Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 8, 2009

Fool them once, fool them twice, fool them every time

I don’t know about you, but if I was a television news producer or a newspaper editor, I would make sure my reporters understood one thing very, very clearly about covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: there is an entire cottage industry among the Palestinians of faking and staging scenes of victimization, and of inventing stories about civilian casualties. Every conflict with Israel in recent memory has been so saturated with such stagecraft and fiction, in fact, that the phenomenon has its own name — Pallywood.

And now, at long last, we have a conspicuous incident of Pallywood in the Gaza War. CNN (who else?) has aired footage of doctors pretending to perform CPR on a pretend dying boy in Gaza. The doctor is the appropriately-named Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian Israel-hater who the Israelis foolishly allowed into Gaza so that he could render medical services. Given the man’s history, they should have know that he would be more involved with acting and directing than healing the sick. Confederate Yankee and LGF have the details. Most entertainingly, CNN has simply removed the footage with no explanation given for its disappearance. CNN should know that the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Pallywood should surprise nobody who 1) has been following the Arab-Israeli conflict for a few months and 2) has a basic awareness of, say, sound and light. No talk of Pallywood would be complete without mentioning the short documentary Richard Landes did on the phenomenon a few years ago. It is remarkable that such amateurish play-acting has fooled so many, um, professional journalists. Unless the reason is that they want to be fooled…

I don’t know about you, but if I was a television news producer or a newspaper editor, I would make sure my reporters understood one thing very, very clearly about covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: there is an entire cottage industry among the Palestinians of faking and staging scenes of victimization, and of inventing stories about civilian casualties. Every conflict with Israel in recent memory has been so saturated with such stagecraft and fiction, in fact, that the phenomenon has its own name — Pallywood.

And now, at long last, we have a conspicuous incident of Pallywood in the Gaza War. CNN (who else?) has aired footage of doctors pretending to perform CPR on a pretend dying boy in Gaza. The doctor is the appropriately-named Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian Israel-hater who the Israelis foolishly allowed into Gaza so that he could render medical services. Given the man’s history, they should have know that he would be more involved with acting and directing than healing the sick. Confederate Yankee and LGF have the details. Most entertainingly, CNN has simply removed the footage with no explanation given for its disappearance. CNN should know that the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Pallywood should surprise nobody who 1) has been following the Arab-Israeli conflict for a few months and 2) has a basic awareness of, say, sound and light. No talk of Pallywood would be complete without mentioning the short documentary Richard Landes did on the phenomenon a few years ago. It is remarkable that such amateurish play-acting has fooled so many, um, professional journalists. Unless the reason is that they want to be fooled…

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Goldilocks Republicans

In response to the President-elect’s speech today which called for the government to do lots and do it fast, Congressional Republicans are struggling to hold back the tide of government spending. The Hill reports:

Congressional Republicans said Thursday that a financial stimulus is needed, but they are worried that the incoming administration may try to do too much, too fast. House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that hastily passing a package at a price tag of $1 trillion may create more long-term problems than it solves in the near future. They caution that any plan must be “timely, targeted and temporary” — echoing a catch phrase used by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the bipartisan stimulus bill was passed and signed into law in February 2008.

“Let’s [not] use the obvious need as a way to make the problem worse,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference following President- elect Obama’s address on the economy at George Mason University.

“The last thing we ought to do in this package is make long-term systemic changes that make the spending problem even worse. We don’t want to make big mistakes that exacerbate the problem we already have, which is a dramatic, eye-popping deficit,” he said.

Boehner said, “It’s very important that we find the right balance. Yes, our economy needs help, but at the end of the day, how much debt are we going to pile on future generations?”

Since the Republicans are not prepared to oppose the entire concept of a stimulus package they are reduced to negotiating on its size, the type and amount of tax cuts and whether, for example, states should receive federal money in the form of “loans.” In essence they are playing the Goldilocks role: the stimulus and the spending can be big, just not too big.

But perhaps they would do well to focus on this portion of the President-elect’s speech:

That’s why I’m calling on all Americans–Democrats and Republicans–to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

What they are going to inherit is a mound of debt, of course. It is that realization and some popular sense of sticker shock that may aid Republicans. But of course it is the Democrats’ government, and it will be their stimulus plan. There is only so much Republicans can do. Their aim then is to provide an alternative, make whatever changes they can, and then sound the clarion call. That’s what happens when you lose an election: it becomes the other party’s burden–and opportunity–to prove they can govern and govern well.  Hopefully, the Democrats will remember the children. We’ll see.

In response to the President-elect’s speech today which called for the government to do lots and do it fast, Congressional Republicans are struggling to hold back the tide of government spending. The Hill reports:

Congressional Republicans said Thursday that a financial stimulus is needed, but they are worried that the incoming administration may try to do too much, too fast. House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that hastily passing a package at a price tag of $1 trillion may create more long-term problems than it solves in the near future. They caution that any plan must be “timely, targeted and temporary” — echoing a catch phrase used by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the bipartisan stimulus bill was passed and signed into law in February 2008.

“Let’s [not] use the obvious need as a way to make the problem worse,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference following President- elect Obama’s address on the economy at George Mason University.

“The last thing we ought to do in this package is make long-term systemic changes that make the spending problem even worse. We don’t want to make big mistakes that exacerbate the problem we already have, which is a dramatic, eye-popping deficit,” he said.

Boehner said, “It’s very important that we find the right balance. Yes, our economy needs help, but at the end of the day, how much debt are we going to pile on future generations?”

Since the Republicans are not prepared to oppose the entire concept of a stimulus package they are reduced to negotiating on its size, the type and amount of tax cuts and whether, for example, states should receive federal money in the form of “loans.” In essence they are playing the Goldilocks role: the stimulus and the spending can be big, just not too big.

But perhaps they would do well to focus on this portion of the President-elect’s speech:

That’s why I’m calling on all Americans–Democrats and Republicans–to put good ideas ahead of the old ideological battles; a sense of common purpose above the same narrow partisanship; and insist that the first question each of us asks isn’t “What’s good for me?” but “What’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

What they are going to inherit is a mound of debt, of course. It is that realization and some popular sense of sticker shock that may aid Republicans. But of course it is the Democrats’ government, and it will be their stimulus plan. There is only so much Republicans can do. Their aim then is to provide an alternative, make whatever changes they can, and then sound the clarion call. That’s what happens when you lose an election: it becomes the other party’s burden–and opportunity–to prove they can govern and govern well.  Hopefully, the Democrats will remember the children. We’ll see.

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Carter on Gaza

In today’s Washington Post, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gives his take on the current fighting in Gaza.  Of course, it can all be summarized as follows: had everyone only listened to me when I was in the Middle East earlier this year, the war would have never taken place.  And, consistent with his previous analyses on all things Middle Eastern, the one party that particularly deserves reprobation for failing to heed Carter’s sage advice is—you guessed it—Hamas.

Yeah, right:

…After extended discussions with those from Gaza, these Hamas leaders also agreed to accept any peace agreement that might be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PLO, provided it was approved by a majority vote of Palestinians in a referendum or by an elected unity government.

Since we were only observers, and not negotiators, we relayed this information to the Egyptians, and they pursued the cease-fire proposal. After about a month, the Egyptians and Hamas informed us that all military action by both sides and all rocket firing would stop on June 19, for a period of six months, and that humanitarian supplies would be restored to the normal level that had existed before Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 (about 700 trucks daily).

We were unable to confirm this in Jerusalem because of Israel’s unwillingness to admit to any negotiations with Hamas, but rocket firing was soon stopped and there was an increase in supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel. Yet the increase was to an average of about 20 percent of normal levels. And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza. …

What’s more disturbing: Carter’s contention that Hamas would accept “any” peace agreement negotiated between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, or his apparent belief that Hamas was building a harmless “defensive” tunnel in Gaza?  Either way, Jimmy’s musings make you wonder whether he got the memo—or, in this case, the many memos on Hamas’s historic refusal to recognize Israel and use of tunnels for transporting offensive weapons.  Indeed, you almost forget that Carter was once U.S. President and still runs a policy center—so not only does he get the memos, but he probably also gets a full daily news briefing!

All of this is to say, for the umpteenth time, that Jimmy Carter’s ability to embarrass is a constant source of personal amazement.

In today’s Washington Post, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gives his take on the current fighting in Gaza.  Of course, it can all be summarized as follows: had everyone only listened to me when I was in the Middle East earlier this year, the war would have never taken place.  And, consistent with his previous analyses on all things Middle Eastern, the one party that particularly deserves reprobation for failing to heed Carter’s sage advice is—you guessed it—Hamas.

Yeah, right:

…After extended discussions with those from Gaza, these Hamas leaders also agreed to accept any peace agreement that might be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PLO, provided it was approved by a majority vote of Palestinians in a referendum or by an elected unity government.

Since we were only observers, and not negotiators, we relayed this information to the Egyptians, and they pursued the cease-fire proposal. After about a month, the Egyptians and Hamas informed us that all military action by both sides and all rocket firing would stop on June 19, for a period of six months, and that humanitarian supplies would be restored to the normal level that had existed before Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 (about 700 trucks daily).

We were unable to confirm this in Jerusalem because of Israel’s unwillingness to admit to any negotiations with Hamas, but rocket firing was soon stopped and there was an increase in supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel. Yet the increase was to an average of about 20 percent of normal levels. And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza. …

What’s more disturbing: Carter’s contention that Hamas would accept “any” peace agreement negotiated between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, or his apparent belief that Hamas was building a harmless “defensive” tunnel in Gaza?  Either way, Jimmy’s musings make you wonder whether he got the memo—or, in this case, the many memos on Hamas’s historic refusal to recognize Israel and use of tunnels for transporting offensive weapons.  Indeed, you almost forget that Carter was once U.S. President and still runs a policy center—so not only does he get the memos, but he probably also gets a full daily news briefing!

All of this is to say, for the umpteenth time, that Jimmy Carter’s ability to embarrass is a constant source of personal amazement.

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What’s the Right Ethical Batting Average for the AG?

The Washington Times reports that a tumultuous hearing awaits Eric Holder:

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Wednesday Mr. Holder’s quest for confirmation will not be “smooth sailing.”

“He still may end up being attorney general. And I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t vote for him because you can’t say he’s not qualified for it; he is qualified,” Mr. Grassley said. “But there’s a lot of people that are qualified.They have other reasons that maybe they shouldn’t be in that position.”

Republicans are gearing up to vigorously question Mr. Holder during the hearing, particularly about his time as the deputy attorney general, the Justice Department’s No. 2 post, under President Clinton.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, delivered a speech Tuesday on the Senate floor criticizing Mr. Holder’s role in the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Mr. Specter also criticized his involvement with clemency being given to members of a Puerto Rico nationalist organization that the FBI considered terrorists, and his part in the decision by Justice not to investigate allegations of campaign-finance violations by then-Vice President Al Gore.

“Some of his actions raised concerns about his ability to maintain his independence from the president,” Mr. Specter said. He drew parallels to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned in 2007 after a tumultuous term in which critics accused him of making decisions based on direction from the White House, at times to the detriment of the Justice Department.

Now, as many conservatives have found out the hard way, Specter is not a legal conservative or an advocate of judicial restraint. But that’s not what is at issue here. Certainly, some conservatives are concerned about Holder’s views on the Second Amendment, for example. But he will no doubt recite the platitude that he’ll follow the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. The primary concerns revolve around Holder’s adherence to Justice Department guidelines and ethical standards for all government attorneys and his candor during prior testimony before Congress.

The Democrats are rounding up the usual ideological defenders of judicial liberalism — everyone from the ACLU to the NAACP will sing Holder’s praises. But if that’s what the defense consists of, they’re fighting the last war(s). This isn’t a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and the Republicans by and large aren’t focusing on legal philosophy. The Democrats would do better to get some legal-ethics gurus to attest that Holder behaved properly in the controversial pardon decisions. But wait, I don’t think they have any of those sorts of witnesses. They would be hard to come by.

And they are going to have a tough enough time when Specter and the other Republicans start reading back the comments of Democrats in 2001 who found the Rich pardon and Holder’s involvement in the same to have been unacceptable. So the Democrats are employing the tried and true tactic utilized when there is a serious problem with a nominee of theirs: changing the subject. They’ll talk about all the wonderful achievements in Holder’s career; they’ll describe other instances in which Holder behaved ethically (What’s the right batting average for ethics — .500? .250?). And they’ll emphasize the ground-breaking nature of his nomination as the first African-American attorney general. But lots of attorneys have distinguished careers, have perfect records on ethics and would meet the diversity criterion (if there was one). Larry Thompson comes to mind, for example.

So questions remain: why Holder, and why someone with serious character issues — including a failure to be entirely candid with Congressional investigators — deserves to be attorney general? That’s what the hearing will be about. And that’s why Democrats are circling the wagons.

The Washington Times reports that a tumultuous hearing awaits Eric Holder:

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Wednesday Mr. Holder’s quest for confirmation will not be “smooth sailing.”

“He still may end up being attorney general. And I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t vote for him because you can’t say he’s not qualified for it; he is qualified,” Mr. Grassley said. “But there’s a lot of people that are qualified.They have other reasons that maybe they shouldn’t be in that position.”

Republicans are gearing up to vigorously question Mr. Holder during the hearing, particularly about his time as the deputy attorney general, the Justice Department’s No. 2 post, under President Clinton.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, delivered a speech Tuesday on the Senate floor criticizing Mr. Holder’s role in the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Mr. Specter also criticized his involvement with clemency being given to members of a Puerto Rico nationalist organization that the FBI considered terrorists, and his part in the decision by Justice not to investigate allegations of campaign-finance violations by then-Vice President Al Gore.

“Some of his actions raised concerns about his ability to maintain his independence from the president,” Mr. Specter said. He drew parallels to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned in 2007 after a tumultuous term in which critics accused him of making decisions based on direction from the White House, at times to the detriment of the Justice Department.

Now, as many conservatives have found out the hard way, Specter is not a legal conservative or an advocate of judicial restraint. But that’s not what is at issue here. Certainly, some conservatives are concerned about Holder’s views on the Second Amendment, for example. But he will no doubt recite the platitude that he’ll follow the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. The primary concerns revolve around Holder’s adherence to Justice Department guidelines and ethical standards for all government attorneys and his candor during prior testimony before Congress.

The Democrats are rounding up the usual ideological defenders of judicial liberalism — everyone from the ACLU to the NAACP will sing Holder’s praises. But if that’s what the defense consists of, they’re fighting the last war(s). This isn’t a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and the Republicans by and large aren’t focusing on legal philosophy. The Democrats would do better to get some legal-ethics gurus to attest that Holder behaved properly in the controversial pardon decisions. But wait, I don’t think they have any of those sorts of witnesses. They would be hard to come by.

And they are going to have a tough enough time when Specter and the other Republicans start reading back the comments of Democrats in 2001 who found the Rich pardon and Holder’s involvement in the same to have been unacceptable. So the Democrats are employing the tried and true tactic utilized when there is a serious problem with a nominee of theirs: changing the subject. They’ll talk about all the wonderful achievements in Holder’s career; they’ll describe other instances in which Holder behaved ethically (What’s the right batting average for ethics — .500? .250?). And they’ll emphasize the ground-breaking nature of his nomination as the first African-American attorney general. But lots of attorneys have distinguished careers, have perfect records on ethics and would meet the diversity criterion (if there was one). Larry Thompson comes to mind, for example.

So questions remain: why Holder, and why someone with serious character issues — including a failure to be entirely candid with Congressional investigators — deserves to be attorney general? That’s what the hearing will be about. And that’s why Democrats are circling the wagons.

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Commentary of the Day

Geoffrey Britain, on Gordon G. Chang:

Gordon,

China’s (and Russia’s) involvement in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and any future Iranian/US/Israeli confrontation is of great importance but it goes far beyond China selling arms to Hamas or even Iran. You have brought up an extremely important factor in Islamic terrorism.

China is only one of many of what I call the ‘enabling’ nations. These are those nations who out of either short-term financial interest; such as the Europeans, and/or long-term ideological, geo-political interest; such as China and Russia, covertly support the rogue nations. These nations block any and all effective sanctions and/or actions against the rogue nations.

They support the status quo of International terrorism against the West and Israel.

It is impossible to understand Islamic terrorism’s infrastructure without recognizing the factor of the enabling nations and the part it plays in the continuance and spread of Islamic terrorism.

China and Russia are using the rogue nations and Islamic terrorist groups against the west in a long-term, covert strategy of stealth aggression against the west. The purpose of which is to destabilize and lessen the influence of the US.

Despite the inherent difficulties, effective leverage against the enabling nations must be developed and implemented for an effective US foreign policy both in the WoT and in the geo-political dynamics of Chinese/Russian relations with the US.

Leftist elements in the Western nations are the classic ‘useful idiots’ of whom Lenin spoke. They are blocking the forming of consensus within the west regarding the covert actions of China and Russia.

Ultimately, winning the WoT will be impossible until these factors are understood and incorporated into any contemplated strategy against Islamic terrorism…

Geoffrey Britain, on Gordon G. Chang:

Gordon,

China’s (and Russia’s) involvement in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and any future Iranian/US/Israeli confrontation is of great importance but it goes far beyond China selling arms to Hamas or even Iran. You have brought up an extremely important factor in Islamic terrorism.

China is only one of many of what I call the ‘enabling’ nations. These are those nations who out of either short-term financial interest; such as the Europeans, and/or long-term ideological, geo-political interest; such as China and Russia, covertly support the rogue nations. These nations block any and all effective sanctions and/or actions against the rogue nations.

They support the status quo of International terrorism against the West and Israel.

It is impossible to understand Islamic terrorism’s infrastructure without recognizing the factor of the enabling nations and the part it plays in the continuance and spread of Islamic terrorism.

China and Russia are using the rogue nations and Islamic terrorist groups against the west in a long-term, covert strategy of stealth aggression against the west. The purpose of which is to destabilize and lessen the influence of the US.

Despite the inherent difficulties, effective leverage against the enabling nations must be developed and implemented for an effective US foreign policy both in the WoT and in the geo-political dynamics of Chinese/Russian relations with the US.

Leftist elements in the Western nations are the classic ‘useful idiots’ of whom Lenin spoke. They are blocking the forming of consensus within the west regarding the covert actions of China and Russia.

Ultimately, winning the WoT will be impossible until these factors are understood and incorporated into any contemplated strategy against Islamic terrorism…

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What Israel’s Intellectual Critics Have in Common With Idiots Like Roseanne Barr

Matthew Yglesias writes in the American Prospect today about how sad it all is that American politicians and Israel’s feckless knee-jerk backers in this country are too weak to beat the Jewish State into submission when it comes to making more concessions to the Palestinians. Quoting Aaron David Miller’s column about the same subject in Newsweek, Yglesias takes up the familiar theme that the outline of a peace settlement is well known (back to Taba) and that all it will take to get back there is “ruffling” some Israeli feathers and giving Israel some of the “tough love” that Jimmy Carter dished out.

Missing from this analysis is, as usual, any connection with the reality of the other side of the equation: the Palestinians who stand by Hamas and their terror campaign. This blind faith in the peace process is almost religious in nature. All objective facts that might disprove its thesis are ignored.

Similarly foolish is Juan Cole’s latest post at Salon, most of which is taken up with attacks on neoconservatives. This is familiar stuff and hardly convincing but what is particularly interesting is his contention that the neocons killed the Middle East peace process:

A two-state solution was not far from being concluded in 2000, but negotiations were abruptly discontinued by the government of Ariel Sharon in spring of 2001 with the encouragement of the Bush administration. (It is not true that the Palestinian side had ceased negotiating, or “walked away,” from the Clinton plan, nor is it true that the Israelis had as yet formalized a specific offer in writing.) … As a result of the deliberate destruction of the peace process by the Israeli right and by Hamas, a two-state solution seems increasingly unlikely. This tragic impasse, one phase of which is now playing out with sanguinary relentlessness, was avoidable but for the baneful influence of the neoconservatives and their right-wing allies in the U.S. and Israel.

This is nonsense. Neoconservative critics of the Oslo fiasco in the 1990s were doing no more than stating the obvious when they pointed out that Yasser Arafat and Fatah were educating their people for war, and had no intention of ever living in peace with Israel. Cole’s revisionism (echoes of Robert Malley) notwithstanding, Arafat’s decision to walk away from Ehud Barak’s breathtaking concessions at Camp David and Taba proved this conclusively. Oslo was dead as a doornail before George W. Bush arrived in the White House or Ariel Sharon took up residence in the prime minister’s office.

The notion that American pressure on Israel to do things that will persuade the Palestinian terrorists to stop behaving in a beastly fashion will do anything but encourage further depredations is farcical.

And speaking of farce, the New York Post reports today on its “Page Six” gossip column that former TV star Roseanne Barr thinks “Israel is a Nazi state.”

A look at Roseanne’s blog in which her wildly incoherent and inconsistent rants are available for public view isn’t noteworthy because she says vile and foolish things about Israel. Who would expect anything else? But what is interesting is despite her obsessive need to bash the Jewish State and fit the conflict into her loopy neo-Marxist view of the world, she is thoroughly ignorant of the basic fact that the current fighting was precipitated by years of Hamas missile attacks on Israel.

She tells us:

“I told my son “I am not pro palestinian at all, but pro-peace”. He said : “who is getting bombed”? I answered: “the palestinians”.
“who is bombing them?” he asked, and I answered: “the israeli’s”.
“Okay, mom, I get it now”. he said. “You are on the side of the people who are being bombed, and not the side of the ones doing the bombing”.
“yes” i said.

This is pretty pathetic stuff. But when you think about it, it isn’t a heckuva lot dumber than the high-flown rhetoric of Yglesias and Cole. For all of their sophistication, they are just as out of touch with the reality of what has happened in Gaza’s Hamasistan as poor dumb Roseanne.

Matthew Yglesias writes in the American Prospect today about how sad it all is that American politicians and Israel’s feckless knee-jerk backers in this country are too weak to beat the Jewish State into submission when it comes to making more concessions to the Palestinians. Quoting Aaron David Miller’s column about the same subject in Newsweek, Yglesias takes up the familiar theme that the outline of a peace settlement is well known (back to Taba) and that all it will take to get back there is “ruffling” some Israeli feathers and giving Israel some of the “tough love” that Jimmy Carter dished out.

Missing from this analysis is, as usual, any connection with the reality of the other side of the equation: the Palestinians who stand by Hamas and their terror campaign. This blind faith in the peace process is almost religious in nature. All objective facts that might disprove its thesis are ignored.

Similarly foolish is Juan Cole’s latest post at Salon, most of which is taken up with attacks on neoconservatives. This is familiar stuff and hardly convincing but what is particularly interesting is his contention that the neocons killed the Middle East peace process:

A two-state solution was not far from being concluded in 2000, but negotiations were abruptly discontinued by the government of Ariel Sharon in spring of 2001 with the encouragement of the Bush administration. (It is not true that the Palestinian side had ceased negotiating, or “walked away,” from the Clinton plan, nor is it true that the Israelis had as yet formalized a specific offer in writing.) … As a result of the deliberate destruction of the peace process by the Israeli right and by Hamas, a two-state solution seems increasingly unlikely. This tragic impasse, one phase of which is now playing out with sanguinary relentlessness, was avoidable but for the baneful influence of the neoconservatives and their right-wing allies in the U.S. and Israel.

This is nonsense. Neoconservative critics of the Oslo fiasco in the 1990s were doing no more than stating the obvious when they pointed out that Yasser Arafat and Fatah were educating their people for war, and had no intention of ever living in peace with Israel. Cole’s revisionism (echoes of Robert Malley) notwithstanding, Arafat’s decision to walk away from Ehud Barak’s breathtaking concessions at Camp David and Taba proved this conclusively. Oslo was dead as a doornail before George W. Bush arrived in the White House or Ariel Sharon took up residence in the prime minister’s office.

The notion that American pressure on Israel to do things that will persuade the Palestinian terrorists to stop behaving in a beastly fashion will do anything but encourage further depredations is farcical.

And speaking of farce, the New York Post reports today on its “Page Six” gossip column that former TV star Roseanne Barr thinks “Israel is a Nazi state.”

A look at Roseanne’s blog in which her wildly incoherent and inconsistent rants are available for public view isn’t noteworthy because she says vile and foolish things about Israel. Who would expect anything else? But what is interesting is despite her obsessive need to bash the Jewish State and fit the conflict into her loopy neo-Marxist view of the world, she is thoroughly ignorant of the basic fact that the current fighting was precipitated by years of Hamas missile attacks on Israel.

She tells us:

“I told my son “I am not pro palestinian at all, but pro-peace”. He said : “who is getting bombed”? I answered: “the palestinians”.
“who is bombing them?” he asked, and I answered: “the israeli’s”.
“Okay, mom, I get it now”. he said. “You are on the side of the people who are being bombed, and not the side of the ones doing the bombing”.
“yes” i said.

This is pretty pathetic stuff. But when you think about it, it isn’t a heckuva lot dumber than the high-flown rhetoric of Yglesias and Cole. For all of their sophistication, they are just as out of touch with the reality of what has happened in Gaza’s Hamasistan as poor dumb Roseanne.

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Not Following the Talking Points Part Four

For what it’s worth, add Charlie Rangel to the list of J Street-endorsed legislators dissenting from the organization’s extremist positions. In a statement issued December 30, he said:

Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right to provide for her own security against terrorist campaigns. A cease fire does not seem plausible until the rocket attacks by Hamas and the threat for future rocket attacks have ended.

Indeed, a cease-fire is impossible, by definition, when one side fires rockets at another. This is common sense. But it escapes the minds over on J Street.

And whaddya know, just like his fellow Democratic Congressmen Adam Schiff, Robert Wexler, and Barney Frank, Rangel’s decidedly non-J Street sentiment is nowhere to be found on the page touting the statements of J Street-approved congresspeople on the Gaza Crisis.

For what it’s worth, add Charlie Rangel to the list of J Street-endorsed legislators dissenting from the organization’s extremist positions. In a statement issued December 30, he said:

Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right to provide for her own security against terrorist campaigns. A cease fire does not seem plausible until the rocket attacks by Hamas and the threat for future rocket attacks have ended.

Indeed, a cease-fire is impossible, by definition, when one side fires rockets at another. This is common sense. But it escapes the minds over on J Street.

And whaddya know, just like his fellow Democratic Congressmen Adam Schiff, Robert Wexler, and Barney Frank, Rangel’s decidedly non-J Street sentiment is nowhere to be found on the page touting the statements of J Street-approved congresspeople on the Gaza Crisis.

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The Trouble With Harry

Dana Milbank reminds us that it wasn’t only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who had to cave on Roland Burris’s admission to the U.S. Senate — there was the President-elect, too. Like Reid, Barack Obama had vowed that Burris would not take his seat. It was just last week that the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat,” Obama said in a statement. “The best resolution would be for the governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession.”

President-elect Obama then beat a hasty retreat on the Burris lockout:

Any last trace of resistance to Burris vanished yesterday morning, when Obama, who last week agreed with the decision to exclude the senator-designate, dropped his opposition.

That raises a question: why in the world did the President-elect get roped into trying to keep Burris out of the Senate? It’s bad enough he’s been grilled by the FBI, his chief of staff is on tape with Blago and Blago’s chief of staff, and he supported the state Democratic pols in their objection to a special-election bill (which would have preempted the Burris appointment). He’s far too involved in Blago-gate and its potential fall-out already–the unfortunate result of undue tolerance for his fellow Democrats’ shenanigans.

Was it necessary then, to ride to Harry Reid’s defense in trying to spare the Senate Democrats from the indignity of having the “Senator from Blago” haunt them for the next two years? After all, the President-elect is a Constitutional-law scholar who should know Reid was up against Powell v. McCormack. Both legally and politically President-elect Obama should have seen it was a losing hand.

And it’s not just conservatives who are mystified by the President-elect’s misstep. Howard Fineman writes:

Obama made it clear that he didn’t want the kindly but inconsequential Illinois politician to be his U.S. Senate replacement, because Burris had been chosen by the allegedly corrupt and recently arrested Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But Burris would not go quietly, and he has turned his week into a farce that obliterated what little majesty there might have been in the opening of the 111th Congress. More important, it looks like Democratic leaders (like “martial music,” an oxymoron) are going to cave, and seat Burris anyway after several days of standing in the schoolhouse door. They look dumb and Obama looks weak. Not a good pregame warmup.

Going forward, President-elect Obama will need to assess just how tightly he wants to tie himself to the goings-on at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. If he chooses to involve himself, he might be well advised to be on the side of reform, open elections, and ethical standards. He wants to weigh in on something? Suggest the Democrats dump Ways and Means Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel or send out word that Sen. Chris Dodd should be releasing his Countrywide loan information.

If, instead, he chooses to provide cover for his politically and ethically challenged Democratic colleagues, he better watch out. He’d be better off (if the Burris mess is any indication) figuring out what Harry Reid and company want — and then doing the opposite.

Dana Milbank reminds us that it wasn’t only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who had to cave on Roland Burris’s admission to the U.S. Senate — there was the President-elect, too. Like Reid, Barack Obama had vowed that Burris would not take his seat. It was just last week that the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat,” Obama said in a statement. “The best resolution would be for the governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession.”

President-elect Obama then beat a hasty retreat on the Burris lockout:

Any last trace of resistance to Burris vanished yesterday morning, when Obama, who last week agreed with the decision to exclude the senator-designate, dropped his opposition.

That raises a question: why in the world did the President-elect get roped into trying to keep Burris out of the Senate? It’s bad enough he’s been grilled by the FBI, his chief of staff is on tape with Blago and Blago’s chief of staff, and he supported the state Democratic pols in their objection to a special-election bill (which would have preempted the Burris appointment). He’s far too involved in Blago-gate and its potential fall-out already–the unfortunate result of undue tolerance for his fellow Democrats’ shenanigans.

Was it necessary then, to ride to Harry Reid’s defense in trying to spare the Senate Democrats from the indignity of having the “Senator from Blago” haunt them for the next two years? After all, the President-elect is a Constitutional-law scholar who should know Reid was up against Powell v. McCormack. Both legally and politically President-elect Obama should have seen it was a losing hand.

And it’s not just conservatives who are mystified by the President-elect’s misstep. Howard Fineman writes:

Obama made it clear that he didn’t want the kindly but inconsequential Illinois politician to be his U.S. Senate replacement, because Burris had been chosen by the allegedly corrupt and recently arrested Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But Burris would not go quietly, and he has turned his week into a farce that obliterated what little majesty there might have been in the opening of the 111th Congress. More important, it looks like Democratic leaders (like “martial music,” an oxymoron) are going to cave, and seat Burris anyway after several days of standing in the schoolhouse door. They look dumb and Obama looks weak. Not a good pregame warmup.

Going forward, President-elect Obama will need to assess just how tightly he wants to tie himself to the goings-on at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. If he chooses to involve himself, he might be well advised to be on the side of reform, open elections, and ethical standards. He wants to weigh in on something? Suggest the Democrats dump Ways and Means Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel or send out word that Sen. Chris Dodd should be releasing his Countrywide loan information.

If, instead, he chooses to provide cover for his politically and ethically challenged Democratic colleagues, he better watch out. He’d be better off (if the Burris mess is any indication) figuring out what Harry Reid and company want — and then doing the opposite.

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Re: Europe’s Vital Interests

Emanuele, what’s most extraordinary about Garton Ash’s piece is the level of candor:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is an admission that Europe is being held hostage by domestic Islamists. Their demands? Do not molest our fellow travelers in the Middle East as they bomb, maim, and kidnap – or you’re next. Of course, Europe is next no matter what they do, but you try telling that to a continent with a gun poked in its ribs. The rule-of-thumb for the kidnapped is, “always try to break free.” But in practice, when you’re cuffed and blindfolded, it’s all about stalling until the good guys show up and save the day. The collective hostage scheme playing out in Europe puts victims in a new kind of double-bind. Part of the stalling tactic requires them to get indignant about the good guys (the U.S. or, in the present case, Israel.)

Robert Kagan captured this brilliantly in a Foreign Affairs essay this past fall:

Americans believe that Europeans share their concern about radical Islam. But European concerns are different. For Americans, the problem is largely “out there,” in faraway lands from which radical Islamic terrorists can launch attacks, and therefore the solution is also “out there.” For Europeans, Islamic radicalism is first and foremost a domestic issue, a question of whether and how Muslims can be assimilated into twenty-first-century European society. To European eyes, U.S. actions only inflame Europe’s problems. When the United States whacks a hornets’ nest, the hornets fly to Europe, or so Europeans fear.

Even if you remove the anti-Semitic and anti-American undertones, and Europe’s developing-world fetish, fear of domestic reprisal ensures that a good portion of Europe’s leaders and its academic class will continue to oppose robust counterterrorism measures. Until the last European is standing.

Emanuele, what’s most extraordinary about Garton Ash’s piece is the level of candor:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is an admission that Europe is being held hostage by domestic Islamists. Their demands? Do not molest our fellow travelers in the Middle East as they bomb, maim, and kidnap – or you’re next. Of course, Europe is next no matter what they do, but you try telling that to a continent with a gun poked in its ribs. The rule-of-thumb for the kidnapped is, “always try to break free.” But in practice, when you’re cuffed and blindfolded, it’s all about stalling until the good guys show up and save the day. The collective hostage scheme playing out in Europe puts victims in a new kind of double-bind. Part of the stalling tactic requires them to get indignant about the good guys (the U.S. or, in the present case, Israel.)

Robert Kagan captured this brilliantly in a Foreign Affairs essay this past fall:

Americans believe that Europeans share their concern about radical Islam. But European concerns are different. For Americans, the problem is largely “out there,” in faraway lands from which radical Islamic terrorists can launch attacks, and therefore the solution is also “out there.” For Europeans, Islamic radicalism is first and foremost a domestic issue, a question of whether and how Muslims can be assimilated into twenty-first-century European society. To European eyes, U.S. actions only inflame Europe’s problems. When the United States whacks a hornets’ nest, the hornets fly to Europe, or so Europeans fear.

Even if you remove the anti-Semitic and anti-American undertones, and Europe’s developing-world fetish, fear of domestic reprisal ensures that a good portion of Europe’s leaders and its academic class will continue to oppose robust counterterrorism measures. Until the last European is standing.

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Congratulations, Rashid Khalidi!

It’s probably a bit early for announcing superlatives for the current fighting in Gaza.  But, after reading Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, I had that feeling that major-league scouts probably get when they find a high school pitcher who can throw 95 miles per-hour–I knew I’d found a winner.  So, without further ado, I hereby congratulate Dr. Khalidi for producing the Worst Op-Ed of the 2008-2009 Gaza War.

Khalidi’s triumph of blather starts by informing readers that, “Nearly everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong,” and concludes with, “This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets.”  In between, Khalidi provides brief quasi-definitions for a few “essential points”:

THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.

[…]

THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.

It’s actually hard to single out the least scholarly feature in Khalidi’s piece.  Is it the op-ed’s bizarrely disjointed flow?  Is it Khalidi’s apparent belief that just about everything and anyone–including Palestinians themselves–can be defined in terms of Israeli evil?  Is it Khalidi’s assertion that Israel ended the ceasefire in early November, which flies in the face of Hamas’s own December 18th declaration that the ceasefire had expired?  Or is it Khalidi’s typically conspiratorial tone, which is deployed here to insinuate that the press has withheld key facts–such as who the Gazans are–on behalf of Israel?

Talk about an idiot wind!  Indeed, the piece is so poorly constructed and grossly one-sided that one has to ask: Rashid, did you actually write this, or did you simply submit the glossary from your PLO spokesperson textbook?

It’s probably a bit early for announcing superlatives for the current fighting in Gaza.  But, after reading Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, I had that feeling that major-league scouts probably get when they find a high school pitcher who can throw 95 miles per-hour–I knew I’d found a winner.  So, without further ado, I hereby congratulate Dr. Khalidi for producing the Worst Op-Ed of the 2008-2009 Gaza War.

Khalidi’s triumph of blather starts by informing readers that, “Nearly everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong,” and concludes with, “This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets.”  In between, Khalidi provides brief quasi-definitions for a few “essential points”:

THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.

[…]

THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.

It’s actually hard to single out the least scholarly feature in Khalidi’s piece.  Is it the op-ed’s bizarrely disjointed flow?  Is it Khalidi’s apparent belief that just about everything and anyone–including Palestinians themselves–can be defined in terms of Israeli evil?  Is it Khalidi’s assertion that Israel ended the ceasefire in early November, which flies in the face of Hamas’s own December 18th declaration that the ceasefire had expired?  Or is it Khalidi’s typically conspiratorial tone, which is deployed here to insinuate that the press has withheld key facts–such as who the Gazans are–on behalf of Israel?

Talk about an idiot wind!  Indeed, the piece is so poorly constructed and grossly one-sided that one has to ask: Rashid, did you actually write this, or did you simply submit the glossary from your PLO spokesperson textbook?

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America’s Greatest Foreign Challenge?

What is America’s number one foreign-policy challenge?  If you’re Stephen Hadley, your answer is Pakistan.  The national-security adviser put it this way in the text of his remarks, delivered yesterday in Washington: “Stabilizing Pakistan must be the first priority for the new administration–as it has been ours.”  Hadley further explained his views in a pre-speech interview with the Wall Street Journal by describing how turmoil in Pakistan radiates throughout south and central Asia.

Pakistan, as consequential as it may be, is not America’s most important external-agenda item.  That honor goes to either Russia or China, which have the most potential to either support or undermine the international community.  The outgoing national-security adviser, however, cannot speak frankly about either Moscow or Beijing because President Bush was not able to do so.  As a result, Hadley’s summary of eight years of Bush diplomacy failed to describe the world as it is.

This is not to say Pakistan is not a problem.  Militants in its tribal areas destabilize Afghanistan, Pakistani terrorists launch attacks against India, and Islamabad’s technicians still appear to be disseminating nuclear technology.  So fixing Pakistan–not easy under the best of circumstances–would go a long way to solving critical problems.

Yet Pakistan, which often acts to further Beijing’s objectives, is more of a symptom than the disease.  The real challenge of American foreign policy is getting its relations with the authoritarian powers right.  Condoleezza Rice, first as Hadley’s predecessor and then as the nation’s chief diplomat, understood that.  She was at times able to achieve friendly relations with the Russians and the Chinese but failed at something far more important–moving them in constructive directions.  We don’t need to be friends with Moscow and Beijing.  We just need to get them to do what we want.

If we get Russia and China right, almost everything else, including Pakistan, should fall into place.  If we fail to win Moscow’s and Beijing’s cooperation–and so far we have not been overly successful in this regard–then everything will remain difficult.  So Hadley should have cut out the generalities and self-congratulatory assessments in his speech, which means he would have had to scrap most of his text, and concentrated on what is important.

Hadley said almost nothing about China and very little about Russia.  So why did anyone bother to turn up to his talk?  Washington, as others have said before me, just likes to listen to itself.  That’s not good enough these days.

What is America’s number one foreign-policy challenge?  If you’re Stephen Hadley, your answer is Pakistan.  The national-security adviser put it this way in the text of his remarks, delivered yesterday in Washington: “Stabilizing Pakistan must be the first priority for the new administration–as it has been ours.”  Hadley further explained his views in a pre-speech interview with the Wall Street Journal by describing how turmoil in Pakistan radiates throughout south and central Asia.

Pakistan, as consequential as it may be, is not America’s most important external-agenda item.  That honor goes to either Russia or China, which have the most potential to either support or undermine the international community.  The outgoing national-security adviser, however, cannot speak frankly about either Moscow or Beijing because President Bush was not able to do so.  As a result, Hadley’s summary of eight years of Bush diplomacy failed to describe the world as it is.

This is not to say Pakistan is not a problem.  Militants in its tribal areas destabilize Afghanistan, Pakistani terrorists launch attacks against India, and Islamabad’s technicians still appear to be disseminating nuclear technology.  So fixing Pakistan–not easy under the best of circumstances–would go a long way to solving critical problems.

Yet Pakistan, which often acts to further Beijing’s objectives, is more of a symptom than the disease.  The real challenge of American foreign policy is getting its relations with the authoritarian powers right.  Condoleezza Rice, first as Hadley’s predecessor and then as the nation’s chief diplomat, understood that.  She was at times able to achieve friendly relations with the Russians and the Chinese but failed at something far more important–moving them in constructive directions.  We don’t need to be friends with Moscow and Beijing.  We just need to get them to do what we want.

If we get Russia and China right, almost everything else, including Pakistan, should fall into place.  If we fail to win Moscow’s and Beijing’s cooperation–and so far we have not been overly successful in this regard–then everything will remain difficult.  So Hadley should have cut out the generalities and self-congratulatory assessments in his speech, which means he would have had to scrap most of his text, and concentrated on what is important.

Hadley said almost nothing about China and very little about Russia.  So why did anyone bother to turn up to his talk?  Washington, as others have said before me, just likes to listen to itself.  That’s not good enough these days.

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The Coming of a Second Front

According to the Associated Press, Hamas has promised not to capitulate in the wake of the IDF’s ongoing strategic offensive in Gaza. Adding to the mounting worry over the situation in Gaza, reports indicate that at least three katyusha rockets have been fired into Northern Israel, all coming from within Lebanon’s borders. The formal opening of a second front appears to be only a matter of time. These katyusha rockets represent the first reported attacks in the North since Israel’s defensive war against Hamas began in Gaza almost two weeks ago. At the present time, Hezbollah is not to be blamed entirely for the attacks, according to the Jerusalem Post:

According to Northern Command assessments, the salvo was probably fired by Palestinian terror groups and not by Hizbullah, but the possibility that Hizbullah instructed another group to fire at Israel could not be ruled out.

“Nothing happens in Lebanon without a green light from Hizbullah,” a defense official said. “Even if it was a Palestinian group who fired the rockets, Hizbullah would have to at least have turned a blind eye to allow the rocket fire.”

Hizbullah denied involvement in the attack.

The New York Times claims that “both [the Lebanese and Israeli] governments played down [the rockets’] significance.” Neither sovereign state appears anxious for another front to open.

Nevertheless, rockets have been fired. More will surely follow in the coming days. And Israel must defend its citizenry from the death and destruction  that inevitably come with indiscriminate rocket fire. A second front in the northern region of Israel might be days away.

According to the Associated Press, Hamas has promised not to capitulate in the wake of the IDF’s ongoing strategic offensive in Gaza. Adding to the mounting worry over the situation in Gaza, reports indicate that at least three katyusha rockets have been fired into Northern Israel, all coming from within Lebanon’s borders. The formal opening of a second front appears to be only a matter of time. These katyusha rockets represent the first reported attacks in the North since Israel’s defensive war against Hamas began in Gaza almost two weeks ago. At the present time, Hezbollah is not to be blamed entirely for the attacks, according to the Jerusalem Post:

According to Northern Command assessments, the salvo was probably fired by Palestinian terror groups and not by Hizbullah, but the possibility that Hizbullah instructed another group to fire at Israel could not be ruled out.

“Nothing happens in Lebanon without a green light from Hizbullah,” a defense official said. “Even if it was a Palestinian group who fired the rockets, Hizbullah would have to at least have turned a blind eye to allow the rocket fire.”

Hizbullah denied involvement in the attack.

The New York Times claims that “both [the Lebanese and Israeli] governments played down [the rockets’] significance.” Neither sovereign state appears anxious for another front to open.

Nevertheless, rockets have been fired. More will surely follow in the coming days. And Israel must defend its citizenry from the death and destruction  that inevitably come with indiscriminate rocket fire. A second front in the northern region of Israel might be days away.

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Sleepless in Tehran

One way of judging the effectiveness of the IDF’s campaign against Hamas is to observe the level of nervousness among Hamas’s allies. And with the opening this morning of a northern front — tepidly, with only three rockets — it seems that Damascus and Tehran are feeling the pressure of a Hamas defeat. This defeat is coming in both military and diplomatic forms. So far there is firm international support for a cease-fire arrangement that would prevent the reconstruction of the smuggling tunnels by which Hamas arms and funds itself. The idea is that the IDF will cripple and humiliate Hamas militarily, and the cease-fire will strangle the group into quiescence. Geographically and politically, the latter was impossible in Lebanon. In Gaza, this is not the case; it is a small territory bordered by two countries that wish to see the group destroyed. That’s why Hamas just rejected the French-Egyptian cease-fire — because the group knows that the deal being discussed would all but eliminate its ability to re-arm.

The rockets that were fired from Lebanon this morning are said to have been the work of the PFLP, and Hezbollah quickly denied any involvement. But the PFLP is closely aligned with the Syrian regime and it is thus very difficult to believe that at a time of such heightened tensions it would freelance an attack. It is especially hard to believe that it wasn’t an approved attack given that Iran’s national security adviser, Saeed Jalili, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani are both in Damascus and holding lengthy meetings with Khaled Mashaal and other high-level Hamas and Syrian officials at the Iranian embassy. (Note to the IDF: this is what’s known as a “high-value target.”)

Given the context, it is far more plausible that Tehran and Damascus wished to send a volley into Israel, but didn’t want Hezbollah’s fingerprints on the attack. So why do it? For one, it imbues the Gaza war with a new sense of uncertainty. Israel would much prefer to fight one war at a time. Second, the strike is surely intended to strengthen Hamas’ position in any cease-fire talks by injecting the proceedings with a sense of urgency. It is hoped that an unnerved Israel will be a more flexible Israel. And finally, no discussion of the Middle East would be complete without mentioning honor. Iran’s client is getting the beating of its life, and neither Hezbollah nor Syria nor Iran have done anything more than stage street demonstrations and deliver tirades. Sending a few rockets into Israel helps show that Tehran is willing to assume some risk, however meager, on behalf of its ally.

In all of this, Hezbollah is in a difficult position domestically. A new round of Hezbollah-instigated fighting with Israel is the last thing most Lebanese want right now, and would damage Hezbollah’s prospects in the parliamentary elections in May. It is important to Hezbollah to cultivate a pretense of democratic legitimacy in Lebanon, and every one of its freelanced wars with Israel erodes such perceptions. And it’s doubtful that Tehran itself wants Hezbollah involved. The Iranians would prefer to keep the group’s powder dry in case of an Israeli or American attack on the Iranian nuclear program. Hence the use of the PFLP.

The conflict now teeters between rapid escalation to Israel’s north, or an eventual cease-fire arrangement with a badly damaged Hamas. Where the conflict goes now depends on whether Tehran wishes to stand down as its client is crushed, or whether it deems such an eventuality unacceptable. Then the real war might start.

UPDATE: Tony Badran, as usual, has a very smart take on these developments.

One way of judging the effectiveness of the IDF’s campaign against Hamas is to observe the level of nervousness among Hamas’s allies. And with the opening this morning of a northern front — tepidly, with only three rockets — it seems that Damascus and Tehran are feeling the pressure of a Hamas defeat. This defeat is coming in both military and diplomatic forms. So far there is firm international support for a cease-fire arrangement that would prevent the reconstruction of the smuggling tunnels by which Hamas arms and funds itself. The idea is that the IDF will cripple and humiliate Hamas militarily, and the cease-fire will strangle the group into quiescence. Geographically and politically, the latter was impossible in Lebanon. In Gaza, this is not the case; it is a small territory bordered by two countries that wish to see the group destroyed. That’s why Hamas just rejected the French-Egyptian cease-fire — because the group knows that the deal being discussed would all but eliminate its ability to re-arm.

The rockets that were fired from Lebanon this morning are said to have been the work of the PFLP, and Hezbollah quickly denied any involvement. But the PFLP is closely aligned with the Syrian regime and it is thus very difficult to believe that at a time of such heightened tensions it would freelance an attack. It is especially hard to believe that it wasn’t an approved attack given that Iran’s national security adviser, Saeed Jalili, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani are both in Damascus and holding lengthy meetings with Khaled Mashaal and other high-level Hamas and Syrian officials at the Iranian embassy. (Note to the IDF: this is what’s known as a “high-value target.”)

Given the context, it is far more plausible that Tehran and Damascus wished to send a volley into Israel, but didn’t want Hezbollah’s fingerprints on the attack. So why do it? For one, it imbues the Gaza war with a new sense of uncertainty. Israel would much prefer to fight one war at a time. Second, the strike is surely intended to strengthen Hamas’ position in any cease-fire talks by injecting the proceedings with a sense of urgency. It is hoped that an unnerved Israel will be a more flexible Israel. And finally, no discussion of the Middle East would be complete without mentioning honor. Iran’s client is getting the beating of its life, and neither Hezbollah nor Syria nor Iran have done anything more than stage street demonstrations and deliver tirades. Sending a few rockets into Israel helps show that Tehran is willing to assume some risk, however meager, on behalf of its ally.

In all of this, Hezbollah is in a difficult position domestically. A new round of Hezbollah-instigated fighting with Israel is the last thing most Lebanese want right now, and would damage Hezbollah’s prospects in the parliamentary elections in May. It is important to Hezbollah to cultivate a pretense of democratic legitimacy in Lebanon, and every one of its freelanced wars with Israel erodes such perceptions. And it’s doubtful that Tehran itself wants Hezbollah involved. The Iranians would prefer to keep the group’s powder dry in case of an Israeli or American attack on the Iranian nuclear program. Hence the use of the PFLP.

The conflict now teeters between rapid escalation to Israel’s north, or an eventual cease-fire arrangement with a badly damaged Hamas. Where the conflict goes now depends on whether Tehran wishes to stand down as its client is crushed, or whether it deems such an eventuality unacceptable. Then the real war might start.

UPDATE: Tony Badran, as usual, has a very smart take on these developments.

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Europe’s Vital Interests

Meanwhile, back at the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash deplores Europe’s inability to act forcefully and effectively in the Gaza crisis. His analysis is as correct and compelling when it comes to Europe’s divisions as it is wrong about what Europe’s goals should be:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is Europe’s commentariat at its best (that is, worst): Garton Ash does not mention Iran even once in his article, and understands the Gaza crisis only in domestic terms. Fortunately Europe, divisions or not, is working to further its vital interests for once–at least by default and momentarily, through its failure to act according to Garton Ash’s will. By delaying any effective action in imposing a ceasefire on Israel, Europe is giving Israel more time to finish Hamas off–something that is in Europe’s ultimate interest as well.

Why does this serve Europe’s interest?There are many reasons. First, Europe has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and it can hardly object to a terrorist organization being weakened. Second, Hamas is a significant obstacle to a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a settlement which Europe believes is possible and vital.

Why saving Hamas from disgrace is a vital interest of Europe escapes me–unless one sees bringing the end of human suffering among Palestinian civilians to be “a vital interest” of Europe (but what about the suffering of Israeli civilians? And what if ending one means causing the other?). I can easily see why that should be a worthy goal and a commendable cause, but a “vital interest”? Europe lets hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die across the world without doing much–where’s Europe’s intervention in Zimbabwe, where an unchecked humanitarian crisis makes Gaza look like a Club Med?

Third, and most importantly, since Hamas has become a wholly owned Iranian franchise, and it is in Europe’s vital interest to contain Iran’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East and thwart its nuclear goals, it is in Europe’s interest to see that Iran’s proxies get a rough beating.  So Garton Ash should welcome Europe’s inability to stop Israel before it has achieved its military goals. The Israelis’ failure to deal Hamas a decisive blow would spell more problems for Europe. And European interference in the Gaza operation would do a disservice to Europe’s true vital interests.

Meanwhile, back at the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash deplores Europe’s inability to act forcefully and effectively in the Gaza crisis. His analysis is as correct and compelling when it comes to Europe’s divisions as it is wrong about what Europe’s goals should be:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is Europe’s commentariat at its best (that is, worst): Garton Ash does not mention Iran even once in his article, and understands the Gaza crisis only in domestic terms. Fortunately Europe, divisions or not, is working to further its vital interests for once–at least by default and momentarily, through its failure to act according to Garton Ash’s will. By delaying any effective action in imposing a ceasefire on Israel, Europe is giving Israel more time to finish Hamas off–something that is in Europe’s ultimate interest as well.

Why does this serve Europe’s interest?There are many reasons. First, Europe has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and it can hardly object to a terrorist organization being weakened. Second, Hamas is a significant obstacle to a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a settlement which Europe believes is possible and vital.

Why saving Hamas from disgrace is a vital interest of Europe escapes me–unless one sees bringing the end of human suffering among Palestinian civilians to be “a vital interest” of Europe (but what about the suffering of Israeli civilians? And what if ending one means causing the other?). I can easily see why that should be a worthy goal and a commendable cause, but a “vital interest”? Europe lets hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die across the world without doing much–where’s Europe’s intervention in Zimbabwe, where an unchecked humanitarian crisis makes Gaza look like a Club Med?

Third, and most importantly, since Hamas has become a wholly owned Iranian franchise, and it is in Europe’s vital interest to contain Iran’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East and thwart its nuclear goals, it is in Europe’s interest to see that Iran’s proxies get a rough beating.  So Garton Ash should welcome Europe’s inability to stop Israel before it has achieved its military goals. The Israelis’ failure to deal Hamas a decisive blow would spell more problems for Europe. And European interference in the Gaza operation would do a disservice to Europe’s true vital interests.

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Honey, Who Shrunk the Vice Presidency?

The Obama team has had a rougher week than normal, but we shouldn’t lose sight of its best decision to date: downgrading Joe Biden. He was going to be the wise counselor, but it became clear during the campaign he was the court jester (or village idiot?) — unable to stay on message, obnoxious in the extreme and lending no particular expertise to the campaign. Is it little wonder Biden is milking one last trip overseas where he can garner some attention?

Philip Terzian observes:

In fact, it may be fair to assume that Biden will be the least consequential vice president since Alben Barkley, the amiable 71-year-old Senate fixture from Kentucky, known popularly as the “Veep,” who was so underwhelmed by his four years’ service in the Truman administration that he subsequently got himself elected to the Senate again.

It is difficult to imagine either Hillary Clinton or General James Jones actively soliciting Joe Biden’s judgment in foreign affairs, or -Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers consulting Biden on the economy. Similarly, if the neophyte Obama seeks advice on politics or policy, is Biden destined to be the one to set him straight, or whip the troops into line, or populate the White House and executive branch with Biden people? Will Rahm Emanuel be expected to “clear it” with Joe?

To ask such questions is to answer them–even without laughing. Indeed, if there were any doubt about the insignificance of Joseph Biden in Barack Obama’s administration, it was answered with last week’s announcement that Biden would chair a special, cabinet-level task force to assess the conditions of American middle- and working-class families. (“Is the number of these families growing?” asks the vice president-elect. “Are they prospering?”) This is close to pure Democratic boilerplate. It might have been more entertaining to put Biden in charge of a White House council on change we can believe in, or appoint him to be the logorrhea czar, but no less humiliating.

Biden may have been better situated and more influential had he remained in the Senate. Indeed, he’ll be missed by pundits everywhere at future judicial confirmation hearings when no one will quite fill the void left by the goofy-grinned, incessantly-interrupting Delaware Senator. Well, let’s not get carried away–he might want to return some day.

For the balance of the Obama presidency he may provide definitive proof that the VP only matters three times–at his announcement, his Convention acceptance speech, and the VP debate. Let’s hope so.

The Obama team has had a rougher week than normal, but we shouldn’t lose sight of its best decision to date: downgrading Joe Biden. He was going to be the wise counselor, but it became clear during the campaign he was the court jester (or village idiot?) — unable to stay on message, obnoxious in the extreme and lending no particular expertise to the campaign. Is it little wonder Biden is milking one last trip overseas where he can garner some attention?

Philip Terzian observes:

In fact, it may be fair to assume that Biden will be the least consequential vice president since Alben Barkley, the amiable 71-year-old Senate fixture from Kentucky, known popularly as the “Veep,” who was so underwhelmed by his four years’ service in the Truman administration that he subsequently got himself elected to the Senate again.

It is difficult to imagine either Hillary Clinton or General James Jones actively soliciting Joe Biden’s judgment in foreign affairs, or -Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers consulting Biden on the economy. Similarly, if the neophyte Obama seeks advice on politics or policy, is Biden destined to be the one to set him straight, or whip the troops into line, or populate the White House and executive branch with Biden people? Will Rahm Emanuel be expected to “clear it” with Joe?

To ask such questions is to answer them–even without laughing. Indeed, if there were any doubt about the insignificance of Joseph Biden in Barack Obama’s administration, it was answered with last week’s announcement that Biden would chair a special, cabinet-level task force to assess the conditions of American middle- and working-class families. (“Is the number of these families growing?” asks the vice president-elect. “Are they prospering?”) This is close to pure Democratic boilerplate. It might have been more entertaining to put Biden in charge of a White House council on change we can believe in, or appoint him to be the logorrhea czar, but no less humiliating.

Biden may have been better situated and more influential had he remained in the Senate. Indeed, he’ll be missed by pundits everywhere at future judicial confirmation hearings when no one will quite fill the void left by the goofy-grinned, incessantly-interrupting Delaware Senator. Well, let’s not get carried away–he might want to return some day.

For the balance of the Obama presidency he may provide definitive proof that the VP only matters three times–at his announcement, his Convention acceptance speech, and the VP debate. Let’s hope so.

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Not Following the Talking Points Part Three

Like Adam Schiff and Robert Wexler, Barney Frank is another liberal Democrat and steadfast congressional supporter of Israel who was endorsed by J Street. And like his Democratic colleagues, Frank is completely and utterly at odds with the pacifist leanings of that organization and its hostility to Israeli sovereignty and self-defense. Here is a portion of the statement he released on December 31st:

This use of Gaza as a base from which to attack Israel left Israel with no choice except self defense, particularly after Hamas refused to continue the imperfectly observed ceasefire, and made clear its intention to resume attacks.

As it exercises this right of self defense, it is important for Israel to make clear its willingness to accept a genuine ceasefire–meaning an end to attacks from Gaza, and also Israel’s continuing commitment to a two state solution negotiated with Palestinians genuinely committed to that goal.

According to Frank, Israel had “no choice” but to launch Operation Cast Lead, a far cry from J Street’s suggested solution of Israel sitting there and taking it. Unsurprisingly, like those of Wexler and Schiff, Frank’s comments are not on J Street’s website, presumably because they are not sufficiently condemnatory of Israel and because Frank, that infamous neoconservative, refused to draw a moral equivalence between the war crimes of an Islamic supremacist gang that throws people off of buildings and a democratic state that risks the lives of its soldiers so as to minimize civilian casualties.

Frank went further in an interview with New England Cable News, and I’m excerpting his remarks at length not only because they are a brilliant distillation of the situation (and of the nuttiness of J Street’s prescriptions), but because they sound not altogether different from the “neocon Likudniks” J Street and its capitulationist supporters frequently malign.

Reporter: …I want to talk, first about the situation in the Middle East, a happening situation right now. It continues to develop. Three hundred more people dead as a result of Israel [pause] sending in, ah, air attacks into the Gaza strip. …[Livni clip]…Now we’ve heard the President of the United States, George Bush, call on Hamas to stop its attacks before any kind of process can begin here. What’s your impression of what’s going on over there, and what needs to be done?

Rep. Frank: Well, I essentially agree with that. It’s a terrible thing to have happen but I think Americans ought to think about this frankly, as analogous to what we did in Afghanistan…

But Congress voted with only one dissent in the House and none in the Senate to go to war with Afghanistan and what we did in Afghanistan is analogous to what Israel is doing in Gaza, namely, responding to that area where people were attacking us. America went to Afghanistan because Osama Bin Laden had been murdering people from Afghanistan, attacking America. We said to the Afghan government, “Give him up.” They refused. I then voted to go to war…

Israel under Ariel Sharon, a great hawk, withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and said lets have some negotiations. People then took over in Gaza who say they shouldn’t be in Israel and who said we have a right to attack it whenever we want to and who in fact had been firing rockets into Israel.

And I don’t think frankly if this had been Mexico or Ontario, firing rockets into America, that we would have sat back. Now I think that’s unfortunate. I do think Israel should be accompanying this by making clear that it’s ready to make peace. They should be at this point even more dismantling settlements in the West Bank where they have a more reasonable group of Palestinians to deal with.

Reporter: Do you think that will come?

Rep. Frank: I hope it will…But, ah, here’s a country, and remember that had been at truce and Hamas said, “no more truce,” and began to fire rockets into Israel. I don’t think America would sit back and not retaliate and they did; look, unfortunately in war, not unfortunately, tragically some civilians get killed. Israel does seem to have done a better job here frankly then we’ve done in Afghanistan in targeting combatants. They were aiming at the people who were firing the rockets and providing the physical security for the rocketeers.”

Frank draws a direct analogy between the near-universal support among Americans for the war against the Taliban and Israel’s current operation against Hamas. That would make J Street the Barbara Lee of American Jewish politics. As I wondered about Schiff and Wexler, why did Frank accept the endorsement of this organization, and why has he not renounced its support?

The only way that the J Street crowd can believe its pretension of representing the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews and their allies,” as Jeremy Ben-Ami once had the gall to claim, is by lying to themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Like Adam Schiff and Robert Wexler, Barney Frank is another liberal Democrat and steadfast congressional supporter of Israel who was endorsed by J Street. And like his Democratic colleagues, Frank is completely and utterly at odds with the pacifist leanings of that organization and its hostility to Israeli sovereignty and self-defense. Here is a portion of the statement he released on December 31st:

This use of Gaza as a base from which to attack Israel left Israel with no choice except self defense, particularly after Hamas refused to continue the imperfectly observed ceasefire, and made clear its intention to resume attacks.

As it exercises this right of self defense, it is important for Israel to make clear its willingness to accept a genuine ceasefire–meaning an end to attacks from Gaza, and also Israel’s continuing commitment to a two state solution negotiated with Palestinians genuinely committed to that goal.

According to Frank, Israel had “no choice” but to launch Operation Cast Lead, a far cry from J Street’s suggested solution of Israel sitting there and taking it. Unsurprisingly, like those of Wexler and Schiff, Frank’s comments are not on J Street’s website, presumably because they are not sufficiently condemnatory of Israel and because Frank, that infamous neoconservative, refused to draw a moral equivalence between the war crimes of an Islamic supremacist gang that throws people off of buildings and a democratic state that risks the lives of its soldiers so as to minimize civilian casualties.

Frank went further in an interview with New England Cable News, and I’m excerpting his remarks at length not only because they are a brilliant distillation of the situation (and of the nuttiness of J Street’s prescriptions), but because they sound not altogether different from the “neocon Likudniks” J Street and its capitulationist supporters frequently malign.

Reporter: …I want to talk, first about the situation in the Middle East, a happening situation right now. It continues to develop. Three hundred more people dead as a result of Israel [pause] sending in, ah, air attacks into the Gaza strip. …[Livni clip]…Now we’ve heard the President of the United States, George Bush, call on Hamas to stop its attacks before any kind of process can begin here. What’s your impression of what’s going on over there, and what needs to be done?

Rep. Frank: Well, I essentially agree with that. It’s a terrible thing to have happen but I think Americans ought to think about this frankly, as analogous to what we did in Afghanistan…

But Congress voted with only one dissent in the House and none in the Senate to go to war with Afghanistan and what we did in Afghanistan is analogous to what Israel is doing in Gaza, namely, responding to that area where people were attacking us. America went to Afghanistan because Osama Bin Laden had been murdering people from Afghanistan, attacking America. We said to the Afghan government, “Give him up.” They refused. I then voted to go to war…

Israel under Ariel Sharon, a great hawk, withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and said lets have some negotiations. People then took over in Gaza who say they shouldn’t be in Israel and who said we have a right to attack it whenever we want to and who in fact had been firing rockets into Israel.

And I don’t think frankly if this had been Mexico or Ontario, firing rockets into America, that we would have sat back. Now I think that’s unfortunate. I do think Israel should be accompanying this by making clear that it’s ready to make peace. They should be at this point even more dismantling settlements in the West Bank where they have a more reasonable group of Palestinians to deal with.

Reporter: Do you think that will come?

Rep. Frank: I hope it will…But, ah, here’s a country, and remember that had been at truce and Hamas said, “no more truce,” and began to fire rockets into Israel. I don’t think America would sit back and not retaliate and they did; look, unfortunately in war, not unfortunately, tragically some civilians get killed. Israel does seem to have done a better job here frankly then we’ve done in Afghanistan in targeting combatants. They were aiming at the people who were firing the rockets and providing the physical security for the rocketeers.”

Frank draws a direct analogy between the near-universal support among Americans for the war against the Taliban and Israel’s current operation against Hamas. That would make J Street the Barbara Lee of American Jewish politics. As I wondered about Schiff and Wexler, why did Frank accept the endorsement of this organization, and why has he not renounced its support?

The only way that the J Street crowd can believe its pretension of representing the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews and their allies,” as Jeremy Ben-Ami once had the gall to claim, is by lying to themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Where’s the Deficit Outrage?

I’ve always thought that alarmist talk about the federal budget deficit was largely partisan posturing, and I’m not all that worked up about deficits we will obviously incur in the years ahead.  But I was struck this morning when Barack Obama candidly and unapologetically said  his stimulus plan will expand the federal budget deficit.

There will be no shortage of conservatives and libertarians who jump all over the Obama Administration’s spending for the next several months.  But where are all the self-appointed Democratic budget hawks who have been shouting “fire” these last eight years?

Remember Alice Rivlin, Clinton’s budget chief?  A year ago she told the Washington Post that Bush’s legacy “is having blown an opportunity to ameliorate the long-run budget deficits.”  Two years earlier, Brookings budget watchdog Isabel Sawhill was even more dramatic when she complained about “bequeathing a fiscal mess of biblical proportions.”

Paul Krugman saw the federal deficit as a character flaw: “As a drunk is to alcohol, the Bush administration is to budget deficits,” he wrote in 2003.  Apparently the argument hasn’t lost any of its freshness. Only a few months ago, Thomas Friedman was still making the same case.  “Under George W. Bush, America has foisted onto future generations a huge financial burden to finance our current tax cuts, wars and now bailouts,” he intoned.  It’s not just the liberal columnists, either.  Remember how Tim Russert used to trot out his Bush deficit chart to embarrass whatever Republican was foolish enough to go on his show.  Or look back at this sanctimonious conversation between Pete Peterson and CNN’s resident blowhard Jack Cafferty.

Finding these angry, self-righteous condemnations of the Bush budget deficits is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Just Google “mortgaging our children’s future,” “assault on our grandchildren,” “burdening future generations” or any of the other favorite hackneyed phrases used by the Bush haters who transformed themselves into pious priests of austerity during the past eight years.

The obvious question:  how much will we hear from them in the coming year?  Are they wringing their hands about the budget consequences of the Obama?  If so, they are doing it very quietly.

I’ve always thought that alarmist talk about the federal budget deficit was largely partisan posturing, and I’m not all that worked up about deficits we will obviously incur in the years ahead.  But I was struck this morning when Barack Obama candidly and unapologetically said  his stimulus plan will expand the federal budget deficit.

There will be no shortage of conservatives and libertarians who jump all over the Obama Administration’s spending for the next several months.  But where are all the self-appointed Democratic budget hawks who have been shouting “fire” these last eight years?

Remember Alice Rivlin, Clinton’s budget chief?  A year ago she told the Washington Post that Bush’s legacy “is having blown an opportunity to ameliorate the long-run budget deficits.”  Two years earlier, Brookings budget watchdog Isabel Sawhill was even more dramatic when she complained about “bequeathing a fiscal mess of biblical proportions.”

Paul Krugman saw the federal deficit as a character flaw: “As a drunk is to alcohol, the Bush administration is to budget deficits,” he wrote in 2003.  Apparently the argument hasn’t lost any of its freshness. Only a few months ago, Thomas Friedman was still making the same case.  “Under George W. Bush, America has foisted onto future generations a huge financial burden to finance our current tax cuts, wars and now bailouts,” he intoned.  It’s not just the liberal columnists, either.  Remember how Tim Russert used to trot out his Bush deficit chart to embarrass whatever Republican was foolish enough to go on his show.  Or look back at this sanctimonious conversation between Pete Peterson and CNN’s resident blowhard Jack Cafferty.

Finding these angry, self-righteous condemnations of the Bush budget deficits is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Just Google “mortgaging our children’s future,” “assault on our grandchildren,” “burdening future generations” or any of the other favorite hackneyed phrases used by the Bush haters who transformed themselves into pious priests of austerity during the past eight years.

The obvious question:  how much will we hear from them in the coming year?  Are they wringing their hands about the budget consequences of the Obama?  If so, they are doing it very quietly.

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Change Defined

Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.

Barack Obama’s upcoming speech, planned to be delivered today, on the economy:

“It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe,” he plans to say. “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.”

Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.

Barack Obama’s upcoming speech, planned to be delivered today, on the economy:

“It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe,” he plans to say. “Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.”

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Re: Joe the Plumber: War Correspondent?

Eric, you wrote:

Indeed, by sending Joe Wurzelbacher to the Middle East, pjtv.com may be taking its assault against the MSM too far.  It is sending the message that anyone-which is precisely what “Joe the Plumber” came to symbolize during the 2008 presidential election-can cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more competently than the MSM.  To be sure, this is an amusing proposition.

I think it’s closer to a proven fact. And considering that Joe–who had “no known qualifications for actually covering” the 2008 election–got straight to the heart of Barack Obama’s worrisome economic disposition (while the MSM weighed in with their chills, thrills, and shivers), it’s hard to imagine a more suitable “anyone” for the job. Frankly, if there’s anything we can afford less of in discussing the Middle East it’s “expertise.” Particularly of the academic variety that gave us the credentialed Walt and Mearsheimer. I, for one, am looking forward to Joe’s  perspective.

Eric, you wrote:

Indeed, by sending Joe Wurzelbacher to the Middle East, pjtv.com may be taking its assault against the MSM too far.  It is sending the message that anyone-which is precisely what “Joe the Plumber” came to symbolize during the 2008 presidential election-can cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more competently than the MSM.  To be sure, this is an amusing proposition.

I think it’s closer to a proven fact. And considering that Joe–who had “no known qualifications for actually covering” the 2008 election–got straight to the heart of Barack Obama’s worrisome economic disposition (while the MSM weighed in with their chills, thrills, and shivers), it’s hard to imagine a more suitable “anyone” for the job. Frankly, if there’s anything we can afford less of in discussing the Middle East it’s “expertise.” Particularly of the academic variety that gave us the credentialed Walt and Mearsheimer. I, for one, am looking forward to Joe’s  perspective.

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Joe the Plumber: War Correspondent?

If you’re a frequent reader of CONTENTIONS–or of any other political blog–chances are you don’t entirely trust the mainstream media (MSM).  Indeed, blogs have emerged as prominent resources for news and analysis in response to the many failings of traditional news outlets, which have been discredited for their not-so-hidden biases and, at times, galling errors.  In recent years, alternative media have successfully challenged MSM supremacy: the MSM relies on certain independent websites for news tips, and blogs are now seen as more reliable indicators of public opinion than newspaper editorial pages.

But despite these critical gains vis-à-vis the MSM, I’m forced to wonder whether one alternative media outlet is about to go too far.  At least that’s my immediate reaction to news that Joe Wurzelbacher–i.e., “Joe the Plumber”–will be heading to Israel as a war correspondent for pjtv.com.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m more than certain that Joe can have an opinion on the news that is as valid and clearly stated as anything that the Maureen Dowds and Bob Herberts of the world can produce.  (This is, after all, the underlying logic of alternative media from which all bloggers-myself included-benefit.)  Still, Joe has no known qualifications for actually covering the Middle East, and it is therefore impossible to imagine how he might advance Americans’ understanding of the fighting in Gaza (which Israel has prevented correspondents from visiting, in any event).

More likely, it seems as though Joe will only contribute to the very problem that so many in the blogosphere have harped on for so long-namely, that Middle East reporters frequently arrive in the region with no frame of reference and/or obscene biases.  Indeed, will Joe be any more capable than the average MSM correspondent of reading an Israeli newspaper; or interpreting a mosque sermon on Palestinian television; or assessing the strategic significance of a given Israeli operation or Hamas rocket-attack?  It seems highly improbable, to say the least.  And then there’s his prior claim that a vote for Barack Obama is a “vote for the death of Israel” – is this the kind of thing that credible reporters typically say?

Indeed, by sending Joe Wurzelbacher to the Middle East, pjtv.com may be taking its assault against the MSM too far.  It is sending the message that anyone-which is precisely what “Joe the Plumber” came to symbolize during the 2008 presidential election-can cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more competently than the MSM.  To be sure, this is an amusing proposition.  But if tested, a failure could discredit an important alternative-media outlet in the process.

If you’re a frequent reader of CONTENTIONS–or of any other political blog–chances are you don’t entirely trust the mainstream media (MSM).  Indeed, blogs have emerged as prominent resources for news and analysis in response to the many failings of traditional news outlets, which have been discredited for their not-so-hidden biases and, at times, galling errors.  In recent years, alternative media have successfully challenged MSM supremacy: the MSM relies on certain independent websites for news tips, and blogs are now seen as more reliable indicators of public opinion than newspaper editorial pages.

But despite these critical gains vis-à-vis the MSM, I’m forced to wonder whether one alternative media outlet is about to go too far.  At least that’s my immediate reaction to news that Joe Wurzelbacher–i.e., “Joe the Plumber”–will be heading to Israel as a war correspondent for pjtv.com.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m more than certain that Joe can have an opinion on the news that is as valid and clearly stated as anything that the Maureen Dowds and Bob Herberts of the world can produce.  (This is, after all, the underlying logic of alternative media from which all bloggers-myself included-benefit.)  Still, Joe has no known qualifications for actually covering the Middle East, and it is therefore impossible to imagine how he might advance Americans’ understanding of the fighting in Gaza (which Israel has prevented correspondents from visiting, in any event).

More likely, it seems as though Joe will only contribute to the very problem that so many in the blogosphere have harped on for so long-namely, that Middle East reporters frequently arrive in the region with no frame of reference and/or obscene biases.  Indeed, will Joe be any more capable than the average MSM correspondent of reading an Israeli newspaper; or interpreting a mosque sermon on Palestinian television; or assessing the strategic significance of a given Israeli operation or Hamas rocket-attack?  It seems highly improbable, to say the least.  And then there’s his prior claim that a vote for Barack Obama is a “vote for the death of Israel” – is this the kind of thing that credible reporters typically say?

Indeed, by sending Joe Wurzelbacher to the Middle East, pjtv.com may be taking its assault against the MSM too far.  It is sending the message that anyone-which is precisely what “Joe the Plumber” came to symbolize during the 2008 presidential election-can cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more competently than the MSM.  To be sure, this is an amusing proposition.  But if tested, a failure could discredit an important alternative-media outlet in the process.

Read Less




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