, instead undertaking a campaign of suicide bombings that derailed the Oslo peace process. As a consequence, Carter declined to meet with Hamas officials for nearly a decade, lifting his boycott in the weeks prior to the 2006 elections.

Yet, by this time, Carter was ripe for Hamas’s courtship. In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter gives a typically uncritical account of his meeting with Hamas official Mahmoud Ramahi:

When I questioned him about the necessity for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, he responded that they had not committed an act of violence since a ceasefire was declared in August 2004 and were willing and able to extend and enforce their cease-fire (hudna) for “two, ten, or fifty years” if Israel would reciprocate by refraining from attacks on the Palestinians. He added that there had been no allegations of terrorism or corruption among their serving local leaders, and that Israel had so far refused to recognize the Palestinian National Authority (only the PLO) and had rejected the key provisions of the Oslo Agreement. Hamas’s first priorities would be to form a government, to maintain order, and to deal with the financial crisis.

Of course, contrary to Ramahi’s promises to Carter, Hamas’s priorities hardly changed following the elections. Indeed, Hamas has strengthened its relationship with Iran, dedicated substantial resources to building its arsenal and smuggling weapons, and intensified its rocket attacks against Israel.

In short, Carter’s own dealings with Hamas have twice proven that engaging terrorists is detrimental to peace prospects. This should silence the growing chorus that views dialogue with Hamas as a pragmatic necessity. After all, aside from winning elections, how has Hamas–or its openness to peaceful compromise–changed?

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It’s Not a Race

In a debate the other night, Edina Lekovic, director of communications for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, referred to Dutch parliamentarian and filmmaker Geert Wilders as a racist. Wilders, who made the recent anti-Islamist film “Fitna,” has admitted to a distaste for Islam (a religion). But if he’s defamed any ethnic group, I’m unaware of it. So why “racist”?

Last week, Mark Steyn wrote:

Islam is everything but a race. It’s a religion — which is to say [it is] an ideology. It’s also a political platform and an imperialist project, as those terms are traditionally understood. It has believers of every colour on every continent. So, if Islam is a race, then everything’s a race — from the Elks Lodge to the Hannah Montana Fan Club to the British Airways frequent flyer program . . .”Racist,” of course, no longer has anything very much to do with skin colour. It merely means you have raised a topic that discombobulates the scrupulously non-judgmental progressive sensibility.

Steyn doesn’t need any help making his point. But there’s a story in today’s Telegraph that can be cited as supporting evidence. Simon Keeler, a white Muslim, was found guilty of storming with a gang of his associates a moderate mosque in London. In other words, a Western country convicted a white man for harassing and threatening Muslims. Somehow, though, it seems doubtful that Ms. Lekovic will now describe the British courts as racist against whites.

In a debate the other night, Edina Lekovic, director of communications for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, referred to Dutch parliamentarian and filmmaker Geert Wilders as a racist. Wilders, who made the recent anti-Islamist film “Fitna,” has admitted to a distaste for Islam (a religion). But if he’s defamed any ethnic group, I’m unaware of it. So why “racist”?

Last week, Mark Steyn wrote:

Islam is everything but a race. It’s a religion — which is to say [it is] an ideology. It’s also a political platform and an imperialist project, as those terms are traditionally understood. It has believers of every colour on every continent. So, if Islam is a race, then everything’s a race — from the Elks Lodge to the Hannah Montana Fan Club to the British Airways frequent flyer program . . .”Racist,” of course, no longer has anything very much to do with skin colour. It merely means you have raised a topic that discombobulates the scrupulously non-judgmental progressive sensibility.

Steyn doesn’t need any help making his point. But there’s a story in today’s Telegraph that can be cited as supporting evidence. Simon Keeler, a white Muslim, was found guilty of storming with a gang of his associates a moderate mosque in London. In other words, a Western country convicted a white man for harassing and threatening Muslims. Somehow, though, it seems doubtful that Ms. Lekovic will now describe the British courts as racist against whites.

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The Friends You Keep

Among the many negatives for Barack Obama from the debate is the increased focus on his connections to unsavory characters. The Bill Ayers connection has been reported before, but the debate last night certainly helped bring it to national attention. The New York Sun, for example, reports:

[Ayers] and Mr. Obama served together on the nine-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago nonprofit, for three years beginning in 1999, and they have also appeared jointly on two academic panels, one in 1997 and another in 2001. Mr. Ayers, who was never convicted in the Weather Underground bombings, is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Sun (and others) also have noted that Ayers, an unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist, made a small contribution to Obama’s campaign.

Perhaps just as troubling for Obama as his domestic friends are the international supporters he is collecting. Yesterday, Hamas gave him the thumbs up. Previously, Daniel Ortega said that he likes what he sees, labeling Obama a “revolutionary phenomenon.” FARC is banking on an Obama presidency to nix U.S. aid to Colombia and shut down the free trade deal. Fidel Castro also sent word that he likes the Dream Ticket.

Is Obama responsible for the grab-bag of terrorists and dictators backing him? Well, he hasn’t given them the impression he would make their jobs harder. By suggesting he will meet with dictators without preconditions, he holds out the possibility that they too can get some “dignity promotion.” And he still hasn’t given these groups and individuals any indication that their support is unwelcome. It’s odd in the extreme that he (or his campaign) hasn’t already repudiated these pledges of support. But if he won’t return Bill Ayers’s donation or renounce Reverend Wright, why would he distance himself from thugs abroad? He just doesn’t do repudiation.

Among the many negatives for Barack Obama from the debate is the increased focus on his connections to unsavory characters. The Bill Ayers connection has been reported before, but the debate last night certainly helped bring it to national attention. The New York Sun, for example, reports:

[Ayers] and Mr. Obama served together on the nine-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago nonprofit, for three years beginning in 1999, and they have also appeared jointly on two academic panels, one in 1997 and another in 2001. Mr. Ayers, who was never convicted in the Weather Underground bombings, is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Sun (and others) also have noted that Ayers, an unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist, made a small contribution to Obama’s campaign.

Perhaps just as troubling for Obama as his domestic friends are the international supporters he is collecting. Yesterday, Hamas gave him the thumbs up. Previously, Daniel Ortega said that he likes what he sees, labeling Obama a “revolutionary phenomenon.” FARC is banking on an Obama presidency to nix U.S. aid to Colombia and shut down the free trade deal. Fidel Castro also sent word that he likes the Dream Ticket.

Is Obama responsible for the grab-bag of terrorists and dictators backing him? Well, he hasn’t given them the impression he would make their jobs harder. By suggesting he will meet with dictators without preconditions, he holds out the possibility that they too can get some “dignity promotion.” And he still hasn’t given these groups and individuals any indication that their support is unwelcome. It’s odd in the extreme that he (or his campaign) hasn’t already repudiated these pledges of support. But if he won’t return Bill Ayers’s donation or renounce Reverend Wright, why would he distance himself from thugs abroad? He just doesn’t do repudiation.

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The Matza Wars

The latest bit of Israeli infighting concerns the sale of bread during Passover. According to Jewish tradition, for the full week of Passover bread is banned, not just from our mouths but from our homes and businesses as well. Israel, though a secular state, has traditionally upheld certain Jewish customs by law, closing restaurants on Yom Kippur and prohibiting the sale of bread and other leavened products during Passover.

This year, however, a Jerusalem court overturned the latter practice, ruling that the law was never meant to ban the selling of bread but only its public display, and that businesses could now sell bread on Passover as long as they didn’t put it in the store window. This has sparked a major outcry among the Orthodox (and promises to make for another fleeting coalition crisis).

Lest you think this is another case of the small Haredi minority imposing its will on the secular Israeli majority, think again. A poll just came out showing that fully 81 percent of Jewish Israelis refrain from eating bread on Passover. Not only that, 51 percent said they would refuse to patronize a store that sells it.

All sorts of interesting conclusions may be drawn here, but let’s start with the most obvious: The famous Israeli 80-20 split between secular and Orthodox is highly misleading when it comes to respect for Jewish tradition. It may not be an Orthodox country, but it is a conservative one, seeing in the Jewish past and in some Jewish practices central elements in their collective identity.

The latest bit of Israeli infighting concerns the sale of bread during Passover. According to Jewish tradition, for the full week of Passover bread is banned, not just from our mouths but from our homes and businesses as well. Israel, though a secular state, has traditionally upheld certain Jewish customs by law, closing restaurants on Yom Kippur and prohibiting the sale of bread and other leavened products during Passover.

This year, however, a Jerusalem court overturned the latter practice, ruling that the law was never meant to ban the selling of bread but only its public display, and that businesses could now sell bread on Passover as long as they didn’t put it in the store window. This has sparked a major outcry among the Orthodox (and promises to make for another fleeting coalition crisis).

Lest you think this is another case of the small Haredi minority imposing its will on the secular Israeli majority, think again. A poll just came out showing that fully 81 percent of Jewish Israelis refrain from eating bread on Passover. Not only that, 51 percent said they would refuse to patronize a store that sells it.

All sorts of interesting conclusions may be drawn here, but let’s start with the most obvious: The famous Israeli 80-20 split between secular and Orthodox is highly misleading when it comes to respect for Jewish tradition. It may not be an Orthodox country, but it is a conservative one, seeing in the Jewish past and in some Jewish practices central elements in their collective identity.

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A False Iraq Analogy

Discussing Iran on “Hardball,” John McCain explained that the case for war against Iran would be hard to make with the American people because of a “credibility gap” generated by the WMD flop in Iraq. According to Reuters,

Senator McCain said he would have to make an “even more convincing argument that it was necessary to do so because of our failure to find weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

One cannot but concur with Senator McCain that among the arguments voiced to shield Iran from Western pressure–including, possibly, a military strike–there’s the analogy with Iraq. Former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter made that argument recently in The Guardian:

Iraq had been placed in the impossible position of having to prove a negative, a doomed process which led to war. I am fearful that the EU-3 is repeating this same process, demanding Iran refute something that doesn’t exist except in the overactive imaginations of diplomats pre-programmed to accept at face value anything negative about Iran, regardless of its veracity. The implications of such a morally and intellectually shallow posture could very well be disastrous.

One must be mindful of the kind of arguments our allies and friends across the Western world consider serious and legitimate–though Ritter and the Guardian may not necessarily qualify as either. But Senator McCain should also know that this analogy is false.

Firstly, the IAEA says very clearly that the Iranian nuclear program looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. Is it not, then, a duck? As IAEA director general, Dr. Mohammad El-Baradei wrote in November 2003,

Iran’s nuclear programme, as the Agency currently understands it, consists of a practically complete front end of a nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, heavy water production, a light water reactor, a heavy water research reactor and associated research and development facilities.

Iran was given over five years to prove otherwise. So far, Iran has failed to reassure the international community on the nature and aims of its nuclear program. The passing of three UN Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran–two unanimously, one with Indonesia abstaining–indicates that the entire international community is concerned about Iran’s motives for such a reckless pursuit of nuclear power.

So how, you ask, is Iran’s case different from Iraq’s? Precisely because of the absence of an existent Iraqi weaponization program. In Iran, the evidence is in plain sight. IAEA inspectors are currently monitoring a program that (even in its publicly visible parts) should make everyone anxious, especially in light of the fact that Iran concealed its existence for at least eighteen years and procured its initial blueprints and technology A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. According to the IAEA’s report of February 22, 2008, Iran did not deny having received from Khan the designs for a nuclear warhead in 1987. It only lamely protested that it did not ask for them. Doesn’t this admission, coupled with the subsequent two decades of concealment, comprise grounds for further suspicion?

Iran also has an advanced ballistic missile program with links to North Korea, a nuclear power with a strong record of proliferation, as well as operational missiles that can strike as far as Israel and southern Europe, and it is developing longer-range ones, too: up to 4,000 miles.

Missiles with such range make sense, strategically, only if they carry unconventional warheads. In its most recent report, the IAEA cites evidence of Iranian designs for a nuclear warhead for Iran’s existing missiles, notably the Shihab-3 (based on a North Korean design).

inally, there is the mountain of circumstantial evidence which, in light of Iran’s history of concealment and deception, should put all doubts to rest: the fact that Iran does not need to enrich uranium, since the fuel for its reactor at Bushehr is being supplied by Russial; that fact that Iran’s nuclear power infrastructure does not require a heavy water facility, like the one Iran is building in Arak. Such reactors are useful only for producing plutonium, which Iran has no use for as a reactor fuel. The only conceivable reason Iran has for trying to produce plutonium is to make nuclear weapons.

There is, in other words, a very long list of reasons why Iran is not Iraq. Senator McCain is right to be cautious in his statements. But one hopes he is aware of the difference and, when the time comes, will not abide by this false analogy.

Discussing Iran on “Hardball,” John McCain explained that the case for war against Iran would be hard to make with the American people because of a “credibility gap” generated by the WMD flop in Iraq. According to Reuters,

Senator McCain said he would have to make an “even more convincing argument that it was necessary to do so because of our failure to find weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

One cannot but concur with Senator McCain that among the arguments voiced to shield Iran from Western pressure–including, possibly, a military strike–there’s the analogy with Iraq. Former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter made that argument recently in The Guardian:

Iraq had been placed in the impossible position of having to prove a negative, a doomed process which led to war. I am fearful that the EU-3 is repeating this same process, demanding Iran refute something that doesn’t exist except in the overactive imaginations of diplomats pre-programmed to accept at face value anything negative about Iran, regardless of its veracity. The implications of such a morally and intellectually shallow posture could very well be disastrous.

One must be mindful of the kind of arguments our allies and friends across the Western world consider serious and legitimate–though Ritter and the Guardian may not necessarily qualify as either. But Senator McCain should also know that this analogy is false.

Firstly, the IAEA says very clearly that the Iranian nuclear program looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. Is it not, then, a duck? As IAEA director general, Dr. Mohammad El-Baradei wrote in November 2003,

Iran’s nuclear programme, as the Agency currently understands it, consists of a practically complete front end of a nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, heavy water production, a light water reactor, a heavy water research reactor and associated research and development facilities.

Iran was given over five years to prove otherwise. So far, Iran has failed to reassure the international community on the nature and aims of its nuclear program. The passing of three UN Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran–two unanimously, one with Indonesia abstaining–indicates that the entire international community is concerned about Iran’s motives for such a reckless pursuit of nuclear power.

So how, you ask, is Iran’s case different from Iraq’s? Precisely because of the absence of an existent Iraqi weaponization program. In Iran, the evidence is in plain sight. IAEA inspectors are currently monitoring a program that (even in its publicly visible parts) should make everyone anxious, especially in light of the fact that Iran concealed its existence for at least eighteen years and procured its initial blueprints and technology A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. According to the IAEA’s report of February 22, 2008, Iran did not deny having received from Khan the designs for a nuclear warhead in 1987. It only lamely protested that it did not ask for them. Doesn’t this admission, coupled with the subsequent two decades of concealment, comprise grounds for further suspicion?

Iran also has an advanced ballistic missile program with links to North Korea, a nuclear power with a strong record of proliferation, as well as operational missiles that can strike as far as Israel and southern Europe, and it is developing longer-range ones, too: up to 4,000 miles.

Missiles with such range make sense, strategically, only if they carry unconventional warheads. In its most recent report, the IAEA cites evidence of Iranian designs for a nuclear warhead for Iran’s existing missiles, notably the Shihab-3 (based on a North Korean design).

inally, there is the mountain of circumstantial evidence which, in light of Iran’s history of concealment and deception, should put all doubts to rest: the fact that Iran does not need to enrich uranium, since the fuel for its reactor at Bushehr is being supplied by Russial; that fact that Iran’s nuclear power infrastructure does not require a heavy water facility, like the one Iran is building in Arak. Such reactors are useful only for producing plutonium, which Iran has no use for as a reactor fuel. The only conceivable reason Iran has for trying to produce plutonium is to make nuclear weapons.

There is, in other words, a very long list of reasons why Iran is not Iraq. Senator McCain is right to be cautious in his statements. But one hopes he is aware of the difference and, when the time comes, will not abide by this false analogy.

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The Post-Mortem

There are a few strains of post-debate coverage today. Some (including the Philadelphia Inquirer) see the debate as semi-disastrous for Barack Obama and the spin from the Obama camp as self-contradictory. Others, including online reporters and high-octane MSM outlets like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, have picked up on the Bill Ayers and handgun answers.

Then there is the meldown in the Left blogosphere, apparently mortified that Obama had to answer these questions. But some concede that The Great Orator simply did not do his job. So it is to be expected that the Clinton camp is doing a victory dance. They are having a field day reinforcing favorite themes (Obama has a glass jaw, is untested, and can’t take scrutiny).

But, alas, the latter only serves to emphasize the former: the louder Obama’s fans whine, the more obvious it is that their candidate bombed and that tough questions are Obama’s kryptonite. It would be best for the Obama supporters to say it doesn’t matter, they’re all only words, words, words. Oh, wait: maybe not. . .

There are a few strains of post-debate coverage today. Some (including the Philadelphia Inquirer) see the debate as semi-disastrous for Barack Obama and the spin from the Obama camp as self-contradictory. Others, including online reporters and high-octane MSM outlets like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, have picked up on the Bill Ayers and handgun answers.

Then there is the meldown in the Left blogosphere, apparently mortified that Obama had to answer these questions. But some concede that The Great Orator simply did not do his job. So it is to be expected that the Clinton camp is doing a victory dance. They are having a field day reinforcing favorite themes (Obama has a glass jaw, is untested, and can’t take scrutiny).

But, alas, the latter only serves to emphasize the former: the louder Obama’s fans whine, the more obvious it is that their candidate bombed and that tough questions are Obama’s kryptonite. It would be best for the Obama supporters to say it doesn’t matter, they’re all only words, words, words. Oh, wait: maybe not. . .

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Bad Decision in Bucharest

Two weeks ago, meeting in Bucharest, NATO leaders refused to offer Ukraine and Georgia a membership action plan, in large part because France and Germany feared that doing so would unduly alienate Russia. Supporters of accession (including ye olde blogger) argued that shutting the door on these two emerging democracies would only embolden Russian toward greater adventurism. Now that prediction seems to be coming true. As noted by the Financial Times,

Vladimir Putin, Russian president, signed a decree instructing the government to co-operate with the “de facto” authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in economic, trade and other areas, and to recognise some documents issued by them. It said the foreign ministry should look at providing consular services to the regions’ residents.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO secretary-general, says he is “deeply concerned by the actions Russia has taken”– and he should be. This is a major step toward official recognition of these breakaway areas of Georgia as sovereign states. That, in turn, could trigger a renewal of the fighting between Georgia and the separatists that occurred in the early 1990′s. Thus a refusal by Europe to extend its security umbrella is leading, rather predictably, to greater insecurity. Is it too late to reconsider the Bucharest summit’s ill-considered decision?

Two weeks ago, meeting in Bucharest, NATO leaders refused to offer Ukraine and Georgia a membership action plan, in large part because France and Germany feared that doing so would unduly alienate Russia. Supporters of accession (including ye olde blogger) argued that shutting the door on these two emerging democracies would only embolden Russian toward greater adventurism. Now that prediction seems to be coming true. As noted by the Financial Times,

Vladimir Putin, Russian president, signed a decree instructing the government to co-operate with the “de facto” authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in economic, trade and other areas, and to recognise some documents issued by them. It said the foreign ministry should look at providing consular services to the regions’ residents.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO secretary-general, says he is “deeply concerned by the actions Russia has taken”– and he should be. This is a major step toward official recognition of these breakaway areas of Georgia as sovereign states. That, in turn, could trigger a renewal of the fighting between Georgia and the separatists that occurred in the early 1990′s. Thus a refusal by Europe to extend its security umbrella is leading, rather predictably, to greater insecurity. Is it too late to reconsider the Bucharest summit’s ill-considered decision?

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Some Advice for Matt Yglesias

The Dean of the Credulosphere is upset that I have not expressed sufficient reverence at the unveiling of J Street, and cannot understand why we Israel “hawks” (his label) haven’t learned anything from the obvious failure of everything we believe in. His evidence? The difficulties of the Iraq war. Well, let me break out the sock puppets and flash cards for the Dean: Israel and Iraq are two different countries.

But never mind that rather large quibble. Yglesias is exasperated and he’s just not going to take it any longer:

the attitude of thoughtless, unreflective scorn that you see from the Pollacks [sic!] and Kirchicks and Goldfarbs of the world is like it comes from some weird alternative reality where their ideas have generally been deemed vindicated, rather than one where 178% of the public says we’re on the wrong track.

What is the counterproposal to an effort at diplomatic engagement with the existing non-AQ powers in the Middle East? More of the same? Because the last five years have worked out so great?

The counterproposal to diplomatic engagement with Hamas is defeating the group in the only arena that it is willing to be engaged — the battlefield. As I always say, you don’t make peace with your enemies, you defeat them.

And as far as Israel is concerned, yes, hawkishness over the last five years has indeed worked out “so great.” The Dean of the Credulosphere doesn’t appear to have a historic memory longer than three or four blog posts, but if he did he would remember that five years ago buses and restaurants were being detonated by suicide bombers on a weekly basis in Israel. In March of 2002 alone, 134 Israelis were murdered in such attacks.

Did diplomatic engagement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat stop this relentless murder? Of course not — Operation Defensive Shield did. The IDF killed or captured the people responsible for the terror war, sent the rest underground in fear for their lives, encircled the hotbeds of Palestinian terrorism with military checkpoints and roadblocks, and flooded terror networks with informants. By 2004 the intifada was over; Israel won, Yasser Arafat lost, and after four horrible years of death and murder, Israelis were able to resume something resembling a normal life.

If you’re the Dean of the Credulosphere, you don’t know any of this, or you choose to ignore it, perhaps assuming that the intifada ended because some kind of vague deal was struck, or because Kofi Annan asked everyone to cut it out, or because terrorists just got tired of fighting, or, you know, whatever; you can always blog about basketball, right? Well, Dean, no deals were struck, and there was no diplomatic solution. So yes, the past five years in Israel have actually been quite nice as far as Palestinian terrorism is concerned. I heartily endorse more of the same. It’s called winning.

The Dean of the Credulosphere is upset that I have not expressed sufficient reverence at the unveiling of J Street, and cannot understand why we Israel “hawks” (his label) haven’t learned anything from the obvious failure of everything we believe in. His evidence? The difficulties of the Iraq war. Well, let me break out the sock puppets and flash cards for the Dean: Israel and Iraq are two different countries.

But never mind that rather large quibble. Yglesias is exasperated and he’s just not going to take it any longer:

the attitude of thoughtless, unreflective scorn that you see from the Pollacks [sic!] and Kirchicks and Goldfarbs of the world is like it comes from some weird alternative reality where their ideas have generally been deemed vindicated, rather than one where 178% of the public says we’re on the wrong track.

What is the counterproposal to an effort at diplomatic engagement with the existing non-AQ powers in the Middle East? More of the same? Because the last five years have worked out so great?

The counterproposal to diplomatic engagement with Hamas is defeating the group in the only arena that it is willing to be engaged — the battlefield. As I always say, you don’t make peace with your enemies, you defeat them.

And as far as Israel is concerned, yes, hawkishness over the last five years has indeed worked out “so great.” The Dean of the Credulosphere doesn’t appear to have a historic memory longer than three or four blog posts, but if he did he would remember that five years ago buses and restaurants were being detonated by suicide bombers on a weekly basis in Israel. In March of 2002 alone, 134 Israelis were murdered in such attacks.

Did diplomatic engagement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat stop this relentless murder? Of course not — Operation Defensive Shield did. The IDF killed or captured the people responsible for the terror war, sent the rest underground in fear for their lives, encircled the hotbeds of Palestinian terrorism with military checkpoints and roadblocks, and flooded terror networks with informants. By 2004 the intifada was over; Israel won, Yasser Arafat lost, and after four horrible years of death and murder, Israelis were able to resume something resembling a normal life.

If you’re the Dean of the Credulosphere, you don’t know any of this, or you choose to ignore it, perhaps assuming that the intifada ended because some kind of vague deal was struck, or because Kofi Annan asked everyone to cut it out, or because terrorists just got tired of fighting, or, you know, whatever; you can always blog about basketball, right? Well, Dean, no deals were struck, and there was no diplomatic solution. So yes, the past five years in Israel have actually been quite nice as far as Palestinian terrorism is concerned. I heartily endorse more of the same. It’s called winning.

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Announcing JAPSL

Is it illegal or unethical to establish an organization and list members who have not chosen to join? I don’t know the answer but intend to find out. Today I am announcing the formation of JAPSL, Journalists Against Press Shield Laws.

JAPSL is badly outnumbered. Almost every media corporation in the country is backing the establishment of a shield law. So too are numerous lobbying organizations that purport to defend the First Amendment. The House of Representatives has already passed a shield-law bill by a bipartisan landslide margin of 398 to 21. The Senate may act on the matter at some point soon.

I am the founding executive director of JAPSL and my arguments against a shield law can be found in Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

According to JAPSL’s bylaws, there are two categories of members: those whom I induct (regular members), and those whom I induct who then object to being inducted (objecting members).

The roster of regular members of JAPSL spans the political spectrum and includes a number of distinguished writers from leading publications. So far, these include:

Jack Shafer of Slate, author of We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shield Law.

Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, author of The News Media vs. the Innocent.

Anthony Lewis, formerly of the New York Times, author of Freedom For the Thought We Hate.

Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post, who has challenged the idea of a shield law in the Nieman Watchdog.

As of yet, JAPSL has no objecting members. To become a regular or an objecting member, simply post a comment below indicating either your desire to join or your wish to object to being inducted into this vital organization.

Is it illegal or unethical to establish an organization and list members who have not chosen to join? I don’t know the answer but intend to find out. Today I am announcing the formation of JAPSL, Journalists Against Press Shield Laws.

JAPSL is badly outnumbered. Almost every media corporation in the country is backing the establishment of a shield law. So too are numerous lobbying organizations that purport to defend the First Amendment. The House of Representatives has already passed a shield-law bill by a bipartisan landslide margin of 398 to 21. The Senate may act on the matter at some point soon.

I am the founding executive director of JAPSL and my arguments against a shield law can be found in Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

According to JAPSL’s bylaws, there are two categories of members: those whom I induct (regular members), and those whom I induct who then object to being inducted (objecting members).

The roster of regular members of JAPSL spans the political spectrum and includes a number of distinguished writers from leading publications. So far, these include:

Jack Shafer of Slate, author of We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Shield Law.

Steven Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, author of The News Media vs. the Innocent.

Anthony Lewis, formerly of the New York Times, author of Freedom For the Thought We Hate.

Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post, who has challenged the idea of a shield law in the Nieman Watchdog.

As of yet, JAPSL has no objecting members. To become a regular or an objecting member, simply post a comment below indicating either your desire to join or your wish to object to being inducted into this vital organization.

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Too Many Lives at Stake

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

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Words Matter

Roger Simon of Politico observes:

You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen. You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process. Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things that he and others have actually said.

Sure enough, Obama’s campaign manager came out right after the debate with a defensive-sounding statement:

Tonight we saw a real choice between the old politics of point-scoring and distraction and a politics that focuses on bringing us together to actually solve the challenges we talk about every single election.

So we have now come full circle. The candidate who cribbed the line “Words matter” and bragged that his rhetoric lifts all comers has been reduced to complaining that words–his words–don’t matter. The man who was to lead a movement, whose judgment and virtue were cause (finally) for pride in America, now says that the particulars of his past and his associations with friends and mentors are a “distraction.”

What happened? It appears that Obama believed he could skate through an entire primary (and maybe a general election) without having to answer hard questions. Last night, the ABC moderators finally put those long-avoided questions to him. The results weren’t pretty. This raises more fundamental concerns. Can he answer hard questions, regardless of the setting? Or is he only able to give the same canned “we are the change” stump speech over and over again? Judging from his track record of hiding from the media–and his debate performance–it seems the only words that matter from his perspective are the ones drafted, memorized, and rehearsed among admiring advisers and friends.

Roger Simon of Politico observes:

You know a candidate is really feeling the heat when he starts complaining about the kitchen. You know a candidate is having problems when he starts complaining about the process. Wednesday night, in a debate here, Barack Obama complained a number of times about the presidential campaign process and how some people spend way too much time “obsessing” about some of the things that he and others have actually said.

Sure enough, Obama’s campaign manager came out right after the debate with a defensive-sounding statement:

Tonight we saw a real choice between the old politics of point-scoring and distraction and a politics that focuses on bringing us together to actually solve the challenges we talk about every single election.

So we have now come full circle. The candidate who cribbed the line “Words matter” and bragged that his rhetoric lifts all comers has been reduced to complaining that words–his words–don’t matter. The man who was to lead a movement, whose judgment and virtue were cause (finally) for pride in America, now says that the particulars of his past and his associations with friends and mentors are a “distraction.”

What happened? It appears that Obama believed he could skate through an entire primary (and maybe a general election) without having to answer hard questions. Last night, the ABC moderators finally put those long-avoided questions to him. The results weren’t pretty. This raises more fundamental concerns. Can he answer hard questions, regardless of the setting? Or is he only able to give the same canned “we are the change” stump speech over and over again? Judging from his track record of hiding from the media–and his debate performance–it seems the only words that matter from his perspective are the ones drafted, memorized, and rehearsed among admiring advisers and friends.

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Prediction Confirmed!

Me, here, last night:

Watch Out, ABC:  Early pulse-taking from Obama-centric blogs and bloggers indicates that Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are in for a world of hurt over the next couple of days. Expect thumb-sucking pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post about whether the debate questions were “fair.”

Tom Shales in this morning’s Washington Post:

“When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.”

Despicable? 

Me, here, last night:

Watch Out, ABC:  Early pulse-taking from Obama-centric blogs and bloggers indicates that Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are in for a world of hurt over the next couple of days. Expect thumb-sucking pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post about whether the debate questions were “fair.”

Tom Shales in this morning’s Washington Post:

“When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.”

Despicable? 

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Ouch

Sometimes a candidate has an off debate night. Sometimes he leaves his best lines out on the stump. But a performance as bad as Barack Obama’s, this late in the campaign before a critical primary is unusual. And don’t take our word for it: Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch. The most devoted Obamaphile sums it up:

It was a lifeless, exhausted, drained and dreary Obama we saw tonight. I’ve seen it before when he is tired, but this was his worst performance yet on national television. He seemed crushed and unable to react. This is big-time politics and he’s up against the Clinton wood-chipper. But there is no disguising the fact that he wilted, painfully. . . .Obama has to survive and even thrive under this assault if he is to win. He failed tonight in a big way. And so this was indeed a huge night for the Republicans, and the first real indicator to me that Clinton is gaining in her fundamental goal at this point: the election of John McCain against Barack Obama. How else will she rescue the Democrats from hope?

And the post-debate fact-checking on guns and Bill Ayers is not helping matters. In short, the media may now be off Snobgate, but they will spend the next few days on “What The Heck Went Wrong?” analysis.

With all the geshrying over how hard the questions were, one wonders what the Obama supporters and media fan club think a general election would look like. Did they really believe that Bill Ayers would not come up? Did they think no 527 ads would mention the flag pin? Was the media not going to ever mention Reverend Wright again?

This only seems to confirm Hillary Clinton’s argument that Obama is unprepared to take the scrutiny which will come with the nomination. The more they holler “Foul!” the more Clinton will say “Told ‘ya so.”

Her audience, don’t forget, is not just Pennsylvania voters but lots of superdelegates who watch the debate and read the coverage. Harold Ickes, Clinton’s superdelegate persuader-in-chief, now will have something new to talk to them about.

Sometimes a candidate has an off debate night. Sometimes he leaves his best lines out on the stump. But a performance as bad as Barack Obama’s, this late in the campaign before a critical primary is unusual. And don’t take our word for it: Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch. The most devoted Obamaphile sums it up:

It was a lifeless, exhausted, drained and dreary Obama we saw tonight. I’ve seen it before when he is tired, but this was his worst performance yet on national television. He seemed crushed and unable to react. This is big-time politics and he’s up against the Clinton wood-chipper. But there is no disguising the fact that he wilted, painfully. . . .Obama has to survive and even thrive under this assault if he is to win. He failed tonight in a big way. And so this was indeed a huge night for the Republicans, and the first real indicator to me that Clinton is gaining in her fundamental goal at this point: the election of John McCain against Barack Obama. How else will she rescue the Democrats from hope?

And the post-debate fact-checking on guns and Bill Ayers is not helping matters. In short, the media may now be off Snobgate, but they will spend the next few days on “What The Heck Went Wrong?” analysis.

With all the geshrying over how hard the questions were, one wonders what the Obama supporters and media fan club think a general election would look like. Did they really believe that Bill Ayers would not come up? Did they think no 527 ads would mention the flag pin? Was the media not going to ever mention Reverend Wright again?

This only seems to confirm Hillary Clinton’s argument that Obama is unprepared to take the scrutiny which will come with the nomination. The more they holler “Foul!” the more Clinton will say “Told ‘ya so.”

Her audience, don’t forget, is not just Pennsylvania voters but lots of superdelegates who watch the debate and read the coverage. Harold Ickes, Clinton’s superdelegate persuader-in-chief, now will have something new to talk to them about.

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