Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

There are two traditional ways to mark Bastille Day. First, parades. This year’s festivities were noteworthy for the inclusion of 400 Indian troops, to celebrate, as AFP put it, France’s “strategic relationship with the world’s biggest democracy.” Personally, I thought Clive of India pretty much put an end to Franco-Indian ties, but it turns out that AFP is referring to India’s appetite for France’s nuclear reactors and world-beating military technology (insert joke here). Why is it that European “strategic relationships” are mostly about money?

The other way to celebrate is by burning cars and attacking the police. It’s in keeping with the spirit of the original, but is now considered bad form. That doesn’t stop “disaffected youths,” as AFP politely describes them, from going on the rampage to “express their frustration with high unemployment rates and what they see as France’s failure to integrate ethnic minorities”: the eve of Bastille Day alone saw 300 cars burned and 13 police officers wounded.

Of course, it’s in the name of integration — at least, as understood by the traditional French model — that President Sarkozy has on the warpath against the burqa. It’s an approach that would never work in the U.S., but it accords well with the Rousseauian spirit of 1789, the sense that unwelcome elements of the existing social order can and must be remade by the state, acting as the secular embodiment of the popular will. As Gertrude Himmelfarb has pointed out, there were many roads to modernity: France took one, the U.S. took another. France sought to promote social equality by force of the state; the U.S. sought to secure social opportunity by restricting the state’s reach.

As long as each nation is secure in its own history, there is no great problem with this. But the Obama administration’s been getting into the “liberty, equality, and fraternity” spirit. Just today, Judge Sotomayor, in replying to a question by Sen. Kohl on racial discrimination and diversity, argued that “equality requires effort.” If this is simply a way of saying that acting in a way that acknowledges the equality of God-given rights is not easy, then it is a fair reflection. But if it is a way of arguing that ensuring equality of outcome requires judicial effort, then it is in keeping with her judgment in Ricci v. DeStefano, but it’s out of step with the American tradition.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are now as much a forum for concealing opinions as expressing them, so we are unlikely to learn more about the judge’s real views on the subject until she receives her up or down vote. But President Obama has been speaking out on the subject as well, and his views are clearer. As he said in Strasbourg:

We spend so much time talking about democracy…[b]ut democracy, a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity, does not just depend on going to the ballot box.

The latter reflection is certainly true: one only wishes Obama would apply the insight to Honduras, where ousted president Manuel Zeyala was engaged in an effort to use the ballot box to subvert democracy. But is democracy really the same as “a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity”? That is the French definition, to be sure, and of course, Obama was speaking in France.

But that is no reason to adopt France’s terms: surely, an American president, whether speaking in France or elsewhere, should — without being rude about it — celebrate the uniqueness of the American definition of democracy, which has a great deal to do with liberty, but not much at all with the societal promotion of equality or fraternity. One has the feeling that this slip — like the Judge’s reply — is only a gaffe in that it reveals an inconvenient truth about the President’s beliefs. Perhaps if he had to contemplate those “disaffected youths,” he might think again about the virtues of the American road to modernity.

There are two traditional ways to mark Bastille Day. First, parades. This year’s festivities were noteworthy for the inclusion of 400 Indian troops, to celebrate, as AFP put it, France’s “strategic relationship with the world’s biggest democracy.” Personally, I thought Clive of India pretty much put an end to Franco-Indian ties, but it turns out that AFP is referring to India’s appetite for France’s nuclear reactors and world-beating military technology (insert joke here). Why is it that European “strategic relationships” are mostly about money?

The other way to celebrate is by burning cars and attacking the police. It’s in keeping with the spirit of the original, but is now considered bad form. That doesn’t stop “disaffected youths,” as AFP politely describes them, from going on the rampage to “express their frustration with high unemployment rates and what they see as France’s failure to integrate ethnic minorities”: the eve of Bastille Day alone saw 300 cars burned and 13 police officers wounded.

Of course, it’s in the name of integration — at least, as understood by the traditional French model — that President Sarkozy has on the warpath against the burqa. It’s an approach that would never work in the U.S., but it accords well with the Rousseauian spirit of 1789, the sense that unwelcome elements of the existing social order can and must be remade by the state, acting as the secular embodiment of the popular will. As Gertrude Himmelfarb has pointed out, there were many roads to modernity: France took one, the U.S. took another. France sought to promote social equality by force of the state; the U.S. sought to secure social opportunity by restricting the state’s reach.

As long as each nation is secure in its own history, there is no great problem with this. But the Obama administration’s been getting into the “liberty, equality, and fraternity” spirit. Just today, Judge Sotomayor, in replying to a question by Sen. Kohl on racial discrimination and diversity, argued that “equality requires effort.” If this is simply a way of saying that acting in a way that acknowledges the equality of God-given rights is not easy, then it is a fair reflection. But if it is a way of arguing that ensuring equality of outcome requires judicial effort, then it is in keeping with her judgment in Ricci v. DeStefano, but it’s out of step with the American tradition.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are now as much a forum for concealing opinions as expressing them, so we are unlikely to learn more about the judge’s real views on the subject until she receives her up or down vote. But President Obama has been speaking out on the subject as well, and his views are clearer. As he said in Strasbourg:

We spend so much time talking about democracy…[b]ut democracy, a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity, does not just depend on going to the ballot box.

The latter reflection is certainly true: one only wishes Obama would apply the insight to Honduras, where ousted president Manuel Zeyala was engaged in an effort to use the ballot box to subvert democracy. But is democracy really the same as “a well-functioning society that promotes liberty and equality and fraternity”? That is the French definition, to be sure, and of course, Obama was speaking in France.

But that is no reason to adopt France’s terms: surely, an American president, whether speaking in France or elsewhere, should — without being rude about it — celebrate the uniqueness of the American definition of democracy, which has a great deal to do with liberty, but not much at all with the societal promotion of equality or fraternity. One has the feeling that this slip — like the Judge’s reply — is only a gaffe in that it reveals an inconvenient truth about the President’s beliefs. Perhaps if he had to contemplate those “disaffected youths,” he might think again about the virtues of the American road to modernity.

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Is She Fudging on PRLDEF?

In response to Sen. Graham’s questions about PRLDEF‘s position and briefs on taxpayer-funded abortion, she pleads ignorance. Never read the briefs. She was primarily a fundraiser. This seems at odds with voluminous evidence that she was heavily involved in litigation by the group.

Why not be more candid? Is she being less than truthful with Graham? (Perhaps those 300 boxes of documents will tell a different story.) He ends by inviting her, in essence, to own up to the fact that she was an advocate for views that might be off-putting but not disqualifying. “C’mom judge, you can tell us what you did” is the tone. (Graham didn’t use these words.) But being less than completely forthright isn’t going to help her cause.

In response to Sen. Graham’s questions about PRLDEF‘s position and briefs on taxpayer-funded abortion, she pleads ignorance. Never read the briefs. She was primarily a fundraiser. This seems at odds with voluminous evidence that she was heavily involved in litigation by the group.

Why not be more candid? Is she being less than truthful with Graham? (Perhaps those 300 boxes of documents will tell a different story.) He ends by inviting her, in essence, to own up to the fact that she was an advocate for views that might be off-putting but not disqualifying. “C’mom judge, you can tell us what you did” is the tone. (Graham didn’t use these words.) But being less than completely forthright isn’t going to help her cause.

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“Who Are We Getting Here?”

Lindsay Graham says he is troubled by the gap between her speeches and what we are hearing today. He asks what “legal realism” means. She gives an answer about as bad as Sarah Palin’s explanation of the “Bush doctrine.” She says it is looking at things in the context of “realism” — or words to that effect. Graham helps her out — “touchy, feely stuff”? Well, she’ll agree with that. She is now wowing us with her legal philosophy. Is the Constitution a “living document”? She avoids “going there” by saying the Constitution doesn’t change but society does.  He is asking crisp yet important questions and she frankly looks unprepared. Does the Constitution as written prevent states from regulating abortion in the Constitution? Anything in the document? She retreats to the “broad liberty provision of the Constitution.” And Graham says it is that “broad provision” which brings us here. He speaks rather eloquently in favor of letting the elected branches “change” society. But then he frankly wimps out a bit, and only asks her whether she can understand that. Sure!

He then goes through the complaints on her temperament. Not my favorite line of questioning because lots of judges are pistols and she’s not up for a trial judge slot. And it is easily rebutted: Yes, she says, she asks tough questions. Well, you’re tougher than your colleagues, aren’t you? She says she has no temperament problem.

It isn’t clear how Graham is leaning here. Is he really disturbed or just stepping up his rhetoric to calm irritated conservatives? He plainly isn’t giving her complete “deference” as he spoke about in his opening comments.

UPDATE: He focuses on the “wise Latina” comment and says that had he made the comment in a campaign against a minority opponent it would be curtains. She “understands” that and asks for her comment to be understood in the context of her whole career. Graham seems to leap at that, declaring that would be a great thing to come out of this hearing. Sigh. But what did she mean? And why did she say it? And if it is not a single statement but one repeated over and over again, shouldn’t we be very concerned?

Lindsay Graham says he is troubled by the gap between her speeches and what we are hearing today. He asks what “legal realism” means. She gives an answer about as bad as Sarah Palin’s explanation of the “Bush doctrine.” She says it is looking at things in the context of “realism” — or words to that effect. Graham helps her out — “touchy, feely stuff”? Well, she’ll agree with that. She is now wowing us with her legal philosophy. Is the Constitution a “living document”? She avoids “going there” by saying the Constitution doesn’t change but society does.  He is asking crisp yet important questions and she frankly looks unprepared. Does the Constitution as written prevent states from regulating abortion in the Constitution? Anything in the document? She retreats to the “broad liberty provision of the Constitution.” And Graham says it is that “broad provision” which brings us here. He speaks rather eloquently in favor of letting the elected branches “change” society. But then he frankly wimps out a bit, and only asks her whether she can understand that. Sure!

He then goes through the complaints on her temperament. Not my favorite line of questioning because lots of judges are pistols and she’s not up for a trial judge slot. And it is easily rebutted: Yes, she says, she asks tough questions. Well, you’re tougher than your colleagues, aren’t you? She says she has no temperament problem.

It isn’t clear how Graham is leaning here. Is he really disturbed or just stepping up his rhetoric to calm irritated conservatives? He plainly isn’t giving her complete “deference” as he spoke about in his opening comments.

UPDATE: He focuses on the “wise Latina” comment and says that had he made the comment in a campaign against a minority opponent it would be curtains. She “understands” that and asks for her comment to be understood in the context of her whole career. Graham seems to leap at that, declaring that would be a great thing to come out of this hearing. Sigh. But what did she mean? And why did she say it? And if it is not a single statement but one repeated over and over again, shouldn’t we be very concerned?

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Re: Re: Re: Averting Their Eyes

Whatever the reasons for what the Jewish leaders who met with Obama on Monday are doing, they could hardly be doing it at a worse time. Jennifer’s insightful post is on target with this warning: “If you think this administration is going to provide Israel with a reasonable comfort level or depart from its stance of moral equivalency, think again.”

On the one hand, we have Obama on Monday, advising and urging the Jewish leaders thus:

…Obama argued that he is the right man, at the right time, to press for a lasting Middle East peace agreement.

[...]

“He was very humble about it, not bragging, not talking himself up, but just being clear that there’s a set of assets that he brings,” [J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami] said. “That somebody with his ability to speak to the Muslim world, the political capital that he brings internationally as well as domestically — that isn’t going to come around all that often, and we have a narrow window before time runs out. He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.”

On the other hand, we have actual developments relating to the two major strategic issues for Israel: the peace process with the Palestinian Arabs, and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On July 12, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, made headlines with his proposal, in a London speech, for preemptive recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN. After invoking the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as “key,” Solana continued as follows (emphasis added):

The next ingredient for success is a real mediation. The parameters are defined. The mediator has to set the timetable too. If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table.

After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements. It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims.

Avigdor Lieberman promptly pointed out that Solana is about to retire, and suggested that he is seeking to ensure a personal legacy, and therefore should not be taken too seriously. We may hope that Lieberman has received back-channel assurances from his counterparts in the EU member states. But we must also note that Israel and the Palestinians are increasingly the subjects of concerted, self-consciously “European” diplomacy.

The EU, as one of the Quartet in the peace process mediation, has heretofore mostly waited on the U.S. lead. However, a regional mechanism instituted last year affords European leaders an unprecedented pretext for independent intervention and negotiation. The EU-backed Mediterranean Union, which became the first such body to include both Israel and the Palestinians, was inaugurated in July 2008 at the joint behest of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. To date, its touted promise of bringing Israel and the Palestinians (as well as Syria and Lebanon) closer to peaceful accord has not seen fruition. But the mechanism it represents, for addressing Israel and the Palestinians directly at the level of Union partnership, is an opportunity waiting to happen, for European leaders emboldened by Solana’s July 12 move.

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Whatever the reasons for what the Jewish leaders who met with Obama on Monday are doing, they could hardly be doing it at a worse time. Jennifer’s insightful post is on target with this warning: “If you think this administration is going to provide Israel with a reasonable comfort level or depart from its stance of moral equivalency, think again.”

On the one hand, we have Obama on Monday, advising and urging the Jewish leaders thus:

…Obama argued that he is the right man, at the right time, to press for a lasting Middle East peace agreement.

[...]

“He was very humble about it, not bragging, not talking himself up, but just being clear that there’s a set of assets that he brings,” [J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami] said. “That somebody with his ability to speak to the Muslim world, the political capital that he brings internationally as well as domestically — that isn’t going to come around all that often, and we have a narrow window before time runs out. He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.”

On the other hand, we have actual developments relating to the two major strategic issues for Israel: the peace process with the Palestinian Arabs, and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On July 12, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, made headlines with his proposal, in a London speech, for preemptive recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN. After invoking the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as “key,” Solana continued as follows (emphasis added):

The next ingredient for success is a real mediation. The parameters are defined. The mediator has to set the timetable too. If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table.

After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements. It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims.

Avigdor Lieberman promptly pointed out that Solana is about to retire, and suggested that he is seeking to ensure a personal legacy, and therefore should not be taken too seriously. We may hope that Lieberman has received back-channel assurances from his counterparts in the EU member states. But we must also note that Israel and the Palestinians are increasingly the subjects of concerted, self-consciously “European” diplomacy.

The EU, as one of the Quartet in the peace process mediation, has heretofore mostly waited on the U.S. lead. However, a regional mechanism instituted last year affords European leaders an unprecedented pretext for independent intervention and negotiation. The EU-backed Mediterranean Union, which became the first such body to include both Israel and the Palestinians, was inaugurated in July 2008 at the joint behest of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. To date, its touted promise of bringing Israel and the Palestinians (as well as Syria and Lebanon) closer to peaceful accord has not seen fruition. But the mechanism it represents, for addressing Israel and the Palestinians directly at the level of Union partnership, is an opportunity waiting to happen, for European leaders emboldened by Solana’s July 12 move.

A genie has left the bottle here. Solana’s speech caps a period since March 2008 that has seen visits to Ramallah by Gordon Brown, Solana, Merkel, and Sarkozy; intensive diplomatic involvement by Sarkozy in the Gaza conflict in January 2009 (featuring the invocation of France’s renewed ties with Syria); and meetings by EU delegations with representatives of Hamas, in March and June 2009. The EU also retains, of course, its enduring status as the largest aid donor to the Palestinians.

Any policy-void left by American inactivity — such as that induced by Obama’s recalcitrance on the West Bank settlements — is more likely than ever to be filled by other actors. Europeans may not quite agree among themselves yet, but with the Mediterranean Union mechanism in place, they have a fresh incentive to.

Meanwhile, the G-8 agreement on a September deadline for Iran could not have selected the month more favorably for Iran’s schedule if it’d had that explicit intention. According to the IAEA’s June 5 report, Iran intends to fuel the light-water reactor at Bushehr in September-October 2009. Procrastination and diplomatic delays are likely to ensure that a window remains open long enough for Tehran, with Russia’s ongoing help, to get enriched uranium into the reactor’s fuel rods.

The significance of the light-water reactor to a nuclear-weapons program should not be overstated. There are more efficient ways to produce weapons-grade uranium (centrifuge enrichment, the plutonium reactor being built at Arak), and Iran is pursuing those in parallel with bringing the Bushehr reactor online.

But a fueled reactor is a substantially more difficult targeting problem than an empty one, portending at least some radioactive fallout if not disabled very precisely. This consideration drove the timing of Operation Opera in 1981. The political momentum Iran would gain from fueling the reactor and taking it critical would, moreover, be very difficult to reverse by diplomatic means. Iran’s “nuclearization” would be a fait accompli, and bargaining traction on weaponization concerns would be weakened and obfuscated — as experience with North Korea has demonstrated.

Perhaps Obama is the right man, at the right time, to deal with all this. The signs from the real world are not so promising, however, as to explain the American Jewish leaders’ uncritical acceptance of this peculiarly formulated assurance. They, and perhaps Israel’s own leadership, should take Rick Richman’s advice and polish up their talking points on the last decade of Israeli concessions and good faith. They may well have to make this pitch to a wider and more diffuse audience than just the man in the Oval Office.

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“We Don’t Apply Feelings”. . . But. . .

After wasting endless time on a recusal issue (and misunderstanding the standard for judges to remove themselves from a “matter” which they previously heard), Sen. Jon Kyl asks if she agrees with the president’s view that the law only takes you “25 miles in the marathon and the judge’s heart take you the rest of the way.” She answers: “No, sir.” She says that “isn’t what judges do.” Well, that’s something. Kyl probes further, inartfully, asking in effect whether the “law ever runs out,” as some liberal jurists and scholars often ask. She is sticking to the script. “We apply the law to the facts; we don’t apply feelings.”

This isn’t very helpful in getting at her specific views. Kyl then migrates to the issue of her speeches and holds up the Seton Hall address. She says she was being “inspirational,” but wasn’t she really getting at the influence of ethnicity on the law? He recites the comments in which she seemed to take issue with impartiality. He also reminds her of her argument that women and ethnic minorities will reach different outcomes. And he picks up on the point we and others made earlier –she didn’t agree with O’Connor, she took issue with O’Connor’s view. It would lead one to believe, he says, that you “seem to embrace” the view that women and ethnic minorities will reach different outcomes.

She doesn’t respond. She says look at her record of seventeen years. (But then what did she mean? Why was she saying these things?) She really doesn’t defend the speeches because there is no defense. Then why did she say these things over and over again? She sticks to her message of “inspiration.” But why inspire them to believe in bias or repudiate impartiality? This remains a mystery.

After wasting endless time on a recusal issue (and misunderstanding the standard for judges to remove themselves from a “matter” which they previously heard), Sen. Jon Kyl asks if she agrees with the president’s view that the law only takes you “25 miles in the marathon and the judge’s heart take you the rest of the way.” She answers: “No, sir.” She says that “isn’t what judges do.” Well, that’s something. Kyl probes further, inartfully, asking in effect whether the “law ever runs out,” as some liberal jurists and scholars often ask. She is sticking to the script. “We apply the law to the facts; we don’t apply feelings.”

This isn’t very helpful in getting at her specific views. Kyl then migrates to the issue of her speeches and holds up the Seton Hall address. She says she was being “inspirational,” but wasn’t she really getting at the influence of ethnicity on the law? He recites the comments in which she seemed to take issue with impartiality. He also reminds her of her argument that women and ethnic minorities will reach different outcomes. And he picks up on the point we and others made earlier –she didn’t agree with O’Connor, she took issue with O’Connor’s view. It would lead one to believe, he says, that you “seem to embrace” the view that women and ethnic minorities will reach different outcomes.

She doesn’t respond. She says look at her record of seventeen years. (But then what did she mean? Why was she saying these things?) She really doesn’t defend the speeches because there is no defense. Then why did she say these things over and over again? She sticks to her message of “inspiration.” But why inspire them to believe in bias or repudiate impartiality? This remains a mystery.

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Re: Re: Averting Their Eyes

Rick, your recitation of the applicable history and the apparent lack of objection during the meeting is sobering. After giving it some thought the day after the meeting, at least one group in attendance, the Orthodox Union, put out a rather tough statement. The group expresses appreciation for the invitation but then takes the administration to task in a statement that reads, in part:

The Orthodox Union subscribes to the serious concern, expressed by several participants in the meeting, that the Administration has allowed a perception to develop that the onus for progress toward peace between Israel and Arabs lies with Israel, and also that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to undertake various steps while demanding little of the Palestinians or other Arab governments. We welcome the President’s recognition that this perception gap is problematic and his stated intention to recalibrate his Administration’s actions in the coming weeks to make clear that the U.S. insists that concrete steps – with regard to incitement and other anti-Israel activities – must be taken by the Palestinians and others.

However, while the President’s acknowledgment of this perception gap is encouraging, the Orthodox Union remains deeply troubled by the President’s underlying approach – which is to have the U.S. play an “evenhanded” role. The Orthodox Union asks our President to recognize that there are no moral equivalencies between Israel, which has acted time and again to defend itself while actively seeking peace, and those who reject Israel’s legitimacy and make war against her. We look to the United States to be Israel’s friend in a world of enemies and we support the view, expressed to the President in our meeting, that while allies may of course disagree on specifics, there ought not be significant “daylight” between the United States and Israel that would give the nations’ mutual enemies comfort and encouragement.

It is a shame more groups didn’t express these sentiments to the president; it would have served to educate and persuade him of the misguided and unwise course he has chosen to pursue. The president is trying to pass this all off as a “perception” problem, which is odd for a man who prides himself on his communication skills. To be understood so badly and to have so many take away an unintended message is indeed a failure of public diplomacy.

But let’s be honest here. It is more than perception. The president told those in attendance that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. In fact, he thinks the failure of the Bush administration consisted of, in essence, providing too much support to our ally Israel. Obama is in the “even-handed” business — as he is with so many international questions.

This stance is a departure from past U.S. policy and, at odds with the views propounded by most of the groups in attendance. So what do the others have to say? Do they remain mute? Or do they follow the example of the Orthodox Union and tell the president when he is wrong and when his actions threaten the historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and even more importantly, undermine the chances for peace in the Middle East. “Daylight” between the U.S. and Israel is precisely what the Palestinian rejectionists want.

Rick, your recitation of the applicable history and the apparent lack of objection during the meeting is sobering. After giving it some thought the day after the meeting, at least one group in attendance, the Orthodox Union, put out a rather tough statement. The group expresses appreciation for the invitation but then takes the administration to task in a statement that reads, in part:

The Orthodox Union subscribes to the serious concern, expressed by several participants in the meeting, that the Administration has allowed a perception to develop that the onus for progress toward peace between Israel and Arabs lies with Israel, and also that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to undertake various steps while demanding little of the Palestinians or other Arab governments. We welcome the President’s recognition that this perception gap is problematic and his stated intention to recalibrate his Administration’s actions in the coming weeks to make clear that the U.S. insists that concrete steps – with regard to incitement and other anti-Israel activities – must be taken by the Palestinians and others.

However, while the President’s acknowledgment of this perception gap is encouraging, the Orthodox Union remains deeply troubled by the President’s underlying approach – which is to have the U.S. play an “evenhanded” role. The Orthodox Union asks our President to recognize that there are no moral equivalencies between Israel, which has acted time and again to defend itself while actively seeking peace, and those who reject Israel’s legitimacy and make war against her. We look to the United States to be Israel’s friend in a world of enemies and we support the view, expressed to the President in our meeting, that while allies may of course disagree on specifics, there ought not be significant “daylight” between the United States and Israel that would give the nations’ mutual enemies comfort and encouragement.

It is a shame more groups didn’t express these sentiments to the president; it would have served to educate and persuade him of the misguided and unwise course he has chosen to pursue. The president is trying to pass this all off as a “perception” problem, which is odd for a man who prides himself on his communication skills. To be understood so badly and to have so many take away an unintended message is indeed a failure of public diplomacy.

But let’s be honest here. It is more than perception. The president told those in attendance that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. In fact, he thinks the failure of the Bush administration consisted of, in essence, providing too much support to our ally Israel. Obama is in the “even-handed” business — as he is with so many international questions.

This stance is a departure from past U.S. policy and, at odds with the views propounded by most of the groups in attendance. So what do the others have to say? Do they remain mute? Or do they follow the example of the Orthodox Union and tell the president when he is wrong and when his actions threaten the historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and even more importantly, undermine the chances for peace in the Middle East. “Daylight” between the U.S. and Israel is precisely what the Palestinian rejectionists want.

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The Ironic Ayatollah

According to an AFP newsflash, a prominent Iranian cleric has condemned China’s “handling” of the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying that “It is true that the Chinese government and its people have close economic and political ties with us and other Islamic countries, but this is no reason for them to horribly suppress our Muslim brothers and sisters.” Shirazi went on to say that “We strongly condemn this suppression and urge all Muslims of the world to demand in one voice that the Chinese government end this situation and punish the criminals.” AFP reported that “Shirazi also took a dig at Iranian officials for remaining ‘silent’ over the unrest in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.”

So let’s play name change.

Put “Western leaders” in place of “Grand Ayatollah Shirazi”; put “Iran” in place of “Chinese Government” and you see why the above is ironic. Iran, ever so sensitive to others meddling in its own internal affairs, does not seem so sensitive of other ruthless dictators’ complaints over foreign nations meddling in their affairs. And truth be told, while Western leaders bend over backwards not to be seen as “meddling” in internal Iranian affairs — as if such meddling were flat wrong — Iran has been meddling in the internal affairs of other nations for a very long time. Not exactly in a constructive fashion either.

Whether it’s Lebanon or Gaza, Iraq or Afghanistan, Latin America or North African countries, Iran is acting like an imperial power, bent on expanding its influence while undermining others. We should meddle more, not less, especially given Iran’s aggressive behavior in meddling into affairs that bear on Western strategic interests.

And then there is the issue of commercial ties. Ayatollah Shirazi does not seem particularly deterred by Iran’s thriving economic relation with China in his criticism of China. Can Western countries do the same — criticize Iran without fear for their commercial interests?

According to an AFP newsflash, a prominent Iranian cleric has condemned China’s “handling” of the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying that “It is true that the Chinese government and its people have close economic and political ties with us and other Islamic countries, but this is no reason for them to horribly suppress our Muslim brothers and sisters.” Shirazi went on to say that “We strongly condemn this suppression and urge all Muslims of the world to demand in one voice that the Chinese government end this situation and punish the criminals.” AFP reported that “Shirazi also took a dig at Iranian officials for remaining ‘silent’ over the unrest in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.”

So let’s play name change.

Put “Western leaders” in place of “Grand Ayatollah Shirazi”; put “Iran” in place of “Chinese Government” and you see why the above is ironic. Iran, ever so sensitive to others meddling in its own internal affairs, does not seem so sensitive of other ruthless dictators’ complaints over foreign nations meddling in their affairs. And truth be told, while Western leaders bend over backwards not to be seen as “meddling” in internal Iranian affairs — as if such meddling were flat wrong — Iran has been meddling in the internal affairs of other nations for a very long time. Not exactly in a constructive fashion either.

Whether it’s Lebanon or Gaza, Iraq or Afghanistan, Latin America or North African countries, Iran is acting like an imperial power, bent on expanding its influence while undermining others. We should meddle more, not less, especially given Iran’s aggressive behavior in meddling into affairs that bear on Western strategic interests.

And then there is the issue of commercial ties. Ayatollah Shirazi does not seem particularly deterred by Iran’s thriving economic relation with China in his criticism of China. Can Western countries do the same — criticize Iran without fear for their commercial interests?

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WANTED: Assistant Online Editor

COMMENTARY is seeking an assistant online editor to help manage CONTENTIONS and work with editors, programmers, and server providers. Applicants should possess a working familiarity with our website and the magazine’s archives, an understanding of and shared commitment to COMMENTARY’s mission and history, some experience with websites, and effortless command of the English language. The job is based in our New York offices; telecommuting is not an option. Please send a cover letter and resume to commentaryonline-at-gmail dot com.

COMMENTARY is seeking an assistant online editor to help manage CONTENTIONS and work with editors, programmers, and server providers. Applicants should possess a working familiarity with our website and the magazine’s archives, an understanding of and shared commitment to COMMENTARY’s mission and history, some experience with websites, and effortless command of the English language. The job is based in our New York offices; telecommuting is not an option. Please send a cover letter and resume to commentaryonline-at-gmail dot com.

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Card Check Even Deader than Cap-and-Trade?

With cap-and-trade hitting the skids and health care in disarray, we haven’t heard much about the Free Employee Choice Act lately. Periodically, Tom Harkin pops up to declare a “compromise” pending, but we never see much evidence of it. There may be a reason for that. The latest Rasmussen poll shows just how unpopular its central plank, card check, is:

Thirty percent (30%) of Americans say it is fair to form a union without having a secret ballot vote if a majority of a company’s workers sign a card saying they want to unionize.

But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of adults do not believe it is fair to form a union without a secret vote. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Republicans believe it’s unfair to establish a union without a secret ballot. Democrats and adults not affiliated with either party are more closely divided, although pluralities of both groups agree with the majority of Republicans.

And perhaps that is why organized labor is now making health care its No. 1 priority. Certainly, the president and Congress have more important priorities. After all, when unemployment was under 8% back in January, Obama was telling the Washington Post that “If we’re losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize, so my focus first is on those key economic priority items.”

Perhaps a crippling economic crisis was not the opening liberals initially considered it to be for springing their agenda on America. Some ideas actually sound worse when hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs each month. Taking away the secret ballot and imposing union contracts by mandatory arbitration are two such ideas that come to mind.

With cap-and-trade hitting the skids and health care in disarray, we haven’t heard much about the Free Employee Choice Act lately. Periodically, Tom Harkin pops up to declare a “compromise” pending, but we never see much evidence of it. There may be a reason for that. The latest Rasmussen poll shows just how unpopular its central plank, card check, is:

Thirty percent (30%) of Americans say it is fair to form a union without having a secret ballot vote if a majority of a company’s workers sign a card saying they want to unionize.

But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of adults do not believe it is fair to form a union without a secret vote. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of Republicans believe it’s unfair to establish a union without a secret ballot. Democrats and adults not affiliated with either party are more closely divided, although pluralities of both groups agree with the majority of Republicans.

And perhaps that is why organized labor is now making health care its No. 1 priority. Certainly, the president and Congress have more important priorities. After all, when unemployment was under 8% back in January, Obama was telling the Washington Post that “If we’re losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize, so my focus first is on those key economic priority items.”

Perhaps a crippling economic crisis was not the opening liberals initially considered it to be for springing their agenda on America. Some ideas actually sound worse when hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs each month. Taking away the secret ballot and imposing union contracts by mandatory arbitration are two such ideas that come to mind.

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Fighting Qassams with Bazookas

There’s a new chemical-weapons charge leveled against Israel:

Hamas suspects that Israeli intelligence services are supplying its Gaza Strip stronghold with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to “corrupt the young,” an official said on Tuesday.

“We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings,” Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP.

“The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops,” he said.

One half suspects Israel will announce an internal investigation and produce a report in a month. By then, though, the UN will have condemned the Jewing Gum, the Red Cross study will have revealed the depth of the damage to the Palestinian population, and British universities will call for super-duper extra special divestment from the Jewish State.

There’s a new chemical-weapons charge leveled against Israel:

Hamas suspects that Israeli intelligence services are supplying its Gaza Strip stronghold with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to “corrupt the young,” an official said on Tuesday.

“We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings,” Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP.

“The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops,” he said.

One half suspects Israel will announce an internal investigation and produce a report in a month. By then, though, the UN will have condemned the Jewing Gum, the Red Cross study will have revealed the depth of the damage to the Palestinian population, and British universities will call for super-duper extra special divestment from the Jewish State.

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It Doesn’t Quite Hang Together

In defending her “Wise Latina” speech this morning Sotomayor said she was trying to “inspire” but it “fell flat.” That requires some follow-up I think.

Why does she think it is inspiring to tell an ethnic group that they have superior insights over other ethnic or racial groups? Does she think that Latinas or Latinos are wiser than other judges? And if not, it seems poor form to tell law students and judges something she does not herself believe to be true.

Moreover, if this zinger fell “flat,” when did she figure it out? She used that line repeatedly, as late as 2004. And the 2001 speech was duplicated for a law review published the following year. Could she not have edited or amended her comments?

Certainly everyone now agrees the comment is unacceptable and conveys bias and ethnic condescension. But someone should ask her when she realized it.

In defending her “Wise Latina” speech this morning Sotomayor said she was trying to “inspire” but it “fell flat.” That requires some follow-up I think.

Why does she think it is inspiring to tell an ethnic group that they have superior insights over other ethnic or racial groups? Does she think that Latinas or Latinos are wiser than other judges? And if not, it seems poor form to tell law students and judges something she does not herself believe to be true.

Moreover, if this zinger fell “flat,” when did she figure it out? She used that line repeatedly, as late as 2004. And the 2001 speech was duplicated for a law review published the following year. Could she not have edited or amended her comments?

Certainly everyone now agrees the comment is unacceptable and conveys bias and ethnic condescension. But someone should ask her when she realized it.

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Hypoocrisy Isn’t Limited to the Nominee

Sen. Herb Kohl declares his distaste for the Kelo case, the controversial decision in which the Supreme Court allowed “takings” under the Fifth Amendment from one private property owner for the purpose of giving it to another. Too much government! Well, Senator, this is entirely fixable by the Congress, at least when it comes to the federal government. Why has he not introduced a “Private Property Protection Act” to prevent this sort of thing? Hmm. But now that private property advocates know how strongly he feels about it, perhaps they can approach him to do just this.

Sen. Herb Kohl declares his distaste for the Kelo case, the controversial decision in which the Supreme Court allowed “takings” under the Fifth Amendment from one private property owner for the purpose of giving it to another. Too much government! Well, Senator, this is entirely fixable by the Congress, at least when it comes to the federal government. Why has he not introduced a “Private Property Protection Act” to prevent this sort of thing? Hmm. But now that private property advocates know how strongly he feels about it, perhaps they can approach him to do just this.

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Why So Short?

Sessions focuses on why Sotomayor dealt with Ricci in such a cursory manner and whether the firefighters should have felt like they received a full hearing from her. In perhaps her worst answer she declares that they incorporated the district court opinion so they got their answer. But she had an obligation to review that, set out the facts, and provide her legal analysis. And, as a colleague reminds me, the district court decision was not published.

A wise judge put it this way:

The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged. That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected. That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.

We can debate whether Sessions could have relied more heavily on some of Sotomayor’s own words (and perhaps he will in future rounds) but his thirty minutes may have been the most effective questioning of a Supreme Court nominee in recent memory. You certainly got the sense that she has changed her tune — just in time for this hearing!

Sessions focuses on why Sotomayor dealt with Ricci in such a cursory manner and whether the firefighters should have felt like they received a full hearing from her. In perhaps her worst answer she declares that they incorporated the district court opinion so they got their answer. But she had an obligation to review that, set out the facts, and provide her legal analysis. And, as a colleague reminds me, the district court decision was not published.

A wise judge put it this way:

The process of judging is enhanced when the arguments and concerns of the parties to the litigation are understood and acknowledged. That is why I generally structure my opinions by setting out what the law requires and then by explaining why a contrary position, sympathetic or not, is accepted or rejected. That is how I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system. My personal and professional experiences help me listen and understand, with the law always commanding the result in every case.

We can debate whether Sessions could have relied more heavily on some of Sotomayor’s own words (and perhaps he will in future rounds) but his thirty minutes may have been the most effective questioning of a Supreme Court nominee in recent memory. You certainly got the sense that she has changed her tune — just in time for this hearing!

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Tories Hawkish on Defense?

The British Tories are absolutely right to blast Prime Minister Gordon Brown for “dereliction of duty” for sending troops into harm’s way in Afghanistan without the kind of equipment –”kit” as the Brits would say — needed to keep them safe. British forces don’t have nearly enough helicopters, which forces them to travel on heavily mined roads in lightly armed Land Rovers that have no hope of protecting troops from a powerful IED blast. Clearly, British forces need more helicopters and MRAP vehicles that can better protect them.

The larger story is that Tony Blair expanded British defense commitments by (rightly) sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq without at the same time expanding defense spending. At roughly $52 billion and 2.5% of GDP, British defense spending is relatively high compared to other European nations — but that’s not a good standard to judge by since most of Europe has effectively disarmed. Compared to past British spending or the requirements of today, the trends are ominous.

As this Daily Telegraph article pointed out, “troop numbers have fallen from 101,360 full-time personnel in 1997 to 9,460 in 2007 while the Royal Air Force has seen offensive squadrons fall from 16 to 11, and the Navy has lost eight destroyers and six rigates. Soldiers’ leave and training has also been squeezed.”

Part of the problem here has been a Labor Party willing to open the aps on domestic spending while being parsimonious with the military. (We are seeing the same trend with the Obama administration.) But the Tories have not exactly distinguished themselves. They have not made much of an issue of defense budgets and they have not promised to raise spending if they gain power. As this Daily Telegraph article pointed out last year:

Spending commitments are forbidden as the Tory leadership tries to resent the party as being disciplined enough for power.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, may say, as he did last night: The critical situation our Armed Forces face is the inevitable result of Labour’s failure to match commitments with resources.” He is not
yet pledged to spend a penny more on our forces because George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, will not let him.

[David] Cameron [the Conservative leader], too, has met and been heartily impressed by the former defence chiefs, who are rightly furious with the Government. The problem, he has said to his colleagues, is simple: “I don’t hear an idea that doesn’t involve me spending more money.”

Even today, after the problems in Afghanistan have been revealed, the Tory platform, while blasting “a decade of neglect by Labour” that has left the armed forces “overstretched, undermanned, and in possession of worn-out equipment,” does not commit to any specific increase in defense spending. All it says is:

A Conservative Government will match resources with commitments by launching a Strategic Defence Review and introducing a U.S.-style system of quadrennial defence reviews. It is completely unacceptable that the last Strategic Defence Review was conducted a decade ago…. [A] Conservative Government will repair the broken Military Covenant, respect our Armed Forces, and ensure that Forces’ families and veterans are taken care of.

In the absence of a pledge for more defense spending, the Tories are, I fear, giving the impression that they are opportunistically attacking the present government without offering a real alternative.

The British Tories are absolutely right to blast Prime Minister Gordon Brown for “dereliction of duty” for sending troops into harm’s way in Afghanistan without the kind of equipment –”kit” as the Brits would say — needed to keep them safe. British forces don’t have nearly enough helicopters, which forces them to travel on heavily mined roads in lightly armed Land Rovers that have no hope of protecting troops from a powerful IED blast. Clearly, British forces need more helicopters and MRAP vehicles that can better protect them.

The larger story is that Tony Blair expanded British defense commitments by (rightly) sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq without at the same time expanding defense spending. At roughly $52 billion and 2.5% of GDP, British defense spending is relatively high compared to other European nations — but that’s not a good standard to judge by since most of Europe has effectively disarmed. Compared to past British spending or the requirements of today, the trends are ominous.

As this Daily Telegraph article pointed out, “troop numbers have fallen from 101,360 full-time personnel in 1997 to 9,460 in 2007 while the Royal Air Force has seen offensive squadrons fall from 16 to 11, and the Navy has lost eight destroyers and six rigates. Soldiers’ leave and training has also been squeezed.”

Part of the problem here has been a Labor Party willing to open the aps on domestic spending while being parsimonious with the military. (We are seeing the same trend with the Obama administration.) But the Tories have not exactly distinguished themselves. They have not made much of an issue of defense budgets and they have not promised to raise spending if they gain power. As this Daily Telegraph article pointed out last year:

Spending commitments are forbidden as the Tory leadership tries to resent the party as being disciplined enough for power.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, may say, as he did last night: The critical situation our Armed Forces face is the inevitable result of Labour’s failure to match commitments with resources.” He is not
yet pledged to spend a penny more on our forces because George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, will not let him.

[David] Cameron [the Conservative leader], too, has met and been heartily impressed by the former defence chiefs, who are rightly furious with the Government. The problem, he has said to his colleagues, is simple: “I don’t hear an idea that doesn’t involve me spending more money.”

Even today, after the problems in Afghanistan have been revealed, the Tory platform, while blasting “a decade of neglect by Labour” that has left the armed forces “overstretched, undermanned, and in possession of worn-out equipment,” does not commit to any specific increase in defense spending. All it says is:

A Conservative Government will match resources with commitments by launching a Strategic Defence Review and introducing a U.S.-style system of quadrennial defence reviews. It is completely unacceptable that the last Strategic Defence Review was conducted a decade ago…. [A] Conservative Government will repair the broken Military Covenant, respect our Armed Forces, and ensure that Forces’ families and veterans are taken care of.

In the absence of a pledge for more defense spending, the Tories are, I fear, giving the impression that they are opportunistically attacking the present government without offering a real alternative.

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And Another Whopper

Sotomayor, under some fairly effective questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions, says that her “Wise Latina” speech was all about the effort to examine biases so you can put them aside. I’m with Tom Goldstein on this one: “On life experience, she thinks that judges need to examine her feelings so that she can put them aside. (Sorry, the speech kinda sounded like the opposite.)” Yeah, sort of. And she gave it in one form or another over and over again. Sessions has actually zeroed in on an aspect of the speech which directly takes issue with the notion of judicial impartiality. He’s making his point rather effectively.

The problem with her new-found fondness for judicial impartiality and restraint is that she has a long record of saying the opposite. If senators get the sense she is not being forthright, then this becomes not just a philosophy problem but a credibility one.

Sotomayor, under some fairly effective questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions, says that her “Wise Latina” speech was all about the effort to examine biases so you can put them aside. I’m with Tom Goldstein on this one: “On life experience, she thinks that judges need to examine her feelings so that she can put them aside. (Sorry, the speech kinda sounded like the opposite.)” Yeah, sort of. And she gave it in one form or another over and over again. Sessions has actually zeroed in on an aspect of the speech which directly takes issue with the notion of judicial impartiality. He’s making his point rather effectively.

The problem with her new-found fondness for judicial impartiality and restraint is that she has a long record of saying the opposite. If senators get the sense she is not being forthright, then this becomes not just a philosophy problem but a credibility one.

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She Tells a Whopper

Sotomayor says she was agreeing with Sandra Day O’Connor in her “wise Latina” speech. This is simply not true. The passage:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Sotomayor in this passage says she is NOT so sure she agrees. In fact, she doesn’t. O’Connor  is saying that men and women are intellectual equals and will reach the same decisions. Sotomayor is the advocate of ethnic or gender determinism.

Sotomayor says she was agreeing with Sandra Day O’Connor in her “wise Latina” speech. This is simply not true. The passage:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice [Sandra Day] O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Sotomayor in this passage says she is NOT so sure she agrees. In fact, she doesn’t. O’Connor  is saying that men and women are intellectual equals and will reach the same decisions. Sotomayor is the advocate of ethnic or gender determinism.

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The Questioning Begins

Sen. Leahy starts off by trying to bolster Sotomayor’s criminal prosecution credentials. She repeats the line from her opening remarks that she “does not make the law.” It never fails to amaze me that liberals do not have the nerve to be honest about their philosophy and when push comes to shove (i.e. a court nomination is on the line), they resort to, in effect, lying about their judicial philosophy. In her voluminous speeches she never once — except in deriding it (wink, wink!) offered the view that judges don’t make the law. Speech after speech was filled with moral relativism and calls to bring one’s ethnic baggage to the bench. Well, if hypocrisy is the tribute one pays to vice, it is never more in evidence in these type of proceedings. On a surface observation, she seems far less personable and cheery than we were led to believe she is from meetings with senators. Perhaps she is trying to be “serious”; she comes across a bit dull.

As to Ricci, Sotomayor goes with the defense that she was applying “precedent.” If the Republicans are smart, they will query on just what precedents those were and why, given the obvious implications, she did not spell out her reasoning in a full decision.

Sen. Leahy starts off by trying to bolster Sotomayor’s criminal prosecution credentials. She repeats the line from her opening remarks that she “does not make the law.” It never fails to amaze me that liberals do not have the nerve to be honest about their philosophy and when push comes to shove (i.e. a court nomination is on the line), they resort to, in effect, lying about their judicial philosophy. In her voluminous speeches she never once — except in deriding it (wink, wink!) offered the view that judges don’t make the law. Speech after speech was filled with moral relativism and calls to bring one’s ethnic baggage to the bench. Well, if hypocrisy is the tribute one pays to vice, it is never more in evidence in these type of proceedings. On a surface observation, she seems far less personable and cheery than we were led to believe she is from meetings with senators. Perhaps she is trying to be “serious”; she comes across a bit dull.

As to Ricci, Sotomayor goes with the defense that she was applying “precedent.” If the Republicans are smart, they will query on just what precedents those were and why, given the obvious implications, she did not spell out her reasoning in a full decision.

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No Deference Owed

The Washington Post editors would like senators to start showing deference to the Supreme Court nominee — now, of course. The editors are quite disturbed that Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats opposed and indeed filibustered conservative nominees. But it’s time to let bygones be bygones. This, of course, diminishes the very real concerns senators have about Sotomayor.

There is no deference owed to a nominee who cannot put aside personal biases. There is no deference owed to a judge who preaches ethnic determinism and elevates ethnic loyalty over professional responsibility. There is no deference owed to a nominee who denigrates the notion that judges can and should be impartial. There is no deference owed to a judge who defies court rules and deprives a litigant of a full hearing based on the merits of his claim.

In short, deference, if one believes any is owed to the president, does not trump the senators’ obligation to satisfy themselves on whether Sotomayor can live up to her own words — not make but apply the law, show fidelity to the law, ensure the law (and not her own agenda) is “commanding the result in every case.” If they conclude that she cannot, then they are obligated to vote against her.

And as for deference, that principle runs both ways. When the president pronounces that his central consideration is “empathy,” then the Senate has every reason to suspect something is amiss. If the president shows little appreciation for the difference between legislating and judging, then what basis is there to defer to his judgment in selecting a nominee? He told them he was looking for someone who wouldn’t be hung up on the text or the meaning of the documents that come before a judge. And he made clear that he wants a judge who will bring her life experiences to bear on the cases before her.

Thus, far from deserving deference, Obama and his nominee have given the Senate every reason to be on guard, to conduct an exacting inquiry, and to decide for themselves whether Sotomayor, as her oath requires, can “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and . . . faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon [her] under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

The Washington Post editors would like senators to start showing deference to the Supreme Court nominee — now, of course. The editors are quite disturbed that Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats opposed and indeed filibustered conservative nominees. But it’s time to let bygones be bygones. This, of course, diminishes the very real concerns senators have about Sotomayor.

There is no deference owed to a nominee who cannot put aside personal biases. There is no deference owed to a judge who preaches ethnic determinism and elevates ethnic loyalty over professional responsibility. There is no deference owed to a nominee who denigrates the notion that judges can and should be impartial. There is no deference owed to a judge who defies court rules and deprives a litigant of a full hearing based on the merits of his claim.

In short, deference, if one believes any is owed to the president, does not trump the senators’ obligation to satisfy themselves on whether Sotomayor can live up to her own words — not make but apply the law, show fidelity to the law, ensure the law (and not her own agenda) is “commanding the result in every case.” If they conclude that she cannot, then they are obligated to vote against her.

And as for deference, that principle runs both ways. When the president pronounces that his central consideration is “empathy,” then the Senate has every reason to suspect something is amiss. If the president shows little appreciation for the difference between legislating and judging, then what basis is there to defer to his judgment in selecting a nominee? He told them he was looking for someone who wouldn’t be hung up on the text or the meaning of the documents that come before a judge. And he made clear that he wants a judge who will bring her life experiences to bear on the cases before her.

Thus, far from deserving deference, Obama and his nominee have given the Senate every reason to be on guard, to conduct an exacting inquiry, and to decide for themselves whether Sotomayor, as her oath requires, can “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and . . . faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon [her] under the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

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Re: Averting Their Eyes

Jennifer’s important post on the meeting yesterday of 14 Jewish organizations with President Obama included this excerpt from a JTA report:

[Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm] Hoenlein said that peace progress was likelier when there was “no daylight” between Israel and the United States. Obama agreed that it must always be clear that Israel has unalloyed U.S. support, but added that for eight years there was “no daylight and no progress.”

The following would be my summary of the progress over the past eight years — which Obama apparently ignored in his response to the group:

After the Palestinians rejected an offer of a state at Camp David in 2000, rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2001, and conducted a terror war against Israeli civilians from September 2000-2002, Israel nevertheless agreed in 2003 to the “Performance-Based Roadmap” for the creation of a Palestinian state, despite reservations about the manner in which that plan would actually be implemented.

In 2003 and thereafter, Israel ceased all settlement activity — as it understood that Phase I Roadmap obligation (no new settlements; no building outside settlement boundaries; no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements) — and believed American officials agreed with its interpretation of that obligation.

In 2004, after the Palestinian Authority failed to meet its own Phase I Roadmap obligation (sustained efforts to dismantle terrorist groups and infrastructure), Israel nevertheless proposed to dismantle every existing settlement in Gaza (not just “outposts”), remove every Israeli soldier, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority — in exchange for a written American commitment to defensible borders and retention of the major settlement blocs necessary to insure them.

In 2005, after receiving the American commitment, Israel proceeded to carry out the Gaza disengagement, despite the political and social upheaval within Israel it caused, including the break-up of the ruling party and nationwide demonstrations, and – at State Department insistence – further dismantled four settlements (not just “outposts”) in the West Bank as well, to demonstrate the disengagement would be “Gaza First,” not “Gaza Last.”

In 2006, after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government, Israelis nevertheless re-elected Kadima on a platform of “convergence” (the new name for withdrawal from the West Bank), and would have carried it out but for the attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon that caused two wars and finally convinced Israelis further withdrawals were insane.

In 2007, despite the Palestinian failure to carry out its Phase I dismantlement obligation, and its categorical rejection of Phase II (a state with provisional sovereignty before Phase III final status negotiations), Israel agreed to proceed immediately to final status negotiations once again under the “Annapolis Process.”

Throughout 2008, Israel negotiated with its “peace partner” under the accelerated process, and offered 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) for a state, with concessions on other major issues, all of which were rejected.

During this eight-year period, the Palestinian concessions (aka reciprocal “progress”) can be enumerated more briefly:  zero.  The “peace partner” still demands “every inch” of the West Bank, the entire Old City of Jerusalem, and a “right of return” to Israel for every Palestinian “refugee.”  It refuses to negotiate without the immediate and continued cessation of any Israeli population growth in areas Israel will keep in any conceivable peace agreement.

Obama told the group yesterday there is “a narrow window of opportunity” that demands Israel engage in “serious self-reflection” because the Bush administration’s approach “was not helpful in advancing the peace process.”

Was there no one at the meeting yesterday prepared to challenge Obama’s claim about the absence of “progress,” or articulate which side has repeatedly rejected an eight-year “window of opportunity” (and consequently needs some “serious self-reflection”), or ask how the continued refusal to endorse the April 14 letter is consistent with any confidence in the president’s assurance yesterday of his “unalloyed support,” or even back up Hoenlein’s suggestion that daylight between the U.S. and Israel is not the path to peace?  No one?

Jennifer’s important post on the meeting yesterday of 14 Jewish organizations with President Obama included this excerpt from a JTA report:

[Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm] Hoenlein said that peace progress was likelier when there was “no daylight” between Israel and the United States. Obama agreed that it must always be clear that Israel has unalloyed U.S. support, but added that for eight years there was “no daylight and no progress.”

The following would be my summary of the progress over the past eight years — which Obama apparently ignored in his response to the group:

After the Palestinians rejected an offer of a state at Camp David in 2000, rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2001, and conducted a terror war against Israeli civilians from September 2000-2002, Israel nevertheless agreed in 2003 to the “Performance-Based Roadmap” for the creation of a Palestinian state, despite reservations about the manner in which that plan would actually be implemented.

In 2003 and thereafter, Israel ceased all settlement activity — as it understood that Phase I Roadmap obligation (no new settlements; no building outside settlement boundaries; no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements) — and believed American officials agreed with its interpretation of that obligation.

In 2004, after the Palestinian Authority failed to meet its own Phase I Roadmap obligation (sustained efforts to dismantle terrorist groups and infrastructure), Israel nevertheless proposed to dismantle every existing settlement in Gaza (not just “outposts”), remove every Israeli soldier, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority — in exchange for a written American commitment to defensible borders and retention of the major settlement blocs necessary to insure them.

In 2005, after receiving the American commitment, Israel proceeded to carry out the Gaza disengagement, despite the political and social upheaval within Israel it caused, including the break-up of the ruling party and nationwide demonstrations, and – at State Department insistence – further dismantled four settlements (not just “outposts”) in the West Bank as well, to demonstrate the disengagement would be “Gaza First,” not “Gaza Last.”

In 2006, after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government, Israelis nevertheless re-elected Kadima on a platform of “convergence” (the new name for withdrawal from the West Bank), and would have carried it out but for the attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon that caused two wars and finally convinced Israelis further withdrawals were insane.

In 2007, despite the Palestinian failure to carry out its Phase I dismantlement obligation, and its categorical rejection of Phase II (a state with provisional sovereignty before Phase III final status negotiations), Israel agreed to proceed immediately to final status negotiations once again under the “Annapolis Process.”

Throughout 2008, Israel negotiated with its “peace partner” under the accelerated process, and offered 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) for a state, with concessions on other major issues, all of which were rejected.

During this eight-year period, the Palestinian concessions (aka reciprocal “progress”) can be enumerated more briefly:  zero.  The “peace partner” still demands “every inch” of the West Bank, the entire Old City of Jerusalem, and a “right of return” to Israel for every Palestinian “refugee.”  It refuses to negotiate without the immediate and continued cessation of any Israeli population growth in areas Israel will keep in any conceivable peace agreement.

Obama told the group yesterday there is “a narrow window of opportunity” that demands Israel engage in “serious self-reflection” because the Bush administration’s approach “was not helpful in advancing the peace process.”

Was there no one at the meeting yesterday prepared to challenge Obama’s claim about the absence of “progress,” or articulate which side has repeatedly rejected an eight-year “window of opportunity” (and consequently needs some “serious self-reflection”), or ask how the continued refusal to endorse the April 14 letter is consistent with any confidence in the president’s assurance yesterday of his “unalloyed support,” or even back up Hoenlein’s suggestion that daylight between the U.S. and Israel is not the path to peace?  No one?

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Are they Trying To Ruin Our Intelligence Agencies?

This report sheds some light on the utter breakdown in the “relationship” between the CIA and Congress. As for the Democrats’ latest claim — apparently based on Leon Panetta’s accusation – that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to brief Congress on a plan to take out top al Qaeda operatives, former CIA chief Michael Hayden says it isn’t so: “I never felt I had any impediment in briefing Congress.”

But the depth of the hostility between Congress and the CIA is now out in the open:

Former spies and some political leaders are saying that a lack of trust between Congress and the CIA is putting the country’s security in jeopardy.

“It’s one of the last nails in the CIA’s coffin. It’s finished. It’s over. It’s done,” said former Central Intelligence Agency operative Robert Baer, whose exploits in the Middle East were the model for George Clooney’s role in “Syriana.”

“I know I’ve been lied to,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said.

The rift between Congress and the CIA has been so bitter that when analysts have headed to Capitol Hill, the agency gave them this stock response: “I’m sorry, but I will be unable to continue our dialogue if you continue to question my integrity or that of my agency.”

“The danger is today that we might go too far,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “And that could cause us to not have that critical bit of intelligence that could protect this country.”

The current administration and Congress have, as Sen Judd Gregg put it, brought us full circle  back to “this Frank Church atmosphere in this Senate and in this Congress, where, basically, where people use the CIA as a whipping boy.” How’s morale over at Langley?

“You have people running for the doors there, continue running for the doors, and it’s going to hurt our national security,” Baer said. “It’s going to interfere with stopping another 9/11.”

With rising criticism and poisoned relations with Congress, the agency’s headquarters feel like a morgue, he says.

Another blow for morale could come if Holder goes ahead with criminal investigations into so-called enhanced interrogation tactics.

Republicans say the appointment of a special prosecutor and prosecutions of high-level career CIA operatives is a bad idea.

“This continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence-gathering organizations is undermining the morale and capacity of those organizations to gather intelligence,” Gregg said.

The swirl of investigations seems to be exactly what President Obama has repeatedly said he does not want. . . But looking backward is exactly what is happening. With a special prosecutor likely to be named and congressional Democrats preparing their own investigations, the debate over the Bush administration’s actions after the Sept. 11 attacks remains front-and-center in Washington.

So that would make Obama’s national-security policy a failure then, if we take him at his word. We are doing nothing but looking back and telling those whose job it is to protect us that they will not be protected but indicted, smeared, and second-guessed. The president and his CIA chief Panetta, despite their pretty words and a glad-handing visit to Langley earlier in the year, seem intent on stirring the pot and playing another round of “get the Bush administration,” rather than striving to maintain and improve our national-security apparatus. It would be hard to imagine how so much damage could be infliected in such a short time. But this crew managed to do it. It’s a “change” alright.

This report sheds some light on the utter breakdown in the “relationship” between the CIA and Congress. As for the Democrats’ latest claim — apparently based on Leon Panetta’s accusation – that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to brief Congress on a plan to take out top al Qaeda operatives, former CIA chief Michael Hayden says it isn’t so: “I never felt I had any impediment in briefing Congress.”

But the depth of the hostility between Congress and the CIA is now out in the open:

Former spies and some political leaders are saying that a lack of trust between Congress and the CIA is putting the country’s security in jeopardy.

“It’s one of the last nails in the CIA’s coffin. It’s finished. It’s over. It’s done,” said former Central Intelligence Agency operative Robert Baer, whose exploits in the Middle East were the model for George Clooney’s role in “Syriana.”

“I know I’ve been lied to,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said.

The rift between Congress and the CIA has been so bitter that when analysts have headed to Capitol Hill, the agency gave them this stock response: “I’m sorry, but I will be unable to continue our dialogue if you continue to question my integrity or that of my agency.”

“The danger is today that we might go too far,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “And that could cause us to not have that critical bit of intelligence that could protect this country.”

The current administration and Congress have, as Sen Judd Gregg put it, brought us full circle  back to “this Frank Church atmosphere in this Senate and in this Congress, where, basically, where people use the CIA as a whipping boy.” How’s morale over at Langley?

“You have people running for the doors there, continue running for the doors, and it’s going to hurt our national security,” Baer said. “It’s going to interfere with stopping another 9/11.”

With rising criticism and poisoned relations with Congress, the agency’s headquarters feel like a morgue, he says.

Another blow for morale could come if Holder goes ahead with criminal investigations into so-called enhanced interrogation tactics.

Republicans say the appointment of a special prosecutor and prosecutions of high-level career CIA operatives is a bad idea.

“This continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence-gathering organizations is undermining the morale and capacity of those organizations to gather intelligence,” Gregg said.

The swirl of investigations seems to be exactly what President Obama has repeatedly said he does not want. . . But looking backward is exactly what is happening. With a special prosecutor likely to be named and congressional Democrats preparing their own investigations, the debate over the Bush administration’s actions after the Sept. 11 attacks remains front-and-center in Washington.

So that would make Obama’s national-security policy a failure then, if we take him at his word. We are doing nothing but looking back and telling those whose job it is to protect us that they will not be protected but indicted, smeared, and second-guessed. The president and his CIA chief Panetta, despite their pretty words and a glad-handing visit to Langley earlier in the year, seem intent on stirring the pot and playing another round of “get the Bush administration,” rather than striving to maintain and improve our national-security apparatus. It would be hard to imagine how so much damage could be infliected in such a short time. But this crew managed to do it. It’s a “change” alright.

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