Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 12, 2009

Re: Re: Re: Malley Stumbles Upon the Truth: Peace Isn’t Possible

Jonathan and Noah, I think both of you are correct about the Malley/Agha op-ed in the New York Times. It is both a useful recognition that the real issue goes back to 1948 and an ominous indication of the anti-Zionist direction in which such experts want to take the discussion, with the assistance of the Times.

I think the key portion of the op-ed was the following:

Mr. Netanyahu underscores that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state—and recalls that the conflict began before the West Bank or Gaza were occupied. Palestinians, in turn, reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, uphold the refugees’ rights and maintain that if Israel wants real closure, it will need to pay with more than mere statehood.

. . . [The conflict] can be settled, both sides implicitly concur, only by looking past the occupation to questions born in 1948—Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state and the dispossession and dislocation of Palestinian refugees.

The Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state is now in its 62nd year, and as George Will said at the Claremont Dinner earlier this year, “How the president believes that if we return to the 1967 borders, the antipathy to Israel, which predated the 1967 borders, will disappear, I do not know.” Malley and Agha have performed the useful service of telling us that Will’s analysis is correct.

As for the dispossession and dislocation of the 700,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948 and the rights of refugees, one solution would be to employ the same one used for the dispossession and dislocation of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries in 1948: resettle them in their new countries and give them rights.

In Lebanon today, Palestinian refugees are kept in squalid camps, the permanent wards of a UN agency dedicated to maintaining them there, without the right to become citizens, barred by law from most profitable professions, without even the right to own property, subjected to prohibitive fees as “foreigners” to obtain education—all of which leaves them without jobs, income, schooling, or decent housing. They should be given their basic humanitarian rights in the country in which most have lived their entire lives. It is not a solution simply to move them to the West Bank or to assert a specious “right of return” to demographically overwhelm Israel (or force it to assume responsibility for the consequences of a war the Arabs started).

Perhaps one day a U.S. president will address the Muslim world again. But instead of catering to tropes about Israel and the Holocaust, he will summon the courage to address the leaders of the Arab countries and, using the historic words of a former president, demand that they tear down those camps.

Jonathan and Noah, I think both of you are correct about the Malley/Agha op-ed in the New York Times. It is both a useful recognition that the real issue goes back to 1948 and an ominous indication of the anti-Zionist direction in which such experts want to take the discussion, with the assistance of the Times.

I think the key portion of the op-ed was the following:

Mr. Netanyahu underscores that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state—and recalls that the conflict began before the West Bank or Gaza were occupied. Palestinians, in turn, reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, uphold the refugees’ rights and maintain that if Israel wants real closure, it will need to pay with more than mere statehood.

. . . [The conflict] can be settled, both sides implicitly concur, only by looking past the occupation to questions born in 1948—Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state and the dispossession and dislocation of Palestinian refugees.

The Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state is now in its 62nd year, and as George Will said at the Claremont Dinner earlier this year, “How the president believes that if we return to the 1967 borders, the antipathy to Israel, which predated the 1967 borders, will disappear, I do not know.” Malley and Agha have performed the useful service of telling us that Will’s analysis is correct.

As for the dispossession and dislocation of the 700,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948 and the rights of refugees, one solution would be to employ the same one used for the dispossession and dislocation of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries in 1948: resettle them in their new countries and give them rights.

In Lebanon today, Palestinian refugees are kept in squalid camps, the permanent wards of a UN agency dedicated to maintaining them there, without the right to become citizens, barred by law from most profitable professions, without even the right to own property, subjected to prohibitive fees as “foreigners” to obtain education—all of which leaves them without jobs, income, schooling, or decent housing. They should be given their basic humanitarian rights in the country in which most have lived their entire lives. It is not a solution simply to move them to the West Bank or to assert a specious “right of return” to demographically overwhelm Israel (or force it to assume responsibility for the consequences of a war the Arabs started).

Perhaps one day a U.S. president will address the Muslim world again. But instead of catering to tropes about Israel and the Holocaust, he will summon the courage to address the leaders of the Arab countries and, using the historic words of a former president, demand that they tear down those camps.

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Need You Know More?

Obama awarded Mary Robinson her Medal of Freedom today. He declared:

For Mary Robinson, the fight to end discrimination and suffering is an urgent moral imperative. She has been a trail-blazing crusader for women’s rights in Ireland and a forceful advocate for equality and human rights around the world. Whether courageously visiting conflict-stricken regions, or working to inject concern for human rights into business and economic development, Mary Robinson continues this important work today, urging citizens and nations to make common cause for justice.

On June 18, 2008, George W. Bush presented the same award to Tom Lantos’s widow, as reported:

The Holocaust survivor, who died of cancer in February, was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is remembered as a champion of human rights. Bush recalled Lantos’ remarks as he announced his retirement from Congress. “His words were not of despair, but of gratitude for a nation that had given him so much,” Bush said. ” ‘Only in America could a penniless survivor of the Holocaust receive an education, raise a family and have the privilege of serving in the Congress.’ “

Need we know more about the priorities and sensibilities of the two presidents? Obama prides himself on—and never misses a chance of—distinguishing himself from his predecessor. His decision to honor Robinson certainly does that. But to be clear, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, I can’t imagine another American president elevating someone so antagonistic toward Israeli and American interests. In this sense, Obama is in a class by himself.

UPDATE: Mary Lantos has in fact added her voice to the critics of the award, releasing a statement declaring that she is “deeply disappointed” in the decision to bestow the award on Robinson and calling this an opportunity to reflect on Durban.

Obama awarded Mary Robinson her Medal of Freedom today. He declared:

For Mary Robinson, the fight to end discrimination and suffering is an urgent moral imperative. She has been a trail-blazing crusader for women’s rights in Ireland and a forceful advocate for equality and human rights around the world. Whether courageously visiting conflict-stricken regions, or working to inject concern for human rights into business and economic development, Mary Robinson continues this important work today, urging citizens and nations to make common cause for justice.

On June 18, 2008, George W. Bush presented the same award to Tom Lantos’s widow, as reported:

The Holocaust survivor, who died of cancer in February, was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is remembered as a champion of human rights. Bush recalled Lantos’ remarks as he announced his retirement from Congress. “His words were not of despair, but of gratitude for a nation that had given him so much,” Bush said. ” ‘Only in America could a penniless survivor of the Holocaust receive an education, raise a family and have the privilege of serving in the Congress.’ “

Need we know more about the priorities and sensibilities of the two presidents? Obama prides himself on—and never misses a chance of—distinguishing himself from his predecessor. His decision to honor Robinson certainly does that. But to be clear, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, I can’t imagine another American president elevating someone so antagonistic toward Israeli and American interests. In this sense, Obama is in a class by himself.

UPDATE: Mary Lantos has in fact added her voice to the critics of the award, releasing a statement declaring that she is “deeply disappointed” in the decision to bestow the award on Robinson and calling this an opportunity to reflect on Durban.

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Re: Re: Malley Stumbles Upon the Truth: Peace Isn’t Possible

Noah, you’re right. As I wrote, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha have acknowledged that Palestinians are still not much interested in a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, but rather in Israel’s destruction.

Dennis Ross and other Democrats defended Malley last year as a friend of Israel when the president came under attack for his association with the former Clinton staffer. But that pretension of friendship was far from sincere.

We need to acknowledge that Malley and Agha’s piece in the New York Times is the harbinger of the next phase of anti-Israel incitement from the Left. Over the past two decades, mainstream critics of Israel have focused relentlessly on the notion that Israel must withdraw from territory, cease building Jewish communities in the disputed territories, and uproot those that already exist. That over this same period Israel recognized the PLO, granted it control of most of the territories, offered it statehood repeatedly, and in 2005 withdrew every settlement and soldier from Gaza earned it little credit in the court of international opinion. Though the repeated refusal of the Palestinians to make peace, even on terms that seemed to satisfy their demands for sovereignty, has discredited the Israeli Left, those facts seemed not to have penetrated the consciousness of the West.

The inevitable failure of the next round of peace-processing pushed by President Obama will be blamed on Israel in spite of there being no reason to believe the Palestinians will accept a deal on any terms that leave a Jewish state in place. What Malley and Agha seem to be doing is preparing for the moment Obama needs a scapegoat for his hopeless initiative. It is at that point that we can expect hardcore anti-Zionist opinions such as those exhibited on yesterday’s Times op-ed page to be given more prominence.

As such, this decision by Israel’s foes—and their enablers at the Times—to now focus on the delegitimization of Zionism rather than on traditional carping about Jerusalem’s policies may well foreshadow the not-so-distant future debates on the Middle East.

Noah, you’re right. As I wrote, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha have acknowledged that Palestinians are still not much interested in a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, but rather in Israel’s destruction.

Dennis Ross and other Democrats defended Malley last year as a friend of Israel when the president came under attack for his association with the former Clinton staffer. But that pretension of friendship was far from sincere.

We need to acknowledge that Malley and Agha’s piece in the New York Times is the harbinger of the next phase of anti-Israel incitement from the Left. Over the past two decades, mainstream critics of Israel have focused relentlessly on the notion that Israel must withdraw from territory, cease building Jewish communities in the disputed territories, and uproot those that already exist. That over this same period Israel recognized the PLO, granted it control of most of the territories, offered it statehood repeatedly, and in 2005 withdrew every settlement and soldier from Gaza earned it little credit in the court of international opinion. Though the repeated refusal of the Palestinians to make peace, even on terms that seemed to satisfy their demands for sovereignty, has discredited the Israeli Left, those facts seemed not to have penetrated the consciousness of the West.

The inevitable failure of the next round of peace-processing pushed by President Obama will be blamed on Israel in spite of there being no reason to believe the Palestinians will accept a deal on any terms that leave a Jewish state in place. What Malley and Agha seem to be doing is preparing for the moment Obama needs a scapegoat for his hopeless initiative. It is at that point that we can expect hardcore anti-Zionist opinions such as those exhibited on yesterday’s Times op-ed page to be given more prominence.

As such, this decision by Israel’s foes—and their enablers at the Times—to now focus on the delegitimization of Zionism rather than on traditional carping about Jerusalem’s policies may well foreshadow the not-so-distant future debates on the Middle East.

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Democratic Culture Shock

Michael Barone examines the anti-voter rhetoric coming from Democrats and concludes:

The Democrats’ health care bills have stirred widespread and deeply felt opposition. While some of the protests are organized, the turnout and strong feeling expressed indicate that we are watching something that is largely spontaneous. Try organizing such a protest when almost no one cares much about your issue: no one will show up. It’s the supporters of the Democrats’ health care bills, not their opponents, who are astroturfing—and spending plenty of moolah on television ads and the like.

The Democrats are spoiled because they are used to a mainstream media who spin things their way and a general public whose only expressions of spontaneous enthusiasm in 2006-08 were opposition to (if not hatred of) George W. Bush and support of Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. Now the spontaneous enthusiasm is all on the other side, with the Democratic astroturf efforts producing pathetic turnouts and largely spontaneous opposition to the Democratic health care plans producing large turnouts.

The Democrats are understandably stunned. They and those sympathetic to them do control everything—the White House, Congress, the mainstream media, the popular culture, and elite education. And they still—despite all that power—can’t get the public to pipe down and go along quietly with their planned takeover of health care. What is wrong with everyone? You can sense the anger, the resentment. And the panic.

There is no playbook for the liberal establishment when they are in power while the crowds and much of the new media are in  fevered opposition. After all it is the Left that is supposed to be filled with righteous indignation at the “establishment.” Moreover, the intensity is largely now on the side of the anti-ObamaCare forces — quite a reversal from the Bush era.

They can either change the substance (i.e., scrap ObamaCare and start over) or try a different sales pitch. Absent either of those course corrections, it is hard to see how things can improve for the Democratic congressional leadership and the president. Indeed, the longer this goes on, the more likely they are to turn off more and more of the portion of the electorate that is most likely to show up at the polls on Election Day 2010.

Michael Barone examines the anti-voter rhetoric coming from Democrats and concludes:

The Democrats’ health care bills have stirred widespread and deeply felt opposition. While some of the protests are organized, the turnout and strong feeling expressed indicate that we are watching something that is largely spontaneous. Try organizing such a protest when almost no one cares much about your issue: no one will show up. It’s the supporters of the Democrats’ health care bills, not their opponents, who are astroturfing—and spending plenty of moolah on television ads and the like.

The Democrats are spoiled because they are used to a mainstream media who spin things their way and a general public whose only expressions of spontaneous enthusiasm in 2006-08 were opposition to (if not hatred of) George W. Bush and support of Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. Now the spontaneous enthusiasm is all on the other side, with the Democratic astroturf efforts producing pathetic turnouts and largely spontaneous opposition to the Democratic health care plans producing large turnouts.

The Democrats are understandably stunned. They and those sympathetic to them do control everything—the White House, Congress, the mainstream media, the popular culture, and elite education. And they still—despite all that power—can’t get the public to pipe down and go along quietly with their planned takeover of health care. What is wrong with everyone? You can sense the anger, the resentment. And the panic.

There is no playbook for the liberal establishment when they are in power while the crowds and much of the new media are in  fevered opposition. After all it is the Left that is supposed to be filled with righteous indignation at the “establishment.” Moreover, the intensity is largely now on the side of the anti-ObamaCare forces — quite a reversal from the Bush era.

They can either change the substance (i.e., scrap ObamaCare and start over) or try a different sales pitch. Absent either of those course corrections, it is hard to see how things can improve for the Democratic congressional leadership and the president. Indeed, the longer this goes on, the more likely they are to turn off more and more of the portion of the electorate that is most likely to show up at the polls on Election Day 2010.

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J Street Hearts Mary Robinson

I took a lot of heat when I said during the Gaza war that “it is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is—an anti-Israel group.” Since then, I’ve seen nothing that would encourage a reassessment.

J Street has frequently exerted itself to support purveyors of the worst kind of anti-Israel slanders, even anti-Semitic ones, such as when the group announced itself publicly in favor of an American performance of Caryl Churchill’s blood-libel play, Seven Jewish Children. In contrast, J Street has never once declared itself opposed to any libel against Israel—apparently, being pro-Israel means not only never criticizing Israel’s antagonists but actually giving them Jewish-branded aid and comfort.

So it’s no surprise that the group’s PR agency, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, has been working to support Robinson’s award, writing in an e-mail that “not everyone is critical of President Obama giving the Freedom medal to Mary Robinson.” The e-mail goes on to provide supportive testimonials from two “prominent Jewish supporters” of Robinson. The bigger question is whether J Street will ever be critical of anyone who hates Israel. It seems unlikely.

I took a lot of heat when I said during the Gaza war that “it is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is—an anti-Israel group.” Since then, I’ve seen nothing that would encourage a reassessment.

J Street has frequently exerted itself to support purveyors of the worst kind of anti-Israel slanders, even anti-Semitic ones, such as when the group announced itself publicly in favor of an American performance of Caryl Churchill’s blood-libel play, Seven Jewish Children. In contrast, J Street has never once declared itself opposed to any libel against Israel—apparently, being pro-Israel means not only never criticizing Israel’s antagonists but actually giving them Jewish-branded aid and comfort.

So it’s no surprise that the group’s PR agency, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, has been working to support Robinson’s award, writing in an e-mail that “not everyone is critical of President Obama giving the Freedom medal to Mary Robinson.” The e-mail goes on to provide supportive testimonials from two “prominent Jewish supporters” of Robinson. The bigger question is whether J Street will ever be critical of anyone who hates Israel. It seems unlikely.

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And They Vote No Matter What

Politico reports:

Democrats have a senior citizen problem. Frustrated older Americans are packing the town halls on health care. They are incredibly passionate about their Medicare benefits. Polls show senior citizens largely disapprove of health care reform ideas so far. And of course, they vote—in larger numbers than any other demographic. But so far, Democrats have focused much of their health care sales pitch on middle-class Americans and the uninsured—a slight that has been noticed by senior citizens, who hold great influence with members of Congress.

The problem is not simply that it’s hard to make the case (even for the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Robert Gibbs) that senior citizens are dupes of the RNC; it is that these people vote. They vote in numbers disproportionate to their share of the electorate. And they vote in off-year elections. In short, they don’t like ObamaCare, and they matter politically.

Moreover, when the president and members of Congress talk about slashing billions from Medicare, the anxiety level among seniors, who know a thing or two about Medicare, only goes up. To be blunt, they are less likely to buy Obama’s spin than is the average 30-something voter.

Obama can try to “dispel myths” all he likes. But so long as he is pushing a plan in which government takes a larger and larger role in medical decision-making and seeks to achieve “savings” by “cannibalizing Medicare,” as Sen. John Cornyn put it, he’s going to have a problem with seniors. And if the Democrats are in an uproar over getting health-care “reform” passed and supporters of ObamaCare re-elected, then 2010 will be an uphill battle.

Politico reports:

Democrats have a senior citizen problem. Frustrated older Americans are packing the town halls on health care. They are incredibly passionate about their Medicare benefits. Polls show senior citizens largely disapprove of health care reform ideas so far. And of course, they vote—in larger numbers than any other demographic. But so far, Democrats have focused much of their health care sales pitch on middle-class Americans and the uninsured—a slight that has been noticed by senior citizens, who hold great influence with members of Congress.

The problem is not simply that it’s hard to make the case (even for the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Robert Gibbs) that senior citizens are dupes of the RNC; it is that these people vote. They vote in numbers disproportionate to their share of the electorate. And they vote in off-year elections. In short, they don’t like ObamaCare, and they matter politically.

Moreover, when the president and members of Congress talk about slashing billions from Medicare, the anxiety level among seniors, who know a thing or two about Medicare, only goes up. To be blunt, they are less likely to buy Obama’s spin than is the average 30-something voter.

Obama can try to “dispel myths” all he likes. But so long as he is pushing a plan in which government takes a larger and larger role in medical decision-making and seeks to achieve “savings” by “cannibalizing Medicare,” as Sen. John Cornyn put it, he’s going to have a problem with seniors. And if the Democrats are in an uproar over getting health-care “reform” passed and supporters of ObamaCare re-elected, then 2010 will be an uphill battle.

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Re: Malley Stumbles Upon the Truth: Peace Isn’t Possible

Jonathan, I read the Malley/Agha op-ed in the New York Times a little more positively than you did. As I see it, the piece is something of a watershed: two leading peace processors are joining us killjoy Zionists and admitting the basic truth that the Israeli-Arab conflict isn’t about settlements or 1967—it’s about 1948 itself, about the existence of the Jewish state being unacceptably shameful to most Arabs.

Haven’t we always demanded that our ideological adversaries acknowledge this basic point? It seems to me that two of their leaders now have.

Jonathan, I read the Malley/Agha op-ed in the New York Times a little more positively than you did. As I see it, the piece is something of a watershed: two leading peace processors are joining us killjoy Zionists and admitting the basic truth that the Israeli-Arab conflict isn’t about settlements or 1967—it’s about 1948 itself, about the existence of the Jewish state being unacceptably shameful to most Arabs.

Haven’t we always demanded that our ideological adversaries acknowledge this basic point? It seems to me that two of their leaders now have.

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Statement on Mary Robinson

I just learned that the Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) issued the following statement, responding to President Obama’s plan to award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson:

President Obama’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson is regrettable,” said Chairman Price. “Under Ms. Robinson’s leadership, supposed human rights efforts at the United Nations devolved into a circus of anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Our nation’s highest civilian honor should be reserved for those who embrace our fundamental principles of freedom and equality, not given to one who has repeatedly denounced the efforts of the State of Israel, our closest friend and ally, in the face of unfathomable challenges and extremist attacks. Ms. Robinson’s counterproductive stance and biased record makes her unworthy of the Medal of Freedom award and I call on the President to rethink this misguided and destructive decision.

I just learned that the Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) issued the following statement, responding to President Obama’s plan to award a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson:

President Obama’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson is regrettable,” said Chairman Price. “Under Ms. Robinson’s leadership, supposed human rights efforts at the United Nations devolved into a circus of anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Our nation’s highest civilian honor should be reserved for those who embrace our fundamental principles of freedom and equality, not given to one who has repeatedly denounced the efforts of the State of Israel, our closest friend and ally, in the face of unfathomable challenges and extremist attacks. Ms. Robinson’s counterproductive stance and biased record makes her unworthy of the Medal of Freedom award and I call on the President to rethink this misguided and destructive decision.

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Just Words, Unjust Deeds

It’s been challenging trying to figure out what role, if any, Hillary Clinton plays in the Obama administration. But if her performance in Africa this week is any indication, then President Obama likes to send in his secretary of state to quietly lower expectations after he’s swept through a region on a big PR wave of lofty rhetoric.

Bret Stephens rightly called Barack Obama’s speech in Ghana the best of his presidency. During the July oration, President Obama emphasized the importance of democracy to a degree we’ve seen nowhere else in his approach to foreign policy. He said:

No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.

Obama waxed so Dubyaesque, you can just about hear a Texas twang in the very words he spoke:

In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success—strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives.

[...]

Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.

America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation—the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance—on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice.

Powerful stuff. Far too powerful, as it turns out, for Obama to play around with outside the confines of showbiz speechifying. Here’s how Secretary Clinton followed up on Obama’s pro-democracy, anti-corruption message today in Nigeria:

When it came time to address corruption—and Nigeria is notorious for corruption, from the top ministers in the government to the police officers on the street—Mrs. Clinton’s message was muted. She simply said, “We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria’s efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption,” and prepare for a clean national election in 2011, after a problematic one in 2007.

“Problematic” is a cute New York Times way of describing an Iranian-style “election” that resulted in 200 deaths and a 70 percent victory, while “support and encourage[ment]” for Nigeria’s nonexistent efforts to increase transparency is a shameful dodge on the part of the American secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton was there to make sure that none of that democracy hooey spewed by Obama got taken seriously by Nigeria’s oil-exporting antidemocratic government. It’s “smart power,” you see. As the secretary of state put it in January, “We must use what has been called “smart power,” the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” So there’s no need to feel bad. Turning our backs on long-suffering Nigerians is just a tool—not a sin. The same goes for supporting dictators.

In Ghana, President Obama said, “history is on the side of these brave [democratic] Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power.” Sure hope so. But while Obama speaks for history, Hillary speaks for Obama, and no one gives voice to the victims of institutional corruption and abuse all across the continent of Africa.

It’s been challenging trying to figure out what role, if any, Hillary Clinton plays in the Obama administration. But if her performance in Africa this week is any indication, then President Obama likes to send in his secretary of state to quietly lower expectations after he’s swept through a region on a big PR wave of lofty rhetoric.

Bret Stephens rightly called Barack Obama’s speech in Ghana the best of his presidency. During the July oration, President Obama emphasized the importance of democracy to a degree we’ve seen nowhere else in his approach to foreign policy. He said:

No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.

Obama waxed so Dubyaesque, you can just about hear a Texas twang in the very words he spoke:

In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success—strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives.

[...]

Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.

America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation—the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance—on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice.

Powerful stuff. Far too powerful, as it turns out, for Obama to play around with outside the confines of showbiz speechifying. Here’s how Secretary Clinton followed up on Obama’s pro-democracy, anti-corruption message today in Nigeria:

When it came time to address corruption—and Nigeria is notorious for corruption, from the top ministers in the government to the police officers on the street—Mrs. Clinton’s message was muted. She simply said, “We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria’s efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption,” and prepare for a clean national election in 2011, after a problematic one in 2007.

“Problematic” is a cute New York Times way of describing an Iranian-style “election” that resulted in 200 deaths and a 70 percent victory, while “support and encourage[ment]” for Nigeria’s nonexistent efforts to increase transparency is a shameful dodge on the part of the American secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton was there to make sure that none of that democracy hooey spewed by Obama got taken seriously by Nigeria’s oil-exporting antidemocratic government. It’s “smart power,” you see. As the secretary of state put it in January, “We must use what has been called “smart power,” the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” So there’s no need to feel bad. Turning our backs on long-suffering Nigerians is just a tool—not a sin. The same goes for supporting dictators.

In Ghana, President Obama said, “history is on the side of these brave [democratic] Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power.” Sure hope so. But while Obama speaks for history, Hillary speaks for Obama, and no one gives voice to the victims of institutional corruption and abuse all across the continent of Africa.

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The Legacy of Mary Robinson

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not surprisingly dismayed about the decision to award Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom. He recounts the outrage of Durban and observes:

Sadly, the seeds of this debacle were planted by Robinson herself, when she approved a key conference preparatory meeting for Tehran. She assured the Jewish leaders and others attending the conference that we would be welcomed to participate. But visas for the Baha’i or members of the Wiesenthal Center did not arrive in time. While she protested the regime’s double cross, she welcomed the “consensus” of a productive meeting between civilizations at the Tehran meeting. She urged delegates to continue their fight against racism. As for the abuse against Israel, all Robinson would say was that “the situation in the Palestinian-occupied territories was brought up at the meeting and it is reflected in the final declaration.”

The internationally sanctioned Israel/apartheid ambush was ready to roll.

Robinson just doesn’t get it. Global human rights dialogue has been debased on her watch. The late Holocaust survivor and human rights crusader Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) told me as much just before he announced that he and U.S. diplomats, who shlepped to Durban to try to forge a compromise, were leaving in protest.

Mary Robinson will get her award today and for a brief time enjoy the image of the president placing America’s highest honor around her neck. But the image of Obama, who unlike Robinson remains a highly relevant figure on the world stage, presenting that honor will linger on. Questions about his judgment and his sympathies and about his advisers’ competency will linger. What sort of administration honors this sort of person?

Whether one buys the incompetency theory, the tone-deaf theory (they knew about Durban but didn’t understand its toxic legacy in the Jewish community), the “one more finger in the eye of Israel” theory, or the “what’s not to like about Robinson?” theory (i.e., she’s a model of the pro-Palestinian, anti-West ideology that animates elements of the administration as well as some of the president’s own rhetoric), the decision to give her the Medal of Freedom now becomes a permanent blot on Obama’s record. And moreover, it has served perhaps to finally impress upon American Jews just how unsympathetic and insensitive he is to Israel.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not surprisingly dismayed about the decision to award Mary Robinson the Medal of Freedom. He recounts the outrage of Durban and observes:

Sadly, the seeds of this debacle were planted by Robinson herself, when she approved a key conference preparatory meeting for Tehran. She assured the Jewish leaders and others attending the conference that we would be welcomed to participate. But visas for the Baha’i or members of the Wiesenthal Center did not arrive in time. While she protested the regime’s double cross, she welcomed the “consensus” of a productive meeting between civilizations at the Tehran meeting. She urged delegates to continue their fight against racism. As for the abuse against Israel, all Robinson would say was that “the situation in the Palestinian-occupied territories was brought up at the meeting and it is reflected in the final declaration.”

The internationally sanctioned Israel/apartheid ambush was ready to roll.

Robinson just doesn’t get it. Global human rights dialogue has been debased on her watch. The late Holocaust survivor and human rights crusader Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) told me as much just before he announced that he and U.S. diplomats, who shlepped to Durban to try to forge a compromise, were leaving in protest.

Mary Robinson will get her award today and for a brief time enjoy the image of the president placing America’s highest honor around her neck. But the image of Obama, who unlike Robinson remains a highly relevant figure on the world stage, presenting that honor will linger on. Questions about his judgment and his sympathies and about his advisers’ competency will linger. What sort of administration honors this sort of person?

Whether one buys the incompetency theory, the tone-deaf theory (they knew about Durban but didn’t understand its toxic legacy in the Jewish community), the “one more finger in the eye of Israel” theory, or the “what’s not to like about Robinson?” theory (i.e., she’s a model of the pro-Palestinian, anti-West ideology that animates elements of the administration as well as some of the president’s own rhetoric), the decision to give her the Medal of Freedom now becomes a permanent blot on Obama’s record. And moreover, it has served perhaps to finally impress upon American Jews just how unsympathetic and insensitive he is to Israel.

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Dismay Bordering on Horror

Camille Paglia, as only she can, goes on a tear, confessing her “dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy.” She takes a wrecking ball to the Obama health-care approach:

But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises—or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.

That’s not all that upsets her. She finds Obama lacking in both a coherent strategy (“Obama’s aggressive endorsement of a health-care plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land”) and in candor on the substance:

You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you’re happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

Nor does she appreciate the attempt to jam this all through: “I just don’t get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way?”

And that’s just the warm-up. She dubs the invitation to rat out fellow citizens to the White House “blatant totalitarianism.” And she finds all the “soulless collectivism” of the Democratic party downright depressing.

Well, some of us aren’t as surprised. Many suspected that Obama was an ultra-leftist running a fundamentally dishonest campaign. A net decrease in spending, a fervent pro-Israeli Middle East policy, a line-by-line budget-cutting exercise, no taxes on the non-rich (smokers? energy users?), and a lobbyist-free government are among the long-since-discarded promises. Some of us observed his heavy-handed campaign tactics (e.g., jamming radio stations that attempted to explore the Bill Ayers connection, asking the Justice Department to investigate third-party groups, ludicrously dishonest campaign ads to tar John McCain as anti-immigrant) and suspected we would be in for some unprecedented Chicago Way politics.

But many Americans previously sympathetic to Obama had not an inkling about what was in store. The disillusionment sweeping over so many shouldn’t be discounted. This phenomenon is real and may have long-lasting consequences for the president’s agenda and political viability. He may be wise enough to undertake a course correction and regain the support of the public. However, he better get cracking—there are many like Paglia (albeit, not as articulate) who are reeling and whose faith will not be easily restored.

Camille Paglia, as only she can, goes on a tear, confessing her “dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy.” She takes a wrecking ball to the Obama health-care approach:

But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises—or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.

That’s not all that upsets her. She finds Obama lacking in both a coherent strategy (“Obama’s aggressive endorsement of a health-care plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land”) and in candor on the substance:

You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you’re happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

Nor does she appreciate the attempt to jam this all through: “I just don’t get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks? And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way?”

And that’s just the warm-up. She dubs the invitation to rat out fellow citizens to the White House “blatant totalitarianism.” And she finds all the “soulless collectivism” of the Democratic party downright depressing.

Well, some of us aren’t as surprised. Many suspected that Obama was an ultra-leftist running a fundamentally dishonest campaign. A net decrease in spending, a fervent pro-Israeli Middle East policy, a line-by-line budget-cutting exercise, no taxes on the non-rich (smokers? energy users?), and a lobbyist-free government are among the long-since-discarded promises. Some of us observed his heavy-handed campaign tactics (e.g., jamming radio stations that attempted to explore the Bill Ayers connection, asking the Justice Department to investigate third-party groups, ludicrously dishonest campaign ads to tar John McCain as anti-immigrant) and suspected we would be in for some unprecedented Chicago Way politics.

But many Americans previously sympathetic to Obama had not an inkling about what was in store. The disillusionment sweeping over so many shouldn’t be discounted. This phenomenon is real and may have long-lasting consequences for the president’s agenda and political viability. He may be wise enough to undertake a course correction and regain the support of the public. However, he better get cracking—there are many like Paglia (albeit, not as articulate) who are reeling and whose faith will not be easily restored.

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Lane on Robinson

Charles Lane of the Washington Post editorial board (which has been silent on the Mary Robinson fiasco) finally weighs in. He writes:

I agree with those who say Robinson showed a prosecutorial attitude toward Israel when she was United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights between 1997 and 2002—and since then. That record includes her supervision of the U.N.’s Durban anti-racism conference in 2001, which was badly marred by “Zionism-is-racism” agitation.

But that is not what concerns him most. It is her lack of accomplishment and her absorption with unhelpful and destructive international “cant” that has Lane annoyed with the decision to honor her:

What I’m struck by is Robinson’s zeal for this gabfest in the first place. Even on the most benign view, the conference was an exercise in outrage-by-committee whose real-world impact on racism was bound to be minimal.

The final report, which Robinson found “remarkably good,” is 62 pages of unreadable cant: “Guided by the principles set out in the Millennium Declaration and the recognition that we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity and to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people, the international community commits itself to working for the beneficial integration of the developing countries into the global economy, resisting their marginalization, determined to achieve accelerated economic growth and sustainable development and to eradicate poverty, inequality and deprivation.”

And so on. Not exactly “I have a dream.”

Today Robinson keeps busy as honorary president of Oxfam and president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, which she founded “to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all.” What does it do? Under “Action Update,” the organization’s website displays a bunch of pictures of Robinson at various international conferences.

She hasn’t helped her cause by lashing out at Jews opposed to her medal. “There’s a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community,” she has said. “They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank.” But when she tones down her defense, she bolsters the impression that she’s sort of an empty suit.

In sum, not only has she been a mouthpiece for anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric but she has never done anything of note to promote peace or human rights or much of anything else.

But this, after all, is an administration that places such a premium on talk that they declare Obama’s Cairo speech a “success” because it has already made such a difference. (Really? How?) So it shouldn’t be surprising that Obama and his team are impressed with Robinson. She elevates Palestinian suffering, ignores the terrorist provocation Israel must confront, decries robust American responses to Islamic terror, and loves to talk and talk and talk to the cheers of the anti-Israeli crowd at the UN and on the Left. Why wouldn’t Obama want to fete her?

Charles Lane of the Washington Post editorial board (which has been silent on the Mary Robinson fiasco) finally weighs in. He writes:

I agree with those who say Robinson showed a prosecutorial attitude toward Israel when she was United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights between 1997 and 2002—and since then. That record includes her supervision of the U.N.’s Durban anti-racism conference in 2001, which was badly marred by “Zionism-is-racism” agitation.

But that is not what concerns him most. It is her lack of accomplishment and her absorption with unhelpful and destructive international “cant” that has Lane annoyed with the decision to honor her:

What I’m struck by is Robinson’s zeal for this gabfest in the first place. Even on the most benign view, the conference was an exercise in outrage-by-committee whose real-world impact on racism was bound to be minimal.

The final report, which Robinson found “remarkably good,” is 62 pages of unreadable cant: “Guided by the principles set out in the Millennium Declaration and the recognition that we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity and to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people, the international community commits itself to working for the beneficial integration of the developing countries into the global economy, resisting their marginalization, determined to achieve accelerated economic growth and sustainable development and to eradicate poverty, inequality and deprivation.”

And so on. Not exactly “I have a dream.”

Today Robinson keeps busy as honorary president of Oxfam and president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, which she founded “to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all.” What does it do? Under “Action Update,” the organization’s website displays a bunch of pictures of Robinson at various international conferences.

She hasn’t helped her cause by lashing out at Jews opposed to her medal. “There’s a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community,” she has said. “They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank.” But when she tones down her defense, she bolsters the impression that she’s sort of an empty suit.

In sum, not only has she been a mouthpiece for anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric but she has never done anything of note to promote peace or human rights or much of anything else.

But this, after all, is an administration that places such a premium on talk that they declare Obama’s Cairo speech a “success” because it has already made such a difference. (Really? How?) So it shouldn’t be surprising that Obama and his team are impressed with Robinson. She elevates Palestinian suffering, ignores the terrorist provocation Israel must confront, decries robust American responses to Islamic terror, and loves to talk and talk and talk to the cheers of the anti-Israeli crowd at the UN and on the Left. Why wouldn’t Obama want to fete her?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama was in fact a single-payer health-care supporter back in 2003, despite his denials. Why he gets caught up in these credibility spats remains a mystery.

According to Gallup, only 35 percent of voters want their representatives to vote for ObamaCare. Sixty-five percent either oppose ObamaCare or aren’t sure.

Ed Koch thinks Americans are “falling out of love” with Obama.

Arlen Specter gets yelled at by voters. (“You work for us!”) He seemed to think he could tell voters not to boo him.

Harry Reid shows polling weakness.

Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress: “Respect the sovereignty of democratic allies. When free people in a democracy express their preferences, the United States should respect their opinions. The current administration should not try to impose ideas on allies like Israel. The administration would also do well to take heed of the Palestinian Authority’s continued refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This is not a trivial matter. A long-term settlement can only be forged on the basis of mutual recognition and respect. To deny the essence of the Zionist project—to rebuild the Jewish people’s ancient homeland—is to call into question the seriousness of one’s commitment to peace.”

Ruth Marcus is disillusioned—Obama isn’t about change, and she’s mighty upset with his deal-cutting with drug-company lobbyist Billy Tauzin: “The greatest peril for Obama, I think, lies in the question of whether he can produce the new, post-partisan, surmounting-special-interests politics that he envisioned during the campaign. In a month of raucous town hall meetings and stalled legislation, that hardly seems likely. The secret deal with Tauzin can only deepen the skepticism. Which leads to the core question facing the still-young administration: What happens when people start to wonder whether they can really believe in this change?” Well, I guess they vote for someone else or stay home.

Mickey Kaus dissects the White House spin on health care, as well as their favorite spinner, Marc Ambinder, who peddles the line that health-care town halls are really a positive thing for ObamaCare. “If Ambinder were any easier to spin, he’d be a dreidl.”

Meanwhile, Obama is having trouble keeping his spin straight. No, AARP hasn’t endorsed his health-care plan.

Obama was in fact a single-payer health-care supporter back in 2003, despite his denials. Why he gets caught up in these credibility spats remains a mystery.

According to Gallup, only 35 percent of voters want their representatives to vote for ObamaCare. Sixty-five percent either oppose ObamaCare or aren’t sure.

Ed Koch thinks Americans are “falling out of love” with Obama.

Arlen Specter gets yelled at by voters. (“You work for us!”) He seemed to think he could tell voters not to boo him.

Harry Reid shows polling weakness.

Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress: “Respect the sovereignty of democratic allies. When free people in a democracy express their preferences, the United States should respect their opinions. The current administration should not try to impose ideas on allies like Israel. The administration would also do well to take heed of the Palestinian Authority’s continued refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This is not a trivial matter. A long-term settlement can only be forged on the basis of mutual recognition and respect. To deny the essence of the Zionist project—to rebuild the Jewish people’s ancient homeland—is to call into question the seriousness of one’s commitment to peace.”

Ruth Marcus is disillusioned—Obama isn’t about change, and she’s mighty upset with his deal-cutting with drug-company lobbyist Billy Tauzin: “The greatest peril for Obama, I think, lies in the question of whether he can produce the new, post-partisan, surmounting-special-interests politics that he envisioned during the campaign. In a month of raucous town hall meetings and stalled legislation, that hardly seems likely. The secret deal with Tauzin can only deepen the skepticism. Which leads to the core question facing the still-young administration: What happens when people start to wonder whether they can really believe in this change?” Well, I guess they vote for someone else or stay home.

Mickey Kaus dissects the White House spin on health care, as well as their favorite spinner, Marc Ambinder, who peddles the line that health-care town halls are really a positive thing for ObamaCare. “If Ambinder were any easier to spin, he’d be a dreidl.”

Meanwhile, Obama is having trouble keeping his spin straight. No, AARP hasn’t endorsed his health-care plan.

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