Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 15, 2009

The Doctrine of Fakism

Have you heard the news? The foreign policy realists are here. No more of that silly worldview stuff for us. On Tuesday, during her Senate confirmation hearing, Hillary Clinton set the record straight:

The President-Elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. Our security, our vitality, and our ability to lead in today’s world oblige us to recognize the overwhelming fact of our interdependence.

“Interdependence” played a big role in Clinton’s speech. So did diplomacy. Once again, speaking for both herself and Barack Obama, Hillary outlined the new direction of the coming foreign policy:

The President-Elect has made it clear that in the Obama Administration there will be no doubt about the leading role of diplomacy. One need only look to North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, and the Balkans to appreciate the absolute necessity of tough-minded, intelligent diplomacy – and the failures that result when that kind of diplomatic effort is absent. And one need only consider the assortment of problems we must tackle in 2009 – from fighting terrorism to climate change to global financial crises – to understand the importance of cooperative engagement.

But the real star of the show was “smart power”:

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Have you heard the news? The foreign policy realists are here. No more of that silly worldview stuff for us. On Tuesday, during her Senate confirmation hearing, Hillary Clinton set the record straight:

The President-Elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology. On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. Our security, our vitality, and our ability to lead in today’s world oblige us to recognize the overwhelming fact of our interdependence.

“Interdependence” played a big role in Clinton’s speech. So did diplomacy. Once again, speaking for both herself and Barack Obama, Hillary outlined the new direction of the coming foreign policy:

The President-Elect has made it clear that in the Obama Administration there will be no doubt about the leading role of diplomacy. One need only look to North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, and the Balkans to appreciate the absolute necessity of tough-minded, intelligent diplomacy – and the failures that result when that kind of diplomatic effort is absent. And one need only consider the assortment of problems we must tackle in 2009 – from fighting terrorism to climate change to global financial crises – to understand the importance of cooperative engagement.

But the real star of the show was “smart power”:

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Read Less

Commentary of the Day

KzoKnight, on Jennifer Rubin:

It’s disappointing to see how many people like John Hartman feel such a passionate hate for George Bush they can’t even break outside of their emotions to understand what’s going on in the world today. But the fact is people who believe George Bush “did his very best to ruin the country” are indeed a minority, as evidenced by the new poll showing that 74% of Americans believe George Bush is a good person. People like Hartman don’t understand what approval ratings really measure, and most of them aren’t aware that approval ratings of Congress are just as low partly as a consequence of the challenges we currently face.

It’ll be awhile before history can render an objective judgment, but I agree with those of you who speculate Bush will be remembered as a hero for the courageous stand he took in Iraq and Afghanistan, and depending on how long it takes the economy to bounce back, his management of our economy is more likely to be his Achilles heel.

KzoKnight, on Jennifer Rubin:

It’s disappointing to see how many people like John Hartman feel such a passionate hate for George Bush they can’t even break outside of their emotions to understand what’s going on in the world today. But the fact is people who believe George Bush “did his very best to ruin the country” are indeed a minority, as evidenced by the new poll showing that 74% of Americans believe George Bush is a good person. People like Hartman don’t understand what approval ratings really measure, and most of them aren’t aware that approval ratings of Congress are just as low partly as a consequence of the challenges we currently face.

It’ll be awhile before history can render an objective judgment, but I agree with those of you who speculate Bush will be remembered as a hero for the courageous stand he took in Iraq and Afghanistan, and depending on how long it takes the economy to bounce back, his management of our economy is more likely to be his Achilles heel.

Read Less

Cambridge City Council Oversteps Its Boundaries

Three days ago the city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts passed a resolution regarding the recent events in Gaza. One should read the whole resolution to appreciate its utter absurdity, but to summarize, it calls for an “end to all attacks on civilians on both sides” and includes some extra sprinkles of criticism for Israel.

It then goes on to advise the United States federal government on several measures that ought be taken with regard to the conflict. Finally, it calls for the City Clerk to send a copy of the resolution to “President Bush, President-elect Obama, the Secretaries of State and Defense” and “to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, together with a request that the congressional delegation take action on this issue and communicate to the Cambridge City Council what action was taken.”

It shouldn’t surprise any of us that the city of Cambridge would be significantly more critical of Israel’s defensive military actions than of the rocket attacks raining from the Gaza strip into innocent Israeli towns. Nor should it surprise us that the city council effectively defines Israeli military actions as intentionally targeting civilians. And indeed, it shouldn’t surprise us that nowhere in the resolution is Hamas even mentioned.

But where does the Cambridge City Council come off even discussing such a resolution? A nine-person city council, representing a population of just over 100,000 people (making it only the fifth-largest city in the state of Massachusetts), has no business passing a resolution on events taking place in another country 6,000 miles away. The resolution has absolutely nothing to do with the city of Cambridge.

The Harvard Crimson had a front-page article about it two days ago, quoting various city-council members who were critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the Middle-East situation, and expressing confidence that the Obama administration would “respond to our resolution and will respond to the conflict with a great deal of energy and creativity and determination.”

My hunch is that President-elect Obama will not have the time or patience to address the impotent product of nine bureaucratic pikers. That the city council believes Obama and the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation care to respond to such a resolution only serves to show how audacious hope can actually be.

Three days ago the city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts passed a resolution regarding the recent events in Gaza. One should read the whole resolution to appreciate its utter absurdity, but to summarize, it calls for an “end to all attacks on civilians on both sides” and includes some extra sprinkles of criticism for Israel.

It then goes on to advise the United States federal government on several measures that ought be taken with regard to the conflict. Finally, it calls for the City Clerk to send a copy of the resolution to “President Bush, President-elect Obama, the Secretaries of State and Defense” and “to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, together with a request that the congressional delegation take action on this issue and communicate to the Cambridge City Council what action was taken.”

It shouldn’t surprise any of us that the city of Cambridge would be significantly more critical of Israel’s defensive military actions than of the rocket attacks raining from the Gaza strip into innocent Israeli towns. Nor should it surprise us that the city council effectively defines Israeli military actions as intentionally targeting civilians. And indeed, it shouldn’t surprise us that nowhere in the resolution is Hamas even mentioned.

But where does the Cambridge City Council come off even discussing such a resolution? A nine-person city council, representing a population of just over 100,000 people (making it only the fifth-largest city in the state of Massachusetts), has no business passing a resolution on events taking place in another country 6,000 miles away. The resolution has absolutely nothing to do with the city of Cambridge.

The Harvard Crimson had a front-page article about it two days ago, quoting various city-council members who were critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the Middle-East situation, and expressing confidence that the Obama administration would “respond to our resolution and will respond to the conflict with a great deal of energy and creativity and determination.”

My hunch is that President-elect Obama will not have the time or patience to address the impotent product of nine bureaucratic pikers. That the city council believes Obama and the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation care to respond to such a resolution only serves to show how audacious hope can actually be.

Read Less

Is The Gaza War Ending?

The Israeli media is reporting that the war in Gaza will come to an end during the next 72 hours to allow Egypt to finish brokering an arrangement between Israel, Hamas, and Fatah.

The sources said that the renewed lull will last at least a year, and is expected to last even longer. According to the sources, a “weakened” Hamas will agree to a longer lull in order to recover from the current conflict.

…the agreement is expected to provide an answer to the Israeli demands in terms of the smuggling issue, the rocket fire and a serious discussion on the Shalit issue.

Hamas will gain the reopening of the crossings, the removal of the blockade and an official role at the crossings. Abbas will receive renewed access to the Strip, only at the crossings at first, and Egypt will be able to open the Rafah crossing.

Translation: Hamas comes away from the fight bloodied but able to declare — like Hezbollah — that it survived its encounter with the IDF, and in fact won important concessions.

In the coming months, images of the destruction the IDF has inflicted on Hamas will fade while the strategic fallout from the war comes into stark relief: Hamas will be able to say, with perfect credibility, that it continued firing rockets at Israel — many of them long-range Grads — throughout the war. Almost the entirety of Hamas’ top leadership survived, although the use of the word “survived” is inappropriate because Israel apparently made no attempt to eliminate them: they enjoyed the war from the comfort of bunkers under Shifa hospital in Gaza City, their location known the entire time to the IDF. Most damningly, Hamas’ central goals in the war — holding onto Gilad Shalit, lifting the Israeli blockade, and coercing Israeli and Egyptian acceptance of Hamas’ rule in Gaza — will have been accomplished.

I cannot recall any military power in human history prepared to make so many concessions to an enemy it has routed on the battlefield, or that suspends a military campaign in the midst of its success, rescuing a mortal and implacable enemy from defeat and humiliation. It is hard to envision how Israel will survive as a nation when its political leaders are more afraid of victory than of defeat.

The Israeli media is reporting that the war in Gaza will come to an end during the next 72 hours to allow Egypt to finish brokering an arrangement between Israel, Hamas, and Fatah.

The sources said that the renewed lull will last at least a year, and is expected to last even longer. According to the sources, a “weakened” Hamas will agree to a longer lull in order to recover from the current conflict.

…the agreement is expected to provide an answer to the Israeli demands in terms of the smuggling issue, the rocket fire and a serious discussion on the Shalit issue.

Hamas will gain the reopening of the crossings, the removal of the blockade and an official role at the crossings. Abbas will receive renewed access to the Strip, only at the crossings at first, and Egypt will be able to open the Rafah crossing.

Translation: Hamas comes away from the fight bloodied but able to declare — like Hezbollah — that it survived its encounter with the IDF, and in fact won important concessions.

In the coming months, images of the destruction the IDF has inflicted on Hamas will fade while the strategic fallout from the war comes into stark relief: Hamas will be able to say, with perfect credibility, that it continued firing rockets at Israel — many of them long-range Grads — throughout the war. Almost the entirety of Hamas’ top leadership survived, although the use of the word “survived” is inappropriate because Israel apparently made no attempt to eliminate them: they enjoyed the war from the comfort of bunkers under Shifa hospital in Gaza City, their location known the entire time to the IDF. Most damningly, Hamas’ central goals in the war — holding onto Gilad Shalit, lifting the Israeli blockade, and coercing Israeli and Egyptian acceptance of Hamas’ rule in Gaza — will have been accomplished.

I cannot recall any military power in human history prepared to make so many concessions to an enemy it has routed on the battlefield, or that suspends a military campaign in the midst of its success, rescuing a mortal and implacable enemy from defeat and humiliation. It is hard to envision how Israel will survive as a nation when its political leaders are more afraid of victory than of defeat.

Read Less

Holder Hearing

For much of the day the Eric Holder confirmation hearing was a  sleepy affair. Early on there was some minimal questioning on the Marc Rich (with appropriate contrition) and the FALN terrorist pardons (less apologetic on that front), but frankly the questioning was unfocused and ineffective. The highlights: Holder’s admission that DC v. Heller leaves little room for gun regulation, and his extreme position that even if tens of thousands of Americans lives were at risk he would not waterboard a terrorist. ( Is he serious?)

Late in the day however Sen. Grassley pushed Holder on the Marc Rich pardon. Holder sought to deny that his actions helped get the pardon through.  His claim that he didn’t do anything “affirmatively” to make the pardon happen is belied by the record, I think. (There is credible evidence that he directed Rich to find his lawyer, provided that lawyer with advice, steered them around the Justice Department and gave them a “neutral, leaning favorable” recommendation.)

Sen. Specter then followed up with some fairly sharp queries. Holder denied that he had aided Rich’s attorney or ever received a briefing on the facts. Specter laced into him about overriding the career attorney’s recommendation on the FALN terrorists, but Holder insisted he was just telling his subordinate to “do his job.” It is unclear if Specter changed any minds, but at least things perked up.

For much of the day the Eric Holder confirmation hearing was a  sleepy affair. Early on there was some minimal questioning on the Marc Rich (with appropriate contrition) and the FALN terrorist pardons (less apologetic on that front), but frankly the questioning was unfocused and ineffective. The highlights: Holder’s admission that DC v. Heller leaves little room for gun regulation, and his extreme position that even if tens of thousands of Americans lives were at risk he would not waterboard a terrorist. ( Is he serious?)

Late in the day however Sen. Grassley pushed Holder on the Marc Rich pardon. Holder sought to deny that his actions helped get the pardon through.  His claim that he didn’t do anything “affirmatively” to make the pardon happen is belied by the record, I think. (There is credible evidence that he directed Rich to find his lawyer, provided that lawyer with advice, steered them around the Justice Department and gave them a “neutral, leaning favorable” recommendation.)

Sen. Specter then followed up with some fairly sharp queries. Holder denied that he had aided Rich’s attorney or ever received a briefing on the facts. Specter laced into him about overriding the career attorney’s recommendation on the FALN terrorists, but Holder insisted he was just telling his subordinate to “do his job.” It is unclear if Specter changed any minds, but at least things perked up.

Read Less

Anti-Semitism Rising at Penn State

Here is how Pennsylvania State University’s Daily Collegian described yesterday’s student protest of the war in Gaza:

Waving vibrant Palestinian flags and holding head-turning signs, students and community members gathered Wednesday at the Allen Street gates to protest the conflict in Gaza.

About 20 protesters braved frigid weather to brandish signs such as “You can’t bomb a resistance out of existence” and “Use tax $$$ for jobs, not bombs in Gaza.”

Chants of “Free, free Palestine” echoed in the street and protesters passed around a megaphone, loudly declaring their beliefs.

“We will not allow the media and government to brainwash people into believing that some lives are more important and valuable than others,” shouted a female demonstrator.

But on the social networking website Facebook.com, the event was advertised in a manner more revealing of the group’s true aims:

As many of you may already know, the people of Gaza are undergoing a massacre at the hands of their Israeli oppressors. For the past two weeks, Israel has been continuously attacking the strip in its insane attempt at annihilating Hamas, the beacon of the Palestinian resistance.

In the process of doing this, not only have they killed hundreds of our brothers in arms, but they also have indiscriminately massacred civilians. The death toll is already more than 700, dozens of whom are civilians, making it one of the bloodiest, most inhumane episodes in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

So, according to Students for Justice in Palestine — the sponsoring group — Hamas is “the beacon of the Palestinian resistance.” This student group, which pretends to “promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people,” regards the terrorist group as its “brother in arms.”

This is nothing short of sickening.

Here is how Pennsylvania State University’s Daily Collegian described yesterday’s student protest of the war in Gaza:

Waving vibrant Palestinian flags and holding head-turning signs, students and community members gathered Wednesday at the Allen Street gates to protest the conflict in Gaza.

About 20 protesters braved frigid weather to brandish signs such as “You can’t bomb a resistance out of existence” and “Use tax $$$ for jobs, not bombs in Gaza.”

Chants of “Free, free Palestine” echoed in the street and protesters passed around a megaphone, loudly declaring their beliefs.

“We will not allow the media and government to brainwash people into believing that some lives are more important and valuable than others,” shouted a female demonstrator.

But on the social networking website Facebook.com, the event was advertised in a manner more revealing of the group’s true aims:

As many of you may already know, the people of Gaza are undergoing a massacre at the hands of their Israeli oppressors. For the past two weeks, Israel has been continuously attacking the strip in its insane attempt at annihilating Hamas, the beacon of the Palestinian resistance.

In the process of doing this, not only have they killed hundreds of our brothers in arms, but they also have indiscriminately massacred civilians. The death toll is already more than 700, dozens of whom are civilians, making it one of the bloodiest, most inhumane episodes in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

So, according to Students for Justice in Palestine — the sponsoring group — Hamas is “the beacon of the Palestinian resistance.” This student group, which pretends to “promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people,” regards the terrorist group as its “brother in arms.”

This is nothing short of sickening.

Read Less

A Different Electorate

Virginia will be the focus of much national attention this year with a hotly contested race for governor. At stake are national party-bragging rights and “the storyline.” We’ll get a preliminary answer to the question: “Has Barack Obama permanently changed the political make-up of a formerly Red state or was his victory unique and personal?”

We got a small clue this week: House of Delegate Brian Moran resigned his seat to run in the Democratic primary for governor. A hastily arranged special election was held with a shocking result, as the Washington Post reported:

Democrat Charniele Herring held a minuscule lead over Republican opponent Joe Murray in a special House election yesterday in the Alexandria area, according to unofficial results.

Herring, a lawyer, led Murray by 16 votes, with all precincts reporting, and election officials were meeting last night to review the tallies. Murray, a Republican congressional aide, said he had not decided whether to seek a recount. “We’re not conceding,” he said.

The surprisingly close race in the heavily Democratic 46th House District capped a harried month of campaigning for a seat left open when Brian Moran stepped down to run full time for governor. It was seen by some as an embarrassing stumble by Alexandria Democrats. President-elect Barack Obama won the city with 72 percent of the vote.

There will, in fact, be a recount, and the House of Delegate has refused to seat Herring until that is completed. So what does this mean? I think the lesson is that turnout and voter composition mean a lot. If the gubernatorial election is a repeat of 2008, with huge African-American and young voter turnout, then the Democrats are in good shape. But we know from this test run that voters don’t turn out in off-year elections the way they do for presidential contests, especially one-in-a-lifetime historic ones like 2008. Certainly a rushed special election with tiny turnout won’t be the model for 2009′s gubernatorial run. But neither, I suspect, will the presidential turnout be a reliable indicator of the electorate for a gubernatorial race with no African American in the contest.

This means that Republicans will need to rebuild their decrepit party-organization and turn out their voters. And Democrats taking the 2008 presidential-race electorate for granted should think twice. It may be a whole new ballgame.

Virginia will be the focus of much national attention this year with a hotly contested race for governor. At stake are national party-bragging rights and “the storyline.” We’ll get a preliminary answer to the question: “Has Barack Obama permanently changed the political make-up of a formerly Red state or was his victory unique and personal?”

We got a small clue this week: House of Delegate Brian Moran resigned his seat to run in the Democratic primary for governor. A hastily arranged special election was held with a shocking result, as the Washington Post reported:

Democrat Charniele Herring held a minuscule lead over Republican opponent Joe Murray in a special House election yesterday in the Alexandria area, according to unofficial results.

Herring, a lawyer, led Murray by 16 votes, with all precincts reporting, and election officials were meeting last night to review the tallies. Murray, a Republican congressional aide, said he had not decided whether to seek a recount. “We’re not conceding,” he said.

The surprisingly close race in the heavily Democratic 46th House District capped a harried month of campaigning for a seat left open when Brian Moran stepped down to run full time for governor. It was seen by some as an embarrassing stumble by Alexandria Democrats. President-elect Barack Obama won the city with 72 percent of the vote.

There will, in fact, be a recount, and the House of Delegate has refused to seat Herring until that is completed. So what does this mean? I think the lesson is that turnout and voter composition mean a lot. If the gubernatorial election is a repeat of 2008, with huge African-American and young voter turnout, then the Democrats are in good shape. But we know from this test run that voters don’t turn out in off-year elections the way they do for presidential contests, especially one-in-a-lifetime historic ones like 2008. Certainly a rushed special election with tiny turnout won’t be the model for 2009′s gubernatorial run. But neither, I suspect, will the presidential turnout be a reliable indicator of the electorate for a gubernatorial race with no African American in the contest.

This means that Republicans will need to rebuild their decrepit party-organization and turn out their voters. And Democrats taking the 2008 presidential-race electorate for granted should think twice. It may be a whole new ballgame.

Read Less

Al Beijing

Beijing is planning to push its largest media organizations to expand abroad with the goal of disseminating China’s message to a global audience.  On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that the Ministry of Finance will be supporting the plan with about 45 billion yuan-about $6.6 billion-in grants and subsidies.  The primary beneficiaries of the largesse will be state-broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, and state-run Xinhua News Agency.  The goal will be to “better convey a good image of China to the world.”

To accomplish this task, Xinhua will almost double the number of its bureaus so that it will have offices in almost every country, CCTV will add Russian and Arabic channels, and People’s Daily will launch an English-language edition of its Global Times tabloid.  Most ambitious of all is Xinhua’s plan to begin a worldwide 24-hour news channel on the model of Al Jazeera.

Should the United States grant access to the new Xinhua channel?  Perhaps we should ask a broader question: Should we allow any Chinese media-television programming, books, newspapers, or magazines-here?

We are an open society, of course, protected by the First Amendment, the core of our civil liberties.  Yet as the Supreme Court has noted, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”  Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, the Chinese government views the United States as an adversary in much the way the Soviet Union once did.  And although its acts are more subtle than those of Cold War-era Moscow, Beijing constantly works to undermine the United States.  So there should be room for legislation that prohibits Chinese media from the American market.

What would be the justification for such a prohibition?  The United States, for example, could block the media of countries that block our media.  The Chinese central government prohibits access to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia and severely restricts CNN and other privately owned networks, of course.  Yet at the same time, CCTV is allowed to distribute its English and Chinese programming on cable in the United States.

Therefore, Chinese media access to the United States is, among other things, a trade issue.  The buzz word is “reciprocity,” and we should think about demanding it.

Beijing is planning to push its largest media organizations to expand abroad with the goal of disseminating China’s message to a global audience.  On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that the Ministry of Finance will be supporting the plan with about 45 billion yuan-about $6.6 billion-in grants and subsidies.  The primary beneficiaries of the largesse will be state-broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, and state-run Xinhua News Agency.  The goal will be to “better convey a good image of China to the world.”

To accomplish this task, Xinhua will almost double the number of its bureaus so that it will have offices in almost every country, CCTV will add Russian and Arabic channels, and People’s Daily will launch an English-language edition of its Global Times tabloid.  Most ambitious of all is Xinhua’s plan to begin a worldwide 24-hour news channel on the model of Al Jazeera.

Should the United States grant access to the new Xinhua channel?  Perhaps we should ask a broader question: Should we allow any Chinese media-television programming, books, newspapers, or magazines-here?

We are an open society, of course, protected by the First Amendment, the core of our civil liberties.  Yet as the Supreme Court has noted, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”  Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, the Chinese government views the United States as an adversary in much the way the Soviet Union once did.  And although its acts are more subtle than those of Cold War-era Moscow, Beijing constantly works to undermine the United States.  So there should be room for legislation that prohibits Chinese media from the American market.

What would be the justification for such a prohibition?  The United States, for example, could block the media of countries that block our media.  The Chinese central government prohibits access to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia and severely restricts CNN and other privately owned networks, of course.  Yet at the same time, CCTV is allowed to distribute its English and Chinese programming on cable in the United States.

Therefore, Chinese media access to the United States is, among other things, a trade issue.  The buzz word is “reciprocity,” and we should think about demanding it.

Read Less

Tapped Out

It turns out the Protect America federal wire-tapping program has been deemed kosher just in time for Barack Obama to use it as he sees fit:

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

But don’t worry, the New York Times still leaves you some wiggle room to rant about President Bush’s shredding of the constitution:

In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.

Yeah, it “may” offer legal credence. I guess that wouldn’t be up to the courts, would it. Better leave that to tomorrow’s Times op-ed writers to decide.

It turns out the Protect America federal wire-tapping program has been deemed kosher just in time for Barack Obama to use it as he sees fit:

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

But don’t worry, the New York Times still leaves you some wiggle room to rant about President Bush’s shredding of the constitution:

In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.

Yeah, it “may” offer legal credence. I guess that wouldn’t be up to the courts, would it. Better leave that to tomorrow’s Times op-ed writers to decide.

Read Less

Nervous Democrats

As Politico reports, not all Democrats are enthusiastic about releasing the second half of the TARP funds with no strings attached:

Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking committee, said he was pleased to get a “candid” letter from Obama economic envoy Larry Summers detailing new bank bailout oversight provisions and foreclosure mitigation — but it isn’t enough, he told NPR this morning.

Dodd said he expects the kill-TARP bill to be narrowly defeated in today’s anticipated vote but “more specifics need to be explained if you are going to secure the support to [authorize the second $350 billion bailout tranche]… there will be limited support for this if there isn’t clarity on the specifics.”

It might just be that they are reading the polls. And those indicate that voters have had it with unrestricted bailout infusions for unknown purposes. The Gallup poll shows:

A majority of Americans (62%) say Congress should block President-elect Obama’s request to release the remaining $350 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds until more details are provided about how the funds will be spent. The rest of Americans are split between saying the funds should be released immediately and saying they should not be released at all.

.   .   .

In general, the threat of blocking the release of the TARP funds appears to be one with which the average American is sympathetic. Given three choices of what to do with the remaining funds, 62% say Congress should block the release “unless more details are provided about how the funds will be used,” and another 12% say Congress should block the funds entirely. Only 20% favor Congress’ simply allowing the funds to be released.

The differences by political orientation in response to this question are not as large as one might expect or as large as is typical in such situations, particularly given that the survey question explicitly referred to Obama in connection with allowing the release of the funds.

Indeed more Democrats (65%) than Independents (59%) don’t want the funds released until more detail is provided about how they are to be used.

This is again one of those issues on which Republicans can take the popular and prudent position. As the Wall Street Journal editors write:

Mr. Obama has threatened to veto any Congressional vote of disapproval for TARP II, so Treasury will get its cash. But if the money is squandered on foreclosures and non-financial industries, the Obama Administration is setting itself up to need TARP III or TARP IV down the road. Asset values are going to continue to fall until they find a market bottom, and no declaration of Congress can make them stop in mid-descent. There are going to be more bank failures.

We supported TARP as a way to prevent a financial meltdown, providing public capital to help regulators manage problem banks, arrange mergers, and work off bad assets. TARP has since become a cash pool for all and sundry, casting a pall over the entire financial system. Mr. Obama would make more progress against recession if he steered the TARP back to the purpose that Paul Volcker and Eugene Ludwig first proposed on these pages — as a resolution agency on the model of the Resolution Trust Corp. of the 1990s. Working in tandem with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., such an outfit could close problem banks before they collapse, serve as a holding and work-out agency for bad assets, and then sell them back over time into private hands.

And the Democrats? If they don’t find the policy arguments compelling maybe the poll figures will get their attention. We’ll see how willing they are to go up against the new President on a course of action the public finds so distasteful.

As Politico reports, not all Democrats are enthusiastic about releasing the second half of the TARP funds with no strings attached:

Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking committee, said he was pleased to get a “candid” letter from Obama economic envoy Larry Summers detailing new bank bailout oversight provisions and foreclosure mitigation — but it isn’t enough, he told NPR this morning.

Dodd said he expects the kill-TARP bill to be narrowly defeated in today’s anticipated vote but “more specifics need to be explained if you are going to secure the support to [authorize the second $350 billion bailout tranche]… there will be limited support for this if there isn’t clarity on the specifics.”

It might just be that they are reading the polls. And those indicate that voters have had it with unrestricted bailout infusions for unknown purposes. The Gallup poll shows:

A majority of Americans (62%) say Congress should block President-elect Obama’s request to release the remaining $350 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds until more details are provided about how the funds will be spent. The rest of Americans are split between saying the funds should be released immediately and saying they should not be released at all.

.   .   .

In general, the threat of blocking the release of the TARP funds appears to be one with which the average American is sympathetic. Given three choices of what to do with the remaining funds, 62% say Congress should block the release “unless more details are provided about how the funds will be used,” and another 12% say Congress should block the funds entirely. Only 20% favor Congress’ simply allowing the funds to be released.

The differences by political orientation in response to this question are not as large as one might expect or as large as is typical in such situations, particularly given that the survey question explicitly referred to Obama in connection with allowing the release of the funds.

Indeed more Democrats (65%) than Independents (59%) don’t want the funds released until more detail is provided about how they are to be used.

This is again one of those issues on which Republicans can take the popular and prudent position. As the Wall Street Journal editors write:

Mr. Obama has threatened to veto any Congressional vote of disapproval for TARP II, so Treasury will get its cash. But if the money is squandered on foreclosures and non-financial industries, the Obama Administration is setting itself up to need TARP III or TARP IV down the road. Asset values are going to continue to fall until they find a market bottom, and no declaration of Congress can make them stop in mid-descent. There are going to be more bank failures.

We supported TARP as a way to prevent a financial meltdown, providing public capital to help regulators manage problem banks, arrange mergers, and work off bad assets. TARP has since become a cash pool for all and sundry, casting a pall over the entire financial system. Mr. Obama would make more progress against recession if he steered the TARP back to the purpose that Paul Volcker and Eugene Ludwig first proposed on these pages — as a resolution agency on the model of the Resolution Trust Corp. of the 1990s. Working in tandem with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., such an outfit could close problem banks before they collapse, serve as a holding and work-out agency for bad assets, and then sell them back over time into private hands.

And the Democrats? If they don’t find the policy arguments compelling maybe the poll figures will get their attention. We’ll see how willing they are to go up against the new President on a course of action the public finds so distasteful.

Read Less

Bin Laden Sets the Record Straight

One of the most common canards regarding the U.S.–Israel relationship is that American support for Israel is the root cause of al-Qaeda terrorism.  Yesterday, following the release of Osama Bin Laden’s latest recorded statement, CNN’s Peter Bergen regurgitated this causality myth:

So intense are bin Laden’s feelings about the Palestinian issue that, according to the 9/11 commission, he wrote Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, two letters pressing him to move forward the timing of the attacks on Washington and New York to June or July 2001 to coincide with a planned visit to the White House of Israel’s then-prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed resisted the pressure.

Apparently, Bergen doesn’t know the difference between an Islamist group that actually champions the Palestinian cause, and one that merely invokes the Palestinian cause to broaden its appeal among Muslims even as it pursues an entirely different agenda.  Indeed, al-Qaeda falls squarely in the latter category, and Bin Laden’s latest statement firmly reinforces this.

Granted, Bin Laden’s statement is titled, “A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression on Gaza,” and it references the current fighting in Gaza.  But the statement isn’t really about Gaza.  Rather, Bin Laden’s main point is that his global jihad against the United States is working – and that the Gaza war is only one example of American weakness:

The great and swift decline in America’s influence is one of the most important motivations for Israelis to wage such a barbaric attack on Gaza, in a bid to try and make use of the last days of Bush’s mandate and the neo-conservatives.

In this vein, Bin Laden spends much of the address referencing other examples of America’s supposedly impending defeat, including the expensiveness of the War on Terror and the financial crisis:

[Bush] has left his successor a difficult legacy, and left him one of two bitter choices… The worst heritage is when a man inherits a long guerrilla warfare with a persevering, patient enemy — a war that is funded by usury. If [Obama] withdraws from the war, that would be a military defeat, and if he goes on with it, he’ll drown in economic crisis…

Still, the most telling example of Bin Laden’s relative disinterest in Gaza occurs in the final paragraph.  Here, Bin Laden simply uses the Palestinians to paint a favorable image of his own jihadists, who – as he emphasizes throughout the speech – are fighting America:

My brothers in Palestine, you have suffered a lot, and your fathers before you, for nine whole decades. Muslims sympathize with you, for what they see and hear. We, the Mujahideen, sympathize with you, too, much more than anyone else… Because the Mujahideen lead the same kind of life that you lead; they are bombed the same way you are bombed, from the same airplanes, they lose their children just like you do.

In short, Bin Laden’s overwhelming focus on declaring American weakness and promoting jihad against the United States – in a statement that was supposed to be about Gaza – is quite indicative of his true priorities.  When “experts” such as Peter Bergen claim otherwise, they completely misconstrue the objectives of global jihad groups such as al-Qaeda – and, much to Bin Laden’s delight, muddy U.S. policy options in the process.

One of the most common canards regarding the U.S.–Israel relationship is that American support for Israel is the root cause of al-Qaeda terrorism.  Yesterday, following the release of Osama Bin Laden’s latest recorded statement, CNN’s Peter Bergen regurgitated this causality myth:

So intense are bin Laden’s feelings about the Palestinian issue that, according to the 9/11 commission, he wrote Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, two letters pressing him to move forward the timing of the attacks on Washington and New York to June or July 2001 to coincide with a planned visit to the White House of Israel’s then-prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed resisted the pressure.

Apparently, Bergen doesn’t know the difference between an Islamist group that actually champions the Palestinian cause, and one that merely invokes the Palestinian cause to broaden its appeal among Muslims even as it pursues an entirely different agenda.  Indeed, al-Qaeda falls squarely in the latter category, and Bin Laden’s latest statement firmly reinforces this.

Granted, Bin Laden’s statement is titled, “A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression on Gaza,” and it references the current fighting in Gaza.  But the statement isn’t really about Gaza.  Rather, Bin Laden’s main point is that his global jihad against the United States is working – and that the Gaza war is only one example of American weakness:

The great and swift decline in America’s influence is one of the most important motivations for Israelis to wage such a barbaric attack on Gaza, in a bid to try and make use of the last days of Bush’s mandate and the neo-conservatives.

In this vein, Bin Laden spends much of the address referencing other examples of America’s supposedly impending defeat, including the expensiveness of the War on Terror and the financial crisis:

[Bush] has left his successor a difficult legacy, and left him one of two bitter choices… The worst heritage is when a man inherits a long guerrilla warfare with a persevering, patient enemy — a war that is funded by usury. If [Obama] withdraws from the war, that would be a military defeat, and if he goes on with it, he’ll drown in economic crisis…

Still, the most telling example of Bin Laden’s relative disinterest in Gaza occurs in the final paragraph.  Here, Bin Laden simply uses the Palestinians to paint a favorable image of his own jihadists, who – as he emphasizes throughout the speech – are fighting America:

My brothers in Palestine, you have suffered a lot, and your fathers before you, for nine whole decades. Muslims sympathize with you, for what they see and hear. We, the Mujahideen, sympathize with you, too, much more than anyone else… Because the Mujahideen lead the same kind of life that you lead; they are bombed the same way you are bombed, from the same airplanes, they lose their children just like you do.

In short, Bin Laden’s overwhelming focus on declaring American weakness and promoting jihad against the United States – in a statement that was supposed to be about Gaza – is quite indicative of his true priorities.  When “experts” such as Peter Bergen claim otherwise, they completely misconstrue the objectives of global jihad groups such as al-Qaeda – and, much to Bin Laden’s delight, muddy U.S. policy options in the process.

Read Less

Drip, Drip, Drip

There’s a certain pattern to these wounded-nominee stories. Bad facts emerge; the administration releases the talking points; their Senate allies rush to assure us it is no big deal; the media issues the “hiccup” or “bump on the road” pronouncements; the new President defends the nominee; and then one more fact comes out, causing everyone to rethink the “innocent mistake” facade and wonder anew whether the nominee should just spare everyone from the grisly hearing that is sure to follow.

The last fact in the case of Tim Geithner is his receipt of an annual tax-allowance with the proviso that he pay the applicable taxes, which he didn’t. In short, he pocketed the money and stiffed the Treasury. Byron York explains:

The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a “gross-up,” to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.

At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.

According to an analysis released by the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner “wrote contemporaneous checks to the IRS and the State of Maryland for estimated [income] tax payments” that jibed exactly with his IMF statements. But he didn’t write checks for the self-employment tax allowance. Then, according to the committee analysis, “he filled out, signed and submitted an annual tax allowance request worksheet with the IMF that states, ‘I wish to apply for tax allowance of U.S. Federal and State income taxes and the difference between the “self-employed” and “employed” obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax which I will pay on my Fund income.”

In a conversation today with sources on Capitol Hill who are familiar with the situation, I asked, “Was Geithner made whole for tax payments that he didn’t make?”

“Yes,” one source answered. “He was getting the money. He was being paid a tax allowance to pay him for tax payments that he should have made but had not.”

Not good. It suggests either sloppiness and inattention of the highest order or an intention to get away with a small but significant act of dishonesty. Even the New York Times is peeved:

As much as Mr. Obama and his team may wish it, however, the disclosures cannot be dismissed so easily, or papered over. The just-the-facts report of Mr. Geithner’s tax transgressions, compiled and released by the Senate Finance Committee, paints a picture of noncompliance that is considerably more disturbing than his supporters are acknowledging.

As the Times and others point out, the annual allowance and voluminous paperwork which Geithner received and signed sheds further light on his failure in the 2006 audit to go back to pay the outstanding tax delinquencies from 2001 and 2002. Surely the IRS audit must have reminded him that he’d been working at the IMF and taking these allowances ever since he started in 2001. But he chose not to clear the liability. After all, it wasn’t technically required. This from an official then working at the Federal Reserve.

I don’t know how this will go down once the detail is mulled over by the Senators. In these situations it is interesting to consider what  the President-elect owes such people, when the drip-drip-drip of questionable ethics comes back to bite his embryonic-stage administration. I would suggest he owes them very little. If the President-elect was not entirely aware of the disturbing details coming to light, he should dump the miscreants and move on. Even if these issues were revealed but didn’t make an impression in the vetting office, now that they’re turning out more cringe-inducing than expected, it is perfectly reasonable for the administration to cut its losses and move on to the next candidate.

Roger Simon of Politico suggests this is what happened:

The vetters discovered Geithner’s little tax error in November and told Geithner. Then Geithner paid up, with interest. The vetters also told Obama, of course.

According to an article by Politico’s Craig Gordon and Amie Parnes, Obama “decided to push ahead with the nomination anyway because he ‘still wanted him.’”

At the end of the day, a source said, “Barack decided that he was the best person for a really important job.”

OK, I get it. The economy is teetering on the brink, and we need to cut corners a little. We can’t be all that scrupulous and nitpicky when the future of the nation is at stake.

So in November, Team Obama announced that Geithner had this little problem and was paying his back taxes with interest and that it was all an honest mistake and no big deal, right?

Wrong. They decided to keep it a secret. But The Wall Street Journal discovered it and blew the whistle Tuesday.

The Senate Finance Committee has been looking into Geithner — it has to vote on his appointment — and discovered something else.

According to Gordon and Parnes: “In addition, Geithner included payments to overnight camps in calculating his dependent child care credit in 2001, 2004 and 2005. His accountant informed him in 2006 that the camps were not allowable expenses. The committee notes that Geithner did not file amended returns to fix the mistake.”

Can I get this deal? Can I ignore my accountant? He is always telling me that my trips to Vegas are not allowable under “necessary mental health expenses” and, fool that I am, I keep listening to him.

The Geithner foul-up is different than the Bill Richardson foul-up. The Obama vetters were unable to get Richardson to give them all the background information they needed, but Obama went ahead and appointed Richardson to the Cabinet anyway. Then that blew up, and Richardson withdrew his name.

With Geithner, the vetters found the bad stuff — yay! — but everybody thought they could sweep it under the rug. Boo.

Now Republicans are forcing a delay on the Geithner hearing until after Obama is inaugurated.

The details do matter. It is one thing to make a “mistake on taxes,” and quite another to have pocketed an allowance and repeatedly declined to pay up in full, even after an audit. It is one thing to have made a “mistake” in recommending a pardon for a fugitive financier, and quite another to have misled Congress about only a “passing familiarity” with the issue. The extent and seriousness of the ethical lapses come out slowly in these things, until all those concerned realize it just might not be worth it. None of these people are so talented as to be irreplaceable.

If the President-elect did dump some of these nominees, everyone in Washington would perk up. It would be a signal that he and those around him finally understand that you shouldn’t expect to work in government if the average American would find your behavior inexplicable. Now that would be a change from the last eight years. One we could believe in, if ever delivered.

There’s a certain pattern to these wounded-nominee stories. Bad facts emerge; the administration releases the talking points; their Senate allies rush to assure us it is no big deal; the media issues the “hiccup” or “bump on the road” pronouncements; the new President defends the nominee; and then one more fact comes out, causing everyone to rethink the “innocent mistake” facade and wonder anew whether the nominee should just spare everyone from the grisly hearing that is sure to follow.

The last fact in the case of Tim Geithner is his receipt of an annual tax-allowance with the proviso that he pay the applicable taxes, which he didn’t. In short, he pocketed the money and stiffed the Treasury. Byron York explains:

The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a “gross-up,” to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.

At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.

According to an analysis released by the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner “wrote contemporaneous checks to the IRS and the State of Maryland for estimated [income] tax payments” that jibed exactly with his IMF statements. But he didn’t write checks for the self-employment tax allowance. Then, according to the committee analysis, “he filled out, signed and submitted an annual tax allowance request worksheet with the IMF that states, ‘I wish to apply for tax allowance of U.S. Federal and State income taxes and the difference between the “self-employed” and “employed” obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax which I will pay on my Fund income.”

In a conversation today with sources on Capitol Hill who are familiar with the situation, I asked, “Was Geithner made whole for tax payments that he didn’t make?”

“Yes,” one source answered. “He was getting the money. He was being paid a tax allowance to pay him for tax payments that he should have made but had not.”

Not good. It suggests either sloppiness and inattention of the highest order or an intention to get away with a small but significant act of dishonesty. Even the New York Times is peeved:

As much as Mr. Obama and his team may wish it, however, the disclosures cannot be dismissed so easily, or papered over. The just-the-facts report of Mr. Geithner’s tax transgressions, compiled and released by the Senate Finance Committee, paints a picture of noncompliance that is considerably more disturbing than his supporters are acknowledging.

As the Times and others point out, the annual allowance and voluminous paperwork which Geithner received and signed sheds further light on his failure in the 2006 audit to go back to pay the outstanding tax delinquencies from 2001 and 2002. Surely the IRS audit must have reminded him that he’d been working at the IMF and taking these allowances ever since he started in 2001. But he chose not to clear the liability. After all, it wasn’t technically required. This from an official then working at the Federal Reserve.

I don’t know how this will go down once the detail is mulled over by the Senators. In these situations it is interesting to consider what  the President-elect owes such people, when the drip-drip-drip of questionable ethics comes back to bite his embryonic-stage administration. I would suggest he owes them very little. If the President-elect was not entirely aware of the disturbing details coming to light, he should dump the miscreants and move on. Even if these issues were revealed but didn’t make an impression in the vetting office, now that they’re turning out more cringe-inducing than expected, it is perfectly reasonable for the administration to cut its losses and move on to the next candidate.

Roger Simon of Politico suggests this is what happened:

The vetters discovered Geithner’s little tax error in November and told Geithner. Then Geithner paid up, with interest. The vetters also told Obama, of course.

According to an article by Politico’s Craig Gordon and Amie Parnes, Obama “decided to push ahead with the nomination anyway because he ‘still wanted him.’”

At the end of the day, a source said, “Barack decided that he was the best person for a really important job.”

OK, I get it. The economy is teetering on the brink, and we need to cut corners a little. We can’t be all that scrupulous and nitpicky when the future of the nation is at stake.

So in November, Team Obama announced that Geithner had this little problem and was paying his back taxes with interest and that it was all an honest mistake and no big deal, right?

Wrong. They decided to keep it a secret. But The Wall Street Journal discovered it and blew the whistle Tuesday.

The Senate Finance Committee has been looking into Geithner — it has to vote on his appointment — and discovered something else.

According to Gordon and Parnes: “In addition, Geithner included payments to overnight camps in calculating his dependent child care credit in 2001, 2004 and 2005. His accountant informed him in 2006 that the camps were not allowable expenses. The committee notes that Geithner did not file amended returns to fix the mistake.”

Can I get this deal? Can I ignore my accountant? He is always telling me that my trips to Vegas are not allowable under “necessary mental health expenses” and, fool that I am, I keep listening to him.

The Geithner foul-up is different than the Bill Richardson foul-up. The Obama vetters were unable to get Richardson to give them all the background information they needed, but Obama went ahead and appointed Richardson to the Cabinet anyway. Then that blew up, and Richardson withdrew his name.

With Geithner, the vetters found the bad stuff — yay! — but everybody thought they could sweep it under the rug. Boo.

Now Republicans are forcing a delay on the Geithner hearing until after Obama is inaugurated.

The details do matter. It is one thing to make a “mistake on taxes,” and quite another to have pocketed an allowance and repeatedly declined to pay up in full, even after an audit. It is one thing to have made a “mistake” in recommending a pardon for a fugitive financier, and quite another to have misled Congress about only a “passing familiarity” with the issue. The extent and seriousness of the ethical lapses come out slowly in these things, until all those concerned realize it just might not be worth it. None of these people are so talented as to be irreplaceable.

If the President-elect did dump some of these nominees, everyone in Washington would perk up. It would be a signal that he and those around him finally understand that you shouldn’t expect to work in government if the average American would find your behavior inexplicable. Now that would be a change from the last eight years. One we could believe in, if ever delivered.

Read Less

The Rebound President

Reading Dion Nissenbaum’s political eulogy for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (in Foreign Policy) reminded me of a long feature-story, written by then Haaretz‘s Palestinian-affairs analyst Danny Rubinstein, regarding Abbas’s prospects of success in 2004 — a time when he was commonly considered to be Yasser Arafat’s successor but had not become president yet.

From Nissenbaum’s “Is Abu Mazen Finished?”:

Last week was supposed to mark the end of Abbas’s four-year term. In some alternative universe, Abbas might have followed through with his long-forgotten pledge not to run for a second term. Instead, Abbas and his legal team have crafted a creative and questionable interpretation of ill-defined Palestinian laws to argue that the Palestinian president’s term does not end for another year.

Hamas challenged that decision and warned that Abbas could no longer be considered the legitimate Palestinian president as of Jan. 10, when his four-year term should have come to an end. But Hamas is a little busy these days trying to retain its hold on Gaza, so the political dispute has been pushed to the side for the foreseeable future.

That leaves Abbas in nominal charge of a caretaker West Bank government with a defunct parliament and a stagnating peace process. Abbas benefits from the fact that there is no obvious heir apparent willing and able to take over. That’s why the most recent polls showed that half the Palestinian public was unhappy with Abbas’s presidential term, but just about the same number say they would vote for him again instead of choosing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

From Rubinstein’s “Lost In Transition,” published in 2004:

For many reasons, Abu Mazen is not the person who can deliver the goods in negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. He is not the person who will impose order, he will not gain mass support when he announces “painful” concessions and he will not be able to exercise authority over others in the leadership over time. He will be, at most, a short-term leader, convenient for a transition period, accepted by Israel and certainly also by the U.S. administration — until either a real leader is found or anarchy erupts. He is the default leader, the person one dates on the rebound, a “consolation lover” for a time after a hard separation, until true love appears.

Sometimes even a columnist’s predictions can come true.

Reading Dion Nissenbaum’s political eulogy for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (in Foreign Policy) reminded me of a long feature-story, written by then Haaretz‘s Palestinian-affairs analyst Danny Rubinstein, regarding Abbas’s prospects of success in 2004 — a time when he was commonly considered to be Yasser Arafat’s successor but had not become president yet.

From Nissenbaum’s “Is Abu Mazen Finished?”:

Last week was supposed to mark the end of Abbas’s four-year term. In some alternative universe, Abbas might have followed through with his long-forgotten pledge not to run for a second term. Instead, Abbas and his legal team have crafted a creative and questionable interpretation of ill-defined Palestinian laws to argue that the Palestinian president’s term does not end for another year.

Hamas challenged that decision and warned that Abbas could no longer be considered the legitimate Palestinian president as of Jan. 10, when his four-year term should have come to an end. But Hamas is a little busy these days trying to retain its hold on Gaza, so the political dispute has been pushed to the side for the foreseeable future.

That leaves Abbas in nominal charge of a caretaker West Bank government with a defunct parliament and a stagnating peace process. Abbas benefits from the fact that there is no obvious heir apparent willing and able to take over. That’s why the most recent polls showed that half the Palestinian public was unhappy with Abbas’s presidential term, but just about the same number say they would vote for him again instead of choosing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

From Rubinstein’s “Lost In Transition,” published in 2004:

For many reasons, Abu Mazen is not the person who can deliver the goods in negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. He is not the person who will impose order, he will not gain mass support when he announces “painful” concessions and he will not be able to exercise authority over others in the leadership over time. He will be, at most, a short-term leader, convenient for a transition period, accepted by Israel and certainly also by the U.S. administration — until either a real leader is found or anarchy erupts. He is the default leader, the person one dates on the rebound, a “consolation lover” for a time after a hard separation, until true love appears.

Sometimes even a columnist’s predictions can come true.

Read Less

The Day of Reckoning

Eric Holder is up at bat today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And he has some explaining to do. Perhaps nowhere more so than on his behavior in the infamous Clinton pardons. The Washington Post explains:

Mr. Holder was deputy attorney general — and the top Justice official on pardons — in the late 1990s when Mr. Clinton was considering commutations for members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist group that was classified by the FBI as a domestic terrorist organization. The group was responsible for some 130 bombings during the 1970s and 1980s; six people were killed and many others injured as a result of those attacks.
The Justice Department in 1996 — before Mr. Holder joined Justice’s headquarters — recommended against pardons or commutations for any FALN members. On Mr. Holder’s watch, the department shifted gears, sending the White House an “options paper” in 1998 that included the possibility of pardons. While not unheard of, it is exceedingly rare for the department to take such an approach. The Los Angeles Times recently published memos from Roger Adams, then a pardon attorney, in which he acknowledged changing the department’s position at Mr. Holder’s request while reiterating the strongest objections from prosecutors and the FBI to leniency for the FALN members. Mr. Clinton ultimately commuted the sentences of 16 members; many had already served almost 20 years in prison but faced decades more on their full sentences. None of those who received reduced sentences had been convicted of murder.

Mr. Holder should also be closely questioned on his role in the pardon of billionaire financier and fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife was a big contributor to Mr. Clinton and whose lawyer was former White House counsel Jack Quinn. Prosecutors in New York objected strenuously to a possible pardon. The department never formally reviewed the pardon request, yet Mr. Holder, on the eve of Mr. Clinton’s last day in office, told the White House he was “neutral, leaning toward favorable” in granting the pardon.

But that’s not a complete accounting of the extent of the Marc Rich pardon. Not by a long shot. Sen. Arlen Specter’s recent floor statement gives a road map of the Rich pardon, and the issues it raises. He reminds us that it was he who chaired the the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 2001 hearing on the pardons of international fugitives Marc Rich and Pincus Green.

During that hearing, the Committee heard testimony from Mr. Holder on his role in those pardons.  I will describe some of the details on those matters shortly.  Based on my role on those investigations, I could have provided President-elect Obama with information on Mr. Holder that he might not otherwise have had and might have found useful.

 . . .
On February 8 and March 1, 2001, the House Committee on Government Reform held two hearings on the pardons of Rich and others made during President Clinton’s final days in office.  On February 14, 2001, I chaired a full Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversial pardons.  At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Roger Adams, DOJ’s Pardon Attorney, testified that “none of the regular procedures … were followed” with regard to the Rich and Green pardons.

Mr. Holder testified that he was not “intimately involved” in the Rich pardon, and that he assumed that the regular procedures were being followed.  Mr. Holder said that, the night before the pardon was granted, White House Counsel Beth Nolan contacted him to ask his position on the pardon request.  Mr. Holder stated that he had reservations about the pardon request since Mr. Rich was still a fugitive and because it was clear that the prosecutors involved would not support the request, but he ultimately told Ms. Nolan that he was “neutral, leaning towards favorable” on the request.  He testified that one factor influencing his decision was the assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had weighed in strongly in favor of the request; therefore, the granting of the request might have foreign policy benefits.  He made no inquiry, however, as to whether that was true.

Notwithstanding, based on these hearings, serious questions have been raised regarding Mr. Holder’s candor while testifying before Congress. (Jerry Seper, Holder Testimony on Pardon Questioned, The Washington Times, Dec. 18, 2008)  In response to a question from Congressman Burton, Mr. Holder testified that he had “only a passing familiarity with the underlying facts of the Rich case.” (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 193 (2001) (statement of Mr. Eric Holder))  Despite this assertion, correspondence with the Justice Department obtained by the House Committee and testimony from other witnesses shows that, 15 months before the pardon, Mr. Holder met privately with Mr. Rich’s attorney and received a presentation about what Mr. Rich’s defense believed were flaws in the government’s case. (Id. at 175-76)  Further, according to Mr. Holder’s own testimony, he tried to facilitate a meeting between the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and Rich’s attorney, Mr. Jack Quinn, over a year before the pardons were granted. (President Clinton’s Eleventh Hour Pardons: Hearing Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. 31 (2001))

Allegations have also been raised that Mr. Holder was responsible for the deviation from normal pardon procedures.  Allegedly, Mr. Quinn wrote to and spoke with Mr. Holder several times between November 2000 and the night of January 19, 2001, and primarily relied on him for guidance and information rather than the pardon office.  Mr. Quinn testified that Mr. Holder advised him to go straight to the White House rather than through the pardon office, and Mr. Quinn produced an email from himself to a colleague with the subject line “eric” in which he noted that “he says go straight to wh. also says timing is good. we shd get in soon.” (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 640 (2001) (email from Jack Quinn))  Mr. Holder denied that he told Mr. Quinn to go straight to the White House (Id. at 204) and maintained that he thought the regular pardon procedures were being followed; however, he admitted that he never spoke to anyone either in the pardon office or in his own office about whether the Rich pardon petition had been received. (President Clinton’s Eleventh Hour Pardons: Hearing Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. 30 (2001).

Finally, Mr. Holder testified that he had at least one conversation with Mr. Quinn about a potential Attorney General position in Al Gore’s possible administration while the Rich pardon was pending, and that he was sending Mr. Quinn the resumes of people on his staff and asking for his help in finding them jobs after Clinton left office. (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 202 (2001))  Mr. Holder noted, however, that the actions he took with regard to the Rich pardon were done after the election had been decided in favor of President George W. Bush when the Attorney General position was no longer an option.

So looming front and center is the question of Holder’s prior “lack of candor” with the Senate. The standard, as one former Justice Department official reminded me, is not “Did Holder commit perjury?” That is a criminal standard, and he isn’t being prosecuted. He is being considered for the country’s highest law enforcement position, and Senators should be concerned about whether he violated ethical and procedural norms to curry favor with higher ups and then demonstrated a lack of character and candor in failing to come clean with the very institution now assessing him.

Sen. Specter sounds skeptical. We’ll see just how effective Holder is in putting these concerns to rest.

Eric Holder is up at bat today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And he has some explaining to do. Perhaps nowhere more so than on his behavior in the infamous Clinton pardons. The Washington Post explains:

Mr. Holder was deputy attorney general — and the top Justice official on pardons — in the late 1990s when Mr. Clinton was considering commutations for members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist group that was classified by the FBI as a domestic terrorist organization. The group was responsible for some 130 bombings during the 1970s and 1980s; six people were killed and many others injured as a result of those attacks.
The Justice Department in 1996 — before Mr. Holder joined Justice’s headquarters — recommended against pardons or commutations for any FALN members. On Mr. Holder’s watch, the department shifted gears, sending the White House an “options paper” in 1998 that included the possibility of pardons. While not unheard of, it is exceedingly rare for the department to take such an approach. The Los Angeles Times recently published memos from Roger Adams, then a pardon attorney, in which he acknowledged changing the department’s position at Mr. Holder’s request while reiterating the strongest objections from prosecutors and the FBI to leniency for the FALN members. Mr. Clinton ultimately commuted the sentences of 16 members; many had already served almost 20 years in prison but faced decades more on their full sentences. None of those who received reduced sentences had been convicted of murder.

Mr. Holder should also be closely questioned on his role in the pardon of billionaire financier and fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife was a big contributor to Mr. Clinton and whose lawyer was former White House counsel Jack Quinn. Prosecutors in New York objected strenuously to a possible pardon. The department never formally reviewed the pardon request, yet Mr. Holder, on the eve of Mr. Clinton’s last day in office, told the White House he was “neutral, leaning toward favorable” in granting the pardon.

But that’s not a complete accounting of the extent of the Marc Rich pardon. Not by a long shot. Sen. Arlen Specter’s recent floor statement gives a road map of the Rich pardon, and the issues it raises. He reminds us that it was he who chaired the the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 2001 hearing on the pardons of international fugitives Marc Rich and Pincus Green.

During that hearing, the Committee heard testimony from Mr. Holder on his role in those pardons.  I will describe some of the details on those matters shortly.  Based on my role on those investigations, I could have provided President-elect Obama with information on Mr. Holder that he might not otherwise have had and might have found useful.

 . . .
On February 8 and March 1, 2001, the House Committee on Government Reform held two hearings on the pardons of Rich and others made during President Clinton’s final days in office.  On February 14, 2001, I chaired a full Judiciary Committee hearing on the controversial pardons.  At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Roger Adams, DOJ’s Pardon Attorney, testified that “none of the regular procedures … were followed” with regard to the Rich and Green pardons.

Mr. Holder testified that he was not “intimately involved” in the Rich pardon, and that he assumed that the regular procedures were being followed.  Mr. Holder said that, the night before the pardon was granted, White House Counsel Beth Nolan contacted him to ask his position on the pardon request.  Mr. Holder stated that he had reservations about the pardon request since Mr. Rich was still a fugitive and because it was clear that the prosecutors involved would not support the request, but he ultimately told Ms. Nolan that he was “neutral, leaning towards favorable” on the request.  He testified that one factor influencing his decision was the assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had weighed in strongly in favor of the request; therefore, the granting of the request might have foreign policy benefits.  He made no inquiry, however, as to whether that was true.

Notwithstanding, based on these hearings, serious questions have been raised regarding Mr. Holder’s candor while testifying before Congress. (Jerry Seper, Holder Testimony on Pardon Questioned, The Washington Times, Dec. 18, 2008)  In response to a question from Congressman Burton, Mr. Holder testified that he had “only a passing familiarity with the underlying facts of the Rich case.” (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 193 (2001) (statement of Mr. Eric Holder))  Despite this assertion, correspondence with the Justice Department obtained by the House Committee and testimony from other witnesses shows that, 15 months before the pardon, Mr. Holder met privately with Mr. Rich’s attorney and received a presentation about what Mr. Rich’s defense believed were flaws in the government’s case. (Id. at 175-76)  Further, according to Mr. Holder’s own testimony, he tried to facilitate a meeting between the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and Rich’s attorney, Mr. Jack Quinn, over a year before the pardons were granted. (President Clinton’s Eleventh Hour Pardons: Hearing Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. 31 (2001))

Allegations have also been raised that Mr. Holder was responsible for the deviation from normal pardon procedures.  Allegedly, Mr. Quinn wrote to and spoke with Mr. Holder several times between November 2000 and the night of January 19, 2001, and primarily relied on him for guidance and information rather than the pardon office.  Mr. Quinn testified that Mr. Holder advised him to go straight to the White House rather than through the pardon office, and Mr. Quinn produced an email from himself to a colleague with the subject line “eric” in which he noted that “he says go straight to wh. also says timing is good. we shd get in soon.” (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 640 (2001) (email from Jack Quinn))  Mr. Holder denied that he told Mr. Quinn to go straight to the White House (Id. at 204) and maintained that he thought the regular pardon procedures were being followed; however, he admitted that he never spoke to anyone either in the pardon office or in his own office about whether the Rich pardon petition had been received. (President Clinton’s Eleventh Hour Pardons: Hearing Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, 107th Cong. 30 (2001).

Finally, Mr. Holder testified that he had at least one conversation with Mr. Quinn about a potential Attorney General position in Al Gore’s possible administration while the Rich pardon was pending, and that he was sending Mr. Quinn the resumes of people on his staff and asking for his help in finding them jobs after Clinton left office. (The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc Rich: Hearing Before the House Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Cong. 202 (2001))  Mr. Holder noted, however, that the actions he took with regard to the Rich pardon were done after the election had been decided in favor of President George W. Bush when the Attorney General position was no longer an option.

So looming front and center is the question of Holder’s prior “lack of candor” with the Senate. The standard, as one former Justice Department official reminded me, is not “Did Holder commit perjury?” That is a criminal standard, and he isn’t being prosecuted. He is being considered for the country’s highest law enforcement position, and Senators should be concerned about whether he violated ethical and procedural norms to curry favor with higher ups and then demonstrated a lack of character and candor in failing to come clean with the very institution now assessing him.

Sen. Specter sounds skeptical. We’ll see just how effective Holder is in putting these concerns to rest.

Read Less

An Exercise in Comparing and Contrasting

Israeli hospitals take in sick and wounded Palestinians and give them aid and comfort.

Palestinian hospitals take in healthy Palestinian terrorist leaders and give them shelter in reinforced basements.

Israelis make shelters for children.

Palestinian terrorists make shelters of children.

Israel forgoes attacks when civilians are endangered.

Palestinian terrorists hope and pray to kill civilians.

Israeli schools are rocket targets.

Palestinian schools are rocket launch facilities.

…And which side garners international protests and demonstrations against “war crimes” again?

Here’s a hint: look at the guy on the right.

Carriages

To steal one of Meryl Yourish’s favorite lines:

What time is it, folks? That’s right. It’s Israeli Double Standard Time. It occurs every day of the week that ends with a y.

Israeli hospitals take in sick and wounded Palestinians and give them aid and comfort.

Palestinian hospitals take in healthy Palestinian terrorist leaders and give them shelter in reinforced basements.

Israelis make shelters for children.

Palestinian terrorists make shelters of children.

Israel forgoes attacks when civilians are endangered.

Palestinian terrorists hope and pray to kill civilians.

Israeli schools are rocket targets.

Palestinian schools are rocket launch facilities.

…And which side garners international protests and demonstrations against “war crimes” again?

Here’s a hint: look at the guy on the right.

Carriages

To steal one of Meryl Yourish’s favorite lines:

What time is it, folks? That’s right. It’s Israeli Double Standard Time. It occurs every day of the week that ends with a y.

Read Less

Not More Grouchiness, But More Humility Please

Daivd Ignatius takes President Bush to task for undue optimism and praises his successor for refreshing pessimism. But he plays so fast and loose with the facts that the force of his underlying message (that a healthy dose of humility and skepticism about government is a good thing) is lost.

In his indictment of George Bush he declares:

Bush’s great mistakes have been those of an optimist who believed in social engineering on a global scale. He rolled into Iraq convinced that this traditional tribal society could be remade in a Western image of progress. When he talked of democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, there was a sense of inevitability — that democracy and freedom are immutable historical forces rather than the product of frail and imperfect human decisions.

Well, Iraq seems to be turning out rather well. Isn’t the better and more accurate point that Bush underestimated the difficulty of the task of liberating Iraq — which nevertheless was achieved? Or perhaps, Ignatius would have been better off raising the Bush administration’s unrealistic and sweeping domestic agenda items (e.g. social security reform) as examples of undue optimism. But that’s not a desirable critique for one cheering an even more ambitious domestic agenda from the Obama administration.

As for the President-elect, Ignatius praises his grumpiness:

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the “progressive pessimists.” This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist’s appreciation of the limits of political and military power. This is a gloomier progressivism than President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 admonition to “pay any price, bear any burden.” We’ve tried that.

We’ll have to wait for Obama’s own inaugural address to see just where his compass is pointed. But there was a notable absence of heaven-on-earth rhetoric in his speech last Thursday at George Mason University. Obama painted a bleak picture of double-digit unemployment and a lost generation of workers. With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the “progressive pessimists.” This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist’s appreciation of the limits of political and military power. This is a gloomier progressivism than President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 admonition to “pay any price, bear any burden.” We’ve tried that.

We’ll have to wait for Obama’s own inaugural address to see just where his compass is pointed. But there was a notable absence of heaven-on-earth rhetoric in his speech last Thursday at George Mason University. Obama painted a bleak picture of double-digit unemployment and a lost generation of workers.

Well, as I’ve noted before, that demeanor isn’t necessarily a good thing when the President is trying to cajole the country out of a recession. But it is also misleading, in that it suggests that the President-elect’s “pessimism” tempers his ambition. But we know from his sweeping health care and stimulus plans that nothing could be further from the truth. Ignatius goes on to praise, deservedly so I think, the President-elect’s cautious conservatism on anti-terror measures and then offers this:

The patron saint of progressive pessimism is George Orwell, who was at once a passionate social democrat and a political reactionary. He was as suspicious of the do-gooder impulse of the left as he was of the imperialist jingoism of the right. In his famous novels “1984″ and “Animal Farm,” Orwell conveyed his deep skepticism about the utopian impulse and the way it could be manipulated by authoritarian leaders. He was torn all his life between a progressive’s passion for the downtrodden and a pessimist’s recognition of how this humanitarian impulse could be misused.

Oh, that it were true — that the country had stumbled on to a 21st century Orwell! But alas, the new administration is filled with “utopian impulses” on the environment, health care and the like.

Ignatius misses one of the lessons of FDR and other post-WWII presidents, one that ambitious liberals would rather ignore. Huge, sweeping domestic agenda items are risky things –hard to pass, filled with unintended consequences and ultimately threatening to individual liberty. We could use not more grouchiness, but more intellectual skepticism about the wisdom of these sorts of undertakings. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised, but for now there’s every reason to believe the lessons of Orwell will have to be painfully relearned once again.

Daivd Ignatius takes President Bush to task for undue optimism and praises his successor for refreshing pessimism. But he plays so fast and loose with the facts that the force of his underlying message (that a healthy dose of humility and skepticism about government is a good thing) is lost.

In his indictment of George Bush he declares:

Bush’s great mistakes have been those of an optimist who believed in social engineering on a global scale. He rolled into Iraq convinced that this traditional tribal society could be remade in a Western image of progress. When he talked of democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, there was a sense of inevitability — that democracy and freedom are immutable historical forces rather than the product of frail and imperfect human decisions.

Well, Iraq seems to be turning out rather well. Isn’t the better and more accurate point that Bush underestimated the difficulty of the task of liberating Iraq — which nevertheless was achieved? Or perhaps, Ignatius would have been better off raising the Bush administration’s unrealistic and sweeping domestic agenda items (e.g. social security reform) as examples of undue optimism. But that’s not a desirable critique for one cheering an even more ambitious domestic agenda from the Obama administration.

As for the President-elect, Ignatius praises his grumpiness:

With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the “progressive pessimists.” This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist’s appreciation of the limits of political and military power. This is a gloomier progressivism than President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 admonition to “pay any price, bear any burden.” We’ve tried that.

We’ll have to wait for Obama’s own inaugural address to see just where his compass is pointed. But there was a notable absence of heaven-on-earth rhetoric in his speech last Thursday at George Mason University. Obama painted a bleak picture of double-digit unemployment and a lost generation of workers. With the inauguration of Barack Obama, the moment has arrived for what I want to call the “progressive pessimists.” This new worldview would marry the liberal desire to make life better with a realist’s appreciation of the limits of political and military power. This is a gloomier progressivism than President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 admonition to “pay any price, bear any burden.” We’ve tried that.

We’ll have to wait for Obama’s own inaugural address to see just where his compass is pointed. But there was a notable absence of heaven-on-earth rhetoric in his speech last Thursday at George Mason University. Obama painted a bleak picture of double-digit unemployment and a lost generation of workers.

Well, as I’ve noted before, that demeanor isn’t necessarily a good thing when the President is trying to cajole the country out of a recession. But it is also misleading, in that it suggests that the President-elect’s “pessimism” tempers his ambition. But we know from his sweeping health care and stimulus plans that nothing could be further from the truth. Ignatius goes on to praise, deservedly so I think, the President-elect’s cautious conservatism on anti-terror measures and then offers this:

The patron saint of progressive pessimism is George Orwell, who was at once a passionate social democrat and a political reactionary. He was as suspicious of the do-gooder impulse of the left as he was of the imperialist jingoism of the right. In his famous novels “1984″ and “Animal Farm,” Orwell conveyed his deep skepticism about the utopian impulse and the way it could be manipulated by authoritarian leaders. He was torn all his life between a progressive’s passion for the downtrodden and a pessimist’s recognition of how this humanitarian impulse could be misused.

Oh, that it were true — that the country had stumbled on to a 21st century Orwell! But alas, the new administration is filled with “utopian impulses” on the environment, health care and the like.

Ignatius misses one of the lessons of FDR and other post-WWII presidents, one that ambitious liberals would rather ignore. Huge, sweeping domestic agenda items are risky things –hard to pass, filled with unintended consequences and ultimately threatening to individual liberty. We could use not more grouchiness, but more intellectual skepticism about the wisdom of these sorts of undertakings. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised, but for now there’s every reason to believe the lessons of Orwell will have to be painfully relearned once again.

Read Less

The Guardian‘s Audacity

The Guardian newspaper gives voice to Hamas’s minister of health, Basim Naim. It is, to say the least, the admittance of a particularly low-level of journalistic standards. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” But now we know — as if we did not already know — that the Guardian’s editors will provide a podium for representatives of murderous terrorist organizations to spread lies in the service of PR.

Here is one of Naim’s more fatuous assertions:

Now that their massacres of women and children and their destruction of schools and mosques have been exposed before the world, the Zionists’ propaganda machine is trying to discredit our liberation struggle more desperately than ever.

At what point is a building with desks and blackboards no longer considered a school? Perhaps when the same building  also hosts rocket launchers, and other war-related munitions, and is used as a base from which to fire indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. This is the well known strategy Hamas employs. By turning areas guaranteed to be filled with civilians into launching pads, the terrorist organization only hopes that Israel will fire back, kill women and children, and make it onto the front covers of newspapers around the world. And this is a struggle for liberation?

Last weekend, writing in the Los Angeles Times, Alan Dershowitz asked, when will Hamas be held accountable for its own war crimes? I second that question, and add one of my own. Firing rockets from schools, mosques, and hospitals imperils the Palestinian people. When will those who consider themselves to be pro-Palestinian stand up to Hamas, the force  most responsible for bringing havoc to the Palestinian people?

Here is another one of Naim’s lies:

And from the beginning of our struggle, Hamas has always insisted that its operations are restricted to the field of battle, Palestine itself.

Naim is, of course, referring to Israel, as there is no country called “Palestine.” Yet, this fact  obviously escaped the editors of the Guardian. Additionally, Hamas’s founding charter “commits the group to the destruction of Israel, the replacement of the PA with an Islamist state on the West Bank and Gaza, and to raising ‘the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.’” With the publication of Naim’s opinion, the Guardian has demonstrated—at the very least—a frightening ambivalence toward the destructiveness of Hamas’s long-held agenda.

The Guardian newspaper gives voice to Hamas’s minister of health, Basim Naim. It is, to say the least, the admittance of a particularly low-level of journalistic standards. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” But now we know — as if we did not already know — that the Guardian’s editors will provide a podium for representatives of murderous terrorist organizations to spread lies in the service of PR.

Here is one of Naim’s more fatuous assertions:

Now that their massacres of women and children and their destruction of schools and mosques have been exposed before the world, the Zionists’ propaganda machine is trying to discredit our liberation struggle more desperately than ever.

At what point is a building with desks and blackboards no longer considered a school? Perhaps when the same building  also hosts rocket launchers, and other war-related munitions, and is used as a base from which to fire indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. This is the well known strategy Hamas employs. By turning areas guaranteed to be filled with civilians into launching pads, the terrorist organization only hopes that Israel will fire back, kill women and children, and make it onto the front covers of newspapers around the world. And this is a struggle for liberation?

Last weekend, writing in the Los Angeles Times, Alan Dershowitz asked, when will Hamas be held accountable for its own war crimes? I second that question, and add one of my own. Firing rockets from schools, mosques, and hospitals imperils the Palestinian people. When will those who consider themselves to be pro-Palestinian stand up to Hamas, the force  most responsible for bringing havoc to the Palestinian people?

Here is another one of Naim’s lies:

And from the beginning of our struggle, Hamas has always insisted that its operations are restricted to the field of battle, Palestine itself.

Naim is, of course, referring to Israel, as there is no country called “Palestine.” Yet, this fact  obviously escaped the editors of the Guardian. Additionally, Hamas’s founding charter “commits the group to the destruction of Israel, the replacement of the PA with an Islamist state on the West Bank and Gaza, and to raising ‘the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.’” With the publication of Naim’s opinion, the Guardian has demonstrated—at the very least—a frightening ambivalence toward the destructiveness of Hamas’s long-held agenda.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Tony Blankley thinks the honeymoon is ending early: “The media have been focusing on how wonderfully Obama is ahead of previous presidents in selecting appointees and introducing domestic plans during his transition — which is true. But what really may be happening is that his early substantive policy stands combined with his early appointments of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions (for each appointment, there may be a half-dozen or so Democratic senators disappointed that Obama did not pick their candidate) may be truncating his honeymoon with the legislative branch of government. In other words, every presidential personnel and policy decision makes a president more enemies (particularly in his party) and undermines his party’s unity. By getting started early on personnel and policy, Obama may have started the inevitable decline of presidential party unity early, as well.”

With a Democrat in the White House, the Washington Post sings a different tune about executive branch latitude and congressional oversight. Let the president do what he thinks is best — that is a change!

I mostly agree with this take on Tim Geithner: “This suggests what will be a problem for Mr. Obama’s economic team. He is drawing on the [Robert] Rubin wing of the Democratic Party, which was complicit in the entire Wall Street collapse. Rubin is already disgraced (yet of course not remorseful) and Geithner is one of their guys. But the real issue is not that they have been wrong – so were many Republicans and others – but an attitude that somehow the rules do not effect the people at the top. Go to Harvard, get an MBA, work on Wall Street (either directly or indirectly like Rep. Rangel) and you can avoid the mundane obligations of mere plebes. This may not derail the nomination, but it points out an attitudinal problem of our elites in both parties.” You do begin to wonder: Aren’t there any people fit for high office who don’t have issues?

We’re likely now to see more of this: “Summers outshines Geithner.” This seems where we are heading even if Geithner survives: “And while Obama officials say that Geithner’s low profile has not been related to his back taxes, questions about the non-payment could distract the former New York Fed chief and present Summers with an even larger opportunity to assert himself. If Geithner is pressed on the matter in media appearances, Summers could become a preferable messenger to present the new administration’s economic plans.”

A bizarre defense: rich people “cheat” on theit taxes by getting elite accountants to shelter income, so we shouldn’t be too harsh on Geithner who hired some schlub who messed up. Personal responsibility, anyone? And Geithner’s guy isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the tax code? (Recall that the IMF notified him of his obligations and that he signed acknowledgment of the same and received reimbursement for his [unpaid] taxes.) I think the Obama team better go the abject apology route if they want to rescue this one.

Are we missing the kids’ camp issue? One observer says this is worse than the self-employment taxes: “It’s the sleep-away camp that goes beyond the definition of simple mistake.The Senate Finance Committee may or may not take Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner’s word that his failure to pay thousands in past Social Security taxes was a mere oversight that shouldn’t stop his confirmation from going through. It’s awfully hard, though, to explain how someone who is supposed to have such financial acumen managed to overlook explicit instructions from the International Monetary Fund, his employer during the period the lapses occurred, to pay. An IMF tax handbook Geithner received describes on multiple pages the Social Security obligations and how its American staff living abroad is expected to meet them, according to a copy released by the committee. It may be morally harder to explain Geithner’s attempt to claim money spent on his children’s sleep-away camps as a child-care expense. The amount involved is a pittance compared with the larger tab for the back Social Security taxes. It’s the audacity that’s the problem.”

While pondering cabinet nominees Republicans might want to raise some objections, in the spirit of non-partisanship and good governance, about the nomination of Republican Ray LaHood. The Washington Post dubs him “an unapologetic advocate of earmarks.” He really is the poster child for old politics: “LaHood also has been criticized for his ties to a longtime Republican state kingmaker in Illinois, William F. Cellini Sr., who was indicted in the ‘pay-to-play’ criminal investigation underway by the office of Northern District U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Cellini has denied wrongdoing. ‘This guy has history of pork barrel spending and lot of a questionable spending linked to his friends. He’s going to be in charge of funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into local projects . . . and he’s not going to be suddenly changing his stripes tomorrow,’ said Leslie Paige of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.” Ugh.

Lahood’s hearing gets delayed –did someone perk up?

The ultimate NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) issue:  Guantanamo detainees.

Who says the President-elect isn’t savvy? The conservative scribes get a nice dinner at the Wills’ house, but the liberals can just meet at transition headquarters. (Maybe those publications with representatives at both meetings – e.g. Dowd and Brooks, Gigot and Seib — can compare notes and see if he gave the same answers to both groups.)

Isn’t one reason why conservatives aren’t “blaming” the Iraq war for the party’s electoral failings that the war has been largely won, and may turn out to be one of the lasting achievements of the Bush presidency? Generally it is liberals, not conservatives, who dismiss success in war. All that said, you will find many conservatives who loudly criticized the pre-surge conduct of the the war and recognized that it contributed to congressional losses in 2006.

And if fretful conservatives need an articulate explanation of the war’s rationale, Dick Cheney provides it in one concise paragraph.

Jeffrey Goldberg isn’t buying the crocodile tears routine from a fellow blogger (not that one).

Here’s a good way to help the economy: high level officials should stop scaring everyone with gloom and doom talk and lurching around with the new and uncertain bailout plans. Hey, that might work!

Tony Blankley thinks the honeymoon is ending early: “The media have been focusing on how wonderfully Obama is ahead of previous presidents in selecting appointees and introducing domestic plans during his transition — which is true. But what really may be happening is that his early substantive policy stands combined with his early appointments of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions (for each appointment, there may be a half-dozen or so Democratic senators disappointed that Obama did not pick their candidate) may be truncating his honeymoon with the legislative branch of government. In other words, every presidential personnel and policy decision makes a president more enemies (particularly in his party) and undermines his party’s unity. By getting started early on personnel and policy, Obama may have started the inevitable decline of presidential party unity early, as well.”

With a Democrat in the White House, the Washington Post sings a different tune about executive branch latitude and congressional oversight. Let the president do what he thinks is best — that is a change!

I mostly agree with this take on Tim Geithner: “This suggests what will be a problem for Mr. Obama’s economic team. He is drawing on the [Robert] Rubin wing of the Democratic Party, which was complicit in the entire Wall Street collapse. Rubin is already disgraced (yet of course not remorseful) and Geithner is one of their guys. But the real issue is not that they have been wrong – so were many Republicans and others – but an attitude that somehow the rules do not effect the people at the top. Go to Harvard, get an MBA, work on Wall Street (either directly or indirectly like Rep. Rangel) and you can avoid the mundane obligations of mere plebes. This may not derail the nomination, but it points out an attitudinal problem of our elites in both parties.” You do begin to wonder: Aren’t there any people fit for high office who don’t have issues?

We’re likely now to see more of this: “Summers outshines Geithner.” This seems where we are heading even if Geithner survives: “And while Obama officials say that Geithner’s low profile has not been related to his back taxes, questions about the non-payment could distract the former New York Fed chief and present Summers with an even larger opportunity to assert himself. If Geithner is pressed on the matter in media appearances, Summers could become a preferable messenger to present the new administration’s economic plans.”

A bizarre defense: rich people “cheat” on theit taxes by getting elite accountants to shelter income, so we shouldn’t be too harsh on Geithner who hired some schlub who messed up. Personal responsibility, anyone? And Geithner’s guy isn’t sophisticated enough to understand the tax code? (Recall that the IMF notified him of his obligations and that he signed acknowledgment of the same and received reimbursement for his [unpaid] taxes.) I think the Obama team better go the abject apology route if they want to rescue this one.

Are we missing the kids’ camp issue? One observer says this is worse than the self-employment taxes: “It’s the sleep-away camp that goes beyond the definition of simple mistake.The Senate Finance Committee may or may not take Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner’s word that his failure to pay thousands in past Social Security taxes was a mere oversight that shouldn’t stop his confirmation from going through. It’s awfully hard, though, to explain how someone who is supposed to have such financial acumen managed to overlook explicit instructions from the International Monetary Fund, his employer during the period the lapses occurred, to pay. An IMF tax handbook Geithner received describes on multiple pages the Social Security obligations and how its American staff living abroad is expected to meet them, according to a copy released by the committee. It may be morally harder to explain Geithner’s attempt to claim money spent on his children’s sleep-away camps as a child-care expense. The amount involved is a pittance compared with the larger tab for the back Social Security taxes. It’s the audacity that’s the problem.”

While pondering cabinet nominees Republicans might want to raise some objections, in the spirit of non-partisanship and good governance, about the nomination of Republican Ray LaHood. The Washington Post dubs him “an unapologetic advocate of earmarks.” He really is the poster child for old politics: “LaHood also has been criticized for his ties to a longtime Republican state kingmaker in Illinois, William F. Cellini Sr., who was indicted in the ‘pay-to-play’ criminal investigation underway by the office of Northern District U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Cellini has denied wrongdoing. ‘This guy has history of pork barrel spending and lot of a questionable spending linked to his friends. He’s going to be in charge of funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into local projects . . . and he’s not going to be suddenly changing his stripes tomorrow,’ said Leslie Paige of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.” Ugh.

Lahood’s hearing gets delayed –did someone perk up?

The ultimate NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) issue:  Guantanamo detainees.

Who says the President-elect isn’t savvy? The conservative scribes get a nice dinner at the Wills’ house, but the liberals can just meet at transition headquarters. (Maybe those publications with representatives at both meetings – e.g. Dowd and Brooks, Gigot and Seib — can compare notes and see if he gave the same answers to both groups.)

Isn’t one reason why conservatives aren’t “blaming” the Iraq war for the party’s electoral failings that the war has been largely won, and may turn out to be one of the lasting achievements of the Bush presidency? Generally it is liberals, not conservatives, who dismiss success in war. All that said, you will find many conservatives who loudly criticized the pre-surge conduct of the the war and recognized that it contributed to congressional losses in 2006.

And if fretful conservatives need an articulate explanation of the war’s rationale, Dick Cheney provides it in one concise paragraph.

Jeffrey Goldberg isn’t buying the crocodile tears routine from a fellow blogger (not that one).

Here’s a good way to help the economy: high level officials should stop scaring everyone with gloom and doom talk and lurching around with the new and uncertain bailout plans. Hey, that might work!

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.