Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 6, 2009

Dead End Iran Policy

CNN reports that Hillary Clinton has spoken up about the Iranian kangaroo-court proceedings against Iranian protesters:

“It is a show trial, there’s no doubt about it,” Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in a wide-ranging interview to be broadcast on his “GPS” program Sunday.

“It demonstrates I think better than any of us could ever say that this Iranian leadership is afraid of their own people, and afraid of the truth and the facts coming out.”

Meanwhile, Robert Gibbs ever so slightly walked back his comments regarding the “election” of Ahmadinejad:

Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say that’s not for me to pass judgment on. He’s been inaugurated. That’s a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that, and we’ll let them decide about that.

But where do these minimal rhetorical adjustments put the Obama administration? Well, exactly where it left off — in the quest for the Grand Bargain and unwilling to consider that regime change may be the only plausible road forward, the only alternative to military action for defanging the nuclear threat. So the Obama team is left with incoherence. Sure the regime may not represent the Iranian people, but we’ll deal with them anyway. Iran’s behavior is repugnant, but let’s not get hung up over all that while we have more important things to discuss. Obama’s Iran policy has reached a dead end — the product of its own obsession with a negotiated solution for a problem that cannot be negotiated with a regime we cannot negotiate with.

CNN reports that Hillary Clinton has spoken up about the Iranian kangaroo-court proceedings against Iranian protesters:

“It is a show trial, there’s no doubt about it,” Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in a wide-ranging interview to be broadcast on his “GPS” program Sunday.

“It demonstrates I think better than any of us could ever say that this Iranian leadership is afraid of their own people, and afraid of the truth and the facts coming out.”

Meanwhile, Robert Gibbs ever so slightly walked back his comments regarding the “election” of Ahmadinejad:

Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say that’s not for me to pass judgment on. He’s been inaugurated. That’s a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that, and we’ll let them decide about that.

But where do these minimal rhetorical adjustments put the Obama administration? Well, exactly where it left off — in the quest for the Grand Bargain and unwilling to consider that regime change may be the only plausible road forward, the only alternative to military action for defanging the nuclear threat. So the Obama team is left with incoherence. Sure the regime may not represent the Iranian people, but we’ll deal with them anyway. Iran’s behavior is repugnant, but let’s not get hung up over all that while we have more important things to discuss. Obama’s Iran policy has reached a dead end — the product of its own obsession with a negotiated solution for a problem that cannot be negotiated with a regime we cannot negotiate with.

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Re: Re: This Is What Evenhandedness Looks Like

Jen and Jonathan, I don’t think Obama really can recalibrate. He has staked his strategy on repositioning the United States as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Arabs, a long-standing demand of the Left, which claims — as Obama reiterates — that the Bush administration neglected the peace process for eight years because of its affection for Israel. In other words, the peace process is something the Arabs want but Israel doesn’t. This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth, as in reality Bush inherited not a peace process but the violent and bloody consequences of a failed one.

Nonetheless, George W. Bush attempted for the first year of his administration to carry on as Clinton had, despite the human bombs going off all over Israel. Even this became implausible when, a few months after 9/11, the IDF intercepted the Karine A ship carrying 50 tons of illegal weapons from Iran to Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence had uncovered irrefutable proof of Arafat’s deep complicity in the suicide war. Yes, at that point the “peace process” went on the shelf for a little while, at least compared with the frantic standard set in the last months of the Clinton administration. Can anyone argue that it shouldn’t have? Well, Obama can, of course, if only to score political points. The “Quartet” and the “road map” were created during this period of alleged neglect, but Obama never mentions that.

Obama’s advisers have been telling him that Abu Mazen is weak but also doing a terrific job of being a Palestinian moderate. Obama knows that things might really fall apart if he presses him, and then he will be in Bush’s position — without a Palestinian participator. Plus, he has staked a large portion of his foreign policy on a rapprochement with the Arab world, which demands that America take the Palestinian side and get tough with Israel. The problem with this strategy is it ties his hands with the Palestinians — if he criticizes them, his larger Middle East stagecraft will suffer.

Obama has walked very far down a road that he is discovering leads to a dead end. The Palestinians and the Arab states, witnessing Obama turn on Israel, are digging in, hoping for more, and seizing the opportunity to do nothing. Obama is probably also not noticing, as evidenced by the Fatah convention, the extent to which Hamas continues to set the tone of Palestinian politics.

The only benefit for Obama from this larger strategy is that he can enjoy the appearance of improved relations with the Arabs at very low immediate cost. The drawback is that he has to depend on them not to make him look foolish. Right now he might be discovering the downside of this strategy: he is already starting to look foolish. The frightening thing is that we can’t tell whether Obama understands he’s creating short-term good PR at the expense of longer-term problems, or whether he thinks the PR is actually solving the problems.

Jen and Jonathan, I don’t think Obama really can recalibrate. He has staked his strategy on repositioning the United States as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Arabs, a long-standing demand of the Left, which claims — as Obama reiterates — that the Bush administration neglected the peace process for eight years because of its affection for Israel. In other words, the peace process is something the Arabs want but Israel doesn’t. This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth, as in reality Bush inherited not a peace process but the violent and bloody consequences of a failed one.

Nonetheless, George W. Bush attempted for the first year of his administration to carry on as Clinton had, despite the human bombs going off all over Israel. Even this became implausible when, a few months after 9/11, the IDF intercepted the Karine A ship carrying 50 tons of illegal weapons from Iran to Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence had uncovered irrefutable proof of Arafat’s deep complicity in the suicide war. Yes, at that point the “peace process” went on the shelf for a little while, at least compared with the frantic standard set in the last months of the Clinton administration. Can anyone argue that it shouldn’t have? Well, Obama can, of course, if only to score political points. The “Quartet” and the “road map” were created during this period of alleged neglect, but Obama never mentions that.

Obama’s advisers have been telling him that Abu Mazen is weak but also doing a terrific job of being a Palestinian moderate. Obama knows that things might really fall apart if he presses him, and then he will be in Bush’s position — without a Palestinian participator. Plus, he has staked a large portion of his foreign policy on a rapprochement with the Arab world, which demands that America take the Palestinian side and get tough with Israel. The problem with this strategy is it ties his hands with the Palestinians — if he criticizes them, his larger Middle East stagecraft will suffer.

Obama has walked very far down a road that he is discovering leads to a dead end. The Palestinians and the Arab states, witnessing Obama turn on Israel, are digging in, hoping for more, and seizing the opportunity to do nothing. Obama is probably also not noticing, as evidenced by the Fatah convention, the extent to which Hamas continues to set the tone of Palestinian politics.

The only benefit for Obama from this larger strategy is that he can enjoy the appearance of improved relations with the Arabs at very low immediate cost. The drawback is that he has to depend on them not to make him look foolish. Right now he might be discovering the downside of this strategy: he is already starting to look foolish. The frightening thing is that we can’t tell whether Obama understands he’s creating short-term good PR at the expense of longer-term problems, or whether he thinks the PR is actually solving the problems.

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Sex and the Anti-Israel NGO City

The New York Post‘s Page Six gossip column reports today that Sex and the City star Kirstin Davis has been eased out of a spokeswoman role at Oxfam International because the so-called human-rights organization is shocked to learn that Davis endorses Israel’s Ahava cosmetics line of Dead Sea products.

You see, the oh-so-principled good deed–doers at Oxfam believe that all right-thinking people should be boycotting one of the most famous products of Israel. That’s because Ahava’s Dead Sea Cosmetics are produced at Mitzpe Shalem, a town on those shores of the ancient Salt Lake that are on the West Bank side of the green line.

Davis and Oxfam are trying not to portray the situation as a breakup, with both sides pledging their eternal love for each other — but a source told the Post that “Ahava is a polarizing company and Kirstin shouldn’t be involved with it.” This is a position shared by the far-Left Code Pink group that claims Ahava “uses Palestinian natural resources.”

However, this little controversy shows just how false the portrayal of all the West Bank as “Occupied Palestine” really is. The Dead Sea shoreline was largely empty before the Jews returned to the area in the 20th century. No Palestinian Arabs were displaced to make way for Israelis there. The development of this industry and the use of the natural resources of the area were pioneered by the Jews, not the Arabs. What Oxfam and its leftist allies are trying to do is wage economic war on Israel. That a boycott of Ahava could somehow do any good to help poor Palestinians (whose plight is a direct result of their leaders’ refusal to make peace with Israel) is a sad joke.

Of course, it is ironic that Davis’s character on the HBO show and the subsequent movie converted to Judaism. In the meantime, let’s hope that Davis ignores the anti-Israel propaganda being spewed by Oxfam and emulates her on-screen persona by sticking to her real-life Jewish business partner.

The New York Post‘s Page Six gossip column reports today that Sex and the City star Kirstin Davis has been eased out of a spokeswoman role at Oxfam International because the so-called human-rights organization is shocked to learn that Davis endorses Israel’s Ahava cosmetics line of Dead Sea products.

You see, the oh-so-principled good deed–doers at Oxfam believe that all right-thinking people should be boycotting one of the most famous products of Israel. That’s because Ahava’s Dead Sea Cosmetics are produced at Mitzpe Shalem, a town on those shores of the ancient Salt Lake that are on the West Bank side of the green line.

Davis and Oxfam are trying not to portray the situation as a breakup, with both sides pledging their eternal love for each other — but a source told the Post that “Ahava is a polarizing company and Kirstin shouldn’t be involved with it.” This is a position shared by the far-Left Code Pink group that claims Ahava “uses Palestinian natural resources.”

However, this little controversy shows just how false the portrayal of all the West Bank as “Occupied Palestine” really is. The Dead Sea shoreline was largely empty before the Jews returned to the area in the 20th century. No Palestinian Arabs were displaced to make way for Israelis there. The development of this industry and the use of the natural resources of the area were pioneered by the Jews, not the Arabs. What Oxfam and its leftist allies are trying to do is wage economic war on Israel. That a boycott of Ahava could somehow do any good to help poor Palestinians (whose plight is a direct result of their leaders’ refusal to make peace with Israel) is a sad joke.

Of course, it is ironic that Davis’s character on the HBO show and the subsequent movie converted to Judaism. In the meantime, let’s hope that Davis ignores the anti-Israel propaganda being spewed by Oxfam and emulates her on-screen persona by sticking to her real-life Jewish business partner.

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Re: Re: This Is What Evenhandedness Looks Like

Noah and Jennifer — your incisive posts about the current Fatah conference and the rhetoric emerging from it confirm that the purported Palestinian progress in complying with Phase I of the “road map” is a farce.

The road map requires that “at the outset of Phase I” — even before the PA “begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting [Hamas and other terror groups]” — the “Palestinian leadership issues [an] unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security” and “all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.” The statements at the Fatah conference confirm that — more than six years later – the “moderate” Palestinians still endorse incitement and will issue statements about Israel’s right to exist only if taken not to mean Israel as a Jewish state.

Half the putative Palestinian state is currently controlled by the terrorists who were supposed to be dismantled in Phase I, and the other half by Palestinians willing to issue rhetorical statements (“peace of the brave,” “side by side,” “we are fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z”), if necessary, to enable the U.S. to demand tangible concessions from Israel in turn, but not in Arabic to their own constituents.

The “moderate” Palestinians are afraid to hold another presidential election because it would be won by the same supposed-to-be-dismantled terrorists who won the parliamentary election in 2006 and are instead engaging in endless “unity” negotiations intended to avoid the necessity of a contested election — negotiations that will eventually succeed about the same time Francisco Franco revives.

Instead of working on the umpteenth “plan” calling for even more Israeli concessions — after all of Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority, resulting in a mini terrorist state and a new war; after a year of accelerated Phase III final-status negotiations under the Annapolis process, resulting in a Palestinian rejection of the latest Israeli offer of a state; and now after a Fatah conference that makes the “moderate” Palestinian peace rhetoric transparently ludicrous, the Obama administration might consider advising the Palestinians to engage in some serious self-reflection.

Having already so advised Israel, this would be an admirable example of evenhandedness.

Noah and Jennifer — your incisive posts about the current Fatah conference and the rhetoric emerging from it confirm that the purported Palestinian progress in complying with Phase I of the “road map” is a farce.

The road map requires that “at the outset of Phase I” — even before the PA “begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting [Hamas and other terror groups]” — the “Palestinian leadership issues [an] unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security” and “all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.” The statements at the Fatah conference confirm that — more than six years later – the “moderate” Palestinians still endorse incitement and will issue statements about Israel’s right to exist only if taken not to mean Israel as a Jewish state.

Half the putative Palestinian state is currently controlled by the terrorists who were supposed to be dismantled in Phase I, and the other half by Palestinians willing to issue rhetorical statements (“peace of the brave,” “side by side,” “we are fully committed to all of our obligations under the road map, from A to Z”), if necessary, to enable the U.S. to demand tangible concessions from Israel in turn, but not in Arabic to their own constituents.

The “moderate” Palestinians are afraid to hold another presidential election because it would be won by the same supposed-to-be-dismantled terrorists who won the parliamentary election in 2006 and are instead engaging in endless “unity” negotiations intended to avoid the necessity of a contested election — negotiations that will eventually succeed about the same time Francisco Franco revives.

Instead of working on the umpteenth “plan” calling for even more Israeli concessions — after all of Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority, resulting in a mini terrorist state and a new war; after a year of accelerated Phase III final-status negotiations under the Annapolis process, resulting in a Palestinian rejection of the latest Israeli offer of a state; and now after a Fatah conference that makes the “moderate” Palestinian peace rhetoric transparently ludicrous, the Obama administration might consider advising the Palestinians to engage in some serious self-reflection.

Having already so advised Israel, this would be an admirable example of evenhandedness.

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Robinson Mess Worsens

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we hear that another Democratic member of Congress has come forward to denounce the award. Shelley Berkely of Nevada declares:

The biased views expressed by Mary Robinson against the nation of Israel remain deeply troubling and her tarnished record of actions on this issue cannot be erased with the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This includes her role in the U.N.’s infamous Durban Conference, the scene of highly-charged anti-Jewish attacks against Israel and its supporters. Mary Robinson’s one-sided criticism of Israel and her actions while serving as a U.N. commissioner deserve to be condemned and I add my voice to those already expressing concern about her shameful record when it comes to this issue. I respectfully request that the President of the United States reassess the awarding of this prestigious medal to a woman with such a blatant record of inappropriate and inexplicable bias against America’s most reliable ally — and the region’s only democracy — the State of Israel.

Meanwhile, lawmakers including Sens. Specter, Gillibrand, and Schumer, who profess to be great friends of Israel, remain mute despite multiple requests for comment.

But this is not going away, not by a long shot. Newsweek, the mainstream media outlet most sympathetic to Obama, delivers a knock-out blow. Gregory Levey reviews her abominable record and concludes:

When Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, reaffirmed the president’s support for Robinson, conceding only that the president didn’t agree with everything she has ever said, it sounded tone deaf. Even to many moderates who support Israel, Robinson is not just an annoyance who has made unfortunate statements. She is an outright villain.

So even if she does deserve the award for other work, White House vetters should have known that giving it to her was going to touch a deep nerve among people the president needs on his side as he tries to finagle a seemingly impossible peace. For those of us who wholeheartedly support Obama’s Middle East policies and hope they will succeed, that sort of inattentiveness is distressing. Middle East diplomacy can often turn as much on nuance, signals, and body language as on overt communication. And to the people listening, this sends the wrong message.

So now what does the White House do?

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement today as well:

“Mary Robinson was the poster-child for the anti-Israel bias that pervades the United Nations system.

“During her tenure as High Commissioner, she never missed an opportunity to single out Israel for condemnation, while often excusing violent Palestinian extremism.

“Just recently, Robinson bordered on bigotry when she blamed opposition to this award on ‘bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community.’

“Under her leadership – or lack thereof – Durban I was hijacked by the world’s most intolerant regimes and transformed from an anti-racism conference into an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, anti-American hate-fest.

“The U.S. did the right thing by walking out – and by staying away from a biased Durban Review Conference that reaffirmed Durban I’s declaration. 

“The U.S. can do the right thing again by denying Robinson this undeserved honor.  The cause of freedom is too important to be linked with Mary Robinson.”

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we hear that another Democratic member of Congress has come forward to denounce the award. Shelley Berkely of Nevada declares:

The biased views expressed by Mary Robinson against the nation of Israel remain deeply troubling and her tarnished record of actions on this issue cannot be erased with the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This includes her role in the U.N.’s infamous Durban Conference, the scene of highly-charged anti-Jewish attacks against Israel and its supporters. Mary Robinson’s one-sided criticism of Israel and her actions while serving as a U.N. commissioner deserve to be condemned and I add my voice to those already expressing concern about her shameful record when it comes to this issue. I respectfully request that the President of the United States reassess the awarding of this prestigious medal to a woman with such a blatant record of inappropriate and inexplicable bias against America’s most reliable ally — and the region’s only democracy — the State of Israel.

Meanwhile, lawmakers including Sens. Specter, Gillibrand, and Schumer, who profess to be great friends of Israel, remain mute despite multiple requests for comment.

But this is not going away, not by a long shot. Newsweek, the mainstream media outlet most sympathetic to Obama, delivers a knock-out blow. Gregory Levey reviews her abominable record and concludes:

When Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, reaffirmed the president’s support for Robinson, conceding only that the president didn’t agree with everything she has ever said, it sounded tone deaf. Even to many moderates who support Israel, Robinson is not just an annoyance who has made unfortunate statements. She is an outright villain.

So even if she does deserve the award for other work, White House vetters should have known that giving it to her was going to touch a deep nerve among people the president needs on his side as he tries to finagle a seemingly impossible peace. For those of us who wholeheartedly support Obama’s Middle East policies and hope they will succeed, that sort of inattentiveness is distressing. Middle East diplomacy can often turn as much on nuance, signals, and body language as on overt communication. And to the people listening, this sends the wrong message.

So now what does the White House do?

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement today as well:

“Mary Robinson was the poster-child for the anti-Israel bias that pervades the United Nations system.

“During her tenure as High Commissioner, she never missed an opportunity to single out Israel for condemnation, while often excusing violent Palestinian extremism.

“Just recently, Robinson bordered on bigotry when she blamed opposition to this award on ‘bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community.’

“Under her leadership – or lack thereof – Durban I was hijacked by the world’s most intolerant regimes and transformed from an anti-racism conference into an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, anti-American hate-fest.

“The U.S. did the right thing by walking out – and by staying away from a biased Durban Review Conference that reaffirmed Durban I’s declaration. 

“The U.S. can do the right thing again by denying Robinson this undeserved honor.  The cause of freedom is too important to be linked with Mary Robinson.”

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Re: This Is What Evenhandedness Looks Like

Noah, you have it exactly right. One wonders when we are going to see the “recalibration” that the administration was planning for our Israel policy. There are a plethora of opportunities for the administration to comment on developing events. The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations released a statement on the ongoing Fatah conference, which reads:

Statements by Abu Allah praising suicide bombers who have killed dozens of people is wholly unacceptable and represents the true challenge to the chances for peace in the region. Statements by other Fatah officials urged the continuation of armed resistance and asserted that Fatah would not recognize the State of Israel. These declarations, made by the so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian faction puts into sharp focus the question of the real beliefs of the party with whom Israel is to negotiate. Such rhetoric cannot be dismissed as it glorifies murderers and incites others to emulate their example. The U.S. has urged the Palestinians to address the issue of incitement, which is both an immediate and long-term obstacle to the prospect of meaningful negotiations. Too often such statements have been dismissed. But as history has shown, it is a serious impediment, not only undermining the confidence of Israelis, but exhorting this and future generations to violence and hate. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority must speak out against these actions to declare and take steps that all such incitement will be stopped.

During the conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa welcomed Khaled Abu-Usbah to the conference and referred to him and Dalal Mughrabi as Palestinian heroes for carrying out the bus hijacking in 1978, which killed 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians reserved the right to pursue the “resistance” against Israel and other top Fatah members have stated they will not give up the armed struggle. The Fatah party platform that was to be presented for a vote yesterday explicitly stated that Israel must not be recognized as a Jewish state. In addition, large posters featuring Palestinian children brandishing rifles decorated the conference hall.

Where is the condemnation from the White House? Is Hillary Clinton otherwise occupied with browbeating Michael Oren over the latest housing dispute in Jerusalem? The absence of any response is striking. What we need is some “daylight” between the U.S. and the Palestinian extremists. That’s what would enhance the U.S.’s credibility with Israel as an honest broker.

Noah, you have it exactly right. One wonders when we are going to see the “recalibration” that the administration was planning for our Israel policy. There are a plethora of opportunities for the administration to comment on developing events. The leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations released a statement on the ongoing Fatah conference, which reads:

Statements by Abu Allah praising suicide bombers who have killed dozens of people is wholly unacceptable and represents the true challenge to the chances for peace in the region. Statements by other Fatah officials urged the continuation of armed resistance and asserted that Fatah would not recognize the State of Israel. These declarations, made by the so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian faction puts into sharp focus the question of the real beliefs of the party with whom Israel is to negotiate. Such rhetoric cannot be dismissed as it glorifies murderers and incites others to emulate their example. The U.S. has urged the Palestinians to address the issue of incitement, which is both an immediate and long-term obstacle to the prospect of meaningful negotiations. Too often such statements have been dismissed. But as history has shown, it is a serious impediment, not only undermining the confidence of Israelis, but exhorting this and future generations to violence and hate. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority must speak out against these actions to declare and take steps that all such incitement will be stopped.

During the conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa welcomed Khaled Abu-Usbah to the conference and referred to him and Dalal Mughrabi as Palestinian heroes for carrying out the bus hijacking in 1978, which killed 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians reserved the right to pursue the “resistance” against Israel and other top Fatah members have stated they will not give up the armed struggle. The Fatah party platform that was to be presented for a vote yesterday explicitly stated that Israel must not be recognized as a Jewish state. In addition, large posters featuring Palestinian children brandishing rifles decorated the conference hall.

Where is the condemnation from the White House? Is Hillary Clinton otherwise occupied with browbeating Michael Oren over the latest housing dispute in Jerusalem? The absence of any response is striking. What we need is some “daylight” between the U.S. and the Palestinian extremists. That’s what would enhance the U.S.’s credibility with Israel as an honest broker.

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Sotomayor Confirmed 68-31

Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by a vote of 68-31 to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. She received nine “yes” votes from Republicans. Like the nomination of other justices, even those more controversial than hers, this is unlikely to have ramifications in the narrowest partisan political sense. Despite the best efforts of Democrats to whip up ethnic resentment against Republicans who voted against her, the public and Hispanics specifically seem divided but relatively uninterested. With the economy and health care transfixing the country, this simply hasn’t caught the public’s attention.

But there are serious long-term consequences that may well flow from this pick and the confirmation proceedings. The candidate’s lack of any exceptional intellectual or professional achievements lowers the bar from a run of justices who, while diverse in views, shared a high level of jurisprudential accomplishment. (Harriet Miers was appropriately dumped specifically because of her own shortcomings in this regard.) The Senate has also demeaned the confirmation process by allowing the nominee to skate by on obviously incomplete and dishonest testimony on everything from the state of the law to her own handling of a controversial case to the words of her own speeches. This is an injury both to the Court and the Senate.

But the final verdict will be rendered by Sotomayor. Will she be the justice of the hearings or the justice of her own speeches? Will she carry her lifelong crusade for quotas and racial preferences with her — or leave them at the courtroom steps. Time will tell. But in the end, Jeffrey Rosen was right: we could have done so much better.

Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by a vote of 68-31 to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. She received nine “yes” votes from Republicans. Like the nomination of other justices, even those more controversial than hers, this is unlikely to have ramifications in the narrowest partisan political sense. Despite the best efforts of Democrats to whip up ethnic resentment against Republicans who voted against her, the public and Hispanics specifically seem divided but relatively uninterested. With the economy and health care transfixing the country, this simply hasn’t caught the public’s attention.

But there are serious long-term consequences that may well flow from this pick and the confirmation proceedings. The candidate’s lack of any exceptional intellectual or professional achievements lowers the bar from a run of justices who, while diverse in views, shared a high level of jurisprudential accomplishment. (Harriet Miers was appropriately dumped specifically because of her own shortcomings in this regard.) The Senate has also demeaned the confirmation process by allowing the nominee to skate by on obviously incomplete and dishonest testimony on everything from the state of the law to her own handling of a controversial case to the words of her own speeches. This is an injury both to the Court and the Senate.

But the final verdict will be rendered by Sotomayor. Will she be the justice of the hearings or the justice of her own speeches? Will she carry her lifelong crusade for quotas and racial preferences with her — or leave them at the courtroom steps. Time will tell. But in the end, Jeffrey Rosen was right: we could have done so much better.

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Community-Organizing in the Age of Obama

As a political strategy, it is highly unusual. Support for President Obama’s health-care plan is dropping precipitously, undone by stubborn facts and a growing realization among many Americans of the damaging effects ObamaCare would exact on their lives. As Democratic members of Congress return to their districts and host town-hall meetings, they are, in many circumstances, being met by concerned, agitated, and sometimes raucous or disruptive voters. Opposition is rising by the week.

Faced with all this, Obama and the Democratic National Committee have embraced a novel approach: attack the voters. These voters are, a new DNC ad tells us repeatedly, a “mob,” an “angry mob,” engaging in “mob activity.” Much of the anger, insists the president’ s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, is “manufactured.” There are hints of a conspiracy. And President Obama, in remarks yesterday, gripes and complains about “griping and complaining” by the American public. (This from a man who, during the campaign, in counseling his supporters on what to do with his opponents, asked them to “get in their face” and celebrated properly channeled “anger” on the part of the American people.)

Public officials shouldn’t be shouted down; reasoned, measured debate is certainly preferable to yelling. At the same time, there is a certain hypocrisy in all this as well. During the Bush era, liberals believed dissent — including loud, boisterous speaking “truth to power” — was the highest form of patriotism. “Not any more,” in the immortal words of Peter Sellers’s character Inspector Clouseau.

Obama is also complaining about his critics’ use of the Internet to organize their opposition. This is doubly strange, since the Internet was a crucial tool in Obama’s election victory, and the president is very proud of his work as a “community organizer” in Chicago. In his autobiography, Obama described how he saw his role, which was to

pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in Congress, compliant and corrupt. Change in the mood of the country, manic and self-absorbed. Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.

What we are seeing unfold today, online as well as in town-hall meetings and protests across the country, sounds very much like community-organizing, but for a conservative rather than a liberal cause. So in the eyes of some, community-organizing and political activism have gone from being virtues to being vices.

With public anger toward ObamaCare rising, the president and his allies have decided to pour kerosene on the embers and flames (and fearful Democrats have taken to canceling town-hall meetings). It is an old and sad story we are seeing play out: rather than facing the rancor at town-hall meetings as a sign of growing frustration and unrest, the president and his team are outright denying it. They are reacting defensively, bitterly, and aggressively. And Barack Obama — the man of unsurpassed equanimity and a calm temperament, who praises Lincoln because he always understood the views of those with whom he disagreed, the man who would usher in a “new era” of politics and civility, of enlightened public discourse and comity among previously warring factions — is allowing his representatives to mock and demonize his critics.

Here’s the bad news for the president: those critics are growing in number — and responding with Chicago-style politics will only create more of them. As a political strategy, what Obama is doing is lamentable and unwise. He will, soon enough, discover the error of his ways.

As a political strategy, it is highly unusual. Support for President Obama’s health-care plan is dropping precipitously, undone by stubborn facts and a growing realization among many Americans of the damaging effects ObamaCare would exact on their lives. As Democratic members of Congress return to their districts and host town-hall meetings, they are, in many circumstances, being met by concerned, agitated, and sometimes raucous or disruptive voters. Opposition is rising by the week.

Faced with all this, Obama and the Democratic National Committee have embraced a novel approach: attack the voters. These voters are, a new DNC ad tells us repeatedly, a “mob,” an “angry mob,” engaging in “mob activity.” Much of the anger, insists the president’ s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, is “manufactured.” There are hints of a conspiracy. And President Obama, in remarks yesterday, gripes and complains about “griping and complaining” by the American public. (This from a man who, during the campaign, in counseling his supporters on what to do with his opponents, asked them to “get in their face” and celebrated properly channeled “anger” on the part of the American people.)

Public officials shouldn’t be shouted down; reasoned, measured debate is certainly preferable to yelling. At the same time, there is a certain hypocrisy in all this as well. During the Bush era, liberals believed dissent — including loud, boisterous speaking “truth to power” — was the highest form of patriotism. “Not any more,” in the immortal words of Peter Sellers’s character Inspector Clouseau.

Obama is also complaining about his critics’ use of the Internet to organize their opposition. This is doubly strange, since the Internet was a crucial tool in Obama’s election victory, and the president is very proud of his work as a “community organizer” in Chicago. In his autobiography, Obama described how he saw his role, which was to

pronounce on the need for change. Change in the White House, where Reagan and his minions were carrying on their dirty deeds. Change in Congress, compliant and corrupt. Change in the mood of the country, manic and self-absorbed. Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.

What we are seeing unfold today, online as well as in town-hall meetings and protests across the country, sounds very much like community-organizing, but for a conservative rather than a liberal cause. So in the eyes of some, community-organizing and political activism have gone from being virtues to being vices.

With public anger toward ObamaCare rising, the president and his allies have decided to pour kerosene on the embers and flames (and fearful Democrats have taken to canceling town-hall meetings). It is an old and sad story we are seeing play out: rather than facing the rancor at town-hall meetings as a sign of growing frustration and unrest, the president and his team are outright denying it. They are reacting defensively, bitterly, and aggressively. And Barack Obama — the man of unsurpassed equanimity and a calm temperament, who praises Lincoln because he always understood the views of those with whom he disagreed, the man who would usher in a “new era” of politics and civility, of enlightened public discourse and comity among previously warring factions — is allowing his representatives to mock and demonize his critics.

Here’s the bad news for the president: those critics are growing in number — and responding with Chicago-style politics will only create more of them. As a political strategy, what Obama is doing is lamentable and unwise. He will, soon enough, discover the error of his ways.

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A Lobbyist for U.S. Attorney?

The “scandal” involving the firing of nine U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration set Washington ablaze. Improper politicization! Prosecutors must be above partisan politics! We remember it well. Now comes word that the U.S. attorney for Alexandria, Virginia — who, we are told, is in the running to prosecute Gitmo detainees — may be replaced by a candidate who used to work for and whose appointment is being pushed by Joe Biden. Who is this person? A lobbyist. The Washington Post reports:

Neil MacBride, who has been an associate deputy attorney general since January, is undergoing FBI background checks for the Alexandria job, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no appointment has been announced.

MacBride, 43, is a former federal prosecutor and a former chief counsel to Vice President Biden, and he was a vice president at the Business Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft, IBM and several other leading computer companies. He was a registered lobbyist for that organization in 2007, lobbying the Senate on topics such as copyright enforcement and cybersecurity, according to Senate records and federal officials.

It would be unusual for a recent corporate lobbyist to be a U.S. attorney, and some prosecutors and governmental watchdogs have asked whether appointing MacBride would run counter to the spirit of the Obama administration’s efforts to change the lobbying culture of Washington.

In any case this appointment would be questionable, but considering the role this U.S. attorney plays in the war on terror, the appointment is simply appalling. The Post explains:

The position has grown increasingly visible in recent years, as the Alexandria office has handled some of the nation’s highest-profile terrorism and national security cases. Law enforcement officials said it is especially important to have a new U.S. attorney in place because Alexandria is competing with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan for the opportunity to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and his accused co-conspirators.

I’m sure Sens. Leahy and Schumer, who were all over the U.S. attorney scandal in the Bush years, will be all over this. No?

The “scandal” involving the firing of nine U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration set Washington ablaze. Improper politicization! Prosecutors must be above partisan politics! We remember it well. Now comes word that the U.S. attorney for Alexandria, Virginia — who, we are told, is in the running to prosecute Gitmo detainees — may be replaced by a candidate who used to work for and whose appointment is being pushed by Joe Biden. Who is this person? A lobbyist. The Washington Post reports:

Neil MacBride, who has been an associate deputy attorney general since January, is undergoing FBI background checks for the Alexandria job, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no appointment has been announced.

MacBride, 43, is a former federal prosecutor and a former chief counsel to Vice President Biden, and he was a vice president at the Business Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft, IBM and several other leading computer companies. He was a registered lobbyist for that organization in 2007, lobbying the Senate on topics such as copyright enforcement and cybersecurity, according to Senate records and federal officials.

It would be unusual for a recent corporate lobbyist to be a U.S. attorney, and some prosecutors and governmental watchdogs have asked whether appointing MacBride would run counter to the spirit of the Obama administration’s efforts to change the lobbying culture of Washington.

In any case this appointment would be questionable, but considering the role this U.S. attorney plays in the war on terror, the appointment is simply appalling. The Post explains:

The position has grown increasingly visible in recent years, as the Alexandria office has handled some of the nation’s highest-profile terrorism and national security cases. Law enforcement officials said it is especially important to have a new U.S. attorney in place because Alexandria is competing with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan for the opportunity to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and his accused co-conspirators.

I’m sure Sens. Leahy and Schumer, who were all over the U.S. attorney scandal in the Bush years, will be all over this. No?

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Walk Back on Honduran Debacle

The White House may be in the process of reversing one of its egregious foreign-policy blunders. The Wall Street Journal reports that in answering questions from Sen. Richard Lugar, the State Department is beginning to hedge its bets on ousted president Manuel Zelaya. The report explains:

The U.S., in an apparent softening of its support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, won’t impose economic sanctions on Honduras and has yet to decide whether Mr. Zelaya’s removal from office constitutes a coup.

A letter from the State Department to Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, states that the U.S. “energetically” opposes Mr. Zelaya’s June 28 ouster. But the letter also expresses the harshest criticism yet of Mr. Zelaya’s own actions that preceded his removal from office, including trying to change Honduras’s constitution to potentially stay in power.

“We energetically condemn the actions of June 28. We also recognize that President Zelaya’s insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal,” Richard Verma, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in the letter, reviewed Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps someone in Foggy Bottom got hold of a copy of the Honduran constitution, consulted church leaders, or watched the massive demonstrations in favor of the military/congress/supreme court/Roberto Micheletti. Or perhaps the Obama team has finally recognized that it is folly to try to ingratiate ourselves with Hugo Chavez. Whatever the cause, this may be the first sign that the administration is trying, as Sen. Jim DeMint put it, to “walk back” its support for Zelaya.

If so, that would be a good thing indeed. But it would also demonstrate once again that this administration is severely lacking in judgment when it comes to assessing and understanding the world’s bullies and rogues. Unfortunately, one doesn’t get many “do-overs” in foreign policy.

The White House may be in the process of reversing one of its egregious foreign-policy blunders. The Wall Street Journal reports that in answering questions from Sen. Richard Lugar, the State Department is beginning to hedge its bets on ousted president Manuel Zelaya. The report explains:

The U.S., in an apparent softening of its support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, won’t impose economic sanctions on Honduras and has yet to decide whether Mr. Zelaya’s removal from office constitutes a coup.

A letter from the State Department to Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, states that the U.S. “energetically” opposes Mr. Zelaya’s June 28 ouster. But the letter also expresses the harshest criticism yet of Mr. Zelaya’s own actions that preceded his removal from office, including trying to change Honduras’s constitution to potentially stay in power.

“We energetically condemn the actions of June 28. We also recognize that President Zelaya’s insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal,” Richard Verma, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in the letter, reviewed Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps someone in Foggy Bottom got hold of a copy of the Honduran constitution, consulted church leaders, or watched the massive demonstrations in favor of the military/congress/supreme court/Roberto Micheletti. Or perhaps the Obama team has finally recognized that it is folly to try to ingratiate ourselves with Hugo Chavez. Whatever the cause, this may be the first sign that the administration is trying, as Sen. Jim DeMint put it, to “walk back” its support for Zelaya.

If so, that would be a good thing indeed. But it would also demonstrate once again that this administration is severely lacking in judgment when it comes to assessing and understanding the world’s bullies and rogues. Unfortunately, one doesn’t get many “do-overs” in foreign policy.

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This Is What Evenhandedness Looks Like

On July 23, Tawfiq Tirawi, security adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Palestinian television:

I am saying these things so that we understand that words are ineffective. Action is effective. … Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs. If we live to see the day, and you become the leaders of the future, mark my words: It is impossible for Jerusalem to be restored to us without thousands of martyrs.

At a high-school graduation ceremony on July 27, speaking under a sign that read “Tribute to high school graduates under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah,” a speaker commenced his remarks: “In the name of Palestine — Haifa, Acre, Jaffa [these are all Israeli cities], and our Arab Jerusalem.” Raed Radwan, the secretary of Fatah in Ramallah, said, “This is the Palestinian people that said and will continue to say that we are all seekers of martyrdom.”

As Khaled Abu Toameh reported at the Fatah general conference currently underway in Bethlehem, “Many Fatah operatives, including some of Abbas’s closest allies in Ramallah, have made it known that they would oppose any move to abandon the ‘armed struggle’ option.” At the conference, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as heroic martyrs by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.”

Arab member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi declared that the West Bank must be completely cleansed of Jewish residents and senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said that “resistance [terrorism] was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle [sic] are part of Fatah’s policy.”

The public Fatah charter discussed at the conference is intended for Western consumption and is, by Palestinian standards, moderate-sounding — although it does leave open the option of “armed struggle” if talks fail. But there is a second charter, this one intended for internal consumption, which is barely distinguishable from the Hamas charter. The media, of course, has fallen for this Arafat-inspired ruse. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has published Fatah’s “internal order” document:

Article 22 calls for: “objection by force to all political solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party.” This article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement of international forces in Palestine.

Article 9 states clearly that “the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab, Muslim, and humanitarian duty.” . . .

Article 12 calls for “the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally.” . . .

While the Political Program lists the “one-state solution” as an option in case the “two-state solution” fails, the Internal Order document mentions the “one-state solution” as the only solution.

Article 17 says: “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine.”

Finally, Article 19 notes: “The armed struggle is a strategy and not just a tactic and the armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a decisive factor in the war of liberation and the elimination of the Zionist existence, and the struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”

The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has twice been summoned by the Obama administration to be lectured, first about an apartment building in East Jerusalem owned by a Jew and then about an Israeli court decision on the legal ownership of two East Jerusalem houses. Jews living in East Jerusalem are treated by the administration as a crisis with the potential to destroy the peace process; the repeated declarations over the past two weeks by high-level Palestinian officials endorsing the destruction of Israel, celebrating terrorism, and vowing “armed resistance” merit not even the slightest protest. Obama remains perfectly silent as this wave of hatred and incitement gains strength. At this juncture, a little evenhandedness would be a refreshing development.

On July 23, Tawfiq Tirawi, security adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Palestinian television:

I am saying these things so that we understand that words are ineffective. Action is effective. … Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs. If we live to see the day, and you become the leaders of the future, mark my words: It is impossible for Jerusalem to be restored to us without thousands of martyrs.

At a high-school graduation ceremony on July 27, speaking under a sign that read “Tribute to high school graduates under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah,” a speaker commenced his remarks: “In the name of Palestine — Haifa, Acre, Jaffa [these are all Israeli cities], and our Arab Jerusalem.” Raed Radwan, the secretary of Fatah in Ramallah, said, “This is the Palestinian people that said and will continue to say that we are all seekers of martyrdom.”

As Khaled Abu Toameh reported at the Fatah general conference currently underway in Bethlehem, “Many Fatah operatives, including some of Abbas’s closest allies in Ramallah, have made it known that they would oppose any move to abandon the ‘armed struggle’ option.” At the conference, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as heroic martyrs by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.”

Arab member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi declared that the West Bank must be completely cleansed of Jewish residents and senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said that “resistance [terrorism] was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle [sic] are part of Fatah’s policy.”

The public Fatah charter discussed at the conference is intended for Western consumption and is, by Palestinian standards, moderate-sounding — although it does leave open the option of “armed struggle” if talks fail. But there is a second charter, this one intended for internal consumption, which is barely distinguishable from the Hamas charter. The media, of course, has fallen for this Arafat-inspired ruse. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has published Fatah’s “internal order” document:

Article 22 calls for: “objection by force to all political solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party.” This article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement of international forces in Palestine.

Article 9 states clearly that “the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab, Muslim, and humanitarian duty.” . . .

Article 12 calls for “the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally.” . . .

While the Political Program lists the “one-state solution” as an option in case the “two-state solution” fails, the Internal Order document mentions the “one-state solution” as the only solution.

Article 17 says: “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine.”

Finally, Article 19 notes: “The armed struggle is a strategy and not just a tactic and the armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a decisive factor in the war of liberation and the elimination of the Zionist existence, and the struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”

The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has twice been summoned by the Obama administration to be lectured, first about an apartment building in East Jerusalem owned by a Jew and then about an Israeli court decision on the legal ownership of two East Jerusalem houses. Jews living in East Jerusalem are treated by the administration as a crisis with the potential to destroy the peace process; the repeated declarations over the past two weeks by high-level Palestinian officials endorsing the destruction of Israel, celebrating terrorism, and vowing “armed resistance” merit not even the slightest protest. Obama remains perfectly silent as this wave of hatred and incitement gains strength. At this juncture, a little evenhandedness would be a refreshing development.

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Who Killed Arafat? Try Asking Who Stole the Money and Spiked Statehood?

Yasser Arafat, the corrupt murderer who helped invent modern terrorism, killed countless innocents, and hoodwinked most of the civilized world, is gone but not forgotten.

Today the General Assembly of Fatah, the terrorist group he founded and with which he created the bloody kleptocracy known as the Palestinian Authority, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an investigation into his death in 2004 from a mysterious illness. The rules for this investigation are very much in the spirit of open inquiry. Those involved can apparently seek out all information, provided it proves that “Israel bears full responsibility for his death.”

Interestingly, the Jerusalem Post reports that other Palestinians think Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas was part of a cabal that did the old murderer in. Various rumors have long circulated about what killed him. His doctors reportedly believed that idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and cirrhosis were involved, though no autopsy was ever performed.

But as long as they’re in an investigative mood, I have some better questions for the Fatah delegates to ponder:

1. What happened to the billions in aid funds from European and other Western sources that Arafat and his pals stole?
2. Why did Arafat turn down Israel’s offers of Palestinian statehood in 2000 and answer the peace initiatives with a devastating terrorist war of attrition that killed more than a thousand Israelis and many more Palestinians and left his people isolated and destitute?
3. Why did Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas turn down an even more generous offer of statehood and territory made by Ehud Olmert last year?
4. Given that Fatah’s only way of countering the growing popularity of Hamas has been through competing with it by creating new terror groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, why is the standard measure of credibility in Palestinian politics still how much blood an individual or a group has shed?

When Fatah members are prepared to ask and then answer those questions honestly, then we’ll know that the group has truly transformed itself from a terrorist organization into an entity dedicated to the welfare of its constituents.

Yasser Arafat, the corrupt murderer who helped invent modern terrorism, killed countless innocents, and hoodwinked most of the civilized world, is gone but not forgotten.

Today the General Assembly of Fatah, the terrorist group he founded and with which he created the bloody kleptocracy known as the Palestinian Authority, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an investigation into his death in 2004 from a mysterious illness. The rules for this investigation are very much in the spirit of open inquiry. Those involved can apparently seek out all information, provided it proves that “Israel bears full responsibility for his death.”

Interestingly, the Jerusalem Post reports that other Palestinians think Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas was part of a cabal that did the old murderer in. Various rumors have long circulated about what killed him. His doctors reportedly believed that idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and cirrhosis were involved, though no autopsy was ever performed.

But as long as they’re in an investigative mood, I have some better questions for the Fatah delegates to ponder:

1. What happened to the billions in aid funds from European and other Western sources that Arafat and his pals stole?
2. Why did Arafat turn down Israel’s offers of Palestinian statehood in 2000 and answer the peace initiatives with a devastating terrorist war of attrition that killed more than a thousand Israelis and many more Palestinians and left his people isolated and destitute?
3. Why did Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas turn down an even more generous offer of statehood and territory made by Ehud Olmert last year?
4. Given that Fatah’s only way of countering the growing popularity of Hamas has been through competing with it by creating new terror groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, why is the standard measure of credibility in Palestinian politics still how much blood an individual or a group has shed?

When Fatah members are prepared to ask and then answer those questions honestly, then we’ll know that the group has truly transformed itself from a terrorist organization into an entity dedicated to the welfare of its constituents.

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NATO Regroups in Afghanistan

Although it has received almost no coverage, this is a significant development from Afghanistan — more so than the daily Taliban attacks currently hogging the headlines:

NATO approved a reorganization of its command structure in Afghanistan on Tuesday to better coordinate the war there against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. . . . NATO agreed to establish a new Intermediate Joint Headquarters in Kabul under an American, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, to manage the day-to-day war. General Rodriguez will continue to report to the top American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

This new command — equivalent to a corps headquarters — will fill a large hole in the NATO command structure. Lt. Gen. Rodriguez will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the war, as Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno was in Iraq in 2007, while Gen. Stan McChrystal will be able to concentrate on the greater strategic picture, as Gen. David Petraeus did in Iraq. It has been obvious for some time that this was a role needing to be filled, but Gen. David McKiernan had resisted appointing a corps commander, which is part of the reason he is no longer in command in Afghanistan. There had been doubts among many American officers whether NATO would accede to a request to create another new headquarters led by an American general and largely staffed by Americans, which would be seen as further “Americanizing” what is supposed to be an allied endeavor. Kudos to the Obama administration for seeing the necessity of doing this and for getting our NATO allies to go along.

Although it has received almost no coverage, this is a significant development from Afghanistan — more so than the daily Taliban attacks currently hogging the headlines:

NATO approved a reorganization of its command structure in Afghanistan on Tuesday to better coordinate the war there against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. . . . NATO agreed to establish a new Intermediate Joint Headquarters in Kabul under an American, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, to manage the day-to-day war. General Rodriguez will continue to report to the top American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

This new command — equivalent to a corps headquarters — will fill a large hole in the NATO command structure. Lt. Gen. Rodriguez will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the war, as Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno was in Iraq in 2007, while Gen. Stan McChrystal will be able to concentrate on the greater strategic picture, as Gen. David Petraeus did in Iraq. It has been obvious for some time that this was a role needing to be filled, but Gen. David McKiernan had resisted appointing a corps commander, which is part of the reason he is no longer in command in Afghanistan. There had been doubts among many American officers whether NATO would accede to a request to create another new headquarters led by an American general and largely staffed by Americans, which would be seen as further “Americanizing” what is supposed to be an allied endeavor. Kudos to the Obama administration for seeing the necessity of doing this and for getting our NATO allies to go along.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly and Daniel Halper think the Clinton rescue mission to North Korea is precisely the wrong move: “By taking measures to prevent proliferation, strengthening our regional alliances and by making clear that the only solution to the North Korea problem is regime change, the United States will be on a path toward eliminating the North Korean threat rather than prolonging it. Engaging Kim with an envoy — in this case, Clinton — indicates the current administration’s obtuse willingness to cling to a policy with a proven record of failure. Unless Obama adopts a new approach and takes into account the true nature and intentions — and previous belligerent actions — of the Kim regime, the president’s actions only serve to signal a weakness and naiveté that will prove disastrous for the United States and its allies.”

Obama’s job approval/disapproval rating sinks to 41-52 percent in Virginia. No wonder Creigh Deeds isn’t keen on campaigning with him.

Marty Peretz joins up with the chorus on Mary Robinson: “I give him the benefit of a doubt. He may not himself have made the decision to honor the contemptible Mary Robinson, arguably a real bigot, with the Medal of Freedom. But, then, there is someone in his entourage who is leading him astray, gravely astray. And that someone has it in for Israel and for American Jews, too. The fact is that there is only so much that can be explained.” And like many of us, he has figured out the contemptible pattern with Cairo and the tongue thrashings of Michael Oren.

ABC must be in on the plot – the reporter claims no insurance company wranglers in attendance, just ordinary and angry voters at a Maryland freshman Democrat’s town hall.

Karl Rove nails it: “If some version of ObamaCare is passed, the president will break his tax pledge several more times while adding trillions to the deficit, dismantling the best elements of our health-care system and slashing Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars. There are no polling data or focus groups on earth that can help Mr. Obama out of this jam. He has set in motion events he appears unable to control and commitments he cannot keep. Great communicators succeed when the ideas they are communicating are sound. Tax-and-spend liberalism doesn’t work, no matter how pretty its package.”

I think they called it the “culture of corruption“: “Former Representative William J. Jefferson was convicted Wednesday afternoon of using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.”

As if New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine didn’t have enough troubles, this report from the Garden State tells us: “State auditors have found troubling lapses in oversight and transparency among local and county government agencies awarded millions of dollars through the federal stimulus program designed to kick-start the ailing economy. A new report from the State Auditor’s Office concludes that ‘there exists transparency or accountability risks in the financial reporting or processing of (stimulus) transactions.’”

Jamie Fly and Daniel Halper think the Clinton rescue mission to North Korea is precisely the wrong move: “By taking measures to prevent proliferation, strengthening our regional alliances and by making clear that the only solution to the North Korea problem is regime change, the United States will be on a path toward eliminating the North Korean threat rather than prolonging it. Engaging Kim with an envoy — in this case, Clinton — indicates the current administration’s obtuse willingness to cling to a policy with a proven record of failure. Unless Obama adopts a new approach and takes into account the true nature and intentions — and previous belligerent actions — of the Kim regime, the president’s actions only serve to signal a weakness and naiveté that will prove disastrous for the United States and its allies.”

Obama’s job approval/disapproval rating sinks to 41-52 percent in Virginia. No wonder Creigh Deeds isn’t keen on campaigning with him.

Marty Peretz joins up with the chorus on Mary Robinson: “I give him the benefit of a doubt. He may not himself have made the decision to honor the contemptible Mary Robinson, arguably a real bigot, with the Medal of Freedom. But, then, there is someone in his entourage who is leading him astray, gravely astray. And that someone has it in for Israel and for American Jews, too. The fact is that there is only so much that can be explained.” And like many of us, he has figured out the contemptible pattern with Cairo and the tongue thrashings of Michael Oren.

ABC must be in on the plot – the reporter claims no insurance company wranglers in attendance, just ordinary and angry voters at a Maryland freshman Democrat’s town hall.

Karl Rove nails it: “If some version of ObamaCare is passed, the president will break his tax pledge several more times while adding trillions to the deficit, dismantling the best elements of our health-care system and slashing Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars. There are no polling data or focus groups on earth that can help Mr. Obama out of this jam. He has set in motion events he appears unable to control and commitments he cannot keep. Great communicators succeed when the ideas they are communicating are sound. Tax-and-spend liberalism doesn’t work, no matter how pretty its package.”

I think they called it the “culture of corruption“: “Former Representative William J. Jefferson was convicted Wednesday afternoon of using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.”

As if New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine didn’t have enough troubles, this report from the Garden State tells us: “State auditors have found troubling lapses in oversight and transparency among local and county government agencies awarded millions of dollars through the federal stimulus program designed to kick-start the ailing economy. A new report from the State Auditor’s Office concludes that ‘there exists transparency or accountability risks in the financial reporting or processing of (stimulus) transactions.’”

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Avoiding Math

No one seems to believe the White House’s “cross our hearts we aren’t raising taxes on the middle class” damage-control effort. Conservatives never bought it, and liberals, quite pleased with the prospect of more revenue to fund more spending (or at least the spending we have already initiated), are peeved that the president isn’t bucking up. In this vein, Ruth Marcus chastises the president for backing away from the comments by Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to the effect that taxes might have to be raised after all:

Obama wants a government that is bigger than the revenue it generates, but he is unwilling to acknowledge the implications of that stance. It is politically easier to pretend that the entire problem can be solved on the backs of corporations and wealthy individuals. I’m all for a tax code that is heavily progressive and free of loopholes, but the arithmetic won’t allow all the balancing to be done on a sliver of the population.

These are comments that Obama should have let stand — if he had the political courage. Instead, the president who launched his campaign bemoaning “our chronic avoidance of tough decisions” chose to send his press secretary to clean up after economic advisers who dared to whisper hard truths.

And let’s be clear — the president has already approved two very regressive taxes, one on energy (Warren Buffet frowned on making “very poor people” pay for cap-and-trade) and the other on cigarettes (aside from the president, most smokers aren’t rich). So I think it’s safe to say the pledge has already been broken. But soon, if anything remotely resembling ObamaCare is to be passed, we’ll see a big undeniable tax on many more than the “rich.” They can call it a “fee” or a “user charge” or a “surtax.” But it will be a big tax, whatever they want to call it.

The choice is simple: dump his campaign promise or forget about ObamaCare. Marcus and the liberals are rooting for the former, but the White House remembers where reneging on an airtight “read my lips” promise got George H.W. Bush. Obama may have scammed the voters with a promise of a big liberal agenda and no taxes, but now he has to govern — a task that seems to have bedeviled him. Isn’t there a campaign rally he can go to instead?

No one seems to believe the White House’s “cross our hearts we aren’t raising taxes on the middle class” damage-control effort. Conservatives never bought it, and liberals, quite pleased with the prospect of more revenue to fund more spending (or at least the spending we have already initiated), are peeved that the president isn’t bucking up. In this vein, Ruth Marcus chastises the president for backing away from the comments by Larry Summers and Tim Geithner to the effect that taxes might have to be raised after all:

Obama wants a government that is bigger than the revenue it generates, but he is unwilling to acknowledge the implications of that stance. It is politically easier to pretend that the entire problem can be solved on the backs of corporations and wealthy individuals. I’m all for a tax code that is heavily progressive and free of loopholes, but the arithmetic won’t allow all the balancing to be done on a sliver of the population.

These are comments that Obama should have let stand — if he had the political courage. Instead, the president who launched his campaign bemoaning “our chronic avoidance of tough decisions” chose to send his press secretary to clean up after economic advisers who dared to whisper hard truths.

And let’s be clear — the president has already approved two very regressive taxes, one on energy (Warren Buffet frowned on making “very poor people” pay for cap-and-trade) and the other on cigarettes (aside from the president, most smokers aren’t rich). So I think it’s safe to say the pledge has already been broken. But soon, if anything remotely resembling ObamaCare is to be passed, we’ll see a big undeniable tax on many more than the “rich.” They can call it a “fee” or a “user charge” or a “surtax.” But it will be a big tax, whatever they want to call it.

The choice is simple: dump his campaign promise or forget about ObamaCare. Marcus and the liberals are rooting for the former, but the White House remembers where reneging on an airtight “read my lips” promise got George H.W. Bush. Obama may have scammed the voters with a promise of a big liberal agenda and no taxes, but now he has to govern — a task that seems to have bedeviled him. Isn’t there a campaign rally he can go to instead?

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Senator Kit Bond On Mary Robinson

Sen. Kit Bond becomes the first senator to speak out on Mary Robinson. In response to our inquiry, Bond declares in unequivocal terms his objection to the president’s decision to honor Mary Robinson:

The United States boycotted the UN’s Durban Conference on Racism for its hostility to Israel; to award now our nation’s highest civilian honor to someone best known for presiding over the conference sends the wrong signal to one of our most steadfast friends and allies.

Which other elected officials, which self-proclaimed defenders of Israel, will speak out? Silence is agreement with the White House’s atrocious judgment. Let us see who else will object.

Sen. Kit Bond becomes the first senator to speak out on Mary Robinson. In response to our inquiry, Bond declares in unequivocal terms his objection to the president’s decision to honor Mary Robinson:

The United States boycotted the UN’s Durban Conference on Racism for its hostility to Israel; to award now our nation’s highest civilian honor to someone best known for presiding over the conference sends the wrong signal to one of our most steadfast friends and allies.

Which other elected officials, which self-proclaimed defenders of Israel, will speak out? Silence is agreement with the White House’s atrocious judgment. Let us see who else will object.

Read Less




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