Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 22, 2008

For Sale at Any Price

How are Ehud Olmert’s various diplomatic gambits going? Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet — he was against the Hamas cease-fire in the first place — tells Haaretz that both arms smuggling and terrorist training in Gaza have increased since the cease-fire took effect. Meanwhile, Hezbollah added an 11th-hour condition to the prisoner swap that would have released Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev: Israel must release Palestinian prisoners along with its Hezbollah captives.

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, unlike the Olmert government, do not make voluntary compromises. For such groups, negotiations with Israel or any western power are intended to serve one of three purposes: to buy time; win favorable terms; or humiliate the enemy. Iran continues to “engage” with various western interlocutors because the regime knows that so long as a flicker of negotiations exists, diplomats, desperate to avoid the desuetude of their trade, will insist that diplomacy needs more time to “work,” right up until the hour of Iran’s first nuclear yield test.

Hamas agreed to the cease-fire for reason number two, and today enjoys almost all the pleasures of jihad without any of the pain: it gets to carry on with its weapons smuggling and terrorist training unencumbered by the IDF, and even without having to release Gilad Shalit. Sure, Hamas doesn’t get to fire rockets at Israel every day. But that program can be restarted when the moment is right, and by then many more rockets will have been stockpiled and rocket crews trained. What a sweet deal.

Hezbollah, for its part, has played a shrewd political and psychological game: Knowing that Israelis are desperate for word of their captive sons, Hezbollah has spent the last few weeks building up Israeli hopes of a prisoner swap, only to dash them at the last moment. Here there are many victories rolled into one: Nasrallah gets to show a faux concern for the Palestinians, which plays well across the Lebanese confessional divide — something Hezbollah is eager to do, especially after the violence of May; Hezbollah gains prestige, as mighty Israel is shown groveling before it for the release of its soldiers, which Israel could not accomplish through war; and Israeli political leaders are shown once again to be weak and easily manipulable, confirming one of Hezbollah’s basic propaganda messages about the enemy (although it must be said that this particular claim is looking less and less like propaganda). And finally, it is in Hezbollah’s interest to nurture points of conflict with Israel, not resolve them. Their goal is to leave as many accounts open as possible with the Jews, so that violence can always be justified.

Ehud Olmert’s liquidation sale of Israel’s strategic assets continues apace.

How are Ehud Olmert’s various diplomatic gambits going? Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet — he was against the Hamas cease-fire in the first place — tells Haaretz that both arms smuggling and terrorist training in Gaza have increased since the cease-fire took effect. Meanwhile, Hezbollah added an 11th-hour condition to the prisoner swap that would have released Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev: Israel must release Palestinian prisoners along with its Hezbollah captives.

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, unlike the Olmert government, do not make voluntary compromises. For such groups, negotiations with Israel or any western power are intended to serve one of three purposes: to buy time; win favorable terms; or humiliate the enemy. Iran continues to “engage” with various western interlocutors because the regime knows that so long as a flicker of negotiations exists, diplomats, desperate to avoid the desuetude of their trade, will insist that diplomacy needs more time to “work,” right up until the hour of Iran’s first nuclear yield test.

Hamas agreed to the cease-fire for reason number two, and today enjoys almost all the pleasures of jihad without any of the pain: it gets to carry on with its weapons smuggling and terrorist training unencumbered by the IDF, and even without having to release Gilad Shalit. Sure, Hamas doesn’t get to fire rockets at Israel every day. But that program can be restarted when the moment is right, and by then many more rockets will have been stockpiled and rocket crews trained. What a sweet deal.

Hezbollah, for its part, has played a shrewd political and psychological game: Knowing that Israelis are desperate for word of their captive sons, Hezbollah has spent the last few weeks building up Israeli hopes of a prisoner swap, only to dash them at the last moment. Here there are many victories rolled into one: Nasrallah gets to show a faux concern for the Palestinians, which plays well across the Lebanese confessional divide — something Hezbollah is eager to do, especially after the violence of May; Hezbollah gains prestige, as mighty Israel is shown groveling before it for the release of its soldiers, which Israel could not accomplish through war; and Israeli political leaders are shown once again to be weak and easily manipulable, confirming one of Hezbollah’s basic propaganda messages about the enemy (although it must be said that this particular claim is looking less and less like propaganda). And finally, it is in Hezbollah’s interest to nurture points of conflict with Israel, not resolve them. Their goal is to leave as many accounts open as possible with the Jews, so that violence can always be justified.

Ehud Olmert’s liquidation sale of Israel’s strategic assets continues apace.

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Larijani’s Candor

Iran’s denials that it was arming and training violent militias in Iraq have never been terribly convincing. But now, in the midst of threatening the United States, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament and its former national security adviser, seems to have given up any pretence of Iranian non-involvement. As reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency, this is what Larijani had to say last week :

The Americans had assumed that the occupation of Iraq would be an easy job and that the Iraqi nation would back them up… The US had assumed it could raise ten democracy towers in Iraq, whose shade would overshadow both Iran and Syria, but the Islamic Republic of Iran’s proper strategy in the region made the Americans wonder what they had better do in Iraq…. [T]hey had better know that another miscalculation would lead them to fall in another beys [sic] in which the more they would struggle for release the harder they would get entrapped.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s proper strategy”? Would that perhaps involve sending Explosively Formed Penetrators to blow up American soldiers?

Iran’s denials that it was arming and training violent militias in Iraq have never been terribly convincing. But now, in the midst of threatening the United States, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament and its former national security adviser, seems to have given up any pretence of Iranian non-involvement. As reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency, this is what Larijani had to say last week :

The Americans had assumed that the occupation of Iraq would be an easy job and that the Iraqi nation would back them up… The US had assumed it could raise ten democracy towers in Iraq, whose shade would overshadow both Iran and Syria, but the Islamic Republic of Iran’s proper strategy in the region made the Americans wonder what they had better do in Iraq…. [T]hey had better know that another miscalculation would lead them to fall in another beys [sic] in which the more they would struggle for release the harder they would get entrapped.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s proper strategy”? Would that perhaps involve sending Explosively Formed Penetrators to blow up American soldiers?

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The Great Insulter

I imagine that some might be put off that Barack Obama told a concerned Hillary Clinton supporter, “If women take a moment to realize that on every issue important to women, John McCain is not in their corner, that would help them get over it.” Let me offer a word of advice: “get over it” ranks up there with “don’t worry your pretty head” or “sweetie.”

There really is a disconnect between the image of Obama as a sort of national psychiatrist whose sensitivity and listening skills outstrip those of mere mortals and a series of events which suggest he is less than tactful. Really, if Obama is the anti-Bush, the Great Diplomat why does he keep antagonizing people? It’s hard to be a conciliator if you never admit any errors and accuse skeptics of being irrational.

I imagine that some might be put off that Barack Obama told a concerned Hillary Clinton supporter, “If women take a moment to realize that on every issue important to women, John McCain is not in their corner, that would help them get over it.” Let me offer a word of advice: “get over it” ranks up there with “don’t worry your pretty head” or “sweetie.”

There really is a disconnect between the image of Obama as a sort of national psychiatrist whose sensitivity and listening skills outstrip those of mere mortals and a series of events which suggest he is less than tactful. Really, if Obama is the anti-Bush, the Great Diplomat why does he keep antagonizing people? It’s hard to be a conciliator if you never admit any errors and accuse skeptics of being irrational.

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The Times Tells All

There are a number of points to make about this front-page New York Times article, “Inside a 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation,” in which the Times continues its self-appointed task of exposing to the world as many of the nation’s intelligence secrets as they can get their hands on. The first and most obvious point is the newspaper’s decision to name Deuce Martinez, one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s interrogators, notwithstanding the CIA’s request not to do so. In its online edition, the Times prints an Editor’s Note explaining its decision:

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

This is the same newspaper, mind you, that fulminated for years about Robert Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame, notwithstanding the fact that she wasn’t working undercover at the time either. Moreover, it seems fair to guess that the danger of retaliation is a lot greater for Martinez than for Plame.

The Times doesn’t even bother to explain its decision to name Thailand and Poland as the location of secret CIA prisons that were opened after 9/11 and have since closed. That information has previously leaked out, but of course it does great damage to our relations with close allies when their confidential favors for our intelligence services are exposed in the media.

Another point concerns KSM’s initial response to CIA interrogators:

Mr. Mohammed met his captors at first with cocky defiance, telling one veteran C.I.A. officer, a former Pakistan station chief, that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer – the experience of his nephew and partner in terrorism, Ramzi Yousef, after Mr. Yousef’s arrest in 1995.

But the rules had changed, and the tough treatment began shortly after Mr. Mohammed was delivered to Poland.

One wonders how the CIA will make future terrorist bigwigs talk when the rules have changed once again, effectively back to the pre-9/11 standard, by which even our most murderous enemies will have the potential to “lawyer up” just like an average criminal suspect as seen on so many episodes of “Law & Order.” In addition, Al Qaeda terrorists still on the loose will be helped by reading articles such as this one, full of operational details, which provide a virtual playbook for avoiding arrest and resisting interrogation.

Finally I was struck by the very last lines of the article describing what Deuce Martinez does now:

Like many other C.I.A. officers in the post-9/11 security boom, Mr. Martinez left the agency for more lucrative work with government contractors…. He now works for Mitchell & Jessen Associates, a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program. And his new employer sent Mr. Martinez right back to the agency.

Martinez’s job switch is part of a trend that has become increasingly pervasive in all government departments but especially in the military and intelligence services: Employees who have been trained and vetted at government expense leave to work for private contractors doing essentially the same work as before but for much more money. This sort of “outsourcing,” which first became widespread in the Reagan administration and increased as a result of the Clinton administration’s “Reinventing Government” initiative, is supposed to save the taxpayers money and increase governmental efficiency. But it is rife for abuse, since government employees can award lucrative contracts to their friends who will then hire them in the future. And contractors are not as accountable as regular government employees-a problem seen not only with Blackwater in Iraq but also with some outside interrogators hired by the CIA. The next administration, whether Republican or Democratic, needs to conduct a rigorous examination of the whole system of outsourcing and cut back on contracts that don’t make sense.

There are a number of points to make about this front-page New York Times article, “Inside a 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation,” in which the Times continues its self-appointed task of exposing to the world as many of the nation’s intelligence secrets as they can get their hands on. The first and most obvious point is the newspaper’s decision to name Deuce Martinez, one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s interrogators, notwithstanding the CIA’s request not to do so. In its online edition, the Times prints an Editor’s Note explaining its decision:

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

This is the same newspaper, mind you, that fulminated for years about Robert Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame, notwithstanding the fact that she wasn’t working undercover at the time either. Moreover, it seems fair to guess that the danger of retaliation is a lot greater for Martinez than for Plame.

The Times doesn’t even bother to explain its decision to name Thailand and Poland as the location of secret CIA prisons that were opened after 9/11 and have since closed. That information has previously leaked out, but of course it does great damage to our relations with close allies when their confidential favors for our intelligence services are exposed in the media.

Another point concerns KSM’s initial response to CIA interrogators:

Mr. Mohammed met his captors at first with cocky defiance, telling one veteran C.I.A. officer, a former Pakistan station chief, that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer – the experience of his nephew and partner in terrorism, Ramzi Yousef, after Mr. Yousef’s arrest in 1995.

But the rules had changed, and the tough treatment began shortly after Mr. Mohammed was delivered to Poland.

One wonders how the CIA will make future terrorist bigwigs talk when the rules have changed once again, effectively back to the pre-9/11 standard, by which even our most murderous enemies will have the potential to “lawyer up” just like an average criminal suspect as seen on so many episodes of “Law & Order.” In addition, Al Qaeda terrorists still on the loose will be helped by reading articles such as this one, full of operational details, which provide a virtual playbook for avoiding arrest and resisting interrogation.

Finally I was struck by the very last lines of the article describing what Deuce Martinez does now:

Like many other C.I.A. officers in the post-9/11 security boom, Mr. Martinez left the agency for more lucrative work with government contractors…. He now works for Mitchell & Jessen Associates, a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program. And his new employer sent Mr. Martinez right back to the agency.

Martinez’s job switch is part of a trend that has become increasingly pervasive in all government departments but especially in the military and intelligence services: Employees who have been trained and vetted at government expense leave to work for private contractors doing essentially the same work as before but for much more money. This sort of “outsourcing,” which first became widespread in the Reagan administration and increased as a result of the Clinton administration’s “Reinventing Government” initiative, is supposed to save the taxpayers money and increase governmental efficiency. But it is rife for abuse, since government employees can award lucrative contracts to their friends who will then hire them in the future. And contractors are not as accountable as regular government employees-a problem seen not only with Blackwater in Iraq but also with some outside interrogators hired by the CIA. The next administration, whether Republican or Democratic, needs to conduct a rigorous examination of the whole system of outsourcing and cut back on contracts that don’t make sense.

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Why So Upset?

The media is storming mad at Barack Obama for breaking his campaign finance pledge. There were other issues on which he has flipped and other ploys, including ducking the media, which you think would have gotten a bigger rise out of them. However, this is the first issue which has triggered an avalanche of bad press. Why?

I think the explanation is two-fold. One, the mainstream media adores campaign finance reform and obsesses over the influence of money in politics. To be left at the reform altar — by the dream groom no less — must be disillusioning in the extreme. Second, the ham-handedness with which Obama tried to convince voters that it was all the Republicans’ fault that he had to opt out of public financing was likely a bridge too far in the credibility game, even for the media. Many, from David Brooks and Mark Shields to the Washington Post, seemed more annoyed about the “self-congratulatory back-patting” and “operatic” lying about his motives than anything else. If it’s anything the media hates it’s cant and hypocrisy and they found Obama guilty of both this week. Whether it will impact their coverage going forward remains to be seen.

The media is storming mad at Barack Obama for breaking his campaign finance pledge. There were other issues on which he has flipped and other ploys, including ducking the media, which you think would have gotten a bigger rise out of them. However, this is the first issue which has triggered an avalanche of bad press. Why?

I think the explanation is two-fold. One, the mainstream media adores campaign finance reform and obsesses over the influence of money in politics. To be left at the reform altar — by the dream groom no less — must be disillusioning in the extreme. Second, the ham-handedness with which Obama tried to convince voters that it was all the Republicans’ fault that he had to opt out of public financing was likely a bridge too far in the credibility game, even for the media. Many, from David Brooks and Mark Shields to the Washington Post, seemed more annoyed about the “self-congratulatory back-patting” and “operatic” lying about his motives than anything else. If it’s anything the media hates it’s cant and hypocrisy and they found Obama guilty of both this week. Whether it will impact their coverage going forward remains to be seen.

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Islam, East and West

As sympathy for Islamic extremism wanes in the Middle East, young Muslims in Europe are growing more enamored with radical Islam. Consider this contrast. In today’s New York Times there’s a chart monitoring several areas of progress in Iraq. Under the heading “Sunni Volunteers Working With U.S. and Iraqi Forces (in thousands)” you’ll find an updated figure that’s staggering: 80. That’s a self-organized Muslim army, 80,000-strong, working with American and Iraqi forces toward the common goal of stamping out extremists. (For more on the broader regional significance of this go here and here.)

Now onto the less promising case of Great Britain. England’ Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has unveiled the findings of a new study on Muslim attitudes in London, Birmingham and Oldham. From today’s Telegraph:

The report, which is being distributed among senior officers, Whitehall officials and ministers, finds that:

·Anger and disaffection are “widespread in sections of Muslim youth”.

·There is tacit support for extremist violence within sections of the Muslim community.

·Police need to do more to win the trust of Muslim communities if they are to tackle radicalisation.

·Many Muslims distrust police and are reluctant to inform on extremists, preferring to deal with problems inside their communities.

[...]

It concludes: “Increasing numbers of young Muslim people are becoming sufficiently disaffected with their lives in liberal-democratic-capitalist societies that they might be willing to support violent terrorism to articulate their disillusionment and disengagement.”

In some sense this is an old story. It has always been easier to dream about twisted utopian ideologies in Western liberal societies than to live under their nightmare manifestations in other parts of the world. However, those who wished to preserve Western freedoms half a century ago were not automatically charged with hate crimes. Debate about the actions and legacy of Joe McCarthy is ongoing, but at least one side of that debate has never been silenced with a ridiculous term such as Communistaphobia. While substantial numbers of Muslims in Iraq fight for a decent future, an increasing percentage of their Western co-religionists foster Islamist dreams under the protections of liberal society. It is a strange point in history that finds Muslims in Birmingham and London heading toward the seventh century while the armies of Mesopotamia discover the benefits of moderation.

As sympathy for Islamic extremism wanes in the Middle East, young Muslims in Europe are growing more enamored with radical Islam. Consider this contrast. In today’s New York Times there’s a chart monitoring several areas of progress in Iraq. Under the heading “Sunni Volunteers Working With U.S. and Iraqi Forces (in thousands)” you’ll find an updated figure that’s staggering: 80. That’s a self-organized Muslim army, 80,000-strong, working with American and Iraqi forces toward the common goal of stamping out extremists. (For more on the broader regional significance of this go here and here.)

Now onto the less promising case of Great Britain. England’ Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has unveiled the findings of a new study on Muslim attitudes in London, Birmingham and Oldham. From today’s Telegraph:

The report, which is being distributed among senior officers, Whitehall officials and ministers, finds that:

·Anger and disaffection are “widespread in sections of Muslim youth”.

·There is tacit support for extremist violence within sections of the Muslim community.

·Police need to do more to win the trust of Muslim communities if they are to tackle radicalisation.

·Many Muslims distrust police and are reluctant to inform on extremists, preferring to deal with problems inside their communities.

[...]

It concludes: “Increasing numbers of young Muslim people are becoming sufficiently disaffected with their lives in liberal-democratic-capitalist societies that they might be willing to support violent terrorism to articulate their disillusionment and disengagement.”

In some sense this is an old story. It has always been easier to dream about twisted utopian ideologies in Western liberal societies than to live under their nightmare manifestations in other parts of the world. However, those who wished to preserve Western freedoms half a century ago were not automatically charged with hate crimes. Debate about the actions and legacy of Joe McCarthy is ongoing, but at least one side of that debate has never been silenced with a ridiculous term such as Communistaphobia. While substantial numbers of Muslims in Iraq fight for a decent future, an increasing percentage of their Western co-religionists foster Islamist dreams under the protections of liberal society. It is a strange point in history that finds Muslims in Birmingham and London heading toward the seventh century while the armies of Mesopotamia discover the benefits of moderation.

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Except For That Iraq Thing

Joe Klein writes a baffling piece hailing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ performance and suggesting Barack Obama would be wise to keep him on in an Obama cabinet. Why baffling? (And no, it is not the first time we have found Klein baffling around here.) Klein never mentions that Gates, whatever his initial feelings about the surge, has brilliantly overseen the war effort despite the adamant objections of Obama. Indeed Klein never really addresses the Iraq war, the central national security issue of the last several years, at all.

A more candid observer of Gates recently got it right, noting:

He aggressively prosecuted the war, fired his combatant commander for Central Command (who was less enthusiastic than Gates about winning in Iraq) and Air Force chief (who wasn’t getting UAVs to the battlefield fast enough). Gates, who initially opposed the war, is fighting it with more gusto than his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who supported the invasion.

And Obama? He fought Gates tooth and nail all the way.

So getting back to Klein’s piece, it seems utterly bizarre to ignore all of this, a sort of “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play?” stunt. You would think he would at least mention and then explain how their diametrically opposing views on the prosecution of the surge might be reconciled.

This gaping omission suggests the punditocracy is all too anxious to airbrush Iraq and the surge out of the political dialogue. Yet the data is piling up (a must read transcript of the Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack briefing is now available) so it is silly, if not embarrassing, for pundits to put their fingers in their ears and hum to try to block out the uncomfortable news.

When the Iraq war effort was failing they couldn’t get enough of it; now Obama’s pundit cheering section hopes to make it a non-issue. Somehow I think the voters will get an earful of it before Election Day, despite the Obama fans’ best efforts to sweep it all under the rug.

Joe Klein writes a baffling piece hailing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ performance and suggesting Barack Obama would be wise to keep him on in an Obama cabinet. Why baffling? (And no, it is not the first time we have found Klein baffling around here.) Klein never mentions that Gates, whatever his initial feelings about the surge, has brilliantly overseen the war effort despite the adamant objections of Obama. Indeed Klein never really addresses the Iraq war, the central national security issue of the last several years, at all.

A more candid observer of Gates recently got it right, noting:

He aggressively prosecuted the war, fired his combatant commander for Central Command (who was less enthusiastic than Gates about winning in Iraq) and Air Force chief (who wasn’t getting UAVs to the battlefield fast enough). Gates, who initially opposed the war, is fighting it with more gusto than his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who supported the invasion.

And Obama? He fought Gates tooth and nail all the way.

So getting back to Klein’s piece, it seems utterly bizarre to ignore all of this, a sort of “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play?” stunt. You would think he would at least mention and then explain how their diametrically opposing views on the prosecution of the surge might be reconciled.

This gaping omission suggests the punditocracy is all too anxious to airbrush Iraq and the surge out of the political dialogue. Yet the data is piling up (a must read transcript of the Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack briefing is now available) so it is silly, if not embarrassing, for pundits to put their fingers in their ears and hum to try to block out the uncomfortable news.

When the Iraq war effort was failing they couldn’t get enough of it; now Obama’s pundit cheering section hopes to make it a non-issue. Somehow I think the voters will get an earful of it before Election Day, despite the Obama fans’ best efforts to sweep it all under the rug.

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Old White Men

“3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias”-that’s the hyped headline on the Washington Post story on a new poll that looks at how racial prejudice might affect the election outcome. But it turns out to be a little more complicated than the Post story lets on. Here’s how Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta describe the findings:

More than six in 10 African Americans now rate race relations as “not so good” or “poor,” while 53 percent of whites hold more positive views. Opinions are also divided along racial lines, though less so, on whether blacks face discrimination.There is more similarity on feelings of personal racial prejudice: Thirty percent of whites and 34 percent of blacks admit such sentiments.

As in most polls on this issue, blacks are somewhat more likely to hold prejudiced views than whites, as I’ve written about this at length here. But the actual poll data shows an even bigger gap between whites and blacks when the question is not about feelings of racial prejudice but “some racist feelings.” Here, there’s a pretty sizable gap and 40 percent of blacks (and 32 percent of whites) admit to such feelings.

But prejudiced or racist views aside, it appears Americans are overwhelmingly open to a black president:

At the same time, there is an overwhelming public openness to the idea of electing an African American to the presidency. In a Post-ABC News poll last month, nearly nine in 10 whites said they would be comfortable with a black president. While fewer whites, about two-thirds, said they would be “entirely comfortable” with it, that was more than double the percentage of all adults who said they would be so at ease with someone entering office for the first time at age 72, which McCain (R-Ariz.) would do should he prevail in November.

Maybe the real story here was in the Post’s subhead: “Survey Shows Age, Too, May Affect Election Views.” It’s not Obama’s race that may play a big role in the election, but McCain’s age.

“3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias”-that’s the hyped headline on the Washington Post story on a new poll that looks at how racial prejudice might affect the election outcome. But it turns out to be a little more complicated than the Post story lets on. Here’s how Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta describe the findings:

More than six in 10 African Americans now rate race relations as “not so good” or “poor,” while 53 percent of whites hold more positive views. Opinions are also divided along racial lines, though less so, on whether blacks face discrimination.There is more similarity on feelings of personal racial prejudice: Thirty percent of whites and 34 percent of blacks admit such sentiments.

As in most polls on this issue, blacks are somewhat more likely to hold prejudiced views than whites, as I’ve written about this at length here. But the actual poll data shows an even bigger gap between whites and blacks when the question is not about feelings of racial prejudice but “some racist feelings.” Here, there’s a pretty sizable gap and 40 percent of blacks (and 32 percent of whites) admit to such feelings.

But prejudiced or racist views aside, it appears Americans are overwhelmingly open to a black president:

At the same time, there is an overwhelming public openness to the idea of electing an African American to the presidency. In a Post-ABC News poll last month, nearly nine in 10 whites said they would be comfortable with a black president. While fewer whites, about two-thirds, said they would be “entirely comfortable” with it, that was more than double the percentage of all adults who said they would be so at ease with someone entering office for the first time at age 72, which McCain (R-Ariz.) would do should he prevail in November.

Maybe the real story here was in the Post’s subhead: “Survey Shows Age, Too, May Affect Election Views.” It’s not Obama’s race that may play a big role in the election, but McCain’s age.

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Not Very Sunny For Obama

Which ethnic group in Florida is peeved at Barack Obama for his insufficiently resolute stance against a rogue state dictator? Okay, there is more than one. The one getting the attention this weekend is the Cuban Americans. The Miami Herald reports:”In a noteworthy snub of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, said he would not offer his endorsement today.” The immediate cause is Obama’s hiring of advisors who helped deport Elian Gonzales. Diaz is quoted as saying, “I dedicated six months of my life to that cause. I cringe every time I see the Cuban government use that boy for political purposes.”

Meanwhile Sunshine State voters say they like offshore drilling — by a wide margin.

And polling in Florida shows no Obama bump.

In some respects Florida may be a harder state to crack for Obama than Ohio. Obama starts with a small African America base, faces skeptical groups (Cubans, Jews, military, evangelical Christians) who comprise a healthy chunk of the electorate and encounters voters in a trade-dependent and diverse state who may take issue with his on-and-off again fixation with protectionism.

So expect John McCain to keep pounding the drum on Castro and Hugo Chavez and hemispheric free trade — whether from home or abroad.

Which ethnic group in Florida is peeved at Barack Obama for his insufficiently resolute stance against a rogue state dictator? Okay, there is more than one. The one getting the attention this weekend is the Cuban Americans. The Miami Herald reports:”In a noteworthy snub of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, said he would not offer his endorsement today.” The immediate cause is Obama’s hiring of advisors who helped deport Elian Gonzales. Diaz is quoted as saying, “I dedicated six months of my life to that cause. I cringe every time I see the Cuban government use that boy for political purposes.”

Meanwhile Sunshine State voters say they like offshore drilling — by a wide margin.

And polling in Florida shows no Obama bump.

In some respects Florida may be a harder state to crack for Obama than Ohio. Obama starts with a small African America base, faces skeptical groups (Cubans, Jews, military, evangelical Christians) who comprise a healthy chunk of the electorate and encounters voters in a trade-dependent and diverse state who may take issue with his on-and-off again fixation with protectionism.

So expect John McCain to keep pounding the drum on Castro and Hugo Chavez and hemispheric free trade — whether from home or abroad.

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The Grey Lady Only Figures It Out Now?

The New York Times has made a startling discovery: things are much improved in Iraq. Yes, the Times reporters hedge and predict reversal and doom behind every success, but they also reveal a kernel of the larger truth: Iraq is much better.

For weeks and months other outlets including some of the Times’ major competitors, the Times’ own editorial writers, government officials, and independent observers have been saying much the same thing, indeed saying it without much of the self-conscious double-talk we read in the Times. Yet the Times neither reported itself on the developments which other outlets did or acknowledged other’s reports. What to make of this?

Like Barack Obama, the Times has largely been frozen in a narrative of defeat and disaster and generally ignored significant political and military developments which would possibly help Americans reach a different conclusion about the prospects for a successful outcome. Obama has an excuse — he has a major political problem if he reverses course and admits error now. But what is the Times excuse? And what end did they serve by ignoring news?

I eagerly await Clark Hoyt’s next explanation of the most egregious example yet of the Times’ journalistic malpractice. (Well, the most recent egregious example, that is.)

The New York Times has made a startling discovery: things are much improved in Iraq. Yes, the Times reporters hedge and predict reversal and doom behind every success, but they also reveal a kernel of the larger truth: Iraq is much better.

For weeks and months other outlets including some of the Times’ major competitors, the Times’ own editorial writers, government officials, and independent observers have been saying much the same thing, indeed saying it without much of the self-conscious double-talk we read in the Times. Yet the Times neither reported itself on the developments which other outlets did or acknowledged other’s reports. What to make of this?

Like Barack Obama, the Times has largely been frozen in a narrative of defeat and disaster and generally ignored significant political and military developments which would possibly help Americans reach a different conclusion about the prospects for a successful outcome. Obama has an excuse — he has a major political problem if he reverses course and admits error now. But what is the Times excuse? And what end did they serve by ignoring news?

I eagerly await Clark Hoyt’s next explanation of the most egregious example yet of the Times’ journalistic malpractice. (Well, the most recent egregious example, that is.)

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