Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 7, 2008

The Return of The Grown Ups

Word comes that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will be removed from their anchor positions at MSNBC. David Gregory will assume the duties for the balance of the presidential race.

It is one thing to pursue a niche audience, to engage ideologically extreme and obnoxious commentators and to unabashedly declare your top-rated shows to be “balance-free.” But placing obvious, avowed partisans in the role of “anchors” with the patina of objectivity and sobriety was a stain on the reputation of NBC. And let’s be frank — the NBC and MSNBC brands are intertwined.

Moreover, it was dumb in the long run for a news organization seeking to compete with less ideologically-tainted outlets. Really, what access and what cooperation do you think the McCain camp has been affording them?

The Left has compared MSNBC to Fox, but the analogy has always fallen on exactly this point: Fox separated talk-show partisans (e.g. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly) from news anchors and reporters ( e.g. Brit Hume, Chris Wallace) while MSNBC did not. This move is a small but essential corrective step.

From the outside one can easily ask, “What took so long?” But the temptation to give into bullies and to seek some small ratings/monetary advantage is great. It is no easy thing to say “enough” and somebody –or somebodies — at MSNBC/NBC did just that. But whether this is part of a greater course correction, one that will be reflected in more than a shuffling of the anchor chairs on the deck of the MSM Titanic remains to be seen.

Word comes that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will be removed from their anchor positions at MSNBC. David Gregory will assume the duties for the balance of the presidential race.

It is one thing to pursue a niche audience, to engage ideologically extreme and obnoxious commentators and to unabashedly declare your top-rated shows to be “balance-free.” But placing obvious, avowed partisans in the role of “anchors” with the patina of objectivity and sobriety was a stain on the reputation of NBC. And let’s be frank — the NBC and MSNBC brands are intertwined.

Moreover, it was dumb in the long run for a news organization seeking to compete with less ideologically-tainted outlets. Really, what access and what cooperation do you think the McCain camp has been affording them?

The Left has compared MSNBC to Fox, but the analogy has always fallen on exactly this point: Fox separated talk-show partisans (e.g. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly) from news anchors and reporters ( e.g. Brit Hume, Chris Wallace) while MSNBC did not. This move is a small but essential corrective step.

From the outside one can easily ask, “What took so long?” But the temptation to give into bullies and to seek some small ratings/monetary advantage is great. It is no easy thing to say “enough” and somebody –or somebodies — at MSNBC/NBC did just that. But whether this is part of a greater course correction, one that will be reflected in more than a shuffling of the anchor chairs on the deck of the MSM Titanic remains to be seen.

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China in Vietnam?

Will China invade Vietnam?  That question, at first glance, sounds preposterous-but not to Hanoi.  The Vietnamese in recent days twice summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest “invasion plans” posted on at least four Chinese websites.  The plans detail a 31-day operation and an attack of 310,000 troops.  Beijing denied it had anything to do with the postings, which “by no means represented China’s stance.”

There is ample reason for the Vietnamese to be concerned.  First, the last invasion by China in its history was directed against Vietnam.  That occurred in 1979 when Deng Xiaoping, who is still revered in Communist Party of China circles, sought to “punish” that country.  Second, the Chinese claim Vietnam’s continental shelf in the South China Sea and this claim has given rise to tension in the last few months.  In July, Beijing issued threats against ExxonMobil, demanding the U.S. firm terminate its exploration deal with state oil company PetroVietnam.  Third, the Chinese have used military measures to buttress their South China Sea claims, occupying the Philippines’s Mischief Reef in 1995, for instance.  Fourth, Beijing actively patrols its websites and immediately removes material deemed offensive.  Hanoi, therefore, was puzzled why the invasion plans stayed up so long.

And then there is one more reason.  “The Chinese government attaches importance to the development of Sino-Vietnamese relations and is actively committed to strengthening publicity of the Sino-Vietnamese friendship,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said in reply to Hanoi’s recent protests.  Yes, but China has been the primary adversary of the Vietnamese for centuries.  That’s why Vietnam, a communist state that fought a ferocious war against Americans, welcomes Washington’s active presence in the region at this moment.

And speaking of the United States, the Chinese have undoubtedly noticed Washington’s weak diplomacy of late.  Our lack of resolve, unfortunately, creates opportunities for aggressors and troublemakers of all stripes.  As Carl Thayer of the Australian National University notes, a Chinese invasion of Vietnam these days is unthinkable.  So was Russia’s invasion of Georgia–until last month.

Will China invade Vietnam?  That question, at first glance, sounds preposterous-but not to Hanoi.  The Vietnamese in recent days twice summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest “invasion plans” posted on at least four Chinese websites.  The plans detail a 31-day operation and an attack of 310,000 troops.  Beijing denied it had anything to do with the postings, which “by no means represented China’s stance.”

There is ample reason for the Vietnamese to be concerned.  First, the last invasion by China in its history was directed against Vietnam.  That occurred in 1979 when Deng Xiaoping, who is still revered in Communist Party of China circles, sought to “punish” that country.  Second, the Chinese claim Vietnam’s continental shelf in the South China Sea and this claim has given rise to tension in the last few months.  In July, Beijing issued threats against ExxonMobil, demanding the U.S. firm terminate its exploration deal with state oil company PetroVietnam.  Third, the Chinese have used military measures to buttress their South China Sea claims, occupying the Philippines’s Mischief Reef in 1995, for instance.  Fourth, Beijing actively patrols its websites and immediately removes material deemed offensive.  Hanoi, therefore, was puzzled why the invasion plans stayed up so long.

And then there is one more reason.  “The Chinese government attaches importance to the development of Sino-Vietnamese relations and is actively committed to strengthening publicity of the Sino-Vietnamese friendship,” Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said in reply to Hanoi’s recent protests.  Yes, but China has been the primary adversary of the Vietnamese for centuries.  That’s why Vietnam, a communist state that fought a ferocious war against Americans, welcomes Washington’s active presence in the region at this moment.

And speaking of the United States, the Chinese have undoubtedly noticed Washington’s weak diplomacy of late.  Our lack of resolve, unfortunately, creates opportunities for aggressors and troublemakers of all stripes.  As Carl Thayer of the Australian National University notes, a Chinese invasion of Vietnam these days is unthinkable.  So was Russia’s invasion of Georgia–until last month.

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Olmert, On the Brink

Whatever one might think about the Prime Minister, this should not be a happy moment. The Israeli police today announced that they will recommend indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

The police are set to give their recommendations to the State Attorney’s Office. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and State-Attorney Moshe Lador will review the case material before making a decision on whether to charge the prime minister.

Mazuz was involved in the drafting of the Police’s announcement, so the chances for him to reverse this decision are quite slim. He might decide to reject parts of the recommended indictment–the most important issue is whether Olmert will be indicted not just for money laundering and fraud, but also for bribery.

The criminal case against Olmert will be debated in the years to come, and with it the more important question of whether such charges should lead to what constitutes a change of government. Some politicians complain that the police are looking to make a name for themselves by investigating Israeli leaders with unjustified zealotry. All three Prime Ministers preceding Olmert–Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon–were investigated. But Olmert will be the first one to pay such a heavy price.

The Israeli public will be happy to see him go–but not necessarily because of these charges: Olmert lost the support of the people after the Lebanon war, and could never recover it. The investigations dealing with the complicated relations he had with funders, friends, and the tax code do not ignite the same level of emotional reaction.

Olmert thought it was important to clarify tonight that the police are not the ones making decisions related to indictments–they can only make recommendations. Technically, he is right, but the truth of the matter is that Olmert is practically gone. Mahmoud Abbas seems to understand that. Syrian President Assad seems to understand that.

Israelis understand this as well, of course. But when Olmert is gone, Israel’s troubles will not go away with him. No “realignment” in the West Bank, no “victory” in Lebanon, no “framework” for peace. Olmert was the luckiest of all politicians before coming to power (nobody expected him to be Sharon’s successor)–but his luck started to run out as soon as he was elevated to the PM’s office. Many Israelis grew to despise Olmert, almost hate him. In time, they’ll realize that it was overreaction. Olmert is not as black as he’s painted–and the alternatives are not as appealing as they now pretend them to be.

Whatever one might think about the Prime Minister, this should not be a happy moment. The Israeli police today announced that they will recommend indicting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

The police are set to give their recommendations to the State Attorney’s Office. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and State-Attorney Moshe Lador will review the case material before making a decision on whether to charge the prime minister.

Mazuz was involved in the drafting of the Police’s announcement, so the chances for him to reverse this decision are quite slim. He might decide to reject parts of the recommended indictment–the most important issue is whether Olmert will be indicted not just for money laundering and fraud, but also for bribery.

The criminal case against Olmert will be debated in the years to come, and with it the more important question of whether such charges should lead to what constitutes a change of government. Some politicians complain that the police are looking to make a name for themselves by investigating Israeli leaders with unjustified zealotry. All three Prime Ministers preceding Olmert–Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon–were investigated. But Olmert will be the first one to pay such a heavy price.

The Israeli public will be happy to see him go–but not necessarily because of these charges: Olmert lost the support of the people after the Lebanon war, and could never recover it. The investigations dealing with the complicated relations he had with funders, friends, and the tax code do not ignite the same level of emotional reaction.

Olmert thought it was important to clarify tonight that the police are not the ones making decisions related to indictments–they can only make recommendations. Technically, he is right, but the truth of the matter is that Olmert is practically gone. Mahmoud Abbas seems to understand that. Syrian President Assad seems to understand that.

Israelis understand this as well, of course. But when Olmert is gone, Israel’s troubles will not go away with him. No “realignment” in the West Bank, no “victory” in Lebanon, no “framework” for peace. Olmert was the luckiest of all politicians before coming to power (nobody expected him to be Sharon’s successor)–but his luck started to run out as soon as he was elevated to the PM’s office. Many Israelis grew to despise Olmert, almost hate him. In time, they’ll realize that it was overreaction. Olmert is not as black as he’s painted–and the alternatives are not as appealing as they now pretend them to be.

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Re: Re: Voters See Things Differently

John, an honest liberal analyst agrees with our collective sense about the GOP Convention:

Here’s what I think it’s safe to conclude: the GOP had a successful convention. John McCain now holds a 3-point lead over Barack Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll, his largest lead since May. And Rasmussen shows the race tied at 48-48, after having shown Barack Obama with a 5-6 point lead at the peak of his convention bounce. We will have to see how the other polls weigh in. More critically, we will have to see what the new state-level electoral landscape looks like. Since John McCain’s daily results seem to be improving over the course of the tracking window, by the way, we should probably expect this bounce to get bigger before it gets smaller.

And, if in fact, the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket has not just shifted opinion, but also impacted potential turnout (which generally is not observable in these polls) by energizing the Republican base, it is a very big deal.

John, an honest liberal analyst agrees with our collective sense about the GOP Convention:

Here’s what I think it’s safe to conclude: the GOP had a successful convention. John McCain now holds a 3-point lead over Barack Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll, his largest lead since May. And Rasmussen shows the race tied at 48-48, after having shown Barack Obama with a 5-6 point lead at the peak of his convention bounce. We will have to see how the other polls weigh in. More critically, we will have to see what the new state-level electoral landscape looks like. Since John McCain’s daily results seem to be improving over the course of the tracking window, by the way, we should probably expect this bounce to get bigger before it gets smaller.

And, if in fact, the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket has not just shifted opinion, but also impacted potential turnout (which generally is not observable in these polls) by energizing the Republican base, it is a very big deal.

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Free Palin

McCain senior staffer Rick Davis — who was ousted from his role as campaign manager by Steve Schmidt in June, whereupon the McCain campain took off like a rocket — went on “Fox News Sunday” today and was asked when Sarah Palin would do interviews. Davis responded:

Until at which point in time we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it would be foolhardy to put her out into that kind of environment.

This is one of the most unbelievably boneheaded answers I think I have ever witnessed a supposedly able and experienced political hand give to any question, ever. Sarah Palin needs to be treated “with some level of…deference“? Is Davis deliberately trying to make the campaign look fearful of its own vice-presidential candidate’s abilities?

Take my advice, Steve Schmidt: Let Palin speak. She will make a far better showing of herself than Rick Davis is making on her behalf.

McCain senior staffer Rick Davis — who was ousted from his role as campaign manager by Steve Schmidt in June, whereupon the McCain campain took off like a rocket — went on “Fox News Sunday” today and was asked when Sarah Palin would do interviews. Davis responded:

Until at which point in time we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it would be foolhardy to put her out into that kind of environment.

This is one of the most unbelievably boneheaded answers I think I have ever witnessed a supposedly able and experienced political hand give to any question, ever. Sarah Palin needs to be treated “with some level of…deference“? Is Davis deliberately trying to make the campaign look fearful of its own vice-presidential candidate’s abilities?

Take my advice, Steve Schmidt: Let Palin speak. She will make a far better showing of herself than Rick Davis is making on her behalf.

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Woodward

I haven’t read the book yet, or seen the “60 Minutes” appearance. But judging from the excerpt in the Washington Post today, and the review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times today, it seems like Bob Woodward’s fourth book in his series on George Bush as commander in chief is a full-out effort to deny Bush the credit for the Surge — a policy of which, had it gone otherwise, he would have been the sole author. The hero of Woodward’s account in the post is General George Casey, who was the commander in Iraq in 2006. Casey a) opposed the surge; b) was personally offended by Bush’s insistence that the goal in Iraq was victory; and c) had a policy according to which the United States needed to do everything possible to hand it all off to the Iraqis.

No wonder he gave Woodward such access. Casey was so wrong on so many levels that all he has left is to set up the straw man that Bush deserves all the blame for Casey’s own strategy and none of the credit for the revolutionary strategy that replaced it.

I haven’t read the book yet, or seen the “60 Minutes” appearance. But judging from the excerpt in the Washington Post today, and the review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times today, it seems like Bob Woodward’s fourth book in his series on George Bush as commander in chief is a full-out effort to deny Bush the credit for the Surge — a policy of which, had it gone otherwise, he would have been the sole author. The hero of Woodward’s account in the post is General George Casey, who was the commander in Iraq in 2006. Casey a) opposed the surge; b) was personally offended by Bush’s insistence that the goal in Iraq was victory; and c) had a policy according to which the United States needed to do everything possible to hand it all off to the Iraqis.

No wonder he gave Woodward such access. Casey was so wrong on so many levels that all he has left is to set up the straw man that Bush deserves all the blame for Casey’s own strategy and none of the credit for the revolutionary strategy that replaced it.

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It Was Ever Thus

Jennifer Rubin writes, “No matter what a candidate’s financial situation, no matter how many book deals or what corporate jobs their spouses hold, they are always ‘rooted,’ they tell us, in some distant memory of humble origins. It is all exceedingly fake.”

Indeed. It is also nothing new.

When William Henry Harrison ran for president in 1840, his supporters put out one of the earliest pieces of American political ephemera,  a handkerchief printed with scenes of his life. It featured, of course, the Battle of Tippecanoe, but it also showed his supposed birthplace: a small log cabin with smoke curling out of the chimney. Just plain folks was Ol’ Tippecanoe.

There was only one problem. William Henry Harrison, in fact, was born at Berkeley Plantation, one of Virginia’s grandest 18th-century houses, on the James River. It was the home of his father, Benjamin Harrison, who was governor of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The lawn at Berkeley was capacious enough for the Army of the Potomac to camp there during the Civil War.

The Whig campaign of 1840 accused Harrison’s main opponent, President Martin Van Buren, of being an aristocrat, eating off gold spoons in “the Palace.” But Van Buren’s father had been only a simple farmer and part-time tavern keeper.

It was all exceedingly fake. It also worked: Harrison clobbered Van Buren in the election.

Jennifer Rubin writes, “No matter what a candidate’s financial situation, no matter how many book deals or what corporate jobs their spouses hold, they are always ‘rooted,’ they tell us, in some distant memory of humble origins. It is all exceedingly fake.”

Indeed. It is also nothing new.

When William Henry Harrison ran for president in 1840, his supporters put out one of the earliest pieces of American political ephemera,  a handkerchief printed with scenes of his life. It featured, of course, the Battle of Tippecanoe, but it also showed his supposed birthplace: a small log cabin with smoke curling out of the chimney. Just plain folks was Ol’ Tippecanoe.

There was only one problem. William Henry Harrison, in fact, was born at Berkeley Plantation, one of Virginia’s grandest 18th-century houses, on the James River. It was the home of his father, Benjamin Harrison, who was governor of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The lawn at Berkeley was capacious enough for the Army of the Potomac to camp there during the Civil War.

The Whig campaign of 1840 accused Harrison’s main opponent, President Martin Van Buren, of being an aristocrat, eating off gold spoons in “the Palace.” But Van Buren’s father had been only a simple farmer and part-time tavern keeper.

It was all exceedingly fake. It also worked: Harrison clobbered Van Buren in the election.

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Re: Voters See Things Differently

Jen, you allude to the fact, but don’t quite go at it directly: If the Gallup tracking poll number stays consistent tomorrow, McCain will have received a huge upward “bounce,” a swing of at least 11 points in his direction. (Tracking polls measure an average of three polling nights; each night the poll adds a new day and drops the oldest day.) McCain began beating Obama in the tracking poll on Friday and continued doing so on Saturday; there’s little reason to think that will change on Sunday. If it holds, this will be one of the most dramatic bounces on record; Bill Clinton, who had the largest bounce we know of, rose in 1992 either by 12 points (according to CBS/New York Times) or 16 (according to Gallup).

Two things differ about this bounce. First, the Republican convention took place so late that it has less time to dissipate.  This is not to say the shift toward McCain is a solid one. The bounce is, like any other political phenomenon, transitory if it does not become the basis for more aggressive pursuit of victory. If McCain’s newfound support is not ballasted by more excitement and enthusiasm generated by the McCain/Palin ticket or by mistakes by Obama/Biden, it won’t make much of a difference.

Second, it strikes me that this particular bounce will be far more demoralizing to the Democrats than if, say, McCain had enjoyed an eight-point swing with Mitt Romney as his running mate. The wild-card addition of Sarah Palin has mixed up everybody’s expectations about the race. The puzzled inability of Democrats to understand the deep nature of her appeal, aside from conceding that she makes a good speech, is the sort of thing that introduces a nervous-making sense of insecurity.

It was exactly the same way for many Republicans and conservatives, watching the Night of Obama with the 80,000 throng and the fireworks — How on earth can we compete with this? It’s nonsense but the public is sure to eat it up, and we just can’t match it. Democrats are surely feeling the same weird combination of extreme skepticism mixed with confused fear. It was the last thing they expected, and the psychic impact of the sense that their understanding of the American electorate might be slipping away is both impossible to measure and impossible to ignore.

Jen, you allude to the fact, but don’t quite go at it directly: If the Gallup tracking poll number stays consistent tomorrow, McCain will have received a huge upward “bounce,” a swing of at least 11 points in his direction. (Tracking polls measure an average of three polling nights; each night the poll adds a new day and drops the oldest day.) McCain began beating Obama in the tracking poll on Friday and continued doing so on Saturday; there’s little reason to think that will change on Sunday. If it holds, this will be one of the most dramatic bounces on record; Bill Clinton, who had the largest bounce we know of, rose in 1992 either by 12 points (according to CBS/New York Times) or 16 (according to Gallup).

Two things differ about this bounce. First, the Republican convention took place so late that it has less time to dissipate.  This is not to say the shift toward McCain is a solid one. The bounce is, like any other political phenomenon, transitory if it does not become the basis for more aggressive pursuit of victory. If McCain’s newfound support is not ballasted by more excitement and enthusiasm generated by the McCain/Palin ticket or by mistakes by Obama/Biden, it won’t make much of a difference.

Second, it strikes me that this particular bounce will be far more demoralizing to the Democrats than if, say, McCain had enjoyed an eight-point swing with Mitt Romney as his running mate. The wild-card addition of Sarah Palin has mixed up everybody’s expectations about the race. The puzzled inability of Democrats to understand the deep nature of her appeal, aside from conceding that she makes a good speech, is the sort of thing that introduces a nervous-making sense of insecurity.

It was exactly the same way for many Republicans and conservatives, watching the Night of Obama with the 80,000 throng and the fireworks — How on earth can we compete with this? It’s nonsense but the public is sure to eat it up, and we just can’t match it. Democrats are surely feeling the same weird combination of extreme skepticism mixed with confused fear. It was the last thing they expected, and the psychic impact of the sense that their understanding of the American electorate might be slipping away is both impossible to measure and impossible to ignore.

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Voters See Things Differently

Polling since the Republican Convention shows that voters apparently don’t share the MSM’s view that John McCain stumbled by picking Sarah Palin or that his speech was a bust. In the Gallup tracking poll McCain moved from minus eight to plus three; in Rasmussen from minus five to tied. Barack Obama’s lead in the RCP average is now less than one percent.

What we don’t know is whether McCain’s numbers have peaked and how long this bounce will last. What we do know is that the MSM spectacularly missed the boat in assessing last week’s events. But you didn’t need poll numbers to know that.

Polling since the Republican Convention shows that voters apparently don’t share the MSM’s view that John McCain stumbled by picking Sarah Palin or that his speech was a bust. In the Gallup tracking poll McCain moved from minus eight to plus three; in Rasmussen from minus five to tied. Barack Obama’s lead in the RCP average is now less than one percent.

What we don’t know is whether McCain’s numbers have peaked and how long this bounce will last. What we do know is that the MSM spectacularly missed the boat in assessing last week’s events. But you didn’t need poll numbers to know that.

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Not Like All The Others

Maureen Dowd isn’t the only one thinking about the candidates’ lifetsyles and popular appeal. David Ignatius writes:

It’s a refreshingly upside-down composite picture: The African American candidate is the most conventional of the lot, with his Columbia-Harvard pedigree and his elegant Princeton-Harvard wife and their picture-perfect children. It’s the gal from Alaska, Sarah Palin, who reminds us of how messy the real world is, with her special-needs child passed from hand to hand, her pregnant teenage daughter and the hockey-star boyfriend/father who looks, weirdly, like he just won the lottery.

There is something to all this. Campaigns are filled with artifice. One of the most annoying is the fetish which candidates have for identifying with places and circumstances far removed from their current situation. The scrappy kid from Scranton Joe Biden hasn’t lived there for decades. Hillary Clinton, First Lady and Wellesley grad,  claimed Illinois and then Pennsylvania as home (the latter merely the location for summer vacations). Mitt Romney had his pick of states, each dearer to his heart than the last. No matter what a candidate’s financial situation, no matter how many book deals or what corporate jobs their spouses hold, they are always “rooted,” they tell us, in some distant memory of humble origins.

It is all exceedingly fake. Presidential candidates, by and large, are people of very comfortable means with coiffured appearances and lives. (They sure don’t look like this.) But since everyone plays the “humble means” game, no one much bothers to criticize it. (Millionaire George W. Bush wasn’t in much of a position to point out that Tennessean Al Gore was raised in a Washington D.C. hotel and schooled at St. Albans.)

Now, however, we have someone who doesn’t have to pretend to live a life akin to ordinary voters — and it’s a Republican, no less. I suspect with her endearing smile and a-typical speaking voice (flat, exuding Middle America) she’ll mix it up with the Democrats in the “identify with the little guy” department.

Whether or not voters really believe a candidate’s socio-economic circumstances matter, they generally don’t like phonies. With Palin in the race, the Democrats’ populist act looks–well, like an act. We’ll see how voters react to someone who doesn’t have to pretend to be one of them — and how exceedingly uncomfortable her opponents will be when faced with someone who bears not a trace of the elitism which they try so strenuously to hide.

Maureen Dowd isn’t the only one thinking about the candidates’ lifetsyles and popular appeal. David Ignatius writes:

It’s a refreshingly upside-down composite picture: The African American candidate is the most conventional of the lot, with his Columbia-Harvard pedigree and his elegant Princeton-Harvard wife and their picture-perfect children. It’s the gal from Alaska, Sarah Palin, who reminds us of how messy the real world is, with her special-needs child passed from hand to hand, her pregnant teenage daughter and the hockey-star boyfriend/father who looks, weirdly, like he just won the lottery.

There is something to all this. Campaigns are filled with artifice. One of the most annoying is the fetish which candidates have for identifying with places and circumstances far removed from their current situation. The scrappy kid from Scranton Joe Biden hasn’t lived there for decades. Hillary Clinton, First Lady and Wellesley grad,  claimed Illinois and then Pennsylvania as home (the latter merely the location for summer vacations). Mitt Romney had his pick of states, each dearer to his heart than the last. No matter what a candidate’s financial situation, no matter how many book deals or what corporate jobs their spouses hold, they are always “rooted,” they tell us, in some distant memory of humble origins.

It is all exceedingly fake. Presidential candidates, by and large, are people of very comfortable means with coiffured appearances and lives. (They sure don’t look like this.) But since everyone plays the “humble means” game, no one much bothers to criticize it. (Millionaire George W. Bush wasn’t in much of a position to point out that Tennessean Al Gore was raised in a Washington D.C. hotel and schooled at St. Albans.)

Now, however, we have someone who doesn’t have to pretend to live a life akin to ordinary voters — and it’s a Republican, no less. I suspect with her endearing smile and a-typical speaking voice (flat, exuding Middle America) she’ll mix it up with the Democrats in the “identify with the little guy” department.

Whether or not voters really believe a candidate’s socio-economic circumstances matter, they generally don’t like phonies. With Palin in the race, the Democrats’ populist act looks–well, like an act. We’ll see how voters react to someone who doesn’t have to pretend to be one of them — and how exceedingly uncomfortable her opponents will be when faced with someone who bears not a trace of the elitism which they try so strenuously to hide.

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The Smartest Critique Yet

The best, most accurate piece of punditry about Sarah Palin comes from veteran Democratic pol and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. He writes:

The Democrats are in trouble. Sarah Palin has totally changed the dynamics of this campaign. Period. Palin’s speech to the GOP National Convention on Wednesday has set it up so that the Republicans are now on offense and Democrats are on defense. And we don’t do well on defense. Suddenly, Palin and John McCain are the mavericks and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the status quo, in a year when you don’t want to be seen as defending the status quo. From taxes to oil drilling, Democrats are now going to have to start explaining their positions. Whenever you start having to explain things, you’re on defense. I actually went back and watched Palin’s speech a second time. I didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right. Her timing was exquisite. She didn’t linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn’t have to prove she was “of the people.” She really is the people. There is one thing she should have done: announced when her 17-year-old daughter and the teenage father of the girl’s unborn child are getting married and invited all of us to the wedding. It should be like Sunday at church.

And Brown reminds us that she only need sustain the “Palin Bandwagon” for two months.

One wonders why Brown’s analysis is so smart and much of the media is so obtuse. Well, for starters, Brown is a politician himself who understands that 90% of politics is connecting with ordinary people. He can certainly appreciate the sheer artistry of another politician practicing their  craft. And for another, he perhaps doesn’t think it a good career move to tell the American people that their eyes, ears and hearts deceive them. (The MSM might mull that over.)

Brown doesn’t offer any suggestions about what the Democrats should do (other than worry, I suppose), but I will offer one: ignore her and focus on John McCain. Every day spent on Palin and every joke or barb thrown her way reminds voters how much they like her. And right now they like her an awful lot.

The best, most accurate piece of punditry about Sarah Palin comes from veteran Democratic pol and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. He writes:

The Democrats are in trouble. Sarah Palin has totally changed the dynamics of this campaign. Period. Palin’s speech to the GOP National Convention on Wednesday has set it up so that the Republicans are now on offense and Democrats are on defense. And we don’t do well on defense. Suddenly, Palin and John McCain are the mavericks and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the status quo, in a year when you don’t want to be seen as defending the status quo. From taxes to oil drilling, Democrats are now going to have to start explaining their positions. Whenever you start having to explain things, you’re on defense. I actually went back and watched Palin’s speech a second time. I didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right. Her timing was exquisite. She didn’t linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn’t have to prove she was “of the people.” She really is the people. There is one thing she should have done: announced when her 17-year-old daughter and the teenage father of the girl’s unborn child are getting married and invited all of us to the wedding. It should be like Sunday at church.

And Brown reminds us that she only need sustain the “Palin Bandwagon” for two months.

One wonders why Brown’s analysis is so smart and much of the media is so obtuse. Well, for starters, Brown is a politician himself who understands that 90% of politics is connecting with ordinary people. He can certainly appreciate the sheer artistry of another politician practicing their  craft. And for another, he perhaps doesn’t think it a good career move to tell the American people that their eyes, ears and hearts deceive them. (The MSM might mull that over.)

Brown doesn’t offer any suggestions about what the Democrats should do (other than worry, I suppose), but I will offer one: ignore her and focus on John McCain. Every day spent on Palin and every joke or barb thrown her way reminds voters how much they like her. And right now they like her an awful lot.

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Hillary Rodham Palin

The media is reporting that Hillary Clinton is reluctant to attack Sarah Palin. Maybe this is because back in April while trying to “find her [own] voice,” Hillary found Sarah’s. Anyone remember this ad?

Hillary Clinton: This is me in Scranton, where my father was raised, and my grandfather worked in the lace mill.

Every August, we’d pile into the car and head to our cottage on Lake Winola.

There was no heat, or indoor shower-just the joy of family.

I was raised on pinochle and the American dream.

I still have faith in that dream

It’s just been neglected a little.

We all need to dream it again

And I promise we will.

I’m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

I guess the whole frontier woman thing is fine with Democrats as long as it’s manufactured. But when it’s real it becomes . . . a gimmick?

The media is reporting that Hillary Clinton is reluctant to attack Sarah Palin. Maybe this is because back in April while trying to “find her [own] voice,” Hillary found Sarah’s. Anyone remember this ad?

Hillary Clinton: This is me in Scranton, where my father was raised, and my grandfather worked in the lace mill.

Every August, we’d pile into the car and head to our cottage on Lake Winola.

There was no heat, or indoor shower-just the joy of family.

I was raised on pinochle and the American dream.

I still have faith in that dream

It’s just been neglected a little.

We all need to dream it again

And I promise we will.

I’m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

I guess the whole frontier woman thing is fine with Democrats as long as it’s manufactured. But when it’s real it becomes . . . a gimmick?

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Re: The Democrats’ National Security Problem

To add to your post, Jennifer: I spent some time this morning reading through the new Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner Research survey on the two parties and national security. The executive summary states:

The historic gap between the parties on national security, which dramatically closed in 2006, has begun re-opening in recent months. The opportunity for Democrats is that the public is deeply unhappy with the Bush approach to Iraq and other foreign policy issues, believing that recent Republican national security policies have been both ineffective and – from energy policy to the treatment of our troops and veterans – particularly harmful to the well-being of average Americans. The challenge is that large shares of the public still perceive Democrats as unwilling to use force, out of touch with the military, and too willing to put politics over principle on security.

GQR are worried, and rightly so. From their (Democratic) point of view, the reopening of a national security gap might be the most dangerous political development of recent months. They see some openings, though with voters who think Republicans are “stronger” but also more “reckless.” Thus, on issues directly related to security, the GOP has much higher ratings, but on issues related to general foreign policy the Democratic Party does have some advantage.

Look at the numbers from the full document. Which Party will better keep America strong? 43% say Republicans, 38% say Democrats. Who’s better on homeland security? Republicans,  43-37. National Security? Republicans, 49-35. Combating terrorism? Republicans, 48-33. Ensuring a strong military? Republicans, 57-27 (!). However, on foreign policy, Democrats do better: 45% v. just 39%. On Iraq? 47-36. On reducing dependence on foreign oil? 45-32.

These results are true generally for Republicans v. Democrats. But for McCain v. Obama the gap is even starker. When the names of the candidates are inserted instead the names of parties, the outcome becomes much more favorable for the GOP candidate. Not only does he maintain the lead on national security, McCain also erases the Democratic lead on foreign policy (46% McCain, 45% Obama) and Iraq (46% McCain, 44% Obama). Obama gets the higher confidence rate on one issue only – reducing dependence on foreign oil (49% Obama, 3% McCain).

Why do voters, both in focus groups and in the poll believe that the Democrats will be weaker on national security?

[T]he number one reason-picked by 33% of all respondents-is that Democrats” change positions depending on public opinion.” Moreover, when we ask respondents to compare the two parties, likely voters choose Democrats over Republicans as the party “too focused on public opinion” by a 27-point margin. Even Democratic base voters agree: liberal Democrats point to their own party as the one “too focused on public opinion” by an 18-point margin, and moderate/conservative Democrats say this by 25 points.

Come to think of it, this is exactly what makes the battle over “flip-flopping” so much more damaging to Democrats. The public is more than ready to believe that a Democratic nominee has changed his mind because of polls rather than because of need for reconsideration.

To add to your post, Jennifer: I spent some time this morning reading through the new Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner Research survey on the two parties and national security. The executive summary states:

The historic gap between the parties on national security, which dramatically closed in 2006, has begun re-opening in recent months. The opportunity for Democrats is that the public is deeply unhappy with the Bush approach to Iraq and other foreign policy issues, believing that recent Republican national security policies have been both ineffective and – from energy policy to the treatment of our troops and veterans – particularly harmful to the well-being of average Americans. The challenge is that large shares of the public still perceive Democrats as unwilling to use force, out of touch with the military, and too willing to put politics over principle on security.

GQR are worried, and rightly so. From their (Democratic) point of view, the reopening of a national security gap might be the most dangerous political development of recent months. They see some openings, though with voters who think Republicans are “stronger” but also more “reckless.” Thus, on issues directly related to security, the GOP has much higher ratings, but on issues related to general foreign policy the Democratic Party does have some advantage.

Look at the numbers from the full document. Which Party will better keep America strong? 43% say Republicans, 38% say Democrats. Who’s better on homeland security? Republicans,  43-37. National Security? Republicans, 49-35. Combating terrorism? Republicans, 48-33. Ensuring a strong military? Republicans, 57-27 (!). However, on foreign policy, Democrats do better: 45% v. just 39%. On Iraq? 47-36. On reducing dependence on foreign oil? 45-32.

These results are true generally for Republicans v. Democrats. But for McCain v. Obama the gap is even starker. When the names of the candidates are inserted instead the names of parties, the outcome becomes much more favorable for the GOP candidate. Not only does he maintain the lead on national security, McCain also erases the Democratic lead on foreign policy (46% McCain, 45% Obama) and Iraq (46% McCain, 44% Obama). Obama gets the higher confidence rate on one issue only – reducing dependence on foreign oil (49% Obama, 3% McCain).

Why do voters, both in focus groups and in the poll believe that the Democrats will be weaker on national security?

[T]he number one reason-picked by 33% of all respondents-is that Democrats” change positions depending on public opinion.” Moreover, when we ask respondents to compare the two parties, likely voters choose Democrats over Republicans as the party “too focused on public opinion” by a 27-point margin. Even Democratic base voters agree: liberal Democrats point to their own party as the one “too focused on public opinion” by an 18-point margin, and moderate/conservative Democrats say this by 25 points.

Come to think of it, this is exactly what makes the battle over “flip-flopping” so much more damaging to Democrats. The public is more than ready to believe that a Democratic nominee has changed his mind because of polls rather than because of need for reconsideration.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A fascinating account of the making of the Sarah Palin speech.  Just as fascinating as the story itself is that no one in the MSM has this access. And they aren’t likely to from here on out.

Well, this sentiment is probably more common than the McCain camp would like to admit, but if they vote Republican because of her they’ll take it.

Palin apparently is the more liberal of the two GOP-ers on sex education. Is there any part of the MSM conventional wisdom which is accurate? I’ve yet to find it.

For once the New York Times gets it right: “In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display here last week at the Republican convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt . . ” The report, of course, omits any mention of Schmidt’s take-no-prisioners villification of the Grey Lady.

Nancy Pelosi is the one-woman wrecking crew this election–first on drilling and now on this.

Even the most devoted of fans thinks we should be getting some basic information like Joe Biden’s medical records.

Monster crowds.” That used to be associated with the other guys, remember?

John McCain’s hero is Teddy Roosevelt — could he have seen some TR in Palin? (At least the killing large animals part.)

Who cares if she talks to Time magazine? David Frum says you have to talk to anyone, anywhere. In principle I would agree but in this particular environment, I would argue the better tactic is to stomp right over the MSM news-making monopoly and give her access directly to voters and to those prepared to treat her fairly. If the latter is a criteria, it’s a small group of MSM outlets indeed.

Media criticism unleashed: “Hundreds of angry people in this small town outside Milwaukee taunted reporters and TV crews traveling with Sen. John McCain on Friday, chanting ‘Be fair!’ and pointing fingers at a pack of journalists as they booed loudly.”

Hillary Clinton is no dummy –she isn’t going after Palin. It would be too much to expect the Obama campaign to take the advice. If they had taken Hillary as VP I doubt they’d have Palin to worry about.

The McCain camp cries foul as Obama plays the victim card once again. I fail to see the rationale behind Obama’s tactics: no matter how they might stir his base, they are equally likely to rile McCain’s supporters and turn off working class, white swing voters.

A fascinating account of the making of the Sarah Palin speech.  Just as fascinating as the story itself is that no one in the MSM has this access. And they aren’t likely to from here on out.

Well, this sentiment is probably more common than the McCain camp would like to admit, but if they vote Republican because of her they’ll take it.

Palin apparently is the more liberal of the two GOP-ers on sex education. Is there any part of the MSM conventional wisdom which is accurate? I’ve yet to find it.

For once the New York Times gets it right: “In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display here last week at the Republican convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt . . ” The report, of course, omits any mention of Schmidt’s take-no-prisioners villification of the Grey Lady.

Nancy Pelosi is the one-woman wrecking crew this election–first on drilling and now on this.

Even the most devoted of fans thinks we should be getting some basic information like Joe Biden’s medical records.

Monster crowds.” That used to be associated with the other guys, remember?

John McCain’s hero is Teddy Roosevelt — could he have seen some TR in Palin? (At least the killing large animals part.)

Who cares if she talks to Time magazine? David Frum says you have to talk to anyone, anywhere. In principle I would agree but in this particular environment, I would argue the better tactic is to stomp right over the MSM news-making monopoly and give her access directly to voters and to those prepared to treat her fairly. If the latter is a criteria, it’s a small group of MSM outlets indeed.

Media criticism unleashed: “Hundreds of angry people in this small town outside Milwaukee taunted reporters and TV crews traveling with Sen. John McCain on Friday, chanting ‘Be fair!’ and pointing fingers at a pack of journalists as they booed loudly.”

Hillary Clinton is no dummy –she isn’t going after Palin. It would be too much to expect the Obama campaign to take the advice. If they had taken Hillary as VP I doubt they’d have Palin to worry about.

The McCain camp cries foul as Obama plays the victim card once again. I fail to see the rationale behind Obama’s tactics: no matter how they might stir his base, they are equally likely to rile McCain’s supporters and turn off working class, white swing voters.

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F-16′s to Iraq

Should Iraq get F-16 fighters jets? The Iraqi government is understandably interested, but possible complications are obvious: can it be trusted to keep them in the right hands? Will it not use them to harass neighbors as it did in the past?

Time reported yesterday that the Iraqis have a good chance of getting the weapons they want, as far as official Washington is considered:

U.S. officials inside and out of the Pentagon were quick to say Iraq needs such high-powered weapons, and that the U.S. defense industry would be more than glad to supply them. “We sometimes roll our eyes when foreign defense ministers come here and want to buy fighters and things like that,” a senior Pentagon official said, speaking privately. “But we don’t feel that way about Iraq – given their history and neighborhood, they need to have a capable air force.” Iraq has not committed to buying the warplanes and, if it does, it will be several years before they would be operational. But the move to acquire them certainly signals an intent to give Iraq the ability to defend itself without any direct U.S. presence.

Pondering this arms deal from Tel Aviv, it will be interesting to see how Israel reacts. My guess: no objections, but Israel will ask the Americans for some technical arrangements–similar to those agreed upon before the Gulf deal was finalized–that will make these airplanes incapable of threatening Israel.

Should Iraq get F-16 fighters jets? The Iraqi government is understandably interested, but possible complications are obvious: can it be trusted to keep them in the right hands? Will it not use them to harass neighbors as it did in the past?

Time reported yesterday that the Iraqis have a good chance of getting the weapons they want, as far as official Washington is considered:

U.S. officials inside and out of the Pentagon were quick to say Iraq needs such high-powered weapons, and that the U.S. defense industry would be more than glad to supply them. “We sometimes roll our eyes when foreign defense ministers come here and want to buy fighters and things like that,” a senior Pentagon official said, speaking privately. “But we don’t feel that way about Iraq – given their history and neighborhood, they need to have a capable air force.” Iraq has not committed to buying the warplanes and, if it does, it will be several years before they would be operational. But the move to acquire them certainly signals an intent to give Iraq the ability to defend itself without any direct U.S. presence.

Pondering this arms deal from Tel Aviv, it will be interesting to see how Israel reacts. My guess: no objections, but Israel will ask the Americans for some technical arrangements–similar to those agreed upon before the Gulf deal was finalized–that will make these airplanes incapable of threatening Israel.

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The Democrats’ National Security Problem

A new poll on national security indicates that the Democrats have a problem, a big one:

Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has just released a survey that indicates that voters perceive Republicans once again as far and away better on national security issues than Democrats.Forty nine percent of those surveyed thought Republicans were better on national security while 35 percent thought Democrats better. When it came to combating terrorism, 48 percent thought Republicans superior to Democrats while 33 percent gave Democrats the advantage. According to the Greenberg study researchers: “The national security credibility gap is returning. Old doubts about Democrats on security, after diminishing during 2006-2007, have begun to re-emerge: concerns that Democrats follow the polls rather than principle; that Democrats are indecisive and are afraid to use force; and that Democrats don’t support the military. Because these weaknesses are longstanding and deeply ingrained, and because Republicanweaknesses are newer and do not yet have a label associated with them, Republicans continue to win on many security issues.”

It is not hard to see why this is so. It is true, after all, that the Democratic Congress wanted to cut off funding for troops in wartime and objected to the surge every step of the way, that they opposed President Bush for months and months on terrorist surveillance, that Barack Obama (until his appearance on Bill O’Reilly last week) seemed impervious to the success of the surge and still opposed its implementation, and that Obama’s reaction to the invasion of Georgia was hesitant at best. In short, the Democrats consistent opposition to each and every aspect of the Bush administration’s national security policy and consistent objection to “hard power” earned them no real points with voters, only the reputation as weak and untrustworthy.

Whether this will translate into an electoral problem for Obama remains to be seen. The Democrats would like us to believe that national security doesn’t really matter. However, a more realistic assessment may be that the voters need some minimal assurance that they can trust a Democrat to defend the country before they are willing to turn over the White House. In other words, Obama really does have to pass the “3 a.m.” test. So far, he hasn’t.

A new poll on national security indicates that the Democrats have a problem, a big one:

Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has just released a survey that indicates that voters perceive Republicans once again as far and away better on national security issues than Democrats.Forty nine percent of those surveyed thought Republicans were better on national security while 35 percent thought Democrats better. When it came to combating terrorism, 48 percent thought Republicans superior to Democrats while 33 percent gave Democrats the advantage. According to the Greenberg study researchers: “The national security credibility gap is returning. Old doubts about Democrats on security, after diminishing during 2006-2007, have begun to re-emerge: concerns that Democrats follow the polls rather than principle; that Democrats are indecisive and are afraid to use force; and that Democrats don’t support the military. Because these weaknesses are longstanding and deeply ingrained, and because Republicanweaknesses are newer and do not yet have a label associated with them, Republicans continue to win on many security issues.”

It is not hard to see why this is so. It is true, after all, that the Democratic Congress wanted to cut off funding for troops in wartime and objected to the surge every step of the way, that they opposed President Bush for months and months on terrorist surveillance, that Barack Obama (until his appearance on Bill O’Reilly last week) seemed impervious to the success of the surge and still opposed its implementation, and that Obama’s reaction to the invasion of Georgia was hesitant at best. In short, the Democrats consistent opposition to each and every aspect of the Bush administration’s national security policy and consistent objection to “hard power” earned them no real points with voters, only the reputation as weak and untrustworthy.

Whether this will translate into an electoral problem for Obama remains to be seen. The Democrats would like us to believe that national security doesn’t really matter. However, a more realistic assessment may be that the voters need some minimal assurance that they can trust a Democrat to defend the country before they are willing to turn over the White House. In other words, Obama really does have to pass the “3 a.m.” test. So far, he hasn’t.

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Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee

Suddenly, all the potential collaborators on an eleventh-hour peace deal between Israel and anybody else have lost heart. The Syrians are emphasizing their commitment to the resistance. Hizbullah is saying it will not disarm even if Israel gives up the disputed Shaaba Farms area of the Golan Heights. Hamas is upping its demands for prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But what is probably perturbing Ehud Olmert most is the Palestinian Authority. PA chief Mahmud Abbas is talking about how unlikely any peace deal is right now. And he’s using the most disheartening of terms, speaking of the Palestinian “right of return” as an “inalienable” right that will have to be part of any deal.

For those of you unfamiliar with the local code words, the “right of return” is a term (borrowed, as with so many other Palestinian arguments, from Zionism) referring to all those millions of Palestinians currently in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Palestinians claim that they should be allowed to “return” — not to Palestinian controlled territories in their new independent state, but to the villages that their parents and grandparents came from within what is today Israel.

If it seems odd, even unheard-of, that refugees should be calling a “right” to reclaim residence in places where their grandparents lived, it is because no other refugees on earth have such a right. Due to a quirk of history, all the world’s other refugees are protected and defended under the UN High Commission on Refugees, the goal of which is to find humanitarian solutions to actual refugees who have been forced to leave their homes in war — either through absorption or repatriation. Palestinians, on the other hand, fall under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was created just for them, using a totally different definition of refugees tailor-made to fit their own political agenda: Giving refugee status across multiple generations, and never endorsing any solution other than “return.”

But the real problem with the Palestinian “right of return” is not its unfairness. Nor is it the fact that a longing for Palestinian freedom and independence would suggest that Palestinians would actually want to live in the Palestinian state, not in Israel, making the “right of return” into a fundamental changing of the subject and blurring of their goals. The real problem is, rather, the simple and clear fact that no Israeli government, left or right, will ever agree to it. As I mentioned recently, there is nothing so likely to push the Israeli population to reject any peace deal, virulently and unambiguously, than the insistence that they absorb hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Palestinians. It is so transparently a non-starter that one senses that it is being raised principally in order to prevent any deal from ever happening — thereby reinforcing the sense that many Israelis have felt since the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000, that Palestinians never really wanted peace in the first place. Israelis who pursue peace negotiations insist that when push comes to shove, the Palestinians will give up on their right of return. No Palestinian leader has ever even hinted at this, nor is it clear that they ever could.

Today, Israeli police are likely to recommend to the Attorney General that Prime Minister Olmert be indicted. His resignation will happen within the next couple of weeks, coinciding with his party’s picking a new chairman. Arab leaders have nothing to gain now from pretending to negotiate with Olmert’s government. They need to reassure their own populations that they are not giving in to the Zionist enemy. He will not get the sudden breakthrough that was the only hope he had for keeping his head above political water. He will no longer be the “etrog.”

Suddenly, all the potential collaborators on an eleventh-hour peace deal between Israel and anybody else have lost heart. The Syrians are emphasizing their commitment to the resistance. Hizbullah is saying it will not disarm even if Israel gives up the disputed Shaaba Farms area of the Golan Heights. Hamas is upping its demands for prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But what is probably perturbing Ehud Olmert most is the Palestinian Authority. PA chief Mahmud Abbas is talking about how unlikely any peace deal is right now. And he’s using the most disheartening of terms, speaking of the Palestinian “right of return” as an “inalienable” right that will have to be part of any deal.

For those of you unfamiliar with the local code words, the “right of return” is a term (borrowed, as with so many other Palestinian arguments, from Zionism) referring to all those millions of Palestinians currently in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Palestinians claim that they should be allowed to “return” — not to Palestinian controlled territories in their new independent state, but to the villages that their parents and grandparents came from within what is today Israel.

If it seems odd, even unheard-of, that refugees should be calling a “right” to reclaim residence in places where their grandparents lived, it is because no other refugees on earth have such a right. Due to a quirk of history, all the world’s other refugees are protected and defended under the UN High Commission on Refugees, the goal of which is to find humanitarian solutions to actual refugees who have been forced to leave their homes in war — either through absorption or repatriation. Palestinians, on the other hand, fall under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was created just for them, using a totally different definition of refugees tailor-made to fit their own political agenda: Giving refugee status across multiple generations, and never endorsing any solution other than “return.”

But the real problem with the Palestinian “right of return” is not its unfairness. Nor is it the fact that a longing for Palestinian freedom and independence would suggest that Palestinians would actually want to live in the Palestinian state, not in Israel, making the “right of return” into a fundamental changing of the subject and blurring of their goals. The real problem is, rather, the simple and clear fact that no Israeli government, left or right, will ever agree to it. As I mentioned recently, there is nothing so likely to push the Israeli population to reject any peace deal, virulently and unambiguously, than the insistence that they absorb hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Palestinians. It is so transparently a non-starter that one senses that it is being raised principally in order to prevent any deal from ever happening — thereby reinforcing the sense that many Israelis have felt since the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000, that Palestinians never really wanted peace in the first place. Israelis who pursue peace negotiations insist that when push comes to shove, the Palestinians will give up on their right of return. No Palestinian leader has ever even hinted at this, nor is it clear that they ever could.

Today, Israeli police are likely to recommend to the Attorney General that Prime Minister Olmert be indicted. His resignation will happen within the next couple of weeks, coinciding with his party’s picking a new chairman. Arab leaders have nothing to gain now from pretending to negotiate with Olmert’s government. They need to reassure their own populations that they are not giving in to the Zionist enemy. He will not get the sudden breakthrough that was the only hope he had for keeping his head above political water. He will no longer be the “etrog.”

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A Fantasy Face Off

 You have to love a Maureen Dowd column that starts like this:

You know what I’m thinking, because you’re thinking it, too. If Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate, we would now be looking forward to the greatest night in the history of American politics: the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate between Ma Barker and Sarah Barracuda. Now, alas, we’ll have to wait until 2012 when the two fiercest competitors on the trail will no doubt face off in the presidential debate, with Palin still riding high from her 2008 field-dressing of Obama (who’s now back in the Senate convening his subcommittee on Afghanistan).

It is all quite a lot of fun, but Dowd’s fantasy 2012 debate also has a measure of truth in it. Dowd’s fictional Palin explains to her fictional opponent Hillary:

“Your night-shift, blue-collar-waitress, boilermaker routine didn’t fool me. It’s in your polls but it’s in my D.N.A. I’ve actually been up at 3 a.m. — gutting moose.”

Well, that’s right. Palin is a real blue-collar, small town gal who doesn’t just relate to the type of voters who supported Hillary in the primary — she is one of them. And if Palin exceeds Hillary in her authentic appeal to these voters, imagine how is she going to stack up against Barack Obama and Joe Biden (who hasn’t lived in Scranton for decades and has been viewing the little people from the confines of a taxpayer-supported Amtrak train)? Obama can devise all the bio flicks he wants (and excise his Ivy League education). But it is obvious even without his Bittergate comments that his milieu is Hyde Park and Harvard. His supporters can insist all they like that Obama’s mother was of modest means, but he is a product of elite schools and leftwing politics.

Among the many benefits of the Palin pick which the mainstream media missed (while they were busy trashing her parenting skills) this past week is this: she’s the only one of the four presidential ticket participants who doesn’t have to pretend to be an average American. That’s no small thing in an election in which everyone is jousting to be the most “authentic” candidate in the field.

 You have to love a Maureen Dowd column that starts like this:

You know what I’m thinking, because you’re thinking it, too. If Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate, we would now be looking forward to the greatest night in the history of American politics: the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate between Ma Barker and Sarah Barracuda. Now, alas, we’ll have to wait until 2012 when the two fiercest competitors on the trail will no doubt face off in the presidential debate, with Palin still riding high from her 2008 field-dressing of Obama (who’s now back in the Senate convening his subcommittee on Afghanistan).

It is all quite a lot of fun, but Dowd’s fantasy 2012 debate also has a measure of truth in it. Dowd’s fictional Palin explains to her fictional opponent Hillary:

“Your night-shift, blue-collar-waitress, boilermaker routine didn’t fool me. It’s in your polls but it’s in my D.N.A. I’ve actually been up at 3 a.m. — gutting moose.”

Well, that’s right. Palin is a real blue-collar, small town gal who doesn’t just relate to the type of voters who supported Hillary in the primary — she is one of them. And if Palin exceeds Hillary in her authentic appeal to these voters, imagine how is she going to stack up against Barack Obama and Joe Biden (who hasn’t lived in Scranton for decades and has been viewing the little people from the confines of a taxpayer-supported Amtrak train)? Obama can devise all the bio flicks he wants (and excise his Ivy League education). But it is obvious even without his Bittergate comments that his milieu is Hyde Park and Harvard. His supporters can insist all they like that Obama’s mother was of modest means, but he is a product of elite schools and leftwing politics.

Among the many benefits of the Palin pick which the mainstream media missed (while they were busy trashing her parenting skills) this past week is this: she’s the only one of the four presidential ticket participants who doesn’t have to pretend to be an average American. That’s no small thing in an election in which everyone is jousting to be the most “authentic” candidate in the field.

Read Less




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