Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 28, 2008

Not Even With Bugs Bunny

All is not rosy for Barack Obama in New Hampshire among former Hillary Clinton supporters. This account includes opinions ranging from grudging support to candid contempt. There is this eye-popper from one voter:

“He revolts me,” she said of Obama. “He can choose Bugs Bunny for vice president or he can choose God, presuming he doesn’t think that he’s God. It won’t matter.”

This is where the Berlin extravaganza hurts Obama a lot more than it helps. For those who chose Hillary Clinton precisely because they found Obama callow, inexperienced and arrogant this is only going to make it worse.

The Union Leader story is revealing for two other reasons. It emphasizes the dichotomy between national and local coverage and the importance of the latter, as I’ve previously noted. And second, political insiders and pundits forget that there is more to voting for president than issue stances. Voters do care about the person, his character, his persona and his judgment. And when voting for president no amount of reason on issue positions ( “But McCain is pro-life!”) can talk people out of their conviction that they just don’t like or trust a certain candidate. That in part is why, as Peter cogently points out today, Iraq and the European trip matter so much: they reveal Obama’s greatest weaknesses which are not ones of policy but of judgment, character and integrity.

All is not rosy for Barack Obama in New Hampshire among former Hillary Clinton supporters. This account includes opinions ranging from grudging support to candid contempt. There is this eye-popper from one voter:

“He revolts me,” she said of Obama. “He can choose Bugs Bunny for vice president or he can choose God, presuming he doesn’t think that he’s God. It won’t matter.”

This is where the Berlin extravaganza hurts Obama a lot more than it helps. For those who chose Hillary Clinton precisely because they found Obama callow, inexperienced and arrogant this is only going to make it worse.

The Union Leader story is revealing for two other reasons. It emphasizes the dichotomy between national and local coverage and the importance of the latter, as I’ve previously noted. And second, political insiders and pundits forget that there is more to voting for president than issue stances. Voters do care about the person, his character, his persona and his judgment. And when voting for president no amount of reason on issue positions ( “But McCain is pro-life!”) can talk people out of their conviction that they just don’t like or trust a certain candidate. That in part is why, as Peter cogently points out today, Iraq and the European trip matter so much: they reveal Obama’s greatest weaknesses which are not ones of policy but of judgment, character and integrity.

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Re: Re: Let’s Have That Argument

Jen, I hope McCain’s off-the-cuff endorsement of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative holds. And I’d encourage him to support identical initiatives on the ballot in Colorado and Nebraska as well. (Full disclosure: I am one of the official proponents of the Colorado initiative; having grown up in the state and taught at the University of Colorado Boulder, I am also currently a part-time resident.)

Colorado is particularly fertile ground for McCain on this issue. In 1996, my Center for Equal Opportunity released a study of admissions at Colorado’s public colleges and universities for the 1995 academic year, which showed widespread racial and ethnic preferences, especially at the more competitive schools in the state. Among other findings, the study showed that half of white students rejected at five campuses around the state had higher test scores than the median scores for black students admitted to those schools, and GPAs for black students were consistently lower in all state schools as well. Preferences for Hispanics were smaller (as they are at most schools using racial and ethnic preferences); whereas blacks at CU Boulder had median SAT scores 200 points lower than whites, Hispanics’ scores were 70 points lower on average. But preferential admission did not end up helping black and Hispanic students graduate. Less than 40 percent of blacks and only 50 percent of Hispanics graduated from CU Boulder, compared to almost 75 percent of whites. CEO will be releasing a new analysis of Colorado admissions’ data this fall.

But despite compelling and consistent evidence (here are data on 47 public colleges and universities) that racial and ethnic preferences harm white and Asian students in the admissions process but don’t help blacks or Hispanics actually earn degrees, politicians are loath to embrace abandoning this corrupt and ineffective system. And Republicans are rarely better than Democrats on this issue–at least when it comes time to doing something concrete. In those states where Ward Connerly has successfully led efforts to put initiatives on the ballot, most Republican office holders and candidates fled the scene. Nor did Republicans do anything to cut back on such preferences when they controlled both Houses of Congress.

Ironically, in 1998 Sen. McCain failed to support an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell that would have eliminated a racial preference in federal contracting in an omnibus federal transportation bill. The provision in the previous legislation was the source of a challenge in Colorado that resulted in the 1995 Supreme Court decision, Adarand Constructors v. Pena , which held that such racial classifications must demonstrate a compelling state interest in order to be constitutional. Valery Pech Orr, one of the plaintiffs in Adarand, is also the co-sponsor of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban this type of state contracting preference.

I’m glad Sen. McCain has had a change of heart-he should get some credit with conservatives for this and it may well give him an advantage in November. In Michigan, the most prominent Republican candidate to endorse a similar initiative on the ballot there in 2006 actually won re-election, Attorney General Mike Cox, whereas the Republican gubernatorial candidate who opposed it, Dick De Vos, lost.

Jen, I hope McCain’s off-the-cuff endorsement of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative holds. And I’d encourage him to support identical initiatives on the ballot in Colorado and Nebraska as well. (Full disclosure: I am one of the official proponents of the Colorado initiative; having grown up in the state and taught at the University of Colorado Boulder, I am also currently a part-time resident.)

Colorado is particularly fertile ground for McCain on this issue. In 1996, my Center for Equal Opportunity released a study of admissions at Colorado’s public colleges and universities for the 1995 academic year, which showed widespread racial and ethnic preferences, especially at the more competitive schools in the state. Among other findings, the study showed that half of white students rejected at five campuses around the state had higher test scores than the median scores for black students admitted to those schools, and GPAs for black students were consistently lower in all state schools as well. Preferences for Hispanics were smaller (as they are at most schools using racial and ethnic preferences); whereas blacks at CU Boulder had median SAT scores 200 points lower than whites, Hispanics’ scores were 70 points lower on average. But preferential admission did not end up helping black and Hispanic students graduate. Less than 40 percent of blacks and only 50 percent of Hispanics graduated from CU Boulder, compared to almost 75 percent of whites. CEO will be releasing a new analysis of Colorado admissions’ data this fall.

But despite compelling and consistent evidence (here are data on 47 public colleges and universities) that racial and ethnic preferences harm white and Asian students in the admissions process but don’t help blacks or Hispanics actually earn degrees, politicians are loath to embrace abandoning this corrupt and ineffective system. And Republicans are rarely better than Democrats on this issue–at least when it comes time to doing something concrete. In those states where Ward Connerly has successfully led efforts to put initiatives on the ballot, most Republican office holders and candidates fled the scene. Nor did Republicans do anything to cut back on such preferences when they controlled both Houses of Congress.

Ironically, in 1998 Sen. McCain failed to support an amendment sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell that would have eliminated a racial preference in federal contracting in an omnibus federal transportation bill. The provision in the previous legislation was the source of a challenge in Colorado that resulted in the 1995 Supreme Court decision, Adarand Constructors v. Pena , which held that such racial classifications must demonstrate a compelling state interest in order to be constitutional. Valery Pech Orr, one of the plaintiffs in Adarand, is also the co-sponsor of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban this type of state contracting preference.

I’m glad Sen. McCain has had a change of heart-he should get some credit with conservatives for this and it may well give him an advantage in November. In Michigan, the most prominent Republican candidate to endorse a similar initiative on the ballot there in 2006 actually won re-election, Attorney General Mike Cox, whereas the Republican gubernatorial candidate who opposed it, Dick De Vos, lost.

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An Alliance of the World

Today in Brussels, Moscow presents to NATO a proposal for the creation of a security pact that would establish a structure above existing organizations. “Atlanticism as a single basis for security has exhausted itself,” said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month in the first of two major speeches outlining the concept. “We must at the present time discuss a single Euro-Atlantic space from Vancouver to Vladivostok.”

Russia contemplates convening a forum to discuss its new security grouping, which would have veto power over existing security organizations. The attendees at the forum would include, in addition to Russia and NATO, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, China, India, and Brazil.

Russia sees itself as the largest state straddling Europe and Asia which has the strength and capacity to adopt a global purview,” says Russia expert Andrew Monaghan. “This includes protecting and projecting its national interests and actively proposing solutions to international problems.” If Russia proposes a solution, the West should want no part of it. There are many problems in the world, and Moscow is helping to solve almost none of them.

In fact, the Russians, along with their Chinese friends, support almost every hostile and abhorrent government today. Take these two giants out of the international system, and virtually every problem goes away or gets solved within a year. For almost two decades the West has tried to engage the two nations by bringing them into existing multilateral organizations, but the approach has failed. The international system is on the brink of collapse because of our generous and indulgent attitudes toward them. The last thing we should be doing is handcuffing organizations like NATO, as Moscow now proposes to do.

So is there room for a broad-based grouping where countries come to present their views on critical issues? Yes. But we already have a failing organization like this. It’s called the U.N.

Today in Brussels, Moscow presents to NATO a proposal for the creation of a security pact that would establish a structure above existing organizations. “Atlanticism as a single basis for security has exhausted itself,” said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month in the first of two major speeches outlining the concept. “We must at the present time discuss a single Euro-Atlantic space from Vancouver to Vladivostok.”

Russia contemplates convening a forum to discuss its new security grouping, which would have veto power over existing security organizations. The attendees at the forum would include, in addition to Russia and NATO, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, China, India, and Brazil.

Russia sees itself as the largest state straddling Europe and Asia which has the strength and capacity to adopt a global purview,” says Russia expert Andrew Monaghan. “This includes protecting and projecting its national interests and actively proposing solutions to international problems.” If Russia proposes a solution, the West should want no part of it. There are many problems in the world, and Moscow is helping to solve almost none of them.

In fact, the Russians, along with their Chinese friends, support almost every hostile and abhorrent government today. Take these two giants out of the international system, and virtually every problem goes away or gets solved within a year. For almost two decades the West has tried to engage the two nations by bringing them into existing multilateral organizations, but the approach has failed. The international system is on the brink of collapse because of our generous and indulgent attitudes toward them. The last thing we should be doing is handcuffing organizations like NATO, as Moscow now proposes to do.

So is there room for a broad-based grouping where countries come to present their views on critical issues? Yes. But we already have a failing organization like this. It’s called the U.N.

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The Goodwill of Nancy Pelosi

For all appearances, Nancy Pelosi is establishing herself as a bona fide advocate of Iran’s terrorist regime. This is not to say that the Speaker of the House endorses Khomeinist terrorism, but rather that she is among those who believe the mullahs to be “saber rattlers,” not saber users. Nevermind that the saber has been dripping blood for thirty years.

This morning, NBC aired footage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which the president of Iran claimed to see “new behavior shown by the United States and the officials of the United States,” and stated “if the [American] approach changes, we will be facing a new situation, and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one.”

Soon afterward, Pelosi appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and said Ahmadinejad’s comments “represent an opening in terms of him saying he’ll try to find common ground.” In itself Pelosi’s statement reveals nothing more than a humiliating level of gullibility in a public servant of her stature. (Ahmadinejad’s remarks are merely the most recent offering in the mullahs’ ongoing strategy of alternating apocalyptic threats with fake diplomatic overtures so they can buy time to develop weapons.) But taken in concert with her full-throated appreciation of the Islamic Republic’s kindly actions in Iraq, today’s sunny review necessarily raises questions about Pelosi’s fundamental assessment of the Iranian threat.

In May, Pelosi told a group of reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle that “some of the success of the surge is at the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.” Of course, Basra had nothing to do with the surge in the first place and in the second Iran has been, along with al Qaeda, the chief facilitator of terrorism in post-Saddam Iraq.

You’d think after giving credit for American success to America’s sworn enemies, the Speaker of the House would back off from flattering the mullahs. She might even attempt to clarify or correct the record. A mere “‘goodwill’ was the wrong term” would have gone a long way. Yet no clarification or correction was issued. And Pelosi’s comments this morning confirm the reason: She gives Iran the benefit of the doubt.

After the kidnappings, the terrorist activities that have killed Americans over three decades, the threats to destroy Israel, the attempts to destroy Iraq, the training and support of Hezbollah, the torture and murder of thousands of Iranians, the entreaties to convert to Islam, and the continued nuclear weapons development, the second in line for the presidency sees “an opening” in the scripted meaninglessness of the mullahs latest puppet.

Last week in Geneva, when Iran submitted its ridiculous “none paper” of demands and called it negotiation, even the most enthusiastic proponents of diplomacy knew that talks were a farce. But if you’ve left yourself no option but talking, what’s the difference? You have to stay in the farce indefinitely. You have to talk it up and point out new hopeful developments. There’s no plan B for people like Pelosi. So she must treat every joke and lie as if it were a meaningful opportunity. She’s locked herself into playing the mullahs’ game through to the end.

For all appearances, Nancy Pelosi is establishing herself as a bona fide advocate of Iran’s terrorist regime. This is not to say that the Speaker of the House endorses Khomeinist terrorism, but rather that she is among those who believe the mullahs to be “saber rattlers,” not saber users. Nevermind that the saber has been dripping blood for thirty years.

This morning, NBC aired footage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which the president of Iran claimed to see “new behavior shown by the United States and the officials of the United States,” and stated “if the [American] approach changes, we will be facing a new situation, and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one.”

Soon afterward, Pelosi appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and said Ahmadinejad’s comments “represent an opening in terms of him saying he’ll try to find common ground.” In itself Pelosi’s statement reveals nothing more than a humiliating level of gullibility in a public servant of her stature. (Ahmadinejad’s remarks are merely the most recent offering in the mullahs’ ongoing strategy of alternating apocalyptic threats with fake diplomatic overtures so they can buy time to develop weapons.) But taken in concert with her full-throated appreciation of the Islamic Republic’s kindly actions in Iraq, today’s sunny review necessarily raises questions about Pelosi’s fundamental assessment of the Iranian threat.

In May, Pelosi told a group of reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle that “some of the success of the surge is at the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.” Of course, Basra had nothing to do with the surge in the first place and in the second Iran has been, along with al Qaeda, the chief facilitator of terrorism in post-Saddam Iraq.

You’d think after giving credit for American success to America’s sworn enemies, the Speaker of the House would back off from flattering the mullahs. She might even attempt to clarify or correct the record. A mere “‘goodwill’ was the wrong term” would have gone a long way. Yet no clarification or correction was issued. And Pelosi’s comments this morning confirm the reason: She gives Iran the benefit of the doubt.

After the kidnappings, the terrorist activities that have killed Americans over three decades, the threats to destroy Israel, the attempts to destroy Iraq, the training and support of Hezbollah, the torture and murder of thousands of Iranians, the entreaties to convert to Islam, and the continued nuclear weapons development, the second in line for the presidency sees “an opening” in the scripted meaninglessness of the mullahs latest puppet.

Last week in Geneva, when Iran submitted its ridiculous “none paper” of demands and called it negotiation, even the most enthusiastic proponents of diplomacy knew that talks were a farce. But if you’ve left yourself no option but talking, what’s the difference? You have to stay in the farce indefinitely. You have to talk it up and point out new hopeful developments. There’s no plan B for people like Pelosi. So she must treat every joke and lie as if it were a meaningful opportunity. She’s locked herself into playing the mullahs’ game through to the end.

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Re: Let’s Have That Argument

Stephen Hayes weighs in on the issue of the candidates’ position on racial preferences. Stephen gets to the heart of the matter: support for racial preferences is the essence of racial, not post-racial, politics. It would be hard to think of a better example of what we want to abandon than arcane racial preferences (which benefit virtually none of the victims of discrimination), the type of measures the Arizona proposition aims to abolish. If Barack Obama is intent not only on supporting continuation of racial preferences, but in resorting to the same old saws used to attack proponents of MCRI-style measures — opponents are racists, minorities will return to the days of segregation, etc. — then we will see just how shallow the post-racial appeal really is.

Like so much of Obama’s appeal on New Politics there appears to be little substance beyond a slogan or a few crumbs (e.g. his girls shouldn’t get preferential treatment in college admissions). If we really are to get beyond racial divisions and animosities a good place to start would be declaring it entirely appropriate that citizens should have the right to vote on whether their states want to continue to treat their citizens differently because of race, ethnicity or gender. And if there is a rationale beyond name-calling and ad hominem attacks on the opponents as to why the government should continue to choose winners and losers by race, then Obama should articulate it and explain why he opposes measures such as Arizona’s. Why is it that state universities should be offering slots to less qualified “under-represented” minorities over other applicants? Why should a bridge contract be awarded to a contractor who has never personally suffered any discrimination and may not be the low bidder? We should hear Obama’s answers and his evaluation as to whether the Rube Goldberg system of racial  preferences has helped or hurt race relations in the decades they have been in place.

John McCain is a reluctant warrior in this battle, I fear. If he can manage to engage the public in a healthy debate about the future of race conscious preferences it will be welcome, but surprising. However, activists in states with these measures — including Arizona and Colorado — would be wise to make clear which each candidate stands. The measures are of great importance, not only in and of themselves, but now as revealing indicators of where the next president will stand on the morality and legality of perpetuating racial preferences.

Stephen Hayes weighs in on the issue of the candidates’ position on racial preferences. Stephen gets to the heart of the matter: support for racial preferences is the essence of racial, not post-racial, politics. It would be hard to think of a better example of what we want to abandon than arcane racial preferences (which benefit virtually none of the victims of discrimination), the type of measures the Arizona proposition aims to abolish. If Barack Obama is intent not only on supporting continuation of racial preferences, but in resorting to the same old saws used to attack proponents of MCRI-style measures — opponents are racists, minorities will return to the days of segregation, etc. — then we will see just how shallow the post-racial appeal really is.

Like so much of Obama’s appeal on New Politics there appears to be little substance beyond a slogan or a few crumbs (e.g. his girls shouldn’t get preferential treatment in college admissions). If we really are to get beyond racial divisions and animosities a good place to start would be declaring it entirely appropriate that citizens should have the right to vote on whether their states want to continue to treat their citizens differently because of race, ethnicity or gender. And if there is a rationale beyond name-calling and ad hominem attacks on the opponents as to why the government should continue to choose winners and losers by race, then Obama should articulate it and explain why he opposes measures such as Arizona’s. Why is it that state universities should be offering slots to less qualified “under-represented” minorities over other applicants? Why should a bridge contract be awarded to a contractor who has never personally suffered any discrimination and may not be the low bidder? We should hear Obama’s answers and his evaluation as to whether the Rube Goldberg system of racial  preferences has helped or hurt race relations in the decades they have been in place.

John McCain is a reluctant warrior in this battle, I fear. If he can manage to engage the public in a healthy debate about the future of race conscious preferences it will be welcome, but surprising. However, activists in states with these measures — including Arizona and Colorado — would be wise to make clear which each candidate stands. The measures are of great importance, not only in and of themselves, but now as revealing indicators of where the next president will stand on the morality and legality of perpetuating racial preferences.

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The Cairo Files: Barriers

For the most part, tourism between Israel and Egypt has long been a one-way affair.  In this vein, Israeli tourism to Egypt peaked in 1999 at 415,000 visitors, whereas Egyptian tourism to Israeli reached a high of merely 28,000 visitors in 1995.

Of course, there are many reasons for this imbalance.  For starters, Israelis have far more disposable income than Egyptians, and are thus more likely to travel in general.  Moreover, the Sinai Peninsula – a major destination for Israeli tourists — has long provided Israelis with relatively cheap resort accommodations, whereas Israeli beach resorts have no comparative advantage for Egyptian tourists.  Finally – and most importantly — there is a substantial divide regarding Israelis’ and Egyptians’ open-mindedness to one another: Egyptians overwhelmingly dislike Israel to the extent that tourism is out of the question, whereas Israelis are more likely to put politics aside.

But even for those Egyptians who are financially able to visit Israel and ideologically undeterred, the Egyptian government has done its fair share to build additional barriers to Egyptian-Israeli contact.  According to an Egyptian evangelical pastor who asked that his name be withheld, Egyptians who wish to travel to Israel must apply for special single-use passports – a process that automatically places them on an official government register.  Upon returning to Egypt, they are frequently questioned by state security officials and closely monitored.  Egyptian friends who have expressed their desire to visit Israel have confirmed this account.

Moreover, even when Egyptians seek to interact with Israelis without visiting the Jewish state, Egyptian security services may intervene.  One Egyptian academic, who asked that his name be withheld, shared the following story.  Recently, he had been invited to an event sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and intended to attend.  Shortly before the event, however, Egyptian security services contacted him, “advising” him not to attend – the implication being that there would be retribution if he did otherwise.  Apparently, Egyptian security had learned of his intention to attend the event by monitoring his mail.

It’s a very sad reality that, almost three decades after the signing of the Camp David Accords, Egyptian-Israeli rapprochement remains half-baked.  Among the many forces fueling this divide, the Egyptian government is a major culprit.

For the most part, tourism between Israel and Egypt has long been a one-way affair.  In this vein, Israeli tourism to Egypt peaked in 1999 at 415,000 visitors, whereas Egyptian tourism to Israeli reached a high of merely 28,000 visitors in 1995.

Of course, there are many reasons for this imbalance.  For starters, Israelis have far more disposable income than Egyptians, and are thus more likely to travel in general.  Moreover, the Sinai Peninsula – a major destination for Israeli tourists — has long provided Israelis with relatively cheap resort accommodations, whereas Israeli beach resorts have no comparative advantage for Egyptian tourists.  Finally – and most importantly — there is a substantial divide regarding Israelis’ and Egyptians’ open-mindedness to one another: Egyptians overwhelmingly dislike Israel to the extent that tourism is out of the question, whereas Israelis are more likely to put politics aside.

But even for those Egyptians who are financially able to visit Israel and ideologically undeterred, the Egyptian government has done its fair share to build additional barriers to Egyptian-Israeli contact.  According to an Egyptian evangelical pastor who asked that his name be withheld, Egyptians who wish to travel to Israel must apply for special single-use passports – a process that automatically places them on an official government register.  Upon returning to Egypt, they are frequently questioned by state security officials and closely monitored.  Egyptian friends who have expressed their desire to visit Israel have confirmed this account.

Moreover, even when Egyptians seek to interact with Israelis without visiting the Jewish state, Egyptian security services may intervene.  One Egyptian academic, who asked that his name be withheld, shared the following story.  Recently, he had been invited to an event sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and intended to attend.  Shortly before the event, however, Egyptian security services contacted him, “advising” him not to attend – the implication being that there would be retribution if he did otherwise.  Apparently, Egyptian security had learned of his intention to attend the event by monitoring his mail.

It’s a very sad reality that, almost three decades after the signing of the Camp David Accords, Egyptian-Israeli rapprochement remains half-baked.  Among the many forces fueling this divide, the Egyptian government is a major culprit.

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Need Better Answers

The Obama team is struggling a bit as evidenced on the morning shows to come up with explanations on several fronts. First, on the “conditions based withdrawal” Robert Gibbs essentially gave away the game: Barack Obama’s sixteen month schedule is rather meaningless because he plans on keeping an undetermined number of troops in Iraq for an undetermined amount of time. If the McCain camp had a bold enough sense of humor they’d run a “Obama would stay in Iraq 100 years” ad.

Second, the Obama camp hasn’t come up with anything approaching a decent excuse for Obama backing out of his visit with the troops. The latest — “We would have been criticized no matter what” — is the lamest yet. Let’s see: the Pentagon says no cameras or campaign entourage and he says fine and quietly visits with a Senate aide. Yeah, the Republicans would have jumped up and down over that one. ( Hint: when Democrats scream that McCain is being “inappropriate” or “has gone over the line” you know something is sticking.)

And finally, it does appear after all that Obama is sticking with the netroot line that the surge was really a bad idea. Gibbs says our casualty rates went up (same thing happened at Normandy, I believe) and . . . you know the line . . . we haven’t seen political progress. (That Maliki fellow who seems to be in charge now, the Shi’ite militia groups losing power and the Sunnis rejoining the government? Don’t bother him with facts.) It is bizarre of course to simultaneously claim that current conditions permit him to continue with his withdrawal plans, indeed accelerate them, but to say the surge wasn’t a success. It’s all a muddle, carefully calibrated to keep his netroot followers from revolting.

And what will stick? Something may be penetrating the media circus. Perhaps an overall sense that Obama has been opposed to and still opposes a strategy leading to victory. But I’m thinking that the troop snub and the never-ending variations on a theme of “not my fault/the Pentagon made me do it/the Republicans are mean” won’t sit very well. For a guy who criticized George W. Bush for not admitting errors and not accepting responsibility Obama sure doesn’t set a very good example.

The Obama team is struggling a bit as evidenced on the morning shows to come up with explanations on several fronts. First, on the “conditions based withdrawal” Robert Gibbs essentially gave away the game: Barack Obama’s sixteen month schedule is rather meaningless because he plans on keeping an undetermined number of troops in Iraq for an undetermined amount of time. If the McCain camp had a bold enough sense of humor they’d run a “Obama would stay in Iraq 100 years” ad.

Second, the Obama camp hasn’t come up with anything approaching a decent excuse for Obama backing out of his visit with the troops. The latest — “We would have been criticized no matter what” — is the lamest yet. Let’s see: the Pentagon says no cameras or campaign entourage and he says fine and quietly visits with a Senate aide. Yeah, the Republicans would have jumped up and down over that one. ( Hint: when Democrats scream that McCain is being “inappropriate” or “has gone over the line” you know something is sticking.)

And finally, it does appear after all that Obama is sticking with the netroot line that the surge was really a bad idea. Gibbs says our casualty rates went up (same thing happened at Normandy, I believe) and . . . you know the line . . . we haven’t seen political progress. (That Maliki fellow who seems to be in charge now, the Shi’ite militia groups losing power and the Sunnis rejoining the government? Don’t bother him with facts.) It is bizarre of course to simultaneously claim that current conditions permit him to continue with his withdrawal plans, indeed accelerate them, but to say the surge wasn’t a success. It’s all a muddle, carefully calibrated to keep his netroot followers from revolting.

And what will stick? Something may be penetrating the media circus. Perhaps an overall sense that Obama has been opposed to and still opposes a strategy leading to victory. But I’m thinking that the troop snub and the never-ending variations on a theme of “not my fault/the Pentagon made me do it/the Republicans are mean” won’t sit very well. For a guy who criticized George W. Bush for not admitting errors and not accepting responsibility Obama sure doesn’t set a very good example.

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A Sobering Reality Check on Withdrawal

To hear the antiwar faction talk, you would think that the war in Iraq is all but over and that we can withdraw in safety. Those who were claiming just a few months ago that the war couldn’t be won are now claiming it can’t be lost. “The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be ‘lost’ at this point,” Joe Klein wrote recently.

Just as I think this crowd was too quick to dismiss the prospects of victory a year or two ago, so now I think they are too quick to dismiss the possibility that things could head south in a hurry if we precipitously withdraw. The latest news from Iraqbombings in Kirkuk and Baghdad that killed at least 57 people and probably more—should remind us that this war isn’t over. Yes, Sunni and Shiite terrorists are on the run, thanks to the surge, but they have hardly given up. They are still capable of perpetrating horrible acts of violence, and if we lose focus and intensity they could stage a comeback. No “Mission Accomplished” banners yet, please.

To hear the antiwar faction talk, you would think that the war in Iraq is all but over and that we can withdraw in safety. Those who were claiming just a few months ago that the war couldn’t be won are now claiming it can’t be lost. “The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be ‘lost’ at this point,” Joe Klein wrote recently.

Just as I think this crowd was too quick to dismiss the prospects of victory a year or two ago, so now I think they are too quick to dismiss the possibility that things could head south in a hurry if we precipitously withdraw. The latest news from Iraqbombings in Kirkuk and Baghdad that killed at least 57 people and probably more—should remind us that this war isn’t over. Yes, Sunni and Shiite terrorists are on the run, thanks to the surge, but they have hardly given up. They are still capable of perpetrating horrible acts of violence, and if we lose focus and intensity they could stage a comeback. No “Mission Accomplished” banners yet, please.

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The Al-Qassam Brigades Speak

Aussie Dave notes that the “military wing” of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, has suffered the indignity of being cashiered by its Russian web host. Al-Qassam’s homepage now features a press release alerting visitors to this latest instance of Zionist usurpation.

But don’t let the hackneyed rhetoric distract you from noticing that the press release says something very important about how Hamas views its campaign against Israel:

Our engineers are working for re-opening Al Qassam website to the World Wide Web soon and we would say that these attacks and harassments will not deter us from continuing our electronic resistance and delivering the voice and the Palestinian resistance, which defends the Palestinian people, and it is striving to recover the usurped rights, because we are aware that the battle media battle is as important as the battle field with the Zionist occupation.

You have to give Hamas credit for understanding this point far better than the Israeli government does.

Aussie Dave notes that the “military wing” of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, has suffered the indignity of being cashiered by its Russian web host. Al-Qassam’s homepage now features a press release alerting visitors to this latest instance of Zionist usurpation.

But don’t let the hackneyed rhetoric distract you from noticing that the press release says something very important about how Hamas views its campaign against Israel:

Our engineers are working for re-opening Al Qassam website to the World Wide Web soon and we would say that these attacks and harassments will not deter us from continuing our electronic resistance and delivering the voice and the Palestinian resistance, which defends the Palestinian people, and it is striving to recover the usurped rights, because we are aware that the battle media battle is as important as the battle field with the Zionist occupation.

You have to give Hamas credit for understanding this point far better than the Israeli government does.

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Berlin Hangover

The Left punditocracy is a few days behind the Right and is now getting queasy about the Berlin speech. One writes:

Everything was wrong: a Victory Column setting when he’s not yet victorious, a jejune weave from fighting Communism to fighting terrorism, and an accumulation of worthy platitudes. Presence was absence: the semiotics of yesterday’s world cascaded from America’s Homo Novus.“This,” Obama told nuclear-energy hating Berliners, “is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” Yes, Barack, and let us build lovely castles in the sky that the locusts of infamy will never unravel. Obama made a brilliant speech about race shot through with the truth yielded by personal experience and a questing mind. He made a poor speech about the cold war’s lessons because he never lived it.

Well that last point is a telling one: Obama has no real understanding of much of anything he didn’t personally live through. That would explain his fractured fairytale version of presidential summits. It also suggests that even some on the Left have figured out they are being fed cotton candy by someone who really hasn’t learned, let alone internalized, the big lessons of American history and foreign policy.

Will it matter? Well it’s proof that even on the Left, time and a little reflection bring some sobriety.

The Left punditocracy is a few days behind the Right and is now getting queasy about the Berlin speech. One writes:

Everything was wrong: a Victory Column setting when he’s not yet victorious, a jejune weave from fighting Communism to fighting terrorism, and an accumulation of worthy platitudes. Presence was absence: the semiotics of yesterday’s world cascaded from America’s Homo Novus.“This,” Obama told nuclear-energy hating Berliners, “is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” Yes, Barack, and let us build lovely castles in the sky that the locusts of infamy will never unravel. Obama made a brilliant speech about race shot through with the truth yielded by personal experience and a questing mind. He made a poor speech about the cold war’s lessons because he never lived it.

Well that last point is a telling one: Obama has no real understanding of much of anything he didn’t personally live through. That would explain his fractured fairytale version of presidential summits. It also suggests that even some on the Left have figured out they are being fed cotton candy by someone who really hasn’t learned, let alone internalized, the big lessons of American history and foreign policy.

Will it matter? Well it’s proof that even on the Left, time and a little reflection bring some sobriety.

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Belz’s Hells

I’m pretty open when it comes to religious observance, but every once in a while, a religious sect or movement elegantly reveals its shocking inner weaknesses. Today Haaretz reports that the Belzer Hassidim, one of the largest ultra-Orthodox movements in Israel, have officially permitted use of the Internet. These movements tend to be extremely strict about allowing their impressionable young scholars and their wives access to the evils of the outside world, such as pornography, and have accordingly banned televisions and, more recently, the use of MP4 players. But the Internet poses a difficult problem: There are, after all, many people who depend on it to make a living, and, well, one has to make a living. So they’ve allowed it, in a limited way, for people who need it for work.

What caught my eye, however, was how one ultra-Orthodox commentator defended the Belzers’ reluctance to permit internet use:

The problem is that exposure to pornography can occur very quickly… I’m not talking about people who are looking for it, but about those who are not. Innocent people. It happens by chance: A fellow of 30, married and the father of children, suddenly sees naked girls and all the rest. This is tragic, because his world collapses in an instant. He is not prepared for this psychologically and emotionally. But even without pornography, there’s a problem because our public is curious, and this is a world of information to which a person can become addicted.

Where to begin? I guess the most obvious question is: What kind of religious worldview is so flimsy that it “collapses in an instant” at the sight of a naked woman? All along Ihad assumed that religious leaders were worried about corrupting their children, about desensitizing them to sexuality, about contributing to the abuse of women — all of which I believe to be legitimate reasons to oppose porn, and all of which I have heard presented in a traditional Jewish context. But instead it turns out that for the Belzers, even their married adult males are so weak in spiritual composure that just a flash of flesh is enough to undo decades of Torah study. And then there’s the quote’s final line: You see, our public is curious, so it is extremely important that we cut off access to the root causes of Information Addiction. As though curiosity were a vice, and ignorance its cure.

In Israel, many of these communities suffer from poverty and the inability to gain basic competencies necessary to support themselves, living instead on a combination of handouts from wealthy bretheren abroad and transfer payments from Israeli taxpayers. In some of these communities, awful crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, go unreported for fear of letting the authorities into their world. Their leaders lock their flocks into limited lives and perspectives, controlling their information flow and keeping them at bay, without necessarily giving them a better life in return. And they study the Torah, study it and study it, for all is in it. But if the end product is spiritual weakness, intellectual stiltedness, and material impoverishment, what can we say about their understanding of the divine? Is this Judaism?

I’m pretty open when it comes to religious observance, but every once in a while, a religious sect or movement elegantly reveals its shocking inner weaknesses. Today Haaretz reports that the Belzer Hassidim, one of the largest ultra-Orthodox movements in Israel, have officially permitted use of the Internet. These movements tend to be extremely strict about allowing their impressionable young scholars and their wives access to the evils of the outside world, such as pornography, and have accordingly banned televisions and, more recently, the use of MP4 players. But the Internet poses a difficult problem: There are, after all, many people who depend on it to make a living, and, well, one has to make a living. So they’ve allowed it, in a limited way, for people who need it for work.

What caught my eye, however, was how one ultra-Orthodox commentator defended the Belzers’ reluctance to permit internet use:

The problem is that exposure to pornography can occur very quickly… I’m not talking about people who are looking for it, but about those who are not. Innocent people. It happens by chance: A fellow of 30, married and the father of children, suddenly sees naked girls and all the rest. This is tragic, because his world collapses in an instant. He is not prepared for this psychologically and emotionally. But even without pornography, there’s a problem because our public is curious, and this is a world of information to which a person can become addicted.

Where to begin? I guess the most obvious question is: What kind of religious worldview is so flimsy that it “collapses in an instant” at the sight of a naked woman? All along Ihad assumed that religious leaders were worried about corrupting their children, about desensitizing them to sexuality, about contributing to the abuse of women — all of which I believe to be legitimate reasons to oppose porn, and all of which I have heard presented in a traditional Jewish context. But instead it turns out that for the Belzers, even their married adult males are so weak in spiritual composure that just a flash of flesh is enough to undo decades of Torah study. And then there’s the quote’s final line: You see, our public is curious, so it is extremely important that we cut off access to the root causes of Information Addiction. As though curiosity were a vice, and ignorance its cure.

In Israel, many of these communities suffer from poverty and the inability to gain basic competencies necessary to support themselves, living instead on a combination of handouts from wealthy bretheren abroad and transfer payments from Israeli taxpayers. In some of these communities, awful crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, go unreported for fear of letting the authorities into their world. Their leaders lock their flocks into limited lives and perspectives, controlling their information flow and keeping them at bay, without necessarily giving them a better life in return. And they study the Torah, study it and study it, for all is in it. But if the end product is spiritual weakness, intellectual stiltedness, and material impoverishment, what can we say about their understanding of the divine? Is this Judaism?

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Let’s Have That Argument

In an interview on This Week John McCain seemed to indicate support for an upcoming Arizona state proposition modeled on the successful Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which barred use of race in state employment, school admission and contracting. The DNC pounced and castigated McCain for approving of this measure.

If this is what McCain intended it would be music to the ears of conservatives and anyone favoring abolition of racial preferences which have distorted the entire premise of the civil rights movement: to treat individuals without regard to their race.

Let’s recall that the MCRI passed 58-42% and that wherever colorblind initiatives have made it to the ballot (e.g. California’s Proposition 209) the public has embraced them. And why not? The average citizen doesn’t think the government should be using race in the name of “diversity.” That is why pro-affirmative action/pro-racial preference groups are frantic to keep these measure off the ballot, as John Fund recently described. As for Barack Obama, he not only opposed MCRI but cut a radio ad falsely claiming it would “wipe out programs that help women and minorities get a good education and jobs.” Of course, all the initiative did was to bar race-conscious programs.

Based on my own experience researching and writing on this topic frequently over the last year or so. I can attest to the fact that the McCain camp has been very cagey on where their candidate stands. (And they appear to be fencing once again.) But if he is stepping up to the plate now, unequivocally in favor of a colorblind society, then I would say “Bravo.” It is right as a matter of Constitutional law and policy and smart politics. And is Obama once again going to tell citizens of various states which will be considering these measures that they must continue to condone their government picking and choosing beneficiaries of jobs, school admissions and contracts by their race?

I suspect this is a fight Obama wants no part — for it is a losing one and resurrects the issue of just how post-racial a candidate he is. As for McCain, if this is where he’s come down as a matter of policy he should make sure voters understand the stark difference between him and his opponent. And if not, he should clarify his position before opponents of the current system get their hopes up.

In an interview on This Week John McCain seemed to indicate support for an upcoming Arizona state proposition modeled on the successful Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which barred use of race in state employment, school admission and contracting. The DNC pounced and castigated McCain for approving of this measure.

If this is what McCain intended it would be music to the ears of conservatives and anyone favoring abolition of racial preferences which have distorted the entire premise of the civil rights movement: to treat individuals without regard to their race.

Let’s recall that the MCRI passed 58-42% and that wherever colorblind initiatives have made it to the ballot (e.g. California’s Proposition 209) the public has embraced them. And why not? The average citizen doesn’t think the government should be using race in the name of “diversity.” That is why pro-affirmative action/pro-racial preference groups are frantic to keep these measure off the ballot, as John Fund recently described. As for Barack Obama, he not only opposed MCRI but cut a radio ad falsely claiming it would “wipe out programs that help women and minorities get a good education and jobs.” Of course, all the initiative did was to bar race-conscious programs.

Based on my own experience researching and writing on this topic frequently over the last year or so. I can attest to the fact that the McCain camp has been very cagey on where their candidate stands. (And they appear to be fencing once again.) But if he is stepping up to the plate now, unequivocally in favor of a colorblind society, then I would say “Bravo.” It is right as a matter of Constitutional law and policy and smart politics. And is Obama once again going to tell citizens of various states which will be considering these measures that they must continue to condone their government picking and choosing beneficiaries of jobs, school admissions and contracts by their race?

I suspect this is a fight Obama wants no part — for it is a losing one and resurrects the issue of just how post-racial a candidate he is. As for McCain, if this is where he’s come down as a matter of policy he should make sure voters understand the stark difference between him and his opponent. And if not, he should clarify his position before opponents of the current system get their hopes up.

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Obama, the Palestinians, and the Middle East

On Meet the Press yesterday, Barack Obama summarized the lessons of his Middle East tour:

I think King, King Abdullah [of Jordan] is as savvy an analyst of the region and player in the region as, as there is, one of the points that he made and I think a lot of people made, is that we’ve got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that all these issues are connected. If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.

Here we have a crystalline example of the kind of thinking about the Middle East that has prevailed for decades at the State Department, in Europe, and in leftist circles. This is the myth of linkage at its finest, in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the sword that must be pulled from the stone before peace, goodwill, and American suasion are possible in the Middle East.

In this worldview, the ineffectiveness of Arab states as U.S. allies is due primarily to genuine — as opposed to claimed — objections over the lack of American involvement in the conflict, as if America’s failure to “create” a Palestinian state is because 15 years of Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, the Road Map, Annapolis, and billions of dollars in foreign aid represent an insufficient dedication of resources to the conflict. In this worldview, Iran “uses” Hamas and Hezbollah to “stir up mischief,” a state of affairs which can be changed through a peace process. Obama apparently doesn’t believe that Hamas and Hezbollah are allied with Iran because all three share a very clear and unappeasable goal: ridding the Middle East of Israel and America. Does Obama really believe that Hamas and Hezbollah can be co-opted by a peace process?

By making Palestinian statehood — something that has no chance of happening soon, and something that America has profoundly little ability to influence — one of the major departure points for his Middle East policy, Obama is placing America’s fortunes in the region in the hands of…the Palestinians. Yikes.

On Meet the Press yesterday, Barack Obama summarized the lessons of his Middle East tour:

I think King, King Abdullah [of Jordan] is as savvy an analyst of the region and player in the region as, as there is, one of the points that he made and I think a lot of people made, is that we’ve got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that all these issues are connected. If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.

Here we have a crystalline example of the kind of thinking about the Middle East that has prevailed for decades at the State Department, in Europe, and in leftist circles. This is the myth of linkage at its finest, in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the sword that must be pulled from the stone before peace, goodwill, and American suasion are possible in the Middle East.

In this worldview, the ineffectiveness of Arab states as U.S. allies is due primarily to genuine — as opposed to claimed — objections over the lack of American involvement in the conflict, as if America’s failure to “create” a Palestinian state is because 15 years of Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, the Road Map, Annapolis, and billions of dollars in foreign aid represent an insufficient dedication of resources to the conflict. In this worldview, Iran “uses” Hamas and Hezbollah to “stir up mischief,” a state of affairs which can be changed through a peace process. Obama apparently doesn’t believe that Hamas and Hezbollah are allied with Iran because all three share a very clear and unappeasable goal: ridding the Middle East of Israel and America. Does Obama really believe that Hamas and Hezbollah can be co-opted by a peace process?

By making Palestinian statehood — something that has no chance of happening soon, and something that America has profoundly little ability to influence — one of the major departure points for his Middle East policy, Obama is placing America’s fortunes in the region in the hands of…the Palestinians. Yikes.

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Complete Makeover: Potential First Lady Edition

Michelle Obama in March:

[Michelle] Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

Michelle Obama in July:

The overwhelming reality that has gotten us to this point and will help get us hopefully as a nation to a new point is the reality that America is full of decent people who are really tired of division and back-biting. Folks are struggling. And that struggle far outweighs their fears and their skepticism. And there will always be people who are not ready. But look at where we are.

The reversal bug is spreading through the Obama clan at lightning speed.

Michelle Obama in March:

[Michelle] Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

Michelle Obama in July:

The overwhelming reality that has gotten us to this point and will help get us hopefully as a nation to a new point is the reality that America is full of decent people who are really tired of division and back-biting. Folks are struggling. And that struggle far outweighs their fears and their skepticism. And there will always be people who are not ready. But look at where we are.

The reversal bug is spreading through the Obama clan at lightning speed.

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Should Have Moved On This One

Robert Novak muses why Barack Obama is still below 50% in a banner year for Democrats and reminds us of some history:

In 1976, Jimmy Carter took a 33-point summer lead over President Gerald Ford and won in a photo finish. In 1988, Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by 17 points after being nominated in Atlanta but ultimately lost the election. Al Gore and John Kerry were ahead of George W. Bush in the summer.

And he also focuses on the nub of the greatest substantive and political problem Obama created on this trip:

The toughest interrogation of Obama came from CBS anchor Katie Couric in Jordan last Tuesday. She asked four times whether the troop surge he had opposed was instrumental in reducing violence in Iraq. Obama answered straight from talking points by citing “the great effort of our young men and women in uniform.” That sounded like the old politics. He would have sounded more like a new politician if he had simply said, “Yes, the strategy did work.” That would have infuriated antiwar activists but not enough for them to drop Obama.

And that churlish refusal to embrace success, more so than the fuzzing of his position on future withdrawal timetable, may be the chink in Obama’s armor. It is something one would have expected in a primary. “Appeal to the base, don’t be caught from the Left” is good advice when you are fighting over the votes of Democratic activists.

But he already has the nomination and his netroot followers. They won’t abandon him now. What he doesn’t have and what he’ll need to put him over 50% are older, working class voters who have yet to be convinced he has what it takes to be commander in chief. Obama’s “I still don’t like the surge and wish we hadn’t done it” may be a sticking point for them. Forget the Left and the media on this — he already has them in his pocket. It’s the people outside his coalition of African Americans, ultra liberals, college students and urban elites who he has to convince. This sure isn’t going to help. (And worse still: the impact of his ducking a visit with the injured troops hasn’t fully been felt yet.) Of all the times to move to the center, this was it.

Robert Novak muses why Barack Obama is still below 50% in a banner year for Democrats and reminds us of some history:

In 1976, Jimmy Carter took a 33-point summer lead over President Gerald Ford and won in a photo finish. In 1988, Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by 17 points after being nominated in Atlanta but ultimately lost the election. Al Gore and John Kerry were ahead of George W. Bush in the summer.

And he also focuses on the nub of the greatest substantive and political problem Obama created on this trip:

The toughest interrogation of Obama came from CBS anchor Katie Couric in Jordan last Tuesday. She asked four times whether the troop surge he had opposed was instrumental in reducing violence in Iraq. Obama answered straight from talking points by citing “the great effort of our young men and women in uniform.” That sounded like the old politics. He would have sounded more like a new politician if he had simply said, “Yes, the strategy did work.” That would have infuriated antiwar activists but not enough for them to drop Obama.

And that churlish refusal to embrace success, more so than the fuzzing of his position on future withdrawal timetable, may be the chink in Obama’s armor. It is something one would have expected in a primary. “Appeal to the base, don’t be caught from the Left” is good advice when you are fighting over the votes of Democratic activists.

But he already has the nomination and his netroot followers. They won’t abandon him now. What he doesn’t have and what he’ll need to put him over 50% are older, working class voters who have yet to be convinced he has what it takes to be commander in chief. Obama’s “I still don’t like the surge and wish we hadn’t done it” may be a sticking point for them. Forget the Left and the media on this — he already has them in his pocket. It’s the people outside his coalition of African Americans, ultra liberals, college students and urban elites who he has to convince. This sure isn’t going to help. (And worse still: the impact of his ducking a visit with the injured troops hasn’t fully been felt yet.) Of all the times to move to the center, this was it.

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Dewey?

Philip Terzian makes the case that Barack Obama bears a striking resemblance to Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential race. Among other things is the audacity factor:

Above all, it was an overweening self-confidence that undermined the Republican candidate. The Democrats had controlled the White House for 16 years, and public opinion polls indicated that voters were ready for change. But the governor and his advisers were so beguiled by their early poll readings and press coverage, and persuaded that the campaign was over before it had begun, that a self-protective Dewey did not so much run for the presidency as pose and occasionally speak in anticipation of election.

(But there were differences of course — Dewey was an accomplished prosecutor for one.) Terzian makes a strong argument, although he doesn’t mention a telling incident from the 1948 campaign. Dewey was speaking from a train when it unexpectedly began to back up. Dewey cracked that the engineer “should probably be shot at sunrise, but we’ll let him off this time since no one was hurt.” Truman pounced and made much of Dewey’s contempt for the working man.

The lesson of that: voters don’t like it when you overlook or take for granted folks like them. And what’s more, little incidents reveal grace and personal character, leaving a lasting impression on average voters. That is why Obama’s soldier snubbing gaffe and the parade of excuses may last longer than the trip photos. It revealed a lack of good sense and an obsession with his own image and needs above those of others, in this case some of the people most deserving of our respect and affection. The reason for the cancellation — that he could not bring campaign entourage and cameras — is the nub of the matter. For Obama, it is all about the show.

And that’s why McCain, whose only hope may be an appeal to ordinary voters’ sense of decency and common sense, is right to make an issue of it.

Philip Terzian makes the case that Barack Obama bears a striking resemblance to Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential race. Among other things is the audacity factor:

Above all, it was an overweening self-confidence that undermined the Republican candidate. The Democrats had controlled the White House for 16 years, and public opinion polls indicated that voters were ready for change. But the governor and his advisers were so beguiled by their early poll readings and press coverage, and persuaded that the campaign was over before it had begun, that a self-protective Dewey did not so much run for the presidency as pose and occasionally speak in anticipation of election.

(But there were differences of course — Dewey was an accomplished prosecutor for one.) Terzian makes a strong argument, although he doesn’t mention a telling incident from the 1948 campaign. Dewey was speaking from a train when it unexpectedly began to back up. Dewey cracked that the engineer “should probably be shot at sunrise, but we’ll let him off this time since no one was hurt.” Truman pounced and made much of Dewey’s contempt for the working man.

The lesson of that: voters don’t like it when you overlook or take for granted folks like them. And what’s more, little incidents reveal grace and personal character, leaving a lasting impression on average voters. That is why Obama’s soldier snubbing gaffe and the parade of excuses may last longer than the trip photos. It revealed a lack of good sense and an obsession with his own image and needs above those of others, in this case some of the people most deserving of our respect and affection. The reason for the cancellation — that he could not bring campaign entourage and cameras — is the nub of the matter. For Obama, it is all about the show.

And that’s why McCain, whose only hope may be an appeal to ordinary voters’ sense of decency and common sense, is right to make an issue of it.

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Mass Executions in Iran

Yesterday, at dawn, Iran hanged 29 criminals. This is one fewer person than the government promised the day before. “The 29 who were executed this morning were involved in the smuggling of narcotics on a wide scale, organized crime, murder and armed robbery,” said Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor. “We are hoping Tehran will become the most unsafe place for drug dealers, thugs and trouble-makers and also violators of people’s honor.” On the question of honor, Iranian rights groups have said that nine individuals–eight of them women–have just been given death sentences for adultery. The sentences are to be carried out by stoning.

Many countries have the death penalty, but the Islamic Republic executes more people than any other nation except China. Should we be concerned? As an initial matter, we should try to protect human rights everywhere.

Yet the specific issue for us is what Iran’s executions say about the mentality of the theocratic regime. Although many Iranians may be progressive and forward-thinking, their theocracy seems medieval in its outlook and abhorrent in its methods. When combined with the millennial views of its leaders and their professed hatred for other nations, one wonders what the Islamic state would do if it were ever able to develop nuclear warheads and mate them to long-range missiles. Or enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity, which could then be transferred to the country’s terrorist allies. Unfortunately, Iranian rulers continue to give us reasons to believe that, directly or indirectly, they will be the first people in history to initiate nuclear war.

After yesterday morning, no one should be in doubt about the nature of the Iranian regime-and why it should not be permitted to produce the fissile material that goes into the most destructive weapons the world has ever known.

Yesterday, at dawn, Iran hanged 29 criminals. This is one fewer person than the government promised the day before. “The 29 who were executed this morning were involved in the smuggling of narcotics on a wide scale, organized crime, murder and armed robbery,” said Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor. “We are hoping Tehran will become the most unsafe place for drug dealers, thugs and trouble-makers and also violators of people’s honor.” On the question of honor, Iranian rights groups have said that nine individuals–eight of them women–have just been given death sentences for adultery. The sentences are to be carried out by stoning.

Many countries have the death penalty, but the Islamic Republic executes more people than any other nation except China. Should we be concerned? As an initial matter, we should try to protect human rights everywhere.

Yet the specific issue for us is what Iran’s executions say about the mentality of the theocratic regime. Although many Iranians may be progressive and forward-thinking, their theocracy seems medieval in its outlook and abhorrent in its methods. When combined with the millennial views of its leaders and their professed hatred for other nations, one wonders what the Islamic state would do if it were ever able to develop nuclear warheads and mate them to long-range missiles. Or enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity, which could then be transferred to the country’s terrorist allies. Unfortunately, Iranian rulers continue to give us reasons to believe that, directly or indirectly, they will be the first people in history to initiate nuclear war.

After yesterday morning, no one should be in doubt about the nature of the Iranian regime-and why it should not be permitted to produce the fissile material that goes into the most destructive weapons the world has ever known.

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Nicholas Kristof’s Moral Tourism, part two

Marty Peretz has weighed in with a scathing critique of Kristof’s NYT column.

Kristof’s third point about the difference between terror and retaliation — or rather the similarity — is also inane. Less Israeli minors have been killed than Palestinian minors. And, if counting minors is the point, how many of the Palestinian minors were fighting? And how many of the Israelis not? For the latter, I’d bet none. But this is an inane calculus, as if a just war would require the winning side to artificially keeps its casualties up to match the casualties of the losers.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Richard Landes has a must-read fisking of Kristof here.

Marty Peretz has weighed in with a scathing critique of Kristof’s NYT column.

Kristof’s third point about the difference between terror and retaliation — or rather the similarity — is also inane. Less Israeli minors have been killed than Palestinian minors. And, if counting minors is the point, how many of the Palestinian minors were fighting? And how many of the Israelis not? For the latter, I’d bet none. But this is an inane calculus, as if a just war would require the winning side to artificially keeps its casualties up to match the casualties of the losers.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Richard Landes has a must-read fisking of Kristof here.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest: “The Chinese capital was shrouded in a thick, gray haze of pollution Sunday, just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. One expert warned that drastic measures enacted to cut vehicle and factory emissions in the city were no guarantee skies would be clear during competitions.” Can everyone stay home now as part of a Green protest? Why isn’t Al Gore outraged?

It is not just social security where Barack Obama lacks details. What are his proposed capital gains and corporate tax rates? He hasn’t said. What is his health care plan going to cost? He doesn’t say. What’s the total cost of his domestic spending? Hasn’t said. Why isn’t John McCain making a bigger deal of this? Got me.

Oh, I know how he feels and I hope he’s right. But sometimes I think the voters are just as faddish, just as gullible as Obama assumes them to be.

Gotta love this: “Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged today that he had failed to understand how much violence would decrease this year in Iraq, but he contended that President Bush and Sen. John McCain, the Republicans’ presumptive presidential candidate, had made the same mistake.” Well, the difference would be that the surge was even more successful than McCain anticipated. Not really the “same mistake” as trying to do everything to prevent implementation and completion of a successful strategy.

Obama decides energy policy and a recession are important enough to get some big guns’ advice. What do you think they say about all those tax increases, opposition to nuclear power and a ban on domestic oil development? I smell a flip-flop, maybe two or three in the offing.

Boy, is this on the mark. Especially the #1 reason.

Were Obama’s views really confirmed by the trip? Is the 16-month timetable in place? And which “views” — the pre-scrubbed website views or the later views? And does he still think there hasn’t been political progress? (He sure is fond of Maliki now.)

I have a tip for the gals: if you want to be taken seriously don’t go to a convention complaining that you’re not taken seriously.

CNN apparently has a sub-specialty: finding fake Republicans. (Remember the debate, don’t you?) They couldn’t even make the effort to find any real dispirited ones. How hard would that have been?

Maybe Obama can raise this when he has tea with Ahmadinejad. And why is this only in a UK paper?

The latest: “The Chinese capital was shrouded in a thick, gray haze of pollution Sunday, just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. One expert warned that drastic measures enacted to cut vehicle and factory emissions in the city were no guarantee skies would be clear during competitions.” Can everyone stay home now as part of a Green protest? Why isn’t Al Gore outraged?

It is not just social security where Barack Obama lacks details. What are his proposed capital gains and corporate tax rates? He hasn’t said. What is his health care plan going to cost? He doesn’t say. What’s the total cost of his domestic spending? Hasn’t said. Why isn’t John McCain making a bigger deal of this? Got me.

Oh, I know how he feels and I hope he’s right. But sometimes I think the voters are just as faddish, just as gullible as Obama assumes them to be.

Gotta love this: “Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged today that he had failed to understand how much violence would decrease this year in Iraq, but he contended that President Bush and Sen. John McCain, the Republicans’ presumptive presidential candidate, had made the same mistake.” Well, the difference would be that the surge was even more successful than McCain anticipated. Not really the “same mistake” as trying to do everything to prevent implementation and completion of a successful strategy.

Obama decides energy policy and a recession are important enough to get some big guns’ advice. What do you think they say about all those tax increases, opposition to nuclear power and a ban on domestic oil development? I smell a flip-flop, maybe two or three in the offing.

Boy, is this on the mark. Especially the #1 reason.

Were Obama’s views really confirmed by the trip? Is the 16-month timetable in place? And which “views” — the pre-scrubbed website views or the later views? And does he still think there hasn’t been political progress? (He sure is fond of Maliki now.)

I have a tip for the gals: if you want to be taken seriously don’t go to a convention complaining that you’re not taken seriously.

CNN apparently has a sub-specialty: finding fake Republicans. (Remember the debate, don’t you?) They couldn’t even make the effort to find any real dispirited ones. How hard would that have been?

Maybe Obama can raise this when he has tea with Ahmadinejad. And why is this only in a UK paper?

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