Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 4, 2009

Commentary of the Day

chuck martel, on Jennifer Rubin:

Toyota, Honda, and other foreign flag manufacturers are experiencing dramatic decreases in sales as well. Auto sales are down all over the world.

And how is the next to last paragraph a “strawman”? Those are certainly options, in fact they are options that have been and are now being used in industries in other parts of the world.

The real issue here is the private/public dichotomy. The management of GM signed a contract with the UAW. If they can no longer financially honor that contract they have the recourse of bankruptcy. They are a private company and their demise would have a limited effect on the public purse, contrary to the youthful car czar. Public operations, on the other hand, that employ teachers, fire fighters, cops, and others of which you are aware, are on the hook for wages, health and retirement benefits at least as lavish as a UAW worker. I don’t have to buy a GM car and I didn’t have to contribute to the UAW benefits package. Now, apparently, I do. Along with the ignored public employee obligations that make the UAW look truly minor league.

chuck martel, on Jennifer Rubin:

Toyota, Honda, and other foreign flag manufacturers are experiencing dramatic decreases in sales as well. Auto sales are down all over the world.

And how is the next to last paragraph a “strawman”? Those are certainly options, in fact they are options that have been and are now being used in industries in other parts of the world.

The real issue here is the private/public dichotomy. The management of GM signed a contract with the UAW. If they can no longer financially honor that contract they have the recourse of bankruptcy. They are a private company and their demise would have a limited effect on the public purse, contrary to the youthful car czar. Public operations, on the other hand, that employ teachers, fire fighters, cops, and others of which you are aware, are on the hook for wages, health and retirement benefits at least as lavish as a UAW worker. I don’t have to buy a GM car and I didn’t have to contribute to the UAW benefits package. Now, apparently, I do. Along with the ignored public employee obligations that make the UAW look truly minor league.

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Re: Obama’s Age of Moral Equivalence

Jonathan, Liz Cheney, just like you and me, is greatly “troubled” by the moral equivalence. She notes that the notion of some friendly outreach to Iran was met with stony silence in Cairo. Cheney reviews the extent to which Obama was forced to ignore Iran’s current bad behavior. (You sort of have to leave it unsaid or everyone wonders why you’re not doing something about that, right?)

Our allies, as Cheney points out, aren’t buoyed by an unconditional outreach to Iran. And she didn’t like the analogy between the Palestinians’ position and American slavery one bit. Richard Haass says, oh it’s all about “first principles” and we shouldn’t be looking at each word. Well, that’s rich — the president goes abroad on the most publicized international address of his presidency and we’re not supposed to take it all that seriously. I thought words had meaning and all that.

Jonathan, Liz Cheney, just like you and me, is greatly “troubled” by the moral equivalence. She notes that the notion of some friendly outreach to Iran was met with stony silence in Cairo. Cheney reviews the extent to which Obama was forced to ignore Iran’s current bad behavior. (You sort of have to leave it unsaid or everyone wonders why you’re not doing something about that, right?)

Our allies, as Cheney points out, aren’t buoyed by an unconditional outreach to Iran. And she didn’t like the analogy between the Palestinians’ position and American slavery one bit. Richard Haass says, oh it’s all about “first principles” and we shouldn’t be looking at each word. Well, that’s rich — the president goes abroad on the most publicized international address of his presidency and we’re not supposed to take it all that seriously. I thought words had meaning and all that.

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Who Will Be Held Accountable?

Twenty years ago today, Chinese troops fired on their own people who were demonstrating for freedom in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The slaughter preserved the rule of the Communist Party over the world’s most populous nation. Since then, despite corruption and an iron-fist approach to any spark of free speech, the party’s tyrannical control continues virtually unchallenged.

The administration of Barack Obama has jettisoned a concern for freedom in its approach to foreign policy throughout the world, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressly stating that human rights were a secondary concern in our dealings with China. Yesterday, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the anniversary of this atrocity by calling for China to finally formally account for those killed in the massacre and to stop harassing the survivors and the families of the slain.

Mrs. Clinton’s statement was entirely appropriate and partially recoups — but only partially — her own sorry record on the issue that dates back to her days as First Lady.

However, the unlikely prospect of Beijing owning up to the truth about the despicable way it has clung to power is not the only accounting that needs to be done.

Just as necessary is an assessment of the way in which the West has served as a willing partner for the Communist regime during the past two decades. The refusal to take the human rights crisis in China seriously has been the work of a broad cross-section of America’s political and economic elites and encompassed administrations from both parties as well as both large and small business interests. Americans have accepted the indefensible notion that the lack of freedom — both political and religious — in China is no hardship for the Chinese people. We are told that the opening up of the economy is more important than the nature of the dictatorial and repressive regime that shows no signs of loosening its grip even though those same excuses never were deemed acceptable when the subject was the former Soviet Union or South Africa. The continued existence of the laogai — the Chinese gulag — does not attract the attention of the Western press. And the fact that, contrary to the assurances of apologists for Beijing, the 2008 Summer Olympics did nothing to improve the human rights situation, is similarly ignored.

Sooner or later the day will come when the criminals of Tiananmen Square will be called to account. Let us hope that the people of China, whose nation will, free or unfree, continue to be a rising force in international affairs, do not someday blame Beijing’s Western business partners as much as the Communists themselves for the way their rights were trampled and then forgotten.

Twenty years ago today, Chinese troops fired on their own people who were demonstrating for freedom in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The slaughter preserved the rule of the Communist Party over the world’s most populous nation. Since then, despite corruption and an iron-fist approach to any spark of free speech, the party’s tyrannical control continues virtually unchallenged.

The administration of Barack Obama has jettisoned a concern for freedom in its approach to foreign policy throughout the world, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressly stating that human rights were a secondary concern in our dealings with China. Yesterday, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the anniversary of this atrocity by calling for China to finally formally account for those killed in the massacre and to stop harassing the survivors and the families of the slain.

Mrs. Clinton’s statement was entirely appropriate and partially recoups — but only partially — her own sorry record on the issue that dates back to her days as First Lady.

However, the unlikely prospect of Beijing owning up to the truth about the despicable way it has clung to power is not the only accounting that needs to be done.

Just as necessary is an assessment of the way in which the West has served as a willing partner for the Communist regime during the past two decades. The refusal to take the human rights crisis in China seriously has been the work of a broad cross-section of America’s political and economic elites and encompassed administrations from both parties as well as both large and small business interests. Americans have accepted the indefensible notion that the lack of freedom — both political and religious — in China is no hardship for the Chinese people. We are told that the opening up of the economy is more important than the nature of the dictatorial and repressive regime that shows no signs of loosening its grip even though those same excuses never were deemed acceptable when the subject was the former Soviet Union or South Africa. The continued existence of the laogai — the Chinese gulag — does not attract the attention of the Western press. And the fact that, contrary to the assurances of apologists for Beijing, the 2008 Summer Olympics did nothing to improve the human rights situation, is similarly ignored.

Sooner or later the day will come when the criminals of Tiananmen Square will be called to account. Let us hope that the people of China, whose nation will, free or unfree, continue to be a rising force in international affairs, do not someday blame Beijing’s Western business partners as much as the Communists themselves for the way their rights were trampled and then forgotten.

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Next of Kim

The topic of North Korea isn’t usually a thousand yuks but it was parodied pretty effectively in “Team America.” Now comes Andy Borowitz with a great mock-announcement on the succession announcement: “Kim Jong-Il: ‘Time to Pass Torch to New Generation of Madmen.'” Somehow this beats all the learned analysis I read in the supposedly serious papers.

The topic of North Korea isn’t usually a thousand yuks but it was parodied pretty effectively in “Team America.” Now comes Andy Borowitz with a great mock-announcement on the succession announcement: “Kim Jong-Il: ‘Time to Pass Torch to New Generation of Madmen.'” Somehow this beats all the learned analysis I read in the supposedly serious papers.

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Another View

Senator Sam Brownback held a conference call for a select number of bloggers to talk about Guantanamo, Iran and the president’s approach to the Middle East. The bottom line: the president is behaving again and again, Brownback believes, in a “highly irresponsible” manner.

Brownback explained that he recently returned from a trip to Guantanamo. “I’ve been to a number of prisons and stayed overnight,” he remarked, while hastening to add it was not because of any wrongdoing. “Guantanamo is one of the nicer prison facilities I’ve been in or around.” He expressed exasperation that we are seeking to move detainees from a perfectly secure and humane facility. He listed the accommodations: 6000 calories a day, the freedom to practice their religious beliefs, and excellent medical care. Where, he asked, could you duplicate that?

He listed a number of reasons not to try to move the detainees to other locations. First, while other prisons could hold them, we would, he says, be setting up targets for terrorist activities in or around other locations which are accessible to populated areas. “Those places become a prime target,” he stated.

In addition, the cost to remove, relocate, and build appropriate accommodations for these detainees would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the state of the art secured trial rooms with the capacity to broadcast witness testimony from locations around the world would need to be replicated in each of the locations where detainees were sent.

That, Brownback pointed out, would have the effect of slowing down the pace of military tribunals, which the president has complained about and already halted pending the president’s review later in the year.

As for the image of the U.S., Brownback argued that “when you dig into it is because we are detaining these people at all” that has Arab and Europeans upset. The objection would continue if the detainees were then moved, for example, to San Quentin.

I asked him about the concern that the detainees would, if moved, become a source of radical Islamic recruitment and propaganda in the general prison population. He responded, “It is absolutely a concern if they came in contact with a broader prison population [which is the sort of thing the Geneva Convention prohibits] you’ve got fertile ground to spread domestic terrorism.” As a result, Brownback says these detainees would have to be in some sort of solitary confinement, a far less humane situation than the one in which they currently find themselves.

Senator Brownback had at the time of the call not yet read or heard the president’s Cairo speech. But I did ask him about the president’s public criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy and his willingness to consider allowing Iran to have a “peaceful” nuclear program. He replied, after declaring in essence that this is what you must expect from “the most liberal person elected president,” with a sigh of exasperation. He continued, “To harangue Israel which is our best democratic ally in the world in the toughest region of the world. . . is really misguided at best.”

And as for allowing Iran to have a “peaceful nuclear program,” Brownback sounded nothing short of flabbergasted. “They are the leading state sponsor of terrorism!” He deemed it the “height of irresponsibility” to allow Iran to go down this road. It would, he argued, result in “a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Sen. Brownback is of course quite conservative, but the perspective he set forth and the concerns he raised seem to have wide resonance with his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate who are increasingly troubled by the president’s half-baked Guantanamo plan and his positions on Iran and Israel. (In a separate call today Rep. Kevin McCarthy observed that opposition to the president’s comments on Iran’s potential peaceful nuclear program was the “one bipartisan concern” at Capitol Hill this week.) There may be basis for a bipartisan consensus — one that takes strong issue with the president’s recent gambits on Guantanamo and the Middle East. Whether these lawmakers then can prevail upon the president to reconsider his positions remains to be seen.

Senator Sam Brownback held a conference call for a select number of bloggers to talk about Guantanamo, Iran and the president’s approach to the Middle East. The bottom line: the president is behaving again and again, Brownback believes, in a “highly irresponsible” manner.

Brownback explained that he recently returned from a trip to Guantanamo. “I’ve been to a number of prisons and stayed overnight,” he remarked, while hastening to add it was not because of any wrongdoing. “Guantanamo is one of the nicer prison facilities I’ve been in or around.” He expressed exasperation that we are seeking to move detainees from a perfectly secure and humane facility. He listed the accommodations: 6000 calories a day, the freedom to practice their religious beliefs, and excellent medical care. Where, he asked, could you duplicate that?

He listed a number of reasons not to try to move the detainees to other locations. First, while other prisons could hold them, we would, he says, be setting up targets for terrorist activities in or around other locations which are accessible to populated areas. “Those places become a prime target,” he stated.

In addition, the cost to remove, relocate, and build appropriate accommodations for these detainees would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the state of the art secured trial rooms with the capacity to broadcast witness testimony from locations around the world would need to be replicated in each of the locations where detainees were sent.

That, Brownback pointed out, would have the effect of slowing down the pace of military tribunals, which the president has complained about and already halted pending the president’s review later in the year.

As for the image of the U.S., Brownback argued that “when you dig into it is because we are detaining these people at all” that has Arab and Europeans upset. The objection would continue if the detainees were then moved, for example, to San Quentin.

I asked him about the concern that the detainees would, if moved, become a source of radical Islamic recruitment and propaganda in the general prison population. He responded, “It is absolutely a concern if they came in contact with a broader prison population [which is the sort of thing the Geneva Convention prohibits] you’ve got fertile ground to spread domestic terrorism.” As a result, Brownback says these detainees would have to be in some sort of solitary confinement, a far less humane situation than the one in which they currently find themselves.

Senator Brownback had at the time of the call not yet read or heard the president’s Cairo speech. But I did ask him about the president’s public criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy and his willingness to consider allowing Iran to have a “peaceful” nuclear program. He replied, after declaring in essence that this is what you must expect from “the most liberal person elected president,” with a sigh of exasperation. He continued, “To harangue Israel which is our best democratic ally in the world in the toughest region of the world. . . is really misguided at best.”

And as for allowing Iran to have a “peaceful nuclear program,” Brownback sounded nothing short of flabbergasted. “They are the leading state sponsor of terrorism!” He deemed it the “height of irresponsibility” to allow Iran to go down this road. It would, he argued, result in “a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Sen. Brownback is of course quite conservative, but the perspective he set forth and the concerns he raised seem to have wide resonance with his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate who are increasingly troubled by the president’s half-baked Guantanamo plan and his positions on Iran and Israel. (In a separate call today Rep. Kevin McCarthy observed that opposition to the president’s comments on Iran’s potential peaceful nuclear program was the “one bipartisan concern” at Capitol Hill this week.) There may be basis for a bipartisan consensus — one that takes strong issue with the president’s recent gambits on Guantanamo and the Middle East. Whether these lawmakers then can prevail upon the president to reconsider his positions remains to be seen.

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The Not So Golden Mean

The best way to view President Obama’s speech in Cairo is to understand the way Obama views himself and the rhetorical devices he employs. In this case, the key to unlocking Obama’s speech may be Aristotle’s golden mean, the search for a mid-point between extremes. Obama’s rhetorical template is an increasingly familiar one: he gives voice to one side of a dispute and then the other. And Obama — our philosopher-king, the Voice of Reason in an unreasonable world — interprets and arbitrates these disputes, putting them in just the right context and arriving at just the right solution. Or so we are led to believe. The trouble is that Obama’s approach at times distorts history and mistreats our closest allies.

The President’s Cairo speech begins with a discussion of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — “tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.” Each side holds responsibility for those tensions. But if you read Obama’s text carefully, you will come away with the impression that one side in particular — the United States and the West — is much more at fault than the other. Tensions have been fed, according to Obama, by Western colonialism, the mistreatment of Muslim-majority countries during the Cold War, and by” the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization [which] led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” Those missteps and injustices, Obama implies, all tilt the scales against America and the West.

On the other side of the scale there are mistakes for which the Muslim world is responsible. And here the blame lies with “violent extremists” who have exploited those (Western-created) tensions in “a small but potent minority of Muslims.” This led to the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians. But even that eventually counts against America, at least in this respect: militant Islamic attacks “led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.”

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

The best way to view President Obama’s speech in Cairo is to understand the way Obama views himself and the rhetorical devices he employs. In this case, the key to unlocking Obama’s speech may be Aristotle’s golden mean, the search for a mid-point between extremes. Obama’s rhetorical template is an increasingly familiar one: he gives voice to one side of a dispute and then the other. And Obama — our philosopher-king, the Voice of Reason in an unreasonable world — interprets and arbitrates these disputes, putting them in just the right context and arriving at just the right solution. Or so we are led to believe. The trouble is that Obama’s approach at times distorts history and mistreats our closest allies.

The President’s Cairo speech begins with a discussion of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — “tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.” Each side holds responsibility for those tensions. But if you read Obama’s text carefully, you will come away with the impression that one side in particular — the United States and the West — is much more at fault than the other. Tensions have been fed, according to Obama, by Western colonialism, the mistreatment of Muslim-majority countries during the Cold War, and by” the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization [which] led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” Those missteps and injustices, Obama implies, all tilt the scales against America and the West.

On the other side of the scale there are mistakes for which the Muslim world is responsible. And here the blame lies with “violent extremists” who have exploited those (Western-created) tensions in “a small but potent minority of Muslims.” This led to the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians. But even that eventually counts against America, at least in this respect: militant Islamic attacks “led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.”

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

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A Blowout: Cheney Wins in a Landslide

A new A.P. poll tells us:

Some 52 percent of people say torture can be at least sometimes justified to obtain information about terrorist activities from suspects, an increase from 38 percent in 2005 when the AP last asked the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans say torture can be justified compared with just over a third of Democrats.

On Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo prison, 47 percent approve, while 47 percent disapprove. Again, the country is divided on partisan lines, with most Republicans disapproving and most Democrats approving. Independents are evenly divided.

Despite the president’s safety assurances, more than half of Americans say they would be worried about the chance of terrorism suspects escaping from U.S. high-security prisons. Yet again, more Republicans express concern than Democrats. Still, the figures indicate that the GOP-fueled fear may be resonating.

Leading the charge by Republicans against Obama’s policies is Cheney, who the poll shows may be benefiting from his outspokenness since leaving office. Nearly a quarter had a favorable opinion of the former vice president, a measure that’s risen steadily from a low of 13 percent in one 2007 poll.

For all the out-of-power GOP’s angst, the poll found one bright spot for it: More people identified themselves as Republican than did last month, 23 percent to 18 percent.

(Did the GOP comeback trail start in the Cheney driveway?)

Gallup shows a different picture — even more unfavorable toward the administration, with Americans opposed to closing Guantanamo by a 2 to 1 margin, and there are these interesting details:

Americans are especially resistant to closing the prison and transferring the terrorism suspects to prisons in their own states — only 23% favor this, while 74% are opposed. That represents a nine-point falloff from the 32% who support moving prisoners to the United States (with no specific location mentioned). Thus, even a segment of Americans who in general support closing Guantanamo are opposed to moving its terrorism suspects to prisons in their own “backyard.”

The poll indicates that Americans tend to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the policy — 7 in 10 say they would be “upset” if Obama does not follow their preferred course of action on the issue. However, most of the highly charged sentiment comes from those who oppose closing the prison. Fifty-four percent of Americans not only say they oppose closing Guantanamo and moving prisoners to the United States, but say they would be “upset” if the government does this. By contrast, only 18% of Americans support closing the prison and would be upset if the government does not do so.

If there were ever proof of the humongous gap between the president’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies, this is it. And all those who thought Cheney was a godsend for the administration and sure to seal the coffin of conservatism? Wrong again. It seems that Obama’s powers of persuasion are no match for those of Darth Vader.

A new A.P. poll tells us:

Some 52 percent of people say torture can be at least sometimes justified to obtain information about terrorist activities from suspects, an increase from 38 percent in 2005 when the AP last asked the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans say torture can be justified compared with just over a third of Democrats.

On Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo prison, 47 percent approve, while 47 percent disapprove. Again, the country is divided on partisan lines, with most Republicans disapproving and most Democrats approving. Independents are evenly divided.

Despite the president’s safety assurances, more than half of Americans say they would be worried about the chance of terrorism suspects escaping from U.S. high-security prisons. Yet again, more Republicans express concern than Democrats. Still, the figures indicate that the GOP-fueled fear may be resonating.

Leading the charge by Republicans against Obama’s policies is Cheney, who the poll shows may be benefiting from his outspokenness since leaving office. Nearly a quarter had a favorable opinion of the former vice president, a measure that’s risen steadily from a low of 13 percent in one 2007 poll.

For all the out-of-power GOP’s angst, the poll found one bright spot for it: More people identified themselves as Republican than did last month, 23 percent to 18 percent.

(Did the GOP comeback trail start in the Cheney driveway?)

Gallup shows a different picture — even more unfavorable toward the administration, with Americans opposed to closing Guantanamo by a 2 to 1 margin, and there are these interesting details:

Americans are especially resistant to closing the prison and transferring the terrorism suspects to prisons in their own states — only 23% favor this, while 74% are opposed. That represents a nine-point falloff from the 32% who support moving prisoners to the United States (with no specific location mentioned). Thus, even a segment of Americans who in general support closing Guantanamo are opposed to moving its terrorism suspects to prisons in their own “backyard.”

The poll indicates that Americans tend to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the policy — 7 in 10 say they would be “upset” if Obama does not follow their preferred course of action on the issue. However, most of the highly charged sentiment comes from those who oppose closing the prison. Fifty-four percent of Americans not only say they oppose closing Guantanamo and moving prisoners to the United States, but say they would be “upset” if the government does this. By contrast, only 18% of Americans support closing the prison and would be upset if the government does not do so.

If there were ever proof of the humongous gap between the president’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies, this is it. And all those who thought Cheney was a godsend for the administration and sure to seal the coffin of conservatism? Wrong again. It seems that Obama’s powers of persuasion are no match for those of Darth Vader.

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Obama Obliges Ahmadinejad

Has it occurred to anyone that Barack Obama has just delivered to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a gift that the Iranian president directly asked of him in January? After Obama’s Nowruz video greeting to Iran, Ahmadinejad responded with this:

“Change means that they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said in the speech broadcast live on Iranian television.

The catalog of crimes, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, stretched back decades, beginning with American support for the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until he was ousted in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Judging from Obama’s speech this morning, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. President decided to comply with Ahmahdinejad’s demand for American contrition:

For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.

In other words, “Sorry, we started it.”

I wonder if Obama will go down the rest of Ahmadinejad’s list of demands. Then he can get started on Ayatollah Khamenei’s list.

Keep in mind, Obama is obediently delivering on Tehran’s pre-conditional demands, as he continues to invite the mullahs to the table without his own pre-conditions. Obama alludes to a sense of mutual respect between Iran and the U.S., but he has adopted a doormat posture that has made Iranian respect for America impossible. I can’t recall a time when the U.S. has been so devoted to the mad whims of a noxious enemy regime, and I can’t imagine what it will take to undo the damage of this unprecedented prostration.

UPDATE: According to AFP:  “It is the first time a serving US president has publicly admitted American involvement in the coup.”

Has it occurred to anyone that Barack Obama has just delivered to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a gift that the Iranian president directly asked of him in January? After Obama’s Nowruz video greeting to Iran, Ahmadinejad responded with this:

“Change means that they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said in the speech broadcast live on Iranian television.

The catalog of crimes, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, stretched back decades, beginning with American support for the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until he was ousted in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Judging from Obama’s speech this morning, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. President decided to comply with Ahmahdinejad’s demand for American contrition:

For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.

In other words, “Sorry, we started it.”

I wonder if Obama will go down the rest of Ahmadinejad’s list of demands. Then he can get started on Ayatollah Khamenei’s list.

Keep in mind, Obama is obediently delivering on Tehran’s pre-conditional demands, as he continues to invite the mullahs to the table without his own pre-conditions. Obama alludes to a sense of mutual respect between Iran and the U.S., but he has adopted a doormat posture that has made Iranian respect for America impossible. I can’t recall a time when the U.S. has been so devoted to the mad whims of a noxious enemy regime, and I can’t imagine what it will take to undo the damage of this unprecedented prostration.

UPDATE: According to AFP:  “It is the first time a serving US president has publicly admitted American involvement in the coup.”

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Was This What They Had in Mind?

Daniel Henninger writes that the promise of a new, dynamic president for the 21st century has been overrun by the reality of a series of statist policies that seem to be tied together only by their boundless faith in government. But this should be no surprise:

So far Mr. Obama has used his personally exciting presidency for initiatives that are spending public money on a scale not seen since ancient Egypt. Besides Obama Motors ($60 billion to $100 billion), there is Obama-Care for health insurance ($1.2 trillion over 10 years), the stimulus ($800 billion), a global-warming offensive called cap and trade that hopes to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars from the economy, and a fiscal year 2010 budget of $3.59 trillion. Out of these mists of federal “investment” they promise five million “green collar jobs.” Only public-sector lifers could believe, or assert, anything so fantastic.

Then there is the never-ending march of the financial-rescue armies — TARP, TALF, PIPP, EESA. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet stands at some $2 trillion and growing. Last week Treasury floated the possibility of a single financial regulator for the entire banking system.

All this is the Obama government’s idea of innovation. It is all public sector because all any of them know is public sector.

Yes, the Obama team is infatuated with government and dedicated to making a concerted effort to dismantle a robust private market-based economy. The resulting industrial policy is one that would have been rejected by the voters — had Obama had the nerve to run on it in November. Henninger argues that it’s not very “new” at all:

Instead, we’ve gotten the Old Economy on dialysis. General Motors has been commanded to restart aging UAW factories to output product on behalf of the administration’s hybrid-car obsession. Where’s the New Economy in any of this?

Or ObamaCare. How will a build-out of Medicare (b. 1965) to cover everyone and costing $1.2 trillion over 10 years not kill innovation in medical and health technology by siphoning away growth capital and its potential financial rewards?

And this suggests, at some point, a problem with the coalition of brainy professionals, young voters, and high-income urbanites. Socking them with a round of higher taxes is only the start. For a generation used to customized and personalized everything they may get a rude awakening when they find out that a one-size fits all healthcare plan isn’t very “user-friendly.” Voters who selected the post-partisan, post-racial, “cool” candidate may wonder soon why this all seems like a throw-back to some bygone era.

Daniel Henninger writes that the promise of a new, dynamic president for the 21st century has been overrun by the reality of a series of statist policies that seem to be tied together only by their boundless faith in government. But this should be no surprise:

So far Mr. Obama has used his personally exciting presidency for initiatives that are spending public money on a scale not seen since ancient Egypt. Besides Obama Motors ($60 billion to $100 billion), there is Obama-Care for health insurance ($1.2 trillion over 10 years), the stimulus ($800 billion), a global-warming offensive called cap and trade that hopes to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars from the economy, and a fiscal year 2010 budget of $3.59 trillion. Out of these mists of federal “investment” they promise five million “green collar jobs.” Only public-sector lifers could believe, or assert, anything so fantastic.

Then there is the never-ending march of the financial-rescue armies — TARP, TALF, PIPP, EESA. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet stands at some $2 trillion and growing. Last week Treasury floated the possibility of a single financial regulator for the entire banking system.

All this is the Obama government’s idea of innovation. It is all public sector because all any of them know is public sector.

Yes, the Obama team is infatuated with government and dedicated to making a concerted effort to dismantle a robust private market-based economy. The resulting industrial policy is one that would have been rejected by the voters — had Obama had the nerve to run on it in November. Henninger argues that it’s not very “new” at all:

Instead, we’ve gotten the Old Economy on dialysis. General Motors has been commanded to restart aging UAW factories to output product on behalf of the administration’s hybrid-car obsession. Where’s the New Economy in any of this?

Or ObamaCare. How will a build-out of Medicare (b. 1965) to cover everyone and costing $1.2 trillion over 10 years not kill innovation in medical and health technology by siphoning away growth capital and its potential financial rewards?

And this suggests, at some point, a problem with the coalition of brainy professionals, young voters, and high-income urbanites. Socking them with a round of higher taxes is only the start. For a generation used to customized and personalized everything they may get a rude awakening when they find out that a one-size fits all healthcare plan isn’t very “user-friendly.” Voters who selected the post-partisan, post-racial, “cool” candidate may wonder soon why this all seems like a throw-back to some bygone era.

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Obama’s Age of Moral Equivalence

President Obama spoke with his usual charm, polish and eloquence in Cairo this morning. These virtues are formidable and, no doubt will win him, if not our country, some friends. But this speech was, like so many of his utterances since taking office, tarnished by a desire to be all things to all people. To be Barack Obama is to be, as he says, a person who can see all issues from all sides and defend American interests while at the same time being everyone’s best friend. He sees himself as someone who can achieve Olympian detachment. Speaking of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he says: “If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.”

But there is more than one type of blindness. The search for the truth is not merely an exercise in which all grievances are considered the same. To assert the truth of the Holocaust is appropriate — if unfortunately necessary when addressing an Arab audience — as is calling on the Palestinians to “abandon violence” and to cease “shooting rockets at sleeping children” or blowing up old women on buses.

But the problem with this conflict is not that both sides won’t listen to each other or give peace a chance. That might have been a good point to make prior to the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 when Israel recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations and began the process of handing over large portions of the area reserved by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish National Home for the creation of a Palestinian equivalent. But Israel offered these same Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Jerusalem in 2000 and again in negotiations conducted by the government of Ehud Olmert just last year. So, the problem is not that the Israelis don’t want the two state solution that Obama endorsed in Cairo. Rather, it is, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Washington only a week ago, that the Palestinians aren’t interested in negotiating with Israel.

Even more obnoxious than this refusal to see that the truth about the conflict isn’t to be found through an even-handed “plague on both your houses” approach is his comparison of the Palestinians’ plight to that of African-Americans in the United States before the civil rights era. Israelis have not enslaved Palestinians. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians rests on the latter’s unwillingness to come to terms with the former’s existence. The plight of Palestinians in Gaza is terrible but it is a direct result of their own decision to choose war over peace, not a lack of understanding on the part of the Jews. Going to the Middle East while ostentatiously avoiding Israel and picking a fight with its leadership sends a message that will resonate throughout the Arab world. His signal that America is now an impartial broker rather than Israel’s ally can only encourage a Palestinian people that continue to reject peace.

Another disappointment was his treatment of the threat from Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Again, he re-stated the history of our problems with Iran in a context of moral equivalence. While he has stated elsewhere — and promised as much during his run for office — that he will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability, such plain talk was absent in Cairo. Nowhere did he say plainly that Iran must stop its nuclear program or call upon other nations to join the effort to restrain Tehran. That was a major blunder and a missed opportunity to rally the Arab world that fears Iranian nukes as much as the Israelis, to step up on the issue before it is too late.

Though he made a number of important points about fighting terror, religious tolerance and women’s rights and democracy, the speech was constructed and delivered as a series of moral equivalencies that undermine both the search for peace as well as the equally necessary drive to reform the Islamic world. As a statement of philosophy as well as a proclamation of American values it was as morally unserious a speech as an American president has ever made.

President Obama spoke with his usual charm, polish and eloquence in Cairo this morning. These virtues are formidable and, no doubt will win him, if not our country, some friends. But this speech was, like so many of his utterances since taking office, tarnished by a desire to be all things to all people. To be Barack Obama is to be, as he says, a person who can see all issues from all sides and defend American interests while at the same time being everyone’s best friend. He sees himself as someone who can achieve Olympian detachment. Speaking of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he says: “If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.”

But there is more than one type of blindness. The search for the truth is not merely an exercise in which all grievances are considered the same. To assert the truth of the Holocaust is appropriate — if unfortunately necessary when addressing an Arab audience — as is calling on the Palestinians to “abandon violence” and to cease “shooting rockets at sleeping children” or blowing up old women on buses.

But the problem with this conflict is not that both sides won’t listen to each other or give peace a chance. That might have been a good point to make prior to the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 when Israel recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations and began the process of handing over large portions of the area reserved by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish National Home for the creation of a Palestinian equivalent. But Israel offered these same Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Jerusalem in 2000 and again in negotiations conducted by the government of Ehud Olmert just last year. So, the problem is not that the Israelis don’t want the two state solution that Obama endorsed in Cairo. Rather, it is, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Washington only a week ago, that the Palestinians aren’t interested in negotiating with Israel.

Even more obnoxious than this refusal to see that the truth about the conflict isn’t to be found through an even-handed “plague on both your houses” approach is his comparison of the Palestinians’ plight to that of African-Americans in the United States before the civil rights era. Israelis have not enslaved Palestinians. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians rests on the latter’s unwillingness to come to terms with the former’s existence. The plight of Palestinians in Gaza is terrible but it is a direct result of their own decision to choose war over peace, not a lack of understanding on the part of the Jews. Going to the Middle East while ostentatiously avoiding Israel and picking a fight with its leadership sends a message that will resonate throughout the Arab world. His signal that America is now an impartial broker rather than Israel’s ally can only encourage a Palestinian people that continue to reject peace.

Another disappointment was his treatment of the threat from Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Again, he re-stated the history of our problems with Iran in a context of moral equivalence. While he has stated elsewhere — and promised as much during his run for office — that he will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability, such plain talk was absent in Cairo. Nowhere did he say plainly that Iran must stop its nuclear program or call upon other nations to join the effort to restrain Tehran. That was a major blunder and a missed opportunity to rally the Arab world that fears Iranian nukes as much as the Israelis, to step up on the issue before it is too late.

Though he made a number of important points about fighting terror, religious tolerance and women’s rights and democracy, the speech was constructed and delivered as a series of moral equivalencies that undermine both the search for peace as well as the equally necessary drive to reform the Islamic world. As a statement of philosophy as well as a proclamation of American values it was as morally unserious a speech as an American president has ever made.

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It Worked for Daschle

Now and then the New York Times editors try to save Democrats from themselves. They don’t, of course, urge the Democrats to pull back from their ideological precipice. But they do offer advice on scandals. They helped bump Tom Daschle out with a call to step down from consideration as HHS Secretary. Now they plead with House Democrats:

The House Democratic leadership should have the gumption to open its own ethics inquiry into members who awarded rich contracts to PMA’s clients and received handsome political donations from a grateful roster. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly at odds with her majority leader, Steny Hoyer, who wants to defuse Republican criticism with an ethics committee resolution. The speaker would be wise to get ahead of the scandal.

The list of PMA’s pals is topped by Mr. Visclosky, Representative John Murtha, the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee chairman, and Representative James Moran. But it doesn’t stop there. Since 1998, PMA doled out more than $40 million in donations to members of Congress. Last year, more than 100 lawmakers earmarked $300 million in contracts for PMA’s clients.

It remains unclear why Pelosi stubbornly refuses to act. But if the scandal continues to spread and, as happened to the Republicans in 2006, they pay a price at the polls for their ethical sloth, Democrats will no doubt recall that it was Pelosi, who like so many Speakers before her, protected her cronies rather than the long-term interests of her party.

Now and then the New York Times editors try to save Democrats from themselves. They don’t, of course, urge the Democrats to pull back from their ideological precipice. But they do offer advice on scandals. They helped bump Tom Daschle out with a call to step down from consideration as HHS Secretary. Now they plead with House Democrats:

The House Democratic leadership should have the gumption to open its own ethics inquiry into members who awarded rich contracts to PMA’s clients and received handsome political donations from a grateful roster. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly at odds with her majority leader, Steny Hoyer, who wants to defuse Republican criticism with an ethics committee resolution. The speaker would be wise to get ahead of the scandal.

The list of PMA’s pals is topped by Mr. Visclosky, Representative John Murtha, the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee chairman, and Representative James Moran. But it doesn’t stop there. Since 1998, PMA doled out more than $40 million in donations to members of Congress. Last year, more than 100 lawmakers earmarked $300 million in contracts for PMA’s clients.

It remains unclear why Pelosi stubbornly refuses to act. But if the scandal continues to spread and, as happened to the Republicans in 2006, they pay a price at the polls for their ethical sloth, Democrats will no doubt recall that it was Pelosi, who like so many Speakers before her, protected her cronies rather than the long-term interests of her party.

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Awful — on Women’s Rights

Here was Barack Obama in Cairo, speaking about women’s rights:

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.

And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well- educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.

Obama addressed women’s rights before a Muslim audience by personally distancing himself from Westerners who criticize the hijab, offering a single sentence praising the economic advantages of an educated female population, celebrating the role of women in cherry-picked Muslim countries, and knocking the U.S. for its supposed failure to grant women full equality. This, in the same speech that saw Obama proclaiming, “We must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors.

How can Obama continue to recommend open discussion as a first step in bridging what he sees as the American-Muslim divide when he’s too scared to note the bald fact of widespread female subjugation in the Arab world? How can he proclaim that America must lead by example and then deliberately degrade the example we are supposed to set?

Some argue that inequality for women is the most detrimental sociopolitical or economic feature of the larger Muslim world. It’s certainly high on the list, alongside failed governance, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism. For Obama, the great bringer of truth and understanding, to have swept the whole affair under the rug (with a casual jab at the U.S.) marks a tragic end to the hopes harbored by millions of oppressed women that America was on their side.

Here was Barack Obama in Cairo, speaking about women’s rights:

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.

And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well- educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.

Obama addressed women’s rights before a Muslim audience by personally distancing himself from Westerners who criticize the hijab, offering a single sentence praising the economic advantages of an educated female population, celebrating the role of women in cherry-picked Muslim countries, and knocking the U.S. for its supposed failure to grant women full equality. This, in the same speech that saw Obama proclaiming, “We must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors.

How can Obama continue to recommend open discussion as a first step in bridging what he sees as the American-Muslim divide when he’s too scared to note the bald fact of widespread female subjugation in the Arab world? How can he proclaim that America must lead by example and then deliberately degrade the example we are supposed to set?

Some argue that inequality for women is the most detrimental sociopolitical or economic feature of the larger Muslim world. It’s certainly high on the list, alongside failed governance, anti-Semitism, and anti-Americanism. For Obama, the great bringer of truth and understanding, to have swept the whole affair under the rug (with a casual jab at the U.S.) marks a tragic end to the hopes harbored by millions of oppressed women that America was on their side.

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Now What Do We Do, Ollie?

Well, after taking his gripes with Israel’s public and then gingerly having his staff walk it back in briefings and an email, the president goes to Saudi Arabia where he is stiffed by King Abdullah. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The president might be under some illusion that he’ll gain brownie points for “honesty” with Israel (among the Arabs that is who, honestly, have spent 60 years denying Israel’s existence and perpetuating the Palestinians’ grievances).

But King Abdullah isn’t charmed by Obama nor delighted to hear the president grew up in Muslim countries. At least not enough to provoke any meaningful action on his part. And he likely didn’t buy the bit about the U.S. being among the largest Muslim countries. (He may be recalcitrant, but he’s not dumb.) The statement on the meeting provided only a laundry list of the items discussed. Thin gruel indeed.

As Marty Peretz explains:

So what did the president say about all this? Well, he was a bit squishy, not really demanding as he was to the Israelis. But he did make an important point, at least to the B.B.C. “I think we have not seen a lot of potential gestures from other Arab states, or from the Palestinians, that might deal with some of the Israeli concerns.” What would a potential gesture look like?

Perhaps Obama would be satisfied if Netanyahu offered some “potential gestures.”

So where does Obama go now? Back to broadcasting his complaints about Israel and insisting on a settlement concession, which is unacceptable to the wide political spectrum in Israel? Or does he declare the whole trip a grand success and go on his way? All of the grand talk and gestures are not simply useless. They convey to our friends and enemies that the administration does not think more than one move ahead, over-values the president’s personal charisma, and is so stymied by the real issues (e.g. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms) that it must spend its time excoriating its one true ally in the region. It is an embarrassingly naive episode which, I am sure, will not go unnoticed by foes and allies alike.

Well, after taking his gripes with Israel’s public and then gingerly having his staff walk it back in briefings and an email, the president goes to Saudi Arabia where he is stiffed by King Abdullah. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The president might be under some illusion that he’ll gain brownie points for “honesty” with Israel (among the Arabs that is who, honestly, have spent 60 years denying Israel’s existence and perpetuating the Palestinians’ grievances).

But King Abdullah isn’t charmed by Obama nor delighted to hear the president grew up in Muslim countries. At least not enough to provoke any meaningful action on his part. And he likely didn’t buy the bit about the U.S. being among the largest Muslim countries. (He may be recalcitrant, but he’s not dumb.) The statement on the meeting provided only a laundry list of the items discussed. Thin gruel indeed.

As Marty Peretz explains:

So what did the president say about all this? Well, he was a bit squishy, not really demanding as he was to the Israelis. But he did make an important point, at least to the B.B.C. “I think we have not seen a lot of potential gestures from other Arab states, or from the Palestinians, that might deal with some of the Israeli concerns.” What would a potential gesture look like?

Perhaps Obama would be satisfied if Netanyahu offered some “potential gestures.”

So where does Obama go now? Back to broadcasting his complaints about Israel and insisting on a settlement concession, which is unacceptable to the wide political spectrum in Israel? Or does he declare the whole trip a grand success and go on his way? All of the grand talk and gestures are not simply useless. They convey to our friends and enemies that the administration does not think more than one move ahead, over-values the president’s personal charisma, and is so stymied by the real issues (e.g. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms) that it must spend its time excoriating its one true ally in the region. It is an embarrassingly naive episode which, I am sure, will not go unnoticed by foes and allies alike.

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Re: Re: Obama in Cairo

It is usually the case that the more a presidential speech is hyped, the less that is genuinely new in it. At least with respect to policies on Israel, that was the case today, at least on the face of it. His two main demands of Israel — stop settlement construction and accept the two-state solution — have been made explicit over the last weeks and months.

Was there anything interesting between the lines? Two minor points worth mentioning. Obama’s citation of Israel’s historical background seems to affirm the Arab narrative that Israel was created as a response to the Holocaust, and that therefore Israel’s militancy is making Palestinians pay for Europe’s crimes. But this fails to explain Israel’s relentless efforts at peace initiatives, even bad ones, and it fails to take into account much of the Arab world’s ongoing violent hostility to Israel as a reason for Israel’s defensive posture. But Max is right that it could have been much worse. There no question that Obama affirmed a special relationship with Israel, sending a signal to the Muslim world that their expectations should not get too high as to whether America is effectively switching sides, to abandon Israel and support the Arabs instead.

Second, and more important, is the weird language about settlements:

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

What is unclear here is whether he is referring to new construction, new settlements, or the very existence of settlements at all — meaning, are the homes of a quarter million Jews in cities and towns, including throughout Jerusalem, now illegitimate? This would mean a radical break from previous American policy. What on earth could the phrase “It is time for these settlements to stop” mean? Stop what? Existing? Expanding? In so carefully crafted a speech, the ambiguity here seems deliberate.

It is usually the case that the more a presidential speech is hyped, the less that is genuinely new in it. At least with respect to policies on Israel, that was the case today, at least on the face of it. His two main demands of Israel — stop settlement construction and accept the two-state solution — have been made explicit over the last weeks and months.

Was there anything interesting between the lines? Two minor points worth mentioning. Obama’s citation of Israel’s historical background seems to affirm the Arab narrative that Israel was created as a response to the Holocaust, and that therefore Israel’s militancy is making Palestinians pay for Europe’s crimes. But this fails to explain Israel’s relentless efforts at peace initiatives, even bad ones, and it fails to take into account much of the Arab world’s ongoing violent hostility to Israel as a reason for Israel’s defensive posture. But Max is right that it could have been much worse. There no question that Obama affirmed a special relationship with Israel, sending a signal to the Muslim world that their expectations should not get too high as to whether America is effectively switching sides, to abandon Israel and support the Arabs instead.

Second, and more important, is the weird language about settlements:

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

What is unclear here is whether he is referring to new construction, new settlements, or the very existence of settlements at all — meaning, are the homes of a quarter million Jews in cities and towns, including throughout Jerusalem, now illegitimate? This would mean a radical break from previous American policy. What on earth could the phrase “It is time for these settlements to stop” mean? Stop what? Existing? Expanding? In so carefully crafted a speech, the ambiguity here seems deliberate.

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Re: Obama in Cairo

The president’s speech in Cairo, which can be read in full here, was not as horrific as some might have expected after the run of Israel bashing leading up to it and his prior apology tour in Europe. That is not to say the speech did not have some serious shortcomings; it did. And we see played out on the world stage how utterly devoted the president is to a sort of moral relativism that is deeply troubling and potentially dangerous.

On the positive side, there is not much abject apologizing going on. There is mention of the overthrow of the Iranian government and “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims” (not clear what century he is referring to) but this is kept to a minimum. While he does talk at length about America in a positive light he, as he is wont to do, largely ignores what America has sacrificed in blood and treasure for Muslims. I haven’t the foggiest idea why he avoids this; it is a “selling” point for his country. And yes, there’s lots of self-referential stuff about his childhood abroad. This is, after all, an Obama speech.

Also positive, in his “reasons we don’t get along so well” he lists violent extremism first. It is rather clear and decisive. He gives a robust defense of the war in Afghanistan.

Also more positive than not, the president comes fairly close to recognizing the benefits of the Iraq war. He says:

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

What is missing, of course, is the lesson to be extracted for Iraq’s neighbors: democracy is not antithetical to Arab culture and the notion that the people of the Middle East must suffer under tin pot dictators was revealed to be untrue. (He later talks about democracy but he is fails once again to make the sale — he simply can’t bring himself to praise the handiwork of his predecessor.)

And this is, again, Obama, so he doubles down on his hopelessly unworkable Guantanamo plan:

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

Note that he falsely suggests that he banned torture; no, it was always illegal (that’s why they are attempting to prosecute those Bush lawyers, remember). Obama simply banned a range of lesser enhanced interrogation techniques. The chance to preen cannot be passed up, however.

The next long section of the speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tour de force of moral relativism — one of the least honest parts of the speech. He is in the even-handedness business so he must distort and shade history to make it all come out even. No mention of the wars against Israel, no mention that Israel offered up the Palestinians a viable state in 2000. No, it’s some sort of weird replay of the American civil rights movement. And sometimes it is downright incoherent:

 Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

The Palestinians are enslaved American blacks? Well, we fought a civil war about that for starters so it’s not helping his pacifist theme. Moreover, the analogy is offensive and inapt in multiple ways.

The moral equivalence festival continues: yes, the Palestinians must give up violence and the Jews need to give up the settlements. It’s all one and the same.

But the worst of the speech comes in the ludicrously weak section on Iran. This is the sum total of his discussion on the nuclear threat:

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

He can’t distinguish between the U.S. nuclear arsenal and Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms? This is gibberish right out the the nuclear freeze movement of the Cold War. Iran’s mullahs must be smiling: this is not someone dedicated to halting their ambitions or willing to “pick and choose.” The jig is up — his feebleness is plain for all to see.

The democracy section is generally George W. Bush lite:

But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

On religious freedom, he certainly pulls his punches. One must simply laugh at a line like “Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s.” Yeah, totally.

And on his last topic, women’s rights, he softly cajoles but makes no mention of the abject abuse of women in the Muslim world. Only if they come up with some liberal welfare programs “will [the U.S.] partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.” Might it be better if they stopped stoning women for adultery?

Will this speech accomplish anything? The American elites will swoon. But it won’t do much of anything — other than encourage Iran. The president operates from a false premise and paints a distorted picture of the region. It’s all everyone’s fault, and no one’s fault. And it’s about forgetting how we got to where we are. The Palestinians don’t lack a state because of Jewish settlements. They lack a state because they rejected one — again and again. So long as Obama is being anything but “honest” I suspect we won’t see much progress, let alone peace.

The president’s speech in Cairo, which can be read in full here, was not as horrific as some might have expected after the run of Israel bashing leading up to it and his prior apology tour in Europe. That is not to say the speech did not have some serious shortcomings; it did. And we see played out on the world stage how utterly devoted the president is to a sort of moral relativism that is deeply troubling and potentially dangerous.

On the positive side, there is not much abject apologizing going on. There is mention of the overthrow of the Iranian government and “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims” (not clear what century he is referring to) but this is kept to a minimum. While he does talk at length about America in a positive light he, as he is wont to do, largely ignores what America has sacrificed in blood and treasure for Muslims. I haven’t the foggiest idea why he avoids this; it is a “selling” point for his country. And yes, there’s lots of self-referential stuff about his childhood abroad. This is, after all, an Obama speech.

Also positive, in his “reasons we don’t get along so well” he lists violent extremism first. It is rather clear and decisive. He gives a robust defense of the war in Afghanistan.

Also more positive than not, the president comes fairly close to recognizing the benefits of the Iraq war. He says:

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

What is missing, of course, is the lesson to be extracted for Iraq’s neighbors: democracy is not antithetical to Arab culture and the notion that the people of the Middle East must suffer under tin pot dictators was revealed to be untrue. (He later talks about democracy but he is fails once again to make the sale — he simply can’t bring himself to praise the handiwork of his predecessor.)

And this is, again, Obama, so he doubles down on his hopelessly unworkable Guantanamo plan:

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

Note that he falsely suggests that he banned torture; no, it was always illegal (that’s why they are attempting to prosecute those Bush lawyers, remember). Obama simply banned a range of lesser enhanced interrogation techniques. The chance to preen cannot be passed up, however.

The next long section of the speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tour de force of moral relativism — one of the least honest parts of the speech. He is in the even-handedness business so he must distort and shade history to make it all come out even. No mention of the wars against Israel, no mention that Israel offered up the Palestinians a viable state in 2000. No, it’s some sort of weird replay of the American civil rights movement. And sometimes it is downright incoherent:

 Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

The Palestinians are enslaved American blacks? Well, we fought a civil war about that for starters so it’s not helping his pacifist theme. Moreover, the analogy is offensive and inapt in multiple ways.

The moral equivalence festival continues: yes, the Palestinians must give up violence and the Jews need to give up the settlements. It’s all one and the same.

But the worst of the speech comes in the ludicrously weak section on Iran. This is the sum total of his discussion on the nuclear threat:

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

He can’t distinguish between the U.S. nuclear arsenal and Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms? This is gibberish right out the the nuclear freeze movement of the Cold War. Iran’s mullahs must be smiling: this is not someone dedicated to halting their ambitions or willing to “pick and choose.” The jig is up — his feebleness is plain for all to see.

The democracy section is generally George W. Bush lite:

But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

On religious freedom, he certainly pulls his punches. One must simply laugh at a line like “Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s.” Yeah, totally.

And on his last topic, women’s rights, he softly cajoles but makes no mention of the abject abuse of women in the Muslim world. Only if they come up with some liberal welfare programs “will [the U.S.] partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.” Might it be better if they stopped stoning women for adultery?

Will this speech accomplish anything? The American elites will swoon. But it won’t do much of anything — other than encourage Iran. The president operates from a false premise and paints a distorted picture of the region. It’s all everyone’s fault, and no one’s fault. And it’s about forgetting how we got to where we are. The Palestinians don’t lack a state because of Jewish settlements. They lack a state because they rejected one — again and again. So long as Obama is being anything but “honest” I suspect we won’t see much progress, let alone peace.

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Obama in Cairo

Having just read Obama’s Cairo speech, my reaction is: Not bad. It could have been better. But it also could have been a lot worse.

Steve Hayes is right in noting that Obama could have talked more pointedly about the relative success of Iraqi democracy and the shocking denial of women’s rights in many Muslim countries, which is no way equivalent to “the struggle for women’s equality … in many aspects of American life.”

There were other examples of attempts to build false equivalence between the Western and Muslim worlds. For instance, he said: “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.” Of course most Israelis don’t deny Palestine’s right to exist as a Muslim state as long as it is willing to live in peace, whereas Palestinian leaders have shown no comparable willingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Another example of moral equivalency: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.” That is accepting the (false) narrative of the Iranian Revolution, which holds that America’s role in overthrowing Mossadeq more than half a century ago — a development that would not have been possible had the leftist prime minister not lost support in the Iranian street — is just as bad as the campaign of mass murder and kidnapping that Iran continues to support at this very moment.

Obama also twisted history when, for example, he mentioned how “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.” He said: “In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, ‘The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.’ ” That made the treaty sound like a celebration of American-Muslim partnership when in reality it was a treaty whereby the U.S. paid substantial bribes to the ruler of Tripoli in return for a cessation of attacks on American shipping by his corsairs. Tripoli didn’t keep its promises, and the result was America’s first overseas conflict — the Barbary Wars fought against the Muslim states of North Africa.

Should Obama have summarized the real — as opposed to the air-brushed — history? Probably not. His point wasn’t to settle historical accounts but to put the best face forward to the Muslim world, and he did that, while still tactfully criticizing Muslim countries and defending the United States. Some passages that I particularly liked:

The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. …

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America but its promise exists for all who come to our shores.

I also liked it that the first issue he addressed was that “we must finally confront together… is violent extremism in all of its forms.” And he didn’t mention anti-abortion extremists as an example. He made clear that the “violent extremism” he was concerned about was perpetrated by Islamic terrorists and that “we will… relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.”

I liked his attack on Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites who are pervasive in the Muslim world “Denying that fact [of the six million Jews killed] is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

And I liked the fact that he put in a Bush-like plug for democracy:

America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

In the course of talking about democracy Obama even mentioned discrimination against Copts in Egypt (“Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s”). This was the extent of his (indirect) criticism of his host, the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps he should have said more about Egypt’s denial of basic human rights to its people as Bush once did. The problem, however, is that if you talk about human rights in Egypt, the question becomes: What are you willing to do to back it up? Personally, I thought the U.S. should have made Mubarak pay for such outrageous actions as the jailing of liberal opposition leader Ayman Nour by cutting his subsidies. But there was no appetite in the Bush administration for such action and there isn’t in the Obama administration either. If we are going to support the Mubarak regime, it makes sense to soft-pedal criticism of it — a point that even Bush tacitly acknowledged in his second term.

I realize that the Obama speech isn’t going to satisfy those (like me) who once thrilled to Bush’s unapologetic pro-democracy rhetoric but, for all of Obama’s rhetorical sleight of hands and elisions, I thought he did an effective job of making America’s case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn’t mean that his audience will buy the message.

Having just read Obama’s Cairo speech, my reaction is: Not bad. It could have been better. But it also could have been a lot worse.

Steve Hayes is right in noting that Obama could have talked more pointedly about the relative success of Iraqi democracy and the shocking denial of women’s rights in many Muslim countries, which is no way equivalent to “the struggle for women’s equality … in many aspects of American life.”

There were other examples of attempts to build false equivalence between the Western and Muslim worlds. For instance, he said: “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.” Of course most Israelis don’t deny Palestine’s right to exist as a Muslim state as long as it is willing to live in peace, whereas Palestinian leaders have shown no comparable willingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Another example of moral equivalency: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.” That is accepting the (false) narrative of the Iranian Revolution, which holds that America’s role in overthrowing Mossadeq more than half a century ago — a development that would not have been possible had the leftist prime minister not lost support in the Iranian street — is just as bad as the campaign of mass murder and kidnapping that Iran continues to support at this very moment.

Obama also twisted history when, for example, he mentioned how “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.” He said: “In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, ‘The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.’ ” That made the treaty sound like a celebration of American-Muslim partnership when in reality it was a treaty whereby the U.S. paid substantial bribes to the ruler of Tripoli in return for a cessation of attacks on American shipping by his corsairs. Tripoli didn’t keep its promises, and the result was America’s first overseas conflict — the Barbary Wars fought against the Muslim states of North Africa.

Should Obama have summarized the real — as opposed to the air-brushed — history? Probably not. His point wasn’t to settle historical accounts but to put the best face forward to the Muslim world, and he did that, while still tactfully criticizing Muslim countries and defending the United States. Some passages that I particularly liked:

The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. …

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America but its promise exists for all who come to our shores.

I also liked it that the first issue he addressed was that “we must finally confront together… is violent extremism in all of its forms.” And he didn’t mention anti-abortion extremists as an example. He made clear that the “violent extremism” he was concerned about was perpetrated by Islamic terrorists and that “we will… relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.”

I liked his attack on Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites who are pervasive in the Muslim world “Denying that fact [of the six million Jews killed] is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

And I liked the fact that he put in a Bush-like plug for democracy:

America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

In the course of talking about democracy Obama even mentioned discrimination against Copts in Egypt (“Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s”). This was the extent of his (indirect) criticism of his host, the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps he should have said more about Egypt’s denial of basic human rights to its people as Bush once did. The problem, however, is that if you talk about human rights in Egypt, the question becomes: What are you willing to do to back it up? Personally, I thought the U.S. should have made Mubarak pay for such outrageous actions as the jailing of liberal opposition leader Ayman Nour by cutting his subsidies. But there was no appetite in the Bush administration for such action and there isn’t in the Obama administration either. If we are going to support the Mubarak regime, it makes sense to soft-pedal criticism of it — a point that even Bush tacitly acknowledged in his second term.

I realize that the Obama speech isn’t going to satisfy those (like me) who once thrilled to Bush’s unapologetic pro-democracy rhetoric but, for all of Obama’s rhetorical sleight of hands and elisions, I thought he did an effective job of making America’s case to the Muslim world. No question: He is a more effective salesman than his predecessor was. Which doesn’t mean that his audience will buy the message.

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Awful

What an awful speech. Among the problems, one was the president’s claim that there are “nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today.” The true number is probably less than half that, as this page details.

Even when Obama was trying to be nice to Israel, he was tone deaf: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” he said. The missing words were those usually present in such passages about shared democratic values and strategic interests.

The sections about the Palestinian Arabs were even weaker. He said of the Palestinians: “For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.” This buys into the claim that it was 1948, not 1967, that was the original tragedy for the Palestinian Arabs, and feeds the idea that the Palestinian Arabs have a claim to all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Gaza.

Then he said, “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.”

This places the Palestinian Arabs as the victims, equating their plight to that of enslaved American blacks, Poles subjected to Communist tyranny, or blacks under apartheid. In these analogies, the assumption, just barely left unsaid, is that Israeli Jews are the oppressors. Never mind that that doesn’t accurately portray the moral or historical situation. It isn’t even accurate. Violence is not a dead end. American slavery was ended by the Civil War. “America’s founding” was accomplished not by a peaceful insistence on ideals but by a war of independence. And, sadly, were it not for ongoing terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets, President Obama would not be in Egypt comparing the Palestinian Arab cause to that of the captive nations of Eastern Europe or American blacks.

During the campaign I had actually defended Obama against those who felt he would be a disaster for Israel. This speech makes me think that may have been a mistake. The only chance now is that this speech will be mere rhetoric, like so much in the Middle East, intended only for public consumption. But if Obama really means it, it is bad news for the Jews in Israel and America, not to mention for American national security.

What an awful speech. Among the problems, one was the president’s claim that there are “nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today.” The true number is probably less than half that, as this page details.

Even when Obama was trying to be nice to Israel, he was tone deaf: “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” he said. The missing words were those usually present in such passages about shared democratic values and strategic interests.

The sections about the Palestinian Arabs were even weaker. He said of the Palestinians: “For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.” This buys into the claim that it was 1948, not 1967, that was the original tragedy for the Palestinian Arabs, and feeds the idea that the Palestinian Arabs have a claim to all of Israel, not just the West Bank and Gaza.

Then he said, “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.”

This places the Palestinian Arabs as the victims, equating their plight to that of enslaved American blacks, Poles subjected to Communist tyranny, or blacks under apartheid. In these analogies, the assumption, just barely left unsaid, is that Israeli Jews are the oppressors. Never mind that that doesn’t accurately portray the moral or historical situation. It isn’t even accurate. Violence is not a dead end. American slavery was ended by the Civil War. “America’s founding” was accomplished not by a peaceful insistence on ideals but by a war of independence. And, sadly, were it not for ongoing terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets, President Obama would not be in Egypt comparing the Palestinian Arab cause to that of the captive nations of Eastern Europe or American blacks.

During the campaign I had actually defended Obama against those who felt he would be a disaster for Israel. This speech makes me think that may have been a mistake. The only chance now is that this speech will be mere rhetoric, like so much in the Middle East, intended only for public consumption. But if Obama really means it, it is bad news for the Jews in Israel and America, not to mention for American national security.

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Near and Dear

Even before yesterday excusing the 32 words from Sotomayor’s 2001 Berkeley speech as some type of slip was not holding up well. It was a “slip” or a “misstatement” or a “poor choice of words.” But Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus spotted the silliness of that spin — it was after all presented to a law school gathering and reprinted months later for a law review article. Maybe it was a joke, offered Paul Krugman.

Then word came on Wednesday that the speach was given in similar form some seven years earlier. Greg Sargent quotes this paragraph from the earlier version:

“Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”

Well, it’s not exactly the same — it’s a statement of gender rather than ethnic superiority. And she doesn’t add the final dig at white males which appears in the 2001 version. But yes the sentiment is vaguely the same.

Did the Senate “miss this” for her Second Circuit confirmation hearing? Perhaps, or perhaps the 1994 version left out the more egregious sentiments found in the 2001 speech. But the Senators know about it now. And the woman is nominated for the Supreme Court. Everything matters a lot more. What we now know is that the speech or some version of it appeared to be near and dear to her heart — a sentiment that stuck with her and was worth repeating as the years passed. And was worth reprinting for a law review article.  One thing is for sure: the Democrats need to go back to the drawing board for some new excuses.

Even before yesterday excusing the 32 words from Sotomayor’s 2001 Berkeley speech as some type of slip was not holding up well. It was a “slip” or a “misstatement” or a “poor choice of words.” But Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus spotted the silliness of that spin — it was after all presented to a law school gathering and reprinted months later for a law review article. Maybe it was a joke, offered Paul Krugman.

Then word came on Wednesday that the speach was given in similar form some seven years earlier. Greg Sargent quotes this paragraph from the earlier version:

“Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”

Well, it’s not exactly the same — it’s a statement of gender rather than ethnic superiority. And she doesn’t add the final dig at white males which appears in the 2001 version. But yes the sentiment is vaguely the same.

Did the Senate “miss this” for her Second Circuit confirmation hearing? Perhaps, or perhaps the 1994 version left out the more egregious sentiments found in the 2001 speech. But the Senators know about it now. And the woman is nominated for the Supreme Court. Everything matters a lot more. What we now know is that the speech or some version of it appeared to be near and dear to her heart — a sentiment that stuck with her and was worth repeating as the years passed. And was worth reprinting for a law review article.  One thing is for sure: the Democrats need to go back to the drawing board for some new excuses.

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Enraptured Among the Enraptured

Politico‘s Ben Smith has a story on Richard Wolffe, author of Renegade: The Making of a President, and formerly a Newsweek reporter. The story isn’t particularly flattering, and it includes this:

[F]ar from being the toast of Newsweek, which once built its franchise around reporters who were close to the powerful, Wolffe now has a frosty relationship with his former employer.

At a book party at Washington’s Café Atlantico Monday night, there were quail eggs and caviar but no Newsweek editors, who declined to speak on-the-record about Wolffe or his book. Some of his former colleagues grumble privately that the magazine gained little of news value from Wolffe’s access to Obama and his inner circle, and suggest he lost detachment as he became more enraptured by a politician with whom he shares personal and ideological sympathies. Some Republicans say the same thing publicly. “Richard Wolffe was doing PR for Barack Obama throughout the campaign,” said Michael Goldfarb, a former aide to John McCain and a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard. “At least now, with the new book and the new job, he’s dropped even the pretense of being a journalist.” Comments like these suggest Wolffe could become a flashpoint in the larger debate over whether journalists are too enamored with Obama’s biography and personal style, and not being sufficiently skeptical of his grand policy plans.

Perhaps the most striking thing to note is Wolffe’s former colleagues at Newsweek coming to the conclusion that Wolffe had become “enraptured” by Obama and lost his detachment — an extraordinarily damning assessment, given that Newsweek is itself utterly enraptured by Obama. It treats him, on a weekly basis, like a political Messiah.

We also learn from Smith’s story that after a campaign event at a restaurant in Reno, Wolffe and Obama shared a “heaping piece of frosted carrot cake” as the Secret Service ushered the rest of the press corps to a waiting bus. How sweet. Wolffe also regularly played basketball with Obama, “games that were off limits to everyone else.” How bonding. And “on the public stage, Wolffe is best known for his appearances on MSNBC. During the campaign, he would often play the chortling Ed McMahon role to Keith Olbermann, as the host lacerated McCain.” How true.

Smith’s description of Wolffe as a chortling Ed McMahon to Keith Olbermann’s (and Barack Obama’s) Johnny Carson is on target. Wolffe stood out, after all, in a sea of sycophantic and star-struck reporters who covered Obama; his comments on Olbermann’s show are so tendentious and predictable that they are beyond parody. Richard Wolffe stopped being a journalist several months ago — but he had stopped being a serious journalist long before that.

Politico‘s Ben Smith has a story on Richard Wolffe, author of Renegade: The Making of a President, and formerly a Newsweek reporter. The story isn’t particularly flattering, and it includes this:

[F]ar from being the toast of Newsweek, which once built its franchise around reporters who were close to the powerful, Wolffe now has a frosty relationship with his former employer.

At a book party at Washington’s Café Atlantico Monday night, there were quail eggs and caviar but no Newsweek editors, who declined to speak on-the-record about Wolffe or his book. Some of his former colleagues grumble privately that the magazine gained little of news value from Wolffe’s access to Obama and his inner circle, and suggest he lost detachment as he became more enraptured by a politician with whom he shares personal and ideological sympathies. Some Republicans say the same thing publicly. “Richard Wolffe was doing PR for Barack Obama throughout the campaign,” said Michael Goldfarb, a former aide to John McCain and a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard. “At least now, with the new book and the new job, he’s dropped even the pretense of being a journalist.” Comments like these suggest Wolffe could become a flashpoint in the larger debate over whether journalists are too enamored with Obama’s biography and personal style, and not being sufficiently skeptical of his grand policy plans.

Perhaps the most striking thing to note is Wolffe’s former colleagues at Newsweek coming to the conclusion that Wolffe had become “enraptured” by Obama and lost his detachment — an extraordinarily damning assessment, given that Newsweek is itself utterly enraptured by Obama. It treats him, on a weekly basis, like a political Messiah.

We also learn from Smith’s story that after a campaign event at a restaurant in Reno, Wolffe and Obama shared a “heaping piece of frosted carrot cake” as the Secret Service ushered the rest of the press corps to a waiting bus. How sweet. Wolffe also regularly played basketball with Obama, “games that were off limits to everyone else.” How bonding. And “on the public stage, Wolffe is best known for his appearances on MSNBC. During the campaign, he would often play the chortling Ed McMahon role to Keith Olbermann, as the host lacerated McCain.” How true.

Smith’s description of Wolffe as a chortling Ed McMahon to Keith Olbermann’s (and Barack Obama’s) Johnny Carson is on target. Wolffe stood out, after all, in a sea of sycophantic and star-struck reporters who covered Obama; his comments on Olbermann’s show are so tendentious and predictable that they are beyond parody. Richard Wolffe stopped being a journalist several months ago — but he had stopped being a serious journalist long before that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Karl Rove observes: “Until now, the new president has benefited from public willingness to give him a honeymoon. He decided to use that grace period to push for the largest expansion of government in U.S. history and to reward political allies (see the sweetheart deals Big Labor received in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies). The difficulty for Mr. Obama will be when the public sees where his decisions lead — higher inflation, higher interest rates, higher taxes, sluggish growth, and a jobless recovery.” Yes, voters may notice none of the Keynesian schemes did much beyond grow the debt. There are some realities which not even the media can spin for Obama.

Eli Lake on the release of the dossier on our nuclear facilities: “The vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said the disclosure revealed ‘a virtual treasure map for terrorists.’ A Pentagon official with knowledge of the situation said the Pentagon is ‘clearly concerned about the situation.'” You’d think someone might lose his/her job over something like this. After all, if scaring New Yorkers with an Air Force One fly-over is grounds for dismissal isn’t this?

Sotomayor is continuing to tell Senators: “Obviously it was a poor choice of words if you read on and read the rest of my speech you wouldn’t be concerned with it but it was a poor choice of words.” Actually, the speech does raise concerns — and it should be read in full.

Empathy in action: Sotomayor awarded double the standard time to take the Bar exam plus damages to a plaintiff who sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act, claiming as a poor reader she had been denied a “reasonable accommodation.” Not to worry if you are out looking for a lawyer: “Thus buoyed by a gust of judicial empathy, the intrepid plaintiff took the test a fourth and final time. And failed it once again.” (Aside from being dumb, the ruling seems to overlook the requirement that to get the accommodation you have to be able to perform the “essential functions of the job.”) Well, after thousands of dollars later in litigation for the state bar, all’s well that end’s well, I suppose.

Sen. Lindsay Graham says he might use the Obama precedent and vote against Sotomayor on ideological grounds.

Newt Gingrich withdraws the “racist” label from Sotomayor. Good for him. Perhaps he thought others were sounding more, well, presidential.

Rep. Steve Israel told the president he wouldn’t run for the Senate — not that he would support Obama’s hand-picked candidate. It certainly has been a bad month for dictating Senate races from Washington. Darn candidates and voters have minds of their own!

Mitt Romney (at 8:18) wants Obama to get off the apology kick. And he wants Obama to distribute those GM shares to the taxpayers. Hmm. Not that it would be worth anything, but it would keep the government from bossing around the company, propping up the UAW and setting us up for further subsidies.

New Jersey’s problems in a nutshell: “Under threats that picketing state workers would disrupt the official kickoff of Gov. Jon Corzine’s election campaign — and an appearance by Vice President Joe Biden — negotiators reached a last-minute, tentative settlement today with one of New Jersey’s largest labor unions, four high-ranking Democratic officials said.”

The most constructive step this week concerning the Middle East: “Reps. Anthony Weiner and Joseph Crowley of New York and Shelley Berkley of Nevada held a news conference to call on the Saudi government to stop planting what they said were seeds of hate in Saudi children through religious textbooks that teach controversial lessons, such as the hour of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

Karl Rove observes: “Until now, the new president has benefited from public willingness to give him a honeymoon. He decided to use that grace period to push for the largest expansion of government in U.S. history and to reward political allies (see the sweetheart deals Big Labor received in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies). The difficulty for Mr. Obama will be when the public sees where his decisions lead — higher inflation, higher interest rates, higher taxes, sluggish growth, and a jobless recovery.” Yes, voters may notice none of the Keynesian schemes did much beyond grow the debt. There are some realities which not even the media can spin for Obama.

Eli Lake on the release of the dossier on our nuclear facilities: “The vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said the disclosure revealed ‘a virtual treasure map for terrorists.’ A Pentagon official with knowledge of the situation said the Pentagon is ‘clearly concerned about the situation.'” You’d think someone might lose his/her job over something like this. After all, if scaring New Yorkers with an Air Force One fly-over is grounds for dismissal isn’t this?

Sotomayor is continuing to tell Senators: “Obviously it was a poor choice of words if you read on and read the rest of my speech you wouldn’t be concerned with it but it was a poor choice of words.” Actually, the speech does raise concerns — and it should be read in full.

Empathy in action: Sotomayor awarded double the standard time to take the Bar exam plus damages to a plaintiff who sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act, claiming as a poor reader she had been denied a “reasonable accommodation.” Not to worry if you are out looking for a lawyer: “Thus buoyed by a gust of judicial empathy, the intrepid plaintiff took the test a fourth and final time. And failed it once again.” (Aside from being dumb, the ruling seems to overlook the requirement that to get the accommodation you have to be able to perform the “essential functions of the job.”) Well, after thousands of dollars later in litigation for the state bar, all’s well that end’s well, I suppose.

Sen. Lindsay Graham says he might use the Obama precedent and vote against Sotomayor on ideological grounds.

Newt Gingrich withdraws the “racist” label from Sotomayor. Good for him. Perhaps he thought others were sounding more, well, presidential.

Rep. Steve Israel told the president he wouldn’t run for the Senate — not that he would support Obama’s hand-picked candidate. It certainly has been a bad month for dictating Senate races from Washington. Darn candidates and voters have minds of their own!

Mitt Romney (at 8:18) wants Obama to get off the apology kick. And he wants Obama to distribute those GM shares to the taxpayers. Hmm. Not that it would be worth anything, but it would keep the government from bossing around the company, propping up the UAW and setting us up for further subsidies.

New Jersey’s problems in a nutshell: “Under threats that picketing state workers would disrupt the official kickoff of Gov. Jon Corzine’s election campaign — and an appearance by Vice President Joe Biden — negotiators reached a last-minute, tentative settlement today with one of New Jersey’s largest labor unions, four high-ranking Democratic officials said.”

The most constructive step this week concerning the Middle East: “Reps. Anthony Weiner and Joseph Crowley of New York and Shelley Berkley of Nevada held a news conference to call on the Saudi government to stop planting what they said were seeds of hate in Saudi children through religious textbooks that teach controversial lessons, such as the hour of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

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