Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 28, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Normally, when Human Rights Watch is criticized, the group retaliates with harsh and aggressive attacks on its accusers. Ken Roth, the head of HRW, is famous for this. When it was disclosed last summer that HRW went to Saudi Arabia to raise money for its “fights with pro-Israel groups,” Roth told Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel’s “supporters fight back with lies and deception.” When HRW’s founder, Bob Bernstein, criticized the group in a New York Times op-ed, HRW fired back by egregiously misrepresenting Bernstein’s argument and then denouncing it in classic straw-man fashion.

A couple of days ago, a long investigative piece was published in the New Republic, which contained the most damaging revelations yet about the group’s hostility to Israel, the sloppiness of its work, and the opinions of some of the crackpots who work in its offices. I was expecting Roth and his goon squad to go nuclear, as they normally do, with wild accusations of lies and right-wing smears. Strangely, nothing of the sort has happened. HRW’s defense comes in the form of a short, passionless statement of support by a board member who seems to be the go-to person for defenses of HRW’s treatment of Israel, and who incredibly insists that HRW is “actually good for Israel.”

There is no attempt to refute the carefully documented facts contained in Birnbaum’s TNR piece; there is no smear campaign against the author; there are no fervent letters to the editor insisting on HRW’s invincible moral authority. Instead, there is silence. I think I know why: HRW has been beaten. The case against it has become too strong and too airtight, and HRW’s attempts at self-defense, as the group learned from its attempt to trash its own founder, are so implausible and desperate that they only make the situation worse.

With the TNR piece, we enter a new phase with Human Rights Watch, in which the group no longer tries to marshal a spirited defense of its conduct and reputation. This is how we know things are going the wrong way for HRW: when self-defense becomes so embarrassing that it’s better to keep quiet and hope everyone’s attention shifts to other subjects.

The problem is, that’s not going to happen. It’s time to batten down the hatches at Human Rights Watch.

Normally, when Human Rights Watch is criticized, the group retaliates with harsh and aggressive attacks on its accusers. Ken Roth, the head of HRW, is famous for this. When it was disclosed last summer that HRW went to Saudi Arabia to raise money for its “fights with pro-Israel groups,” Roth told Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel’s “supporters fight back with lies and deception.” When HRW’s founder, Bob Bernstein, criticized the group in a New York Times op-ed, HRW fired back by egregiously misrepresenting Bernstein’s argument and then denouncing it in classic straw-man fashion.

A couple of days ago, a long investigative piece was published in the New Republic, which contained the most damaging revelations yet about the group’s hostility to Israel, the sloppiness of its work, and the opinions of some of the crackpots who work in its offices. I was expecting Roth and his goon squad to go nuclear, as they normally do, with wild accusations of lies and right-wing smears. Strangely, nothing of the sort has happened. HRW’s defense comes in the form of a short, passionless statement of support by a board member who seems to be the go-to person for defenses of HRW’s treatment of Israel, and who incredibly insists that HRW is “actually good for Israel.”

There is no attempt to refute the carefully documented facts contained in Birnbaum’s TNR piece; there is no smear campaign against the author; there are no fervent letters to the editor insisting on HRW’s invincible moral authority. Instead, there is silence. I think I know why: HRW has been beaten. The case against it has become too strong and too airtight, and HRW’s attempts at self-defense, as the group learned from its attempt to trash its own founder, are so implausible and desperate that they only make the situation worse.

With the TNR piece, we enter a new phase with Human Rights Watch, in which the group no longer tries to marshal a spirited defense of its conduct and reputation. This is how we know things are going the wrong way for HRW: when self-defense becomes so embarrassing that it’s better to keep quiet and hope everyone’s attention shifts to other subjects.

The problem is, that’s not going to happen. It’s time to batten down the hatches at Human Rights Watch.

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Jewish Leaders Fall for the Obama Charm Offensive

When Obama penned a letter to the Conference of Jewish Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, I wondered whether this sort of puffery and rhetorical cotton candy would hush up American Jewish officialdom. Well, it seems it has, for the most part. As this report notes:

The Obama administration is projecting a new attitude when it comes to Israel, and is selling it hard: unbreakable, unshakeable bond going forward, whatever happens.

Jewish leaders have kicked the tires and they’re buying — although anxious still at what happens when the rubber hits the road.

“It’s a positive development,” Alan Solow, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents Of Major American Jewish Organizations, said of the recent Jewish outreach blitz by the administration. “There are two questions, though, that will only be answered over time: Will the outreach be sustained, and will the policy be consistent with the positions being expressed in the outreach?”

Apparently, that’s all it took — a few platitudes, an ill-conceived Jewish joke, a few back slaps — and back on the bandwagon climb the “leaders” of most Jewish organizations. Well, they want to see how it all turns out, but they seem not the least bit perturbed that the new sunny rhetoric bears no resemblance to the policy initiatives of the administration. Could it be that they are so anxious to clamber back on board with the Democratic president that they don’t much care what the administration does, so long as it doesn’t sound so overtly hostile to the Jewish state? They have nothing to say, it seems, about the invitation of Mahmoud Abbas following the multiple snubs to Bibi. It’s charm offensive time, so everyone is smiles again.

It doesn’t seem that the administration has given any substantive assurances to Jewish leaders. Indeed, they admit they will have to watch to see if the administration really intends to shift gears:

Jewish leaders said they would closely watch the aftermath of next month’s visit to Washington by Abbas, when the sides are expected to announce the resumption of talks. The nitty-gritty of the talks may yet derail the new good feelings; how that works depends on communications, said William Daroff, who heads the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America.

“This charm offensive is part of a prefatory way of setting up the communications so that when we get to proximity talks we will all move forward instead,” he said.

But what about the administration’s ineffective Iran policy? What of the continued insistence on unilateral concessions by Israel? Oh, well, the Jewish leaders hope for the best. This is, to put it mildly, embarrassing. Unless Jewish “leaders” insist on more than platitudes, the Obami will keep right on doing what they have been — distancing themselves from Israel and inching toward a containment policy with Iran. But he writes lovely letters, so all is well.

When Obama penned a letter to the Conference of Jewish Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, I wondered whether this sort of puffery and rhetorical cotton candy would hush up American Jewish officialdom. Well, it seems it has, for the most part. As this report notes:

The Obama administration is projecting a new attitude when it comes to Israel, and is selling it hard: unbreakable, unshakeable bond going forward, whatever happens.

Jewish leaders have kicked the tires and they’re buying — although anxious still at what happens when the rubber hits the road.

“It’s a positive development,” Alan Solow, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents Of Major American Jewish Organizations, said of the recent Jewish outreach blitz by the administration. “There are two questions, though, that will only be answered over time: Will the outreach be sustained, and will the policy be consistent with the positions being expressed in the outreach?”

Apparently, that’s all it took — a few platitudes, an ill-conceived Jewish joke, a few back slaps — and back on the bandwagon climb the “leaders” of most Jewish organizations. Well, they want to see how it all turns out, but they seem not the least bit perturbed that the new sunny rhetoric bears no resemblance to the policy initiatives of the administration. Could it be that they are so anxious to clamber back on board with the Democratic president that they don’t much care what the administration does, so long as it doesn’t sound so overtly hostile to the Jewish state? They have nothing to say, it seems, about the invitation of Mahmoud Abbas following the multiple snubs to Bibi. It’s charm offensive time, so everyone is smiles again.

It doesn’t seem that the administration has given any substantive assurances to Jewish leaders. Indeed, they admit they will have to watch to see if the administration really intends to shift gears:

Jewish leaders said they would closely watch the aftermath of next month’s visit to Washington by Abbas, when the sides are expected to announce the resumption of talks. The nitty-gritty of the talks may yet derail the new good feelings; how that works depends on communications, said William Daroff, who heads the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America.

“This charm offensive is part of a prefatory way of setting up the communications so that when we get to proximity talks we will all move forward instead,” he said.

But what about the administration’s ineffective Iran policy? What of the continued insistence on unilateral concessions by Israel? Oh, well, the Jewish leaders hope for the best. This is, to put it mildly, embarrassing. Unless Jewish “leaders” insist on more than platitudes, the Obami will keep right on doing what they have been — distancing themselves from Israel and inching toward a containment policy with Iran. But he writes lovely letters, so all is well.

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Unheeded Advice from William Galston

William Galston, a top aide of President Clinton, writes that while that public is concerned about the economy and jobs, “the [Democratic] leadership is moving toward, or backing into, months dominated by some combination of immigration and climate change — and of course there will also be a Supreme Court confirmation battle to fight. It is hard to believe that the people will respond favorably.” Galston goes on to write:

My skepticism about the Democrats’ emerging strategy has nothing to do with the substance of these issues…  I disagree, rather, with the political calculation that seems to be driving this strategy. Here’s why: 90 percent of the electorate is not Hispanic, and 85 percent is not young. Relatively modest shifts in voter sentiment outside these two groups could easily swamp increased turnout within them and turn all-but-certain Democratic losses into a rout of historic proportions. While the temptation to adopt a strategy of targeted micro-politics is understandable, Democrats should instead espouse a strategy of macro-politics focused on broad-based public concerns. If that means that Senate Democrats will have to choose a new majority leader next January, so be it. At least they’ll still have a majority.

When responsible Democrats like Professor Galston are concerned about a “rout of historic proportions,” you know how ominous things are becoming for Democrats. President Obama and the Democratic leadership would have been wise to follow Galston’s advice from the outset of the presidency (he warned a against a massive expansion of the federal government in a period when trust in the federal government was low). I rather doubt they will listen to him now. And they will pay quite a high price, perhaps historically high, for their extraordinary missteps.

William Galston, a top aide of President Clinton, writes that while that public is concerned about the economy and jobs, “the [Democratic] leadership is moving toward, or backing into, months dominated by some combination of immigration and climate change — and of course there will also be a Supreme Court confirmation battle to fight. It is hard to believe that the people will respond favorably.” Galston goes on to write:

My skepticism about the Democrats’ emerging strategy has nothing to do with the substance of these issues…  I disagree, rather, with the political calculation that seems to be driving this strategy. Here’s why: 90 percent of the electorate is not Hispanic, and 85 percent is not young. Relatively modest shifts in voter sentiment outside these two groups could easily swamp increased turnout within them and turn all-but-certain Democratic losses into a rout of historic proportions. While the temptation to adopt a strategy of targeted micro-politics is understandable, Democrats should instead espouse a strategy of macro-politics focused on broad-based public concerns. If that means that Senate Democrats will have to choose a new majority leader next January, so be it. At least they’ll still have a majority.

When responsible Democrats like Professor Galston are concerned about a “rout of historic proportions,” you know how ominous things are becoming for Democrats. President Obama and the Democratic leadership would have been wise to follow Galston’s advice from the outset of the presidency (he warned a against a massive expansion of the federal government in a period when trust in the federal government was low). I rather doubt they will listen to him now. And they will pay quite a high price, perhaps historically high, for their extraordinary missteps.

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November Is the Cruelest Month

Patrick Ruffini, in mulling over the November midterm elections, writes this:

All in all, I don’t think a 70 seat gain is out of the question.

Michael Barone’s comments on Ruffini’s analysis can be found here. Democrats should read this, and weep. The midterm elections may not be as bad as Ruffini predicts — but they will very, very bad. Virtually every bit of polling data points to an epic loss by Democrats.

Mr. Obama may indeed be a political miracle worker — but for Republicans, not Democrats.

Patrick Ruffini, in mulling over the November midterm elections, writes this:

All in all, I don’t think a 70 seat gain is out of the question.

Michael Barone’s comments on Ruffini’s analysis can be found here. Democrats should read this, and weep. The midterm elections may not be as bad as Ruffini predicts — but they will very, very bad. Virtually every bit of polling data points to an epic loss by Democrats.

Mr. Obama may indeed be a political miracle worker — but for Republicans, not Democrats.

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Yet More Bad Poll News for Obama

More troubling poll data for President Obama. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Public perceptions of two of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to right the economy could be contributing to the pessimism. More than six-in-ten (62%) say the economic stimulus package enacted by Congress last year has not helped the job situation… Substantial majorities of Republicans (79%) and independents (69%) say that last year’s economic stimulus has not helped the job situation. Even among Democrats, opinions about the effectiveness of the stimulus are not overwhelmingly positive: 51% say it has helped the job situation while 42% say it has not.

President Obama would undoubtedly publicly ascribe this to a communications failure – and privately, one can imagine, he will blame the public for its ignorance of what a remarkable and historic piece of legislation the so-called stimulus package was. The fact that unemployment increased around 20 percent above what the administration had estimated should, of course, be ignored. It is an inconvenient fact for an administration that is, on so many different fronts, out of touch with reality. Elections have a way of correcting, or at least compensating for, such things.

More troubling poll data for President Obama. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Public perceptions of two of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to right the economy could be contributing to the pessimism. More than six-in-ten (62%) say the economic stimulus package enacted by Congress last year has not helped the job situation… Substantial majorities of Republicans (79%) and independents (69%) say that last year’s economic stimulus has not helped the job situation. Even among Democrats, opinions about the effectiveness of the stimulus are not overwhelmingly positive: 51% say it has helped the job situation while 42% say it has not.

President Obama would undoubtedly publicly ascribe this to a communications failure – and privately, one can imagine, he will blame the public for its ignorance of what a remarkable and historic piece of legislation the so-called stimulus package was. The fact that unemployment increased around 20 percent above what the administration had estimated should, of course, be ignored. It is an inconvenient fact for an administration that is, on so many different fronts, out of touch with reality. Elections have a way of correcting, or at least compensating for, such things.

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Media Clueless on the Tea Parties — Still

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

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Nita Lowey vs. Obama

A colleague calls my attention to this report concerning Rep. Nita Lowey’s take on the Middle East. As chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, she confirms that foreign aid for Israel “will not falter.” But her comments on Obama’s policies and the reactions of those in the Middle East are most noteworthy. First, on the Jerusalem housing issue:

While the White House might not have accepted Netanyahu’s detailed presentation on the zoning process in the Interior Ministry, whose decision he apologized for even though he said it took him by surprise, Lowey expressed understanding for the prime minister’s position.

“I think there’s a general understanding that Jerusalem is in a different category than the West Bank. And the issues surrounding Jerusalem, most agree, will be in the final stages of negotiations,” she said.

And, using Netanyahu’s nickname, she stressed, “Bibi has the support of Congress. It is solid. It is secure.”

But who holds to that general understanding? Certainly not Obama, who has reneged on prior understandings and is attempting to force unilateral concessions now.

Her most interesting comment however concerned the Arab states. Are they bent out of shape about Jerusalem housing? Concerned about the fate of the Palestinians? Not very much. Confirming what many who travel and speak to Arab governments report, Lowey says they are agitated about Iran:

Lowey also pointed to the different audiences that Arab leaders need to consider when they speak up, referring to a recent trip to the Gulf and the concern she heard about Iran.

In Saudi Arabia, she met with King Abdullah and came away with the understanding that “Saudi Arabia doesn’t believe the sanctions will work. Let me just say he’s supportive of pursuing other options.”

So the notion that only a Palestinian peace deal can unlock support for strong action against Iran is, well, nonsense, as many critics of Obama’s peace-process fixation have long argued. Indeed, the Arab governments, unlike Obama, are willing to go beyond sanctions, presumably including the use of military force. So Israel and its Arab neighbors are skeptical of sanctions and unwilling to buy into a containment strategy. But not Obama. This is the peculiar but entirely expected result of Obama’s foot-dragging on Iran and peace-process obsession. Perhaps it’s time for Israel and its neighbors to work out a plan and leave Obama out of it. He seems to be a hindrance and not a help in thwarting the greatest danger to the region.

A colleague calls my attention to this report concerning Rep. Nita Lowey’s take on the Middle East. As chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, she confirms that foreign aid for Israel “will not falter.” But her comments on Obama’s policies and the reactions of those in the Middle East are most noteworthy. First, on the Jerusalem housing issue:

While the White House might not have accepted Netanyahu’s detailed presentation on the zoning process in the Interior Ministry, whose decision he apologized for even though he said it took him by surprise, Lowey expressed understanding for the prime minister’s position.

“I think there’s a general understanding that Jerusalem is in a different category than the West Bank. And the issues surrounding Jerusalem, most agree, will be in the final stages of negotiations,” she said.

And, using Netanyahu’s nickname, she stressed, “Bibi has the support of Congress. It is solid. It is secure.”

But who holds to that general understanding? Certainly not Obama, who has reneged on prior understandings and is attempting to force unilateral concessions now.

Her most interesting comment however concerned the Arab states. Are they bent out of shape about Jerusalem housing? Concerned about the fate of the Palestinians? Not very much. Confirming what many who travel and speak to Arab governments report, Lowey says they are agitated about Iran:

Lowey also pointed to the different audiences that Arab leaders need to consider when they speak up, referring to a recent trip to the Gulf and the concern she heard about Iran.

In Saudi Arabia, she met with King Abdullah and came away with the understanding that “Saudi Arabia doesn’t believe the sanctions will work. Let me just say he’s supportive of pursuing other options.”

So the notion that only a Palestinian peace deal can unlock support for strong action against Iran is, well, nonsense, as many critics of Obama’s peace-process fixation have long argued. Indeed, the Arab governments, unlike Obama, are willing to go beyond sanctions, presumably including the use of military force. So Israel and its Arab neighbors are skeptical of sanctions and unwilling to buy into a containment strategy. But not Obama. This is the peculiar but entirely expected result of Obama’s foot-dragging on Iran and peace-process obsession. Perhaps it’s time for Israel and its neighbors to work out a plan and leave Obama out of it. He seems to be a hindrance and not a help in thwarting the greatest danger to the region.

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PowerPoint Run Amok in the Military

I have been spending the past few days with American military forces in the Persian Gulf region. Everywhere I have gone with a group from the Council on Foreign Relations, military briefers have sheepishly prefaced their remarks by saying, “I read that story about PowerPoint, but I have a few PowerPoint slides I’d like to present anyway.” The story they’re referring to is this New York Times article, which suggests that the military is dangerously over reliant on this Microsoft program, which makes it all too easy to substitute glib bullet points for serious thought about pressing issues. Granted, PowerPoint in the right hands can be an efficient way to convey a lot of information, but Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster makes a good point when he says: “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” Undoubtedly true, but as my experience of the past few days demonstrates, PowerPoint isn’t going away anytime soon.

If only officers devoted as much time to the study of military history and strategy as they do to creating PowerPoint presentations, I suspect our armed forces would be even more formidable than they already are. And this is an addiction that is spreading: Armed forces tutored by Americans, including those of Afghanistan and Iraq, are using PowerPoint too. I’m generally a fan of American imperialism, but this is one habit we might be better off not exporting.

I have been spending the past few days with American military forces in the Persian Gulf region. Everywhere I have gone with a group from the Council on Foreign Relations, military briefers have sheepishly prefaced their remarks by saying, “I read that story about PowerPoint, but I have a few PowerPoint slides I’d like to present anyway.” The story they’re referring to is this New York Times article, which suggests that the military is dangerously over reliant on this Microsoft program, which makes it all too easy to substitute glib bullet points for serious thought about pressing issues. Granted, PowerPoint in the right hands can be an efficient way to convey a lot of information, but Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster makes a good point when he says: “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” Undoubtedly true, but as my experience of the past few days demonstrates, PowerPoint isn’t going away anytime soon.

If only officers devoted as much time to the study of military history and strategy as they do to creating PowerPoint presentations, I suspect our armed forces would be even more formidable than they already are. And this is an addiction that is spreading: Armed forces tutored by Americans, including those of Afghanistan and Iraq, are using PowerPoint too. I’m generally a fan of American imperialism, but this is one habit we might be better off not exporting.

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Is Obama Winning His War on Jerusalem?

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it tries holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it attempts holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

Obama’s war on Jerusalem has not brought peace closer. His pressure on Israel has helped to harden the Palestinians rejectionist position on Jerusalem as the call for a freeze in the city means the Palestinians are likely to demand an Israeli evacuation of the neighborhoods where U.S. officials treat Jewish housing starts as an “insult.” This has made the already dim prospects for peace even more unlikely. But one thing the administration has accomplished is to change the terms of argument about Jerusalem. The nerves of some Jewish Democrats may be calmed by the charm offensive that has led administration figures to fan out to Jewish groups and reassure them of the strength of the alliance with Israel in spite of the recent controversy. But by treating Jewish Jerusalem as just another illegal settlement, the president has done more in the last six weeks to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than a generation of Arab propaganda.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it tries holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it attempts holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

Obama’s war on Jerusalem has not brought peace closer. His pressure on Israel has helped to harden the Palestinians rejectionist position on Jerusalem as the call for a freeze in the city means the Palestinians are likely to demand an Israeli evacuation of the neighborhoods where U.S. officials treat Jewish housing starts as an “insult.” This has made the already dim prospects for peace even more unlikely. But one thing the administration has accomplished is to change the terms of argument about Jerusalem. The nerves of some Jewish Democrats may be calmed by the charm offensive that has led administration figures to fan out to Jewish groups and reassure them of the strength of the alliance with Israel in spite of the recent controversy. But by treating Jewish Jerusalem as just another illegal settlement, the president has done more in the last six weeks to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than a generation of Arab propaganda.

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Obama Does the Palestinians No Favors

One disastrous result among many of Obama’s assault on Israel has been to reduce Mahmoud Abbas’s stature and deal-making ability. That seems counterintuitive; Obama is now parroting the Palestinian line and doing their bargaining for them. But Elliott Abrams spots signs that all of this has merely paralyzed Abbas and reduced to him to vassal-like status while elevating the authority of Arab obstructionists. He writes:

First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant–even historic–step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.

Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.

So to review the handiwork of the Obami: they have taken a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israel relationship, emboldened and empowered Syria and its senior partner Iran, distracted us from the most critical issue in the Middle East (Iran’s nuclear program), encouraged Palestinian rejectionism and victimology, and demonstrated that the U.S. is a feckless ally. It’s remarkable that so much damage could be done in a mere fifteen months. Is the Middle East closer to peace or to war (multiple ones, in fact)? Is the peace process reducing or inflaming tensions? The likes of Roger Cohen and George Mitchell would have us celebrate the good intentions of Obama; but whatever Obama’s intentions, he must — and will — be judged on the results of his approach, which are potentially catastrophic for Israel’s security and for ours. And really, he has not even helped the cause of his Palestinian clients. No wonder his spinners would rather coo over his intentions.

One disastrous result among many of Obama’s assault on Israel has been to reduce Mahmoud Abbas’s stature and deal-making ability. That seems counterintuitive; Obama is now parroting the Palestinian line and doing their bargaining for them. But Elliott Abrams spots signs that all of this has merely paralyzed Abbas and reduced to him to vassal-like status while elevating the authority of Arab obstructionists. He writes:

First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant–even historic–step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.

Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.

So to review the handiwork of the Obami: they have taken a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israel relationship, emboldened and empowered Syria and its senior partner Iran, distracted us from the most critical issue in the Middle East (Iran’s nuclear program), encouraged Palestinian rejectionism and victimology, and demonstrated that the U.S. is a feckless ally. It’s remarkable that so much damage could be done in a mere fifteen months. Is the Middle East closer to peace or to war (multiple ones, in fact)? Is the peace process reducing or inflaming tensions? The likes of Roger Cohen and George Mitchell would have us celebrate the good intentions of Obama; but whatever Obama’s intentions, he must — and will — be judged on the results of his approach, which are potentially catastrophic for Israel’s security and for ours. And really, he has not even helped the cause of his Palestinian clients. No wonder his spinners would rather coo over his intentions.

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Codetan

Here’s something Codepink, the “women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement,” might want to consider in their earnest fight to end the Western demonization of the Iranian regime:

Brig Hossien Sajedinia, Tehran’s police chief, said a national crackdown on opposition sympathisers would be extended to women who have been deemed to be violating the spirit of Islamic laws. He said: “The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehaviour by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values. In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins.

“We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them.”

In an age when a New York State assemblyman is getting traction on a proposed salt ban, the criminalization of tanning just seems like a piece of local legislation we’ll deal with sooner or later. Still, I think this is nanny-statism of a rather different order.

On Codepink’s  “Prevent War With Iran” page, the organization assures us that “Iranian women excel in the arts and sciences.” Pale Iranian women, I suppose.

Here’s something Codepink, the “women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement,” might want to consider in their earnest fight to end the Western demonization of the Iranian regime:

Brig Hossien Sajedinia, Tehran’s police chief, said a national crackdown on opposition sympathisers would be extended to women who have been deemed to be violating the spirit of Islamic laws. He said: “The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehaviour by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values. In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins.

“We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them.”

In an age when a New York State assemblyman is getting traction on a proposed salt ban, the criminalization of tanning just seems like a piece of local legislation we’ll deal with sooner or later. Still, I think this is nanny-statism of a rather different order.

On Codepink’s  “Prevent War With Iran” page, the organization assures us that “Iranian women excel in the arts and sciences.” Pale Iranian women, I suppose.

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RE: Showboating Against Wall Street Greed

Maybe the Democrats overplayed their hand. The Washington Post editors are grimacing:

The broader implication raised by senators at Tuesday’s hearing — that Goldman somehow rigged the market in subprime mortgages, and that this led to the meltdown — does not strike us as a terribly useful or even accurate analysis of the crisis. Yes, in its capacity as a market-maker, the firm sold complex derivatives to market players who wanted to bet on a rosy view of housing long after Goldman had turned more pessimistic. To that extent, Goldman’s interest in short-term revenue clashed with what, in hindsight, was society’s need for a whistle-blower. For the most part, though, these were large, sophisticated institutional investors who had the opportunity to conduct the same analysis of economic data that Goldman did. They knew that there was someone on the short side of every trade. And Goldman had no legal obligation to trade in the same direction as these clients did. Indeed, if it had, then Goldman could not have started hedging its own bets on housing early, as it did. The firm would have lost billions, and it might have wound up needing an even bigger bailout by U.S. taxpayers than it actually got. It could have ended up like Citigroup, which tried to ride the bubble until it was too late and had to be propped up with hundreds of billions of dollars in federal cash and credit guarantees.

As the editors note, the senators seemed outraged — offended even — by the entire notion of short-selling, although even senators must understand at some level that short-selling is, in essence, the way information is transmitted to the marketplace that the herd is going in the wrong direction. (“Perhaps the housing bubble would have been mitigated if more shorts had piled in earlier.”) But the senators would not be deterred from their attacks, in part because the underlying merits of the actual case against Goldman are looking more suspect.

Others observe:

The SEC claims that Goldman’s Fabrice Tourre misled ACA into thinking Mr. Paulson’s firm would be going long on subprime, just like ACA. It’s not clear that this would have mattered, but Mr. Tourre flatly denied the allegation under oath yesterday.

The SEC also claims Goldman should have disclosed that Mr. Paulson’s firm suggested some of the particular mortgage-backed securities on which the two sides in the transaction would bet. Yet Mr. Tourre testified that the pool referenced in the transaction performed no worse than similar pools of subprime loans not included in the transaction.

In sum, it appeared to be another bad day for the SEC’s specific case against Goldman. But lawmakers seemed intent on finding the firm generally guilty of meeting institutional demand for subprime housing risk.

Well, you can see why the senators would rather talk about greed — or anything other than the merits of what seems to be a flaky case with highly suspicious timing.

Once again, lawmakers are betting the voters are easily bamboozled and can be lured into an anti-business, anti-bank fury. They may be right. But if the Post’s editors are any guide, they may have underestimated the public’s ability to see through their histrionics.

Maybe the Democrats overplayed their hand. The Washington Post editors are grimacing:

The broader implication raised by senators at Tuesday’s hearing — that Goldman somehow rigged the market in subprime mortgages, and that this led to the meltdown — does not strike us as a terribly useful or even accurate analysis of the crisis. Yes, in its capacity as a market-maker, the firm sold complex derivatives to market players who wanted to bet on a rosy view of housing long after Goldman had turned more pessimistic. To that extent, Goldman’s interest in short-term revenue clashed with what, in hindsight, was society’s need for a whistle-blower. For the most part, though, these were large, sophisticated institutional investors who had the opportunity to conduct the same analysis of economic data that Goldman did. They knew that there was someone on the short side of every trade. And Goldman had no legal obligation to trade in the same direction as these clients did. Indeed, if it had, then Goldman could not have started hedging its own bets on housing early, as it did. The firm would have lost billions, and it might have wound up needing an even bigger bailout by U.S. taxpayers than it actually got. It could have ended up like Citigroup, which tried to ride the bubble until it was too late and had to be propped up with hundreds of billions of dollars in federal cash and credit guarantees.

As the editors note, the senators seemed outraged — offended even — by the entire notion of short-selling, although even senators must understand at some level that short-selling is, in essence, the way information is transmitted to the marketplace that the herd is going in the wrong direction. (“Perhaps the housing bubble would have been mitigated if more shorts had piled in earlier.”) But the senators would not be deterred from their attacks, in part because the underlying merits of the actual case against Goldman are looking more suspect.

Others observe:

The SEC claims that Goldman’s Fabrice Tourre misled ACA into thinking Mr. Paulson’s firm would be going long on subprime, just like ACA. It’s not clear that this would have mattered, but Mr. Tourre flatly denied the allegation under oath yesterday.

The SEC also claims Goldman should have disclosed that Mr. Paulson’s firm suggested some of the particular mortgage-backed securities on which the two sides in the transaction would bet. Yet Mr. Tourre testified that the pool referenced in the transaction performed no worse than similar pools of subprime loans not included in the transaction.

In sum, it appeared to be another bad day for the SEC’s specific case against Goldman. But lawmakers seemed intent on finding the firm generally guilty of meeting institutional demand for subprime housing risk.

Well, you can see why the senators would rather talk about greed — or anything other than the merits of what seems to be a flaky case with highly suspicious timing.

Once again, lawmakers are betting the voters are easily bamboozled and can be lured into an anti-business, anti-bank fury. They may be right. But if the Post’s editors are any guide, they may have underestimated the public’s ability to see through their histrionics.

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The Climate-Change Delay

International climate-change hesitation throughout the last month suggests that Climategate may be taking its toll on political agendas after all — not as dramatically as its critics may have hoped, but consistently nonetheless. The United States and Australia were both aggressively pursuing climate-change legislation a year ago, but lawmakers in both countries have spent late March and April backtracking.

In the U.S., we’ve seen a shift of priorities in Congress.

If you recall, almost a year ago, the House passed a cap-and-trade bill. But health-care reform took precedence, and the cap-and-trade bill crawled into a corner in the Senate, dying quietly in March. The bill died in part because its opponents took control of the political language — “cap-and-trade” became “cap-and-tax.”

Support for a less comprehensive carbon-emissions bill is petering out, too. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had been at the front of the effort, but on Saturday, he withdrew from the bill because of the Congressional focus on immigration reform.

Similarly, across the globe, Australia has shelved its effort to enact emissions limits. That has been a major victory for Australian business and the opposition in parliament; the prime minister had once placed climate-change policy at the center of his agenda.

In both Australia and the United States, politicians are acknowledging that it is now an inopportune time for climate-change legislation. That’s largely because Climategate gave the public good cause for doubt. Lawmakers know that any substantive climate-change legislation would affect the way of life of the average citizen. It would demand taxes, but it would also affect behavior. A skeptical public would not suffer these big changes gladly. The aftermath of ObamaCare provides an instructive example.

But climate-change critics would be mistaken if they took this retreat as a signal that the policy war has been won. In both the United States and Australia, lawmakers are merely choosing the possible over the unattainable, and the delays are in no way an acknowledgement of the validity of climate-change skepticism. Because the Climategate brouhaha is fading, policymakers will most likely wait. If conservatives are serious about stopping legislation founded in faulty science, they will use this delay to organize themselves and educate the public.

International climate-change hesitation throughout the last month suggests that Climategate may be taking its toll on political agendas after all — not as dramatically as its critics may have hoped, but consistently nonetheless. The United States and Australia were both aggressively pursuing climate-change legislation a year ago, but lawmakers in both countries have spent late March and April backtracking.

In the U.S., we’ve seen a shift of priorities in Congress.

If you recall, almost a year ago, the House passed a cap-and-trade bill. But health-care reform took precedence, and the cap-and-trade bill crawled into a corner in the Senate, dying quietly in March. The bill died in part because its opponents took control of the political language — “cap-and-trade” became “cap-and-tax.”

Support for a less comprehensive carbon-emissions bill is petering out, too. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had been at the front of the effort, but on Saturday, he withdrew from the bill because of the Congressional focus on immigration reform.

Similarly, across the globe, Australia has shelved its effort to enact emissions limits. That has been a major victory for Australian business and the opposition in parliament; the prime minister had once placed climate-change policy at the center of his agenda.

In both Australia and the United States, politicians are acknowledging that it is now an inopportune time for climate-change legislation. That’s largely because Climategate gave the public good cause for doubt. Lawmakers know that any substantive climate-change legislation would affect the way of life of the average citizen. It would demand taxes, but it would also affect behavior. A skeptical public would not suffer these big changes gladly. The aftermath of ObamaCare provides an instructive example.

But climate-change critics would be mistaken if they took this retreat as a signal that the policy war has been won. In both the United States and Australia, lawmakers are merely choosing the possible over the unattainable, and the delays are in no way an acknowledgement of the validity of climate-change skepticism. Because the Climategate brouhaha is fading, policymakers will most likely wait. If conservatives are serious about stopping legislation founded in faulty science, they will use this delay to organize themselves and educate the public.

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A Bully Pulpit … or Just a Bully?

Dennis Kneale, CNBC media and technology editor, has a column in which he refers to President Obama as “a bully.” Kneale makes his case and  concludes this way:

I can’t remember of any other President in my memory having done this. Nixon maybe? An unfortunate comparison, indeed. … And the worst part is, we’re barely calling out Obama the Bully on this behavior at all. We are becoming entirely too accustomed to it, failing to see it for what it really is: a striking lack of civility, and an overflow of divisiveness, from a President who had promised to give us precisely the opposite.

The bottom line? The man who promised to elevate American politics is degrading it.

Dennis Kneale, CNBC media and technology editor, has a column in which he refers to President Obama as “a bully.” Kneale makes his case and  concludes this way:

I can’t remember of any other President in my memory having done this. Nixon maybe? An unfortunate comparison, indeed. … And the worst part is, we’re barely calling out Obama the Bully on this behavior at all. We are becoming entirely too accustomed to it, failing to see it for what it really is: a striking lack of civility, and an overflow of divisiveness, from a President who had promised to give us precisely the opposite.

The bottom line? The man who promised to elevate American politics is degrading it.

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Rubber-Stamping Obama’s Agenda Can Be Hazardous to Democrats

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.'”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.'”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

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Israel’s Right Discovers Political Sanity

Anyone familiar with Israeli politics knows that the Israeli right’s worst enemy is itself. Small right-of-center factions toppled both Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government in 1992 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999; those decisions led, respectively, to Yitzhak Rabin’s election and the Oslo Accords, and to Ehud Barak’s election and the second intifada.

Moreover, it was rightist voters who ensured Rabin’s victory by wasting thousands of votes on splinter parties that failed to enter the Knesset. Had all those votes gone to the main center-right party, Likud, Shamir would have formed the next government and not Rabin. Yet instead of learning the lesson, rightists continued wasting thousands of votes on unelectable splinter parties in subsequent elections.

So it was encouraging to read the following notice in a local newsletter (Hebrew only) published by the West Bank settlement of Eli: “After much thought, it has been decided by the [Givat Hayovel neighborhood] committee, the town council and rabbis, with backing from senior officials involved in the matter, to register people for Likud. Likud is the ruling party, and that is where we need to have an influence. … Joining Likud is the most effective way of influencing ministers and Knesset members to work with us on both the court case and other matters of importance to the town.”

Granted, Eli is only one settlement, and its decision stems from a very specific problem: the aforementioned court case, in which Peace Now is seeking a court order to raze Givat Hayovel on the grounds that it was built illegally. Eli contends that the neighborhood, built with massive government support, was always slated for legalization and needs only the final government permits — hence its quest for lobbying clout.

Nevertheless, this is a revolution. During Likud’s last membership drive, in 2008, a party activist who canvassed Eli and other settlements using this very same argument told me despairingly that most people didn’t get it. Now it is being promoted by the town’s entire political and religious leadership.

Moreover, many other settlements face similar problems with permits. So if Eli has reached this conclusion, it’s likely that other settlements are or will be doing the same.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of splinter voting, since joining Likud doesn’t oblige one to vote for it. Yet large-scale party membership carries its own dynamic: if those rightists who previously shunned Likud instead start working from within it, the party will presumably become more responsive to their needs, thus encouraging more of them to vote for it.

That in turn could promote more effective government. Israel’s current governing coalition comprises six different parties, with Likud commanding barely a third of its seats, and these parties’ disagreements have led to paralysis on many issues. A government composed of a larger Likud with fewer coalition partners would presumably find it easier to push through vital domestic initiatives.

That still remains a distant dream. But the first step is for rightists to understand that they need to work from within Likud rather than outside it. And it seems that is finally starting to happen.

Anyone familiar with Israeli politics knows that the Israeli right’s worst enemy is itself. Small right-of-center factions toppled both Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government in 1992 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999; those decisions led, respectively, to Yitzhak Rabin’s election and the Oslo Accords, and to Ehud Barak’s election and the second intifada.

Moreover, it was rightist voters who ensured Rabin’s victory by wasting thousands of votes on splinter parties that failed to enter the Knesset. Had all those votes gone to the main center-right party, Likud, Shamir would have formed the next government and not Rabin. Yet instead of learning the lesson, rightists continued wasting thousands of votes on unelectable splinter parties in subsequent elections.

So it was encouraging to read the following notice in a local newsletter (Hebrew only) published by the West Bank settlement of Eli: “After much thought, it has been decided by the [Givat Hayovel neighborhood] committee, the town council and rabbis, with backing from senior officials involved in the matter, to register people for Likud. Likud is the ruling party, and that is where we need to have an influence. … Joining Likud is the most effective way of influencing ministers and Knesset members to work with us on both the court case and other matters of importance to the town.”

Granted, Eli is only one settlement, and its decision stems from a very specific problem: the aforementioned court case, in which Peace Now is seeking a court order to raze Givat Hayovel on the grounds that it was built illegally. Eli contends that the neighborhood, built with massive government support, was always slated for legalization and needs only the final government permits — hence its quest for lobbying clout.

Nevertheless, this is a revolution. During Likud’s last membership drive, in 2008, a party activist who canvassed Eli and other settlements using this very same argument told me despairingly that most people didn’t get it. Now it is being promoted by the town’s entire political and religious leadership.

Moreover, many other settlements face similar problems with permits. So if Eli has reached this conclusion, it’s likely that other settlements are or will be doing the same.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of splinter voting, since joining Likud doesn’t oblige one to vote for it. Yet large-scale party membership carries its own dynamic: if those rightists who previously shunned Likud instead start working from within it, the party will presumably become more responsive to their needs, thus encouraging more of them to vote for it.

That in turn could promote more effective government. Israel’s current governing coalition comprises six different parties, with Likud commanding barely a third of its seats, and these parties’ disagreements have led to paralysis on many issues. A government composed of a larger Likud with fewer coalition partners would presumably find it easier to push through vital domestic initiatives.

That still remains a distant dream. But the first step is for rightists to understand that they need to work from within Likud rather than outside it. And it seems that is finally starting to happen.

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Showboating Against Wall Street Greed

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject — as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject — as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

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Will Jews Ever Part with the Democratic Party?

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

Read Less

Reid Stalls

You get the feeling that Harry Reid doesn’t want to get much of anything done in the Senate. Rather than negotiate with Senate Republicans to reach a deal on financial reform, he seems bent on bringing it up again and again, and having cloture defeated again and again. He plainly wants a campaign issue, not a deal. Then there is the face-off between cap-and-trade and immigration reform. The former is toxic for lawmakers from energy-producing states, while the latter is anathema to Big Labor. So again, stalling is the preferred route:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected a proposal from supporters of a stalled Senate energy bill that would move immigration reform through the regular committee process on a priority basis and allow the energy bill to move forward on the Senate floor. The proposal would tentatively set action on immigration for November, after the midterm elections — a delay that even some Democrats would welcome.

If you sense that the Democrats are paralyzed, you are right. They are in an electoral ditch and realize that just about everything they have done or may think of doing will annoy large segments of the electorate. So instead they prefer to create issues and run on GOP “obstructionism,” which is a bit rich considering that they have jumbo majorities in both houses. Convincing the voters — who are mad at them for running up the debt and passing a noxious health-care bill — that it’s really the minority party’s fault that nothing much will get done for the rest of the year will strain the Democratic spin machine. But with the mainstream media on their side, you can bet they’ll give it a try.

You get the feeling that Harry Reid doesn’t want to get much of anything done in the Senate. Rather than negotiate with Senate Republicans to reach a deal on financial reform, he seems bent on bringing it up again and again, and having cloture defeated again and again. He plainly wants a campaign issue, not a deal. Then there is the face-off between cap-and-trade and immigration reform. The former is toxic for lawmakers from energy-producing states, while the latter is anathema to Big Labor. So again, stalling is the preferred route:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected a proposal from supporters of a stalled Senate energy bill that would move immigration reform through the regular committee process on a priority basis and allow the energy bill to move forward on the Senate floor. The proposal would tentatively set action on immigration for November, after the midterm elections — a delay that even some Democrats would welcome.

If you sense that the Democrats are paralyzed, you are right. They are in an electoral ditch and realize that just about everything they have done or may think of doing will annoy large segments of the electorate. So instead they prefer to create issues and run on GOP “obstructionism,” which is a bit rich considering that they have jumbo majorities in both houses. Convincing the voters — who are mad at them for running up the debt and passing a noxious health-care bill — that it’s really the minority party’s fault that nothing much will get done for the rest of the year will strain the Democratic spin machine. But with the mainstream media on their side, you can bet they’ll give it a try.

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Mort Zuckerman vs. Obama’s Jerusalem Gambit

Mort Zuckerman does not mince words:

The president seeks to prohibit Israel from any construction in its capital, in particular in a Jewish suburb of East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. This, despite the fact that all former administrations have unequivocally understood that the area in question would remain part of Israel under any final peace agreement. Objecting to any building in this East Jerusalem neighborhood is tantamount to getting the Israelis to agree to the division of Jerusalem before final status talks with the Palestinians even begin.

From the start of his presidency, Mr. Obama has undermined Israel’s confidence in U.S. support. He uses the same term — “settlements” — to describe massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands of Jews and illegal outposts of a few families. His ambiguous use of this loaded word raises the question for Israelis about whether this administration really understands the issue.

Zuckerman provides a useful recap of recent history, reminding those who populate the White House that a divided Jerusalem has been tried before. (“Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 to 1967, dozens of synagogues were destroyed or vandalized. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated, its tombstones used for the construction of roads and Jordanian army latrines. The rights of Christians as well as Jews were abused, with some churches converted into mosques.”) And there are, as Zuckerman recounts, religious, historic, and strategic reasons for Israel to retain its undivided capital.

Zuckerman’s point is well taken: the Obami have embarked on a radical break with past administrations. Obama’s Jerusalem policy is not isolated but rather part of America’s larger break with Israel. It shouldn’t surprise observers that as the Obami attempt to distance the U.S. from Israel that they would strike at the symbolic, religious heart of the Jewish people. If you’re going for the jugular and want to demonstrate that the historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel isn’t what it used to be, you go after Jerusalem. If you want to score points with the Palestinians, you take up the most emotional and heartfelt issue for Israelis and worldwide Jewry. In sum, if you wanted to show the world that Israel can no longer count on the U.S. to defend its fundamental interests, you’d do just what the Obami did.

Mort Zuckerman does not mince words:

The president seeks to prohibit Israel from any construction in its capital, in particular in a Jewish suburb of East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. This, despite the fact that all former administrations have unequivocally understood that the area in question would remain part of Israel under any final peace agreement. Objecting to any building in this East Jerusalem neighborhood is tantamount to getting the Israelis to agree to the division of Jerusalem before final status talks with the Palestinians even begin.

From the start of his presidency, Mr. Obama has undermined Israel’s confidence in U.S. support. He uses the same term — “settlements” — to describe massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands of Jews and illegal outposts of a few families. His ambiguous use of this loaded word raises the question for Israelis about whether this administration really understands the issue.

Zuckerman provides a useful recap of recent history, reminding those who populate the White House that a divided Jerusalem has been tried before. (“Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 to 1967, dozens of synagogues were destroyed or vandalized. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated, its tombstones used for the construction of roads and Jordanian army latrines. The rights of Christians as well as Jews were abused, with some churches converted into mosques.”) And there are, as Zuckerman recounts, religious, historic, and strategic reasons for Israel to retain its undivided capital.

Zuckerman’s point is well taken: the Obami have embarked on a radical break with past administrations. Obama’s Jerusalem policy is not isolated but rather part of America’s larger break with Israel. It shouldn’t surprise observers that as the Obami attempt to distance the U.S. from Israel that they would strike at the symbolic, religious heart of the Jewish people. If you’re going for the jugular and want to demonstrate that the historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel isn’t what it used to be, you go after Jerusalem. If you want to score points with the Palestinians, you take up the most emotional and heartfelt issue for Israelis and worldwide Jewry. In sum, if you wanted to show the world that Israel can no longer count on the U.S. to defend its fundamental interests, you’d do just what the Obami did.

Read Less




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