Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 17, 2009

Rescue, but Not Outrage

Early this morning (Hong Kong time), I was interviewed on CNN International (here’s the video) about the consequences of recent rescues of American citizens sentenced to long prison terms in some of the world’s worst countries—specifically, former president Bill Clinton’s mission to North Korea on August 5 to bring out journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, and Senator Jim Webb’s trip to Burma over the weekend to extract John William Yettaw.

Ling and Lee had begun 12-year terms at hard labor (though the labor had not started yet when Clinton arrived) for crossing into North Korea, and Yettaw, a strange person, had begun a seven-year term for swimming out to the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won the elections of 1990, which would, under normal circumstances, have made her prime minister. Instead, the junta nullified the vote, and she has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

The moderator wanted to know the effects of these “ad hoc” rescue activities—her phrase, not mine.

Certainly, it’s a proper function of government to protect Americans being abused, held hostage, or wrongly incarcerated in foreign countries. But we should also beware of the risks of such actions—one of which is to put our citizens abroad in greater peril in the future from irresponsible governments that want to take hostages and gain advantages themselves. The main reason the U.S. government does not pay ransom to spring hostages is that such payments encourage more hostage-taking.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Early this morning (Hong Kong time), I was interviewed on CNN International (here’s the video) about the consequences of recent rescues of American citizens sentenced to long prison terms in some of the world’s worst countries—specifically, former president Bill Clinton’s mission to North Korea on August 5 to bring out journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, and Senator Jim Webb’s trip to Burma over the weekend to extract John William Yettaw.

Ling and Lee had begun 12-year terms at hard labor (though the labor had not started yet when Clinton arrived) for crossing into North Korea, and Yettaw, a strange person, had begun a seven-year term for swimming out to the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won the elections of 1990, which would, under normal circumstances, have made her prime minister. Instead, the junta nullified the vote, and she has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

The moderator wanted to know the effects of these “ad hoc” rescue activities—her phrase, not mine.

Certainly, it’s a proper function of government to protect Americans being abused, held hostage, or wrongly incarcerated in foreign countries. But we should also beware of the risks of such actions—one of which is to put our citizens abroad in greater peril in the future from irresponsible governments that want to take hostages and gain advantages themselves. The main reason the U.S. government does not pay ransom to spring hostages is that such payments encourage more hostage-taking.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Obama and the Military

President Obama spoke today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The part I liked best was his commitment to the war effort in Afghanistan:

This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a—this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

I was less impressed by his continuing refusal to make a similar commitment to victory (a word he never used) in Iraq. He bragged about transferring more control to Iraqi security forces and then said:

As we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments. And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. . . . We will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq war will end. By moving forward in Iraq, we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not a word about achieving peace, security, and democracy in Iraq—he defines moving forward as moving out. Luckily, so far we have been able to accomplish both goals at once: stabilize the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding some spectacular recent attacks) while starting to draw down our troop levels. But General Ray Odierno has just said that he needs to send more troops to northern Iraq to calm down a volatile situation. What if planned troop cuts have to be suspended or delayed? President Obama’s words don’t give much hope that he would acquiesce in such a step. On the other hand, he has proved a lot more moderate on Iraq than his campaign rhetoric would have indicated, so it would probably be a mistake to read too much into his words.

One other element of the speech deserves a raised eyebrow. That is his claim that “my budget increases defense spending.” Obama went on to talk about how his budget has “increased the size of the Army and the Marine Corps” and provides “more of the Army helicopters, crews, and pilots urgently needed in Afghanistan; the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment’s notice; and for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that save lives.”

The president is being more than a bit disingenuous on that point. He sounds like Ronald Reagan but acts more like Jimmy Carter. Yes his budget increases defense spending—but at such a paltry rate that his budget barely keeps up with inflation. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution revealed the legerdemain in this article:

The administration is … adopting a policy of zero real growth in the “base budget” (the part that does not include war costs, which are too unpredictable to include in this analysis). Specifically, the base budget is to grow 2 percent a year over the next five years. But with the inflation rate expected to average over 1.5 percent, the net effect is essentially no real growth. Cumulatively, that would leave us about $150 billion short of actual funding requirements through 2014. . . .

For the Defense Department to merely tread water, a good rule of thumb is that its inflation-adjusted budget must grow about 2 percent a year (roughly $10 billion annually, each and every year).

In his VFW speech, Obama pledged, “We will equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win.” That may be true for the very near term, but for the long term, he’s already violated that pledge with his very first defense budget.

President Obama spoke today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The part I liked best was his commitment to the war effort in Afghanistan:

This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a—this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

I was less impressed by his continuing refusal to make a similar commitment to victory (a word he never used) in Iraq. He bragged about transferring more control to Iraqi security forces and then said:

As we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments. And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. . . . We will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq war will end. By moving forward in Iraq, we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not a word about achieving peace, security, and democracy in Iraq—he defines moving forward as moving out. Luckily, so far we have been able to accomplish both goals at once: stabilize the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding some spectacular recent attacks) while starting to draw down our troop levels. But General Ray Odierno has just said that he needs to send more troops to northern Iraq to calm down a volatile situation. What if planned troop cuts have to be suspended or delayed? President Obama’s words don’t give much hope that he would acquiesce in such a step. On the other hand, he has proved a lot more moderate on Iraq than his campaign rhetoric would have indicated, so it would probably be a mistake to read too much into his words.

One other element of the speech deserves a raised eyebrow. That is his claim that “my budget increases defense spending.” Obama went on to talk about how his budget has “increased the size of the Army and the Marine Corps” and provides “more of the Army helicopters, crews, and pilots urgently needed in Afghanistan; the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment’s notice; and for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that save lives.”

The president is being more than a bit disingenuous on that point. He sounds like Ronald Reagan but acts more like Jimmy Carter. Yes his budget increases defense spending—but at such a paltry rate that his budget barely keeps up with inflation. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution revealed the legerdemain in this article:

The administration is … adopting a policy of zero real growth in the “base budget” (the part that does not include war costs, which are too unpredictable to include in this analysis). Specifically, the base budget is to grow 2 percent a year over the next five years. But with the inflation rate expected to average over 1.5 percent, the net effect is essentially no real growth. Cumulatively, that would leave us about $150 billion short of actual funding requirements through 2014. . . .

For the Defense Department to merely tread water, a good rule of thumb is that its inflation-adjusted budget must grow about 2 percent a year (roughly $10 billion annually, each and every year).

In his VFW speech, Obama pledged, “We will equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win.” That may be true for the very near term, but for the long term, he’s already violated that pledge with his very first defense budget.

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One Stone, Two Birds

There is more than one way of fighting Hezbollah. Its opponents and victims can take heart from the progress of negotiations between the U.S. and Colombia about the use of Colombian military bases by American forces for antidrug operations. Colombia announced Friday that a plan had been finalized—in spite of protests by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who warned that the “winds of war were beginning to blow across Latin America” because of Colombia’s decision. The U.S. approached Colombia after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa—a Chavez acolyte who pursued his mentor’s path to “presidency for life”—refused to renew the expiring 10-year basing agreement for U.S. forces in Ecuador.

The Latin American influence of Chavez and his presidential cronies in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Cuba offers many reasons for concern. But a closely related pattern—and one directly affected by Colombia’s agreement to offer bases to U.S. antidrug forces—is the participation of Chavez’s associate, Hezbollah, in the Latin American narcotics trade. Drug busts in the past 18 months have produced increasing evidence of this pattern, which has two especially important features. One is that Hezbollah is funding its activities in Lebanon with drug money from the Americas. The other is that Hezbollah has been using narcotics-trafficking routes to enter the U.S. covertly. (Supporting analysis of this phenomenon can be found here, here, and here.)

The basing agreement with Colombia will keep viable a U.S. antidrug effort that has already interdicted elements of the Hezbollah enterprise. Another positive development is the appointment of the former commander of U.S. forces in Latin America, Admiral James Stavridis, to head the U.S. European Command (responsible for executing our military policies with respect to Lebanon and Israel). Stavridis, who assumed the European Command on June 30, has a history of recognizing and highlighting Hezbollah’s activities as a security concern. Stavridis’s understanding of global cartel patterns—which commonly operate, as Hezbollah does, through financial threads around the Mediterranean—gives him a unique advantage in focusing EUCOM’s intelligence priorities.

Hugo Chavez’s allegations about the Colombia agreement, meanwhile, are overblown in any objective context: the agreement portends not a change of regional profile for U.S. forces but merely a change of bases. His reaction is another clue to his sympathies and intentions, however. He is probably as concerned about the impact of U.S. antidrug operations on Hezbollah’s success, and on his own ties with Iran, as he is about America retaining a strategic position in Central America. Chavez cannot be happy that we have obtained an agreement encouraging to at least two of our own security issues. But we should be, and it is good news for Israel and Lebanon as well.

There is more than one way of fighting Hezbollah. Its opponents and victims can take heart from the progress of negotiations between the U.S. and Colombia about the use of Colombian military bases by American forces for antidrug operations. Colombia announced Friday that a plan had been finalized—in spite of protests by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who warned that the “winds of war were beginning to blow across Latin America” because of Colombia’s decision. The U.S. approached Colombia after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa—a Chavez acolyte who pursued his mentor’s path to “presidency for life”—refused to renew the expiring 10-year basing agreement for U.S. forces in Ecuador.

The Latin American influence of Chavez and his presidential cronies in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Cuba offers many reasons for concern. But a closely related pattern—and one directly affected by Colombia’s agreement to offer bases to U.S. antidrug forces—is the participation of Chavez’s associate, Hezbollah, in the Latin American narcotics trade. Drug busts in the past 18 months have produced increasing evidence of this pattern, which has two especially important features. One is that Hezbollah is funding its activities in Lebanon with drug money from the Americas. The other is that Hezbollah has been using narcotics-trafficking routes to enter the U.S. covertly. (Supporting analysis of this phenomenon can be found here, here, and here.)

The basing agreement with Colombia will keep viable a U.S. antidrug effort that has already interdicted elements of the Hezbollah enterprise. Another positive development is the appointment of the former commander of U.S. forces in Latin America, Admiral James Stavridis, to head the U.S. European Command (responsible for executing our military policies with respect to Lebanon and Israel). Stavridis, who assumed the European Command on June 30, has a history of recognizing and highlighting Hezbollah’s activities as a security concern. Stavridis’s understanding of global cartel patterns—which commonly operate, as Hezbollah does, through financial threads around the Mediterranean—gives him a unique advantage in focusing EUCOM’s intelligence priorities.

Hugo Chavez’s allegations about the Colombia agreement, meanwhile, are overblown in any objective context: the agreement portends not a change of regional profile for U.S. forces but merely a change of bases. His reaction is another clue to his sympathies and intentions, however. He is probably as concerned about the impact of U.S. antidrug operations on Hezbollah’s success, and on his own ties with Iran, as he is about America retaining a strategic position in Central America. Chavez cannot be happy that we have obtained an agreement encouraging to at least two of our own security issues. But we should be, and it is good news for Israel and Lebanon as well.

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Obama and the “Death Panel” Issue

The idea of offering incentives for medical professionals to discuss “end-of-life issues” with elderly patients and their families has become the lightning rod of the health-care debate—less, by the way, because conservatives latched on to it with the “death panel” label but because liberals thought they had the Right dead to rights with the “death panel” accusation. Surely, they believed, the forces arrayed against ObamaCare had gone too far; surely the “death panel” charge would boomerang against the anti’s, and finally the health-care package would take wing. By taking such exception to the death-panel charge, supporters of ObamaCare did more to promote it than did its author, Sarah Palin, who issued her statement about it not by making a speech but by posting it on Facebook.

It seems that many opponents of ObamaCare are finding it necessary to separate themselves from the death-panel charge, on the grounds that it is demagogic and dishonest. National Review has done so in an editorial; so has David Frum; so have others. Now, clearly, the language of the proposed legislation does not mandate a committee of bureaucrats that sits and disposes of life-and-death matters. But there is some disingenuousness at work—and, yes, intellectual dishonesty—on the part of those who want such matters to be part of the bill.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the medical-ethics discussions of the past quarter century is very familiar with the reason for the focus on end-of-life matters: the expenses that the medical profession has been required, ethically, to incur in the preservation of life among those who are inevitably going to die has seemed to many to be money wasted on health care that could be better spent elsewhere. As the one-time governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, notoriously said in 1984, “We have a duty to die”—by which he meant, to die more quickly so that it wouldn’t cost his state too much in Medicare. What Lamm said was shocking, but only because he said it so crudely. The view that the American way of dying has become needlessly prolonged is at the heart of the professional medical-ethics ideology, an instrumentalist ideology whose implicit purpose is to raise moral questions and congratulate itself for raising moral questions before dismissing them in favor of the notion that moral decision-making has no place in medical matters.

Given this record, and given the implicit notion that costs will be controlled by fiat under the new ObamaCare dispensation, it is well within reason to assume that rationed care for the elderly will be the place to look for savings; that determinations of which care and of what sort will be covered would eventually become the purview of a committee; and that the decisions that committee makes will play a role in the deaths of those who are refused coverage. To deny that the subject the president himself called a “very difficult democratic conversation” is the choice between life and death, and that under ObamaCare those decisions will not eventually be the sole purview of the patient and his family, is disingenuous. As the president said in an April interview with David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think it has to be able to give you some guidance.

Given the president’s own admission back in April that the conversation is just so difficult in a democracy that it needs to be guided by experts is to travel part of the way down the road according to which experts not only guide a conversation but make the rules for the conversation as well. And that is why the matter is certainly worthy of a wide-ranging discussion, even when the discussion might turn into a very different kind of “very difficult democratic conversation”—one in which the conversation takes a course Obama and the supporters of ObamaCare do not wish it to take.

The idea of offering incentives for medical professionals to discuss “end-of-life issues” with elderly patients and their families has become the lightning rod of the health-care debate—less, by the way, because conservatives latched on to it with the “death panel” label but because liberals thought they had the Right dead to rights with the “death panel” accusation. Surely, they believed, the forces arrayed against ObamaCare had gone too far; surely the “death panel” charge would boomerang against the anti’s, and finally the health-care package would take wing. By taking such exception to the death-panel charge, supporters of ObamaCare did more to promote it than did its author, Sarah Palin, who issued her statement about it not by making a speech but by posting it on Facebook.

It seems that many opponents of ObamaCare are finding it necessary to separate themselves from the death-panel charge, on the grounds that it is demagogic and dishonest. National Review has done so in an editorial; so has David Frum; so have others. Now, clearly, the language of the proposed legislation does not mandate a committee of bureaucrats that sits and disposes of life-and-death matters. But there is some disingenuousness at work—and, yes, intellectual dishonesty—on the part of those who want such matters to be part of the bill.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the medical-ethics discussions of the past quarter century is very familiar with the reason for the focus on end-of-life matters: the expenses that the medical profession has been required, ethically, to incur in the preservation of life among those who are inevitably going to die has seemed to many to be money wasted on health care that could be better spent elsewhere. As the one-time governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, notoriously said in 1984, “We have a duty to die”—by which he meant, to die more quickly so that it wouldn’t cost his state too much in Medicare. What Lamm said was shocking, but only because he said it so crudely. The view that the American way of dying has become needlessly prolonged is at the heart of the professional medical-ethics ideology, an instrumentalist ideology whose implicit purpose is to raise moral questions and congratulate itself for raising moral questions before dismissing them in favor of the notion that moral decision-making has no place in medical matters.

Given this record, and given the implicit notion that costs will be controlled by fiat under the new ObamaCare dispensation, it is well within reason to assume that rationed care for the elderly will be the place to look for savings; that determinations of which care and of what sort will be covered would eventually become the purview of a committee; and that the decisions that committee makes will play a role in the deaths of those who are refused coverage. To deny that the subject the president himself called a “very difficult democratic conversation” is the choice between life and death, and that under ObamaCare those decisions will not eventually be the sole purview of the patient and his family, is disingenuous. As the president said in an April interview with David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think it has to be able to give you some guidance.

Given the president’s own admission back in April that the conversation is just so difficult in a democracy that it needs to be guided by experts is to travel part of the way down the road according to which experts not only guide a conversation but make the rules for the conversation as well. And that is why the matter is certainly worthy of a wide-ranging discussion, even when the discussion might turn into a very different kind of “very difficult democratic conversation”—one in which the conversation takes a course Obama and the supporters of ObamaCare do not wish it to take.

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Obama’s Self-Conceit Becoming Self-Parody

It is not enough for President Obama to put forward a series of utterly false statements on behalf of his effort to engineer the wholesale reinvention of American health care. No, he has to position himself as the great truth teller in the process. His critics are “simply dishonest,” Obama said during his health-care town-hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Saturday.

In his New York Times op-ed, Obama decries the “wild misrepresentations” of his detractors. The president is the Child of Light pitted against the Forces of Darkness. Here’s the thing, though: Obama, in possession of the largest megaphone in the world, is himself being simply dishonest and employing wild misrepresentations of the facts. By now the list is well known and seemingly grows by the week, to the point that it is getting difficult to track the assortment of false claims. But let’s try:

Obama promised his health-care overhaul would decrease costs; the CBO has shown how the various plans he has embraced would dramatically increase costs. Obama says that, under the plans he has blessed, everyone can keep their health-care plan; the CBO has shown us why that claim is untrue. Obama says preventive care saves money; once again, courtesy of the CBO, we know that assertion is false. The president says the AARP has endorsed ObamaCare; the AARP put out a statement to the effect that what Obama had said was “inaccurate” and that the White House had to issue a retraction. Obama claimed that after a meeting with representatives of insurance companies, drug companies, and hospitals, they committed to him that they would reduce costs by 1.5 percent per year; people who attended the meeting said that such a claim was untrue, which forced the White House to release a statement that the president “misspoke”—before it retracted its retraction, doing yet more damage to the truth.

Obama portrays his critics as tools of special interests—yet he has assembled as powerful a group of special interests on his behalf as you can imagine (the coalition that is supporting the White House’s health-care ad campaign includes the American Medical Association; Families USA; the Federation of American Hospitals; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA; and the Service Employees International Union).

In his Times op-ed, Obama—who promised to lead America in a civil and high-minded debate, one in which he would address respectfully those who have differences with him—also attacks the motivations of his critics, saying that “the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gains.” And then he informs us that this is a “complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.”

I agree, and like many other Americans, I wish the president would engage in such a debate. But he has chosen another path, one built largely on deception, and he is paying a very high political price for it. ObamaCare is being undone by a series of stubborn facts—facts the president can deny but cannot refute. The Congressional Budget Office, in an act of admirable courage and honesty, has ripped huge, gaping holes into the administration’s health-care hull. Yet Mr. Obama, rather than admitting the truth, is doubling down on his misinformation campaign. And in the process, he must cast himself in the role of the one honest man whom Diogenes went in search of. President Obama’s self-conceit is now edging toward self-parody.

It is not enough for President Obama to put forward a series of utterly false statements on behalf of his effort to engineer the wholesale reinvention of American health care. No, he has to position himself as the great truth teller in the process. His critics are “simply dishonest,” Obama said during his health-care town-hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Saturday.

In his New York Times op-ed, Obama decries the “wild misrepresentations” of his detractors. The president is the Child of Light pitted against the Forces of Darkness. Here’s the thing, though: Obama, in possession of the largest megaphone in the world, is himself being simply dishonest and employing wild misrepresentations of the facts. By now the list is well known and seemingly grows by the week, to the point that it is getting difficult to track the assortment of false claims. But let’s try:

Obama promised his health-care overhaul would decrease costs; the CBO has shown how the various plans he has embraced would dramatically increase costs. Obama says that, under the plans he has blessed, everyone can keep their health-care plan; the CBO has shown us why that claim is untrue. Obama says preventive care saves money; once again, courtesy of the CBO, we know that assertion is false. The president says the AARP has endorsed ObamaCare; the AARP put out a statement to the effect that what Obama had said was “inaccurate” and that the White House had to issue a retraction. Obama claimed that after a meeting with representatives of insurance companies, drug companies, and hospitals, they committed to him that they would reduce costs by 1.5 percent per year; people who attended the meeting said that such a claim was untrue, which forced the White House to release a statement that the president “misspoke”—before it retracted its retraction, doing yet more damage to the truth.

Obama portrays his critics as tools of special interests—yet he has assembled as powerful a group of special interests on his behalf as you can imagine (the coalition that is supporting the White House’s health-care ad campaign includes the American Medical Association; Families USA; the Federation of American Hospitals; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA; and the Service Employees International Union).

In his Times op-ed, Obama—who promised to lead America in a civil and high-minded debate, one in which he would address respectfully those who have differences with him—also attacks the motivations of his critics, saying that “the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gains.” And then he informs us that this is a “complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.”

I agree, and like many other Americans, I wish the president would engage in such a debate. But he has chosen another path, one built largely on deception, and he is paying a very high political price for it. ObamaCare is being undone by a series of stubborn facts—facts the president can deny but cannot refute. The Congressional Budget Office, in an act of admirable courage and honesty, has ripped huge, gaping holes into the administration’s health-care hull. Yet Mr. Obama, rather than admitting the truth, is doubling down on his misinformation campaign. And in the process, he must cast himself in the role of the one honest man whom Diogenes went in search of. President Obama’s self-conceit is now edging toward self-parody.

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Foreign Policy Terms Mass Murderer a “Dissident”

Last week’s Fatah-party conference took a hard line on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, supporting continued “resistance” activities as well as the existence of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the organization’s terrorist branch. But while this did little to advance the cause of peace, it did provoke a boomlet for an evergreen Palestinian cause: agitation for the release of Marwan Barghouti from the Israeli prison where he is currently serving five life sentences for murder, plus another 40 years for attempted murder.

Despite his murder convictions, or should we say because of them, Barghouti was elected to the Fatah Central Committee at the convention, and it is possible this will lead to an even grander title in the party hierarchy for him in the future. This development spurs some on the Israeli Left as well as peace-process kibitzers elsewhere to renew calls for Barghouti’s release from prison. Their reasoning: Barghouti’s popularity, his relative youth (he’s 53), and a reputation that combines supposed moderation toward Israel with the respect of the most militant Palestinian factions, including Hamas, makes him the perfect peace partner.

A prime example of this kind of thinking is on display in the venerable pages of Foreign Policy, where Jo-Ann Mort contributes to the Barghouti buzz with a piece topped by a misleading headline, “Why a Jailed Dissident Is Palestine’s Best Hope.”

As for the headline, it would appear as though Foreign Policy’s editors have a rather strange definition of dissident, a term that generally conjures up images of repressed writers and human-rights advocates, not someone who planned and organized the murders of civilians like the three people gunned down while attending a bachelorette party at Tel Aviv’s Seafood Market restaurant in 2002. Dissent implies peaceful protest, not mass murder, even if the terrorists involved in this and other bloodthirsty outings conceived by Barghouti claim that their crimes were politically motivated. Mort, however, merely dismisses these details as “his alleged role in the second intifada.”

Mort reports that Haim Oron, the head of Israel’s far-Left Meretz party, has been visiting Barghouti regularly and that he vouches for the latter’s advocacy not merely of a two-state solution but also of a liberal Palestinian state alongside Israel.

There is a long tradition of Palestinians telling Jews and Westerners one thing while employing quite another rhetoric toward Israel when speaking among their own people. But the main mistake here is that Jews who project their own desires for a peace partner onto Barghouti don’t understand the dynamic that has made their boy so popular among his own people.

Rather than dismissing the atrocities Barghouti committed or treat his record as incidental to his prospects, as his apologists do, it is vital to understand that it is precisely because of his willingness to wantonly slaughter innocents on the streets of Tel Aviv that this man is a hero to his fellow Palestinians. The gruesome dynamic of Palestinian political culture rewards those who kill Jews and penalizes those who do not. Fatah’s need to compete with Hamas on this front required former leader Yasser Arafat to launch a terrorist offensive in which his own party’s stalwarts could emerge with the requisite amount of Jewish blood on their hands. Hence his decision to authorize the formation of a “new” terrorist group—the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—and the decision to let Barghouti’s Tanzim group take part in terror attacks on Israeli civilians during the second intifada.

As the Jerusalem Post points out in a prescient editorial on the subject: “None of the advocates of Barghouti’s release has ever detailed precisely how or when he was transformed from a killer into a peace-lover. None can credibly explain why Barghouti’s own rhetoric, which so contradicts their assertions, should be dismissed.”

Of course they can’t. But the reason for these assertions has more to do with the desires of the Jewish Left—which has been so consistently discredited by the refusal of their Palestinian friends to make peace with Israel on any terms and within any borders that parties such as Meretz have been reduced to irrelevancy—than with the actual intentions of the Palestinians.

The question of whether murderers such as Barghouti ought to be exchanged for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is one that bedevils Israelis, who must balance the imperative to ransom captives against the moral and security implications of letting a terrorist go free. But however that dilemma is resolved, the notion that Marwan Barghouti is the savior of Middle East peace is more a commentary on the delusions of his Israeli interlocutors and their cheerleaders elsewhere than on the realities of Palestinian politics.

Last week’s Fatah-party conference took a hard line on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, supporting continued “resistance” activities as well as the existence of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the organization’s terrorist branch. But while this did little to advance the cause of peace, it did provoke a boomlet for an evergreen Palestinian cause: agitation for the release of Marwan Barghouti from the Israeli prison where he is currently serving five life sentences for murder, plus another 40 years for attempted murder.

Despite his murder convictions, or should we say because of them, Barghouti was elected to the Fatah Central Committee at the convention, and it is possible this will lead to an even grander title in the party hierarchy for him in the future. This development spurs some on the Israeli Left as well as peace-process kibitzers elsewhere to renew calls for Barghouti’s release from prison. Their reasoning: Barghouti’s popularity, his relative youth (he’s 53), and a reputation that combines supposed moderation toward Israel with the respect of the most militant Palestinian factions, including Hamas, makes him the perfect peace partner.

A prime example of this kind of thinking is on display in the venerable pages of Foreign Policy, where Jo-Ann Mort contributes to the Barghouti buzz with a piece topped by a misleading headline, “Why a Jailed Dissident Is Palestine’s Best Hope.”

As for the headline, it would appear as though Foreign Policy’s editors have a rather strange definition of dissident, a term that generally conjures up images of repressed writers and human-rights advocates, not someone who planned and organized the murders of civilians like the three people gunned down while attending a bachelorette party at Tel Aviv’s Seafood Market restaurant in 2002. Dissent implies peaceful protest, not mass murder, even if the terrorists involved in this and other bloodthirsty outings conceived by Barghouti claim that their crimes were politically motivated. Mort, however, merely dismisses these details as “his alleged role in the second intifada.”

Mort reports that Haim Oron, the head of Israel’s far-Left Meretz party, has been visiting Barghouti regularly and that he vouches for the latter’s advocacy not merely of a two-state solution but also of a liberal Palestinian state alongside Israel.

There is a long tradition of Palestinians telling Jews and Westerners one thing while employing quite another rhetoric toward Israel when speaking among their own people. But the main mistake here is that Jews who project their own desires for a peace partner onto Barghouti don’t understand the dynamic that has made their boy so popular among his own people.

Rather than dismissing the atrocities Barghouti committed or treat his record as incidental to his prospects, as his apologists do, it is vital to understand that it is precisely because of his willingness to wantonly slaughter innocents on the streets of Tel Aviv that this man is a hero to his fellow Palestinians. The gruesome dynamic of Palestinian political culture rewards those who kill Jews and penalizes those who do not. Fatah’s need to compete with Hamas on this front required former leader Yasser Arafat to launch a terrorist offensive in which his own party’s stalwarts could emerge with the requisite amount of Jewish blood on their hands. Hence his decision to authorize the formation of a “new” terrorist group—the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—and the decision to let Barghouti’s Tanzim group take part in terror attacks on Israeli civilians during the second intifada.

As the Jerusalem Post points out in a prescient editorial on the subject: “None of the advocates of Barghouti’s release has ever detailed precisely how or when he was transformed from a killer into a peace-lover. None can credibly explain why Barghouti’s own rhetoric, which so contradicts their assertions, should be dismissed.”

Of course they can’t. But the reason for these assertions has more to do with the desires of the Jewish Left—which has been so consistently discredited by the refusal of their Palestinian friends to make peace with Israel on any terms and within any borders that parties such as Meretz have been reduced to irrelevancy—than with the actual intentions of the Palestinians.

The question of whether murderers such as Barghouti ought to be exchanged for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is one that bedevils Israelis, who must balance the imperative to ransom captives against the moral and security implications of letting a terrorist go free. But however that dilemma is resolved, the notion that Marwan Barghouti is the savior of Middle East peace is more a commentary on the delusions of his Israeli interlocutors and their cheerleaders elsewhere than on the realities of Palestinian politics.

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SPECIAL PREVIEW: The Path to Republican Revival

At some point about five years ago, America became a “One-Party Country”—and the party in question was the GOP. Such, at least, was the conclusion of Los Angeles Times reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten in the book they wrote under that title following the 2004 presidential election. Bizarre as their claim may sound today, it stood on solid ground. In November 2004, George W. Bush had won re-election with the largest number of votes up to that point in American history while racking up the seventh Republican win in the previous 10 races for the White House. Republicans, moreover, were in control of the Senate by a margin of 10 seats, and of the House by a margin of 30. To complete the sweep, they also boasted a majority of the nation’s governorships and a plurality of state legislatures.

In short, Republicans had reached their most impregnable point of strength in the modern era, a fact hardly lost on their glum and battered adversaries in the Democratic and liberal camp. As “euphoric” as were Republicans, wrote the New Republic’s Peter Beinart at the time, “the intensity of their happiness can’t match the intensity of our despair.”

But then came the reversal, sudden and swift. Today, after two punishing election losses in 2006 and 2008, in the course of which Democrats gained 15 Senate seats, 54 House seats, and the White House, the GOP is now the minority party, Democrats are rejoicing, and many Republicans have lapsed into a state of near panic. “Are the Republicans going extinct?” Time asked in a dramatic cover story. “And can the death march be stopped?”

It can—though it is indisputably true that the challenges facing Republicans are the stiffest since the years immediately following Watergate.

_____________

Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was the most sweeping since 1980. He became the first Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson 44 years earlier to garner more than 50.1 percent of the vote. In the process, he took seven states that had twice voted for George W. Bush, including two (Indiana and Virginia) that had not gone Democratic since 1964. In the Senate, Democrats hold a filibuster-proof 60 seats, the largest margin for either party since 1978. In the House, Democrats hold 257 seats to the GOP’s 178. Twenty-nine out of the nation’s 50 governorships are now in Democratic hands.

Democratic electoral dominance is reflected in other numbers as well. In every age group between 18 and 85, Gallup reported in May, Democrats enjoy an advantage over Republicans among those identifying themselves with a political party. In a Pew study earlier this year, self-identified Democrats outran self-identified Republicans by 11 percentage points. “On nearly every dimension,” the study concluded, “the Republican party is at a low ebb—from image, to morale, to demographic vitality.”

The reasons for the vertiginous decline are both proximate and long term. At the top of the list, surely, is the Iraq war—a venture that, at the outset, had garnered the support of more than 70 percent of the public and strong majorities in both the Senate and House. But that support quickly unraveled. The Bush administration never fully recovered from the revelation that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and many Americans came to believe, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the administration had “lied” the country into war. Add to this an Iraqi insurgency the White House did not adequately anticipate and an occupation strategy poorly conceived and poorly executed, and one had the makings of massive political erosion. By the time Bush embraced a new and successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, it was too late for Republicans. The public had grown bone-weary of the war and blamed both the president and his party.

The GOP was also hurt badly by well-founded charges of congressional corruption. This, arguably, was the most salient factor behind the Democratic gain of more than 30 House seats in the 2006 midterm elections. “Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been -affected by scandals,” an article in the Washington Post put it a few days before the election. Democrats turned the GOP’s “culture of corruption” into a rallying cry of their campaign, and it worked.

Finally, among major proximate causes there was the economic crisis of late 2008. By September, the GOP’s presidential candidate, John McCain, had clawed his way into a statistical dead heat with Obama and was even leading in some polls. But then came the collapse of the investment giants Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, the freezing of credit markets, wild fluctuations on Wall Street, and fears of an imminent depression. As the party most closely identified with Wall Street, bankers, and capitalism, the GOP was inevitably held accountable. And none of this is to mention the other issues contributing their share to the party’s decline, from the mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina to the failure of efforts to reform immigration policy and the Social Security system.

Click here to read the rest of this Special Preview from the September issue of COMMENTARY.

At some point about five years ago, America became a “One-Party Country”—and the party in question was the GOP. Such, at least, was the conclusion of Los Angeles Times reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten in the book they wrote under that title following the 2004 presidential election. Bizarre as their claim may sound today, it stood on solid ground. In November 2004, George W. Bush had won re-election with the largest number of votes up to that point in American history while racking up the seventh Republican win in the previous 10 races for the White House. Republicans, moreover, were in control of the Senate by a margin of 10 seats, and of the House by a margin of 30. To complete the sweep, they also boasted a majority of the nation’s governorships and a plurality of state legislatures.

In short, Republicans had reached their most impregnable point of strength in the modern era, a fact hardly lost on their glum and battered adversaries in the Democratic and liberal camp. As “euphoric” as were Republicans, wrote the New Republic’s Peter Beinart at the time, “the intensity of their happiness can’t match the intensity of our despair.”

But then came the reversal, sudden and swift. Today, after two punishing election losses in 2006 and 2008, in the course of which Democrats gained 15 Senate seats, 54 House seats, and the White House, the GOP is now the minority party, Democrats are rejoicing, and many Republicans have lapsed into a state of near panic. “Are the Republicans going extinct?” Time asked in a dramatic cover story. “And can the death march be stopped?”

It can—though it is indisputably true that the challenges facing Republicans are the stiffest since the years immediately following Watergate.

_____________

Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was the most sweeping since 1980. He became the first Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson 44 years earlier to garner more than 50.1 percent of the vote. In the process, he took seven states that had twice voted for George W. Bush, including two (Indiana and Virginia) that had not gone Democratic since 1964. In the Senate, Democrats hold a filibuster-proof 60 seats, the largest margin for either party since 1978. In the House, Democrats hold 257 seats to the GOP’s 178. Twenty-nine out of the nation’s 50 governorships are now in Democratic hands.

Democratic electoral dominance is reflected in other numbers as well. In every age group between 18 and 85, Gallup reported in May, Democrats enjoy an advantage over Republicans among those identifying themselves with a political party. In a Pew study earlier this year, self-identified Democrats outran self-identified Republicans by 11 percentage points. “On nearly every dimension,” the study concluded, “the Republican party is at a low ebb—from image, to morale, to demographic vitality.”

The reasons for the vertiginous decline are both proximate and long term. At the top of the list, surely, is the Iraq war—a venture that, at the outset, had garnered the support of more than 70 percent of the public and strong majorities in both the Senate and House. But that support quickly unraveled. The Bush administration never fully recovered from the revelation that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and many Americans came to believe, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the administration had “lied” the country into war. Add to this an Iraqi insurgency the White House did not adequately anticipate and an occupation strategy poorly conceived and poorly executed, and one had the makings of massive political erosion. By the time Bush embraced a new and successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, it was too late for Republicans. The public had grown bone-weary of the war and blamed both the president and his party.

The GOP was also hurt badly by well-founded charges of congressional corruption. This, arguably, was the most salient factor behind the Democratic gain of more than 30 House seats in the 2006 midterm elections. “Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been -affected by scandals,” an article in the Washington Post put it a few days before the election. Democrats turned the GOP’s “culture of corruption” into a rallying cry of their campaign, and it worked.

Finally, among major proximate causes there was the economic crisis of late 2008. By September, the GOP’s presidential candidate, John McCain, had clawed his way into a statistical dead heat with Obama and was even leading in some polls. But then came the collapse of the investment giants Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, the freezing of credit markets, wild fluctuations on Wall Street, and fears of an imminent depression. As the party most closely identified with Wall Street, bankers, and capitalism, the GOP was inevitably held accountable. And none of this is to mention the other issues contributing their share to the party’s decline, from the mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina to the failure of efforts to reform immigration policy and the Social Security system.

Click here to read the rest of this Special Preview from the September issue of COMMENTARY.

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Rahm Emanuel and the Israel Policy

A revealing article in yesterday’s New York Times about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel offers a highly problematic view of the Illinois politician—and one, moreover, that he should be concerned about. It’s one of those breathless pieces so besotted with its subject and his power that it makes Emanuel sound less like the chief staffer in the White House and more like the president than the president himself. “The most powerful chief of staff in a quarter century,” the article calls Emanuel, insisting that he is the architect of the administration’s do-everything-all-at-once policy and that he is not only in charge in the West Wing but basically running the House of Representatives as well.

It is always dangerous for powers behind the throne to emerge and receive celebration as powers in their own right. Such talk either belittles and marginalizes the holder of the throne, or it can turn the power behind the throne into a scapegoat who will absorb the blows while Obama stays above the fray. And this article itself is an example of that. Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny write, “As the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another. If things do not go well—and right now Mr. Obama’s political popularity is declining, his health care legislation is under conservative assault, the budget deficit is at an eye-popping level and Afghanistan remains volatile—it is Mr. Emanuel whose job will be on the line before Mr. Obama’s.”

But the most telling detail comes at the end, when Baker and Zeleny reveal that the administration’s decision to get tough on Israel is, to some degree, Emanuel’s doing: “In national security, officials said Mr. Emanuel had been a player on issues central to the Obama presidency. . . . He has been a force behind the administration’s opposition to Israeli settlement expansion, drawing fire from some Israel supporters.”

What this suggests is that Emanuel, the son of an Israeli who is said to be hawkish, is, in part, inserting himself into policy matters relating to Israel—and is doing so to speak out against Israel’s own sense of its own interests in the matter of the natural expansion of long-extant “settlements” that are really part of the metropolis of Jerusalem. Those American Jews who have said both in private (to me) and in public that Obama could be trusted not to take the sorts of positions on Israel suggested by his long association with Jeremiah Wright and his intimate friendship with PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, in part because of Emanuel’s presence in his inner circle, can no longer hide behind Emanuel’s paternity and the fact that he curses a lot and is a tough guy to offer Obama such scant and pathetic cover.

A revealing article in yesterday’s New York Times about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel offers a highly problematic view of the Illinois politician—and one, moreover, that he should be concerned about. It’s one of those breathless pieces so besotted with its subject and his power that it makes Emanuel sound less like the chief staffer in the White House and more like the president than the president himself. “The most powerful chief of staff in a quarter century,” the article calls Emanuel, insisting that he is the architect of the administration’s do-everything-all-at-once policy and that he is not only in charge in the West Wing but basically running the House of Representatives as well.

It is always dangerous for powers behind the throne to emerge and receive celebration as powers in their own right. Such talk either belittles and marginalizes the holder of the throne, or it can turn the power behind the throne into a scapegoat who will absorb the blows while Obama stays above the fray. And this article itself is an example of that. Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny write, “As the principal author of Mr. Obama’s do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another. If things do not go well—and right now Mr. Obama’s political popularity is declining, his health care legislation is under conservative assault, the budget deficit is at an eye-popping level and Afghanistan remains volatile—it is Mr. Emanuel whose job will be on the line before Mr. Obama’s.”

But the most telling detail comes at the end, when Baker and Zeleny reveal that the administration’s decision to get tough on Israel is, to some degree, Emanuel’s doing: “In national security, officials said Mr. Emanuel had been a player on issues central to the Obama presidency. . . . He has been a force behind the administration’s opposition to Israeli settlement expansion, drawing fire from some Israel supporters.”

What this suggests is that Emanuel, the son of an Israeli who is said to be hawkish, is, in part, inserting himself into policy matters relating to Israel—and is doing so to speak out against Israel’s own sense of its own interests in the matter of the natural expansion of long-extant “settlements” that are really part of the metropolis of Jerusalem. Those American Jews who have said both in private (to me) and in public that Obama could be trusted not to take the sorts of positions on Israel suggested by his long association with Jeremiah Wright and his intimate friendship with PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, in part because of Emanuel’s presence in his inner circle, can no longer hide behind Emanuel’s paternity and the fact that he curses a lot and is a tough guy to offer Obama such scant and pathetic cover.

Read Less

Would You Buy an Oral Understanding from This Man?

Israeli blogger Arlene Kushner writes that there are “rumors afloat about the specifics on U.S.-Israel negotiations with regard to a ‘temporary’ freeze on settlement building.” She cites an Israeli press report that “the U.S. wants a two year freeze because Obama figures that’s how long forging a peace deal will take,” while Netanyahu is offering three months (with the right to resume building if Arab states do not respond with normalization steps).

But the real sticking point may be something else that she notes in her post:

Both Netanyahu and Barak (who reportedly would accept a six-month freeze) want the deal in writing, since Obama claimed there was no deal with Bush that had to be honored because there was nothing that was an explicit written commitment. Obama is said to be balking at this as he doesn’t want to go on record as formally authorizing building in the settlements under any conditions.

This is what happens when you renege on established oral understandings on the grounds they are “unenforceable.” People fear that an oral agreement with you isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Perhaps the Israelis have read John McCain’s classic February 6, 2006, letter, after Obama reneged on his private assurances to work on bipartisan lobbying reform. They may recall Obama reneging on his commitment to public financing of the presidential campaign. They may remember his wholesale reversal of his primary positions during the general-election campaign. They may have heard Obama deny he was trying to effectuate a single-payer system—and then viewed (along with about 750,000 other people) the YouTube clip showing him previously saying exactly the opposite.

And undoubtedly they are aware that Obama holds the Guinness record for policy-reversal rapidity, reneging on his “Let me be clear” pledge of an undivided Jerusalem—24 hours after he made it in front of 7,000 people.

So it is understandable the Israelis want a written deal. But there is an inherent danger even in a written deal if it involves tangible steps in exchange for promises from someone who cannot be trusted to fulfill them. Israel took irreparable steps in Gaza, withdrawing every settler and soldier, in reliance on the 2004 Bush letter—which was explicit and unambiguous—and has watched the Obama administration repeatedly refuse to acknowledge the letter as binding.

So before relying on a new presidential commitment, Israel may want to see if Obama will affirm the prior one. The ultimate issue may not be oral versus written promises but a more fundamental problem. Charlie Brown’s unfortunate experiences with Lucy were probably not due to the lack of a written pledge about her field-goal commitment.

Israeli blogger Arlene Kushner writes that there are “rumors afloat about the specifics on U.S.-Israel negotiations with regard to a ‘temporary’ freeze on settlement building.” She cites an Israeli press report that “the U.S. wants a two year freeze because Obama figures that’s how long forging a peace deal will take,” while Netanyahu is offering three months (with the right to resume building if Arab states do not respond with normalization steps).

But the real sticking point may be something else that she notes in her post:

Both Netanyahu and Barak (who reportedly would accept a six-month freeze) want the deal in writing, since Obama claimed there was no deal with Bush that had to be honored because there was nothing that was an explicit written commitment. Obama is said to be balking at this as he doesn’t want to go on record as formally authorizing building in the settlements under any conditions.

This is what happens when you renege on established oral understandings on the grounds they are “unenforceable.” People fear that an oral agreement with you isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Perhaps the Israelis have read John McCain’s classic February 6, 2006, letter, after Obama reneged on his private assurances to work on bipartisan lobbying reform. They may recall Obama reneging on his commitment to public financing of the presidential campaign. They may remember his wholesale reversal of his primary positions during the general-election campaign. They may have heard Obama deny he was trying to effectuate a single-payer system—and then viewed (along with about 750,000 other people) the YouTube clip showing him previously saying exactly the opposite.

And undoubtedly they are aware that Obama holds the Guinness record for policy-reversal rapidity, reneging on his “Let me be clear” pledge of an undivided Jerusalem—24 hours after he made it in front of 7,000 people.

So it is understandable the Israelis want a written deal. But there is an inherent danger even in a written deal if it involves tangible steps in exchange for promises from someone who cannot be trusted to fulfill them. Israel took irreparable steps in Gaza, withdrawing every settler and soldier, in reliance on the 2004 Bush letter—which was explicit and unambiguous—and has watched the Obama administration repeatedly refuse to acknowledge the letter as binding.

So before relying on a new presidential commitment, Israel may want to see if Obama will affirm the prior one. The ultimate issue may not be oral versus written promises but a more fundamental problem. Charlie Brown’s unfortunate experiences with Lucy were probably not due to the lack of a written pledge about her field-goal commitment.

Read Less




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