Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 30, 2009

How Obama’s America Might Threaten Israel

Is there a threat to Israel from the United States under Barack Obama? The question itself seems perverse. For in spite of the hostility to Israel in certain American quarters, this country has more often than not been the beleaguered Jewish state’s only friend in the face of threats coming from others. Nor has the young Obama administration been any less fervent than its last two predecessors in declaring an undying commitment to the security and survival of Israel.

Nevertheless, during the 2008 presidential campaign, friends of Israel (a category that, speculations to the contrary notwithstanding, still includes a large majority of the American Jewish community) had ample reason for anxiety over Obama. The main reason was his attitude toward Iran. After all, Iran under its current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was vowing almost on a daily basis to “wipe Israel off the map” and was drawing closer and closer to acquiring the nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that would give the ruling mullocracy the means to do so. And yet Obama seemed to think that the best way to head off the very real possibility this posed of another holocaust was by entering into talks with Iran “without preconditions.” Otherwise, except for campaign promises, his record was bereft of any definitive indication of his views on the war the Arab/Muslim world has been waging against the Jewish state from the day of its founding more than sixty years ago.

Still—lest we forget—Obama did have a history of involvement with associates whose enmity toward Israel was unmistakable. There was, most notoriously, his longtime pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In addition to honoring the blatantly anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, Wright was on record as believing that Israel had joined with South Africa in developing an “ethnic bomb” designed to kill blacks and Arabs but not whites; he had accused Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians; and he had participated in a campaign to get American companies to “divest” from Israel. None of this, however, nor all of it together, had elicited so much as a peep of protest from Obama, never mind provoking him into leaving Wright’s congregation. He remained a member for twenty years, during which time Wright officiated at his marriage and baptized his children.

Then there was Rashid Khalidi, holder of a professorship at Columbia named after his idol, the late Edward Said. As befitted a reverential disciple of the leading propagandist for Palestinian terrorism, and himself a defender of suicide bombing, Khalidi regularly denounced Israel as a “racist” state in the process of creating an “apartheid system.” Nevertheless, Obama had befriended him, had publicly acknowledged being influenced by him, and, as a member of the board of a charitable foundation, had also helped to support him financially. And there was also one of Obama’s chief advisers on national security and the co-chairman of his campaign, General Merrill McPeak, who subscribed to the canard that American policy in the Middle East was dictated by Jews in the interests not of the United States but of Israel. Others said to be advising Obama included a number who were no more notable than McPeak for their friendliness toward Israel: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Malley, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the May issue of COMMENTARY.

Is there a threat to Israel from the United States under Barack Obama? The question itself seems perverse. For in spite of the hostility to Israel in certain American quarters, this country has more often than not been the beleaguered Jewish state’s only friend in the face of threats coming from others. Nor has the young Obama administration been any less fervent than its last two predecessors in declaring an undying commitment to the security and survival of Israel.

Nevertheless, during the 2008 presidential campaign, friends of Israel (a category that, speculations to the contrary notwithstanding, still includes a large majority of the American Jewish community) had ample reason for anxiety over Obama. The main reason was his attitude toward Iran. After all, Iran under its current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was vowing almost on a daily basis to “wipe Israel off the map” and was drawing closer and closer to acquiring the nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that would give the ruling mullocracy the means to do so. And yet Obama seemed to think that the best way to head off the very real possibility this posed of another holocaust was by entering into talks with Iran “without preconditions.” Otherwise, except for campaign promises, his record was bereft of any definitive indication of his views on the war the Arab/Muslim world has been waging against the Jewish state from the day of its founding more than sixty years ago.

Still—lest we forget—Obama did have a history of involvement with associates whose enmity toward Israel was unmistakable. There was, most notoriously, his longtime pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In addition to honoring the blatantly anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, Wright was on record as believing that Israel had joined with South Africa in developing an “ethnic bomb” designed to kill blacks and Arabs but not whites; he had accused Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians; and he had participated in a campaign to get American companies to “divest” from Israel. None of this, however, nor all of it together, had elicited so much as a peep of protest from Obama, never mind provoking him into leaving Wright’s congregation. He remained a member for twenty years, during which time Wright officiated at his marriage and baptized his children.

Then there was Rashid Khalidi, holder of a professorship at Columbia named after his idol, the late Edward Said. As befitted a reverential disciple of the leading propagandist for Palestinian terrorism, and himself a defender of suicide bombing, Khalidi regularly denounced Israel as a “racist” state in the process of creating an “apartheid system.” Nevertheless, Obama had befriended him, had publicly acknowledged being influenced by him, and, as a member of the board of a charitable foundation, had also helped to support him financially. And there was also one of Obama’s chief advisers on national security and the co-chairman of his campaign, General Merrill McPeak, who subscribed to the canard that American policy in the Middle East was dictated by Jews in the interests not of the United States but of Israel. Others said to be advising Obama included a number who were no more notable than McPeak for their friendliness toward Israel: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Malley, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the May issue of COMMENTARY.

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Israelis Who Feel Betrayed

A touching column by Shlomo Engel in YNet tells us of the lasting effects of disengagement: The sense of utter betrayal that Israelis who lived in the Gaza Strip and their supporters continue to feel, four years after the fact. Referring to the Independence-Day custom of putting little Israeli flags on cars, he writes:

I was unable to place Israel’s flag on my car like everyone else does. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it or that I don’t realize how important and significant this day was. I love my country very much. I am amazed by its rapid development and exceptional success stories. I understand and deeply feel the almost miraculous revolution undertaken by the Jewish people, who managed to create a glorious country after emerging from the Shoah’s crematoria.

Yet despite my great love for the State and for the people, and perhaps because of it, I cannot be proud of its flag as I used to be. This was the fourth Independence Day where I did not hang the flag I love so much. I did this after my State betrayed me, hurt me, humiliated me, and threw me away like a useless object.

If these words sound oddly familiar, it is because we are used to hearing them from the outer fringes of the Israeli Left. Like Engel, for years they too have felt not only outrage and a need to protest, but a deep sense of betrayal when they see the occupation, the violence, the “militarism” that they believe Israel exercises against Palestinians, in defiance of a Zionist dream of being a better, more merciful state than the others. Not a few of them leave the country, or at least loudly threaten to do so.

One is tempted to be put off by what looks like an adolescent rebellion: like the teenager who has discovered for the first time that his parents are not perfect, and responds by running away or deliberately trying to hurt them, these voices are showing their feelings of betrayal by rejecting the symbols of the nation that cradled them from birth, that gave them a dream, and then shattered it. But just as such teenagers are basically wrong, Israelis too should be glad they have a government capable of carrying out its most painful decisions, even when the decisions are ill-considered. The whole flag-hiding thing is kind of distasteful, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I can’t help but see some good in the whining, on both sides of the aisle. I mean, it sure beats apathy.

A touching column by Shlomo Engel in YNet tells us of the lasting effects of disengagement: The sense of utter betrayal that Israelis who lived in the Gaza Strip and their supporters continue to feel, four years after the fact. Referring to the Independence-Day custom of putting little Israeli flags on cars, he writes:

I was unable to place Israel’s flag on my car like everyone else does. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it or that I don’t realize how important and significant this day was. I love my country very much. I am amazed by its rapid development and exceptional success stories. I understand and deeply feel the almost miraculous revolution undertaken by the Jewish people, who managed to create a glorious country after emerging from the Shoah’s crematoria.

Yet despite my great love for the State and for the people, and perhaps because of it, I cannot be proud of its flag as I used to be. This was the fourth Independence Day where I did not hang the flag I love so much. I did this after my State betrayed me, hurt me, humiliated me, and threw me away like a useless object.

If these words sound oddly familiar, it is because we are used to hearing them from the outer fringes of the Israeli Left. Like Engel, for years they too have felt not only outrage and a need to protest, but a deep sense of betrayal when they see the occupation, the violence, the “militarism” that they believe Israel exercises against Palestinians, in defiance of a Zionist dream of being a better, more merciful state than the others. Not a few of them leave the country, or at least loudly threaten to do so.

One is tempted to be put off by what looks like an adolescent rebellion: like the teenager who has discovered for the first time that his parents are not perfect, and responds by running away or deliberately trying to hurt them, these voices are showing their feelings of betrayal by rejecting the symbols of the nation that cradled them from birth, that gave them a dream, and then shattered it. But just as such teenagers are basically wrong, Israelis too should be glad they have a government capable of carrying out its most painful decisions, even when the decisions are ill-considered. The whole flag-hiding thing is kind of distasteful, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I can’t help but see some good in the whining, on both sides of the aisle. I mean, it sure beats apathy.

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Commentary of the Day

nacl, on Jennifer Rubin:

Is Steward willing to call JFK a war criminal for authorizing the Bay of Pigs and his complicity in the murder of Presidents Qassam of Iraq and Diem of South Vietnam? Kennedy and his brother Robert repeatedly sent assassins after Fidel Castro. How do they rank, in Stewart’s mind, next to Bush/Cheney?

What about FDR who responded to a distant attack on a naval base from an enemy an ocean away by putting our entire population of Japanese Americans behinds barbed wire? Over 100,000 US citizens, women, infants, grandparents were locked away. And Roosevelt joined in carpet bombing Germany’s and Japan’s cities. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died under the rubble and in basements that had the air sucked out of them by the fire storms that caused the asphalt in the streets to burn. Curtis LeMay said, if we lose this war we will be tried for war crimes. General Eisenhower put Germany’s armies into stockades and tens of thousands of those POWs died of malnutrition and exposure in the cold winter following the end of the war. How does that compare to the housing, feeding and medicating of the illegal combatants in Guantanamo? How indignant will Stewart wax over that?

The Bush White House responded to an attack that killed more Americans than Pearl Harbor. It was unprecedented. Not since 1812 had war touched the American heartland. Now airliners sent by a nebulous enemy, were crashing into crowded skyscrapers in our cities. Bush/Cheney responded by exposing 100 terrorists to harsh interrogation, and three to waterboarding.

nacl, on Jennifer Rubin:

Is Steward willing to call JFK a war criminal for authorizing the Bay of Pigs and his complicity in the murder of Presidents Qassam of Iraq and Diem of South Vietnam? Kennedy and his brother Robert repeatedly sent assassins after Fidel Castro. How do they rank, in Stewart’s mind, next to Bush/Cheney?

What about FDR who responded to a distant attack on a naval base from an enemy an ocean away by putting our entire population of Japanese Americans behinds barbed wire? Over 100,000 US citizens, women, infants, grandparents were locked away. And Roosevelt joined in carpet bombing Germany’s and Japan’s cities. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died under the rubble and in basements that had the air sucked out of them by the fire storms that caused the asphalt in the streets to burn. Curtis LeMay said, if we lose this war we will be tried for war crimes. General Eisenhower put Germany’s armies into stockades and tens of thousands of those POWs died of malnutrition and exposure in the cold winter following the end of the war. How does that compare to the housing, feeding and medicating of the illegal combatants in Guantanamo? How indignant will Stewart wax over that?

The Bush White House responded to an attack that killed more Americans than Pearl Harbor. It was unprecedented. Not since 1812 had war touched the American heartland. Now airliners sent by a nebulous enemy, were crashing into crowded skyscrapers in our cities. Bush/Cheney responded by exposing 100 terrorists to harsh interrogation, and three to waterboarding.

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How Isolated Can You Get?

At JTA Ami Eden writes:

J Street has sent out a mass e-mail opposing a bipartisan push in Congress for tougher sanctions on Iran. Here’s the relevant passage:

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough — but the chances of success won’t be helped by Congress imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.

Yet, just this week, the Orwellian-named “Iran Diplomacy Enhancement Act” was introduced in the House — a bill that in reality does nothing to “enhance diplomacy” but instead imposes further sanctions on Iran, directly undercutting the President’s diplomatic message.

The only thing Orwellian here is J Street’s implication that lawmakers are undercutting the Obama administration by pushing for sanctions.

[. . .]

It’s always possible that Obama will end up filp-flopping on this issue, now that he is the one sitting in the Oval Office, but until then… J Street may or may not be right that the mostly good cop approach is better than the carrots-and-sticks strategy, but this much is clear: By coming out against sanctions, J Street is the one undermining Obama’s Iran policy.

Ouch. But it’s not just Obama’s policy that J Street is undermining. The bipartisan effort by Congress includes Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Risch (R-ID), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

How far out of the mainstream of public opinion is J Street that they find themselves at loggerheads with Obama, Dennis Ross, the State Department, and a group of some of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate? Way out…

One is left to conclude that J Street simply doesn’t want any pressure applied to Iran. Nor does it favor any policy with a reasonable chance of blocking Iran’s nuclear ambition. Is this out of sympathy for the mullahs’ desire for self-esteem? Or do they cherish seeing Israel left with no option but a military one to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Hard to say. But one thing is certain: it’s no easy trick getting so utterly isolated from every respectable player in American politics. But the kids on J Street pulled it off.

At JTA Ami Eden writes:

J Street has sent out a mass e-mail opposing a bipartisan push in Congress for tougher sanctions on Iran. Here’s the relevant passage:

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough — but the chances of success won’t be helped by Congress imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.

Yet, just this week, the Orwellian-named “Iran Diplomacy Enhancement Act” was introduced in the House — a bill that in reality does nothing to “enhance diplomacy” but instead imposes further sanctions on Iran, directly undercutting the President’s diplomatic message.

The only thing Orwellian here is J Street’s implication that lawmakers are undercutting the Obama administration by pushing for sanctions.

[. . .]

It’s always possible that Obama will end up filp-flopping on this issue, now that he is the one sitting in the Oval Office, but until then… J Street may or may not be right that the mostly good cop approach is better than the carrots-and-sticks strategy, but this much is clear: By coming out against sanctions, J Street is the one undermining Obama’s Iran policy.

Ouch. But it’s not just Obama’s policy that J Street is undermining. The bipartisan effort by Congress includes Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kit Bond (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Risch (R-ID), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

How far out of the mainstream of public opinion is J Street that they find themselves at loggerheads with Obama, Dennis Ross, the State Department, and a group of some of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate? Way out…

One is left to conclude that J Street simply doesn’t want any pressure applied to Iran. Nor does it favor any policy with a reasonable chance of blocking Iran’s nuclear ambition. Is this out of sympathy for the mullahs’ desire for self-esteem? Or do they cherish seeing Israel left with no option but a military one to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? Hard to say. But one thing is certain: it’s no easy trick getting so utterly isolated from every respectable player in American politics. But the kids on J Street pulled it off.

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Sounds Familiar to Me

Providing further support for my point that there is less change than meets the eye in the foreign policy of the new administration is this report on remarks delivered by Michelle Fluornoy, the new Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (i.e., the third-ranking official at the Defense Department). According to the reporter, this is what Fluornoy cited in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 29 as the six guiding principles of the Obama defense-team:

•  Pragmatism. She told the standing-room-only audience that “we will
put pragmatism first, not ideology.”

•  Constant engagement. Under the Obama team, she said, Washington will
“remain engaged in critical regions,” something she called “absolutely
essential.” ….

•  “Smarter” engagement. The administration will think twice about how
to use the U.S. military and will be “more proactive” on using
America’s soft power tools, meaning things like the diplomatic,
economic development and political assistance arms of the federal
government.

•  International pacts. Flournoy promised Washington will “champion the
rules of law,” including international laws and treaties, while also
“leading the way in adapting international orders.” ….

•  Alliances. She called traditional alliances “absolutely essential,”
and stressed the importance of helping partner nations increase their
own abilities to take care of problems.

• “Whole of government.” “We must recommend that, in many cases,
military power will not be enough to deal with 21st century problems,”
she said.

The report on Fluornoy’s remarks seemed to suggest that she thinks these principles represent a break from those of the Bush administration. But is there a single one of these that a Bush official would contest? I think not. The problem wasn’t that the Bushies didn’t believe in these principles; it was that they didn’t carry them out very effectively. Let us hope that the Obama-ites will do better. Their first 100 days, however, should temper any assumptions that they somehow are more on top of things than the
people they replaced. Have they figured out yet how to say “reset button” in Russian?

Providing further support for my point that there is less change than meets the eye in the foreign policy of the new administration is this report on remarks delivered by Michelle Fluornoy, the new Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (i.e., the third-ranking official at the Defense Department). According to the reporter, this is what Fluornoy cited in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies on April 29 as the six guiding principles of the Obama defense-team:

•  Pragmatism. She told the standing-room-only audience that “we will
put pragmatism first, not ideology.”

•  Constant engagement. Under the Obama team, she said, Washington will
“remain engaged in critical regions,” something she called “absolutely
essential.” ….

•  “Smarter” engagement. The administration will think twice about how
to use the U.S. military and will be “more proactive” on using
America’s soft power tools, meaning things like the diplomatic,
economic development and political assistance arms of the federal
government.

•  International pacts. Flournoy promised Washington will “champion the
rules of law,” including international laws and treaties, while also
“leading the way in adapting international orders.” ….

•  Alliances. She called traditional alliances “absolutely essential,”
and stressed the importance of helping partner nations increase their
own abilities to take care of problems.

• “Whole of government.” “We must recommend that, in many cases,
military power will not be enough to deal with 21st century problems,”
she said.

The report on Fluornoy’s remarks seemed to suggest that she thinks these principles represent a break from those of the Bush administration. But is there a single one of these that a Bush official would contest? I think not. The problem wasn’t that the Bushies didn’t believe in these principles; it was that they didn’t carry them out very effectively. Let us hope that the Obama-ites will do better. Their first 100 days, however, should temper any assumptions that they somehow are more on top of things than the
people they replaced. Have they figured out yet how to say “reset button” in Russian?

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Where Is Card Check?

Sen. Arlen Specter’s party shift has not, at least immediately, brightened the prospects for card check. As Chris Cillizza reports:

The Employee Free Choice Act, once thought to be THE fight of the 111th Congress, disappeared not with a bang but with a whimper when Specter, seeking to protect his right flank in a Republican primary, came out against it. And, although he has now switched political teams, Specter made clear in his statement on Tuesday that he still opposed EFCA. Labor operatives are optimistic that with Specter now caucusing with Democrats that some sort of deal can be worked out but much work would have to be done to convince other members of the party — Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, for one — to get behind the legislation.

That’s a view shared over at Huffington Post, where Sam Stein quotes a Democratic aide’s observation that it is not just Lincoln but Dianne Feinstein and Jim Webb who’d have to be brought back into the pro-card check fold (not to mention Mark Pryor). Nevertheless, Stein is right I think in suggesting that Specter’s switch brings the potential for some pro-labor “compromise” back to life. The AFL-CIO’s legislative director is declaring it “a new day for the Employee Free Choice Act and labor law reform.”

It will be interesting to see whether the highly successful anti-EFCA forces can adopt an anti-EFCA-lite game plan. There are a couple avenues which they haven’t yet explored, in large part because they were able to beat back EFCA by focusing on the prospect of losing the secret ballot and the huge problems (legal and economic ) with mandatory arbitration.

The first is to back bipartisan reform. Enshrine in statute and enforce the Bush era measures combating union corruption and requiring financial disclosure, make proposed fines for unfair labor practices apply to both unions and employers, and ensure that whatever time limits on elections and access to employer premises (or email) which are required for employers also apply to union decertification elections and union premises (or email), respectively. That might either scare off Big Labor or, if not, maintain the traditional balance between labor and management that has been a hallmark of federal labor law for decades.

The second is to go after the premise that any of this is needed at all. EFCA has been a solution in search of a problem, resting on the questionable notion that unions are losing “market share” not because of worldwide trends against unionization or  because  of younger worker’s lack of affinity for unions but because of nefarious actions by employers. This requires some sober discussion and fact-finding hearings, which may not be in the offing in a Democratic-controlled Congress where the hearings are likely to be stacked heavily in favor of pro-union witnesses. Nevertheless, business groups would be wise to start educating lawmakers and the public if they want to burst the myth that the solution to Big Labor’s woes is more federal legislation.

Sen. Arlen Specter’s party shift has not, at least immediately, brightened the prospects for card check. As Chris Cillizza reports:

The Employee Free Choice Act, once thought to be THE fight of the 111th Congress, disappeared not with a bang but with a whimper when Specter, seeking to protect his right flank in a Republican primary, came out against it. And, although he has now switched political teams, Specter made clear in his statement on Tuesday that he still opposed EFCA. Labor operatives are optimistic that with Specter now caucusing with Democrats that some sort of deal can be worked out but much work would have to be done to convince other members of the party — Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, for one — to get behind the legislation.

That’s a view shared over at Huffington Post, where Sam Stein quotes a Democratic aide’s observation that it is not just Lincoln but Dianne Feinstein and Jim Webb who’d have to be brought back into the pro-card check fold (not to mention Mark Pryor). Nevertheless, Stein is right I think in suggesting that Specter’s switch brings the potential for some pro-labor “compromise” back to life. The AFL-CIO’s legislative director is declaring it “a new day for the Employee Free Choice Act and labor law reform.”

It will be interesting to see whether the highly successful anti-EFCA forces can adopt an anti-EFCA-lite game plan. There are a couple avenues which they haven’t yet explored, in large part because they were able to beat back EFCA by focusing on the prospect of losing the secret ballot and the huge problems (legal and economic ) with mandatory arbitration.

The first is to back bipartisan reform. Enshrine in statute and enforce the Bush era measures combating union corruption and requiring financial disclosure, make proposed fines for unfair labor practices apply to both unions and employers, and ensure that whatever time limits on elections and access to employer premises (or email) which are required for employers also apply to union decertification elections and union premises (or email), respectively. That might either scare off Big Labor or, if not, maintain the traditional balance between labor and management that has been a hallmark of federal labor law for decades.

The second is to go after the premise that any of this is needed at all. EFCA has been a solution in search of a problem, resting on the questionable notion that unions are losing “market share” not because of worldwide trends against unionization or  because  of younger worker’s lack of affinity for unions but because of nefarious actions by employers. This requires some sober discussion and fact-finding hearings, which may not be in the offing in a Democratic-controlled Congress where the hearings are likely to be stacked heavily in favor of pro-union witnesses. Nevertheless, business groups would be wise to start educating lawmakers and the public if they want to burst the myth that the solution to Big Labor’s woes is more federal legislation.

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What America Wants in the Middle East

The New America Foundation held a soiree in Washington on Monday on “U.S.-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium.” It’s no surprise to learn that the highlights were all about how the U.S. needs to get tough, not with the Islamists running an oil empire but with the tiny Israeli democracy to its north. Indeed, the jabbering from the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chuck Hagel, Rita Hauser, and Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal about forcing the Zionists to knuckle under was enough to prompt the Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss to lose his own balance.

The consensus among this confederacy of dunces was that President Obama must force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize Hamas or a Hamas-Fatah coalition, surrender to this terrorist alliance every inch of the West Bank, and partition Jerusalem. Oh, and forget about trying to stop the near-imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Islamists running Iran. Don’t worry that they will soon be in a position to blackmail the entire Middle East or make good on their promise to annihilate the Jewish State.

This is what passes for wisdom at the New America Foundation and the Nation. It would, if Obama heeds their advice, only set the stage for even more bloodshed and suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians. Seeing a group that is supposedly interested in helping the Saudis, so intent on ignoring the threat from Iran (which is just as dangerous to the Saudis and other Arab regimes as it is to Israel) just shows how malice toward Israel can distort people’s thinking.

What is particularly dense in Dreyfuss’s thinking is his pick for the smartest thing said by Brzezinski: that the United States has never spelled out what it wants from the peace process. This is absolutely false:

In 2002 and again in 2004, the much-reviled George W. Bush did exactly that. He said he wanted a democratic Palestinian state, led by politicians who are neither corrupt nor compromised by terror, living in peace alongside the State of Israel. Unfortunately, that is exactly the kind of Palestinian state that is never going to exist so long as the Palestinians are led by Fatah or Hamas, which are both more interested in destroying Israel than in having their own state. Nor is it the sort of Palestinian state that most of Israel’s American critics are particularly interested in seeing.

If Obama is really interested in Middle East peace, he will ignore his onetime adviser Brzezinski and echo Bush’s call for Palestinian democracy and a genuine renunciation of terror.

The New America Foundation held a soiree in Washington on Monday on “U.S.-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium.” It’s no surprise to learn that the highlights were all about how the U.S. needs to get tough, not with the Islamists running an oil empire but with the tiny Israeli democracy to its north. Indeed, the jabbering from the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chuck Hagel, Rita Hauser, and Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal about forcing the Zionists to knuckle under was enough to prompt the Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss to lose his own balance.

The consensus among this confederacy of dunces was that President Obama must force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize Hamas or a Hamas-Fatah coalition, surrender to this terrorist alliance every inch of the West Bank, and partition Jerusalem. Oh, and forget about trying to stop the near-imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Islamists running Iran. Don’t worry that they will soon be in a position to blackmail the entire Middle East or make good on their promise to annihilate the Jewish State.

This is what passes for wisdom at the New America Foundation and the Nation. It would, if Obama heeds their advice, only set the stage for even more bloodshed and suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians. Seeing a group that is supposedly interested in helping the Saudis, so intent on ignoring the threat from Iran (which is just as dangerous to the Saudis and other Arab regimes as it is to Israel) just shows how malice toward Israel can distort people’s thinking.

What is particularly dense in Dreyfuss’s thinking is his pick for the smartest thing said by Brzezinski: that the United States has never spelled out what it wants from the peace process. This is absolutely false:

In 2002 and again in 2004, the much-reviled George W. Bush did exactly that. He said he wanted a democratic Palestinian state, led by politicians who are neither corrupt nor compromised by terror, living in peace alongside the State of Israel. Unfortunately, that is exactly the kind of Palestinian state that is never going to exist so long as the Palestinians are led by Fatah or Hamas, which are both more interested in destroying Israel than in having their own state. Nor is it the sort of Palestinian state that most of Israel’s American critics are particularly interested in seeing.

If Obama is really interested in Middle East peace, he will ignore his onetime adviser Brzezinski and echo Bush’s call for Palestinian democracy and a genuine renunciation of terror.

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Budget Vote

Word has not filtered to the U.S. Senate that Barack Obama is the dreamiest president ever. His budget could garner only 53 votes. On the “nay” side was the new “loyal Democrat,” Arlen Specter. (Are Pennsylvania Democrats yet wondering what’s in this for them?) Also “nay”: Sens. Byrd, Bayh, and (Ben) Nelson. So all Republicans and three conservative Democrats plus Specter voted against a $3.5 trillion budget at the height of the president’s popularity.

I suppose bipartisanship is not yet dead, but perhaps it is not what the president had in mind. And the vote count might make those red state Democrats who voted “yes” — including Conrad, Pryor, Lincoln, and Dorgan (the last two are up for reelection in 2010) — a tad nervous. After all, if Arlen Specter can stand up to his new party in the name of fiscal sobriety, why couldn’t they?

Word has not filtered to the U.S. Senate that Barack Obama is the dreamiest president ever. His budget could garner only 53 votes. On the “nay” side was the new “loyal Democrat,” Arlen Specter. (Are Pennsylvania Democrats yet wondering what’s in this for them?) Also “nay”: Sens. Byrd, Bayh, and (Ben) Nelson. So all Republicans and three conservative Democrats plus Specter voted against a $3.5 trillion budget at the height of the president’s popularity.

I suppose bipartisanship is not yet dead, but perhaps it is not what the president had in mind. And the vote count might make those red state Democrats who voted “yes” — including Conrad, Pryor, Lincoln, and Dorgan (the last two are up for reelection in 2010) — a tad nervous. After all, if Arlen Specter can stand up to his new party in the name of fiscal sobriety, why couldn’t they?

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Yale Surveys Its Seniors

Every year, Yale gives the seniors a survey. A former student has just sent me a copy of this year’s edition.  What does Yale survey its soon to be graduates about?

Well, a great many things.  But here’s one question:

4A. As an undergraduate, did you ever seriously question or rethink your beliefs or values in any of the following areas? You need not have changed your beliefs or values in order to answer ‘yes’ to having questioned them in a fundamental way.

Curious.  I, for one, did not realize that one of Yale’s official goals is to encourage students to question or rethink their beliefs and values in “a fundamental way.”  Undoubtedly, some students will do this in the course of four years, whether a university wills it or not, and that is just fine.

But the point of these sorts of questions – and there are plenty of them on the survey – is to ascertain whether or not Yale has made its students more multicultural, more accepting of others, and more aware of problems as defined by the Left.  When universities talk about “fundamental” change, it is fundamental only in one political direction.

Maybe we shouldn’t make too much of this.  The Yale campus is inundated with surveys, and the fate of a good many of them is to be chucked into a closet and left there.  But the culture of surveying in academia is not a healthy one.  It is, for instance, not a good thing that teaching evaluations are publicly available for students to peruse.  “Customer service” is not the right model for higher education, because the “customers” are the ones being educated.

The senior survey is, of course, another example of the political partiality that prevails in Yale’s administration, but it is also a study in what has happened in education to cause surveys to run rampant: the more the institution loses confidence in its authority to educate in the classroom, the more it finds other goals to justify its existence, be it political indoctrination or keeping the students happy by letting them pick and chose the easiest classes.

And it works.  As the Yale Daily News put it,

Chris Young ’09 has become a lot more comfortable with his body since he has been at Yale. So comfortable, in fact, that one of his final plans for senior year is to run through Bass Library naked with fellow classmates the night before the organic chemistry final, throwing candy to the students busy studying. ‘Four years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead thinking about that,’ he continued. ‘But now it’s just like, “Okay, cool.” It’s not even a big deal.’

Streaking on campus is a tradition.  But there is something a bit creepy about the fact that Mr. Young has so eagerly learned the lesson that Yale is signaling in its survey: the values you came in with are not a big deal.  Apart from the fact that these values may, sometimes, actually be a big deal, this seems too vapid a lesson to be worth $200,000 and four years to learn.

Every year, Yale gives the seniors a survey. A former student has just sent me a copy of this year’s edition.  What does Yale survey its soon to be graduates about?

Well, a great many things.  But here’s one question:

4A. As an undergraduate, did you ever seriously question or rethink your beliefs or values in any of the following areas? You need not have changed your beliefs or values in order to answer ‘yes’ to having questioned them in a fundamental way.

Curious.  I, for one, did not realize that one of Yale’s official goals is to encourage students to question or rethink their beliefs and values in “a fundamental way.”  Undoubtedly, some students will do this in the course of four years, whether a university wills it or not, and that is just fine.

But the point of these sorts of questions – and there are plenty of them on the survey – is to ascertain whether or not Yale has made its students more multicultural, more accepting of others, and more aware of problems as defined by the Left.  When universities talk about “fundamental” change, it is fundamental only in one political direction.

Maybe we shouldn’t make too much of this.  The Yale campus is inundated with surveys, and the fate of a good many of them is to be chucked into a closet and left there.  But the culture of surveying in academia is not a healthy one.  It is, for instance, not a good thing that teaching evaluations are publicly available for students to peruse.  “Customer service” is not the right model for higher education, because the “customers” are the ones being educated.

The senior survey is, of course, another example of the political partiality that prevails in Yale’s administration, but it is also a study in what has happened in education to cause surveys to run rampant: the more the institution loses confidence in its authority to educate in the classroom, the more it finds other goals to justify its existence, be it political indoctrination or keeping the students happy by letting them pick and chose the easiest classes.

And it works.  As the Yale Daily News put it,

Chris Young ’09 has become a lot more comfortable with his body since he has been at Yale. So comfortable, in fact, that one of his final plans for senior year is to run through Bass Library naked with fellow classmates the night before the organic chemistry final, throwing candy to the students busy studying. ‘Four years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead thinking about that,’ he continued. ‘But now it’s just like, “Okay, cool.” It’s not even a big deal.’

Streaking on campus is a tradition.  But there is something a bit creepy about the fact that Mr. Young has so eagerly learned the lesson that Yale is signaling in its survey: the values you came in with are not a big deal.  Apart from the fact that these values may, sometimes, actually be a big deal, this seems too vapid a lesson to be worth $200,000 and four years to learn.

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Bravo, Cliff

It does not happen often but a conservative, Cliff May in this case, wins an argument with Jon Stewart – on interrogation no less. The segment is worth watching, more than once, in its entirety. May makes the case that there are techniques that do not rise to the level of torture which we should be able to utilize on terrorists if American lives are at stake. Stewart (who doesn’t seem to know exactly what the Geneva Convention requires and to whom it applies) seems strangely willing to risk American lives rather than make terrorists uncomfortable.

Well, I suppose there is a segment of the population which agrees with Stewart that Truman is a war criminal and that Americans should risk death rather than engage in any treatment beyond politely requesting al Qaeda terrorists give us name, rank, and serial number. But how many Americans share that extreme view?

In some sense this is the pathetic state of liberalism today. The Left’s great media star is ready to indict posthumously a lion in the Democratic pantheon of great presidents. The audience hoots in approval. Imagine what JFK or Scoop Jackson (or Lane Kirkland for that matter) would have thought about the state of this liberalism and its adherents who cannot rise to defend their fellow citizens. And Bill Clinton should watch his back — he after all did order the bombing of a factory where innocents were killed.

It does not happen often but a conservative, Cliff May in this case, wins an argument with Jon Stewart – on interrogation no less. The segment is worth watching, more than once, in its entirety. May makes the case that there are techniques that do not rise to the level of torture which we should be able to utilize on terrorists if American lives are at stake. Stewart (who doesn’t seem to know exactly what the Geneva Convention requires and to whom it applies) seems strangely willing to risk American lives rather than make terrorists uncomfortable.

Well, I suppose there is a segment of the population which agrees with Stewart that Truman is a war criminal and that Americans should risk death rather than engage in any treatment beyond politely requesting al Qaeda terrorists give us name, rank, and serial number. But how many Americans share that extreme view?

In some sense this is the pathetic state of liberalism today. The Left’s great media star is ready to indict posthumously a lion in the Democratic pantheon of great presidents. The audience hoots in approval. Imagine what JFK or Scoop Jackson (or Lane Kirkland for that matter) would have thought about the state of this liberalism and its adherents who cannot rise to defend their fellow citizens. And Bill Clinton should watch his back — he after all did order the bombing of a factory where innocents were killed.

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The Taliban and Pashtun Nationalism

Pakistan is looking more dangerous and precarious by the week. The only Muslim country in the world with an arsenal of nuclear weapons is now threatened by a ferocious and rapidly expanding Taliban insurgency. The most retrograde Islamist army on earth has conquered territory just a few hours’ drive from the capital. Though this discouraging outcome wasn’t inevitable, it was at least likely. As Robert Kaplan pointed out in an insightful essay in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, “the Taliban constitute merely the latest incarnation of Pashtun nationalism.” And ethnic Pashtuns live on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “Indeed,” Kaplan adds, “much of the fighting in Afghanistan today occurs in Pashtunistan: southern and eastern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Take a look at two maps. The first shows the geographic breakdown of Pakistan’s patchwork of ethnicities. You’ll notice that ethnic Pashtuns live in the notoriously backward and violent northwestern frontier provinces. Their region extends deep into Afghanistan and covers the southeastern part of that country. These two regions – which are actually a single region with a somewhat arbitrary national border between them – are where most Taliban activity has been concentrated since the United States destroyed their regime in Afghanistan. A second map shows the breakdown of areas in Pakistan currently under Taliban control. You’ll see, when you compare the maps carefully, that almost all areas that are either Taliban-controlled or Taliban-influenced, are Pashtun.

The Taliban are more than an expression of Pashtun nationalism, of course. They represent a reactionary movement that idealizes the simplicity and extreme conservatism of 7th century Islam. By burnishing this ideology, the Taliban is able, absurdly, to attract support beyond its Pashtun base.

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Pakistan is looking more dangerous and precarious by the week. The only Muslim country in the world with an arsenal of nuclear weapons is now threatened by a ferocious and rapidly expanding Taliban insurgency. The most retrograde Islamist army on earth has conquered territory just a few hours’ drive from the capital. Though this discouraging outcome wasn’t inevitable, it was at least likely. As Robert Kaplan pointed out in an insightful essay in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, “the Taliban constitute merely the latest incarnation of Pashtun nationalism.” And ethnic Pashtuns live on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “Indeed,” Kaplan adds, “much of the fighting in Afghanistan today occurs in Pashtunistan: southern and eastern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Take a look at two maps. The first shows the geographic breakdown of Pakistan’s patchwork of ethnicities. You’ll notice that ethnic Pashtuns live in the notoriously backward and violent northwestern frontier provinces. Their region extends deep into Afghanistan and covers the southeastern part of that country. These two regions – which are actually a single region with a somewhat arbitrary national border between them – are where most Taliban activity has been concentrated since the United States destroyed their regime in Afghanistan. A second map shows the breakdown of areas in Pakistan currently under Taliban control. You’ll see, when you compare the maps carefully, that almost all areas that are either Taliban-controlled or Taliban-influenced, are Pashtun.

The Taliban are more than an expression of Pashtun nationalism, of course. They represent a reactionary movement that idealizes the simplicity and extreme conservatism of 7th century Islam. By burnishing this ideology, the Taliban is able, absurdly, to attract support beyond its Pashtun base.

The ethnic component, though, is a formidable one. It all but guaranteed a certain degree of success by the Taliban in all of “Pashtunistan,” in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. Yet all the while, the ethnic map imposes constraints, if not limits, on how far the Taliban can expand.

They were able to seize power in most of Afghanistan before 2001, although the “Northern Alliance” — made up primarily of ethnic Tajiks – managed to hold out until Americans arrived and smashed the regime in Kabul. Since then, the Taliban have had a harder time operating outside “Pashtunistan.” “The north of Afghanistan,” Kaplan writes, “beyond the Hindu Kush, has seen less fighting and is in the midst of reconstruction and the forging of closer links to the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, inhabited by the same ethnic groups that populate northern Afghanistan.”

The Taliban have been able to operate in some areas outside their ethnic perimeter, even so. The maps demonstrate that, as well. “Pashtunistan” is their platform. They aren’t prisoners of their own demographics. They can seize territory beyond their base, but it’s harder.

Armed radical groups in the Middle East run up against similar constraints and limits. Al Qaeda in Iraq has never been able to hold territory outside Sunni Arab areas. They have been able to terrorize Shia Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad, but they can hardly do that much in the Kurdish parts of the country, even though most Iraqi Kurds also are Sunnis. Iraq’s sectarian boundaries are difficult to breach, but the ethnic boundaries are like walls.

Hezbollah in Lebanon has a similar problem. Hardly anyone who isn’t a Shia sincerely supports them or their program. A few Sunnis and Druze, and a larger number of Christians, are willing to tolerate a Shia Islamist militia as a powerful electoral coalition partner for tactical reasons, but they will never submit to a Shia theocracy or the transformation of Lebanon into a formal jihad state or a satellite of Iran. Hezbollah knows it, too, and many of its officials admit as much in public.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, like Lebanon and Iraq, are hypercomplicated Balkanized patchwork states. They’re inherently unstable. Perhaps they always will be if they don’t subdivide into coherent nation-states as most of Yugoslavia did. It’s hard to predict events anywhere in the world, and it’s even harder in countries like these. One thing, though, is all but certain. Now that the Taliban have consolidated power in Pashtunistan, whether they seize control of the capital and the rest of the country or not, they will face stiffer resistance from here on out than they have in the past.

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Return on Investment

During the last election, Big Labor spent literally millions to get Barack Obama elected. The biggest Labor contributor to Obama’s campaign was the Service Employees International Union, which paid out about $32 million dollars. But another certified “heavy hitter” was the United Auto Workers, which forked over $2.1 million dollars (99% to Democrats) — and that’s just direct cash contributions. The unions are legendary for their ability to get out the vote — nominally in a non-partisan manner, of course, but which just somehow ends up bringing out a lot more for the Democrats.

This week, the UAW is seeing that it might have been money very well spent. The Obama administration’s current plan for the restructuring of Chrysler revolves around the union holding 55% of the company — with the next-biggest stakeholder being the Italian automaker Fiat.

This seems unprecedented — the workers will be running the company. That in and of itself isn’t so unusual, but the way it is being effected — not through a court ruling or a buyout, rather by fiat of the Chief Executive of the United States — is.

The development seems vaguely familiar. The phrase “the workers control the means of production” rings a bell…

This also raises an interesting potential conflict of interest. Every few years, the single most important action the auto makers take is when they renegotiate their contracts with their workers. Now the union is not just the representative of its workers, but also a competitor. Wouldn’t it make good economic sense for them to use their power against GM and Ford (especially Ford, who has refused any government assistance) in the labor negotiations? And does anyone seriously believe that the Obama administration will take such matters seriously and take any action whatsoever to protect Ford and GM?

The one consolation here is that the UAW is getting Chrysler.  It’s so seriously in the hole, that the term “pig in a poke” seems an understatement. It very well might take shenanigans like the ones described above, and a heck of a lot more, for Chrysler to start making profits again.

Of course, that’s not really a concern of the UAW. They want the jobs to continue, at very high wages. They understand that a profitable company is better equipped to pay those high wages, but the two are not necessarily linked. They have their very powerful friends in the government to help them out, in many ways.

More bailouts are not out of the question. Also, the government buys a lot of vehicles every year. Should this deal go through, it’s a safe bet that the number of Chrysler products ending up with Uncle Sam plates will skyrocket. There will be plenty of other federal dollars steered towards the company in a multitude of other ways.

Perhaps a joint union-Italian ownership and management of Chrysler is the best solution for the troubled company. But the way it is being done — with the White House dictating the terms of the deal — is deeply troubling to those who believe in the free enterprise system.

UPDATE: “Chrysler to File Bankruptcy”: Pig poked.

During the last election, Big Labor spent literally millions to get Barack Obama elected. The biggest Labor contributor to Obama’s campaign was the Service Employees International Union, which paid out about $32 million dollars. But another certified “heavy hitter” was the United Auto Workers, which forked over $2.1 million dollars (99% to Democrats) — and that’s just direct cash contributions. The unions are legendary for their ability to get out the vote — nominally in a non-partisan manner, of course, but which just somehow ends up bringing out a lot more for the Democrats.

This week, the UAW is seeing that it might have been money very well spent. The Obama administration’s current plan for the restructuring of Chrysler revolves around the union holding 55% of the company — with the next-biggest stakeholder being the Italian automaker Fiat.

This seems unprecedented — the workers will be running the company. That in and of itself isn’t so unusual, but the way it is being effected — not through a court ruling or a buyout, rather by fiat of the Chief Executive of the United States — is.

The development seems vaguely familiar. The phrase “the workers control the means of production” rings a bell…

This also raises an interesting potential conflict of interest. Every few years, the single most important action the auto makers take is when they renegotiate their contracts with their workers. Now the union is not just the representative of its workers, but also a competitor. Wouldn’t it make good economic sense for them to use their power against GM and Ford (especially Ford, who has refused any government assistance) in the labor negotiations? And does anyone seriously believe that the Obama administration will take such matters seriously and take any action whatsoever to protect Ford and GM?

The one consolation here is that the UAW is getting Chrysler.  It’s so seriously in the hole, that the term “pig in a poke” seems an understatement. It very well might take shenanigans like the ones described above, and a heck of a lot more, for Chrysler to start making profits again.

Of course, that’s not really a concern of the UAW. They want the jobs to continue, at very high wages. They understand that a profitable company is better equipped to pay those high wages, but the two are not necessarily linked. They have their very powerful friends in the government to help them out, in many ways.

More bailouts are not out of the question. Also, the government buys a lot of vehicles every year. Should this deal go through, it’s a safe bet that the number of Chrysler products ending up with Uncle Sam plates will skyrocket. There will be plenty of other federal dollars steered towards the company in a multitude of other ways.

Perhaps a joint union-Italian ownership and management of Chrysler is the best solution for the troubled company. But the way it is being done — with the White House dictating the terms of the deal — is deeply troubling to those who believe in the free enterprise system.

UPDATE: “Chrysler to File Bankruptcy”: Pig poked.

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Pat Buchanan’s Latest anti-Semitic Outburst

Some people, as they age, grow more gracious and large-spirited. Others become embittered and increasingly lash out at the world and others. And the very worst become like Patrick J. Buchanan.

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic drew attention to a recent column by Buchanan about John Demjanjuk, who is to stand trial in Germany for his alleged role in the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. According to Buchanan, John Demjanjuk is to “serve as the sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.” He is to be, in Buchanan’s words, “punish[ed] in expiation for Germany’s sins.” And Buchanan adds this: “The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.”

This is really all quite ugly. For Buchanan, a Catholic, to compare Demjanjuk to Jesus — who, according to Christian belief, was deity, holy and without sin — is strikingly offensive. So is his effort to revive the charge of blood libel. Rarely do you find such an obscene mix of blasphemy and bigotry, and all in less than 900 words.

William F. Buckley, Jr. did many great deeds on behalf of conservatism over the course of his life. Near the top of the list was when he said in 1991 that he found it “impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what [Buchanan] did and said during the period under examination [the first Gulf War] amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it.”

Things have only gotten worse since. Hatreds and prejudices that appear to have been bubbling underneath the surface in the past have surged forth in full public view. Such things are never pretty to see, but they are important to recognize — and condemn.

Some people, as they age, grow more gracious and large-spirited. Others become embittered and increasingly lash out at the world and others. And the very worst become like Patrick J. Buchanan.

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic drew attention to a recent column by Buchanan about John Demjanjuk, who is to stand trial in Germany for his alleged role in the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. According to Buchanan, John Demjanjuk is to “serve as the sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.” He is to be, in Buchanan’s words, “punish[ed] in expiation for Germany’s sins.” And Buchanan adds this: “The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.”

This is really all quite ugly. For Buchanan, a Catholic, to compare Demjanjuk to Jesus — who, according to Christian belief, was deity, holy and without sin — is strikingly offensive. So is his effort to revive the charge of blood libel. Rarely do you find such an obscene mix of blasphemy and bigotry, and all in less than 900 words.

William F. Buckley, Jr. did many great deeds on behalf of conservatism over the course of his life. Near the top of the list was when he said in 1991 that he found it “impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what [Buchanan] did and said during the period under examination [the first Gulf War] amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it.”

Things have only gotten worse since. Hatreds and prejudices that appear to have been bubbling underneath the surface in the past have surged forth in full public view. Such things are never pretty to see, but they are important to recognize — and condemn.

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Dr. Biden

Vice President Joe Biden went way into the weeds on network TV telling Americans to stay out of subways, confined spaces, and maybe schools. His poor spokesperson tried to twist his words into something more sensible but no one said working for Biden was a walk in the park. In a radio interview, Sen. Tom Harkin does what the White House should do — make clear Biden is a menace:

Well, I think that’s a very unfortunate statement by the vice president. We just don’t need that type of misinformation going out. I wish the vice president had checked with the Center for Disease Control and Preparedness before he made that statement….As far as not riding on subways or planes, we’re not going to shut down our system and that doesn’t get to the nub of the problem anyway, so I think that’s very unfortunate that this kind of misinformation got out.

Janet Napolitano is more diplomatic but she’s clearly not pleased. Not surprisingly, representatives of the travel industry, who already had to plead with the president earlier in the year not to destroy their business, are up in arms.

What do we think this mega-gaffe will cost in lost travel and business disruption? In comparison to the $300,000 or so New York fly-over this may be real money. Moreover, perhaps this would be a good time to send Biden on the funeral circuit and give up the pretense that he is a wise counselor.

Vice President Joe Biden went way into the weeds on network TV telling Americans to stay out of subways, confined spaces, and maybe schools. His poor spokesperson tried to twist his words into something more sensible but no one said working for Biden was a walk in the park. In a radio interview, Sen. Tom Harkin does what the White House should do — make clear Biden is a menace:

Well, I think that’s a very unfortunate statement by the vice president. We just don’t need that type of misinformation going out. I wish the vice president had checked with the Center for Disease Control and Preparedness before he made that statement….As far as not riding on subways or planes, we’re not going to shut down our system and that doesn’t get to the nub of the problem anyway, so I think that’s very unfortunate that this kind of misinformation got out.

Janet Napolitano is more diplomatic but she’s clearly not pleased. Not surprisingly, representatives of the travel industry, who already had to plead with the president earlier in the year not to destroy their business, are up in arms.

What do we think this mega-gaffe will cost in lost travel and business disruption? In comparison to the $300,000 or so New York fly-over this may be real money. Moreover, perhaps this would be a good time to send Biden on the funeral circuit and give up the pretense that he is a wise counselor.

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At Least It’s Honest

Mainstream Media reporters mock the notion that Obama is a “socialist” or that he is aiming to move the country in the “direction of European socialism.” The president calls back the New York Times to pooh-pooh the point after being asked in an interview if he was a socialist. (Presumably he’s more comfortable being raked over the coals about his enchantment quotient.) But the president’s supporters now say the same thing. From John Judis:

Obama’s stimulus program and its budget are going to lift overall government spending from the 30s to well over 40 percent of GDP. Its 2009 budget, along with other public spending, could reach 45 percent of GDP. That’s in response to a crisis, but as has happened before, the extent of government intervention is likely to remain permanent .

At the least, the Obama budgets will shift even more dramatically the balance of economic power away from the private and toward the public sector. The American relationship of state to economy will begin to look more like that of France and Sweden, whose non-crisis budgets total over 45 percent of GDP. And our politics may change accordingly–shifting public opinion on regulation, spending, and taxes well to the left. On the relationship of the state to the economy, European “conservatives” (say, Nicolas Sarkozy) are well to the left of our “moderates” and even occasionally our “liberals.” It’s hard to imagine, but the Republicans of the next decade could begin to sound like moderate Democrats today when discussing certain domestic policies.

The president is a skilled and shameless proponent of what is an increasingly fanciful cover story: that he is a moderate, skittish about meddling too much or running things better left to others. At least some on the Left are honest enough to come right out and admit what he is up to. Yes, he is aiming to turn us into France or Sweden. Yes, he wants to nationalize healthcare. Yes, he wants to depart from the basic contours of free market capitalism.

Is that so hard to admit? Well, it’s at odds with public sentiment, over two hundred years of experience, and represents a formula for a poorer and less dynamic economy, but at least it’s honest.

Mainstream Media reporters mock the notion that Obama is a “socialist” or that he is aiming to move the country in the “direction of European socialism.” The president calls back the New York Times to pooh-pooh the point after being asked in an interview if he was a socialist. (Presumably he’s more comfortable being raked over the coals about his enchantment quotient.) But the president’s supporters now say the same thing. From John Judis:

Obama’s stimulus program and its budget are going to lift overall government spending from the 30s to well over 40 percent of GDP. Its 2009 budget, along with other public spending, could reach 45 percent of GDP. That’s in response to a crisis, but as has happened before, the extent of government intervention is likely to remain permanent .

At the least, the Obama budgets will shift even more dramatically the balance of economic power away from the private and toward the public sector. The American relationship of state to economy will begin to look more like that of France and Sweden, whose non-crisis budgets total over 45 percent of GDP. And our politics may change accordingly–shifting public opinion on regulation, spending, and taxes well to the left. On the relationship of the state to the economy, European “conservatives” (say, Nicolas Sarkozy) are well to the left of our “moderates” and even occasionally our “liberals.” It’s hard to imagine, but the Republicans of the next decade could begin to sound like moderate Democrats today when discussing certain domestic policies.

The president is a skilled and shameless proponent of what is an increasingly fanciful cover story: that he is a moderate, skittish about meddling too much or running things better left to others. At least some on the Left are honest enough to come right out and admit what he is up to. Yes, he is aiming to turn us into France or Sweden. Yes, he wants to nationalize healthcare. Yes, he wants to depart from the basic contours of free market capitalism.

Is that so hard to admit? Well, it’s at odds with public sentiment, over two hundred years of experience, and represents a formula for a poorer and less dynamic economy, but at least it’s honest.

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Sentenced to Die for Selling Real Estate to a Jew

Palestinian moderation was once again on display yesterday when a Palestinian Authority court in Hebron sentenced to death Anwar Brigith, 59, from the village of Bet Umar, north of Hebron, for the crime of selling land to Jews.

The Jerusalem Post’s Khalid Abu Toameh reports:

The three-judge panel found the defendant guilty of violating PA laws that bar Palestinians from selling property to ‘the enemy.’ In its ruling, the court, which convened in Hebron, said that Brigith had acted in violation of a Palestinian ‘military law’ dating back to 1979, which states that it is forbidden for a Palestinian to sell land to Jews. The accused was also found guilty of violating a law dating back to 1958 that calls for a boycott against Israel, as well as another law from 1953 that bans trade with Israelis. The judges issued the verdict unanimously and pointed out that the defendant did not have the right to appeal. The death sentence, however, must be approved by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mind you, this is not the act of the extremist Islamists of Hamas. This comes from a court whose officers and judges are all affiliated with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority — the supposedly moderate peace-partner to whom most of the world is pressuring Israel to make concessions. But even to these “moderates,” a real-estate transaction with a Jew is a capital offense because it is an article of Palestinian faith that every inch of their country must be rendered Judenrein in order for their national destiny to be fulfilled.

As Abu Toameh points out, this would be the first official execution over selling land to Jews but, in fact, many others accused of this “crime” — whether the charges stand or not — have often been abducted and murdered by Palestinian gangs.

All of this ought to highlight a key truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict: though Israel is routinely depicted as a “racist” or “apartheid” state, it is actually the Palestinian nationalist movement that is predicated on hatred and exclusion — not Israel, which protects the political and property rights of its Arab minority.

It will be interesting to see whether the State Department or the White House, both eager to portray the P.A. as a worthy peace-partner and deserving of statehood, will call upon Abbas to pardon or commute the sentence of Brigith. We’ll also be waiting to see whether this outrage is taken up by the United Nations and its various agencies that are usually busy condemning Israel for having the temerity to defend its citizens against terrorism.

Palestinian moderation was once again on display yesterday when a Palestinian Authority court in Hebron sentenced to death Anwar Brigith, 59, from the village of Bet Umar, north of Hebron, for the crime of selling land to Jews.

The Jerusalem Post’s Khalid Abu Toameh reports:

The three-judge panel found the defendant guilty of violating PA laws that bar Palestinians from selling property to ‘the enemy.’ In its ruling, the court, which convened in Hebron, said that Brigith had acted in violation of a Palestinian ‘military law’ dating back to 1979, which states that it is forbidden for a Palestinian to sell land to Jews. The accused was also found guilty of violating a law dating back to 1958 that calls for a boycott against Israel, as well as another law from 1953 that bans trade with Israelis. The judges issued the verdict unanimously and pointed out that the defendant did not have the right to appeal. The death sentence, however, must be approved by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mind you, this is not the act of the extremist Islamists of Hamas. This comes from a court whose officers and judges are all affiliated with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority — the supposedly moderate peace-partner to whom most of the world is pressuring Israel to make concessions. But even to these “moderates,” a real-estate transaction with a Jew is a capital offense because it is an article of Palestinian faith that every inch of their country must be rendered Judenrein in order for their national destiny to be fulfilled.

As Abu Toameh points out, this would be the first official execution over selling land to Jews but, in fact, many others accused of this “crime” — whether the charges stand or not — have often been abducted and murdered by Palestinian gangs.

All of this ought to highlight a key truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict: though Israel is routinely depicted as a “racist” or “apartheid” state, it is actually the Palestinian nationalist movement that is predicated on hatred and exclusion — not Israel, which protects the political and property rights of its Arab minority.

It will be interesting to see whether the State Department or the White House, both eager to portray the P.A. as a worthy peace-partner and deserving of statehood, will call upon Abbas to pardon or commute the sentence of Brigith. We’ll also be waiting to see whether this outrage is taken up by the United Nations and its various agencies that are usually busy condemning Israel for having the temerity to defend its citizens against terrorism.

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Better Be Some Sales Pitch

Karl Rove, in critiquing the president’s first 100 days in office and his penchant for outsourcing his agenda’s details to Congressional Democrats, writes:

The stimulus bill turned into a liberal spending wish list that will retard, not hasten, recovery. Already, with mounting job losses the gap between the 3.675 million jobs he said he would create or protect in his first two years and the number of actual jobs in the economy has risen to nearly five million. Reaching his job target now requires creating 249,400 new jobs a month for the next 20 months. Democrats will not fare well in next year’s elections if there is a yawning Obama “job gap.”

That’s always the rub with the Keynesian schemes — they don’t work. Usually “the problem” is that the economy bounces back before the money gets spent so the government spending is, in essence, a wasted effort. Obama, having boldly declared a trillion dollar (interest included) boondoggle to be the solution to our woes, now claims responsibility for its results. With the “job gap” widening as unemployment creeps ever higher, GDP contracting at an alarming rate and his toxic bank clean-up plan still up in the air, the recovery seems a long way off. And if you had any doubt, Larry Summers himself told us this was the case.

And if we don’t experience a robust recovery, including dramatic reduction in unemployment, who will the voters blame? Goerge W. Bush is a distant memory. The Republican Party can’t be blamed because they said, well, “no.” So we return to the president and Congress who spent a few weeks cobbling together a pork-a-thon and, the rest of the year on items not related to job growth or economic recovery. In fact, most of the projects Democrats have pursued may retard recovery even further with a bevy of new employer mandates and regulatory schemes.

We are told the president is a very good salesman. I suspect his skills will soon be put to the test.

Karl Rove, in critiquing the president’s first 100 days in office and his penchant for outsourcing his agenda’s details to Congressional Democrats, writes:

The stimulus bill turned into a liberal spending wish list that will retard, not hasten, recovery. Already, with mounting job losses the gap between the 3.675 million jobs he said he would create or protect in his first two years and the number of actual jobs in the economy has risen to nearly five million. Reaching his job target now requires creating 249,400 new jobs a month for the next 20 months. Democrats will not fare well in next year’s elections if there is a yawning Obama “job gap.”

That’s always the rub with the Keynesian schemes — they don’t work. Usually “the problem” is that the economy bounces back before the money gets spent so the government spending is, in essence, a wasted effort. Obama, having boldly declared a trillion dollar (interest included) boondoggle to be the solution to our woes, now claims responsibility for its results. With the “job gap” widening as unemployment creeps ever higher, GDP contracting at an alarming rate and his toxic bank clean-up plan still up in the air, the recovery seems a long way off. And if you had any doubt, Larry Summers himself told us this was the case.

And if we don’t experience a robust recovery, including dramatic reduction in unemployment, who will the voters blame? Goerge W. Bush is a distant memory. The Republican Party can’t be blamed because they said, well, “no.” So we return to the president and Congress who spent a few weeks cobbling together a pork-a-thon and, the rest of the year on items not related to job growth or economic recovery. In fact, most of the projects Democrats have pursued may retard recovery even further with a bevy of new employer mandates and regulatory schemes.

We are told the president is a very good salesman. I suspect his skills will soon be put to the test.

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A Chance not to Run a Car Company

The GM bondholders are fighting back against the “offer” to become a minority stake holder in the Obama-UAW controlled GM. This is enlightening:

The bondholder committee, which represents about 20% of the debt outstanding, said its offer would save taxpayers $10 billion in cash. Under it, GM would issue new stock and give 41% of it to the UAW, 51% to the bondholders and 1% to common equity holders.

The counteroffer seeks to put bondholders on the same plane as the union, which is owed $7 billion less.

The government would not get equity under this scenario because it wouldn’t need to reduce any of GM’s loans. Unsecured bondholders would likely reduce their entire claim on the auto maker under this plan.

The counterproposal could meet stiff resistance from the Obama administration’s automotive task force, as administration officials have said the GM deal as proposed is more than fair, and have told bondholders they would likely see less under bankruptcy.

To be clear, the bondholders are proposing to save billions to the American taxpayers and to free Obama from the dreaded prospect of running a car company, something he swears he doesn’t want to do. The government is offering “stiff resistance.” Really, what could be the possible justification for insisting on spending billions in taxpayer money? Why, the UAW must be protected, of course. Without a majority stake in the new company the government couldn’t be there to rescue the UAW in the next round of needed contract adjustments. And then, despite the president’s repeated protestations, the temptation for the administration and its allies to run a new green, micro-car business must be great indeed.

It would be nice if, rather than inquiring about just how enchanted the president is, the media would begin to grill him on the disparity between his words (e.g., doesn’t like big government, running banks, or car companies) and his deeds. That, after all, is the heart of the matter — whether by clever misdirection and slick packaging the president is leading the country where it does not want to go, namely to a new sort of statism in which, by gosh, the government has no choice but to run everything.

The GM bondholders are fighting back against the “offer” to become a minority stake holder in the Obama-UAW controlled GM. This is enlightening:

The bondholder committee, which represents about 20% of the debt outstanding, said its offer would save taxpayers $10 billion in cash. Under it, GM would issue new stock and give 41% of it to the UAW, 51% to the bondholders and 1% to common equity holders.

The counteroffer seeks to put bondholders on the same plane as the union, which is owed $7 billion less.

The government would not get equity under this scenario because it wouldn’t need to reduce any of GM’s loans. Unsecured bondholders would likely reduce their entire claim on the auto maker under this plan.

The counterproposal could meet stiff resistance from the Obama administration’s automotive task force, as administration officials have said the GM deal as proposed is more than fair, and have told bondholders they would likely see less under bankruptcy.

To be clear, the bondholders are proposing to save billions to the American taxpayers and to free Obama from the dreaded prospect of running a car company, something he swears he doesn’t want to do. The government is offering “stiff resistance.” Really, what could be the possible justification for insisting on spending billions in taxpayer money? Why, the UAW must be protected, of course. Without a majority stake in the new company the government couldn’t be there to rescue the UAW in the next round of needed contract adjustments. And then, despite the president’s repeated protestations, the temptation for the administration and its allies to run a new green, micro-car business must be great indeed.

It would be nice if, rather than inquiring about just how enchanted the president is, the media would begin to grill him on the disparity between his words (e.g., doesn’t like big government, running banks, or car companies) and his deeds. That, after all, is the heart of the matter — whether by clever misdirection and slick packaging the president is leading the country where it does not want to go, namely to a new sort of statism in which, by gosh, the government has no choice but to run everything.

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What Did I Mean?

A debate erupted in the comments section last night off my post declaring the president’s performance last night “brilliant.” Could I have been serious? Surely I was being sarcastic? Even my friend Kyle Smith of the New York Post reacted with incredulity, noting Obama’s propensity to filibuster questions so he would get fewer of them.

Exactly. When assessing a presidential press conference, there are two matters at hand. First, how was he substantively? Second, what was the overall impression–which impression is a combination of theatrics, presentation, eloquence, and the like. How Obama was substantively was…he was Obama, selling the most aggressive left-wing agenda in nearly half a century by acting as though he was just a moderate guy trying to plug some holes in the dike even as he was going to put the country on a new path that, 20 years from now, would lead to some kind of Nirvana. Whether Americans come to swallow his snake oil is the great matter of our time, because if they do, we will be living in a very different country when the next president is inaugurated.

Getting them to swallow it is the point of these press conferences, and that is where the matter of impression comes up. And in this respect, he was unquestionably brilliant. In some ways, more brilliant extemp than in one of his high-flying speeches, because he showed more informality and charm than he does in more formal settings. If you miss this aspect of his presidency–indeed, of any presidency–you are missing a great deal. If you are opposed to him and his agenda, you really do have to take the full measure of your opponent and not just dismiss him because you are allergic to the snake oil.

A debate erupted in the comments section last night off my post declaring the president’s performance last night “brilliant.” Could I have been serious? Surely I was being sarcastic? Even my friend Kyle Smith of the New York Post reacted with incredulity, noting Obama’s propensity to filibuster questions so he would get fewer of them.

Exactly. When assessing a presidential press conference, there are two matters at hand. First, how was he substantively? Second, what was the overall impression–which impression is a combination of theatrics, presentation, eloquence, and the like. How Obama was substantively was…he was Obama, selling the most aggressive left-wing agenda in nearly half a century by acting as though he was just a moderate guy trying to plug some holes in the dike even as he was going to put the country on a new path that, 20 years from now, would lead to some kind of Nirvana. Whether Americans come to swallow his snake oil is the great matter of our time, because if they do, we will be living in a very different country when the next president is inaugurated.

Getting them to swallow it is the point of these press conferences, and that is where the matter of impression comes up. And in this respect, he was unquestionably brilliant. In some ways, more brilliant extemp than in one of his high-flying speeches, because he showed more informality and charm than he does in more formal settings. If you miss this aspect of his presidency–indeed, of any presidency–you are missing a great deal. If you are opposed to him and his agenda, you really do have to take the full measure of your opponent and not just dismiss him because you are allergic to the snake oil.

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Could It Be?

On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a landmark case seeking to strike down as unconstitutional Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The mainstream media (aptly described by Roger Clegg) is apoplectic over the possibility of the Court declaring the country is not as it was in 1965 and there is no longer justification for the onerous federal oversight of state and local elections in the states and jurisdictions covered by the Act.

Rick Hasen, a very smart election lawyer sympathetic to retention of Section 5, writes:

I think the best that supporters of section 5 can hope for is a controlling opinion by Justice Kennedy, perhaps speaking only for himself, finding a way to read the statute to allow bailout and ducking the constitutional question. I still think that is unlikely. The more likely scenario is 5 votes to strike down the Act. Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia and (presumably) Thomas are surely there. Justice Kennedy expressed considerable skepticism of the federalism costs and “substantial burdens” being imposed on some jurisdictions but not others, without adequate comparative evidence that such laws are still necessary. If this happens, it could well be that congress comes back to write a new (and perhaps even better) Voting Rights Act. But, as I noted i. . . depending on how the Court writes its decision, Congress’s ability to maneuver in this area could be constricted.

And a highly knowledgeable conservative onlooker who attended the oral argument  writes to me:

If I were to bet, I am awfully sure there are 5 votes to reverse the district court and ________.  Do “what” is the big question.   It seems to me that the most likely scenario is that four justices are willing to reverse and find that the absence of a bailout provision for the plaintiff renders Section 5 unconstitutional and never reach the coverage formula, and if they do reach it, strike it down as unconstitutional.  Kennedy seems inclined to reverse and remand and demand an evidenciary finding that the 2006 reauthorization was congruent and proportional because a study of discrimination in covered vs. non-covered jurisdiction was not done.  Kennedy may be willing to go futher and join the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito bloc, but it wasn’t clear to me.

If the Court does strike down Section 5, it would be a monumental testament to the racial progress the country has made. And could there be a more fitting time for such a ruling?

On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a landmark case seeking to strike down as unconstitutional Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The mainstream media (aptly described by Roger Clegg) is apoplectic over the possibility of the Court declaring the country is not as it was in 1965 and there is no longer justification for the onerous federal oversight of state and local elections in the states and jurisdictions covered by the Act.

Rick Hasen, a very smart election lawyer sympathetic to retention of Section 5, writes:

I think the best that supporters of section 5 can hope for is a controlling opinion by Justice Kennedy, perhaps speaking only for himself, finding a way to read the statute to allow bailout and ducking the constitutional question. I still think that is unlikely. The more likely scenario is 5 votes to strike down the Act. Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia and (presumably) Thomas are surely there. Justice Kennedy expressed considerable skepticism of the federalism costs and “substantial burdens” being imposed on some jurisdictions but not others, without adequate comparative evidence that such laws are still necessary. If this happens, it could well be that congress comes back to write a new (and perhaps even better) Voting Rights Act. But, as I noted i. . . depending on how the Court writes its decision, Congress’s ability to maneuver in this area could be constricted.

And a highly knowledgeable conservative onlooker who attended the oral argument  writes to me:

If I were to bet, I am awfully sure there are 5 votes to reverse the district court and ________.  Do “what” is the big question.   It seems to me that the most likely scenario is that four justices are willing to reverse and find that the absence of a bailout provision for the plaintiff renders Section 5 unconstitutional and never reach the coverage formula, and if they do reach it, strike it down as unconstitutional.  Kennedy seems inclined to reverse and remand and demand an evidenciary finding that the 2006 reauthorization was congruent and proportional because a study of discrimination in covered vs. non-covered jurisdiction was not done.  Kennedy may be willing to go futher and join the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito bloc, but it wasn’t clear to me.

If the Court does strike down Section 5, it would be a monumental testament to the racial progress the country has made. And could there be a more fitting time for such a ruling?

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