Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 24, 2009

But That Would Be Wrong

The thankless job of pointing out the New York Times’ ethical lapses and its frequent failure to enforce its own self-proclaimed journalistic standards falls to Public Editor Clark Hoyt. On the subject of Maureen Dowd’s lifting a paragraph from Josh Marshall, Hoyt writes:

Dowd said she had not read Marshall’s Web post, but was talking with a friend who suggested the wording without telling her where it came from. An attribution was added to the column online, and The Times ran a correction the next day.

Her explanation was unconvincing to some. How could a friend — whom Dowd has not identified — repeat verbatim a 42-word paragraph? I heard from readers demanding that Dowd be fired.

Dowd told me the passage in question was part of an e-mail conversation with her friend. She noted that she had credited two other bloggers for other information in the column, so there was no reason to intentionally slight Marshall.

[. . .]

I do not think Dowd plagiarized, but I also do not think what she did was right.

Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, said journalists collaborate and take feeds from each other all the time. That is true with news articles, but readers have a right to expect that even if an opinion columnist like Dowd tosses around ideas with a friend, her column will be her own words. If the words are not hers, she must give credit.

There are a few problems with this. First, even if we are to believe Dowd’s “friend” story we must conclude that she plagiarized the “friend.” It doesn’t matter that the friend was also plagiarizing (if he failed to indicate that the paragraph came from Marshall); if Dowd lifted others’ words verbatim it is plagiarizing, albeit from a less well-known author than Marshall. (Let’s assume the friend wasn’t a famous writer.)

Second, why hasn’t anyone reviewed the “friend” email to determine if Dowd is lying? If the email reads “like Josh said. . .” then we’re back to plagiarizing Marshall. And if the email reads “I always thought. . . ” without a request by Dowd to use the 42 words which followed as her own, then we’re back to plagiarizing the friend. For newspapermen, these people show an appalling lack of curiosity.

And finally, what’s the punishment for doing something that wasn’t “right”? Does the New York Times now have a “one free plagiarism” rule? It seems that if they are ever going to punish less-known writers for their misdeeds it might behoove the Times’ management  to consider whether Dowd should get a pass.

Granted Dowd has been under quite a bit of stress lately — ruminating about the end of her career and watching her beloved president adopt Darth Vader’s national security policies as his own — so maybe there were extenuating circumstances. But now might be a good time to come clean. The stonewall routine isn’t working all that well for Nancy Pelosi’s reputation and I suspect Dowd’s won’t fare any better so long as the email remains hidden from view. Well, unless the email is incriminating — or doesn’t exist at all.

The thankless job of pointing out the New York Times’ ethical lapses and its frequent failure to enforce its own self-proclaimed journalistic standards falls to Public Editor Clark Hoyt. On the subject of Maureen Dowd’s lifting a paragraph from Josh Marshall, Hoyt writes:

Dowd said she had not read Marshall’s Web post, but was talking with a friend who suggested the wording without telling her where it came from. An attribution was added to the column online, and The Times ran a correction the next day.

Her explanation was unconvincing to some. How could a friend — whom Dowd has not identified — repeat verbatim a 42-word paragraph? I heard from readers demanding that Dowd be fired.

Dowd told me the passage in question was part of an e-mail conversation with her friend. She noted that she had credited two other bloggers for other information in the column, so there was no reason to intentionally slight Marshall.

[. . .]

I do not think Dowd plagiarized, but I also do not think what she did was right.

Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, said journalists collaborate and take feeds from each other all the time. That is true with news articles, but readers have a right to expect that even if an opinion columnist like Dowd tosses around ideas with a friend, her column will be her own words. If the words are not hers, she must give credit.

There are a few problems with this. First, even if we are to believe Dowd’s “friend” story we must conclude that she plagiarized the “friend.” It doesn’t matter that the friend was also plagiarizing (if he failed to indicate that the paragraph came from Marshall); if Dowd lifted others’ words verbatim it is plagiarizing, albeit from a less well-known author than Marshall. (Let’s assume the friend wasn’t a famous writer.)

Second, why hasn’t anyone reviewed the “friend” email to determine if Dowd is lying? If the email reads “like Josh said. . .” then we’re back to plagiarizing Marshall. And if the email reads “I always thought. . . ” without a request by Dowd to use the 42 words which followed as her own, then we’re back to plagiarizing the friend. For newspapermen, these people show an appalling lack of curiosity.

And finally, what’s the punishment for doing something that wasn’t “right”? Does the New York Times now have a “one free plagiarism” rule? It seems that if they are ever going to punish less-known writers for their misdeeds it might behoove the Times’ management  to consider whether Dowd should get a pass.

Granted Dowd has been under quite a bit of stress lately — ruminating about the end of her career and watching her beloved president adopt Darth Vader’s national security policies as his own — so maybe there were extenuating circumstances. But now might be a good time to come clean. The stonewall routine isn’t working all that well for Nancy Pelosi’s reputation and I suspect Dowd’s won’t fare any better so long as the email remains hidden from view. Well, unless the email is incriminating — or doesn’t exist at all.

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Fall Into the Gap

As the political dust settles in the wake of the Obama-Netanayahu meeting, the two governments’ positions are starting to come into focus. Netanyahu rejects the two-state solution; Obama affirms it. Netanyahu insists on continuing the “natural growth” of existing settlements; Obama rejects it. Netanhyahu insists that Jerusalem will remain the “eternal, undivided” capital of Israel; Obama sees Jerusalem as up for negotiations.

One would almost think from this that Israel and the United States are negotiating with one another. But they’re not. Israel’s supposed to be negotiating with the Palestinians. And there are all sorts of questions that have to do with what the Palestinians are willing to give up: the “right of return,” contiguity, Jerusalem, education, a permanent end to hostility, etc. What happened to all of these? As long as there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, the respective positions of both Netanyahu and Obama are meaningless.

Well, not entirely meaningless. Both leaders have internal interests that their positions serve: Netanyahu calculates he will win points among Israelis by standing tough against American pressure; whereas Obama needs to show that he’s not beholden to the “Israel Lobby.” There’s something overly comfortable about this clash of views.

But, as I have pointed out, there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, and there will not be one so long as the Palestinians are irreconcilably split between Hamas and the PA. The whole thing is process, and there is a price to pay for a show that never ends.

As the political dust settles in the wake of the Obama-Netanayahu meeting, the two governments’ positions are starting to come into focus. Netanyahu rejects the two-state solution; Obama affirms it. Netanyahu insists on continuing the “natural growth” of existing settlements; Obama rejects it. Netanhyahu insists that Jerusalem will remain the “eternal, undivided” capital of Israel; Obama sees Jerusalem as up for negotiations.

One would almost think from this that Israel and the United States are negotiating with one another. But they’re not. Israel’s supposed to be negotiating with the Palestinians. And there are all sorts of questions that have to do with what the Palestinians are willing to give up: the “right of return,” contiguity, Jerusalem, education, a permanent end to hostility, etc. What happened to all of these? As long as there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, the respective positions of both Netanyahu and Obama are meaningless.

Well, not entirely meaningless. Both leaders have internal interests that their positions serve: Netanyahu calculates he will win points among Israelis by standing tough against American pressure; whereas Obama needs to show that he’s not beholden to the “Israel Lobby.” There’s something overly comfortable about this clash of views.

But, as I have pointed out, there is no Palestinian side to this negotiation, and there will not be one so long as the Palestinians are irreconcilably split between Hamas and the PA. The whole thing is process, and there is a price to pay for a show that never ends.

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How Far Can Netanyahu Go To Make Obama Happy?

According to these reports, the President and his staff are well aware of the political constrains limiting Bibi’s ability to “freeze” settlements and evacuate outposts in the West Bank:

Many people in Washington seemed to be more interested in the life expectancy of the current Israeli government than in Netanyahu’s positions. To a large extent, the answer to that will be dependent on Obama: The more he pressures Netanyahu to “stop the settlements,” the greater the prime minister’s coalition problems. Netanyahu is in a trap: The more he tries to persuade Obama he can provide the diplomatic goods, the quicker his coalition will expire.

After the Bibi-Obama meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak seemed to seize the initiative, promising evacuations (this serves Barak well, politically speaking, as it helps him explain to the center-left why joining Netanyahu’s government was the right thing to do).

But yesterday, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon clarified that “settlement construction will not be halted,” drawing a fine line between “illegal” outposts that “the government will not permit” and “the construction in the settlements within the framework of natural growth” that the government will not halt, not even under pressure. As I explained here last week, the discussion of the settlement issue is often erroneously framed in black (freeze nothing) and white (freeze all) – while in fact things are much more nuanced and complicated.

But while Yaalon (of the Likud Party) is willing to play along and settle for outpost evacuation – a position Netanyahu himself seems able to live with – some members of the Netanyahu government draw the line further away from the American position:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman emphasized his opposition on Sunday to unilaterally dismantling illegal outposts in the West Bank, and said that such a move should be part of the greater peace process which inevitably would require equivalent action from the Palestinians. 

With Lieberman taking this position, the other right-of-center parties will not be able to lag far behind. The religious Shas and the Jewish House will have to resist any evacuation, giving Bibi the headache of possible confrontation with the Americans, but also the benefit of showing Obama and Hillary Clinton that his ability to give them what they want is limited. He can only hope that these two very shrewd politicians do understand that a demand for political suicide is not a realistic one.

According to these reports, the President and his staff are well aware of the political constrains limiting Bibi’s ability to “freeze” settlements and evacuate outposts in the West Bank:

Many people in Washington seemed to be more interested in the life expectancy of the current Israeli government than in Netanyahu’s positions. To a large extent, the answer to that will be dependent on Obama: The more he pressures Netanyahu to “stop the settlements,” the greater the prime minister’s coalition problems. Netanyahu is in a trap: The more he tries to persuade Obama he can provide the diplomatic goods, the quicker his coalition will expire.

After the Bibi-Obama meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak seemed to seize the initiative, promising evacuations (this serves Barak well, politically speaking, as it helps him explain to the center-left why joining Netanyahu’s government was the right thing to do).

But yesterday, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon clarified that “settlement construction will not be halted,” drawing a fine line between “illegal” outposts that “the government will not permit” and “the construction in the settlements within the framework of natural growth” that the government will not halt, not even under pressure. As I explained here last week, the discussion of the settlement issue is often erroneously framed in black (freeze nothing) and white (freeze all) – while in fact things are much more nuanced and complicated.

But while Yaalon (of the Likud Party) is willing to play along and settle for outpost evacuation – a position Netanyahu himself seems able to live with – some members of the Netanyahu government draw the line further away from the American position:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman emphasized his opposition on Sunday to unilaterally dismantling illegal outposts in the West Bank, and said that such a move should be part of the greater peace process which inevitably would require equivalent action from the Palestinians. 

With Lieberman taking this position, the other right-of-center parties will not be able to lag far behind. The religious Shas and the Jewish House will have to resist any evacuation, giving Bibi the headache of possible confrontation with the Americans, but also the benefit of showing Obama and Hillary Clinton that his ability to give them what they want is limited. He can only hope that these two very shrewd politicians do understand that a demand for political suicide is not a realistic one.

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Two State Solutionism

Jeffrey Goldberg has written amusingly about his susceptibility to “solutionism” – the “American national religion, which holds that for every intractable problem there is a logical and available answer.”  The related faith-based belief system known as two-state solutionism (the conviction that a Palestinian state would live side by side with Israel in peace and security, because — well it just will) increasingly depends on “explainawayism” – which holds that for every Palestinian rejection of a second state there is a logical and available reason why it was Israel’s fault.

Goldberg’s review of Benny Morris’s “One State, Two States:  Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict” in today’s New York Times Book Review contains some unfortunate examples of explainawayism.  He criticizes the view of “the Morris camp” that the rocket fire following Israel’s Gaza withdrawal was another instance of unyielding Arab rejectionism.  In Goldberg’s view, the problem was that Ariel Sharon should have “negotiated” it with the PA, which would then “have been able to prove to its constituents that it could extract concessions from Israel.”

The disengagement may not have been “negotiated” with the PA, but it was certainly coordinated with it and gave it the opportunity to demonstrate it was ready for a state.  Six months after agreeing to the Roadmap, Mahmoud Abbas had bragged to the Palestinian legislature that he had resisted American and Israel pressure to start dismantling terrorist groups.  In response, Israel announced it would dismantle all 21 Gaza settlements (not merely “outposts”) and turn over Gaza to the PA to enable it to demonstrate its ability (or inability) to live side by side in peace security.  Haaretz reported on September 14, 2005 that:

Abbas, in honor of the completion of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip . . . declared, “From this day forth, there will be no more security turmoil and weapons chaos and abductions, which are not characteristic of our culture.” . . . .

Palestinian Minister Mohammed Dahlan, who was in charge of coordinating the withdrawal, said the Palestinians were ready to deal with any scenario . . . .

In less than a week, former synagogues were burned, greenhouses were destroyed, borders were breached, munitions were imported, and rockets and tunnels into Israel followed.  Four months later, the Palestinians elected the group responsible for this to control their government.

Benny Morris’s book is an extremely valuable account, going back 90 years, of the history of one- and two-state solutions, which puts events such as the failure of the disengagement into a useful historical context.  Goldberg acknowledges the facts, but retains his faith in two-state solutionism, ending his review with this conclusion:

This is not to overlook the great dysfunction among the Palestinians, whose national liberation movement remains, 89 years since the third Palestine Arab Congress, bloody-minded and incompetent. Gaza, after all, is currently ruled by a cult that sanctifies murder-suicide. But there are many Palestinians on the West Bank, and even in Gaza, who reject the Hamas way and seek dignity and quiet within the framework of an independent state that coexists with Israel.

In other words:  Arab two-state rejectionism is now in its ninth decade, with a bloody-minded “national liberation” movement focused more on destroying its neighbor than creating a state, with a political system split between a party characterized by incompetence – a better word would probably be corruption – and a cult that was elected into office, with pervasive societal sanctification of murder-suicide, which turned Gaza into a terrorist state and would probably win a West Bank election today, but [insert explainawayism here].

Jeffrey Goldberg has written amusingly about his susceptibility to “solutionism” – the “American national religion, which holds that for every intractable problem there is a logical and available answer.”  The related faith-based belief system known as two-state solutionism (the conviction that a Palestinian state would live side by side with Israel in peace and security, because — well it just will) increasingly depends on “explainawayism” – which holds that for every Palestinian rejection of a second state there is a logical and available reason why it was Israel’s fault.

Goldberg’s review of Benny Morris’s “One State, Two States:  Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict” in today’s New York Times Book Review contains some unfortunate examples of explainawayism.  He criticizes the view of “the Morris camp” that the rocket fire following Israel’s Gaza withdrawal was another instance of unyielding Arab rejectionism.  In Goldberg’s view, the problem was that Ariel Sharon should have “negotiated” it with the PA, which would then “have been able to prove to its constituents that it could extract concessions from Israel.”

The disengagement may not have been “negotiated” with the PA, but it was certainly coordinated with it and gave it the opportunity to demonstrate it was ready for a state.  Six months after agreeing to the Roadmap, Mahmoud Abbas had bragged to the Palestinian legislature that he had resisted American and Israel pressure to start dismantling terrorist groups.  In response, Israel announced it would dismantle all 21 Gaza settlements (not merely “outposts”) and turn over Gaza to the PA to enable it to demonstrate its ability (or inability) to live side by side in peace security.  Haaretz reported on September 14, 2005 that:

Abbas, in honor of the completion of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip . . . declared, “From this day forth, there will be no more security turmoil and weapons chaos and abductions, which are not characteristic of our culture.” . . . .

Palestinian Minister Mohammed Dahlan, who was in charge of coordinating the withdrawal, said the Palestinians were ready to deal with any scenario . . . .

In less than a week, former synagogues were burned, greenhouses were destroyed, borders were breached, munitions were imported, and rockets and tunnels into Israel followed.  Four months later, the Palestinians elected the group responsible for this to control their government.

Benny Morris’s book is an extremely valuable account, going back 90 years, of the history of one- and two-state solutions, which puts events such as the failure of the disengagement into a useful historical context.  Goldberg acknowledges the facts, but retains his faith in two-state solutionism, ending his review with this conclusion:

This is not to overlook the great dysfunction among the Palestinians, whose national liberation movement remains, 89 years since the third Palestine Arab Congress, bloody-minded and incompetent. Gaza, after all, is currently ruled by a cult that sanctifies murder-suicide. But there are many Palestinians on the West Bank, and even in Gaza, who reject the Hamas way and seek dignity and quiet within the framework of an independent state that coexists with Israel.

In other words:  Arab two-state rejectionism is now in its ninth decade, with a bloody-minded “national liberation” movement focused more on destroying its neighbor than creating a state, with a political system split between a party characterized by incompetence – a better word would probably be corruption – and a cult that was elected into office, with pervasive societal sanctification of murder-suicide, which turned Gaza into a terrorist state and would probably win a West Bank election today, but [insert explainawayism here].

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We’re Out of Accountability

In a CSPAN interview the president says:

Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.

So we’ve got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it’s putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.

We’re not in this fix because of any healthcare decisions he’s made — “so far,” mind you. But what is remarkable is the lack of personal responsibility for our current sea of red ink. No mention of the trillion dollar stimulus or the $3.5 trillion budget. And in the same breath in which he denies running up the deficit he mentions the car bailouts which he “had” to deal with. Actually, it wasn’t necessary; it was a policy choice which now has the ailing car companies permanently affixed to the public dole.

It is hard to ignore how passive he sounds — ever the victim of circumstances. That darn Bush left a mess on national security. And what’s a guy to do with such a deficit left on his doorstep? But the facts tell a different story, as this chart illustrates. To a greater degree than any predecessor, Obama has run up the deficit — with little to show for it.

Blaming the previous administration is a time-honored political trick. But voters tend to hold the party in power responsible for the state of the country’s finances. That’s how the Republicans lost the White House and I suspect the public will be no less forgiving in 2010 or 2012 if things don’t turn around.

In a CSPAN interview the president says:

Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.

So we’ve got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it’s putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.

We’re not in this fix because of any healthcare decisions he’s made — “so far,” mind you. But what is remarkable is the lack of personal responsibility for our current sea of red ink. No mention of the trillion dollar stimulus or the $3.5 trillion budget. And in the same breath in which he denies running up the deficit he mentions the car bailouts which he “had” to deal with. Actually, it wasn’t necessary; it was a policy choice which now has the ailing car companies permanently affixed to the public dole.

It is hard to ignore how passive he sounds — ever the victim of circumstances. That darn Bush left a mess on national security. And what’s a guy to do with such a deficit left on his doorstep? But the facts tell a different story, as this chart illustrates. To a greater degree than any predecessor, Obama has run up the deficit — with little to show for it.

Blaming the previous administration is a time-honored political trick. But voters tend to hold the party in power responsible for the state of the country’s finances. That’s how the Republicans lost the White House and I suspect the public will be no less forgiving in 2010 or 2012 if things don’t turn around.

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“Empathy” Must Have Focus Group Tested Poorly

The president is off “empathy” as a requirement for a Supreme Court justice and is now talking about someone with a “a practical sense of how the world works.” This is vacuous nonsense, of course, for several reasons.

First, provided he is not naming a Martian anyone who has lived in America for 40 or 50 years, gone to law school and either taught law or served on the bench has some sense of how things “work.” It would be the strange bird indeed — a hermit from New Hampshire, perhaps — that had not experienced life in America.

Second, it tells us nothing about either the outcomes or the methodology the judge will employ. Is it “practical” to enact abortion on demand by judicial fiat or is it “practical” to let fifty state legislatures decide the issue? What is a “practical” interpretation of the the takings clause?

Third, does the “way the world works” include a recognition that we are a nation at war? Somehow that critical “life experience” never includes anyone with law enforcement, national security or military experience. We’ll see if the nominee has any appreciation of or views on the choices Obama must now make concerning everything from military tribunals to the status of Guantanamo alternatives like Bagram. It wouldn’t be very “practical” for a judge to dismiss out of hand the array of “common sense” arrangements such as military tribunals which the Bush and now Obama administrations have employed.

And finally, this has nothing to do with the business of judging. The president regrettably never talks about the things judges are supposed to do — interpret the meaning of the Constitution and statutes. These are incidental, mere annoyances, in his vision. What’s key is to get to a “practical” result, which strangely enough coincides precisely with liberal policy goals.

We are on the verge of a Supreme Court nomination that will, I think, reveal more about the president than it will immediately impact the Court. Over time the justice will find her place on the Court. And we will see how she matches up to the intellectual heavyweights who insist upon fidelity to the text and meaning of the Constitution. But that will take time.

What will be immediately known is whether the president, who claims to be immersed in appellate court decisions of the potential nominees,  has sought out a justice who will respect her role, not as a super-advocate for the liberal agenda, but as a judge who seeks to get it “right” and actually believes there is a “right” answer in interpreting the Constitution and statutes before her. Did he find someone who demonstrated fidelity to the law as an appellate judge? Or did he select someone who will, at any cost, wheedle and connive to find a Constitutional hook for the Left’s agenda? I have my strong suspicions but we’ll know soon enough.

The president is off “empathy” as a requirement for a Supreme Court justice and is now talking about someone with a “a practical sense of how the world works.” This is vacuous nonsense, of course, for several reasons.

First, provided he is not naming a Martian anyone who has lived in America for 40 or 50 years, gone to law school and either taught law or served on the bench has some sense of how things “work.” It would be the strange bird indeed — a hermit from New Hampshire, perhaps — that had not experienced life in America.

Second, it tells us nothing about either the outcomes or the methodology the judge will employ. Is it “practical” to enact abortion on demand by judicial fiat or is it “practical” to let fifty state legislatures decide the issue? What is a “practical” interpretation of the the takings clause?

Third, does the “way the world works” include a recognition that we are a nation at war? Somehow that critical “life experience” never includes anyone with law enforcement, national security or military experience. We’ll see if the nominee has any appreciation of or views on the choices Obama must now make concerning everything from military tribunals to the status of Guantanamo alternatives like Bagram. It wouldn’t be very “practical” for a judge to dismiss out of hand the array of “common sense” arrangements such as military tribunals which the Bush and now Obama administrations have employed.

And finally, this has nothing to do with the business of judging. The president regrettably never talks about the things judges are supposed to do — interpret the meaning of the Constitution and statutes. These are incidental, mere annoyances, in his vision. What’s key is to get to a “practical” result, which strangely enough coincides precisely with liberal policy goals.

We are on the verge of a Supreme Court nomination that will, I think, reveal more about the president than it will immediately impact the Court. Over time the justice will find her place on the Court. And we will see how she matches up to the intellectual heavyweights who insist upon fidelity to the text and meaning of the Constitution. But that will take time.

What will be immediately known is whether the president, who claims to be immersed in appellate court decisions of the potential nominees,  has sought out a justice who will respect her role, not as a super-advocate for the liberal agenda, but as a judge who seeks to get it “right” and actually believes there is a “right” answer in interpreting the Constitution and statutes before her. Did he find someone who demonstrated fidelity to the law as an appellate judge? Or did he select someone who will, at any cost, wheedle and connive to find a Constitutional hook for the Left’s agenda? I have my strong suspicions but we’ll know soon enough.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A stunner: “The United Nations special tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has reached surprising new conclusions — and it is keeping them secret. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, investigators now believe Hezbollah was behind the Hariri murder.” That’s bad news for Hezbollah, especially heading into into the Lebanese elections, and for Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran.

The answers are (unfortunately) yes, no and yes to Bill Kristol’s queries: “Doesn’t Obama’s self-regard sometimes seem greater than his regard for the position he occupies? Does he understand that the office of the presidency is bigger–much bigger–than he is? Or does Obama think of the presidency primarily as a vessel through which to exercise his political gifts and pursue his personal achievements?”

It seems the sanctimonious protectors of our “values” are now relying to a greater extent than ever before on “foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects.” It is hard to argue with human rights groups that say relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence . . .” I certainly hope the Obama lawyers approving this are on firm legal ground and have counsel ready to defend them when future administrations accuse them of facilitating torture (not just a caterpillar and a slap but the real kind).

The Washington Post editors ponder: “We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn’t it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups — before it is too late?” It seems that the president’s oft-stated desire for “engagement” is never really intended to engage on matters objectionable to our adversaries (e.g. human rights).

Terry McAuliffe’s travails continue: “After a largely genteel campaign, McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, has suddenly become the axis around which the race turns as state Senator R. Creigh Deeds and former Delegate Brian Moran zero in on everything ranging from McAuliffe’s stewardship of the national party to his business dealings to his penchant for hyperbole.” As Larry J. Sabato explains, it’s probably a bad time to be associated with cozy high-stakes business deals. What is certain: this comment from a Moran strategist will come up in the general election if McAuliffe is the nominee: “His character is his greatest vulnerability.”

And in fact at least one poll shows the gap narrowing, with Deeds moving up fast (maybe that Washington Post endorsement gave him some momentum). One explanation (which seems to confirm that his rivals attacks are gaining traction): McAuliffe’s favorable/unfavorable rating (37%/36%) is considerably worse than his Democratic rivals.

Senate Republicans resist the White House’s efforts to commit to a “quickie” Supreme Court confirmation process — which seems smart since we have no idea who the nominee will be.

When the New York Times calls Guantanamo a “wedge” issue you know the president is in trouble. And he is: “Now the consensus from the campaign trail has dissolved, leaving Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike at odds with the White House. The conflagration has been fanned by the determined focus of Republican leaders, fed by the alarms of talk-show populists and aided by the miscalculation of a new president who set a date for a closing without announcing a detailed plan for the inmates. The debate now threatens to make it much harder for Mr. Obama to keep his campaign promise.”

A stunner: “The United Nations special tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has reached surprising new conclusions — and it is keeping them secret. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, investigators now believe Hezbollah was behind the Hariri murder.” That’s bad news for Hezbollah, especially heading into into the Lebanese elections, and for Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran.

The answers are (unfortunately) yes, no and yes to Bill Kristol’s queries: “Doesn’t Obama’s self-regard sometimes seem greater than his regard for the position he occupies? Does he understand that the office of the presidency is bigger–much bigger–than he is? Or does Obama think of the presidency primarily as a vessel through which to exercise his political gifts and pursue his personal achievements?”

It seems the sanctimonious protectors of our “values” are now relying to a greater extent than ever before on “foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects.” It is hard to argue with human rights groups that say relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence . . .” I certainly hope the Obama lawyers approving this are on firm legal ground and have counsel ready to defend them when future administrations accuse them of facilitating torture (not just a caterpillar and a slap but the real kind).

The Washington Post editors ponder: “We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn’t it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups — before it is too late?” It seems that the president’s oft-stated desire for “engagement” is never really intended to engage on matters objectionable to our adversaries (e.g. human rights).

Terry McAuliffe’s travails continue: “After a largely genteel campaign, McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, has suddenly become the axis around which the race turns as state Senator R. Creigh Deeds and former Delegate Brian Moran zero in on everything ranging from McAuliffe’s stewardship of the national party to his business dealings to his penchant for hyperbole.” As Larry J. Sabato explains, it’s probably a bad time to be associated with cozy high-stakes business deals. What is certain: this comment from a Moran strategist will come up in the general election if McAuliffe is the nominee: “His character is his greatest vulnerability.”

And in fact at least one poll shows the gap narrowing, with Deeds moving up fast (maybe that Washington Post endorsement gave him some momentum). One explanation (which seems to confirm that his rivals attacks are gaining traction): McAuliffe’s favorable/unfavorable rating (37%/36%) is considerably worse than his Democratic rivals.

Senate Republicans resist the White House’s efforts to commit to a “quickie” Supreme Court confirmation process — which seems smart since we have no idea who the nominee will be.

When the New York Times calls Guantanamo a “wedge” issue you know the president is in trouble. And he is: “Now the consensus from the campaign trail has dissolved, leaving Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike at odds with the White House. The conflagration has been fanned by the determined focus of Republican leaders, fed by the alarms of talk-show populists and aided by the miscalculation of a new president who set a date for a closing without announcing a detailed plan for the inmates. The debate now threatens to make it much harder for Mr. Obama to keep his campaign promise.”

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