Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 8, 2009

Myths?

J Street has apparently gotten so much flack about its perpetual criticism of Israel and cheerleading for every Palestinian propaganda point that the J Street team has been forced to come up with a “Myths and Facts About J Street” crib sheet. Let me just say that if a Jewish organization has to put out a statement denying that it is anti-Israel, pro–Mary Robinson, is funded mostly by Arabs, and has defended a nuclear-armed Iran, then they might as well pack it in. Suffice it to say, you don’t see the ADL or AIPAC or any other genuinely pro-Israel group in such a defensive crouch.

Moreover, some of its “defenses” are rather, well, pathetic. Let’s take just two. On Mary Robinson, J Street says it never defended the choice of Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom Award. The “defense”? They were mute! Only their friends defended her. No, really:

J Street never issued a single statement related to Mary Robinson. Individuals associated with J Street’s public relations firm may have done some personal work on the issue — but that had nothing to do with J Street, just as the firm’s work for dozens of other clients is completely unrelated to J Street.

Wow, that sure settles that.

Then there is Iran. J Street denies it has defended Iran’s nuclear program. Well, they haven’t defended it. They just don’t think we should, you know, do anything about it:

As of the early fall of 2009, we are not of the opinion that the time has come for Congress to move ahead with further sanctions. We agree with those who are calling for ‘strategic patience’ at this moment of unrest and uncertainty in Iranian domestic politics and continue to urge Congress to give the diplomatic and political processes currently underway more time to unfold.

I think the mullahs are the one’s calling for more and more and more time to “unfold.”

And so it goes: J Street doesn’t support U.S. negotiation with Hamas; it just thinks Hamas is too important to ignore:

Ultimately, a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require Palestinian political reconciliation and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation and a unity government, whose officials will work within a diplomatic process to achieve an acceptable two-state solution. Further, we would not oppose a decision by the Israeli government, the United States, or other countries to find unofficial, indirect ways to engage Hamas in order to advance U.S. and Israeli interests.

Sort of easy to see how these “myths” take hold. It seems that crack team at J Street’s PR firm that defended Mary Robinson isn’t very good at its job. But then it has an impossible task—trying to convince the Jewish community that they really, deep down, support a strong and secure Jewish state.

J Street has apparently gotten so much flack about its perpetual criticism of Israel and cheerleading for every Palestinian propaganda point that the J Street team has been forced to come up with a “Myths and Facts About J Street” crib sheet. Let me just say that if a Jewish organization has to put out a statement denying that it is anti-Israel, pro–Mary Robinson, is funded mostly by Arabs, and has defended a nuclear-armed Iran, then they might as well pack it in. Suffice it to say, you don’t see the ADL or AIPAC or any other genuinely pro-Israel group in such a defensive crouch.

Moreover, some of its “defenses” are rather, well, pathetic. Let’s take just two. On Mary Robinson, J Street says it never defended the choice of Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom Award. The “defense”? They were mute! Only their friends defended her. No, really:

J Street never issued a single statement related to Mary Robinson. Individuals associated with J Street’s public relations firm may have done some personal work on the issue — but that had nothing to do with J Street, just as the firm’s work for dozens of other clients is completely unrelated to J Street.

Wow, that sure settles that.

Then there is Iran. J Street denies it has defended Iran’s nuclear program. Well, they haven’t defended it. They just don’t think we should, you know, do anything about it:

As of the early fall of 2009, we are not of the opinion that the time has come for Congress to move ahead with further sanctions. We agree with those who are calling for ‘strategic patience’ at this moment of unrest and uncertainty in Iranian domestic politics and continue to urge Congress to give the diplomatic and political processes currently underway more time to unfold.

I think the mullahs are the one’s calling for more and more and more time to “unfold.”

And so it goes: J Street doesn’t support U.S. negotiation with Hamas; it just thinks Hamas is too important to ignore:

Ultimately, a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require Palestinian political reconciliation and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation and a unity government, whose officials will work within a diplomatic process to achieve an acceptable two-state solution. Further, we would not oppose a decision by the Israeli government, the United States, or other countries to find unofficial, indirect ways to engage Hamas in order to advance U.S. and Israeli interests.

Sort of easy to see how these “myths” take hold. It seems that crack team at J Street’s PR firm that defended Mary Robinson isn’t very good at its job. But then it has an impossible task—trying to convince the Jewish community that they really, deep down, support a strong and secure Jewish state.

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Sam Tanenhaus’s Bad Advice

I wanted to add my thoughts on Sam Tanenhaus, author of a new book, The Death of Conservatism—one that COMMENTARY’s own John Podhoretz skillfully dismantles in the current issue.

In a recent interview with Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham, Tanenhaus takes to lecturing conservatives on what they need to do to avoid marginalization. As best as I can tell, Tanenhaus wants conservatives simply to make peace with liberalism, in all its particulars. In his (tendentious) words, “A declaration of ideological warfare against liberalism is by its nature profoundly unconservative. It meets perceived radicalism with a counterradicalism of its own.”

For one thing, notice that liberal radicalism is “perceived”—while conservative radicalism is assumed.

Second, Tanenhaus is attempting to portray conservatism as inherently unable to roll back liberalism. In his “From the Editor” entry, John points out that in his book Tanenhaus approvingly quotes Garry Wills as saying, “The right wing in America is stuck with the paradox of holding a philosophy of ‘conserving’ an actual order it does not want to conserve.” This formulation, as John points out, is both clever and fatuous. It does not represent conservatism, including the Burkean strand.

The liberal professor Alan Wolfe has written:

Two kinds of political acts require no wisdom at all, and Burke rejected them both. One is an implacable conservatism that defends everything that exists, because such a point of view never requires that we make distinctions or evaluations. The other is an uninhibited radicalism that throws out everything that exists because it assumes, even before reflection, that anything old is outmoded. . . . Wisdom consists in knowing what is good and ought to be retained and what is problematic that needs to be changed.

Burke himself put it this way:

When the useful parts of an old establishment are kept, and what is superadded is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous mind, steady, persevering attention, various powers of comparison and combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in expedients are to be exercised.

Elsewhere Burke writes, “A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.” When it comes to liberalism, Tanenhaus seems interested only in a “disposition to preserve.”

Tanenhaus also says in his Newsweek interview: “Rush Limbaugh’s stated hope that Obama will fail seems to have become GOP doctrine. That is the attitude not of conservatives, but of radicals, who deplore the very possibility of a virtuous government.”

This statement is silly. For one thing, Obamaism is not synonymous with “virtuous government.” For another, Limbaugh has made it clear any number of times that he wants Obama to fail based on the assumption that Obama is promoting an across-the-board liberal agenda—which has certainly been the case on the domestic side. I would also bet a steak dinner that when Ronald Reagan was president, Limbaugh believed the federal government was acting in a more “virtuous” manner than Mr. Tanenhaus did. Limbaugh supported the federal government at a time when Tanenhaus was, I think it’s fair to assume, opposed to what it was doing. Whether or not government is virtuous depends on what government is doing, the goals it is advancing, and the principles it embodies.

In addition, Tanenhaus, in attempting to deflect the charge that he isn’t a “true conservative,” says, “I’m not registered with either party and never have been.” To which I would respond by asking, So what? The fact that Tanenhaus doesn’t register with a political party can’t hide the fact that he is, through and through, a liberal. That isn’t a crime, and Tanenhaus doesn’t even believe it is a mistake. But he should set aside the pretext that he is somehow “objective.” He is not, and he should not pretend he is.

The Economist had a review of The Death of Conservatism and described it as “essentially an appeal for unilateral disarmament by the right masquerading as a fair-minded report on the state of the battle.” That sounds right to me. I would only add this: a pretty good rule to follow is that conservatives should ignore the counsel of people who possess a sneering disdain for conservatives and conservatism. They are not, in the words of Madison, “loving critics.” So when these individuals profess deep and earnest concern that the right, in not following their advice, could be marginalized for a generation of more, ignore them. A lot of people have wise counsel for the right. Sam Tanenhaus is not one of them.

I wanted to add my thoughts on Sam Tanenhaus, author of a new book, The Death of Conservatism—one that COMMENTARY’s own John Podhoretz skillfully dismantles in the current issue.

In a recent interview with Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham, Tanenhaus takes to lecturing conservatives on what they need to do to avoid marginalization. As best as I can tell, Tanenhaus wants conservatives simply to make peace with liberalism, in all its particulars. In his (tendentious) words, “A declaration of ideological warfare against liberalism is by its nature profoundly unconservative. It meets perceived radicalism with a counterradicalism of its own.”

For one thing, notice that liberal radicalism is “perceived”—while conservative radicalism is assumed.

Second, Tanenhaus is attempting to portray conservatism as inherently unable to roll back liberalism. In his “From the Editor” entry, John points out that in his book Tanenhaus approvingly quotes Garry Wills as saying, “The right wing in America is stuck with the paradox of holding a philosophy of ‘conserving’ an actual order it does not want to conserve.” This formulation, as John points out, is both clever and fatuous. It does not represent conservatism, including the Burkean strand.

The liberal professor Alan Wolfe has written:

Two kinds of political acts require no wisdom at all, and Burke rejected them both. One is an implacable conservatism that defends everything that exists, because such a point of view never requires that we make distinctions or evaluations. The other is an uninhibited radicalism that throws out everything that exists because it assumes, even before reflection, that anything old is outmoded. . . . Wisdom consists in knowing what is good and ought to be retained and what is problematic that needs to be changed.

Burke himself put it this way:

When the useful parts of an old establishment are kept, and what is superadded is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous mind, steady, persevering attention, various powers of comparison and combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in expedients are to be exercised.

Elsewhere Burke writes, “A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.” When it comes to liberalism, Tanenhaus seems interested only in a “disposition to preserve.”

Tanenhaus also says in his Newsweek interview: “Rush Limbaugh’s stated hope that Obama will fail seems to have become GOP doctrine. That is the attitude not of conservatives, but of radicals, who deplore the very possibility of a virtuous government.”

This statement is silly. For one thing, Obamaism is not synonymous with “virtuous government.” For another, Limbaugh has made it clear any number of times that he wants Obama to fail based on the assumption that Obama is promoting an across-the-board liberal agenda—which has certainly been the case on the domestic side. I would also bet a steak dinner that when Ronald Reagan was president, Limbaugh believed the federal government was acting in a more “virtuous” manner than Mr. Tanenhaus did. Limbaugh supported the federal government at a time when Tanenhaus was, I think it’s fair to assume, opposed to what it was doing. Whether or not government is virtuous depends on what government is doing, the goals it is advancing, and the principles it embodies.

In addition, Tanenhaus, in attempting to deflect the charge that he isn’t a “true conservative,” says, “I’m not registered with either party and never have been.” To which I would respond by asking, So what? The fact that Tanenhaus doesn’t register with a political party can’t hide the fact that he is, through and through, a liberal. That isn’t a crime, and Tanenhaus doesn’t even believe it is a mistake. But he should set aside the pretext that he is somehow “objective.” He is not, and he should not pretend he is.

The Economist had a review of The Death of Conservatism and described it as “essentially an appeal for unilateral disarmament by the right masquerading as a fair-minded report on the state of the battle.” That sounds right to me. I would only add this: a pretty good rule to follow is that conservatives should ignore the counsel of people who possess a sneering disdain for conservatives and conservatism. They are not, in the words of Madison, “loving critics.” So when these individuals profess deep and earnest concern that the right, in not following their advice, could be marginalized for a generation of more, ignore them. A lot of people have wise counsel for the right. Sam Tanenhaus is not one of them.

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Why Is He Doing This?

As others have cataloged, the public option is taking a pounding today. The Blue Dogs are saying no way, while the White House is sounding about as resolute as they did on Friday when reporters asked about the fate of Van Jones. Yet the president is going to stand before the nation tomorrow, supposedly to get serious—and say what exactly? From early reports, it sounds like he’s not going to formally abandon the public option, at least not yet. And if he isn’t going to be clear about that, then really, how seriously should we take the rest of his speech?

The speech is in some ways an exercise of ego—the great orator (or so we’ve been told) who has lost the public on the issue needs to get back his mojo and wants to turn off the media chatter about a floundering presidency. So he goes back to the “grand speech” formula. But his problem is not purely a rhetorical one. It is one of substance and of legislative dealmaking. He needs to find his inner LBJ if he is to succeed, not return to campaign mode, which frankly hasn’t done him any good while in office.

If the president hasn’t figured out what deal he wants—and what deal he can get—it might have been a good idea to forgo the speech and call for a summit of congressional leaders to hammer out a deal. That would have shown a devotion to serious governance. But that’s not Obama’s style. We’ll see if the public—and more important, Congress—has the patience for yet another grand address and whether this magically unlocks a health-care deal. Ironically, the public might be more curious and take more seriously what Obama has to say if he had not seriously overexposed himself and tried everyone’s patience. At this late date, many suspect they’ve already heard it all.

As others have cataloged, the public option is taking a pounding today. The Blue Dogs are saying no way, while the White House is sounding about as resolute as they did on Friday when reporters asked about the fate of Van Jones. Yet the president is going to stand before the nation tomorrow, supposedly to get serious—and say what exactly? From early reports, it sounds like he’s not going to formally abandon the public option, at least not yet. And if he isn’t going to be clear about that, then really, how seriously should we take the rest of his speech?

The speech is in some ways an exercise of ego—the great orator (or so we’ve been told) who has lost the public on the issue needs to get back his mojo and wants to turn off the media chatter about a floundering presidency. So he goes back to the “grand speech” formula. But his problem is not purely a rhetorical one. It is one of substance and of legislative dealmaking. He needs to find his inner LBJ if he is to succeed, not return to campaign mode, which frankly hasn’t done him any good while in office.

If the president hasn’t figured out what deal he wants—and what deal he can get—it might have been a good idea to forgo the speech and call for a summit of congressional leaders to hammer out a deal. That would have shown a devotion to serious governance. But that’s not Obama’s style. We’ll see if the public—and more important, Congress—has the patience for yet another grand address and whether this magically unlocks a health-care deal. Ironically, the public might be more curious and take more seriously what Obama has to say if he had not seriously overexposed himself and tried everyone’s patience. At this late date, many suspect they’ve already heard it all.

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The Latest Human Rights Watch Bombshell

I’m a believer in the truth of O’Sullivan’s First Law, formulated some years ago by the former editor of National Review, John O’Sullivan:

All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing. I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don’t like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world.

The law holds true for human-rights organizations as well, many of which over time have become staffed and led by people far more impassioned about condemning democratic societies than repressive or despotic ones. Human Rights Watch has earned the attention it has been receiving lately because it is the leader in this trend. And nowhere in the organization is O’Sullivan’s Law more apparent than in HRW’s Middle East staffers. They are fetishists, people who have an obsession with a certain country (Israel) and with a certain cause (condemning Western militaries). How many reports has HRW issued about Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s successful three-week offensive to neutralize Hamas’s rocket war against Israeli civilians? I’ve lost count, although I have heard that HRW’s forthcoming report—perhaps the fourth or fifth on Cast Lead—will document a few instances in which Palestinian homes were vandalized by IDF soldiers. Graffiti spray-painted on a wall during a war is a pressing human-rights issue in the Middle East? Is vandalism even a human-rights issue? Only if you’re an Israel-obsessive.

So we get to Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst” and a frequent critic of Israel. Garlasco, as disclosed by Omri at Mere Rhetoric, has an interesting avocation: he writes about and collects Nazi paraphernalia. He has contributed almost 8,000 posts to a Nazi web forum called Wehrmacht Awards under the handle “Flak88,” with his collection of swastikas and Nazi medals all lovingly photographed and posted online. Garlasco’s Nazi hobby is actually quite ambitious: he wrote a 400-page book on Nazi military awards, and his car’s license plate is personalized—it reads “Flak88.”

A Nazi-memorabilia hobby sure is a strange one for a professional human-rights activist to have. Are there any senior staffers at PETA who moonlight as collectors of fur coats and leg-hold traps? Garlasco must know how odd this looks because he maintains a photography website that contains pictures of many diverse things—but no tip-off that one of his favorite photography subjects is . . . Nazi medals.

The more we learn about Human Rights Watch, the more the mask slips. There is Sarah Leah Whitson, the intifada-era activist for Palestine and apologist for terrorism; Joe Stork, the radical leftist and anti-Zionist; and now Garlasco, the Nazi-memorabilia collector.

I’m a believer in the truth of O’Sullivan’s First Law, formulated some years ago by the former editor of National Review, John O’Sullivan:

All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing. I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don’t like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world.

The law holds true for human-rights organizations as well, many of which over time have become staffed and led by people far more impassioned about condemning democratic societies than repressive or despotic ones. Human Rights Watch has earned the attention it has been receiving lately because it is the leader in this trend. And nowhere in the organization is O’Sullivan’s Law more apparent than in HRW’s Middle East staffers. They are fetishists, people who have an obsession with a certain country (Israel) and with a certain cause (condemning Western militaries). How many reports has HRW issued about Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s successful three-week offensive to neutralize Hamas’s rocket war against Israeli civilians? I’ve lost count, although I have heard that HRW’s forthcoming report—perhaps the fourth or fifth on Cast Lead—will document a few instances in which Palestinian homes were vandalized by IDF soldiers. Graffiti spray-painted on a wall during a war is a pressing human-rights issue in the Middle East? Is vandalism even a human-rights issue? Only if you’re an Israel-obsessive.

So we get to Marc Garlasco, HRW’s “senior military analyst” and a frequent critic of Israel. Garlasco, as disclosed by Omri at Mere Rhetoric, has an interesting avocation: he writes about and collects Nazi paraphernalia. He has contributed almost 8,000 posts to a Nazi web forum called Wehrmacht Awards under the handle “Flak88,” with his collection of swastikas and Nazi medals all lovingly photographed and posted online. Garlasco’s Nazi hobby is actually quite ambitious: he wrote a 400-page book on Nazi military awards, and his car’s license plate is personalized—it reads “Flak88.”

A Nazi-memorabilia hobby sure is a strange one for a professional human-rights activist to have. Are there any senior staffers at PETA who moonlight as collectors of fur coats and leg-hold traps? Garlasco must know how odd this looks because he maintains a photography website that contains pictures of many diverse things—but no tip-off that one of his favorite photography subjects is . . . Nazi medals.

The more we learn about Human Rights Watch, the more the mask slips. There is Sarah Leah Whitson, the intifada-era activist for Palestine and apologist for terrorism; Joe Stork, the radical leftist and anti-Zionist; and now Garlasco, the Nazi-memorabilia collector.

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Avoiding the Taint of Corruption in Afghan Elections

The news from Afghanistan is not good: “Karzai has 54% of Afghan vote as fraud claims rise.” That could allow Karzai to claim victory, although the Independent Election Commission wants to do a recount of disputed ballots that could take “two or three months.”

Given that our war in Afghanistan depends in part on establishing legitimate governmental institutions, this is a serious blow—but hardly a fatal one. To some extent, Karzai is the victim of rising and perhaps unfair expectations. Fraud has been around as long as there have been elections. Even in the U.S., it was not unusual, until quite recently, for party bosses and ward heelers to arrange the outcome of elections in smoke-filled rooms. Lyndon Johnson, among many other notables of American political history, never would have risen to the top had he not stuffed ballot boxes during some of his early congressional and Senate races in Texas—a sordid history amply laid out by Robert Caro in his magisterial, multivolume biography. Fraud is much less prevalent in the U.S. today, but it is still very much around.

In other parts of the world, the problem is much more acute. The U.S. is allied with a number of rulers—Hosni Mubarak comes to mind—who violate the norms of liberal democracy on a scale far beyond anything that has transpired in Afghanistan. Electoral fraud wasn’t even an issue in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, because regimes ruled by brute force. Certainly if anyone is worried about the future of Afghan democracy, Hamid Karzai is a pristine democrat compared with Mullah Omar. Afghanistan is to be commended for its achievement in holding two presidential elections since the overthrow of the Taliban. And this latest election was quite competitive, with candidates such as runner-up Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani actively campaigning and freely criticizing the incumbent without fear that they would be killed in retribution. In this part of the world, that should count as a substantial achievement.

And yet, fair or not, expectations have been raised in Afghanistan since 2001, to the point where it would be hard to imagine that Karzai could have any legitimacy if he were declared the winner based on results that were widely thought to be fraudulent. If Karzai is a true statesman with the future of his country uppermost in his heart, he should announce that he will refuse to assume another term based on tainted results and demand a second-round runoff with Abdullah Abdullah, while urging his followers not to commit fraud on his behalf.

I am not positive whether under Afghanistan’s law it would be possible to preempt months of recounting, but if it were possible to proceed to a runoff right away, that would clearly be in the best interests of the country. As we’ve seen in Iraq, periods of uncertainty and turmoil at the top (think back to 2006 when Ibrahim Jaafari was being forced out as Iraq’s prime minister but a replacement was not yet agreed on) only lead to greater violence and gains for the insurgency.

The news from Afghanistan is not good: “Karzai has 54% of Afghan vote as fraud claims rise.” That could allow Karzai to claim victory, although the Independent Election Commission wants to do a recount of disputed ballots that could take “two or three months.”

Given that our war in Afghanistan depends in part on establishing legitimate governmental institutions, this is a serious blow—but hardly a fatal one. To some extent, Karzai is the victim of rising and perhaps unfair expectations. Fraud has been around as long as there have been elections. Even in the U.S., it was not unusual, until quite recently, for party bosses and ward heelers to arrange the outcome of elections in smoke-filled rooms. Lyndon Johnson, among many other notables of American political history, never would have risen to the top had he not stuffed ballot boxes during some of his early congressional and Senate races in Texas—a sordid history amply laid out by Robert Caro in his magisterial, multivolume biography. Fraud is much less prevalent in the U.S. today, but it is still very much around.

In other parts of the world, the problem is much more acute. The U.S. is allied with a number of rulers—Hosni Mubarak comes to mind—who violate the norms of liberal democracy on a scale far beyond anything that has transpired in Afghanistan. Electoral fraud wasn’t even an issue in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, because regimes ruled by brute force. Certainly if anyone is worried about the future of Afghan democracy, Hamid Karzai is a pristine democrat compared with Mullah Omar. Afghanistan is to be commended for its achievement in holding two presidential elections since the overthrow of the Taliban. And this latest election was quite competitive, with candidates such as runner-up Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani actively campaigning and freely criticizing the incumbent without fear that they would be killed in retribution. In this part of the world, that should count as a substantial achievement.

And yet, fair or not, expectations have been raised in Afghanistan since 2001, to the point where it would be hard to imagine that Karzai could have any legitimacy if he were declared the winner based on results that were widely thought to be fraudulent. If Karzai is a true statesman with the future of his country uppermost in his heart, he should announce that he will refuse to assume another term based on tainted results and demand a second-round runoff with Abdullah Abdullah, while urging his followers not to commit fraud on his behalf.

I am not positive whether under Afghanistan’s law it would be possible to preempt months of recounting, but if it were possible to proceed to a runoff right away, that would clearly be in the best interests of the country. As we’ve seen in Iraq, periods of uncertainty and turmoil at the top (think back to 2006 when Ibrahim Jaafari was being forced out as Iraq’s prime minister but a replacement was not yet agreed on) only lead to greater violence and gains for the insurgency.

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Carter Dismantled

The Washington Post’s editors afford Elliott Abrams space to dismantle Jimmy Carter’s vile op-ed (which appeared in the Post over the weekend) accusing Israel of maintaining a “ghetto” for Palestinians and single-handedly preventing an outbreak of peace in the Middle East. Abrams explains that Carter’s anti-Israel rant ignored polling data that showed an uptick in Palestinians’ sense of personal security and also overlooked the 7 percent growth in GDP (“a rate of growth that would be far in excess of ours — or Israel’s”). In painting Israel as somehow holding Gaza hostage, Carter also ignored geography (Gaza is not an “enclave” of Israel) and all the relevant recent history, including the Israelis’ withdrawal from Gaza, which earned them only a shower of missiles and a war.

Abrams concludes:

Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter’s claim that “a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key” to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza — no, the sole “key” is Israeli settlements. Such a conclusion fits with Carter’s general approach, in which there are no real Palestinians, just victims of Israel. . . . Carter fantasizes about a “nonviolent civil rights struggle” that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades. Carter’s portrait demonizes Israelis and, not coincidentally, it infantilizes Palestinians, who are accorded no real responsibility for their fate or future. If this is “the Elders’ view of the Middle East,” we and our friends in that region are fortunate that this group of former officials is no longer in power.

So the question remains: can Carter be this ignorant? Well, it would be hard to miss so much recent history and avoid so many facts unless you were trying. One can’t but conclude that Carter—and his fellow “Elders” Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, fresh from their Medal of Freedom award ceremony—share an underlying animosity toward the Jewish state. Their determination to perpetuate falsehoods that all—like magic!—line up against Israel should be seen for what it is.

And while the Post deserves credit for providing Abrams the opportunity to debunk Carter’s lies and obvious bias, one has to wonder why the editors thought it appropriate to print Carter’s column in the first place. After all, it isn’t as if Carter doesn’t have a place to peddle his venom. He can always slink over to J Street’s website or Al Jazeera, both of which no doubt would be happy to have an Israel-bashing rant from an ex-president. It remains a mystery why the Post needs to give him respectable journalistic real estate to do his dirty work.

The Washington Post’s editors afford Elliott Abrams space to dismantle Jimmy Carter’s vile op-ed (which appeared in the Post over the weekend) accusing Israel of maintaining a “ghetto” for Palestinians and single-handedly preventing an outbreak of peace in the Middle East. Abrams explains that Carter’s anti-Israel rant ignored polling data that showed an uptick in Palestinians’ sense of personal security and also overlooked the 7 percent growth in GDP (“a rate of growth that would be far in excess of ours — or Israel’s”). In painting Israel as somehow holding Gaza hostage, Carter also ignored geography (Gaza is not an “enclave” of Israel) and all the relevant recent history, including the Israelis’ withdrawal from Gaza, which earned them only a shower of missiles and a war.

Abrams concludes:

Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter’s claim that “a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key” to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza — no, the sole “key” is Israeli settlements. Such a conclusion fits with Carter’s general approach, in which there are no real Palestinians, just victims of Israel. . . . Carter fantasizes about a “nonviolent civil rights struggle” that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades. Carter’s portrait demonizes Israelis and, not coincidentally, it infantilizes Palestinians, who are accorded no real responsibility for their fate or future. If this is “the Elders’ view of the Middle East,” we and our friends in that region are fortunate that this group of former officials is no longer in power.

So the question remains: can Carter be this ignorant? Well, it would be hard to miss so much recent history and avoid so many facts unless you were trying. One can’t but conclude that Carter—and his fellow “Elders” Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, fresh from their Medal of Freedom award ceremony—share an underlying animosity toward the Jewish state. Their determination to perpetuate falsehoods that all—like magic!—line up against Israel should be seen for what it is.

And while the Post deserves credit for providing Abrams the opportunity to debunk Carter’s lies and obvious bias, one has to wonder why the editors thought it appropriate to print Carter’s column in the first place. After all, it isn’t as if Carter doesn’t have a place to peddle his venom. He can always slink over to J Street’s website or Al Jazeera, both of which no doubt would be happy to have an Israel-bashing rant from an ex-president. It remains a mystery why the Post needs to give him respectable journalistic real estate to do his dirty work.

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Another Speech

It seems that neither the death of Ted Kennedy nor the much celebrated (by the mainstream media) grassroots effort of Obama’s Organizing America during the summer recess to rally the public to ObamaCare has melted hearts or helped forge consensus on health-care reform. The Washington Post confesses:

After a nearly 40-day recess that was anything but restful, House Democrats are returning to work Tuesday still unsettled over pending health-care legislation and sure only that the people have had their say.

They are in almost the exact position they were in when they left the Capitol in late July. Conservatives are still leery of supporting a government-funded, or public, insurance option. Freshman lawmakers from suburban districts remain fearful of increasing taxes for their wealthy constituents to pay for the new measure and await alternatives from moderate Senate Democrats. And progressives, who are demanding the most far-reaching reform since the Great Depression, are still threatening to bring down the legislation if it does not contain a robust version of the public option.

In the lead-up to President Obama’s critical Wednesday night address to a joint session of Congress, interviews with a cross section of about 15 House Democrats and half a dozen aides show that there is still overwhelming support for some overhaul of the health-care system. But the caucus remains deeply divided over the details of the more than 1,000-page measure and now faces a public that is more skeptical than when House committees began drafting the plan two months ago.

The Post, with deadpan delivery, explains: “Clearly, the recess did not go as scripted for House Democrats.” That’s one way of putting it.

And now many House members, already burned by the unpopular cap-and-trade vote, aren’t anxious to vote before the Senate does. The Senate can’t decide whether to include the public option. The liberals are threatening not to vote for a bill without the public option, but no one believes them.

And the solution to this is another prime-time address by Obama? Hmm. I suppose it beats the alternative, which for Obama is to finally govern — tell his side what they can’t have, talk to the opposition and find out what they need, and maybe take the advice of the vast majority of conservatives and many moderates who are suggesting he downsize his ambitions. Nah. Another speech. That’ll do the trick.

It seems that neither the death of Ted Kennedy nor the much celebrated (by the mainstream media) grassroots effort of Obama’s Organizing America during the summer recess to rally the public to ObamaCare has melted hearts or helped forge consensus on health-care reform. The Washington Post confesses:

After a nearly 40-day recess that was anything but restful, House Democrats are returning to work Tuesday still unsettled over pending health-care legislation and sure only that the people have had their say.

They are in almost the exact position they were in when they left the Capitol in late July. Conservatives are still leery of supporting a government-funded, or public, insurance option. Freshman lawmakers from suburban districts remain fearful of increasing taxes for their wealthy constituents to pay for the new measure and await alternatives from moderate Senate Democrats. And progressives, who are demanding the most far-reaching reform since the Great Depression, are still threatening to bring down the legislation if it does not contain a robust version of the public option.

In the lead-up to President Obama’s critical Wednesday night address to a joint session of Congress, interviews with a cross section of about 15 House Democrats and half a dozen aides show that there is still overwhelming support for some overhaul of the health-care system. But the caucus remains deeply divided over the details of the more than 1,000-page measure and now faces a public that is more skeptical than when House committees began drafting the plan two months ago.

The Post, with deadpan delivery, explains: “Clearly, the recess did not go as scripted for House Democrats.” That’s one way of putting it.

And now many House members, already burned by the unpopular cap-and-trade vote, aren’t anxious to vote before the Senate does. The Senate can’t decide whether to include the public option. The liberals are threatening not to vote for a bill without the public option, but no one believes them.

And the solution to this is another prime-time address by Obama? Hmm. I suppose it beats the alternative, which for Obama is to finally govern — tell his side what they can’t have, talk to the opposition and find out what they need, and maybe take the advice of the vast majority of conservatives and many moderates who are suggesting he downsize his ambitions. Nah. Another speech. That’ll do the trick.

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Where Would They Fight?

Bret Stephens in a must-read column effectively demolishes the notion that we can abandon Afghanistan and not suffer a grievous blow in the war against Islamic fundamentalists bent on slaughtering Americans. He begins:

So George Will has noticed that Afghanistan is a backward place ill-suited to nation-building, and Nicholas Kristof thinks that war is a tricky, dirty business, and Tom Friedman is hedging his bets on yet another conflict he once supported but which now disturbs his moral equilibrium. Thus do three paladins of the right, left and center combine to erode support for a war that, if lost, would be to the United States roughly what the battle of Adrianople in 378 A.D.—you can look it up—was to the Roman Empire. Things did not go well for Western civilization for 1,100 or so years thereafter.

But we can’t flee Afghanistan and expect that our enemies won’t claim “a monumental political and ideological victory from which it could recruit a new field of avid jihadists.” If we follow the advice of George Will and other like-minded pundits and politicians, we inevitably leave the impression that we don’t have the stomach for a long fight and that our promises to “clients in the Third World” are meaningless.

In short, if Afghanistan isn’t the “good war,” then there isn’t any war against the Islamic fundamentalists that we are willing to take on. Where would Will, Russ Feingold and their newfound allies on the Right have us fight? Perhaps in some imaginary pre-9/11 world we can fight without leaving the comfy environs of the U.S. or secure overseas bases. And what do they suppose the mullahs in Iran would take from our decision to abandon Afghanistan? It is not as if our withdrawal and the ensuing bloody violence and political upheaval would go unnoticed.

In the world in which we actually live, the war for the survival of the West necessitates that we confront and defeat our enemies where we find them. And right now, they are in Afghanistan.

Bret Stephens in a must-read column effectively demolishes the notion that we can abandon Afghanistan and not suffer a grievous blow in the war against Islamic fundamentalists bent on slaughtering Americans. He begins:

So George Will has noticed that Afghanistan is a backward place ill-suited to nation-building, and Nicholas Kristof thinks that war is a tricky, dirty business, and Tom Friedman is hedging his bets on yet another conflict he once supported but which now disturbs his moral equilibrium. Thus do three paladins of the right, left and center combine to erode support for a war that, if lost, would be to the United States roughly what the battle of Adrianople in 378 A.D.—you can look it up—was to the Roman Empire. Things did not go well for Western civilization for 1,100 or so years thereafter.

But we can’t flee Afghanistan and expect that our enemies won’t claim “a monumental political and ideological victory from which it could recruit a new field of avid jihadists.” If we follow the advice of George Will and other like-minded pundits and politicians, we inevitably leave the impression that we don’t have the stomach for a long fight and that our promises to “clients in the Third World” are meaningless.

In short, if Afghanistan isn’t the “good war,” then there isn’t any war against the Islamic fundamentalists that we are willing to take on. Where would Will, Russ Feingold and their newfound allies on the Right have us fight? Perhaps in some imaginary pre-9/11 world we can fight without leaving the comfy environs of the U.S. or secure overseas bases. And what do they suppose the mullahs in Iran would take from our decision to abandon Afghanistan? It is not as if our withdrawal and the ensuing bloody violence and political upheaval would go unnoticed.

In the world in which we actually live, the war for the survival of the West necessitates that we confront and defeat our enemies where we find them. And right now, they are in Afghanistan.

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Not Very Moderate, Huh?

The Wall Street Journal editors remind us that Van Jones was a well-known figure on the Left whose views and associations were not exactly a secret:

He has been a leading young light of the left-wing political movement for many years. His 2008 book—”The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems”—includes a foreword from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and was praised across the liberal establishment.

Mr. Jones was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which was established, funded and celebrated as the new intellectual vanguard of the Democratic Party. The center’s president is John Podesta, who was co-chair of Mr. Obama’s transition team and thus played a major role in recommending appointees throughout the Administration. The ascent of Mr. Jones within the liberal intelligentsia shows how much the Democratic Party has moved left since its “New Democrat” triangulation of the Clinton years.

As the editors contend, the reason the Left is so upset both about his demise and the fact we are now hearing so much about him is that the mask of moderation that Obama used to get elected is once again fraying. We know such a figure would never have wound up in a truly “moderate” president’s administration. And we know that at the first hint of his way-out-of-the-mainstream views, any other administration would have sacked him immediately.

The editors conclude:

The rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.

So it’s easy to see why the administration doesn’t want to talk about it, the mainstream media doesn’t want to cover it, and the Left blogosphere is outraged that Obama “caved” by letting go one of their own (not that he was a radical, mind you!). Meanwhile, the gap widens between the president’s actual political leanings and his spin (in which anyone who challenges his agenda is the radical). It is all the more troubling for the administration that this comes at the very time the president is trying to tell us he is the paragon of moderation on health-care reform.

The Wall Street Journal editors remind us that Van Jones was a well-known figure on the Left whose views and associations were not exactly a secret:

He has been a leading young light of the left-wing political movement for many years. His 2008 book—”The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems”—includes a foreword from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and was praised across the liberal establishment.

Mr. Jones was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which was established, funded and celebrated as the new intellectual vanguard of the Democratic Party. The center’s president is John Podesta, who was co-chair of Mr. Obama’s transition team and thus played a major role in recommending appointees throughout the Administration. The ascent of Mr. Jones within the liberal intelligentsia shows how much the Democratic Party has moved left since its “New Democrat” triangulation of the Clinton years.

As the editors contend, the reason the Left is so upset both about his demise and the fact we are now hearing so much about him is that the mask of moderation that Obama used to get elected is once again fraying. We know such a figure would never have wound up in a truly “moderate” president’s administration. And we know that at the first hint of his way-out-of-the-mainstream views, any other administration would have sacked him immediately.

The editors conclude:

The rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.

So it’s easy to see why the administration doesn’t want to talk about it, the mainstream media doesn’t want to cover it, and the Left blogosphere is outraged that Obama “caved” by letting go one of their own (not that he was a radical, mind you!). Meanwhile, the gap widens between the president’s actual political leanings and his spin (in which anyone who challenges his agenda is the radical). It is all the more troubling for the administration that this comes at the very time the president is trying to tell us he is the paragon of moderation on health-care reform.

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2014?

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported:

On this Labor Day, 5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, a record number that forecasts a slow, difficult recovery and a long period of high unemployment, according to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

Nationally, the average bout of unemployment has reached 25 weeks, the longest since the end of World War II, and is likely to increase as the jobless rate goes higher. Most economists expect the national unemployment rate, now 9.7 percent, to top 10 percent before peaking next year.

What’s more, the jobs picture may not substantially improve for a very long time. Given the size of the labor market and the numbers of unemployed (millions now chronically so), it is going to take a huge number of new jobs to put a dent in the unemployment rate. As I noted previously, this is problematic given the policies the administration is pursuing and the paralysis gripping employers.

This report explains:

In all, some 14.9 million people are out of work and looking for a job.

This means it will take several quarters of economic growth to put the unemployed back to work. About 125,000 jobs need to be created each month just to keep up with the natural increase in the number of job seekers from immigration and population growth. Even if that number is surpassed in coming months, it will take a very long time to make up all the lost ground.

The data show that unemployment is deep, widespread and lasting longer than usual.

The kicker: one group of prognosticators (Moody’s Economy.com) predicts that it will be 2014 before “the unemployment rate will finally dip toward 5 percent, considered to be the ‘normal’ level.” The economic and political ramifications of endemic high unemployment will play out over the next few years if this is correct.

Given all this, it is all the more remarkable how little attention is being devoted in Washington to private-sector job creation. At some point, the voters may notice that the Beltway crowd isn’t doing a thing — at least not anything helpful — about the most critical problem we are facing. Well, that and the mound of debt — which the administration and the Congress are also ignoring.

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported:

On this Labor Day, 5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, a record number that forecasts a slow, difficult recovery and a long period of high unemployment, according to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

Nationally, the average bout of unemployment has reached 25 weeks, the longest since the end of World War II, and is likely to increase as the jobless rate goes higher. Most economists expect the national unemployment rate, now 9.7 percent, to top 10 percent before peaking next year.

What’s more, the jobs picture may not substantially improve for a very long time. Given the size of the labor market and the numbers of unemployed (millions now chronically so), it is going to take a huge number of new jobs to put a dent in the unemployment rate. As I noted previously, this is problematic given the policies the administration is pursuing and the paralysis gripping employers.

This report explains:

In all, some 14.9 million people are out of work and looking for a job.

This means it will take several quarters of economic growth to put the unemployed back to work. About 125,000 jobs need to be created each month just to keep up with the natural increase in the number of job seekers from immigration and population growth. Even if that number is surpassed in coming months, it will take a very long time to make up all the lost ground.

The data show that unemployment is deep, widespread and lasting longer than usual.

The kicker: one group of prognosticators (Moody’s Economy.com) predicts that it will be 2014 before “the unemployment rate will finally dip toward 5 percent, considered to be the ‘normal’ level.” The economic and political ramifications of endemic high unemployment will play out over the next few years if this is correct.

Given all this, it is all the more remarkable how little attention is being devoted in Washington to private-sector job creation. At some point, the voters may notice that the Beltway crowd isn’t doing a thing — at least not anything helpful — about the most critical problem we are facing. Well, that and the mound of debt — which the administration and the Congress are also ignoring.

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Exceptional All Right

Marty Peretz writes on the president’s reaction to the freeing of the convicted murderer of 270 people (189 Americans) in the Lockerbie bombing:

While the U.S. public is indeed furious over the release of Mr. Megrahi, the Obama administration’s criticisms are probably pro forma. From his apologetic speech in Cairo to the Ramadan dinner he held at the White House last week, Mr. Obama has placed good-faith gestures at the heart of his Middle Eastern policy. It is almost as if he believes that the West’s tensions with the Muslim world involve an accounting of manners. We have run up a big deficit of slights, which must be paid down with courtesies. Letting Mr. Megrahi go is consistent with that.

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, did feel that she needed to say something about Megrahi. How could she not? But here’s what she said: The U.S. was “offended by the reception accorded to Mr. Megrahi in Libya upon his return from the UK.” Oh, so so diplomatic. To the government of Mr. Brown and to the Libyan tyrant himself. Is there no decent sentiment for the surviving families and friends of the victims of the Libyan atrocity?

This is further evidence that, far from assuming the role of an “honest broker” in the Middle East (that would be an improvement at this point), Obama is affirmatively choosing sides, making every effort to identify with and sweet-talk the “Muslim world” as he conceives it.

But this is not only a pro-Muslim tilt or identification. It often appears that Obama sees his task as revisiting every perceived American failing or error — from the 1953 revolution in Iran to American support for Central American strongmen to the dropping of the atomic bomb — that his Left-leaning academic friends and followers have laid at America’s feet, then systematically reversing them, however counterproductively or haphazardly.

He sees something bearing a vague resemblance to a “coup” in Honduras (but that isn’t if you stop to examine the facts), so America must not merely stand back but also pull for the Chavez-backed leftist. We are making up for past sins, you see. In his eyes we are still burdened with the guilt of dropping the atomic bomb, so we must shoulder the burden and lead the world in denuclearization — well, except for those who won’t go along.

And likewise, in the war on terror, he’s convinced that we lost our “moral standing” by roughly interrogating terrorists and housing them indefinitely in a secure facility at Guantanamo. Now we must live all that down — in short, forgo serious interrogations and scatter the Guantanamo detainees around the world.

It’s quite a record. Perhaps Obama does believe in “American exceptionalism” — but it is the exceptionalism of a country so burdened by its past and filled with remorse that we must humble ourselves before the world and renounce specifically American interests in order to get along with those we supposedly wronged. You can’t say it’s not “change.”

Unfortunately, we have yet to see evidence that this approach will lead to a freer, more stable, or more peaceful world.

Marty Peretz writes on the president’s reaction to the freeing of the convicted murderer of 270 people (189 Americans) in the Lockerbie bombing:

While the U.S. public is indeed furious over the release of Mr. Megrahi, the Obama administration’s criticisms are probably pro forma. From his apologetic speech in Cairo to the Ramadan dinner he held at the White House last week, Mr. Obama has placed good-faith gestures at the heart of his Middle Eastern policy. It is almost as if he believes that the West’s tensions with the Muslim world involve an accounting of manners. We have run up a big deficit of slights, which must be paid down with courtesies. Letting Mr. Megrahi go is consistent with that.

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, did feel that she needed to say something about Megrahi. How could she not? But here’s what she said: The U.S. was “offended by the reception accorded to Mr. Megrahi in Libya upon his return from the UK.” Oh, so so diplomatic. To the government of Mr. Brown and to the Libyan tyrant himself. Is there no decent sentiment for the surviving families and friends of the victims of the Libyan atrocity?

This is further evidence that, far from assuming the role of an “honest broker” in the Middle East (that would be an improvement at this point), Obama is affirmatively choosing sides, making every effort to identify with and sweet-talk the “Muslim world” as he conceives it.

But this is not only a pro-Muslim tilt or identification. It often appears that Obama sees his task as revisiting every perceived American failing or error — from the 1953 revolution in Iran to American support for Central American strongmen to the dropping of the atomic bomb — that his Left-leaning academic friends and followers have laid at America’s feet, then systematically reversing them, however counterproductively or haphazardly.

He sees something bearing a vague resemblance to a “coup” in Honduras (but that isn’t if you stop to examine the facts), so America must not merely stand back but also pull for the Chavez-backed leftist. We are making up for past sins, you see. In his eyes we are still burdened with the guilt of dropping the atomic bomb, so we must shoulder the burden and lead the world in denuclearization — well, except for those who won’t go along.

And likewise, in the war on terror, he’s convinced that we lost our “moral standing” by roughly interrogating terrorists and housing them indefinitely in a secure facility at Guantanamo. Now we must live all that down — in short, forgo serious interrogations and scatter the Guantanamo detainees around the world.

It’s quite a record. Perhaps Obama does believe in “American exceptionalism” — but it is the exceptionalism of a country so burdened by its past and filled with remorse that we must humble ourselves before the world and renounce specifically American interests in order to get along with those we supposedly wronged. You can’t say it’s not “change.”

Unfortunately, we have yet to see evidence that this approach will lead to a freer, more stable, or more peaceful world.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Christopher Hitchens makes the case that if you care about the Iranian threat, you should support a robust effort in Afghanistan: “A presence in Iraq and Afghanistan also means that the recent coup by the Revolutionary Guards in the all-important country of Iran is a coup that already faces containment. Just across two of its main frontiers are some pretty formidable contingents that the dictatorship must always keep in mind. This consideration is likely to become ever more important as the crisis of the mullahs deepens. . . . Given the rapid progress that it has made toward nuclear capability, and the no-less-rapid way that it has alienated its own people, the temptation for the Ahmadinejad regime to ‘busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels’ and to appeal to tribal and religious emotions is already fairly great. Now, try to picture the foregoing equation with the U.S. military presence removed, let alone with it having admitted defeat.”

I agree with this take on the president’s speech to schoolchildren: “I think the White House and Obama fouled this up from the beginning, making it look much more political than necessary, and gave their critics a boatload of ammunition with which to attack them. . . [B]y asking teachers to impress upon children the need to ‘help President Obama,’ they made it look blatantly political.” It’s the mark of a White House in trouble that they look like they are being devious when it’s just plain incompetence.

Well here’s an argument against all those czars: Van Jones wasn’t required to fill out the White House questionnaire, because his post wasn’t subject to Senate confirmation.

But he did undergo an FBI background check. So what showed up on that? The most transparent administration in history isn’t saying.

Ilya Somin: “Jones’ ridiculous beliefs probably aren’t typical of those of the administration’s many other czars. However, the fact that a person like him could be appointed to an important czar position does highlight one of the weaknesses of the czar system: by circumventing the normal appointment and confirmation process, it makes it more likely that a poorly qualified person or one with ridiculous policy views will be put in charge of important issues.”

But Obama’s not slowing down. Ron Bloom is the new “manufacturing czar.”

Obama has heard quite enough debate on health-care reform, he tells us. I’m sure he has.

He’s rather nervy to claim we all have “selective amnesia” about the economy. He was the one, you recall, who promised we would keep unemployment at 8 percent if the stimulus passed.

Be thankful for small favors. Jackson Diehl reminds us that Obama hasn’t actually personally met with Castro, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, and Hugo Chavez as he promised in his campaign.

Joseph Kennedy isn’t giving up his Hugo Chavez‒supported fuel business to run for the Senate seat held by his late uncle.

The latest ObamaCare gimmick is a public option “trigger” which isn’t likely to attract much support from conservatives once they figure out what it is all about. “Liberals should love the idea because a trigger isn’t a substantive concession; it merely ensures that the public option will arrive eventually, instead of immediately. Democrats will goose the tests so that private insurers can’t possibly meet them, mainly by imposing new regulations and other costly burdens.”

Christopher Hitchens makes the case that if you care about the Iranian threat, you should support a robust effort in Afghanistan: “A presence in Iraq and Afghanistan also means that the recent coup by the Revolutionary Guards in the all-important country of Iran is a coup that already faces containment. Just across two of its main frontiers are some pretty formidable contingents that the dictatorship must always keep in mind. This consideration is likely to become ever more important as the crisis of the mullahs deepens. . . . Given the rapid progress that it has made toward nuclear capability, and the no-less-rapid way that it has alienated its own people, the temptation for the Ahmadinejad regime to ‘busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels’ and to appeal to tribal and religious emotions is already fairly great. Now, try to picture the foregoing equation with the U.S. military presence removed, let alone with it having admitted defeat.”

I agree with this take on the president’s speech to schoolchildren: “I think the White House and Obama fouled this up from the beginning, making it look much more political than necessary, and gave their critics a boatload of ammunition with which to attack them. . . [B]y asking teachers to impress upon children the need to ‘help President Obama,’ they made it look blatantly political.” It’s the mark of a White House in trouble that they look like they are being devious when it’s just plain incompetence.

Well here’s an argument against all those czars: Van Jones wasn’t required to fill out the White House questionnaire, because his post wasn’t subject to Senate confirmation.

But he did undergo an FBI background check. So what showed up on that? The most transparent administration in history isn’t saying.

Ilya Somin: “Jones’ ridiculous beliefs probably aren’t typical of those of the administration’s many other czars. However, the fact that a person like him could be appointed to an important czar position does highlight one of the weaknesses of the czar system: by circumventing the normal appointment and confirmation process, it makes it more likely that a poorly qualified person or one with ridiculous policy views will be put in charge of important issues.”

But Obama’s not slowing down. Ron Bloom is the new “manufacturing czar.”

Obama has heard quite enough debate on health-care reform, he tells us. I’m sure he has.

He’s rather nervy to claim we all have “selective amnesia” about the economy. He was the one, you recall, who promised we would keep unemployment at 8 percent if the stimulus passed.

Be thankful for small favors. Jackson Diehl reminds us that Obama hasn’t actually personally met with Castro, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, and Hugo Chavez as he promised in his campaign.

Joseph Kennedy isn’t giving up his Hugo Chavez‒supported fuel business to run for the Senate seat held by his late uncle.

The latest ObamaCare gimmick is a public option “trigger” which isn’t likely to attract much support from conservatives once they figure out what it is all about. “Liberals should love the idea because a trigger isn’t a substantive concession; it merely ensures that the public option will arrive eventually, instead of immediately. Democrats will goose the tests so that private insurers can’t possibly meet them, mainly by imposing new regulations and other costly burdens.”

Read Less




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