Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 17, 2010

You Want Moral Clarity?

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

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False Alarm

There is understandable alarm about the ballooning size of the U.S. debt and the fact that so much of it is held by foreigners, especially the Chinese. Joe Nye of Harvard, who has been consistently right in refuting theories of American decline for years, suggests that China’s position is not as strong as it appears:

The fact China holds so many dollars is not a true source of power, as the interdependence in the economic relationship is symmetrical. True, if China dumped its dollars on world markets, it could bring the U.S. economy to its knees, but in doing so it would bring itself to its ankles. China would not only lose the value of its dollar reserves, but would suffer major unemployment.

I’m not an economist, but it’s an argument I’ve heard echoed by economists. If accurate, that suggests that we have less to worry about from debt being held in Chinese hands than some alarmists imagine. It also means, as I have argued before, that America’s decline and fall are not imminent.

There is understandable alarm about the ballooning size of the U.S. debt and the fact that so much of it is held by foreigners, especially the Chinese. Joe Nye of Harvard, who has been consistently right in refuting theories of American decline for years, suggests that China’s position is not as strong as it appears:

The fact China holds so many dollars is not a true source of power, as the interdependence in the economic relationship is symmetrical. True, if China dumped its dollars on world markets, it could bring the U.S. economy to its knees, but in doing so it would bring itself to its ankles. China would not only lose the value of its dollar reserves, but would suffer major unemployment.

I’m not an economist, but it’s an argument I’ve heard echoed by economists. If accurate, that suggests that we have less to worry about from debt being held in Chinese hands than some alarmists imagine. It also means, as I have argued before, that America’s decline and fall are not imminent.

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Where’s the Support for U.S. Civilians in Iraq?

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

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The Israel Standard

Charles Lane is the latest to spot the Obami’s double standards. He compares the administration reaction to Israel’s apartment expansion with its reaction to a deliberate Chinese provocation:

In Beijing Sunday, China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, launched an anti-U.S. tirade that made the president’s objective of economic harmony with Beijing seem even more unattainable than a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Rejecting President Obama’s rather tepid call, delivered just days earlier, for a “market-oriented” Chinese currency policy, Wen accused the U.S. of “trade protectionism,” alleging that Washington wanted to force the Chinese yuan up, and the dollar down, “solely for the purpose of increasing one’s own exports.”

This, as Lane explains, “was not only a direct sneer at the president — it was an insult to his intelligence, and everyone else’s for that matter.” What was Obama’s reaction? “Officials look forward to ‘an open channel of communication … and fostering a good bilateral relationship,’ a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.”

Totally different, you say? Why yes, Israel is a small, vulnerable democracy. China is a huge, powerful dictatorship. In the Obami worldview, there simply is no question about who gets the kid-glove treatment.

Charles Lane is the latest to spot the Obami’s double standards. He compares the administration reaction to Israel’s apartment expansion with its reaction to a deliberate Chinese provocation:

In Beijing Sunday, China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, launched an anti-U.S. tirade that made the president’s objective of economic harmony with Beijing seem even more unattainable than a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Rejecting President Obama’s rather tepid call, delivered just days earlier, for a “market-oriented” Chinese currency policy, Wen accused the U.S. of “trade protectionism,” alleging that Washington wanted to force the Chinese yuan up, and the dollar down, “solely for the purpose of increasing one’s own exports.”

This, as Lane explains, “was not only a direct sneer at the president — it was an insult to his intelligence, and everyone else’s for that matter.” What was Obama’s reaction? “Officials look forward to ‘an open channel of communication … and fostering a good bilateral relationship,’ a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.”

Totally different, you say? Why yes, Israel is a small, vulnerable democracy. China is a huge, powerful dictatorship. In the Obami worldview, there simply is no question about who gets the kid-glove treatment.

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The Trouble with Fayyadism

Regular readers of Thomas Friedman were hardly surprised when he used the controversy over an ill-timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem to write about the need for America to save Israel from itself this past weekend. The piece, titled “Driving Drunk in Jerusalem,” was a long-discredited argument pulled from Friedman’s file and dusted off for the umpteenth time.

Nevertheless, with some sense did he note that “only a right-wing prime minister, like Netanyahu, can make a deal over the West Bank; Netanyahu’s actual policies on the ground there have helped Palestinians grow their economy.” That’s true. If the Palestinians ever actually wanted to make peace, Netanyahu would be the one who could sell such a deal to his country. But although it is also true that, as Friedman wrote, “Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and serious about working toward a solution as any Israel can hope to find,” that doesn’t mean there is any hope that Abbas and Fayyad have the will or the power to accept such a solution.

Friedman further develops this theme in today’s column, which celebrates “Fayyadism” — the idea that creating a viable, independent Palestinian state can define the future of the Middle East. Many serious people both here and in Israel think Fayyad is sincere about his desire to replace the empty Palestinian political culture, based on hatred for Israel, with a productive nationalism devoted to improving the lives of ordinary Arabs in the West Bank. But the Times columnist believes Netanyahu’s coalition partners are preventing the prime minister from fully embracing Fayyad and making peace. So he agrees with President Obama’s attempt to break up Netanyahu’s government and replace it with a more left-leaning one.

Yet like almost all of Friedman’s bright ideas for bettering our not-so-flat world, there is a fatal flaw to this theory. Fayyad may be a genuine moderate, but he lacks a constituency. Palestinians still prefer the guys with the guns who will never recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where the borders are placed or how much of Jerusalem is rendered Jew-free. If “Fayyadism” had any sort of a following, then Fayyad’s boss might have accepted Ehud Olmert’s 2008 offer of a Palestinian state in just about all of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Both Fayyad and Abbas still know that if they sign any peace agreement, that will be the end of Fatah, no matter how many concessions Obama forces upon Israel. The threat of Hamas and its Iranian patron hang over Palestinian moderates, and no amount of fantasizing by Friedman or Obama — or unilateral pressure on Israel — can wish that away.  The lack of Palestinian support for Fayyad’s vision of peace destroyed the previous government of Israel, which was more to the liking of Friedman and Obama. But as Obama’s American fans like to say, elections have consequences.

Rather than pressuring Israelis to adopt self-destructive policies they’ve already rejected at the ballot box, those trying to save Israel from itself should focus their attention on the gap between Fayyad and the rest of the Palestinians. Indeed, the effort to stop Jews from building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem — the focal point of the current dustup — encourages the Palestinian forces that are antithetical to “Fayyadism.” So long as Arabs think that outside parties can hammer Israel into submission and force the Jews to abandon their own land, it remains an upstream swim for those seeking to convince the Palestinians to abandon their belief in Israel’s destruction. Rather than aiding Fayyad, Obama’s attack on Jewish Jerusalem confirms once again that moderates have no chance to change a destructive and violent Palestinian political culture.

Regular readers of Thomas Friedman were hardly surprised when he used the controversy over an ill-timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem to write about the need for America to save Israel from itself this past weekend. The piece, titled “Driving Drunk in Jerusalem,” was a long-discredited argument pulled from Friedman’s file and dusted off for the umpteenth time.

Nevertheless, with some sense did he note that “only a right-wing prime minister, like Netanyahu, can make a deal over the West Bank; Netanyahu’s actual policies on the ground there have helped Palestinians grow their economy.” That’s true. If the Palestinians ever actually wanted to make peace, Netanyahu would be the one who could sell such a deal to his country. But although it is also true that, as Friedman wrote, “Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are as genuine and serious about working toward a solution as any Israel can hope to find,” that doesn’t mean there is any hope that Abbas and Fayyad have the will or the power to accept such a solution.

Friedman further develops this theme in today’s column, which celebrates “Fayyadism” — the idea that creating a viable, independent Palestinian state can define the future of the Middle East. Many serious people both here and in Israel think Fayyad is sincere about his desire to replace the empty Palestinian political culture, based on hatred for Israel, with a productive nationalism devoted to improving the lives of ordinary Arabs in the West Bank. But the Times columnist believes Netanyahu’s coalition partners are preventing the prime minister from fully embracing Fayyad and making peace. So he agrees with President Obama’s attempt to break up Netanyahu’s government and replace it with a more left-leaning one.

Yet like almost all of Friedman’s bright ideas for bettering our not-so-flat world, there is a fatal flaw to this theory. Fayyad may be a genuine moderate, but he lacks a constituency. Palestinians still prefer the guys with the guns who will never recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where the borders are placed or how much of Jerusalem is rendered Jew-free. If “Fayyadism” had any sort of a following, then Fayyad’s boss might have accepted Ehud Olmert’s 2008 offer of a Palestinian state in just about all of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Both Fayyad and Abbas still know that if they sign any peace agreement, that will be the end of Fatah, no matter how many concessions Obama forces upon Israel. The threat of Hamas and its Iranian patron hang over Palestinian moderates, and no amount of fantasizing by Friedman or Obama — or unilateral pressure on Israel — can wish that away.  The lack of Palestinian support for Fayyad’s vision of peace destroyed the previous government of Israel, which was more to the liking of Friedman and Obama. But as Obama’s American fans like to say, elections have consequences.

Rather than pressuring Israelis to adopt self-destructive policies they’ve already rejected at the ballot box, those trying to save Israel from itself should focus their attention on the gap between Fayyad and the rest of the Palestinians. Indeed, the effort to stop Jews from building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem — the focal point of the current dustup — encourages the Palestinian forces that are antithetical to “Fayyadism.” So long as Arabs think that outside parties can hammer Israel into submission and force the Jews to abandon their own land, it remains an upstream swim for those seeking to convince the Palestinians to abandon their belief in Israel’s destruction. Rather than aiding Fayyad, Obama’s attack on Jewish Jerusalem confirms once again that moderates have no chance to change a destructive and violent Palestinian political culture.

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When Dedicating a Synagogue Is a War Crime

Yes, really. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — one of a myriad of NGOs waging a war of delegitimization against Israel — has issued a press release declaring that:

The inauguration of a Jewish synagogue in East Jerusalem [sic] is considered a form of settlement activity, and thus constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law.

Of course, this was not the inauguration of a synagogue — it was the rededication of a synagogue that dates to the Ottoman empire and was destroyed by the Jordanians during their occupation of Jerusalem. The Hurva synagogue was built in the 1860’s (even then on the ruins of a synagogue that had been built during the previous century) and demolished intentionally by the Arab Legion in 1948, during the War of Independence. Oh, and I almost forgot: it’s not in “East Jerusalem” — it’s in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Just a stroll away from the Western Wall, whose existence by this logic is also a war crime.

But this is not just another anecdote in the larger story of the derangement of the human-rights world. It is an example of how American and European money is funding the delegitimization campaign against Israel and the spreading of false war-crimes charges. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is bankrolled in part by the Open Society Institute (George Soros) and the Ford Foundation. (Click here for the complete list, including the European donors.) It would be time well spent for U.S.-based Jewish organizations to apply pressure to OSI and the Ford Foundation on the question of why they’re funding an organization claiming that the revival of a centuries-old Jerusalem synagogue is a war crime.

Yes, really. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — one of a myriad of NGOs waging a war of delegitimization against Israel — has issued a press release declaring that:

The inauguration of a Jewish synagogue in East Jerusalem [sic] is considered a form of settlement activity, and thus constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law.

Of course, this was not the inauguration of a synagogue — it was the rededication of a synagogue that dates to the Ottoman empire and was destroyed by the Jordanians during their occupation of Jerusalem. The Hurva synagogue was built in the 1860’s (even then on the ruins of a synagogue that had been built during the previous century) and demolished intentionally by the Arab Legion in 1948, during the War of Independence. Oh, and I almost forgot: it’s not in “East Jerusalem” — it’s in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Just a stroll away from the Western Wall, whose existence by this logic is also a war crime.

But this is not just another anecdote in the larger story of the derangement of the human-rights world. It is an example of how American and European money is funding the delegitimization campaign against Israel and the spreading of false war-crimes charges. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is bankrolled in part by the Open Society Institute (George Soros) and the Ford Foundation. (Click here for the complete list, including the European donors.) It would be time well spent for U.S.-based Jewish organizations to apply pressure to OSI and the Ford Foundation on the question of why they’re funding an organization claiming that the revival of a centuries-old Jerusalem synagogue is a war crime.

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The Democrats’ Polling Woes

Picking up on several postings by Jen today, there are three sets of new data that should alarm Democrats. In increasing order of importance, they are these: First, according to the most recent Gallup poll, President Obama’s disapproval rating is now higher than his approval rating (47 percent vs. 46 percent). That is the first time this has happened for the president. It won’t be the last.

The second finding comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, which found an astonishing 21-point enthusiasm gap between the parties, with 67 percent of Republicans saying they are very interested in the November elections, compared with 46 percent of Democrats.

The third — and for Democrats arguably the most terrifying — data point: Republican candidates have, according to the most recent Rasmussen survey, now stretched their lead over Democrats to 10 points in the Generic Congressional Ballot, their biggest lead ever in nearly three years of weekly tracking. Historically Republicans have trailed in the Generic Congressional Ballot, even in elections they do well in.

When you combine these numbers, they point to an epic blowout for Democrats in the midterm elections. Many of us, in writing about the November elections, have been careful to see that things in politics can shift rapidly, and they can. But often the opposite happens: certain trends continue their trajectory. Things get worse rather than better. And that, I think, is what Democrats are facing today.

Things have been going badly for Democrats since around the late spring of 2009, when the popular uprising against Obamaism really began. It has proceeded more or less uninterrupted since then. In that span, we have seen three significant electoral losses – the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey and, especially, the Senate race in Massachusetts. What were initially troubling signs for Democrats have become a fairly entrenched pattern. It is getting to the point where it will be very difficult, absent some extraordinary intervening event, to shift things in a favorable direction for Democrats.

To make things worse for Democrats, they have continued to focus the nation’s attention on legislation that the public, by a wide margin, rejects – and they are using means to win votes that much of the public find to be somewhere between troubling and corrupt. If Democrats succeed in passing ObamaCare, their problems will be magnified.

Barack Obama is indeed turning out to be the embodiment of hope and change — hope for Republicans and change in the control of Congress.

What a perfectly terrible 13 months it has been for the president and his party. And things are going to get worse, much worse.

Picking up on several postings by Jen today, there are three sets of new data that should alarm Democrats. In increasing order of importance, they are these: First, according to the most recent Gallup poll, President Obama’s disapproval rating is now higher than his approval rating (47 percent vs. 46 percent). That is the first time this has happened for the president. It won’t be the last.

The second finding comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, which found an astonishing 21-point enthusiasm gap between the parties, with 67 percent of Republicans saying they are very interested in the November elections, compared with 46 percent of Democrats.

The third — and for Democrats arguably the most terrifying — data point: Republican candidates have, according to the most recent Rasmussen survey, now stretched their lead over Democrats to 10 points in the Generic Congressional Ballot, their biggest lead ever in nearly three years of weekly tracking. Historically Republicans have trailed in the Generic Congressional Ballot, even in elections they do well in.

When you combine these numbers, they point to an epic blowout for Democrats in the midterm elections. Many of us, in writing about the November elections, have been careful to see that things in politics can shift rapidly, and they can. But often the opposite happens: certain trends continue their trajectory. Things get worse rather than better. And that, I think, is what Democrats are facing today.

Things have been going badly for Democrats since around the late spring of 2009, when the popular uprising against Obamaism really began. It has proceeded more or less uninterrupted since then. In that span, we have seen three significant electoral losses – the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey and, especially, the Senate race in Massachusetts. What were initially troubling signs for Democrats have become a fairly entrenched pattern. It is getting to the point where it will be very difficult, absent some extraordinary intervening event, to shift things in a favorable direction for Democrats.

To make things worse for Democrats, they have continued to focus the nation’s attention on legislation that the public, by a wide margin, rejects – and they are using means to win votes that much of the public find to be somewhere between troubling and corrupt. If Democrats succeed in passing ObamaCare, their problems will be magnified.

Barack Obama is indeed turning out to be the embodiment of hope and change — hope for Republicans and change in the control of Congress.

What a perfectly terrible 13 months it has been for the president and his party. And things are going to get worse, much worse.

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Israel’s Image by the Numbers

This is what it looks like when a propaganda campaign seizes the public imagination:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters think Israel should be required to stop those settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of voters disagree and believe Israel should not be required to stop building those settlements. Another 29% are not sure.

Can there be any doubt where those undecideds are heading? And look at this drop — in only six months — in those who think Israel a U.S. ally.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters now say Israel is an ally of the United States, while two percent (2%) view the Jewish state as an enemy. For 32%, the country is somewhere in between the two. In a separate survey in August of last year, 70% of Americans rated Israel as a U.S. ally.

The only reliable upshot of all Obama’s Israel-scolding is the broad reinforcement of an unexamined narrative that paints Israel as malicious and untrustworthy.

This is what it looks like when a propaganda campaign seizes the public imagination:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters think Israel should be required to stop those settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of voters disagree and believe Israel should not be required to stop building those settlements. Another 29% are not sure.

Can there be any doubt where those undecideds are heading? And look at this drop — in only six months — in those who think Israel a U.S. ally.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters now say Israel is an ally of the United States, while two percent (2%) view the Jewish state as an enemy. For 32%, the country is somewhere in between the two. In a separate survey in August of last year, 70% of Americans rated Israel as a U.S. ally.

The only reliable upshot of all Obama’s Israel-scolding is the broad reinforcement of an unexamined narrative that paints Israel as malicious and untrustworthy.

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RE: Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Emanuele Ottolenghi’s instincts are spot-on regarding the Scottish Herald report of bunker-buster bombs going to Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is a British-owned island in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. has maintained storage and communication facilities for decades. The island is a hub in our global network of prepositioned supplies and ammunition; shipments to and from the island occur far more often than we go to war.

The bomb shipment discussed in the Herald item isn’t of a kind that happens frequently, but it’s exactly the sort that happens as a result of long-term contingency planning. The Pentagon parks ammunition in certain spots around the world to support the operations we may have to undertake. Standing policy drives these preparations most of the time.

The bombs in question — assuming the Herald got their nomenclature right — aren’t our most impressive bunker-busters anyway. The BLU-110 and BLU-117 bombs described in the report are 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs, respectively: weight classes we have used since the early 1990s or before. Fitting these bombs with modern guidance packages and improved penetration capability has given them more punch, but it doesn’t place them in the same category as our premier weapons.

For comparison, the bunker-busters we sold to Israel in 2005 are 5,000-pound weapons. In the U.S. inventory we have an 18,700-pound bunker-buster and a newer 30,000-pound penetrating bomb. Without turning this into “Bomb 101,” the point to take away is that we move the little bombs, which are the workhorses of our inventory, on a more routine basis than we do the big, exotic bombs. Presidents since Bill Clinton have wanted the military to be prepared to attack Iranian targets if it should become necessary, and having the right bombs staged forward is part of that effort. We can deduce from the shipment to Diego Garcia that the military is updating CENTCOM’s inventory and that Obama hasn’t ruled out a military approach to Iran. But there are no grounds to conclude that a strike must be imminent.

Emanuele Ottolenghi’s instincts are spot-on regarding the Scottish Herald report of bunker-buster bombs going to Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is a British-owned island in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. has maintained storage and communication facilities for decades. The island is a hub in our global network of prepositioned supplies and ammunition; shipments to and from the island occur far more often than we go to war.

The bomb shipment discussed in the Herald item isn’t of a kind that happens frequently, but it’s exactly the sort that happens as a result of long-term contingency planning. The Pentagon parks ammunition in certain spots around the world to support the operations we may have to undertake. Standing policy drives these preparations most of the time.

The bombs in question — assuming the Herald got their nomenclature right — aren’t our most impressive bunker-busters anyway. The BLU-110 and BLU-117 bombs described in the report are 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs, respectively: weight classes we have used since the early 1990s or before. Fitting these bombs with modern guidance packages and improved penetration capability has given them more punch, but it doesn’t place them in the same category as our premier weapons.

For comparison, the bunker-busters we sold to Israel in 2005 are 5,000-pound weapons. In the U.S. inventory we have an 18,700-pound bunker-buster and a newer 30,000-pound penetrating bomb. Without turning this into “Bomb 101,” the point to take away is that we move the little bombs, which are the workhorses of our inventory, on a more routine basis than we do the big, exotic bombs. Presidents since Bill Clinton have wanted the military to be prepared to attack Iranian targets if it should become necessary, and having the right bombs staged forward is part of that effort. We can deduce from the shipment to Diego Garcia that the military is updating CENTCOM’s inventory and that Obama hasn’t ruled out a military approach to Iran. But there are no grounds to conclude that a strike must be imminent.

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A Lot of E-Mails — from Christian Zionists

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

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Lawmakers Plead for Sanity

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

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How’s That Working Out?

After Scott Brown’s victory, we heard that the White House was going to “pivot” toward jobs. But the Obami did no such thing. Doubling down, and doubling down again, became the order of the day. We’ve had 24/7 coverage of health care — when not interrupted by news of a new low in U.S.-Israeli relations. So how’s that affecting Obama’s standing? For the first time, he’s “upside down” in Gallup — with 46 approving and 47 percent disapproving of his performance. Over at Rasmussen, only 44 percent of voters approve of Obama’s performance.

For members of Congress, it’s getting harder and harder to deny reality. Whether one looks at the generic congressional polling or the president’s own standing (which is as good a predictor as any of the fate of his party in the midterm election), the conclusion is the same: ObamaCare and the attendant procedural stunts are political losers for the Democrats. Republicans are struggling mightily to defeat ObamaCare, but one senses it’s a predicament that’s not altogether unwelcome. After all, running against ObamaCare and Democratic tricksterism may have its benefits both in November and in 2012.

After Scott Brown’s victory, we heard that the White House was going to “pivot” toward jobs. But the Obami did no such thing. Doubling down, and doubling down again, became the order of the day. We’ve had 24/7 coverage of health care — when not interrupted by news of a new low in U.S.-Israeli relations. So how’s that affecting Obama’s standing? For the first time, he’s “upside down” in Gallup — with 46 approving and 47 percent disapproving of his performance. Over at Rasmussen, only 44 percent of voters approve of Obama’s performance.

For members of Congress, it’s getting harder and harder to deny reality. Whether one looks at the generic congressional polling or the president’s own standing (which is as good a predictor as any of the fate of his party in the midterm election), the conclusion is the same: ObamaCare and the attendant procedural stunts are political losers for the Democrats. Republicans are struggling mightily to defeat ObamaCare, but one senses it’s a predicament that’s not altogether unwelcome. After all, running against ObamaCare and Democratic tricksterism may have its benefits both in November and in 2012.

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“Obama’s Political Intifada Against Netanyahu”

Yossi Klein Halevi’s New Republic piece is very strong.

Yossi Klein Halevi’s New Republic piece is very strong.

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Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

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Is Stephen Walt Actually a Realist?

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

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And Now the Blood Flows

The headline reads: “Mideast Flap Hits Jerusalem’s Streets.” Another equally apt headline would be: “Obama Gambit Sets Off Palestinian Riots.” That, after all, is what is going on. The report notes: “Protests Tuesday moved the dispute into the streets, in the most widespread unrest in Jerusalem in years. Palestinian protesters, many responding to a call by the Hamas militant group for a ‘day of rage,’ hurled Molotov cocktails and stones, set tires ablaze and blocked roads.” And why might Palestinians think it opportune to revert to violence?  Well, perhaps the Palestinians — whose warnings of violence were never condemned by the U.S. — have figured out that the Obami are so desperate for those proximity talks and so alienated from the Israelis that now, anything goes. They can have violence and proximity talks. They can have America’s Israel-bashing and a new intifada:

“We are calling for the third Intifada to be sparked now,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, referring to Palestinian uprisings against Israel.

Peace talks are now in limbo, though U.S. officials said special Mideast envoy George Mitchell hoped to return to the region in the coming days. The diplomatic flap has plunged the longtime allies into one of the worst chills in relations in decades.

You see, in his frenzy to return to the peace process, Mitchell will now turn a blind eye toward the Palestinian violence. And the Palestinians know it. I wonder how the Axelrod-Emanuel-Clinton-Mitchell-Obama brain trust feels about its handiwork now?  It has, predictably, torn asunder the U.S.-Israel relationship and emboldened the proponents of violence — the worst possible result. But then this is the worst Middle East policy team we’ve ever seen.

The headline reads: “Mideast Flap Hits Jerusalem’s Streets.” Another equally apt headline would be: “Obama Gambit Sets Off Palestinian Riots.” That, after all, is what is going on. The report notes: “Protests Tuesday moved the dispute into the streets, in the most widespread unrest in Jerusalem in years. Palestinian protesters, many responding to a call by the Hamas militant group for a ‘day of rage,’ hurled Molotov cocktails and stones, set tires ablaze and blocked roads.” And why might Palestinians think it opportune to revert to violence?  Well, perhaps the Palestinians — whose warnings of violence were never condemned by the U.S. — have figured out that the Obami are so desperate for those proximity talks and so alienated from the Israelis that now, anything goes. They can have violence and proximity talks. They can have America’s Israel-bashing and a new intifada:

“We are calling for the third Intifada to be sparked now,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, referring to Palestinian uprisings against Israel.

Peace talks are now in limbo, though U.S. officials said special Mideast envoy George Mitchell hoped to return to the region in the coming days. The diplomatic flap has plunged the longtime allies into one of the worst chills in relations in decades.

You see, in his frenzy to return to the peace process, Mitchell will now turn a blind eye toward the Palestinian violence. And the Palestinians know it. I wonder how the Axelrod-Emanuel-Clinton-Mitchell-Obama brain trust feels about its handiwork now?  It has, predictably, torn asunder the U.S.-Israel relationship and emboldened the proponents of violence — the worst possible result. But then this is the worst Middle East policy team we’ve ever seen.

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Evenhandedness Would Be Swell

Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, observes Obama’s not at all evenhanded approach to the Middle East, started long before the most recent conflict over an apartment complex in Jerusalem:

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

Condemnation is reserved for the Israelis who have been berated in private and in public for over a year. Not for the other side:

In stark contrast, the US has not publicly reprimanded the PA on a single issue over the past twelve months. It is unconscionable that neither the White House nor the State Department conveyed a word of protest concerning the ongoing incitement and spate of ceremonies sanctifying the memory of the most degenerate suicide killers and mass murderers. Not even when our peace partners President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally partook in these ghoulish ceremonies.

And where is this heading? Leibler suspects the worst: “Obama is surely aware that recent statements by his administration will only embolden the Palestinians and Jihadists to be more extreme in their demands, making it inevitable that the talks will almost certainly fail. Some may infer that this is precisely his intention. We will then be blamed for the breakdown and the US, with the backing of the Quartet and others, will then seek to impose a solution upon us.”

And meanwhile the Iranian nuclear threat looms. By the way, it’s mid-March. Where are the sanctions? Why haven’t we resolved the differences between the House and the Senate bill and sent it to the president’s desk? Maybe the White House would prefer to go slow on that one. After all, the “real” crisis is a potential breakdown in proximity talks that have no chance of success. It is a cockeyed set of priorities, which seem oddly in tune with those of Israels’ foes.

In the end we will have no “peace,” our relationship with Israel will be strained but not broken, and the mullahs will move steadily ahead with their nuclear program. And the Palestinians bent on violence will seize the chance to make mischief. This is the result of the most misguided American Middle East policy in decades. It’s change, alright. Let’s hope the damage is reversable.

Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, observes Obama’s not at all evenhanded approach to the Middle East, started long before the most recent conflict over an apartment complex in Jerusalem:

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

Condemnation is reserved for the Israelis who have been berated in private and in public for over a year. Not for the other side:

In stark contrast, the US has not publicly reprimanded the PA on a single issue over the past twelve months. It is unconscionable that neither the White House nor the State Department conveyed a word of protest concerning the ongoing incitement and spate of ceremonies sanctifying the memory of the most degenerate suicide killers and mass murderers. Not even when our peace partners President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally partook in these ghoulish ceremonies.

And where is this heading? Leibler suspects the worst: “Obama is surely aware that recent statements by his administration will only embolden the Palestinians and Jihadists to be more extreme in their demands, making it inevitable that the talks will almost certainly fail. Some may infer that this is precisely his intention. We will then be blamed for the breakdown and the US, with the backing of the Quartet and others, will then seek to impose a solution upon us.”

And meanwhile the Iranian nuclear threat looms. By the way, it’s mid-March. Where are the sanctions? Why haven’t we resolved the differences between the House and the Senate bill and sent it to the president’s desk? Maybe the White House would prefer to go slow on that one. After all, the “real” crisis is a potential breakdown in proximity talks that have no chance of success. It is a cockeyed set of priorities, which seem oddly in tune with those of Israels’ foes.

In the end we will have no “peace,” our relationship with Israel will be strained but not broken, and the mullahs will move steadily ahead with their nuclear program. And the Palestinians bent on violence will seize the chance to make mischief. This is the result of the most misguided American Middle East policy in decades. It’s change, alright. Let’s hope the damage is reversable.

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Hammering Israel

Noah, you note that Obama “is pushing forward with his failed strategy of a year ago, only this time with a bigger hammer.” It is worth reviewing specifically why that strategy failed a year ago — because the lesson is much different from Obama’s facile explanation (“This is just really hard … we [didn’t anticipate] some of these political problems on both sides.”)

Netanyahu met with Obama six weeks after taking office, bringing with him a straightforward proposal: commence immediate negotiations with the Palestinians with no preconditions. It was an extraordinary position: Israel had just completed a year of final-status negotiations with the Palestinians, offering them a state on all of Gaza and the West Bank (after land swaps), with an international solution for the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem. The Palestinians had rejected the proposal out of hand, just as they had rejected Ehud Barak’s offer in July 2000 at Camp David and the Clinton Parameters in January 2001.

Netanyahu could have — and probably should have — taken the position that it was pointless to resume final-status negotiations while the Palestinians had a terrorist regime in Gaza and a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank unprepared to agree to a demilitarized state or to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Under those circumstances, a new “peace process” would simply create on Israel’s eastern side what 100 percent withdrawals had brought it in the north and south. There is no rule of international law that says the Palestinians, having rejected three offers of a state, were entitled to a fourth.

Instead of endorsing Netanyahu’s offer of negotiations without preconditions, Obama established a precondition that violated a longstanding oral understanding and the written assurances of the 2004 Bush letter. He demanded that Israel cease all settlement activity, even in settlements the U.S. had already conceded in that letter would be part of Israel in any final-status agreement — and that were necessary for the “defensible borders” promised both in that letter and one the Clinton administration had provided Israel. Moreover, the Bush letter was not simply the policy or promise of prior administrations: it reflected a deal. Obama was reneging on formal U.S. reassurances that if Israel took the “risk for peace” of withdrawing every soldier and settler from Gaza, the U.S. would not require a West Bank withdrawal to indefensible borders.

Things were not “really hard” — Netanyahu had made them relatively easy with his proposal for immediate negotiations. Nor were there political problems “on both sides” — Netanyahu had overcome the ones on his side and put forward a constructive way to proceed. But Arab expectations soared as they watched Obama renege on prior U.S. commitments, demand new concessions from Israel before negotiations could start, and obviate the need for the Palestinians to negotiate themselves.

A year later, Obama has made the same mistake again, choosing to escalate a low-level administrative approval of housing in a longstanding Jewish part of Jerusalem into a crisis with Israel. It is another display of Chicago-style diplomacy designed to demand concessions he knows Netanyahu cannot make, and that were not a condition of the prior negotiations that produced three Israeli offers of a state. Once again, Obama will send Arab expectations even higher, send Israeli trust in him even lower, and reduce the chances of success for any “proximity talks” from slim to none. Another triumph of smart diplomacy — complete with, as Noah notes, a denigration of the intelligence of Israel’s leader.

Noah, you note that Obama “is pushing forward with his failed strategy of a year ago, only this time with a bigger hammer.” It is worth reviewing specifically why that strategy failed a year ago — because the lesson is much different from Obama’s facile explanation (“This is just really hard … we [didn’t anticipate] some of these political problems on both sides.”)

Netanyahu met with Obama six weeks after taking office, bringing with him a straightforward proposal: commence immediate negotiations with the Palestinians with no preconditions. It was an extraordinary position: Israel had just completed a year of final-status negotiations with the Palestinians, offering them a state on all of Gaza and the West Bank (after land swaps), with an international solution for the Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem. The Palestinians had rejected the proposal out of hand, just as they had rejected Ehud Barak’s offer in July 2000 at Camp David and the Clinton Parameters in January 2001.

Netanyahu could have — and probably should have — taken the position that it was pointless to resume final-status negotiations while the Palestinians had a terrorist regime in Gaza and a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank unprepared to agree to a demilitarized state or to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Under those circumstances, a new “peace process” would simply create on Israel’s eastern side what 100 percent withdrawals had brought it in the north and south. There is no rule of international law that says the Palestinians, having rejected three offers of a state, were entitled to a fourth.

Instead of endorsing Netanyahu’s offer of negotiations without preconditions, Obama established a precondition that violated a longstanding oral understanding and the written assurances of the 2004 Bush letter. He demanded that Israel cease all settlement activity, even in settlements the U.S. had already conceded in that letter would be part of Israel in any final-status agreement — and that were necessary for the “defensible borders” promised both in that letter and one the Clinton administration had provided Israel. Moreover, the Bush letter was not simply the policy or promise of prior administrations: it reflected a deal. Obama was reneging on formal U.S. reassurances that if Israel took the “risk for peace” of withdrawing every soldier and settler from Gaza, the U.S. would not require a West Bank withdrawal to indefensible borders.

Things were not “really hard” — Netanyahu had made them relatively easy with his proposal for immediate negotiations. Nor were there political problems “on both sides” — Netanyahu had overcome the ones on his side and put forward a constructive way to proceed. But Arab expectations soared as they watched Obama renege on prior U.S. commitments, demand new concessions from Israel before negotiations could start, and obviate the need for the Palestinians to negotiate themselves.

A year later, Obama has made the same mistake again, choosing to escalate a low-level administrative approval of housing in a longstanding Jewish part of Jerusalem into a crisis with Israel. It is another display of Chicago-style diplomacy designed to demand concessions he knows Netanyahu cannot make, and that were not a condition of the prior negotiations that produced three Israeli offers of a state. Once again, Obama will send Arab expectations even higher, send Israeli trust in him even lower, and reduce the chances of success for any “proximity talks” from slim to none. Another triumph of smart diplomacy — complete with, as Noah notes, a denigration of the intelligence of Israel’s leader.

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Even for Them, Quite Shocking

It’s hard to think how this week could be going any worse for the Democrats. They’ve gotten tangled up in a losing argument over the Slaughter Rule. The polling still looks bleak for ObamaCare. And they don’t have a bill. No, really. They are having some difficulty getting the numbers right, which — remember — is still within the artificial framework of a bill that excludes the Doc Fix and makes use of many accounting tricks. This report explains:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package — which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats — would meet the party’s deficit-reduction goals. . . .

Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the “fixes” package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. . . . But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money. For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.

In other words, the “fixes” Obama came up with to ameliorate the most politically objectionable aspects of the Senate bill have made it even less (is it possible?) fiscally defensible. Trimming back on the Cadillac Tax — that is the excise tax on generous health-care plans — has put a hole in the already suspect budgetary assumptions of the Senate bill. So the House has to come up with more revenue. The hitch:

Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

So days before voting — or not really voting — to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don’t really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It’s remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The “details” — the Constitution and the substance of the bill — will just need to take a back seat.

It’s hard to think how this week could be going any worse for the Democrats. They’ve gotten tangled up in a losing argument over the Slaughter Rule. The polling still looks bleak for ObamaCare. And they don’t have a bill. No, really. They are having some difficulty getting the numbers right, which — remember — is still within the artificial framework of a bill that excludes the Doc Fix and makes use of many accounting tricks. This report explains:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package — which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats — would meet the party’s deficit-reduction goals. . . .

Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the “fixes” package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. . . . But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money. For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.

In other words, the “fixes” Obama came up with to ameliorate the most politically objectionable aspects of the Senate bill have made it even less (is it possible?) fiscally defensible. Trimming back on the Cadillac Tax — that is the excise tax on generous health-care plans — has put a hole in the already suspect budgetary assumptions of the Senate bill. So the House has to come up with more revenue. The hitch:

Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

So days before voting — or not really voting — to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don’t really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It’s remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The “details” — the Constitution and the substance of the bill — will just need to take a back seat.

Read Less

Self-Slaughter

Sometimes in politics the ugliness of the process can become almost as harmful as the damaging substance of the policies themselves. That is what is occurring now, with Speaker Pelosi indicating a preference for a parliamentary tactic that would allow House Democrats to pass the Senate’s health care bill without voting directly on the bill itself (as you’ve no doubt seen mentioned in previous posts, this tactic is variously known as the “self-executing rule,” “deem and pass,” and “the Slaughter Solution,” named after Louise Slaughter, chairman of the House Rules Committee).

If you want a sense of how much this whole process is damaging the Obama administration — the apostles of “hope and change,” you’ll recall — take a look at Robert Gibbs trying to answer whether the “Slaughter Solution” constitutes the kind of up-or-down vote the president promised. It’s almost painful to watch. The unmasking of the Obama presidency continues, one day at a time.

Sometimes in politics the ugliness of the process can become almost as harmful as the damaging substance of the policies themselves. That is what is occurring now, with Speaker Pelosi indicating a preference for a parliamentary tactic that would allow House Democrats to pass the Senate’s health care bill without voting directly on the bill itself (as you’ve no doubt seen mentioned in previous posts, this tactic is variously known as the “self-executing rule,” “deem and pass,” and “the Slaughter Solution,” named after Louise Slaughter, chairman of the House Rules Committee).

If you want a sense of how much this whole process is damaging the Obama administration — the apostles of “hope and change,” you’ll recall — take a look at Robert Gibbs trying to answer whether the “Slaughter Solution” constitutes the kind of up-or-down vote the president promised. It’s almost painful to watch. The unmasking of the Obama presidency continues, one day at a time.

Read Less




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