Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 27, 2010

Tikkun’s Jewish ‘Ethics’ — Honor Goldstone for Libeling Israel

With the rise of groups like the left-wing lobby J Street and the presence of a critic of Israel in the White House, it’s hard for a magazine like Michael Lerner’s Tikkun to get much attention these days. But Lerner is doing his best (or is it his worst?) in an effort to recapture the focus of Jewish leftists.  To that end, as Jennifer has pointed out, the magazine has announced that it is giving its 25th annual “ethics” award to Richard Goldstone, the author of the biased and inaccurate United Nations report on last year’s war in Gaza that slandered Israel.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Lerner says he decided to give his dubious prize to Goldstone before the brouhaha over whether the South African jurist would be prevented from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of the anger of his fellow Jews at his presence in synagogue. But, Lerner says, he decided to announce the award now as an answer to Goldstone’s “outrageous” treatment.

The controversy over the Goldstone bar mitzvah is regrettable for two reasons. First, because a child’s rite of passage ought to be allowed to proceed without political demonstrations against one of his relatives, no matter how odious that relative might be. Second, because the threat of a demonstration against Goldstone at the synagogue enabled him to pose as a victim of Jewish intolerance rather than owning up to the fact that he allowed the anti-Semites at the UN to use him as a front man for a vicious libel against the Jewish state. The report treated Hamas aggression against Israel as a minor affair while hyping every unproven atrocity charge against Israel’s counteroffensive against terror.  It serves to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right of self-defense while allowing those who wish to exterminate that state and its Jewish inhabitants to be treated kindly. Goldstone is no martyr. His connection with this document is a badge of shame that will be indelibly attached to his name in Jewish history, a fact that ought to make us all sympathize with his relatives.

As for Lerner, true to form, he is trying to grab a little publicity out of this mess. The self-declared rabbi of Jewish Renewal has now invited the Goldstones to have the boy’s bar mitzvah in his Berkeley synagogue. Goldstone, whose despicable betrayal has made him persona non grata to any Jewish community with a shred of honor or self-respect, might well be received with cheers in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. But surely even he must know that an “ethics award” from the likes of Lerner is nothing to brag about.

With the rise of groups like the left-wing lobby J Street and the presence of a critic of Israel in the White House, it’s hard for a magazine like Michael Lerner’s Tikkun to get much attention these days. But Lerner is doing his best (or is it his worst?) in an effort to recapture the focus of Jewish leftists.  To that end, as Jennifer has pointed out, the magazine has announced that it is giving its 25th annual “ethics” award to Richard Goldstone, the author of the biased and inaccurate United Nations report on last year’s war in Gaza that slandered Israel.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Lerner says he decided to give his dubious prize to Goldstone before the brouhaha over whether the South African jurist would be prevented from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of the anger of his fellow Jews at his presence in synagogue. But, Lerner says, he decided to announce the award now as an answer to Goldstone’s “outrageous” treatment.

The controversy over the Goldstone bar mitzvah is regrettable for two reasons. First, because a child’s rite of passage ought to be allowed to proceed without political demonstrations against one of his relatives, no matter how odious that relative might be. Second, because the threat of a demonstration against Goldstone at the synagogue enabled him to pose as a victim of Jewish intolerance rather than owning up to the fact that he allowed the anti-Semites at the UN to use him as a front man for a vicious libel against the Jewish state. The report treated Hamas aggression against Israel as a minor affair while hyping every unproven atrocity charge against Israel’s counteroffensive against terror.  It serves to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right of self-defense while allowing those who wish to exterminate that state and its Jewish inhabitants to be treated kindly. Goldstone is no martyr. His connection with this document is a badge of shame that will be indelibly attached to his name in Jewish history, a fact that ought to make us all sympathize with his relatives.

As for Lerner, true to form, he is trying to grab a little publicity out of this mess. The self-declared rabbi of Jewish Renewal has now invited the Goldstones to have the boy’s bar mitzvah in his Berkeley synagogue. Goldstone, whose despicable betrayal has made him persona non grata to any Jewish community with a shred of honor or self-respect, might well be received with cheers in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. But surely even he must know that an “ethics award” from the likes of Lerner is nothing to brag about.

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Joe Kennedy Innocent of One Charge, Guilty of the Rest

On a list of prominent 20th-century Americans who were easy to dislike, Joseph P. Kennedy has to rank near the top.

The father of our 35th president was widely reviled in his own time as an unscrupulous operator in the worlds of high finance and politics. Having invested heavily in the presidential candidacy of Franklin Roosevelt, he was rewarded by FDR first with the post of chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission (Roosevelt famously defended his appointment of a man thought to be a crook with the quip that it “takes one to catch one”) and then with the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, where his anti-Semitism and support of appeasement of the Nazis was particularly damaging. A master of insider trading and market manipulation, he was also long rumored to be connected with the Mafia and to have made a fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition as a bootlegger.

But according to author Daniel Okrent, the elder Kennedy was innocent of one of these charges: bootlegging. In an excerpt from his new history of Prohibition published by the Daily Beast, Okrent writes that whatever else you can pin on the Kennedy patriarch, including his serial philandering, he wasn’t a bootlegger. Okrent’s research shows that despite his other nefarious activities, Kennedy’s involvement in the liquor industry was strictly legal. Prior to the repeal of Prohibition, he had sold liquor via legal “medicinal” permits. After it ended, with the help of FDR’s son James, Kennedy obtained import agreements to sell various British whiskey and gin, which added to his already considerable fortune. But, the former New York Times ombudsman says, there is no evidence that he illegally brought in hooch during Prohibition. The “bootlegger” charge is, he believes, a legend that grew up long after the time when these actions supposedly took place.

It’s an interesting point but shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of the old reprobate. Joseph P. Kennedy was a despicable person on so many levels and his involvement in our national life was generally so malevolent that the fact that there is one less crime on his charge sheet doesn’t make him more attractive. Indeed, as one reader said in a response to the excerpt posted by the Daily Beast, “I would have respected Joseph Kennedy more if he HAD been a bootlegger.”

On a list of prominent 20th-century Americans who were easy to dislike, Joseph P. Kennedy has to rank near the top.

The father of our 35th president was widely reviled in his own time as an unscrupulous operator in the worlds of high finance and politics. Having invested heavily in the presidential candidacy of Franklin Roosevelt, he was rewarded by FDR first with the post of chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission (Roosevelt famously defended his appointment of a man thought to be a crook with the quip that it “takes one to catch one”) and then with the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, where his anti-Semitism and support of appeasement of the Nazis was particularly damaging. A master of insider trading and market manipulation, he was also long rumored to be connected with the Mafia and to have made a fortune in bootlegging during Prohibition as a bootlegger.

But according to author Daniel Okrent, the elder Kennedy was innocent of one of these charges: bootlegging. In an excerpt from his new history of Prohibition published by the Daily Beast, Okrent writes that whatever else you can pin on the Kennedy patriarch, including his serial philandering, he wasn’t a bootlegger. Okrent’s research shows that despite his other nefarious activities, Kennedy’s involvement in the liquor industry was strictly legal. Prior to the repeal of Prohibition, he had sold liquor via legal “medicinal” permits. After it ended, with the help of FDR’s son James, Kennedy obtained import agreements to sell various British whiskey and gin, which added to his already considerable fortune. But, the former New York Times ombudsman says, there is no evidence that he illegally brought in hooch during Prohibition. The “bootlegger” charge is, he believes, a legend that grew up long after the time when these actions supposedly took place.

It’s an interesting point but shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of the old reprobate. Joseph P. Kennedy was a despicable person on so many levels and his involvement in our national life was generally so malevolent that the fact that there is one less crime on his charge sheet doesn’t make him more attractive. Indeed, as one reader said in a response to the excerpt posted by the Daily Beast, “I would have respected Joseph Kennedy more if he HAD been a bootlegger.”

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Enthusiasm Gap Widens

Gallup brings more bad news for the Democrats: “Although U.S. registered voters are closely divided in their 2010 congressional election preferences, those who say they are ‘very enthusiastic about voting’ this year show a strong preference for the Republican Party.” In the ‘very enthusiastic’ about voting category, Republicans lead Democrats by 20 points — 57 to 37 percent. As the pollsters explain:

Gallup has consistently found Republicans expressing a higher level of enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in this year’s election campaign. Theoretically, those who are enthusiastic about voting would be more likely to turn out to vote than those who are not enthusiastic. This fall, Gallup will be better able to measure the potential impact of turnout on the vote by applying its “likely voter” model to the generic ballot results. That model takes into account a more complete set of factors related to voting, including interest in the election, intention to vote, and past voting behavior.

There is also a combined gender and marriage factor at work: “There is a combined effect between gender and marriage, such that married men are decidedly Republican and unmarried women strongly Democratic. Marital status seems to be the more important of the two factors, since married men and married women prefer the Republican candidate, and unmarried men and unmarried women prefer the Democratic candidate.” (Note to Peter Beinart: a married woman on the Supreme Court would be a wasted token for Obama.) And one more troubling nugget for the Democrats: independents favor Republicans in the congressional race by eight points.

No wonder Obama is madly playing to his base. His party is in deep trouble, the opposition is pumped up, and the Democrats will be pointing fingers directly at the White House if the present trends continue.

Gallup brings more bad news for the Democrats: “Although U.S. registered voters are closely divided in their 2010 congressional election preferences, those who say they are ‘very enthusiastic about voting’ this year show a strong preference for the Republican Party.” In the ‘very enthusiastic’ about voting category, Republicans lead Democrats by 20 points — 57 to 37 percent. As the pollsters explain:

Gallup has consistently found Republicans expressing a higher level of enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in this year’s election campaign. Theoretically, those who are enthusiastic about voting would be more likely to turn out to vote than those who are not enthusiastic. This fall, Gallup will be better able to measure the potential impact of turnout on the vote by applying its “likely voter” model to the generic ballot results. That model takes into account a more complete set of factors related to voting, including interest in the election, intention to vote, and past voting behavior.

There is also a combined gender and marriage factor at work: “There is a combined effect between gender and marriage, such that married men are decidedly Republican and unmarried women strongly Democratic. Marital status seems to be the more important of the two factors, since married men and married women prefer the Republican candidate, and unmarried men and unmarried women prefer the Democratic candidate.” (Note to Peter Beinart: a married woman on the Supreme Court would be a wasted token for Obama.) And one more troubling nugget for the Democrats: independents favor Republicans in the congressional race by eight points.

No wonder Obama is madly playing to his base. His party is in deep trouble, the opposition is pumped up, and the Democrats will be pointing fingers directly at the White House if the present trends continue.

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RE: Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

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RE: RE: Grandstanding on Immigration

Well, one politician who’s not playing to the crowd on the Arizona immigration law is Marco Rubio. At the risk of incurring the ire of his base, he’s come out with a conservative critique of the bill:

Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

In other words, the federal government should do its job in protecting the border and conservatives, of all people, should be wary of giving new and ill-defined policing power to the government. Will Rubio take a hit with his base on this? Perhaps. But if they are listening closely, they will see that he’s making a reasoned case for immigration reform that begins with border control. He’s also, at least so far, the anomaly in this debate: someone who takes seriously the constitutional and legal issues and is unwilling to score cheap political points for the sake of revving up his supporters. I suspect he’ll be a lonely voice on this one.

Well, one politician who’s not playing to the crowd on the Arizona immigration law is Marco Rubio. At the risk of incurring the ire of his base, he’s come out with a conservative critique of the bill:

Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

In other words, the federal government should do its job in protecting the border and conservatives, of all people, should be wary of giving new and ill-defined policing power to the government. Will Rubio take a hit with his base on this? Perhaps. But if they are listening closely, they will see that he’s making a reasoned case for immigration reform that begins with border control. He’s also, at least so far, the anomaly in this debate: someone who takes seriously the constitutional and legal issues and is unwilling to score cheap political points for the sake of revving up his supporters. I suspect he’ll be a lonely voice on this one.

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Obama’s Bogus Summits

Yesterday’s kick-off of the “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington DC, intended, according to Jake Tapper, “to help deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world” is the fourth hollow and stage-managed “summit” organized by Barack Obama.

First there was the Beer Summit, during which we watched the president, the professor, and the policeman pretend to resolve what the president and the professor pretended was a problem. Next up, the Health-Care Summit, during which we watched the president and his Democratic friends pretend to listen to hours of suggested solutions to a real problem. This was followed by the Nuclear Security Summit, during which participants pretended that the real problem of nuclear security could be tackled without even mentioning the problem’s main source, Iran.

These make-believe endeavors have all the effective heft of Model-UN confabs.

Yet for Barack Obama, there is no issue – be it as insignificant as a localized grievance or as towering as nuclear war – that cannot be addressed with a pantomime summit. This is perfectly in keeping with a presidency characterized by imitation health-care reform, counterfeit “post-racialism,” and so on. It’s as if Obama is, in fact, invested with the power of his faux-presidential campaign seal and not the real thing.

Instead of creating intelligent policy, Obama seeks to solve problems by giving speeches and then holding events in celebration of his words. This is from his Nuclear Security Summit:

In short, it is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security — to our collective security. And that’s why, one year ago today in — one year ago in Prague, I called for a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years. This is one part of a broader, comprehensive agenda that the United States is pursuing — including reducing our nuclear arsenal and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons — an agenda that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, the self-citer in chief was at it again:

“We know that over the years, despite all we have in common, the United States and Muslim communities around the world too often fell victim to mutual mistrust,” Obama said from the Ronald Reagan building this evening, “That is why I went to Cairo nearly one year ago and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities—a new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I knew that this vision would not be fulfilled in a single year, or even several.  But I knew we had to begin and that all of us have responsibilities to fulfill.”

I guess we can expect a summit to hit one year after every big speech.

If you’re looking for signs that any of this is actually serious work, consider the praise the president offered yesterday for the Kuwaiti entrepreneur, Dr. Naif al-Mutawa:

His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.  After my speech in Cairo, he had a similar idea.  In his comic books, Superman and Batman reached out to their Muslim counterparts.  And I hear they’re making progress, too.

Funny he should bring up comics and such. Here’s my proposal for an entrepreneurial powwow to get this summit started on a potent real-world note. Let’s bring some creative Muslims to the offices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and let them sit in on a “South Park” brainstorming session.

Yesterday’s kick-off of the “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington DC, intended, according to Jake Tapper, “to help deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world” is the fourth hollow and stage-managed “summit” organized by Barack Obama.

First there was the Beer Summit, during which we watched the president, the professor, and the policeman pretend to resolve what the president and the professor pretended was a problem. Next up, the Health-Care Summit, during which we watched the president and his Democratic friends pretend to listen to hours of suggested solutions to a real problem. This was followed by the Nuclear Security Summit, during which participants pretended that the real problem of nuclear security could be tackled without even mentioning the problem’s main source, Iran.

These make-believe endeavors have all the effective heft of Model-UN confabs.

Yet for Barack Obama, there is no issue – be it as insignificant as a localized grievance or as towering as nuclear war – that cannot be addressed with a pantomime summit. This is perfectly in keeping with a presidency characterized by imitation health-care reform, counterfeit “post-racialism,” and so on. It’s as if Obama is, in fact, invested with the power of his faux-presidential campaign seal and not the real thing.

Instead of creating intelligent policy, Obama seeks to solve problems by giving speeches and then holding events in celebration of his words. This is from his Nuclear Security Summit:

In short, it is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security — to our collective security. And that’s why, one year ago today in — one year ago in Prague, I called for a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years. This is one part of a broader, comprehensive agenda that the United States is pursuing — including reducing our nuclear arsenal and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons — an agenda that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Yesterday, the self-citer in chief was at it again:

“We know that over the years, despite all we have in common, the United States and Muslim communities around the world too often fell victim to mutual mistrust,” Obama said from the Ronald Reagan building this evening, “That is why I went to Cairo nearly one year ago and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities—a new beginning based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  I knew that this vision would not be fulfilled in a single year, or even several.  But I knew we had to begin and that all of us have responsibilities to fulfill.”

I guess we can expect a summit to hit one year after every big speech.

If you’re looking for signs that any of this is actually serious work, consider the praise the president offered yesterday for the Kuwaiti entrepreneur, Dr. Naif al-Mutawa:

His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embody the teachings and tolerance of Islam.  After my speech in Cairo, he had a similar idea.  In his comic books, Superman and Batman reached out to their Muslim counterparts.  And I hear they’re making progress, too.

Funny he should bring up comics and such. Here’s my proposal for an entrepreneurial powwow to get this summit started on a potent real-world note. Let’s bring some creative Muslims to the offices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker and let them sit in on a “South Park” brainstorming session.

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Shut Up, Mr. Oren, J Street Explains

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

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RE: James Jones Apologizes for Jewish Joke

I’m afraid that I have to disagree with my colleagues Jennifer Rubin, J.E. Dyer, and John Steele Gordon on the hot topic of James Jones’s Jewish joke. When I first read about what I supposed was a derogatory ethnic stereotype, I assumed it was offensive. But while I’m not exactly known for having much of a sense of humor, when I watched it online — like many of those supporters of the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs in attendance at the event whose guffaws can be heard on the soundtrack — I laughed.

I know, I know. It’s a tactical error for anyone who is not a member of the ethnic/religious group featured in the joke to tell one. So we can all agree that General Jones was a dope for telling the joke. As if the policies he has pursued as President Obama’s national security adviser weren’t enough evidence of his lack of saykhel (common sense).

But the outrage from some administration critics strikes me as, well, a bit overblown. The Jewish merchant in the joke who tries to sell a tie rather than water to a lost and thirsty member of the Taliban who wanders into his stall in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Afghanistan does not strike me as the usual greedy or money-hungry protagonist of anti-Semitic stereotypes. He doesn’t try to cheat the Taliban fighter. He is, instead, the victim of the latter’s anti-Semitic abuse. The conclusion of the joke in which the merchant gets his revenge on the Taliban illustrates the man’s savvy, not his avarice.

For some of us who worry about the alarming spread of anti-Semitic stereotypes, any reference to a Jewish merchant is a potential source of abuse. And many of us may think — not without justification — that the preferred way for a Jew to get even with the monsters of the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists is with an Uzi or a well-placed bomb from a pilotless drone, not a dress code at a restaurant. But this was a joke, not a tactical air strike or a revenge fantasy. It may strike you as funny or leave you cold. But either way, it’s not as if Jones’s attempt at humor is going to be repeated by Jew-haters around the world.

Even more to the point, Jones and his boss have given us more than enough material for criticism without having to spend any time on their comedy choices. This administration’s animus toward Israel is a matter of record. It has gone far beyond even the most hostile of its predecessors on the subject of Jerusalem, making an issue of the building of Jewish homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods and giving every indication that it intends to promulgate a “peace” plan that might attempt to force even more Jews out of their homes than even previous schemes have tried to do. Even worse, through its feckless “engagement” of Iran and inept diplomacy aimed at stopping that Islamist regime’s nuclear project, it has demonstrated that it is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb that presents an existential threat to Israel as well as endangering the rest of the world.

Compared to that record, one ill-considered though (in my opinion) funny joke is not worth carping about.

I’m afraid that I have to disagree with my colleagues Jennifer Rubin, J.E. Dyer, and John Steele Gordon on the hot topic of James Jones’s Jewish joke. When I first read about what I supposed was a derogatory ethnic stereotype, I assumed it was offensive. But while I’m not exactly known for having much of a sense of humor, when I watched it online — like many of those supporters of the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs in attendance at the event whose guffaws can be heard on the soundtrack — I laughed.

I know, I know. It’s a tactical error for anyone who is not a member of the ethnic/religious group featured in the joke to tell one. So we can all agree that General Jones was a dope for telling the joke. As if the policies he has pursued as President Obama’s national security adviser weren’t enough evidence of his lack of saykhel (common sense).

But the outrage from some administration critics strikes me as, well, a bit overblown. The Jewish merchant in the joke who tries to sell a tie rather than water to a lost and thirsty member of the Taliban who wanders into his stall in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Afghanistan does not strike me as the usual greedy or money-hungry protagonist of anti-Semitic stereotypes. He doesn’t try to cheat the Taliban fighter. He is, instead, the victim of the latter’s anti-Semitic abuse. The conclusion of the joke in which the merchant gets his revenge on the Taliban illustrates the man’s savvy, not his avarice.

For some of us who worry about the alarming spread of anti-Semitic stereotypes, any reference to a Jewish merchant is a potential source of abuse. And many of us may think — not without justification — that the preferred way for a Jew to get even with the monsters of the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists is with an Uzi or a well-placed bomb from a pilotless drone, not a dress code at a restaurant. But this was a joke, not a tactical air strike or a revenge fantasy. It may strike you as funny or leave you cold. But either way, it’s not as if Jones’s attempt at humor is going to be repeated by Jew-haters around the world.

Even more to the point, Jones and his boss have given us more than enough material for criticism without having to spend any time on their comedy choices. This administration’s animus toward Israel is a matter of record. It has gone far beyond even the most hostile of its predecessors on the subject of Jerusalem, making an issue of the building of Jewish homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods and giving every indication that it intends to promulgate a “peace” plan that might attempt to force even more Jews out of their homes than even previous schemes have tried to do. Even worse, through its feckless “engagement” of Iran and inept diplomacy aimed at stopping that Islamist regime’s nuclear project, it has demonstrated that it is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb that presents an existential threat to Israel as well as endangering the rest of the world.

Compared to that record, one ill-considered though (in my opinion) funny joke is not worth carping about.

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Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New

The crack Politico reporters have just discovered:

President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address.

Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy. By setting himself up against specific opponents, he provides a point of contrast that’s useful in invigorating a base hungry for bare knuckles and bravado — and forces those in the middle to choose between him and his villain du jour.

Uh. Well, actually this has been going on from Day One of the administration. The assault on Rush Limbaugh took place a year ago. And he called the Supreme Court out — with the justices sitting in the House — months ago. In fact, Obama has been vilifying and dismissing Republicans, the Supreme Court, Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, Wall Street, and Tea Partiers for quite some time.

Well, the Politico reporters say, the president now uses “Mitch McConnell” or “Sarah Palin” by name. It seems to be a distinction without much difference since it was always quite clear whom he was slamming. It does fit the Politico storyline that Obama is somewhat desperate and that this is what politicians do — attack! — when they are in the dumps. But it’s ultimately a false narrative, one that disguises central facets of Obama’s personality: he’s condescending (recall the health-care summit), thin-skinned, dismissive of opponents, and prone to ad hominem and straw-men attacks. That’s nothing new — although it’s nice to see the sycophantic press wake up and take notice.

The crack Politico reporters have just discovered:

President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address.

Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy. By setting himself up against specific opponents, he provides a point of contrast that’s useful in invigorating a base hungry for bare knuckles and bravado — and forces those in the middle to choose between him and his villain du jour.

Uh. Well, actually this has been going on from Day One of the administration. The assault on Rush Limbaugh took place a year ago. And he called the Supreme Court out — with the justices sitting in the House — months ago. In fact, Obama has been vilifying and dismissing Republicans, the Supreme Court, Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, Wall Street, and Tea Partiers for quite some time.

Well, the Politico reporters say, the president now uses “Mitch McConnell” or “Sarah Palin” by name. It seems to be a distinction without much difference since it was always quite clear whom he was slamming. It does fit the Politico storyline that Obama is somewhat desperate and that this is what politicians do — attack! — when they are in the dumps. But it’s ultimately a false narrative, one that disguises central facets of Obama’s personality: he’s condescending (recall the health-care summit), thin-skinned, dismissive of opponents, and prone to ad hominem and straw-men attacks. That’s nothing new — although it’s nice to see the sycophantic press wake up and take notice.

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Cohen Flacks for George Mitchell

A reader calls my attention to the latest noxious column by Roger Cohen. On full display is the mutual suck-uppery between the Gray Lady’s incessant Israel basher and the administration’s hapless peace processor, George Mitchell. Cohen writes of Mitchell:

He was asked about Netanyahu during his visit and, according to notes I saw, responded: “I believe Netanyahu is serious, capable and interested in reaching an agreement. What I cannot say is if he is willing to agree to what is needed to secure an agreement.”

That meeting concluded with Mitchell saying: “You asked if I think Netanyahu is serious. They ask the same question. You are an expert on Palestinian and Israeli politics. They are the same. But no one in the world knows American politics better than me, and this I will say. There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.”

Let’s examine that a bit. Is the PA serious about peace? Is there any indication that the Palestinians are “serious, capable, and interested” in reaching an agreement? Cohen doesn’t bother to ask, for the answer would either strain even the most deluded peace-process fan’s credulity or reveal that, of course, the Palestinians aren’t serious — that’s why they must be lured, bribed, and cajoled to meet not-even-face-to-face with the Israelis.

Next. Mitchell — no doubt speaking slowly so Cohen can record every word of praise — tells his scribe what an “expert” on the Middle East he is. Hmm. Does that include Cohen’s quasi recantation of his views on Iran? But then Mitchell isn’t done — because no one, not a soul knows American politics like George Mitchell. Apparently, he’s working on that little problem which is that two-thirds of the public disapprove of his Middle East policy. (And, really, Mitchell is wasted in the Middle East. With Obama in the 40s in approval polls, shouldn’t Mitchell be chief of staff? You know, have a real job where his skills won’t be wasted in 16 months of fruitless Middle East shuttling.) And then he delivers the final masterstroke of ingratiation and puffery — Hillary, close your ears — “There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.” Not Clinton. Not anyone. And Obama is so committed that he’s accomplished what, exactly? Ah, strained Israeli relations to the breaking point, encouraged Palestinian intransigence, induced moderate Arabs to up the ante against Israel, and driven his own poll ratings in Israel into the low single digits. But it’s his intentions that matter, you see.

Really, even for Cohen — and for Mitchell — this is embarrassing stuff. But it does reveal how tone-deaf both are, and how they imagine that grandiose intentions replace results, and that self-definition supersedes reality. You can understand why Obama’s Middle East policy is such a mess.

A reader calls my attention to the latest noxious column by Roger Cohen. On full display is the mutual suck-uppery between the Gray Lady’s incessant Israel basher and the administration’s hapless peace processor, George Mitchell. Cohen writes of Mitchell:

He was asked about Netanyahu during his visit and, according to notes I saw, responded: “I believe Netanyahu is serious, capable and interested in reaching an agreement. What I cannot say is if he is willing to agree to what is needed to secure an agreement.”

That meeting concluded with Mitchell saying: “You asked if I think Netanyahu is serious. They ask the same question. You are an expert on Palestinian and Israeli politics. They are the same. But no one in the world knows American politics better than me, and this I will say. There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.”

Let’s examine that a bit. Is the PA serious about peace? Is there any indication that the Palestinians are “serious, capable, and interested” in reaching an agreement? Cohen doesn’t bother to ask, for the answer would either strain even the most deluded peace-process fan’s credulity or reveal that, of course, the Palestinians aren’t serious — that’s why they must be lured, bribed, and cajoled to meet not-even-face-to-face with the Israelis.

Next. Mitchell — no doubt speaking slowly so Cohen can record every word of praise — tells his scribe what an “expert” on the Middle East he is. Hmm. Does that include Cohen’s quasi recantation of his views on Iran? But then Mitchell isn’t done — because no one, not a soul knows American politics like George Mitchell. Apparently, he’s working on that little problem which is that two-thirds of the public disapprove of his Middle East policy. (And, really, Mitchell is wasted in the Middle East. With Obama in the 40s in approval polls, shouldn’t Mitchell be chief of staff? You know, have a real job where his skills won’t be wasted in 16 months of fruitless Middle East shuttling.) And then he delivers the final masterstroke of ingratiation and puffery — Hillary, close your ears — “There has never been in the White House a president that is so committed on this issue, including Clinton who is a personal friend, and there will never be, at least not in the lifetime of anyone in this room.” Not Clinton. Not anyone. And Obama is so committed that he’s accomplished what, exactly? Ah, strained Israeli relations to the breaking point, encouraged Palestinian intransigence, induced moderate Arabs to up the ante against Israel, and driven his own poll ratings in Israel into the low single digits. But it’s his intentions that matter, you see.

Really, even for Cohen — and for Mitchell — this is embarrassing stuff. But it does reveal how tone-deaf both are, and how they imagine that grandiose intentions replace results, and that self-definition supersedes reality. You can understand why Obama’s Middle East policy is such a mess.

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Important Piece on Human Rights Watch

Benjamin Birnbaum has a long investigative piece on HRW in the upcoming issue of TNR that is now available online. There are a number of important disclosures in the piece: he quotes a HRW board member admitting that “We seek the limelight — that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.” (No kidding.)

I’ve written on this blog about some of the rather odious people HRW employs as “human-rights activists,” such as Joe Stork and Sarah Leah Whitson. The latter, who is the head of HRW’s Middle East division, is a major focus of the piece. We learn that she is a big fan of Norman Finkelstein, the crackpot pro-Hezbollah activist (“I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for him”) and that she has privately acknowledged her mission against Israel (“making Israeli abuses the focus of one’s life work is a thankless but courageous task”).

There is much, much more in this important piece. Please read it all.

Benjamin Birnbaum has a long investigative piece on HRW in the upcoming issue of TNR that is now available online. There are a number of important disclosures in the piece: he quotes a HRW board member admitting that “We seek the limelight — that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.” (No kidding.)

I’ve written on this blog about some of the rather odious people HRW employs as “human-rights activists,” such as Joe Stork and Sarah Leah Whitson. The latter, who is the head of HRW’s Middle East division, is a major focus of the piece. We learn that she is a big fan of Norman Finkelstein, the crackpot pro-Hezbollah activist (“I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for him”) and that she has privately acknowledged her mission against Israel (“making Israeli abuses the focus of one’s life work is a thankless but courageous task”).

There is much, much more in this important piece. Please read it all.

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RE: Jackie Mason He’s Not

I agree with J.E. Dyer that James Jones’s Jewish merchant joke was not funny in more than one way. It was dumb in more than one way too.

I also agree that one should not tell ethnic jokes in public — and for politicians that goes double — except about one’s own ethnic group.

Since I’m a WASP — my last immigrant ancestor arrived in 1812 (under arrest, but that’s another story) — that means I can tell only WASP jokes. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many of them. Indeed, the only one I can think of is, How do you tell the bride at a WASP wedding? She’s the one kissing the golden retriever. Not likely to land me a contract with Comedy Central.

If anyone knows any good ethnic jokes I can tell, please let me know.

I agree with J.E. Dyer that James Jones’s Jewish merchant joke was not funny in more than one way. It was dumb in more than one way too.

I also agree that one should not tell ethnic jokes in public — and for politicians that goes double — except about one’s own ethnic group.

Since I’m a WASP — my last immigrant ancestor arrived in 1812 (under arrest, but that’s another story) — that means I can tell only WASP jokes. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many of them. Indeed, the only one I can think of is, How do you tell the bride at a WASP wedding? She’s the one kissing the golden retriever. Not likely to land me a contract with Comedy Central.

If anyone knows any good ethnic jokes I can tell, please let me know.

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Why Don’t Liberals Care About Voter Intimidation?

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists — simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists — simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

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RE: Grandstanding on Immigration

As I noted, the Arizona immigration bill is what comes from the confluence of federal inaction and election-year jockeying on both sides of the political aisle. Neither pro-immigration nor anti-immigration forces have the wherewithal to push through legislation, so the next best thing is to try to tempt the other side into embarrassing themselves. That’s not hard in this arena. As the Wall Street Journal‘s editors write:

Arizona’s new immigration law shows what happens when a state on the front lines of a failed immigration policy reaches the bursting point. What you get is a blunt instrument that produces lawsuits, more political polarization (if that’s possible) and the risk of hostility between the local police and the public.

The law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documents. It allows the police to stop anyone on “reasonable suspicion” that they may be in the country unlawfully and arrest them on the spot if they can’t produce identity papers. The police aren’t required to have a search warrant or even to suspect some illegal action has occurred before questioning a person. Traditionally the federal government has enforced immigration laws, so this is an extraordinary state criminalization of a heretofore federal authority.

Democrats see an opportunity born of their own delinquency in addressing immigration. (“Congressional Democrats have no intention of enacting serious immigration reform before November. President Obama is surely playing politics with the situation in Arizona for gain in the fall. He’d like to pick a fight and define Republicans as anti-Hispanic going into the election, without having to propose anything substantive.”) So they decry the motives of their opponents and take offense at the notion that law enforcement should enforce immigration laws. Meanwhile, a segment of conservatives thinks this plays well to the base and that liberals’ overheated rhetoric makes them appear “pro-illegal immigration.” But the result is a crass political food fight in which each side’s normal concerns are swept aside. (Are conservatives really in favor of what will amount to near-unbridled discretion by police to stop suspected illegals?)

Those hoping for any semblance of real reform should take note: the alliance of those who oppose any “path to citizenship” and the relaxation of legal immigration restrictions is a classic political marriage of convenience, with Big Labor and immigration restrictionists joined at the hip to block virtually any variation of reform that might conceivably pass. And the most extreme pro-immigration forces don’t do their cause any favors by suggesting that legitimate concerns for border control are nothing more than a cover for racism. So expect the political charade to go on.

As I noted, the Arizona immigration bill is what comes from the confluence of federal inaction and election-year jockeying on both sides of the political aisle. Neither pro-immigration nor anti-immigration forces have the wherewithal to push through legislation, so the next best thing is to try to tempt the other side into embarrassing themselves. That’s not hard in this arena. As the Wall Street Journal‘s editors write:

Arizona’s new immigration law shows what happens when a state on the front lines of a failed immigration policy reaches the bursting point. What you get is a blunt instrument that produces lawsuits, more political polarization (if that’s possible) and the risk of hostility between the local police and the public.

The law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documents. It allows the police to stop anyone on “reasonable suspicion” that they may be in the country unlawfully and arrest them on the spot if they can’t produce identity papers. The police aren’t required to have a search warrant or even to suspect some illegal action has occurred before questioning a person. Traditionally the federal government has enforced immigration laws, so this is an extraordinary state criminalization of a heretofore federal authority.

Democrats see an opportunity born of their own delinquency in addressing immigration. (“Congressional Democrats have no intention of enacting serious immigration reform before November. President Obama is surely playing politics with the situation in Arizona for gain in the fall. He’d like to pick a fight and define Republicans as anti-Hispanic going into the election, without having to propose anything substantive.”) So they decry the motives of their opponents and take offense at the notion that law enforcement should enforce immigration laws. Meanwhile, a segment of conservatives thinks this plays well to the base and that liberals’ overheated rhetoric makes them appear “pro-illegal immigration.” But the result is a crass political food fight in which each side’s normal concerns are swept aside. (Are conservatives really in favor of what will amount to near-unbridled discretion by police to stop suspected illegals?)

Those hoping for any semblance of real reform should take note: the alliance of those who oppose any “path to citizenship” and the relaxation of legal immigration restrictions is a classic political marriage of convenience, with Big Labor and immigration restrictionists joined at the hip to block virtually any variation of reform that might conceivably pass. And the most extreme pro-immigration forces don’t do their cause any favors by suggesting that legitimate concerns for border control are nothing more than a cover for racism. So expect the political charade to go on.

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Bring Back Political Diplomacy

In an interview last week, President Obama asserted that his “core decisions” have been right, but he “identified political diplomacy as his greatest shortcoming so far.”

“What I have not done as well as I would have liked to is to consistently communicate to the general public why we’re making some of the decisions,” he said. “Because we’ve been so rushed over the course of the last year and a half, just issue after issue and crisis after crisis, we haven’t been as effective.”

Here’s a suggestion: hold a prime-time news conference, like the last one … 279 days ago.

Not that the last one was an unqualified success. The president began it by saying he wanted to “talk for a few minutes” about health-insurance reform — and proceeded to deliver a 1,388-word statement asserting that his plan would “keep government out of health care decisions,” give everyone “the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it,” and finance two-thirds of itself by “reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs.” He thought there were only “a few issues to work out” and reaffirmed his August 1 deadline for doing so. Congress returned home a week later to discover that many citizens found the president’s “political diplomacy” unconvincing.

But that is no reason not to try again. There are questions only the president can answer — about Iran, North Korea, the Middle East peace process, disparate treatment of allies and adversaries, the federal budget, immigration reform, climate control, the cost of ObamaCare, continuing high unemployment, the economic impact of the stimulus, huge projected tax increases at the end of this year, financial-reform legislation, and various other issues on which the public would undoubtedly welcome an explanation of his views.

Part of the process of making “core decisions” in a democracy is subjecting them, on a regular basis, to the questions of a variety of experienced reporters, in a forum the entire citizenry can conveniently observe. President Obama has now ignored that basic presidential responsibility for more than nine months. It is most probably not due to his being so rushed, but — whatever the reason — it is time that meeting that responsibility should resume.

In an interview last week, President Obama asserted that his “core decisions” have been right, but he “identified political diplomacy as his greatest shortcoming so far.”

“What I have not done as well as I would have liked to is to consistently communicate to the general public why we’re making some of the decisions,” he said. “Because we’ve been so rushed over the course of the last year and a half, just issue after issue and crisis after crisis, we haven’t been as effective.”

Here’s a suggestion: hold a prime-time news conference, like the last one … 279 days ago.

Not that the last one was an unqualified success. The president began it by saying he wanted to “talk for a few minutes” about health-insurance reform — and proceeded to deliver a 1,388-word statement asserting that his plan would “keep government out of health care decisions,” give everyone “the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it,” and finance two-thirds of itself by “reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs.” He thought there were only “a few issues to work out” and reaffirmed his August 1 deadline for doing so. Congress returned home a week later to discover that many citizens found the president’s “political diplomacy” unconvincing.

But that is no reason not to try again. There are questions only the president can answer — about Iran, North Korea, the Middle East peace process, disparate treatment of allies and adversaries, the federal budget, immigration reform, climate control, the cost of ObamaCare, continuing high unemployment, the economic impact of the stimulus, huge projected tax increases at the end of this year, financial-reform legislation, and various other issues on which the public would undoubtedly welcome an explanation of his views.

Part of the process of making “core decisions” in a democracy is subjecting them, on a regular basis, to the questions of a variety of experienced reporters, in a forum the entire citizenry can conveniently observe. President Obama has now ignored that basic presidential responsibility for more than nine months. It is most probably not due to his being so rushed, but — whatever the reason — it is time that meeting that responsibility should resume.

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Jackie Mason He’s Not

A “Taliban militant and Jewish merchant in the desert” joke is pretty much bound to be an accident waiting to happen. For one thing, you’d have to cut fingers off to count the number of Jewish merchants doing business in the Afghan desert. It’s taking the long way around the barn to put one in a Taliban joke: a red flag that the surreally out-of-place Jewish merchant is the real punch line.

But the sin against humor wouldn’t be so much of one against fellowship if the joke didn’t invoke a set of hackneyed, politically freighted stereotypes and then pick one of them as the laugh line. Seriously: a sneaky Jewish merchant withholding water from a desperate Muslim jihadist? What is this, a stand-up club in Ramallah?

It’s a rare joke that can survive being set up on the lines of an editorial posture. Ronald Reagan was a master of such humor, but one key to his success was staying a long way away from stereotypes about any ethnic group but his own. He disclosed as much in an informal moment on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988, when his staff set up an impromptu visit to a popular pub in Alexandria. “You have to understand that for a man in my position, I’m a little leery about ethnic jokes,” he told the pub crowd on that occasion. “The only ones I can tell are Irish.” Reportedly, he then proceeded to bring the house down with the Irish jokes — which, as someone of largely Irish heritage, I can affirm typically feature such topics as drunkenness, maudlin self-expression, indebtedness, and incarceration.

But you can tell jokes on yourself that come off as you-bashing when told by others. That’s a fact of life that is pointless for the amateur humorist to resist. It may be, moreover, that officials at all levels of authority in the U.S. should just steer clear of Taliban jokes anyway. The Jones joke reminded me immediately of another encounter between American officialdom and Taliban humor, back in 2002. The outcome of that one was a policy aboard Greyhound buses banning all Taliban jokes while a bus was in motion. As a Greyhound spokeswoman explained at the time, very possibly with a straight face:

There is a time and a place for everything, including Taliban jokes. However, the time for telling Taliban jokes is when the bus is safely parked at the station, not when it is full of passengers and rolling down the highway.

Words to live by.

A “Taliban militant and Jewish merchant in the desert” joke is pretty much bound to be an accident waiting to happen. For one thing, you’d have to cut fingers off to count the number of Jewish merchants doing business in the Afghan desert. It’s taking the long way around the barn to put one in a Taliban joke: a red flag that the surreally out-of-place Jewish merchant is the real punch line.

But the sin against humor wouldn’t be so much of one against fellowship if the joke didn’t invoke a set of hackneyed, politically freighted stereotypes and then pick one of them as the laugh line. Seriously: a sneaky Jewish merchant withholding water from a desperate Muslim jihadist? What is this, a stand-up club in Ramallah?

It’s a rare joke that can survive being set up on the lines of an editorial posture. Ronald Reagan was a master of such humor, but one key to his success was staying a long way away from stereotypes about any ethnic group but his own. He disclosed as much in an informal moment on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988, when his staff set up an impromptu visit to a popular pub in Alexandria. “You have to understand that for a man in my position, I’m a little leery about ethnic jokes,” he told the pub crowd on that occasion. “The only ones I can tell are Irish.” Reportedly, he then proceeded to bring the house down with the Irish jokes — which, as someone of largely Irish heritage, I can affirm typically feature such topics as drunkenness, maudlin self-expression, indebtedness, and incarceration.

But you can tell jokes on yourself that come off as you-bashing when told by others. That’s a fact of life that is pointless for the amateur humorist to resist. It may be, moreover, that officials at all levels of authority in the U.S. should just steer clear of Taliban jokes anyway. The Jones joke reminded me immediately of another encounter between American officialdom and Taliban humor, back in 2002. The outcome of that one was a policy aboard Greyhound buses banning all Taliban jokes while a bus was in motion. As a Greyhound spokeswoman explained at the time, very possibly with a straight face:

There is a time and a place for everything, including Taliban jokes. However, the time for telling Taliban jokes is when the bus is safely parked at the station, not when it is full of passengers and rolling down the highway.

Words to live by.

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Wanted: Female Justice with Small Children (Pets a Plus)

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

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RE: RE: J Street Comes Clean

Noah, your apt comments are not limited to the J Street crowd. It seems that now is the time when many on the faux pro-Israel left dare to show their core beliefs. High on that list is that Israel is guilty of “war crimes” and that international bodies like the august Human Rights Council should intervene to prevent such “crimes” — i.e., prevent Israel from defending itself against terrorists who hide behind baby cribs and old women’s skirts. So we learn that Tikkun magazine will give its 25th annual ethics award next year to … ready? … none other than Richard Goldstone. “The politics of meaning” (New Age babble for the far-left agenda) guru and Tikkun founder Michael Lerner is pleased to honor such a man as Goldstone, whose shoddy libel against the IDF has long since been ably and completely demolished:

Tikkun’s founder and editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, told JTA that the decision to recognize Goldstone was made prior to the bar mitzvah brouhaha and that the timing of the announcement was the result of his “outrageous” treatment by his fellow South African Jews.

Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said.

He said the award stems from Goldstone’s record on human rights and is a “reflection on his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”

Translation: there is no higher achievement than betraying — with half-truths and outright lies — the Jewish state. I’m sure the J Street crowd will hoot and holler as Goldstone accepts the honor. After all, they had quite a hand in penning his defense. This then is the face of the not-at-all-pro-Israel left. It’s about time they showed what they are all about — delegitimizing and emasculating the Jewish state.

Noah, your apt comments are not limited to the J Street crowd. It seems that now is the time when many on the faux pro-Israel left dare to show their core beliefs. High on that list is that Israel is guilty of “war crimes” and that international bodies like the august Human Rights Council should intervene to prevent such “crimes” — i.e., prevent Israel from defending itself against terrorists who hide behind baby cribs and old women’s skirts. So we learn that Tikkun magazine will give its 25th annual ethics award next year to … ready? … none other than Richard Goldstone. “The politics of meaning” (New Age babble for the far-left agenda) guru and Tikkun founder Michael Lerner is pleased to honor such a man as Goldstone, whose shoddy libel against the IDF has long since been ably and completely demolished:

Tikkun’s founder and editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, told JTA that the decision to recognize Goldstone was made prior to the bar mitzvah brouhaha and that the timing of the announcement was the result of his “outrageous” treatment by his fellow South African Jews.

Goldstone is doing a service “for the Jewish people in reinforcing the notion that our ethical judgments are not tied to blind support for any government,” Lerner said.

He said the award stems from Goldstone’s record on human rights and is a “reflection on his contribution to the Jewish people in affirming the independence of loyalty to the policies of the State of Israel.”

Translation: there is no higher achievement than betraying — with half-truths and outright lies — the Jewish state. I’m sure the J Street crowd will hoot and holler as Goldstone accepts the honor. After all, they had quite a hand in penning his defense. This then is the face of the not-at-all-pro-Israel left. It’s about time they showed what they are all about — delegitimizing and emasculating the Jewish state.

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Illinois Senate Seat — Another GOP Pickup?

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report tells us (subscription required):

As expected, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seized control Friday of Broadway Bank, the community bank owned by the family of Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias worked as the bank’s chief loan officer from 2002 until 2006 when he was elected state Treasurer.

The bank’s financial problems and its business relationships with people associated with corruption and organized crime have dogged Giannoulias’ campaign since early February when he became the nominee. Now that Broadway has failed — a failure that will cost the FDIC an estimated $394 million — its impact on Giannoulias’ campaign is enormous, and it is entirely possible that the fallout could force him from the race. …

Given recent events, it’s impossible to justify keeping the race in the Toss Up column. While current circumstances would seem to lend themselves to a rating of Likely Republican, we know that it’s entirely possible that we could well be dealt a different hand — and a very different race — a month or two from now. As such, the race moves to the Lean Republican column.

You can bet Illinois Democrats will be combing the state election laws. Can they dump Giannoulias? What if he refuses to leave the race? Could they find a viable replacement? All these questions swirl because Illinois Democrats were apparently in a world of their own when they elected him as their nominee. It’s not as if his ties to Tony Rezko and Illinois mobsters were not known. It’s not as if they didn’t know of his bank’s financial shakiness. But they plunged ahead, seemingly convinced that any Democrat could win in Illinois. Well, not this year and not in a year when the entire Democratic leadership is banking on populist anger against banks to turn out their base. It is, to put it mildly, a bad case of message confusion.

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report tells us (subscription required):

As expected, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seized control Friday of Broadway Bank, the community bank owned by the family of Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias worked as the bank’s chief loan officer from 2002 until 2006 when he was elected state Treasurer.

The bank’s financial problems and its business relationships with people associated with corruption and organized crime have dogged Giannoulias’ campaign since early February when he became the nominee. Now that Broadway has failed — a failure that will cost the FDIC an estimated $394 million — its impact on Giannoulias’ campaign is enormous, and it is entirely possible that the fallout could force him from the race. …

Given recent events, it’s impossible to justify keeping the race in the Toss Up column. While current circumstances would seem to lend themselves to a rating of Likely Republican, we know that it’s entirely possible that we could well be dealt a different hand — and a very different race — a month or two from now. As such, the race moves to the Lean Republican column.

You can bet Illinois Democrats will be combing the state election laws. Can they dump Giannoulias? What if he refuses to leave the race? Could they find a viable replacement? All these questions swirl because Illinois Democrats were apparently in a world of their own when they elected him as their nominee. It’s not as if his ties to Tony Rezko and Illinois mobsters were not known. It’s not as if they didn’t know of his bank’s financial shakiness. But they plunged ahead, seemingly convinced that any Democrat could win in Illinois. Well, not this year and not in a year when the entire Democratic leadership is banking on populist anger against banks to turn out their base. It is, to put it mildly, a bad case of message confusion.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

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