Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 28, 2010

RE: RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

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Did Obama Lose a Vote for Kagan by Stiffing Specter?

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

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The National Security Strategy of 2010. Or 2006. Whatever.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

I’m with my former boss, Les Gelb, who complains that President Obama’s new National Security Strategy is essentially a grab bag of concerns that don’t amount to a coherent strategy. This is evident from the opening letter attached to it under the president’s name:

Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.

This isn’t necessarily wrong, but where do you draw the line? Perhaps finding a new judge to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol is vital to the continued strength of American soft power. By Obama’s reasoning, every facet of American society can be said to have some connection with American policy abroad.

There is much more about domestic policy in this document — as there is about every aspect of foreign policy. There are lines that gladden the heart of more hawkish commentators (like me), including a commitment to “maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”; a ringing endorsement of democracy promotion (“our support for universal rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world”); and a vow to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.”

Naturally, there is even more to gladden the hearts of liberals, including a call for “comprehensive engagement,” a commitment “to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks,” and to “pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

This everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach also entails talk of “strengthening international norms against corruption” and “pursuing a comprehensive global health strategy.”

This is, I suppose, what happens when every branch of government gets to weigh in while such a document is being drafted. But it is possible to do something different. Love it or hate it, the Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 was a truly innovative and influential document that will be long remembered for declaring the need for preventative action against aggressors and terrorists. Eight years later, I can still recalls some of its lines: “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology” and “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

There is no such intellectual groundbreaking in the Obama document, which is, as Peter Feaver notes, more than anything a continuation, with some slight adjustments, of the National Security Strategy produced by the Bush administration in its second term.

You remember that Bush National Security Strategy of 2006, don’t you? No? You don’t? Well I suspect you won’t remember the Obama strategy of 2010 either.

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There He Goes Again

Jim Wallis, the liberal Christian social activist and one of Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers, wrote a piece that included this gem of a paragraph:

I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

Whatever problems one might have with the Tea Party and libertarian movements — and I have expressed some concerns about them — the charge that what is fueling the Tea Party movement is the color of Obama’s skin rather than the content of his policies is preposterous and slanderous. If Barack Obama were white, the Tea Party movement would certainly exist. And if Barack Obama were a fiscal conservative, it would not.

So I am going to say it. There is something wrong with a self-proclaiming Christian, one who fancies himself as a “prophet,” a man interested in “dialogue,” and a voice for civility and reason in the public square, attempting to recklessly smear an entire political movement. Need I say that libel — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

When it comes to those who hold views different from his own, Jim Wallis is a hater. And I hope that those on the left who express such deep concern about incivility in our public discourse might have a word or two admonishing Mr. Wallis.

Jim Wallis, the liberal Christian social activist and one of Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers, wrote a piece that included this gem of a paragraph:

I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

Whatever problems one might have with the Tea Party and libertarian movements — and I have expressed some concerns about them — the charge that what is fueling the Tea Party movement is the color of Obama’s skin rather than the content of his policies is preposterous and slanderous. If Barack Obama were white, the Tea Party movement would certainly exist. And if Barack Obama were a fiscal conservative, it would not.

So I am going to say it. There is something wrong with a self-proclaiming Christian, one who fancies himself as a “prophet,” a man interested in “dialogue,” and a voice for civility and reason in the public square, attempting to recklessly smear an entire political movement. Need I say that libel — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

When it comes to those who hold views different from his own, Jim Wallis is a hater. And I hope that those on the left who express such deep concern about incivility in our public discourse might have a word or two admonishing Mr. Wallis.

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Barack Obama and the Limits of Government

There is certainly a valid point made by those who argue that there are limits to what government can do in the face of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the oil-rig explosion and oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No government — and indeed no human institution — can respond perfectly to such emergencies. And even if it did, it could not undo much of the damage. All of us, but especially conservatives, should recognize this.

The problem for President Obama, though, is that his comments on the government response to Hurricane Katrina were not terribly understanding of the limits of government to stop bad things from happening during a disaster. For example, then Senator Obama cited what he called the Bush administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina. And during the 2008 campaign, Obama said, “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe.”

It’s reasonable to assume, I think, that if the oil spill had happened on John McCain’s watch instead of his, Obama would be on television and giving speeches, lacerating the McCain administration for its weak and slow response, talking about a trust that was broke, the fact that our government was not prepared, that it focused on spin rather than competence.

The truth is that during situations like Katrina and the blowout in the Gulf, White House aides are working around the clock trying to mitigate the human and ecological damage. But there are enormous practical and logistical problems one faces. They are not nearly as easy to overcome as commentators pretend. We cannot make perfection the price of confidence, as Henry Kissinger — a brilliant and terrifically able public servant who also made mistakes along the way — once said.

We would all be better off if those working outside government were somewhat more understanding of the challenges facing those in government, even as they shouldn’t suspend reasonable judgments. At the same time, Barack Obama — who was hypercritical of administrations when he wasn’t chief executive — shouldn’t be shocked if he is held to the same standard he used for others.

Governing seemed so much easier when Obama was a senator rather than the president, when he could go on Sunday-morning talk shows and highlight failures here, there, and everywhere. Now that he is president and has stumbled so badly on so many different issues, broken so many different commitments, and made so many false claims, one might hope that he has been humbled a bit. But I imagine that hope is a fantastic one, given who it is we are dealing with.

There is certainly a valid point made by those who argue that there are limits to what government can do in the face of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the oil-rig explosion and oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No government — and indeed no human institution — can respond perfectly to such emergencies. And even if it did, it could not undo much of the damage. All of us, but especially conservatives, should recognize this.

The problem for President Obama, though, is that his comments on the government response to Hurricane Katrina were not terribly understanding of the limits of government to stop bad things from happening during a disaster. For example, then Senator Obama cited what he called the Bush administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in the context of Katrina. And during the 2008 campaign, Obama said, “We can talk about a trust that was broken, the promise that our government will be prepared, will protect us, and will respond in a catastrophe.”

It’s reasonable to assume, I think, that if the oil spill had happened on John McCain’s watch instead of his, Obama would be on television and giving speeches, lacerating the McCain administration for its weak and slow response, talking about a trust that was broke, the fact that our government was not prepared, that it focused on spin rather than competence.

The truth is that during situations like Katrina and the blowout in the Gulf, White House aides are working around the clock trying to mitigate the human and ecological damage. But there are enormous practical and logistical problems one faces. They are not nearly as easy to overcome as commentators pretend. We cannot make perfection the price of confidence, as Henry Kissinger — a brilliant and terrifically able public servant who also made mistakes along the way — once said.

We would all be better off if those working outside government were somewhat more understanding of the challenges facing those in government, even as they shouldn’t suspend reasonable judgments. At the same time, Barack Obama — who was hypercritical of administrations when he wasn’t chief executive — shouldn’t be shocked if he is held to the same standard he used for others.

Governing seemed so much easier when Obama was a senator rather than the president, when he could go on Sunday-morning talk shows and highlight failures here, there, and everywhere. Now that he is president and has stumbled so badly on so many different issues, broken so many different commitments, and made so many false claims, one might hope that he has been humbled a bit. But I imagine that hope is a fantastic one, given who it is we are dealing with.

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The Euro and Euro-Legitimacy

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph and Francis Cianfrocca in the New Ledger have must-read analyses of the Euro crisis. Evans-Pritchard’s essay resists easy summary, but it makes the broad and depressing point that, in Europe, the left has offered a more persuasive analysis of the crisis than the center-right.

Indeed, when the German left praises Britain for staying out of the Euro and argues that the Euro only worked as long as it did because Germany held its labor costs down and recycled the capital from its export surpluses to buy Club Med debt, it is making a dangerous amount of sense. Of course, there are plenty of conservative economists in the U.S. saying much the same thing. But as Evans-Pritchard implies in passing, the failure of the European center to acknowledge the obvious poses a serious danger to its political legitimacy.

Cianfrocca develops the point: the risks here are not simply financial or narrowly politically. They are to the lives and the expectations of millions of Europeans (and, indeed, of Americans). Fundamentally, therefore, as he puts it, the risk is to the “perceived legitimacy of current European governments.” Cianfrocca’s point is that governments have promised something — prosperity for ordinary workers, regardless of whether their productivity merits it — that they cannot deliver, because the “state simply doesn’t control the levers that lead to robust production of economic value.” In other words, they’ve written a naked call option on prosperity.

All too true. But the problem is even deeper than that. It’s not just governments that are at risk. For more than a hundred years, Europe has used social welfare as social protection. But the European center was not buying legitimacy for the governments, narrowly considered. The center was buying it for the state itself, against the extreme left. The extraordinarily inventive Bismarck created the modern welfare system to head off, as he hoped, the threat from the socialists. Of course, like every other government, he also drew on nationalism to build up a viable, non-revolutionary — though in his case not fully democratic — body politic. That wasn’t cynicism (well, maybe for Bismarck it was). It was statecraft of a high order, precisely because it was based on the recognition that modern, participatory politics must be based on a cohesive national identity.

The problem was that after World War II, nationalism lost much of its legitimacy. It survived in the U.S. and Britain, which won the war, and France, which pretended it did, and of course nationalism didn’t disappear elsewhere. But most of the European states were relegitimated not by nationalism, or by religion but rather against the extremes on the right and left by the creation of welfare systems. Instead of promising that you could belong, the European states promised that you would get along. That worked well during the post–World War II boom. But while the boom was temporary, the promise was permanent. Unfortunately, as Cianfrocca points out, the state can’t deliver on it.

Apart from its economic failings, the European solution to the problem of legitimacy was therefore deeply unwise politically. And as Evans-Pritchard points out, too much of Europe is still investing in failure. This was brought home to me last week when a group of young Europeans visited the Heritage Foundation. None of them could grasp why conservatives in the U.S. had any qualms at all about ObamaCare. As one of them put it, “But in Europe, all the conservatives would support it!” Quite so. That is the problem. The state in the U.S. doesn’t need to buy legitimacy: it has 1776. The more the center in Europe invests in the idea that it can buy legitimacy, the deeper the financial and political hole it digs — and ultimately, as Evans-Pritchard argues, the more power it gives to left.

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Judged by Results

Obama sailed into office on a wave of voter anxiety about the economy and dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. (I haven’t seen a recent poll asking voters if voters would prefer Bush or Obama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a dead heat.) The latest survey highlights how one-party Democratic rule has intensified this sentiment:

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn’t softened their outrage over the country’s direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience. … The findings are sobering for incumbents who hope an improving economy will ameliorate the throw-the-bums-out sentiment before November.

Moreover, the enthusiasm gap persists: 50 percent of Republicans are extremely motivated to vote, while only 30 percent of Democrats are.

The professional buck-passers attribute this, of course, to events before Obama was elected or to events that they suggest are beyond Obama’s control. David Axelrod says: “There’s been a lot of frustrations and grievance building up for years. For many Americans, it (the recovery) still hasn’t touched their lives.” That would be a year and a half into Obama’s presidency. Did he not say, “I expect to be judged by results”? He is — and that’s a problem for the entire Democratic Party.

Obama sailed into office on a wave of voter anxiety about the economy and dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. (I haven’t seen a recent poll asking voters if voters would prefer Bush or Obama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a dead heat.) The latest survey highlights how one-party Democratic rule has intensified this sentiment:

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn’t softened their outrage over the country’s direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience. … The findings are sobering for incumbents who hope an improving economy will ameliorate the throw-the-bums-out sentiment before November.

Moreover, the enthusiasm gap persists: 50 percent of Republicans are extremely motivated to vote, while only 30 percent of Democrats are.

The professional buck-passers attribute this, of course, to events before Obama was elected or to events that they suggest are beyond Obama’s control. David Axelrod says: “There’s been a lot of frustrations and grievance building up for years. For many Americans, it (the recovery) still hasn’t touched their lives.” That would be a year and a half into Obama’s presidency. Did he not say, “I expect to be judged by results”? He is — and that’s a problem for the entire Democratic Party.

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The Consequences of Judicial Activism

Israel’s Supreme Court lambasted the government this week for disobeying a temporary injunction to stop work on a West Bank road. This isn’t the first time the court has complained of governmental noncompliance with its orders; as various commentators have noted (here and here, for instance), noncompliance is rapidly becoming routine. Yet both court and commentators tend to overlook the court’s own responsibility for this problem.

In March, Haaretz published a list (Hebrew only) of nine court orders the government had yet to obey. They included orders to build 245 new classrooms in East Jerusalem, to reinforce every school within rocket range of Gaza against rockets, to build a high school in an Arab village, to relocate the security fence near the West Bank village of Bili’in, and to do the same near the village of Azzoun.

These rulings have one thing in common: each would cost hundreds of millions of shekels to implement; collectively, they would cost billions. Thus to obey them, the government would have to slash billions of shekels from other parts of the budget. And while I favor budget-cutting, most quick and easy big cuts would have disastrous consequences: slashing welfare, say, or canceling all army training exercises. Productive cuts, such as eliminating unnecessary layers of civil-service bureaucracy, are neither quick nor easy, as they would entail major fights with powerful government unions. Thus in the real world, there is no practical way to promptly obey all the court’s rulings.

But aside from the practical problem, these rulings embody a more fundamental problem: the judicial usurpation of government prerogatives. Clearly, such rulings reduce the government’s ability to set its own budgetary priorities, but the problem goes way beyond budgets.

Take the ruling on reinforcing schools against rockets. Governments certainly should protect their citizens, but how best to do so is a judgment call, of precisely the sort citizens elect their governments to make. There is no legal basis for the court to require the government to protect its citizens via one particular method, by reinforcing schools, rather than, for instance, by military action against Hamas (which, when Israel finally tried it 17 months ago, proved quite effective).

Similarly, while the government is legally obligated to provide schooling, there is no legal basis for requiring it to build a high school in one particular village rather than, say, busing students to school in a neighboring town.

The practical impossibility of implementing some of the court’s orders, combined with increasing resentment of the court’s usurpation of governmental prerogatives, has generated a response of passive resistance — i.e., noncompliance. But once governments get in the habit of ignoring court orders, it quickly spreads even to orders that there are no grounds for disobeying, like this week’s injunction. And the result is anarchy.

The only way to stop this dangerous trend is by prompt legislative action to restrain the court’s growing reach. But unfortunately, no government has yet had the stomach for the public battle this would entail. It’s much easier to just keep quietly disobeying court orders.

Israel’s Supreme Court lambasted the government this week for disobeying a temporary injunction to stop work on a West Bank road. This isn’t the first time the court has complained of governmental noncompliance with its orders; as various commentators have noted (here and here, for instance), noncompliance is rapidly becoming routine. Yet both court and commentators tend to overlook the court’s own responsibility for this problem.

In March, Haaretz published a list (Hebrew only) of nine court orders the government had yet to obey. They included orders to build 245 new classrooms in East Jerusalem, to reinforce every school within rocket range of Gaza against rockets, to build a high school in an Arab village, to relocate the security fence near the West Bank village of Bili’in, and to do the same near the village of Azzoun.

These rulings have one thing in common: each would cost hundreds of millions of shekels to implement; collectively, they would cost billions. Thus to obey them, the government would have to slash billions of shekels from other parts of the budget. And while I favor budget-cutting, most quick and easy big cuts would have disastrous consequences: slashing welfare, say, or canceling all army training exercises. Productive cuts, such as eliminating unnecessary layers of civil-service bureaucracy, are neither quick nor easy, as they would entail major fights with powerful government unions. Thus in the real world, there is no practical way to promptly obey all the court’s rulings.

But aside from the practical problem, these rulings embody a more fundamental problem: the judicial usurpation of government prerogatives. Clearly, such rulings reduce the government’s ability to set its own budgetary priorities, but the problem goes way beyond budgets.

Take the ruling on reinforcing schools against rockets. Governments certainly should protect their citizens, but how best to do so is a judgment call, of precisely the sort citizens elect their governments to make. There is no legal basis for the court to require the government to protect its citizens via one particular method, by reinforcing schools, rather than, for instance, by military action against Hamas (which, when Israel finally tried it 17 months ago, proved quite effective).

Similarly, while the government is legally obligated to provide schooling, there is no legal basis for requiring it to build a high school in one particular village rather than, say, busing students to school in a neighboring town.

The practical impossibility of implementing some of the court’s orders, combined with increasing resentment of the court’s usurpation of governmental prerogatives, has generated a response of passive resistance — i.e., noncompliance. But once governments get in the habit of ignoring court orders, it quickly spreads even to orders that there are no grounds for disobeying, like this week’s injunction. And the result is anarchy.

The only way to stop this dangerous trend is by prompt legislative action to restrain the court’s growing reach. But unfortunately, no government has yet had the stomach for the public battle this would entail. It’s much easier to just keep quietly disobeying court orders.

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Obama Isn’t Very Persuasive, Is He?

Conservatives rolled their eyes during the 2008 campaign when Obama spoke about stopping the rise of the oceans, went to Berlin to declare that this is “our moment,” and told swooning fans that they were the ones they had been waiting for. It was all gobbledygook, without content — the stuff you’d expect from an Ivy League student who’d been praised all his life for “eloquence” (before that was considered a racist term) and groomed for political success. Conservatives were mystified as to how he sustained the image of a persuasive orator.

It turns out the skeptics were right. As president, Obama hasn’t convinced Americans of much of anything, other than that ObamaCare and the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism are bad ideas. His BP press conference was no different. Craig Crawford, not a conservative booster, wrote:

A defensive, un-authoritative, and equivocal Barack Obama did nothing today to show he’s in charge of our biggest oil spill in history. … Today’s press conference — his first since July — was a time for the President to demonstrate he is on top of the crisis. Despite repeated assertions of control, Obama’s awkward demeanor suggested just the opposite. He came across as a beleaguered bureaucrat on damage control.

Perhaps the most stunning missed opportunity to show some authority was his non-answer to a question about whether US Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. “I found out about her resignation today,” he obliquely said. … Obama’s detachment was indicative of the impression he has allowed of a president on the sidelines.

It is not a new phenomenon. Obama has been complaining about challenges that face him, shifting blame to his predecessor, and delegating much of his job to Congress since he took office. He isn’t much of a take-charge president. Long before BP’s well started to gush, a sharp-eyed commentator spotted the problem at the one-year anniversary of his election, when he was again Bush-blaming:

We know this job is terribly hard: we have only to look at the graying of presidential heads over time-your own included-to get it. So? Time to stop acting like a hipster recoiling in offended disgust over someone else’s embarrassing blunders. Stop taking your orders on Iran from the U.N. Be manly and do your part with the minimum of accusation. All too soon all the blame will rest on your own elegant shoulders.

Perhaps it has finally landed there. Alas, Obama is proving unable to shoulder it — or to inspire confidence among the voters (and even the media, which carried him into office). He’s run out of people to blame, always bad news for a not-very-competent politician with a grandiose self-image.

Conservatives rolled their eyes during the 2008 campaign when Obama spoke about stopping the rise of the oceans, went to Berlin to declare that this is “our moment,” and told swooning fans that they were the ones they had been waiting for. It was all gobbledygook, without content — the stuff you’d expect from an Ivy League student who’d been praised all his life for “eloquence” (before that was considered a racist term) and groomed for political success. Conservatives were mystified as to how he sustained the image of a persuasive orator.

It turns out the skeptics were right. As president, Obama hasn’t convinced Americans of much of anything, other than that ObamaCare and the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism are bad ideas. His BP press conference was no different. Craig Crawford, not a conservative booster, wrote:

A defensive, un-authoritative, and equivocal Barack Obama did nothing today to show he’s in charge of our biggest oil spill in history. … Today’s press conference — his first since July — was a time for the President to demonstrate he is on top of the crisis. Despite repeated assertions of control, Obama’s awkward demeanor suggested just the opposite. He came across as a beleaguered bureaucrat on damage control.

Perhaps the most stunning missed opportunity to show some authority was his non-answer to a question about whether US Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. “I found out about her resignation today,” he obliquely said. … Obama’s detachment was indicative of the impression he has allowed of a president on the sidelines.

It is not a new phenomenon. Obama has been complaining about challenges that face him, shifting blame to his predecessor, and delegating much of his job to Congress since he took office. He isn’t much of a take-charge president. Long before BP’s well started to gush, a sharp-eyed commentator spotted the problem at the one-year anniversary of his election, when he was again Bush-blaming:

We know this job is terribly hard: we have only to look at the graying of presidential heads over time-your own included-to get it. So? Time to stop acting like a hipster recoiling in offended disgust over someone else’s embarrassing blunders. Stop taking your orders on Iran from the U.N. Be manly and do your part with the minimum of accusation. All too soon all the blame will rest on your own elegant shoulders.

Perhaps it has finally landed there. Alas, Obama is proving unable to shoulder it — or to inspire confidence among the voters (and even the media, which carried him into office). He’s run out of people to blame, always bad news for a not-very-competent politician with a grandiose self-image.

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Sestak Can’t Keep Quiet, Plot Thickens

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

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Realists Become Neocons

Richard Haass, the self-described “realist” who has come around to favor regime change in Iran and warned Obama to get over his obsession with the Middle East “peace process,” reviews the list of belligerent moves by North Korea and then offers up some advice to the Obama administration masterminds:

The next real opportunity to change things for the better is likely to come when North Korea’s mercurial tyrant Kim Jong Il departs the scene once and for all time. But positive change will only happen if China acts. If in real estate all that matters is location, location and location, it is only a slight exaggeration to contend that what matters most when it comes to North Korea is China, China and China. …

American and South Korean officials need to do more than just point out the risk to their Chinese counterparts of China’s current course. They also need to discuss the character of a unified Korea and how one would get there, addressing legitimate Chinese strategic concerns including the questions of non-Korean troop presence and the full denuclearization of the peninsula. …

South Korea’s president may have signaled an interest in just this on Monday, saying “It is now time for the North Korean regime to change.” President Obama should follow suit. There would be no better way to mark this June’s 60th anniversary of the Korean war.

Regime change to deal with despots? Dispense with self-defeating peace processing in the Middle East? Not remarkable views at all for CONTENTIONS or for COMMENTARY magazine, but startling indeed for a middle-of-the-road establishment figure like Haass. It seems that for those willing to absorb reality and not simply adopt the slogan of “realists,” the evidence is mounting that Obama’s absorption with engagement and disinclination to confront despots is useless and indeed counterproductive. These realists understand that the thugocracies are becoming more aggressive and the U.S. less credible and that some serious course correction is needed.

Political moderates and even liberals have grown disgusted with Obama’s abysmal record on human rights and religious freedom and nervous about his reluctance to project American power. The silver lining in Obama’s inept foreign policy is that a potentially broad-based alliance of critics is forming to suggest policies more in sync with neocon thinkers than with the starry-eyed multilateralist president. If not for the dangers to the U.S. and its allies, which Obama is doing little to abate (and much to increase), it would be a very positive development. Provided we and our allies can weather the Obama storm, his successor may have the benefit of a new bipartisan foreign-policy consensus, which has eluded us for some time.

Richard Haass, the self-described “realist” who has come around to favor regime change in Iran and warned Obama to get over his obsession with the Middle East “peace process,” reviews the list of belligerent moves by North Korea and then offers up some advice to the Obama administration masterminds:

The next real opportunity to change things for the better is likely to come when North Korea’s mercurial tyrant Kim Jong Il departs the scene once and for all time. But positive change will only happen if China acts. If in real estate all that matters is location, location and location, it is only a slight exaggeration to contend that what matters most when it comes to North Korea is China, China and China. …

American and South Korean officials need to do more than just point out the risk to their Chinese counterparts of China’s current course. They also need to discuss the character of a unified Korea and how one would get there, addressing legitimate Chinese strategic concerns including the questions of non-Korean troop presence and the full denuclearization of the peninsula. …

South Korea’s president may have signaled an interest in just this on Monday, saying “It is now time for the North Korean regime to change.” President Obama should follow suit. There would be no better way to mark this June’s 60th anniversary of the Korean war.

Regime change to deal with despots? Dispense with self-defeating peace processing in the Middle East? Not remarkable views at all for CONTENTIONS or for COMMENTARY magazine, but startling indeed for a middle-of-the-road establishment figure like Haass. It seems that for those willing to absorb reality and not simply adopt the slogan of “realists,” the evidence is mounting that Obama’s absorption with engagement and disinclination to confront despots is useless and indeed counterproductive. These realists understand that the thugocracies are becoming more aggressive and the U.S. less credible and that some serious course correction is needed.

Political moderates and even liberals have grown disgusted with Obama’s abysmal record on human rights and religious freedom and nervous about his reluctance to project American power. The silver lining in Obama’s inept foreign policy is that a potentially broad-based alliance of critics is forming to suggest policies more in sync with neocon thinkers than with the starry-eyed multilateralist president. If not for the dangers to the U.S. and its allies, which Obama is doing little to abate (and much to increase), it would be a very positive development. Provided we and our allies can weather the Obama storm, his successor may have the benefit of a new bipartisan foreign-policy consensus, which has eluded us for some time.

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Democrats and Media Turn on Obama

It is a measure of Obama’s declining popularity that his supporters — fellow Democrats and the media (not to be redundant) — are turning on him. Mary Landrieu complains:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Thursday that President Barack Obama will pay a political price for his lack of visibility in the Gulf region during the catastrophic BP oil spill. 

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Ouch. The usually cheerleading James Carville is irate that Louisiana isn’t getting the help it needs, and he’s been venting nonstop on CNN for days. He laments that Obama isn’t getting the right advice, is inexplicably taking a “hands off” stance (he wants Obama to personally plug the gushing well?), and is politically “stupid.”

Reuters puts it this way:

Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems — pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea. And don’t forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama’s hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for Nov. 2 congressional elections. Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it “heartbreaking.”

Perhaps the anger is a function of the accumulated gripes and disappointment about Obama’s performance as well as the growing realization that Obama is sinking all Democrats’ political fortunes. As all this sets in, the panic and the anger builds. Democrats shove Obama aside and join the chorus of shrieking critics, while the media frets that the editor of Harvard Law Review doesn’t really know how to do much of anything but give speeches. It is not as if there isn’t blame to be accorded the president, as I and others have pointed out. But I suspect that the reaction would be far less frenzied and the criticism much more muted if Obama were riding high in the polls and overseeing an era of Democratic successes.

It is a measure of Obama’s declining popularity that his supporters — fellow Democrats and the media (not to be redundant) — are turning on him. Mary Landrieu complains:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Thursday that President Barack Obama will pay a political price for his lack of visibility in the Gulf region during the catastrophic BP oil spill. 

“The president has not been as visible as he should have been on this, and he’s going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately,” Landrieu told POLITICO. “But he’s going down tomorrow, he’s made some good announcements today, and if he personally steps up his activity, I think that would be very helpful.”

Ouch. The usually cheerleading James Carville is irate that Louisiana isn’t getting the help it needs, and he’s been venting nonstop on CNN for days. He laments that Obama isn’t getting the right advice, is inexplicably taking a “hands off” stance (he wants Obama to personally plug the gushing well?), and is politically “stupid.”

Reuters puts it this way:

Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems — pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea. And don’t forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama’s hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for Nov. 2 congressional elections. Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it “heartbreaking.”

Perhaps the anger is a function of the accumulated gripes and disappointment about Obama’s performance as well as the growing realization that Obama is sinking all Democrats’ political fortunes. As all this sets in, the panic and the anger builds. Democrats shove Obama aside and join the chorus of shrieking critics, while the media frets that the editor of Harvard Law Review doesn’t really know how to do much of anything but give speeches. It is not as if there isn’t blame to be accorded the president, as I and others have pointed out. But I suspect that the reaction would be far less frenzied and the criticism much more muted if Obama were riding high in the polls and overseeing an era of Democratic successes.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Do the Kurds understand Israel better than the Obama administration does? Cliff May: “Many Kurds also have empathy for — and even feel an affinity with — Israelis and Jews. Unusual as this is within the ‘Muslim world,’ it makes sense when you think about it: Like Kurds, Jews are an ancient Middle Eastern people. Like Kurds, Jews have been targeted for genocide. Like Kurds, Israelis face an uncertain future among neighbors who range from merely hostile to openly exterminationist.” Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, adds: “We can’t be hating them because Arabs hate them. We think it is in the interest of Iraq to have relations with Israel. And the day after the Israelis open an embassy in Baghdad, we will invite them to open a consulate here.”

Do Republicans have more Blue Senate seats in play than any election in recent memory? Seems that way: “Businessman Ron Johnson, endorsed at last weekend’s state Republican Convention, is now running virtually even against incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s race for the U.S. Senate.”

Do evangelicals show more devotion to and knowledge of Israel than many American Jews? “The evangelical may not be able to identify Saint Anthony, Christopher, or Demetrius of Thessalonik, but we know—and revere—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To paraphrase an old Willie Nelson song, our heroes have always been Hebrews. Indeed, it is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of the Old Testament on the evangelical imagination. … Our theonomic justifications for Zionism are offensive to those who believe all political views much be secularized and denatured of religious influence. That, of course, is their problem and not ours. While it might not be polite to admit in liberal cosmopolitan company, there is nothing illogical or unreasonable in believing that the tribe of Judah has a historical right and providential claim to the land of Israel.”

Does Obama duck more tough questions than any president in recent memory? Obama at Thursday’s press conference: “‘There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue which I hope will answer your questions’ — and added that ‘shortly’ meant in the very near future.” Why isn’t the president able to give an official response?

Does Chris Matthews’s newfound criticism of Obama (e.g., “passing the hot potato” on the Sestak job offer) suggest more liberal defections from the Obama cult? Perhaps, or maybe it reminds you of LBJ losing Walter Cronkite. Well, I guess Cronkite had millions of viewers and Matthews doesn’t.

Does Rand Paul’s plunge in the polls signal to GOP excuse mongers that there’s more to lose than gain with Paul and that it’s time to look for Plan B?

Does Joe Lieberman’s hint that he might back Linda McMahon suggest that more iconoclastic endorsements might be under consideration? I bet Joe Sestak — the un-Lieberman on most every foreign-policy issue — might be a bit nervous.

Do the Kurds understand Israel better than the Obama administration does? Cliff May: “Many Kurds also have empathy for — and even feel an affinity with — Israelis and Jews. Unusual as this is within the ‘Muslim world,’ it makes sense when you think about it: Like Kurds, Jews are an ancient Middle Eastern people. Like Kurds, Jews have been targeted for genocide. Like Kurds, Israelis face an uncertain future among neighbors who range from merely hostile to openly exterminationist.” Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, adds: “We can’t be hating them because Arabs hate them. We think it is in the interest of Iraq to have relations with Israel. And the day after the Israelis open an embassy in Baghdad, we will invite them to open a consulate here.”

Do Republicans have more Blue Senate seats in play than any election in recent memory? Seems that way: “Businessman Ron Johnson, endorsed at last weekend’s state Republican Convention, is now running virtually even against incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s race for the U.S. Senate.”

Do evangelicals show more devotion to and knowledge of Israel than many American Jews? “The evangelical may not be able to identify Saint Anthony, Christopher, or Demetrius of Thessalonik, but we know—and revere—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To paraphrase an old Willie Nelson song, our heroes have always been Hebrews. Indeed, it is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of the Old Testament on the evangelical imagination. … Our theonomic justifications for Zionism are offensive to those who believe all political views much be secularized and denatured of religious influence. That, of course, is their problem and not ours. While it might not be polite to admit in liberal cosmopolitan company, there is nothing illogical or unreasonable in believing that the tribe of Judah has a historical right and providential claim to the land of Israel.”

Does Obama duck more tough questions than any president in recent memory? Obama at Thursday’s press conference: “‘There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue which I hope will answer your questions’ — and added that ‘shortly’ meant in the very near future.” Why isn’t the president able to give an official response?

Does Chris Matthews’s newfound criticism of Obama (e.g., “passing the hot potato” on the Sestak job offer) suggest more liberal defections from the Obama cult? Perhaps, or maybe it reminds you of LBJ losing Walter Cronkite. Well, I guess Cronkite had millions of viewers and Matthews doesn’t.

Does Rand Paul’s plunge in the polls signal to GOP excuse mongers that there’s more to lose than gain with Paul and that it’s time to look for Plan B?

Does Joe Lieberman’s hint that he might back Linda McMahon suggest that more iconoclastic endorsements might be under consideration? I bet Joe Sestak — the un-Lieberman on most every foreign-policy issue — might be a bit nervous.

Read Less




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