Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 24, 2009

President Calls “Uncle”

In a surprise appearance in the White House pressroom, Obama essentially threw in the towel and tried to dig out of the mess of his own making in the Gates-Crowley episode. He didn’t quite apologize, but he came close:

I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved.  And I have to tell you that as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation — and I told him that.

And because this has been ratcheting up — and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up — I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically — and I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station.  I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.  My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.

Rather than blame the media for the flap (as the hapless Robert Gibbs had done earlier in the day), he rationalized that this showed just how “sensitive” these issues are.

Well, I suppose the first rule of politics is when you are in a hole: stop digging. He seemed to do that today. But there was something missing here. The president neither recognizes nor seems to appreciate that as president he shouldn’t be commenting on law-enforcement matters at all, regardless of whether (or maybe, especially when) he knows one of the participants. He is, after all, the president and, as Pete pointed out, his role carries with it a responsibility to refrain from commenting at times, especially when legal charges and countercharges haven’t even been filed.

Some may recall Richard Nixon catching flack for commenting on Charles Mason before his murder trial. An affront! How dare he prejudice the legal system! Indeed, the office of the presidency entails grave responsibilities, one of which is to pipe down when your words can unduly influence, hinder, or obstruct the impartial administration of justice.

Aside from throwing his health-care message into the ditch, this episode only serves to fuel the suspicion that this is a president who feels free to weigh in on and influence every nook and cranny of American life. Sometimes there are events that simply aren’t the business of the president of the United States. It would be nice to think that a lesson has been learned that might be extrapolated to other situations. Unfortunately, everything we’ve seen of late suggests that Obama thinks he knows best — about every conceivable topic.

In a surprise appearance in the White House pressroom, Obama essentially threw in the towel and tried to dig out of the mess of his own making in the Gates-Crowley episode. He didn’t quite apologize, but he came close:

I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved.  And I have to tell you that as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was a outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation — and I told him that.

And because this has been ratcheting up — and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up — I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically — and I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.

I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station.  I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.  My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.

Rather than blame the media for the flap (as the hapless Robert Gibbs had done earlier in the day), he rationalized that this showed just how “sensitive” these issues are.

Well, I suppose the first rule of politics is when you are in a hole: stop digging. He seemed to do that today. But there was something missing here. The president neither recognizes nor seems to appreciate that as president he shouldn’t be commenting on law-enforcement matters at all, regardless of whether (or maybe, especially when) he knows one of the participants. He is, after all, the president and, as Pete pointed out, his role carries with it a responsibility to refrain from commenting at times, especially when legal charges and countercharges haven’t even been filed.

Some may recall Richard Nixon catching flack for commenting on Charles Mason before his murder trial. An affront! How dare he prejudice the legal system! Indeed, the office of the presidency entails grave responsibilities, one of which is to pipe down when your words can unduly influence, hinder, or obstruct the impartial administration of justice.

Aside from throwing his health-care message into the ditch, this episode only serves to fuel the suspicion that this is a president who feels free to weigh in on and influence every nook and cranny of American life. Sometimes there are events that simply aren’t the business of the president of the United States. It would be nice to think that a lesson has been learned that might be extrapolated to other situations. Unfortunately, everything we’ve seen of late suggests that Obama thinks he knows best — about every conceivable topic.

Read Less

Each Bill Is Worse than the Last

Charles Krauthammer writes:

What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health-care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can’t fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

It’s not like this was the first legislative monstrosity to come out of the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika. There was the overstuffed stimulus boondoggle. Then came the 9,000 earmarked supplemental. Next was the $3.5 trillion budget. And topping it off was the Rube Goldberg cap-and-trade with ephemeral benefits and certain costs. This group specializes in junk legislation devoted to only one aim: expanding the size of government. And the legislation seems to be getting worse over time. The stimulus plan merely wasted our money. Cap-and-trade would hobble our economy. ObamaCare would both hobble our economy and our health-care system.

Indeed, health-care reform finally broke the camel’s back — specifically, the public’s patience and the Blue Dogs’ tolerance for expensive power grabs. More attention was paid to it, so the public slowly got an inkling of what was going on. And, of course, since health care is a more personal and therefore more emotional issue, more voters felt compelled to follow what was happening. The intense scrutiny and the president’s grandstanding may actually have worked against him. He wound up focusing a usually distracted electorate on what he and his congressional allies were up to.

Part of the legislative problem here stems from misguided ideas — the worst being the undiluted faith in the government’s ability to micromanage every aspect of our lives. But some of this is lazy and incoherent governance by the president. On his signature issue, he never put his name on a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan. Instead, he resorted to his “comfort zone” — press conferences, staged town-hall meetings, and dog-and-pony photo ops. That may work to get you elected, but as we have learned, it won’t make you a successful president. And it sure won’t result in a smart health-care reform bill.

Charles Krauthammer writes:

What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health-care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can’t fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

It’s not like this was the first legislative monstrosity to come out of the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika. There was the overstuffed stimulus boondoggle. Then came the 9,000 earmarked supplemental. Next was the $3.5 trillion budget. And topping it off was the Rube Goldberg cap-and-trade with ephemeral benefits and certain costs. This group specializes in junk legislation devoted to only one aim: expanding the size of government. And the legislation seems to be getting worse over time. The stimulus plan merely wasted our money. Cap-and-trade would hobble our economy. ObamaCare would both hobble our economy and our health-care system.

Indeed, health-care reform finally broke the camel’s back — specifically, the public’s patience and the Blue Dogs’ tolerance for expensive power grabs. More attention was paid to it, so the public slowly got an inkling of what was going on. And, of course, since health care is a more personal and therefore more emotional issue, more voters felt compelled to follow what was happening. The intense scrutiny and the president’s grandstanding may actually have worked against him. He wound up focusing a usually distracted electorate on what he and his congressional allies were up to.

Part of the legislative problem here stems from misguided ideas — the worst being the undiluted faith in the government’s ability to micromanage every aspect of our lives. But some of this is lazy and incoherent governance by the president. On his signature issue, he never put his name on a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan. Instead, he resorted to his “comfort zone” — press conferences, staged town-hall meetings, and dog-and-pony photo ops. That may work to get you elected, but as we have learned, it won’t make you a successful president. And it sure won’t result in a smart health-care reform bill.

Read Less

Ninety-Three Percent Stand as One with Obama

Spiegel Online has an article today discussing the Pew poll on which Jennifer and Max  have commented.  The article notes that Obama’s poll ratings in Germany are astronomical:

Almost every German surveyed said they trusted Obama (93 percent). . . .

Additionally, a majority of Germans (93 percent) think that Obama will do the “right thing” when it comes to foreign policy — almost 80 percent more than in the Bush years.

The article states that a significant part of Obama’s European popularity comes from his decision to close Guantanamo. It’s too bad the poll didn’t seek a reaction to the prospect of the trusted Obama’s not actually closing Guantanamo as promised.

The article did note that once rhetoric gets compared to actual policies, Obama’s popularity might be at risk — especially if he asks Germany to do something:

Most Germans (63 percent) still do not approve of the deployment of the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, as part of the ISAF security force in Afghanistan. This could eventually lead to strife in the trans-Atlantic relationship, especially if Washington pushed for more German engagement in Afghanistan — a request that, at the very latest, is expected to come after German federal elections in September.

According to the article, German soldiers are currently stationed “in the relatively secure north of Afghanistan and not in the more dangerous south where the chances are greater of getting caught up in combat situations.” If Obama decides the “right thing” is to ask Germany to provide “more engagement,” trust may start heading south toward Bush-era levels.

It’s a shame, because if Germany would just respond to his call for standing as one, we might prevail in Afghanistan, just as One World did in Berlin. Perhaps Obama can preserve his popularity (and not need as much European help) by redefining the mission as something other than victory.

Spiegel Online has an article today discussing the Pew poll on which Jennifer and Max  have commented.  The article notes that Obama’s poll ratings in Germany are astronomical:

Almost every German surveyed said they trusted Obama (93 percent). . . .

Additionally, a majority of Germans (93 percent) think that Obama will do the “right thing” when it comes to foreign policy — almost 80 percent more than in the Bush years.

The article states that a significant part of Obama’s European popularity comes from his decision to close Guantanamo. It’s too bad the poll didn’t seek a reaction to the prospect of the trusted Obama’s not actually closing Guantanamo as promised.

The article did note that once rhetoric gets compared to actual policies, Obama’s popularity might be at risk — especially if he asks Germany to do something:

Most Germans (63 percent) still do not approve of the deployment of the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, as part of the ISAF security force in Afghanistan. This could eventually lead to strife in the trans-Atlantic relationship, especially if Washington pushed for more German engagement in Afghanistan — a request that, at the very latest, is expected to come after German federal elections in September.

According to the article, German soldiers are currently stationed “in the relatively secure north of Afghanistan and not in the more dangerous south where the chances are greater of getting caught up in combat situations.” If Obama decides the “right thing” is to ask Germany to provide “more engagement,” trust may start heading south toward Bush-era levels.

It’s a shame, because if Germany would just respond to his call for standing as one, we might prevail in Afghanistan, just as One World did in Berlin. Perhaps Obama can preserve his popularity (and not need as much European help) by redefining the mission as something other than victory.

Read Less

The Real Culture War — Palestinian Terrorism: The Movie

If you like Palestinian terrorism, then you’ll love the new Hamas-produced movie now premiering in Gaza. In today’s New York Times, Ethan Bronner writes that the film (shot in a media center built in what used to be the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif) profiles the life of Emad Akel, a Hamas leader killed in 1993. According to the article, the film is part of a new Palestinian cultural renaissance aimed at building a “culture of resistance.” The artistic boom in Gaza includes movies, plays, art exhibits, poetry, and television series.

Bronner notes that not everybody in Gaza is thrilled with the result of Hamas rule, since it has brought nothing but death and poverty. But that’s why the leadership of the Islamist terrorist group think it’s all the more important to devote themselves to propaganda that will help justify their ideology of war-to-the-death against Israel. Though their rocket fire against Sderot and other Israeli towns and villages has slowed, they believe their top challenge is to dramatize the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, whose misery is a direct result of being run by a group bent on confrontation with Israel but completely uninterested in giving the people there a better life.

The importance of this “culture of resistance” should not be underestimated. Though Bronner treats the Hamas arts festival as a change of direction for the Palestinians, the last decade of anti-Israel terrorism was fomented in no small part by the official media of the Palestinian Authority, which took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1994. One of the greatest ironies of the Oslo peace process was that it facilitated the indoctrination in hatred and violence of a generation of Palestinian youths. As monitoring organizations such as Palestine Media Watch and MEMRI have shown, the drumbeat of incitement against Jews and Israel on Palestinian TV and radio has been incessant and effective. Children’s shows are particularly vile as they laud suicide bombings and encourage kids to aspire to nothing higher than murdering as many Jews as possible.

Hamas’s current goal is to win greater international sympathy for its cause and undermine the economic boycott of Gaza. The boycott’s goal is to prevent the terrorist group from rearming and to make it plain to its supporters that so long as they allow themselves to be ruled by terrorists, normal relations with the rest of the world are impossible. When Israel withdrew every settler and soldier from the Strip in 2005, Palestinians could have used their new autonomy to build a decent life. Instead, under Hamas’s leadership, they have redoubled their efforts to wage war on Israel. While we would hope that more Palestinians express their disgust with the rocket attacks and Hamas’s decision to sacrifice their own people on the altar of anti-Israel terror, the prospects for change appear dim.

Though Bronner sees as part of a competition to win the sympathy of the world Hamas’s current strategy and Israeli initiatives to lessen the suffering of ordinary Palestinians held hostage by the terrorists, the real key to peace is the race for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. One of the key failures of Middle East peace processors in the past has been ignoring the way both Fatah and Hamas taught hatred and rejection of peace with a Jewish state. President Obama’s obsession with Jewish settlement-building in and outside Jerusalem has shifted the focus away from the real obstacle to peace, which is a Palestinian political culture steeped in martyrdom, violence, and an unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of Israel.

If you like Palestinian terrorism, then you’ll love the new Hamas-produced movie now premiering in Gaza. In today’s New York Times, Ethan Bronner writes that the film (shot in a media center built in what used to be the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif) profiles the life of Emad Akel, a Hamas leader killed in 1993. According to the article, the film is part of a new Palestinian cultural renaissance aimed at building a “culture of resistance.” The artistic boom in Gaza includes movies, plays, art exhibits, poetry, and television series.

Bronner notes that not everybody in Gaza is thrilled with the result of Hamas rule, since it has brought nothing but death and poverty. But that’s why the leadership of the Islamist terrorist group think it’s all the more important to devote themselves to propaganda that will help justify their ideology of war-to-the-death against Israel. Though their rocket fire against Sderot and other Israeli towns and villages has slowed, they believe their top challenge is to dramatize the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, whose misery is a direct result of being run by a group bent on confrontation with Israel but completely uninterested in giving the people there a better life.

The importance of this “culture of resistance” should not be underestimated. Though Bronner treats the Hamas arts festival as a change of direction for the Palestinians, the last decade of anti-Israel terrorism was fomented in no small part by the official media of the Palestinian Authority, which took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1994. One of the greatest ironies of the Oslo peace process was that it facilitated the indoctrination in hatred and violence of a generation of Palestinian youths. As monitoring organizations such as Palestine Media Watch and MEMRI have shown, the drumbeat of incitement against Jews and Israel on Palestinian TV and radio has been incessant and effective. Children’s shows are particularly vile as they laud suicide bombings and encourage kids to aspire to nothing higher than murdering as many Jews as possible.

Hamas’s current goal is to win greater international sympathy for its cause and undermine the economic boycott of Gaza. The boycott’s goal is to prevent the terrorist group from rearming and to make it plain to its supporters that so long as they allow themselves to be ruled by terrorists, normal relations with the rest of the world are impossible. When Israel withdrew every settler and soldier from the Strip in 2005, Palestinians could have used their new autonomy to build a decent life. Instead, under Hamas’s leadership, they have redoubled their efforts to wage war on Israel. While we would hope that more Palestinians express their disgust with the rocket attacks and Hamas’s decision to sacrifice their own people on the altar of anti-Israel terror, the prospects for change appear dim.

Though Bronner sees as part of a competition to win the sympathy of the world Hamas’s current strategy and Israeli initiatives to lessen the suffering of ordinary Palestinians held hostage by the terrorists, the real key to peace is the race for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. One of the key failures of Middle East peace processors in the past has been ignoring the way both Fatah and Hamas taught hatred and rejection of peace with a Jewish state. President Obama’s obsession with Jewish settlement-building in and outside Jerusalem has shifted the focus away from the real obstacle to peace, which is a Palestinian political culture steeped in martyrdom, violence, and an unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of Israel.

Read Less

Popularity, but for What?

Mission accomplished. So President Obama can proclaim after the release of the new Pew poll showing that global opinion of the United States is on an upswing since he assumed the presidency. As the polltakers sum up:

The image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. In many countries opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office. Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared. But opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well. . . . [I]n Germany favorable opinion of the U.S. jumped from 31% in 2008 to 64% in the current survey. Large boosts in U.S. favorability ratings since last year are also recorded in Britain, Spain and France. In its own hemisphere, America’s image rose markedly in Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

But the love fest is hardly universal:

[F]or the most part, opinions of the U.S. among Muslims in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Animosity toward the U.S., however, continues to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan.

Israel stands out in the poll as the only public among the 25 surveyed where the current U.S. rating is lower than in past surveys.

So perhaps this is not “mission accomplished” after all, since it is in precisely the countries we worry about most — Muslim countries — where animosity to the U.S. continues to run the deepest. Reducing Israeli confidence in the U.S. is also nothing to be proud of since it will make harder Obama’s stated goal of wringing concessions from the Israelis on settlements and other issues.

It’s nice that the Europeans like us better now that Obama is in office — and that’s nothing to scoff at. No doubt the European animosity engendered by President Bush was not helpful to our overall foreign policy, and I am genuinely glad that Obama has gotten off on a better foot with Europe, although relations with France and Germany, among others, were largely repaired in Bush’s second term by the emergence of more pro-American leaders in those countries.

The bigger question is, So what? What advantage can we wring from Europeans loving our prez? Will they commit more troops to Afghanistan? Get tough with Iran? Spend more on defense to reduce our burden? So far the answers are no, no, and no. Popularity isn’t an end in itself. So far the Obama administration has not shown much success in leveraging the top guy’s favorability ratings. In fact, just in the past week the administration suffered embarrassing rebukes by India over emissions controls and by Israel over settlement in East Jerusalem. Unless the administration can do more to take advantage of these poll numbers, it will be seen as an increasingly empty accomplishment.

Mission accomplished. So President Obama can proclaim after the release of the new Pew poll showing that global opinion of the United States is on an upswing since he assumed the presidency. As the polltakers sum up:

The image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. In many countries opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office. Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared. But opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well. . . . [I]n Germany favorable opinion of the U.S. jumped from 31% in 2008 to 64% in the current survey. Large boosts in U.S. favorability ratings since last year are also recorded in Britain, Spain and France. In its own hemisphere, America’s image rose markedly in Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

But the love fest is hardly universal:

[F]or the most part, opinions of the U.S. among Muslims in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Animosity toward the U.S., however, continues to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan.

Israel stands out in the poll as the only public among the 25 surveyed where the current U.S. rating is lower than in past surveys.

So perhaps this is not “mission accomplished” after all, since it is in precisely the countries we worry about most — Muslim countries — where animosity to the U.S. continues to run the deepest. Reducing Israeli confidence in the U.S. is also nothing to be proud of since it will make harder Obama’s stated goal of wringing concessions from the Israelis on settlements and other issues.

It’s nice that the Europeans like us better now that Obama is in office — and that’s nothing to scoff at. No doubt the European animosity engendered by President Bush was not helpful to our overall foreign policy, and I am genuinely glad that Obama has gotten off on a better foot with Europe, although relations with France and Germany, among others, were largely repaired in Bush’s second term by the emergence of more pro-American leaders in those countries.

The bigger question is, So what? What advantage can we wring from Europeans loving our prez? Will they commit more troops to Afghanistan? Get tough with Iran? Spend more on defense to reduce our burden? So far the answers are no, no, and no. Popularity isn’t an end in itself. So far the Obama administration has not shown much success in leveraging the top guy’s favorability ratings. In fact, just in the past week the administration suffered embarrassing rebukes by India over emissions controls and by Israel over settlement in East Jerusalem. Unless the administration can do more to take advantage of these poll numbers, it will be seen as an increasingly empty accomplishment.

Read Less

Victory Is So Yesterday

Is this language befitting a wartime commander-in-chief?

President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but “victory” in the war-torn country isn’t necessarily the United States’ goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview.

“I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur,” Obama told ABC News.

The enemy facing U.S. and Afghan forces isn’t so clearly defined, he explained.

“We’re not dealing with nation states at this point. We’re concerned with al Qaeda and the Taliban, al Qaeda’s allies,” he said. “So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States.”

So victory itself is now an outdated construct — like ideology or, heaven forbid, American exceptionalism. If the president thinks that asymmetric war precludes victory, then the U.S., in his estimation, is likely never to win a war again.

There is a reason that the word victory conjures up in Barack Obama’s mind the 64-year-old image of Hirohito and MacArthur: he has never acknowledged the much more recent American victory in Iraq. If he had not politicized and downplayed the U.S. accomplishments there, he would have a sterling example of an American triumph in asymmetric conditions. Instead, he inspires the headline (seen by friends and enemies alike) “Obama: ‘Victory’ Not Necessarily Goal in Afghanistan.” Isn’t that grand?

Moreover, this presidential deconstruction of the concept of victory comes at the very moment we are calling on young Americans and soldiers in allied nations to make the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. For a man who said that the U.S. lost its momentum in the fight in Afghanistan under George W. Bush, undoing the notion of winning a few weeks into a renewed campaign seems like a strange step.

Is this language befitting a wartime commander-in-chief?

President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but “victory” in the war-torn country isn’t necessarily the United States’ goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview.

“I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur,” Obama told ABC News.

The enemy facing U.S. and Afghan forces isn’t so clearly defined, he explained.

“We’re not dealing with nation states at this point. We’re concerned with al Qaeda and the Taliban, al Qaeda’s allies,” he said. “So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States.”

So victory itself is now an outdated construct — like ideology or, heaven forbid, American exceptionalism. If the president thinks that asymmetric war precludes victory, then the U.S., in his estimation, is likely never to win a war again.

There is a reason that the word victory conjures up in Barack Obama’s mind the 64-year-old image of Hirohito and MacArthur: he has never acknowledged the much more recent American victory in Iraq. If he had not politicized and downplayed the U.S. accomplishments there, he would have a sterling example of an American triumph in asymmetric conditions. Instead, he inspires the headline (seen by friends and enemies alike) “Obama: ‘Victory’ Not Necessarily Goal in Afghanistan.” Isn’t that grand?

Moreover, this presidential deconstruction of the concept of victory comes at the very moment we are calling on young Americans and soldiers in allied nations to make the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. For a man who said that the U.S. lost its momentum in the fight in Afghanistan under George W. Bush, undoing the notion of winning a few weeks into a renewed campaign seems like a strange step.

Read Less

Time Ignores Facts About the Libby Case

Time magazine devotes a feature of more than 4,700 words to the dispute between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney over the former’s refusal to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice presidential aide convicted of obstructing an investigation into the leaking of a CIA officer’s identity.

The story supplies plenty of interesting details about Bush’s rebuff of his friend, who believed the president had abandoned a loyal soldier of the war on terror on the battlefield. The account makes it clear that White House legal counsel Fred Fielding was a staunch opponent of the pardon and that his views were enough to persuade Bush to hold off Cheney’s impassioned and persistent appeals.

The article rehearses at length the background of Libby’s case and repeats the oft-heard allegations that revealing Plame’s identity to Robert Novak was an attempt to silence critics of the war in Iraq. But nowhere does this long piece ever mention that it was not Libby who “outed” Plame as a CIA officer who had misused her influence to send her husband on a WMD-related intelligence mission in Iraq.

Though the lies about Cheney, Karl Rove, and Libby have attained the status of accepted facts, in the course of Libby’s trial, it was revealed that the real leaker was Richard Armitage, an aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The gossipy Armitage not only wasn’t a cheerleader for the war but, like his boss Powell, spent much of his time in office sniping at Cheney. Moreover, the allegation that Joe Wilson told the truth about WMDs while Cheney and Libby lied was also false. The decision of authors Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf to ignore the real context of the Libby case and pretend that the truth about the real leaker had never been found is a case of journalistic malpractice.

Scooter Libby’s prosecution was an absurd abuse of prosecutorial power. The entire Plame controversy was a successful attempt to criminalize policy differences in which a man who had devoted much of his adult life to public service was threatened with prison because in the course of interrogations of various media figures, one was found who had a different recollection of a single conversation. Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence was a proper use of presidential power because it prevented a miscarriage of justice. But it didn’t go far enough. A full pardon was called for in this case.

Unfortunately, Bush was more concerned about being accused by his critics — who routinely defamed him no matter what he did — of covering up a crime that never happened than in doing right by Libby. Time’s story on the episode shows how the “Bush lied” school on Iraq is still more than willing to keep alive the myths about the war. Though I’m sure history will treat Bush’s presidency with more kindness than his contemporary critics have, his failure to pardon Libby was a dishonorable last chapter to the Bush White House story.

Time magazine devotes a feature of more than 4,700 words to the dispute between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney over the former’s refusal to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice presidential aide convicted of obstructing an investigation into the leaking of a CIA officer’s identity.

The story supplies plenty of interesting details about Bush’s rebuff of his friend, who believed the president had abandoned a loyal soldier of the war on terror on the battlefield. The account makes it clear that White House legal counsel Fred Fielding was a staunch opponent of the pardon and that his views were enough to persuade Bush to hold off Cheney’s impassioned and persistent appeals.

The article rehearses at length the background of Libby’s case and repeats the oft-heard allegations that revealing Plame’s identity to Robert Novak was an attempt to silence critics of the war in Iraq. But nowhere does this long piece ever mention that it was not Libby who “outed” Plame as a CIA officer who had misused her influence to send her husband on a WMD-related intelligence mission in Iraq.

Though the lies about Cheney, Karl Rove, and Libby have attained the status of accepted facts, in the course of Libby’s trial, it was revealed that the real leaker was Richard Armitage, an aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The gossipy Armitage not only wasn’t a cheerleader for the war but, like his boss Powell, spent much of his time in office sniping at Cheney. Moreover, the allegation that Joe Wilson told the truth about WMDs while Cheney and Libby lied was also false. The decision of authors Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf to ignore the real context of the Libby case and pretend that the truth about the real leaker had never been found is a case of journalistic malpractice.

Scooter Libby’s prosecution was an absurd abuse of prosecutorial power. The entire Plame controversy was a successful attempt to criminalize policy differences in which a man who had devoted much of his adult life to public service was threatened with prison because in the course of interrogations of various media figures, one was found who had a different recollection of a single conversation. Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence was a proper use of presidential power because it prevented a miscarriage of justice. But it didn’t go far enough. A full pardon was called for in this case.

Unfortunately, Bush was more concerned about being accused by his critics — who routinely defamed him no matter what he did — of covering up a crime that never happened than in doing right by Libby. Time’s story on the episode shows how the “Bush lied” school on Iraq is still more than willing to keep alive the myths about the war. Though I’m sure history will treat Bush’s presidency with more kindness than his contemporary critics have, his failure to pardon Libby was a dishonorable last chapter to the Bush White House story.

Read Less

The Muslim Effect?

It seems that all that scraping and bowing and even the fractured Middle East history designed to appease the “Muslim World” didn’t get Obama many brownie points:

President Barack Obama’s much-heralded speech last month in Egypt did little to change America’s image in the Muslim world, a survey released Thursday shows.

Muslim people were not so easily moved by Obama’s speech June 4, according to interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.

“This analysis suggests that the speech had little measurable impact on views of the U.S. or Obama himself,” the Pew researchers said.

America’s approval ratings have gone up outside the “Muslim World,” but somehow he didn’t change the hearts and minds of his intended audience in Cairo. Well, actually he did:

“The Cairo effect,” as Pew called it, was this: Among Israelis, a favorable rating of the United States dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent and among Palestinians, it rose slightly from 14 percent to 19 percent.

He certainly has shown that if you contend that Israel’s legitimacy stems from the Holocaust and Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans, tell Jews where they can live, and exempt the Palestinians from taking any concrete steps toward peace, you can have some impact.

It seems that all that scraping and bowing and even the fractured Middle East history designed to appease the “Muslim World” didn’t get Obama many brownie points:

President Barack Obama’s much-heralded speech last month in Egypt did little to change America’s image in the Muslim world, a survey released Thursday shows.

Muslim people were not so easily moved by Obama’s speech June 4, according to interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.

“This analysis suggests that the speech had little measurable impact on views of the U.S. or Obama himself,” the Pew researchers said.

America’s approval ratings have gone up outside the “Muslim World,” but somehow he didn’t change the hearts and minds of his intended audience in Cairo. Well, actually he did:

“The Cairo effect,” as Pew called it, was this: Among Israelis, a favorable rating of the United States dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent and among Palestinians, it rose slightly from 14 percent to 19 percent.

He certainly has shown that if you contend that Israel’s legitimacy stems from the Holocaust and Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans, tell Jews where they can live, and exempt the Palestinians from taking any concrete steps toward peace, you can have some impact.

Read Less

Battle of the Analogies

In an Economist-sponsored debate on the motion “This house believes that Barack Obama’s America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs,” J Street impresario Daniel Levy writes:

Too often Israel’s most self-destructive tendencies (entrenching occupation, settlements) have been indulged, perhaps even encouraged in recent years. That is irresponsible friendship, akin to handing a drunken mate the keys to a car.

Feel like you’ve heard that one before? You wouldn’t be mistaken if you had. When he founded the organization last year, former Howard Dean staffer Jeremy Ben-Ami told Newsweek the following:

Well, the United States clearly has a lot of influence on Israel because of the nature of the relationship and if you’re really serious about stopping the settlements and about what American policy is — American policy says no more settlements, no more expansion and take down those outposts — if we’re serious about it, then we need to start to act serious. And it’s time to act like the big brother or the parent and to say ‘enough is enough and we’re going to take the car keys if you don’t stop driving drunk.’ We’re not talking about simply business as usual.

This wasn’t the first time Ben-Ami compared the democratically elected government of Israel to a drunk driver. He used the same analogy in a Washington Post piece as well. You’d think Daniel Levy, scholar that he is, would at least credit his pal for this noxious gag.

In response to this tiresome analogy, David Frum has his own allegory of inebriation:

Advocates of getting tough on Israel remind me of the old joke about the drunk who searched for his key under the lamp-post because it was brighter there. In the same way, American leaders (and Jewish liberals) are often tempted to press Israel for the convenient reason that Israel is much more susceptible to pressure.

If there’s anyone who’s drunk off of anything in this debate, it’s the J-Streeters and their fumes of naiveté.

In an Economist-sponsored debate on the motion “This house believes that Barack Obama’s America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs,” J Street impresario Daniel Levy writes:

Too often Israel’s most self-destructive tendencies (entrenching occupation, settlements) have been indulged, perhaps even encouraged in recent years. That is irresponsible friendship, akin to handing a drunken mate the keys to a car.

Feel like you’ve heard that one before? You wouldn’t be mistaken if you had. When he founded the organization last year, former Howard Dean staffer Jeremy Ben-Ami told Newsweek the following:

Well, the United States clearly has a lot of influence on Israel because of the nature of the relationship and if you’re really serious about stopping the settlements and about what American policy is — American policy says no more settlements, no more expansion and take down those outposts — if we’re serious about it, then we need to start to act serious. And it’s time to act like the big brother or the parent and to say ‘enough is enough and we’re going to take the car keys if you don’t stop driving drunk.’ We’re not talking about simply business as usual.

This wasn’t the first time Ben-Ami compared the democratically elected government of Israel to a drunk driver. He used the same analogy in a Washington Post piece as well. You’d think Daniel Levy, scholar that he is, would at least credit his pal for this noxious gag.

In response to this tiresome analogy, David Frum has his own allegory of inebriation:

Advocates of getting tough on Israel remind me of the old joke about the drunk who searched for his key under the lamp-post because it was brighter there. In the same way, American leaders (and Jewish liberals) are often tempted to press Israel for the convenient reason that Israel is much more susceptible to pressure.

If there’s anyone who’s drunk off of anything in this debate, it’s the J-Streeters and their fumes of naiveté.

Read Less

Too Much

Gallup releases some interesting data that hint at the reason Obama’s health-care salesmanship has fallen flat: the public has figured out he is a tax-and-spend liberal — and they don’t like it. Gallup explains:

Fueled by the sentiments of Republicans and independents, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 59% of Americans say President Obama’s proposals to address the major problems facing the country call for too much government spending, and 52% say Obama’s proposals call for too much expansion of government power.

[. . .]

It is not surprising to find that Republicans are close to unanimity in their views on these issues, with 90% saying Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and 83% saying they involve too much expansion of government power. Of more concern to the Obama administration, perhaps, is the finding that clear majorities of 66% and 60% of independents, respectively, say Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and too much government expansion.

At just the time his health-care critics are arguing that the House Democrats’ scheme (which he enthusiastically supports) is a massive expansion of government and a trillion-dollar (at least) expenditure, the public seems fed up with the spend-a-thon. Now it is possible that voters have been following the health-care debate and that has helped form their opinion of Obama’s predilections. But it is also possible that the cumulative effect of the stimulus pork-a-thon, the enormous budget, and the cap-and-trade bill has caught up with Obama. It may now be weighing him down as he goes to the well one more time for yet another jumbo government program.

In the long run, this may continue to hobble Obama, given the enormous budget deficit and his unwillingness to trim spending. Gallup concludes:

A good deal of Gallup data reinforce the idea that Americans are concerned about the long-term implications of increased levels of government spending and the expansion of government’s role in society that have become a part of the Obama administration’s efforts to deal with the recession. Obama receives his lowest approval ratings (out of seven issues tested in the July 17-19 poll) on handling the federal budget deficit (41% approve; 55% disapprove). Thus, the finding that a majority of Americans are worried that Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and too much big government are consistent with what would be expected — as are the very sharp partisan differences in these views.

It seems that the recession has not provided Obama with a pretext for vastly expanding government. The public has had quite enough of that. The question for Obama is whether he is flexible and savvy enough to shift course.

Gallup releases some interesting data that hint at the reason Obama’s health-care salesmanship has fallen flat: the public has figured out he is a tax-and-spend liberal — and they don’t like it. Gallup explains:

Fueled by the sentiments of Republicans and independents, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 59% of Americans say President Obama’s proposals to address the major problems facing the country call for too much government spending, and 52% say Obama’s proposals call for too much expansion of government power.

[. . .]

It is not surprising to find that Republicans are close to unanimity in their views on these issues, with 90% saying Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and 83% saying they involve too much expansion of government power. Of more concern to the Obama administration, perhaps, is the finding that clear majorities of 66% and 60% of independents, respectively, say Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and too much government expansion.

At just the time his health-care critics are arguing that the House Democrats’ scheme (which he enthusiastically supports) is a massive expansion of government and a trillion-dollar (at least) expenditure, the public seems fed up with the spend-a-thon. Now it is possible that voters have been following the health-care debate and that has helped form their opinion of Obama’s predilections. But it is also possible that the cumulative effect of the stimulus pork-a-thon, the enormous budget, and the cap-and-trade bill has caught up with Obama. It may now be weighing him down as he goes to the well one more time for yet another jumbo government program.

In the long run, this may continue to hobble Obama, given the enormous budget deficit and his unwillingness to trim spending. Gallup concludes:

A good deal of Gallup data reinforce the idea that Americans are concerned about the long-term implications of increased levels of government spending and the expansion of government’s role in society that have become a part of the Obama administration’s efforts to deal with the recession. Obama receives his lowest approval ratings (out of seven issues tested in the July 17-19 poll) on handling the federal budget deficit (41% approve; 55% disapprove). Thus, the finding that a majority of Americans are worried that Obama’s proposals involve too much spending and too much big government are consistent with what would be expected — as are the very sharp partisan differences in these views.

It seems that the recession has not provided Obama with a pretext for vastly expanding government. The public has had quite enough of that. The question for Obama is whether he is flexible and savvy enough to shift course.

Read Less

The President vs. the Police Officer

“I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement,” President Obama said in an interview with ABC News Thursday night, “because I think it was a pretty straightforward comment that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.”

Surprised, are we? Let’s see: the president of the United States decides to insert himself into the middle of a racially charged conflict between an arresting police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and one of the most prominent African-American scholars in America, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard. Gates accuses the officer of racism, a charge Sgt. Crowley adamantly denies, apparently with the backing of other officers on the scene. According to Obama — who admits he wasn’t on the scene, doesn’t have all the facts, and only has “suspicions” about what went on — the Cambridge police acted “stupidly.” Why on earth should Obama’s comments be viewed as “controversial”?

Earth to Obama: Get Real.

Here are the facts as we know them. Sgt. Crowley — who according to reports is an outstanding officer, something of a role model, and a police-academy expert on racial profiling — responded to Gates’s home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. (According to media reports, the incident began when a woman caller reported that a man was trying to force his way into a home. Gates said he was unable to enter his damaged front door after returning from a week in China. Crowley arrived on the scene to investigate.) Police say Gates at first refused and then accused the officer of racism.

Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, with police accusing him of being uncooperative, refusing to initially provide identification, and “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior” by repeatedly shouting at a policeman in front of people gathered on the street in front of his house. (The charges were later dropped.)

“I acted appropriately,” Crowley told WBZ Radio Thursday. “Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing. He didn’t. He acted very irrational; he controlled the outcome of that event. There was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother, something you wouldn’t expect from anybody that should be grateful that you were there investigating a report of a crime in progress, let alone a Harvard University professor.”

According to the police report, Crowley asked Gates to talk outside, to which he responded, “Yeah, I’ll speak with your mama outside.”

According to the Boston Globe,

People who know Crowley were skeptical or outright dismissive of allegations of racism. A prominent defense lawyer, a neighbor of Crowley’s, his union, and fellow officers described him yesterday as a respected, and respectful, officer who performs his job well and has led his colleagues in diversity training.

“He’s evenhanded and, in the cases I’ve had with him, he’s been very much in control and very professional,” said Joseph W. Monahan III, a criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge and former Middlesex County prosecutor. Monahan has represented several defendants arrested by Crowley for domestic assaults and for drunken driving.

From another report:

“Based on what I have seen and heard from the other officers, [Crowley] maintained a professional decorum during the course of the entire situation and conducted himself in a professional manner,” Cambridge Police Department Commissioner Robert Haas told a news conference. Obama’s comment also stunned the city’s policemen, Haas added. “They were very much deflated.”

Being maligned by the president of the United States will do that to a police department.

Why Obama would wade into these waters is hard to fathom. He says he is “a little biased” because of his friendship with Gates. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether knowing Gates personally makes Obama’s statement more or less understandable. But for Obama to insert himself into such an explosive story, in the manner he did, is irresponsible and borders on recklessness.

Despite the denials of his hapless press spokesman Robert Gibbs, Obama clearly was accusing the Cambridge police of “stupidity” — and he was implicitly blessing the charges of racism made by Professor Gates. Why the rush to judgment? Why not wait to comment on the story until more of the facts are known? And why the reflexive attack on the police officer, despite Sgt. Crowley’s reputation and his account of what happened?

One might assume that President Obama has enough on his plate to keep him busy without donning his cap as Commentator-in-Chief. If that is his goal, then Obama should have applied for a job as a host on MSNBC, rather than run for president.

It is astonishing that Obama and his fellow Democrats are apparently eager to recreate the 1970′s, when they assailed our intelligence agencies then as now and when the Democratic Party was the political home of those who thought it was jolly good fun to undermine institutions of social authority like, say, the police. “The primary problem of American society continues to be that of the eroding authority of the principal institutions of government and society,” Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in a memorandum to President Nixon on November 13, 1970 (Moynihan, a sagacious man and a Democrat, wrote about how the main attack on our society was coming from the Left, causing people to shift political and philosophical allegiances). You would think all these years later that Obama and Democrats would be foursquare on the side of strengthening rather than upbraiding those institutions. But you would be wrong.

The Crowley-Gates controversy is one that can become magnified and seen as representative of a particular cast of mind. Barack Obama was elected in part because many people believed he would heal social divisions rather than deepen them. But that hope, like others, might prove to have been misplaced.

What President Obama did at his press conference on Wednesday was not only wrong; he acted stupidly. And he will, I suspect, pay a price for it.

“I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement,” President Obama said in an interview with ABC News Thursday night, “because I think it was a pretty straightforward comment that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.”

Surprised, are we? Let’s see: the president of the United States decides to insert himself into the middle of a racially charged conflict between an arresting police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and one of the most prominent African-American scholars in America, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard. Gates accuses the officer of racism, a charge Sgt. Crowley adamantly denies, apparently with the backing of other officers on the scene. According to Obama — who admits he wasn’t on the scene, doesn’t have all the facts, and only has “suspicions” about what went on — the Cambridge police acted “stupidly.” Why on earth should Obama’s comments be viewed as “controversial”?

Earth to Obama: Get Real.

Here are the facts as we know them. Sgt. Crowley — who according to reports is an outstanding officer, something of a role model, and a police-academy expert on racial profiling — responded to Gates’s home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. (According to media reports, the incident began when a woman caller reported that a man was trying to force his way into a home. Gates said he was unable to enter his damaged front door after returning from a week in China. Crowley arrived on the scene to investigate.) Police say Gates at first refused and then accused the officer of racism.

Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, with police accusing him of being uncooperative, refusing to initially provide identification, and “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior” by repeatedly shouting at a policeman in front of people gathered on the street in front of his house. (The charges were later dropped.)

“I acted appropriately,” Crowley told WBZ Radio Thursday. “Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing. He didn’t. He acted very irrational; he controlled the outcome of that event. There was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother, something you wouldn’t expect from anybody that should be grateful that you were there investigating a report of a crime in progress, let alone a Harvard University professor.”

According to the police report, Crowley asked Gates to talk outside, to which he responded, “Yeah, I’ll speak with your mama outside.”

According to the Boston Globe,

People who know Crowley were skeptical or outright dismissive of allegations of racism. A prominent defense lawyer, a neighbor of Crowley’s, his union, and fellow officers described him yesterday as a respected, and respectful, officer who performs his job well and has led his colleagues in diversity training.

“He’s evenhanded and, in the cases I’ve had with him, he’s been very much in control and very professional,” said Joseph W. Monahan III, a criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge and former Middlesex County prosecutor. Monahan has represented several defendants arrested by Crowley for domestic assaults and for drunken driving.

From another report:

“Based on what I have seen and heard from the other officers, [Crowley] maintained a professional decorum during the course of the entire situation and conducted himself in a professional manner,” Cambridge Police Department Commissioner Robert Haas told a news conference. Obama’s comment also stunned the city’s policemen, Haas added. “They were very much deflated.”

Being maligned by the president of the United States will do that to a police department.

Why Obama would wade into these waters is hard to fathom. He says he is “a little biased” because of his friendship with Gates. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether knowing Gates personally makes Obama’s statement more or less understandable. But for Obama to insert himself into such an explosive story, in the manner he did, is irresponsible and borders on recklessness.

Despite the denials of his hapless press spokesman Robert Gibbs, Obama clearly was accusing the Cambridge police of “stupidity” — and he was implicitly blessing the charges of racism made by Professor Gates. Why the rush to judgment? Why not wait to comment on the story until more of the facts are known? And why the reflexive attack on the police officer, despite Sgt. Crowley’s reputation and his account of what happened?

One might assume that President Obama has enough on his plate to keep him busy without donning his cap as Commentator-in-Chief. If that is his goal, then Obama should have applied for a job as a host on MSNBC, rather than run for president.

It is astonishing that Obama and his fellow Democrats are apparently eager to recreate the 1970′s, when they assailed our intelligence agencies then as now and when the Democratic Party was the political home of those who thought it was jolly good fun to undermine institutions of social authority like, say, the police. “The primary problem of American society continues to be that of the eroding authority of the principal institutions of government and society,” Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in a memorandum to President Nixon on November 13, 1970 (Moynihan, a sagacious man and a Democrat, wrote about how the main attack on our society was coming from the Left, causing people to shift political and philosophical allegiances). You would think all these years later that Obama and Democrats would be foursquare on the side of strengthening rather than upbraiding those institutions. But you would be wrong.

The Crowley-Gates controversy is one that can become magnified and seen as representative of a particular cast of mind. Barack Obama was elected in part because many people believed he would heal social divisions rather than deepen them. But that hope, like others, might prove to have been misplaced.

What President Obama did at his press conference on Wednesday was not only wrong; he acted stupidly. And he will, I suspect, pay a price for it.

Read Less

Nail in the Coffin?

In New Jersey, 44 people, including three majors, two assemblymen, and five rabbis, were arrested yesterday on a variety of corruption and money-laundering charges. You can imagine that former U.S. Attorney and corruption-buster, now gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie will be sleeping well tonight.

A New Jersey political-watcher, Alan Steinberg, is among those who think this finishes off Governor Jon Corzine. He writes:

There is no evidence that Governor Jon Corzine personally is connected in any way to the alleged criminal deeds that form the basis of the arrests of politicians, political operatives, and rabbis announced today by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office.  His Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria, who resigned this morning at Corzine’s request, is being investigated, although we do not yet know what the outcome of the investigation will be.

But it sure will be hard for Corzine to run a negative campaign attacking his opponents’ ethics. As Steinberg argues, “Whether you like or dislike him, Chris Christie is a highly ethical and moral man. . . . The Corzine commercials attacking Christie’s ethics have been distortions, plain and simple.” And now they will be laughable.

There may be one other consequence to the scandal: the president might not want to spend all that much time in the state nor expend too much energy. He learned a thing or two in Chicago about putting just enough distance between himself and the ethically and legally challenged to avoid the stench of corruption. It is not a lesson he’s likely forgotten.

In New Jersey, 44 people, including three majors, two assemblymen, and five rabbis, were arrested yesterday on a variety of corruption and money-laundering charges. You can imagine that former U.S. Attorney and corruption-buster, now gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie will be sleeping well tonight.

A New Jersey political-watcher, Alan Steinberg, is among those who think this finishes off Governor Jon Corzine. He writes:

There is no evidence that Governor Jon Corzine personally is connected in any way to the alleged criminal deeds that form the basis of the arrests of politicians, political operatives, and rabbis announced today by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office.  His Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria, who resigned this morning at Corzine’s request, is being investigated, although we do not yet know what the outcome of the investigation will be.

But it sure will be hard for Corzine to run a negative campaign attacking his opponents’ ethics. As Steinberg argues, “Whether you like or dislike him, Chris Christie is a highly ethical and moral man. . . . The Corzine commercials attacking Christie’s ethics have been distortions, plain and simple.” And now they will be laughable.

There may be one other consequence to the scandal: the president might not want to spend all that much time in the state nor expend too much energy. He learned a thing or two in Chicago about putting just enough distance between himself and the ethically and legally challenged to avoid the stench of corruption. It is not a lesson he’s likely forgotten.

Read Less

Maybe We Should Just Not Discriminate

In more or less defending Henry Louis Gates Jr. for bullying the Cambridge police and playing the race card, Michael Kinsley opines:

[G]eneralizations about race don’t lead only to bad things, like an unjustified arrest. They can lead to good things, too. The best example is well known around Harvard Square and other academic communities: affirmative action. Part of the rationale for affirmative action is that African Americans are more likely than whites to have struggled harder, under the burden of greater disadvantages, to reach the point where they are poised to enter Harvard. Therefore, they deserve a break. No doubt this is true on average. And no doubt it is false in many cases. You can easily decide that some generalizations are just too toxic to allow, even if true on average, and race might be a good area to start. But you’d be hard-put to justify forbidding racial generalizations in split-second decisions during tense confrontations between citizens and cops, while allowing them in the relatively leisurely precincts of a college admissions office.

Let’s put aside whether the generalization here was based on race or on Gates’s abusive and unruly behavior, but Kinsley has it wrong. There is no good generalization (he means discrimination) based on race in the academic or any other setting. In the course of trying to defend “good” discrimination, Kinsley goes badly astray.

For starters, affirmation action has rarely been justified and was not instituted on the notion that minority candidates possessed inordinate virtue. Whether as a remedy against past discrimination or as an effort to produce a “diverse” environment, academic institutions generally adopted race preferences to lift up students who lacked the same qualifications and achievements as their white (or Asian) peers. If one wanted to search for those who “struggled” with adversity, we would long ago have adopted class, not race-based, preferences. And we wouldn’t be filling diversity slots with foreign students, children of third-world ambassadors, or the not-so-hard-working upper-middle-class minority applicants whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than their peers’.

And of course, in rooting for “good” discrimination in universities, Kinsley neglects the very real victims who are excluded in favor of lesser-achieving affirmative-action candidates. There simply isn’t any basis for equating “struggled harder” with race.

So when Kinsley hints that we shouldn’t be so hard on generalizations in the criminal justice arena if we are going to stick by them in the academic one, he ignores the obvious rejoinder. To paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, if we want to stop this generalizing by race, we should stop generalizing by race — in all contexts.

In more or less defending Henry Louis Gates Jr. for bullying the Cambridge police and playing the race card, Michael Kinsley opines:

[G]eneralizations about race don’t lead only to bad things, like an unjustified arrest. They can lead to good things, too. The best example is well known around Harvard Square and other academic communities: affirmative action. Part of the rationale for affirmative action is that African Americans are more likely than whites to have struggled harder, under the burden of greater disadvantages, to reach the point where they are poised to enter Harvard. Therefore, they deserve a break. No doubt this is true on average. And no doubt it is false in many cases. You can easily decide that some generalizations are just too toxic to allow, even if true on average, and race might be a good area to start. But you’d be hard-put to justify forbidding racial generalizations in split-second decisions during tense confrontations between citizens and cops, while allowing them in the relatively leisurely precincts of a college admissions office.

Let’s put aside whether the generalization here was based on race or on Gates’s abusive and unruly behavior, but Kinsley has it wrong. There is no good generalization (he means discrimination) based on race in the academic or any other setting. In the course of trying to defend “good” discrimination, Kinsley goes badly astray.

For starters, affirmation action has rarely been justified and was not instituted on the notion that minority candidates possessed inordinate virtue. Whether as a remedy against past discrimination or as an effort to produce a “diverse” environment, academic institutions generally adopted race preferences to lift up students who lacked the same qualifications and achievements as their white (or Asian) peers. If one wanted to search for those who “struggled” with adversity, we would long ago have adopted class, not race-based, preferences. And we wouldn’t be filling diversity slots with foreign students, children of third-world ambassadors, or the not-so-hard-working upper-middle-class minority applicants whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than their peers’.

And of course, in rooting for “good” discrimination in universities, Kinsley neglects the very real victims who are excluded in favor of lesser-achieving affirmative-action candidates. There simply isn’t any basis for equating “struggled harder” with race.

So when Kinsley hints that we shouldn’t be so hard on generalizations in the criminal justice arena if we are going to stick by them in the academic one, he ignores the obvious rejoinder. To paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, if we want to stop this generalizing by race, we should stop generalizing by race — in all contexts.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Could it be that the mainstream media is downplaying the anti-Zelaya forces?

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s better to keep quiet: “President Obama’s Wednesday night criticism of Cambridge, Mass., police has drawn a rebuke from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). . . . Jim Pasco, executive director of the FOP’s legislative office, noted that before Obama made the remarks, the president acknowledged that he was only vaguely familiar with what happened. ‘That being the case, it’s unfortunate that he chose to say anything,’ Pasco said. ‘He wasn’t there, and he doesn’t know what happened.’ ”

Robert Gibbs thinks we are stupid and didn’t notice the president calling the Cambridge police officer stupid. And then the president sort of, but not really, backs down. Maybe a simple “I’m sorry” would be in order.

And he can issue an apology to the doctors too. They don’t like being told they are performing unnecessary procedures to run up their bills. (Hmm, if ObamaCare goes through, there will be more of that.)

If nothing else, Obama “created his own distraction.” The Hill’s blog explains: “It’s a distraction that won’t be a one-day story, either. When, after admitting he doesn’t know all the facts, the president of the United States says an American citizen acted ‘stupidly,’ the media will dissect every angle to death. And every media outlet under the sun will clamor for an interview with the officer in question. . . . When it’s all said and done, the press conference did nothing to advance Obama’s health-care legislation. In effect, that means it hurt its chances. Remember that when Obama tries to lay the blame on others.”

The good news for Obama is that not so many people watched: “Obama’s press conference last night drew 24.7 million viewers across broadcast and cable, according to Nielsen. That’s a 14 percent drop from the April 29 prime-time presser, and 50 percent less than the first one of his presidency.”

You know a Democratic president has bombed when the New York Times focus groups give him thumbs down: “They say they feel they are being asked to buy on spec from a government they do not trust. And they have lots of questions.”

The Democrats discover that Sen. Barbara Boxer is a liability: “A big chunk of the House climate change bill is in the hands of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer — and some of its supporters are worried that she’s not up to the task. In private conversations, Senate staffers say that Boxer’s abrasive personal style helped tank the climate bill that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) sponsored last year. And several recent embarrassing episodes involving the California Democrat have them worried about a repeat performance.”

The Blue Dogs refuse to roll over: “Blue Dog Democrats, two White House officials and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) left a multihour meeting Thursday afternoon in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office without a resolution to the deadlock holding up the party’s $1.6 trillion health care bill.”

Politico speculates that once they head out of town, ObamaCare becomes even less viable: “The delay opens the most ambitious legislative initiative in more than 40 years to a month of fierce scrutiny as special-interest groups ramp up what was already expected to be a firestorm of ads, organizing and lobbying. Democrats will head home without a single plan to promote, complicating efforts to counter a suddenly more cohesive Republican opposition built around the plan’s trillion-dollar price tag.”

The gap is certainly narrowing. Pollster.com shows his approval rating at 54 percent and his disapproval at 42.1 percent.

From the latest Fox poll: “On health care, 43 percent of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing and 45 percent disapprove. On the economy, 50 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove. Americans put fixing the economy (36 percent) as the top priority for the federal government right now, followed by creating jobs (21 percent). Reducing the deficit (12 percent) and reforming health care (12 percent) receive the same double-digit support, followed by handling the situation with Iran and North Korea (7 percent).”

By a margin of 47-36 percent in Fox’s survey, voters oppose the current health-care reform bill. Similarly, Rasmussen has voters disapproving by a 53-44 percent margin.

Could it be that the mainstream media is downplaying the anti-Zelaya forces?

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s better to keep quiet: “President Obama’s Wednesday night criticism of Cambridge, Mass., police has drawn a rebuke from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). . . . Jim Pasco, executive director of the FOP’s legislative office, noted that before Obama made the remarks, the president acknowledged that he was only vaguely familiar with what happened. ‘That being the case, it’s unfortunate that he chose to say anything,’ Pasco said. ‘He wasn’t there, and he doesn’t know what happened.’ ”

Robert Gibbs thinks we are stupid and didn’t notice the president calling the Cambridge police officer stupid. And then the president sort of, but not really, backs down. Maybe a simple “I’m sorry” would be in order.

And he can issue an apology to the doctors too. They don’t like being told they are performing unnecessary procedures to run up their bills. (Hmm, if ObamaCare goes through, there will be more of that.)

If nothing else, Obama “created his own distraction.” The Hill’s blog explains: “It’s a distraction that won’t be a one-day story, either. When, after admitting he doesn’t know all the facts, the president of the United States says an American citizen acted ‘stupidly,’ the media will dissect every angle to death. And every media outlet under the sun will clamor for an interview with the officer in question. . . . When it’s all said and done, the press conference did nothing to advance Obama’s health-care legislation. In effect, that means it hurt its chances. Remember that when Obama tries to lay the blame on others.”

The good news for Obama is that not so many people watched: “Obama’s press conference last night drew 24.7 million viewers across broadcast and cable, according to Nielsen. That’s a 14 percent drop from the April 29 prime-time presser, and 50 percent less than the first one of his presidency.”

You know a Democratic president has bombed when the New York Times focus groups give him thumbs down: “They say they feel they are being asked to buy on spec from a government they do not trust. And they have lots of questions.”

The Democrats discover that Sen. Barbara Boxer is a liability: “A big chunk of the House climate change bill is in the hands of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer — and some of its supporters are worried that she’s not up to the task. In private conversations, Senate staffers say that Boxer’s abrasive personal style helped tank the climate bill that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) sponsored last year. And several recent embarrassing episodes involving the California Democrat have them worried about a repeat performance.”

The Blue Dogs refuse to roll over: “Blue Dog Democrats, two White House officials and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) left a multihour meeting Thursday afternoon in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office without a resolution to the deadlock holding up the party’s $1.6 trillion health care bill.”

Politico speculates that once they head out of town, ObamaCare becomes even less viable: “The delay opens the most ambitious legislative initiative in more than 40 years to a month of fierce scrutiny as special-interest groups ramp up what was already expected to be a firestorm of ads, organizing and lobbying. Democrats will head home without a single plan to promote, complicating efforts to counter a suddenly more cohesive Republican opposition built around the plan’s trillion-dollar price tag.”

The gap is certainly narrowing. Pollster.com shows his approval rating at 54 percent and his disapproval at 42.1 percent.

From the latest Fox poll: “On health care, 43 percent of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing and 45 percent disapprove. On the economy, 50 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove. Americans put fixing the economy (36 percent) as the top priority for the federal government right now, followed by creating jobs (21 percent). Reducing the deficit (12 percent) and reforming health care (12 percent) receive the same double-digit support, followed by handling the situation with Iran and North Korea (7 percent).”

By a margin of 47-36 percent in Fox’s survey, voters oppose the current health-care reform bill. Similarly, Rasmussen has voters disapproving by a 53-44 percent margin.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.