Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 6, 2010

Signs of Life Strife

A few days ago, I called attention to a quote from one of the creators of a new musical called Signs of Life, which is set in and around the Thereseinstadt concentration camp. (I compared it to The Producers, and specifically to “Springtime for Hitler,” the musical-within-the-musical, described by its deranged creator as “a gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden.”) The quote in question averred that the questions about Nazi era Germans and how they responded to their leaders had a great deal to teach us about America over the past decade — an observation of which the best that can be said is that it is a bit more tasteful than the very notion of a musical set at Thereseinstadt.

The writers and creators of Signs of Life, evidently thrilled that anybody is willing to write about them at all, have fired a broadside at me using the old “how can he criticize our show without seeing it” gambit:

You are well-known as a protector of the memory of the Holocaust and as someone who, by his own admission, knows “the lyrics to every show tune ever written.” We were therefore dismayed to read your post on Commentary about our new off-Broadway musical, Signs of Life. Your casually insulting aside about the “wonderfully tuneful” quality of the show-which as far as we can tell you have not seen-is irresponsible enough, but to make the ugly accusation that we believe “the Holocaust exists as a dramatic trope to teach us lessons about America in the age of Bush” is contemptible.

The characters in our show must participate in the Nazi propaganda machine in order to survive; when they realize the implications of their participation they face ethical choices that endanger their lives. But the obligation of citizens across the political spectrum to question our leaders and evaluate the truth of their answers did not end on V-Day.

The idea you seem to advocate-that if you put an event as vastly horrific as the Holocaust onstage you should do it as a museum piece, rather than exploring what we might learn from it about human nature-implies that today’s society is no longer capable of a Holocaust, which is a position both false and dangerous.

We would like to invite you to see Signs of Life and to judge based on experience rather than distortion and mockery whether our show honors the memory of those slaughtered in the Holocaust. Please e-mail us and we’ll arrange tickets for whatever date you’d like.

Now, while I do place myself very much on the anti side on the admittedly complex aesthetic question of using the Holocaust as an artistic setting — and, not incidentally, on the anti side when it comes to the use of the musical form as a vehicle for the serious treatment of just about any topic, notwithstanding my deep love of musicals and the American songbook they created — that wasn’t the reason I wrote the item. I wrote the item because of something the show’s composer, Joel Derfner, said. Which was this: “The message of our show is not ‘Killing Jews is bad.’ It’s: ‘What do you do when you find out you’ve been lied to? What is telling the truth worth?’ In the last 30 years this question has been vital to American life and especially so in the last nine years.”

Now let’s parse this. What happened 30 years ago in this country? Ronald Reagan’s election. What happened nine years ago? George W. Bush’s inauguration. Who’s making repulsive and unwarranted associations now? The Signs of Life team is right that someone said something contemptible, but it wasn’t I.

And thanks for the invitation, but I’ll pass; I already did my time years ago when, courtesy of P.J. O’Rourke, who secured it from God-knows-where, I once read the entirety of the screenplay for the Jerry Lewis epic, The Day the Clown Cried.

A few days ago, I called attention to a quote from one of the creators of a new musical called Signs of Life, which is set in and around the Thereseinstadt concentration camp. (I compared it to The Producers, and specifically to “Springtime for Hitler,” the musical-within-the-musical, described by its deranged creator as “a gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden.”) The quote in question averred that the questions about Nazi era Germans and how they responded to their leaders had a great deal to teach us about America over the past decade — an observation of which the best that can be said is that it is a bit more tasteful than the very notion of a musical set at Thereseinstadt.

The writers and creators of Signs of Life, evidently thrilled that anybody is willing to write about them at all, have fired a broadside at me using the old “how can he criticize our show without seeing it” gambit:

You are well-known as a protector of the memory of the Holocaust and as someone who, by his own admission, knows “the lyrics to every show tune ever written.” We were therefore dismayed to read your post on Commentary about our new off-Broadway musical, Signs of Life. Your casually insulting aside about the “wonderfully tuneful” quality of the show-which as far as we can tell you have not seen-is irresponsible enough, but to make the ugly accusation that we believe “the Holocaust exists as a dramatic trope to teach us lessons about America in the age of Bush” is contemptible.

The characters in our show must participate in the Nazi propaganda machine in order to survive; when they realize the implications of their participation they face ethical choices that endanger their lives. But the obligation of citizens across the political spectrum to question our leaders and evaluate the truth of their answers did not end on V-Day.

The idea you seem to advocate-that if you put an event as vastly horrific as the Holocaust onstage you should do it as a museum piece, rather than exploring what we might learn from it about human nature-implies that today’s society is no longer capable of a Holocaust, which is a position both false and dangerous.

We would like to invite you to see Signs of Life and to judge based on experience rather than distortion and mockery whether our show honors the memory of those slaughtered in the Holocaust. Please e-mail us and we’ll arrange tickets for whatever date you’d like.

Now, while I do place myself very much on the anti side on the admittedly complex aesthetic question of using the Holocaust as an artistic setting — and, not incidentally, on the anti side when it comes to the use of the musical form as a vehicle for the serious treatment of just about any topic, notwithstanding my deep love of musicals and the American songbook they created — that wasn’t the reason I wrote the item. I wrote the item because of something the show’s composer, Joel Derfner, said. Which was this: “The message of our show is not ‘Killing Jews is bad.’ It’s: ‘What do you do when you find out you’ve been lied to? What is telling the truth worth?’ In the last 30 years this question has been vital to American life and especially so in the last nine years.”

Now let’s parse this. What happened 30 years ago in this country? Ronald Reagan’s election. What happened nine years ago? George W. Bush’s inauguration. Who’s making repulsive and unwarranted associations now? The Signs of Life team is right that someone said something contemptible, but it wasn’t I.

And thanks for the invitation, but I’ll pass; I already did my time years ago when, courtesy of P.J. O’Rourke, who secured it from God-knows-where, I once read the entirety of the screenplay for the Jerry Lewis epic, The Day the Clown Cried.

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Another Obami Foreign-Policy Debacle

With the Obami, one never knows whether to chalk up a slam at an ally as incompetence or venality. Although with this crew, we often see both at work, especially when it comes to Israel. A prime example occurred yesterday. This report explains:

A U.S. official denied on Friday that Washington had consented to a U.N. Security Council statement to reporters voicing concern about the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Gabon’s U.N. Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, president of the Security Council for March, read the nonbinding remarks on behalf the 15 council members after a closed-door discussion of the violent clashes.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” Issoze-Ngondet said.

And the report dryly notes:

A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as “procedural confusion.”

It was not immediately clear what the “confusion” was.

Several council diplomats familiar with the negotiations on the statement, however, told Reuters that the U.S. delegation made no attempt to raise any objections to the final version of the text, which they said was adopted by consensus.

Confused? Well, what we do know is that this sort of thing virtually never happens with Israel-bashing UN resolutions.  (“Historically, the U.S. delegation has a tendency to block Security Council statements condemning Israel.”) Not just a tendency: a former foreign-policy official knowledgeable in this sort of thing tells me, “If it is a mistake, it is one that NEVER happened in 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush.”

So was this a shot at Israel, an attempt to make clear just who is in charge before the arrival in Israel of Joe Biden?  (Biden’s appearance is more insulting than it might otherwise be, given that the president has chosen to send his hapless minion in contrast to his earlier personal appearance in the “Muslim World” at Cairo. But then again, perhaps Biden might hew to actual history rather than his boss’s fractured version.) Maybe someone on the NSC team then lost nerve, realizing how it would be perceived in Jerusalem, and thought it better to put out an after-the-fact sniveling explanation seeking to slink away from the UN statement – one that should never have seen the light of day. Still, perhaps this is just the Keystone Kops at work, and no harm was meant.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter all that much which explanation is correct. Both our allies and adversaries have come to regard the Obami as unreliable and, yes, confused. Some aggrieved allies attribute hostility to the Obami’s moves — after all, there have been enough swipes at erstwhile friends to discern a pattern. But one thing we know — this gang has not “re-established our place in the world.” One pines for the days when we had far more adept –”smarter” – diplomats.

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With the Obami, one never knows whether to chalk up a slam at an ally as incompetence or venality. Although with this crew, we often see both at work, especially when it comes to Israel. A prime example occurred yesterday. This report explains:

A U.S. official denied on Friday that Washington had consented to a U.N. Security Council statement to reporters voicing concern about the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Gabon’s U.N. Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, president of the Security Council for March, read the nonbinding remarks on behalf the 15 council members after a closed-door discussion of the violent clashes.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” Issoze-Ngondet said.

And the report dryly notes:

A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as “procedural confusion.”

It was not immediately clear what the “confusion” was.

Several council diplomats familiar with the negotiations on the statement, however, told Reuters that the U.S. delegation made no attempt to raise any objections to the final version of the text, which they said was adopted by consensus.

Confused? Well, what we do know is that this sort of thing virtually never happens with Israel-bashing UN resolutions.  (“Historically, the U.S. delegation has a tendency to block Security Council statements condemning Israel.”) Not just a tendency: a former foreign-policy official knowledgeable in this sort of thing tells me, “If it is a mistake, it is one that NEVER happened in 8 years of Clinton and 8 years of Bush.”

So was this a shot at Israel, an attempt to make clear just who is in charge before the arrival in Israel of Joe Biden?  (Biden’s appearance is more insulting than it might otherwise be, given that the president has chosen to send his hapless minion in contrast to his earlier personal appearance in the “Muslim World” at Cairo. But then again, perhaps Biden might hew to actual history rather than his boss’s fractured version.) Maybe someone on the NSC team then lost nerve, realizing how it would be perceived in Jerusalem, and thought it better to put out an after-the-fact sniveling explanation seeking to slink away from the UN statement – one that should never have seen the light of day. Still, perhaps this is just the Keystone Kops at work, and no harm was meant.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter all that much which explanation is correct. Both our allies and adversaries have come to regard the Obami as unreliable and, yes, confused. Some aggrieved allies attribute hostility to the Obami’s moves — after all, there have been enough swipes at erstwhile friends to discern a pattern. But one thing we know — this gang has not “re-established our place in the world.” One pines for the days when we had far more adept –”smarter” – diplomats.

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California Senate Candidates Debate Campbell’s Record

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

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Syria Engagement, or How America Loses Its Soul

As I remarked earlier this week, the Obami’s Syrian engagement policy aligns with their overall approach to foreign policy: fruitless ingratiation with despots, disregard for human rights, and predictable (horrible) results. Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Adviser, recounts the series of unilateral gestures and offerings that the Obami have served up to Syria – from sending high-level envoys to appointing a new ambassador to removing U.S. objections to Syria joining the WTO. On and on it has gone as the Obama administration has tried to wean Bashar al-Assad from the embrace of the Iranian regime. But this was doomed to fail:

“Engagement” constitutes “appeasement” if it fails to change Syrian conduct, and the failure to change is overlooked while the “engagement” continues and accelerates. This would not just be fooling ourselves but condoning, rewarding, and thereby inducing even more bad conduct by the Assad regime. Which is precisely what has happened during this year of American engagement.

So Syria continues to fund terrorists, to assist Iran in rearming Hezbollah, and to brutalize its own people. Moreover, as we saw this week, Syria delights in hugging the Iranian regime even tighter and whacking the U.S. ever harder — just in case we had any doubt about the Syrians’ contempt for our approach. It seems the Obami misread Assad, not recognizing that he is “a vicious dictator dependent on Iran’s regime for political, financial, and military support” and fantasizing that there is a peace deal with Israel in the offing.

Enough already, Abrams suggests. Stop the engagement, speak out on human rights, and bring to the UN Syria’s violations of Security Council resolutions on Lebanon’s sovereignty and the arming of Hezbollah. That’s frankly wise advice for how we should reorient our entire foreign policy — on the Middle East, Cuba, Russia, China, North Korea, and the rest. The suck-uppery to despots hasn’t worked. Unilateral moves beget bad behavior, not reciprocity. Selling out human-rights advocates erodes our moral standing. And the Middle East in particular grows more unstable as tyrants get the notion that the U.S. can be played. So we should insist on reciprocity in our diplomatic moves, stand up for democracy and human rights, take seriously despots’ violations of international agreements, and refuse to explain away or excuse the misbehavior of bad actors.

We were supposed to get smart diplomacy with the Obami, and instead we got diplomacy that is both amoral and counterproductive. As with so much else that has gone wrong in this administration, the collision of hubris and extreme ideology has been painful to watch.

As I remarked earlier this week, the Obami’s Syrian engagement policy aligns with their overall approach to foreign policy: fruitless ingratiation with despots, disregard for human rights, and predictable (horrible) results. Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Adviser, recounts the series of unilateral gestures and offerings that the Obami have served up to Syria – from sending high-level envoys to appointing a new ambassador to removing U.S. objections to Syria joining the WTO. On and on it has gone as the Obama administration has tried to wean Bashar al-Assad from the embrace of the Iranian regime. But this was doomed to fail:

“Engagement” constitutes “appeasement” if it fails to change Syrian conduct, and the failure to change is overlooked while the “engagement” continues and accelerates. This would not just be fooling ourselves but condoning, rewarding, and thereby inducing even more bad conduct by the Assad regime. Which is precisely what has happened during this year of American engagement.

So Syria continues to fund terrorists, to assist Iran in rearming Hezbollah, and to brutalize its own people. Moreover, as we saw this week, Syria delights in hugging the Iranian regime even tighter and whacking the U.S. ever harder — just in case we had any doubt about the Syrians’ contempt for our approach. It seems the Obami misread Assad, not recognizing that he is “a vicious dictator dependent on Iran’s regime for political, financial, and military support” and fantasizing that there is a peace deal with Israel in the offing.

Enough already, Abrams suggests. Stop the engagement, speak out on human rights, and bring to the UN Syria’s violations of Security Council resolutions on Lebanon’s sovereignty and the arming of Hezbollah. That’s frankly wise advice for how we should reorient our entire foreign policy — on the Middle East, Cuba, Russia, China, North Korea, and the rest. The suck-uppery to despots hasn’t worked. Unilateral moves beget bad behavior, not reciprocity. Selling out human-rights advocates erodes our moral standing. And the Middle East in particular grows more unstable as tyrants get the notion that the U.S. can be played. So we should insist on reciprocity in our diplomatic moves, stand up for democracy and human rights, take seriously despots’ violations of international agreements, and refuse to explain away or excuse the misbehavior of bad actors.

We were supposed to get smart diplomacy with the Obami, and instead we got diplomacy that is both amoral and counterproductive. As with so much else that has gone wrong in this administration, the collision of hubris and extreme ideology has been painful to watch.

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Stupak Is the Last Man Standing?

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

Eventually, Nancy Pelosi’s reality-proof rhetoric reaches its limits. She’s denied that ObamaCare, in its Senate and latest White House versions, alters the status quo on abortion funding. But anyone who really cares enough about the issue knows this isn’t so. And thus Pelosi, obviously short of her majority to pass ObamaCare, must negotiate with Rep. Bart Stupak and the pro-life Democrats. Politico reports:

Despite the speaker’s repeated denials, it looks like the final act in the year-long health care fight could once again come down to abortion – so much so that Pelosi invited a group of women’s rights groups to the Capitol on Thursday, along with a number of her closest allies, for a preliminary discussion to strategize about the way ahead…

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) met with Stupak on Thursday, starting a conversation that could shape the path of reform. The former state trooper authored an amendment to the House bill that bars anyone receiving subsidies through the new insurance exchange from purchasing coverage for elective abortions. Without a final package, it’s too early to tell where the votes are, but Hoyer seemed to acknowledge that Stupak, true to his threat, has the votes to derail the broader bill.

But here’s the hitch:

Changing the Senate language at this point could prove troublesome for leaders, even if they are able to broker a compromise. The abortion section of the bill likely won’t qualify under the rules for reconciliation — since it doesn’t have a direct dollar impact on overall cost — so Democrats would either need to muster 60 votes in the Senate to override the parliamentarian or draft a third bill with fixes in it that would also need 60 votes for passage. Both would require Republican support, making each a very heavy lift for party leaders, even if the Catholic Church lends a hand.

So what’s the way out? There may not be one. And frankly, Stupak would be doing his fellow Democrats, not just the pro-life contingent, a huge favor. If he holds firm, he will spare many a moderate Democrat from walking the plank and suffering the wrath of the voters. For if Pelosi is a dozen votes short, as we surmise, do we really think there will be a humiliating floor vote? Of course not. She will be forced to pack it in, regroup, and perhaps finally arrive at a bill that does not send the electorate shrieking for the scalps of her members. Or if she simply did nothing more on health care and turned to other issues, that, too, might spare a handful or two of her members. But then again, it seems she and Obama do not care so much about saving her troops. For them, Stupak may be the last, best hope.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

Read Less




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