Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 18, 2010

Will a Pro-Israel Record Save Specter, Sink Sestak?

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

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Blumenthal Scandal: A New Version of the Suffering Wife

Connecticut’s Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s news conference in which he attempted to defuse the scandal over his lies about his military service provided a new version of the “suffering wife” who routinely stands by her husband as he owns up to misdeeds.

But instead of having his spouse stand painfully by him as he walked back what he now describes as “a few misplaced words,” Blumenthal had a chorus line of veterans behind him at the press conference that took place at the West Hartford Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. And rather than keep silent as he at first spoke at length touting his record and then briefly owned up to the problem, the veterans in attendance cheered Blumenthal’s statement and frequently punctuated it with applause and Marine chants.

The brief press conference that Blumenthal ended abruptly was mostly devoted to praise of his own actions in which he claimed that his military service was voluntary. His statement admitting guilt was as follows: “On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I take full responsibility. I will not let anyone take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.” He gave no reason for his lies about having been in Vietnam and offered no apology. And his friends behind him — who might otherwise be expected to take a dim view of those who falsely claim war-veteran status — demanded none. But the proposition that this group of veterans is representative of others around the state is yet to be proved.

This performance shows that Blumenthal’s intention is to stay in the Senate race and that he hopes the storm will blow over. However, as the New York Times story that blew the lid off of his lies shows, this one item may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Blumenthal’s record. As the Times reported, Blumenthal appears to have misled journalists about other aspects of his biography.

Slate and the Hartford Courant have both reported that Blumenthal served as captain of the swim team at Harvard, even though he was never even on the team. Blumenthal now claims to be “astonished” about this lie and disavows all responsibility for it. Yet, like his lies about Vietnam service, Blumenthal — a man who is well known for his careful use of words — never sought to correct the record. After many years of flying below the radar of the investigative press while posing as being a man above reproach, the spotlight will now be on Blumenthal. This means that if there are other lies on his record — and it is more than likely that such things are not isolated incidents — they will soon be discovered. This will make for a very uncomfortable summer and fall for a Connecticut Democratic Party that had hoped the Senate race would be a cakewalk.

Connecticut’s Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s news conference in which he attempted to defuse the scandal over his lies about his military service provided a new version of the “suffering wife” who routinely stands by her husband as he owns up to misdeeds.

But instead of having his spouse stand painfully by him as he walked back what he now describes as “a few misplaced words,” Blumenthal had a chorus line of veterans behind him at the press conference that took place at the West Hartford Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. And rather than keep silent as he at first spoke at length touting his record and then briefly owned up to the problem, the veterans in attendance cheered Blumenthal’s statement and frequently punctuated it with applause and Marine chants.

The brief press conference that Blumenthal ended abruptly was mostly devoted to praise of his own actions in which he claimed that his military service was voluntary. His statement admitting guilt was as follows: “On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service and I take full responsibility. I will not let anyone take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.” He gave no reason for his lies about having been in Vietnam and offered no apology. And his friends behind him — who might otherwise be expected to take a dim view of those who falsely claim war-veteran status — demanded none. But the proposition that this group of veterans is representative of others around the state is yet to be proved.

This performance shows that Blumenthal’s intention is to stay in the Senate race and that he hopes the storm will blow over. However, as the New York Times story that blew the lid off of his lies shows, this one item may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Blumenthal’s record. As the Times reported, Blumenthal appears to have misled journalists about other aspects of his biography.

Slate and the Hartford Courant have both reported that Blumenthal served as captain of the swim team at Harvard, even though he was never even on the team. Blumenthal now claims to be “astonished” about this lie and disavows all responsibility for it. Yet, like his lies about Vietnam service, Blumenthal — a man who is well known for his careful use of words — never sought to correct the record. After many years of flying below the radar of the investigative press while posing as being a man above reproach, the spotlight will now be on Blumenthal. This means that if there are other lies on his record — and it is more than likely that such things are not isolated incidents — they will soon be discovered. This will make for a very uncomfortable summer and fall for a Connecticut Democratic Party that had hoped the Senate race would be a cakewalk.

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RE: Middle East Democracy Advocates Fed Up with Obama

As I previously noted, Middle East democracy advocates are unhappy that Obama doesn’t share their enthusiasm for democracy promotion and human rights advocacy. Another Egyptian adds his voice to the chorus, this time on the religious persecution of Coptic Christians in the Mubarak thugocracy:

Although the Copts have long been the target of sporadic attacks, the violence of the last few years is more like a purge, as waves of mob assaults have forced hundreds, sometimes thousands of Christian citizens to flee their homes. In each incident the police, despite frantic appeals, invariably arrive after the violence is over. Later the injured are coerced by the special security police forces into accepting “reconciliation” with their attackers, in order to avoid the prosecution of the guilty. No Muslim to date has been convicted for any of these crimes.

The state’s lack of regard for the Copts has encouraged anti-Christian feelings among many Muslims in all walks of life. Even Al-Azhar, the world’s preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has contributed its share to this widespread hostility by publishing a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion.

And once again, the focus turns to Obama, whose sorry record on religious freedom has not gone unnoticed. “So far the United States and the rest of the Western democracies, despite repeated Coptic appeals, have done little besides calling upon the Egyptian regime to foster greater tolerance.” Why is that, and why did Obama not see fit, when he was in Cairo of all places, to denounce the discrimination and oppression that goes on in the Muslim World? After all, as a student of the Muslim World, he surely must know that:

In effect, the Copts today are treated as dhimmis—the age-old inferior status of Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim lands. Dhimmi status is no longer legalized but continues to operate as a traditional social norm. Thus, for example, an individual offense by a dhimmi against a Muslim warrants retribution for the entire dhimmi community.

Hmm. Maybe it complicates the whole Muslim outreach program. How’s that working out, by the way — in Syria, Iran, etc.? Not all that well. And the Copts, like other oppressed peoples in the Muslim World (women and little girls, for example), will find no help from Obama.

As I previously noted, Middle East democracy advocates are unhappy that Obama doesn’t share their enthusiasm for democracy promotion and human rights advocacy. Another Egyptian adds his voice to the chorus, this time on the religious persecution of Coptic Christians in the Mubarak thugocracy:

Although the Copts have long been the target of sporadic attacks, the violence of the last few years is more like a purge, as waves of mob assaults have forced hundreds, sometimes thousands of Christian citizens to flee their homes. In each incident the police, despite frantic appeals, invariably arrive after the violence is over. Later the injured are coerced by the special security police forces into accepting “reconciliation” with their attackers, in order to avoid the prosecution of the guilty. No Muslim to date has been convicted for any of these crimes.

The state’s lack of regard for the Copts has encouraged anti-Christian feelings among many Muslims in all walks of life. Even Al-Azhar, the world’s preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has contributed its share to this widespread hostility by publishing a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion.

And once again, the focus turns to Obama, whose sorry record on religious freedom has not gone unnoticed. “So far the United States and the rest of the Western democracies, despite repeated Coptic appeals, have done little besides calling upon the Egyptian regime to foster greater tolerance.” Why is that, and why did Obama not see fit, when he was in Cairo of all places, to denounce the discrimination and oppression that goes on in the Muslim World? After all, as a student of the Muslim World, he surely must know that:

In effect, the Copts today are treated as dhimmis—the age-old inferior status of Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim lands. Dhimmi status is no longer legalized but continues to operate as a traditional social norm. Thus, for example, an individual offense by a dhimmi against a Muslim warrants retribution for the entire dhimmi community.

Hmm. Maybe it complicates the whole Muslim outreach program. How’s that working out, by the way — in Syria, Iran, etc.? Not all that well. And the Copts, like other oppressed peoples in the Muslim World (women and little girls, for example), will find no help from Obama.

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A Sanctions Deal — but for Whose Benefit?

Sensing that a sanctions deal was slipping away and the president was cornered by Iran’s diplomatic coup, the Obama team rushed to complete an agreement with China and Russia on sanctions against the Iranian regime:

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without giving any details of the pact. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Swell, now what’s in it? And will the Obama administration stop its effort to delay and water down additional congressional sanctions?

Maybe they really are crippling and Obama convinced the Chinese and Russians to go after petroleum sanctions, perhaps the only meaningful tool available that would impact Iran. And maybe it will sail through the Security Council, have a swift impact, and halt the mullahs in their tracks. Or then again, maybe the sanctions aren’t even biting, will only provide cover and more time for the mullahs to work away on their nuclear program, will silence criticism from Jewish groups (OK, they were already silent), will help Obama stave off unilateral sanctions by Congress, and will provide him with further leverage to squash an Israeli military strike. I hope I’m wrong about which alternative will play out.

Sensing that a sanctions deal was slipping away and the president was cornered by Iran’s diplomatic coup, the Obama team rushed to complete an agreement with China and Russia on sanctions against the Iranian regime:

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without giving any details of the pact. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Swell, now what’s in it? And will the Obama administration stop its effort to delay and water down additional congressional sanctions?

Maybe they really are crippling and Obama convinced the Chinese and Russians to go after petroleum sanctions, perhaps the only meaningful tool available that would impact Iran. And maybe it will sail through the Security Council, have a swift impact, and halt the mullahs in their tracks. Or then again, maybe the sanctions aren’t even biting, will only provide cover and more time for the mullahs to work away on their nuclear program, will silence criticism from Jewish groups (OK, they were already silent), will help Obama stave off unilateral sanctions by Congress, and will provide him with further leverage to squash an Israeli military strike. I hope I’m wrong about which alternative will play out.

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Connecticut Front-Runner’s Woes May Help Simmons, Not McMahon

The news that Linda McMahon’s campaign was the source for the New York Times article exposing Richard Blumenthal’s lies about his Vietnam War record provides an interesting irony for the GOP primary in Connecticut.

As Politico noted, it was probably McMahon’s deep pockets that financed the research about Blumenthal, though it must be acknowledged that when the Times wants to dig into someone’s background to find dirt — whether real or imagined — the Gray Lady finds the money. John McCain, who was the subject of a months-long investigation based on unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity during the 2008 presidential campaign, can testify to that.

However, it can be argued that the revelations about Blumenthal’s mendacity could actually undermine McMahon’s own primary campaign rather than help it. McMahon jumped into the Connecticut GOP Senate race thinking that former congressman Rob Simmons could be beaten easily in the primary by her superior financial resources. The fact that Simmons was a more credible candidate and had governmental experience was also discounted as being of negligible value in a year in which outsider status had greater appeal to discontented voters.

But by bringing to light Blumenthal’s lies about serving in Vietnam when in fact he dodged the draft by obtaining several deferments and then gaining a coveted spot in a Reserve unit in Washington (where he participated in Toys for Tots programs rather than in fighting), McMahon may have given Simmons the break he was looking for. As it happens, Simmons is a real Vietnam combat veteran. As such, he will be better placed to exploit the voters’ disgust with Blumenthal’s lies than is McMahon, whose only combat experience is of the stage-managed pro-wrestling variety in which the steroid-filled buffoons she and her husband employed pretended to hurt each other.

Once incumbent Chris Dodd decided to pull the plug on his scandal-plagued re-election effort and Blumenthal declared his intention to run, the Connecticut seat went from being in play to one that was classified as safely in the Democratic column. However, as I wrote last month, the first reviews of Blumenthal’s candidacy were decidedly negative. Though he has always been considered the golden boy of the state’s Democratic Party — albeit one that was strangely reluctant to take his chances and run for a higher office than state attorney general — once he hit the campaign trail this year, many Democrats began to worry that he was “Martha Coakley in Pants.” But the Times blockbuster isn’t merely another embarrassment for a faltering campaign. For a man like Blumenthal, whose main asset was a reputation for integrity (in a state whose high officials have had a distressing tendency to be convicted on corruption charges in recent years), a story that reveals him as a serial liar has the potential to destroy his candidacy.

Blumenthal will attempt to salvage the situation this afternoon in a press conference in which he will, no doubt, attempt to discredit the Times and/or McMahon. But you can’t help but wonder whether Connecticut Democrats, who thought they were putting scandal behind them when they replaced Dodd with Blumenthal, are now wondering whether they just exchanged one problem for another.

The news that Linda McMahon’s campaign was the source for the New York Times article exposing Richard Blumenthal’s lies about his Vietnam War record provides an interesting irony for the GOP primary in Connecticut.

As Politico noted, it was probably McMahon’s deep pockets that financed the research about Blumenthal, though it must be acknowledged that when the Times wants to dig into someone’s background to find dirt — whether real or imagined — the Gray Lady finds the money. John McCain, who was the subject of a months-long investigation based on unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity during the 2008 presidential campaign, can testify to that.

However, it can be argued that the revelations about Blumenthal’s mendacity could actually undermine McMahon’s own primary campaign rather than help it. McMahon jumped into the Connecticut GOP Senate race thinking that former congressman Rob Simmons could be beaten easily in the primary by her superior financial resources. The fact that Simmons was a more credible candidate and had governmental experience was also discounted as being of negligible value in a year in which outsider status had greater appeal to discontented voters.

But by bringing to light Blumenthal’s lies about serving in Vietnam when in fact he dodged the draft by obtaining several deferments and then gaining a coveted spot in a Reserve unit in Washington (where he participated in Toys for Tots programs rather than in fighting), McMahon may have given Simmons the break he was looking for. As it happens, Simmons is a real Vietnam combat veteran. As such, he will be better placed to exploit the voters’ disgust with Blumenthal’s lies than is McMahon, whose only combat experience is of the stage-managed pro-wrestling variety in which the steroid-filled buffoons she and her husband employed pretended to hurt each other.

Once incumbent Chris Dodd decided to pull the plug on his scandal-plagued re-election effort and Blumenthal declared his intention to run, the Connecticut seat went from being in play to one that was classified as safely in the Democratic column. However, as I wrote last month, the first reviews of Blumenthal’s candidacy were decidedly negative. Though he has always been considered the golden boy of the state’s Democratic Party — albeit one that was strangely reluctant to take his chances and run for a higher office than state attorney general — once he hit the campaign trail this year, many Democrats began to worry that he was “Martha Coakley in Pants.” But the Times blockbuster isn’t merely another embarrassment for a faltering campaign. For a man like Blumenthal, whose main asset was a reputation for integrity (in a state whose high officials have had a distressing tendency to be convicted on corruption charges in recent years), a story that reveals him as a serial liar has the potential to destroy his candidacy.

Blumenthal will attempt to salvage the situation this afternoon in a press conference in which he will, no doubt, attempt to discredit the Times and/or McMahon. But you can’t help but wonder whether Connecticut Democrats, who thought they were putting scandal behind them when they replaced Dodd with Blumenthal, are now wondering whether they just exchanged one problem for another.

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Increasing Arabs’ Clout in Congress: The NH-1 GOP Primary

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.'”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.'”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

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GOP Says “No” to Syrian Engagement

Josh Rogin reports:

Twelve Republican senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday to let her know they intend to block the nomination of Robert Ford, whom President Obama has named to become the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in five years.

In the letter, 12 Republican senators, any one of whom could hold up the Ford nomination, said they weren’t satisfied with the State Department’s latest attempt to alleviate their concerns about sending an envoy to Damascus amid allegations that the Syrian government may have sent Scud missiles to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The senators aren’t buying State’s argument that sending an ambassador to Syria is not a reward, but rather a smart way to engage and perhaps even persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop taking provocative actions.

“If engagement precludes prompt punitive action in response to egregious behavior, such as the transfer of long range missiles to a terrorist group, then it is not only a concession but also a reward for such behavior,” the letter reads.

A few points are noteworthy. First, is every single Democrat going along with the Ford nomination? Apparently, when the White House barks, they all jump.

Second, it appears Hillary Clinton didn’t bother to respond to an earlier inquiry: “Indicating some pique that Clinton didn’t respond to their last letter on this subject, they write tersely, ‘We would appreciate a response from you personally.'” Maybe it did not make her to-do list.

And finally, 12 is more than enough for a filibuster, so the choice for Obama now is whether to pull the nomination or suffer an embarrassing defeat. I suspect the vote won’t be scheduled anytime soon. If that proves to be the case, then this is an important watershed — the Republican senators have risen up to block a disastrous foreign-policy move. We can only hope that this is the beginning of a trend.

Josh Rogin reports:

Twelve Republican senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday to let her know they intend to block the nomination of Robert Ford, whom President Obama has named to become the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in five years.

In the letter, 12 Republican senators, any one of whom could hold up the Ford nomination, said they weren’t satisfied with the State Department’s latest attempt to alleviate their concerns about sending an envoy to Damascus amid allegations that the Syrian government may have sent Scud missiles to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The senators aren’t buying State’s argument that sending an ambassador to Syria is not a reward, but rather a smart way to engage and perhaps even persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop taking provocative actions.

“If engagement precludes prompt punitive action in response to egregious behavior, such as the transfer of long range missiles to a terrorist group, then it is not only a concession but also a reward for such behavior,” the letter reads.

A few points are noteworthy. First, is every single Democrat going along with the Ford nomination? Apparently, when the White House barks, they all jump.

Second, it appears Hillary Clinton didn’t bother to respond to an earlier inquiry: “Indicating some pique that Clinton didn’t respond to their last letter on this subject, they write tersely, ‘We would appreciate a response from you personally.'” Maybe it did not make her to-do list.

And finally, 12 is more than enough for a filibuster, so the choice for Obama now is whether to pull the nomination or suffer an embarrassing defeat. I suspect the vote won’t be scheduled anytime soon. If that proves to be the case, then this is an important watershed — the Republican senators have risen up to block a disastrous foreign-policy move. We can only hope that this is the beginning of a trend.

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Another Tom Campbell Problem

In addition to his connections to Palestinian extremists and an anti-Israel voting record, Tom Campbell has another problem: perhaps the most influential conservative group is blasting him:

The National Rifle Assn. is urging its California members to vote against Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell “to protect your gun rights and hunting heritage in California.”

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons. …

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization gave Fiorina an “A” rating based on her answers to their questionnaire and also gave its top rating to DeVore. Because the NRA does not publicly disclose candidates’ questionnaires, the Campbell campaign has said Fiorina should release her answers.

Arulanandam said he did not have immediate access to Campbell’s voting record and ratings during his five terms in Congress, but said his last rating was an “F.”

Campbell says he really, honestly is devoted to the Second Amendment. So the NRA must be confused. Just like pro-Israel supporters are confused. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Or, as Obama likes to say, maybe it’s a “communication” problem. Yes, Campbell has difficulty explaining why his voting record and prior statements seem to mean something different from what advocates dedicated to key issues (Israel, terrorism, the Second Amendment) think they mean.

In addition to his connections to Palestinian extremists and an anti-Israel voting record, Tom Campbell has another problem: perhaps the most influential conservative group is blasting him:

The National Rifle Assn. is urging its California members to vote against Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell “to protect your gun rights and hunting heritage in California.”

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons. …

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organization gave Fiorina an “A” rating based on her answers to their questionnaire and also gave its top rating to DeVore. Because the NRA does not publicly disclose candidates’ questionnaires, the Campbell campaign has said Fiorina should release her answers.

Arulanandam said he did not have immediate access to Campbell’s voting record and ratings during his five terms in Congress, but said his last rating was an “F.”

Campbell says he really, honestly is devoted to the Second Amendment. So the NRA must be confused. Just like pro-Israel supporters are confused. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Or, as Obama likes to say, maybe it’s a “communication” problem. Yes, Campbell has difficulty explaining why his voting record and prior statements seem to mean something different from what advocates dedicated to key issues (Israel, terrorism, the Second Amendment) think they mean.

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Will Corruption Halt Chinese and Russian Development?

To follow up on my earlier item, regarding barriers to China’s economic development: nothing makes the point more poignantly than news that China’s richest man has just been sentenced to 14 years in jail. Huang Guangyu has been accused of assorted corporate crimes, but few think he is another Bernie Madoff. More likely he is just another corner cutter engaging in the sort of routine practices, including bribery, that other Chinese tycoons engage in. The general view is that he simply wasn’t very skillful politically and got on the wrong side of some powerful faction within the ruling Communist Party.

In some ways his case is reminiscent of that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at one time was Russia’s richest man before clashing with the Kremlin, losing his company (Yukos), and being sent to prison. China, like Russia, lacks the rule of law — an impartial set of rules enforced by neutral judges. Instead it has the rule of current and former Communist Party apparatchiks who manipulate the law to their own advantage. Admittedly the problem is more severe in Russia, but, as Huang Guangyu’s case demonstrates, it also exists in China. That makes both countries high-risk investment propositions and puts their futures in grave doubt.

The full impact of these weaknesses hasn’t yet been felt. Russia has been propped up by high commodity prices, in particular by high oil prices; China, by Western euphoria about its prospects, which has led to a lot of questionable foreign investments. But unless both countries can fundamentally reform their political systems (and odds are against them), I predict that their development will hit a brick wall before long — or if you prefer, a bamboo curtain.

To follow up on my earlier item, regarding barriers to China’s economic development: nothing makes the point more poignantly than news that China’s richest man has just been sentenced to 14 years in jail. Huang Guangyu has been accused of assorted corporate crimes, but few think he is another Bernie Madoff. More likely he is just another corner cutter engaging in the sort of routine practices, including bribery, that other Chinese tycoons engage in. The general view is that he simply wasn’t very skillful politically and got on the wrong side of some powerful faction within the ruling Communist Party.

In some ways his case is reminiscent of that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at one time was Russia’s richest man before clashing with the Kremlin, losing his company (Yukos), and being sent to prison. China, like Russia, lacks the rule of law — an impartial set of rules enforced by neutral judges. Instead it has the rule of current and former Communist Party apparatchiks who manipulate the law to their own advantage. Admittedly the problem is more severe in Russia, but, as Huang Guangyu’s case demonstrates, it also exists in China. That makes both countries high-risk investment propositions and puts their futures in grave doubt.

The full impact of these weaknesses hasn’t yet been felt. Russia has been propped up by high commodity prices, in particular by high oil prices; China, by Western euphoria about its prospects, which has led to a lot of questionable foreign investments. But unless both countries can fundamentally reform their political systems (and odds are against them), I predict that their development will hit a brick wall before long — or if you prefer, a bamboo curtain.

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RE: Connecticut Democratic Senate Candidate Toast?

It seems that one of Richard Blumenthal’s potential Republican opponents, Linda McMahon, served up to the New York Times the information regarding his Vietnam-service fakery. This raises two interesting questions. Neither of them is did McMahon’s camp do anything untoward or will it benefit from slaying Blumenthal. (No and yes are the easy answers, respectively, to those.)

First, why didn’t the Times identify the source? After all, it is relevant for readers to know where it came from. And now the Times looks like it was hiding the ball. Maybe McMahon’s team demanded it be unsourced. Well, poppycock. The Times should have said no in that case. The McMahon camp, more than the Times, needed to get the story out.

And this raises the second question: why didn’t the Times itself uncover the scoop? As its story details, there was plenty of information available. How could the “paper of record” have failed to figure it out on its own? Hmm. Could be the Gray Lady only spends time digging through Republicans’ war records and the Wasilla public library.

Now to give credit, the Times did run the story. But if it hadn’t, another outlet would have gotten the story, and once again tongues would wag that liberals’ favorite paper has a selective research team. Maybe Clark Hoyt will answer these questions. Well, we can always hope.

It seems that one of Richard Blumenthal’s potential Republican opponents, Linda McMahon, served up to the New York Times the information regarding his Vietnam-service fakery. This raises two interesting questions. Neither of them is did McMahon’s camp do anything untoward or will it benefit from slaying Blumenthal. (No and yes are the easy answers, respectively, to those.)

First, why didn’t the Times identify the source? After all, it is relevant for readers to know where it came from. And now the Times looks like it was hiding the ball. Maybe McMahon’s team demanded it be unsourced. Well, poppycock. The Times should have said no in that case. The McMahon camp, more than the Times, needed to get the story out.

And this raises the second question: why didn’t the Times itself uncover the scoop? As its story details, there was plenty of information available. How could the “paper of record” have failed to figure it out on its own? Hmm. Could be the Gray Lady only spends time digging through Republicans’ war records and the Wasilla public library.

Now to give credit, the Times did run the story. But if it hadn’t, another outlet would have gotten the story, and once again tongues would wag that liberals’ favorite paper has a selective research team. Maybe Clark Hoyt will answer these questions. Well, we can always hope.

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The Taxman Cometh — Not!

Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times has a piece on the proposal to tax the “carried interest” of hedge-fund partners at the rate of ordinary income (right now, 35 percent) instead of at the rate of capital gains (15 percent). I haven’t studied the issue, so I don’t know where I come down on it, but Sorkin, inadvertently, reveals exactly why the current tax system is irretrievably broken. He writes:

Of course, even if the measure passes, Wall Street executives are ready: They’ve already begun devising clever new “structures” to skirt the tax change.

The moment the bill is signed, “the games will begin,” said Francois Hechinger, a tax partner at BDO Seidman who advises venture capital firms. “That’s when people will try to figure out how to get around this.”

If we’ve learned anything from the financial crisis, it seems that new regulations on Wall Street always have a way of breeding another generation of “financial innovation” meant to circumvent them.

Ever since the modern income tax was born in 1913 with an act of Congress 14 pages long, there has been an ongoing evolutionary arms race between the tax collectors and the taxpayers. Every new provision in the tax code begets new means of legally avoiding taxes, which beget new provisions that outlaw the new means, regulate it, or — influenced by lobbyists — even encourage it. The Tax Act of 1942 was 208 pages long. Of those 208 pages, 162 dealt with closing or defining loopholes in earlier acts.

As of 2006, the number of densely printed pages in the tax code was 3,387. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations dealing with taxes and written by the IRS — in effect, the Talmud to the Torah of the tax code — is 20 volumes, totaling 13,458 pages.

The very, very rich (such as hedge-fund partners) have far more influence in Washington, of course, than the average citizen and are paid attention to by Democrats and Republicans alike. As long as we have a democracy, it will be ever thus. If the taxes on carried interest go up, something else will get them the very rich the hook, just as the nominal 90 percent tax rates of the 1950s were largely negated by a vast number of deductions.

The gathering fiscal problems of the United States will not be solved as long as the current tax code is in place. Unfortunately, among the prime beneficiaries of the current code are the 535 members of Congress, who reap rich harvests of campaign contributions from it.

Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times has a piece on the proposal to tax the “carried interest” of hedge-fund partners at the rate of ordinary income (right now, 35 percent) instead of at the rate of capital gains (15 percent). I haven’t studied the issue, so I don’t know where I come down on it, but Sorkin, inadvertently, reveals exactly why the current tax system is irretrievably broken. He writes:

Of course, even if the measure passes, Wall Street executives are ready: They’ve already begun devising clever new “structures” to skirt the tax change.

The moment the bill is signed, “the games will begin,” said Francois Hechinger, a tax partner at BDO Seidman who advises venture capital firms. “That’s when people will try to figure out how to get around this.”

If we’ve learned anything from the financial crisis, it seems that new regulations on Wall Street always have a way of breeding another generation of “financial innovation” meant to circumvent them.

Ever since the modern income tax was born in 1913 with an act of Congress 14 pages long, there has been an ongoing evolutionary arms race between the tax collectors and the taxpayers. Every new provision in the tax code begets new means of legally avoiding taxes, which beget new provisions that outlaw the new means, regulate it, or — influenced by lobbyists — even encourage it. The Tax Act of 1942 was 208 pages long. Of those 208 pages, 162 dealt with closing or defining loopholes in earlier acts.

As of 2006, the number of densely printed pages in the tax code was 3,387. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations dealing with taxes and written by the IRS — in effect, the Talmud to the Torah of the tax code — is 20 volumes, totaling 13,458 pages.

The very, very rich (such as hedge-fund partners) have far more influence in Washington, of course, than the average citizen and are paid attention to by Democrats and Republicans alike. As long as we have a democracy, it will be ever thus. If the taxes on carried interest go up, something else will get them the very rich the hook, just as the nominal 90 percent tax rates of the 1950s were largely negated by a vast number of deductions.

The gathering fiscal problems of the United States will not be solved as long as the current tax code is in place. Unfortunately, among the prime beneficiaries of the current code are the 535 members of Congress, who reap rich harvests of campaign contributions from it.

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Holder and Napolitano Aren’t Off the Reservation

Steve Huntley thinks Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder should get canned:

The administration’s determination to separate itself from the Bush-era attitudes on terrorism and its failure to secure the border have thrown Holder and Napolitano on the defensive.

It was embarrassing for the nation to watch Holder last week dance around a simple question about whether radical Islam could have played a role in recent attempted terrorist attacks. …

For her part, Napolitano stumbled out of the gate last year when she started calling terrorist attacks “man-caused disasters.” She was quick to initially play down the would-be underwear and Times Square bombers as lone wolves, only to be embarrassed when their links to — yes, Mr. Holder — radical Islam were revealed. Now she’s embroiled in a nasty fight with New York political leaders over cuts in federal anti-terrorism funding for the state and city, the No. 1 terrorist target, along with Washington.

Huntley correctly perceives that Holder’s obvious discomfort in naming our enemy undermines our ability to rally moderate Muslims to our side. (“What must the Muslim victims of those crimes and others in Islamic nations think of a high Obama administration official who can’t distinguish between conventional Islam and murderous Islamism? How are we to win an ideological struggle if we can’t declare who the enemy is?”) But he is stumped as to why Obama would “tolerate such irresponsible conduct from Holder and Napolitano.”

Well, it’s not hard to figure out why: Obama agrees with them, or rather they agree with and are eagerly serving their boss. It’s no accident that neither Holder nor Napolitano displays candor about jihadist attacks or will articulate that we are engaged in a war for Western civilization against Muslim fundamentalists. This is Obama’s modus operandi and worldview. He’s not willing to name the enemy. He’s not willing to drop the criminal-justice fetish in favor of an appropriate wartime stance toward terrorists. Holder and Napolitano aren’t freelancing — they are marching to the beat set by the president. A better question then is: will the American people tolerate such irresponsible conduct from their president?

Steve Huntley thinks Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder should get canned:

The administration’s determination to separate itself from the Bush-era attitudes on terrorism and its failure to secure the border have thrown Holder and Napolitano on the defensive.

It was embarrassing for the nation to watch Holder last week dance around a simple question about whether radical Islam could have played a role in recent attempted terrorist attacks. …

For her part, Napolitano stumbled out of the gate last year when she started calling terrorist attacks “man-caused disasters.” She was quick to initially play down the would-be underwear and Times Square bombers as lone wolves, only to be embarrassed when their links to — yes, Mr. Holder — radical Islam were revealed. Now she’s embroiled in a nasty fight with New York political leaders over cuts in federal anti-terrorism funding for the state and city, the No. 1 terrorist target, along with Washington.

Huntley correctly perceives that Holder’s obvious discomfort in naming our enemy undermines our ability to rally moderate Muslims to our side. (“What must the Muslim victims of those crimes and others in Islamic nations think of a high Obama administration official who can’t distinguish between conventional Islam and murderous Islamism? How are we to win an ideological struggle if we can’t declare who the enemy is?”) But he is stumped as to why Obama would “tolerate such irresponsible conduct from Holder and Napolitano.”

Well, it’s not hard to figure out why: Obama agrees with them, or rather they agree with and are eagerly serving their boss. It’s no accident that neither Holder nor Napolitano displays candor about jihadist attacks or will articulate that we are engaged in a war for Western civilization against Muslim fundamentalists. This is Obama’s modus operandi and worldview. He’s not willing to name the enemy. He’s not willing to drop the criminal-justice fetish in favor of an appropriate wartime stance toward terrorists. Holder and Napolitano aren’t freelancing — they are marching to the beat set by the president. A better question then is: will the American people tolerate such irresponsible conduct from their president?

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What Georgia Can Teach Israel About Iran

One thing pretty much all Israeli commentators agree on is that Western acceptance of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey nuclear deal would be a disaster for Israel.

Unlike the original deal on which it is modeled, and which Iran rejected last fall, this deal makes no pretense even of delaying Iran’s nuclear program. The original deal sought to buy time by transferring most of Iran’s enriched uranium outside the country, leaving it without enough to build a bomb until it enriched more. This deal would transfer a much smaller percentage of Iran’s uranium overseas, and would thus still leave it with enough to build a bomb.

Yet Western acceptance of it would not only kill any chance for tougher sanctions on Iran (no great loss, since the sanctions effort wasn’t going anyplace anyway); it would also make it much harder for Israel to take military action against Iran: Israel would then be portrayed as the warmonger ruining the world’s chances for peace in our time.

As Israel’s government contemplates this grim scenario, it might do well to read a new book on the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 — or at least Prof. Shlomo Avineri’s review of it in Haaretz.

In A Little War That Shook the World, former State Department official Ronald Asmus chronicles the events leading up to the war and its disastrous consequences for Georgia: it lost its last remaining foothold in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saw hundreds of its citizens killed and tens of thousands turned into refugees, and effectively destroyed its chances of joining either NATO or the European Union.

Yet Asmus thinks a Georgian failure to respond to Russia’s provocations would have had even worse consequences, Avineri notes: President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government “would have been toppled and there may well have been a coup d’etat in Tbilisi, which could have resulted in a particular well-known pro-Russian politician taking Georgia’s helm. In effect, Georgia could have lost its independence and become a Russian satellite once again” — for the third time in two centuries.

Avineri finds Asmus’s conclusion persuasive. But even if one doesn’t, it is hard to argue with Avineri’s conclusion. “There is something of a moral here for small countries,” the dovish professor writes. “Sometimes, being unwilling to give in is strategically the right move, even if it exacts a high price.”

An Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would exact a very high price: military counterstrikes by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and perhaps Syria; international opprobrium; a schism with Washington; and perhaps even international sanctions. And that would be true even if the West ultimately rejects the Brazil-Turkey deal and returns to the Obama administration’s plan A: declaring the problem “solved” by passing another watered-down sanctions resolution that, like its predecessors, will do nothing to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

Nevertheless, the consequences to Israel of a nuclear Iran could well be even worse. And if so, Israel’s government might have to decide that the price of military action is worth paying.

One thing pretty much all Israeli commentators agree on is that Western acceptance of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey nuclear deal would be a disaster for Israel.

Unlike the original deal on which it is modeled, and which Iran rejected last fall, this deal makes no pretense even of delaying Iran’s nuclear program. The original deal sought to buy time by transferring most of Iran’s enriched uranium outside the country, leaving it without enough to build a bomb until it enriched more. This deal would transfer a much smaller percentage of Iran’s uranium overseas, and would thus still leave it with enough to build a bomb.

Yet Western acceptance of it would not only kill any chance for tougher sanctions on Iran (no great loss, since the sanctions effort wasn’t going anyplace anyway); it would also make it much harder for Israel to take military action against Iran: Israel would then be portrayed as the warmonger ruining the world’s chances for peace in our time.

As Israel’s government contemplates this grim scenario, it might do well to read a new book on the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 — or at least Prof. Shlomo Avineri’s review of it in Haaretz.

In A Little War That Shook the World, former State Department official Ronald Asmus chronicles the events leading up to the war and its disastrous consequences for Georgia: it lost its last remaining foothold in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, saw hundreds of its citizens killed and tens of thousands turned into refugees, and effectively destroyed its chances of joining either NATO or the European Union.

Yet Asmus thinks a Georgian failure to respond to Russia’s provocations would have had even worse consequences, Avineri notes: President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government “would have been toppled and there may well have been a coup d’etat in Tbilisi, which could have resulted in a particular well-known pro-Russian politician taking Georgia’s helm. In effect, Georgia could have lost its independence and become a Russian satellite once again” — for the third time in two centuries.

Avineri finds Asmus’s conclusion persuasive. But even if one doesn’t, it is hard to argue with Avineri’s conclusion. “There is something of a moral here for small countries,” the dovish professor writes. “Sometimes, being unwilling to give in is strategically the right move, even if it exacts a high price.”

An Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would exact a very high price: military counterstrikes by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and perhaps Syria; international opprobrium; a schism with Washington; and perhaps even international sanctions. And that would be true even if the West ultimately rejects the Brazil-Turkey deal and returns to the Obama administration’s plan A: declaring the problem “solved” by passing another watered-down sanctions resolution that, like its predecessors, will do nothing to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

Nevertheless, the consequences to Israel of a nuclear Iran could well be even worse. And if so, Israel’s government might have to decide that the price of military action is worth paying.

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The Ongoing Korean War

Having just visited South Korea, I felt as if I were in a time warp. It’s not that South Korea itself is out of date; if anything, it is ultra-modern — at the cutting edge of technology, culture, and social and economic development. But its neighbor to the north seems never to have passed out of its Stalinist phase. In addition to starving and repressing its own people, and proliferating weapons technology, counterfeit currency, and other illegal substances, North Korea keeps on threatening the south.

The latest manifestation was of course the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, which occurred back in March and which killed 46 sailors. It is now generally agreed that the culprit was a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine. This is a bit out of the norm, but not wildly so. Every few years, North Korea commits some provocation along those lines. This is actually fairly mild compared with the bomb blast back in 1983, which killed a number of top Korean officials while they were on a visit to Rangoon.

More often, of course, the North-South standoff results not in actual fighting but in tensions along the DMZ, or demilitarized zone — a misnomer for one of the most heavily armed places on earth. Along with a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations, I visited Panmunjom, the area in the DMZ where negotiations with the north are conducted, and found a surreal scene, with North Korean guards peering at us through the windows of a hut as if we were animals at the zoo. Meanwhile tense South Korean soldiers in sunglasses and shiny helmets stood around, fists clenched, in what is called the “ROK Ready” position. Don’t dare open the back door, we were told; a soldier who made that mistake was snatched by the North Koreans.

There seems scant hope of ending this standoff anytime soon — not unless the bizarre North Korean regime collapses. It is certainly dysfunctional enough to come to an end at any time, but it could just as easily last for decades as impoverished dictatorships still do in Burma and Cuba. The ultimate objective for American and South Korean policy should be to encourage the north’s peaceful implosion, and that in turn means reducing outside support for the regime. That’s something South Korea, under a more conservative government led by Lee Myung-bak, has already been doing lately. Ultimately, though, the north relies for life support on China, and there seems scant prospect that Beijing will do anything that might undermine the Kim Jong-Il regime. There is nothing that Chinese leaders fear more than an implosion on their border, leading to huge refugee flows and possibly the establishment of a unified Korea aligned with the West, not with China.

So in practical terms, South Korea and its American allies will have no choice but to continue preparing for the resumption of the war that was suspended in 1953. That task is increasingly being taken up by the Republic of Korea, which has 655,000 active-duty military personnel and 3 million reservists — the sixth-largest military in the world. The U.S. still maintains 28,000 troops in the south, but they are increasingly being pulled back from Seoul and from the DMZ toward a new base farther south, away from any major population center. Their role is not to so much to contribute ground combat power as to help in the naval and air operations against North Korea while, critically, providing a tripwire that will guarantee American nuclear protection against North Korea’s nukes.

South Korean generals already exercise full control of their forces in peacetime, but if war were to break out, their military would revert to the control of the Combined Forces Command, run by an American four-star. That is due to change in 2012, when “opcon” (operational control) is supposed to revert to the Koreans even in wartime, but South Korean officials we spoke to said they want to move that date back by several years. Not only are they still lacking confidence that they can exercise the same kind of command and control as U.S. officers, but they also think it would be a bad signal of disengagement to the north at a dangerous time. Of course, on the Korean Peninsula, every moment since 1950 has been a dangerous one.

Having just visited South Korea, I felt as if I were in a time warp. It’s not that South Korea itself is out of date; if anything, it is ultra-modern — at the cutting edge of technology, culture, and social and economic development. But its neighbor to the north seems never to have passed out of its Stalinist phase. In addition to starving and repressing its own people, and proliferating weapons technology, counterfeit currency, and other illegal substances, North Korea keeps on threatening the south.

The latest manifestation was of course the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, which occurred back in March and which killed 46 sailors. It is now generally agreed that the culprit was a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine. This is a bit out of the norm, but not wildly so. Every few years, North Korea commits some provocation along those lines. This is actually fairly mild compared with the bomb blast back in 1983, which killed a number of top Korean officials while they were on a visit to Rangoon.

More often, of course, the North-South standoff results not in actual fighting but in tensions along the DMZ, or demilitarized zone — a misnomer for one of the most heavily armed places on earth. Along with a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations, I visited Panmunjom, the area in the DMZ where negotiations with the north are conducted, and found a surreal scene, with North Korean guards peering at us through the windows of a hut as if we were animals at the zoo. Meanwhile tense South Korean soldiers in sunglasses and shiny helmets stood around, fists clenched, in what is called the “ROK Ready” position. Don’t dare open the back door, we were told; a soldier who made that mistake was snatched by the North Koreans.

There seems scant hope of ending this standoff anytime soon — not unless the bizarre North Korean regime collapses. It is certainly dysfunctional enough to come to an end at any time, but it could just as easily last for decades as impoverished dictatorships still do in Burma and Cuba. The ultimate objective for American and South Korean policy should be to encourage the north’s peaceful implosion, and that in turn means reducing outside support for the regime. That’s something South Korea, under a more conservative government led by Lee Myung-bak, has already been doing lately. Ultimately, though, the north relies for life support on China, and there seems scant prospect that Beijing will do anything that might undermine the Kim Jong-Il regime. There is nothing that Chinese leaders fear more than an implosion on their border, leading to huge refugee flows and possibly the establishment of a unified Korea aligned with the West, not with China.

So in practical terms, South Korea and its American allies will have no choice but to continue preparing for the resumption of the war that was suspended in 1953. That task is increasingly being taken up by the Republic of Korea, which has 655,000 active-duty military personnel and 3 million reservists — the sixth-largest military in the world. The U.S. still maintains 28,000 troops in the south, but they are increasingly being pulled back from Seoul and from the DMZ toward a new base farther south, away from any major population center. Their role is not to so much to contribute ground combat power as to help in the naval and air operations against North Korea while, critically, providing a tripwire that will guarantee American nuclear protection against North Korea’s nukes.

South Korean generals already exercise full control of their forces in peacetime, but if war were to break out, their military would revert to the control of the Combined Forces Command, run by an American four-star. That is due to change in 2012, when “opcon” (operational control) is supposed to revert to the Koreans even in wartime, but South Korean officials we spoke to said they want to move that date back by several years. Not only are they still lacking confidence that they can exercise the same kind of command and control as U.S. officers, but they also think it would be a bad signal of disengagement to the north at a dangerous time. Of course, on the Korean Peninsula, every moment since 1950 has been a dangerous one.

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RE: Rabbis Spun by Rahm Emanuel

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.'”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter points out that it may be the rabbis — or one, at least — who were doing the spinning. Citing a JTA article, she writes:

“Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., initiated the meetings after a talk he had with his friend Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, about the Obama administration’s perceived lack of friendliness toward Israel.” So it wasn’t Obama, or Jewy-Jew Emanuel who were worried about Jewish support eroding. It was Moline who was already a self-declared Obama booster who decided it was time to have the White House help a bunch of pulpit rabbis to write their Shabbat sermons. And it seems to have worked. “The rabbis in attendance … took the message home. ‘Our president is every bit as committed to Israel’s safety and security as any previous administration,’ Rabbi Aaron Rubinger said in a May 8 Shabbat morning sermon at Congregation Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Orlando, Fla. ‘I do not believe the president is abandoning Israel or has any intention of abandoning Israel.'”

This is the state of at least a significant segment of American Jewry — desperate to shill for Obama, blind to the peril that Israel faces, and oblivious to the historical legacy that awaits them, as well as their precious president, if Iran goes nuclear — or if Israel is forced to do what the U.S. should, namely, use military force to defuse an existential threat to the Jewish state. Again we must ask:

What is it about liberals and the longing for what Neal Kozodoy once so brilliantly called “the ratifying kick in the teeth”? Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?

And the mainstream Jewish organizations are no better, failing to sound the alarm and incapable of taking on a president whose name remains affixed to the bumpers of so many of their members’ cars. For those who portray themselves as leaders of the Jewish community and friends of Israel but who, as one Israel hand e-mails, “cling to liberalism, secularism and pacifism,” there is now the stark reality that they do so at the expense of the Jewish state.

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Connecticut Democratic Senate Candidate Toast?

The Democrats thought they saved Chris Dodd’s Senate seat when the ethically challenged senator from Countrywide announced his retirement and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal entered the race. But now there’s this from the New York Times:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to [a group of senior citizen and veterans] gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Yes, lots of candidates have gotten tangled up in Vietnam-service records, but Blumenthal is in a class by himself, the Gray Lady charges:

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

OK, if this is true, he’s toast in the race and probably needs to resign from his current job. Even Paul Begala calls it “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake.” (And if there’s one thing Begala knows, it’s an ethical scandal.) The primary is in August, so Democrats have the chance to find a replacement for the replacement. But they better hurry — the nominating convention is this Friday. (Hmm, was the Gray Lady doing the party a favor in getting Blumenthal out of the way now?) There’s got to be some Democrat in the state who’s not ethically deficient, right?

The Democrats thought they saved Chris Dodd’s Senate seat when the ethically challenged senator from Countrywide announced his retirement and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal entered the race. But now there’s this from the New York Times:

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to [a group of senior citizen and veterans] gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

Yes, lots of candidates have gotten tangled up in Vietnam-service records, but Blumenthal is in a class by himself, the Gray Lady charges:

But what is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

OK, if this is true, he’s toast in the race and probably needs to resign from his current job. Even Paul Begala calls it “indefensible” and “a catastrophic mistake.” (And if there’s one thing Begala knows, it’s an ethical scandal.) The primary is in August, so Democrats have the chance to find a replacement for the replacement. But they better hurry — the nominating convention is this Friday. (Hmm, was the Gray Lady doing the party a favor in getting Blumenthal out of the way now?) There’s got to be some Democrat in the state who’s not ethically deficient, right?

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Now It’s Up to Israel — and American Jews

Even the New York Times has figured out that Obama has been checkmated by the mullahs’ deal to send an itty bit of its enriched uranium to Iran-friendly Brazil and Turkey:

Iran announced an agreement on Monday to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey in a deal that could offer a short-term solution to its nuclear standoff with the West, or prove to be a tactic aimed at derailing efforts to bring new sanctions against Tehran. …

Obama now faces a vexing choice. If he walks away from this deal, it will look like he is rejecting an agreement similar to one he was willing to sign eight months ago. But if he accepts, many of the urgent issues he wants resolved with Iran in coming months — mostly over suspected weapons work — will be put on hold for a year or more. Many American officials believe the delay is Iran’s most immediate goal.

By opening the door to an enrichment-shuffling deal and pleading for Iran to come back to the bargaining table, Obama set himself up for failure. He now faces the collapse of his anemic sanctions effort and the evaporation of the last chance to stave off Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, short of military action — which no one (not Congress, not Iran, not Israel, not American Jewish “leaders”) believes Obama will undertake.

Bret Stephens observes:

In yesterday’s phony triumph of diplomacy, any real hope for a diplomatic outcome ended. In its most crucial foreign policy test, the administration has lost, or ceded, control of the process. Iran is either going to become a nuclear power, or it will be stopped from doing so by military action. Either a war will be upon us, or a cycle of Mideast nuclear proliferation. The administration fancies it can contain all this—Iran’s ambitions, Arab insecurities, Israel’s existential anxiety—via more smart diplomacy. The record so far does not inspire confidence.

But to be clear: either Israel will take military action or Iran will become a nuclear power. It is not simply that Obama has ceded control to and been outmatched by the mullahs. It is that he has made clear that the U.S. will not use military force if needed to guarantee the security of an ally and to prevent a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East. By renouncing the use of force, he has declared the U.S. out of the superpower business. By refusing to confront a threat to us and our allies, Obama will cripple U.S. credibility (the unacceptable is being accepted) for the foreseeable future and leave our allies to the whims of despotic bullies.

I eagerly await statements by American Jewish “leaders” remarking on the collapse of the diplomatic option and demanding that the president commit to the use force if necessary and reiterate that Israel will receive unqualified support from the U.S. in the event of military action and retaliation against the Jewish state. What — you think it’s not going to happen? You think American Jewry is sleepwalking and enabling the Obama administration as it allows an existential threat to Israel to go unchecked? Me too.

Even the New York Times has figured out that Obama has been checkmated by the mullahs’ deal to send an itty bit of its enriched uranium to Iran-friendly Brazil and Turkey:

Iran announced an agreement on Monday to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey in a deal that could offer a short-term solution to its nuclear standoff with the West, or prove to be a tactic aimed at derailing efforts to bring new sanctions against Tehran. …

Obama now faces a vexing choice. If he walks away from this deal, it will look like he is rejecting an agreement similar to one he was willing to sign eight months ago. But if he accepts, many of the urgent issues he wants resolved with Iran in coming months — mostly over suspected weapons work — will be put on hold for a year or more. Many American officials believe the delay is Iran’s most immediate goal.

By opening the door to an enrichment-shuffling deal and pleading for Iran to come back to the bargaining table, Obama set himself up for failure. He now faces the collapse of his anemic sanctions effort and the evaporation of the last chance to stave off Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, short of military action — which no one (not Congress, not Iran, not Israel, not American Jewish “leaders”) believes Obama will undertake.

Bret Stephens observes:

In yesterday’s phony triumph of diplomacy, any real hope for a diplomatic outcome ended. In its most crucial foreign policy test, the administration has lost, or ceded, control of the process. Iran is either going to become a nuclear power, or it will be stopped from doing so by military action. Either a war will be upon us, or a cycle of Mideast nuclear proliferation. The administration fancies it can contain all this—Iran’s ambitions, Arab insecurities, Israel’s existential anxiety—via more smart diplomacy. The record so far does not inspire confidence.

But to be clear: either Israel will take military action or Iran will become a nuclear power. It is not simply that Obama has ceded control to and been outmatched by the mullahs. It is that he has made clear that the U.S. will not use military force if needed to guarantee the security of an ally and to prevent a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East. By renouncing the use of force, he has declared the U.S. out of the superpower business. By refusing to confront a threat to us and our allies, Obama will cripple U.S. credibility (the unacceptable is being accepted) for the foreseeable future and leave our allies to the whims of despotic bullies.

I eagerly await statements by American Jewish “leaders” remarking on the collapse of the diplomatic option and demanding that the president commit to the use force if necessary and reiterate that Israel will receive unqualified support from the U.S. in the event of military action and retaliation against the Jewish state. What — you think it’s not going to happen? You think American Jewry is sleepwalking and enabling the Obama administration as it allows an existential threat to Israel to go unchecked? Me too.

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It’s the Islamic Radicalism, Mr. Holder

For those still befuddled about the motivation (yeah, we’re talking about you, Mr. Attorney General) for Faisal Shahzad’s bombing plot, his e-mails should put to rest the notion that it was financial distress that was at work:

“Everyone knows the current situation of Muslim World,” he wrote in an e-mail he sent to a large group of recipients in February 2006. …

“Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from the west. Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe.”

The e-mail continues: “It is with no doubt that we today Muslim, followers of  Islam are attacked and occupied by foreign infidel forces. The crusade has already started against Islam and Muslims with cartoons of our beloved Prophet PBUH (peace be upon him) as War drums.”

Shahzad was referring to the 2005 controversy in which a Danish newspaper published satirical cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed that many Muslims found offensive.”Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed,” Shahzad asked. “And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows? In Palestine, Afghan, Iraq, Chechnya and elsewhere.”

And then there is another e-mail that includes this suggestion: “If you don’t have the right teacher, then Satan should become your sheikh.”

Now presumably Eric Holder knows about these, and much more. And yet he still couldn’t bring himself to explain the motivation for the bombing plot. This is not simply a case of dimness or confusion on the part of the administration but rather intentional obfuscation. It is determined not to acknowledge who the enemy is and explain what is at stake.

For those still befuddled about the motivation (yeah, we’re talking about you, Mr. Attorney General) for Faisal Shahzad’s bombing plot, his e-mails should put to rest the notion that it was financial distress that was at work:

“Everyone knows the current situation of Muslim World,” he wrote in an e-mail he sent to a large group of recipients in February 2006. …

“Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from the west. Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe.”

The e-mail continues: “It is with no doubt that we today Muslim, followers of  Islam are attacked and occupied by foreign infidel forces. The crusade has already started against Islam and Muslims with cartoons of our beloved Prophet PBUH (peace be upon him) as War drums.”

Shahzad was referring to the 2005 controversy in which a Danish newspaper published satirical cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed that many Muslims found offensive.”Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed,” Shahzad asked. “And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows? In Palestine, Afghan, Iraq, Chechnya and elsewhere.”

And then there is another e-mail that includes this suggestion: “If you don’t have the right teacher, then Satan should become your sheikh.”

Now presumably Eric Holder knows about these, and much more. And yet he still couldn’t bring himself to explain the motivation for the bombing plot. This is not simply a case of dimness or confusion on the part of the administration but rather intentional obfuscation. It is determined not to acknowledge who the enemy is and explain what is at stake.

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Aaron David Miller: Obama Is the Biggest Concern in the Middle East

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Politico assures John Meacham (aka “the boy wonder”) that all that nasty criticism of the collapse of Newsweek on his watch doesn’t reflect on him and won’t stop his “meteoric” rise. Unfortunately, the critics seem to be pretty persuasive in its castigation of him (“a perfect example of media insularity and self-congratulation”) for turning the magazine “into a middle-brow thumb sucker, reminiscent of Norman Cousins’ Saturday Review — a magazine that went belly up several generations ago.”

Congress may not meekly accept the defense-spending cuts Robert Gates has been ordered to serve up. Really, Obama isn’t skimping anyplace else, is he?

Valerie Plame cashes in — hobnobbing in Cannes, making her motion-picture debut, and pushing with her lefty friends for a nuke-free world. I suppose Richard Armitage — recall he was the leaker — should get a residual check.

Arlen Specter now says he could have won as a Republican. Maybe he’ll try it as an independent if he loses today. In that event, it sure would be fun to see Obama campaign against him.

Seems like we goofed in giving the State Department the job of enforcing Iran sanctions: “The department’s mission is maintaining and repairing relations with foreign countries, not antagonizing them by targeting foreign companies that do business with rogue regimes. So it should not be surprising that the State Department has failed to enforce meaningful sanctions against Iran. … How many violators has the State Department pursued? None. Sadly, the department’s apparent unwillingness to punish offenders ensured that Iran never paid the price for supporting terrorism worldwide. Nor, as we now know, did Iran’s ruling mullahs pay a price for developing a nuclear program.” Let’s face it, in 90 percent of administrations, if you want something done right, don’t give it to State.

Irony alert: “After the signing of the Freedom of Press Act on Monday, President Obama declined to take any questions from the press. During a pooled press event in the Oval Office, President Obama was asked if he would take a couple questions. ‘You’re certainly free to ask the question,’ Obama told the reporters in the room. ‘I won’t be answering, I’m not doing a press conference today, but we’ll be seeing you in the course of the week.'” He’s not only inaccessible; he’s rude. You wonder when the press will finally turn on him.

In a nutshell, why voters are mad at Democratic incumbents: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% favor repeal of the law, while 39% are opposed. … While most voters nationwide favor repeal, the Political Class is opposed to repeal by an 88% to eight percent (8%) margin.” There is a way of fixing that gap, of course.

The White House gets nervous about the military-recruiter issue and mounts a defense. Alas, they didn’t explain why Harvard had no problem taking money from a regime that executes gays.

Politico assures John Meacham (aka “the boy wonder”) that all that nasty criticism of the collapse of Newsweek on his watch doesn’t reflect on him and won’t stop his “meteoric” rise. Unfortunately, the critics seem to be pretty persuasive in its castigation of him (“a perfect example of media insularity and self-congratulation”) for turning the magazine “into a middle-brow thumb sucker, reminiscent of Norman Cousins’ Saturday Review — a magazine that went belly up several generations ago.”

Congress may not meekly accept the defense-spending cuts Robert Gates has been ordered to serve up. Really, Obama isn’t skimping anyplace else, is he?

Valerie Plame cashes in — hobnobbing in Cannes, making her motion-picture debut, and pushing with her lefty friends for a nuke-free world. I suppose Richard Armitage — recall he was the leaker — should get a residual check.

Arlen Specter now says he could have won as a Republican. Maybe he’ll try it as an independent if he loses today. In that event, it sure would be fun to see Obama campaign against him.

Seems like we goofed in giving the State Department the job of enforcing Iran sanctions: “The department’s mission is maintaining and repairing relations with foreign countries, not antagonizing them by targeting foreign companies that do business with rogue regimes. So it should not be surprising that the State Department has failed to enforce meaningful sanctions against Iran. … How many violators has the State Department pursued? None. Sadly, the department’s apparent unwillingness to punish offenders ensured that Iran never paid the price for supporting terrorism worldwide. Nor, as we now know, did Iran’s ruling mullahs pay a price for developing a nuclear program.” Let’s face it, in 90 percent of administrations, if you want something done right, don’t give it to State.

Irony alert: “After the signing of the Freedom of Press Act on Monday, President Obama declined to take any questions from the press. During a pooled press event in the Oval Office, President Obama was asked if he would take a couple questions. ‘You’re certainly free to ask the question,’ Obama told the reporters in the room. ‘I won’t be answering, I’m not doing a press conference today, but we’ll be seeing you in the course of the week.'” He’s not only inaccessible; he’s rude. You wonder when the press will finally turn on him.

In a nutshell, why voters are mad at Democratic incumbents: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% favor repeal of the law, while 39% are opposed. … While most voters nationwide favor repeal, the Political Class is opposed to repeal by an 88% to eight percent (8%) margin.” There is a way of fixing that gap, of course.

The White House gets nervous about the military-recruiter issue and mounts a defense. Alas, they didn’t explain why Harvard had no problem taking money from a regime that executes gays.

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