Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 2010

Justice, Prudence, and North Korea

Lee Myung-bak, South Korea’s tough-as-nails president, is in an uncomfortable position as it looks more and more like North Korea is to blame for the sinking of one of its ships, and Barack Obama’s softie stance toward tyrannical regimes isn’t helping.

Christian Whiton writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s reluctance to blame North Korea for sinking the corvette ROKS Cheonan on March 26 reflects his political quandary. The center-right government finds itself potentially warred upon by its belligerent neighbor to the north, with little backup from an indifferent population and its American ally. The greater danger is not an immediate war, but an even stronger signal to Pyongyang and the region’s other belligerents that force can be applied without consequence.

The likelihood that North Korea is to blame for the attack increased dramatically in recent days. On Sunday, South Korea’s defense minister blamed the ship’s demise on a torpedo. While he stopped short of fingering North Korea directly, this seemed to rule out hope that the deaths of at least 40 sailors was something other than an intentional act of war. This is far more serious than the usual affrays North Korea is known to instigate.

Mr. Lee has a history of taking a hard line with North Korea, but in this instance, his options are limited.

In just-war theory, there are two criteria that must be considered by any head of state who contemplates how to counter an aggressor. First, he must decide whether military action is justified. If, in fact, Kim Jong-il’s army did deliberately sink the South Korean ship, then that would constitute an attack — a valid justification for South Korean retaliation.

Mr. Lee’s hesitation, then, has more to do with the second criterion: whether retaliation is prudent, regardless of whether or not it is justified. In this, Mr. Lee is at a disadvantage. As noted earlier, because North Korea was allowed to attain nuclear status, Seoul and its allies must tread with caution.

But Mr. Lee’s tough stance is further undermined by Obama’s consistently soft foreign policy and by his trend of pandering to enemies instead of our allies. South Korea can hardly be confident of Washington’s support, regardless of how justified its cause may be. So Mr. Lee can’t be blamed for wondering whether singlehandedly staring down a nuclear-armed, irrational aggressor is really the prudent course for South Korea to take.

However, as Mr. Whiton suggests, the biggest risk isn’t an all-out war with North Korea. At stake is Mr. Lee’s plausibility — but also the plausibility of any nation that claims it will not tolerate an unprovoked attack on a peaceful country. North Korea will almost certainly take the absence of the threat of deterrence as further encouragement to behave badly.

So what to do? Whiton writes:

The alternative need not necessarily be a military strike against North Korea in retaliation, but a realigned security strategy that reacts to the threats posed by Pyongyang. A start could be a naval and aviation show of force that goes right up to North Korea’s territory and reasserts freedom of navigation throughout the region.

But Obama has issued only vague “support and condolences” and an offer for the U.S. Navy’s “assistance to South Korea’s ongoing search and recovery effort.”

It has been said often that Obama’s foreign policy emboldens international troublemakers. But to go a step further, one of the gravest consequences of Obama’s appeasement strategy has been to make it strategically imprudent for a country to justly act in defense of its citizens.

Lee Myung-bak, South Korea’s tough-as-nails president, is in an uncomfortable position as it looks more and more like North Korea is to blame for the sinking of one of its ships, and Barack Obama’s softie stance toward tyrannical regimes isn’t helping.

Christian Whiton writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s reluctance to blame North Korea for sinking the corvette ROKS Cheonan on March 26 reflects his political quandary. The center-right government finds itself potentially warred upon by its belligerent neighbor to the north, with little backup from an indifferent population and its American ally. The greater danger is not an immediate war, but an even stronger signal to Pyongyang and the region’s other belligerents that force can be applied without consequence.

The likelihood that North Korea is to blame for the attack increased dramatically in recent days. On Sunday, South Korea’s defense minister blamed the ship’s demise on a torpedo. While he stopped short of fingering North Korea directly, this seemed to rule out hope that the deaths of at least 40 sailors was something other than an intentional act of war. This is far more serious than the usual affrays North Korea is known to instigate.

Mr. Lee has a history of taking a hard line with North Korea, but in this instance, his options are limited.

In just-war theory, there are two criteria that must be considered by any head of state who contemplates how to counter an aggressor. First, he must decide whether military action is justified. If, in fact, Kim Jong-il’s army did deliberately sink the South Korean ship, then that would constitute an attack — a valid justification for South Korean retaliation.

Mr. Lee’s hesitation, then, has more to do with the second criterion: whether retaliation is prudent, regardless of whether or not it is justified. In this, Mr. Lee is at a disadvantage. As noted earlier, because North Korea was allowed to attain nuclear status, Seoul and its allies must tread with caution.

But Mr. Lee’s tough stance is further undermined by Obama’s consistently soft foreign policy and by his trend of pandering to enemies instead of our allies. South Korea can hardly be confident of Washington’s support, regardless of how justified its cause may be. So Mr. Lee can’t be blamed for wondering whether singlehandedly staring down a nuclear-armed, irrational aggressor is really the prudent course for South Korea to take.

However, as Mr. Whiton suggests, the biggest risk isn’t an all-out war with North Korea. At stake is Mr. Lee’s plausibility — but also the plausibility of any nation that claims it will not tolerate an unprovoked attack on a peaceful country. North Korea will almost certainly take the absence of the threat of deterrence as further encouragement to behave badly.

So what to do? Whiton writes:

The alternative need not necessarily be a military strike against North Korea in retaliation, but a realigned security strategy that reacts to the threats posed by Pyongyang. A start could be a naval and aviation show of force that goes right up to North Korea’s territory and reasserts freedom of navigation throughout the region.

But Obama has issued only vague “support and condolences” and an offer for the U.S. Navy’s “assistance to South Korea’s ongoing search and recovery effort.”

It has been said often that Obama’s foreign policy emboldens international troublemakers. But to go a step further, one of the gravest consequences of Obama’s appeasement strategy has been to make it strategically imprudent for a country to justly act in defense of its citizens.

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Obama’s Lousy Record on Religious Freedom

In his indifference to human rights and democracy promotion, Obama has made it quite clear that his administration has little interest in protecting and promoting religious freedom. Others have noted his indifference. And he’s about to hear (well, if he bothered to listen) a blast from the U.S. Council on International Religious Freedom. In the introduction to its voluminous report, the USCIRF explains that there are “disturbing trends that threaten freedom of religion across the globe”:

There is the exportation of extremist ideology, which USCIRF has observed in Saudi Arabia’s dissemination of educational materials that instill hate and incite violence throughout the world. In Iran, the government persecutes many of its political opponents in the name of religion under blasphemy and apostasy laws, and denies all rights to one disfavored religious group, the Baha’is. There are also countless instances of state-sponsored repression of religion: Vietnam imprisons individuals for reasons related to their exercise or advocacy of freedom of religion or belief; the Egyptian government fails to provide Baha’is, Coptic Christians and other religious minorities the very basic benefits and privileges that others enjoy; North Korea bans virtually all worship and imprisons in its infamous labor camps even the grandchildren of those caught praying; and China seriously restricts religious activities, church governance, and places of worship.

Yet Obama hasn’t bothered to appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. And he has chosen not to highlight the violations of religious freedom by the top abusers — including China, Egypt, Turkey, and Cuba — but rather to shove the issue to the side. So the question remains: why is the Obama administration, as the USCIRF chair put it, “insufficiently engaged”? Well, it has another agenda, not the promotion of freedom and democracy (too Bush!), but rather cozying up to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in an attempt to “defuse tension” and improve our “standing in the world.” So if you are going to bow to the Saudi King and to the Chinese communist leaders, avoid confrontation with Iran, and generally suck up to the “Muslim World,” you really can’t be bashing them for their egregious track record on human rights, including religious freedom.

But to what end is all of this? It seems as though we have not endeared ourselves to despots, but that we have demonstrated to both the oppressors and  the oppressed that America has better things to do. The world is less free and the despots, more emboldened as a result.

In his indifference to human rights and democracy promotion, Obama has made it quite clear that his administration has little interest in protecting and promoting religious freedom. Others have noted his indifference. And he’s about to hear (well, if he bothered to listen) a blast from the U.S. Council on International Religious Freedom. In the introduction to its voluminous report, the USCIRF explains that there are “disturbing trends that threaten freedom of religion across the globe”:

There is the exportation of extremist ideology, which USCIRF has observed in Saudi Arabia’s dissemination of educational materials that instill hate and incite violence throughout the world. In Iran, the government persecutes many of its political opponents in the name of religion under blasphemy and apostasy laws, and denies all rights to one disfavored religious group, the Baha’is. There are also countless instances of state-sponsored repression of religion: Vietnam imprisons individuals for reasons related to their exercise or advocacy of freedom of religion or belief; the Egyptian government fails to provide Baha’is, Coptic Christians and other religious minorities the very basic benefits and privileges that others enjoy; North Korea bans virtually all worship and imprisons in its infamous labor camps even the grandchildren of those caught praying; and China seriously restricts religious activities, church governance, and places of worship.

Yet Obama hasn’t bothered to appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. And he has chosen not to highlight the violations of religious freedom by the top abusers — including China, Egypt, Turkey, and Cuba — but rather to shove the issue to the side. So the question remains: why is the Obama administration, as the USCIRF chair put it, “insufficiently engaged”? Well, it has another agenda, not the promotion of freedom and democracy (too Bush!), but rather cozying up to authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in an attempt to “defuse tension” and improve our “standing in the world.” So if you are going to bow to the Saudi King and to the Chinese communist leaders, avoid confrontation with Iran, and generally suck up to the “Muslim World,” you really can’t be bashing them for their egregious track record on human rights, including religious freedom.

But to what end is all of this? It seems as though we have not endeared ourselves to despots, but that we have demonstrated to both the oppressors and  the oppressed that America has better things to do. The world is less free and the despots, more emboldened as a result.

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National Journal‘s Loss

National Journal has let go three of its prized columnists: Jonathan Rauch, Stuart Taylor, and Clive Crook. That’s a big loss for National Journal. While I often don’t agree with their point of view, all three are intelligent and thoughtful writers. Rauch and Taylor in particular are people whom I read closely and take seriously. They have extremely impressive analytical minds. They will certainly find another home; they are too talented not to. And while I don’t pretend to know the economic situation that caused this move to occur, National Journal will be, I think, a less influential and intellectually interesting magazine without Jon and Stuart in the stable. I wish them, as well as Mr. Crook, well.

National Journal has let go three of its prized columnists: Jonathan Rauch, Stuart Taylor, and Clive Crook. That’s a big loss for National Journal. While I often don’t agree with their point of view, all three are intelligent and thoughtful writers. Rauch and Taylor in particular are people whom I read closely and take seriously. They have extremely impressive analytical minds. They will certainly find another home; they are too talented not to. And while I don’t pretend to know the economic situation that caused this move to occur, National Journal will be, I think, a less influential and intellectually interesting magazine without Jon and Stuart in the stable. I wish them, as well as Mr. Crook, well.

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Too Busy to Enforce Sanctions

Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered revealing remarks yesterday during the first meeting of the Iran sanctions conference committee.

Berman noted that there have been five UN Security Council resolutions since 2006 demanding that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment and end its nuclear-weapons-related programs; that Iran has continued its march toward nuclear weapons and may already have enough low-enriched uranium for a bomb; and that “it remains to be seen when and whether a [UN] resolution will emerge.”

Then he gave a description of enforcement by the U.S. of prior sanctions legislation, indicating that it has had no effect whatsoever:

And let me address one more critical issue. In the years since the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act was first passed in 1996, there has been only one instance in which the President determined that a sanctionable investment had taken place. That was in 1998, and the purpose of President Clinton’s determination was to waive the sanction. Since then, there has never been a determination of sanctionable activity, notwithstanding the fact that recent GAO and CRS reports – and, for a time, even the Department of Energy website – have cited at least two dozen investments in Iran’s energy sector of sanctionable levels.

Berman argues that the pending bill needs to require the President to investigate all reasonable reports of sanctionable activity, determine whether the reported activity is sanctionable, and, “if it is, to go ahead and either impose sanctions or, if he chooses, waive sanctions.” But Berman knows that the Obama administration opposes even that:

I know the Administration officials don’t want our bill to require the Executive Branch to investigate each report of sanctionable activity. They especially don’t want the bill to require them to make the determination as to whether or not to actually impose sanctions. They want to be authorized to impose sanctions, if they so choose, but they don’t want to be required to impose them. They cite a number of legitimate reasons for their position: workload concerns, constitutional concerns, and foreign policy concerns.

Workload concerns.

Perhaps the administration could free up some people now reviewing housing permits in Jerusalem to work on this.

Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered revealing remarks yesterday during the first meeting of the Iran sanctions conference committee.

Berman noted that there have been five UN Security Council resolutions since 2006 demanding that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment and end its nuclear-weapons-related programs; that Iran has continued its march toward nuclear weapons and may already have enough low-enriched uranium for a bomb; and that “it remains to be seen when and whether a [UN] resolution will emerge.”

Then he gave a description of enforcement by the U.S. of prior sanctions legislation, indicating that it has had no effect whatsoever:

And let me address one more critical issue. In the years since the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act was first passed in 1996, there has been only one instance in which the President determined that a sanctionable investment had taken place. That was in 1998, and the purpose of President Clinton’s determination was to waive the sanction. Since then, there has never been a determination of sanctionable activity, notwithstanding the fact that recent GAO and CRS reports – and, for a time, even the Department of Energy website – have cited at least two dozen investments in Iran’s energy sector of sanctionable levels.

Berman argues that the pending bill needs to require the President to investigate all reasonable reports of sanctionable activity, determine whether the reported activity is sanctionable, and, “if it is, to go ahead and either impose sanctions or, if he chooses, waive sanctions.” But Berman knows that the Obama administration opposes even that:

I know the Administration officials don’t want our bill to require the Executive Branch to investigate each report of sanctionable activity. They especially don’t want the bill to require them to make the determination as to whether or not to actually impose sanctions. They want to be authorized to impose sanctions, if they so choose, but they don’t want to be required to impose them. They cite a number of legitimate reasons for their position: workload concerns, constitutional concerns, and foreign policy concerns.

Workload concerns.

Perhaps the administration could free up some people now reviewing housing permits in Jerusalem to work on this.

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The Left Tips Its Hand on Supreme Court Selections

The New York Times provides a forum for various legal gurus to expound on the Supreme Court selection. It is instructive about how liberals have come to view the courts. First up is Lani Guinier, who considers it the Supreme Court’s job “to place their imprimatur on perceptions of what is right and wrong.” That’s what we need — the high priests of right and wrong imparting wisdom on the rabble of democracy. Good to know.

Another job for the Court: running corporate America. This brain storm comes from Jamal Greene of Columbia Law School:

I would love to see President Obama nominate Elizabeth Warren to the Supreme Court. Ms. Warren is the whipsaw-smart Harvard Law professor and bankruptcy expert chairing the Congressional committee charged with oversight of the bank bailout, which she has strongly criticized. …

It would be difficult, moreover, for Republicans to put up much of a fight against a Supreme Court nominee who was willing to publicly dress down the president’s own Treasury secretary over financial regulation. It might be too much to ask for a confirmation hearing dominated by straight talk about the crisis facing middle- and working-class Americans rather than by baseball analogies, but Elizabeth Warren is our best hope.

Alas, this is how liberals have come to view the Court — as a racial- and gender-preference bonanza, a set of philosopher kings, and an uber-legislature. That the Court has a specific, limited task in our Constitutional system is lost on them. In voicing its views of the Court, the left also reveals its fundamental contempt for the idea of impartial judging and for our democratic system — that is, self-rule by elected leaders. For the left, it’s all about getting judges of the right gender or race who can override the “errors” of the democratic system.

The New York Times provides a forum for various legal gurus to expound on the Supreme Court selection. It is instructive about how liberals have come to view the courts. First up is Lani Guinier, who considers it the Supreme Court’s job “to place their imprimatur on perceptions of what is right and wrong.” That’s what we need — the high priests of right and wrong imparting wisdom on the rabble of democracy. Good to know.

Another job for the Court: running corporate America. This brain storm comes from Jamal Greene of Columbia Law School:

I would love to see President Obama nominate Elizabeth Warren to the Supreme Court. Ms. Warren is the whipsaw-smart Harvard Law professor and bankruptcy expert chairing the Congressional committee charged with oversight of the bank bailout, which she has strongly criticized. …

It would be difficult, moreover, for Republicans to put up much of a fight against a Supreme Court nominee who was willing to publicly dress down the president’s own Treasury secretary over financial regulation. It might be too much to ask for a confirmation hearing dominated by straight talk about the crisis facing middle- and working-class Americans rather than by baseball analogies, but Elizabeth Warren is our best hope.

Alas, this is how liberals have come to view the Court — as a racial- and gender-preference bonanza, a set of philosopher kings, and an uber-legislature. That the Court has a specific, limited task in our Constitutional system is lost on them. In voicing its views of the Court, the left also reveals its fundamental contempt for the idea of impartial judging and for our democratic system — that is, self-rule by elected leaders. For the left, it’s all about getting judges of the right gender or race who can override the “errors” of the democratic system.

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Uh, Mr. Brown, the Microphone’s Live

Shades of Frank Drebin: Gordon Brown may have sunk his chances in Britain’s general election with an unguarded comment into a microphone he didn’t realize he was still wearing. After campaigning in Rochdale in northern England, he muttered, amid a stream of invective directed at his aides, that 61-year-old Labour supporter Gillian Duffy was a “bigoted woman” for questioning him about the impact on the British job market of immigration from Eastern Europe.

Brown’s since made an in-person apology and e-mailed a fulsome “personal” letter to all Labour activists, but the damage seems to have been done. As one commentator put it, showing a nice grasp of British understatement, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to call voters bigots.”

On one level, of course, it’s possible to have some sympathy for Brown. This is the kind of thing that happens when you’re around microphones so much: few of us would want our every comment recorded and aired in prime time. On another level, as Andrew Rawnsley points out, this is just another example of one of Brown’s more unattractive attributes: his volcanic temper and his eagerness to pour vitriol on his aides and anyone else who gets in his way.

But this isn’t really about Brown’s bad luck or his bed temper. Poll after poll shows that immigration is a central issue in the election, or at least a central concern for many voters. There is every reason to believe that it lies behind the erosion of Labour support in places just like Rochdale, where many — like Mrs. Duffy — believe privately that the Labour elite view their concerns with contempt. Brown’s outburst is evidence that they’re right.

Not that more evidence is needed. Back in October, Andrew Neather, who was closely involved in the making of policy on immigration in the early Labour years, was sufficiently outraged by the televised appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, to make the following case — and yes, he did think he was making the positive case — for mass migration:

[T]he deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration. …

It’s not simply a question of foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners — although frankly it’s hard to see how the capital could function without them. Their place certainly wouldn’t be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley — fascist au pair, anyone? …

I wrote the landmark speech given by then immigration minister Barbara Roche in September 2000, calling for a loosening of controls … the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural. I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended — even if this wasn’t its main purpose — to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. …

But ministers wouldn’t talk about it. In part they probably realised the conservatism of their core voters: while ministers might have been passionately in favour of a more diverse society, it wasn’t necessarily a debate they wanted to have in working men’s clubs in Sheffield or Sunderland.

The only thing more arrogant and out of touch than Neather’s acknowledgement that Britain’s immigration policy was covertly run for the benefit of those who employ foreign nannies was his slap at the “unemployed BNP voters from Barking.” His was the worst possible defense of mass migration into Britain because it was so obviously elitist. And all it really did was display at greater length the contempt that Brown spat at his aides and, unknowingly, into the microphone on Wednesday.

And that is the real political significance of Brown’s open-mike flub: it reminded a significant element in the core Old Labour vote — the vote Labour has to win if it’s to have any chance of playing a role in government-making after May 6 — that quite a bit of New Labour’s leadership quietly detests them and regards them as bigots.

Curiously, the real loser in this may be Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, not Gordon Brown. Neither Clegg nor Brown was ever going to form a government on his own, but Clegg badly needs Labour to do well enough to keep the Tories from winning. Every alienated Labour voter that stays home is another constituency that’s in play for the Tories, and therefore another nail in Clegg’s chances.

Shades of Frank Drebin: Gordon Brown may have sunk his chances in Britain’s general election with an unguarded comment into a microphone he didn’t realize he was still wearing. After campaigning in Rochdale in northern England, he muttered, amid a stream of invective directed at his aides, that 61-year-old Labour supporter Gillian Duffy was a “bigoted woman” for questioning him about the impact on the British job market of immigration from Eastern Europe.

Brown’s since made an in-person apology and e-mailed a fulsome “personal” letter to all Labour activists, but the damage seems to have been done. As one commentator put it, showing a nice grasp of British understatement, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to call voters bigots.”

On one level, of course, it’s possible to have some sympathy for Brown. This is the kind of thing that happens when you’re around microphones so much: few of us would want our every comment recorded and aired in prime time. On another level, as Andrew Rawnsley points out, this is just another example of one of Brown’s more unattractive attributes: his volcanic temper and his eagerness to pour vitriol on his aides and anyone else who gets in his way.

But this isn’t really about Brown’s bad luck or his bed temper. Poll after poll shows that immigration is a central issue in the election, or at least a central concern for many voters. There is every reason to believe that it lies behind the erosion of Labour support in places just like Rochdale, where many — like Mrs. Duffy — believe privately that the Labour elite view their concerns with contempt. Brown’s outburst is evidence that they’re right.

Not that more evidence is needed. Back in October, Andrew Neather, who was closely involved in the making of policy on immigration in the early Labour years, was sufficiently outraged by the televised appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, to make the following case — and yes, he did think he was making the positive case — for mass migration:

[T]he deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration. …

It’s not simply a question of foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners — although frankly it’s hard to see how the capital could function without them. Their place certainly wouldn’t be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley — fascist au pair, anyone? …

I wrote the landmark speech given by then immigration minister Barbara Roche in September 2000, calling for a loosening of controls … the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural. I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended — even if this wasn’t its main purpose — to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. …

But ministers wouldn’t talk about it. In part they probably realised the conservatism of their core voters: while ministers might have been passionately in favour of a more diverse society, it wasn’t necessarily a debate they wanted to have in working men’s clubs in Sheffield or Sunderland.

The only thing more arrogant and out of touch than Neather’s acknowledgement that Britain’s immigration policy was covertly run for the benefit of those who employ foreign nannies was his slap at the “unemployed BNP voters from Barking.” His was the worst possible defense of mass migration into Britain because it was so obviously elitist. And all it really did was display at greater length the contempt that Brown spat at his aides and, unknowingly, into the microphone on Wednesday.

And that is the real political significance of Brown’s open-mike flub: it reminded a significant element in the core Old Labour vote — the vote Labour has to win if it’s to have any chance of playing a role in government-making after May 6 — that quite a bit of New Labour’s leadership quietly detests them and regards them as bigots.

Curiously, the real loser in this may be Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, not Gordon Brown. Neither Clegg nor Brown was ever going to form a government on his own, but Clegg badly needs Labour to do well enough to keep the Tories from winning. Every alienated Labour voter that stays home is another constituency that’s in play for the Tories, and therefore another nail in Clegg’s chances.

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Obama’s Iran Policy Is Producing Arab Fallout

A key concern of those who believe a nuclear Iran would be disastrous is that it would prompt “moderate” Arab states to switch into the Iranian camp — due to fear that America would be unable to protect them against a nuclear-armed neighbor and a desire to align themselves with the “strong horse,” which succeeded in going nuclear despite American opposition, rather than the “weak horse,” which proved unwilling or unable to prevent this development. But it now seems Iran won’t even need to obtain the bomb to make this happen: the growing realization that Washington has no real stomach for stopping it is enough.

This conclusion emerges from two incidents reported by Haaretz Arab affairs analyst Zvi Bar’el. First, Iran’s military exercises in the Persian Gulf this week were observed by “a high-level military delegation from Qatar. It was headed by Admiral Abed al-Rahim al-Janahi, who said his country wants to benefit from the Iranian experience, and that he was planning joint exercises for the two armies.”

This is particularly noteworthy given a fact that Bar’el didn’t mention: U.S. forces used Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base for their campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, Qatar originally upgraded the base to lure the U.S. military. Now it’s planning joint military exercises with Iran.

Bar’el also quoted an Al-Arabiya interview with Turki al-Faisal, head of the King Faisal Institute of Global Strategic Studies — and also a former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, a former ambassador to London and Washington, the Saudi foreign minister’s brother, and King Abdullah’s cousin. As such, Bar’el wrote, al-Faisal most likely represents the ruling family’s views.

And what are those views? Hitherto, Riyadh has considered Tehran its chief regional rival. But al-Faisal termed the Gulf states’ ties with Iran “historic ties that are built on interests, blood relationships and proximity.” He also opposed sanctions on Tehran, saying he prefers “dialogue,” and said Israel posed a far greater threat to the region than Iran does.

The prospect of a shift in Saudi Arabia’s allegiance ought to alarm even the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia is not only one of America’s main oil suppliers; it’s also the country Washington relies on to keep world oil markets stable — both by restraining fellow OPEC members from radical production cuts and by upping its own production to compensate for temporary shortfalls elsewhere.

Granted, Riyadh is motivated partly by self-interest: unlike some of its OPEC colleagues, it understands that keeping oil prices too high for too long would do more to spur alternative-energy development than any amount of global-warming hysteria. And since its economy depends on oil exports, encouraging alternative energy is the last thing it wants to do.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Saudi Arabia has been generally effective as stabilizer-in-chief of world oil markets and has no plausible replacement in this role. And since the U.S. economy remains highly oil-dependent, a Saudi shift into Iran’s camp would effectively put America’s economy at the mercy of the mullahs in Tehran.

That’s a prospect that ought to keep Washington policymakers awake at night.

A key concern of those who believe a nuclear Iran would be disastrous is that it would prompt “moderate” Arab states to switch into the Iranian camp — due to fear that America would be unable to protect them against a nuclear-armed neighbor and a desire to align themselves with the “strong horse,” which succeeded in going nuclear despite American opposition, rather than the “weak horse,” which proved unwilling or unable to prevent this development. But it now seems Iran won’t even need to obtain the bomb to make this happen: the growing realization that Washington has no real stomach for stopping it is enough.

This conclusion emerges from two incidents reported by Haaretz Arab affairs analyst Zvi Bar’el. First, Iran’s military exercises in the Persian Gulf this week were observed by “a high-level military delegation from Qatar. It was headed by Admiral Abed al-Rahim al-Janahi, who said his country wants to benefit from the Iranian experience, and that he was planning joint exercises for the two armies.”

This is particularly noteworthy given a fact that Bar’el didn’t mention: U.S. forces used Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base for their campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, Qatar originally upgraded the base to lure the U.S. military. Now it’s planning joint military exercises with Iran.

Bar’el also quoted an Al-Arabiya interview with Turki al-Faisal, head of the King Faisal Institute of Global Strategic Studies — and also a former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, a former ambassador to London and Washington, the Saudi foreign minister’s brother, and King Abdullah’s cousin. As such, Bar’el wrote, al-Faisal most likely represents the ruling family’s views.

And what are those views? Hitherto, Riyadh has considered Tehran its chief regional rival. But al-Faisal termed the Gulf states’ ties with Iran “historic ties that are built on interests, blood relationships and proximity.” He also opposed sanctions on Tehran, saying he prefers “dialogue,” and said Israel posed a far greater threat to the region than Iran does.

The prospect of a shift in Saudi Arabia’s allegiance ought to alarm even the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia is not only one of America’s main oil suppliers; it’s also the country Washington relies on to keep world oil markets stable — both by restraining fellow OPEC members from radical production cuts and by upping its own production to compensate for temporary shortfalls elsewhere.

Granted, Riyadh is motivated partly by self-interest: unlike some of its OPEC colleagues, it understands that keeping oil prices too high for too long would do more to spur alternative-energy development than any amount of global-warming hysteria. And since its economy depends on oil exports, encouraging alternative energy is the last thing it wants to do.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Saudi Arabia has been generally effective as stabilizer-in-chief of world oil markets and has no plausible replacement in this role. And since the U.S. economy remains highly oil-dependent, a Saudi shift into Iran’s camp would effectively put America’s economy at the mercy of the mullahs in Tehran.

That’s a prospect that ought to keep Washington policymakers awake at night.

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Martin Indyk’s Israel Animus

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

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Obama Undermines Congressional Sanctions — Will American Jews React?

The Obami went from pursuing “crippling” sanctions to “smart” sanctions. But it seems that their real goal is very ineffective and innocuous sanctions. We learned that the House and Senate had finally set a conference committee to reconcile the different versions of the Iran sanctions legislation. But the administration has stepped in to undermine and water down Congress’s efforts. In a blockbuster report, Eli Lake explains:

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs. Lake explains:

According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that [“co-operating countries”] list, the administration wouldn’t even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran’s refinement industry.

Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the “cooperating countries” language would deprive the sanctions of their “name-and-shame” power, the staffers said.

The prospect that China and Chinese firms would be exempt from penalty follows reports that Beijing is cooperating with Iran’s missile program. On April 23, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that China broke ground on a plant in Iran this month that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.

Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.

I wonder if American Jewish leaders are still charmed by the Obami. It sure does seem that the administration isn’t serious about removing the existential threat to the Jewish state. Maybe Obama will send them a lovely note to explain why it is that he is undermining one of the last options we have for preventing an revolutionary Islamic state from going nuclear.

The Obami went from pursuing “crippling” sanctions to “smart” sanctions. But it seems that their real goal is very ineffective and innocuous sanctions. We learned that the House and Senate had finally set a conference committee to reconcile the different versions of the Iran sanctions legislation. But the administration has stepped in to undermine and water down Congress’s efforts. In a blockbuster report, Eli Lake explains:

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs. Lake explains:

According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that [“co-operating countries”] list, the administration wouldn’t even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran’s refinement industry.

Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the “cooperating countries” language would deprive the sanctions of their “name-and-shame” power, the staffers said.

The prospect that China and Chinese firms would be exempt from penalty follows reports that Beijing is cooperating with Iran’s missile program. On April 23, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that China broke ground on a plant in Iran this month that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.

Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.

I wonder if American Jewish leaders are still charmed by the Obami. It sure does seem that the administration isn’t serious about removing the existential threat to the Jewish state. Maybe Obama will send them a lovely note to explain why it is that he is undermining one of the last options we have for preventing an revolutionary Islamic state from going nuclear.

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The UN Human Rights Circus Plays On

Foreign Policy (honest, it’s not the Onion) reports:

Last week just as a senior Iranian cleric declared that women’s un-Islamic garb — meaning a wisp of hair showing — is the root of men’s immorality and the cause of earthquakes, the regime moved to secure a seat on the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW, comprising 45 countries, voted in by regional blocks, is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to the advancement of women. Its mandate is “to evaluate progress, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Hmm. We haven’t heard much about Iran’s atrocities against women from the Obami. But then we don’t hear very much about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or any other misogynistic haven in the “Muslim World.” The Obami don’t spend too much time “bearing witness” to the regime’s assault on its girls and women:

In the past year, it has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters. It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters.

The Ahmadinejad government has also initiated systematic discriminatory action against women in every other sphere. In universities where women have represented over 60 percent of the student body, the government is now banning women from key areas of study. Childcare centers are being shut down to hamper women’s ability to work outside their homes. Healthcare and reproductive care services provided to men and women, that had turned Iran into a global success story for family planning, are being withdrawn. Women’s publications that addressed gender equality have been shut down. The regime is attempting to erase decades of struggle and progress.

But really, why not put Iran on the CSW? It already includes such human rights models as Cambodia, China, and Cuba. And this is the international community whose approval the Obami covet. The victims of these regimes? Not so much. Hillary Clinton should put it on her to-do list: stop being mute about the atrocities against women by despotic regimes.

Foreign Policy (honest, it’s not the Onion) reports:

Last week just as a senior Iranian cleric declared that women’s un-Islamic garb — meaning a wisp of hair showing — is the root of men’s immorality and the cause of earthquakes, the regime moved to secure a seat on the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW, comprising 45 countries, voted in by regional blocks, is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to the advancement of women. Its mandate is “to evaluate progress, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”

Hmm. We haven’t heard much about Iran’s atrocities against women from the Obami. But then we don’t hear very much about Yemen, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or any other misogynistic haven in the “Muslim World.” The Obami don’t spend too much time “bearing witness” to the regime’s assault on its girls and women:

In the past year, it has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters. It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters.

The Ahmadinejad government has also initiated systematic discriminatory action against women in every other sphere. In universities where women have represented over 60 percent of the student body, the government is now banning women from key areas of study. Childcare centers are being shut down to hamper women’s ability to work outside their homes. Healthcare and reproductive care services provided to men and women, that had turned Iran into a global success story for family planning, are being withdrawn. Women’s publications that addressed gender equality have been shut down. The regime is attempting to erase decades of struggle and progress.

But really, why not put Iran on the CSW? It already includes such human rights models as Cambodia, China, and Cuba. And this is the international community whose approval the Obami covet. The victims of these regimes? Not so much. Hillary Clinton should put it on her to-do list: stop being mute about the atrocities against women by despotic regimes.

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Why Waxman Decided Against a Bully-athon

Daily Caller reports that Rep. Henry Waxman decided against a hearing to excoriate business executives for recording tax losses attributable to ObamaCare. The reason: not only did the companies have a legal obligation to do so (had they not, Sen. Carl Levin would no doubt be hauling them before his committee one day to decry the fraud on the shareholders); they also would have produced some very embarrassing evidence that ObamaCare is going to drive up health-care costs. The report explains:

Most significantly, documents unearthed by the investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.” John Deere faces a unique situation because of contracts with its unionized workers.

Whether or not companies are being forced to rescind employee coverage, they may need to raise insurance premiums, the documents show.

The top human resources official at Caterpillar said in a March 23 e-mail that the company will need to “figure out what this will cost us and collect that in increased premiums which we will attribute to the legislation”

Oops. Wrong answer. Bag the hearing. It seems that ObamaCare opponents would do well to get one or more of these execs in front of a committee and let them tell the American people what Obama and Waxman won’t — that ObamaCare isn’t going to guarantee they can keep their insurance and it is going to cost them a bundle. Republicans argue that divided government is needed to check Obama’s leftist agenda. As Waxman’s gambit shows, it’s also the only way to achieve congressional oversight.

Daily Caller reports that Rep. Henry Waxman decided against a hearing to excoriate business executives for recording tax losses attributable to ObamaCare. The reason: not only did the companies have a legal obligation to do so (had they not, Sen. Carl Levin would no doubt be hauling them before his committee one day to decry the fraud on the shareholders); they also would have produced some very embarrassing evidence that ObamaCare is going to drive up health-care costs. The report explains:

Most significantly, documents unearthed by the investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.” John Deere faces a unique situation because of contracts with its unionized workers.

Whether or not companies are being forced to rescind employee coverage, they may need to raise insurance premiums, the documents show.

The top human resources official at Caterpillar said in a March 23 e-mail that the company will need to “figure out what this will cost us and collect that in increased premiums which we will attribute to the legislation”

Oops. Wrong answer. Bag the hearing. It seems that ObamaCare opponents would do well to get one or more of these execs in front of a committee and let them tell the American people what Obama and Waxman won’t — that ObamaCare isn’t going to guarantee they can keep their insurance and it is going to cost them a bundle. Republicans argue that divided government is needed to check Obama’s leftist agenda. As Waxman’s gambit shows, it’s also the only way to achieve congressional oversight.

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Broder Leaves Obama Out of the Immigration Culprits

David Broder thinks the Arizona immigration law is a very bad law. He goes looking for those responsible:

What has been missing from the discussion is any apparent recognition of those responsible for killing the last effort at comprehensive federal immigration reform that would have headed off the need for this kind of punitive state action.

And he finds a list of conservative opponents of immigration reform, finding “the blame for this mess rests with those who killed that bill.” But hmm. Who is missing from this tale of irresponsibility? Let’s recall what Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet wrote in  2008:

Obama “did not absolutely stand out in any way,’’ said Margaret Sands Orchowski, the author of “Immigration and the American Dream: Battling the Political Hype and Hysteria,” and a close follower of the legislation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a McCain ally and a key player on immigration, said Obama was around for only a “handful” of meetings and helped destroy a 2007 compromise when he voted for making guest worker visa programs temporary. A permanent guest worker program was to be a trade for a legalization program to cover many illegal immigrants.

“When it came time to putting that bill together, he was more of a problem than he was a help. And when it came time to try to get the bill passed, he, in my opinion, broke the agreement we had. He was in the photo op, but he could not execute the hard part of the deal,” Graham said,” Graham said.

So will Broder add Obama to the list of culprits? Well, here’s an easy way for Obama to redeem himself: have the McCain-Kennedy bill reintroduced and fight for its passage. After all, there is a large Democratic majority now. Or does Obama want an issue, and not a bill? We’ll find out whether he’s up to his old tricks — or whether he really is interested in solving the immigration problem, which Arizona and the other states must cope with.

David Broder thinks the Arizona immigration law is a very bad law. He goes looking for those responsible:

What has been missing from the discussion is any apparent recognition of those responsible for killing the last effort at comprehensive federal immigration reform that would have headed off the need for this kind of punitive state action.

And he finds a list of conservative opponents of immigration reform, finding “the blame for this mess rests with those who killed that bill.” But hmm. Who is missing from this tale of irresponsibility? Let’s recall what Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet wrote in  2008:

Obama “did not absolutely stand out in any way,’’ said Margaret Sands Orchowski, the author of “Immigration and the American Dream: Battling the Political Hype and Hysteria,” and a close follower of the legislation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a McCain ally and a key player on immigration, said Obama was around for only a “handful” of meetings and helped destroy a 2007 compromise when he voted for making guest worker visa programs temporary. A permanent guest worker program was to be a trade for a legalization program to cover many illegal immigrants.

“When it came time to putting that bill together, he was more of a problem than he was a help. And when it came time to try to get the bill passed, he, in my opinion, broke the agreement we had. He was in the photo op, but he could not execute the hard part of the deal,” Graham said,” Graham said.

So will Broder add Obama to the list of culprits? Well, here’s an easy way for Obama to redeem himself: have the McCain-Kennedy bill reintroduced and fight for its passage. After all, there is a large Democratic majority now. Or does Obama want an issue, and not a bill? We’ll find out whether he’s up to his old tricks — or whether he really is interested in solving the immigration problem, which Arizona and the other states must cope with.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Fox News tells us: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind — and completely addicted to Nintendo Wii. The Boy Scouts of America — a group founded on the principles of building character and improving physical fitness — have introduced a brand new award for academic achievement in video gaming, a move that has child health experts atwitter.”

Elliott Abrams: “Israelis are living under the threat of annihilation every day. … If the world does not act, I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will. We keep saying it’s unacceptable for Iran to have a bomb, but we don’t mean it. We mean it’s terrible, we don’t want it. But when Israel says it’s unacceptable, they mean it.”

In a three-way race, Charlie Crist still loses.

And his staffers aren’t sticking with him: “The adviser said that Mr. Crist expects to lose his entire professional campaign staff, and it isn’t clear who he will bring on as replacements. GOP officials have instructed party political operatives not to work in opposition to the Republican nominee, and Democratic campaign workers are unlikely to sign on to work against Mr. Meek.” No money and no staff — this campaign could prove even more anemic than his GOP primary bid.

Now that’s a funny joke: “At a cocktail party full of Washington whisperers one says to the other, ‘I hear Jim Jones just resigned.’ Says the other: ‘How can you tell?'” Unfortunately, it’s not funny that we have a national security adviser who many find “is the disconnected, remote chief of a system that has thus far seemingly favored lengthy (some might say dithering) process over the production of good, clear policies, a process that cuts out key officials, and one that has been too dominated by the circle of pols that are close to the president.”

The press finds Robert Gibbs funny: “Gibbs said at one of his briefings, ‘This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.’ Peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room.”

Depending on which poll you look at, John McCain is either in a dogfight or a walkaway Senate primary.

Republicans hung tough and got some concessions on the finance bill: “Senate Republicans say Democrats have made important concessions on a Wall Street reform bill and the chamber agreed by unanimous consent Wednesday evening to proceed to debate on the legislation. The bill was reported to the floor Wednesday night and debate is set to begin on Thursday. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) released a statement Wednesday afternoon touting ‘a key agreement’ to resolve disagreements over a $50 billion fund to liquidate troubled banks.” I wonder what would have happened had Ben Nelson done the same on health-care reform.

Fox News tells us: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind — and completely addicted to Nintendo Wii. The Boy Scouts of America — a group founded on the principles of building character and improving physical fitness — have introduced a brand new award for academic achievement in video gaming, a move that has child health experts atwitter.”

Elliott Abrams: “Israelis are living under the threat of annihilation every day. … If the world does not act, I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will. We keep saying it’s unacceptable for Iran to have a bomb, but we don’t mean it. We mean it’s terrible, we don’t want it. But when Israel says it’s unacceptable, they mean it.”

In a three-way race, Charlie Crist still loses.

And his staffers aren’t sticking with him: “The adviser said that Mr. Crist expects to lose his entire professional campaign staff, and it isn’t clear who he will bring on as replacements. GOP officials have instructed party political operatives not to work in opposition to the Republican nominee, and Democratic campaign workers are unlikely to sign on to work against Mr. Meek.” No money and no staff — this campaign could prove even more anemic than his GOP primary bid.

Now that’s a funny joke: “At a cocktail party full of Washington whisperers one says to the other, ‘I hear Jim Jones just resigned.’ Says the other: ‘How can you tell?'” Unfortunately, it’s not funny that we have a national security adviser who many find “is the disconnected, remote chief of a system that has thus far seemingly favored lengthy (some might say dithering) process over the production of good, clear policies, a process that cuts out key officials, and one that has been too dominated by the circle of pols that are close to the president.”

The press finds Robert Gibbs funny: “Gibbs said at one of his briefings, ‘This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.’ Peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room.”

Depending on which poll you look at, John McCain is either in a dogfight or a walkaway Senate primary.

Republicans hung tough and got some concessions on the finance bill: “Senate Republicans say Democrats have made important concessions on a Wall Street reform bill and the chamber agreed by unanimous consent Wednesday evening to proceed to debate on the legislation. The bill was reported to the floor Wednesday night and debate is set to begin on Thursday. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) released a statement Wednesday afternoon touting ‘a key agreement’ to resolve disagreements over a $50 billion fund to liquidate troubled banks.” I wonder what would have happened had Ben Nelson done the same on health-care reform.

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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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