Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 1, 2009

Please Welcome Evelyn Gordon…

…to the stable of CONTENTIONS contributors. (Her first post appears below.) Evelyn, who lives and writes in Israel, was a  columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

…to the stable of CONTENTIONS contributors. (Her first post appears below.) Evelyn, who lives and writes in Israel, was a  columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

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Abbas’s War Strategy

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday that he is urging his government not to resume negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until the PA withdraws its international legal complaints over alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The real question is why Lieberman is having trouble convincing his cabinet colleagues of this position.

These complaints have only one purpose: to hamstring Israel’s ability to defend itself against Palestinian terror by making it fear that any defensive military operation will land its political and military leadership in the dock. After all, as Col. Richard Kemp courageously told the UN Human Rights Commission last month, the Israel Defense Forces “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare” during its operation in Gaza this past January. And Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan who also served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Iraq, is certainly in a position to make comparisons. Hence, if Israel’s actions in Gaza are deemed war crimes, there is no military action it could take against Palestinian terrorists that wouldn’t be. Avoiding civilian casualties entirely is not possible when terrorists operate, as the Palestinians do, from the heart of a civilian population.

Yet even as he seeks to abolish Israel’s right to self-defense, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is also giving his imprimatur to terror attacks on Israel: last month, he accepted a proposed reconciliation agreement with Hamas that not only did not require Hamas to halt anti-Israel terror but explicitly obligated the PA security services to “respect the Palestinian people’s right to resist.” Since “resistance” is the well-known Palestinian code word for anti-Israel terror, that translates as requiring PA forces “to respect the Palestinian people’s right to perpetrate anti-Israel terror” — or. in other words, not to interfere when they do so. (Hamas, incidentally, has not yet signed the document; it is still holding out for more concessions.)

How exactly does Israel talk peace with someone who seeks to cripple Israel’s ability to defend itself even as he endorses anti-Israel terror? That isn’t an act of peace; it’s an act of war. And while Abbas may have had little political choice about jumping on the Goldstone Report bandwagon, he can hardly plead that Goldstone forced his hand: the PA filed its own war-crimes complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court in January — nine months before the Goldstone Report came out. It even signed a special cooperation agreement with the court to get around prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s initial objection that he lacked jurisdiction, since Israel is not a member of the court, and the PA, not being a sovereign state, cannot be.

In short, this looks remarkably like a deliberate strategy for war on Israel. And Israel should be calling Abbas on it rather than keeping up the pretense that he is a “partner for peace” with whom it is eager to negotiate.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday that he is urging his government not to resume negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until the PA withdraws its international legal complaints over alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The real question is why Lieberman is having trouble convincing his cabinet colleagues of this position.

These complaints have only one purpose: to hamstring Israel’s ability to defend itself against Palestinian terror by making it fear that any defensive military operation will land its political and military leadership in the dock. After all, as Col. Richard Kemp courageously told the UN Human Rights Commission last month, the Israel Defense Forces “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare” during its operation in Gaza this past January. And Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan who also served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Iraq, is certainly in a position to make comparisons. Hence, if Israel’s actions in Gaza are deemed war crimes, there is no military action it could take against Palestinian terrorists that wouldn’t be. Avoiding civilian casualties entirely is not possible when terrorists operate, as the Palestinians do, from the heart of a civilian population.

Yet even as he seeks to abolish Israel’s right to self-defense, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is also giving his imprimatur to terror attacks on Israel: last month, he accepted a proposed reconciliation agreement with Hamas that not only did not require Hamas to halt anti-Israel terror but explicitly obligated the PA security services to “respect the Palestinian people’s right to resist.” Since “resistance” is the well-known Palestinian code word for anti-Israel terror, that translates as requiring PA forces “to respect the Palestinian people’s right to perpetrate anti-Israel terror” — or. in other words, not to interfere when they do so. (Hamas, incidentally, has not yet signed the document; it is still holding out for more concessions.)

How exactly does Israel talk peace with someone who seeks to cripple Israel’s ability to defend itself even as he endorses anti-Israel terror? That isn’t an act of peace; it’s an act of war. And while Abbas may have had little political choice about jumping on the Goldstone Report bandwagon, he can hardly plead that Goldstone forced his hand: the PA filed its own war-crimes complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court in January — nine months before the Goldstone Report came out. It even signed a special cooperation agreement with the court to get around prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s initial objection that he lacked jurisdiction, since Israel is not a member of the court, and the PA, not being a sovereign state, cannot be.

In short, this looks remarkably like a deliberate strategy for war on Israel. And Israel should be calling Abbas on it rather than keeping up the pretense that he is a “partner for peace” with whom it is eager to negotiate.

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Revenge in NY-23

Dede Scozzafava seeking to strike a blow against grassroots conservatives who sunk her campaign has endorsed the Democrat Bill Owens. Unlike the last high-profile act of political treachery — the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic party — this goes beyond political expediency. Scozzafava is out of the race, of course. No, this is simple revenge.

Her aim is to characterize this as a “local, New York pol vs. national establishment” race. (Regarding Owens, she proclaimed, “Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.”) If you were confused, given that she was the handpicked candidate of national Republican pols, the voters in the NY-23 may be too.

The race is now in turmoil, and what was an unpredictable race is now chaotic. One thing is for certain: sometimes primaries serve a purpose. In this case, in essence, the primary for the Republican vote is being run in the midst of the general election, with an added twist that one of the primary proponents effectively switched parties. Your guess is as good as mine as to how this all shakes out.

Dede Scozzafava seeking to strike a blow against grassroots conservatives who sunk her campaign has endorsed the Democrat Bill Owens. Unlike the last high-profile act of political treachery — the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democratic party — this goes beyond political expediency. Scozzafava is out of the race, of course. No, this is simple revenge.

Her aim is to characterize this as a “local, New York pol vs. national establishment” race. (Regarding Owens, she proclaimed, “Bill understands this district and its people, and when he represents us in Congress he will put our interests first.”) If you were confused, given that she was the handpicked candidate of national Republican pols, the voters in the NY-23 may be too.

The race is now in turmoil, and what was an unpredictable race is now chaotic. One thing is for certain: sometimes primaries serve a purpose. In this case, in essence, the primary for the Republican vote is being run in the midst of the general election, with an added twist that one of the primary proponents effectively switched parties. Your guess is as good as mine as to how this all shakes out.

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The Results of Their Handiwork

Hillary Clinton is now seeing the results of the Obami’s Middle East handiwork. While she now praises Bibi Netanyahu for “unprecedented” concessions, this is too little and too late for the Palestinians, whose demand for an absolute settlement freeze was adopted by the administration, only to be discarded when it predictably proved to be a nonstarter. She now pleads that Netanyahu can’t be expected to do anymore; the Palestinians say it is not enough. This report explains:

The U.S. said that is the best they can get” from Netanyahu, even though the Obama administration considers settlements ‘illegal and illegitimate,’ ” Erekat said. The Palestinians will not accept a resumption of talks on that basis, he said. At a news conference here Saturday night with Netanyahu, Clinton did not comment on the Palestinian account of the talks she had earlier in the day with Abbas. She said the differences between the two sides on all issues should be negotiated face to face. Those comments and others seemed to mark a final departure from early U.S criticism with Israel over settlements, which ultimately served to bolster Netanyahu with the Israeli public even as it raised — unrealistically, as it turned out — Palestinian expectations that a building freeze was in the offing.

So now we hear that direct talks between the parties are “increasingly unlikely” by the end of the year. And Clinton is left going through the motions, in a vain effort to disguise the utter failure of the Obama team’s gambit. (“Clinton’s objective on this trip seemed less to achieve any real breakthrough than to give the impression of continued effort. But the Palestinian position, if anything, appears to have hardened in recent days, leaving Israel to portray itself as the more willing partner.”) The Obama team, however, told us it knew better. The problem had been that we were too close to Israel. Or the problem had been that George W. Bush wasn’t personally involved. Or maybe it was that we hadn’t apologized to the Muslim World enough. But the Obama team’s assumptions have proved entirely faulty and its execution utterly incompetent. Will there be any consequences for the architects of this debacle?  Unlikely.

Hillary Clinton is now seeing the results of the Obami’s Middle East handiwork. While she now praises Bibi Netanyahu for “unprecedented” concessions, this is too little and too late for the Palestinians, whose demand for an absolute settlement freeze was adopted by the administration, only to be discarded when it predictably proved to be a nonstarter. She now pleads that Netanyahu can’t be expected to do anymore; the Palestinians say it is not enough. This report explains:

The U.S. said that is the best they can get” from Netanyahu, even though the Obama administration considers settlements ‘illegal and illegitimate,’ ” Erekat said. The Palestinians will not accept a resumption of talks on that basis, he said. At a news conference here Saturday night with Netanyahu, Clinton did not comment on the Palestinian account of the talks she had earlier in the day with Abbas. She said the differences between the two sides on all issues should be negotiated face to face. Those comments and others seemed to mark a final departure from early U.S criticism with Israel over settlements, which ultimately served to bolster Netanyahu with the Israeli public even as it raised — unrealistically, as it turned out — Palestinian expectations that a building freeze was in the offing.

So now we hear that direct talks between the parties are “increasingly unlikely” by the end of the year. And Clinton is left going through the motions, in a vain effort to disguise the utter failure of the Obama team’s gambit. (“Clinton’s objective on this trip seemed less to achieve any real breakthrough than to give the impression of continued effort. But the Palestinian position, if anything, appears to have hardened in recent days, leaving Israel to portray itself as the more willing partner.”) The Obama team, however, told us it knew better. The problem had been that we were too close to Israel. Or the problem had been that George W. Bush wasn’t personally involved. Or maybe it was that we hadn’t apologized to the Muslim World enough. But the Obama team’s assumptions have proved entirely faulty and its execution utterly incompetent. Will there be any consequences for the architects of this debacle?  Unlikely.

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Not Until

Politico reports:

White House officials announced Friday that they had counted exactly how many jobs were created or saved by recent stimulus spending: 640,329. So how many were saved and how many created? They don’t know. In a briefing with reporters, officials acknowledged they can’t tell the difference between jobs “saved,” and jobs “created” by the $787 billion stimulus package. They said they also can’t tell the difference between private sector jobs and government jobs.

I hope that clears that up. This is so silly that even usually sympathetic media outlets are rolling their eyes. The Washington Post notes:

Gary Bass, director of the nonpartisan group OMB Watch, said the debate over the jobs data raised the question of why the White House cast the stimulus as a jobs-creation initiative instead of describing it more broadly as a way to boost the economy, especially since much of the package went to tax cuts and safety net relief rather than direct job creation. White House officials have estimated that the program will, over its three-year life, create or save 3.5 million jobs.

“I would not have framed it as a jobs bill or a jobs law, as they have done,” Bass said. “And if I were doing that, I would have had a much more rigorous reporting regime, with much better methods for ensuring accuracy.”

This sort of chicanery comes at the very time the White House and Congress are asking for one big “Trust us!” on health-care reform. The American people are asked to buy the notion that we’re going to cut hundreds of billions out of Medicare without affecting care or necessitating a budget-busting restoration of funding. We are asked to believe that the cost is really $894B, while the CBO and even the New York Times say that isn’t so.

Aside from the taxes, fees, mandates, regulations, and anti-tort-reform provisions, the major failing of the Democrats’ health-care approach is that it asks us to give immense authority to a government that has not earned the trust of the people nor demonstrated its competency in dealing with far less complex issues. How’s this: when they can tell us with precision which jobs were created and which saved, what the baseline for counting was, which are private and which are public sector, and whether those include jobs lost from defense-spending cuts (e.g., the elimination of the F-22), then we can talk about giving them some more responsibility for health care.

Politico reports:

White House officials announced Friday that they had counted exactly how many jobs were created or saved by recent stimulus spending: 640,329. So how many were saved and how many created? They don’t know. In a briefing with reporters, officials acknowledged they can’t tell the difference between jobs “saved,” and jobs “created” by the $787 billion stimulus package. They said they also can’t tell the difference between private sector jobs and government jobs.

I hope that clears that up. This is so silly that even usually sympathetic media outlets are rolling their eyes. The Washington Post notes:

Gary Bass, director of the nonpartisan group OMB Watch, said the debate over the jobs data raised the question of why the White House cast the stimulus as a jobs-creation initiative instead of describing it more broadly as a way to boost the economy, especially since much of the package went to tax cuts and safety net relief rather than direct job creation. White House officials have estimated that the program will, over its three-year life, create or save 3.5 million jobs.

“I would not have framed it as a jobs bill or a jobs law, as they have done,” Bass said. “And if I were doing that, I would have had a much more rigorous reporting regime, with much better methods for ensuring accuracy.”

This sort of chicanery comes at the very time the White House and Congress are asking for one big “Trust us!” on health-care reform. The American people are asked to buy the notion that we’re going to cut hundreds of billions out of Medicare without affecting care or necessitating a budget-busting restoration of funding. We are asked to believe that the cost is really $894B, while the CBO and even the New York Times say that isn’t so.

Aside from the taxes, fees, mandates, regulations, and anti-tort-reform provisions, the major failing of the Democrats’ health-care approach is that it asks us to give immense authority to a government that has not earned the trust of the people nor demonstrated its competency in dealing with far less complex issues. How’s this: when they can tell us with precision which jobs were created and which saved, what the baseline for counting was, which are private and which are public sector, and whether those include jobs lost from defense-spending cuts (e.g., the elimination of the F-22), then we can talk about giving them some more responsibility for health care.

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A Double-Digit Loss for the Post?

The Washington Post went all in for Creigh Deeds this year, endorsing him in the primary and running nonstop attacks on Bob McDonnell’s alleged views on women and social issues. If, as it now appears, McDonnell runs away with the race, voters whose awareness of the gubernatorial race have been limited to what appeared in the Post might be left scratching their heads. They’ll be even more shocked if the other statewide races and a batch of House of Delegate races go to Republicans. The Post, which endorsed nearly every Democrat on the ballot, didn’t give much of a hint as to why there might be a Republican onslaught.

The most the Post has been able to muster is this sort of Democratic-laden spin provided by David Broder on the final Sunday. He bemoans that Deeds just couldn’t connect with the Obama voters who came out in 2008:

But Deeds, a soft-spoken campaigner from a rural county, has struggled to connect with those voters. And McDonnell, whose political roots are in the religious right mobilized three decades ago by televangelist Pat Robertson, has run a smart campaign, appealing to suburban voters by opposing taxes and playing down social issues. Virginia has a long-standing habit of voting in its off-year gubernatorial elections opposite to the way the nation went in the previous year’s presidential race, and it appears poised to do so once again.

Did he mention that McDonnell is a socially conservative Christian? You’d think that had some bearing on the outcome of the race. But, funny, no mention of the Post‘s own gambit to knock McDonnell out of the race. No explanation of why Deeds didn’t “connect.” Hmm, could be his promise to raise taxes in a recession. And aside from the sense that Virginians are an ornery lot, there’s nary a hint as to why Virginians might be sending a “Stop!” message to D.C. He doesn’t say that McDonnell ran on an expressly anti-big-government stance with particular focus on cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare.

In short, if you relied on the Post, you’d be at a total loss to understand what was going on in Virginia, because the Post and its dutiful columnists have been invested in covering a phony campaign (24/7 thesis coverage) while ignoring the real one.

I asked a prominent Virginian Republican official on Sunday what he thought of the Post‘s failed effort. He said, carefully, “Newspapers, especially the Washington Post, overestimate their ability to influence the race.” Indeed, in this case, the Post may have done nothing but distract and befuddle their own favored candidate, who, like the Post, became obsessed with a 20-year-old college paper. He and the Post both forgot that campaigns are about voters’ current problems and hopes for the future.

The Washington Post went all in for Creigh Deeds this year, endorsing him in the primary and running nonstop attacks on Bob McDonnell’s alleged views on women and social issues. If, as it now appears, McDonnell runs away with the race, voters whose awareness of the gubernatorial race have been limited to what appeared in the Post might be left scratching their heads. They’ll be even more shocked if the other statewide races and a batch of House of Delegate races go to Republicans. The Post, which endorsed nearly every Democrat on the ballot, didn’t give much of a hint as to why there might be a Republican onslaught.

The most the Post has been able to muster is this sort of Democratic-laden spin provided by David Broder on the final Sunday. He bemoans that Deeds just couldn’t connect with the Obama voters who came out in 2008:

But Deeds, a soft-spoken campaigner from a rural county, has struggled to connect with those voters. And McDonnell, whose political roots are in the religious right mobilized three decades ago by televangelist Pat Robertson, has run a smart campaign, appealing to suburban voters by opposing taxes and playing down social issues. Virginia has a long-standing habit of voting in its off-year gubernatorial elections opposite to the way the nation went in the previous year’s presidential race, and it appears poised to do so once again.

Did he mention that McDonnell is a socially conservative Christian? You’d think that had some bearing on the outcome of the race. But, funny, no mention of the Post‘s own gambit to knock McDonnell out of the race. No explanation of why Deeds didn’t “connect.” Hmm, could be his promise to raise taxes in a recession. And aside from the sense that Virginians are an ornery lot, there’s nary a hint as to why Virginians might be sending a “Stop!” message to D.C. He doesn’t say that McDonnell ran on an expressly anti-big-government stance with particular focus on cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare.

In short, if you relied on the Post, you’d be at a total loss to understand what was going on in Virginia, because the Post and its dutiful columnists have been invested in covering a phony campaign (24/7 thesis coverage) while ignoring the real one.

I asked a prominent Virginian Republican official on Sunday what he thought of the Post‘s failed effort. He said, carefully, “Newspapers, especially the Washington Post, overestimate their ability to influence the race.” Indeed, in this case, the Post may have done nothing but distract and befuddle their own favored candidate, who, like the Post, became obsessed with a 20-year-old college paper. He and the Post both forgot that campaigns are about voters’ current problems and hopes for the future.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Andy McCarthy is keeping an eye on the latest sign that the left-wing lawyers in the Obama Justice Department are setting up Bush-era officials for foreign war-crimes prosecutions.

Glenn Reynolds explains that the NY-23 race is both an opportunity and a risk for the newly energized populist activists. On the one hand, they have already chased Dede Scozzafava from the race. So: “the grass-roots activists will feel that they’ve sent a message,” but the risk for them and for Republican party is great as well: “If  Tea Partiers get too carried away and full of themselves — like the Nader Democrats of 2000 — they will wind up handing the elections to people they really don’t want running the country.”

Must be looking bad for the Democrat: he’s playing the George Bush card against Hoffman.

Not Larry Sabato is predicting a loss of 6 to 14 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. Anticipatory spin? If that holds, it would be an unprecedented blowout.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick’s take on J Street: “If the organization wants to be a serious political player, it will have no choice but to alienate many of its fervent supporters–particularly those who are largely animated by their imagined victimization at the hands of the Israel lobby and are fundamentally disdainful of the Zionist project. If these elements are not pushed away, J Street will not be seeing much traffic.”

Democrats are talking health care, but what if unemployment hits 10 percent this week? Here’s the Republican argument you’ll hear: “Next month the nation’s unemployment rate will break 10 percent for the first time since June of 1983. This is only occurring because the Obama Administration’s ideological blinders and partisan policy ambitions misdirected the stimulus toward its non-recessionary ambitions and away from the most demonstrably effective means of preserving private sector jobs in a crisis environment.” Here’s the Democrats': It’s Bush’s fault.

Politico reports: “Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democratic congressman who made headlines recently with his provocative partisan comments, told supporters Friday he’s being stalked by FOX News.” Obama too!

Not a headline you are likely to see in the Washington Post: “Republicans rally as Virginians turn against Obama.”

Andy McCarthy is keeping an eye on the latest sign that the left-wing lawyers in the Obama Justice Department are setting up Bush-era officials for foreign war-crimes prosecutions.

Glenn Reynolds explains that the NY-23 race is both an opportunity and a risk for the newly energized populist activists. On the one hand, they have already chased Dede Scozzafava from the race. So: “the grass-roots activists will feel that they’ve sent a message,” but the risk for them and for Republican party is great as well: “If  Tea Partiers get too carried away and full of themselves — like the Nader Democrats of 2000 — they will wind up handing the elections to people they really don’t want running the country.”

Must be looking bad for the Democrat: he’s playing the George Bush card against Hoffman.

Not Larry Sabato is predicting a loss of 6 to 14 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. Anticipatory spin? If that holds, it would be an unprecedented blowout.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick’s take on J Street: “If the organization wants to be a serious political player, it will have no choice but to alienate many of its fervent supporters–particularly those who are largely animated by their imagined victimization at the hands of the Israel lobby and are fundamentally disdainful of the Zionist project. If these elements are not pushed away, J Street will not be seeing much traffic.”

Democrats are talking health care, but what if unemployment hits 10 percent this week? Here’s the Republican argument you’ll hear: “Next month the nation’s unemployment rate will break 10 percent for the first time since June of 1983. This is only occurring because the Obama Administration’s ideological blinders and partisan policy ambitions misdirected the stimulus toward its non-recessionary ambitions and away from the most demonstrably effective means of preserving private sector jobs in a crisis environment.” Here’s the Democrats': It’s Bush’s fault.

Politico reports: “Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democratic congressman who made headlines recently with his provocative partisan comments, told supporters Friday he’s being stalked by FOX News.” Obama too!

Not a headline you are likely to see in the Washington Post: “Republicans rally as Virginians turn against Obama.”

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