Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 6, 2009

Summit Meets, World Yawns

This week, on July 8-10, Italy will host the G8 Summit in L’Aquila. Italian planners for the Summit have emphasized what they assert is the need to make the G8 “more representative and more efficient” by involving China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Egypt, and “to bring the institutions closer to people by focusing on their real problems, with the financial and economic crisis topping the list” by developing a “new global governance” structure. Italy has also stated that it plans to “[step] up the drive for consensus ahead of the UN conference on the climate in Copenhagen,” to promote “dialogues between producers and consumers [of energy] with the objective of reaching a stable price scheme,” and to oppose “food protectionism.”

These goals are all delightfully contradictory. The efficiency of the G8 will not be enhanced by including more nations. Expanding the G8 will make it more like the G20, thus driving the perception that the G8 serves no purpose. Pursuing a “global governance structure” would also duplicate G20 actions and, more fundamentally, would move power out of the hands of democratically-elected governments and therefore further away from the people they represent.

An energy market with adjusting prices would be unable to signal, through higher prices, when energy based on petroleum is becoming uncompetitive: this should not be desirable to those arguing that anthropogenic climate change is a reality. As for “food protectionism,” this problem begins with the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy, from which Italy receives 5.5 billion euros annually.

There is a counter-intuitive argument according to which, meetings like the G8, with their contradictory agendas, are very much in America’s interest: the more international summits there are, the more they detract from each other, and the less able they are to trench on American sovereignty as a result. This is a clever argument, but not one I find persuasive, if only because the various arms of the globalist octopus are ultimately working toward the same goal, and the very confusion and international bureaucracy they create are drags to diplomatic progress. The challenge before Italy as it prepared to host the Summit was to respond to the perception that the G8 is losing its relevance by advancing a realistic program of action. As Italy has not done so, it has therefore made the case that the G8 has become yet another international institution that consumes valuable time and attention with a repetitive agenda that produces no concrete results.

This week, on July 8-10, Italy will host the G8 Summit in L’Aquila. Italian planners for the Summit have emphasized what they assert is the need to make the G8 “more representative and more efficient” by involving China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Egypt, and “to bring the institutions closer to people by focusing on their real problems, with the financial and economic crisis topping the list” by developing a “new global governance” structure. Italy has also stated that it plans to “[step] up the drive for consensus ahead of the UN conference on the climate in Copenhagen,” to promote “dialogues between producers and consumers [of energy] with the objective of reaching a stable price scheme,” and to oppose “food protectionism.”

These goals are all delightfully contradictory. The efficiency of the G8 will not be enhanced by including more nations. Expanding the G8 will make it more like the G20, thus driving the perception that the G8 serves no purpose. Pursuing a “global governance structure” would also duplicate G20 actions and, more fundamentally, would move power out of the hands of democratically-elected governments and therefore further away from the people they represent.

An energy market with adjusting prices would be unable to signal, through higher prices, when energy based on petroleum is becoming uncompetitive: this should not be desirable to those arguing that anthropogenic climate change is a reality. As for “food protectionism,” this problem begins with the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy, from which Italy receives 5.5 billion euros annually.

There is a counter-intuitive argument according to which, meetings like the G8, with their contradictory agendas, are very much in America’s interest: the more international summits there are, the more they detract from each other, and the less able they are to trench on American sovereignty as a result. This is a clever argument, but not one I find persuasive, if only because the various arms of the globalist octopus are ultimately working toward the same goal, and the very confusion and international bureaucracy they create are drags to diplomatic progress. The challenge before Italy as it prepared to host the Summit was to respond to the perception that the G8 is losing its relevance by advancing a realistic program of action. As Italy has not done so, it has therefore made the case that the G8 has become yet another international institution that consumes valuable time and attention with a repetitive agenda that produces no concrete results.

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A New Direction for America

Gallup just released a poll that reports this:

Despite the results of the 2008 presidential election, Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal, 39% to 18%, with 42% saying they have not changed. While independents and Democrats most often say their views haven’t changed, more members of all three major partisan groups indicate that their views have shifted to the right rather than to the left.

This is part of a broader movement we’re seeing since Obama was elected president. The country, by about a two-to-one margin, sees itself moving more toward conservatism than liberalism. And even in the Age of Obama, the tide seems to be with rather than against conservatism. If an ideological realignment is going on, it seems to be somewhat in the opposite direction of what Obama and his supporters had hoped for.

It’s much too early to make any definative judgments about things at this point; the significance of Obamaism to American conservatism depends on what happens once the effects of his actions hit shore. But I think it’s fair to say that at this point, the public’s wariness about the course the president has set us on is growing and resistance to his policies is increasing. Much of the public believes Obama is more liberal than advertised, more liberal than they thought, and more liberal than they are comfortable with. That hasn’t translated into a full-scale revolt by any means. But we are seeing concrete evidence that Obama’s governance is ideologically at odds with where the nation is. Unless he is able to produce tangible results fairly soon, these data points may well metastasize into forceful, and perhaps even fierce, political opposition.

We’re still in the early months of Obama’s presidency. He remains a personally popular president, and his job-approval ratings remain fairly strong. But winds that were at his back are now shifting, and may soon be in his face. Over the coming months, those headwinds will, I think, get stronger and stiffer, and it will happen sooner than he and his team ever imagined.

Gallup just released a poll that reports this:

Despite the results of the 2008 presidential election, Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal, 39% to 18%, with 42% saying they have not changed. While independents and Democrats most often say their views haven’t changed, more members of all three major partisan groups indicate that their views have shifted to the right rather than to the left.

This is part of a broader movement we’re seeing since Obama was elected president. The country, by about a two-to-one margin, sees itself moving more toward conservatism than liberalism. And even in the Age of Obama, the tide seems to be with rather than against conservatism. If an ideological realignment is going on, it seems to be somewhat in the opposite direction of what Obama and his supporters had hoped for.

It’s much too early to make any definative judgments about things at this point; the significance of Obamaism to American conservatism depends on what happens once the effects of his actions hit shore. But I think it’s fair to say that at this point, the public’s wariness about the course the president has set us on is growing and resistance to his policies is increasing. Much of the public believes Obama is more liberal than advertised, more liberal than they thought, and more liberal than they are comfortable with. That hasn’t translated into a full-scale revolt by any means. But we are seeing concrete evidence that Obama’s governance is ideologically at odds with where the nation is. Unless he is able to produce tangible results fairly soon, these data points may well metastasize into forceful, and perhaps even fierce, political opposition.

We’re still in the early months of Obama’s presidency. He remains a personally popular president, and his job-approval ratings remain fairly strong. But winds that were at his back are now shifting, and may soon be in his face. Over the coming months, those headwinds will, I think, get stronger and stiffer, and it will happen sooner than he and his team ever imagined.

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Powell Loves Racial Preferences and the Judge Devoted to Them

Colin Powell on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday spoke out in favor of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination. It was vintage Powell — the Powell who is light on facts, wedded to affirmative action, dismissive of critics, and either factually ill-informed or banking on his audience being so. Asked about Sotomayor, he declared:

She’s from my neighborhood, yes. She seems like a very gifted and accomplished woman. She certainly has an open and liberal bent of mind, but that’s not disqualifying. But she seems to have a judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law.

What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor who is announced, and based on one simple tricky but nonetheless case at the Supreme Court has now decided, have her called a racist, a reverse-racist, and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her.

First, there is the trademark provincialism. Obama was “transformative,” as in, how great to have an African American president! And Sotomayor is from his neighborhood. Case closed, right?

Any support for his declarative statements that she has a “open mind”? Or that she is “very gifted”? None. Even Robert Gibbs offers a bit more than such bare bones talking-points. And then the misrepresentation: it is only “one tricky case” that has her branded a “reverse-racist”? No, there are, among other things, a lifetime of speeches, her disdain for objectivity, an utterly unprofessional and devious attempt to deprive Frank Ricci and others of their day in court,  and more than a decade of radical racial politics advocated through PRLDEF. And is any elected official “mad” or demanding the nomination to be withdrawn? No. Are many groups very much concerned about her ability to set her biases aside? Are they calling for a tough hearing or votes against her in the Senate? Yes. But you wouldn’t pick up on any of that listening to Powell.

This is the same sort of non-analytical and ad hominem attack we saw on display when Powell endorsed Obama for president while smearing John McCain for being insufficiently vigilant in policing racism in his party. Let’s be honest on Sotomayor: Powell has long been a fan of racial preferences. Indeed, he explains just how enamored he is of institutional discrimination in favor of minorities:

Now, affirmative action is an issue that I thought about and worried about for many, many years. But let me summarize it this way. If you have a public institution, say, a college, such as a college I went to, City College in New York, where you’re responsible for educating the public, not just a part of the public but the public.

And as you are looking at your student population, if you find that there are some parts of the public who are not properly represented in your institution, shouldn’t you do something about that? Don’t you have an obligation to do something about it?

You don’t have an obligation to bring in anybody who is not able to do the work. You should always have qualifications. But once you’ve established those qualifications, is there something wrong with a taxpayer-funded institution not making sure that it is representing the entire public, the entire population?

And I think that’s a good rule for private institutions as well. Call it affirmative action, call it diversity. It goes under a lots of different names. I have a hunch that maybe 55 years ago somebody took a look at my rather mediocre high school grades, but at the same time, thought, maybe this kid can make it, and let me into the City College of New York.

As such, Powell should be honest that Sotomayor is precisely the sort of Supreme Court Justice to preserve and extend quotas and racial preferences which are so near and dear to Powell. But it is so much easier to mischaracterize the opponents of Sotomayor.

Nevertheless, Powell is quite helpful in clarifying what is at issue with regard to Sotomayor’s nomination: if you love racial preferences as much as Powell does, Sotomayor is the Supreme Court Justice for you. As she showed in Ricci, she’ll pull out all the stops to protect the system of racial spoils, which her colleagues at PRLDEF and other left-wing activist groups struggle so hard to preserve.

Colin Powell on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday spoke out in favor of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination. It was vintage Powell — the Powell who is light on facts, wedded to affirmative action, dismissive of critics, and either factually ill-informed or banking on his audience being so. Asked about Sotomayor, he declared:

She’s from my neighborhood, yes. She seems like a very gifted and accomplished woman. She certainly has an open and liberal bent of mind, but that’s not disqualifying. But she seems to have a judicial record that seems to be balanced and tries to follow the law.

What we can’t continue to have is to have somebody like a Judge Sotomayor who is announced, and based on one simple tricky but nonetheless case at the Supreme Court has now decided, have her called a racist, a reverse-racist, and she ought to withdraw her nomination because we’re mad at her.

First, there is the trademark provincialism. Obama was “transformative,” as in, how great to have an African American president! And Sotomayor is from his neighborhood. Case closed, right?

Any support for his declarative statements that she has a “open mind”? Or that she is “very gifted”? None. Even Robert Gibbs offers a bit more than such bare bones talking-points. And then the misrepresentation: it is only “one tricky case” that has her branded a “reverse-racist”? No, there are, among other things, a lifetime of speeches, her disdain for objectivity, an utterly unprofessional and devious attempt to deprive Frank Ricci and others of their day in court,  and more than a decade of radical racial politics advocated through PRLDEF. And is any elected official “mad” or demanding the nomination to be withdrawn? No. Are many groups very much concerned about her ability to set her biases aside? Are they calling for a tough hearing or votes against her in the Senate? Yes. But you wouldn’t pick up on any of that listening to Powell.

This is the same sort of non-analytical and ad hominem attack we saw on display when Powell endorsed Obama for president while smearing John McCain for being insufficiently vigilant in policing racism in his party. Let’s be honest on Sotomayor: Powell has long been a fan of racial preferences. Indeed, he explains just how enamored he is of institutional discrimination in favor of minorities:

Now, affirmative action is an issue that I thought about and worried about for many, many years. But let me summarize it this way. If you have a public institution, say, a college, such as a college I went to, City College in New York, where you’re responsible for educating the public, not just a part of the public but the public.

And as you are looking at your student population, if you find that there are some parts of the public who are not properly represented in your institution, shouldn’t you do something about that? Don’t you have an obligation to do something about it?

You don’t have an obligation to bring in anybody who is not able to do the work. You should always have qualifications. But once you’ve established those qualifications, is there something wrong with a taxpayer-funded institution not making sure that it is representing the entire public, the entire population?

And I think that’s a good rule for private institutions as well. Call it affirmative action, call it diversity. It goes under a lots of different names. I have a hunch that maybe 55 years ago somebody took a look at my rather mediocre high school grades, but at the same time, thought, maybe this kid can make it, and let me into the City College of New York.

As such, Powell should be honest that Sotomayor is precisely the sort of Supreme Court Justice to preserve and extend quotas and racial preferences which are so near and dear to Powell. But it is so much easier to mischaracterize the opponents of Sotomayor.

Nevertheless, Powell is quite helpful in clarifying what is at issue with regard to Sotomayor’s nomination: if you love racial preferences as much as Powell does, Sotomayor is the Supreme Court Justice for you. As she showed in Ricci, she’ll pull out all the stops to protect the system of racial spoils, which her colleagues at PRLDEF and other left-wing activist groups struggle so hard to preserve.

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Re: Re: Did Biden Make News or a Mega-Gaffe?

David, it is always possible that Joe Biden has developed a sophisticated sense of nuance and precision, but I will exhaust the most obvious explanations first. A few items should be kept in mind:

Just as significant as what Biden said is what he didn’t. Unlike Obama intimated in Cairo, he never said that the U.S. would view an Israeli strike as illegitimate. He never said the U.S. would try to dissuade Israel from taking such action. Certainly, both he and the administration would know that the public’s interpretation of the remarks, as well as the interpretation by diplomatic circles, would be that Biden is condoning, if not encouraging, an Israeli strike.

Admiral Mike Mullen, in a separate appearance, deemed a potential Israeli strike as ” very destabilizing” — quite a different tone from Biden’s. Is Mullen or Biden closer to the administration’s view? Let’s say the better bet is on Mullen, who isn’t known for talking off the top of his head or making unintentional headlines.

But let’s hope Biden is displaying some evolution in U.S. policy. Far better to give Israel a restrained but understanding message than to declare to the world that no one country has a right to tell another it can’t possess nuclear weapons (and that means, you, Israel!) which was the Obama message in Cairo.

We will have to wait and see whether Obama’s thinking on Iran and Israel is maturing or whether once again Biden is off the reservation.

David, it is always possible that Joe Biden has developed a sophisticated sense of nuance and precision, but I will exhaust the most obvious explanations first. A few items should be kept in mind:

Just as significant as what Biden said is what he didn’t. Unlike Obama intimated in Cairo, he never said that the U.S. would view an Israeli strike as illegitimate. He never said the U.S. would try to dissuade Israel from taking such action. Certainly, both he and the administration would know that the public’s interpretation of the remarks, as well as the interpretation by diplomatic circles, would be that Biden is condoning, if not encouraging, an Israeli strike.

Admiral Mike Mullen, in a separate appearance, deemed a potential Israeli strike as ” very destabilizing” — quite a different tone from Biden’s. Is Mullen or Biden closer to the administration’s view? Let’s say the better bet is on Mullen, who isn’t known for talking off the top of his head or making unintentional headlines.

But let’s hope Biden is displaying some evolution in U.S. policy. Far better to give Israel a restrained but understanding message than to declare to the world that no one country has a right to tell another it can’t possess nuclear weapons (and that means, you, Israel!) which was the Obama message in Cairo.

We will have to wait and see whether Obama’s thinking on Iran and Israel is maturing or whether once again Biden is off the reservation.

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Robert McNamara’s Failures in War and Peace

The death of former defense secretary Robert McNamara undoubtedly will be an occasion for rehearsing the main themes of his later years: contrition for his sins in managing America’s war in Vietnam as well as his minor role as a young man in the air campaigns against Germany and Japan.

McNamara may have entered the national stage in 1961 as a Ford Motor Company statistics whiz-kid but by the time he resigned in 1968, he was blasted for being the chief architect of a failed military strategy. The quintessential exemplar among the “Best and the Brightest” (as the title of David Halberstam’s book describes them) that invaded Washington during the Kennedy administration, along with fellow JFK holdover Dean Rusk at State, McNamara was reviled as the decade came to an end. He earned some absolution by spending 11 years at the World Bank fighting international poverty. In 1995 he repudiated the war only to have his plea for absolution rejected by New York Times editor Howell Raines in an editorial that was quoted in his obituary today in the same newspaper. He continued that campaign in Errol Morris’ documentary “The Fog of War” which allowed him to tell his story of failure and penitence.

But the problem with all of McNamara’s boo-hooing about his role in conducting the war in Vietnam and second thoughts even about the Allies’ strategic bombing in World War II was that he was apologizing for the wrong things.

It can certainly be argued that America’s decision to militarily intervene in Vietnam was a mistake because that country’s strategic importance did not merit the commitment of such massive forces. But the notion that the U.S. effort to defeat the Communist attempt to subvert and then conquer South Vietnam was immoral ignores not only the context of the conflict but the consequences of the eventual American defeat that was set up by McNamara’s squandering of years of public support on ill-considered tactics. It was once thing to denounce the war in 1968, quite another after the exodus of the boat people and decades of bloody Stalinist repression there after the North’s military conquest of the South once America had abandoned the country to its sorry fate.

It would have been far better for McNamara to spend more time apologizing for his inept micromanaging of the war effort that squandered American and Vietnamese lives on a massive scale. It was ironic that in his later years he curried favor among the liberal intellectuals by calling Curtis LeMay a “war criminal” for the massive bombing of Japanese cities in 1945. While in control of the effort in Vietnam, he attempted the opposite strategy, employing American air power in minute pinprick attacks on selected targets in North Vietnam rather than using an overwhelming conventional attack. His tactic of gradual escalation only convinced the North Vietnamese that the Americans were not serious about winning the war and inflicted no serious damage. The lives lost in this campaign were simply thrown away. The North was not brought to the negotiating table until McNamara’s flawed ideas were discarded. A more comprehensive air assault on the North at the end of 1972 brought our prisoners home and forced the North to accept an independent South Vietnam although they threw out that agreement as soon as they thought the time was right.

As for his retrospective criticism of strategic bombing in World War II, though LeMay’s tactics were brutal they were the best way to a bring a quick end to a terrible war. It would have been immoral to allowing the Nazi and Imperial Japanese war machines extra life because of our reluctance to hit the cities that supported their war efforts.

McNamara would have also done better to think again about the consequences of his 11 years at the head of the World Bank and its massive building projects in the Third World. Though it would be wrong to dismiss everything that institution has accomplished as meaningless, the truth is, most of the investments it made around the globe during his time as its head served more to reinforce the control of corrupt local elites than to aid the poor. Though supporters of such strategies continue to prey upon the guilt of the West, the impact of foreign aid on these societies has been decidedly negative with many if not most of the countries McNamara sought to help being far worse off today than they were before he started.

The verdict of history on Robert McNamara must be that for all of his brilliance his record was one of uninterrupted failure once he left Detroit for Washington. It’s a shame that his death will prompt a rerun of McNamara’s own wrong-headed evaluations of his career.

The death of former defense secretary Robert McNamara undoubtedly will be an occasion for rehearsing the main themes of his later years: contrition for his sins in managing America’s war in Vietnam as well as his minor role as a young man in the air campaigns against Germany and Japan.

McNamara may have entered the national stage in 1961 as a Ford Motor Company statistics whiz-kid but by the time he resigned in 1968, he was blasted for being the chief architect of a failed military strategy. The quintessential exemplar among the “Best and the Brightest” (as the title of David Halberstam’s book describes them) that invaded Washington during the Kennedy administration, along with fellow JFK holdover Dean Rusk at State, McNamara was reviled as the decade came to an end. He earned some absolution by spending 11 years at the World Bank fighting international poverty. In 1995 he repudiated the war only to have his plea for absolution rejected by New York Times editor Howell Raines in an editorial that was quoted in his obituary today in the same newspaper. He continued that campaign in Errol Morris’ documentary “The Fog of War” which allowed him to tell his story of failure and penitence.

But the problem with all of McNamara’s boo-hooing about his role in conducting the war in Vietnam and second thoughts even about the Allies’ strategic bombing in World War II was that he was apologizing for the wrong things.

It can certainly be argued that America’s decision to militarily intervene in Vietnam was a mistake because that country’s strategic importance did not merit the commitment of such massive forces. But the notion that the U.S. effort to defeat the Communist attempt to subvert and then conquer South Vietnam was immoral ignores not only the context of the conflict but the consequences of the eventual American defeat that was set up by McNamara’s squandering of years of public support on ill-considered tactics. It was once thing to denounce the war in 1968, quite another after the exodus of the boat people and decades of bloody Stalinist repression there after the North’s military conquest of the South once America had abandoned the country to its sorry fate.

It would have been far better for McNamara to spend more time apologizing for his inept micromanaging of the war effort that squandered American and Vietnamese lives on a massive scale. It was ironic that in his later years he curried favor among the liberal intellectuals by calling Curtis LeMay a “war criminal” for the massive bombing of Japanese cities in 1945. While in control of the effort in Vietnam, he attempted the opposite strategy, employing American air power in minute pinprick attacks on selected targets in North Vietnam rather than using an overwhelming conventional attack. His tactic of gradual escalation only convinced the North Vietnamese that the Americans were not serious about winning the war and inflicted no serious damage. The lives lost in this campaign were simply thrown away. The North was not brought to the negotiating table until McNamara’s flawed ideas were discarded. A more comprehensive air assault on the North at the end of 1972 brought our prisoners home and forced the North to accept an independent South Vietnam although they threw out that agreement as soon as they thought the time was right.

As for his retrospective criticism of strategic bombing in World War II, though LeMay’s tactics were brutal they were the best way to a bring a quick end to a terrible war. It would have been immoral to allowing the Nazi and Imperial Japanese war machines extra life because of our reluctance to hit the cities that supported their war efforts.

McNamara would have also done better to think again about the consequences of his 11 years at the head of the World Bank and its massive building projects in the Third World. Though it would be wrong to dismiss everything that institution has accomplished as meaningless, the truth is, most of the investments it made around the globe during his time as its head served more to reinforce the control of corrupt local elites than to aid the poor. Though supporters of such strategies continue to prey upon the guilt of the West, the impact of foreign aid on these societies has been decidedly negative with many if not most of the countries McNamara sought to help being far worse off today than they were before he started.

The verdict of history on Robert McNamara must be that for all of his brilliance his record was one of uninterrupted failure once he left Detroit for Washington. It’s a shame that his death will prompt a rerun of McNamara’s own wrong-headed evaluations of his career.

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Re: Did Biden Make News or a Mega-Gaffe?

Jennifer, I suspect a lot of the commentary on Biden’s comments suffers from not reading the exchange closely enough. After all, there is always a third possibility — neither big news nor gaffe: Biden is offering a carefully articulated version of an unchanged policy, sending messages to both Israel and Iran. Let’s look, for example, at part of the exchange that in my mind set off some alarm bells in the other direction (thanks to Shmuel Rosner for providing the transcript):

STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?

BIDEN: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we can’t dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike.

BIDEN: I’m not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what’s in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what’s in our interests.

The focus of Stephanopoulos’s questions is on the forcible, “military” prevention by the U.S. of an Israeli strike. Technically, the question is whether the U.S. would allow Israeli planes to fly over Iraq — a path which, it should be stressed, is not the only way Israel can get to Iran. (Turkey is the most obvious way; another is Saudi Arabia.) To this, Biden is deliberately keeping the American cards close to the chest: The administration never ruled out an American or Israeli strike on Iran, and Biden is explicitly keeping open the possibility that the U.S. might, some day, give Israel such permission — or not. This is a clear signal to Iran, as everyone has already pointed out.

At the same time, we need to listen to Biden’s repeated use of the word “sovereign.” By speaking of sovereign rights, Biden is not emphasizing Israel’s right to attack, but limiting it. Like any sovereign state, Israel has a “right” to defend itself. That’s the definition of sovereignty. But this does not mean that the U.S. will see the move as right, or in American interests; nor will Washington necessarily let Israel off the hook if it attacks. There are many ways to pressure Israel on Iran; limiting access to Iraqi airspace is one of the least important of them. (By the way, the opposite is true as well: Washington can give Israel a green light on Iran without allowing access to Iraqi air space.)

It is always easy to assume that the vice president has little control over his mouth. In this case, however, it seems he has presented a carefully crafted warning to both Israel and Iran, without committing the administration to anything. Not bad for a loose cannon.

Jennifer, I suspect a lot of the commentary on Biden’s comments suffers from not reading the exchange closely enough. After all, there is always a third possibility — neither big news nor gaffe: Biden is offering a carefully articulated version of an unchanged policy, sending messages to both Israel and Iran. Let’s look, for example, at part of the exchange that in my mind set off some alarm bells in the other direction (thanks to Shmuel Rosner for providing the transcript):

STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?

BIDEN: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we can’t dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike.

BIDEN: I’m not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what’s in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what’s in our interests.

The focus of Stephanopoulos’s questions is on the forcible, “military” prevention by the U.S. of an Israeli strike. Technically, the question is whether the U.S. would allow Israeli planes to fly over Iraq — a path which, it should be stressed, is not the only way Israel can get to Iran. (Turkey is the most obvious way; another is Saudi Arabia.) To this, Biden is deliberately keeping the American cards close to the chest: The administration never ruled out an American or Israeli strike on Iran, and Biden is explicitly keeping open the possibility that the U.S. might, some day, give Israel such permission — or not. This is a clear signal to Iran, as everyone has already pointed out.

At the same time, we need to listen to Biden’s repeated use of the word “sovereign.” By speaking of sovereign rights, Biden is not emphasizing Israel’s right to attack, but limiting it. Like any sovereign state, Israel has a “right” to defend itself. That’s the definition of sovereignty. But this does not mean that the U.S. will see the move as right, or in American interests; nor will Washington necessarily let Israel off the hook if it attacks. There are many ways to pressure Israel on Iran; limiting access to Iraqi airspace is one of the least important of them. (By the way, the opposite is true as well: Washington can give Israel a green light on Iran without allowing access to Iraqi air space.)

It is always easy to assume that the vice president has little control over his mouth. In this case, however, it seems he has presented a carefully crafted warning to both Israel and Iran, without committing the administration to anything. Not bad for a loose cannon.

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Palin, Quitting, and Stability

Of all the lines of argument concerning Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska, surely there is none more disingenuous than the “she abandoned her post” line proffered today by Donny Deutsch on MSNBC and yesterday by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post (whose article was entitled “Big Girls Don’t Quit,” another example of the bizarre double standard according to which it is acceptable to deride a 45 year-old Republican grandmother by calling her a “girl”). Strangely, neither of these commentators, nor anybody else for that matter, accused, say, Govs. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas or Janet Napolitano of Arizona of “abandoning their posts” when they resigned to take cabinet jobs in the Obama administration. Nobody accused Rahm Emanuel of dissing his Chicagoland voters when he quit Congress weeks after winning reelection in November to become White House chief of staff. That these elected officials took other jobs in public service is meaningless; they all ran for full terms and decided that they wanted to do something else, so they went ahead and did something else. That’s fine, and so is Palin quitting for whatever reason she chose to quit. Being elected is not a prison sentence; just ask Barack Obama, who didn’t let his promise to Illinois voters that he would serve out a full term impede him from running for office; same with Hillary Clinton, for that matter.

Last week, the day Palin made her bombshell announcement, Jonah Goldberg wrote her an open letter urging Palin to bone up on issues and become fluent before taking the big jump into a presidential race. I’m not sure that’s the issue for Palin any longer. Her Achilles heel isn’t her failure to understand policy; she’ll be talking like a wonk in three months if she wants to. Her problem is that she seems to be one of those people who stirs up whirlwinds and dust storms. These are not all of Andrew Sullivan’s making. One reason to be oddly grateful for the loss of John McCain in November is the question of what it would have been like to have Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin get married, and then have the Vice President’s machetenesteh (the great Yiddish word for “my child’s mother in law”) busted for  running a meth lab drugs, as Levi’s mother was.

For Palin to have a serious future in national politics, she will have to achieve an image of stability in her private life that it does not now possess. It may take a decade for that to happen, as her kids grow up and make their way themselves.

Of all the lines of argument concerning Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska, surely there is none more disingenuous than the “she abandoned her post” line proffered today by Donny Deutsch on MSNBC and yesterday by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post (whose article was entitled “Big Girls Don’t Quit,” another example of the bizarre double standard according to which it is acceptable to deride a 45 year-old Republican grandmother by calling her a “girl”). Strangely, neither of these commentators, nor anybody else for that matter, accused, say, Govs. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas or Janet Napolitano of Arizona of “abandoning their posts” when they resigned to take cabinet jobs in the Obama administration. Nobody accused Rahm Emanuel of dissing his Chicagoland voters when he quit Congress weeks after winning reelection in November to become White House chief of staff. That these elected officials took other jobs in public service is meaningless; they all ran for full terms and decided that they wanted to do something else, so they went ahead and did something else. That’s fine, and so is Palin quitting for whatever reason she chose to quit. Being elected is not a prison sentence; just ask Barack Obama, who didn’t let his promise to Illinois voters that he would serve out a full term impede him from running for office; same with Hillary Clinton, for that matter.

Last week, the day Palin made her bombshell announcement, Jonah Goldberg wrote her an open letter urging Palin to bone up on issues and become fluent before taking the big jump into a presidential race. I’m not sure that’s the issue for Palin any longer. Her Achilles heel isn’t her failure to understand policy; she’ll be talking like a wonk in three months if she wants to. Her problem is that she seems to be one of those people who stirs up whirlwinds and dust storms. These are not all of Andrew Sullivan’s making. One reason to be oddly grateful for the loss of John McCain in November is the question of what it would have been like to have Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin get married, and then have the Vice President’s machetenesteh (the great Yiddish word for “my child’s mother in law”) busted for  running a meth lab drugs, as Levi’s mother was.

For Palin to have a serious future in national politics, she will have to achieve an image of stability in her private life that it does not now possess. It may take a decade for that to happen, as her kids grow up and make their way themselves.

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Making Stuff Up

E.J. Dionne bemoans the split in the president’s support between progressives and moderates. He seems to think the country is far to the left of the “moderates” in Congress and that most voters are just fine with gambits like the public option for health care. In making his case, he asserts: “His approval has stayed at 55 percent to 65 percent among independents.” Actually, that is not so.

A quick trip over to Pollster.com tells us that the average polling for independents is only 50.5% approval/41.1% disapproval. You have to go back to mid-June to find a poll showing Independents’ approval at 65%. Virtually all the polls listed in the last month, including some by Democratic pollsters, show Independents’ approval of Obama ranging between 46% and 56%. Moreover, the handy chart shows a significant and steady decline in Independents’ support for the president and an equally significant and steady increase in disapproval. Obama’s approval ratings among Independents haven’t “stayed” at the exalted level Dionne suggests; they are plummeting.

This is no small error by Dionne. It essentially undercuts Dionne’s entire argument, which is that Republicans’ attacks on the president’s agenda put the GOP far outside the mainstream of opinion and isolated its appeal to only hardcore partisan Republicans.

Funny, but just yesterday the Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, was complaining that the downsizing of copy editors at the Post has resulted in an uptick in errors, mistakes, and factual inaccuracies on the pages of the Post. (“If readers can’t rely on our accuracy, why should they even pick up the paper?”) Well, perhaps if they had adequate staffing, someone could have pointed out to Dionne that the premise of his column is simply wrong. Really, if readers can’t rely on the accuracy of Dionne’s factual representations, why should they even read his column?

E.J. Dionne bemoans the split in the president’s support between progressives and moderates. He seems to think the country is far to the left of the “moderates” in Congress and that most voters are just fine with gambits like the public option for health care. In making his case, he asserts: “His approval has stayed at 55 percent to 65 percent among independents.” Actually, that is not so.

A quick trip over to Pollster.com tells us that the average polling for independents is only 50.5% approval/41.1% disapproval. You have to go back to mid-June to find a poll showing Independents’ approval at 65%. Virtually all the polls listed in the last month, including some by Democratic pollsters, show Independents’ approval of Obama ranging between 46% and 56%. Moreover, the handy chart shows a significant and steady decline in Independents’ support for the president and an equally significant and steady increase in disapproval. Obama’s approval ratings among Independents haven’t “stayed” at the exalted level Dionne suggests; they are plummeting.

This is no small error by Dionne. It essentially undercuts Dionne’s entire argument, which is that Republicans’ attacks on the president’s agenda put the GOP far outside the mainstream of opinion and isolated its appeal to only hardcore partisan Republicans.

Funny, but just yesterday the Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, was complaining that the downsizing of copy editors at the Post has resulted in an uptick in errors, mistakes, and factual inaccuracies on the pages of the Post. (“If readers can’t rely on our accuracy, why should they even pick up the paper?”) Well, perhaps if they had adequate staffing, someone could have pointed out to Dionne that the premise of his column is simply wrong. Really, if readers can’t rely on the accuracy of Dionne’s factual representations, why should they even read his column?

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Engage Whom? And to Do What?

Over the weekend, both the president and vice president declared that they aren’t going to allow a mere once-in-a-generation democratic revolution and brutal suppression in Iran stand in the way of the Grand Bargain. In separate interviews, both Biden and Obama declared America ready to “engage” Iran. Someone should ask them, “Engage with whom?” Presumably, with the thugs who have murdered their own people and declared themselves bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and wiping out Israel. And presumably not the influential group of clerics who have decried the new government as “illegitimate.”

The president seems oblivious to what is perhaps the most significant development since the start of the Iranian popular revolt — the Qom’s Association of Religious Scholars’ call for new elections. As Reuel Marc Gerecht details in a fascinating column:

 This is likely a monumental blow to Ali Khamenei’s position as Supreme Leader. . .  They have now exploded into open dissent that guts the religious attacks of Khamenei’s most powerful allies–the Revolutionary Guard Corps and their baton-wielding thuggish appendage, the Basij–against Mir-Hussein Mousavi, the leader of the opposition. To use an Iraqi parallel: what the clerics of Qom just did to Khamenei is similar to what Ayatollah Sistani did to the Bush administration’s original idea of caucus balloting in Iraq (if we recall, the Bush administration came up with this plan since it feared both the demands and the results of a free election). Qom has shown itself to be the worthy inheritors of the more progressive clergy of the 1905-11 Iranian revolution, when ideas about representative government began to seep into traditional clerical views about the need for independent religious scholars to supervise the ethics of government. Qom has clearly said that the June 12th elections were fraudulent and therefore null and void; most of the city’s religious scholars have now implied, more openly than ever before, that Khamenei is an illegitimate ruler, who has betrayed the faith as well as the people. This is the stuff that in-house, counter-revolutions are made of.

Gerecht is rightly concerned that the president shows no sign that he is willing to re-evaluate his stance of abject timidity. (“President Obama appears to be blind to the most amazing time in the Middle East since the Islamic revolution.”) One can only marvel at the self-delusion that allows the president to say things like:

“We’ve got some fixed national security interests in Iran not developing nuclear weapons, in not exporting terrorism, and we have offered a pathway for Iran to rejoining the international community.”

No fixed interests in democracy or human rights, have we? And no fixed interests in pursuing a policy with a remote chance to bear fruit. How many Iranians must be hanged or thrown in Evin prison before Obama understands that the Iranian government is not interested in “rejoining the international community”? Is there no one in the administration who might point out the significance of the “severe disconnect between their objectives and reality”?

Ironically, while the president lives in his own fantasy world of engagement with a regime that might with a good shove collapse, according to a Times report, the Saudis are just fine with an Israeli strike on Iran. At least the Saudis have woken up to the danger posed by “the repressive Shi’ite regime in Tehran and have increased fears that it may emerge as a belligerent nuclear power.”

While the Saudis may be looking around for Plan B, Obama is plainly stuck on Plan A. There is no hint of the most “realistic” policy available being to tip the balance away from the current regime, deny legitimacy and recognition to the current crew, round up international organizations, and impose an array of sanctions to aid in those efforts. You know, just like the Obama team is trying out in Honduras (where the military and legislature were merely attempting to preserve their own constitution).

The president is willing to recognize no set of facts or moral considerations that will dissuade him from pursuing “engagement” with Iran. This is the triumph of blind ideology over reason, facts, history, and common sense.

Over the weekend, both the president and vice president declared that they aren’t going to allow a mere once-in-a-generation democratic revolution and brutal suppression in Iran stand in the way of the Grand Bargain. In separate interviews, both Biden and Obama declared America ready to “engage” Iran. Someone should ask them, “Engage with whom?” Presumably, with the thugs who have murdered their own people and declared themselves bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and wiping out Israel. And presumably not the influential group of clerics who have decried the new government as “illegitimate.”

The president seems oblivious to what is perhaps the most significant development since the start of the Iranian popular revolt — the Qom’s Association of Religious Scholars’ call for new elections. As Reuel Marc Gerecht details in a fascinating column:

 This is likely a monumental blow to Ali Khamenei’s position as Supreme Leader. . .  They have now exploded into open dissent that guts the religious attacks of Khamenei’s most powerful allies–the Revolutionary Guard Corps and their baton-wielding thuggish appendage, the Basij–against Mir-Hussein Mousavi, the leader of the opposition. To use an Iraqi parallel: what the clerics of Qom just did to Khamenei is similar to what Ayatollah Sistani did to the Bush administration’s original idea of caucus balloting in Iraq (if we recall, the Bush administration came up with this plan since it feared both the demands and the results of a free election). Qom has shown itself to be the worthy inheritors of the more progressive clergy of the 1905-11 Iranian revolution, when ideas about representative government began to seep into traditional clerical views about the need for independent religious scholars to supervise the ethics of government. Qom has clearly said that the June 12th elections were fraudulent and therefore null and void; most of the city’s religious scholars have now implied, more openly than ever before, that Khamenei is an illegitimate ruler, who has betrayed the faith as well as the people. This is the stuff that in-house, counter-revolutions are made of.

Gerecht is rightly concerned that the president shows no sign that he is willing to re-evaluate his stance of abject timidity. (“President Obama appears to be blind to the most amazing time in the Middle East since the Islamic revolution.”) One can only marvel at the self-delusion that allows the president to say things like:

“We’ve got some fixed national security interests in Iran not developing nuclear weapons, in not exporting terrorism, and we have offered a pathway for Iran to rejoining the international community.”

No fixed interests in democracy or human rights, have we? And no fixed interests in pursuing a policy with a remote chance to bear fruit. How many Iranians must be hanged or thrown in Evin prison before Obama understands that the Iranian government is not interested in “rejoining the international community”? Is there no one in the administration who might point out the significance of the “severe disconnect between their objectives and reality”?

Ironically, while the president lives in his own fantasy world of engagement with a regime that might with a good shove collapse, according to a Times report, the Saudis are just fine with an Israeli strike on Iran. At least the Saudis have woken up to the danger posed by “the repressive Shi’ite regime in Tehran and have increased fears that it may emerge as a belligerent nuclear power.”

While the Saudis may be looking around for Plan B, Obama is plainly stuck on Plan A. There is no hint of the most “realistic” policy available being to tip the balance away from the current regime, deny legitimacy and recognition to the current crew, round up international organizations, and impose an array of sanctions to aid in those efforts. You know, just like the Obama team is trying out in Honduras (where the military and legislature were merely attempting to preserve their own constitution).

The president is willing to recognize no set of facts or moral considerations that will dissuade him from pursuing “engagement” with Iran. This is the triumph of blind ideology over reason, facts, history, and common sense.

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International Law as Gangplank

The whole point of law is to prevent humans from interacting in a world where only power dictates human affairs, and instead, to establish a system of rules grounded in justice. But for this to happen, a lot of power needs to be forcibly shifted away from the powerful, and into the hands of — well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

In a democratic society, the power is shifted into the hands of the police and courts of justice. These, in turn, are held accountable to a whole apparatus of elections, approvals, and appointments, the bottom line of which is that if people charged with effecting justice abuse their power, everyone will know about it, and those responsible will be punished and deterred. Also, there are principles and rules of legislation to make sure that laws are just — such as, for example, the idea that laws should not be enforced selectively, or passed with a specific person as the target.

In the international arena, however, the whole process of “law” doesn’t have an effective system of accountability or of checks and balances. This is its Achilles’ heel, which proponents of international law are permanently trying to make us ignore. Instead of being created by elected legislatures, executed by appointed enforcement apparatuses, and applied by judicial officials, international law is defined in a series of treaties that are often themselves a reflection of power politics, and its enforcement lies in the hands of unaccountable bodies like the UN, and especially a swath of NGOs, many of which receive their budgets from interest groups. The lack of an effective system of accountability means that individual countries can bear the brunt of a power politics that is supercharged with the legitimacy and invasive tools of law. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than with regard to Israel.

In an important column today, Gerald Steinberg describes the increasing abuse of the institutions of international law against Israel. He focuses on a series of new reports published in the wake of “inquiries” regarding possible Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead this past Winter. Steinberg’s conclusion:

The three reports published and publicized last week, like dozens that have come before, combine pseudo-legal rhetoric, technical allegations regarding Israel’s defense against terror attacks, automatic sympathy for Palestinian victims, and condemnation of Israel. The images and the titles reflect these biases – Amnesty’s is headlined: “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction.”

Researchers led by Donatella Rovera claim they could not find evidence of the use of human shields by Hamas. In fact, the entire population of Gaza was one massive human shield, with weapons stored and fired from schools, mosques, hospitals and similar civilian structures (in one infamous case, during a live video broadcast widely viewed on Youtube.)

Similarly, the 10-page ICRC publication (“Gaza: 1.5 Million People Trapped in Despair”) consists largely of pictures of Palestinians and none of Israelis in Sderot – the rights of Israelis are irrelevant, as they are in the case of the UN and the Goldstone commission…

In addition to the moral facade, HRW’s report (“Precisely Wrong”) uses hi-tech language to attack the IDF’s use of advanced drones. Here, the “war crimes” charges are based on six carefully chosen cases. The “evidence” comes from Palestinian claims of having heard and seen the arrival of these tiny and soundless weapons – a superhuman feat.
HRW’s “military analyst” Marc Garlasco added dubious assumptions regarding the “impact mark of the missile and the fragmentation pattern” consistent with Spike missiles. Although a few reporters were professional enough to investigate the details, check with independent experts, and expose the dubious claims, most reports copied Garlasco’s mix of fact and fiction without question. (They also omit mention of HRW fund-raising in Saudi Arabia that cites their anti-Israel campaigns.)

These events, as well as the ongoing Goldstone inquiry, are part of the broader strategy of demonization adopted at the NGO Forum at the 2001 UN Durban Conference. The goal is to brand and isolate Israel as the new “apartheid” state.

Israel has been heavily criticized for refusing to cooperate with international inquiries into its tactics of war. But with so transparent an abuse of “international law” going on at Israel’s expense, the Jewish state seems to have little choice.

The whole point of law is to prevent humans from interacting in a world where only power dictates human affairs, and instead, to establish a system of rules grounded in justice. But for this to happen, a lot of power needs to be forcibly shifted away from the powerful, and into the hands of — well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

In a democratic society, the power is shifted into the hands of the police and courts of justice. These, in turn, are held accountable to a whole apparatus of elections, approvals, and appointments, the bottom line of which is that if people charged with effecting justice abuse their power, everyone will know about it, and those responsible will be punished and deterred. Also, there are principles and rules of legislation to make sure that laws are just — such as, for example, the idea that laws should not be enforced selectively, or passed with a specific person as the target.

In the international arena, however, the whole process of “law” doesn’t have an effective system of accountability or of checks and balances. This is its Achilles’ heel, which proponents of international law are permanently trying to make us ignore. Instead of being created by elected legislatures, executed by appointed enforcement apparatuses, and applied by judicial officials, international law is defined in a series of treaties that are often themselves a reflection of power politics, and its enforcement lies in the hands of unaccountable bodies like the UN, and especially a swath of NGOs, many of which receive their budgets from interest groups. The lack of an effective system of accountability means that individual countries can bear the brunt of a power politics that is supercharged with the legitimacy and invasive tools of law. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than with regard to Israel.

In an important column today, Gerald Steinberg describes the increasing abuse of the institutions of international law against Israel. He focuses on a series of new reports published in the wake of “inquiries” regarding possible Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead this past Winter. Steinberg’s conclusion:

The three reports published and publicized last week, like dozens that have come before, combine pseudo-legal rhetoric, technical allegations regarding Israel’s defense against terror attacks, automatic sympathy for Palestinian victims, and condemnation of Israel. The images and the titles reflect these biases – Amnesty’s is headlined: “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction.”

Researchers led by Donatella Rovera claim they could not find evidence of the use of human shields by Hamas. In fact, the entire population of Gaza was one massive human shield, with weapons stored and fired from schools, mosques, hospitals and similar civilian structures (in one infamous case, during a live video broadcast widely viewed on Youtube.)

Similarly, the 10-page ICRC publication (“Gaza: 1.5 Million People Trapped in Despair”) consists largely of pictures of Palestinians and none of Israelis in Sderot – the rights of Israelis are irrelevant, as they are in the case of the UN and the Goldstone commission…

In addition to the moral facade, HRW’s report (“Precisely Wrong”) uses hi-tech language to attack the IDF’s use of advanced drones. Here, the “war crimes” charges are based on six carefully chosen cases. The “evidence” comes from Palestinian claims of having heard and seen the arrival of these tiny and soundless weapons – a superhuman feat.
HRW’s “military analyst” Marc Garlasco added dubious assumptions regarding the “impact mark of the missile and the fragmentation pattern” consistent with Spike missiles. Although a few reporters were professional enough to investigate the details, check with independent experts, and expose the dubious claims, most reports copied Garlasco’s mix of fact and fiction without question. (They also omit mention of HRW fund-raising in Saudi Arabia that cites their anti-Israel campaigns.)

These events, as well as the ongoing Goldstone inquiry, are part of the broader strategy of demonization adopted at the NGO Forum at the 2001 UN Durban Conference. The goal is to brand and isolate Israel as the new “apartheid” state.

Israel has been heavily criticized for refusing to cooperate with international inquiries into its tactics of war. But with so transparent an abuse of “international law” going on at Israel’s expense, the Jewish state seems to have little choice.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Biden says the Obama team didn’t really know what they were doing but that the stimulus is working. Or, it’s going to work. Or, something. “Vice President Joe Biden said the Obama administration ‘misread how bad the economy was’ but stands by its stimulus package and believes the plan will create more jobs as the pace of its spending picks up.”(And these are the people who want to run health care.)

John Boehner gets in a dig on the stimulus bill: “This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, and jobs. And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending, and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy.”

And on healthcare: “The president says the problem with our health care system is we spend too much as a nation on health care. So how do you spend another trillion to $2 trillion in order to spend less? And we’re going to tax the American people, raise our taxes once again, at a time when the economy’s not doing well. If we’re trying to create jobs in America, you can’t do it by imposing more taxes on a big government-run health care plan.”

A smart take by Kevin Hassett: “Obama and his team seem sharply opposed to the view that creative destruction is a valuable economic force. They seem happy with what might be called destructive destruction – the obliteration of value and wealth without any resulting positive change.”

Karl Rove on Sarah Palin: “So now the expectations are going to be she’s going to be fully available, she’s going to be able to come to the lower 48, and she’s going to be able to do whatever people ask her to do, and that’s going to be a problem. . .  Again, she said she wanted to lead effective change outside of government. Well, now we’re — now people are going to be saying, ‘What is it that you mean by that? And how are you — demonstrated effective leadership for change around America?’ . . .It is not clear what her strategy here is by exiting the governorship 2.5 years through the term and putting herself on the national stage that she may not yet be prepared to operate in.”

The Wall Street Journal editors have it right, I think: “Whether she will be up to [the task of national leadership] in two years, or six or 10, will depend on whether she’s willing to do the hard policy work that can add substance to her natural political talents.”

Or maybe longer, mulls Fred Barnes. He observes, “Even a super-abundance of charisma cannot make up for her shortcomings in experience and knowledge.” But he offers: “A term in the House and another in the Senate — nothing would do more to groom her for the White House than this and transform her into the best Republican candidate for the presidency in, say, 2020, when she’d be 56.”

Further reason to question why we are bailing out failing car companies: “The Toyota Camry is more American than the Ford F-150, at least according to Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index. The findings further muddy the Buy American debate that rages across the country. Toyota Motor Corp. also is the most American car company, according to the rankings of the index in terms of U.S. content in its cars and trucks.”

An invaluable guide to cap-and-trade with a list of 50 of some of the eye-popping awful provisions.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady on Honduras: “Mr. Zelaya’s violations of the rule of law in recent months were numerous. But the tipping point came 10 days ago, when he led a violent mob that stormed a military base to seize and distribute Venezuelan-printed ballots for an illegal referendum. . . Reason has gone AWOL in places like Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom. Ruling the debate on Mr. Zelaya’s behavior is Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, who is now the reigning international authority on ‘democracy.'”

Joe Biden says the Obama team didn’t really know what they were doing but that the stimulus is working. Or, it’s going to work. Or, something. “Vice President Joe Biden said the Obama administration ‘misread how bad the economy was’ but stands by its stimulus package and believes the plan will create more jobs as the pace of its spending picks up.”(And these are the people who want to run health care.)

John Boehner gets in a dig on the stimulus bill: “This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, and jobs. And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending, and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy.”

And on healthcare: “The president says the problem with our health care system is we spend too much as a nation on health care. So how do you spend another trillion to $2 trillion in order to spend less? And we’re going to tax the American people, raise our taxes once again, at a time when the economy’s not doing well. If we’re trying to create jobs in America, you can’t do it by imposing more taxes on a big government-run health care plan.”

A smart take by Kevin Hassett: “Obama and his team seem sharply opposed to the view that creative destruction is a valuable economic force. They seem happy with what might be called destructive destruction – the obliteration of value and wealth without any resulting positive change.”

Karl Rove on Sarah Palin: “So now the expectations are going to be she’s going to be fully available, she’s going to be able to come to the lower 48, and she’s going to be able to do whatever people ask her to do, and that’s going to be a problem. . .  Again, she said she wanted to lead effective change outside of government. Well, now we’re — now people are going to be saying, ‘What is it that you mean by that? And how are you — demonstrated effective leadership for change around America?’ . . .It is not clear what her strategy here is by exiting the governorship 2.5 years through the term and putting herself on the national stage that she may not yet be prepared to operate in.”

The Wall Street Journal editors have it right, I think: “Whether she will be up to [the task of national leadership] in two years, or six or 10, will depend on whether she’s willing to do the hard policy work that can add substance to her natural political talents.”

Or maybe longer, mulls Fred Barnes. He observes, “Even a super-abundance of charisma cannot make up for her shortcomings in experience and knowledge.” But he offers: “A term in the House and another in the Senate — nothing would do more to groom her for the White House than this and transform her into the best Republican candidate for the presidency in, say, 2020, when she’d be 56.”

Further reason to question why we are bailing out failing car companies: “The Toyota Camry is more American than the Ford F-150, at least according to Cars.com’s annual American-Made Index. The findings further muddy the Buy American debate that rages across the country. Toyota Motor Corp. also is the most American car company, according to the rankings of the index in terms of U.S. content in its cars and trucks.”

An invaluable guide to cap-and-trade with a list of 50 of some of the eye-popping awful provisions.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady on Honduras: “Mr. Zelaya’s violations of the rule of law in recent months were numerous. But the tipping point came 10 days ago, when he led a violent mob that stormed a military base to seize and distribute Venezuelan-printed ballots for an illegal referendum. . . Reason has gone AWOL in places like Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom. Ruling the debate on Mr. Zelaya’s behavior is Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, who is now the reigning international authority on ‘democracy.'”

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Meg Whitman: Not Sarah Palin

While the media is absorbed with the Sarah Palin news, George Will reminds us that there are conservative women with business expertise, mastery of detail, no hint of self-victimization, a good sense of humor, and the ability to interact freely with national media. (Well, other than Jenny Sanford.) On Meg Whitman, Will writes:

Whitman, a Roman candle of facts and ideas, insists, “We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem of epic proportions.” Twenty-five percent of California’s revenue comes from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so “if one of them leaves, it’s a really bad thing.” Lots have left. Some never really arrive. Pierre Omidyar, after founding eBay in San Jose, resided in Nevada, which has no income tax.

Whitman says that 50 percent of California’s spending on education, kindergarten through 12th grade, goes into overhead, not classrooms, compared with 20 percent in, for example, Connecticut. The public education lobby likes it that way, but because California elementary school students rank 46th among the states in math, 48th in reading and 49th in science, it is, Whitman says tersely, hard for defenders of the status quo to “hide behind the results.”

Why she would want to govern such an utterly dysfunctional state remains a bit murky. But if she wins and pulls California out of its tailspin—two very big if’s—she’ll join Rudy Giuliani in the select club of conservatives who ran for office and won in liberal bastions and reformed liberal-made disasters.

While the media is absorbed with the Sarah Palin news, George Will reminds us that there are conservative women with business expertise, mastery of detail, no hint of self-victimization, a good sense of humor, and the ability to interact freely with national media. (Well, other than Jenny Sanford.) On Meg Whitman, Will writes:

Whitman, a Roman candle of facts and ideas, insists, “We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem of epic proportions.” Twenty-five percent of California’s revenue comes from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so “if one of them leaves, it’s a really bad thing.” Lots have left. Some never really arrive. Pierre Omidyar, after founding eBay in San Jose, resided in Nevada, which has no income tax.

Whitman says that 50 percent of California’s spending on education, kindergarten through 12th grade, goes into overhead, not classrooms, compared with 20 percent in, for example, Connecticut. The public education lobby likes it that way, but because California elementary school students rank 46th among the states in math, 48th in reading and 49th in science, it is, Whitman says tersely, hard for defenders of the status quo to “hide behind the results.”

Why she would want to govern such an utterly dysfunctional state remains a bit murky. But if she wins and pulls California out of its tailspin—two very big if’s—she’ll join Rudy Giuliani in the select club of conservatives who ran for office and won in liberal bastions and reformed liberal-made disasters.

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Settlements, Security, and Obstacles to Peace

In an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Ron Dermer — Director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Netanyahu government and the co-author, with Natan Sharansky, of The Case for Democracy — speaks about his personal view of settlements in the West Bank:

On a personal level, I have a problem with the idea of a Jew not being able to live wherever he wants. A Jew can live in Paris and they can live in Muncie, but they can’t live in Hebron, where Jews have been living for 3,500 years until the community was massacred 80 years ago? The whole concept that peace demands an area be cleansed of Jews is very problematic for me . . . . [I]t makes no sense. I actually think that when the Palestinians are prepared to live with Jews among them they are much more likely to be prepared to live with Jews alongside them.

It is an article of faith among peace processors that an “obstacle to peace” is Jewish settlement in the land of their forefathers—in the area officially designated for Jewish settlement at the end of World War I (after the fall of the Ottoman Empire), in the land acquired in a defensive war in 1967, and whose current legal status is properly described as “disputed territories.” The obstacle-to-peace argument is endlessly asserted but rarely examined, and it is both incorrect and counterproductive.

The argument is wrong as a matter of historical fact, since the settlements have not prevented repeated Israeli offers for a Palestinian state on effectively all of the disputed territories. In 2000 at Camp David, Israel offered 92 percent of the West Bank; the offer was rejected in favor of a terror war. In 2001, Israel accepted the Clinton Parameters, which provided for a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank; the offer was rejected in favor of continued war. In 2005, Israel turned over 100 percent of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority; the result was a terrorist state. In 2008, at the end of the Annapolis Process, Israel offered 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps); the offer was rejected.  Whatever the reason for the absence of peace, it is not settlements.

The argument is also counterproductive, because the major settlement blocs are necessary in order to create defensible borders for Israel—which the U.S. has repeatedly promised Israel as part of the peace process (see Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s 1997 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel). The major settlements are near the Green Line and protect the cities behind them, or are located on high ground or other militarily essential points. There are no defensible borders without them.

The remaining “minor” settlements are not an obstacle to anything: if Arabs can live in Israel, Jews should be able to live in any Palestinian state. As Dermer indicates, the test of whether a Palestinian state can live “side by side in peace and security” with Israel will be whether the Palestinians within the putative state are prepared to live side by side in peace and security with Jews.

Preventing “natural growth” within settlements necessary for Israel’s defense will make them eventually wither and die, as the “peace process” drags on inconclusively and it proves difficult or impossible to reverse even a “temporary” freeze. Moreover, the other settlements—every one of them, including any future natural growth—are consistent with a viable Palestinian state, unless the state is to be an apartheid one. And because the settlements are necessary to insure that a Palestinian state represents a solution, not the first stage of a different problem, the Obama administration’s effort to change the understandings that have governed all parties of the peace process since 2003 is more than a mistake: it is an obstacle to peace.

In an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Ron Dermer — Director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Netanyahu government and the co-author, with Natan Sharansky, of The Case for Democracy — speaks about his personal view of settlements in the West Bank:

On a personal level, I have a problem with the idea of a Jew not being able to live wherever he wants. A Jew can live in Paris and they can live in Muncie, but they can’t live in Hebron, where Jews have been living for 3,500 years until the community was massacred 80 years ago? The whole concept that peace demands an area be cleansed of Jews is very problematic for me . . . . [I]t makes no sense. I actually think that when the Palestinians are prepared to live with Jews among them they are much more likely to be prepared to live with Jews alongside them.

It is an article of faith among peace processors that an “obstacle to peace” is Jewish settlement in the land of their forefathers—in the area officially designated for Jewish settlement at the end of World War I (after the fall of the Ottoman Empire), in the land acquired in a defensive war in 1967, and whose current legal status is properly described as “disputed territories.” The obstacle-to-peace argument is endlessly asserted but rarely examined, and it is both incorrect and counterproductive.

The argument is wrong as a matter of historical fact, since the settlements have not prevented repeated Israeli offers for a Palestinian state on effectively all of the disputed territories. In 2000 at Camp David, Israel offered 92 percent of the West Bank; the offer was rejected in favor of a terror war. In 2001, Israel accepted the Clinton Parameters, which provided for a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank; the offer was rejected in favor of continued war. In 2005, Israel turned over 100 percent of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority; the result was a terrorist state. In 2008, at the end of the Annapolis Process, Israel offered 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps); the offer was rejected.  Whatever the reason for the absence of peace, it is not settlements.

The argument is also counterproductive, because the major settlement blocs are necessary in order to create defensible borders for Israel—which the U.S. has repeatedly promised Israel as part of the peace process (see Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s 1997 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel). The major settlements are near the Green Line and protect the cities behind them, or are located on high ground or other militarily essential points. There are no defensible borders without them.

The remaining “minor” settlements are not an obstacle to anything: if Arabs can live in Israel, Jews should be able to live in any Palestinian state. As Dermer indicates, the test of whether a Palestinian state can live “side by side in peace and security” with Israel will be whether the Palestinians within the putative state are prepared to live side by side in peace and security with Jews.

Preventing “natural growth” within settlements necessary for Israel’s defense will make them eventually wither and die, as the “peace process” drags on inconclusively and it proves difficult or impossible to reverse even a “temporary” freeze. Moreover, the other settlements—every one of them, including any future natural growth—are consistent with a viable Palestinian state, unless the state is to be an apartheid one. And because the settlements are necessary to insure that a Palestinian state represents a solution, not the first stage of a different problem, the Obama administration’s effort to change the understandings that have governed all parties of the peace process since 2003 is more than a mistake: it is an obstacle to peace.

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