Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 4, 2008

Hoyt Tries To Clean Up – Again

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

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The Starvation Jihad

In Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, the militant members of the Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation (KEVIN) claim they have an “acronym problem”. Not compared to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front! MILF has an acronym problem. And its real.

But names are the least of this Philippine radical group’s concerns. What they don’t have is food. At least they didn’t until Wednesday, when they picked up their guns and took over the coastal village of Sangay. Three hundred armed jihadists forced more than a thousand (mostly Christian) villagers off their land after demanding food and confiscating recently-harvested rice.

Up until now, the save-the-planet crowd has weakened the West mostly by way of sapping morale. Without an enormous colonial empire to oppose, anti-Westerners have to make do with railing against the immensity of the West’s “carbon footprint.” We’re supposed to feel guilty about the cars we drive and question the lightbulbs we use. Then came “biofuels.” The EU and the U.S. signed on to commitments requiring that vast amounts of food crops go to the production of burnable fuel.

As Mark Steyn put it, “When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat?” Actually, we tubby Westerners can still walk into any McDonald’s and stuff our faces. It’s the developing world that’s literally eating dirt to survive.

But now we’ve arrived at the next step. When things get that bad in places like Cité Soleil and Mindanao, the only people who get what they need to live are the ones with guns. And in Sangay, that’s MILF. So, the global food shortage, brought on in part by environmentalist radicals, has enabled the Darwinian advancement of armed jihadists in the developing world. There have recently been food riots from the Phillipines to Indonesia to Egypt. In this last case the Muslim Brotherhood has lent their name to the cause. It doesn’t take an expert on world religions to spot the overlap between countries with too little food and countries with too many Islamists. One of the worst “innovations” spawned by Western guilt has just gotten appreciably worse.

In Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, the militant members of the Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation (KEVIN) claim they have an “acronym problem”. Not compared to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front! MILF has an acronym problem. And its real.

But names are the least of this Philippine radical group’s concerns. What they don’t have is food. At least they didn’t until Wednesday, when they picked up their guns and took over the coastal village of Sangay. Three hundred armed jihadists forced more than a thousand (mostly Christian) villagers off their land after demanding food and confiscating recently-harvested rice.

Up until now, the save-the-planet crowd has weakened the West mostly by way of sapping morale. Without an enormous colonial empire to oppose, anti-Westerners have to make do with railing against the immensity of the West’s “carbon footprint.” We’re supposed to feel guilty about the cars we drive and question the lightbulbs we use. Then came “biofuels.” The EU and the U.S. signed on to commitments requiring that vast amounts of food crops go to the production of burnable fuel.

As Mark Steyn put it, “When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat?” Actually, we tubby Westerners can still walk into any McDonald’s and stuff our faces. It’s the developing world that’s literally eating dirt to survive.

But now we’ve arrived at the next step. When things get that bad in places like Cité Soleil and Mindanao, the only people who get what they need to live are the ones with guns. And in Sangay, that’s MILF. So, the global food shortage, brought on in part by environmentalist radicals, has enabled the Darwinian advancement of armed jihadists in the developing world. There have recently been food riots from the Phillipines to Indonesia to Egypt. In this last case the Muslim Brotherhood has lent their name to the cause. It doesn’t take an expert on world religions to spot the overlap between countries with too little food and countries with too many Islamists. One of the worst “innovations” spawned by Western guilt has just gotten appreciably worse.

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Behind the Wire

If you’re interested in reading more about Abdallah Saleh Ali Al Ajmi–the former Kuwaiti soldier who was captured in Afghanistan, then released from Guantanamo, and who apparently blew himself up as a suicide bomber in Mosul, Iraq–you can read his Wikipedia page here. His case obviously points out the need to continue incarcerating a lot of the current detainees, if not at Gitmo (which has become a public relations embarrassment, and will be closed before long, by either this President or his successor), then at some other facility.

It also points out another need: to conduct “counterinsurgency behind the wire” with these detainees, wherever they are held. That is something that Task Force 134, the coalition unit responsible for more than 20,000 detainees in Iraq, has been doing successfully for the past year under the leadership of Marine Major General Doug Stone. His methods include holding classes where moderate clerics explain to the detainees why they should not engage in violent jihadism. This is akin to cult deprogramming, and there is evidence that it is working.

Similar programs have been run in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Singapore, and other countries. It is imperative that terrorism detainees not simply be warehoused, because then prison can turn into a terrorism university. We need to use the time while they are under our control to try to rehabilitate them if possible. Of course a hard-core element can never be brought around and simply needs to be locked up indefinitely. But many of those who fall into terrorism actually have fairly shallow ideologies and, in the right environment, some of them can be converted away from the path of violence.

If you’re interested in reading more about Abdallah Saleh Ali Al Ajmi–the former Kuwaiti soldier who was captured in Afghanistan, then released from Guantanamo, and who apparently blew himself up as a suicide bomber in Mosul, Iraq–you can read his Wikipedia page here. His case obviously points out the need to continue incarcerating a lot of the current detainees, if not at Gitmo (which has become a public relations embarrassment, and will be closed before long, by either this President or his successor), then at some other facility.

It also points out another need: to conduct “counterinsurgency behind the wire” with these detainees, wherever they are held. That is something that Task Force 134, the coalition unit responsible for more than 20,000 detainees in Iraq, has been doing successfully for the past year under the leadership of Marine Major General Doug Stone. His methods include holding classes where moderate clerics explain to the detainees why they should not engage in violent jihadism. This is akin to cult deprogramming, and there is evidence that it is working.

Similar programs have been run in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Singapore, and other countries. It is imperative that terrorism detainees not simply be warehoused, because then prison can turn into a terrorism university. We need to use the time while they are under our control to try to rehabilitate them if possible. Of course a hard-core element can never be brought around and simply needs to be locked up indefinitely. But many of those who fall into terrorism actually have fairly shallow ideologies and, in the right environment, some of them can be converted away from the path of violence.

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“The Killing of Americans”

“It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq,” said CIA Director Michael Hayden on Wednesday.

Is this another case of incorrect intelligence?  On Friday, Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, criticized those who were causing trouble abroad.  Specifically, he singled out “taking up arms,” “causing explosions,” and “establishing groups to carry out sabotage.”  “This is the biggest treason to Islam and the revolution,” he said to students in northern Iran.

Khatami did not name names, but he didn’t have to.  Coalition forces are finding more and more Iranian-made mortars, rockets, small arms, and roadside bombs in Iraq, and it’s clear from the date stamps that they were manufactured this year.  Tehran has also been funding and training militants.

We don’t need Hayden or even Khatami to tell us what’s going on.  Iran is killing Americans.  We have tried to work things out with its leaders, but even after three rounds of discussions, they have stepped up their military meddling in Iraq.  And yesterday, Tehran said it will no longer talk to the United States about the Iraqi insurgency.

So now that diplomacy with Tehran has failed, what is Washington going to do?  We only have two viable choices.  We can leave Iraq, or we can do all within our power to stop Iran from killing even more Americans.  In my book, no other choice is acceptable.  It is simply wrong for our country to send young men and women into battle knowing that some of them will die because we are unwilling to take action against a hostile nation that, as a matter of policy, is killing them.

“It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq,” said CIA Director Michael Hayden on Wednesday.

Is this another case of incorrect intelligence?  On Friday, Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, criticized those who were causing trouble abroad.  Specifically, he singled out “taking up arms,” “causing explosions,” and “establishing groups to carry out sabotage.”  “This is the biggest treason to Islam and the revolution,” he said to students in northern Iran.

Khatami did not name names, but he didn’t have to.  Coalition forces are finding more and more Iranian-made mortars, rockets, small arms, and roadside bombs in Iraq, and it’s clear from the date stamps that they were manufactured this year.  Tehran has also been funding and training militants.

We don’t need Hayden or even Khatami to tell us what’s going on.  Iran is killing Americans.  We have tried to work things out with its leaders, but even after three rounds of discussions, they have stepped up their military meddling in Iraq.  And yesterday, Tehran said it will no longer talk to the United States about the Iraqi insurgency.

So now that diplomacy with Tehran has failed, what is Washington going to do?  We only have two viable choices.  We can leave Iraq, or we can do all within our power to stop Iran from killing even more Americans.  In my book, no other choice is acceptable.  It is simply wrong for our country to send young men and women into battle knowing that some of them will die because we are unwilling to take action against a hostile nation that, as a matter of policy, is killing them.

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Teaching Moderate Islam

The New York Times features a fascinating story about how a Turkish Islamic scholar who lives in the United States is creating schools in Pakistan, Nigeria, and other countries that combine a secular Western curriculum with a moderate brand of Sufi Islam. The schools are the brainchild of Fethullah Gulen, and they are funded by Turkish businessmen. Times correspondent Sabrina Tavernise describes the schools as follows:

They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the [Pakistani] state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.

Tavernise also offers a great example of how these schools can spread moderation when she recounts this encounter between the Turkish school principal and some locals in the Pakistani city of Karachi:

When he prayed at a mosque, two young men followed him out and told him not to return wearing a tie because it was un-Islamic.

“I said, ‘Show me a verse in the Koran where it was forbidden,’ ” Mr. Kacmaz said, steering his car through tangled rush-hour traffic. The two men were wearing glasses, and he told them that scripturally, there was no difference between a tie and glasses.

“Behind their words there was no Hadith,” he said, referring to a set of Islamic texts, “only misunderstanding.”

This seems like exactly the kind of project that the United States should be promoting. Of course, as Terry Teachout noted in COMMENTARY in an article on the CIA’s Cold War activities, there is a stigma that comes with covert American funding if it is uncovered. Therefore we need to think about creative ways, perhaps using foundations, to fund moderate schools of the sort that Fethullah Gulen seems to be building. In the long run, such efforts can do more than cruise missiles or Predators to defeat our enemies-and the enemies of the vast majority of moderate Muslims.

The New York Times features a fascinating story about how a Turkish Islamic scholar who lives in the United States is creating schools in Pakistan, Nigeria, and other countries that combine a secular Western curriculum with a moderate brand of Sufi Islam. The schools are the brainchild of Fethullah Gulen, and they are funded by Turkish businessmen. Times correspondent Sabrina Tavernise describes the schools as follows:

They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the [Pakistani] state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.

Tavernise also offers a great example of how these schools can spread moderation when she recounts this encounter between the Turkish school principal and some locals in the Pakistani city of Karachi:

When he prayed at a mosque, two young men followed him out and told him not to return wearing a tie because it was un-Islamic.

“I said, ‘Show me a verse in the Koran where it was forbidden,’ ” Mr. Kacmaz said, steering his car through tangled rush-hour traffic. The two men were wearing glasses, and he told them that scripturally, there was no difference between a tie and glasses.

“Behind their words there was no Hadith,” he said, referring to a set of Islamic texts, “only misunderstanding.”

This seems like exactly the kind of project that the United States should be promoting. Of course, as Terry Teachout noted in COMMENTARY in an article on the CIA’s Cold War activities, there is a stigma that comes with covert American funding if it is uncovered. Therefore we need to think about creative ways, perhaps using foundations, to fund moderate schools of the sort that Fethullah Gulen seems to be building. In the long run, such efforts can do more than cruise missiles or Predators to defeat our enemies-and the enemies of the vast majority of moderate Muslims.

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Breaking The Logjam

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been fighting the identity politics war for over a year. He’s got 90% of the African American vote; she’s got a big lead with women. Democrats seemed equally divided for a period of time (seniors with her, the youth vote with him; men with him, women with her; upscale voters with him, downscale ones with her.) The closeness of the race was in large part due to the even divisions between the constituent groups within the Democratic party. The two contenders were in essence deadlocked as demographics, rather than policy, dominated. But then things changed.

Clinton got some big breaks in the form of Snobgate and Reverend Wright. Now she has the opportunity to paint her opponent as an oddball, standing outside the political and cultural mainstream of the Democratic party. (Others have surmised that she is essentially running as a Republican in a Democratic primary, seizing the center and the right of the party with cultural issues.) There is reason to believe the ground may have shifted as voters reconsider exactly who Obama is and what he believes.

Saturday Clinton summed up her appeal: “There is a big difference between us, and the question is this: Who understands what you are going through and who will stand up for you?” In reality there are virtually no policy differences of consequence (how many votes in a presidential primary are decided by positions on the gas tax?).

But that, I think, is not what she’s driving at. She says “she never lost touch” with ordinary people. The inference is plain: her opponent has in fact lost touch (or was never in touch?) and doesn’t relate to ordinary people. Tuesday we’ll find out whether Clinton effectively played good old-fashioned wedge politics and whether the last few weeks have broken the demographic logjam.

There is good reason why Obama is frustrated with the public’s and media’s new found preoccupation with him, rather than the”issues.” (In Indiana he pleaded with the crowd to “decide that this election is bigger than flag pins and sniper fire and the comments of a former pastor.”) Even the New York Times acknowledges how effective this sort of attack can be, and suggests that Obama is becoming Dukakis II.

No wonder he abhors this stuff: it is Clinton’s only path, albeit still an uphill one, to victory. What’s more, it seems to be another painful reminder that Obama has a lot of personae but no core. (This seems right: “It’s hard not to be who you are, but it’s doubly hard to be who you’ve strived not to be.”) But a Presidental race is no place to work out your identity crisis.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been fighting the identity politics war for over a year. He’s got 90% of the African American vote; she’s got a big lead with women. Democrats seemed equally divided for a period of time (seniors with her, the youth vote with him; men with him, women with her; upscale voters with him, downscale ones with her.) The closeness of the race was in large part due to the even divisions between the constituent groups within the Democratic party. The two contenders were in essence deadlocked as demographics, rather than policy, dominated. But then things changed.

Clinton got some big breaks in the form of Snobgate and Reverend Wright. Now she has the opportunity to paint her opponent as an oddball, standing outside the political and cultural mainstream of the Democratic party. (Others have surmised that she is essentially running as a Republican in a Democratic primary, seizing the center and the right of the party with cultural issues.) There is reason to believe the ground may have shifted as voters reconsider exactly who Obama is and what he believes.

Saturday Clinton summed up her appeal: “There is a big difference between us, and the question is this: Who understands what you are going through and who will stand up for you?” In reality there are virtually no policy differences of consequence (how many votes in a presidential primary are decided by positions on the gas tax?).

But that, I think, is not what she’s driving at. She says “she never lost touch” with ordinary people. The inference is plain: her opponent has in fact lost touch (or was never in touch?) and doesn’t relate to ordinary people. Tuesday we’ll find out whether Clinton effectively played good old-fashioned wedge politics and whether the last few weeks have broken the demographic logjam.

There is good reason why Obama is frustrated with the public’s and media’s new found preoccupation with him, rather than the”issues.” (In Indiana he pleaded with the crowd to “decide that this election is bigger than flag pins and sniper fire and the comments of a former pastor.”) Even the New York Times acknowledges how effective this sort of attack can be, and suggests that Obama is becoming Dukakis II.

No wonder he abhors this stuff: it is Clinton’s only path, albeit still an uphill one, to victory. What’s more, it seems to be another painful reminder that Obama has a lot of personae but no core. (This seems right: “It’s hard not to be who you are, but it’s doubly hard to be who you’ve strived not to be.”) But a Presidental race is no place to work out your identity crisis.

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Afghan Additions

News that the Pentagon is planning to add two more brigades (roughly 7,000 troops) in Afghanistan is welcome. It has been clear for a while that NATO didn’t have enough troops in the south to control a resurgent Taliban operating from secure areas in Pakistan. As the New York Times notes: “There are about 62,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about 34,000 of them American, up from just 25,000 American troops in 2005.” The U.S. has been pressing our allies to do more, but so far our requests have not produced much–certainly not enough. The U.S. has already sent roughly 3,000 marines on a six-month assignment. More troops should be sent when they leave later this year.

It’s not only a question of more troops. Allied forces also aren’t as useful as they could be because they come with so many operational restrictions. The Dutch, Canadians, British, and Australians have been fighting hard in southern Afghanistan, but many others (e.g., the Germans) are prevented by their home governments from going in harm’s way. Even those NATO troops that are willing to fight don’t necessarily have the training or equipment needed to tackle a tough counterinsurgency. They lack, for instance, the CERP funds that U.S. troops are able to dole out in Iraq and Afghanistan to win friends. Also lacking are surveillance assets, airpower, and other “enablers” that the American armed forces have but most of our allies don’t. American and NATO officials have spent years cajoling European allies to send more of these critical systems (e.g., helicopters), but they have largely come up dry.

There is also a desperate need to increase the Afghan National Army from its current size of only 55,000. (Iraq’s army is 200,000-strong, and Afghanistan is bigger than Iraq.) Washington and Kabul asked NATO to pay for a substantial upgrade, but the members deferred the issue at their recent Bucharest summit, meaning in all likelihood that the U.S. will have to pay the lion’s share of the cost.

More broadly what is needed is a campaign plan and a command structure that can better coordinate disparate national elements to wage a cohesive counterinsurgency. That is something that General David Petraeus did as one of his first steps upon arriving in Iraq in 2007, and it sure to be a priority for him when he takes over Central Command, which shares responsibility for Afghanistan along with the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

Bret Stephens is right that “We’re Not Losing Afghanistan,” but there is no question that in the south, the situation has deteriorated in the past couple of years. The U.S. will have to make a greater effort to rescue the situation whether our allies are willing to do more or not. But it would certainly be nice if they stepped up their game, especially since the U.S. is carrying an even bigger load in Iraq.

News that the Pentagon is planning to add two more brigades (roughly 7,000 troops) in Afghanistan is welcome. It has been clear for a while that NATO didn’t have enough troops in the south to control a resurgent Taliban operating from secure areas in Pakistan. As the New York Times notes: “There are about 62,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, about 34,000 of them American, up from just 25,000 American troops in 2005.” The U.S. has been pressing our allies to do more, but so far our requests have not produced much–certainly not enough. The U.S. has already sent roughly 3,000 marines on a six-month assignment. More troops should be sent when they leave later this year.

It’s not only a question of more troops. Allied forces also aren’t as useful as they could be because they come with so many operational restrictions. The Dutch, Canadians, British, and Australians have been fighting hard in southern Afghanistan, but many others (e.g., the Germans) are prevented by their home governments from going in harm’s way. Even those NATO troops that are willing to fight don’t necessarily have the training or equipment needed to tackle a tough counterinsurgency. They lack, for instance, the CERP funds that U.S. troops are able to dole out in Iraq and Afghanistan to win friends. Also lacking are surveillance assets, airpower, and other “enablers” that the American armed forces have but most of our allies don’t. American and NATO officials have spent years cajoling European allies to send more of these critical systems (e.g., helicopters), but they have largely come up dry.

There is also a desperate need to increase the Afghan National Army from its current size of only 55,000. (Iraq’s army is 200,000-strong, and Afghanistan is bigger than Iraq.) Washington and Kabul asked NATO to pay for a substantial upgrade, but the members deferred the issue at their recent Bucharest summit, meaning in all likelihood that the U.S. will have to pay the lion’s share of the cost.

More broadly what is needed is a campaign plan and a command structure that can better coordinate disparate national elements to wage a cohesive counterinsurgency. That is something that General David Petraeus did as one of his first steps upon arriving in Iraq in 2007, and it sure to be a priority for him when he takes over Central Command, which shares responsibility for Afghanistan along with the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

Bret Stephens is right that “We’re Not Losing Afghanistan,” but there is no question that in the south, the situation has deteriorated in the past couple of years. The U.S. will have to make a greater effort to rescue the situation whether our allies are willing to do more or not. But it would certainly be nice if they stepped up their game, especially since the U.S. is carrying an even bigger load in Iraq.

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Here Are A Couple of Differences

In a primary race where the differences between the two candidates are sometimes hard to discern, there were two vivid ones on display Sunday morning as Barack Obama did Meet the Press and Hillary Clinton did This Week in a town hall setting in Indiana. The first is temperamental. As she was with Bill O’Reilly, Clinton was funny, cracking jokes (this time about Rush Limbaugh), and looking and sounding like she is having fun. Barack Obama, as John points out, was dour, humorless, and emotionally remote. She was supposedly the one with the harsh and cold personality when this campaign started. Somewhere along the way things changed.

Second, their foreign policy perspectives are markedly different. From his point of view, threatening Iran is “George Bush foreign policy.” From hers, it’s making clear to our most menacing adversary that we mean business. Yes, they have merged views on Iraq (if you take them at their word), but the similarity ends there. She’s not exactly Scoop Jackson. But he is George McGovern (he 1970’s McGovern, not the more conservative one we have now). And this is a classic Democratic dilemma: McGovernites tend to prevail in primaries and Jacksonians in general elections.

In a primary race where the differences between the two candidates are sometimes hard to discern, there were two vivid ones on display Sunday morning as Barack Obama did Meet the Press and Hillary Clinton did This Week in a town hall setting in Indiana. The first is temperamental. As she was with Bill O’Reilly, Clinton was funny, cracking jokes (this time about Rush Limbaugh), and looking and sounding like she is having fun. Barack Obama, as John points out, was dour, humorless, and emotionally remote. She was supposedly the one with the harsh and cold personality when this campaign started. Somewhere along the way things changed.

Second, their foreign policy perspectives are markedly different. From his point of view, threatening Iran is “George Bush foreign policy.” From hers, it’s making clear to our most menacing adversary that we mean business. Yes, they have merged views on Iraq (if you take them at their word), but the similarity ends there. She’s not exactly Scoop Jackson. But he is George McGovern (he 1970’s McGovern, not the more conservative one we have now). And this is a classic Democratic dilemma: McGovernites tend to prevail in primaries and Jacksonians in general elections.

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Re: Hollywood’s Eternal Victim

John, there may be solace on the horizon for those of us looking for an Israeli hero in a major motion picture. But it’s not exactly what Kyle Smith was hoping for. Here’s the trailer for “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” a Mossad-agent-turned-hairstylist comedy starring Adam Sandler. In theaters this summer.

John, there may be solace on the horizon for those of us looking for an Israeli hero in a major motion picture. But it’s not exactly what Kyle Smith was hoping for. Here’s the trailer for “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” a Mossad-agent-turned-hairstylist comedy starring Adam Sandler. In theaters this summer.

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Olmert’s Mystery Scandal

Because of a massive gag order, the Israeli press is not allowed to tell us any details about Ehud Olmert’s newest criminal investigation. But it looks big. We do know that he was interrogated by the police’s National Fraud Unit on Friday morning, and that he will be further interrogated in the coming weeks. We know that a high-ranking police source told the Jerusalem Post that it is worse than previous investigations, so “severe” that he will likely have to quit. We know that officials in the Labor party, his senior coalition partner, are calling for him to step down. And we know that Olmert has cancelled his whole series of press interviews for this week’s Independence Day, and has spoken out against the “wicked and malicious” rumors that have been spread. (Sorry about sparse links. The best web sources right now are in Hebrew, especially NRG’s website.)

Undoubtedly we’ll find out more in a few days, when the order is lifted. In the meantime, we’ll start thinking about elections. Again.

Because of a massive gag order, the Israeli press is not allowed to tell us any details about Ehud Olmert’s newest criminal investigation. But it looks big. We do know that he was interrogated by the police’s National Fraud Unit on Friday morning, and that he will be further interrogated in the coming weeks. We know that a high-ranking police source told the Jerusalem Post that it is worse than previous investigations, so “severe” that he will likely have to quit. We know that officials in the Labor party, his senior coalition partner, are calling for him to step down. And we know that Olmert has cancelled his whole series of press interviews for this week’s Independence Day, and has spoken out against the “wicked and malicious” rumors that have been spread. (Sorry about sparse links. The best web sources right now are in Hebrew, especially NRG’s website.)

Undoubtedly we’ll find out more in a few days, when the order is lifted. In the meantime, we’ll start thinking about elections. Again.

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Obama’s Been Talking for Half an Hour Now And Has Not Smiled Once

Not once. (Since I just received an e-mail about this, wondering how I’m watching this interview when it hasn’t begun to air yet in most of the country, I should say I’m in Savannah, Ga., this morning and it began airing here at 9 am.) UPDATE: He smiled twice in the second half.

Not once. (Since I just received an e-mail about this, wondering how I’m watching this interview when it hasn’t begun to air yet in most of the country, I should say I’m in Savannah, Ga., this morning and it began airing here at 9 am.) UPDATE: He smiled twice in the second half.

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“Hollywood’s Favorite Flavor of Jew: The Eternal Victim”

In the New York Post, Kyle Smith (who also writes for CONTENTIONS) has written a provocative and original column about the degeneration in Hollywood’s treatment of Jews and Israel from the “Epic Jew” played by Paul Newman in Exodus in 1960 to the soul-haunted assassins of the Steven Spielberg travesty Munich: “When Israel is mentioned in American movies, you can barely hear the word above the sound of hand-wringing.”

It has literally been decades since a heroic Israeli appeared on screen, and, Smith writes, “At this point, there is so much pent-up demand for another Paul Newman/Kirk Douglas Epic Jew that eager viewers are willing to watch ‘Munich’ as a full-on action movie and fast-forward through the parts where Eric Bana cries and whines.”

He concludes, writing about Hollywood filmmakers:

Their pride in Israel is negated by their knee-jerk distaste for overdogs. Hollywood is the only place where billionaires fancy themselves outcasts fighting the system. Israel, for all its enemies, is a success story, but a complicated one. If the situation there were reversed – with the Palestinians in charge and the Israelis throwing rocks and submitting to checkpoints – there would be a Hollywood movie about it every other year.

Read the whole thing.

In the New York Post, Kyle Smith (who also writes for CONTENTIONS) has written a provocative and original column about the degeneration in Hollywood’s treatment of Jews and Israel from the “Epic Jew” played by Paul Newman in Exodus in 1960 to the soul-haunted assassins of the Steven Spielberg travesty Munich: “When Israel is mentioned in American movies, you can barely hear the word above the sound of hand-wringing.”

It has literally been decades since a heroic Israeli appeared on screen, and, Smith writes, “At this point, there is so much pent-up demand for another Paul Newman/Kirk Douglas Epic Jew that eager viewers are willing to watch ‘Munich’ as a full-on action movie and fast-forward through the parts where Eric Bana cries and whines.”

He concludes, writing about Hollywood filmmakers:

Their pride in Israel is negated by their knee-jerk distaste for overdogs. Hollywood is the only place where billionaires fancy themselves outcasts fighting the system. Israel, for all its enemies, is a success story, but a complicated one. If the situation there were reversed – with the Palestinians in charge and the Israelis throwing rocks and submitting to checkpoints – there would be a Hollywood movie about it every other year.

Read the whole thing.

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Where Is Tim Russert?

Ten minutes into Barack Obama’s appearance on Meet the Press, one has to wonder who replaced Tim Russert with this pained, quiet-voiced, candy-dispositioned fanboy. “Could you have handled this better,” Russert asks Obama about Jeremiah Wright, “and what have you learned from this?” I think, maybe, it’s Barbara Walters in a wig. The interesting thing is that even with these softballs being thrown at him, Obama sounds uncertain and uncomfortable.

Ten minutes into Barack Obama’s appearance on Meet the Press, one has to wonder who replaced Tim Russert with this pained, quiet-voiced, candy-dispositioned fanboy. “Could you have handled this better,” Russert asks Obama about Jeremiah Wright, “and what have you learned from this?” I think, maybe, it’s Barbara Walters in a wig. The interesting thing is that even with these softballs being thrown at him, Obama sounds uncertain and uncomfortable.

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