Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 10, 2010

Blair, Israel, and the Global Struggle

In a weekend interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Haaretz asked why British public opinion is “the most anti-Israel” in Europe. “Look, there’s criticism everywhere,” Blair responded. “But that’s partly because people don’t understand how difficult this situation is when you come under attack, your civilians come under attack, and you’re a democratic government and you’re expected to respond.”

Even by itself, that’s a remarkable statement: the problem, according to Blair, is not Israel’s actions; it’s that other Western countries, not facing the same daily assaults, refuse to recognize that if they did, they might respond similarly.

Even more remarkable, however, is the next sentence: “I mean, we face this [situation] continually. We face it now, actually, in places like Afghanistan.”

In short, Westerners should understand Israel because they’re in the same boat: their own armies are causing civilian casualties “in places like Afghanistan” for the exact same reasons.

So why do many Westerners either refuse to see the parallels or regard their own armies’ behavior with similar incomprehension and outrage? In Blair’s view, the heart of the problem is that too many Westerners fail to understand that they face a determined enemy waging a long-term global struggle, not a series of discrete, unrelated local conflicts.

“People sometimes say to me, no, it’s not really Iraq, it’s Afghanistan,” he said. “Someone else will say, no it’s Pakistan, and someone else will say it’s Iraq, and someone else will say it’s Yemen. But actually it’s all of these because in different ways, they represent different challenges that are unified by one single movement with a single ideology. And this is going to be resolved, in my view, over a long period of time. But what is important is that wherever it is fighting us, we’re prepared to fight back … unfortunately, we can’t say: ‘Look, let’s concentrate it here, but not here, and here, and here,’ because that’s not the way this thing’s working. …

“There is a unifying theme, in my view, between what’s happened in countries like our own country with terrorist activity, and what’s happening in places like Yemen or Afghanistan or Somalia or, I’m afraid, other countries. The key to understanding this is [that] this is a global movement with a global ideology and it is one struggle. It’s one struggle with many different arenas. …

“Personally I think we will defeat this terrorism when we understand it is one battle, one struggle.”

Blair never explicitly mentions Israel as a front in this global battle, but his linkage of Israel’s situation with the one “we face … in places like Afghanistan” makes the implication clear. And the conclusion, while similarly inexplicit, is equally clear: were the West to acknowledge its enemy’s true nature, its view of Israel might change.

Since no current Western leader exhibits anything like Blair’s moral clarity, that’s unlikely to happen soon. But given the nature of the enemy, it almost certainly will happen someday. Hence, rather than capitulating to its enemies, Israel’s goal, like Britain’s in World War II, must be to hold fast until then.

In a weekend interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Haaretz asked why British public opinion is “the most anti-Israel” in Europe. “Look, there’s criticism everywhere,” Blair responded. “But that’s partly because people don’t understand how difficult this situation is when you come under attack, your civilians come under attack, and you’re a democratic government and you’re expected to respond.”

Even by itself, that’s a remarkable statement: the problem, according to Blair, is not Israel’s actions; it’s that other Western countries, not facing the same daily assaults, refuse to recognize that if they did, they might respond similarly.

Even more remarkable, however, is the next sentence: “I mean, we face this [situation] continually. We face it now, actually, in places like Afghanistan.”

In short, Westerners should understand Israel because they’re in the same boat: their own armies are causing civilian casualties “in places like Afghanistan” for the exact same reasons.

So why do many Westerners either refuse to see the parallels or regard their own armies’ behavior with similar incomprehension and outrage? In Blair’s view, the heart of the problem is that too many Westerners fail to understand that they face a determined enemy waging a long-term global struggle, not a series of discrete, unrelated local conflicts.

“People sometimes say to me, no, it’s not really Iraq, it’s Afghanistan,” he said. “Someone else will say, no it’s Pakistan, and someone else will say it’s Iraq, and someone else will say it’s Yemen. But actually it’s all of these because in different ways, they represent different challenges that are unified by one single movement with a single ideology. And this is going to be resolved, in my view, over a long period of time. But what is important is that wherever it is fighting us, we’re prepared to fight back … unfortunately, we can’t say: ‘Look, let’s concentrate it here, but not here, and here, and here,’ because that’s not the way this thing’s working. …

“There is a unifying theme, in my view, between what’s happened in countries like our own country with terrorist activity, and what’s happening in places like Yemen or Afghanistan or Somalia or, I’m afraid, other countries. The key to understanding this is [that] this is a global movement with a global ideology and it is one struggle. It’s one struggle with many different arenas. …

“Personally I think we will defeat this terrorism when we understand it is one battle, one struggle.”

Blair never explicitly mentions Israel as a front in this global battle, but his linkage of Israel’s situation with the one “we face … in places like Afghanistan” makes the implication clear. And the conclusion, while similarly inexplicit, is equally clear: were the West to acknowledge its enemy’s true nature, its view of Israel might change.

Since no current Western leader exhibits anything like Blair’s moral clarity, that’s unlikely to happen soon. But given the nature of the enemy, it almost certainly will happen someday. Hence, rather than capitulating to its enemies, Israel’s goal, like Britain’s in World War II, must be to hold fast until then.

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More Evidence for the Biblical Kingdom of David

Every once in a while, archaeologists in Israel hit pay dirt, undoing years of speculative claims that the key stories in the Bible never happened. For decades, it was claimed that King David never existed — putting into question the pivotal stories of the books of Kings and Chronicles on which a great deal of the biblical narrative turns. But then, in 1992 at Tel Dan, archaeologists uncovered the first clear nonbiblical evidence of David’s reign, an explicit reference to the king himself.

Now it has happened again. For years, biblical “minimalists,” as they are called, have been telling us that most of the Bible had to have been written many centuries after its stories took place. Basing their view mostly on the lack of Hebrew texts being found that date back to the time of David and Solomon, scholars like Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University have insisted that the ancient Israelites back then didn’t have the textual skills needed to record the stories of the Bible and that, at best, the texts we now have were written in the 7th or 6th centuries B.C.E., three or four centuries later.

But last week, Prof. Gershon Galil of Haifa University revealed what may be the most important discovery in the last decade: he succeeded in deciphering a text dating to the 10th century B.C.E., written in an ancient proto-Canaanite script, discovered near the Elah Valley in Israel 18 months ago. (Click here for a reproduction of the text and analysis.) Employing verb roots that are uniquely Hebrew, the text tells readers to protect the widows and orphans and strangers in their midst — themes immediately familiar from the prophecies of Isaiah and other biblical texts, and mostly absent from any of the neighboring peoples’ texts. Judge for yourself:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Sound familiar? As Galil puts it, the discovery “indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.”

Archaeology is not an exact science, and while books purporting to offer conclusive debunkings of the biblical accounts continue to sell well, they are usually grounded in the absence of evidence supporting the Bible, rather than in any hard evidence contradicting it. Yet as the renowned Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen once said, in archaeology “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” And the evidence that does exist overwhelmingly supports the reality of ancient Israel in the land of Israel very much as described in the biblical books beginning with Joshua. Maybe not everything in the Bible has been proved, but there’s more than enough to indicate that it’s far from a string of myths about a fanciful kingdom that never existed.

For more than a century and a half, new “scientific” proofs of the falsehood of the Bible have been the surest way to establish yourself in the inner circles of academic fashion. Yet in most cases, these proofs unravel with the continued work of archaeologists, whether at Tel Dan in 1992, or in the discovery of King David’s Palace in the City of David in the early 2000s (full disclosure: I was at the time the editor of a journal published by the Shalem Center, which also sponsored that dig), or in the Elah Valley this week.

None of this proves that one has to accept the Bible’s authority as a source of faith or morals. But it does suggest that efforts to use science as a bludgeon against religion are not really working.

Every once in a while, archaeologists in Israel hit pay dirt, undoing years of speculative claims that the key stories in the Bible never happened. For decades, it was claimed that King David never existed — putting into question the pivotal stories of the books of Kings and Chronicles on which a great deal of the biblical narrative turns. But then, in 1992 at Tel Dan, archaeologists uncovered the first clear nonbiblical evidence of David’s reign, an explicit reference to the king himself.

Now it has happened again. For years, biblical “minimalists,” as they are called, have been telling us that most of the Bible had to have been written many centuries after its stories took place. Basing their view mostly on the lack of Hebrew texts being found that date back to the time of David and Solomon, scholars like Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University have insisted that the ancient Israelites back then didn’t have the textual skills needed to record the stories of the Bible and that, at best, the texts we now have were written in the 7th or 6th centuries B.C.E., three or four centuries later.

But last week, Prof. Gershon Galil of Haifa University revealed what may be the most important discovery in the last decade: he succeeded in deciphering a text dating to the 10th century B.C.E., written in an ancient proto-Canaanite script, discovered near the Elah Valley in Israel 18 months ago. (Click here for a reproduction of the text and analysis.) Employing verb roots that are uniquely Hebrew, the text tells readers to protect the widows and orphans and strangers in their midst — themes immediately familiar from the prophecies of Isaiah and other biblical texts, and mostly absent from any of the neighboring peoples’ texts. Judge for yourself:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Sound familiar? As Galil puts it, the discovery “indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.”

Archaeology is not an exact science, and while books purporting to offer conclusive debunkings of the biblical accounts continue to sell well, they are usually grounded in the absence of evidence supporting the Bible, rather than in any hard evidence contradicting it. Yet as the renowned Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen once said, in archaeology “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” And the evidence that does exist overwhelmingly supports the reality of ancient Israel in the land of Israel very much as described in the biblical books beginning with Joshua. Maybe not everything in the Bible has been proved, but there’s more than enough to indicate that it’s far from a string of myths about a fanciful kingdom that never existed.

For more than a century and a half, new “scientific” proofs of the falsehood of the Bible have been the surest way to establish yourself in the inner circles of academic fashion. Yet in most cases, these proofs unravel with the continued work of archaeologists, whether at Tel Dan in 1992, or in the discovery of King David’s Palace in the City of David in the early 2000s (full disclosure: I was at the time the editor of a journal published by the Shalem Center, which also sponsored that dig), or in the Elah Valley this week.

None of this proves that one has to accept the Bible’s authority as a source of faith or morals. But it does suggest that efforts to use science as a bludgeon against religion are not really working.

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George Mitchell: “Fatah Believes in Nonviolence”

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

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Negotiating the Conditions for Negotiations Without Preconditions

In a press conference Friday with the Jordanian foreign minister, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations “as soon as possible without preconditions.” She repeated word-for-word her November 25 statement that the U.S. believes negotiations can end the conflict and reconcile (1) “the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps,” with (2) “the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

At a press conference later in the day, a reporter asked Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley about a word omitted from Clinton’s statement:

QUESTION: The [Jordanian] foreign minister also used the word, when he talked about the creation of a separate Palestinian state, one that is contiguous. I noticed the Secretary did not use that word. Where is the – what is the U.S.’s position on contiguous in terms of somehow uniting the West Bank and Gaza?

It was a significant question (for reasons noted here) — but Crowley dodged it:

CROWLEY: This is a – this is the fundamental challenge of a negotiation, which is to determine the borders of a state. We recognize that any state that would be formed for the Palestinians has to be viable and it has to be based on agreed upon borders. So the foreign minister at his formulation, the Secretary at her formulation – what we really want to do is get the parties back into a negotiation where you can actually put these questions before them.

The next paragraph of Crowley’s answer indicated, however, that the U.S. may answer the question later on:

The United States will continue to play a role. At various times, we may offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions. But let’s get to that negotiation. That’s why we’re continuing to push as hard as we can to get this started as quickly as possible.

The administration strategy is apparently to get negotiations started, assuring both sides that their goals can be met, and then later “offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions.”

Once the process begins, however, it is likely to involve more than insights. In his January 7 interview with Charlie Rose, George Mitchell was asked if he had any “sticks” he could use in the negotiating process (his answer: “Oh, sure”). Pressed to give an example (“You sit there and you say to Israel, look, if you don’t do this — what?”), Mitchell noted the possibility of withholding loan guarantees: “That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options.”

Mitchell travels to Europe and then the Middle East next week and is expected to bring with him letters of “guarantees” to persuade both sides that their goals can be met in new negotiations. The conditions for the negotiations “without preconditions,” in other words, are being negotiated now.

It will be important to see whether the letter given to the Palestinians includes the word contiguous. As for Israel’s letter, the question will be whether the U.S. will honor the assurances of “defensible borders” given by both the Clinton and Bush administrations — or whether that issue will be relegated to a question for later American “insights” (and “options” in case of disagreement).

In a press conference Friday with the Jordanian foreign minister, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations “as soon as possible without preconditions.” She repeated word-for-word her November 25 statement that the U.S. believes negotiations can end the conflict and reconcile (1) “the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps,” with (2) “the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

At a press conference later in the day, a reporter asked Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley about a word omitted from Clinton’s statement:

QUESTION: The [Jordanian] foreign minister also used the word, when he talked about the creation of a separate Palestinian state, one that is contiguous. I noticed the Secretary did not use that word. Where is the – what is the U.S.’s position on contiguous in terms of somehow uniting the West Bank and Gaza?

It was a significant question (for reasons noted here) — but Crowley dodged it:

CROWLEY: This is a – this is the fundamental challenge of a negotiation, which is to determine the borders of a state. We recognize that any state that would be formed for the Palestinians has to be viable and it has to be based on agreed upon borders. So the foreign minister at his formulation, the Secretary at her formulation – what we really want to do is get the parties back into a negotiation where you can actually put these questions before them.

The next paragraph of Crowley’s answer indicated, however, that the U.S. may answer the question later on:

The United States will continue to play a role. At various times, we may offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions. But let’s get to that negotiation. That’s why we’re continuing to push as hard as we can to get this started as quickly as possible.

The administration strategy is apparently to get negotiations started, assuring both sides that their goals can be met, and then later “offer our own insights as to how to resolve these very kinds of questions.”

Once the process begins, however, it is likely to involve more than insights. In his January 7 interview with Charlie Rose, George Mitchell was asked if he had any “sticks” he could use in the negotiating process (his answer: “Oh, sure”). Pressed to give an example (“You sit there and you say to Israel, look, if you don’t do this — what?”), Mitchell noted the possibility of withholding loan guarantees: “That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options.”

Mitchell travels to Europe and then the Middle East next week and is expected to bring with him letters of “guarantees” to persuade both sides that their goals can be met in new negotiations. The conditions for the negotiations “without preconditions,” in other words, are being negotiated now.

It will be important to see whether the letter given to the Palestinians includes the word contiguous. As for Israel’s letter, the question will be whether the U.S. will honor the assurances of “defensible borders” given by both the Clinton and Bush administrations — or whether that issue will be relegated to a question for later American “insights” (and “options” in case of disagreement).

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One of Theirs Doesn’t Pan Out

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

Maureen Dowd is a woman scorned, it seems. Candidate Dreamy has become Captain Obvious. She hisses:

“We must do better,” Captain Obvious said Thursday at the White House, “in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel.” John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, was equally illuminating. “The intelligence,” he informed us, “fell through the cracks.” He also offered this: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.” That rings a bell. The president and his intelligence officials stressed that these were not the same mistakes made before 9/11. “Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence,” President Obama said, “this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Wow. That makes me feel that all those billions spent on upgrading the intelligence system were well spent.

And like many a conservative pundit, she’s had quite enough of the “President Cool” routine and of the insistence “on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding.” She fumes: “He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.”

Not even the grande dame of the Gray Lady can avoid the conclusion that Obama hasn’t panned out. The fellow whom she and the entire liberal media swooned over during the campaign and those very qualities the Left punditocracy touted as praiseworthy (e.g., intellecutalism, emotional reserve) have proven ill-suited to the job. Obama is neither leading nor seeming to understand state craft.

How could they have gotten it so wrong? Well, they were plainly in love with the “historic” opportunity to elect an African American. And they saw in Obama one of them — elite educated, scornful of gun clinging and Bible thumping Americans, contemptuous of American exceptionalism, skeptical of “hard power,” and infatuated with the public sector. It turns out that this was a recipe for disaster when it comes the the presidency.

And Obama’s background has proved, if anything, to be a hindrance. Obama’s oversight of the Harvard Law Review didn’t prepare him for the Oval Office. To the contrary, his preference for government by seminar made for an excruciating war-planning process. His cool persona doesn’t instill confidence in voters. It frightens them that their president is disengaged (emotionally and otherwise).

Dowd and her colleagues complain now — but he was their kind of guy. Perhaps we shouldn’t put in the White House someone better suited to edit a liberal publication.

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Not New, but Worse

Reviewing Obama’s flip-floppery on his promise to have health-care negotiations televised on CSPAN, Rich Lowry observes:

This is one of the starkest paradoxes of American politics: that George W. Bush – whatever his other flaws – was ingenuous to a fault, while the herald of a new politics, Barack Obama, was insincere to the point of cynicism, especially about the process issues that were so central to his new-politics appeal. He punked voters into believing he represented a new way of doing business, before immediately embracing the old practices on behalf of a very old agenda of state aggrandizement.

Obama’s overabundance of broken campaign promises, the hyper-partisan style of his communication, the long list of declared enemies of the administration, the incessant Bush bashing and blaming, and the penchant for secrecy (e.g., refusing to let Congress in on the details of the Fort Hood inquiry, claiming executive privilege for the White House social secretary, preventing Justice Department lawyers from testifying on the New Black Panther Party case) are a far cry from the messianic portrait his supporters painted during the campaign. He was going to be the new JFK. Then it was the new FDR. And now he’s turned out to be vaguely Nixonesque. From day one, Obama and his team asserted that they “won,” the others lost, and no explanations were needed. And the formula was the same: limit release of  the facts, don’t admit error, attack foes as being insincere or biased, and double down on the agenda, no matter how unpopular it may be with the voters.

Part of that behavior — decidedly nontransparent and contemptuous of the public — has been aided and abetted by the Democratic-controlled Congress which has no interest in exercising any oversight. That sense that there won’t be hard questions to answer in public or any requests for incriminating documents  has likely encouraged the Obami to be tight-lipped and frankly arrogant. Who’s going to make them come clean? Not Democratic committee chairman and not, at least up until now, the media which was at first syncophantic and then gentle and then distracted whenever bad news appeared on the radar screen.

But Obama’s performance in the wake of the  Christmas Day bombing has drawn catcalls and as his agenda has proven to be increasingly unpopular the Obama approach is becoming harder and harder to maintain. Everyone could see how badly he handled the terrorist attack. It isn’t merely the doing of radio talk show hosts.  And the critical news is popping up more frequently on cable news stations other than Fox. It’s one thing to launch a vendetta against Fox News; it is another to add Gallup, Rasmussen, CSPAN and every other outlet to the list. After a while, you look paranoid and a bit loony claiming all your critics are illegitimate.

None of this would rile the public or draw so much notice had not Obama run against the Clinton machine and promised to in essence re-invent Washington. We’d expect all of this — and more — had Hillary Clinton been elected. But hopes among young voters, the chattering class and much of the general public were high that Obama would at least offer some improvement over business as usual in Washington. That he has taken partisanship, cynicism and secrecy to new levels is a bitter pill to his supporters and spinners. It is small consolation to his critics that they had him pegged correctly.

Reviewing Obama’s flip-floppery on his promise to have health-care negotiations televised on CSPAN, Rich Lowry observes:

This is one of the starkest paradoxes of American politics: that George W. Bush – whatever his other flaws – was ingenuous to a fault, while the herald of a new politics, Barack Obama, was insincere to the point of cynicism, especially about the process issues that were so central to his new-politics appeal. He punked voters into believing he represented a new way of doing business, before immediately embracing the old practices on behalf of a very old agenda of state aggrandizement.

Obama’s overabundance of broken campaign promises, the hyper-partisan style of his communication, the long list of declared enemies of the administration, the incessant Bush bashing and blaming, and the penchant for secrecy (e.g., refusing to let Congress in on the details of the Fort Hood inquiry, claiming executive privilege for the White House social secretary, preventing Justice Department lawyers from testifying on the New Black Panther Party case) are a far cry from the messianic portrait his supporters painted during the campaign. He was going to be the new JFK. Then it was the new FDR. And now he’s turned out to be vaguely Nixonesque. From day one, Obama and his team asserted that they “won,” the others lost, and no explanations were needed. And the formula was the same: limit release of  the facts, don’t admit error, attack foes as being insincere or biased, and double down on the agenda, no matter how unpopular it may be with the voters.

Part of that behavior — decidedly nontransparent and contemptuous of the public — has been aided and abetted by the Democratic-controlled Congress which has no interest in exercising any oversight. That sense that there won’t be hard questions to answer in public or any requests for incriminating documents  has likely encouraged the Obami to be tight-lipped and frankly arrogant. Who’s going to make them come clean? Not Democratic committee chairman and not, at least up until now, the media which was at first syncophantic and then gentle and then distracted whenever bad news appeared on the radar screen.

But Obama’s performance in the wake of the  Christmas Day bombing has drawn catcalls and as his agenda has proven to be increasingly unpopular the Obama approach is becoming harder and harder to maintain. Everyone could see how badly he handled the terrorist attack. It isn’t merely the doing of radio talk show hosts.  And the critical news is popping up more frequently on cable news stations other than Fox. It’s one thing to launch a vendetta against Fox News; it is another to add Gallup, Rasmussen, CSPAN and every other outlet to the list. After a while, you look paranoid and a bit loony claiming all your critics are illegitimate.

None of this would rile the public or draw so much notice had not Obama run against the Clinton machine and promised to in essence re-invent Washington. We’d expect all of this — and more — had Hillary Clinton been elected. But hopes among young voters, the chattering class and much of the general public were high that Obama would at least offer some improvement over business as usual in Washington. That he has taken partisanship, cynicism and secrecy to new levels is a bitter pill to his supporters and spinners. It is small consolation to his critics that they had him pegged correctly.

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The Best We Are Going to Do?

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example — that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example — that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.'” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.'” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

Read Less




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