Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 13, 2008

“Thank You West Virginia!”

Hillary Clinton takes this victory as an “overwhelming vote of confidence.” From the Bible she says that she knows that “Faith can move mountains.” I am reasonably certain this is not Mike Huckabee in a salmon pantsuit. UPDATE: “You never quit and neither will I,” she says. She’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Hillary Clinton takes this victory as an “overwhelming vote of confidence.” From the Bible she says that she knows that “Faith can move mountains.” I am reasonably certain this is not Mike Huckabee in a salmon pantsuit. UPDATE: “You never quit and neither will I,” she says. She’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Read Less

Whistling A Happy Tune

That’s likely what is going on in the McCain camp. Their general election opponent is getting clobbered in West Virginia. Hillary Clinton is delaying her speech until 9 :00 p.m. so the pundits can thoroughly review all the horrible Obama poll numbers. And then some sharp eyed media folk notice that Barack Obama get his facts wrong on Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, the reporters go out of their way to say so: “Still it’s not asking too much to expect the man many say will soon be the Democratic nominee to cite the right facts to back up his thesis.” Ouch. Welcome to the general election, Mr. Obama.

That’s likely what is going on in the McCain camp. Their general election opponent is getting clobbered in West Virginia. Hillary Clinton is delaying her speech until 9 :00 p.m. so the pundits can thoroughly review all the horrible Obama poll numbers. And then some sharp eyed media folk notice that Barack Obama get his facts wrong on Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, the reporters go out of their way to say so: “Still it’s not asking too much to expect the man many say will soon be the Democratic nominee to cite the right facts to back up his thesis.” Ouch. Welcome to the general election, Mr. Obama.

Read Less

Blame The Voter

We will hear plenty about the racist, poor West Virginia voters from the punditocracy. Apparently these voters don’t think “they (or is it he?) are the change they have been waiting for.” Juan Williams says: “It is not just race. It is this man and his vulnerabilities.” But it’s so much more satisfying for pundits to blame the voters. They really don’t appreciate his greatness, do they? And West Virginians- who’s like those people, after all? Well, no one except a bunch of people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a few others.

We will hear plenty about the racist, poor West Virginia voters from the punditocracy. Apparently these voters don’t think “they (or is it he?) are the change they have been waiting for.” Juan Williams says: “It is not just race. It is this man and his vulnerabilities.” But it’s so much more satisfying for pundits to blame the voters. They really don’t appreciate his greatness, do they? And West Virginians- who’s like those people, after all? Well, no one except a bunch of people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a few others.

Read Less

In the “Noted” File

Really no one in West Virginia liked Barack Obama – women, seniors, uneducated, educated, whites, poor people – none of them. Maybe those pundits should have waited a week before declaring the race over. Doesn’t it look worse that in the face of “certain victory” Obama still can’t get these people on board? Well, there’s always Kentucky. Oh, maybe not.

So bottom line: Hillary won’t be hanging it up for awhile now.

Really no one in West Virginia liked Barack Obama – women, seniors, uneducated, educated, whites, poor people – none of them. Maybe those pundits should have waited a week before declaring the race over. Doesn’t it look worse that in the face of “certain victory” Obama still can’t get these people on board? Well, there’s always Kentucky. Oh, maybe not.

So bottom line: Hillary won’t be hanging it up for awhile now.

Read Less

It Really Is Weird

Exit polls say Hillary Clinton has won West Virginia 2-to-1. Barack Obama really should have done better than this.

Exit polls say Hillary Clinton has won West Virginia 2-to-1. Barack Obama really should have done better than this.

Read Less

An Actual Bit Of Shocking News

From Fox: 62% of West Virginia Hillary-voters said Bill Clinton’s campaigning was important to their vote.

From Fox: 62% of West Virginia Hillary-voters said Bill Clinton’s campaigning was important to their vote.

Read Less

I Also Want It Noted…

…that I have a photograph I took almost seven years ago in which Bob Barr, now a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, is wearing a tutu.

…that I have a photograph I took almost seven years ago in which Bob Barr, now a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, is wearing a tutu.

Read Less

I Want It Noted…

…that it was a woman on this blog who just wrote, “never overlook the ire of a woman scorned.”

…that it was a woman on this blog who just wrote, “never overlook the ire of a woman scorned.”

Read Less

We Must Stamp Out Oblomovism!

In Slate, Jessica Winter claims to offer a list of great literary works about procrastination. Oddly, she doesn’t mention the only two indisputable masterpieces on the subject. One, of course, is Hamlet, who spends four acts not killing Claudius, the uncle who killed his father and married his mother. The other is Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov’s peerless comic novel of 1859, which opens with its title character in bed — a bed from which he does not actually emerge for nearly 100 riveting and hilarious pages. “Oblomov…must be washed, cleaned, pulled about, and flogged for a long time before any kind of sense will emerge,” stated Lenin as he began the monstrous and failed work he undertook to revise the Russian character.

In Slate, Jessica Winter claims to offer a list of great literary works about procrastination. Oddly, she doesn’t mention the only two indisputable masterpieces on the subject. One, of course, is Hamlet, who spends four acts not killing Claudius, the uncle who killed his father and married his mother. The other is Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov’s peerless comic novel of 1859, which opens with its title character in bed — a bed from which he does not actually emerge for nearly 100 riveting and hilarious pages. “Oblomov…must be washed, cleaned, pulled about, and flogged for a long time before any kind of sense will emerge,” stated Lenin as he began the monstrous and failed work he undertook to revise the Russian character.

Read Less

What Pundits Will Talk About?

In West Virginia 51% of the voters think Barack Obama actually agrees with Reverend Wright, not just that Obama’s judgment in maintaining the relationship is a concern. But didn’t the punditocracy tell us this was all behind him?

And, John, never overlook the ire of a woman scorned. One commentator asks: “How would you feel if you had your eyes on a promotion at the office, had worked real hard, had the experience, had paid the dues, and then someone younger and less experienced, someone you’d given advice to, mentored a bit, came along and ruined your dream?” More importantly, from an electoral standpoint, how would her fans feel? Would they rather die than let the dream-stealer win?

In West Virginia 51% of the voters think Barack Obama actually agrees with Reverend Wright, not just that Obama’s judgment in maintaining the relationship is a concern. But didn’t the punditocracy tell us this was all behind him?

And, John, never overlook the ire of a woman scorned. One commentator asks: “How would you feel if you had your eyes on a promotion at the office, had worked real hard, had the experience, had paid the dues, and then someone younger and less experienced, someone you’d given advice to, mentored a bit, came along and ruined your dream?” More importantly, from an electoral standpoint, how would her fans feel? Would they rather die than let the dream-stealer win?

Read Less

Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

We know Hillary Clinton will win big in West Virginia tonight, Barack Obama will dismiss it as unimportant, and she will tout it as evidence of superior electability. But why should it matter when he has the nomination sewn up? Rick Klein at the Note answers:

But what makes this (expected) loss different from all others is that this is the first contest since the media has (and that’s for a separate debate) declared this race to be over. Someone forgot to tell Democratic voters in a swing state.

So Clinton’s analysis was right but too late to matter? We won’t know until November.

We know Hillary Clinton will win big in West Virginia tonight, Barack Obama will dismiss it as unimportant, and she will tout it as evidence of superior electability. But why should it matter when he has the nomination sewn up? Rick Klein at the Note answers:

But what makes this (expected) loss different from all others is that this is the first contest since the media has (and that’s for a separate debate) declared this race to be over. Someone forgot to tell Democratic voters in a swing state.

So Clinton’s analysis was right but too late to matter? We won’t know until November.

Read Less

What Is Hillary Doing?

There are a few possibilities.

1) She’s staying in the race to be in as strong a position as possible so that Obama has to pick her for vice president. This is the only rational explanation I can think of for her behavior, given that she is not an issue-driven candidate, pushing an agenda different from Obama’s. When she finishes out the primary season with 18 or 19 million votes cast for her, it would be surpassingly arrogant and possibly a little demented for Obama not to choose her. Forget all the nonsense about how Obama represents a fresh start and Hillary would muddy that message. Between them they will have had 40 million votes cast, and if they could count on most of those votes in November, they are two-thirds of the way to a victory right there.  (Though, God knows, Bill is a problem; how could Obama be sure he would keep his mouth shut and not damage his chances in November? That will have to be closely negotiated. Or maybe he will have to go into a medically induced coma for a few months.)

2) She’s hoping that something is going to bring him down between now and the convention. Can’t imagine what that would be, unless Obama’s crony Rezko is convicted and, in a desperate effort to save himself from jail, does something that destroys Obama’s career — though it’s hard to see what good that would do him.

3) She’s trying to show Bill she’s as tough as he is. My guess is this is inarguably true, but it doesn’t vitiate point #1.

There are a few possibilities.

1) She’s staying in the race to be in as strong a position as possible so that Obama has to pick her for vice president. This is the only rational explanation I can think of for her behavior, given that she is not an issue-driven candidate, pushing an agenda different from Obama’s. When she finishes out the primary season with 18 or 19 million votes cast for her, it would be surpassingly arrogant and possibly a little demented for Obama not to choose her. Forget all the nonsense about how Obama represents a fresh start and Hillary would muddy that message. Between them they will have had 40 million votes cast, and if they could count on most of those votes in November, they are two-thirds of the way to a victory right there.  (Though, God knows, Bill is a problem; how could Obama be sure he would keep his mouth shut and not damage his chances in November? That will have to be closely negotiated. Or maybe he will have to go into a medically induced coma for a few months.)

2) She’s hoping that something is going to bring him down between now and the convention. Can’t imagine what that would be, unless Obama’s crony Rezko is convicted and, in a desperate effort to save himself from jail, does something that destroys Obama’s career — though it’s hard to see what good that would do him.

3) She’s trying to show Bill she’s as tough as he is. My guess is this is inarguably true, but it doesn’t vitiate point #1.

Read Less

Middle East Quote of the Day

From a Washington Times story (about the changing Middle East) quoting Sheik Yazeeb Khader, a “Hamas political activist and editor”:

What happened in Gaza in 2007 is an achievement; now it is happening in 2008 in Lebanon. It’s going to happen in 2009 in Jordan and it’s going to happen in 2010 in Egypt.

It would be surprising, to say the least, if Cairo, much less Amman, came into play. But at least you get a sense of the ambition of this group, and its belief that it is on the winning side of history.

From a Washington Times story (about the changing Middle East) quoting Sheik Yazeeb Khader, a “Hamas political activist and editor”:

What happened in Gaza in 2007 is an achievement; now it is happening in 2008 in Lebanon. It’s going to happen in 2009 in Jordan and it’s going to happen in 2010 in Egypt.

It would be surprising, to say the least, if Cairo, much less Amman, came into play. But at least you get a sense of the ambition of this group, and its belief that it is on the winning side of history.

Read Less

Gates on Low-Intensity Warfare

As the Iraq War has gone on and on, serious doubts have been raised within the military about whether we are becoming overly focused on low-intensity warfare. Many officers fret that skills at conventional warfighting are deteriorating, and this is cited by some as cause to pull more forces out of Iraq faster. Defense Secretary Bob Gates offered a trenchant rebuttal to those critics in a speech today at a Heritage Foundation event in Colorado.

He rightly warned against “a tendency towards what might be called “Next-War-itis–the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict.” While the military has to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios, he noted that “it is hard to conceive of any country confronting the United States directly in conventional terms–ship to ship, fighter to fighter, tank to tank–for some time to come.”

On the other hand, the threat from unconventional forces of the kind we’re facing in Afghanistan and Iraq is real, and it’s not going away. “The implication, particularly for America’s ground forces,” he continued, “means we must institutionalize the lessons learned and capabilities honed from the ongoing conflicts….What we must guard against is the kind of backsliding that has occurred in the past, where if nature takes it course, these kinds of capabilities –that is counter-insurgency–tend to wither on the vine.”

He closed with a powerful point that military critics of the war effort need to come to terms with: “The risk of overextending the Army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater–to that institution, as well as to our country–if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”

One might think that what the defense secretary is saying is simply common sense–except that it runs counter to the view of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who was very much in thrall to “Next War-itis.” On this matter, as on so many others, Gates has been a welcome and refreshing change.

As the Iraq War has gone on and on, serious doubts have been raised within the military about whether we are becoming overly focused on low-intensity warfare. Many officers fret that skills at conventional warfighting are deteriorating, and this is cited by some as cause to pull more forces out of Iraq faster. Defense Secretary Bob Gates offered a trenchant rebuttal to those critics in a speech today at a Heritage Foundation event in Colorado.

He rightly warned against “a tendency towards what might be called “Next-War-itis–the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict.” While the military has to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios, he noted that “it is hard to conceive of any country confronting the United States directly in conventional terms–ship to ship, fighter to fighter, tank to tank–for some time to come.”

On the other hand, the threat from unconventional forces of the kind we’re facing in Afghanistan and Iraq is real, and it’s not going away. “The implication, particularly for America’s ground forces,” he continued, “means we must institutionalize the lessons learned and capabilities honed from the ongoing conflicts….What we must guard against is the kind of backsliding that has occurred in the past, where if nature takes it course, these kinds of capabilities –that is counter-insurgency–tend to wither on the vine.”

He closed with a powerful point that military critics of the war effort need to come to terms with: “The risk of overextending the Army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater–to that institution, as well as to our country–if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”

One might think that what the defense secretary is saying is simply common sense–except that it runs counter to the view of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who was very much in thrall to “Next War-itis.” On this matter, as on so many others, Gates has been a welcome and refreshing change.

Read Less

Shame Diplomacy

At Slate, Anne Applebaum argues for intervention in Burma. But on her way to making a serious case for action, she takes a frivolous and disingenuous detour through Iraq.

Unfortunately, the phrase “coalition of the willing” is tainted forever–once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders–but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French–whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières–are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Who’s tainted the phrase coalition of the willing? The members of said coalition, who banded together to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Or those who snickered at that effort and now demand that we leave the people of those two countries to the mercies of terrorists? It’s the fetishists of multilateralism who have made intervention in places like Burma so unlikely. After years of demanding that America shrink her geopolitical influence, retract from the world, and leave “sovereign” states to their own devices, their best plan for international crisis management is to embarrass China into being a kindly neighbor? China! The nation underwriting the massacre in Darfur!

“Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse,” Applebaum writes. A much truer test would call upon one to overcome petty and satisfying postures in order to save lives.

At Slate, Anne Applebaum argues for intervention in Burma. But on her way to making a serious case for action, she takes a frivolous and disingenuous detour through Iraq.

Unfortunately, the phrase “coalition of the willing” is tainted forever–once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders–but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French–whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières–are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Who’s tainted the phrase coalition of the willing? The members of said coalition, who banded together to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Or those who snickered at that effort and now demand that we leave the people of those two countries to the mercies of terrorists? It’s the fetishists of multilateralism who have made intervention in places like Burma so unlikely. After years of demanding that America shrink her geopolitical influence, retract from the world, and leave “sovereign” states to their own devices, their best plan for international crisis management is to embarrass China into being a kindly neighbor? China! The nation underwriting the massacre in Darfur!

“Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse,” Applebaum writes. A much truer test would call upon one to overcome petty and satisfying postures in order to save lives.

Read Less

Never Mind

For years Democrats have been singing John McCain’s praises each time he crossed swords with the Republican establishment. Whether on torture or campaign finance or global warming or Donald Rumsfeld, McCain was every Democrat’s favorite Republican. They liked him so much they tried to recruit him to join their party, and then their ticket, in 2004. (Mitt Romney ran an ad on just this topic during the primary.)

So when a YouTube clip of Barack Obama lauding the McCain-Lieberman climate control amendment surfaces, you can bet this is not the only one in the RNC’s vault. We can expect, as the campaign progresses, to go down YouTube’s memory lane with a parade of Democrats cheering McCain as he opposed the Bush administration and many Republican Congressional measures. Will there be an equal number of bipartisan oldie-but-goodie moments for Barack Obama? Not likely, since there’s been no one more faithful to the strict liberal voting line than he.

So the question is: what will Obama and the Democrats say in rebuttal? “Never mind”?

For years Democrats have been singing John McCain’s praises each time he crossed swords with the Republican establishment. Whether on torture or campaign finance or global warming or Donald Rumsfeld, McCain was every Democrat’s favorite Republican. They liked him so much they tried to recruit him to join their party, and then their ticket, in 2004. (Mitt Romney ran an ad on just this topic during the primary.)

So when a YouTube clip of Barack Obama lauding the McCain-Lieberman climate control amendment surfaces, you can bet this is not the only one in the RNC’s vault. We can expect, as the campaign progresses, to go down YouTube’s memory lane with a parade of Democrats cheering McCain as he opposed the Bush administration and many Republican Congressional measures. Will there be an equal number of bipartisan oldie-but-goodie moments for Barack Obama? Not likely, since there’s been no one more faithful to the strict liberal voting line than he.

So the question is: what will Obama and the Democrats say in rebuttal? “Never mind”?

Read Less

Does the Arab League Matter?

The Sunnis, we have been told time and time again, are in the midst of a huge freak-out when it comes to Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah — the three horsemen of the Middle Eastern apocalypse, as it were, or the three states (can we call Hezbollah a state yet?) whose alliance and ambition have put the Sunni regimes on the defensive and inspired the Arab street.

So the Arab League gathered in Cairo to show these uppity Shiites and their perfidious Alawite lackey just who is in charge in the Middle East. The Saudi foreign minister compared Hezbollah to Ariel Sharon, which is a pretty rude thing to say when you’re talking about your brother Arabs. “The legitimate government in Lebanon is being subjected to an all-out war,” he thundered. “We, the Arab world cannot stand idly by as this happens. We must do whatever it takes in order to stop this war and save Lebanon, even if this requires the establishment of an Arab force that will quickly be deployed there, thus protecting the existing legitimate government.”

An Arab force to battle Hezbollah — that would be something, wouldn’t it? So what did the Arab League decide to do? In its final statement, it couldn’t muster the unity or fortitude to even condemn Hezbollah.

The Sunnis, we have been told time and time again, are in the midst of a huge freak-out when it comes to Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah — the three horsemen of the Middle Eastern apocalypse, as it were, or the three states (can we call Hezbollah a state yet?) whose alliance and ambition have put the Sunni regimes on the defensive and inspired the Arab street.

So the Arab League gathered in Cairo to show these uppity Shiites and their perfidious Alawite lackey just who is in charge in the Middle East. The Saudi foreign minister compared Hezbollah to Ariel Sharon, which is a pretty rude thing to say when you’re talking about your brother Arabs. “The legitimate government in Lebanon is being subjected to an all-out war,” he thundered. “We, the Arab world cannot stand idly by as this happens. We must do whatever it takes in order to stop this war and save Lebanon, even if this requires the establishment of an Arab force that will quickly be deployed there, thus protecting the existing legitimate government.”

An Arab force to battle Hezbollah — that would be something, wouldn’t it? So what did the Arab League decide to do? In its final statement, it couldn’t muster the unity or fortitude to even condemn Hezbollah.

Read Less

Here’s Another Difference

Part of Barack Obama’s expressed amazement over his difficulty in attracting Jewish support is his claim to adhere to positions identical to John McCain’s on Israel and Hamas. His willingness to hold direct talks with Hamas’s sponsor Iran without preconditions–and without insisting it renounce its policy of obliterating Israel–is one big difference. But it is not the only one.

Others have noted that Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel and advisor to Obama, has stated that it “will be impossible to make progress on serious peace talks without putting the future of Jerusalem on the table.” In response to my asking whether this approach is “identical” to McCain’s, I received this response from McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann:

It is revealing that Senator Obama’s Middle East adviser is talking about the need for Israeli concessions on Jerusalem to be ‘on the table’ while making no reference to the need for Palestinians to meet basic roadmap obligations on countering terror and providing security. Senator McCain is not going to pressure Israel into making concessions that undermine its security.

It seems there are indeed major differences between the two. Might that have something to do with the level of support Obama is receiving from American Jews?

Part of Barack Obama’s expressed amazement over his difficulty in attracting Jewish support is his claim to adhere to positions identical to John McCain’s on Israel and Hamas. His willingness to hold direct talks with Hamas’s sponsor Iran without preconditions–and without insisting it renounce its policy of obliterating Israel–is one big difference. But it is not the only one.

Others have noted that Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel and advisor to Obama, has stated that it “will be impossible to make progress on serious peace talks without putting the future of Jerusalem on the table.” In response to my asking whether this approach is “identical” to McCain’s, I received this response from McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann:

It is revealing that Senator Obama’s Middle East adviser is talking about the need for Israeli concessions on Jerusalem to be ‘on the table’ while making no reference to the need for Palestinians to meet basic roadmap obligations on countering terror and providing security. Senator McCain is not going to pressure Israel into making concessions that undermine its security.

It seems there are indeed major differences between the two. Might that have something to do with the level of support Obama is receiving from American Jews?

Read Less

The P.R. Difficulties of Jihad

It’s hard not to notice one interesting way in which Islamic supremacists have been tying themselves in rhetorical knots as they try to explain their recent behavior in Gaza and Lebanon.

Hezbollah and Hamas both celebrate themselves as “resistance” movements — resistance to Israel, resistance to the arrogance and imperialism of the West, resistance to the apostate Arab regimes who have allied with Israel and America. And resistance, it should be added, to anyone who resists getting out of the way of the war machine quickly and voluntarily.

Hezbollah has created a conundrum for itself, as the group has turned its military might against the same people it has always said its resistance existed to protect, and so the resistance feels a lot like the occupier these days. And Hamas is facing a similar PR problem. Israel no longer occupies Gaza and has always said that its fight with Hamas will end when Hamas’s attacks on Israel end. So what is Hamas now “resisting,” exactly? Well, one of the group’s leaders said today that it seeks “to continue the defense against the Israeli settlements and cities around Gaza.” (Someone please alert Gershom Gorenberg.) Ah, yes — occupied Sderot. Just a little south of occupied West Beirut.

It’s hard not to notice one interesting way in which Islamic supremacists have been tying themselves in rhetorical knots as they try to explain their recent behavior in Gaza and Lebanon.

Hezbollah and Hamas both celebrate themselves as “resistance” movements — resistance to Israel, resistance to the arrogance and imperialism of the West, resistance to the apostate Arab regimes who have allied with Israel and America. And resistance, it should be added, to anyone who resists getting out of the way of the war machine quickly and voluntarily.

Hezbollah has created a conundrum for itself, as the group has turned its military might against the same people it has always said its resistance existed to protect, and so the resistance feels a lot like the occupier these days. And Hamas is facing a similar PR problem. Israel no longer occupies Gaza and has always said that its fight with Hamas will end when Hamas’s attacks on Israel end. So what is Hamas now “resisting,” exactly? Well, one of the group’s leaders said today that it seeks “to continue the defense against the Israeli settlements and cities around Gaza.” (Someone please alert Gershom Gorenberg.) Ah, yes — occupied Sderot. Just a little south of occupied West Beirut.

Read Less

Why Don’t They Like Him?

Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed amazement that Jewish voters have concerns about his candidacy. He has suggested, in essence, that they are irrational–seizing on his name or the remarks of other African-Americans or buying into internet chatter claiming he is a closet Muslim. And his defenders have insisted he doesn’t have a Jewish problem at all. But the available evidence suggests that he does, and there are a number of compelling reasons why Jews have not supported him to the degree that they’ve supported past Democratic nominees.

Stephen Herbits, recently retired as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and an advisor to the Secretaries of Defense in four administrations, has provided an exhaustive analysis of the situation, must-reading for anyone serious about exploring this issue.

First, there is little doubt that Obama has a problem with Jewish voters, even Democratic primary voters who would be natural supporters insofar as many are high-income, high-education voters. Herbits explains:

In Pennsylvania, exit polls show that Senator Clinton beat Senator Obama by 24 percentage points amongst Pennsylvanian Jews, outpacing the general population by 13 points, and even outpacing the Protestant population which favored Senator Clinton by a ten point margin. With Jews comprising 8 % of the Pennsylvania primary electorate, these percentages are large enough to be determinative in a close general election race. Senator Clinton won amongst Jews by similarly large margins in states like New York and New Jersey. In Florida where Jews accounted for 9% of primary voters, the margin exceeded 30 points. In Nevada where Jews accounted for some 5%, the margin exceeded 40 points.

So why are Jewish voters wary of him? Herbits contends that the issue is one of “credibilty.” He writes:

Senator Obama makes statements of solidarity with the Jewish community. Yet, his determination to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs counter to his professed sensitivity to Jewish concerns. His relationships with unabashed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel individuals calls into question his sincerity. His 20-year comfort with Jeremiah Wright, and his previous tolerance and defense of his pastor who preaches “Zionism equals Racism” reveals his ability to tolerate, defend and find comfort with others who share such views.

Although Obama professes concern for Israel, his willingness to meet directly with Ahmadinejad goes to the nub of the matter, Herbits contends:

Since the Holocaust, few individuals advancing dangerous anti-Semitic views have risen to lead nations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, calls for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map and defies the international community by continuing to pursue nuclear capability. Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – arming, training and directing groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. . . .

Such a meeting would be devastating to the psyche of entire Jewish world. Since 2005, Jewish communities around the world have been fighting to marginalize and contain Ahmadinejad. Jewish communities condemn Hugo Chavez and other radical leaders for welcoming Ahmadinejad. They condemn the Russian government for their relationship with the Iranian regime. Recently, the United States, Israel and Jewish communities around the world condemned the Swiss for an economic agreement with the Iranian regime.

Throughout Europe there is a multinational effort to designate Ahmadinejad persona non grata throughout European capitals and at the EU. For years, the United States has worked with begrudging allies to isolate and contain the Iranian regime. And yet, Senator Obama has pledged that as President of the United States he will be featured on the front page of newspapers around the world shaking hands with a rabid anti-Semite who supports terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies, is pursing a nuclear capability, and denies the Holocaust. Such an image would be a victory for terrorism, a victory for extremists, and a defeat for peace and international security. The Jewish community will sooner vote for Senator McCain than be party to facilitating that meeting with Ahmadinejad.

Herbits goes on to detail Obama’s troubling associations with Reverend Wright, as well as with anti-Israel figures like Edward Said, Ali Abunimah, and Rashid Khalidi–all of whom raise red flags for Jews.

In short, the problem is real and the reasons for Jewish antipathy are based on facts about Obama’s stated policies and long-term relationships. But to recognize that would require Obama to address central concerns about his candidacy, concerns which might set off alarm bells for many non-Jewish voters, e.g. his outlook on the Middle East, his views on terrorism, and his proclivity to travel with radicals who spout anti-American and anti-Israel gibberish. Far better to deny the problem exists. Or to attribute it to those pesky, irrational American Jews.

Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed amazement that Jewish voters have concerns about his candidacy. He has suggested, in essence, that they are irrational–seizing on his name or the remarks of other African-Americans or buying into internet chatter claiming he is a closet Muslim. And his defenders have insisted he doesn’t have a Jewish problem at all. But the available evidence suggests that he does, and there are a number of compelling reasons why Jews have not supported him to the degree that they’ve supported past Democratic nominees.

Stephen Herbits, recently retired as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and an advisor to the Secretaries of Defense in four administrations, has provided an exhaustive analysis of the situation, must-reading for anyone serious about exploring this issue.

First, there is little doubt that Obama has a problem with Jewish voters, even Democratic primary voters who would be natural supporters insofar as many are high-income, high-education voters. Herbits explains:

In Pennsylvania, exit polls show that Senator Clinton beat Senator Obama by 24 percentage points amongst Pennsylvanian Jews, outpacing the general population by 13 points, and even outpacing the Protestant population which favored Senator Clinton by a ten point margin. With Jews comprising 8 % of the Pennsylvania primary electorate, these percentages are large enough to be determinative in a close general election race. Senator Clinton won amongst Jews by similarly large margins in states like New York and New Jersey. In Florida where Jews accounted for 9% of primary voters, the margin exceeded 30 points. In Nevada where Jews accounted for some 5%, the margin exceeded 40 points.

So why are Jewish voters wary of him? Herbits contends that the issue is one of “credibilty.” He writes:

Senator Obama makes statements of solidarity with the Jewish community. Yet, his determination to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs counter to his professed sensitivity to Jewish concerns. His relationships with unabashed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel individuals calls into question his sincerity. His 20-year comfort with Jeremiah Wright, and his previous tolerance and defense of his pastor who preaches “Zionism equals Racism” reveals his ability to tolerate, defend and find comfort with others who share such views.

Although Obama professes concern for Israel, his willingness to meet directly with Ahmadinejad goes to the nub of the matter, Herbits contends:

Since the Holocaust, few individuals advancing dangerous anti-Semitic views have risen to lead nations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, calls for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map and defies the international community by continuing to pursue nuclear capability. Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – arming, training and directing groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. . . .

Such a meeting would be devastating to the psyche of entire Jewish world. Since 2005, Jewish communities around the world have been fighting to marginalize and contain Ahmadinejad. Jewish communities condemn Hugo Chavez and other radical leaders for welcoming Ahmadinejad. They condemn the Russian government for their relationship with the Iranian regime. Recently, the United States, Israel and Jewish communities around the world condemned the Swiss for an economic agreement with the Iranian regime.

Throughout Europe there is a multinational effort to designate Ahmadinejad persona non grata throughout European capitals and at the EU. For years, the United States has worked with begrudging allies to isolate and contain the Iranian regime. And yet, Senator Obama has pledged that as President of the United States he will be featured on the front page of newspapers around the world shaking hands with a rabid anti-Semite who supports terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies, is pursing a nuclear capability, and denies the Holocaust. Such an image would be a victory for terrorism, a victory for extremists, and a defeat for peace and international security. The Jewish community will sooner vote for Senator McCain than be party to facilitating that meeting with Ahmadinejad.

Herbits goes on to detail Obama’s troubling associations with Reverend Wright, as well as with anti-Israel figures like Edward Said, Ali Abunimah, and Rashid Khalidi–all of whom raise red flags for Jews.

In short, the problem is real and the reasons for Jewish antipathy are based on facts about Obama’s stated policies and long-term relationships. But to recognize that would require Obama to address central concerns about his candidacy, concerns which might set off alarm bells for many non-Jewish voters, e.g. his outlook on the Middle East, his views on terrorism, and his proclivity to travel with radicals who spout anti-American and anti-Israel gibberish. Far better to deny the problem exists. Or to attribute it to those pesky, irrational American Jews.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.