Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 31, 2008

What Took Twenty Years?

John, as you just noted, Barack Obama is leaving Trinity Church. Here’s the ABC News report:

Sources tell ABC News that Obama felt that as the campaign continued, the media would continue to focus on the church, to the detriment of the church community, that Obama would be held responsible for what happened in the church, and that the Church would be held responsible for his campaign. It would be best, Obama felt, to simply cut ties. He has not yet joined a new church. (Emphasis added.)

Well, we can now call Obama’s claim that he is devoted to the church and not Wright “inoperative.” This seems to undermine the argument of his apologists that there was nothing wrong Trinity United and lots of people attend places with rabbis or ministers with whom they “disagree.” Now that it is plain that this church welcomed and celebrated anti-white, anti-woman and anti-Semitic hate speech it is fair to ask why now, why only now would he leave? Well, he’s got a general election to run and the old Obama – the one with Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger as mentors – needs to be pushed out of view.

Imagine if the roles were reversed and John McCain had attended a white separatist church for twenty years. Would his resignation after two decades cure the concern that he had lived some sort of weird double life, cavorting with racists but talking about equal opportunity in his public life? I would imagine he’d have been forced out of the presidential race by now.

So the question remains: was Obama the least observant church congegrant on the planet (racism and anti-Semitism at Trinity? No!) or a hypocrite? Let the voters decide.

John, as you just noted, Barack Obama is leaving Trinity Church. Here’s the ABC News report:

Sources tell ABC News that Obama felt that as the campaign continued, the media would continue to focus on the church, to the detriment of the church community, that Obama would be held responsible for what happened in the church, and that the Church would be held responsible for his campaign. It would be best, Obama felt, to simply cut ties. He has not yet joined a new church. (Emphasis added.)

Well, we can now call Obama’s claim that he is devoted to the church and not Wright “inoperative.” This seems to undermine the argument of his apologists that there was nothing wrong Trinity United and lots of people attend places with rabbis or ministers with whom they “disagree.” Now that it is plain that this church welcomed and celebrated anti-white, anti-woman and anti-Semitic hate speech it is fair to ask why now, why only now would he leave? Well, he’s got a general election to run and the old Obama – the one with Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger as mentors – needs to be pushed out of view.

Imagine if the roles were reversed and John McCain had attended a white separatist church for twenty years. Would his resignation after two decades cure the concern that he had lived some sort of weird double life, cavorting with racists but talking about equal opportunity in his public life? I would imagine he’d have been forced out of the presidential race by now.

So the question remains: was Obama the least observant church congegrant on the planet (racism and anti-Semitism at Trinity? No!) or a hypocrite? Let the voters decide.

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Is There Worse to Come?

The breaking news is that tonight (Saturday night), Barack Obama will announce he has resigned his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — the former pulpit of Jeremiah Wright from which the Catholic priest Michael Pfleger made his incendiary remarks about Hillary Clinton. This is of course the same church that Obama said contained within it every aspect of the black community (which raises the question of whether he is, by the same logic, resigning from the black community).  There’s something about this decision that raises more questions than it answers. Is Obama doing this now because he is on the verge of securing the nomination and no longer needs to worry so much about disappointing his base? Or is he worried there is more to come on YouTube from the Trinity United stage and he wants to have dissociated himself from it all beforehand? Is he going to have to give another major speech on race to revise and amend his previous speech on race?

The breaking news is that tonight (Saturday night), Barack Obama will announce he has resigned his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — the former pulpit of Jeremiah Wright from which the Catholic priest Michael Pfleger made his incendiary remarks about Hillary Clinton. This is of course the same church that Obama said contained within it every aspect of the black community (which raises the question of whether he is, by the same logic, resigning from the black community).  There’s something about this decision that raises more questions than it answers. Is Obama doing this now because he is on the verge of securing the nomination and no longer needs to worry so much about disappointing his base? Or is he worried there is more to come on YouTube from the Trinity United stage and he wants to have dissociated himself from it all beforehand? Is he going to have to give another major speech on race to revise and amend his previous speech on race?

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Iraq Casualties

This is the last day of May, and, although it is still the early afternoon on the East Coast as I write, in Iraq the day is nearly over. Barring some catastrophe it appears that this month will go down as either the lowest- or second-lowest casualty month for U.S. troops in Iraq. According to icasualties.org, 19 U.S. soldiers died this month. (It is possible that a few more deaths may still be recorded as, tragically, some wounded soldiers may not make it.) The record had previously been set in February 2004 when 20 soldiers died. Of course all the usual caveats apply: even 19 deaths is far too many, and there is no guarantee that there will not be greater bloodshed next month.

Still, this is another sign of progress and a further rebuke to the naysayers who were suggesting that recent fighting in Basra and Sadr City was a serious setback. Actually, those offensives have resulted in defeats for the Sadrists and victories for the democratically elected government. Now that the fighting is over, greater stability is returning-at least as much stability as you are likely to get in a country that remains at war. A coalition spokesman announced that the number of security incidents is at the lowest level since March 2004, and by the Associated Press’s count the number of Iraqi civilians killed this month was the lowest since December 2005. Notwithstanding the temporary increase in violence recently, overall the number of attacks has declined 70 percent since the troop “surge” was completed in June 2007.

A month ago the news media had a field day publicizing the increase in casualties in April, when 52 U.S. personnel died. Since the figure in May is less than half that, by all rights the press should treat that as big news, right? Don’t bet on it. Too often the press has operated under the motto: good news is no news. But I am ready to be pleasantly surprised.

This is the last day of May, and, although it is still the early afternoon on the East Coast as I write, in Iraq the day is nearly over. Barring some catastrophe it appears that this month will go down as either the lowest- or second-lowest casualty month for U.S. troops in Iraq. According to icasualties.org, 19 U.S. soldiers died this month. (It is possible that a few more deaths may still be recorded as, tragically, some wounded soldiers may not make it.) The record had previously been set in February 2004 when 20 soldiers died. Of course all the usual caveats apply: even 19 deaths is far too many, and there is no guarantee that there will not be greater bloodshed next month.

Still, this is another sign of progress and a further rebuke to the naysayers who were suggesting that recent fighting in Basra and Sadr City was a serious setback. Actually, those offensives have resulted in defeats for the Sadrists and victories for the democratically elected government. Now that the fighting is over, greater stability is returning-at least as much stability as you are likely to get in a country that remains at war. A coalition spokesman announced that the number of security incidents is at the lowest level since March 2004, and by the Associated Press’s count the number of Iraqi civilians killed this month was the lowest since December 2005. Notwithstanding the temporary increase in violence recently, overall the number of attacks has declined 70 percent since the troop “surge” was completed in June 2007.

A month ago the news media had a field day publicizing the increase in casualties in April, when 52 U.S. personnel died. Since the figure in May is less than half that, by all rights the press should treat that as big news, right? Don’t bet on it. Too often the press has operated under the motto: good news is no news. But I am ready to be pleasantly surprised.

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What’s The Difference Between Obama and McCain?

John McCain’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg is an interesting counterpoint to Barack Obama’s. In McCain’s interview, you will find not a trace of moral equivalence, no infatuation with Philip Roth (whom Obama apparently imagines as the paragon of American Judaism–perhaps needing a more up to date understanding of Roth’s legacy among many American Jews), and no hesitancy to denounce Islamic jihadism.

Reading the two interviews side-by-side provides a telling contrast between two world views and two approaches to foreign affairs. McCain goes out of his way to stress the role of diplomacy at the right level and the right time, but the main differences between the two candidates are stark. These three questions and answers sum it up:

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.

. . .

JG: Senator Obama has calibrated his views on unconditional negotiations. Do you see any circumstance in which you could negotiate with Iran, or do you believe that it’s leadership is impervious to rational dialogue?

JM: I’m amused by Senator Obama’s dramatic change since he’s gone from a candidate in the primary to a candidate in the general election. I’ve seen him do that on a number of issues that show his naivete and inexperience on national security issues. I believe that the history of the successful conduct of national security policy is that, one, you don’t sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism.

Senator Obama likes to refer to President Kennedy going to Vienna. Most historians see that as a serious mistake, which encouraged Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall and to send missiles to Cuba. Another example is Richard Nixon going to China. I’ve forgotten how many visits Henry Kissinger made to China, and how every single word was dictated beforehand. More importantly, he went to China because China was then a counterweight to a greater threat, the Soviet Union. What is a greater threat in the Middle East than Iran today?

Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.

. . .

JG: Let’s go back to Iran. Some critics say that America conflates its problem with Iran with Israel’s problem with Iran. Iran is not threatening the extinction of America, it’s threatening the extinction of Israel. Why should America have a military option for dealing with Iran when the threat is mainly directed against Israel?

JM: The United States of America has committed itself to never allowing another Holocaust. That’s a commitment that the United States has made ever since we discovered the horrendous aspects of the Holocaust. In addition to that, I would respond by saying that I think these terrorist organizations that they sponsor, Hamas and the others, are also bent, at least long-term, on the destruction of the United States of America. That’s why I agree with General Petraeus that Iraq is a central battleground. Because these Shiite militias are sending in these special groups, as they call them, sending weapons in, to remove United States influence and to drive us out of Iraq and thereby achieve their ultimate goals. We’ve heard the rhetoric — the Great Satan, etc. It’s a nuance, their being committed to the destruction of the State of Israel, and their long-term intentions toward us.

A better explanation of the differences between the candidates will be hard to come by.

John McCain’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg is an interesting counterpoint to Barack Obama’s. In McCain’s interview, you will find not a trace of moral equivalence, no infatuation with Philip Roth (whom Obama apparently imagines as the paragon of American Judaism–perhaps needing a more up to date understanding of Roth’s legacy among many American Jews), and no hesitancy to denounce Islamic jihadism.

Reading the two interviews side-by-side provides a telling contrast between two world views and two approaches to foreign affairs. McCain goes out of his way to stress the role of diplomacy at the right level and the right time, but the main differences between the two candidates are stark. These three questions and answers sum it up:

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.

. . .

JG: Senator Obama has calibrated his views on unconditional negotiations. Do you see any circumstance in which you could negotiate with Iran, or do you believe that it’s leadership is impervious to rational dialogue?

JM: I’m amused by Senator Obama’s dramatic change since he’s gone from a candidate in the primary to a candidate in the general election. I’ve seen him do that on a number of issues that show his naivete and inexperience on national security issues. I believe that the history of the successful conduct of national security policy is that, one, you don’t sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism.

Senator Obama likes to refer to President Kennedy going to Vienna. Most historians see that as a serious mistake, which encouraged Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall and to send missiles to Cuba. Another example is Richard Nixon going to China. I’ve forgotten how many visits Henry Kissinger made to China, and how every single word was dictated beforehand. More importantly, he went to China because China was then a counterweight to a greater threat, the Soviet Union. What is a greater threat in the Middle East than Iran today?

Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.

. . .

JG: Let’s go back to Iran. Some critics say that America conflates its problem with Iran with Israel’s problem with Iran. Iran is not threatening the extinction of America, it’s threatening the extinction of Israel. Why should America have a military option for dealing with Iran when the threat is mainly directed against Israel?

JM: The United States of America has committed itself to never allowing another Holocaust. That’s a commitment that the United States has made ever since we discovered the horrendous aspects of the Holocaust. In addition to that, I would respond by saying that I think these terrorist organizations that they sponsor, Hamas and the others, are also bent, at least long-term, on the destruction of the United States of America. That’s why I agree with General Petraeus that Iraq is a central battleground. Because these Shiite militias are sending in these special groups, as they call them, sending weapons in, to remove United States influence and to drive us out of Iraq and thereby achieve their ultimate goals. We’ve heard the rhetoric — the Great Satan, etc. It’s a nuance, their being committed to the destruction of the State of Israel, and their long-term intentions toward us.

A better explanation of the differences between the candidates will be hard to come by.

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Putin’s Poodle

Just when you thought that the behavior of Jacques Chirac–the former French president widely suspected of corruption who has never met a Third World despot he didn’t like–couldn’t get any more loathsome, now comes this bit of news. Chirac has been singing the praises of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose prime achievement as president was to destroy the vestiges of democracy bequeathed to him by Boris Yeltsin. From the New York Times:

On Friday, Mr. Putin smiled benignly as Mr. Chirac expressed his “very deep friendship” for him and said, “My esteem comes from the remarkable manner in which you governed Russia.”

He grouped the time Mr. Putin was prime minister under Boris Yeltsin with his two presidential terms, saying, “These 10 years have been, unquestionably, great years for Russia.”

One wonders if this is a job application. The Putin machine has already hired one out-of-office European leader-former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Perhaps Chirac would like to get on the gravy train too, assuming he isn’t already (which, for all I know, he may be).

Just when you thought that the behavior of Jacques Chirac–the former French president widely suspected of corruption who has never met a Third World despot he didn’t like–couldn’t get any more loathsome, now comes this bit of news. Chirac has been singing the praises of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose prime achievement as president was to destroy the vestiges of democracy bequeathed to him by Boris Yeltsin. From the New York Times:

On Friday, Mr. Putin smiled benignly as Mr. Chirac expressed his “very deep friendship” for him and said, “My esteem comes from the remarkable manner in which you governed Russia.”

He grouped the time Mr. Putin was prime minister under Boris Yeltsin with his two presidential terms, saying, “These 10 years have been, unquestionably, great years for Russia.”

One wonders if this is a job application. The Putin machine has already hired one out-of-office European leader-former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Perhaps Chirac would like to get on the gravy train too, assuming he isn’t already (which, for all I know, he may be).

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Who Blundered?

Stories like this, which parrot Barack Obama’s talking points on John McCain’s comments on U.S. troop levels in Iraq, demonstrate the intellectual and professional dishonesty of the mainstream press. The reporter who penned this account of McCain’s “blunder”( was that term ever used when Obama misremembered the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit?) was on same call as I was yesterday. Nevertheless, he failed to describe, or even hint, at the McCain team’s complete responses to this matter: 1) the decision to reduce below surge troop levels has been made and 2) the larger context of this is that Obama was fundamentally wrong in contending the surge would have no impact (ah, that story is undergoing an edit also). One need not agree with the McCain camp on the latter point to at least afford them the courtesy of transcribing its response.

Compare the Post’s telling to this account in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) which recounts both sides’ barbs, the list of recent Obama gaffes, and Obama’s attacks on McCain’s troop level remark. The reporter also presents the McCain view:

Sen. McCain focused on the military success of the surge, saying the decision to increase troop levels shows that he exhibited proper judgment and Sen. Obama, who opposed the surge, did not.

Now that wasn’t so hard. It would seem a basic task of journalism to at least present what both campaigns have to say on a given matter. And in the world of the blogosphere you can always go to alternative outlets to find out who said what to whom.

Stories like this, which parrot Barack Obama’s talking points on John McCain’s comments on U.S. troop levels in Iraq, demonstrate the intellectual and professional dishonesty of the mainstream press. The reporter who penned this account of McCain’s “blunder”( was that term ever used when Obama misremembered the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit?) was on same call as I was yesterday. Nevertheless, he failed to describe, or even hint, at the McCain team’s complete responses to this matter: 1) the decision to reduce below surge troop levels has been made and 2) the larger context of this is that Obama was fundamentally wrong in contending the surge would have no impact (ah, that story is undergoing an edit also). One need not agree with the McCain camp on the latter point to at least afford them the courtesy of transcribing its response.

Compare the Post’s telling to this account in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) which recounts both sides’ barbs, the list of recent Obama gaffes, and Obama’s attacks on McCain’s troop level remark. The reporter also presents the McCain view:

Sen. McCain focused on the military success of the surge, saying the decision to increase troop levels shows that he exhibited proper judgment and Sen. Obama, who opposed the surge, did not.

Now that wasn’t so hard. It would seem a basic task of journalism to at least present what both campaigns have to say on a given matter. And in the world of the blogosphere you can always go to alternative outlets to find out who said what to whom.

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Bizarro World

Geraldine Ferraro sounds like Ward Connerly:

As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Terry McAuliffe sounds like Rich Lowry (or Bob Dole) on Scott McClellan:

I never like it when someone works for someone and then comes out and writes a book trashing them. . . . I don’t care if it is politics or life. If he was that upset about everything, he should have quit. Remember, Gerald Ford’s press secretary quit when he disagreed with pardoning, Ford pardoning Nixon. If you don’t agree, then get out. And I just, I find it abhorrent the way these people come out and write books about their boss. It made ‘em money, it made ‘em prestige, it gave them all this power, and then they turn around and slap ‘em. I just, I gotta tell you, I just uh, I don’t care who it is — Democrat, Republican — it’s wrong.

And Bill Clinton sounds like Brent Bozell on the Leftwing media conspiracy.

Next thing you know we will find out that “Obama, a University of Chicago intellectual, is in the unlikely position of seeming to have a closed, uninquisitive mind when it comes to Iraq.” In all seriousness, when the Democratic party lurches so far to the left (with the assistance and urging of much of the mainstream media), the political landscape may be so scrambled that the Clintons, Terry McAuliffe and Geraldine Ferraro–exemplars of the Democratic establishment with a political memory longer than a week–start sounding sane in comparison.

Geraldine Ferraro sounds like Ward Connerly:

As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Terry McAuliffe sounds like Rich Lowry (or Bob Dole) on Scott McClellan:

I never like it when someone works for someone and then comes out and writes a book trashing them. . . . I don’t care if it is politics or life. If he was that upset about everything, he should have quit. Remember, Gerald Ford’s press secretary quit when he disagreed with pardoning, Ford pardoning Nixon. If you don’t agree, then get out. And I just, I find it abhorrent the way these people come out and write books about their boss. It made ‘em money, it made ‘em prestige, it gave them all this power, and then they turn around and slap ‘em. I just, I gotta tell you, I just uh, I don’t care who it is — Democrat, Republican — it’s wrong.

And Bill Clinton sounds like Brent Bozell on the Leftwing media conspiracy.

Next thing you know we will find out that “Obama, a University of Chicago intellectual, is in the unlikely position of seeming to have a closed, uninquisitive mind when it comes to Iraq.” In all seriousness, when the Democratic party lurches so far to the left (with the assistance and urging of much of the mainstream media), the political landscape may be so scrambled that the Clintons, Terry McAuliffe and Geraldine Ferraro–exemplars of the Democratic establishment with a political memory longer than a week–start sounding sane in comparison.

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