Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 20, 2009

Congressman Bilbray Out at J Street

The office of Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) has informed me that the congressman has contacted J Street to withdraw his name as a host from its upcoming conference. The list of those backing out will, I suspect, continue to grow.

The office of Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) has informed me that the congressman has contacted J Street to withdraw his name as a host from its upcoming conference. The list of those backing out will, I suspect, continue to grow.

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When Is “Israeli Espionage” Not Israeli Espionage?

How about when it was not actually solicited by Israel? Most of the media have reported the Stewart Nozette case responsibly enough. The FBI arrested him yesterday in a sting operation in which an FBI agent impersonated a member of Mossad and asked Nozette to sell American secrets. Nozette, a sometime scientist for the U.S. government, has had high-level clearances in the past. Israel’s spy agency was selected for the impersonation in part because Nozette was a contractor for Israel Aerospace Industries and would find that approach credible. Nozette had reportedly also told a colleague that he would sell secrets to Israel or another unnamed country in certain circumstances. The FBI affirmed on Monday that Israel had not broken any U.S. laws. Indeed, the suspicious overseas trip taken by Nozette in January, which set the FBI’s operation in motion, was not to Israel but to another unnamed country.

So why is Marc Ambinder looking for clues about what information the Israelis might have been targeting? It is not apparent that the Israelis were targeting anything. This was a sting operation, not the interdiction of espionage solicited by a foreign government. The FBI affidavit alleges no act of targeting Nozette or his information by a foreign spy agency. Nozette’s own behavior was what alerted the FBI to his potential susceptibility. Anyone who has had clearances has secrets to sell, but nothing in this episode indicates that the Israelis were looking for the particular ones Nozette has.

Nozette will probably deserve whatever he gets. But let’s wait until espionage involves actual evidence of initiation by a foreign government — as with Cuban spies in the State Department, Chinese spies in an NSA facility in Hawaii, and cyber-espionage by Russia and China against the U.S. power grid — before attributing interests to that government in a specific incident.

How about when it was not actually solicited by Israel? Most of the media have reported the Stewart Nozette case responsibly enough. The FBI arrested him yesterday in a sting operation in which an FBI agent impersonated a member of Mossad and asked Nozette to sell American secrets. Nozette, a sometime scientist for the U.S. government, has had high-level clearances in the past. Israel’s spy agency was selected for the impersonation in part because Nozette was a contractor for Israel Aerospace Industries and would find that approach credible. Nozette had reportedly also told a colleague that he would sell secrets to Israel or another unnamed country in certain circumstances. The FBI affirmed on Monday that Israel had not broken any U.S. laws. Indeed, the suspicious overseas trip taken by Nozette in January, which set the FBI’s operation in motion, was not to Israel but to another unnamed country.

So why is Marc Ambinder looking for clues about what information the Israelis might have been targeting? It is not apparent that the Israelis were targeting anything. This was a sting operation, not the interdiction of espionage solicited by a foreign government. The FBI affidavit alleges no act of targeting Nozette or his information by a foreign spy agency. Nozette’s own behavior was what alerted the FBI to his potential susceptibility. Anyone who has had clearances has secrets to sell, but nothing in this episode indicates that the Israelis were looking for the particular ones Nozette has.

Nozette will probably deserve whatever he gets. But let’s wait until espionage involves actual evidence of initiation by a foreign government — as with Cuban spies in the State Department, Chinese spies in an NSA facility in Hawaii, and cyber-espionage by Russia and China against the U.S. power grid — before attributing interests to that government in a specific incident.

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Paralysis

The Obama administration’s protracted share session on an Afghanistan troop buildup is turning into a debacle. The commander in chief looks weak and hapless. With Rahm Emanuel making the case for further dithering as Afghan elections get sorted out, and Robert Gates calling for a decision regardless of Afghan leadership, the president’s lauded “team of rivals” is now fractious and incoherent. He has lost the confidence of our allies. He’s losing (lost?) the confidence of his military and, frankly, at cross purposes with his commanders. Consider this:

“A perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.”  — Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his submitted assessment of the Afghanistan war

“I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way — you know, sending a message that America — is here for — for the duration.” — President Barack Obama, Meet the Press

Mission accomplished.

Obama desperately wants out of this war and is trying to find something, anything, that will allow the U.S. to move past Afghanistan. Raising troop levels and fighting a war until we’re victorious doesn’t comport with his vision of America’s place in the world. If he had his druthers, the U.S. would “bear witness” as the murderous retrograde Taliban surrounded Afghan cities and took absolute control over suffering Afghans. Perhaps a special envoy would be dispatched to Kabul with a failed scheme to bribe opium farmers into growing grapes.

Afghanistan was a useful campaign tool but is now an unsightly leftover from George W. Bush. The problem is that the White House would happily leave with a win or a draw, but try as they might, every quick fix spells defeat. What’s left? Paralysis. How could the president possibly have handled this worse?

The Obama administration’s protracted share session on an Afghanistan troop buildup is turning into a debacle. The commander in chief looks weak and hapless. With Rahm Emanuel making the case for further dithering as Afghan elections get sorted out, and Robert Gates calling for a decision regardless of Afghan leadership, the president’s lauded “team of rivals” is now fractious and incoherent. He has lost the confidence of our allies. He’s losing (lost?) the confidence of his military and, frankly, at cross purposes with his commanders. Consider this:

“A perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents.”  — Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his submitted assessment of the Afghanistan war

“I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way — you know, sending a message that America — is here for — for the duration.” — President Barack Obama, Meet the Press

Mission accomplished.

Obama desperately wants out of this war and is trying to find something, anything, that will allow the U.S. to move past Afghanistan. Raising troop levels and fighting a war until we’re victorious doesn’t comport with his vision of America’s place in the world. If he had his druthers, the U.S. would “bear witness” as the murderous retrograde Taliban surrounded Afghan cities and took absolute control over suffering Afghans. Perhaps a special envoy would be dispatched to Kabul with a failed scheme to bribe opium farmers into growing grapes.

Afghanistan was a useful campaign tool but is now an unsightly leftover from George W. Bush. The problem is that the White House would happily leave with a win or a draw, but try as they might, every quick fix spells defeat. What’s left? Paralysis. How could the president possibly have handled this worse?

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Fox-orama

One reason Left-leaning pundits are so annoyed with the White House’s Fox vendetta (aside from the cringe-inducing sight of their heroic presidency reduced to an arm of Media Matters) is that it’s provided unprecedented advertising and validation for the much-reviled news network. Take this exchange between Robert Gibbs and Jake Tapper as Tapper questions why the White House has gone after one particular news organization:

Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –

Gibbs: ABC —

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” — why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

It isn’t every day that a news organization gets an assist from a well-respected rival pointing out that its editorial and news functions are separate. And it isn’t every day that the name “Fox” comes up in story after story in competing outlets.

There’s also a queasiness evident in some of the questioning and criticism of the White House. Doesn’t the crusade against Fox only undermine how sycophantic much of the other coverage is? Of course the White House is pleased with CNN and MSNBC — because nary a critical word or an adverse news story is ever raised on those networks.

I imagine the news staff and marketing people at Fox are high-fiving one another. Could the White House keep this up for days and weeks more? There’s no telling how high Fox’s ratings could go if it does.

One reason Left-leaning pundits are so annoyed with the White House’s Fox vendetta (aside from the cringe-inducing sight of their heroic presidency reduced to an arm of Media Matters) is that it’s provided unprecedented advertising and validation for the much-reviled news network. Take this exchange between Robert Gibbs and Jake Tapper as Tapper questions why the White House has gone after one particular news organization:

Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –

Gibbs: ABC —

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” — why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

It isn’t every day that a news organization gets an assist from a well-respected rival pointing out that its editorial and news functions are separate. And it isn’t every day that the name “Fox” comes up in story after story in competing outlets.

There’s also a queasiness evident in some of the questioning and criticism of the White House. Doesn’t the crusade against Fox only undermine how sycophantic much of the other coverage is? Of course the White House is pleased with CNN and MSNBC — because nary a critical word or an adverse news story is ever raised on those networks.

I imagine the news staff and marketing people at Fox are high-fiving one another. Could the White House keep this up for days and weeks more? There’s no telling how high Fox’s ratings could go if it does.

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Who Is John Galt’s Designer?

With the statist response to the economic collapse, it has proved no great surprise that the name Ayn Rand has peppered populist responses. Who better to animate the entrepreneurial spirit and spark individualist outrage but the creator of Howard Roark and John Galt?

Now Ms. Rand has inspired fashion, too, at least according to this from the Daily Beast:

Designers Shipley & Halmos drew inspiration from Rand’s philosophy for their fall 2009 collection, which they called The Individual as an homage. They quoted The Fountainhead in their show’s invitation (“Life must be a straight line of motion from goal to further goal.”) and sent models marching down a zigzagged runway to emphasize their unwillingness to be swayed. …

Ralph Lauren declared Rand his favorite writer (along with Ernest Hemingway) in a recent interview with Vanity Fair and a host of Indian designers have avowed their admiration as well. One, Ritu Beri, told an Indian newspaper that as of September, she’d read The Fountainhead “almost 50 times.” Another, Krishnu Mehta, also counts the book as her favorite, saying it was “written brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly.” This summer, a photo assistant for Elle urged readers to pick up a copy of Rand’s Anthem, a dystopian novella written from the perspective of fictional narrator “Equality 7-2521,” a citizen in some future socialist hellscape. “It’s a short read,” she wrote, “perfect for an end-of-summer day at the beach exercising your free will.”

A “short read.” Rand would be so flattered …

I eagerly await the advent of the “Virtue of Selfishness” china-and-flatware collection (one setting), not to mention the Objectivist smart-phone app, complete with epistemologically sound diet-point calculator.

With the statist response to the economic collapse, it has proved no great surprise that the name Ayn Rand has peppered populist responses. Who better to animate the entrepreneurial spirit and spark individualist outrage but the creator of Howard Roark and John Galt?

Now Ms. Rand has inspired fashion, too, at least according to this from the Daily Beast:

Designers Shipley & Halmos drew inspiration from Rand’s philosophy for their fall 2009 collection, which they called The Individual as an homage. They quoted The Fountainhead in their show’s invitation (“Life must be a straight line of motion from goal to further goal.”) and sent models marching down a zigzagged runway to emphasize their unwillingness to be swayed. …

Ralph Lauren declared Rand his favorite writer (along with Ernest Hemingway) in a recent interview with Vanity Fair and a host of Indian designers have avowed their admiration as well. One, Ritu Beri, told an Indian newspaper that as of September, she’d read The Fountainhead “almost 50 times.” Another, Krishnu Mehta, also counts the book as her favorite, saying it was “written brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly.” This summer, a photo assistant for Elle urged readers to pick up a copy of Rand’s Anthem, a dystopian novella written from the perspective of fictional narrator “Equality 7-2521,” a citizen in some future socialist hellscape. “It’s a short read,” she wrote, “perfect for an end-of-summer day at the beach exercising your free will.”

A “short read.” Rand would be so flattered …

I eagerly await the advent of the “Virtue of Selfishness” china-and-flatware collection (one setting), not to mention the Objectivist smart-phone app, complete with epistemologically sound diet-point calculator.

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Re: A Tale of Two Races

As an addendum to Jennifer’s post regarding New Jersey’s governor’s race, I was struck by something on Fox News Sunday, at the end of Chris Wallace’s interview with Terry McAuliffe and Karl Rove. The interview was essentially over, but McAuliffe and Rove were engaging in some good-natured banter, and lost in the crosstalk were two predictions regarding that race. McAuliffe said Corzine by 7. Rove responded with Christie by 2.

We’ll see.

As an addendum to Jennifer’s post regarding New Jersey’s governor’s race, I was struck by something on Fox News Sunday, at the end of Chris Wallace’s interview with Terry McAuliffe and Karl Rove. The interview was essentially over, but McAuliffe and Rove were engaging in some good-natured banter, and lost in the crosstalk were two predictions regarding that race. McAuliffe said Corzine by 7. Rove responded with Christie by 2.

We’ll see.

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A Tale of Two Races

The two charts at Pollster.com vividly depict the very different trajectories of the two Republican gubernatorial candidates who will face the voters two weeks from today. Bob McDonnell is cruising, while Chris Christie has entirely lost his commanding lead in the polls. What explains it?

For starters, New Jersey isn’t Virginia. The anti-Obama-agenda campaign that McDonnell has successfully waged in Virginia wouldn’t fly in New Jersey. Obama’s popularity has certainly suffered there too, but New Jersey as a whole remains a hard-core Blue State with a 600,000-person advantage in party registration.

Then there’s the matter of the Independent, Chris Daggett, who has bedeviled Christie, just as Ross Perot did George H.W. Bush in 1992. He’s now polling above 10 percent, with an increase in fund-raising and ads. For New Jersey voters fed up with Gov. Jon Corzine but allergic to voting Republican, Daggett provides an easy out.

And yes, the race has become increasingly nasty, with charges and countercharges flying. But that’s nothing new in New Jersey politics.

The bottom line is that while Corzine remains exceptionally unpopular (Pollster.com’s average polling data shows a stunning 56.9 percent of those surveyed disapprove while only 36.9 approve), Christie hasn’t closed the deal with his own candidacy and was late to recognize the threat from the Independent. Christie will need to make the case, if he is to prevent a come-from-behind victory by Corzine, that any vote other than for him is a vote for the Corzine administration and its atrocious record of high taxes, lost businesses, and the like.

In the moment of truth at the voting booth, however, the undecideds may break against the incumbent, as they usually do, supplying the margin of victory for Christie. But in the next two weeks, Christie will have to convince those voters that they shouldn’t throw their vote away on a protest candidate who can’t unseat the unpopular governor. Otherwise Corzine will slip back into office, once again suggesting that New Jersey voters still haven’t figured out how to remove Democrats who don’t do their jobs.

The two charts at Pollster.com vividly depict the very different trajectories of the two Republican gubernatorial candidates who will face the voters two weeks from today. Bob McDonnell is cruising, while Chris Christie has entirely lost his commanding lead in the polls. What explains it?

For starters, New Jersey isn’t Virginia. The anti-Obama-agenda campaign that McDonnell has successfully waged in Virginia wouldn’t fly in New Jersey. Obama’s popularity has certainly suffered there too, but New Jersey as a whole remains a hard-core Blue State with a 600,000-person advantage in party registration.

Then there’s the matter of the Independent, Chris Daggett, who has bedeviled Christie, just as Ross Perot did George H.W. Bush in 1992. He’s now polling above 10 percent, with an increase in fund-raising and ads. For New Jersey voters fed up with Gov. Jon Corzine but allergic to voting Republican, Daggett provides an easy out.

And yes, the race has become increasingly nasty, with charges and countercharges flying. But that’s nothing new in New Jersey politics.

The bottom line is that while Corzine remains exceptionally unpopular (Pollster.com’s average polling data shows a stunning 56.9 percent of those surveyed disapprove while only 36.9 approve), Christie hasn’t closed the deal with his own candidacy and was late to recognize the threat from the Independent. Christie will need to make the case, if he is to prevent a come-from-behind victory by Corzine, that any vote other than for him is a vote for the Corzine administration and its atrocious record of high taxes, lost businesses, and the like.

In the moment of truth at the voting booth, however, the undecideds may break against the incumbent, as they usually do, supplying the margin of victory for Christie. But in the next two weeks, Christie will have to convince those voters that they shouldn’t throw their vote away on a protest candidate who can’t unseat the unpopular governor. Otherwise Corzine will slip back into office, once again suggesting that New Jersey voters still haven’t figured out how to remove Democrats who don’t do their jobs.

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Neglecting the Dissidents

When Barack Obama travels to China next month, it’s unlikely he’ll mention the plight of Guo Quan, a pro-democracy dissident sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese prison last Friday.

Thus far, the administration has diplomatically neglected the issue of human rights, as Joshua Muravchik noted in our July/August issue and as Jennifer Rubin addressed earlier today. By toning down the human rights/democracy talk, the White House has felt free to discuss, albeit often ineffectively, collective security, economics, and global warming — higher-priority topics from the administration’s perspective. Obama’s handling of the Dalai Lama is just one example of this shuffling of priorities. Every other president since 1991 has met with the Dalai Lama when he has visited Washington, but Obama did not, apparently to please Beijing.

If there’s one thing the president grasps, it’s how much issues like human rights and democracy rattle China. A 2007 open letter to President Hu Jintao advocating democracy cost Guo his teaching job at the Nanjing Normal University. But losing his job and income didn’t deter him. Guo continued to write and speak out against the single-party government. So he was arrested last November — as the Associated Press reported — just after he had dropped his son off at school.

Guo was charged with “subversion of state power,” punishable by up to life in prison. Guo stood firm, using even his August trial to repeat his calls for Chinese democracy. According to the Epoch Times, he said:

I have written many articles to express my views openly. My intention is to call for a system where multiple parties compete for election. I did not call for the subversion of the nation. I have never found any legal documents that state that calling for a multi-party system is subversion. … There does not exist any legal document that prohibits Chinese citizens from organizing democratic parties.

And so the sentence rolled in — 10 years.

Guo’s case is certainly not unique. China is full of imprisoned dissidents. The world is full of them.

Obama has yet to fully appreciate that Americans have always expected their foreign policy to include a moral component. In fact, the moral aspect usually complements other foreign-policy goals. Issues like human rights or democracy can’t remain unmentioned without a very pressing reason. If a president must delay addressing them, he had better provide good justification fast. Otherwise, Americans will begin to reject the policy and question the administration implementing it. (Take, for instance, how the enhanced interrogation of Guantanamo detainees itched the collective conscience. Or how even when fighting a murderous enemy, Americans want to avoid bloodshed if possible.)

Americans might forgive Obama’s reticence on human rights and democracy if his biggest policy goals are met relatively promptly — for example, if he could persuade North Korea or Iran to yield all nuclear weapons voluntarily, to moderate themselves, and to bound toward the U.S. with unclenched fists.

But so far Obama has yet to accomplish anything of significance with the policy he’s labeled “realist.” And if he doesn’t succeed in meeting his foreign-policy objectives soon, Americans will begin to grow impatient with unaddressed human-rights issues. The president would do well to consider this, especially if he has any doubt about delivering on his other foreign-policy goals during his time in China.

When Barack Obama travels to China next month, it’s unlikely he’ll mention the plight of Guo Quan, a pro-democracy dissident sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese prison last Friday.

Thus far, the administration has diplomatically neglected the issue of human rights, as Joshua Muravchik noted in our July/August issue and as Jennifer Rubin addressed earlier today. By toning down the human rights/democracy talk, the White House has felt free to discuss, albeit often ineffectively, collective security, economics, and global warming — higher-priority topics from the administration’s perspective. Obama’s handling of the Dalai Lama is just one example of this shuffling of priorities. Every other president since 1991 has met with the Dalai Lama when he has visited Washington, but Obama did not, apparently to please Beijing.

If there’s one thing the president grasps, it’s how much issues like human rights and democracy rattle China. A 2007 open letter to President Hu Jintao advocating democracy cost Guo his teaching job at the Nanjing Normal University. But losing his job and income didn’t deter him. Guo continued to write and speak out against the single-party government. So he was arrested last November — as the Associated Press reported — just after he had dropped his son off at school.

Guo was charged with “subversion of state power,” punishable by up to life in prison. Guo stood firm, using even his August trial to repeat his calls for Chinese democracy. According to the Epoch Times, he said:

I have written many articles to express my views openly. My intention is to call for a system where multiple parties compete for election. I did not call for the subversion of the nation. I have never found any legal documents that state that calling for a multi-party system is subversion. … There does not exist any legal document that prohibits Chinese citizens from organizing democratic parties.

And so the sentence rolled in — 10 years.

Guo’s case is certainly not unique. China is full of imprisoned dissidents. The world is full of them.

Obama has yet to fully appreciate that Americans have always expected their foreign policy to include a moral component. In fact, the moral aspect usually complements other foreign-policy goals. Issues like human rights or democracy can’t remain unmentioned without a very pressing reason. If a president must delay addressing them, he had better provide good justification fast. Otherwise, Americans will begin to reject the policy and question the administration implementing it. (Take, for instance, how the enhanced interrogation of Guantanamo detainees itched the collective conscience. Or how even when fighting a murderous enemy, Americans want to avoid bloodshed if possible.)

Americans might forgive Obama’s reticence on human rights and democracy if his biggest policy goals are met relatively promptly — for example, if he could persuade North Korea or Iran to yield all nuclear weapons voluntarily, to moderate themselves, and to bound toward the U.S. with unclenched fists.

But so far Obama has yet to accomplish anything of significance with the policy he’s labeled “realist.” And if he doesn’t succeed in meeting his foreign-policy objectives soon, Americans will begin to grow impatient with unaddressed human-rights issues. The president would do well to consider this, especially if he has any doubt about delivering on his other foreign-policy goals during his time in China.

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“The Obama Challenge” Tonight

If you are in the L.A. area, please join me, Jennifer Rubin, and Rick Richman tonight at 7 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center for the first COMMENTARY Forum in Los Angeles — “The Obama Challenge: Israel, Iran, and American Jews.” Admission is $10. To attend, you must register first, either by clicking here or by clicking on the ad to your right. It promises to be a lively and passionate evening, the first gathering ever in Los Angeles of the COMMENTARY community.

If you are in the L.A. area, please join me, Jennifer Rubin, and Rick Richman tonight at 7 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center for the first COMMENTARY Forum in Los Angeles — “The Obama Challenge: Israel, Iran, and American Jews.” Admission is $10. To attend, you must register first, either by clicking here or by clicking on the ad to your right. It promises to be a lively and passionate evening, the first gathering ever in Los Angeles of the COMMENTARY community.

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Re: Time for Honesty

Well here’s a dose of honesty for you:

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren has decided not to attend the J Street conference being held next week, the Israeli embassy said Tuesday. … “In response to the question about J Street’s invitation to participate in its conference, the Embassy of Israel has been privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel,” the embassy said in a statement.

It seems not even disinviting the Queer Intifada poet was enough to hide J Street’s tracks. Now we can expect the J Street crowd to collectively stamp their feet and declare they are too pro-Israel. But really, who are they kidding? Poetry reading or not, J Street will have trouble grabbing the legitimacy mantle as long as its policies are consistently antagonistic toward Israel and its rhetoric muted when it comes to Israel’s enemies.

For those congressmen who accepted the hosting invitation on the premise that J Street was “pro-Israel,” they might want to get going on that due diligence. (Lenny Ben-David has some excellent questions for those who’d like to know more about just who’s behind J Street.) If Israel doesn’t buy the label, why should they?

Well here’s a dose of honesty for you:

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren has decided not to attend the J Street conference being held next week, the Israeli embassy said Tuesday. … “In response to the question about J Street’s invitation to participate in its conference, the Embassy of Israel has been privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel,” the embassy said in a statement.

It seems not even disinviting the Queer Intifada poet was enough to hide J Street’s tracks. Now we can expect the J Street crowd to collectively stamp their feet and declare they are too pro-Israel. But really, who are they kidding? Poetry reading or not, J Street will have trouble grabbing the legitimacy mantle as long as its policies are consistently antagonistic toward Israel and its rhetoric muted when it comes to Israel’s enemies.

For those congressmen who accepted the hosting invitation on the premise that J Street was “pro-Israel,” they might want to get going on that due diligence. (Lenny Ben-David has some excellent questions for those who’d like to know more about just who’s behind J Street.) If Israel doesn’t buy the label, why should they?

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Would You Hire Anyone?

The Wall Street Journal reports that to a greater degree than in past recessions, employers are slow to hire workers (harboring “nagging doubts about the durability of the upturn”), suggesting that record unemployment will persist. Aside from fear that the economic recovery is fragile, one significant reason for the aversion to hiring is the Obama agenda:

Businesses also face uncertainty about the potential costs of regulatory moves — such as an expansion of health care and climate legislation — that could drive up costs. And many employers have learned how to produce more with a smaller number of people than they previously thought possible.

Businesses are operating with fewer people — the reality behind “increased productivity” — creating the prospect of high unemployment into 2017.

Given the disinclination to hire more workers, you would think the Obama team would be working overtime to come up with incentives for employers to hire more workers. A payroll-tax break is a good place to start. As Matt Continetti explains:

Cutting it would be fast, easy, and effective. Where a tax credit is complicated and invites rent-seeking, a tax cut is transparent. Last December, AEI’s John H. Makin calculated that if the payroll tax were suspended for 12 to 18 months, personal discretionary income would rise by 3.5 percent. Workers would have fatter paychecks to spend. The increase in consumption would spur demand. Meanwhile, since the payroll tax also hits employers, a reduction would lower the cost of hiring additional workers. Another way to go would be not to suspend the tax, but to reduce it–permanently.

But even better: do no harm. Put a moratorium on legislation that would make labor more expensive and/or encourage businesses to locate elsewhere.

But that, you say, would mean virtually everything on the Democrats’ agenda — cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, the lapse of the Bush tax cuts — would have to be scrapped. Well yes, and so is it any wonder that employers are holding back?

The Wall Street Journal reports that to a greater degree than in past recessions, employers are slow to hire workers (harboring “nagging doubts about the durability of the upturn”), suggesting that record unemployment will persist. Aside from fear that the economic recovery is fragile, one significant reason for the aversion to hiring is the Obama agenda:

Businesses also face uncertainty about the potential costs of regulatory moves — such as an expansion of health care and climate legislation — that could drive up costs. And many employers have learned how to produce more with a smaller number of people than they previously thought possible.

Businesses are operating with fewer people — the reality behind “increased productivity” — creating the prospect of high unemployment into 2017.

Given the disinclination to hire more workers, you would think the Obama team would be working overtime to come up with incentives for employers to hire more workers. A payroll-tax break is a good place to start. As Matt Continetti explains:

Cutting it would be fast, easy, and effective. Where a tax credit is complicated and invites rent-seeking, a tax cut is transparent. Last December, AEI’s John H. Makin calculated that if the payroll tax were suspended for 12 to 18 months, personal discretionary income would rise by 3.5 percent. Workers would have fatter paychecks to spend. The increase in consumption would spur demand. Meanwhile, since the payroll tax also hits employers, a reduction would lower the cost of hiring additional workers. Another way to go would be not to suspend the tax, but to reduce it–permanently.

But even better: do no harm. Put a moratorium on legislation that would make labor more expensive and/or encourage businesses to locate elsewhere.

But that, you say, would mean virtually everything on the Democrats’ agenda — cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, the lapse of the Bush tax cuts — would have to be scrapped. Well yes, and so is it any wonder that employers are holding back?

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Time for Honesty

Robert L. Bernstein, chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998, took to the pages of the New York Times yesterday to offer a scorching indictment of the group he previously led. In doing so, he offers some important insights not only into Human Rights Watch but also like-minded Israel bashers, whether they masquerade as a serious international body (the UN Human Rights Council) or as a pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street).

Bernstein notes the ludicrous imbalance that permeates the thinking and activities of Human Rights Watch: “The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.” As he continues, Israel — which is “home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world” — is subjected to report after report and condemnation after condemnation, while the Arab world’s atrocious human-rights record gets a free pass. Hmm. Sounds pretty much like the UN and J Street as well.

As for Hamas and Hezbollah, Bernstein notes that while these groups wage a despicable war (supported by the Iranian regime), Human Rights Watch doesn’t seem much concerned about their war crimes. He writes:

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

Well, this too is par for the course for the UN and J Street.

Bernstein deserves credit for a full-throated denunciation of the group. He reminds us that there are, unfortunately, no truth-in-labeling laws to prevent virulently anti-Israel organizations from disguising their true mission. What is required is for those who don’t share the anti-Israel agenda to call them out and label them for what they are.

The U.S. has no business lending its name to the UN Human Rights Council. It should, if the White House were not bent on a fanatical mission to ingratiate itself with the world’s miscreants, denounce the council as a hotbed of anti-Israel bias and get out. As for J Street, it’s one thing for lawmakers to lend their name to a group when no due diligence has been done. It’s quite another to remain mum once the nature of that organization has been laid bare. It is, as the Obama administration tells us, time to be honest about what these groups are and what they really believe.

Robert L. Bernstein, chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998, took to the pages of the New York Times yesterday to offer a scorching indictment of the group he previously led. In doing so, he offers some important insights not only into Human Rights Watch but also like-minded Israel bashers, whether they masquerade as a serious international body (the UN Human Rights Council) or as a pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street).

Bernstein notes the ludicrous imbalance that permeates the thinking and activities of Human Rights Watch: “The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.” As he continues, Israel — which is “home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world” — is subjected to report after report and condemnation after condemnation, while the Arab world’s atrocious human-rights record gets a free pass. Hmm. Sounds pretty much like the UN and J Street as well.

As for Hamas and Hezbollah, Bernstein notes that while these groups wage a despicable war (supported by the Iranian regime), Human Rights Watch doesn’t seem much concerned about their war crimes. He writes:

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

Well, this too is par for the course for the UN and J Street.

Bernstein deserves credit for a full-throated denunciation of the group. He reminds us that there are, unfortunately, no truth-in-labeling laws to prevent virulently anti-Israel organizations from disguising their true mission. What is required is for those who don’t share the anti-Israel agenda to call them out and label them for what they are.

The U.S. has no business lending its name to the UN Human Rights Council. It should, if the White House were not bent on a fanatical mission to ingratiate itself with the world’s miscreants, denounce the council as a hotbed of anti-Israel bias and get out. As for J Street, it’s one thing for lawmakers to lend their name to a group when no due diligence has been done. It’s quite another to remain mum once the nature of that organization has been laid bare. It is, as the Obama administration tells us, time to be honest about what these groups are and what they really believe.

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J Street Searches for Legitimacy, Boots the Poet

J Street, like the Communist Chinese trying to clear the streets before the Olympics pulls into town, has been trying to remove the most embarrassing participants from its conference. One of those who got the boot is the poet Josh Healy, the author of Queer Intifada who compared Guantanamo to Auschwitz. But Healy is squawking and giving us some insight into J Street’s PR efforts:

In an interview with Haaretz, Josh Healey didn’t conceal his disappointment. “I had a conversation with ‘J Street’ staff, and they explained that they are playing the game — Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle. I was born in Washington, so I’m not surprised to become Van Jones of J Street” (U.S. President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar” who resigned over the controversy about his past political associations).

So let’s be clear: J Street needs to become respectable so as to gain a foothold in Washington. Ah, could be a problem for a group positioning itself as pro-Israel but whose positions invariably line up so neatly with the Palestinian propaganda machine. What to do, what to do? Well, maybe dump the wackiest of the speakers – since they’ll give away the conference as an Israel-bashing fest. (How long will panelist Kevin Coval, who declared Israel a “whore” and expressed his own desire to “kick Joe Lieberman in the face,” last?)

The name of the game here is, as J Street candidly explained, to construct an artifice of legitimacy, to clean out the riffraff and make it appear as though J Street really is a pro-Israel group that just wants what’s best for the Jewish state. Now it’s true it’s definition of what’s good for the Jewish state in no way matches up with the views of even reliably liberal American Jews or Israelis themselves. But really, would you doubt the sincerity and question the legitimacy of the group that invited Healy and Coval, not to mention Muslim Public Affairs Council executive director and 9-11 truther Salam Al-Marayati?

J Street, like the Communist Chinese trying to clear the streets before the Olympics pulls into town, has been trying to remove the most embarrassing participants from its conference. One of those who got the boot is the poet Josh Healy, the author of Queer Intifada who compared Guantanamo to Auschwitz. But Healy is squawking and giving us some insight into J Street’s PR efforts:

In an interview with Haaretz, Josh Healey didn’t conceal his disappointment. “I had a conversation with ‘J Street’ staff, and they explained that they are playing the game — Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle. I was born in Washington, so I’m not surprised to become Van Jones of J Street” (U.S. President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar” who resigned over the controversy about his past political associations).

So let’s be clear: J Street needs to become respectable so as to gain a foothold in Washington. Ah, could be a problem for a group positioning itself as pro-Israel but whose positions invariably line up so neatly with the Palestinian propaganda machine. What to do, what to do? Well, maybe dump the wackiest of the speakers – since they’ll give away the conference as an Israel-bashing fest. (How long will panelist Kevin Coval, who declared Israel a “whore” and expressed his own desire to “kick Joe Lieberman in the face,” last?)

The name of the game here is, as J Street candidly explained, to construct an artifice of legitimacy, to clean out the riffraff and make it appear as though J Street really is a pro-Israel group that just wants what’s best for the Jewish state. Now it’s true it’s definition of what’s good for the Jewish state in no way matches up with the views of even reliably liberal American Jews or Israelis themselves. But really, would you doubt the sincerity and question the legitimacy of the group that invited Healy and Coval, not to mention Muslim Public Affairs Council executive director and 9-11 truther Salam Al-Marayati?

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Constructive, but for Whom?

How did engagement with Iran go on Monday? We get this report:

Iran offered contradictory positions on its nuclear stance on Monday, using domestic media to appear to back away from a prior promise, even as it sat down for talks at the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had agreed to ship much of its stock of low-enriched uranium abroad, a move that should temporarily curb its ability to build a nuclear weapon. On Monday, Iran’s official news agency said France would be excluded from countries that could sell enriched uranium to Iran because Tehran said France hadn’t kept a promise to deliver 50 tons of UF6 gas, and could no longer be trusted.

Gosh, must be kind of frustrating to deal with a regime that seems to be jerking the other side around, right? Oh, not at all! With no hint of humor (or embarrassment), “the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Monday’s talks were constructive and focused on technical issues.” It’s hard to imagine what an unconstructive session would be in ElBaradei’s eyes.

But get used to this game. The on-gain/off-again, did-they-or-didn’t-they-agree nature of these get-togethers is familiar to anyone who followed the North Korean nuclear-talks gamesmanship. This is what secretive regimes with interests antithetical to the West’s do. The notion that we could have a prompt resolution of issues, or even tell what issues were up for discussion or had already been resolved, is revealed, once again, to be nothing more than wishful thinking.And when will it end? Hillary Clinton says the time isn’t right for sanctions. But of course not. There are many more constructive negotiating sessions ahead.

How did engagement with Iran go on Monday? We get this report:

Iran offered contradictory positions on its nuclear stance on Monday, using domestic media to appear to back away from a prior promise, even as it sat down for talks at the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had agreed to ship much of its stock of low-enriched uranium abroad, a move that should temporarily curb its ability to build a nuclear weapon. On Monday, Iran’s official news agency said France would be excluded from countries that could sell enriched uranium to Iran because Tehran said France hadn’t kept a promise to deliver 50 tons of UF6 gas, and could no longer be trusted.

Gosh, must be kind of frustrating to deal with a regime that seems to be jerking the other side around, right? Oh, not at all! With no hint of humor (or embarrassment), “the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Monday’s talks were constructive and focused on technical issues.” It’s hard to imagine what an unconstructive session would be in ElBaradei’s eyes.

But get used to this game. The on-gain/off-again, did-they-or-didn’t-they-agree nature of these get-togethers is familiar to anyone who followed the North Korean nuclear-talks gamesmanship. This is what secretive regimes with interests antithetical to the West’s do. The notion that we could have a prompt resolution of issues, or even tell what issues were up for discussion or had already been resolved, is revealed, once again, to be nothing more than wishful thinking.And when will it end? Hillary Clinton says the time isn’t right for sanctions. But of course not. There are many more constructive negotiating sessions ahead.

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Wanted: A Commander in Chief

Even the New York Times can’t ignore it: Obama’s prolonged agonizing over Afghanistan is taking a toll on the U.S. military. This report explains:

After nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military. A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.

It seems the military is wary that the decision made in March to pursue a robust counterinsurgency is being revisited, the “rug being pulled out from under us,” as one retired general put it. And it’s part of a pattern. This administration relies less upon and provides less access to military officers to shape policy than his predecessor (and than is wise), and has put the Pentagon on a budgetary diet while the rest of the government gorges.

But this is not an academic exercise in jockeying for power and influence in Washington. We’re talking about the lives of American servicemen:

Another source of tension within the military is the view that a delay is endangering the 68,000 American troops now in Afghanistan. “McChrystal has troops out there who are risking their lives more than they need to, partly because we have not filled in the gaps and we have not created a safe zone in southern and eastern Afghanistan,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution.

In war time we have a president who’s, essentially, just not that into the military. Lacking any national-security experience of his own, and with an overriding interest in his domestic agenda, the president has sent an unmistakable signal that the military comes last. He will rely on political fixers, not military experts, to guide his decisions. We see Rahm Emanuel, with apparently no heads-up to the military, go on the Sunday talk shows to undermine the Afghanistan government. As one former official laments to Bill Kristol: “It’s hard to think of another time when the White House chief of staff and politicos were making policy so independently of the national security team, in this case apparently excluding the SecDef, SecState, and the Chairman of the JCS.”

But it doesn’t end there. Obama is squeezing the military budget. He’s putting the F-22, missile-defense, and the entire defense budget, for that matter, on a diet while domestic spending continues to expand. And he’ll get around to setting a war strategy when he gets to it. From time to time he utters platitudes about his pride in acting as commander in chief, but his actions betray someone who does not take that part of the job very seriously.In ordinary times all this would be of grave concern. In a time of war, this is nothing short of scandalous.

Even the New York Times can’t ignore it: Obama’s prolonged agonizing over Afghanistan is taking a toll on the U.S. military. This report explains:

After nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military. A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.

It seems the military is wary that the decision made in March to pursue a robust counterinsurgency is being revisited, the “rug being pulled out from under us,” as one retired general put it. And it’s part of a pattern. This administration relies less upon and provides less access to military officers to shape policy than his predecessor (and than is wise), and has put the Pentagon on a budgetary diet while the rest of the government gorges.

But this is not an academic exercise in jockeying for power and influence in Washington. We’re talking about the lives of American servicemen:

Another source of tension within the military is the view that a delay is endangering the 68,000 American troops now in Afghanistan. “McChrystal has troops out there who are risking their lives more than they need to, partly because we have not filled in the gaps and we have not created a safe zone in southern and eastern Afghanistan,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution.

In war time we have a president who’s, essentially, just not that into the military. Lacking any national-security experience of his own, and with an overriding interest in his domestic agenda, the president has sent an unmistakable signal that the military comes last. He will rely on political fixers, not military experts, to guide his decisions. We see Rahm Emanuel, with apparently no heads-up to the military, go on the Sunday talk shows to undermine the Afghanistan government. As one former official laments to Bill Kristol: “It’s hard to think of another time when the White House chief of staff and politicos were making policy so independently of the national security team, in this case apparently excluding the SecDef, SecState, and the Chairman of the JCS.”

But it doesn’t end there. Obama is squeezing the military budget. He’s putting the F-22, missile-defense, and the entire defense budget, for that matter, on a diet while domestic spending continues to expand. And he’ll get around to setting a war strategy when he gets to it. From time to time he utters platitudes about his pride in acting as commander in chief, but his actions betray someone who does not take that part of the job very seriously.In ordinary times all this would be of grave concern. In a time of war, this is nothing short of scandalous.

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Human Rights Under the Bus

Bret Stephens ponders whether Obama believes in human rights. He goes down the list: silence on China, new “incentives” for Sudan, more silence on Iran and defunding of the Human Rights Documentation Center, and possible engagement with Burma. It is, if nothing else, consistent. Stephens concludes:

Leave aside the nausea factor of dealing with the authors of that policy. The real question is what good purpose can possibly be served in negotiations that the junta will pursue only (and exactly) to the extent it believes will strengthen its grip on power. It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama’s engagement except to seek their own advantage.

But these are the “realists,” we’re told. So much of the justification here is a cold-blooded, if not misguided, calculus that we’re going to get more important things from other regimes if we downplay democracy and human rights. As Stephens notes, “It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that ‘interferes’ with America’s purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them.”

This disregard of human rights is of course the natural result of several strains in the Obama foreign-policy approach. First, American exceptionalism is out. If we’re nothing special and shouldn’t be bossing other nations about then of course we should clam up when it comes to human rights. (Yes, this noninterference directive isn’t consistently applied — it doesn’t apply to Honduras or Israel.) Second, the Obami have put multilateralism and engagement ahead of all other concerns. Indeed, they have made these ends unto themselves rather than means to an end ( i.e., furthering American security). This puts a premium on “don’t rock the boat” behavior; naturally, human rights gets shunted aside. Third, Obama’s Not Bush obsession seems also to lead to a Not Human Rights approach. If George Bush and his wife castigated Burma for among other things its horrific treatment of women, Obama will be silent. If Bush called evil regimes “evil,” Obama will extend every courtesy to the Supreme Leader and his ilk around the globe. Obama promised to be different, and on human rights he certainly has been.

It isn’t very hope-filled and it’s a far cry from the idealism that characterized the Obama campaign. Will the starry-eyed liberals and the Hollywood stars mind that we’re now throwing goodies at Sudan and turning a blind eye toward the Iranian regime’s brutality? Well, it seems much of the human-rights fervor has evaporated of late on the Left. They have a much more compelling cause — carrying water for the Obama administration. And if you are committed to doing that, there simply isn’t much time to march for Darfur or petition to free Tibet or even question whether engagement of Iran has cemented the rule of Iran’s despots. Just like the Obama administration, the Left has made its choice. And once again, human rights comes up the loser.

Bret Stephens ponders whether Obama believes in human rights. He goes down the list: silence on China, new “incentives” for Sudan, more silence on Iran and defunding of the Human Rights Documentation Center, and possible engagement with Burma. It is, if nothing else, consistent. Stephens concludes:

Leave aside the nausea factor of dealing with the authors of that policy. The real question is what good purpose can possibly be served in negotiations that the junta will pursue only (and exactly) to the extent it believes will strengthen its grip on power. It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama’s engagement except to seek their own advantage.

But these are the “realists,” we’re told. So much of the justification here is a cold-blooded, if not misguided, calculus that we’re going to get more important things from other regimes if we downplay democracy and human rights. As Stephens notes, “It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that ‘interferes’ with America’s purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them.”

This disregard of human rights is of course the natural result of several strains in the Obama foreign-policy approach. First, American exceptionalism is out. If we’re nothing special and shouldn’t be bossing other nations about then of course we should clam up when it comes to human rights. (Yes, this noninterference directive isn’t consistently applied — it doesn’t apply to Honduras or Israel.) Second, the Obami have put multilateralism and engagement ahead of all other concerns. Indeed, they have made these ends unto themselves rather than means to an end ( i.e., furthering American security). This puts a premium on “don’t rock the boat” behavior; naturally, human rights gets shunted aside. Third, Obama’s Not Bush obsession seems also to lead to a Not Human Rights approach. If George Bush and his wife castigated Burma for among other things its horrific treatment of women, Obama will be silent. If Bush called evil regimes “evil,” Obama will extend every courtesy to the Supreme Leader and his ilk around the globe. Obama promised to be different, and on human rights he certainly has been.

It isn’t very hope-filled and it’s a far cry from the idealism that characterized the Obama campaign. Will the starry-eyed liberals and the Hollywood stars mind that we’re now throwing goodies at Sudan and turning a blind eye toward the Iranian regime’s brutality? Well, it seems much of the human-rights fervor has evaporated of late on the Left. They have a much more compelling cause — carrying water for the Obama administration. And if you are committed to doing that, there simply isn’t much time to march for Darfur or petition to free Tibet or even question whether engagement of Iran has cemented the rule of Iran’s despots. Just like the Obama administration, the Left has made its choice. And once again, human rights comes up the loser.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly provides a useful review of Joe Biden’s record of getting most everything wrong — from the Contras, to arms control in the 1980s, to Iraq. On the last point: “In 2006, with violence in Iraq on the rise and some in his party calling for a full-scale withdrawal, Senator Biden began a collaboration with Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to promote a truly harebrained scheme to break up Iraq into three autonomous regions.”

Charlie Crist’s commanding position over Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate primary is deteriorating. It seems now is not a good time to be a Republican primary candidate who embraced Obama’s stimulus plan.

A secret GOP plan to stop health-care reform. It’s all very sneaky: “Unable to mount a filibuster on their own and calculating that Democrats are on track to send a health care bill to Obama by year’s end, Senate Republicans figure the only way to stop or reshape the measure is to give the public enough time to figure out what’s in it and what they don’t like about it.” Oh my, not the “let the public find out what’s in it” gambit!

And sure enough, support for ObamaCare is dropping again. Only 42 percent approve, while 54 percent do not.

Meanwhile, a “tension rising among Democrats” story doesn’t sound like an indication we’re getting close to a bill.

Unemployment is sky high in Michigan. “The decline in auto sales has hurt Michigan more than other states, but the state’s economy would have been better equipped to cope without [Gov. Jennifer] Granholm’s policy mix of higher taxes in order to spend more money on favored political and corporate interests. If any larger good can come of the experience, it is that Michigan is teaching other states how not to govern.”

This unintentionally funny profile of the Nobel Committee chairman explains a lot: “Coming from a committee headed by Mr. Jagland, the award makes sense. He is often described as a risk taker who thinks on a grand scale — an intellectual who, at times, has faced trouble translating his vision into practical policies.” A match made in heaven … er … Oslo.

Some good news: “The District of Columbia’s embattled school-voucher program, which lawmakers appeared to have killed earlier this year, looks like it could still survive. Congress voted in March not to fund the program, which provides certificates to pay for recipients’ private-school tuition, after the current school year. But after months of pro-voucher rallies, a television-advertising campaign and statements of support by local political leaders, backers say they are more confident about its prospects. Even some Democrats, many of whom have opposed voucher efforts, have been supportive.” Even Democrats!

Is Bob McDonnell pulling away? This poll has him up 44.7 percent to 30.9 for Creigh Deeds.

Ruth Marcus joins Helen Thomas and Pete Wehner in the “what’s with the Fox bashing?” consternation: “It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian — Agnewesque? — aroma at worst. It is a self-defeating trifecta: it distracts attention from the Obama administration’s substantive message; it serves to help Fox, not punish it, by driving up ratings; and it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hard-core Obama haters.”

Jamie Fly provides a useful review of Joe Biden’s record of getting most everything wrong — from the Contras, to arms control in the 1980s, to Iraq. On the last point: “In 2006, with violence in Iraq on the rise and some in his party calling for a full-scale withdrawal, Senator Biden began a collaboration with Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to promote a truly harebrained scheme to break up Iraq into three autonomous regions.”

Charlie Crist’s commanding position over Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate primary is deteriorating. It seems now is not a good time to be a Republican primary candidate who embraced Obama’s stimulus plan.

A secret GOP plan to stop health-care reform. It’s all very sneaky: “Unable to mount a filibuster on their own and calculating that Democrats are on track to send a health care bill to Obama by year’s end, Senate Republicans figure the only way to stop or reshape the measure is to give the public enough time to figure out what’s in it and what they don’t like about it.” Oh my, not the “let the public find out what’s in it” gambit!

And sure enough, support for ObamaCare is dropping again. Only 42 percent approve, while 54 percent do not.

Meanwhile, a “tension rising among Democrats” story doesn’t sound like an indication we’re getting close to a bill.

Unemployment is sky high in Michigan. “The decline in auto sales has hurt Michigan more than other states, but the state’s economy would have been better equipped to cope without [Gov. Jennifer] Granholm’s policy mix of higher taxes in order to spend more money on favored political and corporate interests. If any larger good can come of the experience, it is that Michigan is teaching other states how not to govern.”

This unintentionally funny profile of the Nobel Committee chairman explains a lot: “Coming from a committee headed by Mr. Jagland, the award makes sense. He is often described as a risk taker who thinks on a grand scale — an intellectual who, at times, has faced trouble translating his vision into practical policies.” A match made in heaven … er … Oslo.

Some good news: “The District of Columbia’s embattled school-voucher program, which lawmakers appeared to have killed earlier this year, looks like it could still survive. Congress voted in March not to fund the program, which provides certificates to pay for recipients’ private-school tuition, after the current school year. But after months of pro-voucher rallies, a television-advertising campaign and statements of support by local political leaders, backers say they are more confident about its prospects. Even some Democrats, many of whom have opposed voucher efforts, have been supportive.” Even Democrats!

Is Bob McDonnell pulling away? This poll has him up 44.7 percent to 30.9 for Creigh Deeds.

Ruth Marcus joins Helen Thomas and Pete Wehner in the “what’s with the Fox bashing?” consternation: “It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian — Agnewesque? — aroma at worst. It is a self-defeating trifecta: it distracts attention from the Obama administration’s substantive message; it serves to help Fox, not punish it, by driving up ratings; and it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hard-core Obama haters.”

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