Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 2008

From Hamas to Christianity

An amazing story from Avi Issacharov, one of Haaretz‘s best reporters: The son of one of the West Bank’s most notorious Hamas leaders has converted to Christianity. And he rejects his previous life with a vengeance:

“Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country,” he says.

“You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death.”

That would appear to be an accurate rendering of the prospects of peace with Hamas. In Gaza, the kids are being trained at terrorist summer camps.

An amazing story from Avi Issacharov, one of Haaretz‘s best reporters: The son of one of the West Bank’s most notorious Hamas leaders has converted to Christianity. And he rejects his previous life with a vengeance:

“Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country,” he says.

“You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death.”

That would appear to be an accurate rendering of the prospects of peace with Hamas. In Gaza, the kids are being trained at terrorist summer camps.

Read Less

Playing The Race Card

Jake Tapper started the day by lacing into Barack Obama for his unfounded and egregious claim that John McCain is fanning the flames of racism. Yesterday Obama claimed that McCain is saying, ” ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he’s… doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a, he’s got a funny name.’ ” Of course, McCain has done no such thing. Tapper writes:

There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it. Back in February, McCain apologized for some questionable comments made by a local radio host. In April, he condemned the North Carolina Republican Party’s ad featuring images of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. With one possible exception, I’ve never seen McCain or those under his control playing the race card or making fun of Obama’s name — or even mentioning Obama’s full name, for that matter!

Tapper concludes:

I’ve seen racism in campaigns before — I’ve seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I’ve seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used today. Pretty inflammatory.

But that’s really not the half of it. Obama’s entire campaign has been premised on unity, on ending racial division and political antagonism. He’s the post-racial leader to take us to the promised land of reconciliation and harmony. But he’s not. He’s inciting racial animosity where none exists. It is reprehensible on a moral level and it’s plain dumb politics.

Really, can you imagine anything more off-putting to the people whom Obama needs to bring into the fold –those Bittergate voters he dissed once before — than this line of attack? It may go over well in the Left blogosphere, but it won’t play anywhere that matters in this election. So one thing we know — the post-racial meme — which was already on its last legs (Obama has defended racial preferences and strayed into reparations territory) – is now deader than the New Politics meme. But the real question is whether fanning racial hatred and suspicion carries with it any cost.

The McCain camp has pounced, putting out a statement: “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.” The Obama camp seems to deny Obama was talking about race (What, he meant the distinguishing feature from other presidents on the currency was his lack of a beard?), but he’s been a repeat offender (this one was in June) and has now been caught. And the Obama team does what they always do when their candidate has gotten himself into a fix (e.g. the surge will never work) — they lie and say the mean Republicans have it all wrong. We’ll see what the voters think, but the routine is wearing thin and not very effective in the YouTube era.

Jake Tapper started the day by lacing into Barack Obama for his unfounded and egregious claim that John McCain is fanning the flames of racism. Yesterday Obama claimed that McCain is saying, ” ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he’s… doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, you know, he’s got a, he’s got a funny name.’ ” Of course, McCain has done no such thing. Tapper writes:

There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it. Back in February, McCain apologized for some questionable comments made by a local radio host. In April, he condemned the North Carolina Republican Party’s ad featuring images of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. With one possible exception, I’ve never seen McCain or those under his control playing the race card or making fun of Obama’s name — or even mentioning Obama’s full name, for that matter!

Tapper concludes:

I’ve seen racism in campaigns before — I’ve seen it against Obama in this campaign (more from Democrats than Republicans, at this point, I might add) and I’ve seen it against McCain in South Carolina in 2000, when his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was alleged, by the charming friends and allies of then-Gov. George W. Bush, to have been a McCain love-child with an African-American woman.What I have not seen is it come from McCain or his campaign in such a way to merit the language Obama used today. Pretty inflammatory.

But that’s really not the half of it. Obama’s entire campaign has been premised on unity, on ending racial division and political antagonism. He’s the post-racial leader to take us to the promised land of reconciliation and harmony. But he’s not. He’s inciting racial animosity where none exists. It is reprehensible on a moral level and it’s plain dumb politics.

Really, can you imagine anything more off-putting to the people whom Obama needs to bring into the fold –those Bittergate voters he dissed once before — than this line of attack? It may go over well in the Left blogosphere, but it won’t play anywhere that matters in this election. So one thing we know — the post-racial meme — which was already on its last legs (Obama has defended racial preferences and strayed into reparations territory) – is now deader than the New Politics meme. But the real question is whether fanning racial hatred and suspicion carries with it any cost.

The McCain camp has pounced, putting out a statement: “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.” The Obama camp seems to deny Obama was talking about race (What, he meant the distinguishing feature from other presidents on the currency was his lack of a beard?), but he’s been a repeat offender (this one was in June) and has now been caught. And the Obama team does what they always do when their candidate has gotten himself into a fix (e.g. the surge will never work) — they lie and say the mean Republicans have it all wrong. We’ll see what the voters think, but the routine is wearing thin and not very effective in the YouTube era.

Read Less

Buyers’ Remorse

The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm, following in Richard Cohen’s footsteps, is perturbed and puzzled about Barack Obama. Obama appears to be a classic underachiever — lots of promise, but not living up to his potential. No post-trip bounce? No double-digit lead ? What gives? Malcom writes:

Maybe Obama’s flips — his outspoken opposition to denouncing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright until he did, his promise to take public campaign financing, since broken, his eagerness to debate McCain in townhalls, now abandoned, his apparent unwillingness to see progress in the Iraq troop surge, which he opposed and predicted would worsen sectarian violence? Is there a simmering concern over arrogance by the Ivy League lawyer and mere candidate who so blithely patted the French president on the back for a well-done news conference? Asked the other day if he ever doubted himself, Obama replied smartly, “Never!” And grinned broadly. Sounded more like a 20-year-old than someone about to turn 47 next week.

But what about the change theme that everyone is talking about –isn’t that a winner? Malcolm muses:

Obama’s talking change too. But he’s a legislator who’s been in Washington three years now, two of them as a member of a Democratic-controlled Congress that was elected in 2006 with great promise but currently holds historically low favorability ratings. What’s Obama done for D.C. change since arriving? What’s Obama done for reform back home within the historically monolithic and corrupt Chicago Democratic machine, where some up-and-comers are sent off to Congress for seasoning before advancing to the big-time of City Council?

The real question is why it took so long for the fog to lift from the punditocracy. I suppose the chance to bury Hillary Clinton was so attractive that they dared not be too critical of her opponent who promised to free them from the Clinton era. And the very prospect of a multi-ethnic, sociology-spouting, internationalist who didn’t much care for moral distinctions was so utterly appealing that all critical reasoning was suspended for a time.

But now the MSM is stumped — why doesn’t everyone love the guy? As they search for reasons, they stumble upon the obvious things (e.g. arrogance, lack of experience, lack of accomplishment, idealogical stubbornness, hypocrisy) that both conservatives and Hillary Clinton supporters (no one credible in the eyes of the MSM) have been talking about for a year. And, of course, there is a different electorate at play in which his key voters (e.g. African Americans, ultra liberals, young voters) don’t form a majority. So a spasm of buyers’ remorse is registering.

Gosh, what if the Democrats had nominated Clinton or one of those experienced potential VP candidates? Would that Democrat be within the margin of error with John McCain? It seems unlikely (particularly the post-primary Clinton who bonded so nicely with blue collar voters). But Obama is who they wanted and he is who they got.

So now the media cheerleaders — who are being mocked for being cheerleaders — really have their work cut out for themselves: how to pull their candidate, who they and others now recognize as seriously flawed, across the finish line, without appearing to be pulling too hard. It can be done, but it’s getting tougher than anyone imagined.

The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm, following in Richard Cohen’s footsteps, is perturbed and puzzled about Barack Obama. Obama appears to be a classic underachiever — lots of promise, but not living up to his potential. No post-trip bounce? No double-digit lead ? What gives? Malcom writes:

Maybe Obama’s flips — his outspoken opposition to denouncing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright until he did, his promise to take public campaign financing, since broken, his eagerness to debate McCain in townhalls, now abandoned, his apparent unwillingness to see progress in the Iraq troop surge, which he opposed and predicted would worsen sectarian violence? Is there a simmering concern over arrogance by the Ivy League lawyer and mere candidate who so blithely patted the French president on the back for a well-done news conference? Asked the other day if he ever doubted himself, Obama replied smartly, “Never!” And grinned broadly. Sounded more like a 20-year-old than someone about to turn 47 next week.

But what about the change theme that everyone is talking about –isn’t that a winner? Malcolm muses:

Obama’s talking change too. But he’s a legislator who’s been in Washington three years now, two of them as a member of a Democratic-controlled Congress that was elected in 2006 with great promise but currently holds historically low favorability ratings. What’s Obama done for D.C. change since arriving? What’s Obama done for reform back home within the historically monolithic and corrupt Chicago Democratic machine, where some up-and-comers are sent off to Congress for seasoning before advancing to the big-time of City Council?

The real question is why it took so long for the fog to lift from the punditocracy. I suppose the chance to bury Hillary Clinton was so attractive that they dared not be too critical of her opponent who promised to free them from the Clinton era. And the very prospect of a multi-ethnic, sociology-spouting, internationalist who didn’t much care for moral distinctions was so utterly appealing that all critical reasoning was suspended for a time.

But now the MSM is stumped — why doesn’t everyone love the guy? As they search for reasons, they stumble upon the obvious things (e.g. arrogance, lack of experience, lack of accomplishment, idealogical stubbornness, hypocrisy) that both conservatives and Hillary Clinton supporters (no one credible in the eyes of the MSM) have been talking about for a year. And, of course, there is a different electorate at play in which his key voters (e.g. African Americans, ultra liberals, young voters) don’t form a majority. So a spasm of buyers’ remorse is registering.

Gosh, what if the Democrats had nominated Clinton or one of those experienced potential VP candidates? Would that Democrat be within the margin of error with John McCain? It seems unlikely (particularly the post-primary Clinton who bonded so nicely with blue collar voters). But Obama is who they wanted and he is who they got.

So now the media cheerleaders — who are being mocked for being cheerleaders — really have their work cut out for themselves: how to pull their candidate, who they and others now recognize as seriously flawed, across the finish line, without appearing to be pulling too hard. It can be done, but it’s getting tougher than anyone imagined.

Read Less

Germany Disappoints

Saying certain things gets you out of doing certain things. For example, if you say, “I support the troops,” you don’t have to support the troops. You’re free to scream about the mass murder of innocent Iraqis at the hands of blood-thirsty Americans and about the righteous insurgents who are just fighting to protect their homeland. Similarly, if you say “I stand by Israel,” you’re freed up to break bread with Bashar Assad or pay tribute to the charitable work of Hezbollah and just stand on your pronouncement indefinitely.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the latest to play her get-out-of-Israel-support free card in this way. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Angela Merkel earned Israel’s respect in March by insisting that Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped and that, if necessary, “Germany will push for further sanctions.”

In Merkel’s case, she cashed in her chips in advance. A month before the Chancellor delivered the requisite promise Germany’s Export Control Office okayed a $157 million oil deal with Iran. Not only is Germany still sticking to its Iranian obligations, it is trying to speed up the process. This, presumably an effort to get things done before anything, such as public remonstrations or a war, could halt the process.

The German deal undercuts the EU’s already farcical effort to increase sanctions against the Islamic Republic and establishes the whole sanctions undertaking as a double fantasy. First: Tehran is not threatened by sanctions. The mullahs’ goals are the defeat of the West and the spread of Khomeinist Shi’ism, not attaining a vibrant Iranian economy. Second: we now know these ineffective sanctions are not even being universally applied. The Journal also reports that Germany’s imports from Iran rose 28 percent last year and their exports to Iran are up 13.6 percent in the first quarter. Nothing like the old diplomacy route to fire up international trade.

The next time a head of state passes through the Knesset with a thoughtful and moving speech about standing by Israel they should be obligated to make a return trip in which they catch everyone up on the progress of their brave efforts.

Saying certain things gets you out of doing certain things. For example, if you say, “I support the troops,” you don’t have to support the troops. You’re free to scream about the mass murder of innocent Iraqis at the hands of blood-thirsty Americans and about the righteous insurgents who are just fighting to protect their homeland. Similarly, if you say “I stand by Israel,” you’re freed up to break bread with Bashar Assad or pay tribute to the charitable work of Hezbollah and just stand on your pronouncement indefinitely.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the latest to play her get-out-of-Israel-support free card in this way. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Angela Merkel earned Israel’s respect in March by insisting that Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped and that, if necessary, “Germany will push for further sanctions.”

In Merkel’s case, she cashed in her chips in advance. A month before the Chancellor delivered the requisite promise Germany’s Export Control Office okayed a $157 million oil deal with Iran. Not only is Germany still sticking to its Iranian obligations, it is trying to speed up the process. This, presumably an effort to get things done before anything, such as public remonstrations or a war, could halt the process.

The German deal undercuts the EU’s already farcical effort to increase sanctions against the Islamic Republic and establishes the whole sanctions undertaking as a double fantasy. First: Tehran is not threatened by sanctions. The mullahs’ goals are the defeat of the West and the spread of Khomeinist Shi’ism, not attaining a vibrant Iranian economy. Second: we now know these ineffective sanctions are not even being universally applied. The Journal also reports that Germany’s imports from Iran rose 28 percent last year and their exports to Iran are up 13.6 percent in the first quarter. Nothing like the old diplomacy route to fire up international trade.

The next time a head of state passes through the Knesset with a thoughtful and moving speech about standing by Israel they should be obligated to make a return trip in which they catch everyone up on the progress of their brave efforts.

Read Less

Al Qaeda’s State Sponsors

The Washington Post has a report today from Baghdad, which if true (a big if), casts a fascinating light on the nexus between terrorists and state sponsors.

The article by Amit Paley begins with his assertion “that al-Qaeda is diverting new recruits from going to Iraq, where its fighters have suffered dramatic setbacks, to going to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they appear to be making gains.” The article quotes the senior U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Brian Keller, as saying, “We do believe al-Qaida is doing some measure of re-assessment regarding the continued viability of its fight in Iraq and whether Iraq should remain the focus of its efforts,” but he also adds “that the reliability of indications that recruits have been diverted has ‘not yet been determined.’ ”

If Al Qaeda recruits are being diverted that may, at first blush, support Barack Obama’s assertion that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, but if Iraq is fading in importance to the jihadists it is only because they have suffered such devastating setbacks over the past 18 months. If they had continued to make gains in Iraq–and they would have, absent the surge which Obama opposed–no doubt their Islamic Republic of Iraq would still be flourishing. The fact that they are looking elsewhere confirms how badly they have been hurt in Iraq, but, of course, if we divert resources too quickly from Iraq these supreme opportunists can always make a comeback there.

The article contains an even more eye-catching claim-that, perhaps as a result of the worsening situation in Iraq, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, an Egyptian who calls himself Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has recently traveled to Afghanistan via Iran with a number of his followers. This is based on interviews with an Iraqi intelligence officer and two Al Qaeda in Iraq members, but “U.S. officials have no evidence that top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders have gone to Afghanistan.” If al-Masri has indeed vacated Iraq, he would simply be duplicating the strategy of Moqtada al Sadr who has decamped to Iran whenever the heat has been too intense in Iraq.

What makes this nugget particularly fascinating is the suggestion that senior Al Qaeda leaders could travel freely through Iran. That is perfectly credible, since the 9/11 Commission and other sources have reported that in the past Iran has allowed Al Qaeda safe transit over its soil and has even played host to Al Qaeda big shots including Osama bin Laden’s son. If the Washington Post report is accurate, it would be more evidence of the connections between the Shiite mullahs and the Sunni terrorists which, if you listen to the MSM, couldn’t possibly exist.

The article mentions Al Qaeda’s connections to another country as well. It says that a prominent Al Qaeda in Iraq leader who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Ghadiya is “based in Syria,” where he “controls the flow of the majority of the group’s foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials.” The fact that Syria remains such a major support center for terrorism reveals how badly the Bush administration has failed in its state goal of making no distinction between terrorists and their state sponsors. In fact, Iran and Syria remain very much in the terrorism business and they have not had to pay much of a price for their activities.

The Washington Post has a report today from Baghdad, which if true (a big if), casts a fascinating light on the nexus between terrorists and state sponsors.

The article by Amit Paley begins with his assertion “that al-Qaeda is diverting new recruits from going to Iraq, where its fighters have suffered dramatic setbacks, to going to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they appear to be making gains.” The article quotes the senior U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Brian Keller, as saying, “We do believe al-Qaida is doing some measure of re-assessment regarding the continued viability of its fight in Iraq and whether Iraq should remain the focus of its efforts,” but he also adds “that the reliability of indications that recruits have been diverted has ‘not yet been determined.’ ”

If Al Qaeda recruits are being diverted that may, at first blush, support Barack Obama’s assertion that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, but if Iraq is fading in importance to the jihadists it is only because they have suffered such devastating setbacks over the past 18 months. If they had continued to make gains in Iraq–and they would have, absent the surge which Obama opposed–no doubt their Islamic Republic of Iraq would still be flourishing. The fact that they are looking elsewhere confirms how badly they have been hurt in Iraq, but, of course, if we divert resources too quickly from Iraq these supreme opportunists can always make a comeback there.

The article contains an even more eye-catching claim-that, perhaps as a result of the worsening situation in Iraq, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, an Egyptian who calls himself Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has recently traveled to Afghanistan via Iran with a number of his followers. This is based on interviews with an Iraqi intelligence officer and two Al Qaeda in Iraq members, but “U.S. officials have no evidence that top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders have gone to Afghanistan.” If al-Masri has indeed vacated Iraq, he would simply be duplicating the strategy of Moqtada al Sadr who has decamped to Iran whenever the heat has been too intense in Iraq.

What makes this nugget particularly fascinating is the suggestion that senior Al Qaeda leaders could travel freely through Iran. That is perfectly credible, since the 9/11 Commission and other sources have reported that in the past Iran has allowed Al Qaeda safe transit over its soil and has even played host to Al Qaeda big shots including Osama bin Laden’s son. If the Washington Post report is accurate, it would be more evidence of the connections between the Shiite mullahs and the Sunni terrorists which, if you listen to the MSM, couldn’t possibly exist.

The article mentions Al Qaeda’s connections to another country as well. It says that a prominent Al Qaeda in Iraq leader who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Ghadiya is “based in Syria,” where he “controls the flow of the majority of the group’s foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials.” The fact that Syria remains such a major support center for terrorism reveals how badly the Bush administration has failed in its state goal of making no distinction between terrorists and their state sponsors. In fact, Iran and Syria remain very much in the terrorism business and they have not had to pay much of a price for their activities.

Read Less

Too Much, You Think?

Despite the sniping between the McCain and Obama camps it seems they agree on more than you’d think. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Only a celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered from the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a memo Wednesday. Sen. Obama’s chief message strategist, Robert Gibbs, said, “There’s a fine line between being confident and arrogant. We haven’t been on the national scene for a long time so Barack Obama has to convince people he can do the job.” Sen. Obama plans an annual weeklong vacation to visit his grandmother in his home state of Hawaii in August, a move that could add to the perception that he is overconfident. Republican strategist Glen Bolger said candidates must tread carefully to look presidential without coming off as presumptuous. “His campaign has made the strategic decision that they have to make voters believe the candidate has already won,” Mr. Bolger said. “The risk in that is that there is a fair amount of hubris.”

It seems then both sides agree: Obama is at risk of becoming a figure of derision and his popularity is a double-edged sword.

Some pundits and strategists see danger that McCain will come off as too negative or shrill. (Remember, however, no criticism of The One is really acceptable.) But so long as his campaign is poking fun (rather than screaming) and the entire national media is buzzing over The Ego storyline, this is likely a good approach. (By the way, why does that Obama response ad look like such a stereotypical, old-school negative ad with grainy photos? Perhaps it’s because it’s an all-purpose generic negative ad.)

And that week off in Hawaii that Obama is planning? If Obama sticks to that the RNC will have a field day. (I already imagine the faux walk-on-water photos they’ll be spitting out.) As for the football pep rally Obama is planning for the Convention in Denver, maybe that won’t come off exactly as the Obama team had hoped. Something tells me much of this effort by the McCain team is aimed directly at deflating and undermining the utility of a scene of 100,000 fans shouting “O-bam-a!” By then, the McCain camp hopes that the public will have grown bemused, if not disgusted, by the effort to turn a political campaign into a cultural (or cult) “happening.”

Despite the sniping between the McCain and Obama camps it seems they agree on more than you’d think. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Only a celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered from the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a memo Wednesday. Sen. Obama’s chief message strategist, Robert Gibbs, said, “There’s a fine line between being confident and arrogant. We haven’t been on the national scene for a long time so Barack Obama has to convince people he can do the job.” Sen. Obama plans an annual weeklong vacation to visit his grandmother in his home state of Hawaii in August, a move that could add to the perception that he is overconfident. Republican strategist Glen Bolger said candidates must tread carefully to look presidential without coming off as presumptuous. “His campaign has made the strategic decision that they have to make voters believe the candidate has already won,” Mr. Bolger said. “The risk in that is that there is a fair amount of hubris.”

It seems then both sides agree: Obama is at risk of becoming a figure of derision and his popularity is a double-edged sword.

Some pundits and strategists see danger that McCain will come off as too negative or shrill. (Remember, however, no criticism of The One is really acceptable.) But so long as his campaign is poking fun (rather than screaming) and the entire national media is buzzing over The Ego storyline, this is likely a good approach. (By the way, why does that Obama response ad look like such a stereotypical, old-school negative ad with grainy photos? Perhaps it’s because it’s an all-purpose generic negative ad.)

And that week off in Hawaii that Obama is planning? If Obama sticks to that the RNC will have a field day. (I already imagine the faux walk-on-water photos they’ll be spitting out.) As for the football pep rally Obama is planning for the Convention in Denver, maybe that won’t come off exactly as the Obama team had hoped. Something tells me much of this effort by the McCain team is aimed directly at deflating and undermining the utility of a scene of 100,000 fans shouting “O-bam-a!” By then, the McCain camp hopes that the public will have grown bemused, if not disgusted, by the effort to turn a political campaign into a cultural (or cult) “happening.”

Read Less

The Sordid Olympics

Today, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge arrived in Beijing in the midst of an internal IOC squabble that threatens to publicize highly embarrassing details of discussions between Beijing and the international organization.  As Jennifer Rubin noted today, China has confirmed that, during the Olympics, it will be blocking certain websites from the media covering the event, thereby dishonoring commitments to the IOC that it would not censor the internet during the Games.

Yesterday, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper charged, in the words of the South China Morning Post, that “some senior IOC officials had cut secretive deals with Beijing over internet censorship and left other influential IOC members in the dark.”  He then suggested that Rogge must have known of the secret agreements.  “I would be surprised if someone made a change without at least informing Mr. Rogge,” Gosper said.  “This certainly is not what we guaranteed the international media and it’s certainly contrary to normal circumstances of reporting on Olympic Games.”

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davis meekly replied that the organization’s president would seek answers from China and “push for more internet freedom.”  Just two weeks ago Rogge had assured the international community that the internet would be completely free.  “For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China,” he stated.  “There will be no censorship on the Internet.”

China’s brazen defiance of the IOC shows that the organization has become hostage to its host country.   The Olympics were supposed to change China, but now we are seeing that Chinese rulers are corrupting the Olympics instead.  Yet there is hope.  If the brave Mr. Gosper can keep his nerve, we will, in the next few days, learn more about the sordid dealings between Beijing and the IOC, and perhaps we can then begin to repair the damage.  At this point, this may be the only good that comes from this Olympics.

Today, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge arrived in Beijing in the midst of an internal IOC squabble that threatens to publicize highly embarrassing details of discussions between Beijing and the international organization.  As Jennifer Rubin noted today, China has confirmed that, during the Olympics, it will be blocking certain websites from the media covering the event, thereby dishonoring commitments to the IOC that it would not censor the internet during the Games.

Yesterday, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper charged, in the words of the South China Morning Post, that “some senior IOC officials had cut secretive deals with Beijing over internet censorship and left other influential IOC members in the dark.”  He then suggested that Rogge must have known of the secret agreements.  “I would be surprised if someone made a change without at least informing Mr. Rogge,” Gosper said.  “This certainly is not what we guaranteed the international media and it’s certainly contrary to normal circumstances of reporting on Olympic Games.”

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davis meekly replied that the organization’s president would seek answers from China and “push for more internet freedom.”  Just two weeks ago Rogge had assured the international community that the internet would be completely free.  “For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China,” he stated.  “There will be no censorship on the Internet.”

China’s brazen defiance of the IOC shows that the organization has become hostage to its host country.   The Olympics were supposed to change China, but now we are seeing that Chinese rulers are corrupting the Olympics instead.  Yet there is hope.  If the brave Mr. Gosper can keep his nerve, we will, in the next few days, learn more about the sordid dealings between Beijing and the IOC, and perhaps we can then begin to repair the damage.  At this point, this may be the only good that comes from this Olympics.

Read Less

Obamamagic — Lost on Arabs

Most Arabs see no difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. At least that’s what Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst asserts in a piece on Al Jazeera’s website:

The skeptics see both McCain and Obama as ardent supporters of Israel, and its doctrine of pre-emptive war, and as committed to US success in Afghanistan regardless of the costs.

Let’s hope the skeptical Arab majority is right. Last I checked, when Obama was asked if the Zionist cause was currently a just one, he couldn’t bring himself to cough up a simple “yes.” And as for Afghanistan, Obama’s rhetoric is almost identical to McCain’s, but his track record suggests he’s not too keen on American victory at any cost.

Bishara quotes one Arab commentator who says,

The colour of Obama’s skin is no guarantee considering so many women behaved worse than men and so many blacks think like whites. Just as so many leftists proved to be worse warmongers than the right.

I’m not sure what it means to “think like whites,” but that aside, this Arab commentator has, in his own way, a better understanding of the irrelevance of Obama’s race than do many prominent Obama supporters. When John Kerry, Andrew Sullivan, and Camille Paglia describe the global healing properties of Obama’s melanin count, they’re just projecting some hippified version of American civic reconciliation onto the rest of the world. If Bishara is right, most Arabs don’t care if Obama’s black; they only want to know: a) where he stands on Israel, and b) the level of his commitment to U.S. military victory. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind getting some answers on those questions either.

However, Bishara himself stands with the “hopeful minority” of Arabs who “think an Obama presidency would be better for both the US and the Arab world, not to say the entire Middle East, than a McCain presidency.” He despises George Bush’s “zero-sum approach to the ongoing conflict – either total victory or sound defeat.”

Yeah, what kind of crazy wartime president would think like that!

Most Arabs see no difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. At least that’s what Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst asserts in a piece on Al Jazeera’s website:

The skeptics see both McCain and Obama as ardent supporters of Israel, and its doctrine of pre-emptive war, and as committed to US success in Afghanistan regardless of the costs.

Let’s hope the skeptical Arab majority is right. Last I checked, when Obama was asked if the Zionist cause was currently a just one, he couldn’t bring himself to cough up a simple “yes.” And as for Afghanistan, Obama’s rhetoric is almost identical to McCain’s, but his track record suggests he’s not too keen on American victory at any cost.

Bishara quotes one Arab commentator who says,

The colour of Obama’s skin is no guarantee considering so many women behaved worse than men and so many blacks think like whites. Just as so many leftists proved to be worse warmongers than the right.

I’m not sure what it means to “think like whites,” but that aside, this Arab commentator has, in his own way, a better understanding of the irrelevance of Obama’s race than do many prominent Obama supporters. When John Kerry, Andrew Sullivan, and Camille Paglia describe the global healing properties of Obama’s melanin count, they’re just projecting some hippified version of American civic reconciliation onto the rest of the world. If Bishara is right, most Arabs don’t care if Obama’s black; they only want to know: a) where he stands on Israel, and b) the level of his commitment to U.S. military victory. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind getting some answers on those questions either.

However, Bishara himself stands with the “hopeful minority” of Arabs who “think an Obama presidency would be better for both the US and the Arab world, not to say the entire Middle East, than a McCain presidency.” He despises George Bush’s “zero-sum approach to the ongoing conflict – either total victory or sound defeat.”

Yeah, what kind of crazy wartime president would think like that!

Read Less

Don’t You Dare, Senator

The Nation prints an open letter to Barack Obama from prominent Leftists (with an invitation for more to sign on) who are not pleased. They apparently did not receive the “I have not changed my position on anything” mind rays from the Obama camp. They write:

[T]here have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance–including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

And then they reel off a list of “thou shalt not deviate therefrom” positions including a “fixed timetable” for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. (Has he already deviated? The authors of the letter don’t quite let on.) But they do make clear — if there were any doubt — that the Left doesn’t favor “escalation of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” (So much for the “good” war and the “bad” war.)

So what to make of this? Well, it perhaps explains Obama’s reluctance to recognize the efficacy of the surge, even in retrospect. These folks are already at the boiling point and any further reconciliation with reality on his part isn’t likely to be well received. And it’s also clear that to one degree or another, the Left realizes the jig is up and The Agent of Change is like every other politician. But they dare not say it too forthrightly or enumerate all the lurches and leaps he has made since he sewed up the nomination. (For example, they don’t call him out on his ludicrous attempt to court pro-life forces by questioning a key underpinning of Roe v. Wade.) They have found their man.

They just don’t like the fact that they’re being sold out along the road to the White House. And who can blame them? They were under the mistaken impression that he meant everything he said in the primary.

The Nation prints an open letter to Barack Obama from prominent Leftists (with an invitation for more to sign on) who are not pleased. They apparently did not receive the “I have not changed my position on anything” mind rays from the Obama camp. They write:

[T]here have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance–including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

And then they reel off a list of “thou shalt not deviate therefrom” positions including a “fixed timetable” for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. (Has he already deviated? The authors of the letter don’t quite let on.) But they do make clear — if there were any doubt — that the Left doesn’t favor “escalation of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” (So much for the “good” war and the “bad” war.)

So what to make of this? Well, it perhaps explains Obama’s reluctance to recognize the efficacy of the surge, even in retrospect. These folks are already at the boiling point and any further reconciliation with reality on his part isn’t likely to be well received. And it’s also clear that to one degree or another, the Left realizes the jig is up and The Agent of Change is like every other politician. But they dare not say it too forthrightly or enumerate all the lurches and leaps he has made since he sewed up the nomination. (For example, they don’t call him out on his ludicrous attempt to court pro-life forces by questioning a key underpinning of Roe v. Wade.) They have found their man.

They just don’t like the fact that they’re being sold out along the road to the White House. And who can blame them? They were under the mistaken impression that he meant everything he said in the primary.

Read Less

The Trip Isn’t Doing The Trick

This excellent piece of local reporting makes clear what we intuitively know: grown ups who care about issues like Israel and, more generally, national security aren’t going to be swayed by a Barack Obama trip with lots of nice photo ops. The reporters explain:

Israel may have given a warm reception to Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, but if Andra Goldman’s reaction is any indication, his July 22-23 visit to Israel was a mixed success at best.
“Just because you take a trip to Israel doesn’t mean anything. Anybody can make a trip,” said Goldman. . .

Another lady is downright skeptical:

“It wouldn’t matter how many visits he makes to Israel because of his long history of anti-Semitic acquaintances.” Chief among these, she said, is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the long-time pastor of Obama’s former church. A Democrat who is not “hard-core right wing,” as she put it, she remains puzzled about whom she will vote for and is likely to look carefully at economic indicators.

Even Obama’s supporters are sober-minded:

Jodi Fox of Maplewood was already pro-Obama prior to the trip, but, like Goldman, she questioned the real value of such a visit. “I feel like what I saw was photo ops at the Western Wall, where he placed a note, and at Yad Vashem. Those are positive things, but it doesn’t mean his views are any different than they were before.”

All the people interviewed seemed to “get” what Obama is offering with regard to America’s policy toward Israel: a more “even handed” approach. Some people like that and others don’t (like the man who said it bothered him because “the United States is Israel’s only friend”).

So I think there are two lessons to be learned. First, voters understand the substance of the candidates’ positions better than they are given credit for (at least people for whom Israel is a key concern). And second, these people aren’t going to be swayed by a travel album. They do know where John McCain stands and they are listening very carefully to what Obama is saying. And what he has been saying hasn’t yet allayed the skeptics, even among Democrats.

This excellent piece of local reporting makes clear what we intuitively know: grown ups who care about issues like Israel and, more generally, national security aren’t going to be swayed by a Barack Obama trip with lots of nice photo ops. The reporters explain:

Israel may have given a warm reception to Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, but if Andra Goldman’s reaction is any indication, his July 22-23 visit to Israel was a mixed success at best.
“Just because you take a trip to Israel doesn’t mean anything. Anybody can make a trip,” said Goldman. . .

Another lady is downright skeptical:

“It wouldn’t matter how many visits he makes to Israel because of his long history of anti-Semitic acquaintances.” Chief among these, she said, is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the long-time pastor of Obama’s former church. A Democrat who is not “hard-core right wing,” as she put it, she remains puzzled about whom she will vote for and is likely to look carefully at economic indicators.

Even Obama’s supporters are sober-minded:

Jodi Fox of Maplewood was already pro-Obama prior to the trip, but, like Goldman, she questioned the real value of such a visit. “I feel like what I saw was photo ops at the Western Wall, where he placed a note, and at Yad Vashem. Those are positive things, but it doesn’t mean his views are any different than they were before.”

All the people interviewed seemed to “get” what Obama is offering with regard to America’s policy toward Israel: a more “even handed” approach. Some people like that and others don’t (like the man who said it bothered him because “the United States is Israel’s only friend”).

So I think there are two lessons to be learned. First, voters understand the substance of the candidates’ positions better than they are given credit for (at least people for whom Israel is a key concern). And second, these people aren’t going to be swayed by a travel album. They do know where John McCain stands and they are listening very carefully to what Obama is saying. And what he has been saying hasn’t yet allayed the skeptics, even among Democrats.

Read Less

The New York Times: Growing Economy? Bad News.

The economy grew at a 1.9 percent pace in the second quarter, the Treasury Department reported this morning. This is no cause for hosannas, to put it mildly, but since the economy grew at an 0.6 percent rate in the first quarter, the indications are that the United States is not moving toward a recession — defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth — but may instead be inching away from one. Credit is evidently due to strength in exports due to the weak dollar and the effect of income-tax rebates (which were also terrifically successful in 2001 and 2003). And yet here is how the home page of the New York Times, as of 9:51 am, characterizes this news:

G.D.P. Grows at Tepid 1.9% Pace Despite Stimulus
The economy grew less than expected from April to June, the government said on Thursday, and it shrank in the final months of 2007, dimming the outlook for a quick recovery.

It is true that a panel of economists consulted by Dow Jones had expected growth to come in around 2.3 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. This only goes to show, yet again, that panels of economists are not terrifically good at prognostication. Or they might be, since these figures might be revised upward in a few months. Or downward. But even a severe downward revision would still keep the economy out of negative territory, at least for the time being. Which is good news; in fact, the first piece of non-lousy economic news in months. Nice to know the New York Times is there to set us straight about that.

The economy grew at a 1.9 percent pace in the second quarter, the Treasury Department reported this morning. This is no cause for hosannas, to put it mildly, but since the economy grew at an 0.6 percent rate in the first quarter, the indications are that the United States is not moving toward a recession — defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth — but may instead be inching away from one. Credit is evidently due to strength in exports due to the weak dollar and the effect of income-tax rebates (which were also terrifically successful in 2001 and 2003). And yet here is how the home page of the New York Times, as of 9:51 am, characterizes this news:

G.D.P. Grows at Tepid 1.9% Pace Despite Stimulus
The economy grew less than expected from April to June, the government said on Thursday, and it shrank in the final months of 2007, dimming the outlook for a quick recovery.

It is true that a panel of economists consulted by Dow Jones had expected growth to come in around 2.3 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. This only goes to show, yet again, that panels of economists are not terrifically good at prognostication. Or they might be, since these figures might be revised upward in a few months. Or downward. But even a severe downward revision would still keep the economy out of negative territory, at least for the time being. Which is good news; in fact, the first piece of non-lousy economic news in months. Nice to know the New York Times is there to set us straight about that.

Read Less

The End for Annapolis

The peace process has now been rendered even more of an abstraction than it was before Ehud Olmert’s press conference yesterday. Over the past several months, the Bush administration has been scaling back its expectations to the point where the hope is simply for an Israeli-Palestinian joint declaration of the parameters of a resolution, saving its implementation for some point in the hazy future.

It’s hard to envision how even that low standard can now be met. There is terminal disagreement on the status of Jerusalem, and after Olmert’s announcement yesterday, the Israeli governing coalition itself teeters on the edge of collapse. If one of the coalition’s members decides — or can be convinced — that its fortunes would improve in a new government, national elections could be forced and Bibi Netanyahu would be returned to the premiership. Even if the current coalition survives until the Kadima primary, it is difficult to imagine why Kadima’s leading contenders, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, would find it politically advantageous to heavily invest themselves in the peace process either during the primary race or the post-primary period of government formation. Mofaz has already said that “At this time of change in the government, we must not reach agreements on the core issues in negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Compounding the problem is the limited ability of Kadima’s two frontrunners to be seen taking risks for peace. They both carry recent security-related baggage into the election: Mofaz, despite an impressive military resume, was defense minister during the Gaza withdrawal, and also approved of Israel’s pullout from the Philadelphi corridor, the border region between Egypt and Gaza under which Hamas’ weapons have been smuggled since the disengagement. Livni helped broker U.N. Resolution 1701, under which Hezbollah has tripled its pre-2006 missile arsenal.

In a way, this is not too tragic an end to the Annapolis process. It goes out not with a bang, but a whimper, with various diplomatic structures left in place so that the next Israeli and American governments can resume this perfunctory exercise without all the foolish fanfare that has marked the commencement of past efforts. Maintaining the drip-drip-drip of the peace process seems to have become a diplomatic necessity for American administrations. This iteration of it seems likely to fade into the background without the violence and death of its predecessors.

The peace process has now been rendered even more of an abstraction than it was before Ehud Olmert’s press conference yesterday. Over the past several months, the Bush administration has been scaling back its expectations to the point where the hope is simply for an Israeli-Palestinian joint declaration of the parameters of a resolution, saving its implementation for some point in the hazy future.

It’s hard to envision how even that low standard can now be met. There is terminal disagreement on the status of Jerusalem, and after Olmert’s announcement yesterday, the Israeli governing coalition itself teeters on the edge of collapse. If one of the coalition’s members decides — or can be convinced — that its fortunes would improve in a new government, national elections could be forced and Bibi Netanyahu would be returned to the premiership. Even if the current coalition survives until the Kadima primary, it is difficult to imagine why Kadima’s leading contenders, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, would find it politically advantageous to heavily invest themselves in the peace process either during the primary race or the post-primary period of government formation. Mofaz has already said that “At this time of change in the government, we must not reach agreements on the core issues in negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Compounding the problem is the limited ability of Kadima’s two frontrunners to be seen taking risks for peace. They both carry recent security-related baggage into the election: Mofaz, despite an impressive military resume, was defense minister during the Gaza withdrawal, and also approved of Israel’s pullout from the Philadelphi corridor, the border region between Egypt and Gaza under which Hamas’ weapons have been smuggled since the disengagement. Livni helped broker U.N. Resolution 1701, under which Hezbollah has tripled its pre-2006 missile arsenal.

In a way, this is not too tragic an end to the Annapolis process. It goes out not with a bang, but a whimper, with various diplomatic structures left in place so that the next Israeli and American governments can resume this perfunctory exercise without all the foolish fanfare that has marked the commencement of past efforts. Maintaining the drip-drip-drip of the peace process seems to have become a diplomatic necessity for American administrations. This iteration of it seems likely to fade into the background without the violence and death of its predecessors.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Where are all the voices on the Left when you need them? As Marty Peretz points out, the modern Olympics are a monument to sexism, totalitarian propaganda and just about every other bad thing to come out of the 20th century. Throw in awful pollution and you have everything the Left is supposed to be against. But no peep? Ah, because usually the villian is the U.S. or more generally the West — it’s no fun when it is the “international community” doing or condoning all the bad stuff.

And then we learn: “The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday what journalists arriving at the lavishly outfitted media center here had suspected: Contrary to previous assurances by Olympic and government officials, the Internet would be censored during the upcoming games.” There is no agreement the Chinese governement won’t break, and no breach the IOC won’t condone. Yet our President will be keeping to some benighted sense of obligation to attend this travesty.

Dog bites man: MoveOn.org’s ad is ineffective and in poor taste.

Karl Rove gives us the ad tagline: “If Mr. Obama can’t admit the surge worked after the fact, how can voters count on him to keep his mind open to the facts on other important foreign-policy decisions?” (And Rove seems as perplexed as anyone as to why on the Landstuhl visit Obama did not do the “obvious” which was: “Leave the campaign adviser behind and visit the wounded troops.” Perhaps Obama is so stage managed –or he delegates every aspect of his campaign to his aides — that he didn’t make the decision and wasn’t consulted.)

Discretion is apparently not Tim Kaine’s strong suit.

Henry Kissinger’s must-read take on Iraq: “Establishing a deadline is the surest way to undermine the hopeful prospects.”

Obama’s math and energy knowledge is as bad as his grasp of history. The MSM just won’t acknowledge it is so.

I bet she’s never been prouder of her country.

Are the Obama ads forgettable because the campaign and candidate have become “drearily self-righteous bores“? Well at least they haven’t made an ad about tire inflation.

Tony Blankley uncorks a vivid explanation of the problem with Obama’s Berlin rally (“a rally in Berlin in front of a quarter-million glistening-eyed, bosom-clenching, swooning Germans is an historically awkward spot for a leader to proclaim his worldwide goals for tomorrow”), and then reminds us that Obama’s wealth redistribution plans don’t stop at the waters’ edge.

They can’t pass an energy bill, but they have time for this. Keep up the good work, guys.

Not that the Hillary Clinton camp needs more reasons to be mad at Obama, but what’s going to be the reaction if/when she doesn’t get the VP nod?

Actually, McCain’s not trying to scare voters he’s trying to make them laugh. That’s how one punctures an inflated ego.

The McCain site is fun; Jake Tapper’s post headline is funnier. I suppose when you get the media to join in the mocking you’ve done your job.

Where are all the voices on the Left when you need them? As Marty Peretz points out, the modern Olympics are a monument to sexism, totalitarian propaganda and just about every other bad thing to come out of the 20th century. Throw in awful pollution and you have everything the Left is supposed to be against. But no peep? Ah, because usually the villian is the U.S. or more generally the West — it’s no fun when it is the “international community” doing or condoning all the bad stuff.

And then we learn: “The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday what journalists arriving at the lavishly outfitted media center here had suspected: Contrary to previous assurances by Olympic and government officials, the Internet would be censored during the upcoming games.” There is no agreement the Chinese governement won’t break, and no breach the IOC won’t condone. Yet our President will be keeping to some benighted sense of obligation to attend this travesty.

Dog bites man: MoveOn.org’s ad is ineffective and in poor taste.

Karl Rove gives us the ad tagline: “If Mr. Obama can’t admit the surge worked after the fact, how can voters count on him to keep his mind open to the facts on other important foreign-policy decisions?” (And Rove seems as perplexed as anyone as to why on the Landstuhl visit Obama did not do the “obvious” which was: “Leave the campaign adviser behind and visit the wounded troops.” Perhaps Obama is so stage managed –or he delegates every aspect of his campaign to his aides — that he didn’t make the decision and wasn’t consulted.)

Discretion is apparently not Tim Kaine’s strong suit.

Henry Kissinger’s must-read take on Iraq: “Establishing a deadline is the surest way to undermine the hopeful prospects.”

Obama’s math and energy knowledge is as bad as his grasp of history. The MSM just won’t acknowledge it is so.

I bet she’s never been prouder of her country.

Are the Obama ads forgettable because the campaign and candidate have become “drearily self-righteous bores“? Well at least they haven’t made an ad about tire inflation.

Tony Blankley uncorks a vivid explanation of the problem with Obama’s Berlin rally (“a rally in Berlin in front of a quarter-million glistening-eyed, bosom-clenching, swooning Germans is an historically awkward spot for a leader to proclaim his worldwide goals for tomorrow”), and then reminds us that Obama’s wealth redistribution plans don’t stop at the waters’ edge.

They can’t pass an energy bill, but they have time for this. Keep up the good work, guys.

Not that the Hillary Clinton camp needs more reasons to be mad at Obama, but what’s going to be the reaction if/when she doesn’t get the VP nod?

Actually, McCain’s not trying to scare voters he’s trying to make them laugh. That’s how one punctures an inflated ego.

The McCain site is fun; Jake Tapper’s post headline is funnier. I suppose when you get the media to join in the mocking you’ve done your job.

Read Less

The Ultimate Contrast

When I read John McCain’s account of his POW experience earlier this year I understood how central it was to forming his worldview and public character. David Ignatius seems to have had a similar experience after delving into McCain’s memoirs, “Faith of My Fathers.” Ignatius identifies a salient point:

But what makes McCain’s account of his captivity truly remarkable is not the heroism but the humility. In page after page, he praises men who he insists were braver than he was. Though even the toughest prisoners were broken by torture, he cannot forgive himself for signing his own confession: “I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.” He survived through solidarity with other prisoners who were “a lantern of courage and faith that illuminated the way home with honor.”

Given the current back-and-forth on The Ego and the examination of Barack Obama’s enormous self-regard, the contrast between the two candidates is breathtaking. McCain himself has seemed from time to time to hint at the same theme as he looked back at his callow youth and exaggerated self-regard, which in retrospect he saw as entirely undeserved. McCain’s reminiscence sets up implicit contrast with his opponent, whom McCain suggests, suffers from this very arrogance.

So McCain’s ongoing jibes at Obama’s ego and celebrity status shouldn’t be seen in isolation. The other half of the equation is McCain himself, the anti-Obama. He’s not trendy, his rhetoric doesn’t soar, no one writes rap videos about him and he doesn’t have swooning fans. What he has is very old-fashioned humility and a heroic biography. That huge dichotomy between an accomplished, humble man and an arrogant, unaccomplished one is, I think, what McCain’s team is driving at.

It is not just that Obama’s rhetoric and appeal is so superficial, it is that is his celebrity status is totally divorced from any accomplishment which would entitle him to such regard. While McCain is the flipside: his virtues are underappreciated and uncelebrated.

Does anyone care? Any pundit worth his or her salt will remind you that Bob Dole didn’t beat Bill Clinton, proof that personal character isn’t always the deciding factor for many voters. But McCain is betting that sometimes personal virtue and character matter. (And when one candidate is so devoid of accomplishment and evidence of tested public character, it matters a lot.) I’m just not sure in the People magazine world in which we live whether that is a winning wager.

When I read John McCain’s account of his POW experience earlier this year I understood how central it was to forming his worldview and public character. David Ignatius seems to have had a similar experience after delving into McCain’s memoirs, “Faith of My Fathers.” Ignatius identifies a salient point:

But what makes McCain’s account of his captivity truly remarkable is not the heroism but the humility. In page after page, he praises men who he insists were braver than he was. Though even the toughest prisoners were broken by torture, he cannot forgive himself for signing his own confession: “I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.” He survived through solidarity with other prisoners who were “a lantern of courage and faith that illuminated the way home with honor.”

Given the current back-and-forth on The Ego and the examination of Barack Obama’s enormous self-regard, the contrast between the two candidates is breathtaking. McCain himself has seemed from time to time to hint at the same theme as he looked back at his callow youth and exaggerated self-regard, which in retrospect he saw as entirely undeserved. McCain’s reminiscence sets up implicit contrast with his opponent, whom McCain suggests, suffers from this very arrogance.

So McCain’s ongoing jibes at Obama’s ego and celebrity status shouldn’t be seen in isolation. The other half of the equation is McCain himself, the anti-Obama. He’s not trendy, his rhetoric doesn’t soar, no one writes rap videos about him and he doesn’t have swooning fans. What he has is very old-fashioned humility and a heroic biography. That huge dichotomy between an accomplished, humble man and an arrogant, unaccomplished one is, I think, what McCain’s team is driving at.

It is not just that Obama’s rhetoric and appeal is so superficial, it is that is his celebrity status is totally divorced from any accomplishment which would entitle him to such regard. While McCain is the flipside: his virtues are underappreciated and uncelebrated.

Does anyone care? Any pundit worth his or her salt will remind you that Bob Dole didn’t beat Bill Clinton, proof that personal character isn’t always the deciding factor for many voters. But McCain is betting that sometimes personal virtue and character matter. (And when one candidate is so devoid of accomplishment and evidence of tested public character, it matters a lot.) I’m just not sure in the People magazine world in which we live whether that is a winning wager.

Read Less

A Troop Visit, After All

Maybe Barack Obama finds it challenging to squeeze a troop visit into his schedule, but at least the wounded veterans at Walter Reed can rely on Iraq’s interior minister Jawad Karim al-Bolani for appreciation.

Yesterday, Bolani went the hospital’s Military Advanced Training Center and thanked U.S. troops for freeing Iraq from Saddam:

We have come … to express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warriors, soldiers, in freeing the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq recover from tyranny and dictatorship. We also want to express our gratitude to the families of all these great men and women and express how important their sacrifices are for our nation.

I’d like to hear what the “I thought there was supposed to be candy and flowers” crowd has to say to say about that.

Maybe Barack Obama finds it challenging to squeeze a troop visit into his schedule, but at least the wounded veterans at Walter Reed can rely on Iraq’s interior minister Jawad Karim al-Bolani for appreciation.

Yesterday, Bolani went the hospital’s Military Advanced Training Center and thanked U.S. troops for freeing Iraq from Saddam:

We have come … to express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warriors, soldiers, in freeing the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq recover from tyranny and dictatorship. We also want to express our gratitude to the families of all these great men and women and express how important their sacrifices are for our nation.

I’d like to hear what the “I thought there was supposed to be candy and flowers” crowd has to say to say about that.

Read Less

The Cairo Files: Pre-Revolutionary Egypt?

Egypt is frequently compared to pre-revolutionary Iran. After all, like Iran in the 1970s, Egypt is ruled by an aging, American-backed authoritarian regime, which is largely seen as having failed to promote social, political, and economic progress. Meanwhile, domestic support for Islamist groups has risen dramatically in recent years – a consequence of a regional embrace of Islamism, as well as Islamist groups’ providing key social services that the Egyptian government has failed to deliver. Finally the Egyptian regime has responded to this challenge much as it Iranian predecessor did: with brutal repression, which has only exacerbated public resentment.

Most recently, Egyptian frustrations have largely arisen from the government’s duplicitous economic policies. The story is as follows: after a successful string of workers’ protests and a general strike on April 6th, opposition groups began organizing for another series of demonstrations on May 4th – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s birthday. The Egyptian government pre-empted these demonstrations, however, when it announced a 30 percent raise in wages for state workers on May 1st. Then, when plans for the May 4th demonstrations fizzled, the government suddenly chimed in with a new policy that entirely wiped out the wage increases – massive price hikes for gasoline (46 percent!), cigarettes, and other goods.

In turn, during my recent trip to Cairo, many opposition leaders and activists spoke of a looming “explosion” (infigar). Naturally, I always asked the same question: does this mean a revolution? Here is where the Iran-as-Egypt analogy falls apart: every political leader and activist I spoke with – from the radical Islamic Labor Party to the liberal (and pro-American) Ghad party, as well as analysts from across the Egyptian political spectrum – saw no possibility of a domestic revolution in the near future.

Generally speaking, two factors are preventing a revolution. The first is opposition groups’ belief that the regime is simply too strong to overthrow, and that violence would be a strategic mistake. In this vein, Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Muhammad Habib defined the looming “explosion” – his word – as “public demonstrations,” calling a violent overthrow of the government “impossible.” Meanwhile, even the Brotherhood’s harshest domestic critics confirmed the Brotherhood’s claim that it lacks arms, and therefore – despite being Egypt’s best-organized opposition movement – lacks the capability to immediately catalyze a revolution.

The second factor standing in the way of a revolution is historical. As the director of one liberal NGO told me, historically, Egyptians have only revolted against foreign occupations. In turn, he said, overthrowing an Egyptian-run government – no matter how corrupt – lacks public legitimacy. Moreover, public consensus sufficiently supports none of the major opposition groups as an alternative to the regime. Finally, as a number of interviewees argued, Egyptian society typically shuns violence, further complicating prospects for an Iran-like “explosion.”

Of course, none of this is to say that an Iran-like revolution is impossible in Egypt. It is easy to see how certain opposition groups – with their members scattered throughout the country and better connected to one another than ever before – could theoretically launch an insurgency if they were truly committed to it. Still, for the moment, the consensus seems to be against such action, while the regime appears to be managing its domestic challenges as effectively as ever.

Egypt is frequently compared to pre-revolutionary Iran. After all, like Iran in the 1970s, Egypt is ruled by an aging, American-backed authoritarian regime, which is largely seen as having failed to promote social, political, and economic progress. Meanwhile, domestic support for Islamist groups has risen dramatically in recent years – a consequence of a regional embrace of Islamism, as well as Islamist groups’ providing key social services that the Egyptian government has failed to deliver. Finally the Egyptian regime has responded to this challenge much as it Iranian predecessor did: with brutal repression, which has only exacerbated public resentment.

Most recently, Egyptian frustrations have largely arisen from the government’s duplicitous economic policies. The story is as follows: after a successful string of workers’ protests and a general strike on April 6th, opposition groups began organizing for another series of demonstrations on May 4th – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s birthday. The Egyptian government pre-empted these demonstrations, however, when it announced a 30 percent raise in wages for state workers on May 1st. Then, when plans for the May 4th demonstrations fizzled, the government suddenly chimed in with a new policy that entirely wiped out the wage increases – massive price hikes for gasoline (46 percent!), cigarettes, and other goods.

In turn, during my recent trip to Cairo, many opposition leaders and activists spoke of a looming “explosion” (infigar). Naturally, I always asked the same question: does this mean a revolution? Here is where the Iran-as-Egypt analogy falls apart: every political leader and activist I spoke with – from the radical Islamic Labor Party to the liberal (and pro-American) Ghad party, as well as analysts from across the Egyptian political spectrum – saw no possibility of a domestic revolution in the near future.

Generally speaking, two factors are preventing a revolution. The first is opposition groups’ belief that the regime is simply too strong to overthrow, and that violence would be a strategic mistake. In this vein, Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Muhammad Habib defined the looming “explosion” – his word – as “public demonstrations,” calling a violent overthrow of the government “impossible.” Meanwhile, even the Brotherhood’s harshest domestic critics confirmed the Brotherhood’s claim that it lacks arms, and therefore – despite being Egypt’s best-organized opposition movement – lacks the capability to immediately catalyze a revolution.

The second factor standing in the way of a revolution is historical. As the director of one liberal NGO told me, historically, Egyptians have only revolted against foreign occupations. In turn, he said, overthrowing an Egyptian-run government – no matter how corrupt – lacks public legitimacy. Moreover, public consensus sufficiently supports none of the major opposition groups as an alternative to the regime. Finally, as a number of interviewees argued, Egyptian society typically shuns violence, further complicating prospects for an Iran-like “explosion.”

Of course, none of this is to say that an Iran-like revolution is impossible in Egypt. It is easy to see how certain opposition groups – with their members scattered throughout the country and better connected to one another than ever before – could theoretically launch an insurgency if they were truly committed to it. Still, for the moment, the consensus seems to be against such action, while the regime appears to be managing its domestic challenges as effectively as ever.

Read Less

Re: The End for Olmert

Not take long after Olmert declared his intention to step down, Israel’s Channel 10 news published the results of a new poll, in which Israelis were asked whom they would want to see as Prime Minister: Likud chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu; Labor head and former prime minister Ehud Barak; or one of two possible new leaders for Olmert’s Kadima party: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is currently her leading opponent in the race for Kadima’s leadership. The results:

Scenario A: Livni heads Kadima: Netanyahu 36%; Livni 24.6%; Barak 11.9%
Scenario B: Mofaz heads Kadima: Netanyahu 36.6%; Barak 14.8%; Mofaz 12%.

We learn two things from these polls: First: Israelis are really not interested in the current government, and are likely to punish not only Kadima but also their coalition partner, Labor. Second: for this very reason, both Kadima and Labor are likely to do everything in their power to keep the government going as long as possible. The key to Israel’s political future, then, rests, as it so often does, with the coalition’s third-largest party, Shas. And Shas is likely to milk its current position as political linchpin for all it’s worth.

Not take long after Olmert declared his intention to step down, Israel’s Channel 10 news published the results of a new poll, in which Israelis were asked whom they would want to see as Prime Minister: Likud chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu; Labor head and former prime minister Ehud Barak; or one of two possible new leaders for Olmert’s Kadima party: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is currently her leading opponent in the race for Kadima’s leadership. The results:

Scenario A: Livni heads Kadima: Netanyahu 36%; Livni 24.6%; Barak 11.9%
Scenario B: Mofaz heads Kadima: Netanyahu 36.6%; Barak 14.8%; Mofaz 12%.

We learn two things from these polls: First: Israelis are really not interested in the current government, and are likely to punish not only Kadima but also their coalition partner, Labor. Second: for this very reason, both Kadima and Labor are likely to do everything in their power to keep the government going as long as possible. The key to Israel’s political future, then, rests, as it so often does, with the coalition’s third-largest party, Shas. And Shas is likely to milk its current position as political linchpin for all it’s worth.

Read Less

They Need Better Lines

The Obama camp is having a rough day. They are making a hobbled attempt to separate themselves from a hate-filled, sexist and racist video. Rather than say “We deplore it,” they, as Phil Klein points out, feel compelled to compliment the artistry of the person who composed this work of “art.” What audience do they think is listening to them? This is not a Hollywood fundraiser or a Democratic primary crowd. They have to corral working class voters and women. I’m sure the artistry is lost on them. Not a good move.

Worse still, the Obama camp is reduced to stamping their feet and whining for McCain to stop mocking them. What’s wrong with the new “Celeb” ad? They can’t say because all McCain is doing is holding a magnifying glass up to the Chosen One and asking if that’s really what a presidential campaign is all about. In place of a reasoned rebuttal (because there is none), the Obama camp goes into “outrage” mode. That’s how the McCain camp knows something is effective. (The other sign may be the poll averages.)

But this is a problem the Obama team created by deciding to go the international cult route. Imagine if one or more of the candidates for Prime Minister in Israel came to the U.S., staged a giant rally in Central Park, spoke of his delight in being a “citizen of the world” and made a fundraising video touting the goodwill mission. Wouldn’t both Israelis and Americans be horrified? The reaction would be: “What the heck is he doing here and why isn’t he back home making his case to his own voters?” And people would begin to buzz that the candidate had lost perspective, had dragged another country into national elections and now fancied himself leader of a new international order. And so it is with the Obama trip.

Free advice for the Obama camp: stop sounding like an egomanic, stop whining, change your position on drilling, go to some town halls and talk bread-and-butter issues. Otherwise it’s downhill from here.

The Obama camp is having a rough day. They are making a hobbled attempt to separate themselves from a hate-filled, sexist and racist video. Rather than say “We deplore it,” they, as Phil Klein points out, feel compelled to compliment the artistry of the person who composed this work of “art.” What audience do they think is listening to them? This is not a Hollywood fundraiser or a Democratic primary crowd. They have to corral working class voters and women. I’m sure the artistry is lost on them. Not a good move.

Worse still, the Obama camp is reduced to stamping their feet and whining for McCain to stop mocking them. What’s wrong with the new “Celeb” ad? They can’t say because all McCain is doing is holding a magnifying glass up to the Chosen One and asking if that’s really what a presidential campaign is all about. In place of a reasoned rebuttal (because there is none), the Obama camp goes into “outrage” mode. That’s how the McCain camp knows something is effective. (The other sign may be the poll averages.)

But this is a problem the Obama team created by deciding to go the international cult route. Imagine if one or more of the candidates for Prime Minister in Israel came to the U.S., staged a giant rally in Central Park, spoke of his delight in being a “citizen of the world” and made a fundraising video touting the goodwill mission. Wouldn’t both Israelis and Americans be horrified? The reaction would be: “What the heck is he doing here and why isn’t he back home making his case to his own voters?” And people would begin to buzz that the candidate had lost perspective, had dragged another country into national elections and now fancied himself leader of a new international order. And so it is with the Obama trip.

Free advice for the Obama camp: stop sounding like an egomanic, stop whining, change your position on drilling, go to some town halls and talk bread-and-butter issues. Otherwise it’s downhill from here.

Read Less

Two Tales

Guest blogging for Andrew Sullivan, Chris Bodenner questions the hullaballo surrounding Barack Obama’s telling congressional Democrats, in a closed door meeting, that his becoming president is “the moment, as Nancy [Pelosi] noted, that the world is waiting for,” and that “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” Chris writes:

Isn’t McCain’s candidacy largely built on the awe-inspiring symbolism of his own personal sacrifice and duty to country? (And rightly so.) Thus, without equating the two, why isn’t Obama’s life and candidacy also grounds for symbolic importance? (whether you personally agree it’s important or not) And why is it arrogant of him to acknowledge the obvious? McCain acknowledges his own symbolic greatness in public all the time.

I see two problems with this comparison. The first is that, unlike Obama, McCain has not predicated his campaign on his identity or personal story. He’s predicated it upon his experience, namely, his more than two decades of service in the House and Senate. A part of his campaign narrative is, yes, his character. But it’s hardly the crux of his campaign, whereas Obama — given his utter lack accomplishments befitting a potential president — has little else to base his campaign on other than his winning personality and vague calls for “change.” Obama’s greatest tangible accomplishments are two books, both of which he wrote about himself.

Secondly, to the extent that McCain has used the “awe-inspiring symbolism of his own personal sacrifice and duty to country” as a campaign theme, it’s relevant to being president. Contrary to what Wesley Clark says, getting shot down over Vietnam and being tortured for five years, while certainly not a requirement for presidential office, is a qualification. It’s a real demonstration of love of country, honor, and leadership capability. These things rightly matter to Americans when electing a president. The “symbolism” of John McCain is attributable to what he did, “his own personal sacrifice,” not who he is. What has Barack Obama “sacrificed” for America?

Guest blogging for Andrew Sullivan, Chris Bodenner questions the hullaballo surrounding Barack Obama’s telling congressional Democrats, in a closed door meeting, that his becoming president is “the moment, as Nancy [Pelosi] noted, that the world is waiting for,” and that “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” Chris writes:

Isn’t McCain’s candidacy largely built on the awe-inspiring symbolism of his own personal sacrifice and duty to country? (And rightly so.) Thus, without equating the two, why isn’t Obama’s life and candidacy also grounds for symbolic importance? (whether you personally agree it’s important or not) And why is it arrogant of him to acknowledge the obvious? McCain acknowledges his own symbolic greatness in public all the time.

I see two problems with this comparison. The first is that, unlike Obama, McCain has not predicated his campaign on his identity or personal story. He’s predicated it upon his experience, namely, his more than two decades of service in the House and Senate. A part of his campaign narrative is, yes, his character. But it’s hardly the crux of his campaign, whereas Obama — given his utter lack accomplishments befitting a potential president — has little else to base his campaign on other than his winning personality and vague calls for “change.” Obama’s greatest tangible accomplishments are two books, both of which he wrote about himself.

Secondly, to the extent that McCain has used the “awe-inspiring symbolism of his own personal sacrifice and duty to country” as a campaign theme, it’s relevant to being president. Contrary to what Wesley Clark says, getting shot down over Vietnam and being tortured for five years, while certainly not a requirement for presidential office, is a qualification. It’s a real demonstration of love of country, honor, and leadership capability. These things rightly matter to Americans when electing a president. The “symbolism” of John McCain is attributable to what he did, “his own personal sacrifice,” not who he is. What has Barack Obama “sacrificed” for America?

Read Less

VP Considerations

I will refrain from any “guess the VP” antics because it really is impossible to see through the spin. But without squinting to read the tea leaves, I have a few thoughts. First, I would imagine being a blabbermouth about your prospects is a negative thing and suggests problems (e.g. inexperience, message discipline). Second, for Barack Obama the hard thing is whether to compensate for his lack of experience or to deny that it is an issue. Many have commented that Tim Kaine lacks the same things Obama does –national security credentials, hard accomplishments, etc. — but by picking him Obama certainly wouldn’t risk putting someone on the ticket who might overshadow him and get tongues wagging. (“Well if experience is so darn important for a VP why not the President?”) So it is a tricky line to walk on the experience/national credentials front: make it better or make it more obvious.

For John McCain the problem seems more simple: who will do no harm? Don’t upset the base, but don’t freak out independents. It really isn’t so much a question of what the VP might add but what damage he might do. None of those in the VP running (from what we know) seem to have the ability to guarantee a state or a demographic group. At most they may help in a state (Michigan or Minnesota). But the key to McCain’s victory is not to take the country by storm in a spasm of excitement. He essentially must make the case that Obama shouldn’t be trusted with the presidency and is a political opportunist. So the watchwords for McCain: don’t make that harder, don’t create a distraction and don’t do anything to diminish his argument that his ticket is the one for governing in tough times. And if the press screams “Boring!” Well, that’s par for the course and not how the election is going to be won or lost.

I will refrain from any “guess the VP” antics because it really is impossible to see through the spin. But without squinting to read the tea leaves, I have a few thoughts. First, I would imagine being a blabbermouth about your prospects is a negative thing and suggests problems (e.g. inexperience, message discipline). Second, for Barack Obama the hard thing is whether to compensate for his lack of experience or to deny that it is an issue. Many have commented that Tim Kaine lacks the same things Obama does –national security credentials, hard accomplishments, etc. — but by picking him Obama certainly wouldn’t risk putting someone on the ticket who might overshadow him and get tongues wagging. (“Well if experience is so darn important for a VP why not the President?”) So it is a tricky line to walk on the experience/national credentials front: make it better or make it more obvious.

For John McCain the problem seems more simple: who will do no harm? Don’t upset the base, but don’t freak out independents. It really isn’t so much a question of what the VP might add but what damage he might do. None of those in the VP running (from what we know) seem to have the ability to guarantee a state or a demographic group. At most they may help in a state (Michigan or Minnesota). But the key to McCain’s victory is not to take the country by storm in a spasm of excitement. He essentially must make the case that Obama shouldn’t be trusted with the presidency and is a political opportunist. So the watchwords for McCain: don’t make that harder, don’t create a distraction and don’t do anything to diminish his argument that his ticket is the one for governing in tough times. And if the press screams “Boring!” Well, that’s par for the course and not how the election is going to be won or lost.

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.