Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 27, 2009

Regional Outreach

Iranian ships loaded with weapons keep turning up in the darnedest places. The latest report is that Yemeni authorities on Monday seized an Iranian ship in their waters trying to deliver anti-armor rounds to Yemen’s Shia Zaidi rebels. Especially noteworthy is that the ship was seized on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Yemenis say the ship is not the first to pull into the Eritrean port of Asmara and then cross the Red Sea to deliver weapons to the Zaidi insurgents. The Yemeni press, in fact, reports that Iran is training Zaidi rebels in Eritrea. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh insisted earlier this year that the Zaidi (or al-Houthi) rebels are being trained by Hezbollah.

Iran’s 2008 basing agreement with Eritrea has received minimal attention in the West, in part because there is little new information on any developments related to it. Radio France International reported in May that Iranian warships and a submarine had been observed in Asmara along with a unit of Iran’s Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard’s paramilitary force. If a submarine were actually present, it would have been one of Iran’s mini-submarines, small one- or two-man submersibles with a very restricted range of operations. Iran has long cultivated a mini-submarine threat to shipping in restricted waters. As for the warships, Iran is using Asmara for the replenishment of its antipiracy patrol ships.

Israel, of course, has expressed concern over this Iranian Red Sea presence, and analysts have connected it with the overland arms route for Hamas, interdicted in a dramatic air raid over Sudan in February. Somalia watchers continue to warn that Iranian arms are flowing to al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgency in southern Somalia, through Eritrea. Riyadh is now increasingly concerned about Iran’s support to the Yemeni rebels, whose stronghold in western Yemen is on the poorly guarded border with Saudi Arabia. The rebels claimed last week that they came under attack from Saudi forces when operating near the border, a credible claim given the level of Saudi disquiet.

The evidence is relentless: arming regional insurgents and terrorists is what Iran commits its limited resources to. Arranging forward logistics for the effort in a strategically positioned port is a measure of that commitment. The same commitment is to be expected to threats like holding global shipping at risk and deploying ballistic missiles to the Red Sea coast. We are already seeing the regional initiatives Iran will feel even freer to mount once it has nuclear weapons. It is a fatal error to suppose that we will feel just as free, under those conditions, to oppose them.

Iranian ships loaded with weapons keep turning up in the darnedest places. The latest report is that Yemeni authorities on Monday seized an Iranian ship in their waters trying to deliver anti-armor rounds to Yemen’s Shia Zaidi rebels. Especially noteworthy is that the ship was seized on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. Yemenis say the ship is not the first to pull into the Eritrean port of Asmara and then cross the Red Sea to deliver weapons to the Zaidi insurgents. The Yemeni press, in fact, reports that Iran is training Zaidi rebels in Eritrea. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh insisted earlier this year that the Zaidi (or al-Houthi) rebels are being trained by Hezbollah.

Iran’s 2008 basing agreement with Eritrea has received minimal attention in the West, in part because there is little new information on any developments related to it. Radio France International reported in May that Iranian warships and a submarine had been observed in Asmara along with a unit of Iran’s Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard’s paramilitary force. If a submarine were actually present, it would have been one of Iran’s mini-submarines, small one- or two-man submersibles with a very restricted range of operations. Iran has long cultivated a mini-submarine threat to shipping in restricted waters. As for the warships, Iran is using Asmara for the replenishment of its antipiracy patrol ships.

Israel, of course, has expressed concern over this Iranian Red Sea presence, and analysts have connected it with the overland arms route for Hamas, interdicted in a dramatic air raid over Sudan in February. Somalia watchers continue to warn that Iranian arms are flowing to al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgency in southern Somalia, through Eritrea. Riyadh is now increasingly concerned about Iran’s support to the Yemeni rebels, whose stronghold in western Yemen is on the poorly guarded border with Saudi Arabia. The rebels claimed last week that they came under attack from Saudi forces when operating near the border, a credible claim given the level of Saudi disquiet.

The evidence is relentless: arming regional insurgents and terrorists is what Iran commits its limited resources to. Arranging forward logistics for the effort in a strategically positioned port is a measure of that commitment. The same commitment is to be expected to threats like holding global shipping at risk and deploying ballistic missiles to the Red Sea coast. We are already seeing the regional initiatives Iran will feel even freer to mount once it has nuclear weapons. It is a fatal error to suppose that we will feel just as free, under those conditions, to oppose them.

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Blumenthal Lets It Slip

Jeffrey Goldberg catches Max Blumenthal telling a nugget of truth at J Street about the authors of the Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Blumenthal at the J Street fest declared:

I personally think they provided cover for J Street to be able to exist to fill this void but Jeremy capitulated, he sort of prostrated himself before the serious man, Jeffrey Goldberg, and he said yes, it’s true they wrote the modern version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they’re anti-Semites. And to me, when you call Stephen Walt and John Meirsheimer anti-Semites — first of all it raises the question: if you’re going to capitulate before Jeffrey Goldberg, if you can’t stand up to Jeffrey Goldberg, how can we trust you to stand up against the settlers, how can we trust you to stand up against the government of Netanyahu and Lieberman?

Just think, the book that made it onto Osama bin Laden’s list also provided “cover” for J Street.

As an aside, it is remarkable that the villains in the J Street drama are Goldberg, Netanyahu, and Lieberman. Hmm. You’d think a pro-Israel group would think of the “enemies” as being those who hide behind women’s skirts and use baby carriages as barricades. But no, the focus of J Street’s ire is the Jews who disagree with J Street and criticize its grab bag of Israel-hating friends and allies. They are not, it seems, “pro-Israel” but “anti-pro-Israel.” Or maybe they should be renamed in honor of their intellectual godfathers: W and M Street.

Jeffrey Goldberg catches Max Blumenthal telling a nugget of truth at J Street about the authors of the Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Blumenthal at the J Street fest declared:

I personally think they provided cover for J Street to be able to exist to fill this void but Jeremy capitulated, he sort of prostrated himself before the serious man, Jeffrey Goldberg, and he said yes, it’s true they wrote the modern version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they’re anti-Semites. And to me, when you call Stephen Walt and John Meirsheimer anti-Semites — first of all it raises the question: if you’re going to capitulate before Jeffrey Goldberg, if you can’t stand up to Jeffrey Goldberg, how can we trust you to stand up against the settlers, how can we trust you to stand up against the government of Netanyahu and Lieberman?

Just think, the book that made it onto Osama bin Laden’s list also provided “cover” for J Street.

As an aside, it is remarkable that the villains in the J Street drama are Goldberg, Netanyahu, and Lieberman. Hmm. You’d think a pro-Israel group would think of the “enemies” as being those who hide behind women’s skirts and use baby carriages as barricades. But no, the focus of J Street’s ire is the Jews who disagree with J Street and criticize its grab bag of Israel-hating friends and allies. They are not, it seems, “pro-Israel” but “anti-pro-Israel.” Or maybe they should be renamed in honor of their intellectual godfathers: W and M Street.

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Re: Harry’s Got It Wired

So much for Harry Reid’s stunt. Politico reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he’d back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care reform bill. Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance program — even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid’s has said the Senate bill will.

“We’re trying to do too much at once,” Lieberman said. “To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now.” Lieberman added that he’d vote against a public option plan “even with an opt-out because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line.”

So much for the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster. In fact, other Democrats are already squawking. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, for one, isn’t pleased with a public option.

Reid has once again embarrassed himself and left supporters of ObamaCare wondering: Is there anyone capable of passing a bill? Well, not Reid, it appears.

So much for Harry Reid’s stunt. Politico reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he’d back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care reform bill. Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is positioning himself as a fiscal hawk on the issue, said he opposes any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance program — even if it includes a provision allowing states to opt out of the program, as Reid’s has said the Senate bill will.

“We’re trying to do too much at once,” Lieberman said. “To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don’t think we need it now.” Lieberman added that he’d vote against a public option plan “even with an opt-out because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line.”

So much for the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster. In fact, other Democrats are already squawking. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, for one, isn’t pleased with a public option.

Reid has once again embarrassed himself and left supporters of ObamaCare wondering: Is there anyone capable of passing a bill? Well, not Reid, it appears.

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What Happens Then?

Next Tuesday we’ll have three closely watched races. Bob McDonnell is on track to win big in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Now two new polls suggest a late surge for Chris Christie in New Jersey, which is not surprising given that anti-incumbent votes tend to break late in races. (The independent Chris Daggett is closer to 10 percent than 20 percent in both polls. If voters who really can’t abide Jon Corzine decide they really want him out, Daggett’s total is likely to decline further.) Then, in the NY-23 race, Doug Hoffman is surging into the lead. (Dede “Call the Cops” Scozzafava is down to 14 percent, which tells you something about the electoral smarts of the Republican establishment.)

If — BIG if — these margins hold, next Tuesday may be an eye-opening vote for the Washington crowd. They have gone blithely on their way, spending and spending and churning this and that plan to take over health care. Meanwhile, the country is fuming. Voters, especially independents, didn’t think that this was what hope-n-change was all about. If Republicans win big next week on messages of fiscal conservatism and opposition to big-government liberalism, maybe the inside-the-Beltway set will wake up. In a year, most of them will have to face the voters too. They may want to begin to take their opinions into consideration.

Next Tuesday we’ll have three closely watched races. Bob McDonnell is on track to win big in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Now two new polls suggest a late surge for Chris Christie in New Jersey, which is not surprising given that anti-incumbent votes tend to break late in races. (The independent Chris Daggett is closer to 10 percent than 20 percent in both polls. If voters who really can’t abide Jon Corzine decide they really want him out, Daggett’s total is likely to decline further.) Then, in the NY-23 race, Doug Hoffman is surging into the lead. (Dede “Call the Cops” Scozzafava is down to 14 percent, which tells you something about the electoral smarts of the Republican establishment.)

If — BIG if — these margins hold, next Tuesday may be an eye-opening vote for the Washington crowd. They have gone blithely on their way, spending and spending and churning this and that plan to take over health care. Meanwhile, the country is fuming. Voters, especially independents, didn’t think that this was what hope-n-change was all about. If Republicans win big next week on messages of fiscal conservatism and opposition to big-government liberalism, maybe the inside-the-Beltway set will wake up. In a year, most of them will have to face the voters too. They may want to begin to take their opinions into consideration.

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Iran — Playing for Time

Jennifer flagged the Washington Post report about the Iranian leaders’ indecision on the nuclear deal. One would only wish there were a fight inside the regime, with sensible people wanting the deal and radicals opposing it. In fact, this is the customary passion play of the Islamic Republic of Iran. One emissary appears reasonable, another gives a fiery speech, a third tries to mediate, a fourth criticizes the others, a fifth calls on the Supreme Leader to intervene, a sixth asks for time, and a seven ends up blaming the West for discord.

The result is what matters, and the result is as follows: First, the U.S. set a deadline for Iran to answer to the deal. Iran ignored the deadline. The U.S. said the deadline was not so stringent (as Abe noted yesterday). Second, the three powers involved in the negotiations agreed to the proposal. Now Iran knows it got that much and wants to negotiate more.

Iran’s game has always been to buy time. This latest dance is no different. And it looks as though Iran’s interlocutors will not behave significantly better this time either — instead of making good on their threats and ultimatums, they’ll come back with more offers, more incentives, more compromise, and more time for Iran to gain through talks.

Iran’s leadership is not divided on the end-game — getting nuclear weapons — and the fact that contradictory messages appear to come out of Tehran does not mean that there are divisions. Seeing any infighting serves the purpose of those who argue that there is a sensible, reasonable, pragmatic, down-to-earth element in the regime we can do business with.

Not so — but I would not hold my breath about anyone in Washington acknowledging that yet.

Jennifer flagged the Washington Post report about the Iranian leaders’ indecision on the nuclear deal. One would only wish there were a fight inside the regime, with sensible people wanting the deal and radicals opposing it. In fact, this is the customary passion play of the Islamic Republic of Iran. One emissary appears reasonable, another gives a fiery speech, a third tries to mediate, a fourth criticizes the others, a fifth calls on the Supreme Leader to intervene, a sixth asks for time, and a seven ends up blaming the West for discord.

The result is what matters, and the result is as follows: First, the U.S. set a deadline for Iran to answer to the deal. Iran ignored the deadline. The U.S. said the deadline was not so stringent (as Abe noted yesterday). Second, the three powers involved in the negotiations agreed to the proposal. Now Iran knows it got that much and wants to negotiate more.

Iran’s game has always been to buy time. This latest dance is no different. And it looks as though Iran’s interlocutors will not behave significantly better this time either — instead of making good on their threats and ultimatums, they’ll come back with more offers, more incentives, more compromise, and more time for Iran to gain through talks.

Iran’s leadership is not divided on the end-game — getting nuclear weapons — and the fact that contradictory messages appear to come out of Tehran does not mean that there are divisions. Seeing any infighting serves the purpose of those who argue that there is a sensible, reasonable, pragmatic, down-to-earth element in the regime we can do business with.

Not so — but I would not hold my breath about anyone in Washington acknowledging that yet.

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Pardon Me, but Your Sycophancy Is Showing

According to a story — unconfirmed by me — a reporter was interviewing Albert Einstein shortly after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. In the course of the conversation, the reporter asked Einstein what the speed of sound was at sea level. The physicist said he was sorry, but he couldn’t remember exactly. The reporter expressed surprise that the world’s greatest scientist didn’t know something like that. Einstein looked at him balefully over the top of his reading glasses and said, “I know where I can look it up.”

It’s amazing how many people seem not to know where to look information up, or perhaps don’t care, as they have things other than accuracy on their agenda. Take Rocco Landesman, the new head of the National Endowment of the Arts. In a speech in Brooklyn last week, he said of Barack Obama, “This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln.”

Oh, dear, where do I begin? Well, let’s start with grammar. It’s “the first president who,” not “the first president that.”

Second, he implicitly accuses Presidents Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Hoover, Coolidge, and Wilson of having had their memoirs, autobiographies, and other works ghosted. Many of them received research assistance (one could hardly write a modern presidential memoir without it), and many, no doubt, also received a good deal of editing. Presidents are not usually professional writers. But research and editorial assistance is by no means the same thing as resorting to a ghost writer. I can’t imagine Harry Truman using a ghost writer. Herbert Hoover wrote sixteen books in his life, including Fishing for Fun — and to Wash Your Soul, published three years after his death, and a translation (with his wife) from the Latin of De re Metallica. Just a guess, but I don’t think there are many ghosted 640-page translations around.

Woodrow Wilson was a college professor and president before entering politics.  Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, his best known work and one that ran through many editions, was not ghost written.

Third, Landesman implicitly accuses Theodore Roosevelt of being, unlike Barack Obama, a second-rate writer. Roosevelt wrote a total of 38 books in his life (not to mention countless magazine articles and thousands of letters, all while holding a day job and living only sixty years). His first, The Naval War of 1812, written when he was 23, is considered a basic historical text on that subject and is still both highly readable and in print. Will The Audacity of Hope be in print a 125 years after it was published?

Fourth, Landesman seems ignorant of even the existence of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. They were written in the last months of Grant’s life (he died in agony from throat cancer three days after he finished the manuscript). They are universally regarded as the greatest military memoirs since Caesar’s Commentaries, and among the genuine masterpieces of American literature. Perhaps Mr. Landesman should give them a try if he doesn’t object to reading memoirs written by someone who had actually done something (like — you know — save the Union) before writing them.

Fifth, Lincoln never wrote a book.

What is it about Barack Obama that causes such cringe-inducing butt-kissing?

According to a story — unconfirmed by me — a reporter was interviewing Albert Einstein shortly after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. In the course of the conversation, the reporter asked Einstein what the speed of sound was at sea level. The physicist said he was sorry, but he couldn’t remember exactly. The reporter expressed surprise that the world’s greatest scientist didn’t know something like that. Einstein looked at him balefully over the top of his reading glasses and said, “I know where I can look it up.”

It’s amazing how many people seem not to know where to look information up, or perhaps don’t care, as they have things other than accuracy on their agenda. Take Rocco Landesman, the new head of the National Endowment of the Arts. In a speech in Brooklyn last week, he said of Barack Obama, “This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln.”

Oh, dear, where do I begin? Well, let’s start with grammar. It’s “the first president who,” not “the first president that.”

Second, he implicitly accuses Presidents Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Hoover, Coolidge, and Wilson of having had their memoirs, autobiographies, and other works ghosted. Many of them received research assistance (one could hardly write a modern presidential memoir without it), and many, no doubt, also received a good deal of editing. Presidents are not usually professional writers. But research and editorial assistance is by no means the same thing as resorting to a ghost writer. I can’t imagine Harry Truman using a ghost writer. Herbert Hoover wrote sixteen books in his life, including Fishing for Fun — and to Wash Your Soul, published three years after his death, and a translation (with his wife) from the Latin of De re Metallica. Just a guess, but I don’t think there are many ghosted 640-page translations around.

Woodrow Wilson was a college professor and president before entering politics.  Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, his best known work and one that ran through many editions, was not ghost written.

Third, Landesman implicitly accuses Theodore Roosevelt of being, unlike Barack Obama, a second-rate writer. Roosevelt wrote a total of 38 books in his life (not to mention countless magazine articles and thousands of letters, all while holding a day job and living only sixty years). His first, The Naval War of 1812, written when he was 23, is considered a basic historical text on that subject and is still both highly readable and in print. Will The Audacity of Hope be in print a 125 years after it was published?

Fourth, Landesman seems ignorant of even the existence of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. They were written in the last months of Grant’s life (he died in agony from throat cancer three days after he finished the manuscript). They are universally regarded as the greatest military memoirs since Caesar’s Commentaries, and among the genuine masterpieces of American literature. Perhaps Mr. Landesman should give them a try if he doesn’t object to reading memoirs written by someone who had actually done something (like — you know — save the Union) before writing them.

Fifth, Lincoln never wrote a book.

What is it about Barack Obama that causes such cringe-inducing butt-kissing?

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Harry’s Got It Wired

Many savvy observers don’t think Harry Reid knows what he’s doing on health care. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the final shape of the bill remains in doubt, and Republicans swiftly condemned the Reid plan.” Moreover, it isn’t at all clear that he has the votes:

Republicans say they will filibuster the Senate motion to proceed to health-overhaul legislation. Assuming all Republicans join the filibuster attempt, Mr. Reid will need all 58 Democrats and two independents to overcome the filibuster and bring the bill to full debate on the floor. He predicted Democrats will pull together.

Hmm. Last time we checked, a number of the required 60 voters (e.g., Sens. Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson) were opposed to the public option.

Dana Milbank noticed this too. He skewers Reid, accusing him of “shopping for re-election insurance” in his home state. It’s just a play for the Big Labor and MoveOn.org vote, says Milbank. And it’s kind of risky, since he “defied the Obama White House” and lacks the votes:

Then there was the small matter of lacking the votes to pass the public option. “Do you feel 100 percent sure right now that you have the 60 votes?” CNN’s Dana Bash inquired. Reid looked down at the lectern. He looked up at the ceiling. He chuckled. He put his palms together as if in prayer. Then he spoke. “My caucus believes strongly there should be health-care reform” was the non sequitur he offered. … Of course, everybody knew that Reid didn’t have the votes. That’s why he was standing there alone, a Gang of One. As Democratic aides described it, the moment had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics — and one vulnerable senator’s justifiable fear of liberal anger.

He did, however, finally do the impossible — get Olympia Snowe mad at the Democrats. (She is “deeply disappointed,” which, honestly, is as angry as she gets. She, after all, has been made to look like a fool.)

So where do we go from here? Well, maybe we should have that cloture vote. It would be quite edifying. Or terrifying, if you’re rooting for ObamaCare to pass.

Many savvy observers don’t think Harry Reid knows what he’s doing on health care. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the final shape of the bill remains in doubt, and Republicans swiftly condemned the Reid plan.” Moreover, it isn’t at all clear that he has the votes:

Republicans say they will filibuster the Senate motion to proceed to health-overhaul legislation. Assuming all Republicans join the filibuster attempt, Mr. Reid will need all 58 Democrats and two independents to overcome the filibuster and bring the bill to full debate on the floor. He predicted Democrats will pull together.

Hmm. Last time we checked, a number of the required 60 voters (e.g., Sens. Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson) were opposed to the public option.

Dana Milbank noticed this too. He skewers Reid, accusing him of “shopping for re-election insurance” in his home state. It’s just a play for the Big Labor and MoveOn.org vote, says Milbank. And it’s kind of risky, since he “defied the Obama White House” and lacks the votes:

Then there was the small matter of lacking the votes to pass the public option. “Do you feel 100 percent sure right now that you have the 60 votes?” CNN’s Dana Bash inquired. Reid looked down at the lectern. He looked up at the ceiling. He chuckled. He put his palms together as if in prayer. Then he spoke. “My caucus believes strongly there should be health-care reform” was the non sequitur he offered. … Of course, everybody knew that Reid didn’t have the votes. That’s why he was standing there alone, a Gang of One. As Democratic aides described it, the moment had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics — and one vulnerable senator’s justifiable fear of liberal anger.

He did, however, finally do the impossible — get Olympia Snowe mad at the Democrats. (She is “deeply disappointed,” which, honestly, is as angry as she gets. She, after all, has been made to look like a fool.)

So where do we go from here? Well, maybe we should have that cloture vote. It would be quite edifying. Or terrifying, if you’re rooting for ObamaCare to pass.

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Divided? Hmm . . .

This report should surprise no one who has watched the Iranians manipulate the West for decades. We are told: “High-ranking Iranian officials appear divided over a draft proposal with the United States and other countries that would transfer the bulk of the Islamic republic’s enriched uranium stockpile out of the country.” Some within the regime really, honestly want to do the deal. Others not so much. Well, not at all. We learn:

In a remark possibly related to the current negotiations, the deputy head of parliament, a known critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Monday that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, was opposed to negotiations with the United States. “At the present time, the leader and the Supreme National Security Council stress that our strategic policies are not to negotiate with the U.S.,” said Mohammad Reza Bahonar, according to the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency. “Therefore we will not have direct negotiations with America.” Khamenei officially sets out Iran’s foreign policies, which are implemented by the Supreme National Security Council.

So we will have to “work” with those who are more amenable to the deal — sweeten the pot perhaps. Give them more time. These things are complicated, you see. And down the rabbit hole of perpetual dawdling and delay we go. This is the face of engagement. Our negotiator, William Burns (last seen with his arms wrapped around the ankles of the Iranian representatives), thinks we’ve got the Iranians now. Really?

This report should surprise no one who has watched the Iranians manipulate the West for decades. We are told: “High-ranking Iranian officials appear divided over a draft proposal with the United States and other countries that would transfer the bulk of the Islamic republic’s enriched uranium stockpile out of the country.” Some within the regime really, honestly want to do the deal. Others not so much. Well, not at all. We learn:

In a remark possibly related to the current negotiations, the deputy head of parliament, a known critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Monday that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, was opposed to negotiations with the United States. “At the present time, the leader and the Supreme National Security Council stress that our strategic policies are not to negotiate with the U.S.,” said Mohammad Reza Bahonar, according to the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency. “Therefore we will not have direct negotiations with America.” Khamenei officially sets out Iran’s foreign policies, which are implemented by the Supreme National Security Council.

So we will have to “work” with those who are more amenable to the deal — sweeten the pot perhaps. Give them more time. These things are complicated, you see. And down the rabbit hole of perpetual dawdling and delay we go. This is the face of engagement. Our negotiator, William Burns (last seen with his arms wrapped around the ankles of the Iranian representatives), thinks we’ve got the Iranians now. Really?

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Re: McDonnell Cruising

Yikes — this poll has Bob McDonnell up by 17 points and this one by 15 points in the Virginia gubernatorial race. What’s worse for Democrats is that their side’s candidates are trailing by similar margins. In other words, the Democratic brand has gone sour in Virginia. If these numbers hold through Election Day, you can expect significant pickups in the state legislature for Republicans as well.

This, of course, is the result of the bad-mouthing of the candidate that came from the White House and from every Democratic consultant who wanted to show he was smart enough to know that the candidate is going down the tubes. But there’s a difference between a loss and a rout. The danger for Democrats is its becoming a rout, causing some significant losses up and down the ballot and setting the chattering class loose. Really, is Deeds that bad a candidate, or has something fundamentally changed since Election Day 2008? That’s what we’ll all be talking about a week from today.

Yikes — this poll has Bob McDonnell up by 17 points and this one by 15 points in the Virginia gubernatorial race. What’s worse for Democrats is that their side’s candidates are trailing by similar margins. In other words, the Democratic brand has gone sour in Virginia. If these numbers hold through Election Day, you can expect significant pickups in the state legislature for Republicans as well.

This, of course, is the result of the bad-mouthing of the candidate that came from the White House and from every Democratic consultant who wanted to show he was smart enough to know that the candidate is going down the tubes. But there’s a difference between a loss and a rout. The danger for Democrats is its becoming a rout, causing some significant losses up and down the ballot and setting the chattering class loose. Really, is Deeds that bad a candidate, or has something fundamentally changed since Election Day 2008? That’s what we’ll all be talking about a week from today.

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Increasing Troop Levels, More or Less

In his column today, Richard Cohen — in a column about General Stanley McChrystal, Afghanistan, and (of course) Vietnam — repeats an oft-made assertion:

The other thing I know about generals is that they do not ask for less — less equipment or less personnel. They ask for more, just as Westmoreland did in Vietnam before reality — otherwise known as domestic politics — forced Lyndon Johnson to rein him in.

This claim is demonstrably false. I can name several generals who did not ask for more troops — beginning with General George Casey Jr. in Iraq in 2006. (In Bob Woodward’s book The War Within, we read about this exchange between General Casey, then the commanding general in Iraq: “I’m with you,” [Casey] replied [to President Bush]. “I understand that [the need to win the war]. But to win, we have to draw down.”)

This was the period when President Bush was pushing for the “surge” — which included an additional 20,000-plus troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. General Casey, along with several others, opposed the surge in favor of a “light footprint” — as did most of the top military-brass in the Pentagon. In fact, it took a joint appearance by President Bush and Vice President Cheney at the Pentagon, in December 2006, to convince them of the wisdom in moving forward with the surge.

It’s largely forgotten now, but when then Lieut. General David Petraeus was arguing, along with retired General Jack Keane and others, for deploying at least five additional brigades to Iraq, they encountered enormous opposition — opposition that was thankfully overcome.

So generals sometimes don’t ask for more; sometimes they ask for less. The fact that Cohen doesn’t know this and would still write a column on this topic is a reminder that commentators often don’t let inconvenient facts get in the way of their arguments. The Vietnam War can still be instructive, but those who obsess over it and who reduce every war or situation we face in war to a Vietnam redux are doing us a disservice.

In his column today, Richard Cohen — in a column about General Stanley McChrystal, Afghanistan, and (of course) Vietnam — repeats an oft-made assertion:

The other thing I know about generals is that they do not ask for less — less equipment or less personnel. They ask for more, just as Westmoreland did in Vietnam before reality — otherwise known as domestic politics — forced Lyndon Johnson to rein him in.

This claim is demonstrably false. I can name several generals who did not ask for more troops — beginning with General George Casey Jr. in Iraq in 2006. (In Bob Woodward’s book The War Within, we read about this exchange between General Casey, then the commanding general in Iraq: “I’m with you,” [Casey] replied [to President Bush]. “I understand that [the need to win the war]. But to win, we have to draw down.”)

This was the period when President Bush was pushing for the “surge” — which included an additional 20,000-plus troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. General Casey, along with several others, opposed the surge in favor of a “light footprint” — as did most of the top military-brass in the Pentagon. In fact, it took a joint appearance by President Bush and Vice President Cheney at the Pentagon, in December 2006, to convince them of the wisdom in moving forward with the surge.

It’s largely forgotten now, but when then Lieut. General David Petraeus was arguing, along with retired General Jack Keane and others, for deploying at least five additional brigades to Iraq, they encountered enormous opposition — opposition that was thankfully overcome.

So generals sometimes don’t ask for more; sometimes they ask for less. The fact that Cohen doesn’t know this and would still write a column on this topic is a reminder that commentators often don’t let inconvenient facts get in the way of their arguments. The Vietnam War can still be instructive, but those who obsess over it and who reduce every war or situation we face in war to a Vietnam redux are doing us a disservice.

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Rabbi Eric Yoffie on Goldstone

These remarks got Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, booed at the J Street conference. But that was predictable. What’s important is his critique.

This is not the time for a full discussion of the Goldstone report, which in my view was fatally flawed. There are many questions that one might legitimately ask about Israel’s conduct of the war: Why was it necessary for Israeli forces to use so much firepower? How do you carry out a war against a terrorist organization that attacks your citizens and hides amid a civilian population? What risks are Israeli soldiers obligated to take, beyond those inherent in combat, to prevent harm to civilians? The Israelis that I know are asking these questions; it is right for them to do so, and it is right for the government of Israel to deal with these issues.

But the Goldstone report chose not to focus on these questions. Its central assertion is that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians, intentionally causing their deaths. This is a stunning and outrageous charge. I reject it, the people of Israel reject it, and – most important – it is not supported by the facts. This is not a thoughtful judicial report attempting to make difficult moral judgments. It is a political report based largely on unverifiable Palestinian claims that is meant to be used as a sledgehammer to bludgeon Israel.

If you doubt this, read the report. Its reasoning is shaky in some places and more often absurd. The accusations against Palestinians are expressed in language that is understated and restrained, while the accusations against Israel are expressed in wording that is sweeping, bold, and absolute. And upon closer inspection, many of these charges include phrases such as “it seems that,” “it would appear,” and “we have no definite proof but…” In an interview in the Forward, Goldstone acknowledged that nothing in the report could be used as proof in a court of law and that it contained no actual “evidence” of wrongdoing by Israel. Among the public that heard about this report and the diplomatic community that seized upon it, I doubt if one person in a hundred is aware of what we are now told is the report’s limited scope. Didn’t Justice Goldstone have an obligation to make this clear from the beginning? And this too: you cannot be a moral agent if you serve an immoral master, and Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself for working under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

It will be important for Israel to continue with the investigations that it has already begun. Still, I suspect and I fear that the damage has already been done. This report, no matter how compelling the refutations that follow, will become a staple of U.N. gatherings and international meetings. It will be used to incite against Israel and to portray every Israeli leader connected with the military as a war criminal. It will become an instrument to inflame Palestinian extremism. And it will be invoked every time that Israel defends itself against attacks on its civilian centers. In short, it has made the work of peace much harder than it already was.

These remarks got Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, booed at the J Street conference. But that was predictable. What’s important is his critique.

This is not the time for a full discussion of the Goldstone report, which in my view was fatally flawed. There are many questions that one might legitimately ask about Israel’s conduct of the war: Why was it necessary for Israeli forces to use so much firepower? How do you carry out a war against a terrorist organization that attacks your citizens and hides amid a civilian population? What risks are Israeli soldiers obligated to take, beyond those inherent in combat, to prevent harm to civilians? The Israelis that I know are asking these questions; it is right for them to do so, and it is right for the government of Israel to deal with these issues.

But the Goldstone report chose not to focus on these questions. Its central assertion is that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians, intentionally causing their deaths. This is a stunning and outrageous charge. I reject it, the people of Israel reject it, and – most important – it is not supported by the facts. This is not a thoughtful judicial report attempting to make difficult moral judgments. It is a political report based largely on unverifiable Palestinian claims that is meant to be used as a sledgehammer to bludgeon Israel.

If you doubt this, read the report. Its reasoning is shaky in some places and more often absurd. The accusations against Palestinians are expressed in language that is understated and restrained, while the accusations against Israel are expressed in wording that is sweeping, bold, and absolute. And upon closer inspection, many of these charges include phrases such as “it seems that,” “it would appear,” and “we have no definite proof but…” In an interview in the Forward, Goldstone acknowledged that nothing in the report could be used as proof in a court of law and that it contained no actual “evidence” of wrongdoing by Israel. Among the public that heard about this report and the diplomatic community that seized upon it, I doubt if one person in a hundred is aware of what we are now told is the report’s limited scope. Didn’t Justice Goldstone have an obligation to make this clear from the beginning? And this too: you cannot be a moral agent if you serve an immoral master, and Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself for working under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

It will be important for Israel to continue with the investigations that it has already begun. Still, I suspect and I fear that the damage has already been done. This report, no matter how compelling the refutations that follow, will become a staple of U.N. gatherings and international meetings. It will be used to incite against Israel and to portray every Israeli leader connected with the military as a war criminal. It will become an instrument to inflame Palestinian extremism. And it will be invoked every time that Israel defends itself against attacks on its civilian centers. In short, it has made the work of peace much harder than it already was.

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Roger Ailes Should Send Obama a Thank-You Note

On October 11, Anita Dunn, White House interim communications director, declared war on Fox News. “Let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is,” she said. David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel promptly chimed in on the Sunday talk shows (but not, of course, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, which is being boycotted). “Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way,” Axelrod told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We’re not going to treat them that way.” The president doesn’t want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox” said Emanuel to CNN.

So, how’s the war on Fox working out for the White House? Not too good it seems. It didn’t work with the news media. When the administration tried to freeze Fox out of a pool interview with Kenneth Feinberg, the other networks refused to go along.

And it sure didn’t work with the public. The ratings of FNC are up nearly 10 percent in the past two weeks. Among the 25-to-54-year-old demographic that advertisers love, it’s up 14 percent. Fox has the top 11 shows in that demographic, and the top 13 shows in all demographics. Glenn Beck, a particular bête noire of the Obama White House, is in the No. 2 slot, despite being on at 5:00 p.m. instead of in prime time.

This rather reminds me of the old Catholic Legion of Decency, which used to rate films for their moral content. At first (the group was formed in 1934) a C rating (C for “condemned”) could hurt a film, as many Catholics pledged not to attend such films and not to patronize movie theaters that showed such films. But by the 1950s, with people less likely to automatically defer to authority, the disapprobation of the Legion could actually help at the box office. People wanted to see what the fuss was about and make up their own mind. By the 1970s, the Legion had faded away.

Perhaps the War on Fox is another example of just how retro this White House actually is.

On October 11, Anita Dunn, White House interim communications director, declared war on Fox News. “Let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is,” she said. David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel promptly chimed in on the Sunday talk shows (but not, of course, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, which is being boycotted). “Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way,” Axelrod told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We’re not going to treat them that way.” The president doesn’t want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox” said Emanuel to CNN.

So, how’s the war on Fox working out for the White House? Not too good it seems. It didn’t work with the news media. When the administration tried to freeze Fox out of a pool interview with Kenneth Feinberg, the other networks refused to go along.

And it sure didn’t work with the public. The ratings of FNC are up nearly 10 percent in the past two weeks. Among the 25-to-54-year-old demographic that advertisers love, it’s up 14 percent. Fox has the top 11 shows in that demographic, and the top 13 shows in all demographics. Glenn Beck, a particular bête noire of the Obama White House, is in the No. 2 slot, despite being on at 5:00 p.m. instead of in prime time.

This rather reminds me of the old Catholic Legion of Decency, which used to rate films for their moral content. At first (the group was formed in 1934) a C rating (C for “condemned”) could hurt a film, as many Catholics pledged not to attend such films and not to patronize movie theaters that showed such films. But by the 1950s, with people less likely to automatically defer to authority, the disapprobation of the Legion could actually help at the box office. People wanted to see what the fuss was about and make up their own mind. By the 1970s, the Legion had faded away.

Perhaps the War on Fox is another example of just how retro this White House actually is.

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Seriously

At a Democratic fundraiser in Miami, the president reiterated his pledge to close Guantanamo. (This, one supposes, is the sort of stuff that encourages liberal donors to open their checkbooks.) Despite the plethora of stories suggesting that shutting the facility is more complicated than imagined and that the Obama team badly misread the country’s mood, Obama assures us, “We are serious about this.”

The board of directors of the newly formed Keep America Safe (Liz Cheney, Debra Burlingame, and Bill Kristol) put out this statement in response:

President Obama repeated his pledge to close Guantanamo last night at a fundraiser in Miami. We counter with this pledge: We will work with other concerned citizens and legislators to keep this safe and humane detention facility open. ‘Closing Guantanamo’ means importing some terrorists into the United States and releasing others to rejoin their fellow terrorists elsewhere. This should be unacceptable to the President. It is unacceptable to us.

This trio is in good company. We have seen for months now that Americans overwhelmingly oppose shutting Guantanamo.

It remains a mystery why Obama persists with his planned closing. We know that the disappearance of George W. Bush from the scene hasn’t stemmed terrorist-recruiting. In fact, it’s up. We know that the SuperMax prison surroundings in which the terrorists would be incarcerated are less cushy than those at Guantanamo, which is unlikely to win us any brownie points with those bemoaning their current “inhumane” treatment (exercise bikes and gourmet menus notwithstanding). And the issue is a political loser for the president and his party.

So what exactly is “serious” about the president’s plans? Well, he did some serious fundraising to the tune of $1.5M.

At a Democratic fundraiser in Miami, the president reiterated his pledge to close Guantanamo. (This, one supposes, is the sort of stuff that encourages liberal donors to open their checkbooks.) Despite the plethora of stories suggesting that shutting the facility is more complicated than imagined and that the Obama team badly misread the country’s mood, Obama assures us, “We are serious about this.”

The board of directors of the newly formed Keep America Safe (Liz Cheney, Debra Burlingame, and Bill Kristol) put out this statement in response:

President Obama repeated his pledge to close Guantanamo last night at a fundraiser in Miami. We counter with this pledge: We will work with other concerned citizens and legislators to keep this safe and humane detention facility open. ‘Closing Guantanamo’ means importing some terrorists into the United States and releasing others to rejoin their fellow terrorists elsewhere. This should be unacceptable to the President. It is unacceptable to us.

This trio is in good company. We have seen for months now that Americans overwhelmingly oppose shutting Guantanamo.

It remains a mystery why Obama persists with his planned closing. We know that the disappearance of George W. Bush from the scene hasn’t stemmed terrorist-recruiting. In fact, it’s up. We know that the SuperMax prison surroundings in which the terrorists would be incarcerated are less cushy than those at Guantanamo, which is unlikely to win us any brownie points with those bemoaning their current “inhumane” treatment (exercise bikes and gourmet menus notwithstanding). And the issue is a political loser for the president and his party.

So what exactly is “serious” about the president’s plans? Well, he did some serious fundraising to the tune of $1.5M.

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Zinni Speaks Up

The president keeps saying he will not be rushed. Maybe in a few weeks — hmm, after two key gubernatorial elections — he will disclose what his Afghanistan war strategy is. But really, what is taking so long?

Anthony Zinni, the retired four-star Marine Corps general who backed the surge in Iraq and has been CENTCOM commander (and was invited and then disinvited to join the Obama team), supports Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan and thinks we need a lot more troops in Afghanistan. And he doesn’t get what all the White House “dillydallying” (a much more vivid term than “dithering,” no?) is about:

Zinni said his own son was among the troops waiting to be deployed, adding: “I think that we owe them a decision. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we’re still waiting for one.” … Zinni had some specific advice President Barack Obama: Americans need to hear a better explanation of why the U.S. is in Afghanistan, on the doorstep of nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India neighbors. “I think the speech that has been missing … is this talk not only to the American public but to the world about what the threats are, what the challenges are and what the concerns should be out there,” he said.

Indeed, it isn’t simply a lack of a decision but a lack of leadership and — shocking for a president who adores speechifying — any effort to halt the erosion of public support for the war. But alas, that might rub his liberal base the wrong way. He’d have to bring up all that talk about the “good war” and make the case for assertion of American power to defeat not just al-Qaeda but also, as he explained in the spring, the Taliban, who threaten to topple both Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan. Things might, you know, get uncomfortable for the netroots — or for Obama.

So he has dawdled and will, it appears, trim and fiddle with McChrystal’s recommendation. And for what, exactly? Like Zinni, I’m still stumped.

The president keeps saying he will not be rushed. Maybe in a few weeks — hmm, after two key gubernatorial elections — he will disclose what his Afghanistan war strategy is. But really, what is taking so long?

Anthony Zinni, the retired four-star Marine Corps general who backed the surge in Iraq and has been CENTCOM commander (and was invited and then disinvited to join the Obama team), supports Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan and thinks we need a lot more troops in Afghanistan. And he doesn’t get what all the White House “dillydallying” (a much more vivid term than “dithering,” no?) is about:

Zinni said his own son was among the troops waiting to be deployed, adding: “I think that we owe them a decision. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we’re still waiting for one.” … Zinni had some specific advice President Barack Obama: Americans need to hear a better explanation of why the U.S. is in Afghanistan, on the doorstep of nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India neighbors. “I think the speech that has been missing … is this talk not only to the American public but to the world about what the threats are, what the challenges are and what the concerns should be out there,” he said.

Indeed, it isn’t simply a lack of a decision but a lack of leadership and — shocking for a president who adores speechifying — any effort to halt the erosion of public support for the war. But alas, that might rub his liberal base the wrong way. He’d have to bring up all that talk about the “good war” and make the case for assertion of American power to defeat not just al-Qaeda but also, as he explained in the spring, the Taliban, who threaten to topple both Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan. Things might, you know, get uncomfortable for the netroots — or for Obama.

So he has dawdled and will, it appears, trim and fiddle with McChrystal’s recommendation. And for what, exactly? Like Zinni, I’m still stumped.

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Explaining Stupidity

As one would expect, Fox News is enjoying a ratings bonanza since the White House decided to go on the offense against the stubbornly unsmitten news organization. Theories abound as to why the White House is still at this. It’s a fundraising gambit (no, not for Fox, silly — for the Democrats). It shows how “progressive” the White House is. (Well, if progressives are for trashing the First Amendment.) This strikes me as intensely pre-Copenhagen thinking.

Before sending Obama to Copenhagen to humiliate himself (that was before the Nobelists humiliated themselves by giving him an award for sucking up to European elites), the White House more or less maintained the illusion that they knew what they were doing. (Other than the whole stimulus thing.) But then everyone who didn’t have his or her own show on MSNBC discovered when the IOC snubbed Obama (in person, yet) that, by gosh, these people are winging it!

But I think the Fox issue and the burgeoning analysis is Occam’s Razor 101. The complicated theory: while dithering over Afghanistan, being played by Iran, and losing control again (still) over the health-care debate, the White House cooks up a devious plot to attack Fox, which outrages even sympathetic media, makes Fox even more popular, and further alienates independent voters, but raises a few thousand bucks from netroots and pleases the new Newsweek. The simple theory: the White House is becoming Nixonian in its intolerance of dissent and can’t help itself.

Really, it’s not that complicated.

As one would expect, Fox News is enjoying a ratings bonanza since the White House decided to go on the offense against the stubbornly unsmitten news organization. Theories abound as to why the White House is still at this. It’s a fundraising gambit (no, not for Fox, silly — for the Democrats). It shows how “progressive” the White House is. (Well, if progressives are for trashing the First Amendment.) This strikes me as intensely pre-Copenhagen thinking.

Before sending Obama to Copenhagen to humiliate himself (that was before the Nobelists humiliated themselves by giving him an award for sucking up to European elites), the White House more or less maintained the illusion that they knew what they were doing. (Other than the whole stimulus thing.) But then everyone who didn’t have his or her own show on MSNBC discovered when the IOC snubbed Obama (in person, yet) that, by gosh, these people are winging it!

But I think the Fox issue and the burgeoning analysis is Occam’s Razor 101. The complicated theory: while dithering over Afghanistan, being played by Iran, and losing control again (still) over the health-care debate, the White House cooks up a devious plot to attack Fox, which outrages even sympathetic media, makes Fox even more popular, and further alienates independent voters, but raises a few thousand bucks from netroots and pleases the new Newsweek. The simple theory: the White House is becoming Nixonian in its intolerance of dissent and can’t help itself.

Really, it’s not that complicated.

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More Mush from the State Department

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the “heavily politicized” Supreme Court of Nicaragua overturned a ban on Sandinista President Daniel Ortega’s running for re-election, in a ruling issued by Sandinista justices while opposing justices were absent (which was promptly declared “non-appealable” by Ortega). The State Department issued a press release stating it was “very concerned”:

Attempts to short circuit constitutional authority, regardless of ideology or country, threaten democratic governance and are of concern to all members of the Organization of American States.

The “regardless of ideology or country” was an obvious reference to Honduras, where the State Department has consistently described as a “coup” the enforcement by that country’s Supreme Court of an unambiguous constitutional provision that prohibits a sitting president from proposing “directly or indirectly” a change in the presidential term limit and requires anyone proposing such a change to “immediately cease in their functions.”

The State Department is unlikely to revoke the visas of the Nicaragua Supreme Court, much less mobilize the OAS (which has been silent about the constitutional end-run in Nicaragua). The department is “very concerned,” but its concern has no operational significance. It is simply an opportunity to issue a press release to make it appear it is evenhandedly supporting “democratic governance” in Nicaragua and Honduras.

But the situations in the two countries are precisely the opposite: in Nicaragua, the constitutional provision has been ignored, while in Honduras it has been enforced, over the strenuous objections of the State Department. The first requirement of “democratic governance” is that the constitution establishing it must be respected. As the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning, in Honduras “their action against Mr. Zelaya may well have saved them from Nicaragua’s fate.” And from Venezuela’s.

But not from another fatuous State Department press release.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the “heavily politicized” Supreme Court of Nicaragua overturned a ban on Sandinista President Daniel Ortega’s running for re-election, in a ruling issued by Sandinista justices while opposing justices were absent (which was promptly declared “non-appealable” by Ortega). The State Department issued a press release stating it was “very concerned”:

Attempts to short circuit constitutional authority, regardless of ideology or country, threaten democratic governance and are of concern to all members of the Organization of American States.

The “regardless of ideology or country” was an obvious reference to Honduras, where the State Department has consistently described as a “coup” the enforcement by that country’s Supreme Court of an unambiguous constitutional provision that prohibits a sitting president from proposing “directly or indirectly” a change in the presidential term limit and requires anyone proposing such a change to “immediately cease in their functions.”

The State Department is unlikely to revoke the visas of the Nicaragua Supreme Court, much less mobilize the OAS (which has been silent about the constitutional end-run in Nicaragua). The department is “very concerned,” but its concern has no operational significance. It is simply an opportunity to issue a press release to make it appear it is evenhandedly supporting “democratic governance” in Nicaragua and Honduras.

But the situations in the two countries are precisely the opposite: in Nicaragua, the constitutional provision has been ignored, while in Honduras it has been enforced, over the strenuous objections of the State Department. The first requirement of “democratic governance” is that the constitution establishing it must be respected. As the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning, in Honduras “their action against Mr. Zelaya may well have saved them from Nicaragua’s fate.” And from Venezuela’s.

But not from another fatuous State Department press release.

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“Pro-Israel” No More

There has been a debate as to whether J Street is “pro-Israel.” Well, one branch of J Street now says it isn’t or at least doesn’t want to say it is anymore. Because that’s a bad thing, and people might take offense. This report explains:

J Street’s university arm has dropped the “pro-Israel” part of the left-wing US lobby’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace” slogan to avoid alienating students. That decision was part of the message conveyed to young activists who attended a special weekend program for students ahead of J Street’s first annual conference, which began on Sunday. … We don’t want to isolate people because they don’t feel quite so comfortable with ‘pro-Israel,’ so we say ‘pro-peace,'” said American University junior Lauren Barr of the “J Street U” slogan, “but behind that is ‘pro-Israel.'”

Way behind. It seems that a basic component of supporting Israel is not being ashamed or embarrassed to support Israel. And J Street’s head, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in perfect live-and-let-live-who-are-we-to-tell-kids-what-to-think mode offers this mind-numbing explanation:

Ben-Ami described himself as “concerned but realistic” about the students’ choice to leave out the pro-Israel piece of J Street’s slogan. He added, “Some in the community might not want to hear that this is where a lot of young people have come to, but we have to deal with people where they’re at and address their concerns.” …

It is our goal to change traditional conversations when it comes to Israel and to broaden the notion that there is only one way to express love and concern for it,” Ben-Ami said to applause. “We are here to redefine and expand the very concept of being pro-Israel. No longer should this ‘pro-‘ require an ‘anti-.'”

Pro-Israel, anti-Israel. Whatever. It’s enough to give moral equivalency a bad name.

But clarity is good and it’s nice to know J Street doesn’t mind dropping “pro-Israel” from its self-designation. If only it had told all those congressmen and senators it had lured into hosting an event for a “pro-Israel” group.

There has been a debate as to whether J Street is “pro-Israel.” Well, one branch of J Street now says it isn’t or at least doesn’t want to say it is anymore. Because that’s a bad thing, and people might take offense. This report explains:

J Street’s university arm has dropped the “pro-Israel” part of the left-wing US lobby’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace” slogan to avoid alienating students. That decision was part of the message conveyed to young activists who attended a special weekend program for students ahead of J Street’s first annual conference, which began on Sunday. … We don’t want to isolate people because they don’t feel quite so comfortable with ‘pro-Israel,’ so we say ‘pro-peace,'” said American University junior Lauren Barr of the “J Street U” slogan, “but behind that is ‘pro-Israel.'”

Way behind. It seems that a basic component of supporting Israel is not being ashamed or embarrassed to support Israel. And J Street’s head, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in perfect live-and-let-live-who-are-we-to-tell-kids-what-to-think mode offers this mind-numbing explanation:

Ben-Ami described himself as “concerned but realistic” about the students’ choice to leave out the pro-Israel piece of J Street’s slogan. He added, “Some in the community might not want to hear that this is where a lot of young people have come to, but we have to deal with people where they’re at and address their concerns.” …

It is our goal to change traditional conversations when it comes to Israel and to broaden the notion that there is only one way to express love and concern for it,” Ben-Ami said to applause. “We are here to redefine and expand the very concept of being pro-Israel. No longer should this ‘pro-‘ require an ‘anti-.'”

Pro-Israel, anti-Israel. Whatever. It’s enough to give moral equivalency a bad name.

But clarity is good and it’s nice to know J Street doesn’t mind dropping “pro-Israel” from its self-designation. If only it had told all those congressmen and senators it had lured into hosting an event for a “pro-Israel” group.

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McDonnell Cruising

In the latest poll from the “we-tried-our-hardest-to-boost-Deeds” Washington Post, Bob McDonnell leads now by 11 points in the Virginia gubernatorial race. And that’s not all:

McDonnell holds double-digit advantages when it comes to dealing with the economy (plus 17 percentage points), transportation (16 points), taxes (25 points) and has overtaken Deeds as the one more trusted to handle issues of special concern to women (7 points). On taxes, which has been a focal point of the campaign in recent weeks, McDonnell has stretched his lead significantly, and now holds a better than 2 to 1 lead over Deeds among independent voters. . . .

McDonnell now holds big leads as the one who would be a more effective leader (21 percentage point advantage), the more honest and trustworthy (+14) and the more in-tune with people’s problems (+11). On all three of these attributes, the candidates were about even in mid-September.

One more nugget: Virginia voters oppose ObamaCare by a 53 to 43 percent margin.

If these numbers hold, expect a political earthquake to rumble through the Virginia congressional delegation, and indeed the entire Democratic caucus. Rightly or not, many are going to see this as evidence that the voters are sending a message to Washington: knock it off.

In the meantime, every Democrat on next Tuesday’s ballot is figuring out how many points they need to run above the top of the ticket to eke out a victory. And part of that might be a last-minute push to run as far as they can from their gubernatorial candidate, who is now imperiling their political futures.

In the latest poll from the “we-tried-our-hardest-to-boost-Deeds” Washington Post, Bob McDonnell leads now by 11 points in the Virginia gubernatorial race. And that’s not all:

McDonnell holds double-digit advantages when it comes to dealing with the economy (plus 17 percentage points), transportation (16 points), taxes (25 points) and has overtaken Deeds as the one more trusted to handle issues of special concern to women (7 points). On taxes, which has been a focal point of the campaign in recent weeks, McDonnell has stretched his lead significantly, and now holds a better than 2 to 1 lead over Deeds among independent voters. . . .

McDonnell now holds big leads as the one who would be a more effective leader (21 percentage point advantage), the more honest and trustworthy (+14) and the more in-tune with people’s problems (+11). On all three of these attributes, the candidates were about even in mid-September.

One more nugget: Virginia voters oppose ObamaCare by a 53 to 43 percent margin.

If these numbers hold, expect a political earthquake to rumble through the Virginia congressional delegation, and indeed the entire Democratic caucus. Rightly or not, many are going to see this as evidence that the voters are sending a message to Washington: knock it off.

In the meantime, every Democrat on next Tuesday’s ballot is figuring out how many points they need to run above the top of the ticket to eke out a victory. And part of that might be a last-minute push to run as far as they can from their gubernatorial candidate, who is now imperiling their political futures.

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Re: The J Street Conference

For those who want to get a taste of the goings-on at the J Street conference, this, this, and this provide plenty of flavor. As Noah alluded to in his post, if you think ridiculing Elie Wiesel, including Hamas in the peace process, cheering a Palestinian woman’s support for a “one-state solution,” booing those who would criticize the Goldstone report, and opposing all sanctions against Iran make for a “pro-Israel” conference, then the phrase has lost all meaning. But all that and more was on full display at the J Street fest.

After the stampede of hosts looking for the exit and the booting of assorted “poets” in the days leading up to the event, none of this comes as a surprise. Those who figured out what J Street was all about (and those to whom J Street was giving a platform) and didn’t approve have already absented themselves from the proceedings. And those who remain affiliated with the group in a host capacity or choose to appear must be held to account, for they too are enablers and protectors of anti-Zionist rhetoric and Israel-bashing.

And what of the administration? The Obama team in its official capacity has contributed mightily to J Street’s standing. Marty Peretz points out that the administration invited its representatives to the White House, thereby bestowing a stamp of legitimacy on the group that is rather remarkable given J Street’s conduct, rhetoric, and policy positions. Peretz writes:

The J Streeters went around identifying themselves as Obama’s people in the crowd. I suppose that was good for them. But it was not good for Obama. The fact is that, by this past weekend, when J-Street launched its D.C. fest, it was already seen in the public mind as a bunch of nut cases and very much anti-Israel in the very substantive sense. It was callous about Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel, was against sanctions, supported negotiations with Hamas, which even the E.U. disdained. Moreover, it refuses to recognize that one obstacle to a two-state solution is that neither the Palestinians nor the other Arabs can even contemplate security guarantees to Israel. Mr. President: You courted a friend. Now you have him. Woe is you.

But that’s not all, of course. The administration is sending its National Security Adviser to mix it up with the Israel bashers. Once again the White House encourages and shows respect to those who defame Israel and root for positions that Israel itself finds harmful. (Is there any doubt, by the way, that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren correctly stayed away from this monstrosity?)

There is little wonder that Obama’s approval in Israel is 4 percent. Aside from his peculiar desire to show his support for the Jewish state by distancing himself from it and adopting the bargaining position of its adversaries, the president has used his office to lend a helping hand to J Street and its band of anti-Zionist guests. Think for a moment — would Bill Clinton have done this? Either of the Bushes or Ronald Reagan? The suggestion is absurd. All had a gut-level sense of what Israel was about, what dangers it faced, and the nature of its enemies. This president apparently lacks that sense. Or worse, he understands it all too well.

It’s a . . . what’s the phrase? . . . teachable moment for American Jews. They now know more than they did before, if they care to look, about J Street and Obama. Clarity is helpful.

For those who want to get a taste of the goings-on at the J Street conference, this, this, and this provide plenty of flavor. As Noah alluded to in his post, if you think ridiculing Elie Wiesel, including Hamas in the peace process, cheering a Palestinian woman’s support for a “one-state solution,” booing those who would criticize the Goldstone report, and opposing all sanctions against Iran make for a “pro-Israel” conference, then the phrase has lost all meaning. But all that and more was on full display at the J Street fest.

After the stampede of hosts looking for the exit and the booting of assorted “poets” in the days leading up to the event, none of this comes as a surprise. Those who figured out what J Street was all about (and those to whom J Street was giving a platform) and didn’t approve have already absented themselves from the proceedings. And those who remain affiliated with the group in a host capacity or choose to appear must be held to account, for they too are enablers and protectors of anti-Zionist rhetoric and Israel-bashing.

And what of the administration? The Obama team in its official capacity has contributed mightily to J Street’s standing. Marty Peretz points out that the administration invited its representatives to the White House, thereby bestowing a stamp of legitimacy on the group that is rather remarkable given J Street’s conduct, rhetoric, and policy positions. Peretz writes:

The J Streeters went around identifying themselves as Obama’s people in the crowd. I suppose that was good for them. But it was not good for Obama. The fact is that, by this past weekend, when J-Street launched its D.C. fest, it was already seen in the public mind as a bunch of nut cases and very much anti-Israel in the very substantive sense. It was callous about Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel, was against sanctions, supported negotiations with Hamas, which even the E.U. disdained. Moreover, it refuses to recognize that one obstacle to a two-state solution is that neither the Palestinians nor the other Arabs can even contemplate security guarantees to Israel. Mr. President: You courted a friend. Now you have him. Woe is you.

But that’s not all, of course. The administration is sending its National Security Adviser to mix it up with the Israel bashers. Once again the White House encourages and shows respect to those who defame Israel and root for positions that Israel itself finds harmful. (Is there any doubt, by the way, that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren correctly stayed away from this monstrosity?)

There is little wonder that Obama’s approval in Israel is 4 percent. Aside from his peculiar desire to show his support for the Jewish state by distancing himself from it and adopting the bargaining position of its adversaries, the president has used his office to lend a helping hand to J Street and its band of anti-Zionist guests. Think for a moment — would Bill Clinton have done this? Either of the Bushes or Ronald Reagan? The suggestion is absurd. All had a gut-level sense of what Israel was about, what dangers it faced, and the nature of its enemies. This president apparently lacks that sense. Or worse, he understands it all too well.

It’s a . . . what’s the phrase? . . . teachable moment for American Jews. They now know more than they did before, if they care to look, about J Street and Obama. Clarity is helpful.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid has re-election problems. Is championing the public option really going to help matters?

So much for being the anointed party favorite. Dede Scozzafava now trails Doug Hoffman in the NY-23. (She also trails the Democrat.) Darn voters have minds of their own.

A little late in the game, Tim Pawlenty endorses Hoffman. But Pawlenty’s the “buzz candidate of the Republican establishment“! (Chris Cillizza actually thinks this is a good thing.)

Meanwhile, this man may be the most interesting Republican not running in 2012: “Imagine a two-term Republican governor from a state carried by Barack Obama who turned an $800 million deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus by cutting overhead and bringing sound business principles to his state’s government even as he provided new health benefits for poor citizens. Imagine no longer. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels accomplished this and more, and he did it all while enacting the biggest tax cut in state history.”

Robert Gibbs essentially admits that Rahm Emanuel was lying. Tom Bevan explains that “it’s pretty clear Emanuel was saying that Bush’s team hadn’t done squat on Afghanistan: they hadn’t asked any tough questions or conducted any analysis of tactics and strategy. They basically threw the problem in Obama’s lap, forcing him to ‘start from scratch.’ It’s also pretty clear, as we now know, that just wasn’t true.”

Obama looks to chisel on Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s troop request. Remember when Democrats excoriated the Bush team for not giving the military everything it needed?

Richard Cohen eggs on the Biden-Axelrod-Emanuel contingent, warning that if Obama “escalates” the war (liberal-talk for “doing what is needed to win”), then the “Democratic base . . . is going to yell bloody murder.” But really, who cares? Is Obama commander in chief or the editor of the Daily Kos?

Obama is not the only one dithering. The Iranians can’t decide whether to take the uranium-enrichment deal.

Bill McGurn gets this right: “Nine months after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, his most adamant critics must concede he’s delivered on ‘change.’ And we see it in our first post-gracious presidency. The most visible manifestations of the new ungraciousness are the repeated digs the president and his senior staffers continue to make against George W. Bush. Recently, the administration has given us two fresh examples. The first is about Afghanistan, the other about the economy.”

David Brooks doesn’t think much of the effort to micromanage executive pay: “Treasury officials are now making individual pay-package decisions across an array of different companies — and they must have really big brains to understand the motivational psychology of all those different people. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, has decided to police banks and veto pay deals that lead to excessive risk. Those experts must have absolutely gigantic brains if they can define excessive risk years before investments pay off.” Same on health-care reform, right? Must have gigantic brains to make health-care decisions for 300 million Americans.

Rasmussen’s poll shows that Obama’s “strongly disapprove” numbers have rather consistently been outpacing his “strongly approve” numbers by double digits.

Harry Reid has re-election problems. Is championing the public option really going to help matters?

So much for being the anointed party favorite. Dede Scozzafava now trails Doug Hoffman in the NY-23. (She also trails the Democrat.) Darn voters have minds of their own.

A little late in the game, Tim Pawlenty endorses Hoffman. But Pawlenty’s the “buzz candidate of the Republican establishment“! (Chris Cillizza actually thinks this is a good thing.)

Meanwhile, this man may be the most interesting Republican not running in 2012: “Imagine a two-term Republican governor from a state carried by Barack Obama who turned an $800 million deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus by cutting overhead and bringing sound business principles to his state’s government even as he provided new health benefits for poor citizens. Imagine no longer. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels accomplished this and more, and he did it all while enacting the biggest tax cut in state history.”

Robert Gibbs essentially admits that Rahm Emanuel was lying. Tom Bevan explains that “it’s pretty clear Emanuel was saying that Bush’s team hadn’t done squat on Afghanistan: they hadn’t asked any tough questions or conducted any analysis of tactics and strategy. They basically threw the problem in Obama’s lap, forcing him to ‘start from scratch.’ It’s also pretty clear, as we now know, that just wasn’t true.”

Obama looks to chisel on Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s troop request. Remember when Democrats excoriated the Bush team for not giving the military everything it needed?

Richard Cohen eggs on the Biden-Axelrod-Emanuel contingent, warning that if Obama “escalates” the war (liberal-talk for “doing what is needed to win”), then the “Democratic base . . . is going to yell bloody murder.” But really, who cares? Is Obama commander in chief or the editor of the Daily Kos?

Obama is not the only one dithering. The Iranians can’t decide whether to take the uranium-enrichment deal.

Bill McGurn gets this right: “Nine months after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, his most adamant critics must concede he’s delivered on ‘change.’ And we see it in our first post-gracious presidency. The most visible manifestations of the new ungraciousness are the repeated digs the president and his senior staffers continue to make against George W. Bush. Recently, the administration has given us two fresh examples. The first is about Afghanistan, the other about the economy.”

David Brooks doesn’t think much of the effort to micromanage executive pay: “Treasury officials are now making individual pay-package decisions across an array of different companies — and they must have really big brains to understand the motivational psychology of all those different people. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, has decided to police banks and veto pay deals that lead to excessive risk. Those experts must have absolutely gigantic brains if they can define excessive risk years before investments pay off.” Same on health-care reform, right? Must have gigantic brains to make health-care decisions for 300 million Americans.

Rasmussen’s poll shows that Obama’s “strongly disapprove” numbers have rather consistently been outpacing his “strongly approve” numbers by double digits.

Read Less




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