Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 25, 2009

Re: Why Do Israel’s Enemies Love J Street?

In response to my earlier post quoting David Weinberg’s column from the Jerusalem Post, several pro-Israel conservatives have taken issue with the extract  I included that lumped the American Task Force on Palestine and its president Ziad Asali in with virulent Israel-haters. Three separate readers made the same point: J Street is actually much more hostile to Israel than ATFP. One comments that ATFP is “trying to create a Arab-American organization that advocates for a Palestinian state without being anti-Israel.” Another reader affiliated with a mainstream pro-Israel Jewish organization notes that ATFP believes reaching out to Hamas “undermines the peace process” so ATFP is “actually more pro-Israel than J Street, one could argue.”

Commentary contributor Josh Muravchik adds these thoughts:

I have spent many hours in public forums and private conversations with Ziad Asali and the other two principle leaders of the ATFP, Hussein Ibish and Ghaith al-Omari.  They are, in a sense, what we supporters of Israel have been seeking: a group of Arabs and Arab-Americans who are working for the creation of a Palestinian state but not for the destruction of Israel.  Because they take seriously the idea of a two-state solution, they are more thoughtful about Israel’s security needs than is J Street, an organization that is unrelentingly hostile to Israel.

Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow of AFTP, writes to us to explain:

The founding mission of ATFP is to promote the idea that a negotiated end of conflict agreement resulting in two states—Israel and Palestine —living side-by-side in peace and security is in the American national interest. Moreover, we strongly agree with both Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. Barack Obama that such a peace agreement is in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians and our own country. These positions are clearly reflected in all our public statements and are amply represented on our website www.americantaskforce.org).

This has been recognized throughout the foreign policy community in the United States and elsewhere. For example, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who is both a staunch supporter of Israel and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter addressed to Dr. Asali on the occasion of our Fourth Annual Gala that was held in Washington on Oct. 15, which I had the privilege of reading from the podium, and which reads in part: “I want you to know how much I, as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, value my association with you and your colleagues at ATFP. Your integrity, your knowledge of the issues, and your unswervingly principled stand on behalf of peace and fairness — as well as your deep commitment both to the land of your birth, Palestine, and your adopted homeland, America — have all had a powerfully positive impact on discourse in Washington about the Middle East. You and your colleagues have also been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress.”

I welcome the chance to clarify ATFP’s views. This of course only serves to emphasize just how extreme and counterproductive ( if the real goal is a strong Israel and improved Israeli-Palestinian relations) are the positions of the J Street crowd.

In response to my earlier post quoting David Weinberg’s column from the Jerusalem Post, several pro-Israel conservatives have taken issue with the extract  I included that lumped the American Task Force on Palestine and its president Ziad Asali in with virulent Israel-haters. Three separate readers made the same point: J Street is actually much more hostile to Israel than ATFP. One comments that ATFP is “trying to create a Arab-American organization that advocates for a Palestinian state without being anti-Israel.” Another reader affiliated with a mainstream pro-Israel Jewish organization notes that ATFP believes reaching out to Hamas “undermines the peace process” so ATFP is “actually more pro-Israel than J Street, one could argue.”

Commentary contributor Josh Muravchik adds these thoughts:

I have spent many hours in public forums and private conversations with Ziad Asali and the other two principle leaders of the ATFP, Hussein Ibish and Ghaith al-Omari.  They are, in a sense, what we supporters of Israel have been seeking: a group of Arabs and Arab-Americans who are working for the creation of a Palestinian state but not for the destruction of Israel.  Because they take seriously the idea of a two-state solution, they are more thoughtful about Israel’s security needs than is J Street, an organization that is unrelentingly hostile to Israel.

Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow of AFTP, writes to us to explain:

The founding mission of ATFP is to promote the idea that a negotiated end of conflict agreement resulting in two states—Israel and Palestine —living side-by-side in peace and security is in the American national interest. Moreover, we strongly agree with both Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. Barack Obama that such a peace agreement is in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians and our own country. These positions are clearly reflected in all our public statements and are amply represented on our website www.americantaskforce.org).

This has been recognized throughout the foreign policy community in the United States and elsewhere. For example, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who is both a staunch supporter of Israel and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter addressed to Dr. Asali on the occasion of our Fourth Annual Gala that was held in Washington on Oct. 15, which I had the privilege of reading from the podium, and which reads in part: “I want you to know how much I, as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, value my association with you and your colleagues at ATFP. Your integrity, your knowledge of the issues, and your unswervingly principled stand on behalf of peace and fairness — as well as your deep commitment both to the land of your birth, Palestine, and your adopted homeland, America — have all had a powerfully positive impact on discourse in Washington about the Middle East. You and your colleagues have also been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress.”

I welcome the chance to clarify ATFP’s views. This of course only serves to emphasize just how extreme and counterproductive ( if the real goal is a strong Israel and improved Israeli-Palestinian relations) are the positions of the J Street crowd.

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Hey, England: 1590 Called, It Wants Its Police State Back

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be.

– Elizabeth Tudor, while a prisoner of her sister, Queen Mary

It’s not news that the England of Elizabeth I was peppered with “intelligencers” — domestic spymasters like Sir Francis Walsingham dedicated to sussing out threats to the burgeoning nation-state and the newly forming Church of England. This was, after all, the age of the Armada invasion, the excommunication of an English sovereign by the bishop of Rome, and power struggles and back-stabbings sufficient to inform several BBC miniseries. Moreover, England was still reeling from the societal upheavals that began with the divorce and remarriages of the queen’s dear ole dad, Hank 8; the short life of her precocious and very Protestant half-brother, Ted 6; and the ecumenical spirit of her half-sister, the half-Spanish Mary, also known as “Bloody,” not intended as an endearment. So Good Queen Bess was determined to forge order out of chaos, this by stifling dissent and intercepting assassins, traitors, and religious dissidents – among whom were both adherents of the Old Faith and those demanding further “purifying” reforms of the new.

Flash-forward to the England of Elizabeth II, where video cameras espy your every intestinal spasm, local police departments tap all manner of personal communications, and you can be tracked, surveilled, and followed for, well

Local governments regularly use these surveillance powers — which they “self-authorize,” without oversight from judges or law enforcement officers — to investigate malfeasance like illegally dumping industrial waste, loan-sharking and falsely claiming welfare benefits.

But they also use them to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.

Some would say this is taking the “broken windows” theory of city reclamation a bit far; others would say it was way too far. Still others would insist it was hell’s bells bloody awful double-plus too far. Only those with a vested interest in the surveillance business, or for whom poor recycling habits constitute an act of global terror, would, I believe, demur. At the very least, shouldn’t the lines between quality-of-life issues and violent crime be drawn a tad broader than they are?

And it’s pointless to introduce George Orwell into the discussion, as supporters of RIPA (no, not Kelly, but the Regulation and Investigatory Powers Act) seem to have read Nineteen Eighty-four as a blueprint for good government and are convinced that the proles should never have been allowed to roam the city outskirts unescorted.

OK, OK — modern England may not be Big Brother’s country quite yet. But it’s definitely Big Second Cousin Once Removed’s.

(This just in: British bobbies can no longer say “Evenin’ all” for fear of giving offense. Makes perfect sense … on the planet Spoon …)

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be.

– Elizabeth Tudor, while a prisoner of her sister, Queen Mary

It’s not news that the England of Elizabeth I was peppered with “intelligencers” — domestic spymasters like Sir Francis Walsingham dedicated to sussing out threats to the burgeoning nation-state and the newly forming Church of England. This was, after all, the age of the Armada invasion, the excommunication of an English sovereign by the bishop of Rome, and power struggles and back-stabbings sufficient to inform several BBC miniseries. Moreover, England was still reeling from the societal upheavals that began with the divorce and remarriages of the queen’s dear ole dad, Hank 8; the short life of her precocious and very Protestant half-brother, Ted 6; and the ecumenical spirit of her half-sister, the half-Spanish Mary, also known as “Bloody,” not intended as an endearment. So Good Queen Bess was determined to forge order out of chaos, this by stifling dissent and intercepting assassins, traitors, and religious dissidents – among whom were both adherents of the Old Faith and those demanding further “purifying” reforms of the new.

Flash-forward to the England of Elizabeth II, where video cameras espy your every intestinal spasm, local police departments tap all manner of personal communications, and you can be tracked, surveilled, and followed for, well

Local governments regularly use these surveillance powers — which they “self-authorize,” without oversight from judges or law enforcement officers — to investigate malfeasance like illegally dumping industrial waste, loan-sharking and falsely claiming welfare benefits.

But they also use them to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.

Some would say this is taking the “broken windows” theory of city reclamation a bit far; others would say it was way too far. Still others would insist it was hell’s bells bloody awful double-plus too far. Only those with a vested interest in the surveillance business, or for whom poor recycling habits constitute an act of global terror, would, I believe, demur. At the very least, shouldn’t the lines between quality-of-life issues and violent crime be drawn a tad broader than they are?

And it’s pointless to introduce George Orwell into the discussion, as supporters of RIPA (no, not Kelly, but the Regulation and Investigatory Powers Act) seem to have read Nineteen Eighty-four as a blueprint for good government and are convinced that the proles should never have been allowed to roam the city outskirts unescorted.

OK, OK — modern England may not be Big Brother’s country quite yet. But it’s definitely Big Second Cousin Once Removed’s.

(This just in: British bobbies can no longer say “Evenin’ all” for fear of giving offense. Makes perfect sense … on the planet Spoon …)

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The Times Enlists Shakespeare’s Hero in the Afghanistan Debate

Political bias is never far below the surface in the New York Times. But the Grey Lady’s penchant for inserting its not-so-subtle partisan agendas into even the most arcane subjects must sometimes leave readers scratching their heads. For example, just read today’s Times International section, which is led off by what, at first glance, would appear to be a soft feature about an academic controversy over the Battle of Agincourt, whose 594th anniversary is celebrated today. The conceit of the piece centers on whether the English, led by Shakespearean hero King Henry V, were really as outnumbered by the French as historians as well as the bard have insisted. Did the French have a 5-to-1 numerical advantage, or merely a 2-1 edge before they charged the original “Band of Brothers” and were slaughtered in one of history’s most one-sided battles? Revisionist historians, both French and English, have been trying to debunk the “myth” that England’s warrior king did the impossible in vanquishing — and virtually exterminating — the flower of French knighthood in the narrow field between the villages of Agincourt and Tramecourt on St. Crispin’s Day, Oct. 25, 1415.

But rather than stick to that fascinating subject — fascinating, that is, for students of military history as well as lovers of Shakespeare’s great history play — the Times can’t help trying to inject the debate over Afghanistan into the story. To do that, the author James Glanz attempts to link the Agincourt revisionists with Gen. David Petraeus, the authors of the United States Army’s “Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” and the question of whether more troops are needed for American and Allied forces to win in Afghanistan. This historical flight of fancy leads Glanz to attempt analogizing our current dilemma in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to Henry V’s campaign in Normandy, when “France was on the verge of a civil war with factions called the Burgundians and the Armagnacs at loggerheads. Henry would eventually forge an alliance with the Burgundians, who in today’s terms would become his ‘local security forces’ in Normandy, and he cultivated the support of local merchants and clerics, all practices that would have been heartily endorsed by the counterinsurgency manual.” The piece then goes on to claim that the English were eventually defeated in the Hundred Years War because Henry’s alliances drove his allies’ enemies into his foes camp.

This is, of course, a vast distortion of history. Unlike the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, which seeks to defeat terrorists and establish in those two countries stable and hopefully democratic governments that will not be a threat to their neighbors or to the West, Henry just wanted to own as much of France as he could. The English king already had ancestral rights to Normandy and Calais and, through some complex genealogy, contrived to make a claim for the French throne (“Cheerly to sea, the signs of war advance, no king of England if not king of France.”) Far from facing a popular insurgency, his duel with the French king Charles VI was a conflict between two armies that despoiled and oppressed the peasantry with impunity. A decade after Henry’s victory and after his untimely death only a few years after Agincourt, Joan of Arc would help to inspire feelings of French nationalism that would eventually help sink the English cause. But fatigue and misgovernment by the nobles who ruled in the name of Henry’s infant successor led to civil war at home and the eventual English defeat in France, which Glanz clearly is seeking to link to current American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the obvious point here is that even brilliant American victories in the field will eventually give way to defeat on foreign shores.

This concept gives us very little insight into Agincourt (for a better understanding of the battle there is no substitute for historian John Keegan’s classic account in his “Face of Battle”) or Henry V. But perhaps the Times has a point when it comes to the principle of leadership. Glanz’s example should perhaps deter us all from following him into the tangle of historical analogies (“once more into the breach dear friends”) but one cannot but notice that England prevailed in 1415 because of a skilled veteran army led by a young man who had risen above the shame of a misspent youth to become a brilliant national leader. He was followed in office by a sovereign who lacked his father’s marshal virtues and decisiveness and whose character was best remembered for a desire to please everyone. George W. Bush was hardly the reincarnation of Henry V, at least not the Shakespearean hero, though their behavior as the sons of famous fathers is strikingly similar. Yet let us pray that the dithering and the indecisiveness that characterizes the war leadership of the Barack Obama administration does not lead to the same results in the vital battles against our Islamist foes as the ones Henry VI’s forces achieved in France. One needn’t have Shakespeare’s “muse of fire” to understand that victory in war does not depend on apologies.

Political bias is never far below the surface in the New York Times. But the Grey Lady’s penchant for inserting its not-so-subtle partisan agendas into even the most arcane subjects must sometimes leave readers scratching their heads. For example, just read today’s Times International section, which is led off by what, at first glance, would appear to be a soft feature about an academic controversy over the Battle of Agincourt, whose 594th anniversary is celebrated today. The conceit of the piece centers on whether the English, led by Shakespearean hero King Henry V, were really as outnumbered by the French as historians as well as the bard have insisted. Did the French have a 5-to-1 numerical advantage, or merely a 2-1 edge before they charged the original “Band of Brothers” and were slaughtered in one of history’s most one-sided battles? Revisionist historians, both French and English, have been trying to debunk the “myth” that England’s warrior king did the impossible in vanquishing — and virtually exterminating — the flower of French knighthood in the narrow field between the villages of Agincourt and Tramecourt on St. Crispin’s Day, Oct. 25, 1415.

But rather than stick to that fascinating subject — fascinating, that is, for students of military history as well as lovers of Shakespeare’s great history play — the Times can’t help trying to inject the debate over Afghanistan into the story. To do that, the author James Glanz attempts to link the Agincourt revisionists with Gen. David Petraeus, the authors of the United States Army’s “Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” and the question of whether more troops are needed for American and Allied forces to win in Afghanistan. This historical flight of fancy leads Glanz to attempt analogizing our current dilemma in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to Henry V’s campaign in Normandy, when “France was on the verge of a civil war with factions called the Burgundians and the Armagnacs at loggerheads. Henry would eventually forge an alliance with the Burgundians, who in today’s terms would become his ‘local security forces’ in Normandy, and he cultivated the support of local merchants and clerics, all practices that would have been heartily endorsed by the counterinsurgency manual.” The piece then goes on to claim that the English were eventually defeated in the Hundred Years War because Henry’s alliances drove his allies’ enemies into his foes camp.

This is, of course, a vast distortion of history. Unlike the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, which seeks to defeat terrorists and establish in those two countries stable and hopefully democratic governments that will not be a threat to their neighbors or to the West, Henry just wanted to own as much of France as he could. The English king already had ancestral rights to Normandy and Calais and, through some complex genealogy, contrived to make a claim for the French throne (“Cheerly to sea, the signs of war advance, no king of England if not king of France.”) Far from facing a popular insurgency, his duel with the French king Charles VI was a conflict between two armies that despoiled and oppressed the peasantry with impunity. A decade after Henry’s victory and after his untimely death only a few years after Agincourt, Joan of Arc would help to inspire feelings of French nationalism that would eventually help sink the English cause. But fatigue and misgovernment by the nobles who ruled in the name of Henry’s infant successor led to civil war at home and the eventual English defeat in France, which Glanz clearly is seeking to link to current American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the obvious point here is that even brilliant American victories in the field will eventually give way to defeat on foreign shores.

This concept gives us very little insight into Agincourt (for a better understanding of the battle there is no substitute for historian John Keegan’s classic account in his “Face of Battle”) or Henry V. But perhaps the Times has a point when it comes to the principle of leadership. Glanz’s example should perhaps deter us all from following him into the tangle of historical analogies (“once more into the breach dear friends”) but one cannot but notice that England prevailed in 1415 because of a skilled veteran army led by a young man who had risen above the shame of a misspent youth to become a brilliant national leader. He was followed in office by a sovereign who lacked his father’s marshal virtues and decisiveness and whose character was best remembered for a desire to please everyone. George W. Bush was hardly the reincarnation of Henry V, at least not the Shakespearean hero, though their behavior as the sons of famous fathers is strikingly similar. Yet let us pray that the dithering and the indecisiveness that characterizes the war leadership of the Barack Obama administration does not lead to the same results in the vital battles against our Islamist foes as the ones Henry VI’s forces achieved in France. One needn’t have Shakespeare’s “muse of fire” to understand that victory in war does not depend on apologies.

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Turning Off the “Mother’s Milk of Politics”

Washington is consumed right now with health-care reform. But the population at large is far more concerned with the budget deficit. Indeed, a recent Rasmussen poll found that while 38 percent of the country thought cutting the budget deficit in half in the next four years should be the country’s top priority, only 23 percent thought health-care reform should be.

Of course, health-care reform involves spending (other people’s) money, while cutting the budget deficit involves making tough choices and making enemies. So it’s not surprising that Washington’s priorities are exactly the reverse of the country’s. As the California state politician Jesse Unruh famously explained, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

There is not much, constitutionally, that we can do about this on the federal level. But there are many states that allow initiatives and referendums, and two of them, on opposite coasts, are holding referendums on limiting increases in state spending. Both Maine and Washington State are Blue States — Obama carried each of them by 17-point margins–but both are holding referendums that would freeze state spending per capita in real terms. (In other words, state spending could only increase to reflect population growth and inflation.) Any tax increase would have to be presented to the people in a referendum.

As the Wall Street Journal’s inimitable John Fund explains, the politicians and public employee unions are fighting these referendums tooth and nail, but both seem to be ahead in the polls (with, however, large undecided votes).

If both should pass, it would be as politically significant as the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia. Another Rasmussen poll shows that only 15 percent of Republican voters think their Republican representatives in Congress are doing a good job and 73 percent think they have lost touch with the Republican base. A win for both referendums in these two deep blue states would get their attention big time.

Washington is consumed right now with health-care reform. But the population at large is far more concerned with the budget deficit. Indeed, a recent Rasmussen poll found that while 38 percent of the country thought cutting the budget deficit in half in the next four years should be the country’s top priority, only 23 percent thought health-care reform should be.

Of course, health-care reform involves spending (other people’s) money, while cutting the budget deficit involves making tough choices and making enemies. So it’s not surprising that Washington’s priorities are exactly the reverse of the country’s. As the California state politician Jesse Unruh famously explained, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

There is not much, constitutionally, that we can do about this on the federal level. But there are many states that allow initiatives and referendums, and two of them, on opposite coasts, are holding referendums on limiting increases in state spending. Both Maine and Washington State are Blue States — Obama carried each of them by 17-point margins–but both are holding referendums that would freeze state spending per capita in real terms. (In other words, state spending could only increase to reflect population growth and inflation.) Any tax increase would have to be presented to the people in a referendum.

As the Wall Street Journal’s inimitable John Fund explains, the politicians and public employee unions are fighting these referendums tooth and nail, but both seem to be ahead in the polls (with, however, large undecided votes).

If both should pass, it would be as politically significant as the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia. Another Rasmussen poll shows that only 15 percent of Republican voters think their Republican representatives in Congress are doing a good job and 73 percent think they have lost touch with the Republican base. A win for both referendums in these two deep blue states would get their attention big time.

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Dishonesty Watch

Robert Bernstein, the founder and for 20 years the chair of Human Rights Watch, has fired back in response to HRW’s misrepresentation of his New York Times op-ed.

Jane Olson, current chair of Human Rights Watch and Jonathan Fanton, past chair wrote that they “were saddened to see Robert L. Bernstein argue that Israel should be judged by a different human rights standard than the rest of the world.” This is not what I believe or what I wrote in my op-ed piece.

I believe that Israel should be judged by the highest possible standard and I have never argued anything else. What is more important than what I believe, or what Human Rights Watch believes, is that Israelis themselves believe they should be held to the highest standard.

That is why they have 80 Human Rights organizations challenging their government daily. Does any other country in the Middle East have anything remotely near that? That is why they have a vibrant free press. Does any other country in the Middle East have anything remotely near that? That is why they have a democratically elected government. That is why they have a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political societies, etc etc etc.

I have argued that open societies , while far from perfect, have ways to correct themselves and that is particularly true in the case of Israel. Millions of Arabs, on the other hand, live in societies where there is little respect for or protection of human rights.

Bernstein’s op-ed was perfectly clear, and the misrepresentation of it perfectly intentional. HRW’s most serious problem is not with Israel — it is with honesty.

Robert Bernstein, the founder and for 20 years the chair of Human Rights Watch, has fired back in response to HRW’s misrepresentation of his New York Times op-ed.

Jane Olson, current chair of Human Rights Watch and Jonathan Fanton, past chair wrote that they “were saddened to see Robert L. Bernstein argue that Israel should be judged by a different human rights standard than the rest of the world.” This is not what I believe or what I wrote in my op-ed piece.

I believe that Israel should be judged by the highest possible standard and I have never argued anything else. What is more important than what I believe, or what Human Rights Watch believes, is that Israelis themselves believe they should be held to the highest standard.

That is why they have 80 Human Rights organizations challenging their government daily. Does any other country in the Middle East have anything remotely near that? That is why they have a vibrant free press. Does any other country in the Middle East have anything remotely near that? That is why they have a democratically elected government. That is why they have a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political societies, etc etc etc.

I have argued that open societies , while far from perfect, have ways to correct themselves and that is particularly true in the case of Israel. Millions of Arabs, on the other hand, live in societies where there is little respect for or protection of human rights.

Bernstein’s op-ed was perfectly clear, and the misrepresentation of it perfectly intentional. HRW’s most serious problem is not with Israel — it is with honesty.

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You Thought It Was Cynical Before

Carl Cannon observes the “unrelentingly negative” gubernatorial campaign — largely centered on the contrived thesis-issue — run by Creigh Deeds. The game here was “to divide the electorate demographically and geographically, all while demonizing the nominee of the other party” in a redux of the the game plan that ousted George Allen from the Senate in 2006. Now this effort was entirely mimicked (or was it suggested?) by the Washington Post’s coverage. And that will be part of the postmortem as well, as pundits consider whether the Post helped sink its favorite son and whether it has now sacrificed any claim to relevancy and impartiality in Virginia political coverage.

He dubs Deeds’s effort “nasty and pessimistic” but ultimately ineffective:

There are two potential pitfalls to this approach. For starters, the Democrats are not running against George Allen — he of the destructive “macaca” gaffe. They are running against Bob McDonnell, a respectful, buttoned-down lawyer whose every hair always seems to be in place and whose public pronouncements run the gamut from measured to cautious. Secondly, it seems not to have dawned on the Democrats that in so-called “purple” states — swing states such as Virginia — running a negative campaign aimed at the party’s base can easily backfire.

Still, that’s not a negative or as cynical as what is now going on — a sort of search-and-destroy mission by Democrats to eviscerate their own candidate publicly and thereby insulate Obama and the national Democratic party more generally from blame. The result, however, may be to depress Democratic turnout even further, turn a solid win into a rout for the Republicans, and sacrifice Democratic candidates down the ballot. It is nearly unprecedented for a party to essentially throw in the towel more than a week before the election and try to make their own top-of-the-ticket look as bad as possible.

But of course the chips will fall where they will and the pundits won’t be dissuaded from drawing the obvious conclusion should Democrats lose big on election night: the Obama era is not friendly toward swing-state Democrats. And they will note, for good measure, that letting the Washington Post run one’s campaign is a bad idea.

Carl Cannon observes the “unrelentingly negative” gubernatorial campaign — largely centered on the contrived thesis-issue — run by Creigh Deeds. The game here was “to divide the electorate demographically and geographically, all while demonizing the nominee of the other party” in a redux of the the game plan that ousted George Allen from the Senate in 2006. Now this effort was entirely mimicked (or was it suggested?) by the Washington Post’s coverage. And that will be part of the postmortem as well, as pundits consider whether the Post helped sink its favorite son and whether it has now sacrificed any claim to relevancy and impartiality in Virginia political coverage.

He dubs Deeds’s effort “nasty and pessimistic” but ultimately ineffective:

There are two potential pitfalls to this approach. For starters, the Democrats are not running against George Allen — he of the destructive “macaca” gaffe. They are running against Bob McDonnell, a respectful, buttoned-down lawyer whose every hair always seems to be in place and whose public pronouncements run the gamut from measured to cautious. Secondly, it seems not to have dawned on the Democrats that in so-called “purple” states — swing states such as Virginia — running a negative campaign aimed at the party’s base can easily backfire.

Still, that’s not a negative or as cynical as what is now going on — a sort of search-and-destroy mission by Democrats to eviscerate their own candidate publicly and thereby insulate Obama and the national Democratic party more generally from blame. The result, however, may be to depress Democratic turnout even further, turn a solid win into a rout for the Republicans, and sacrifice Democratic candidates down the ballot. It is nearly unprecedented for a party to essentially throw in the towel more than a week before the election and try to make their own top-of-the-ticket look as bad as possible.

But of course the chips will fall where they will and the pundits won’t be dissuaded from drawing the obvious conclusion should Democrats lose big on election night: the Obama era is not friendly toward swing-state Democrats. And they will note, for good measure, that letting the Washington Post run one’s campaign is a bad idea.

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Why Do Israel’s Enemies Love J Street?

David Weinberg writing in the Jerusalem Post notes all the New Age spirituality finding its way onto J Street:

They are “diversity facilitators,” “spirituality counselors,” and “interreligious leaders” at places called Neve Kodesh, Brit Tzedek, Dorshei Tzedek, and Just Vision. So much “Tzedek”! So much “Kodesh”! So much overflowing of honey, holiness, and justice! At a political lobby conference, no less. Perhaps the organization should be renamed Spiritual Street. 

Yes, they are going to show just how holier than thou they are — albeit not in ways embodied in traditional Jewish texts or the Torah itself (from which it seems as though the Jews have some territorial claims to the land of Israel that, contrary to the Obama Cairo speech, predate the Holocaust). But it’s not, as we’ve come to see, so unusual for Left-leaning Jews to make up pseudo-religious traditions when the old ones prove not so useful in propagating their earthly aims.

But it’s really cover, as Weinberg points out, along with the crocodile tears shed for the “danger to Israeli democracy” (unless J Street’s positions are enacted), for views that neatly coincide with those of people who desire to endanger the Jewish state. J Street suggests it’s doing what is best for Israel, although normally democracies decide for themselves what is in their own self-interest. But look at the list of those who line up with J Street:

The only people clearly not fooled by all this spiritual mumbo-jumbo are Salam al-Mayarati, Ziad Asali, Trita Parsi and other leaders of the American Muslim Public Affairs Council, American Task Force on Palestine and the National Iranian American Council – all of whom are speaking — surprise, surprise — at the J Street Jewish soul jamboree this week. They undoubtedly see past the pious claptrap, and know — and appreciate — exactly what J Street is up to.

If J Street is too naive to understand it is providing cover for those who wish to destroy or permanently hobble Israel, then it is too naive to be taken seriously on the fate of Israel. Alternatively, if it is delighted to link hands with those who waive the “Zionism is Nazism” and “9-11 Was an Inside Job” banners either because it finds merit in those views or utility in strengthening the position of those who propound them (what other reason is there to provide a platform for such figures?), then J Street is something else entirely. And in either case it’s not “pro-Israel” by any definition ordinary people would understand that phrase to mean.

David Weinberg writing in the Jerusalem Post notes all the New Age spirituality finding its way onto J Street:

They are “diversity facilitators,” “spirituality counselors,” and “interreligious leaders” at places called Neve Kodesh, Brit Tzedek, Dorshei Tzedek, and Just Vision. So much “Tzedek”! So much “Kodesh”! So much overflowing of honey, holiness, and justice! At a political lobby conference, no less. Perhaps the organization should be renamed Spiritual Street. 

Yes, they are going to show just how holier than thou they are — albeit not in ways embodied in traditional Jewish texts or the Torah itself (from which it seems as though the Jews have some territorial claims to the land of Israel that, contrary to the Obama Cairo speech, predate the Holocaust). But it’s not, as we’ve come to see, so unusual for Left-leaning Jews to make up pseudo-religious traditions when the old ones prove not so useful in propagating their earthly aims.

But it’s really cover, as Weinberg points out, along with the crocodile tears shed for the “danger to Israeli democracy” (unless J Street’s positions are enacted), for views that neatly coincide with those of people who desire to endanger the Jewish state. J Street suggests it’s doing what is best for Israel, although normally democracies decide for themselves what is in their own self-interest. But look at the list of those who line up with J Street:

The only people clearly not fooled by all this spiritual mumbo-jumbo are Salam al-Mayarati, Ziad Asali, Trita Parsi and other leaders of the American Muslim Public Affairs Council, American Task Force on Palestine and the National Iranian American Council – all of whom are speaking — surprise, surprise — at the J Street Jewish soul jamboree this week. They undoubtedly see past the pious claptrap, and know — and appreciate — exactly what J Street is up to.

If J Street is too naive to understand it is providing cover for those who wish to destroy or permanently hobble Israel, then it is too naive to be taken seriously on the fate of Israel. Alternatively, if it is delighted to link hands with those who waive the “Zionism is Nazism” and “9-11 Was an Inside Job” banners either because it finds merit in those views or utility in strengthening the position of those who propound them (what other reason is there to provide a platform for such figures?), then J Street is something else entirely. And in either case it’s not “pro-Israel” by any definition ordinary people would understand that phrase to mean.

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Obama Team Is Anti-Green

This column by David Feith and Bari Weiss should make squirm the Obama cheerleaders who have, while touting the president from hope-’n-change, also taken up the cause of Iranian democracy protesters. Feith and Weiss write:

The Obama administration — fixated on negotiating with Tehran to get it to abandon its nuclear-weapons program — has responded mostly with silence. To pursue engagement, President Obama needs his Iranian interlocutors to be durable leaders, not frauds on the brink. Iranian dissidents challenging the regime’s legitimacy are thus being treated as obstacles to statecraft.

It is not simply the Obama team’s silence in the face of the Iranian regime’s thuggish behavior. That would be bad enough. No, the Obama administration is cutting off funds to multiple groups that seek to help the democracy protesters and those who might undermine the regime the Obama team is so fixated on negotiating with for a 21st-century version of “peace in our time.”

They run through the list of groups to which the Obama team is denying funds: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute (“which for several years received State Department support to train Iranian reformers and connect them to like-minded activists in Europe and elsewhere”), and  the Iran Democracy Fund (whose funding was diverted to the Near East Regional Democracy Fund, which “can use the money however — and in whatever Near Eastern country — it pleases”).

Where are the green-bannered bloggers? Why don’t we hear from the human-rights organizations that routinely accuse the U.S. of being too miserly in its philanthropy? Seems as though they have all gone mute.

And the Obama team? They are courting the mullahs and aren’t about to have the “engagement” broken up by upstarts pointing out all the flaws in the Obama team’s new-found negotiating soul mates. Obama would like the protesters to just go away. Cutting off the funds to democracy advocates and human-rights watchdogs is one step. And bestowing fawning attention in ongoing negotiations on those who stole an election and brutalized their own people is another. It is the policy of no change and no hope for the Iranian people.

This column by David Feith and Bari Weiss should make squirm the Obama cheerleaders who have, while touting the president from hope-’n-change, also taken up the cause of Iranian democracy protesters. Feith and Weiss write:

The Obama administration — fixated on negotiating with Tehran to get it to abandon its nuclear-weapons program — has responded mostly with silence. To pursue engagement, President Obama needs his Iranian interlocutors to be durable leaders, not frauds on the brink. Iranian dissidents challenging the regime’s legitimacy are thus being treated as obstacles to statecraft.

It is not simply the Obama team’s silence in the face of the Iranian regime’s thuggish behavior. That would be bad enough. No, the Obama administration is cutting off funds to multiple groups that seek to help the democracy protesters and those who might undermine the regime the Obama team is so fixated on negotiating with for a 21st-century version of “peace in our time.”

They run through the list of groups to which the Obama team is denying funds: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute (“which for several years received State Department support to train Iranian reformers and connect them to like-minded activists in Europe and elsewhere”), and  the Iran Democracy Fund (whose funding was diverted to the Near East Regional Democracy Fund, which “can use the money however — and in whatever Near Eastern country — it pleases”).

Where are the green-bannered bloggers? Why don’t we hear from the human-rights organizations that routinely accuse the U.S. of being too miserly in its philanthropy? Seems as though they have all gone mute.

And the Obama team? They are courting the mullahs and aren’t about to have the “engagement” broken up by upstarts pointing out all the flaws in the Obama team’s new-found negotiating soul mates. Obama would like the protesters to just go away. Cutting off the funds to democracy advocates and human-rights watchdogs is one step. And bestowing fawning attention in ongoing negotiations on those who stole an election and brutalized their own people is another. It is the policy of no change and no hope for the Iranian people.

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The Ultimate Claim of Gender Discrimination

I don’t know Joanne Lipman, whose op-ed in the New York Times asks the salient question: was 9-11 bad for women? Maybe she is a cagey humorist, a sly provocateur who seeks to remind us that for some victimologists, it’s always about their peculiar gripe. But I suspect Ms. Lipman is serious.

She solemnly recounts the many slights and hazards that recently have befallen women (except those who in much greater numbers than men kept their jobs during the recession and those who populate high positions in government). Got it? Things are bad for women. Bad. She finds a significant cause for this sorry state of gender affairs in the 9-11 attack:

Everyone’s life was reshaped by 9/11. Like many New Yorkers, I experienced that day in an intensely personal way: I was in the World Trade Center with a colleague when the first plane hit. And we were just outside the second tower, making our way through burning debris, hunks of airplane seats and far worse when the second plane came in directly over our heads.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Americans pulled together. Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, famously declared it was “the end of the age of irony.”

He was right.

And then he was wrong. Because, as so often happens in the wake of a traumatic event, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. The war in Iraq tore America apart. The Internet gave everyone a soapbox. The louder, the more offensive, the better.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that exactly at this moment, women began losing ground — and not just in measurable ways, like how many women make partner or get jobs as chief executives.

You can hunt in vain for the connective tissue between “women are getting the short end of the stick — again” and 9-11. You won’t find it. As an aside, I must confess that at some level I suspect this column is part of a dastardly plot at the New York Times to run inane columns by women (one of whom memorably dreamt of Obama in the shower) and thereby suggest that all those stereotypes about my gender’s innate logical-reasoning abilities have some merit. But let’s get back to Ms. Lipman’s column. After raising the 9-11 point she sends us down the rabbit hole of  feminist angst. Women shouldn’t have to be so “good” and then women need to take risks. And so on. But what happened to the 9-11 point? I dunno.

She wraps up with a blinding insight: women are different! Well, yes. And she then makes a final plea for respect:

Certainly, when you look at the numbers, women have made tremendous strides over the past 25 years. But in the process, we lost sight of something important. After focusing for so long on better jobs and higher pay, maybe the best thing — the enduring thing — we can do is make sure respect is part of the equation too.

Here’s the thing, Ms. Lipman: respect is earned. And you’re not going to get it writing columns that recycle every cliche in the 1970s feminist playbook. You’re not going to get it by suggesting 9-11 was responsible for some women not getting everything they want. And you’re not going to get it by using the New York Times to explain why the magazine you headed failed because of some ongoing conspiracy by chauvinists.

Let’s be clear (one of us should be): 9-11 was responsible for ending the lives of many women in fiery infernos and leaving their widowers and children grieving. Only in that sense was it “bad for women.” (But really, had the plaintiffs’ bar only known Ms. Lipman’s theory, we might have had a really innovative class-action gender-claim against al-Qaeda.)

I think we actually will know when we reach that state of true and perfect gender equality: when the New York Times won’t run columns like Ms. Lipman’s. Then we’ll know the gender-discrimination mongers and their enablers have moved on.

I don’t know Joanne Lipman, whose op-ed in the New York Times asks the salient question: was 9-11 bad for women? Maybe she is a cagey humorist, a sly provocateur who seeks to remind us that for some victimologists, it’s always about their peculiar gripe. But I suspect Ms. Lipman is serious.

She solemnly recounts the many slights and hazards that recently have befallen women (except those who in much greater numbers than men kept their jobs during the recession and those who populate high positions in government). Got it? Things are bad for women. Bad. She finds a significant cause for this sorry state of gender affairs in the 9-11 attack:

Everyone’s life was reshaped by 9/11. Like many New Yorkers, I experienced that day in an intensely personal way: I was in the World Trade Center with a colleague when the first plane hit. And we were just outside the second tower, making our way through burning debris, hunks of airplane seats and far worse when the second plane came in directly over our heads.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Americans pulled together. Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, famously declared it was “the end of the age of irony.”

He was right.

And then he was wrong. Because, as so often happens in the wake of a traumatic event, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. The war in Iraq tore America apart. The Internet gave everyone a soapbox. The louder, the more offensive, the better.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that exactly at this moment, women began losing ground — and not just in measurable ways, like how many women make partner or get jobs as chief executives.

You can hunt in vain for the connective tissue between “women are getting the short end of the stick — again” and 9-11. You won’t find it. As an aside, I must confess that at some level I suspect this column is part of a dastardly plot at the New York Times to run inane columns by women (one of whom memorably dreamt of Obama in the shower) and thereby suggest that all those stereotypes about my gender’s innate logical-reasoning abilities have some merit. But let’s get back to Ms. Lipman’s column. After raising the 9-11 point she sends us down the rabbit hole of  feminist angst. Women shouldn’t have to be so “good” and then women need to take risks. And so on. But what happened to the 9-11 point? I dunno.

She wraps up with a blinding insight: women are different! Well, yes. And she then makes a final plea for respect:

Certainly, when you look at the numbers, women have made tremendous strides over the past 25 years. But in the process, we lost sight of something important. After focusing for so long on better jobs and higher pay, maybe the best thing — the enduring thing — we can do is make sure respect is part of the equation too.

Here’s the thing, Ms. Lipman: respect is earned. And you’re not going to get it writing columns that recycle every cliche in the 1970s feminist playbook. You’re not going to get it by suggesting 9-11 was responsible for some women not getting everything they want. And you’re not going to get it by using the New York Times to explain why the magazine you headed failed because of some ongoing conspiracy by chauvinists.

Let’s be clear (one of us should be): 9-11 was responsible for ending the lives of many women in fiery infernos and leaving their widowers and children grieving. Only in that sense was it “bad for women.” (But really, had the plaintiffs’ bar only known Ms. Lipman’s theory, we might have had a really innovative class-action gender-claim against al-Qaeda.)

I think we actually will know when we reach that state of true and perfect gender equality: when the New York Times won’t run columns like Ms. Lipman’s. Then we’ll know the gender-discrimination mongers and their enablers have moved on.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

I eagerly await the condemnation from the U.S. State Department, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Human Rights Watch of this: “A Saudi court on Saturday convicted a female journalist for her involvement in a TV show, in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex, and sentenced her to 60 lashes.”

The Washington Post explains that the J Street conference takes place in a “tense debate.” Not as tense as those members of Congress will be when their presence at the conference is thrown back in their faces. Why did they choose to share a stage with a 9-11 truther?

Matthew Continetti doesn’t think ObamaCare is inevitable: “In other words, a polarizing chief executive is asking Congress to enact a $1 trillion entitlement and tax hike against the public’s wishes. Won’t Democrats whose seats are up in 2010 think twice before acceding to his demands?”

James Carafano: “White House got a hard lesson in soft power. When Iran looked like it was going to sign a nuclear agreement earlier this week it was high fives all around. Big mistake for two reasons. First, if they signed it would have not been much of a non-proliferation success. It was not a step that would have limited potential for a weapons program development. Second, they didn’t sign making the U.S. much-a-do about nothing look pretty foolish.”

The finger-pointing starts within the administration over who came up with the idea of excluding Fox from the pay-czar interview. Robert Gibbs now says it was a mistake — someone at Treasury messed up. Yeah, right.

At this rate, the Onion is going to go out of business: “Do counter-terrorism measures targeting bombers who dress as women offend the rights of transexuals? This is one of the pressing questions addressed in a new United Nations report on ‘Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.’”

The newspaper that tried to sink Bob McDonnell’s candidacy over a tweny-year-old college thesis concedes that he has run a very good campaign. Without a trace of irony the report proclaims, “Unlike many of his Republican predecessors, McDonnell has not sought a debate over social issues, despite his focus on them during his legislative career.”

Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on his handling of health care doesn’t look so great. Neither does his rating on the economy.

Joe Biden says the Obami really aren’t dithering on Afghanistan because. . . well, they aren’t. At some point rather than just sneering at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticisms, the Obama brain-trust might want to formulate a coherent response. “We are not!” isn’t it.

I eagerly await the condemnation from the U.S. State Department, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Human Rights Watch of this: “A Saudi court on Saturday convicted a female journalist for her involvement in a TV show, in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex, and sentenced her to 60 lashes.”

The Washington Post explains that the J Street conference takes place in a “tense debate.” Not as tense as those members of Congress will be when their presence at the conference is thrown back in their faces. Why did they choose to share a stage with a 9-11 truther?

Matthew Continetti doesn’t think ObamaCare is inevitable: “In other words, a polarizing chief executive is asking Congress to enact a $1 trillion entitlement and tax hike against the public’s wishes. Won’t Democrats whose seats are up in 2010 think twice before acceding to his demands?”

James Carafano: “White House got a hard lesson in soft power. When Iran looked like it was going to sign a nuclear agreement earlier this week it was high fives all around. Big mistake for two reasons. First, if they signed it would have not been much of a non-proliferation success. It was not a step that would have limited potential for a weapons program development. Second, they didn’t sign making the U.S. much-a-do about nothing look pretty foolish.”

The finger-pointing starts within the administration over who came up with the idea of excluding Fox from the pay-czar interview. Robert Gibbs now says it was a mistake — someone at Treasury messed up. Yeah, right.

At this rate, the Onion is going to go out of business: “Do counter-terrorism measures targeting bombers who dress as women offend the rights of transexuals? This is one of the pressing questions addressed in a new United Nations report on ‘Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.’”

The newspaper that tried to sink Bob McDonnell’s candidacy over a tweny-year-old college thesis concedes that he has run a very good campaign. Without a trace of irony the report proclaims, “Unlike many of his Republican predecessors, McDonnell has not sought a debate over social issues, despite his focus on them during his legislative career.”

Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on his handling of health care doesn’t look so great. Neither does his rating on the economy.

Joe Biden says the Obami really aren’t dithering on Afghanistan because. . . well, they aren’t. At some point rather than just sneering at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticisms, the Obama brain-trust might want to formulate a coherent response. “We are not!” isn’t it.

Read Less




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