Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 5, 2009

Now They’re Talking

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer as much as $310 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts — which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years — is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated, and may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely relatively heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer as much as $310 billion of tax cuts.

The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush’s 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut — the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush’s in 2003 — contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

And we’re not just talking tax credits for lower wage earners and non-income tax payers:

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. In effect, this would entitle companies to receive cash from the government that they otherwise couldn’t have claimed.

A second provision would entice firms to plow that money back into new investment. The investment write-offs would be retroactive to expenditures made as of Jan. 1, 2009, to ensure that companies don’t sit on their money until after Congress passes the measure.

A separate element would offer a one-year tax credit for companies that make new hires or reverse layoffs, which could be worth $40 billion to $50 billion. And the Obama plan also would allow small businesses to write off a broad range expenditures worth up to $250 million in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the limit is $175 million.

So let’s get this straight: Robert Gates will be the Defense Secretary, we’re ramping up U.S. forces in Afghanistan and providing a reasonable period of time for a hand-off in Iraq, there isn’t going to be a windfall oil profits tax or income tax hike but there is going to be a huge set of business tax cuts – and Rick Warren is giving the invocation at the Inauguration. Who won in November?

I’m sure there will be times during the next four years when the Obama administration’s decisions on issues (e.g. judicial appointments) have conservatives banging their heads against the wall, bemoaning the fact that John McCain wasn’t elected. But so far it’s hard to imagine McCain would have been doing more than the incoming Obama team seems to be proposing  — and with as much chance of success –to further some key center-Right policy aims.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer as much as $310 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts — which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years — is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated, and may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely relatively heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer as much as $310 billion of tax cuts.

The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush’s 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut — the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush’s in 2003 — contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

And we’re not just talking tax credits for lower wage earners and non-income tax payers:

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. In effect, this would entitle companies to receive cash from the government that they otherwise couldn’t have claimed.

A second provision would entice firms to plow that money back into new investment. The investment write-offs would be retroactive to expenditures made as of Jan. 1, 2009, to ensure that companies don’t sit on their money until after Congress passes the measure.

A separate element would offer a one-year tax credit for companies that make new hires or reverse layoffs, which could be worth $40 billion to $50 billion. And the Obama plan also would allow small businesses to write off a broad range expenditures worth up to $250 million in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the limit is $175 million.

So let’s get this straight: Robert Gates will be the Defense Secretary, we’re ramping up U.S. forces in Afghanistan and providing a reasonable period of time for a hand-off in Iraq, there isn’t going to be a windfall oil profits tax or income tax hike but there is going to be a huge set of business tax cuts – and Rick Warren is giving the invocation at the Inauguration. Who won in November?

I’m sure there will be times during the next four years when the Obama administration’s decisions on issues (e.g. judicial appointments) have conservatives banging their heads against the wall, bemoaning the fact that John McCain wasn’t elected. But so far it’s hard to imagine McCain would have been doing more than the incoming Obama team seems to be proposing  — and with as much chance of success –to further some key center-Right policy aims.

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Hillary Clinton, Charity Case

Charity concerts used to be organized to raise money for starving children. But no more. On January 15, John Bon Jovi is headlining a concert in New York City to raise money for our next Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton and her husband, who collectively made over $109 million in the past seven years, will be on-site to pose for pictures with concert attendees paying $1000 and up. Hillary’s failed presidential campaign is still in debt to the tune of $6 million and she needs a bailout. But seeing as she’s already loaned her campaign around $6 million (after she was certain to lose), you have to wonder who concert-goers are paying back – and why.

Hillary Clinton drove her supposedly unstoppable candidacy into an embarrassing, self-indulgent, self-funded ditch before even reaching the general election — and has been reaping the rewards ever since. Pundits across the political spectrum have taken to discussing her abject failure as if it were a career high point. After baldly lying about a goodwill trip overseas, she was appointed Secretary of State. And after lending her own primary campaign $6 million when everyone knew she had lost to Barack Obama, she will get Hillary-Aid and pose for snapshots at $1000 a pop two weeks before taking the top spot at the State Department. When Bill Clinton won in 1992, did Ross Perot come looking for handouts to retroactively fund his primetime infomercials?

The unseemly spectacle of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, with its familial privilege, its personal financing, and its final high-profile appointment, is really just a distillation of all the other Democratic dramas going on around the country. But unlike Rod Blagojevich or Bill Richardson or Caroline Kennedy, who all face some measure of criticism or censure, Hillary is being celebrated and bankrolled for starring in her own distasteful saga. Say “cheese!”

Charity concerts used to be organized to raise money for starving children. But no more. On January 15, John Bon Jovi is headlining a concert in New York City to raise money for our next Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton and her husband, who collectively made over $109 million in the past seven years, will be on-site to pose for pictures with concert attendees paying $1000 and up. Hillary’s failed presidential campaign is still in debt to the tune of $6 million and she needs a bailout. But seeing as she’s already loaned her campaign around $6 million (after she was certain to lose), you have to wonder who concert-goers are paying back – and why.

Hillary Clinton drove her supposedly unstoppable candidacy into an embarrassing, self-indulgent, self-funded ditch before even reaching the general election — and has been reaping the rewards ever since. Pundits across the political spectrum have taken to discussing her abject failure as if it were a career high point. After baldly lying about a goodwill trip overseas, she was appointed Secretary of State. And after lending her own primary campaign $6 million when everyone knew she had lost to Barack Obama, she will get Hillary-Aid and pose for snapshots at $1000 a pop two weeks before taking the top spot at the State Department. When Bill Clinton won in 1992, did Ross Perot come looking for handouts to retroactively fund his primetime infomercials?

The unseemly spectacle of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, with its familial privilege, its personal financing, and its final high-profile appointment, is really just a distillation of all the other Democratic dramas going on around the country. But unlike Rod Blagojevich or Bill Richardson or Caroline Kennedy, who all face some measure of criticism or censure, Hillary is being celebrated and bankrolled for starring in her own distasteful saga. Say “cheese!”

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So Glad It’s a New Political Era

With tongue planted firmly in cheek David Kahane “boasts” about the Democratic party:

We are the party of Barack Obama and the Daley Machine; the party of the Clintons and their amazing alchemistic Library, which turns Saudi dross into altruistic gold; the party of Tony Rezko and Norman Hsu; the party of vaporizing fundraisers, absconding bagmen and sitting New Mexico governors (and a recent presidential “candidate”) currently under federal investigation for allegedly steering a state contract in the direction of one of his big backers, David Rubin of CDR Financial Products in Beverly Hills. Now comes word that Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state-designate, Congress and the Emoluments Clause willing, got millions of dollars for a mall in Syracuse shortly after the developer coughed up a hundred grand for the Bill Clinton “Foundation.” That’s what I call commerce!

We are also the party of Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who’s currently under “investigation” by the House “Ethics” Committee for a myriad of dubious practices, including using campaign contributions to pay his parking tickets.

Best of all, we are the party of the ineffable Christopher Dodd (D., Countrywide), another recent “presidential candidate” who in appearance and demeanor is a throwback to the great days of Tammany mugs. It was Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who got a sweetheart mortgage deal as a “Friend of Angelo” Mozilo, the disgraced former head of Countrywide Financial; Dodd who steadfastly denied that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in trouble — perhaps his status as the No. 1 recipient of their campaign largesse had something to do with his unshakeable faith in them; and Dodd who has promised to release the paperwork concerning his hinky mortgages but, of course, hasn’t.

It is a lot, isn’t it? And the potential scandals aren’t trivial. Indeed if this is right, then the Richardson scandal isn’t the “Richardson pay-to-play” scandal, but the “coast-to-coast Democratic pay-to-play” scandal:

According to federal law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation, federal officials are also looking into CDR’s political and financial ties to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as to Democrat state and local officials in Illinois, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Now it is not as if this is a Republican conflagration of corruption. The Democrats have outlets like the Washington Post to explain that it isn’t really the Democrats’ fault; it’s all the money, you see. (Republicans will be forced to paraphrase the Second Amendment slogan: “Money doesn’t cause corruption, politicians with money do.”) But at some point the allegations will either bloom into indictments and full-fledged, unavoidable media feeding frenzies or fizzle out. If it’s the former, we’ll be back to 2006-type political scandal. We’re talking about a much more widespread and potentially serious network of bribery (that’s really what “pay-to-play” is) than anything Jack Abramoff ever cooked up.

And the Republicans? They’d be wise to make sure their own house is in order (although the benefit of being in the minority is that fewer and fewer nefarious figures have any interest in bribing you), and insist on removal of figures from leadership positions (e.g. Dodd, Rangel) until their investigations are complete. But really, this is one time when all they need to do is get out of the way — and start making those “culture of corruption” ads for 2010.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek David Kahane “boasts” about the Democratic party:

We are the party of Barack Obama and the Daley Machine; the party of the Clintons and their amazing alchemistic Library, which turns Saudi dross into altruistic gold; the party of Tony Rezko and Norman Hsu; the party of vaporizing fundraisers, absconding bagmen and sitting New Mexico governors (and a recent presidential “candidate”) currently under federal investigation for allegedly steering a state contract in the direction of one of his big backers, David Rubin of CDR Financial Products in Beverly Hills. Now comes word that Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state-designate, Congress and the Emoluments Clause willing, got millions of dollars for a mall in Syracuse shortly after the developer coughed up a hundred grand for the Bill Clinton “Foundation.” That’s what I call commerce!

We are also the party of Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who’s currently under “investigation” by the House “Ethics” Committee for a myriad of dubious practices, including using campaign contributions to pay his parking tickets.

Best of all, we are the party of the ineffable Christopher Dodd (D., Countrywide), another recent “presidential candidate” who in appearance and demeanor is a throwback to the great days of Tammany mugs. It was Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who got a sweetheart mortgage deal as a “Friend of Angelo” Mozilo, the disgraced former head of Countrywide Financial; Dodd who steadfastly denied that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in trouble — perhaps his status as the No. 1 recipient of their campaign largesse had something to do with his unshakeable faith in them; and Dodd who has promised to release the paperwork concerning his hinky mortgages but, of course, hasn’t.

It is a lot, isn’t it? And the potential scandals aren’t trivial. Indeed if this is right, then the Richardson scandal isn’t the “Richardson pay-to-play” scandal, but the “coast-to-coast Democratic pay-to-play” scandal:

According to federal law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation, federal officials are also looking into CDR’s political and financial ties to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as to Democrat state and local officials in Illinois, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Now it is not as if this is a Republican conflagration of corruption. The Democrats have outlets like the Washington Post to explain that it isn’t really the Democrats’ fault; it’s all the money, you see. (Republicans will be forced to paraphrase the Second Amendment slogan: “Money doesn’t cause corruption, politicians with money do.”) But at some point the allegations will either bloom into indictments and full-fledged, unavoidable media feeding frenzies or fizzle out. If it’s the former, we’ll be back to 2006-type political scandal. We’re talking about a much more widespread and potentially serious network of bribery (that’s really what “pay-to-play” is) than anything Jack Abramoff ever cooked up.

And the Republicans? They’d be wise to make sure their own house is in order (although the benefit of being in the minority is that fewer and fewer nefarious figures have any interest in bribing you), and insist on removal of figures from leadership positions (e.g. Dodd, Rangel) until their investigations are complete. But really, this is one time when all they need to do is get out of the way — and start making those “culture of corruption” ads for 2010.

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Dvir Emanuelov, RIP

When your country is small and at war, you don’t know where tragedy will strike. Yesterday morning, Staff Sergeant Dvir Emanuelov became the first IDF soldier killed in Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip. His mother, Dalia, helps run the nursery school my children attend. Last year, she was my son’s teacher.

Dalia is a strong woman, warm and full of life. But she has known far more than her share of personal tragedy. Two years ago her husband died after a long illness. Because of this, Dvir was offered an exemption from combat duty. He turned it down.

He was killed by mortar fire during the assault on the Jabaliya refugee camp. Before going in, he sent his mother a final SMS, which I just heard her read out on the radio. “We will show the world that we can fight back,” he wrote. “I am taking care of myself, please you take care of yourself too. We will restore the honor of the Jewish people.”

When your country is small and at war, you don’t know where tragedy will strike. Yesterday morning, Staff Sergeant Dvir Emanuelov became the first IDF soldier killed in Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip. His mother, Dalia, helps run the nursery school my children attend. Last year, she was my son’s teacher.

Dalia is a strong woman, warm and full of life. But she has known far more than her share of personal tragedy. Two years ago her husband died after a long illness. Because of this, Dvir was offered an exemption from combat duty. He turned it down.

He was killed by mortar fire during the assault on the Jabaliya refugee camp. Before going in, he sent his mother a final SMS, which I just heard her read out on the radio. “We will show the world that we can fight back,” he wrote. “I am taking care of myself, please you take care of yourself too. We will restore the honor of the Jewish people.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Brit Hume tweaks the due process worshipers: “And does it occur to any of these Democrats, many of whom exhibited an exquisite sensitivity to the rights of imprisoned enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay who have been convicted of nothing — does any of them notice that — do any of them notice that this man, Rod Blagojevich, has not even been indicted, let alone convicted of anything?”

Meanwhile, Bill Kristol is forming a new club: “We’re starting the D.C. chapter of the ‘Rod Blagojevich Fan Society.’ I mean, he’s done a great job of — and the man’s not been indicted and not been impeached. You know, but his appointment is somehow not to be honored? Bill Clinton was impeached and ended up pleading — taking a plea bargain to, I believe, a federal crime, and everyone thought his appointments were legitimate, and they were dutifully confirmed by the Senate in 1998 and 1999. So I really think the Democrats have gotten themselves foolishly and – - into a hole. And also, I just think, practically speaking, the man deserves to be seated. Blagojevich is the sitting governor of Illinois who has appointed this man with no corrupt — apparent corrupt influence to be a senator. Let him be a senator for two years.”

A Ken Blackwell supporter takes off on Michael Steele. How long before Steele’s team retaliates and goes after  Blackwell’s own record, specifically his complete wipeout in the 2006 Ohio Gubernatorial race ? ( The comments are fairly hostile with regard to the anti-Steele hit piece.) No, there really isn’t any standout candidate in the mix.

Lots of swearing, many surly voices and plenty of procedural complaints. Yup — must be another story on the RNC chairmanship contest.

One hopes the Obama national security team understands this: “Much as Mr. Obama takes office in a stronger position thanks to the Iraq surge, his foreign policy would also benefit from Israeli success in Gaza. The President-elect says he intends to pursue a grand bargain with Iran, and the mullahs are going to be more interested in diplomacy if their military proxies have been defeated. A Hamas humiliation would also show Tehran that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regional militarism has more costs than benefits.”

Ah, now we hear from the MSM that George W. Bush “even by comparison with past U.S. presidents, has been very, very pro-Israel.”

Talk about your white elephants — John Bolton wants to give Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan. It would indeed be “decidedly unpopular in Egypt and Jordan.”

On the stimulus package, Sen. Judd Gregg suggests less debt, fewer taxpayer-funded swing-sets, and more tax cuts. The Obama administration seems receptive only to the latter. (Didn’t we just finish eight years of Democrats complaining about Republicans’ excessive spending and big tax cuts? It’s the New Continuity!)

While mildly supportive of a stimulus package as a short term stopgap to prevent a “free fall,” Robert J. Samuelson cautions: “Rapid increases in the federal debt — much faster than in recent years — would threaten a further loss of confidence that might prolong today’s financial crisis or, someday, trigger a new one. A growing federal debt burden would also compound the problem of paying the staggering retirement costs of aging baby boomers. So: Neither rising household nor government debt provides a plausible foundation for future economic growth.”

Could Harry Reid lose in 2010? His home state newspaper thinks so: “As hard as it may be to believe, given Reid’s political stature, Harry has difficulty connecting with people. Before large groups, he projects a zombie vibe. In person, he appears preoccupied. Looks like a smile might hurt. Never seems comfortable. And perhaps his greatest re-election liability is that he too quickly defaults to bunker mentality with constituents, creating unnecessary suspicion and animosity. Unlike his mentor, former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, he can’t seem to find ways to charm critics.” We thought the problem was his hyperpartisanship, inability to explain questionable positions, and insistence that taxes are “voluntary.”

Al Franken is going to be declared the winner. Perhaps he got more votes and perhaps his recount attorneys were more effective. Republicans better have something better than an “it seems fishy” argument to contest the election.

How lame is the “we pressed and got nothing” Obama team excuse as to why Bill Richardson got through the vetting? Ah that’s how you slip the ethics gauntlet in the Obama administration– just stonewall! It seems inept, if we believe them. But then, the scandal was in the media already so at the very least they knew there was a grand jury at work. Well, I suppose if you’re willing to dicker with Blago over a Senate seat your antennae for scandal aren’t very sensitive.

George Stephanopolous isn’t buying the ignorance defense: “That the Obama transition team didn’t know about these allegations against Gov. Bill Richardson is shocking. A Google search would have shown that this investigation has been going on for some time. This has been an issue in New Mexico for a while with the Albuquerque Journal reporting on it for several months.  It would be very surprising if this is something that was missed by the Obama team.” So the conclusion: they were dim about the toxicity of a corruption investigation.

Brit Hume tweaks the due process worshipers: “And does it occur to any of these Democrats, many of whom exhibited an exquisite sensitivity to the rights of imprisoned enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay who have been convicted of nothing — does any of them notice that — do any of them notice that this man, Rod Blagojevich, has not even been indicted, let alone convicted of anything?”

Meanwhile, Bill Kristol is forming a new club: “We’re starting the D.C. chapter of the ‘Rod Blagojevich Fan Society.’ I mean, he’s done a great job of — and the man’s not been indicted and not been impeached. You know, but his appointment is somehow not to be honored? Bill Clinton was impeached and ended up pleading — taking a plea bargain to, I believe, a federal crime, and everyone thought his appointments were legitimate, and they were dutifully confirmed by the Senate in 1998 and 1999. So I really think the Democrats have gotten themselves foolishly and – - into a hole. And also, I just think, practically speaking, the man deserves to be seated. Blagojevich is the sitting governor of Illinois who has appointed this man with no corrupt — apparent corrupt influence to be a senator. Let him be a senator for two years.”

A Ken Blackwell supporter takes off on Michael Steele. How long before Steele’s team retaliates and goes after  Blackwell’s own record, specifically his complete wipeout in the 2006 Ohio Gubernatorial race ? ( The comments are fairly hostile with regard to the anti-Steele hit piece.) No, there really isn’t any standout candidate in the mix.

Lots of swearing, many surly voices and plenty of procedural complaints. Yup — must be another story on the RNC chairmanship contest.

One hopes the Obama national security team understands this: “Much as Mr. Obama takes office in a stronger position thanks to the Iraq surge, his foreign policy would also benefit from Israeli success in Gaza. The President-elect says he intends to pursue a grand bargain with Iran, and the mullahs are going to be more interested in diplomacy if their military proxies have been defeated. A Hamas humiliation would also show Tehran that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regional militarism has more costs than benefits.”

Ah, now we hear from the MSM that George W. Bush “even by comparison with past U.S. presidents, has been very, very pro-Israel.”

Talk about your white elephants — John Bolton wants to give Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan. It would indeed be “decidedly unpopular in Egypt and Jordan.”

On the stimulus package, Sen. Judd Gregg suggests less debt, fewer taxpayer-funded swing-sets, and more tax cuts. The Obama administration seems receptive only to the latter. (Didn’t we just finish eight years of Democrats complaining about Republicans’ excessive spending and big tax cuts? It’s the New Continuity!)

While mildly supportive of a stimulus package as a short term stopgap to prevent a “free fall,” Robert J. Samuelson cautions: “Rapid increases in the federal debt — much faster than in recent years — would threaten a further loss of confidence that might prolong today’s financial crisis or, someday, trigger a new one. A growing federal debt burden would also compound the problem of paying the staggering retirement costs of aging baby boomers. So: Neither rising household nor government debt provides a plausible foundation for future economic growth.”

Could Harry Reid lose in 2010? His home state newspaper thinks so: “As hard as it may be to believe, given Reid’s political stature, Harry has difficulty connecting with people. Before large groups, he projects a zombie vibe. In person, he appears preoccupied. Looks like a smile might hurt. Never seems comfortable. And perhaps his greatest re-election liability is that he too quickly defaults to bunker mentality with constituents, creating unnecessary suspicion and animosity. Unlike his mentor, former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, he can’t seem to find ways to charm critics.” We thought the problem was his hyperpartisanship, inability to explain questionable positions, and insistence that taxes are “voluntary.”

Al Franken is going to be declared the winner. Perhaps he got more votes and perhaps his recount attorneys were more effective. Republicans better have something better than an “it seems fishy” argument to contest the election.

How lame is the “we pressed and got nothing” Obama team excuse as to why Bill Richardson got through the vetting? Ah that’s how you slip the ethics gauntlet in the Obama administration– just stonewall! It seems inept, if we believe them. But then, the scandal was in the media already so at the very least they knew there was a grand jury at work. Well, I suppose if you’re willing to dicker with Blago over a Senate seat your antennae for scandal aren’t very sensitive.

George Stephanopolous isn’t buying the ignorance defense: “That the Obama transition team didn’t know about these allegations against Gov. Bill Richardson is shocking. A Google search would have shown that this investigation has been going on for some time. This has been an issue in New Mexico for a while with the Albuquerque Journal reporting on it for several months.  It would be very surprising if this is something that was missed by the Obama team.” So the conclusion: they were dim about the toxicity of a corruption investigation.

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Israel’s Appropriate Response to Barbarism

The dominant media narrative of the Israel-Hamas conflict goes something like this: Of course Hamas should not have been launching rocket attacks against Israel. And yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization. And sure it’s regrettable that Hamas has embedded itself in civilian populations in order to cause collateral damage in the form of Palestinian deaths. We (grudgingly) grant all that. But the real offense is Israel’s response, which, we are told by countless commentators, is “disproportionate.” Israel has a right to self-defense – but in this instance, it is massively overreacting.

Yet if Israel’s response is disproportionate, then so, too, was America’s response to the attacks of September 11th. After all, the attacks by al Qaeda, while deadly, were limited to a multi-pronged strike on a single day. Thousands of Americans died in the terrorist attacks – but in response, did America have to declare war on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan – a war that merited the support of NATO and has now entered its eighth year?

To the vast majority of Americans, to most other nations, and even to the United Nations, the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a just use of force. The Taliban regime, after all, was allowing Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for al Qaeda, a place for training and planning and launching attacks. The United States, in the eyes of most of the world, was fully justified in overthrowing the Taliban regime in an effort to uproot al Qaeda and break the back of that terrorist network. Our response was deemed as proportional in part because of the good being defended and the possible good that may result from the action (among the standards comprising the just war theory).

Israel is acting along the same ethical lines – yet when Israel does it, its actions are met with almost universal condemnation. The transparent double standard that is applied to Israel – a state that acts with extraordinary care to protect enemy noncombatants – is deeply troubling. Let’s just say if the nation we were talking about was non-Jewish, the response from many quarters would be dramatically different and far more sympathetic.

The other thing we hear from commentators is chastisement grounded in moral equivalence. The Israel-Hamas clash is the latest event in a “cycle of violence,” we are told. Both sides are responsible for the conflict, so both sides have equal responsibility to end it. A pox on both their houses.

This critique is morally dubious. It takes two to fight – but it only takes one to start it. It is as if a bully on the playground repeatedly assaults another child who is quietly playing on the swings. When the second child fights back, the teacher [read: the international community] criticizes both children for fighting. The problem is that one is fighting in self-defense while the other one is fighting out of aggression. To extend the analogy even further: in this instance, the bully is assaulting a child who set aside a section of the playground to give to the bully, in the hopes that he would be satisfied. Yet it turns out this only fueled his aggression. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it did what no other country has ever done: set aside sovereign territory for Palestinian self-rule. In return, Israel has been on the receiving end of almost 6,500 rocket and mortar attacks over the course of three years.

There is a cast of mind among many in the West that simply cannot accept that Iran-backed Hamas – unlike Egypt or Jordan – has not made its own inner peace with the existence of Israel. It wants to kill Jews and liquidate the Jewish state. That realization has to be the starting point for everything else. Such an enemy cannot be tamed by typical state-to-state negotiations; it must therefore be dealt a crippling military blow. That is what Israel is now attempting to do. It won’t be easy, but it must be done. And in this latest battlefield in the larger conflict between civilization and barbarism, we need to unambiguously take the side of civilization. That is, after all, what Israel did with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.

The dominant media narrative of the Israel-Hamas conflict goes something like this: Of course Hamas should not have been launching rocket attacks against Israel. And yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization. And sure it’s regrettable that Hamas has embedded itself in civilian populations in order to cause collateral damage in the form of Palestinian deaths. We (grudgingly) grant all that. But the real offense is Israel’s response, which, we are told by countless commentators, is “disproportionate.” Israel has a right to self-defense – but in this instance, it is massively overreacting.

Yet if Israel’s response is disproportionate, then so, too, was America’s response to the attacks of September 11th. After all, the attacks by al Qaeda, while deadly, were limited to a multi-pronged strike on a single day. Thousands of Americans died in the terrorist attacks – but in response, did America have to declare war on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan – a war that merited the support of NATO and has now entered its eighth year?

To the vast majority of Americans, to most other nations, and even to the United Nations, the U.S. war in Afghanistan was a just use of force. The Taliban regime, after all, was allowing Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for al Qaeda, a place for training and planning and launching attacks. The United States, in the eyes of most of the world, was fully justified in overthrowing the Taliban regime in an effort to uproot al Qaeda and break the back of that terrorist network. Our response was deemed as proportional in part because of the good being defended and the possible good that may result from the action (among the standards comprising the just war theory).

Israel is acting along the same ethical lines – yet when Israel does it, its actions are met with almost universal condemnation. The transparent double standard that is applied to Israel – a state that acts with extraordinary care to protect enemy noncombatants – is deeply troubling. Let’s just say if the nation we were talking about was non-Jewish, the response from many quarters would be dramatically different and far more sympathetic.

The other thing we hear from commentators is chastisement grounded in moral equivalence. The Israel-Hamas clash is the latest event in a “cycle of violence,” we are told. Both sides are responsible for the conflict, so both sides have equal responsibility to end it. A pox on both their houses.

This critique is morally dubious. It takes two to fight – but it only takes one to start it. It is as if a bully on the playground repeatedly assaults another child who is quietly playing on the swings. When the second child fights back, the teacher [read: the international community] criticizes both children for fighting. The problem is that one is fighting in self-defense while the other one is fighting out of aggression. To extend the analogy even further: in this instance, the bully is assaulting a child who set aside a section of the playground to give to the bully, in the hopes that he would be satisfied. Yet it turns out this only fueled his aggression. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it did what no other country has ever done: set aside sovereign territory for Palestinian self-rule. In return, Israel has been on the receiving end of almost 6,500 rocket and mortar attacks over the course of three years.

There is a cast of mind among many in the West that simply cannot accept that Iran-backed Hamas – unlike Egypt or Jordan – has not made its own inner peace with the existence of Israel. It wants to kill Jews and liquidate the Jewish state. That realization has to be the starting point for everything else. Such an enemy cannot be tamed by typical state-to-state negotiations; it must therefore be dealt a crippling military blow. That is what Israel is now attempting to do. It won’t be easy, but it must be done. And in this latest battlefield in the larger conflict between civilization and barbarism, we need to unambiguously take the side of civilization. That is, after all, what Israel did with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.

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