Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 28, 2008

The Audacity of Anger

Today in Slate, Christopher Hitchens phoned in a piece on John McCain’s temper–a subject that could benefit from frank analysis. Hitchens merely uses the occasion to unload a barrage of comic euphemisms, but at least something of interest is touched upon. Hitchens writes:

About two decades ago, facing a group in his state GOP that resisted proclaiming a state holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., he shouted, “You will damn well do this” and rammed the idea home with other crisp and terse remarks.

Remember when, once in a while, politicians would lose their cool over a matter of principle? All we’ve seen this election go-round are tantrums in response to personal slights and manufactured anger designed to create the illusion of character. The problem for Democrats is that genuine outrage requires intolerance–and if there’s one thing the Left can’t stand, it’s intolerance.

Damning America? Unfortunate but tolerable. Engaging in domestic terrorist acts in the 70’s? Regrettable but tolerable. What, after all, was John Kerry’s national security goal? “[T]o get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,” i.e., tolerable. And now that we’re at war? After five years of hard-won progress, we are supposed to understand that while letting Iraq slip into the hands of either Sunni or Shiite extremists would be perhaps a “nuisance,” it would be . . .tolerable. A nuclear Iran? Tolerable. And on, and on.

There’s something wrong with a leader who can’t muster a little justified outrage and even anger in response to the abominations of the enemy. Hoping is the easiest thing in the world. It’s getting mad in a multi-culti, PC world that demands audacity.

Today in Slate, Christopher Hitchens phoned in a piece on John McCain’s temper–a subject that could benefit from frank analysis. Hitchens merely uses the occasion to unload a barrage of comic euphemisms, but at least something of interest is touched upon. Hitchens writes:

About two decades ago, facing a group in his state GOP that resisted proclaiming a state holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., he shouted, “You will damn well do this” and rammed the idea home with other crisp and terse remarks.

Remember when, once in a while, politicians would lose their cool over a matter of principle? All we’ve seen this election go-round are tantrums in response to personal slights and manufactured anger designed to create the illusion of character. The problem for Democrats is that genuine outrage requires intolerance–and if there’s one thing the Left can’t stand, it’s intolerance.

Damning America? Unfortunate but tolerable. Engaging in domestic terrorist acts in the 70’s? Regrettable but tolerable. What, after all, was John Kerry’s national security goal? “[T]o get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,” i.e., tolerable. And now that we’re at war? After five years of hard-won progress, we are supposed to understand that while letting Iraq slip into the hands of either Sunni or Shiite extremists would be perhaps a “nuisance,” it would be . . .tolerable. A nuclear Iran? Tolerable. And on, and on.

There’s something wrong with a leader who can’t muster a little justified outrage and even anger in response to the abominations of the enemy. Hoping is the easiest thing in the world. It’s getting mad in a multi-culti, PC world that demands audacity.

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The Silence Is Deafening

We heard plenty today from the punditssome of whom think Reverend Wright’s display may be the beginning of the end for the post-racial, post-partisan Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton is being tight-lipped. Rule #1 of politics: never cause a distraction while your opponent has a major controversy.) But we have heard nothing from Barack Obama on his mentor’s tirade, not even on gems like this:

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers’ show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I’m anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we’re going to build a future for our children, whether those people are — just as Michelle and Barack don’t agree on everything, Raymond and I don’t agree on everything, Louis and I don’t agree on everything, most of you all don’t agree — you get two people in the same room, you’ve got three opinions.

[…]

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.”

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn’t make me this color.

If Obama was going to have his Uncle Souljah moment, it would have had to happen immediately after Wright’s remarks. Every passing hour makes any rebuttal that much more difficult. If he only manages some comment after a day or two, it will scream political calculation (or worse, paralysis). If he wanted to get away from Wright, the time to do it was today.

As we end the news day it appears he plans to hunker down and hope that voters will shrug. Electability? That’s the new buzzword. Wonder what those polls will look like in a few days. But by then the moment for action will have passed.

We heard plenty today from the punditssome of whom think Reverend Wright’s display may be the beginning of the end for the post-racial, post-partisan Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton is being tight-lipped. Rule #1 of politics: never cause a distraction while your opponent has a major controversy.) But we have heard nothing from Barack Obama on his mentor’s tirade, not even on gems like this:

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers’ show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I’m anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we’re going to build a future for our children, whether those people are — just as Michelle and Barack don’t agree on everything, Raymond and I don’t agree on everything, Louis and I don’t agree on everything, most of you all don’t agree — you get two people in the same room, you’ve got three opinions.

[…]

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.”

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn’t make me this color.

If Obama was going to have his Uncle Souljah moment, it would have had to happen immediately after Wright’s remarks. Every passing hour makes any rebuttal that much more difficult. If he only manages some comment after a day or two, it will scream political calculation (or worse, paralysis). If he wanted to get away from Wright, the time to do it was today.

As we end the news day it appears he plans to hunker down and hope that voters will shrug. Electability? That’s the new buzzword. Wonder what those polls will look like in a few days. But by then the moment for action will have passed.

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The Virtue of Obama’s Trials

The consensus is that Barack Obama’s candidacy has been wounded over the past six weeks. His partisans are enraged that he is taking heat for things said by his pastor (even as some Obama Kool-aid drinkers actually waste words trying to defend said pastor), and that he is asked questions of a non-substantive nature (as though there is anything remotely substantive in his own cotton-candy-and-brimstone speeches). Those who feared him now fear him less. Those who want Hillary to win are building strength for their case that she should be the nominee because he can’t make it to November.

Yes, these are bad days for Barack Obama, but the fact is, he’s lucky to have had them now. If he had knocked Hillary out of the race early and simply walked into the nomination, the media love affair with him would have been so profoundly deep that it would have taken months for the infatuation to dissipate even a little bit. At which point Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and all of Obama’s baggage would have been hauled out of storage and become fodder not for a Democratic debate that angered liberals, but for a presidential debate in September or October with an audience of 100 million or more.

If Wright and Ayers had come to dominate the news in October, that would have spelled the end to Obama’s presidential hopes. The fact that they have dominated the news in April will, I suspect, prove to have been something of a lucky break. He was never going to get away without having to deal with his leftist and black-nationalist baggage, and if he had dealt with it three weeks before the election in the same manner he did in the weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, he would have collapsed faster than a left-brained person in a right-brained school system.

He’s not the Messiah any longer, but he can still win.

The consensus is that Barack Obama’s candidacy has been wounded over the past six weeks. His partisans are enraged that he is taking heat for things said by his pastor (even as some Obama Kool-aid drinkers actually waste words trying to defend said pastor), and that he is asked questions of a non-substantive nature (as though there is anything remotely substantive in his own cotton-candy-and-brimstone speeches). Those who feared him now fear him less. Those who want Hillary to win are building strength for their case that she should be the nominee because he can’t make it to November.

Yes, these are bad days for Barack Obama, but the fact is, he’s lucky to have had them now. If he had knocked Hillary out of the race early and simply walked into the nomination, the media love affair with him would have been so profoundly deep that it would have taken months for the infatuation to dissipate even a little bit. At which point Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and all of Obama’s baggage would have been hauled out of storage and become fodder not for a Democratic debate that angered liberals, but for a presidential debate in September or October with an audience of 100 million or more.

If Wright and Ayers had come to dominate the news in October, that would have spelled the end to Obama’s presidential hopes. The fact that they have dominated the news in April will, I suspect, prove to have been something of a lucky break. He was never going to get away without having to deal with his leftist and black-nationalist baggage, and if he had dealt with it three weeks before the election in the same manner he did in the weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, he would have collapsed faster than a left-brained person in a right-brained school system.

He’s not the Messiah any longer, but he can still win.

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Fuel Wars and Media Wars

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

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“Pariah Diplomacy”

Jimmy Carter, writing in this morning’s New York Times, praises his own “Pariah Diplomacy.” He cites, as an example of success, his mediation in Nepal that led to the Maoists joining the government. He then describes the results of his just-concluded meetings with the leaders of Hamas. “In the Middle East, as in Nepal, the path to peace lies in negotiation, not in isolation,” the Nobel laureate writes.

Whatever one thinks of Carter’s diplomacy with Nepalese Maoists and Palestinian terrorists, it’s too early to pronounce final verdicts in either case. Yet we can begin to judge the former President’s general approach by looking at the results of his past efforts.

Take his peacemaking initiative with regard to Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, for example. After meeting with the charismatic dictator in June 1994, Carter said that he had performed “a miracle.”

At the time, he looked as if he were right. He had, on his own initiative, gone to Pyongyang despite the wishes of the Clinton administration and the government in Seoul-sound familiar?-and, by all accounts, averted war. He did that by putting together a plan that formed the basis of the Agreed Framework, a bilateral deal inked in October 1994 by Washington and Pyongyang.

It’s clear that Carter, by willfulness and charm, reduced the possibility of war. But did he bring lasting peace to the Korean peninsula? Since then, Kim Jong Il, who succeeded his father, has tested long-range missiles, detonated an atomic device with a plutonium core, pursued a uranium weapons program, proliferated nuclear technology to Syria, and worked with Iran on its nuclear weapons and missiles.

None of this, in all probability, would have occurred if Carter had not gone to Pyongyang. On the eve of his visit, Bill Clinton had accomplished something that so far has eluded George W. Bush–he had prepared the international community for the use of force against the Kim family regime. In one of those rare moments of unity, the world was ready for meaningful coercive measures against the North. Even China, Kim Il Sung’s staunch ally, was willing to permit the United Nations to impose penalties-and had told Kim Il Sung as much. Carter’s trip, unfortunately, dissolved that unity. Left without support for the use of force, the Clinton administration had no choice but to accept the Agreed Framework, which provided a crucial lifeline to the abhorrent Kim regime.

So bolstered, Kim Jong Il adopted polices that could only have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his fellow Koreans, and that is exactly what happened in the great famine in the middle of last decade. When nobody had to starve, many perished. Since then, North Korea has done more than almost any other nation to destabilize the international community. Carter, the itinerant peacemaker in 1994, apparently prevented war. Yet he stopped the United States and the rest of the world from putting together an enduring solution-and he essentially permitted Kim Jong Il to commit murder on the largest scale since the end of the Cold War.

This, more than anything, is Jimmy Carter’s legacy so far. I hope there can be peace in Nepal and in Israel. But if we have learned anything from Ronald Reagan, it is that we should talk with tyrants as Carter advises, but only when they know they have been defeated. Jimmy’s approach, however, first legitimizes and then strengthens them. And that is why the world is in such disarray at this moment.

Jimmy Carter, writing in this morning’s New York Times, praises his own “Pariah Diplomacy.” He cites, as an example of success, his mediation in Nepal that led to the Maoists joining the government. He then describes the results of his just-concluded meetings with the leaders of Hamas. “In the Middle East, as in Nepal, the path to peace lies in negotiation, not in isolation,” the Nobel laureate writes.

Whatever one thinks of Carter’s diplomacy with Nepalese Maoists and Palestinian terrorists, it’s too early to pronounce final verdicts in either case. Yet we can begin to judge the former President’s general approach by looking at the results of his past efforts.

Take his peacemaking initiative with regard to Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, for example. After meeting with the charismatic dictator in June 1994, Carter said that he had performed “a miracle.”

At the time, he looked as if he were right. He had, on his own initiative, gone to Pyongyang despite the wishes of the Clinton administration and the government in Seoul-sound familiar?-and, by all accounts, averted war. He did that by putting together a plan that formed the basis of the Agreed Framework, a bilateral deal inked in October 1994 by Washington and Pyongyang.

It’s clear that Carter, by willfulness and charm, reduced the possibility of war. But did he bring lasting peace to the Korean peninsula? Since then, Kim Jong Il, who succeeded his father, has tested long-range missiles, detonated an atomic device with a plutonium core, pursued a uranium weapons program, proliferated nuclear technology to Syria, and worked with Iran on its nuclear weapons and missiles.

None of this, in all probability, would have occurred if Carter had not gone to Pyongyang. On the eve of his visit, Bill Clinton had accomplished something that so far has eluded George W. Bush–he had prepared the international community for the use of force against the Kim family regime. In one of those rare moments of unity, the world was ready for meaningful coercive measures against the North. Even China, Kim Il Sung’s staunch ally, was willing to permit the United Nations to impose penalties-and had told Kim Il Sung as much. Carter’s trip, unfortunately, dissolved that unity. Left without support for the use of force, the Clinton administration had no choice but to accept the Agreed Framework, which provided a crucial lifeline to the abhorrent Kim regime.

So bolstered, Kim Jong Il adopted polices that could only have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his fellow Koreans, and that is exactly what happened in the great famine in the middle of last decade. When nobody had to starve, many perished. Since then, North Korea has done more than almost any other nation to destabilize the international community. Carter, the itinerant peacemaker in 1994, apparently prevented war. Yet he stopped the United States and the rest of the world from putting together an enduring solution-and he essentially permitted Kim Jong Il to commit murder on the largest scale since the end of the Cold War.

This, more than anything, is Jimmy Carter’s legacy so far. I hope there can be peace in Nepal and in Israel. But if we have learned anything from Ronald Reagan, it is that we should talk with tyrants as Carter advises, but only when they know they have been defeated. Jimmy’s approach, however, first legitimizes and then strengthens them. And that is why the world is in such disarray at this moment.

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What We Learned At The National Press Club

Reverend Wright wants “context”? Plenty of context here and here and here. The Left blogosphere seems strangely mute (not a word from Andrew Sullivan? nothing from the usually exhaustive reporting at TPM Election Central?), if not downright despondent. What does this tell us?

It’s now absurd to contend that Barack Obama never really “heard” the venomous utterances of Rev. Wright. He heard, he understood, and he stayed for twenty years. Whether he did it to gain credibility in the African-American community or whether he actually believed Wright is unclear and unknowable. But it’s dishonest for him to say he didn’t understand the tenor of his mentor.

Wright is twisting the knife by pointing out that Obama never denounced him and that he merely “distanced” himself (like any good politician). This spells only bad news for Obama–both the failure to repudiate and the “acting like a politician” may wound him. But he shouldn’t worry that much, since he’s doing fine in the polls. Er, less fine than before.

Reverend Wright wants “context”? Plenty of context here and here and here. The Left blogosphere seems strangely mute (not a word from Andrew Sullivan? nothing from the usually exhaustive reporting at TPM Election Central?), if not downright despondent. What does this tell us?

It’s now absurd to contend that Barack Obama never really “heard” the venomous utterances of Rev. Wright. He heard, he understood, and he stayed for twenty years. Whether he did it to gain credibility in the African-American community or whether he actually believed Wright is unclear and unknowable. But it’s dishonest for him to say he didn’t understand the tenor of his mentor.

Wright is twisting the knife by pointing out that Obama never denounced him and that he merely “distanced” himself (like any good politician). This spells only bad news for Obama–both the failure to repudiate and the “acting like a politician” may wound him. But he shouldn’t worry that much, since he’s doing fine in the polls. Er, less fine than before.

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McCain On Israel

At his presser Sunday, John McCain was asked about a fundraiser in Palm Beach County, Florida and whether he expected to do better with Jewish voters who have generally voted Democratic in Presidential elections. He carefully emphasized that he is seeking the votes of all Americans, some of whom Republicans have not done enough, he says, to court. He then went on to explain what he offers American Jews and others committed to the survival of Israel:

(Israel) is under incredible threat, the Iranians, Hamas, Hezbollah, all of the other threats that they face, including the president to Iran, that Senator Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with face to face who is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel..I have experience and knowledge and background. I have been to Israel many times. I know their leaders. I understand the issues and I know how to ensure the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. Senator Obama has very little, if any, experience or knowledge about the challenges, and they’re complex and difficult, in the region.

So, while clearly attuned to the concerns of American Jews, McCain is here using Barack Obama’s solicitous stance toward Iran to make a larger point about his fitness to be commander-in-chief. This will remain an issue well beyond the confines of Palm Beach.

At his presser Sunday, John McCain was asked about a fundraiser in Palm Beach County, Florida and whether he expected to do better with Jewish voters who have generally voted Democratic in Presidential elections. He carefully emphasized that he is seeking the votes of all Americans, some of whom Republicans have not done enough, he says, to court. He then went on to explain what he offers American Jews and others committed to the survival of Israel:

(Israel) is under incredible threat, the Iranians, Hamas, Hezbollah, all of the other threats that they face, including the president to Iran, that Senator Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with face to face who is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel..I have experience and knowledge and background. I have been to Israel many times. I know their leaders. I understand the issues and I know how to ensure the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. Senator Obama has very little, if any, experience or knowledge about the challenges, and they’re complex and difficult, in the region.

So, while clearly attuned to the concerns of American Jews, McCain is here using Barack Obama’s solicitous stance toward Iran to make a larger point about his fitness to be commander-in-chief. This will remain an issue well beyond the confines of Palm Beach.

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Syriana

When anything of international importance happens in or around Syria, there predictably follows a salivating at the prospect of “flipping” the Assad regime — of a peace deal with Israel, a renaissance in relations with the U.S., and a Syria that abandons, finally, its role as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Levant. After Jimmy Carter’s visits to Damascus and with Hamas, and then the embarrassing disclosure last week of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear program, peace-processors everywhere again caught a case of Damascus fever, the only prescription for which is more diplomacy.

As Jimmy Carter wrote in the NYT, “Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has expressed eagerness to begin negotiations with Israel to end the impasse on the Golan Heights.” And the nuclear program? Daniel Levy thinks it was just a bargaining chip to be used in future peace talks — because that’s how badly Syria wants to get into the good graces of Israel and the U.S.

The timing of the White House’s release of intelligence about Israel’s airstrike — it happened on the same day that Syria disclosed it had been secretly negotiating with Israel by way of Turkey — fueled the idea that perhaps there was some kind of grand breakthrough in the making. And remember the Mugniyah assassination a couple of months ago? Maybe Assad pulled it off as a demonstration to the world that he is running the show in Damascus and can deal with Hezbollah and the Iranians if he wishes.

So why would Assad be talking to Israel about peace if he wasn’t serious about peace? There are an abundance of good reasons: to deflect international outrage over the disclosure of his nuclear program; to make his Iranian patron ever-so-slightly nervous and thus extract more favorable terms from Tehran; to undermine international unity on the Hariri tribunal (Daniel Levy, for example, has already called for “flexibility” on the tribunal in exchange for Syrian good behavior in other areas); to placate those in Washington who wish to return to the comparatively warmer relations of the 1990’s; to make credulous liberals swoon and fill their blogs and op-ed pages with hopeful predictions of a breakthrough (see links above). And, the overarching reason — because Assad finds himself under acute pressure. As David Schenker recently said on NPR, “These diplomatic signals of Syrian willingness for peace, they’re almost routine now — you can almost plot it on a graph. At moments of maximum pressure, the Syrians are always mentioning the idea of peace with Israel.”

If you take a moment and think about this situation from the perspective of Syria, you’ll quickly understand why no breakthrough is in the offing.

If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. Your minority Allawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel took the Golan Heights in 1967. The only real problems you have to weather are isolation from the U.S. and Israel and some impotent resentment from the Arab states — and once Iran goes nuclear, that Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness.

If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors? For nice words from the Americans? Barack Obama might be president soon, so you’ll probably get those anyway.

When anything of international importance happens in or around Syria, there predictably follows a salivating at the prospect of “flipping” the Assad regime — of a peace deal with Israel, a renaissance in relations with the U.S., and a Syria that abandons, finally, its role as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Levant. After Jimmy Carter’s visits to Damascus and with Hamas, and then the embarrassing disclosure last week of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear program, peace-processors everywhere again caught a case of Damascus fever, the only prescription for which is more diplomacy.

As Jimmy Carter wrote in the NYT, “Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has expressed eagerness to begin negotiations with Israel to end the impasse on the Golan Heights.” And the nuclear program? Daniel Levy thinks it was just a bargaining chip to be used in future peace talks — because that’s how badly Syria wants to get into the good graces of Israel and the U.S.

The timing of the White House’s release of intelligence about Israel’s airstrike — it happened on the same day that Syria disclosed it had been secretly negotiating with Israel by way of Turkey — fueled the idea that perhaps there was some kind of grand breakthrough in the making. And remember the Mugniyah assassination a couple of months ago? Maybe Assad pulled it off as a demonstration to the world that he is running the show in Damascus and can deal with Hezbollah and the Iranians if he wishes.

So why would Assad be talking to Israel about peace if he wasn’t serious about peace? There are an abundance of good reasons: to deflect international outrage over the disclosure of his nuclear program; to make his Iranian patron ever-so-slightly nervous and thus extract more favorable terms from Tehran; to undermine international unity on the Hariri tribunal (Daniel Levy, for example, has already called for “flexibility” on the tribunal in exchange for Syrian good behavior in other areas); to placate those in Washington who wish to return to the comparatively warmer relations of the 1990’s; to make credulous liberals swoon and fill their blogs and op-ed pages with hopeful predictions of a breakthrough (see links above). And, the overarching reason — because Assad finds himself under acute pressure. As David Schenker recently said on NPR, “These diplomatic signals of Syrian willingness for peace, they’re almost routine now — you can almost plot it on a graph. At moments of maximum pressure, the Syrians are always mentioning the idea of peace with Israel.”

If you take a moment and think about this situation from the perspective of Syria, you’ll quickly understand why no breakthrough is in the offing.

If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. Your minority Allawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel took the Golan Heights in 1967. The only real problems you have to weather are isolation from the U.S. and Israel and some impotent resentment from the Arab states — and once Iran goes nuclear, that Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness.

If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors? For nice words from the Americans? Barack Obama might be president soon, so you’ll probably get those anyway.

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Hillary Compares Outsourcing to the Holocaust

In what may be the most appalling rhetorical gambit of her political career, and perhaps the worst of any candidate this entire campaign season, Hillary Clinton  yesterday effectively analogized the loss of American jobs to the destruction of the Jews:

At the union hall in Gary, she grew so animated in describing the plight of old-line industrial workers that she described them in language from the oft-repeated poem, attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemöller, about the victims of Nazism. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist,” goes the version inscribed on a wall at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. After coming for the trade unionists, it continues, “they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s version, she intoned: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.”

“So this is not just about steel,” she finished.

I guess, following the logic here, that “the loss of professional jobs that could be outsourced” is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, then. Is everybody really OK with this?

In what may be the most appalling rhetorical gambit of her political career, and perhaps the worst of any candidate this entire campaign season, Hillary Clinton  yesterday effectively analogized the loss of American jobs to the destruction of the Jews:

At the union hall in Gary, she grew so animated in describing the plight of old-line industrial workers that she described them in language from the oft-repeated poem, attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemöller, about the victims of Nazism. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist,” goes the version inscribed on a wall at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. After coming for the trade unionists, it continues, “they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s version, she intoned: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.”

“So this is not just about steel,” she finished.

I guess, following the logic here, that “the loss of professional jobs that could be outsourced” is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, then. Is everybody really OK with this?

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Obama on Roberts

During his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday, Barack Obama came across as he did in the early part of this campaign: thoughtful, reasonable, and likeable. But as we have come to expect with Obama, there is a need to unpack his answers carefully. For example, we got a glimpse into what Obama considers to be his capacity to transcend partisanship:

During the . . .  John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights.

It’s worth bearing in mind that John Roberts is one of the most distinguished people ever appointed to the Supreme Court. He is not only intellectually brilliant, but widely respected by virtually everyone he has ever worked with for his judicious temperament and his integrity. And, during the confirmation hearings, Roberts’ mastery of the law allowed him to match and overmatch even his most indefatigable critics. There were, in short, no real grounds on which to oppose the Roberts nomination.

Nevertheless, Obama voted against Roberts. (It’s worth recalling that when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3–and Roberts was, if anything, more qualified than Ginsburg to sit on the high court.) For Obama to vote against Judge Roberts was an irresponsible, partisan decision, the kind of “old politics” that Obama has promised to rescue us from. And his citation of that vote as an example of post-partisan credentials shows just how desperate Obama is to present himself as a unifying figure. His record demonstrates nothing of the sort–and yesterday’s interview is one more example of why the portrait Obama is presenting is in many respects deeply at odds with his record.

During his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday, Barack Obama came across as he did in the early part of this campaign: thoughtful, reasonable, and likeable. But as we have come to expect with Obama, there is a need to unpack his answers carefully. For example, we got a glimpse into what Obama considers to be his capacity to transcend partisanship:

During the . . .  John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights.

It’s worth bearing in mind that John Roberts is one of the most distinguished people ever appointed to the Supreme Court. He is not only intellectually brilliant, but widely respected by virtually everyone he has ever worked with for his judicious temperament and his integrity. And, during the confirmation hearings, Roberts’ mastery of the law allowed him to match and overmatch even his most indefatigable critics. There were, in short, no real grounds on which to oppose the Roberts nomination.

Nevertheless, Obama voted against Roberts. (It’s worth recalling that when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3–and Roberts was, if anything, more qualified than Ginsburg to sit on the high court.) For Obama to vote against Judge Roberts was an irresponsible, partisan decision, the kind of “old politics” that Obama has promised to rescue us from. And his citation of that vote as an example of post-partisan credentials shows just how desperate Obama is to present himself as a unifying figure. His record demonstrates nothing of the sort–and yesterday’s interview is one more example of why the portrait Obama is presenting is in many respects deeply at odds with his record.

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Must He Really Bother With Clinton?

Barack Obama is battling accusations of being aloof and condescending, a bit too cool and a tad arrogant. And this article from the New York Times, which describes him “as bored with the campaign against Mrs. Clinton and eager to move into the general election against Senator John McCain,” isn’t going to help. The Times explains that he really doesn’t like duking it out with Clinton, which deprives him of his lofty Agent of Change platform, so he’s taking a detour:

As a result, they said, he had decided — at least for now — not to take on Mrs. Clinton directly. In one sign of that, he has spent more time trying to shore up his own shortcomings and challenges, often to the point of nearly ignoring her, as he intensified his attacks on Mr. McCain.

But questions face his campaign that were barely discussed among his advisers only a few months ago, when he seemed on the cusp of quickly winning the Democratic nomination. Is his candidacy now off the table for some white voters? Was it bound to happen anyway? Have voters’ concerns about his patriotism and religion become a permanent weight on his biography?

White voters are bothered, and patriotism and religion are a concern, so . . . he’ll attack John McCain? That makes very little sense. Wouldn’t he be better served by going after Hillary Clinton–the gal who cleaned his clock in three major primaries –by, among other things, combating the charges that he is less concerned about bread-and-butter issues than she and that he lacks a connection to average voters? But that would be so mundane, so pedestrian. Can’t he just eat his waffle in peace?

Barack Obama is battling accusations of being aloof and condescending, a bit too cool and a tad arrogant. And this article from the New York Times, which describes him “as bored with the campaign against Mrs. Clinton and eager to move into the general election against Senator John McCain,” isn’t going to help. The Times explains that he really doesn’t like duking it out with Clinton, which deprives him of his lofty Agent of Change platform, so he’s taking a detour:

As a result, they said, he had decided — at least for now — not to take on Mrs. Clinton directly. In one sign of that, he has spent more time trying to shore up his own shortcomings and challenges, often to the point of nearly ignoring her, as he intensified his attacks on Mr. McCain.

But questions face his campaign that were barely discussed among his advisers only a few months ago, when he seemed on the cusp of quickly winning the Democratic nomination. Is his candidacy now off the table for some white voters? Was it bound to happen anyway? Have voters’ concerns about his patriotism and religion become a permanent weight on his biography?

White voters are bothered, and patriotism and religion are a concern, so . . . he’ll attack John McCain? That makes very little sense. Wouldn’t he be better served by going after Hillary Clinton–the gal who cleaned his clock in three major primaries –by, among other things, combating the charges that he is less concerned about bread-and-butter issues than she and that he lacks a connection to average voters? But that would be so mundane, so pedestrian. Can’t he just eat his waffle in peace?

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Attention CONTENTIONS Readers!

Two quick notes.

1)  We’ve changed servers (don’t ask, it’s too complicated and boring to explain), and if you’re having any difficulty dealing with our site, chances are you’re using a bookmark. It would be worth it to delete that bookmark and just bookmark it again. Our web address hasn’t changed, but this what the techies tell us works best if there’s a problem. (You can also empty your Internet cache, which is something you’re supposed to do anyway every now and then. Don’t ask me how. That’s what Google is for.)

2) If you haven’t already done so, please give us a few minutes to take our reader survey, which helps give us a sense of who you are and what interests you. By taking the survey, you have a chance to win an iPod Touch, which is an extremely nifty gadget. The survey is here.

Two quick notes.

1)  We’ve changed servers (don’t ask, it’s too complicated and boring to explain), and if you’re having any difficulty dealing with our site, chances are you’re using a bookmark. It would be worth it to delete that bookmark and just bookmark it again. Our web address hasn’t changed, but this what the techies tell us works best if there’s a problem. (You can also empty your Internet cache, which is something you’re supposed to do anyway every now and then. Don’t ask me how. That’s what Google is for.)

2) If you haven’t already done so, please give us a few minutes to take our reader survey, which helps give us a sense of who you are and what interests you. By taking the survey, you have a chance to win an iPod Touch, which is an extremely nifty gadget. The survey is here.

Read Less

A “Reckless Intelligence Striptease”

Perhaps Americans are too distracted by Rev. Wright to notice the story that unfolded this week in a CIA briefing in Congress. Apparently Israel handed over some serious intelligence material that proved that the thing destroyed last September in northern Syria was in fact a North Korean nuclear reactor, just weeks from being completed.

Today, a Japanese broadcaster reports that as many as ten North Koreans were killed in the attack. Though one American intelligence source called the material “particularly convincing”–it certainly makes it difficult for either North Korea’s or Syria’s defenders to deny their mischief–not everyone on our side is pleased. The veteran Israeli journalist Alex Fishman, writing in Ynet, thinks the whole Congressional hearing was a major mistake, revealing crucial intelligence sources and possibly undermining future efforts to collect information. This was, in his view, a “reckless intelligence striptease.” He writes:

[Israeli] Defense officials are now infuriated by the manner and scope of the publication, which exposed our intelligence capabilities. The problem is not with the satellite photos, but rather, with the photos taken in and around the Syrian reactor. We are not talking about mere archive photos, but rather, relatively recent ones taken by someone inside the facility or around it.

It doesn’t matter at all who shot those photos: What we have here is the exposure of capabilities and intelligence sources. We also have a possible exposure of a breach in the Syrian security and intelligence apparatus. The moment these photographs were published, the Syrians were sure to be doing everything in their power to identify and block this breach…

There is no kind of diplomatic or political event that justifies the exposure of this kind of intelligence asset; certainly not a Congress hearing dealing with North Korea’s violations while it engages in talks with the US.

Without knowing any real details about who spied, what was compromised, and so forth, it’s hard to understand what Fishman is griping about: the hearing dealt with subjects vital to Israeli interests. The North Koreans were about to give Israel’s mortal enemy Syria a reactor, and they would readily do so again. To insinuate that raw intelligence material should never be exposed in public hearings, that “there is no kind of diplomatic or political event” that justifies it, is also dead wrong. Especially in an American election year, when a sway in public opinion about the nature of America’s enemies could easily determine whether America ends up disarming Iran in the next few years or not.

The bottom line is that there are times when you need to show your cards, even if it means closing off vital sources of intel. When the Lebanon war started in 2006, Israel revealed its precise knowledge of the location of Hezballah’s medium-range missiles, destroying them in the first few days. Certainly Hezballah was pretty peeved, and did “everything in their power to block this breach.”

But can anyone say Israel should not have taken out the missiles? Obviously a congressional hearing is a different sort of thing. Yet Americans are often quite convinced by solid evidence, and sometimes the best thing the government can do is give it to them–even if it makes things a little harder for the spies.

Perhaps Americans are too distracted by Rev. Wright to notice the story that unfolded this week in a CIA briefing in Congress. Apparently Israel handed over some serious intelligence material that proved that the thing destroyed last September in northern Syria was in fact a North Korean nuclear reactor, just weeks from being completed.

Today, a Japanese broadcaster reports that as many as ten North Koreans were killed in the attack. Though one American intelligence source called the material “particularly convincing”–it certainly makes it difficult for either North Korea’s or Syria’s defenders to deny their mischief–not everyone on our side is pleased. The veteran Israeli journalist Alex Fishman, writing in Ynet, thinks the whole Congressional hearing was a major mistake, revealing crucial intelligence sources and possibly undermining future efforts to collect information. This was, in his view, a “reckless intelligence striptease.” He writes:

[Israeli] Defense officials are now infuriated by the manner and scope of the publication, which exposed our intelligence capabilities. The problem is not with the satellite photos, but rather, with the photos taken in and around the Syrian reactor. We are not talking about mere archive photos, but rather, relatively recent ones taken by someone inside the facility or around it.

It doesn’t matter at all who shot those photos: What we have here is the exposure of capabilities and intelligence sources. We also have a possible exposure of a breach in the Syrian security and intelligence apparatus. The moment these photographs were published, the Syrians were sure to be doing everything in their power to identify and block this breach…

There is no kind of diplomatic or political event that justifies the exposure of this kind of intelligence asset; certainly not a Congress hearing dealing with North Korea’s violations while it engages in talks with the US.

Without knowing any real details about who spied, what was compromised, and so forth, it’s hard to understand what Fishman is griping about: the hearing dealt with subjects vital to Israeli interests. The North Koreans were about to give Israel’s mortal enemy Syria a reactor, and they would readily do so again. To insinuate that raw intelligence material should never be exposed in public hearings, that “there is no kind of diplomatic or political event” that justifies it, is also dead wrong. Especially in an American election year, when a sway in public opinion about the nature of America’s enemies could easily determine whether America ends up disarming Iran in the next few years or not.

The bottom line is that there are times when you need to show your cards, even if it means closing off vital sources of intel. When the Lebanon war started in 2006, Israel revealed its precise knowledge of the location of Hezballah’s medium-range missiles, destroying them in the first few days. Certainly Hezballah was pretty peeved, and did “everything in their power to block this breach.”

But can anyone say Israel should not have taken out the missiles? Obviously a congressional hearing is a different sort of thing. Yet Americans are often quite convinced by solid evidence, and sometimes the best thing the government can do is give it to them–even if it makes things a little harder for the spies.

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Reading Trash in Sadr City

Some journalists just have a nose for juicy stories, a supernatural instinct that leads them to a scandal or tragedy overlooked by mere mortals. Take, for example, the New York Times’ Stephen Farrell, who wrote a front-page story exposing Baghdad’s “deadly” ice shortage last summer. His lede?

Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad’s underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.

True, this unspeakable horror was never written about again. But that doesn’t mean Farrell wasn’t onto something. In fact, in using the front-page of the New York Times to write about Iraqi ice, he unwittingly revealed what actually was the biggest regional story of 2007: the success of the troop surge. One knew that if the worst the Times could dig up on Iraq was an ice shortage, things there must be considerably calmer.

Now, we can add Erica Goode to this list of inadvertent journalistic luminaries. In yesterday’s New York Times, Goode penned a story with the headline: “Fighting in Sadr City Cuts Short Effort to Collect Trash.” A month ago Goode, writing with James Glanz, slammed Prime Minister Maliki for his supposed failure in Basra. But as the fighting in that city clearly turned in Maliki’s favor, the charges didn’t stick. However, this time she’s got the Prime Minister nailed:

The setback was a sign of the difficulties faced by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, which is under increasing pressure to address the humanitarian needs of Sadr City’s residents . . .

In truth, this municipal service announcement of a story is a sign of something else: Maliki’s progress in the governing of Iraq. When the reporter who declared Maliki fatally impotent a month ago can now only lament his shortcomings in garbage disposal, we know things must be pretty good.

This is the kind of charge faced by, say, an American mayor during a slow news week. Certain quarters of the anti-war crowd had hoped the fighting in Basra would douse the widespread enthusiasm for the surge’s success. The uncertainty surrounding the early stages of battle may have temporarily done so. But ace journalists like Erica Goode help to ensure that the real (and heartening) story gets out there in the end.

Some journalists just have a nose for juicy stories, a supernatural instinct that leads them to a scandal or tragedy overlooked by mere mortals. Take, for example, the New York Times’ Stephen Farrell, who wrote a front-page story exposing Baghdad’s “deadly” ice shortage last summer. His lede?

Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad’s underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.

True, this unspeakable horror was never written about again. But that doesn’t mean Farrell wasn’t onto something. In fact, in using the front-page of the New York Times to write about Iraqi ice, he unwittingly revealed what actually was the biggest regional story of 2007: the success of the troop surge. One knew that if the worst the Times could dig up on Iraq was an ice shortage, things there must be considerably calmer.

Now, we can add Erica Goode to this list of inadvertent journalistic luminaries. In yesterday’s New York Times, Goode penned a story with the headline: “Fighting in Sadr City Cuts Short Effort to Collect Trash.” A month ago Goode, writing with James Glanz, slammed Prime Minister Maliki for his supposed failure in Basra. But as the fighting in that city clearly turned in Maliki’s favor, the charges didn’t stick. However, this time she’s got the Prime Minister nailed:

The setback was a sign of the difficulties faced by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, which is under increasing pressure to address the humanitarian needs of Sadr City’s residents . . .

In truth, this municipal service announcement of a story is a sign of something else: Maliki’s progress in the governing of Iraq. When the reporter who declared Maliki fatally impotent a month ago can now only lament his shortcomings in garbage disposal, we know things must be pretty good.

This is the kind of charge faced by, say, an American mayor during a slow news week. Certain quarters of the anti-war crowd had hoped the fighting in Basra would douse the widespread enthusiasm for the surge’s success. The uncertainty surrounding the early stages of battle may have temporarily done so. But ace journalists like Erica Goode help to ensure that the real (and heartening) story gets out there in the end.

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Juan Cole: Illogic :: Michael Jordan: Basketball

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

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They All Have Baggage, But His Tips The Scales

Until recently it was thought Hillary Clinton toted the heaviest human baggage in the Democratic campaign. Bill Clinton is a walking, talking psychology study in narcissism, spouting unhelpful explanations for his wife’s gaffes, tangling with the press, and always off message. (Imagine the poor communications aide tasked with trying to corral him.)

Enter Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright seems to be on a speaking tour designed to test the endurance of Democratic primary voters for deeply offensive rhetoric about America, whites, Israel, Italians, and numerous other topics. Yesterday, on This Week, Donna Brazile postulated that he was on some mission to clear the good name of black churches. But Barack Obama’s good name is of greater interest to the voting public. And this isn’t going to burnish it.

Wright is now on a veritable insult tour which continues with no let up in sight. Others have commented that there simply is no positive message that can come out of this. Every day that goes by is another where voters stare in slack-jawed amazement that this is the man considered “brilliant” and a “mentor” by the potential presidential nominee. Obama’s association with Wright and continued refusal to make a clean break with him, do raise issues of character and judgment. And it appears we will have plenty more Wright quotes to ponder.

So Bill–although he won’t like slipping to second place in anything–will now have to take second prize in the “most harmful to someone you should be helping” category. But then Bill and Wright’s principal concern, we learn from their actions, is for themselves.

Until recently it was thought Hillary Clinton toted the heaviest human baggage in the Democratic campaign. Bill Clinton is a walking, talking psychology study in narcissism, spouting unhelpful explanations for his wife’s gaffes, tangling with the press, and always off message. (Imagine the poor communications aide tasked with trying to corral him.)

Enter Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright seems to be on a speaking tour designed to test the endurance of Democratic primary voters for deeply offensive rhetoric about America, whites, Israel, Italians, and numerous other topics. Yesterday, on This Week, Donna Brazile postulated that he was on some mission to clear the good name of black churches. But Barack Obama’s good name is of greater interest to the voting public. And this isn’t going to burnish it.

Wright is now on a veritable insult tour which continues with no let up in sight. Others have commented that there simply is no positive message that can come out of this. Every day that goes by is another where voters stare in slack-jawed amazement that this is the man considered “brilliant” and a “mentor” by the potential presidential nominee. Obama’s association with Wright and continued refusal to make a clean break with him, do raise issues of character and judgment. And it appears we will have plenty more Wright quotes to ponder.

So Bill–although he won’t like slipping to second place in anything–will now have to take second prize in the “most harmful to someone you should be helping” category. But then Bill and Wright’s principal concern, we learn from their actions, is for themselves.

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