Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 28, 2009

Dershowitz, for the Opposition

A week and a half ago, Alan Dershowitz took the stage in a packed auditorium at Fordham Law School in Manhattan. He was supposed to debate Richard Goldstone, the author of the Goldstone Report. But the august international jurist refused, telling the organizers that Dershowitz had “demeaned” him. So Dershowitz stood a copy of the Goldstone Report on the table in the author’s place. And then he demolished the report and eviscerated its author with remarkable clarity, passion, and brilliance. A truly memorable performance.

And finally, the video is up. Click here to watch it. It’s listed as 93 minutes long, but a great deal of that is Q&A at the end. The presentation itself takes only 45 minutes.

A week and a half ago, Alan Dershowitz took the stage in a packed auditorium at Fordham Law School in Manhattan. He was supposed to debate Richard Goldstone, the author of the Goldstone Report. But the august international jurist refused, telling the organizers that Dershowitz had “demeaned” him. So Dershowitz stood a copy of the Goldstone Report on the table in the author’s place. And then he demolished the report and eviscerated its author with remarkable clarity, passion, and brilliance. A truly memorable performance.

And finally, the video is up. Click here to watch it. It’s listed as 93 minutes long, but a great deal of that is Q&A at the end. The presentation itself takes only 45 minutes.

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Do It Now?

Byron York just doesn’t believe we’re going to get a health-care vote in the Senate, let alone a final bill, this year “for three reasons: the calendar, the Senate’s other business, and, most importantly, growing public opposition to the health bill itself.” There seem to be only a couple of work weeks left for the Senate, which will have to entertain a zillion amendments from both sides before a vote to cut off debate. He notes: “GOP lawmakers will introduce amendments to challenge some of the bill’s fundamentals: the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.”

Once again, one can only marvel at the Democratic leadership, which will be intent on finding 60 votes for “the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.” Really, an affirmative vote on any one of these toxic provisions will make for a killer campaign ad; certainly votes on all of them will be hard for Democrats to explain to incredulous voters in all but the safest seats. And time is not on the Democrats’ side. With each vote and each passing month, support for this monstrous bill and for the president (who’s going to have to come to the aid of politically at-risk Democrats) declines.

York is right that it may be near impossible to get health care done this year. The only thing tougher will be getting it done in an election year.

Byron York just doesn’t believe we’re going to get a health-care vote in the Senate, let alone a final bill, this year “for three reasons: the calendar, the Senate’s other business, and, most importantly, growing public opposition to the health bill itself.” There seem to be only a couple of work weeks left for the Senate, which will have to entertain a zillion amendments from both sides before a vote to cut off debate. He notes: “GOP lawmakers will introduce amendments to challenge some of the bill’s fundamentals: the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.”

Once again, one can only marvel at the Democratic leadership, which will be intent on finding 60 votes for “the giant cuts in Medicare spending, the array of new and higher taxes, the coerciveness of the bill’s mandates, and the intimidating new powers given to health care bureaucrats.” Really, an affirmative vote on any one of these toxic provisions will make for a killer campaign ad; certainly votes on all of them will be hard for Democrats to explain to incredulous voters in all but the safest seats. And time is not on the Democrats’ side. With each vote and each passing month, support for this monstrous bill and for the president (who’s going to have to come to the aid of politically at-risk Democrats) declines.

York is right that it may be near impossible to get health care done this year. The only thing tougher will be getting it done in an election year.

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Questioning What Went Wrong

Politico’s Arena section recently featured back-to-back questions for discussion. “Obama’s Charisma, Where Did He Leave It?” was followed by “Should Obama hit the reset button on the White House?” Well, that speaks volumes, huh?

Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the questions depend on shared understandings that Obama isn’t who the liberal intelligentsia once thought he was and that his presidency isn’t doing so well. One of the ordinary folk who chimed in on the topic of charisma, reminded readers that not all of us thought Obama was so charismatic to begin with:

Lest you forget: millions of people, me included, never found Obama charismatic at all. Half the country, the truth to tell. I voted against a Democrat for the first time in over 40 years because of his candidacy – he always seemed to me exactly as he has turned out- a man who probably can take a test well, but has zero imagination, a man who thinks leading is telling people what he wants (though he sometimes doesn’t even do that), a man who constantly speaks ambiguously in order to always have an out.

But a great many people, ignoring the vapidity of Obama’s rhetoric about lowering the oceans and “we are the world,” did think s0 and were in full swoon. Now they no longer are. That includes a great many self-styled moderates and many members of the liberal media. The import is clear for the presidency: Obama is neither galvanizing the public opinion nor leading. His countless health-care speeches have done nothing to sway public opinion on ObamaCare. Even the rest of his agenda (e.g., cap-and-trade, card check) seems to be on permanent hold. His decisions on Guantanamo and KSM have been wildly unpopular. And on the world stage, the IOC, the mullahs, and the parties in the Middle East — well, just about everyone — are unmoved by Obama’s supposed mystique.

So we move to the “reset” question: since his poll numbers are tumbling and his agenda is on the skids, shouldn’t he do something about it? Well, we get bizarrely self-contradictory advice (“Resetting toward an agenda that creates jobs quickly and kicks Wall Street speculators in the face will make President Obama and the Democrats very popular next November.” Uh. . . I think Wall Street is where the investment for job growth comes from). There are others who just want to tough it out. Still others are dreaming of a different presidency altogether (“Imagine if he admitted that spending cuts and free trade, not tax hikes, bailouts for unions, and protectionism, were the keys to prosperity.” Well, that was the other 2008 candidate, I think.) And Lanny Davis says it’s the media’s fault. (My, how things have changed.)

But so far, the Obami themselves show no concern over their political belly flops. They don’t seem to be on the verge of a reset, and those who presided over a shockingly unsuccessful first year don’t appear to be in danger of losing their jobs.

Well, in politics as in life, the answers are sometimes not as critical as the questions. And in the case of Obama, the most telling query on everyone’s lips is: what’s wrong with this president? Well, plenty — but until he thinks so, we’ll be getting more of the same.

Politico’s Arena section recently featured back-to-back questions for discussion. “Obama’s Charisma, Where Did He Leave It?” was followed by “Should Obama hit the reset button on the White House?” Well, that speaks volumes, huh?

Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the questions depend on shared understandings that Obama isn’t who the liberal intelligentsia once thought he was and that his presidency isn’t doing so well. One of the ordinary folk who chimed in on the topic of charisma, reminded readers that not all of us thought Obama was so charismatic to begin with:

Lest you forget: millions of people, me included, never found Obama charismatic at all. Half the country, the truth to tell. I voted against a Democrat for the first time in over 40 years because of his candidacy – he always seemed to me exactly as he has turned out- a man who probably can take a test well, but has zero imagination, a man who thinks leading is telling people what he wants (though he sometimes doesn’t even do that), a man who constantly speaks ambiguously in order to always have an out.

But a great many people, ignoring the vapidity of Obama’s rhetoric about lowering the oceans and “we are the world,” did think s0 and were in full swoon. Now they no longer are. That includes a great many self-styled moderates and many members of the liberal media. The import is clear for the presidency: Obama is neither galvanizing the public opinion nor leading. His countless health-care speeches have done nothing to sway public opinion on ObamaCare. Even the rest of his agenda (e.g., cap-and-trade, card check) seems to be on permanent hold. His decisions on Guantanamo and KSM have been wildly unpopular. And on the world stage, the IOC, the mullahs, and the parties in the Middle East — well, just about everyone — are unmoved by Obama’s supposed mystique.

So we move to the “reset” question: since his poll numbers are tumbling and his agenda is on the skids, shouldn’t he do something about it? Well, we get bizarrely self-contradictory advice (“Resetting toward an agenda that creates jobs quickly and kicks Wall Street speculators in the face will make President Obama and the Democrats very popular next November.” Uh. . . I think Wall Street is where the investment for job growth comes from). There are others who just want to tough it out. Still others are dreaming of a different presidency altogether (“Imagine if he admitted that spending cuts and free trade, not tax hikes, bailouts for unions, and protectionism, were the keys to prosperity.” Well, that was the other 2008 candidate, I think.) And Lanny Davis says it’s the media’s fault. (My, how things have changed.)

But so far, the Obami themselves show no concern over their political belly flops. They don’t seem to be on the verge of a reset, and those who presided over a shockingly unsuccessful first year don’t appear to be in danger of losing their jobs.

Well, in politics as in life, the answers are sometimes not as critical as the questions. And in the case of Obama, the most telling query on everyone’s lips is: what’s wrong with this president? Well, plenty — but until he thinks so, we’ll be getting more of the same.

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Saber-Rattling by Proxy

Remember how liberals used to get apoplectic when members of the Bush administration said things like “all options are on the table with Iran”? This was beating the war drums, it was saber-rattling, it was exemplary of all that was wrong with the Bush administration’s approach to the world.

Of course it isn’t surprising that such accusations are not leveled at the Obama administration, which has also regularly employed the all-options-on-the-table formulation — mostly because everyone understands that it isn’t a true statement. But here is a better one: According to the Washington Post, President Obama sent two officials on an advance trip to China before his recent visit. Their message? Sign a toughly worded IAEA statement or the Israelis might attack:

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran.

One might go so far as to say that international affairs continues to be dominated by power and force, despite hopenchangey predictions of a new era of dialogue and cooperation. Even accomplishing something as modest as cajoling a Chinese signature on a largely meaningless IAEA statement necessitated the threat of force. “Soft power” and “smart diplomacy” didn’t quite cut it, did they?

China’s inclusion on yesterday’s IAEA statement will be hailed as a great accomplishment for the Obama administration, but it should be apparent that this victory actually represents the hastened disintegration of the administration’s preferred policy — an elegant and high-minded diplomatic campaign. The “Israel will attack” card has now been played, and quite early. What will the White House say to China and Russia when it wishes to pursue sanctions, or even a gasoline embargo? A repetition of the same threat? Wasn’t Obama’s presidency supposed to liberate us from the ugly business of making threats?

Remember how liberals used to get apoplectic when members of the Bush administration said things like “all options are on the table with Iran”? This was beating the war drums, it was saber-rattling, it was exemplary of all that was wrong with the Bush administration’s approach to the world.

Of course it isn’t surprising that such accusations are not leveled at the Obama administration, which has also regularly employed the all-options-on-the-table formulation — mostly because everyone understands that it isn’t a true statement. But here is a better one: According to the Washington Post, President Obama sent two officials on an advance trip to China before his recent visit. Their message? Sign a toughly worded IAEA statement or the Israelis might attack:

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran.

One might go so far as to say that international affairs continues to be dominated by power and force, despite hopenchangey predictions of a new era of dialogue and cooperation. Even accomplishing something as modest as cajoling a Chinese signature on a largely meaningless IAEA statement necessitated the threat of force. “Soft power” and “smart diplomacy” didn’t quite cut it, did they?

China’s inclusion on yesterday’s IAEA statement will be hailed as a great accomplishment for the Obama administration, but it should be apparent that this victory actually represents the hastened disintegration of the administration’s preferred policy — an elegant and high-minded diplomatic campaign. The “Israel will attack” card has now been played, and quite early. What will the White House say to China and Russia when it wishes to pursue sanctions, or even a gasoline embargo? A repetition of the same threat? Wasn’t Obama’s presidency supposed to liberate us from the ugly business of making threats?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real — it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real — it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

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