Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 22, 2010

Costs and Benefits

Robert Zelnick writes: “Everything about the House-passed bill smacks of political excess rooted in ideological purity.” He then tries to puzzle out who the bill is supposed to help. What about the poor and uninsured? “Well, most of the truly needy are already protected by Medicaid. Most of the rest: employed married folks who have chosen the risky but comprehensible path of self-insurance?” So there isn’t a big net plus — or a group of grateful voters whose votes are sufficient to balance all the angry conservatives and independents. What about cost containment? As Zelnick says, “the bill does nothing.” But there are many who are getting socked:

The bill slaps s series of tax boosts on the earnings of those in the quarter million per year bracket and above together with taxes on investment, corporate earnings, other “unearned” (i.e., job-creating investment income) and estates, again nothing remotely linked to the subject of the legislation.

And there are the seniors who will find their Medicare curtailed. Again, more pain for a group of regular voters.

It’s therefore quite possible that the public (at least those who vote consistently) won’t — even after a sales job — come to appreciate the wonders of the bill. There just aren’t that many wonders. It is, as Zelnick points out, quite different in this regard from popular entitlement programs (“social security was carefully tailored to satisfy a pressing need for security among the elderly while Medicare and Medicaid also responded to well defined public need”). Here there is a lot of pain with uncertain gains. And that’s before we consider the aggregate impact on the nation’s fiscal health.

Perceptions change over time, but it’s hard to see how this becomes the sort of beloved entitlement plan that Democrats hope will earn the voters’ gratitude.

Robert Zelnick writes: “Everything about the House-passed bill smacks of political excess rooted in ideological purity.” He then tries to puzzle out who the bill is supposed to help. What about the poor and uninsured? “Well, most of the truly needy are already protected by Medicaid. Most of the rest: employed married folks who have chosen the risky but comprehensible path of self-insurance?” So there isn’t a big net plus — or a group of grateful voters whose votes are sufficient to balance all the angry conservatives and independents. What about cost containment? As Zelnick says, “the bill does nothing.” But there are many who are getting socked:

The bill slaps s series of tax boosts on the earnings of those in the quarter million per year bracket and above together with taxes on investment, corporate earnings, other “unearned” (i.e., job-creating investment income) and estates, again nothing remotely linked to the subject of the legislation.

And there are the seniors who will find their Medicare curtailed. Again, more pain for a group of regular voters.

It’s therefore quite possible that the public (at least those who vote consistently) won’t — even after a sales job — come to appreciate the wonders of the bill. There just aren’t that many wonders. It is, as Zelnick points out, quite different in this regard from popular entitlement programs (“social security was carefully tailored to satisfy a pressing need for security among the elderly while Medicare and Medicaid also responded to well defined public need”). Here there is a lot of pain with uncertain gains. And that’s before we consider the aggregate impact on the nation’s fiscal health.

Perceptions change over time, but it’s hard to see how this becomes the sort of beloved entitlement plan that Democrats hope will earn the voters’ gratitude.

Read Less

A Hard Sell

A CNN poll over the weekend shows 59 percent of the public opposes ObamaCare. Some eyeopening specifics include: 70 percent think it will increase the federal budget, 56 percent respond that ObamaCare creates “too much government involvement in the nation’s health care system,” and 62 percent say they will wind up paying more for health care under the new bill. In short, the public hasn’t bought any of what Obama has been selling for over a year. Now that it’s passed, the administration imagines that this sentiment will completely change.

It seems hard to fathom that merely by repeating the same failing arguments between now and November (that — after all — is the first referendum on ObamaCare) that Obama will move the needle. If anything, all the talk has made the public more wary of changing the current system. It is equally likely that as more of the backroom deals come out and the Doc Fix (oh yes, that) is voted upon (thereby making evident what an accounting farce was the CBO projection) public opinion will worsen on the bill.

And then, remember that whatever voters think on the legality of abortion, a huge majority opposes public funding of abortion. Since the Stupak collapse on this issue proved to be the decisive factor for the bill’s passing, the public is hearing an earful about that. It will be interesting to see how that also impacts the perception of the bill.

For the foreseeable future, we will have a single question: is ObamaCare a good or bad thing for the country. If the accounting realities hit home and it doesn’t do what Obama promised, the reaction will be just as decisive and harsh as was the verdict on the stimulus. Well, this — as the president said — is what elections are for.

A CNN poll over the weekend shows 59 percent of the public opposes ObamaCare. Some eyeopening specifics include: 70 percent think it will increase the federal budget, 56 percent respond that ObamaCare creates “too much government involvement in the nation’s health care system,” and 62 percent say they will wind up paying more for health care under the new bill. In short, the public hasn’t bought any of what Obama has been selling for over a year. Now that it’s passed, the administration imagines that this sentiment will completely change.

It seems hard to fathom that merely by repeating the same failing arguments between now and November (that — after all — is the first referendum on ObamaCare) that Obama will move the needle. If anything, all the talk has made the public more wary of changing the current system. It is equally likely that as more of the backroom deals come out and the Doc Fix (oh yes, that) is voted upon (thereby making evident what an accounting farce was the CBO projection) public opinion will worsen on the bill.

And then, remember that whatever voters think on the legality of abortion, a huge majority opposes public funding of abortion. Since the Stupak collapse on this issue proved to be the decisive factor for the bill’s passing, the public is hearing an earful about that. It will be interesting to see how that also impacts the perception of the bill.

For the foreseeable future, we will have a single question: is ObamaCare a good or bad thing for the country. If the accounting realities hit home and it doesn’t do what Obama promised, the reaction will be just as decisive and harsh as was the verdict on the stimulus. Well, this — as the president said — is what elections are for.

Read Less

What IS Our Iran Policy?

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” – taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” – taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

Read Less

Feisty Dershowitz Attacks the Wrong Target

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

Read Less

The Wages of Moral Equivalence

In her remarks today Hillary Clinton said this:

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city and call upon their brethren to “defend” nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called “attacks,” it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

Notice how differently Israel and the Palestinians were treated in this regard. The Israeli prime minister was presumed to be responsible for an intentional slight to the Obama administration when a housing permit was issued. An immediate condemnation — we condemn — was issued. A 43-minute chewing out of the prime minister was conducted and then proudly described to the waiting media. By contrast, days after the event, in a rather roundabout formulation (“must be condemned” – but is she doing so?) to a Jewish audience, Clinton ekes out her statement. You can be sure that a speech to AIPAC days after the event won’t send the Quartet rushing forward to join in this oblique condemnation when the party on the receiving end is not Israel.

And her invocation of Hamas is interesting as well. It is not as if there were no trace of Fatah in all this. From the New York Times:

Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the mainstream party led by President Mahmoud Abbas, gathered here on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. . .

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

“We are all Dalal Mughrabi,” declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. “For us she is not a terrorist,” he said, but rather “a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.”

So Hillary is perhaps giving every benefit of the doubt to Mahmoud Abbas, just at the moment in which she is holding Netanyahu responsible for the housing permit granted by a low-level bureaucrat.

Then there is the additional question, of course, as to whether the U.S. should be engaging in such moral (sort of) equivalence, when the issue is violence, on one hand, and a housing permit in Israel’s eternal capital, on the other. The Obami seem determined to treat friend and foe alike  — or in Israel’s case, the friend gets the less magnanimous treatment. In doing so, Obama and the rest of his administration, including the ever-so-earnest Hillary, communicate to both that we are a feckless ally, willing to trade away principle for the sake of a “deal.” The Palestinians and the Arab states sense that the U.S. and Israel can be squeezed, that we are willing to spin half-truths for the sake of keeping the “process” going. Today Hillary pronounced:

As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.

But is that the impression the Muslim World and Iran, specifically, receive, when they see the U.S. lashing out at Israel? It seems in fact that the purpose of the lashing out was to show that we are not so closely aligned with Israel. Indeed, Clinton declared that, “Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.”

But our credibility demands that we stick by deals (including those on settlements agreed under the Bush administration) and back our friends, regardless of the audience. In that regard, Hillary only seemed to emphasize the chasm between AIPAC-friendly rhetoric and administration policy.

In her remarks today Hillary Clinton said this:

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city and call upon their brethren to “defend” nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called “attacks,” it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

Notice how differently Israel and the Palestinians were treated in this regard. The Israeli prime minister was presumed to be responsible for an intentional slight to the Obama administration when a housing permit was issued. An immediate condemnation — we condemn — was issued. A 43-minute chewing out of the prime minister was conducted and then proudly described to the waiting media. By contrast, days after the event, in a rather roundabout formulation (“must be condemned” – but is she doing so?) to a Jewish audience, Clinton ekes out her statement. You can be sure that a speech to AIPAC days after the event won’t send the Quartet rushing forward to join in this oblique condemnation when the party on the receiving end is not Israel.

And her invocation of Hamas is interesting as well. It is not as if there were no trace of Fatah in all this. From the New York Times:

Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the mainstream party led by President Mahmoud Abbas, gathered here on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. . .

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

“We are all Dalal Mughrabi,” declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. “For us she is not a terrorist,” he said, but rather “a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.”

So Hillary is perhaps giving every benefit of the doubt to Mahmoud Abbas, just at the moment in which she is holding Netanyahu responsible for the housing permit granted by a low-level bureaucrat.

Then there is the additional question, of course, as to whether the U.S. should be engaging in such moral (sort of) equivalence, when the issue is violence, on one hand, and a housing permit in Israel’s eternal capital, on the other. The Obami seem determined to treat friend and foe alike  — or in Israel’s case, the friend gets the less magnanimous treatment. In doing so, Obama and the rest of his administration, including the ever-so-earnest Hillary, communicate to both that we are a feckless ally, willing to trade away principle for the sake of a “deal.” The Palestinians and the Arab states sense that the U.S. and Israel can be squeezed, that we are willing to spin half-truths for the sake of keeping the “process” going. Today Hillary pronounced:

As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.

But is that the impression the Muslim World and Iran, specifically, receive, when they see the U.S. lashing out at Israel? It seems in fact that the purpose of the lashing out was to show that we are not so closely aligned with Israel. Indeed, Clinton declared that, “Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.”

But our credibility demands that we stick by deals (including those on settlements agreed under the Bush administration) and back our friends, regardless of the audience. In that regard, Hillary only seemed to emphasize the chasm between AIPAC-friendly rhetoric and administration policy.

Read Less

Actions vs. a Pretty AIPAC Speech

Let’s talk about the gulf between Obama’s policies and rhetoric. On the one hand, the Obami reversed a Bush-era decision to exit the notorious UN Human Rights Council, where the likes of Libya (and maybe Iran!) will make pronouncements on Israel’s human-rights record. Today this report emphasizes the antics of three-ring circus that now carries the U.S. stamp of legitimacy:

Israel charged Monday that the United Nations Human Rights Council does not believe it has the right to self defense against the rockets which Gaza Palestinians launch against its citizens on the southern border.

“You have done nothing about it and you expect that Israel do nothing either,” said Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Roni Leshno Yaar.

He spoke during a day-long debate about Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Later this week the council is expected to vote on four resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One resolution affirms the Palestinian right to self determination. A second initiates the creation of an independent committee to monitor compliance by Israel and the Palestinians with the Goldstone Report call for both parties to hold independent transparent investigations into human rights abuses during Israel’s military incursion in Gaza in January 2009 and the Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli citizens.

Two other resolutions accuse Israel of a host of human rights abuses against Palestinians and take it to task for continued settlement building, including east Jerusalem.

Hillary today waxed lyrical about standing with Israel and declared: “The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy. We led the boycott of the Durban Conference and repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. This administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” But by their policy choices, the Obami have — in fact — empowered the “efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Why not walk out of the UN Human Rights Council once and for all? Or is that too great a price to pay for being a friend to Israel?

AIPAC is encouraging the administration to take issues of concern behind closed doors. Fair enough. No ally deserves to be publicly humiliated. But the real goal, to which Howard Kohr alluded, should be something far more ambitious. The administration has to end its bad policies, not simply its hysterical rhetoric. Until it recognizes that the policy of ingratiating ourselves with the Muslim World and distancing ourselves from Israel is fundamentally flawed, the rest is just atmospherics.

Let’s talk about the gulf between Obama’s policies and rhetoric. On the one hand, the Obami reversed a Bush-era decision to exit the notorious UN Human Rights Council, where the likes of Libya (and maybe Iran!) will make pronouncements on Israel’s human-rights record. Today this report emphasizes the antics of three-ring circus that now carries the U.S. stamp of legitimacy:

Israel charged Monday that the United Nations Human Rights Council does not believe it has the right to self defense against the rockets which Gaza Palestinians launch against its citizens on the southern border.

“You have done nothing about it and you expect that Israel do nothing either,” said Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Roni Leshno Yaar.

He spoke during a day-long debate about Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Later this week the council is expected to vote on four resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One resolution affirms the Palestinian right to self determination. A second initiates the creation of an independent committee to monitor compliance by Israel and the Palestinians with the Goldstone Report call for both parties to hold independent transparent investigations into human rights abuses during Israel’s military incursion in Gaza in January 2009 and the Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli citizens.

Two other resolutions accuse Israel of a host of human rights abuses against Palestinians and take it to task for continued settlement building, including east Jerusalem.

Hillary today waxed lyrical about standing with Israel and declared: “The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy. We led the boycott of the Durban Conference and repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. This administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” But by their policy choices, the Obami have — in fact — empowered the “efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Why not walk out of the UN Human Rights Council once and for all? Or is that too great a price to pay for being a friend to Israel?

AIPAC is encouraging the administration to take issues of concern behind closed doors. Fair enough. No ally deserves to be publicly humiliated. But the real goal, to which Howard Kohr alluded, should be something far more ambitious. The administration has to end its bad policies, not simply its hysterical rhetoric. Until it recognizes that the policy of ingratiating ourselves with the Muslim World and distancing ourselves from Israel is fundamentally flawed, the rest is just atmospherics.

Read Less

Hillary Clinton at AIPAC — Then and Now

When Hillary Clinton appeared at AIPAC in 2008, she told the conference that one of her guiding principles was a “simple one; no nuclear weapons for Iran.”

Iran simply cannot be allowed to continue its current behavior and I wish to underscore, I believe that we are further behind in constraining Iran today because of the failed policies of President Bush than we would have been had we taken a much more aggressive engagement course earlier. That is why it is imperative that we get both tough and smart about dealing with Iran before it is too late.

The Obama administration has now spent 15 months allowing Iran to continue its “current behavior.” The “tough and smart” engagement has consisted of an endlessly outstretched hand, combined with self-congratulatory statements about how “isolated” the failed engagement has made Iran. Sanctions that no one expects to be “crippling” are months off, and it is not clear what happens after that.

In his own 2008 AIPAC address, Barack Obama said that we had “no time to waste” and promised to use “all elements of American power to pressure Iran.” The key sentence in his prepared text was “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – a sentence that generated a standing ovation because, in the speech as delivered, Obama repeated the word “everything” three times:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weaponeverything. [emphasis added]

Secretary of State Clinton’s speech this morning included a statement that the U.S. is “determined” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but as Jen notes, the speech included no reference to “all options” remaining on the table, much less the promise that Obama previously made, which was that every option will be used if necessary.

At yesterday’s Roundtable on Foreign Policy, there was the following exchange between moderator Dan Senor, Dr. Robert Kagan, and Senator Evan Bayh:

Dan Senor: Rob, there has been an attempt at engagement for — with Iran now for a year. The results speak for themselves. What are President Obama’s policy options for Iran?

Dr. Robert Kagan: Dan, the president came to office, in my estimation, believing that the key problem with Iran was Iran’s isolation, and you solve the isolation problem through engagement. Well, we figured out pretty early on that that was a mis-analysis, that the key problem was that Iran really wants to have a nuclear bomb. And if that’s the problem, then you need a different strategy, and there are three necessary elements to that strategy. One is diplomacy, second is economic sanctions, and third is a credible threat of force that’s — hovers in the background to compel the Iranians to take seriously the sanctions and the diplomacy. (Applause.)

Now — now, to — to the credit of the president, he has moved from a reliance solely on engagement to endorsing significant, although not yet crippling, sanctions. We’re slow. It’s taking too long. They won’t be comprehensive enough, but most importantly, they’re unlikely to be effective without the third part. ….

Dan Senor: Senator Bayh, is — is that credible threat of force there? The — at — at least the — the projection of it.

Sen. Evan Bayh: I’m not sure it’s there in the minds of the Iranians right now, but it needs to be there. …

So I — I agree entirely with what Rob said, and if you want to just be clear-eyed and realistic about this, we need to go with aggressive sanctions that are likely to hurt the regime, particularly the revolutionary guards. But you — you want to be honest about it, that’s unlikely to work.

The absence in Secretary Clinton’s speech of any sense of urgency, or of a possible Plan C, will be noted by those looking for something more significant than a rhetorical expression of “determination.”

When Hillary Clinton appeared at AIPAC in 2008, she told the conference that one of her guiding principles was a “simple one; no nuclear weapons for Iran.”

Iran simply cannot be allowed to continue its current behavior and I wish to underscore, I believe that we are further behind in constraining Iran today because of the failed policies of President Bush than we would have been had we taken a much more aggressive engagement course earlier. That is why it is imperative that we get both tough and smart about dealing with Iran before it is too late.

The Obama administration has now spent 15 months allowing Iran to continue its “current behavior.” The “tough and smart” engagement has consisted of an endlessly outstretched hand, combined with self-congratulatory statements about how “isolated” the failed engagement has made Iran. Sanctions that no one expects to be “crippling” are months off, and it is not clear what happens after that.

In his own 2008 AIPAC address, Barack Obama said that we had “no time to waste” and promised to use “all elements of American power to pressure Iran.” The key sentence in his prepared text was “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – a sentence that generated a standing ovation because, in the speech as delivered, Obama repeated the word “everything” three times:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weaponeverything. [emphasis added]

Secretary of State Clinton’s speech this morning included a statement that the U.S. is “determined” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but as Jen notes, the speech included no reference to “all options” remaining on the table, much less the promise that Obama previously made, which was that every option will be used if necessary.

At yesterday’s Roundtable on Foreign Policy, there was the following exchange between moderator Dan Senor, Dr. Robert Kagan, and Senator Evan Bayh:

Dan Senor: Rob, there has been an attempt at engagement for — with Iran now for a year. The results speak for themselves. What are President Obama’s policy options for Iran?

Dr. Robert Kagan: Dan, the president came to office, in my estimation, believing that the key problem with Iran was Iran’s isolation, and you solve the isolation problem through engagement. Well, we figured out pretty early on that that was a mis-analysis, that the key problem was that Iran really wants to have a nuclear bomb. And if that’s the problem, then you need a different strategy, and there are three necessary elements to that strategy. One is diplomacy, second is economic sanctions, and third is a credible threat of force that’s — hovers in the background to compel the Iranians to take seriously the sanctions and the diplomacy. (Applause.)

Now — now, to — to the credit of the president, he has moved from a reliance solely on engagement to endorsing significant, although not yet crippling, sanctions. We’re slow. It’s taking too long. They won’t be comprehensive enough, but most importantly, they’re unlikely to be effective without the third part. ….

Dan Senor: Senator Bayh, is — is that credible threat of force there? The — at — at least the — the projection of it.

Sen. Evan Bayh: I’m not sure it’s there in the minds of the Iranians right now, but it needs to be there. …

So I — I agree entirely with what Rob said, and if you want to just be clear-eyed and realistic about this, we need to go with aggressive sanctions that are likely to hurt the regime, particularly the revolutionary guards. But you — you want to be honest about it, that’s unlikely to work.

The absence in Secretary Clinton’s speech of any sense of urgency, or of a possible Plan C, will be noted by those looking for something more significant than a rhetorical expression of “determination.”

Read Less

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Differences Between the Two Parties

Over the last year or so, there has been a lot of talk by some prominent commentators pretending to be conservatives that there is essentially no difference between the two parties. After yesterday’s health-care vote, can we retire such silliness? The differences between the two parties are profound — and whatever you think of John McCain, he would not have championed this monstrosity. (In fact, McCain’s health-care plan was quite good in many respects.)

We’re reminded, once again, and in this case to our dismay, that elections matter.

Over the last year or so, there has been a lot of talk by some prominent commentators pretending to be conservatives that there is essentially no difference between the two parties. After yesterday’s health-care vote, can we retire such silliness? The differences between the two parties are profound — and whatever you think of John McCain, he would not have championed this monstrosity. (In fact, McCain’s health-care plan was quite good in many respects.)

We’re reminded, once again, and in this case to our dismay, that elections matter.

Read Less

Who Will Write the History of the Battle Over ObamaCare?

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

Read Less

AIPAC: Hillary Clinton Arrives

The crowd gives her a warm welcome. Most are standing; some — noticeably — are not. Attesting that she is pleased to be back with “friends,” she jokes as she begins, “I can assure you I have received a lot of advice.” She praises the group for speaking up and advocating its views, “This is what democracy is all about.” She says the relationship between U.S. and Israel “has never been more important.” Her statement, “We know the forces that threaten Israel are the same which threaten the United States,” gains a warm ovation. She then brags about health care in a non sequitur about Obama’s resolve. Huh? “Let me assure you . . . for President Obama and me and this entire administration our commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid, enduring and forever.” The crowd rises to its feet. Is it because AIPAC can put 7,500 in a room? She says it is the shared values of democracy and freedom and common aspirations for our children and our children’s children. She says her defense of Israel is more than a policy issue but a “personal commitment that will never waver.”

She continues in this vein, telling stories of her travels as well as a moving anecdote about a medic she met, who was subsequently killed. This strikes me as a personal accounting of her own attachment and relationship with Israel, a sort of personal defense of her own pro-Israel bona fides. Did the recent criticism sting? She continues now with her defense of Obama, reminding the group that she had vouched for him when the primary ended in 2008. Stone silence. She then continues with her defense case, citing the increase in aid for Israel. Obama has made peace a priority and is leading efforts to refute attacks on Israel’s legitimacy. When she says, “This administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself,” the crowd gives a brief ovation. (Well, they did miss a recent resolution condemning Israel at the UN, but she doesn’t bring that up, of course.)

She then moves on to Iran. She gives a tough indictment of the Iranian regime’s brutality. (The gap between her rhetoric and the Obami’s policy and reaction to the June events is striking.) She says, “Let me be clear: The U.S. is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” A brief ovation. President Obama has been trying a different course from that of isolating Iran. She said this was done with the idea that the very effort of “seeking engagement will strengthen our hand,” if it were rebuffed. She cites a “growing international consensus.” Europe is on board and Russia “has moved in this direction,” she says. (Huh? Except for the decision to bolster Iran by building a nuclear plant, of course.) Sanctions that will “bite,” (different from “crippling”?) she says, are what’s in store. She says the administration will not compromise on allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. That’s it. No timeline. And a fantasy version of an international agreement to “isolate” Iran.

Turning to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, she says that the status quo is unsustainable due to demography, technology, and ideology. We cannot ignore the long-term demographic trends that are entailed with  “Israel’s occupation.” (Unclear to what territory she is referring to.) A two-state solution, she argues, is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a secure and Jewish state. She argues again and again that the status quo can’t continue — that it strengthens the rejectionists. She notes that unlike the past, now even countries distant from the Middle East raise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a top concern. (She cites this as evidence that we must work on the problem, rather than as a sign that the obsession with Israel and the campaign to delegitimize it are problematic in and of themselves.) The only path to participation for Hamas, she says, requires that they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements. After a long period of silence from the crowd, she gets a brief ovation by calling for Gilad Shalit’s release.

And she returns to the goal of a two-state solution — of a comprehensive peace. George Mitchell has worked tirelessly for proximity talks, but, of course, lasting peace will require direct negotiations, she promises. As for Jerusalem, it’s a “deeply and profoundly important issue,” which can be worked out in negotiations, she says. Both parties have to refrain from unilateral actions that prejudice the outcome, she argues. She labels the Palestinians’ naming of a square after a terrorist as an “insult” to people on both sides. As to that and to the call for “rage” over a Jerusalem synagogue’s restoration: “They are wrong and must be condemned.” She says this concern for preserving the peace process is what induced us to condemn the housing announcement. (Silence in the hall.) It undermines the U.S. role when this happens, she argues, and our credibility is at stake, unless we speak up, she claims. We objected because we are committed to Israel’s security and because we don’t want to see progress endangered. She continues by calling for Abbas to show his commitment to peace and credits Netanyahu with taking concrete steps for peace. She wraps up with a meandering story that goes from Moses to the early settlers to the current risks for peace.

The speech was interesting on several notes. First, the portion of it devoted to the Palestinian conflict dwarfed the discussion on Iran, reflecting — I think — quite clearly where the interests and focus of the administration lie. Second, it appears as though Clinton was stung by accusations against her less-than-resolute defense of the Jewish state so much that this speech was an attempt at personal rehabilitation. Is this her pride speaking or rather a careful maneuver in the interest of her political future? Both, perhaps. Third, there is — as with so much concerning the Obama administration — a chasm between generalities and the administration’s actions and policies. How to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? No mention of “all options” being on the table. How to achieve peace when Hamas won’t renounce violence? How is being a resolute friend to Israel congruent with bashing Israel in public over an issue that Clinton just said belonged to the final-status stage of negotiations? Those who were uneasy before heard little, in concrete terms, to reassure them. Those worried about Clinton’s reputation in the Jewish community are hoping that this is enough to set things right. But one speech to AIPAC does not a reputation make; it is her acquiescence in Obama’s gambit of distancing the U.S. from Israel that is the nub of the problem and will render her a less than popular figure among pro-Israel Americans.

The crowd gives her a warm welcome. Most are standing; some — noticeably — are not. Attesting that she is pleased to be back with “friends,” she jokes as she begins, “I can assure you I have received a lot of advice.” She praises the group for speaking up and advocating its views, “This is what democracy is all about.” She says the relationship between U.S. and Israel “has never been more important.” Her statement, “We know the forces that threaten Israel are the same which threaten the United States,” gains a warm ovation. She then brags about health care in a non sequitur about Obama’s resolve. Huh? “Let me assure you . . . for President Obama and me and this entire administration our commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid, enduring and forever.” The crowd rises to its feet. Is it because AIPAC can put 7,500 in a room? She says it is the shared values of democracy and freedom and common aspirations for our children and our children’s children. She says her defense of Israel is more than a policy issue but a “personal commitment that will never waver.”

She continues in this vein, telling stories of her travels as well as a moving anecdote about a medic she met, who was subsequently killed. This strikes me as a personal accounting of her own attachment and relationship with Israel, a sort of personal defense of her own pro-Israel bona fides. Did the recent criticism sting? She continues now with her defense of Obama, reminding the group that she had vouched for him when the primary ended in 2008. Stone silence. She then continues with her defense case, citing the increase in aid for Israel. Obama has made peace a priority and is leading efforts to refute attacks on Israel’s legitimacy. When she says, “This administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself,” the crowd gives a brief ovation. (Well, they did miss a recent resolution condemning Israel at the UN, but she doesn’t bring that up, of course.)

She then moves on to Iran. She gives a tough indictment of the Iranian regime’s brutality. (The gap between her rhetoric and the Obami’s policy and reaction to the June events is striking.) She says, “Let me be clear: The U.S. is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” A brief ovation. President Obama has been trying a different course from that of isolating Iran. She said this was done with the idea that the very effort of “seeking engagement will strengthen our hand,” if it were rebuffed. She cites a “growing international consensus.” Europe is on board and Russia “has moved in this direction,” she says. (Huh? Except for the decision to bolster Iran by building a nuclear plant, of course.) Sanctions that will “bite,” (different from “crippling”?) she says, are what’s in store. She says the administration will not compromise on allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. That’s it. No timeline. And a fantasy version of an international agreement to “isolate” Iran.

Turning to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, she says that the status quo is unsustainable due to demography, technology, and ideology. We cannot ignore the long-term demographic trends that are entailed with  “Israel’s occupation.” (Unclear to what territory she is referring to.) A two-state solution, she argues, is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a secure and Jewish state. She argues again and again that the status quo can’t continue — that it strengthens the rejectionists. She notes that unlike the past, now even countries distant from the Middle East raise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a top concern. (She cites this as evidence that we must work on the problem, rather than as a sign that the obsession with Israel and the campaign to delegitimize it are problematic in and of themselves.) The only path to participation for Hamas, she says, requires that they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements. After a long period of silence from the crowd, she gets a brief ovation by calling for Gilad Shalit’s release.

And she returns to the goal of a two-state solution — of a comprehensive peace. George Mitchell has worked tirelessly for proximity talks, but, of course, lasting peace will require direct negotiations, she promises. As for Jerusalem, it’s a “deeply and profoundly important issue,” which can be worked out in negotiations, she says. Both parties have to refrain from unilateral actions that prejudice the outcome, she argues. She labels the Palestinians’ naming of a square after a terrorist as an “insult” to people on both sides. As to that and to the call for “rage” over a Jerusalem synagogue’s restoration: “They are wrong and must be condemned.” She says this concern for preserving the peace process is what induced us to condemn the housing announcement. (Silence in the hall.) It undermines the U.S. role when this happens, she argues, and our credibility is at stake, unless we speak up, she claims. We objected because we are committed to Israel’s security and because we don’t want to see progress endangered. She continues by calling for Abbas to show his commitment to peace and credits Netanyahu with taking concrete steps for peace. She wraps up with a meandering story that goes from Moses to the early settlers to the current risks for peace.

The speech was interesting on several notes. First, the portion of it devoted to the Palestinian conflict dwarfed the discussion on Iran, reflecting — I think — quite clearly where the interests and focus of the administration lie. Second, it appears as though Clinton was stung by accusations against her less-than-resolute defense of the Jewish state so much that this speech was an attempt at personal rehabilitation. Is this her pride speaking or rather a careful maneuver in the interest of her political future? Both, perhaps. Third, there is — as with so much concerning the Obama administration — a chasm between generalities and the administration’s actions and policies. How to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? No mention of “all options” being on the table. How to achieve peace when Hamas won’t renounce violence? How is being a resolute friend to Israel congruent with bashing Israel in public over an issue that Clinton just said belonged to the final-status stage of negotiations? Those who were uneasy before heard little, in concrete terms, to reassure them. Those worried about Clinton’s reputation in the Jewish community are hoping that this is enough to set things right. But one speech to AIPAC does not a reputation make; it is her acquiescence in Obama’s gambit of distancing the U.S. from Israel that is the nub of the problem and will render her a less than popular figure among pro-Israel Americans.

Read Less

Obama’s Pseudo-Achievement

Give him this: Barack Obama did not lay down. He and his advisers surveyed the political field after the election of Scott Brown and they saw their own potential epitaph — not in the rejection of his ideas but in the potential exposure of his weakness. A president cannot seem politically weak; much if not most of his ability to act is predicated on the notion that he is the strongest public official in the country. They determined that they had to push health care or die, and they worked their will relentlessly, and they got what they wanted. These are tough and resourceful political players, and they played this one very well.

And yet one must not get carried away. The story here is not that he succeeded against all odds and with the winds against him to push through historic legislation, even though that is what the media would have you believe. The story is that a party holding a 75-seat margin in the House of Representatives was barely able to squeak by with its greatest legislative priority and most devoutly desired policy. That is the salient fact here. What Obama pulled off was a textbook example of raw intra-party discipline; the unpopularity of the measure and its political consequences remain exactly as they were before the vote.

Give him this: Barack Obama did not lay down. He and his advisers surveyed the political field after the election of Scott Brown and they saw their own potential epitaph — not in the rejection of his ideas but in the potential exposure of his weakness. A president cannot seem politically weak; much if not most of his ability to act is predicated on the notion that he is the strongest public official in the country. They determined that they had to push health care or die, and they worked their will relentlessly, and they got what they wanted. These are tough and resourceful political players, and they played this one very well.

And yet one must not get carried away. The story here is not that he succeeded against all odds and with the winds against him to push through historic legislation, even though that is what the media would have you believe. The story is that a party holding a 75-seat margin in the House of Representatives was barely able to squeak by with its greatest legislative priority and most devoutly desired policy. That is the salient fact here. What Obama pulled off was a textbook example of raw intra-party discipline; the unpopularity of the measure and its political consequences remain exactly as they were before the vote.

Read Less

AIPAC Conference: Howard Kohr

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, got the proceedings off to a start. When policy is “cloudy,” he begins, “We must be the ones who seek to provide the clarity and direction.” First and foremost: “America must lead the world in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Nothing, he says, must “detract, distract, or derail” us. As for the Middle East, the relationship does not rest on resolving the Palestinian conflict. It is “insidious” and it is “wrong.” He continues with a pitch for U.S. aid to Israel as part of our own national security. The U.S. and Israel should treat each other as friends: it is “time to put aside the past week and pledge to solve problems together,” he implores. When disagreements inevitably arise, they “should be resolved privately as is befitting close allies.” Every Israeli prime minister, including Netanyahu, has extended the hand of peace; what is missing is a willing partner on the other side. “Direct talks today.” Finally, “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” The crowd erupts in a standing ovation. Kohr continues: “We will maintain our focus on Iran as the No. 1 item on our agenda.” He adds that the Palestinian conflict continues in a larger context.

Recalling his speech last year in which he addressed the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Kohr says: “What he heard then and what we hear now is a war of words against Israel … to make it more vulnerable. … In the twelve months since we started that conversation, the attacks have continued.” He reviews the UN record of Israel-bashing and on the Goldstone Report. The latter, he says, “is something far more sinister; it is representative of a broader pernicious effort to challenge Israel’s fundamental right to self-defense. … It must be fought — and it must be stopped.”

Kohr calls for Israel and its supporters to “go on the offense,” suggesting four steps: (1) recognizing Israel’s economic miracle by granting Israel membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“the world’s economic elite”); (2) recognizing Israel’s role as a contributor to peace and security by working to “forge an even closer relationship” with NATO; (3) ending “discrimination toward Israel in the United Nations” by granting Israel a seat on the Security Council (some might be wondering at this point, “You gotta be kidding,” but the crowd enthusiastically applauds that goal); and (4) making a concerted effort to demand that Arab states recognize Israel by, among other things, conditioning such recognition. The price for entry into free-trade agreements and into the WTO, he argues, must be abandonment of the Arab League boycott of Israel.

He brings the crowd to its feet and extols them: “We must decide that today is the last day we accept that Israel is shunted aside at the United Nations. We must decide that today is the day we say to those who regard Israel as a pariah — enough!”

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, got the proceedings off to a start. When policy is “cloudy,” he begins, “We must be the ones who seek to provide the clarity and direction.” First and foremost: “America must lead the world in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Nothing, he says, must “detract, distract, or derail” us. As for the Middle East, the relationship does not rest on resolving the Palestinian conflict. It is “insidious” and it is “wrong.” He continues with a pitch for U.S. aid to Israel as part of our own national security. The U.S. and Israel should treat each other as friends: it is “time to put aside the past week and pledge to solve problems together,” he implores. When disagreements inevitably arise, they “should be resolved privately as is befitting close allies.” Every Israeli prime minister, including Netanyahu, has extended the hand of peace; what is missing is a willing partner on the other side. “Direct talks today.” Finally, “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” The crowd erupts in a standing ovation. Kohr continues: “We will maintain our focus on Iran as the No. 1 item on our agenda.” He adds that the Palestinian conflict continues in a larger context.

Recalling his speech last year in which he addressed the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Kohr says: “What he heard then and what we hear now is a war of words against Israel … to make it more vulnerable. … In the twelve months since we started that conversation, the attacks have continued.” He reviews the UN record of Israel-bashing and on the Goldstone Report. The latter, he says, “is something far more sinister; it is representative of a broader pernicious effort to challenge Israel’s fundamental right to self-defense. … It must be fought — and it must be stopped.”

Kohr calls for Israel and its supporters to “go on the offense,” suggesting four steps: (1) recognizing Israel’s economic miracle by granting Israel membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“the world’s economic elite”); (2) recognizing Israel’s role as a contributor to peace and security by working to “forge an even closer relationship” with NATO; (3) ending “discrimination toward Israel in the United Nations” by granting Israel a seat on the Security Council (some might be wondering at this point, “You gotta be kidding,” but the crowd enthusiastically applauds that goal); and (4) making a concerted effort to demand that Arab states recognize Israel by, among other things, conditioning such recognition. The price for entry into free-trade agreements and into the WTO, he argues, must be abandonment of the Arab League boycott of Israel.

He brings the crowd to its feet and extols them: “We must decide that today is the last day we accept that Israel is shunted aside at the United Nations. We must decide that today is the day we say to those who regard Israel as a pariah — enough!”

Read Less

Losing His Image, Losing the Center

Even the New York Times sees that, despite Obama’s effort to alter the political and social-welfare landscape, he may have succeeded only in enraging the public. David Sanger writes:

But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.

Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote. …

“Let’s face it, he’s failed in the effort to be the nonpolarizing president, the one who can use rationality and calm debate to bridge our traditional divides,” said Peter Beinart, a liberal essayist who is publishing a history of hubris in politics. “It turns out he’s our third highly polarizing president in a row. But for his liberal base, it confirms that they were right to believe in the guy — and they had their doubts.”

For that lesson in governing, Mr. Obama paid a heavy price. He nearly lost the health care debate, and pulled out victory only after deferring nearly every other priority and stumping with a passion he had not shown since his campaign. His winning argument, in the end, was that while the political result could run against him — and other Democrats — remaking health care was a keystone of his “Change You Can Believe In” credo.

Well, not quite. His campaign credo opposed mandatory insurance and promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. But this much is clear: Obama has handed his opponents a message and a target. The Republican party will put many internal arguments aside and focus on the objective of challenging and repealing ObamaCare. The Left — when not considering that Obama has now herded Americans into the arms of Big Insurance — may be delighted. But no party can win and govern for long without the vast center of the American electorate. Obama has now ceded that to his political opponents.

Even the New York Times sees that, despite Obama’s effort to alter the political and social-welfare landscape, he may have succeeded only in enraging the public. David Sanger writes:

But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.

Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote. …

“Let’s face it, he’s failed in the effort to be the nonpolarizing president, the one who can use rationality and calm debate to bridge our traditional divides,” said Peter Beinart, a liberal essayist who is publishing a history of hubris in politics. “It turns out he’s our third highly polarizing president in a row. But for his liberal base, it confirms that they were right to believe in the guy — and they had their doubts.”

For that lesson in governing, Mr. Obama paid a heavy price. He nearly lost the health care debate, and pulled out victory only after deferring nearly every other priority and stumping with a passion he had not shown since his campaign. His winning argument, in the end, was that while the political result could run against him — and other Democrats — remaking health care was a keystone of his “Change You Can Believe In” credo.

Well, not quite. His campaign credo opposed mandatory insurance and promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. But this much is clear: Obama has handed his opponents a message and a target. The Republican party will put many internal arguments aside and focus on the objective of challenging and repealing ObamaCare. The Left — when not considering that Obama has now herded Americans into the arms of Big Insurance — may be delighted. But no party can win and govern for long without the vast center of the American electorate. Obama has now ceded that to his political opponents.

Read Less

RE: What the Health-Care Bill Means

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

John, the opponents are wasting no time with the legal challenges. In my e-mail box bright and early is a message from the Virginia attorney general (a conservative swept into office on a wave of anti-Obama sentiment):

The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia will move forward with our lawsuit against the federal government and its unconstitutional overreach of its authority with the passage of the federal health care bill. We will file our complaint with the court as soon as the president signs it into law.

With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce. We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person — by definition — is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate.

Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia’s law should prevail.

Just being alive is not interstate commerce. If it were, there would be no limit to the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and to Congress’s authority to regulate everything we do. There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services. … The suit will be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

You can imagine that dozens of suits will follow. This then becomes an issue in every state attorney general’s race. And in state legislative races, Republican candidates will promise to pass state laws prohibiting mandatory insurance. ObamaCare then becomes the issue not only in every congressional and Senate race but in state races too. It is in some ways a GOP-campaign godsend.

Read Less

WEB EXCLUSIVE: What the Obama Presidency Stands for Now

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Read Less

The Resistance Bloc Will Not Be Appeased

Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s plan to build 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem might help President Barack Obama understand something that has so far eluded him: the Syrian-Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc will not allow him to appease it.

“The scheme is yet another part of a Judaization campaign,” Hezbollah said in a statement quoted by the Tehran Times, “that targets the holy city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and a provocation of Muslim feeling.” If Obama expected a little appreciation from Israel’s enemies for making the same point with more diplomatic finesse, he was mistaken. “The Zionist plan to construct hundreds of homes in al-Quds,” Hezbollah continued, “truly shows American cover to it.”

So not only is Obama denied credit for standing up to Israel’s government, he is accused of doing precisely the opposite.

Anti-Americanism is ideological oxygen for partisans of the resistance bloc. They will no sooner let it go than they will stop breathing. Their entire worldview and political program would turn to ashes without it, much as Fidel Castro’s would without socialism. When the United States doesn’t follow the script, they just lie.

If we extend a hand in friendship, they’ll bite it and try to chew off a finger. If we take their side once in a while to appear evenhanded, they’ll twist the truth until it looks like a sinister plot, then they’ll bite us again.

A couple of years ago Hezbollah stretched a banner across an overpass near Lebanon’s international airport that said, in English, “All our catastrophes come from America.” Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah would have an awfully hard time climbing down from that high a tree even if his Iranian masters would let him — and they won’t. They’ve been calling Israel the “Little Satan” and the U.S. the “Great Satan” since Jimmy Carter, of all people, was president.

The resistance bloc would remain viciously anti-American even if the United States declared war on Israel and bombed Tel Aviv. Maybe — maybe — that wouldn’t be true if the U.S. were the little Satan instead of the great Satan, but even then it probably wouldn’t matter that much. Resistance-bloc leaders, like anyone else in the world, may enjoy watching their enemies slugging it out with each other, but that doesn’t mean they’ll warm to one or the other all of a sudden because of it.

That’s how the Iran-Iraq war looked to us in the 1980s. It was a “red on red” fight where two regimes we detested bloodied and weakened each other. Henry Kissinger summed up the sentiment on our side: “It’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

And that’s how the American-led invasion of Iraq looked from the point of view of Iran’s rulers in 2003. They had every reason in the world to hate Saddam Hussein more than anyone else in the world. His army killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians in an eight-year war he started less than a year after Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader. (Israel, meanwhile, has never fought a war with Iran and hasn’t killed any Iranians.) Yet the United States earned no points whatsoever for taking out their most dangerous enemy and placing their Shia co-religionists in the saddle in Baghdad.

There are, of course, millions of Arabs and Iranians who detest the Khomeinist-led resistance bloc and feel threatened by it, including about half of Palestinians. Most are less ideologically severe, and some have already made peace with Israel. Perhaps the Obama administration is hoping the U.S. can increase its standing with them by publicly sparring with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if it works, though, it won’t make any difference. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be divorced from the region-wide Arab-Israeli and Iranian-Israeli conflicts. If all the moderates in the whole Arab world were to drop their hostility to the U.S. and Israel and yearn for a peaceful solution, Hamas and Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian backing, could still scotch peace talks and peace treaties with kidnappings, suicide bombings, and missile attacks whenever they felt like it.

Resolving this mother of all quagmires would be excruciatingly difficult even if all four pieces of the resistance bloc were taken off the board yesterday. In the meantime, bruising our alliance with Israel to grease the skids on a peace process to nowhere is gratuitous.

Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s plan to build 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem might help President Barack Obama understand something that has so far eluded him: the Syrian-Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc will not allow him to appease it.

“The scheme is yet another part of a Judaization campaign,” Hezbollah said in a statement quoted by the Tehran Times, “that targets the holy city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and a provocation of Muslim feeling.” If Obama expected a little appreciation from Israel’s enemies for making the same point with more diplomatic finesse, he was mistaken. “The Zionist plan to construct hundreds of homes in al-Quds,” Hezbollah continued, “truly shows American cover to it.”

So not only is Obama denied credit for standing up to Israel’s government, he is accused of doing precisely the opposite.

Anti-Americanism is ideological oxygen for partisans of the resistance bloc. They will no sooner let it go than they will stop breathing. Their entire worldview and political program would turn to ashes without it, much as Fidel Castro’s would without socialism. When the United States doesn’t follow the script, they just lie.

If we extend a hand in friendship, they’ll bite it and try to chew off a finger. If we take their side once in a while to appear evenhanded, they’ll twist the truth until it looks like a sinister plot, then they’ll bite us again.

A couple of years ago Hezbollah stretched a banner across an overpass near Lebanon’s international airport that said, in English, “All our catastrophes come from America.” Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah would have an awfully hard time climbing down from that high a tree even if his Iranian masters would let him — and they won’t. They’ve been calling Israel the “Little Satan” and the U.S. the “Great Satan” since Jimmy Carter, of all people, was president.

The resistance bloc would remain viciously anti-American even if the United States declared war on Israel and bombed Tel Aviv. Maybe — maybe — that wouldn’t be true if the U.S. were the little Satan instead of the great Satan, but even then it probably wouldn’t matter that much. Resistance-bloc leaders, like anyone else in the world, may enjoy watching their enemies slugging it out with each other, but that doesn’t mean they’ll warm to one or the other all of a sudden because of it.

That’s how the Iran-Iraq war looked to us in the 1980s. It was a “red on red” fight where two regimes we detested bloodied and weakened each other. Henry Kissinger summed up the sentiment on our side: “It’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

And that’s how the American-led invasion of Iraq looked from the point of view of Iran’s rulers in 2003. They had every reason in the world to hate Saddam Hussein more than anyone else in the world. His army killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians in an eight-year war he started less than a year after Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader. (Israel, meanwhile, has never fought a war with Iran and hasn’t killed any Iranians.) Yet the United States earned no points whatsoever for taking out their most dangerous enemy and placing their Shia co-religionists in the saddle in Baghdad.

There are, of course, millions of Arabs and Iranians who detest the Khomeinist-led resistance bloc and feel threatened by it, including about half of Palestinians. Most are less ideologically severe, and some have already made peace with Israel. Perhaps the Obama administration is hoping the U.S. can increase its standing with them by publicly sparring with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if it works, though, it won’t make any difference. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be divorced from the region-wide Arab-Israeli and Iranian-Israeli conflicts. If all the moderates in the whole Arab world were to drop their hostility to the U.S. and Israel and yearn for a peaceful solution, Hamas and Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian backing, could still scotch peace talks and peace treaties with kidnappings, suicide bombings, and missile attacks whenever they felt like it.

Resolving this mother of all quagmires would be excruciatingly difficult even if all four pieces of the resistance bloc were taken off the board yesterday. In the meantime, bruising our alliance with Israel to grease the skids on a peace process to nowhere is gratuitous.

Read Less

Not That Obama Cares About Public Opinion

I made the point Friday that Obama’s signature domestic-policy issue and his latest foreign-policy gambit reflect a heavy dose of contempt for American public opinion. A new poll on Americans’ attitudes toward Israel confirms this:

Americans, by a significant margin, believe the United States should support Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, a poll released Sunday shows.

Eighty percent said they agree with the statement, “Enemies of America use the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an excuse to create anti-American sentiment. Even if the dispute is settled, they would find another excuse to justify their hostility towards America,” a poll commissioned by The Israel Project found.

And 73 percent of Americans said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about ideology and religion not land, the poll said.

Asked about Iran’s nuclear program, 64 percent said they believed Iran will pursue a goal of destroying Israel, and 80 percent believed it would make it easier for terrorist groups to gain access to nuclear weapons.

There is an intuitive understanding by Americans that Israel is the “good guy” in this fight. They see a small democracy, a faithful ally of the U.S., and take Israel’s side. On the other side, they see perpetrators of violence, they see Holocaust deniers, they see intransigent bullies who have been offered the moon and the stars and still refuse to recognize the Jewish state. Americans have figured out what is central and what is peripheral. There is in all that more common sense and wisdom than in the entire Obama administration.

You can’t conduct foreign policy by polls. But sometimes the public has it exactly right and has, at a gut level, a keener understanding of the nature of a conflict and the stakes than do the pseudo-sophisticates that run Foggy Bottom. Plus, the idea that we should try to ingratiate ourselves with the human-rights-abusing and largely undemocratic “Muslim World” is, I would suggest, not considered a laudatory activity by most Americans. They have a quaint notion that the U.S. should be on the side of its democratic allies, whether Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras, or Israel, and should treat them with respect and care. After all, in their own lives they realize the heavy price of disloyalty and ingratitude.

I made the point Friday that Obama’s signature domestic-policy issue and his latest foreign-policy gambit reflect a heavy dose of contempt for American public opinion. A new poll on Americans’ attitudes toward Israel confirms this:

Americans, by a significant margin, believe the United States should support Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, a poll released Sunday shows.

Eighty percent said they agree with the statement, “Enemies of America use the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an excuse to create anti-American sentiment. Even if the dispute is settled, they would find another excuse to justify their hostility towards America,” a poll commissioned by The Israel Project found.

And 73 percent of Americans said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about ideology and religion not land, the poll said.

Asked about Iran’s nuclear program, 64 percent said they believed Iran will pursue a goal of destroying Israel, and 80 percent believed it would make it easier for terrorist groups to gain access to nuclear weapons.

There is an intuitive understanding by Americans that Israel is the “good guy” in this fight. They see a small democracy, a faithful ally of the U.S., and take Israel’s side. On the other side, they see perpetrators of violence, they see Holocaust deniers, they see intransigent bullies who have been offered the moon and the stars and still refuse to recognize the Jewish state. Americans have figured out what is central and what is peripheral. There is in all that more common sense and wisdom than in the entire Obama administration.

You can’t conduct foreign policy by polls. But sometimes the public has it exactly right and has, at a gut level, a keener understanding of the nature of a conflict and the stakes than do the pseudo-sophisticates that run Foggy Bottom. Plus, the idea that we should try to ingratiate ourselves with the human-rights-abusing and largely undemocratic “Muslim World” is, I would suggest, not considered a laudatory activity by most Americans. They have a quaint notion that the U.S. should be on the side of its democratic allies, whether Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras, or Israel, and should treat them with respect and care. After all, in their own lives they realize the heavy price of disloyalty and ingratitude.

Read Less

ObamaCare Changes What?

There are two schools of thought as to what the passage of ObamaCare portends. On one side is the “cataclysmic” view: this is a transformative event, one that puts the country on the road to ruin and is a first step toward Western European socialism. The other is that this is a “political game changer” that will set off a firestorm of protest that sweeps Democrats from office and will in due time result in the repeal or roll back of much of the mischief-making. I generally subscribe to the latter view, for what makes for cataclysmic change is broad popular acceptance of both the substance and the process by which that change was arrived at. In this case, there is neither.

It was especially fitting that the final votes were acquired with a giant wink and a good deal of political cowardice on the part of Bart Stupak and his gang. They know the executive order is an unenforceable fraud, and they know the pro-life movement knows it’s a fraud. But they did it anyway. Just as the Democrats know the CBO score is a fiction, and they know that fiscally concerned voters know it’s a fiction. But they did it anyway. They have decided they are in the history-making business as well as the base-will-kill-us-if-we-don’t business, so they’ve jumped off that precipice. One suspects the obviousness of the canard is one factor that will make this not a cataclysmic event but a political game changer.

There are two schools of thought as to what the passage of ObamaCare portends. On one side is the “cataclysmic” view: this is a transformative event, one that puts the country on the road to ruin and is a first step toward Western European socialism. The other is that this is a “political game changer” that will set off a firestorm of protest that sweeps Democrats from office and will in due time result in the repeal or roll back of much of the mischief-making. I generally subscribe to the latter view, for what makes for cataclysmic change is broad popular acceptance of both the substance and the process by which that change was arrived at. In this case, there is neither.

It was especially fitting that the final votes were acquired with a giant wink and a good deal of political cowardice on the part of Bart Stupak and his gang. They know the executive order is an unenforceable fraud, and they know the pro-life movement knows it’s a fraud. But they did it anyway. Just as the Democrats know the CBO score is a fiction, and they know that fiscally concerned voters know it’s a fiction. But they did it anyway. They have decided they are in the history-making business as well as the base-will-kill-us-if-we-don’t business, so they’ve jumped off that precipice. One suspects the obviousness of the canard is one factor that will make this not a cataclysmic event but a political game changer.

Read Less

Graham’s Crumbling Deal

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors go after Lindsey Graham on his recent proposed “deal” (which is not close to done) to close Guantanamo and send KSM back to a military tribunal:

Mr. Graham says if the White House sends September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a military tribunal instead of a New York courtroom, he’ll help rally Republicans to support closing the prison in Guantanamo. Why? The plan for KSM’s tour of the civilian justice system is already a political dead horse. The White House has been backing away from its plan to try terrorists in civilian courts. What’s left is Mr. Obama’s unfortunate campaign promise to “close Guantanamo.” So Senator Graham is working with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to help them out of this bind.

But this isn’t merely unnecessary (since a civilian trial of KSM is fast losing support in Congress and among voters); it is unwise. After all, there are good reasons why we haven’t closed Guantanamo already, despite the president’s ill-considered announcement just days into his presidency. The editors go on to note:

Closing Guantanamo has always been something of a red herring. The prison is remote, secure and humane, not to mention a state of the art facility already paid in full. The preferred White House alternative of a prison in Illinois will add legal complications and subtract the nice weather. Al Qaeda will claim we’re torturing detainees wherever we hold them. International critics will carp at anything short of opening the jail doors.

So why did Graham throw this out there? Well, just as he voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, this is a man who plainly loves the media adulation that goes along with taking on his Republican party. That makes one a “maverick” and “courageous” among the chattering classes. Alas for Graham, there’s little support for his gambit. He’ll have to find something else with which to annoy conservatives.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors go after Lindsey Graham on his recent proposed “deal” (which is not close to done) to close Guantanamo and send KSM back to a military tribunal:

Mr. Graham says if the White House sends September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to a military tribunal instead of a New York courtroom, he’ll help rally Republicans to support closing the prison in Guantanamo. Why? The plan for KSM’s tour of the civilian justice system is already a political dead horse. The White House has been backing away from its plan to try terrorists in civilian courts. What’s left is Mr. Obama’s unfortunate campaign promise to “close Guantanamo.” So Senator Graham is working with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to help them out of this bind.

But this isn’t merely unnecessary (since a civilian trial of KSM is fast losing support in Congress and among voters); it is unwise. After all, there are good reasons why we haven’t closed Guantanamo already, despite the president’s ill-considered announcement just days into his presidency. The editors go on to note:

Closing Guantanamo has always been something of a red herring. The prison is remote, secure and humane, not to mention a state of the art facility already paid in full. The preferred White House alternative of a prison in Illinois will add legal complications and subtract the nice weather. Al Qaeda will claim we’re torturing detainees wherever we hold them. International critics will carp at anything short of opening the jail doors.

So why did Graham throw this out there? Well, just as he voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, this is a man who plainly loves the media adulation that goes along with taking on his Republican party. That makes one a “maverick” and “courageous” among the chattering classes. Alas for Graham, there’s little support for his gambit. He’ll have to find something else with which to annoy conservatives.

Read Less

And What About the Results? (UPDATED)

Over at Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver reviews from recent Washington Post and New York Times profiles on Hillary Clinton the pluses and minuses of her tenure as secretary of state. Pluses: she plays well with others (the president, Robert Gates, the foreign service), and she helped cover up the Copenhagen debacle. (“According to the NYT, Secretary Clinton apparently deserves some credit for salvaging a fig-leaf exit strategy from the ill-fated Copenhagen conference on climate change. Whether the State Department also deserves some blame for the way Copenhagen ran off the rails, the paper does not say.”) That’s it.

The minuses: (1) “Secretary Clinton does not appear to be the key foreign policy player on any topic of importance,” and (2) “Secretary Clinton has yet to help the Obama administration forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.”

Mr. Feaver is perhaps a dry humorist. He wraps up, proclaiming, “Where the positives and negatives will ultimately net out depends on whether the Obama foreign policy begins to bear some positive fruit.” He and these accounts, of course, ignore that Clinton has utterly failed to do her job, which is to “be the key foreign policy player” and “forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.” That is the job, after all. Moreover, there are a string of foreign policy mishaps, gaffes, and misjudgments that touch every continent. (OK, not Antarctica.)

She has all the efficiency of an officious hall monitor, all the social skills one could expect of a junior foreign-service officer, and all the pals one could hope for in the elite media. What she doesn’t have is a trace of competence or the force of personality to rise above the gaggle of those who pass for “policy gurus” in this administration. Sort of like saying that except for never wanting to fight, Gen. George McClellan was a great general. Yes, except for the “doing” the job part, Clinton’s been a boffo secretary of state.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable reader suggests that, in fact, Feaver is using understatement to critique Clinton’s performance. Given Feaver’s work on the George W. Bush National Security Council, it is not hard to conclude that he views Clinton’s tenure as less than successful.

Over at Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver reviews from recent Washington Post and New York Times profiles on Hillary Clinton the pluses and minuses of her tenure as secretary of state. Pluses: she plays well with others (the president, Robert Gates, the foreign service), and she helped cover up the Copenhagen debacle. (“According to the NYT, Secretary Clinton apparently deserves some credit for salvaging a fig-leaf exit strategy from the ill-fated Copenhagen conference on climate change. Whether the State Department also deserves some blame for the way Copenhagen ran off the rails, the paper does not say.”) That’s it.

The minuses: (1) “Secretary Clinton does not appear to be the key foreign policy player on any topic of importance,” and (2) “Secretary Clinton has yet to help the Obama administration forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.”

Mr. Feaver is perhaps a dry humorist. He wraps up, proclaiming, “Where the positives and negatives will ultimately net out depends on whether the Obama foreign policy begins to bear some positive fruit.” He and these accounts, of course, ignore that Clinton has utterly failed to do her job, which is to “be the key foreign policy player” and “forge and explain a coherent grand strategy, or even coherent interlocking mid-level strategies.” That is the job, after all. Moreover, there are a string of foreign policy mishaps, gaffes, and misjudgments that touch every continent. (OK, not Antarctica.)

She has all the efficiency of an officious hall monitor, all the social skills one could expect of a junior foreign-service officer, and all the pals one could hope for in the elite media. What she doesn’t have is a trace of competence or the force of personality to rise above the gaggle of those who pass for “policy gurus” in this administration. Sort of like saying that except for never wanting to fight, Gen. George McClellan was a great general. Yes, except for the “doing” the job part, Clinton’s been a boffo secretary of state.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable reader suggests that, in fact, Feaver is using understatement to critique Clinton’s performance. Given Feaver’s work on the George W. Bush National Security Council, it is not hard to conclude that he views Clinton’s tenure as less than successful.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.