Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 2010

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.

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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.

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Weak Leak

If it’s remotely possible, let’s inject some sanity into the oil leak that’s stopped the world from spinning. In 1991, as Saddam Hussein’s forces retreated from Kuwait, they dumped 8 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf. That still stands as the biggest oil spill in history. So, what were the lasting catastrophic effects? According to this New York Times article, written just two years later, there were none:

The vast amount of oil that Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait dumped into the Persian Gulf during the 1991 war did little long-term damage, international researchers say. …

“Given the phenomenal quantities of oil that were spilled into the Gulf, the results were rather cheering,” Chidi Ibe, of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission at Unesco, said in a statement today.

Coral reefs studied in early 1992 “appeared to be in good condition,” while fisheries showed “few unequivocal oil pollution effects attributable solely to the 1991 oil spills,” the study found.

Even if you take the highest estimates, the current spill would have to last for nearly a year before it did that kind of nonexistent ecological damage.

If it’s remotely possible, let’s inject some sanity into the oil leak that’s stopped the world from spinning. In 1991, as Saddam Hussein’s forces retreated from Kuwait, they dumped 8 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf. That still stands as the biggest oil spill in history. So, what were the lasting catastrophic effects? According to this New York Times article, written just two years later, there were none:

The vast amount of oil that Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait dumped into the Persian Gulf during the 1991 war did little long-term damage, international researchers say. …

“Given the phenomenal quantities of oil that were spilled into the Gulf, the results were rather cheering,” Chidi Ibe, of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission at Unesco, said in a statement today.

Coral reefs studied in early 1992 “appeared to be in good condition,” while fisheries showed “few unequivocal oil pollution effects attributable solely to the 1991 oil spills,” the study found.

Even if you take the highest estimates, the current spill would have to last for nearly a year before it did that kind of nonexistent ecological damage.

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RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

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Sestak and Gaza

As Jonathan points out, the latest bit of Palestinian propaganda comes in the form of the Gaza-bound flotilla — an attempt (as with the original rockets fired into Gaza) to place Israel in the predicament of allowing threats to its citizens or engaging in a messy defensive operation that will bring howls from the American left, the Palestinian propaganda machine, and perhaps the Obama administration. (As to the latter, you can hear it now: “We deplore the excessive use of force.”)

Gaza remains a defining issue, separating the true Israel-bashers from the simply misguided and the pro-Israel. If Jew, gentile, or Muslim can’t bring himself to deplore the use of civilian targets by Hamas and to acknowledge the right of Israeli self-defense, then you know whatever “pro-Israel” or “pro-peace” credentials they are flashing are fake. If you’re with Richard Goldstone, you’re not in favor of a robust Israel with the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Joe Sestak is a prime example. He was of course one of the 54 signatories of the Gaza letter, calling for Israel to sacrifice its own security to allow materials into Gaza that could easily be converted to weaponry and could provide cover for smuggled weapons. As this report notes, the letter was instigated by some of the most Israel-hostile legislators (e.g., Jim McDermott and Keith Ellison), as well as this cast of characters:

J Street, The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), The American Near East Refugee Association (ANERA), The Methodist Church, The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and Rabbis for Human Rights.

As is typical among Israel-bashers, Sestak’s sympathies primarily extend to the Palestinians and diminish the role of Hamas. An interview with the Jewish Exponent in February is telling:

Sestak acknowledged that signing on to the letter was politically risky, and that it could be used “against me.” But he said that it was more important to him to stand up for his convictions.

He said that while Israel’s security is a vital U.S. interest, the welfare of Gazans is a humanitarian concern: “I think we should be looking at this because I think it’s part of what we stand for as a nation.”

Liberal Democrat Eliot Engel denounced the letter in an interview in which he declared:

The Gaza 54 Democrats are just “misinformed” legislators. Democrats have problems with “extreme fringe elements” when it comes to supporting Israel, but “the mainstream of the party” will keep supporting Israel unlike the “vocal minority”.

In the “vocal minority,” Sestak has continued to defend his vote. In another interview, he flashed his military credentials as a naval admiral and asserted he really knew best what would be harmful to Israeli security, and that in this case, our humanitarian interests (which apparently don’t extend to the Israelis who would be attacked by smuggled weapons) should take precedence: “I truly believe the United States can meet our humanitarian interests without impacting the vital interest of our own, and Israel’s, security.”

Is it arrogance – I know better than Israel what is good for it – or is it animus toward Israel? Hard to say with Sestak, but the result is the same. He surely will encourage the worst tendencies in the administration and not let Israeli security get in the way of his “humanitarianism.” As with so many other self-proclaimed “tough love” proponents, there is toughness but no love of the Jewish state here.

As Jonathan points out, the latest bit of Palestinian propaganda comes in the form of the Gaza-bound flotilla — an attempt (as with the original rockets fired into Gaza) to place Israel in the predicament of allowing threats to its citizens or engaging in a messy defensive operation that will bring howls from the American left, the Palestinian propaganda machine, and perhaps the Obama administration. (As to the latter, you can hear it now: “We deplore the excessive use of force.”)

Gaza remains a defining issue, separating the true Israel-bashers from the simply misguided and the pro-Israel. If Jew, gentile, or Muslim can’t bring himself to deplore the use of civilian targets by Hamas and to acknowledge the right of Israeli self-defense, then you know whatever “pro-Israel” or “pro-peace” credentials they are flashing are fake. If you’re with Richard Goldstone, you’re not in favor of a robust Israel with the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Joe Sestak is a prime example. He was of course one of the 54 signatories of the Gaza letter, calling for Israel to sacrifice its own security to allow materials into Gaza that could easily be converted to weaponry and could provide cover for smuggled weapons. As this report notes, the letter was instigated by some of the most Israel-hostile legislators (e.g., Jim McDermott and Keith Ellison), as well as this cast of characters:

J Street, The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), The American Near East Refugee Association (ANERA), The Methodist Church, The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and Rabbis for Human Rights.

As is typical among Israel-bashers, Sestak’s sympathies primarily extend to the Palestinians and diminish the role of Hamas. An interview with the Jewish Exponent in February is telling:

Sestak acknowledged that signing on to the letter was politically risky, and that it could be used “against me.” But he said that it was more important to him to stand up for his convictions.

He said that while Israel’s security is a vital U.S. interest, the welfare of Gazans is a humanitarian concern: “I think we should be looking at this because I think it’s part of what we stand for as a nation.”

Liberal Democrat Eliot Engel denounced the letter in an interview in which he declared:

The Gaza 54 Democrats are just “misinformed” legislators. Democrats have problems with “extreme fringe elements” when it comes to supporting Israel, but “the mainstream of the party” will keep supporting Israel unlike the “vocal minority”.

In the “vocal minority,” Sestak has continued to defend his vote. In another interview, he flashed his military credentials as a naval admiral and asserted he really knew best what would be harmful to Israeli security, and that in this case, our humanitarian interests (which apparently don’t extend to the Israelis who would be attacked by smuggled weapons) should take precedence: “I truly believe the United States can meet our humanitarian interests without impacting the vital interest of our own, and Israel’s, security.”

Is it arrogance – I know better than Israel what is good for it – or is it animus toward Israel? Hard to say with Sestak, but the result is the same. He surely will encourage the worst tendencies in the administration and not let Israeli security get in the way of his “humanitarianism.” As with so many other self-proclaimed “tough love” proponents, there is toughness but no love of the Jewish state here.

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Eleven Senate Seats in Play?

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

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Government Doesn’t, and Shouldn’t, Have Magical Powers

Yuval Levin, in a brilliant post at The Corner, offers an important explanation of the similarities between the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina — and in his estimation, the fault lies not with the White Houses of Bush and Obama but with ourselves:

It’s like Katrina in that many people’s attitude regarding the response to it reveals completely unreasonable expectations of government. The fact is, accidents (not to mention storms) happen. We can work to prepare for them, we can have various preventive rules and measures in place. We can build the capacity for response and recovery in advance. But these things happen, and sometimes they happen on a scale that is just too great to be easily addressed. It is totally unreasonable to expect the government to be able to easily address them—and the kind of government that would be capable of that is not the kind of government that we should want….

We seem to think that given our modern powers, there ought to be no accidents and no natural disasters anymore, and when those happen we blame the people in charge. Well, call me crazy but I don’t want a government so powerful that it could move half a million people in mere hours in response to a hurricane, or would have such total control over every facet of every industry that the potential for industrial accidents would be entirely eliminated. Such power would come at enormous cost to a lot of things we care about.

We who live in the 21st century West have the least messy, least dangerous, least uncertain lives of any human beings in history. We should be very grateful for that, but we should not let our good fortune utterly distort our expectations of life, and we should not react with unrestrained indignant shock anytime the limitations of our power make themselves seen or the cold and harsh capriciousness of nature overcomes our defenses. We should expect a firm response from the institutions we have built to protect ourselves—science, technology, and modern government—but we cannot expect a perfect response. Not from Bush, and not from Obama.

There’s more. Much more. Give it a read.

Yuval Levin, in a brilliant post at The Corner, offers an important explanation of the similarities between the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina — and in his estimation, the fault lies not with the White Houses of Bush and Obama but with ourselves:

It’s like Katrina in that many people’s attitude regarding the response to it reveals completely unreasonable expectations of government. The fact is, accidents (not to mention storms) happen. We can work to prepare for them, we can have various preventive rules and measures in place. We can build the capacity for response and recovery in advance. But these things happen, and sometimes they happen on a scale that is just too great to be easily addressed. It is totally unreasonable to expect the government to be able to easily address them—and the kind of government that would be capable of that is not the kind of government that we should want….

We seem to think that given our modern powers, there ought to be no accidents and no natural disasters anymore, and when those happen we blame the people in charge. Well, call me crazy but I don’t want a government so powerful that it could move half a million people in mere hours in response to a hurricane, or would have such total control over every facet of every industry that the potential for industrial accidents would be entirely eliminated. Such power would come at enormous cost to a lot of things we care about.

We who live in the 21st century West have the least messy, least dangerous, least uncertain lives of any human beings in history. We should be very grateful for that, but we should not let our good fortune utterly distort our expectations of life, and we should not react with unrestrained indignant shock anytime the limitations of our power make themselves seen or the cold and harsh capriciousness of nature overcomes our defenses. We should expect a firm response from the institutions we have built to protect ourselves—science, technology, and modern government—but we cannot expect a perfect response. Not from Bush, and not from Obama.

There’s more. Much more. Give it a read.

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The European Debt Crisis

The Telegraph has an article on the European debt crisis that is well worth reading (H/T Real Clear Politics). While RCP has the title as “Europe Is Headed for a Meltdown,” the Telegraph‘s headline is the slightly less scary “Is Europe Heading for a Meltdown?” But the article is scary enough:

Mervyn King, the Bank of England Governor, summed it up best: “Dealing with a banking crisis was difficult enough,” he said the other week, “but at least there were public-sector balance sheets on to which the problems could be moved. Once you move into sovereign debt, there is no answer; there’s no backstop.” …

The European financial crisis may look and smell rather different to the American banking crisis of a couple of years ago, but strip away the details — the breakdown of the euro, the crumbling of the Spanish banking system to take just two — and what you are left with is the next leg of a global financial crisis. Politicians temporarily “solved” the sub-prime crisis of 2007 and 2008 by nationalising billions of pounds’ worth of bank debt. While this helped reinject a little confidence into markets, the real upshot was merely to transfer that debt on to public-sector balance sheets. …

The problem is that this has to stop somewhere, and that gasping noise over the past couple of weeks is the sound of millions of investors realising, all at once, that the music might have stopped. Having leapt back into the market in 2009 and fuelled the biggest stock-market leap since the recovery from the Wall Street Crash in the early 1930s, investors have suddenly deserted. London’s FTSE 100 has lost 15 per cent of its value in little more than a month. The mayhem on European bourses is even worse, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones teeters on the brink of the talismanic 10,000 level.

Once a market has a change of mood such as this, the outcome is usually not a happy one, although it can take a while for the bottom to drop out. The market mood changed decisively on September 3, 1929, but it wasn’t until October 29 that the great crash occurred, and the market didn’t hit bottom (in the short term) until early December. Governments of the major financial powers had better be paying very close attention and very careful about what they say. We’re in dangerous psychological territory right now.

The Telegraph has an article on the European debt crisis that is well worth reading (H/T Real Clear Politics). While RCP has the title as “Europe Is Headed for a Meltdown,” the Telegraph‘s headline is the slightly less scary “Is Europe Heading for a Meltdown?” But the article is scary enough:

Mervyn King, the Bank of England Governor, summed it up best: “Dealing with a banking crisis was difficult enough,” he said the other week, “but at least there were public-sector balance sheets on to which the problems could be moved. Once you move into sovereign debt, there is no answer; there’s no backstop.” …

The European financial crisis may look and smell rather different to the American banking crisis of a couple of years ago, but strip away the details — the breakdown of the euro, the crumbling of the Spanish banking system to take just two — and what you are left with is the next leg of a global financial crisis. Politicians temporarily “solved” the sub-prime crisis of 2007 and 2008 by nationalising billions of pounds’ worth of bank debt. While this helped reinject a little confidence into markets, the real upshot was merely to transfer that debt on to public-sector balance sheets. …

The problem is that this has to stop somewhere, and that gasping noise over the past couple of weeks is the sound of millions of investors realising, all at once, that the music might have stopped. Having leapt back into the market in 2009 and fuelled the biggest stock-market leap since the recovery from the Wall Street Crash in the early 1930s, investors have suddenly deserted. London’s FTSE 100 has lost 15 per cent of its value in little more than a month. The mayhem on European bourses is even worse, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones teeters on the brink of the talismanic 10,000 level.

Once a market has a change of mood such as this, the outcome is usually not a happy one, although it can take a while for the bottom to drop out. The market mood changed decisively on September 3, 1929, but it wasn’t until October 29 that the great crash occurred, and the market didn’t hit bottom (in the short term) until early December. Governments of the major financial powers had better be paying very close attention and very careful about what they say. We’re in dangerous psychological territory right now.

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The Limits of Anti-Israel Activists’ Compassion

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

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Brazil’s Iran Deal Alibi: Obama Said It Was Okay

There has been no shortage of foreign-policy disasters in the first year and a half of Barack Obama’s presidency, but nothing has illustrated the administration’s appalling lack of skill in diplomacy more than its amateurish efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The latest indication of incompetence was illustrated when the government of Brazil released the full text of a three-page letter sent by Obama to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in April, in which the American commander in chief gave the Brazilian leader the green light to pursue an agreement in which Iran would transfer part of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Turkey. This startling piece of news was buried toward the bottom of a New York Times report on the latest developments in Iranian diplomacy. The article devoted most of its space to new tensions between Tehran and Moscow.

The Iran/Brazil/Turkey deal was a blatant Iranian attempt to derail faltering American efforts to build an international coalition that supports sanctions against Tehran to pressure the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. It would also not prevent the Iranians from continuing to amass material to build a bomb. This diplomatic freelancing on the part of both Brazil and Turkey was widely seen as a slap in the face to Obama at just the moment that the American president had started to cobble together enough support for a weak sanctions package.

But although both the Brazilians and the Turks deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped on them for allowing Iran’s tyrannical Islamist regime to use them to divert attention away from sanctions efforts, it must be conceded that what they have done isn’t any more foolish than a similar deal that the United States itself tried to make with Iran last fall. That disaster, which came after several months of unsuccessful attempts at engagement with Tehran, fell through after the Iranians embarrassed the administration by reneging on an agreement to transfer uranium. Obama and his foreign-policy team seemingly learned their lesson after this fiasco and finally began to talk about sanctions. To gain tepid Russian support for sanctions, the Obama administration has had to water down its proposals to a point where it is clear that little damage will be done. But after having labored so hard to achieve so little, Washington was clearly outraged by being outflanked by Brazil’s and Turkey’s untimely intervention earlier this month.

But if the mere fact of this new deal wasn’t enough to undermine international support for sanctions, the revelation that Brazil acted with the express written permission of Obama must be seen as a catastrophe for international efforts to restrain Tehran. Why should anyone take American rhetoric about stopping Iran seriously if Obama is now understood to have spent the past few months pushing for sanctions in public while privately encouraging third parties who are trying to appease the Iranians?

What were Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who has spent the last weeks spouting a great deal of tough talk about Iran) thinking when they sent the letter to Lula? Did they take a calculated gamble that the Brazil initiative would fail and that they could make nice with the leftist Lula while not endangering their sanctions campaign? If so, then once again, the wily Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has outwitted Obama and Clinton. Though the Iranians appear to have miscalculated how far they can push their erstwhile Russian allies as they maneuver to buy even more time for their nuclear program, it seems as if they have decided that there is no limit to how far they can push Obama. And after this latest diplomatic embarrassment for the United States, it is hard to argue with them on that point.

There has been no shortage of foreign-policy disasters in the first year and a half of Barack Obama’s presidency, but nothing has illustrated the administration’s appalling lack of skill in diplomacy more than its amateurish efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The latest indication of incompetence was illustrated when the government of Brazil released the full text of a three-page letter sent by Obama to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in April, in which the American commander in chief gave the Brazilian leader the green light to pursue an agreement in which Iran would transfer part of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Turkey. This startling piece of news was buried toward the bottom of a New York Times report on the latest developments in Iranian diplomacy. The article devoted most of its space to new tensions between Tehran and Moscow.

The Iran/Brazil/Turkey deal was a blatant Iranian attempt to derail faltering American efforts to build an international coalition that supports sanctions against Tehran to pressure the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. It would also not prevent the Iranians from continuing to amass material to build a bomb. This diplomatic freelancing on the part of both Brazil and Turkey was widely seen as a slap in the face to Obama at just the moment that the American president had started to cobble together enough support for a weak sanctions package.

But although both the Brazilians and the Turks deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped on them for allowing Iran’s tyrannical Islamist regime to use them to divert attention away from sanctions efforts, it must be conceded that what they have done isn’t any more foolish than a similar deal that the United States itself tried to make with Iran last fall. That disaster, which came after several months of unsuccessful attempts at engagement with Tehran, fell through after the Iranians embarrassed the administration by reneging on an agreement to transfer uranium. Obama and his foreign-policy team seemingly learned their lesson after this fiasco and finally began to talk about sanctions. To gain tepid Russian support for sanctions, the Obama administration has had to water down its proposals to a point where it is clear that little damage will be done. But after having labored so hard to achieve so little, Washington was clearly outraged by being outflanked by Brazil’s and Turkey’s untimely intervention earlier this month.

But if the mere fact of this new deal wasn’t enough to undermine international support for sanctions, the revelation that Brazil acted with the express written permission of Obama must be seen as a catastrophe for international efforts to restrain Tehran. Why should anyone take American rhetoric about stopping Iran seriously if Obama is now understood to have spent the past few months pushing for sanctions in public while privately encouraging third parties who are trying to appease the Iranians?

What were Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who has spent the last weeks spouting a great deal of tough talk about Iran) thinking when they sent the letter to Lula? Did they take a calculated gamble that the Brazil initiative would fail and that they could make nice with the leftist Lula while not endangering their sanctions campaign? If so, then once again, the wily Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has outwitted Obama and Clinton. Though the Iranians appear to have miscalculated how far they can push their erstwhile Russian allies as they maneuver to buy even more time for their nuclear program, it seems as if they have decided that there is no limit to how far they can push Obama. And after this latest diplomatic embarrassment for the United States, it is hard to argue with them on that point.

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The Ground Zero Mosque

Rod Dreher, who stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the second tower melt and crumble, is eloquent on this looming horror:

New York City officials have voted to allow construction of a $100 million mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. I mean no disrespect to Muslims, but this is an unspeakably bad idea. The 9/11 hijackers brought down those towers, and killed thousands, in the name of Islam. Of course it is wrong to blame all Muslims for 9/11. But why on earth rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead by allowing a mosque to go in just two blocks from where jihadists incinerated or crushed over 2,700 innocent victims, in service of their faith?…

You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity….

Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah.

Read the whole thing.

Rod Dreher, who stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the second tower melt and crumble, is eloquent on this looming horror:

New York City officials have voted to allow construction of a $100 million mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. I mean no disrespect to Muslims, but this is an unspeakably bad idea. The 9/11 hijackers brought down those towers, and killed thousands, in the name of Islam. Of course it is wrong to blame all Muslims for 9/11. But why on earth rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead by allowing a mosque to go in just two blocks from where jihadists incinerated or crushed over 2,700 innocent victims, in service of their faith?…

You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity….

Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah.

Read the whole thing.

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America in Decline, Language Butchered

“Orwellian” is a much overused term, but there is no adjective that quite captures the linguistic gymnastics Obama and his team employ to avoid letting on that they see America not as a superpower but as merely one member of the “international community” (and one that does not recognize the enemy we face).

First, from the ever-ludicrous (engage moderate Hezbollah members?) John Brennan:

Brennan said that “our enemy is not terrorism, because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror, because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear.”

“Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists,” Brennan said, because use of these religious terms would “play into the false perception” that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are “religious leaders and defending a holy cause, when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers.”

The motivating force behind these terrorists, the imams that inspire them, and the ideology they seek to instill in other Muslims is not important to Brennan. Or perhaps it is just inconvenient at a time when Obama is breathlessly engaging the “Muslim World.”

Then there is this:

Obama administration officials have dubbed their policy toward North Korea “strategic patience” — a resolve that Pyongyang has to make the first move to reengage and that it won’t be granted any concessions. Now that patience is going to be tested. Since President Obama took office, North Korea has launched missiles, conducted a second nuclear test, seized a pair of U.S. journalists and sunk a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.

Translation: the North Koreans are increasingly belligerent as the Obama administration has failed to respond to multiple provocations.

When language is misused or contorted, it usually means something is being concealed. In this case, what’s being concealed is a counter-factual foreign policy that ignores threats, refuses to recognize the identity of our foes, and declines to assert American power in defense of our values and interests.

“Orwellian” is a much overused term, but there is no adjective that quite captures the linguistic gymnastics Obama and his team employ to avoid letting on that they see America not as a superpower but as merely one member of the “international community” (and one that does not recognize the enemy we face).

First, from the ever-ludicrous (engage moderate Hezbollah members?) John Brennan:

Brennan said that “our enemy is not terrorism, because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror, because terror is a state of mind and, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear.”

“Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists,” Brennan said, because use of these religious terms would “play into the false perception” that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are “religious leaders and defending a holy cause, when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers.”

The motivating force behind these terrorists, the imams that inspire them, and the ideology they seek to instill in other Muslims is not important to Brennan. Or perhaps it is just inconvenient at a time when Obama is breathlessly engaging the “Muslim World.”

Then there is this:

Obama administration officials have dubbed their policy toward North Korea “strategic patience” — a resolve that Pyongyang has to make the first move to reengage and that it won’t be granted any concessions. Now that patience is going to be tested. Since President Obama took office, North Korea has launched missiles, conducted a second nuclear test, seized a pair of U.S. journalists and sunk a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.

Translation: the North Koreans are increasingly belligerent as the Obama administration has failed to respond to multiple provocations.

When language is misused or contorted, it usually means something is being concealed. In this case, what’s being concealed is a counter-factual foreign policy that ignores threats, refuses to recognize the identity of our foes, and declines to assert American power in defense of our values and interests.

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Obama Annoys Everyone on Immigration

Obama’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border is regarded as insufficient by conservatives and even the mainstream media. But it’s also alienating his liberal base, the New York Times explains, as immigration advocates are peeved:

[Obama] has confounded allies who say he is squandering his chance to address it in a comprehensive way. …

They said that in focusing first on border security, Mr. Obama might be giving up his best leverage for winning approval of broader but more politically contentious steps to address the status of the millions of immigrants already in the United States illegally, and the needs of employers who rely on their labor.

“I’m trying to reconcile the stated belief of this president when he was a candidate, what he has said publicly — as recently as a naturalization ceremony last month — and what his actions are,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning organization that is a close ally of the Obama administration. “I think there’s a big gap there.”

She shouldn’t spend much time on that endeavor. There’s a very long list of broken campaign promises, she must know. Moreover, the fact that this interest in immigration is only coming up now should clue Kelley in to the president’s underwhelming interest in fighting a touchy legislative battle on this issue. (“Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has been dogged by questions about his commitment to immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who are living in this country without legal documentation.”)

This is not unlike the ObamaCare battle. He managed to infuriate conservatives and independents and also turn off many on the left who were only interested in reform if they got the public option. And it’s not all that different from his dilemma on Israel. He bashed Israel to the delight of Israel’s Arab neighbors while freaking out his Jewish supporters, whom he now must “charm.” The result is that many Jews still don’t trust him, and he’s also disappointing his Palestinian friends.

It’s quite a knack to alienate voters along the entire political spectrum. But Obama is showing how it can be done. It starts with running as a blank slate and allowing opposing groups to believe the president will be “with them.” Add in lots of insincere rhetoric, a lack of governing skills, and a tone deafness to the electorate, and you have a president whose approval ratings continue to plunge.

Obama’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border is regarded as insufficient by conservatives and even the mainstream media. But it’s also alienating his liberal base, the New York Times explains, as immigration advocates are peeved:

[Obama] has confounded allies who say he is squandering his chance to address it in a comprehensive way. …

They said that in focusing first on border security, Mr. Obama might be giving up his best leverage for winning approval of broader but more politically contentious steps to address the status of the millions of immigrants already in the United States illegally, and the needs of employers who rely on their labor.

“I’m trying to reconcile the stated belief of this president when he was a candidate, what he has said publicly — as recently as a naturalization ceremony last month — and what his actions are,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning organization that is a close ally of the Obama administration. “I think there’s a big gap there.”

She shouldn’t spend much time on that endeavor. There’s a very long list of broken campaign promises, she must know. Moreover, the fact that this interest in immigration is only coming up now should clue Kelley in to the president’s underwhelming interest in fighting a touchy legislative battle on this issue. (“Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has been dogged by questions about his commitment to immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who are living in this country without legal documentation.”)

This is not unlike the ObamaCare battle. He managed to infuriate conservatives and independents and also turn off many on the left who were only interested in reform if they got the public option. And it’s not all that different from his dilemma on Israel. He bashed Israel to the delight of Israel’s Arab neighbors while freaking out his Jewish supporters, whom he now must “charm.” The result is that many Jews still don’t trust him, and he’s also disappointing his Palestinian friends.

It’s quite a knack to alienate voters along the entire political spectrum. But Obama is showing how it can be done. It starts with running as a blank slate and allowing opposing groups to believe the president will be “with them.” Add in lots of insincere rhetoric, a lack of governing skills, and a tone deafness to the electorate, and you have a president whose approval ratings continue to plunge.

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Obama Not Interested in Religious Freedom

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Freedom (which recently issued a report on religious oppression and discrimination), in an interesting interview explains what has escaped the grasp of Obama:

Promoting the freedom of religion or belief promotes stability and security by reducing resentment, tension, hostility, and extremism. Countries that discriminate against and harass religious minorities, and that enforce blasphemy and other repressive laws, tend to embolden extremists who seek to impose their own orthodoxy. Countries that look the other way when religious minorities are being attacked by private individuals foster a climate of impunity, which similarly creates space for extremism. And, countries that crack down on peaceable religious practices of non-majority faiths create feelings of resentment on the part of oppressed minorities, which in turn can drive young men in those minority faiths to separatist movements and terrorist training camps.

Leo is emphatic that “the U.S. government must do more to make the promotion of freedom of religion a more central feature or objective of our foreign-policy agenda” but diplomatically declines to compare the Obama administration with the Bush team.

He does note, however, that it would be a good idea to fill the position of ambassador for International Religious Freedom. And he focuses on  countries whose lack of religious freedom has gone unaddressed by Obama: “The impunity of Nigeria and Egypt, the use of religion to stoke civil war in places like Sudan, the imposition in countries such as Pakistan of blasphemy laws that result in public punishment of and private violence against dissenters and minorities — these are among the chilling reminders of how fragile human dignity is elsewhere in the world.”

Most telling is the administration’s reaction to the commission’s report: “There hasn’t been much of a response yet.” That’s par for the course. It is not a topic that interests Obama; indeed the calls from religious and political human-rights activists for Obama to step up to the plate in defense of those fighting political and religious oppression (in Iran, China, Sudan, Burma, Egypt, and elsewhere) are no doubt an annoyance to a president whose foreign policy is built on ingratiating himself with despots. Leo advises:

The administration should make freedom of religion an integral part of the negotiations that are taking place with countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea. And, in the close bilateral relations we have with countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we must send the message that we expect more and better from them. All too often, freedom-of-religion issues either are ignored altogether or are not linked into a broader strategic dialogue respecting stability, security, development, and peace.

Don’t expect this to change until there is a new president.

Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Freedom (which recently issued a report on religious oppression and discrimination), in an interesting interview explains what has escaped the grasp of Obama:

Promoting the freedom of religion or belief promotes stability and security by reducing resentment, tension, hostility, and extremism. Countries that discriminate against and harass religious minorities, and that enforce blasphemy and other repressive laws, tend to embolden extremists who seek to impose their own orthodoxy. Countries that look the other way when religious minorities are being attacked by private individuals foster a climate of impunity, which similarly creates space for extremism. And, countries that crack down on peaceable religious practices of non-majority faiths create feelings of resentment on the part of oppressed minorities, which in turn can drive young men in those minority faiths to separatist movements and terrorist training camps.

Leo is emphatic that “the U.S. government must do more to make the promotion of freedom of religion a more central feature or objective of our foreign-policy agenda” but diplomatically declines to compare the Obama administration with the Bush team.

He does note, however, that it would be a good idea to fill the position of ambassador for International Religious Freedom. And he focuses on  countries whose lack of religious freedom has gone unaddressed by Obama: “The impunity of Nigeria and Egypt, the use of religion to stoke civil war in places like Sudan, the imposition in countries such as Pakistan of blasphemy laws that result in public punishment of and private violence against dissenters and minorities — these are among the chilling reminders of how fragile human dignity is elsewhere in the world.”

Most telling is the administration’s reaction to the commission’s report: “There hasn’t been much of a response yet.” That’s par for the course. It is not a topic that interests Obama; indeed the calls from religious and political human-rights activists for Obama to step up to the plate in defense of those fighting political and religious oppression (in Iran, China, Sudan, Burma, Egypt, and elsewhere) are no doubt an annoyance to a president whose foreign policy is built on ingratiating himself with despots. Leo advises:

The administration should make freedom of religion an integral part of the negotiations that are taking place with countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea. And, in the close bilateral relations we have with countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we must send the message that we expect more and better from them. All too often, freedom-of-religion issues either are ignored altogether or are not linked into a broader strategic dialogue respecting stability, security, development, and peace.

Don’t expect this to change until there is a new president.

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When It Comes to National Intelligence, One Head Is Better than Two

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is having a tough time finding anyone willing to take on the thankless job of director of National Intelligence after firing retired Admiral Dennis Blair. If the newspaper’s reporting is to be believed, the post has already been turned down by CIA director Leon Panetta and former senator Chuck Hagel. That leaves Gen. James Clapper, the top intelligence official at the Department of Defense, as the front-runner, but his appointment is unpopular on Capitol Hill.

What to do? Here’s a thought from out of left field: why not appoint Panetta to the job while letting him keep his current appointment as CIA director? In fact, why not make it a tradition to have the same person serve as both DNI and DCI? That would actually be in line with the historic expectation that the head of the CIA would also be the head of the entire intelligence community. That promise was never realized, so in 2005 Congress created a separate DNI post. But each DNI has struggled to exercise any real power over individual intelligence agencies, and in particular over the CIA; Blair lost bruising turf battles to Panetta. By putting the same person in charge of both National Intelligence and CIA, you eliminate at least one turf battle. That may very well be the best solution for the short term, and possibly even the long term, unless Congress invests the DNI with vast new powers over budgeting and personnel, which it so far hasn’t been willing to do.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is having a tough time finding anyone willing to take on the thankless job of director of National Intelligence after firing retired Admiral Dennis Blair. If the newspaper’s reporting is to be believed, the post has already been turned down by CIA director Leon Panetta and former senator Chuck Hagel. That leaves Gen. James Clapper, the top intelligence official at the Department of Defense, as the front-runner, but his appointment is unpopular on Capitol Hill.

What to do? Here’s a thought from out of left field: why not appoint Panetta to the job while letting him keep his current appointment as CIA director? In fact, why not make it a tradition to have the same person serve as both DNI and DCI? That would actually be in line with the historic expectation that the head of the CIA would also be the head of the entire intelligence community. That promise was never realized, so in 2005 Congress created a separate DNI post. But each DNI has struggled to exercise any real power over individual intelligence agencies, and in particular over the CIA; Blair lost bruising turf battles to Panetta. By putting the same person in charge of both National Intelligence and CIA, you eliminate at least one turf battle. That may very well be the best solution for the short term, and possibly even the long term, unless Congress invests the DNI with vast new powers over budgeting and personnel, which it so far hasn’t been willing to do.

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GOP Women Crushing Opponents in California Primary Races

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

In a third poll this week, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman appear headed for big wins:

With less than two weeks until the June 8th primary, California Republican primary voters are poised to nominate two former female CEO’s to lead the GOP ticket in November. According to our … automated survey of likely Republican primary voters conducted on May 24th, in the gubernatorial race, Meg Whitman leads Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 35 points, 54% to 19%. … Survey results from the US Senate ballot test show Carly Fiorina with a 23 point lead over former Congressman Tom Campbell 44% to 21% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore with 14%. … Support for Carly Fiorina has surged 24 points since our last survey on February 25th from 20% to 44%, and Tom Campbell’s support has declined 12 points from 33% to 21%.

With all these female Republicans (Linda McMahon in Connecticut as well), the Democrats will have to come up with a different story line than “Republicans don’t like women.” I suspect they’ll just drop it altogether. And if Fiorina and Whitman beat their male rivals, will we hear cheers from NOW? No. Not even the election of pro-choice Whitman, I suspect, will please them. Perhaps we should rewrite the phrase as “The Left doesn’t like women who oppose the Left.” And there may be two more of those elected come November.

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