Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 29, 2009

Meddling, Are We?

Let’s see if you can follow the bouncing diplomatic ball. In order to justify his timid early words regarding the Iranian suppression of liberty, Barack Obama based his argument on how important it is for the United States to not “meddle” in the internal affairs of Iran. But today Obama said that the weekend ouster of Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya was “not legal” and that he remains the country’s president.

In the first instance, Obama was clearly trying to pacify the theocratic leadership of the repressive, terror-sponsoring Iranian regime. In the case of Honduras, Obama is “meddling” in order to protect the legitimacy of an authoritarian president who is acting as if he were above the law, is violating Honduras’s Constitution, and is supported by Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Fidel Castro (see this Wall Street Journal column for more).

As a general matter, I’m not in favor of military coups. On the other hand, I’m not in favor of Zelaya doing to Honduras what Chavez has done in Venezuela. In any event, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency on when Obama decides to meddle, beyond his tendency to take actions that make life easier for those who do not wish America well.

This is all getting rather confusing, isn’t it?

Let’s see if you can follow the bouncing diplomatic ball. In order to justify his timid early words regarding the Iranian suppression of liberty, Barack Obama based his argument on how important it is for the United States to not “meddle” in the internal affairs of Iran. But today Obama said that the weekend ouster of Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya was “not legal” and that he remains the country’s president.

In the first instance, Obama was clearly trying to pacify the theocratic leadership of the repressive, terror-sponsoring Iranian regime. In the case of Honduras, Obama is “meddling” in order to protect the legitimacy of an authoritarian president who is acting as if he were above the law, is violating Honduras’s Constitution, and is supported by Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Fidel Castro (see this Wall Street Journal column for more).

As a general matter, I’m not in favor of military coups. On the other hand, I’m not in favor of Zelaya doing to Honduras what Chavez has done in Venezuela. In any event, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency on when Obama decides to meddle, beyond his tendency to take actions that make life easier for those who do not wish America well.

This is all getting rather confusing, isn’t it?

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Re: Frank Ricci

I would note that Roger Clegg’s Center for Equal Opportunity made this argument to the Court in its amicus brief:

Thus, even if “avoiding disparate impact liability” were the sole motivation for defendants’ decision here[ to discard Ricci’s test results]. . . it would not be sufficient for defendants simply to show that they had a good faith belief that they might be sued, or even that they might be liable. To prevent such a defense from eroding Title VII’s core prohibition against intentional discrimination, defendants should be required to show a strong evidentiary basis for such a belief, much as they have to do under the Equal Protection Clause.

[. . .]

Any “avoiding disparate impact liability” defense recognized here should be similarly limited. That is, to be deemed a “nondiscriminatory rationale,” there must be more than just an employer’s good-faith belief that liability is possible, but strong evidence that it is so. Specifically, there should be evidence that there is a statistical disparity caused by an identifiable employer practice that is likely not defensible as job-related. Anything less would erode Title VII’s core prohibition against intentional discrimination.

The Court agreed with this argument.

One other note: not even the dissenters would have affirmed the Second Circuit’s “decision.” In that regard the Court repudiated not merely the decision but the jurisprudence — unanimously — of the judge who may be a new colleague.

I would note that Roger Clegg’s Center for Equal Opportunity made this argument to the Court in its amicus brief:

Thus, even if “avoiding disparate impact liability” were the sole motivation for defendants’ decision here[ to discard Ricci’s test results]. . . it would not be sufficient for defendants simply to show that they had a good faith belief that they might be sued, or even that they might be liable. To prevent such a defense from eroding Title VII’s core prohibition against intentional discrimination, defendants should be required to show a strong evidentiary basis for such a belief, much as they have to do under the Equal Protection Clause.

[. . .]

Any “avoiding disparate impact liability” defense recognized here should be similarly limited. That is, to be deemed a “nondiscriminatory rationale,” there must be more than just an employer’s good-faith belief that liability is possible, but strong evidence that it is so. Specifically, there should be evidence that there is a statistical disparity caused by an identifiable employer practice that is likely not defensible as job-related. Anything less would erode Title VII’s core prohibition against intentional discrimination.

The Court agreed with this argument.

One other note: not even the dissenters would have affirmed the Second Circuit’s “decision.” In that regard the Court repudiated not merely the decision but the jurisprudence — unanimously — of the judge who may be a new colleague.

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Roger Cohen’s Mea Culpas Fall Short

The indefatigable Roger Cohen has earned some high marks in recent weeks for his coverage of the anti-regime protests in the streets of Tehran. He even admitted that some of his previous reports failed to convey the reality of the ruling regime. But he is far from repentant.

In an online Q&A with fellow op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, in which readers’ questions were posed to Cohen, he received a couple of sharp slaps across the wrist. But his responses were typically self-indulgent.

One reader posed the following question:

Nicholas Kristof mentions gnashing his teeth at your excellent recent reporting from Iran. I had long been gnashing my teeth at your many previous articles that sought to debunk U.S. opposition to this brutal regime that had long suppressed dissent with crackdowns and imprisonment. You then effortlessly ride the bandwagon of brave dissent with not so much as a look backward at your former positions that belittled U.S. opposition. Please comment.

— Daniel Saks

Cohen’s Response:

You are mistaken, Daniel, in saying that I have not looked back. I have written in two columns that I underestimated the brutality of the regime. I’ve not noticed any such mea culpas from my critics, however. They were wrong in underestimating the vibrancy and sophistication of Iranian society, in reducing the Iranian equation to a bunch of mad mullahs, and in dismissing this election as the meaningless foible of a clerical dictatorship. In my earlier columns, I tried to broaden the picture of Iran. … Iran was not, until these events, a subject over which there was any room for nuance. I tried to introduce some nuance, convey the society I saw. This was intolerable to some.

I think President Obama, as I wrote from Tehran, erred on the side of caution early on. He misspoke in equating Moussavi with Ahmadinejad in terms of US strategic interests. He should have been more forthright in standing with the Green Wave. Meddling be damned. This was a pivotal and historic moment. Obama should have tossed the strategy papers in the garbage and spoken from the heart. His comments got stronger and better, but they came as the street protests ebbed.

Cohen is right about Obama’s initial fecklessness and late response, but wrong about his critics.

Those who were appalled by Cohen’s dispatches from and about Iran earlier this year were not wrong to reduce everything to “mad mullahs.” As Cohen learned to his sorrow, the mullahs, their front man Ahmadinejad, and their hired guns, turned out to represent the only real power in the country. It wasn’t that we underestimated the vibrancy of Iranian culture, it was that Cohen was so seduced by the scent of incense in the bazaars and the seductive sight of uncovered hair peeking out underneath the scarves of the country’s oppressed women, that he persuaded himself that nothing else mattered.

Even more to the point, his real goal was not, as he claims, to introduce “nuance” into the discussion but to whitewash Iran, thus undermining efforts to halt the regime’s push for nuclear weapons. Indeed, as he made plain time and again, his agenda was to replace the merited demonization of a truly evil regime with a different story line, in which Israel and its supporters were falsely portrayed as manipulating American foreign policy. As I wrote in the May issue of COMMENTARY, in order to do this, the same regime he now condemns enlisted him to write articles portraying the small Jewish community of Iran as free and happy rather than as a terrorized remnant suffering from discrimination at the hands of a rabidly anti-Semitic government.

Cohen’s widely reviled columns about Iranian Jews and his attacks on Israel weren’t merely wrong-headed. They constituted disgraceful and patently dishonest pieces of reporting, which, as we said here months ago, prompted a comparison with Walter Duranty’s whitewash of Stalin’s atrocities in the same newspaper more than 70 years ago.

Roger Cohen’s critics have no reason to apologize. But despite some good work recently, the Times columnist still has much to atone for.

The indefatigable Roger Cohen has earned some high marks in recent weeks for his coverage of the anti-regime protests in the streets of Tehran. He even admitted that some of his previous reports failed to convey the reality of the ruling regime. But he is far from repentant.

In an online Q&A with fellow op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, in which readers’ questions were posed to Cohen, he received a couple of sharp slaps across the wrist. But his responses were typically self-indulgent.

One reader posed the following question:

Nicholas Kristof mentions gnashing his teeth at your excellent recent reporting from Iran. I had long been gnashing my teeth at your many previous articles that sought to debunk U.S. opposition to this brutal regime that had long suppressed dissent with crackdowns and imprisonment. You then effortlessly ride the bandwagon of brave dissent with not so much as a look backward at your former positions that belittled U.S. opposition. Please comment.

— Daniel Saks

Cohen’s Response:

You are mistaken, Daniel, in saying that I have not looked back. I have written in two columns that I underestimated the brutality of the regime. I’ve not noticed any such mea culpas from my critics, however. They were wrong in underestimating the vibrancy and sophistication of Iranian society, in reducing the Iranian equation to a bunch of mad mullahs, and in dismissing this election as the meaningless foible of a clerical dictatorship. In my earlier columns, I tried to broaden the picture of Iran. … Iran was not, until these events, a subject over which there was any room for nuance. I tried to introduce some nuance, convey the society I saw. This was intolerable to some.

I think President Obama, as I wrote from Tehran, erred on the side of caution early on. He misspoke in equating Moussavi with Ahmadinejad in terms of US strategic interests. He should have been more forthright in standing with the Green Wave. Meddling be damned. This was a pivotal and historic moment. Obama should have tossed the strategy papers in the garbage and spoken from the heart. His comments got stronger and better, but they came as the street protests ebbed.

Cohen is right about Obama’s initial fecklessness and late response, but wrong about his critics.

Those who were appalled by Cohen’s dispatches from and about Iran earlier this year were not wrong to reduce everything to “mad mullahs.” As Cohen learned to his sorrow, the mullahs, their front man Ahmadinejad, and their hired guns, turned out to represent the only real power in the country. It wasn’t that we underestimated the vibrancy of Iranian culture, it was that Cohen was so seduced by the scent of incense in the bazaars and the seductive sight of uncovered hair peeking out underneath the scarves of the country’s oppressed women, that he persuaded himself that nothing else mattered.

Even more to the point, his real goal was not, as he claims, to introduce “nuance” into the discussion but to whitewash Iran, thus undermining efforts to halt the regime’s push for nuclear weapons. Indeed, as he made plain time and again, his agenda was to replace the merited demonization of a truly evil regime with a different story line, in which Israel and its supporters were falsely portrayed as manipulating American foreign policy. As I wrote in the May issue of COMMENTARY, in order to do this, the same regime he now condemns enlisted him to write articles portraying the small Jewish community of Iran as free and happy rather than as a terrorized remnant suffering from discrimination at the hands of a rabidly anti-Semitic government.

Cohen’s widely reviled columns about Iranian Jews and his attacks on Israel weren’t merely wrong-headed. They constituted disgraceful and patently dishonest pieces of reporting, which, as we said here months ago, prompted a comparison with Walter Duranty’s whitewash of Stalin’s atrocities in the same newspaper more than 70 years ago.

Roger Cohen’s critics have no reason to apologize. But despite some good work recently, the Times columnist still has much to atone for.

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Don’t Break Out the Champagne Just Yet

Jonathan is right that we should pray for the continued health of Justice Kennedy, whose record on race cases is pretty good, but it is unfortunate that he and his fellow justices didn’t consider the Constitutional issues in the Ricci case, which would have made it far more difficult for Democrats in Congress to undo the results of the decision. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will try to reverse Ricci quickly by offering legislation to ensure that employers must use only employment tests that achieve equal results among different racial and ethnic groups.

It’s important to remember that the Ricci case grew out of an interpretation of 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act that tried to undo a previous court decision in Atonio v. Wards Cove. In that case, the court said that the burden of proof remained with the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case alleging disparate impact. Congress was so incensed with the decision that it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other provisions, shifted the burden of proof to the employer to justify a test that has a disparate impact. During the debate over the legislation, Republicans were able to include language prohibiting race-norming of tests (a practice used at the time, including by the federal government, which assigned percentile rankings within racial groups, so that the same raw score by a white, black, and Hispanic applicant would have different rankings depending on how each racial group fared overall on the test). But the impact of the 1991 Act was to make claims of discrimination easier for plaintiffs.

Justice Ginsburg hints that opponents to the Ricci case will take similar action (as they did recently in the Lilly Leadbetter equal pay case and in 1984 in the Grove City case), passing legislation that reverses the Court. If so, the Court may have to decide the issue on Constitutional grounds, but that will take a while, and who knows what impact Obama will have on the Court’s composition.

Jonathan is right that we should pray for the continued health of Justice Kennedy, whose record on race cases is pretty good, but it is unfortunate that he and his fellow justices didn’t consider the Constitutional issues in the Ricci case, which would have made it far more difficult for Democrats in Congress to undo the results of the decision. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will try to reverse Ricci quickly by offering legislation to ensure that employers must use only employment tests that achieve equal results among different racial and ethnic groups.

It’s important to remember that the Ricci case grew out of an interpretation of 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act that tried to undo a previous court decision in Atonio v. Wards Cove. In that case, the court said that the burden of proof remained with the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case alleging disparate impact. Congress was so incensed with the decision that it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other provisions, shifted the burden of proof to the employer to justify a test that has a disparate impact. During the debate over the legislation, Republicans were able to include language prohibiting race-norming of tests (a practice used at the time, including by the federal government, which assigned percentile rankings within racial groups, so that the same raw score by a white, black, and Hispanic applicant would have different rankings depending on how each racial group fared overall on the test). But the impact of the 1991 Act was to make claims of discrimination easier for plaintiffs.

Justice Ginsburg hints that opponents to the Ricci case will take similar action (as they did recently in the Lilly Leadbetter equal pay case and in 1984 in the Grove City case), passing legislation that reverses the Court. If so, the Court may have to decide the issue on Constitutional grounds, but that will take a while, and who knows what impact Obama will have on the Court’s composition.

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From Too Much Hope, Hopelessness

The current “cap and trade” bill wending its way through Congress represents the triumph of “hope” — as in “Hope And Change” — over everything else, including reality. Its proponents tout it as a major step toward American energy independence, as well as toward the use of cleaner energy. In reality, it’s a leap toward chaos.

One of the fundamental building blocks of post-Industrial Age civilization is access to energy. As we find new forms, new sources, we rarely discard the old ones — they dwindle in popularity, but rarely vanish. Wood led to coal led to oil led to hydroelectric led to nuclear fission, just to name a few, but all are still in use to various degrees. And those sources will, in time, diminish in popularity as new ones come into use. It’s the natural progression.

But not under Cap and Trade.

Cap and Trade’s stated goal is to force Americans to jump to the next cycle of energy production, where these old, dirty, inefficient technologies are shoved aside and replaced with newer, cleaner, sources. It’s a fine, noble, sentiment, with one fatal flaw: it’s built on fantasy.

At present, there is no “new” source of energy that Cap and Trade is pushing us toward. Instead, it’s just pushing us off our base and dashing our hopes of ever finding a new one.

Imagine you’re building a bridge. The person in charge wants it done by a certain date, and insists that you will lead a parade over that bridge on that date, come hell or high water. In the meantime, he’s given you the budget to build half the bridge. But not to worry; he’s certain that before you reach that halfway point, the price of supplies will have fallen or the interest rates at the bank holding your funds will have risen or some miracle in bridge supplies technology will have come about and you’ll find that your money will be enough to finish the bridge. But on that date, you’re marching.

Were I that bridge builder, I’d quit or buy a parachute. .

So, what is the real purpose of the whole Cap and Trade bill? The key might be in the enforcement provisions. And the means are economic — fines, permits, taxes, fees, assessments, and the like — all of which translate into more and more money being siphoned out of the private sector and into the hands of the government. All in the name of “energy independence” and “a cleaner environment.”

Carried out as planned, the bill will actually achieve its aims. We will be independent of energy, and the environment will be considerably cleaner as we return to a pre-industrial state.

Put THAT in your iPhone and text it, America.

The current “cap and trade” bill wending its way through Congress represents the triumph of “hope” — as in “Hope And Change” — over everything else, including reality. Its proponents tout it as a major step toward American energy independence, as well as toward the use of cleaner energy. In reality, it’s a leap toward chaos.

One of the fundamental building blocks of post-Industrial Age civilization is access to energy. As we find new forms, new sources, we rarely discard the old ones — they dwindle in popularity, but rarely vanish. Wood led to coal led to oil led to hydroelectric led to nuclear fission, just to name a few, but all are still in use to various degrees. And those sources will, in time, diminish in popularity as new ones come into use. It’s the natural progression.

But not under Cap and Trade.

Cap and Trade’s stated goal is to force Americans to jump to the next cycle of energy production, where these old, dirty, inefficient technologies are shoved aside and replaced with newer, cleaner, sources. It’s a fine, noble, sentiment, with one fatal flaw: it’s built on fantasy.

At present, there is no “new” source of energy that Cap and Trade is pushing us toward. Instead, it’s just pushing us off our base and dashing our hopes of ever finding a new one.

Imagine you’re building a bridge. The person in charge wants it done by a certain date, and insists that you will lead a parade over that bridge on that date, come hell or high water. In the meantime, he’s given you the budget to build half the bridge. But not to worry; he’s certain that before you reach that halfway point, the price of supplies will have fallen or the interest rates at the bank holding your funds will have risen or some miracle in bridge supplies technology will have come about and you’ll find that your money will be enough to finish the bridge. But on that date, you’re marching.

Were I that bridge builder, I’d quit or buy a parachute. .

So, what is the real purpose of the whole Cap and Trade bill? The key might be in the enforcement provisions. And the means are economic — fines, permits, taxes, fees, assessments, and the like — all of which translate into more and more money being siphoned out of the private sector and into the hands of the government. All in the name of “energy independence” and “a cleaner environment.”

Carried out as planned, the bill will actually achieve its aims. We will be independent of energy, and the environment will be considerably cleaner as we return to a pre-industrial state.

Put THAT in your iPhone and text it, America.

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What Now?

Despite the skepticism of many in the West about whether the Iranians are really capable of a sustained fight for their own freedom and dignity, there are many in Tehran who didn’t get the conventional wisdom memo that the revolt was wilting. To the contrary, over the weekend, we see fresh evidence that the Iranian people aren’t giving up yet:

Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters near a mosque in north Tehran on Sunday, using tear gas and truncheons to break up Iran’s first post-election demonstration in five days, witnesses said. Witnesses told The Associated Press that some protesters fought back, chanting: ‘Where is my vote?’ They said others described scenes of brutality — including the alleged police beating of an elderly woman — in the clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.

And we see that the regime is reverting to type — becoming increasingly brutal and antagonist toward those in the West who have given visibility and support (at least rhetorical) of the protesters. Engagement? Well, the mullahs have their own ideas about “engaging” the West:

Iran’s government said Sunday that it had arrested Iranian employees of the British Embassy, while the police in Tehran beat and fired tear gas at several thousand protesters who joined a demonstration at a mosque in support of the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi. The government’s arrest of nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy was a significant escalation in its conflict with Britain, which Tehran has sought to cast as an instigator of the unrest since the disputed June 12 election.

So what now? The president and his “realists” might have banked on a quick resolution to the protests. But what if the Iranians don’t give up? Then the president will be called upon to do something — to lead. Marty Peretz is stinging in his assessment:

We don’t yet know just how desperate is the situation of the great mass of Iranian dissenters. But this is a moment about which presidents and prime ministers, ordinary people and the so very savvy foreign policy elites will be held to account: “which side are you on?”

[. . .]

In behalf of what cause is this oratorical master so reserved? It is actually his doomed conceit that he will entice the ayatollahs to give up their nukes.

So the American people must learn this lesson from the winning “yes, we can” candidate. And this lessson is that we won’t even try when the stakes are as obvious as other people’s decent freedoms. We won’t even cut off trade with Tehran. The smug and cool Brent Scowcroft is now enthroned as the foreign affairs sage of Washington, D.C. Here is what he had to say late last week: U.S. government support for those Iranians who are protesting against electoral results would provoke a more intense crackdown by the government in Tehran. I think he gave the good news to the mullahs over Al Jazeera.

Well, maybe the president can take a break from efforts to squeeze the elected Prime Minister of Israel and instead get to work on pushing the despotic mullahs over the edge. (It is odd that meddling in Israeli politics and internal policy is fair game with this crowd.) Obama has an array of diplomatic, economic, and rhetorical tools at his disposal to assist the protesters. He might do well to try them out. Someone might one day ask what he did to promote hope and change in Iran.

Despite the skepticism of many in the West about whether the Iranians are really capable of a sustained fight for their own freedom and dignity, there are many in Tehran who didn’t get the conventional wisdom memo that the revolt was wilting. To the contrary, over the weekend, we see fresh evidence that the Iranian people aren’t giving up yet:

Riot police clashed with up to 3,000 protesters near a mosque in north Tehran on Sunday, using tear gas and truncheons to break up Iran’s first post-election demonstration in five days, witnesses said. Witnesses told The Associated Press that some protesters fought back, chanting: ‘Where is my vote?’ They said others described scenes of brutality — including the alleged police beating of an elderly woman — in the clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.

And we see that the regime is reverting to type — becoming increasingly brutal and antagonist toward those in the West who have given visibility and support (at least rhetorical) of the protesters. Engagement? Well, the mullahs have their own ideas about “engaging” the West:

Iran’s government said Sunday that it had arrested Iranian employees of the British Embassy, while the police in Tehran beat and fired tear gas at several thousand protesters who joined a demonstration at a mosque in support of the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi. The government’s arrest of nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy was a significant escalation in its conflict with Britain, which Tehran has sought to cast as an instigator of the unrest since the disputed June 12 election.

So what now? The president and his “realists” might have banked on a quick resolution to the protests. But what if the Iranians don’t give up? Then the president will be called upon to do something — to lead. Marty Peretz is stinging in his assessment:

We don’t yet know just how desperate is the situation of the great mass of Iranian dissenters. But this is a moment about which presidents and prime ministers, ordinary people and the so very savvy foreign policy elites will be held to account: “which side are you on?”

[. . .]

In behalf of what cause is this oratorical master so reserved? It is actually his doomed conceit that he will entice the ayatollahs to give up their nukes.

So the American people must learn this lesson from the winning “yes, we can” candidate. And this lessson is that we won’t even try when the stakes are as obvious as other people’s decent freedoms. We won’t even cut off trade with Tehran. The smug and cool Brent Scowcroft is now enthroned as the foreign affairs sage of Washington, D.C. Here is what he had to say late last week: U.S. government support for those Iranians who are protesting against electoral results would provoke a more intense crackdown by the government in Tehran. I think he gave the good news to the mullahs over Al Jazeera.

Well, maybe the president can take a break from efforts to squeeze the elected Prime Minister of Israel and instead get to work on pushing the despotic mullahs over the edge. (It is odd that meddling in Israeli politics and internal policy is fair game with this crowd.) Obama has an array of diplomatic, economic, and rhetorical tools at his disposal to assist the protesters. He might do well to try them out. Someone might one day ask what he did to promote hope and change in Iran.

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Say a Prayer for Five Justices’ Continued Good Health

The Supreme Court’s ruling this morning on the New Haven firefighters’ lawsuit is a reminder of the vital role a sane majority on the high court plays in protecting the rights of citizens against the dictates of liberal ideology.

The 5-4 ruling, which reverses a decision endorsed by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, validated the complaints of a group of firefighters who took and passed a promotion test but wound up being told that the exam was invalid because not enough minorities had done sufficiently well on it. Though no one could credibly allege that the test was biased or that any discrimination had actually taken place, the city of New Haven threw out the test (thus rendering the efforts of the firefighters who had passed it worthless) because they feared that they would nonetheless be sued by the affirmative action bar, which views any result other than the one sought for minorities as inherently discriminatory.

Sotomayor and the Second Federal Circuit majority that dismissed the firefighters appeal didn’t even bother to state their reasons for their egregious and unconstitutional approval of this outrage. But fortunately there are still five members of the Supreme Court who aren’t willing to go along with such travesties.

How did the four members of the minority justify their dissent? Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the white and hispanic firefighters “understandably attract this court’s sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion.” This is nonsense. Having jumped through every hoop that the city of New Haven set for them, the firefighters were entitled to the promotions that they had fairly earned in open competition. Denying them these promotions, merely because they were not black, is inherently discriminatory. Such reverse discrimination has become commonplace in recent decades, but it is still a disgrace when our courts seek to rationalize such naked racialism through the sort of convoluted reasoning put forward by Ginsburg.

The majority, led by that fickle weathervane Anthony Kennedy (thank goodness the wind was blowing in the right direction!), is to be commended for establishing a precedent that may curtail the widespread practice of officially endorsed discrimination.

But just as interesting is the insight this ruling brings to the question of Sotomayor’s nomination. The Senate is being asked to approve a person who was willing to endorse blatant discrimination motivated by race, albeit in the guise of remedying past discrimination even when no such discrimination is proved or even alleged.

Sotomayor will, when she is undoubtedly confirmed, replace David Souter, one of the justices who were willing to let the affirmative action mindset further erode American democracy. But the fact that her nomination will not undermine the narrow majority for reason is no cause for complacency. A doctrinaire liberal like Barack Obama can be counted on to put forward similar nominees in the next three to eight years. Anyone who cares about the future of the rule of law in this nation should not go to sleep tonight without saying a prayer for the continued good health of Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.

The Supreme Court’s ruling this morning on the New Haven firefighters’ lawsuit is a reminder of the vital role a sane majority on the high court plays in protecting the rights of citizens against the dictates of liberal ideology.

The 5-4 ruling, which reverses a decision endorsed by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, validated the complaints of a group of firefighters who took and passed a promotion test but wound up being told that the exam was invalid because not enough minorities had done sufficiently well on it. Though no one could credibly allege that the test was biased or that any discrimination had actually taken place, the city of New Haven threw out the test (thus rendering the efforts of the firefighters who had passed it worthless) because they feared that they would nonetheless be sued by the affirmative action bar, which views any result other than the one sought for minorities as inherently discriminatory.

Sotomayor and the Second Federal Circuit majority that dismissed the firefighters appeal didn’t even bother to state their reasons for their egregious and unconstitutional approval of this outrage. But fortunately there are still five members of the Supreme Court who aren’t willing to go along with such travesties.

How did the four members of the minority justify their dissent? Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the white and hispanic firefighters “understandably attract this court’s sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion.” This is nonsense. Having jumped through every hoop that the city of New Haven set for them, the firefighters were entitled to the promotions that they had fairly earned in open competition. Denying them these promotions, merely because they were not black, is inherently discriminatory. Such reverse discrimination has become commonplace in recent decades, but it is still a disgrace when our courts seek to rationalize such naked racialism through the sort of convoluted reasoning put forward by Ginsburg.

The majority, led by that fickle weathervane Anthony Kennedy (thank goodness the wind was blowing in the right direction!), is to be commended for establishing a precedent that may curtail the widespread practice of officially endorsed discrimination.

But just as interesting is the insight this ruling brings to the question of Sotomayor’s nomination. The Senate is being asked to approve a person who was willing to endorse blatant discrimination motivated by race, albeit in the guise of remedying past discrimination even when no such discrimination is proved or even alleged.

Sotomayor will, when she is undoubtedly confirmed, replace David Souter, one of the justices who were willing to let the affirmative action mindset further erode American democracy. But the fact that her nomination will not undermine the narrow majority for reason is no cause for complacency. A doctrinaire liberal like Barack Obama can be counted on to put forward similar nominees in the next three to eight years. Anyone who cares about the future of the rule of law in this nation should not go to sleep tonight without saying a prayer for the continued good health of Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.

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Frank Ricci Gets His Day In Court

Despite the best efforts of Sonia Sotomayor and her Second Circuit panel to bury his claim in a cursory opinion, Frank Ricci made it to the Supreme Court and today received justice. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that under Title VII,  the results of Ricci’s promotional test could not be thrown out simply because the city of New Haven feared a lawsuit. Because the issue was easily resolved on this basis, there was no need to proceed to the 14th Amendment issue. There was no remand to the Second Circuit.

Much more will be written about the case. But Justice Kennedy’s opinion is blunt and rather devastating to those who defended Sotomayor and the Second Circuits’ back-of-the-hand treatment of the white firefighters’ case:

The City’s actions would violate the disparate-treatment prohibition of Title VII absent some valid defense. All the evidence demonstrates that the City chose not to certify the examination results because of the statistical disparity based on race—i.e., how minority candidates had performed when compared to white candidates. As the District Court put it, the City rejected the test results because “too many whites and not enough minorities would be promoted were the lists to be certified.”

Without some other justification, this express, race-based decisionmaking violates Title VII’s command that employers cannot take adverse employment actions because of an individual’s race. See §2000e–2(a)(1).

As for the fear of getting sued, the Court held:

If an employer cannot rescore a test based on the candidates’ race, §2000e–2(l), then it follows a fortiori that it may not take the greater step of discarding the test altogether to achieve a more desirable racial distribution of promotion-eligible candidates—absent a strong basis in evidence that the test was deficient and that discarding the results is necessary to avoid violating the disparate impact provision. Restricting an employer’s ability to discard test results (and thereby discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of their race) also is in keeping with Title VII’s express protection of bona fide promotional examinations.

[. . .]

The City argues that, even under the strong-basis-in-evidence standard, its decision to discard the examination results was permissible under Title VII. That is incorrect. Even if respondents were motivated as a subjective matter by a desire to avoid committing disparate-impact discrimination, the record makes clear there is no support for the conclusion that respondents had an objective, strong basis in evidence to find the tests inadequate, with some consequent disparate-impact liability in violation of Title VII.

Those of us who made this identical argument are cheered. Those who saw a great injustice in dismissing Ricci’s claim are heartened that he received a clear and definitive win. The proponents of identity politics and defenders of Sotomayor have their work cut out explaining how Ricci couldn’t manage to find a full resolution of his claim in the Second Circuit and why we should have confidence in Sotomayor’s ability to spot, let alone resolve correctly, important discrimination issues.

Despite the best efforts of Sonia Sotomayor and her Second Circuit panel to bury his claim in a cursory opinion, Frank Ricci made it to the Supreme Court and today received justice. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that under Title VII,  the results of Ricci’s promotional test could not be thrown out simply because the city of New Haven feared a lawsuit. Because the issue was easily resolved on this basis, there was no need to proceed to the 14th Amendment issue. There was no remand to the Second Circuit.

Much more will be written about the case. But Justice Kennedy’s opinion is blunt and rather devastating to those who defended Sotomayor and the Second Circuits’ back-of-the-hand treatment of the white firefighters’ case:

The City’s actions would violate the disparate-treatment prohibition of Title VII absent some valid defense. All the evidence demonstrates that the City chose not to certify the examination results because of the statistical disparity based on race—i.e., how minority candidates had performed when compared to white candidates. As the District Court put it, the City rejected the test results because “too many whites and not enough minorities would be promoted were the lists to be certified.”

Without some other justification, this express, race-based decisionmaking violates Title VII’s command that employers cannot take adverse employment actions because of an individual’s race. See §2000e–2(a)(1).

As for the fear of getting sued, the Court held:

If an employer cannot rescore a test based on the candidates’ race, §2000e–2(l), then it follows a fortiori that it may not take the greater step of discarding the test altogether to achieve a more desirable racial distribution of promotion-eligible candidates—absent a strong basis in evidence that the test was deficient and that discarding the results is necessary to avoid violating the disparate impact provision. Restricting an employer’s ability to discard test results (and thereby discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of their race) also is in keeping with Title VII’s express protection of bona fide promotional examinations.

[. . .]

The City argues that, even under the strong-basis-in-evidence standard, its decision to discard the examination results was permissible under Title VII. That is incorrect. Even if respondents were motivated as a subjective matter by a desire to avoid committing disparate-impact discrimination, the record makes clear there is no support for the conclusion that respondents had an objective, strong basis in evidence to find the tests inadequate, with some consequent disparate-impact liability in violation of Title VII.

Those of us who made this identical argument are cheered. Those who saw a great injustice in dismissing Ricci’s claim are heartened that he received a clear and definitive win. The proponents of identity politics and defenders of Sotomayor have their work cut out explaining how Ricci couldn’t manage to find a full resolution of his claim in the Second Circuit and why we should have confidence in Sotomayor’s ability to spot, let alone resolve correctly, important discrimination issues.

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Never Mind?

Like his Washington Post colleague David Ignatius, Jackson Diehl doesn’t think much of Obama’s effort to bash Israel over the settlements. That tactic, Diehl claims,”made sense, at first.” (Why exactly, he doesn’t make clear.) But then Obama and Hillary became ideologues about the whole thing, insisting on a “freeze”:

This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement “freeze” even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the United States. Second, the administration’s objective — whatever its merits — is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.

Finally, the extraction of a freeze from Netanyahu is, as a practical matter, unnecessary. While further settlement expansion needs to be curbed, both the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel — since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement.

And then there is the little matter of reneging on our prior agreements and the unseemly spectacle of “dictating” to our ally. As Diehl points out, the Obama team has felt compelled to “keep raising the stakes” in public (denying the existence of past agreements and emphasizing that the U.S. ultimatum include East Jerusalem). Hence, the folks who don’t like “false choices” have created a disagreeable one for themselves: “a choice between a protracted confrontation with Israel — an odd adventure given the pressing challenges from Iran and in Iraq, not to mention the disarray of the Palestinian camp — or a compromise, which might make Obama look weak and provide Arab states further cause to refuse cooperation.”

Diehl’s solution is to make a “quick deal” while everyone is distracted by Iran. (The Palestinians then won’t notice that Obama looks “weak”?).

Diehl is rather restrained in his analysis and perhaps unduly optimistic in his prediction that the Obama team will retreat from its current approach. After all, we are told Obama’s policy stems from his long-held, but only recently revealed, conception of the Middle East conflict. And he did feature his settlement dictate prominently in his Cairo speech. So a hasty retreat would prove embarrassing indeed.

Nevertheless, let’s hope Diehl is right and the Obama team figures out how to reverse course on this one. In a foreign policy debut littered with many bobbles and missteps, none is as problematic as the administration’s policy regarding Israel — or as destined to result in failure.

Like his Washington Post colleague David Ignatius, Jackson Diehl doesn’t think much of Obama’s effort to bash Israel over the settlements. That tactic, Diehl claims,”made sense, at first.” (Why exactly, he doesn’t make clear.) But then Obama and Hillary became ideologues about the whole thing, insisting on a “freeze”:

This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement “freeze” even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the United States. Second, the administration’s objective — whatever its merits — is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.

Finally, the extraction of a freeze from Netanyahu is, as a practical matter, unnecessary. While further settlement expansion needs to be curbed, both the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel — since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement.

And then there is the little matter of reneging on our prior agreements and the unseemly spectacle of “dictating” to our ally. As Diehl points out, the Obama team has felt compelled to “keep raising the stakes” in public (denying the existence of past agreements and emphasizing that the U.S. ultimatum include East Jerusalem). Hence, the folks who don’t like “false choices” have created a disagreeable one for themselves: “a choice between a protracted confrontation with Israel — an odd adventure given the pressing challenges from Iran and in Iraq, not to mention the disarray of the Palestinian camp — or a compromise, which might make Obama look weak and provide Arab states further cause to refuse cooperation.”

Diehl’s solution is to make a “quick deal” while everyone is distracted by Iran. (The Palestinians then won’t notice that Obama looks “weak”?).

Diehl is rather restrained in his analysis and perhaps unduly optimistic in his prediction that the Obama team will retreat from its current approach. After all, we are told Obama’s policy stems from his long-held, but only recently revealed, conception of the Middle East conflict. And he did feature his settlement dictate prominently in his Cairo speech. So a hasty retreat would prove embarrassing indeed.

Nevertheless, let’s hope Diehl is right and the Obama team figures out how to reverse course on this one. In a foreign policy debut littered with many bobbles and missteps, none is as problematic as the administration’s policy regarding Israel — or as destined to result in failure.

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Global Warming and the Backgammon Effect

In the many thoughtful, and enlightening comments to my previous post there is much discussion about whether there is a consensus among climate scientists as to the existence of, and threat posed by, global warming.

It seems to me that the evidence that the world has gotten warmer in the last two centuries is pretty solid. But how much of that warming is due to the natural causes that ended the “Little Ice Age,” which began about 1300 and ended in the mid-19th century? And how much is anthropogenic, due to recent industrialization? The Little Ice Age was itself preceded by the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from around 1000 to 1300 and was certainly not anthropogenic in origin.

In his column this morning, Paul Krugman is at great pains to keep the lid on this debate, accusing global warming “deniers” of treason against the planet–as though they give their true allegiance to some other planet and can always slip away to it when things get too hot here. There is, of course, no dispassionate discussion of the actual science in Krugman’s column. He simply declares, ex cathedra, that the threat is real and embodies the opposition in an obscure Georgia Congressman shouting “Hoax!” on the House floor. Even by Krugman standards,  this morning’s column is a pretty shoddy piece of work.

But why is the Nobel-Prize-winning economist so exercised about global warming as to be reduced to name calling instead of examining the data? Why are so many climate scientists and liberal politicians so certain of the data on global warming that they think the debate is over?

I think it is a case of the “backgammon effect.” In backgammon, the players move their pieces according to the dictates of a pair of dice. A single bad throw of the dice can convert a near-certain winner into a near-certain loser. Being human, players sometimes misread the dice and misplay accordingly. They get a six-four, for instance, but play a six-three. The opponent, if he is paying attention, points out the error,  it’s corrected, and the game goes on.

Interestingly, the player who misreads the dice and thus misplays almost always does so to his own advantage. Is he cheating? Not at all. He is simply misperceiving the real world because his self-interest leads him to do so. He wants a six-three and so he sees one in a six-four. It’s as simple as that.

Do climate scientists in general and liberal politicians to a man want global warming to be both real and anthropogenic in origin? You bet, because it’s in their self-interest for it to be so. After all, if it is, then both groups are greatly empowered by the necessity to do something about it. Only government–guided by experts–would be able to reverse a gathering climate catastrophe. The government would need vast new powers to do so. And as James Madison explained two centuries ago, “Men love power.”

Consider an earlier example. In 1936, John Maynard Keynes published his seminal work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. It provided both a theory justifying active government intervention in the economy and the means by which to do so. Keynsianism empowered both politicians and economists. So both politicians and economists quickly declared it to be true beyond any doubt. Keynsianism swept the economics profession almost overnight (Paul Samuelson’s thoroughly Keynsian and deeply influential text book first came out in 1946). Within a generation, Richard Nixon was able to say without fear of contradiction, “We are all Keynsians now.”  Thus was another “consensus” born, just as “stagflation,” impossible  in Keynsian theory, began to blight the economy of the 1970’s.

It is a basic axiom in police work to “follow the money.” In politics it is an equally good idea to “follow the power” if you want to understand what’s really going on.

In the many thoughtful, and enlightening comments to my previous post there is much discussion about whether there is a consensus among climate scientists as to the existence of, and threat posed by, global warming.

It seems to me that the evidence that the world has gotten warmer in the last two centuries is pretty solid. But how much of that warming is due to the natural causes that ended the “Little Ice Age,” which began about 1300 and ended in the mid-19th century? And how much is anthropogenic, due to recent industrialization? The Little Ice Age was itself preceded by the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from around 1000 to 1300 and was certainly not anthropogenic in origin.

In his column this morning, Paul Krugman is at great pains to keep the lid on this debate, accusing global warming “deniers” of treason against the planet–as though they give their true allegiance to some other planet and can always slip away to it when things get too hot here. There is, of course, no dispassionate discussion of the actual science in Krugman’s column. He simply declares, ex cathedra, that the threat is real and embodies the opposition in an obscure Georgia Congressman shouting “Hoax!” on the House floor. Even by Krugman standards,  this morning’s column is a pretty shoddy piece of work.

But why is the Nobel-Prize-winning economist so exercised about global warming as to be reduced to name calling instead of examining the data? Why are so many climate scientists and liberal politicians so certain of the data on global warming that they think the debate is over?

I think it is a case of the “backgammon effect.” In backgammon, the players move their pieces according to the dictates of a pair of dice. A single bad throw of the dice can convert a near-certain winner into a near-certain loser. Being human, players sometimes misread the dice and misplay accordingly. They get a six-four, for instance, but play a six-three. The opponent, if he is paying attention, points out the error,  it’s corrected, and the game goes on.

Interestingly, the player who misreads the dice and thus misplays almost always does so to his own advantage. Is he cheating? Not at all. He is simply misperceiving the real world because his self-interest leads him to do so. He wants a six-three and so he sees one in a six-four. It’s as simple as that.

Do climate scientists in general and liberal politicians to a man want global warming to be both real and anthropogenic in origin? You bet, because it’s in their self-interest for it to be so. After all, if it is, then both groups are greatly empowered by the necessity to do something about it. Only government–guided by experts–would be able to reverse a gathering climate catastrophe. The government would need vast new powers to do so. And as James Madison explained two centuries ago, “Men love power.”

Consider an earlier example. In 1936, John Maynard Keynes published his seminal work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. It provided both a theory justifying active government intervention in the economy and the means by which to do so. Keynsianism empowered both politicians and economists. So both politicians and economists quickly declared it to be true beyond any doubt. Keynsianism swept the economics profession almost overnight (Paul Samuelson’s thoroughly Keynsian and deeply influential text book first came out in 1946). Within a generation, Richard Nixon was able to say without fear of contradiction, “We are all Keynsians now.”  Thus was another “consensus” born, just as “stagflation,” impossible  in Keynsian theory, began to blight the economy of the 1970’s.

It is a basic axiom in police work to “follow the money.” In politics it is an equally good idea to “follow the power” if you want to understand what’s really going on.

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Slow It Down?

Democrats have set a July 13 start date for the Sotomayor confirmation hearings and will, no doubt, insist on a vote by the full Senate before the lawmakers leave town in August. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday left the door open on a filibuster — citing the Demcorats’ own precedent and concerns that Democrats are trying to rush through the hearing without fully examining Sotomayor’s record. He explained:

Well, you know, the Democrats filibustered seven times a Hispanic American nominee named Miguel Estrada during the Bush administration. I think we ought to judge these nominees on their merits, not their ethnicity or gender. And with regard to Judge Sotomayor, I think the key is just to finish the job. For example, just a day or so ago, we discovered that there are 300 boxes of additional material that has just been discovered from her time working with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund.

Three hundred boxes? It seems so. The Republicans have few tools at their disposal to stop a nomination. However, if it appears that the Democrats are trying to hide the ball on precisely the issue which gives conservatives the biggest concern — Sotomayor’s affinity for identity politics — they may feel empowered to at least slow down the train. After all, if Democrats think race preferences, bilingualism and multiculturalism are winning issues they shouldn’t fear a methodical exploration of Sotomayor’s views, right?

Democrats have set a July 13 start date for the Sotomayor confirmation hearings and will, no doubt, insist on a vote by the full Senate before the lawmakers leave town in August. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday left the door open on a filibuster — citing the Demcorats’ own precedent and concerns that Democrats are trying to rush through the hearing without fully examining Sotomayor’s record. He explained:

Well, you know, the Democrats filibustered seven times a Hispanic American nominee named Miguel Estrada during the Bush administration. I think we ought to judge these nominees on their merits, not their ethnicity or gender. And with regard to Judge Sotomayor, I think the key is just to finish the job. For example, just a day or so ago, we discovered that there are 300 boxes of additional material that has just been discovered from her time working with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund.

Three hundred boxes? It seems so. The Republicans have few tools at their disposal to stop a nomination. However, if it appears that the Democrats are trying to hide the ball on precisely the issue which gives conservatives the biggest concern — Sotomayor’s affinity for identity politics — they may feel empowered to at least slow down the train. After all, if Democrats think race preferences, bilingualism and multiculturalism are winning issues they shouldn’t fear a methodical exploration of Sotomayor’s views, right?

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Give Bush Credit on Iran

Seven years ago, Reuel Marc Gerecht looked into the best crystal ball in all global strategy and wrote down what he saw in the pages of the Weekly Standard:

If the United States stays in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime, and ushers in some type of a federal, democratic system, the repercussions throughout the region could be transformative. Popular discontent in Iran tends to heat up when U.S. soldiers get close to the Islamic Republic. An American invasion could possibly provoke riots in Iran–simultaneous uprisings in major cities that would simply be beyond the scope of regime-loyal specialized riot-control units. The army or the Revolutionary Guard Corps would have to be pulled into service in large numbers, and that’s when things could get interesting. The clerical regime fears big street confrontations, afraid that it cannot rely on the loyalty of either the army or the Guard Corps.

And if an American invasion doesn’t provoke urban unrest, the creation of a democratic Iraq probably will. Iraq’s majority Shiite population, who will inevitably lead their country in a democratic state, will start to talk to their Shiite brethren over the Iran-Iraq border. The collective Iranian conversation about American-aided democracy in Iraq will be brutal for the mullahs (which is why the Bush administration should prepare itself for Iranian mischief in Iraq’s politics once Tehran determines that the Bush administration is indeed serious about ensuring a democratic triumph in Baghdad). The Bush administration should, of course, quickly and loudly support any demonstrators who hit the streets in Iran. America’s approval will not be the kiss of death for the brave dissidents who challenge the regime’s armed defenders. On the contrary, such psychological support could prove critical to those trying to show to the people that the die is now decisively cast against the regime.

More than a testament to Gerecht’s uncanny grasp of theocratic politics, the passage highlights the thoughtfulness of George W. Bush’s much maligned Iran policy.

Among Bush’s critics it has become accepted fact that “the big winner of the Iraq War is Iran.” There are several arguments to support this view: the invasion empowered the fanatical Shia of Iraq, who inspired their ideological brethren across the eastern border; difficulties in establishing order in Iraq hurt America’s image as a formidable military threat; the U.S., in turn, needed Tehran’s help in subduing Iraqi unrest; without Saddam to worry about, the mullahs were free to follow through on plans for regional hegemony. All these arguments could be supported by events that were actually unfolding in the region – once upon a time. Today, few of them hold water.

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

Seven years ago, Reuel Marc Gerecht looked into the best crystal ball in all global strategy and wrote down what he saw in the pages of the Weekly Standard:

If the United States stays in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime, and ushers in some type of a federal, democratic system, the repercussions throughout the region could be transformative. Popular discontent in Iran tends to heat up when U.S. soldiers get close to the Islamic Republic. An American invasion could possibly provoke riots in Iran–simultaneous uprisings in major cities that would simply be beyond the scope of regime-loyal specialized riot-control units. The army or the Revolutionary Guard Corps would have to be pulled into service in large numbers, and that’s when things could get interesting. The clerical regime fears big street confrontations, afraid that it cannot rely on the loyalty of either the army or the Guard Corps.

And if an American invasion doesn’t provoke urban unrest, the creation of a democratic Iraq probably will. Iraq’s majority Shiite population, who will inevitably lead their country in a democratic state, will start to talk to their Shiite brethren over the Iran-Iraq border. The collective Iranian conversation about American-aided democracy in Iraq will be brutal for the mullahs (which is why the Bush administration should prepare itself for Iranian mischief in Iraq’s politics once Tehran determines that the Bush administration is indeed serious about ensuring a democratic triumph in Baghdad). The Bush administration should, of course, quickly and loudly support any demonstrators who hit the streets in Iran. America’s approval will not be the kiss of death for the brave dissidents who challenge the regime’s armed defenders. On the contrary, such psychological support could prove critical to those trying to show to the people that the die is now decisively cast against the regime.

More than a testament to Gerecht’s uncanny grasp of theocratic politics, the passage highlights the thoughtfulness of George W. Bush’s much maligned Iran policy.

Among Bush’s critics it has become accepted fact that “the big winner of the Iraq War is Iran.” There are several arguments to support this view: the invasion empowered the fanatical Shia of Iraq, who inspired their ideological brethren across the eastern border; difficulties in establishing order in Iraq hurt America’s image as a formidable military threat; the U.S., in turn, needed Tehran’s help in subduing Iraqi unrest; without Saddam to worry about, the mullahs were free to follow through on plans for regional hegemony. All these arguments could be supported by events that were actually unfolding in the region – once upon a time. Today, few of them hold water.

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Via Michael Ledeen: an Iranian Twitter message for the non-meddling set: “The Iranian ppl want 2 B part of the world – how hard is that 2 understand?”

Bill Kristol spots the chink in the Democrats’ armor on cap-and-trade: “I think Nancy Pelosi has made a huge mistake by defining everything in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And Republicans are going to say for the next year and a half, ‘Let’s have that debate. Is unemployment lower than when President Obama became president? Is unemployment going up as slowly as President Obama said it would when he lobbied for a stimulus and today when he lobbies for energy?'” Kristol and Bob Herbert are in agreement!

Obama’s approval/disapproval hits a new low in Gallup.

In Rasmussen: “Forty percent (40%) of U.S. voters now say President Obama has not been aggressive enough in supporting the reformers in Iran protesting the results of the presidential election. That’s a five-point increase from a week ago.”

Not good: “Latin America analysts said the Honduran coup will complicate President Obama’s efforts to re-engage a region where anti-Americanism has flourished in some areas. These experts said they expect Mr. Chavez , in particular, to seize on the Honduran crisis to try to depict Central Americas under an ongoing attack by capitalist and Western forces. As a result, some say, Mr. Obama will need to call for the reinstatement of Mr. Zelaya, despite U.S. concerns that he’s seeking to mirror Mr. Chavez’s campaign to secure limitless rule.” So now we’re “meddling” to re-instate Chavez’s pal who decided to emulate his patron by staying on beyond his term?

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has her doubts: “Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya’s abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.”

If Mitt Romney keeps sounding like a presidential candidate people will think he’s running for something: “And I think the party does have to stand up and be able to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Axelrod, you’re wrong when you say we don’t have ideas.’ We have a healthcare plan.  You, you look at Wyden-Bennett, that’s a healthcare plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good healthcare plan, one that we support. . . We believe that, with regards to energy, that putting a massive tax on the American public and on industry is not going to create jobs, it’s going to hurt jobs.”

And Tim Pawlenty is also out on the Sunday circuit: “Well, the president said not long ago in an interview quote-unquote, ‘we are out of money.’ With all due respect, Mr. President, if we’re out of money, quit spending it. . .This is a nation that has got a debt load and a deficit load that is unsustainable. We’re going to have, in my view, the federal government debt crisis equivalent of the mortgage crisis within 20 years. And notwithstanding the rhetoric, the Obama administration does not appear serious to address this out of control spending.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner says “no” to the Fed as the risk czar. I suspect he’ll have a lot of company.

Second thoughts already? “President Barack Obama said House legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions represents ‘an extraordinary first step,’ but cast doubt Sunday on the bill’s call for tariffs on goods from countries that don’t match U.S. efforts to combat global warming.” Maybe a trade war isn’t the way to go.

Via Michael Ledeen: an Iranian Twitter message for the non-meddling set: “The Iranian ppl want 2 B part of the world – how hard is that 2 understand?”

Bill Kristol spots the chink in the Democrats’ armor on cap-and-trade: “I think Nancy Pelosi has made a huge mistake by defining everything in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And Republicans are going to say for the next year and a half, ‘Let’s have that debate. Is unemployment lower than when President Obama became president? Is unemployment going up as slowly as President Obama said it would when he lobbied for a stimulus and today when he lobbies for energy?'” Kristol and Bob Herbert are in agreement!

Obama’s approval/disapproval hits a new low in Gallup.

In Rasmussen: “Forty percent (40%) of U.S. voters now say President Obama has not been aggressive enough in supporting the reformers in Iran protesting the results of the presidential election. That’s a five-point increase from a week ago.”

Not good: “Latin America analysts said the Honduran coup will complicate President Obama’s efforts to re-engage a region where anti-Americanism has flourished in some areas. These experts said they expect Mr. Chavez , in particular, to seize on the Honduran crisis to try to depict Central Americas under an ongoing attack by capitalist and Western forces. As a result, some say, Mr. Obama will need to call for the reinstatement of Mr. Zelaya, despite U.S. concerns that he’s seeking to mirror Mr. Chavez’s campaign to secure limitless rule.” So now we’re “meddling” to re-instate Chavez’s pal who decided to emulate his patron by staying on beyond his term?

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has her doubts: “Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya’s abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.”

If Mitt Romney keeps sounding like a presidential candidate people will think he’s running for something: “And I think the party does have to stand up and be able to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Axelrod, you’re wrong when you say we don’t have ideas.’ We have a healthcare plan.  You, you look at Wyden-Bennett, that’s a healthcare plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good healthcare plan, one that we support. . . We believe that, with regards to energy, that putting a massive tax on the American public and on industry is not going to create jobs, it’s going to hurt jobs.”

And Tim Pawlenty is also out on the Sunday circuit: “Well, the president said not long ago in an interview quote-unquote, ‘we are out of money.’ With all due respect, Mr. President, if we’re out of money, quit spending it. . .This is a nation that has got a debt load and a deficit load that is unsustainable. We’re going to have, in my view, the federal government debt crisis equivalent of the mortgage crisis within 20 years. And notwithstanding the rhetoric, the Obama administration does not appear serious to address this out of control spending.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner says “no” to the Fed as the risk czar. I suspect he’ll have a lot of company.

Second thoughts already? “President Barack Obama said House legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions represents ‘an extraordinary first step,’ but cast doubt Sunday on the bill’s call for tariffs on goods from countries that don’t match U.S. efforts to combat global warming.” Maybe a trade war isn’t the way to go.

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Oh No, Not That!

Meeting in Corfu on the sidelines of an OSCE gathering and a EU-Russia ministerial summit, EU ministers have threatened Iran with a “strong response” if Iran continues to harass EU diplomatic staff. Brace yourself  for a really “strongly worded” letter. Iran must be trembling in fear.

Meeting in Corfu on the sidelines of an OSCE gathering and a EU-Russia ministerial summit, EU ministers have threatened Iran with a “strong response” if Iran continues to harass EU diplomatic staff. Brace yourself  for a really “strongly worded” letter. Iran must be trembling in fear.

Read Less




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