Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 3, 2010

The $239,148 Railroad Conductor

When even the New York Times starts running stories on how overpaid government workers are, you know the topic is getting traction.

In this one, the Times reports that more than 8,000 employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subways and commuter railroads, made more than $100,000 last year. One conductor on the Long Island Railroad made $239,148. That’s more than the MTA’s chief financial officer made. How did he do it? Simple. His base salary was $67,772, and he earned overtime of about $67,000. And he cashed in his accumulated sick days and unused vacation days. He retired in April 2010, and his pension, of course, will be based on his earnings in his last few years.

Allowing soon-to-retire employees to rack up huge amounts of overtime in their last year is standard procedure in many government organizations. The MTA paid overtime amounting to $560 million last year and is currently planning service cuts to eliminate a $400 million shortfall in revenues. I hope the passengers who find themselves standing for long periods of time on platforms in the snow and rain next winter realize that they are doing so in order that some retired conductor can live in comfort in Florida.

There are few corporations that allow employees to accumulate vacation days. They must use them for vacations or lose them. Likewise with sick days. The whole point of sick days is to ensure that employees are not penalized financially if and when they get sick. But the public-employees’ unions and the government agencies that negotiate with them have perverted sick days into a bonus, paid at retirement, for not getting sick. This perversion is then compounded by using the payment to swell the pension received after retirement.

The Democrats are hopelessly in bed with the unions, but Republicans, who won’t get a dime of union money anyway, can earn a lot of votes by calling for reforming how pensions are calculated and for a freeze to wages and benefits until public-sector compensation is brought into line with that of the private sector.

When even the New York Times starts running stories on how overpaid government workers are, you know the topic is getting traction.

In this one, the Times reports that more than 8,000 employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subways and commuter railroads, made more than $100,000 last year. One conductor on the Long Island Railroad made $239,148. That’s more than the MTA’s chief financial officer made. How did he do it? Simple. His base salary was $67,772, and he earned overtime of about $67,000. And he cashed in his accumulated sick days and unused vacation days. He retired in April 2010, and his pension, of course, will be based on his earnings in his last few years.

Allowing soon-to-retire employees to rack up huge amounts of overtime in their last year is standard procedure in many government organizations. The MTA paid overtime amounting to $560 million last year and is currently planning service cuts to eliminate a $400 million shortfall in revenues. I hope the passengers who find themselves standing for long periods of time on platforms in the snow and rain next winter realize that they are doing so in order that some retired conductor can live in comfort in Florida.

There are few corporations that allow employees to accumulate vacation days. They must use them for vacations or lose them. Likewise with sick days. The whole point of sick days is to ensure that employees are not penalized financially if and when they get sick. But the public-employees’ unions and the government agencies that negotiate with them have perverted sick days into a bonus, paid at retirement, for not getting sick. This perversion is then compounded by using the payment to swell the pension received after retirement.

The Democrats are hopelessly in bed with the unions, but Republicans, who won’t get a dime of union money anyway, can earn a lot of votes by calling for reforming how pensions are calculated and for a freeze to wages and benefits until public-sector compensation is brought into line with that of the private sector.

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“I Am Ashamed of You for Writing Such a Letter”

Time for a bit of encouraging news. Christie’s has just finished the first part of a sale of Churchill memorabilia collected by Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. Among the items sold was an exchange between Churchill and Eliot Crawshay-Williams, who, in the early 20th century, had been one of Churchill’s assistant private secretaries.

Crawshay-Williams wrote Churchill a meandering letter on June 27, 1940. He served in World War I, so he wasn’t a coward. But in 1940, he lacked the moral courage either to fight on or to argue straight-out that Britain had already lost the war. So he resorted to an argument that sounds familiar in the context of American declinism today: defeatism wasn’t defeatism; it was realism, and “if and when” an “informed view” demonstrated that there was no chance of victory, Britain should quit while the quitting was good. As is so often the case, the “informed view,” of course, was the pessimistic one.

In June 1940, Churchill was a very busy man, but he took the time to reply the next day. He didn’t, though, take too much time. His response, in its entirety, was as follows: “I am ashamed of you for writing such a letter. I return it to you — to burn & forget.” Of course, the one sure way to ensure the survival of a letter is to ask for it to be burnt. Hence its appearance in the Forbes collection. Thank goodness for that.

Time for a bit of encouraging news. Christie’s has just finished the first part of a sale of Churchill memorabilia collected by Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. Among the items sold was an exchange between Churchill and Eliot Crawshay-Williams, who, in the early 20th century, had been one of Churchill’s assistant private secretaries.

Crawshay-Williams wrote Churchill a meandering letter on June 27, 1940. He served in World War I, so he wasn’t a coward. But in 1940, he lacked the moral courage either to fight on or to argue straight-out that Britain had already lost the war. So he resorted to an argument that sounds familiar in the context of American declinism today: defeatism wasn’t defeatism; it was realism, and “if and when” an “informed view” demonstrated that there was no chance of victory, Britain should quit while the quitting was good. As is so often the case, the “informed view,” of course, was the pessimistic one.

In June 1940, Churchill was a very busy man, but he took the time to reply the next day. He didn’t, though, take too much time. His response, in its entirety, was as follows: “I am ashamed of you for writing such a letter. I return it to you — to burn & forget.” Of course, the one sure way to ensure the survival of a letter is to ask for it to be burnt. Hence its appearance in the Forbes collection. Thank goodness for that.

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An Opening for a Robust Christian-Jewish, Pro-Israel Alliance?

I was in Stamford, Connecticut, last night, speaking to a group of enthusiastic Jews, most of whom were politically conservative. There was a particularly noteworthy moment. As I usually do at these gatherings, I encouraged those attending who want an answer to the question “What can I do to help Israel?” to work on breaking down the antipathy and sometimes outright antagonism that American Jewry has displayed toward pro-Israel Christians. I suggested that a broad alliance of pro-Israel supporters — Jews and Gentiles — is frankly necessary, given the often tepid stance of mainstream Jewish groups (at least when a liberal is in the White House). When I say this, I often get skeptical looks, a crack about Sarah Palin, or lukewarm applause. Last night, there was a sustained burst of applause, and one gentleman stood to relate his experience at a CUFI Night for Israel, which are held around the country by the group Christians United for Israel  to raise money for the Jewish state and to present some rousing oratory in its defense.

One anecdote does not make a trend. But perhaps the last year or so has been instructive for pro-Israel American Jews. They’ve seen that, unfortunately, under a liberal president who is quite hostile to Israel, the broad-based bipartisan coalition in support of Israel is fraying. Recent polling confirms that the divide between Democrats and Republicans on Israel is significant. Regardless of party identification, then, it is critical to redouble efforts to bring together pro-Israel Americans across denominational lines. While many American Jews still grit their teeth at the thought of embracing evangelical or other Christians with whom they have significant political differences, perhaps they will consider whether desperate times will justify “extraordinary” measures. As I said last night, Israel needs all the friends it can get.

I was in Stamford, Connecticut, last night, speaking to a group of enthusiastic Jews, most of whom were politically conservative. There was a particularly noteworthy moment. As I usually do at these gatherings, I encouraged those attending who want an answer to the question “What can I do to help Israel?” to work on breaking down the antipathy and sometimes outright antagonism that American Jewry has displayed toward pro-Israel Christians. I suggested that a broad alliance of pro-Israel supporters — Jews and Gentiles — is frankly necessary, given the often tepid stance of mainstream Jewish groups (at least when a liberal is in the White House). When I say this, I often get skeptical looks, a crack about Sarah Palin, or lukewarm applause. Last night, there was a sustained burst of applause, and one gentleman stood to relate his experience at a CUFI Night for Israel, which are held around the country by the group Christians United for Israel  to raise money for the Jewish state and to present some rousing oratory in its defense.

One anecdote does not make a trend. But perhaps the last year or so has been instructive for pro-Israel American Jews. They’ve seen that, unfortunately, under a liberal president who is quite hostile to Israel, the broad-based bipartisan coalition in support of Israel is fraying. Recent polling confirms that the divide between Democrats and Republicans on Israel is significant. Regardless of party identification, then, it is critical to redouble efforts to bring together pro-Israel Americans across denominational lines. While many American Jews still grit their teeth at the thought of embracing evangelical or other Christians with whom they have significant political differences, perhaps they will consider whether desperate times will justify “extraordinary” measures. As I said last night, Israel needs all the friends it can get.

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Poof Goes the Myth

Politico is running a symposium: “Is Obama’s brand ‘irrevocably shattered’?” OK, not the discussion the White House wants to see raging. That tells you something right there: the media-Obama love fest is over. The pretext is the Andrew Romanoff scandal. But it could easily have been triggered by the president’s all-time low weekly approval rating (46%) in Gallup or the BP spill or the Joe Sestak flap.

This take, by Stuart Gottlieb of Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, I found quite compelling:

From the earliest days of the campaign, the Obama “movement” contained two political time bombs: First, the curse of absurdly high expectations (“first we’re going to change Iowa! Then we’re going to change America! Then we’re going to change the world!”) And second, electing to office a president with no governing or leadership experience. . . And now the chickens are also coming home to roost on the leadership and competency question. The White House is continually slow-off-the-mark, reactive, defensive, and unsure of its footing, i.e., it appears in over its head.

It will be difficult (if not impossible) to re-build the Obama “brand,” because it never really existed as a tangible thing in the first place.

If Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 marketing brand back, what does he do next? He’s never had to answer that because he’s never stayed in any political position long enough with enough coverage to be held accountable for his results. And he’s never been forced to deviate from his ultra-liberal ideological agenda. It’s also not clear that he is capable of changing his tune or even wants to. One term would be fine, he told us.

The interesting question for 2012 is what sort of candidate would Americans be attracted to as an alternative. Obama ran as Not Bush. (Turns out that most of Not Bush is disastrous.) So who is the Not Obama for 2012? Forget about name guessing — I mean, what kind of candidate would provide voters with what they are missing? It’s fair to anticipate that a competent, experienced, un-flashy, fiscal disciplinarian with no illusions about the world and no hesitancy about naming our enemies and holding dear our friends may be in style. We’ll see in the next year which candidates throw their hats into the ring and which match that description.

Politico is running a symposium: “Is Obama’s brand ‘irrevocably shattered’?” OK, not the discussion the White House wants to see raging. That tells you something right there: the media-Obama love fest is over. The pretext is the Andrew Romanoff scandal. But it could easily have been triggered by the president’s all-time low weekly approval rating (46%) in Gallup or the BP spill or the Joe Sestak flap.

This take, by Stuart Gottlieb of Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, I found quite compelling:

From the earliest days of the campaign, the Obama “movement” contained two political time bombs: First, the curse of absurdly high expectations (“first we’re going to change Iowa! Then we’re going to change America! Then we’re going to change the world!”) And second, electing to office a president with no governing or leadership experience. . . And now the chickens are also coming home to roost on the leadership and competency question. The White House is continually slow-off-the-mark, reactive, defensive, and unsure of its footing, i.e., it appears in over its head.

It will be difficult (if not impossible) to re-build the Obama “brand,” because it never really existed as a tangible thing in the first place.

If Obama isn’t going to get his 2008 marketing brand back, what does he do next? He’s never had to answer that because he’s never stayed in any political position long enough with enough coverage to be held accountable for his results. And he’s never been forced to deviate from his ultra-liberal ideological agenda. It’s also not clear that he is capable of changing his tune or even wants to. One term would be fine, he told us.

The interesting question for 2012 is what sort of candidate would Americans be attracted to as an alternative. Obama ran as Not Bush. (Turns out that most of Not Bush is disastrous.) So who is the Not Obama for 2012? Forget about name guessing — I mean, what kind of candidate would provide voters with what they are missing? It’s fair to anticipate that a competent, experienced, un-flashy, fiscal disciplinarian with no illusions about the world and no hesitancy about naming our enemies and holding dear our friends may be in style. We’ll see in the next year which candidates throw their hats into the ring and which match that description.

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RE: Never Leave Evidence

The White House came up with its cover story to explain the “You can pick one of the following!” memo sent to Andrew Romanoff by Jim Messina. Here’s what they have cooked up:

“Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition. He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel,” Gibbs said. “Jim Messina called and emailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.”

Gibbs continued, explaining that Romanoff rebuffed the overture: “Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.”

Something doesn’t quite make sense here. For starters, if this were simply a follow-up on a previous job application, why did Messina throw out two other possible jobs? And let’s get real here: Romanoff applied for a USAID job before Obama took office (between November 2008 and January 20, 2009). He didn’t get it. Nine to 11 months later, the ever-helpful job-placement assistant Messina (who is actually deputy chief of staff) reaches out to the fellow who is planning a run against Michael Bennet. In fact, Messina admits that he was trying to avoid a “costly” primary. This is the defense?

The White House came up with its cover story to explain the “You can pick one of the following!” memo sent to Andrew Romanoff by Jim Messina. Here’s what they have cooked up:

“Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition. He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel,” Gibbs said. “Jim Messina called and emailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.”

Gibbs continued, explaining that Romanoff rebuffed the overture: “Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.”

Something doesn’t quite make sense here. For starters, if this were simply a follow-up on a previous job application, why did Messina throw out two other possible jobs? And let’s get real here: Romanoff applied for a USAID job before Obama took office (between November 2008 and January 20, 2009). He didn’t get it. Nine to 11 months later, the ever-helpful job-placement assistant Messina (who is actually deputy chief of staff) reaches out to the fellow who is planning a run against Michael Bennet. In fact, Messina admits that he was trying to avoid a “costly” primary. This is the defense?

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The Crisis of Israeli Crisis-Management

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

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Colombia’s Presidential Election Is a U.S. Victory

As usually happens because of the global obsession with the actions of one tiny state in the Middle East, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has become so all-encompassing that it is obscuring other important bits of news. Like what just happened in Colombia — another important American ally that receives its share of opprobrium from the left (although, of course, nothing compared to the vilification of Israel).

Colombia just held a presidential election. Polls had shown a neck-and-neck race between former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and the loopy former Green Party mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus (who sports an Amish-style beard). It appeared that a big upset could be brewing with the defeat of President Alvaro Uribe’s handpicked successor — a man who was almost as closely associated as the outgoing president with the increasingly successful battle against Marxist rebels (the FARC) and narco-traffickers.

It turned out, however, that the outcome wasn’t that close. Santos got 46.5 percent of the vote, and Mockus, only 21.5 percent. Santos still fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off, but there seems little prospect of Mockus winning in the second round. This was undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping failures of preelection polling since a 1936 Literary Digest survey predicted that Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt with 57 percent of the vote. (FDR actually got won more than 60 percent.)

While pollsters sift their methodology or maybe simply go off to commit hara-kiri, let me just note that this is a big victory not only for the people of Colombia but also for the United States. We are now virtually assured of having a pro-American leader in Bogota, who will be interested in continuing to work closely with us to combat the baleful influence of the Hugo Chavez regime in neighboring Venezuela, which is in bed not only with FARC and the drug traffickers but also with Iran, Hezbollah, and other unsavory characters. It would be nice if Congress repaid the support of the Colombians by finally passing the long-delayed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord. But no doubt the labor unions (to which the Obama administration appears to be in thrall) will continue to cast aspersions on Colombia’s considerable democratic achievement in order to disguise their protectionist agenda.

As usually happens because of the global obsession with the actions of one tiny state in the Middle East, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has become so all-encompassing that it is obscuring other important bits of news. Like what just happened in Colombia — another important American ally that receives its share of opprobrium from the left (although, of course, nothing compared to the vilification of Israel).

Colombia just held a presidential election. Polls had shown a neck-and-neck race between former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and the loopy former Green Party mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus (who sports an Amish-style beard). It appeared that a big upset could be brewing with the defeat of President Alvaro Uribe’s handpicked successor — a man who was almost as closely associated as the outgoing president with the increasingly successful battle against Marxist rebels (the FARC) and narco-traffickers.

It turned out, however, that the outcome wasn’t that close. Santos got 46.5 percent of the vote, and Mockus, only 21.5 percent. Santos still fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off, but there seems little prospect of Mockus winning in the second round. This was undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping failures of preelection polling since a 1936 Literary Digest survey predicted that Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt with 57 percent of the vote. (FDR actually got won more than 60 percent.)

While pollsters sift their methodology or maybe simply go off to commit hara-kiri, let me just note that this is a big victory not only for the people of Colombia but also for the United States. We are now virtually assured of having a pro-American leader in Bogota, who will be interested in continuing to work closely with us to combat the baleful influence of the Hugo Chavez regime in neighboring Venezuela, which is in bed not only with FARC and the drug traffickers but also with Iran, Hezbollah, and other unsavory characters. It would be nice if Congress repaid the support of the Colombians by finally passing the long-delayed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord. But no doubt the labor unions (to which the Obama administration appears to be in thrall) will continue to cast aspersions on Colombia’s considerable democratic achievement in order to disguise their protectionist agenda.

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You Don’t Have to Be a Weatherman . . .

As Jen noted this morning, it’s obvious how the Obama administration “understands” its role on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Last month, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, sent a letter to every member of Congress asserting that the Obama administration’s “sustained engagement” with the UNHRC  had “reaped important dividends for both the U.S. and Israel” and proved that “engagement works.” He described the “hard-fought” victory of keeping Iran off the UNHRC, adding that Iran’s assumption of a seat would have delivered “a fatal blow to the UN’s credibility.”

Having saved the UNHRC from a fatal blow to its credibility, the Obama administration has continued to treat it as if it were a bona fide organization. Yesterday, the UNHRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel and initiate a new Goldstone-type “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned. The key portion of the State Department news conference that Jen cites is the repeated statement by spokesman P.J. Crowley that the U.S. “understands” the action:

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we understand that. One of the reasons why we joined the Human Rights Council was that we hope that over time that it would take a more balanced and appropriate response to urgent situations. … And as our statement indicated, we believe that this particular resolution is a rushed judgment. It risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation. …  But we respect the fact that other countries may have a different view.

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that – or 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve?

MR. CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive.

QUESTION: And how did that manifest itself in this vote?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – I mean, all we can do – we have a vote. (Laughter.) We don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council –

QUESTION: Well, the previous administration didn’t – I mean, didn’t – they basically ignored the whole council because of situations like this.

MR. CROWLEY: And we don’t think ignoring these issues –

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work – I mean, we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court Review Conference. … But we understand that there’ll be times where our view may carry the day, and there’ll be times where our – other countries have different points of view.

The prior administration would not have joined the UNHRC in the first place; it would have quit after the Goldstone Report demonstrated the Council’s nature beyond dispute; and it would have quit after the Council voted yesterday to do it again. In contrast, the current administration “understands” the vote and will just keep on “engaging” and congratulating itself for its “positive and constructive” contributions.

You don’t have to be a horseman to spot a weak horse.

As Jen noted this morning, it’s obvious how the Obama administration “understands” its role on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Last month, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, sent a letter to every member of Congress asserting that the Obama administration’s “sustained engagement” with the UNHRC  had “reaped important dividends for both the U.S. and Israel” and proved that “engagement works.” He described the “hard-fought” victory of keeping Iran off the UNHRC, adding that Iran’s assumption of a seat would have delivered “a fatal blow to the UN’s credibility.”

Having saved the UNHRC from a fatal blow to its credibility, the Obama administration has continued to treat it as if it were a bona fide organization. Yesterday, the UNHRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel and initiate a new Goldstone-type “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned. The key portion of the State Department news conference that Jen cites is the repeated statement by spokesman P.J. Crowley that the U.S. “understands” the action:

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we understand that. One of the reasons why we joined the Human Rights Council was that we hope that over time that it would take a more balanced and appropriate response to urgent situations. … And as our statement indicated, we believe that this particular resolution is a rushed judgment. It risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation. …  But we respect the fact that other countries may have a different view.

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that – or 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve?

MR. CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive.

QUESTION: And how did that manifest itself in this vote?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – I mean, all we can do – we have a vote. (Laughter.) We don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council –

QUESTION: Well, the previous administration didn’t – I mean, didn’t – they basically ignored the whole council because of situations like this.

MR. CROWLEY: And we don’t think ignoring these issues –

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work – I mean, we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court Review Conference. … But we understand that there’ll be times where our view may carry the day, and there’ll be times where our – other countries have different points of view.

The prior administration would not have joined the UNHRC in the first place; it would have quit after the Goldstone Report demonstrated the Council’s nature beyond dispute; and it would have quit after the Council voted yesterday to do it again. In contrast, the current administration “understands” the vote and will just keep on “engaging” and congratulating itself for its “positive and constructive” contributions.

You don’t have to be a horseman to spot a weak horse.

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RE: Peaceful, Humanitarian, Civilian Flotilla

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

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Peaceful, Humanitarian, Civilian Flotilla Had an Arsenal

New footage shows the weapons captured from the “aid” boat Mavi Marmara, which was the scene of an attempted lynching of IDF commandos. Lots of knives, gas masks, body armor, night-vision equipment, homemade slingshots with “Hezbollah” and “Hamas” written on them (arts and crafts are a good cure for boredom on the high seas), and my personal favorite, electric chop saws, which were used to cut off sections of the ship’s railings so they could be used as clubs. Clever! Let’s go to the video.

New footage shows the weapons captured from the “aid” boat Mavi Marmara, which was the scene of an attempted lynching of IDF commandos. Lots of knives, gas masks, body armor, night-vision equipment, homemade slingshots with “Hezbollah” and “Hamas” written on them (arts and crafts are a good cure for boredom on the high seas), and my personal favorite, electric chop saws, which were used to cut off sections of the ship’s railings so they could be used as clubs. Clever! Let’s go to the video.

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Investigating the Flotilla Incident

In the orgy of second-guessing and yelps for an international inquiry into the flotilla incident — would that inquiry probe Turkey’s involvement as well? — many of the critics neglect to acknowledge that in Israel, there is no shortage of criticism, investigation, second-guessing, and scrutiny. That is how a vibrant democracy with a free press operates. Within a day, Israeli media and politicians were already debating and critiquing the tactics of the Israeli military.

When critics demand a “transparent” investigation and assert that it must be “credible,” they are implying and in some cases directly arguing that Israel is incapable of doing this. But open societies do this all the time — the U.S. and Britain on the Iraq war, the U.S. on the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, etc. Transparent investigations occur when political opposition is free to criticize, when media is not run by the state, and when dissent is encouraged and not repressed. The notion that the UN, which is neither transparent nor credible, could do a better job than Israel is ludicrous. But “ludicrous” is the default setting for Israel’s critics these days.

In the orgy of second-guessing and yelps for an international inquiry into the flotilla incident — would that inquiry probe Turkey’s involvement as well? — many of the critics neglect to acknowledge that in Israel, there is no shortage of criticism, investigation, second-guessing, and scrutiny. That is how a vibrant democracy with a free press operates. Within a day, Israeli media and politicians were already debating and critiquing the tactics of the Israeli military.

When critics demand a “transparent” investigation and assert that it must be “credible,” they are implying and in some cases directly arguing that Israel is incapable of doing this. But open societies do this all the time — the U.S. and Britain on the Iraq war, the U.S. on the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, etc. Transparent investigations occur when political opposition is free to criticize, when media is not run by the state, and when dissent is encouraged and not repressed. The notion that the UN, which is neither transparent nor credible, could do a better job than Israel is ludicrous. But “ludicrous” is the default setting for Israel’s critics these days.

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Here’s Linkage for You

You knew this was coming:

A U.N. vote on Iran nuclear sanctions will likely be pushed back because of fallout from the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, sources said Wednesday. The Obama administration had been planning to bring a new Iran sanctions resolution to a vote at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday but diplomatic sources said the vote is not likely to take place this week.

This is the danger and fallacy of linkage, that is, the idea that progress in the “peace process” is needed for progress in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons. If you propagate the notion that the peace process must be advanced in order to deal with other Middle East problems — including the most critical one, which extends beyond the Middle East — you hold our Iran policy hostage to factors beyond our control. Iran-backed terrorists stage a confrontation, Iranian-influenced nations (Syria, Turkey) scream for Israeli blood, and international organizations refuse to address Iranian hegemonic and nuclear ambitions. In essence, Iranian surrogates wind up with a veto power over our efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

This episode should also confirm the pitfalls of waiting for international consensus in order to deal with a fundamental threat to our own security. The entire notion that we would wait for UN sanctions and then the EU before pursuing U.S. sanctions against Iran has proven ludicrous. At each stage, there is delay and the opportunity for mischief, and at each stage more and more carve-outs pop up. At the root of this is a fundamental strategic error, namely that international consensus can replace the use of the full array of tools in the U.S. arsenal.

By casting Iran’s nuclear capability as primarily Israel’s problem (rather than one for the entire West), by conditioning progress in Iran’s nuclear threat on progress in a peace process doomed to failure, and by placing our fate and our own credibility in multilateral institutions, we have made both our tasks (promoting resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and thwarting Iran) infinitely more difficult.  Now we have two failed diplomatic efforts. We continue to witness the steady ascendancy of Iran and its cohort of nation-states and surrogates. How’s that smart diplomacy working out?

You knew this was coming:

A U.N. vote on Iran nuclear sanctions will likely be pushed back because of fallout from the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, sources said Wednesday. The Obama administration had been planning to bring a new Iran sanctions resolution to a vote at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday but diplomatic sources said the vote is not likely to take place this week.

This is the danger and fallacy of linkage, that is, the idea that progress in the “peace process” is needed for progress in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons. If you propagate the notion that the peace process must be advanced in order to deal with other Middle East problems — including the most critical one, which extends beyond the Middle East — you hold our Iran policy hostage to factors beyond our control. Iran-backed terrorists stage a confrontation, Iranian-influenced nations (Syria, Turkey) scream for Israeli blood, and international organizations refuse to address Iranian hegemonic and nuclear ambitions. In essence, Iranian surrogates wind up with a veto power over our efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

This episode should also confirm the pitfalls of waiting for international consensus in order to deal with a fundamental threat to our own security. The entire notion that we would wait for UN sanctions and then the EU before pursuing U.S. sanctions against Iran has proven ludicrous. At each stage, there is delay and the opportunity for mischief, and at each stage more and more carve-outs pop up. At the root of this is a fundamental strategic error, namely that international consensus can replace the use of the full array of tools in the U.S. arsenal.

By casting Iran’s nuclear capability as primarily Israel’s problem (rather than one for the entire West), by conditioning progress in Iran’s nuclear threat on progress in a peace process doomed to failure, and by placing our fate and our own credibility in multilateral institutions, we have made both our tasks (promoting resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and thwarting Iran) infinitely more difficult.  Now we have two failed diplomatic efforts. We continue to witness the steady ascendancy of Iran and its cohort of nation-states and surrogates. How’s that smart diplomacy working out?

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Bush: An Unambiguous President

If the international hypocrisy over the terrorist flotilla and the moral equivalizers have you down, here is a pleasant reminder of better days:

Former President George W. Bush says if he had it to do over, he would still waterboard the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. … In his speech, Bush defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein “was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him.”

Emotional. Direct. Morally unambiguous. Deeply loyal to allies. A true friend of  Israel. A clear-eyed understanding of the enemy we face. Yes, Obama is the un-Bush, and the U.S., the West, and Israel are the worse for it.

If the international hypocrisy over the terrorist flotilla and the moral equivalizers have you down, here is a pleasant reminder of better days:

Former President George W. Bush says if he had it to do over, he would still waterboard the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. … In his speech, Bush defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein “was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him.”

Emotional. Direct. Morally unambiguous. Deeply loyal to allies. A true friend of  Israel. A clear-eyed understanding of the enemy we face. Yes, Obama is the un-Bush, and the U.S., the West, and Israel are the worse for it.

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Never Leave Evidence

What is with politicians? Nixon had his tapes. Clinton had his blue dress. And the Obama crew has an e-mail to Andrew Romanoff setting out his career possibilities should he leave the Senate race. No, you won’t find the phrase “And if you get out of the race, we have one of these lovely gifts for you” in the e-mail. But no case is that airtight.

The Obama team now has a pattern — Joe Sestak and Romanoff — of playing the Blago game at a slightly more sophisticated level. But maybe not. There is unfortunately no tape, I would think, of White House staffer Jim Messina telling Romanoff that he should realize that a Senate seat is “f***ing golden.”

What is with politicians? Nixon had his tapes. Clinton had his blue dress. And the Obama crew has an e-mail to Andrew Romanoff setting out his career possibilities should he leave the Senate race. No, you won’t find the phrase “And if you get out of the race, we have one of these lovely gifts for you” in the e-mail. But no case is that airtight.

The Obama team now has a pattern — Joe Sestak and Romanoff — of playing the Blago game at a slightly more sophisticated level. But maybe not. There is unfortunately no tape, I would think, of White House staffer Jim Messina telling Romanoff that he should realize that a Senate seat is “f***ing golden.”

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Debunking Flotilla Lies, One by One

Based on the information available three days ago, honest people of goodwill might truly have believed that Israeli soldiers perpetrated an atrocity on innocent peace activists aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. The information that has since emerged precludes any such belief.

Anyone who still believes, for instance, that these “peace activists” actually had peaceful intentions should study new video footage (see below) uploaded by the Israeli army yesterday. Taken from the Marmara’s security cameras, it shows the “activists” preparing for battle by taking their weapons out of storage and putting them in easily accessible locales on deck, and occasionally brandishing them to get in the proper mood. In short, they did not attack the Israelis in self-defense; they had planned from the outset to do so. That is why they were able to launch the attack the moment the first soldier hit the deck, as a previously posted video shows.

The convoy’s Turkish organizer, Bulent Yildirim, also admitted today that the “activists” indeed seized the soldiers’ pistols, just as Israel claimed.

And anyone who still believes that Hamas cares a fig about the people of Gaza and their “humanitarian crisis” should study its decision not to let Israel transfer the flotilla’s aid cargo to Gaza. Hamas’s social welfare minister, Ahmed al-Kurd, said Hamas wouldn’t let the aid in unless (a) “Israel met all of the group’s conditions” and (b) it got permission from Turkey, where the flotilla was organized. A senior Israeli official from COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) asked the obvious question: “If the aid is so urgent, my question is, why are they not allowing it into Gaza?”

Incidentally, the aid totaled “between 70 and 80 truckloads,” the official said. COGAT oversees the transfer of “between 80 and 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza every day.”

And anyone who still believes those “peace activists” aboard the Marmara actually care about the people of Gaza and their “humanitarian crisis” should ask himself why they have yet to protest Hamas’s refusal to let the aid in. After all, if their whole purpose was to help needy Gazans, shouldn’t they be a trifle upset that the aid isn’t reaching its intended destination?

Instead, they are actively assisting the obstruction: COGAT said convoy organizers have refused to tell it who the aid’s intended recipients are — information needed to ensure that the cargo reaches its intended destination.

Finally, anyone who still has doubts about which side in this story cares about human life and which doesn’t should ponder these statements by Nilufer Cetin, one of the Turkish activists aboard the ship. Cetin insisted that she was justified in bringing her baby along, even though “we were aware of the possible danger.” She also said that though her husband refused deportation and was thus still in Israel, she opted to return “after Israeli officials warned that jail would be too harsh for her child.”

So who was showing greater concern for the child’s welfare — the woman who deliberately brought him into danger, or the Israelis who persuaded her not to take him to jail?

Based on the information available three days ago, honest people of goodwill might truly have believed that Israeli soldiers perpetrated an atrocity on innocent peace activists aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. The information that has since emerged precludes any such belief.

Anyone who still believes, for instance, that these “peace activists” actually had peaceful intentions should study new video footage (see below) uploaded by the Israeli army yesterday. Taken from the Marmara’s security cameras, it shows the “activists” preparing for battle by taking their weapons out of storage and putting them in easily accessible locales on deck, and occasionally brandishing them to get in the proper mood. In short, they did not attack the Israelis in self-defense; they had planned from the outset to do so. That is why they were able to launch the attack the moment the first soldier hit the deck, as a previously posted video shows.

The convoy’s Turkish organizer, Bulent Yildirim, also admitted today that the “activists” indeed seized the soldiers’ pistols, just as Israel claimed.

And anyone who still believes that Hamas cares a fig about the people of Gaza and their “humanitarian crisis” should study its decision not to let Israel transfer the flotilla’s aid cargo to Gaza. Hamas’s social welfare minister, Ahmed al-Kurd, said Hamas wouldn’t let the aid in unless (a) “Israel met all of the group’s conditions” and (b) it got permission from Turkey, where the flotilla was organized. A senior Israeli official from COGAT (the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) asked the obvious question: “If the aid is so urgent, my question is, why are they not allowing it into Gaza?”

Incidentally, the aid totaled “between 70 and 80 truckloads,” the official said. COGAT oversees the transfer of “between 80 and 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza every day.”

And anyone who still believes those “peace activists” aboard the Marmara actually care about the people of Gaza and their “humanitarian crisis” should ask himself why they have yet to protest Hamas’s refusal to let the aid in. After all, if their whole purpose was to help needy Gazans, shouldn’t they be a trifle upset that the aid isn’t reaching its intended destination?

Instead, they are actively assisting the obstruction: COGAT said convoy organizers have refused to tell it who the aid’s intended recipients are — information needed to ensure that the cargo reaches its intended destination.

Finally, anyone who still has doubts about which side in this story cares about human life and which doesn’t should ponder these statements by Nilufer Cetin, one of the Turkish activists aboard the ship. Cetin insisted that she was justified in bringing her baby along, even though “we were aware of the possible danger.” She also said that though her husband refused deportation and was thus still in Israel, she opted to return “after Israeli officials warned that jail would be too harsh for her child.”

So who was showing greater concern for the child’s welfare — the woman who deliberately brought him into danger, or the Israelis who persuaded her not to take him to jail?

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Biden Is the Sane One?

It has come to this: Joe Biden is one of the few administration figures making sense on Israel. On Charlie Rose’s PBS show, he sounded fed up with the second-guessing and attacks on Israel:

“I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest. I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel’s need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview, in which he went on to discuss Hamas’s control of Gaza.

“[The Israelis have] said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people,’” Biden said.

He also asked for an Israeli investigation, not one by the UN, and said the flotilla wasn’t the way to bring in humanitarian relief.

It’s hard to know if he is again off the reservation or if he is previewing an administration walk-back on the hang-Israel-out-to-dry approach to this incident. Some perceived in the Jerusalem-housing flap that Biden tried to turn the heat down before the White House’s political flacks turned it back up. That maybe speaks well of Biden’s instincts but poorly of his influence.

If we’ve learned anything in this administration, it is that Obama is the only one who matters, and unless and until we hear him publicly expressing similar statements and debunking the notion that this was a humanitarian effort, we should remain skeptical.

It has come to this: Joe Biden is one of the few administration figures making sense on Israel. On Charlie Rose’s PBS show, he sounded fed up with the second-guessing and attacks on Israel:

“I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest. I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel’s need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview, in which he went on to discuss Hamas’s control of Gaza.

“[The Israelis have] said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people,’” Biden said.

He also asked for an Israeli investigation, not one by the UN, and said the flotilla wasn’t the way to bring in humanitarian relief.

It’s hard to know if he is again off the reservation or if he is previewing an administration walk-back on the hang-Israel-out-to-dry approach to this incident. Some perceived in the Jerusalem-housing flap that Biden tried to turn the heat down before the White House’s political flacks turned it back up. That maybe speaks well of Biden’s instincts but poorly of his influence.

If we’ve learned anything in this administration, it is that Obama is the only one who matters, and unless and until we hear him publicly expressing similar statements and debunking the notion that this was a humanitarian effort, we should remain skeptical.

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Bibi’s Speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered a full-throated defense of Israel and an attack on her critics on Wednesday. (To our Israeli comrades, I can only offer one suggestion — do it in the first news cycle.)

He makes clear that the flotilla is not the beginning of the story:

Last year, Israel acted to stop Hamas from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s towns and cities. Hamas was firing on our civilians while hiding behind civilians. And Israel went to unprecedented lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Yet it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was accused by the UN of war crimes. Now regrettably, the same thing appears to be happening now. But here are the facts. Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry – smuggling it into Gaza in order to fire on Israel’s cities. These missiles can reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva – these are major Israeli cities. And I regret to say that some of them can reach now Tel Aviv, and very soon, the outskirts of Jerusalem. From the information we have, the planned shipments include weapons that can reach farther, even farther and deeper into Israel.

He reiterates Israel’s right of self-defense and doesn’t buy into the critics who from a safe distance sniff and declare that this was some abstract or unimportant matter:

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat. We have already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah, and for Hamas from Iran, containing hundreds of tons of weapons.  In one ship, the Francop, we found hundreds of tons of war materiel and weapons destined for Hezbollah. In another celebrated case, the Karine A, dozens of tons of weapons were destined for Hamas by Iran via a shipment to Gaza. Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.

I will go further than that. Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.  And I would go beyond that too. I say to the responsible leaders of all the nations: The international community cannot afford an Iranian port in the Mediterranean. Fifteen years ago I cautioned about an Iranian development that has come to pass – people now recognize that danger. Today I warn of this impending willingness to enable Iran to establish a naval port right next to Israel, right next to Europe. The same countries that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted tomorrow.

Then he takes on the notion that the flotilla was needed for humanitarian reasons: “Humanitarian and other goods can go in and weapons and war materiel cannot. And we do let civilian goods into Gaza. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Each week, an average of ten thousand tons of goods enter Gaza. There’s no shortage of food. There’s no shortage of medicine. There’s no shortage of other goods. On this occasion too, we made several offers – offers to deliver the goods on board the flotilla to Gaza after a security inspection. Egypt made similar offers.  And these offers were rejected time and again.”

Then the details of the battle:

Our naval personnel, just as they landed on the ship – you can see this in the videos – the first soldier – they were met with a vicious mob. They were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon. I talked to some of these soldiers. One was shot in the stomach, one was shot in the knee. They were going to be killed and they had to act in self-defense.

It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance. They were members of an extremist group that has supported international terrorist organizations and today support the terrorist organization called Hamas. They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons. They chanted battle cries against the Jews. You can hear this on the tapes that have been released.

This was not a love boat. This was a hate boat. These weren’t pacifists. These weren’t peace activists. These were violent supporters of terrorism.

As for the second-guessers and those who want to set parameters — before any review is conducted and before the full facts are known — for what is and is not permitted in the name of Israeli self-defense:

Once again, Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but is condemned every time it exercises that right. Now you know that a right that you cannot exercise is meaningless. And you know that the way we exercise it – under these conditions of duress, under the rocketing of our cities, under the impending killing of our soldiers – you know that we exercise it in a way that is commensurate with any international standard. I have spoken to leading leaders of the world, and I say the same thing today to the international community: What would you do? How would you stop thousands of rockets that are destined to attack your cities, your civilians, your children? How would your soldiers behave under similar circumstances? I think in your hearts, you all know the truth.

Israel regrets the loss of life. But we will never apologize for defending ourselves. Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territory. And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.

He makes a plea then for a cessation of double standards and for Israel to be treated “just like any other state.”

Other than being a bit quicker with the statement, I have only one quibble: he should not apologize for the loss of life. Did we apologize in WWII when we killed Nazis? Do we apologize when we kill Taliban fighters? The notion that these are innocent bystanders in the war to destroy the Jewish state is wrong — they were participants. Yes, yes, it’s a small tip of the hat to public opinion , but we could do without any concessions to the howling mob right now.

I have neither the intelligence data nor the expertise — who but the Israelis do at this point? — to claim that there were alternatives to the raid. (Each situation is unique, so other really smart operations don’t necessarily work in different situations.) In due time –after the situation has cooled — we will have an assessment from Israelis with complete data. And as soon as Israel starts getting praised by the UN for restraint, I’ll argue it should show more. But for now, I’ll offer a hearty “Right on!” and suggest that in a nation using drone weapons to kill terrorists that inevitably kill civilians, we should promote the idea, not undermine it, that the international community doesn’t get to set the rules of war for democratic nations that have internal checks and balances and that respect the rule of law. In sum, Israel, like the U.S., gets to decide for itself, subject to its own laws and its own free press and democratic system, what is “proportional” and what is essential to its own security.

Bibi Netanyahu delivered a full-throated defense of Israel and an attack on her critics on Wednesday. (To our Israeli comrades, I can only offer one suggestion — do it in the first news cycle.)

He makes clear that the flotilla is not the beginning of the story:

Last year, Israel acted to stop Hamas from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s towns and cities. Hamas was firing on our civilians while hiding behind civilians. And Israel went to unprecedented lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Yet it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was accused by the UN of war crimes. Now regrettably, the same thing appears to be happening now. But here are the facts. Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry – smuggling it into Gaza in order to fire on Israel’s cities. These missiles can reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva – these are major Israeli cities. And I regret to say that some of them can reach now Tel Aviv, and very soon, the outskirts of Jerusalem. From the information we have, the planned shipments include weapons that can reach farther, even farther and deeper into Israel.

He reiterates Israel’s right of self-defense and doesn’t buy into the critics who from a safe distance sniff and declare that this was some abstract or unimportant matter:

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat. We have already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah, and for Hamas from Iran, containing hundreds of tons of weapons.  In one ship, the Francop, we found hundreds of tons of war materiel and weapons destined for Hezbollah. In another celebrated case, the Karine A, dozens of tons of weapons were destined for Hamas by Iran via a shipment to Gaza. Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.

I will go further than that. Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.  And I would go beyond that too. I say to the responsible leaders of all the nations: The international community cannot afford an Iranian port in the Mediterranean. Fifteen years ago I cautioned about an Iranian development that has come to pass – people now recognize that danger. Today I warn of this impending willingness to enable Iran to establish a naval port right next to Israel, right next to Europe. The same countries that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted tomorrow.

Then he takes on the notion that the flotilla was needed for humanitarian reasons: “Humanitarian and other goods can go in and weapons and war materiel cannot. And we do let civilian goods into Gaza. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Each week, an average of ten thousand tons of goods enter Gaza. There’s no shortage of food. There’s no shortage of medicine. There’s no shortage of other goods. On this occasion too, we made several offers – offers to deliver the goods on board the flotilla to Gaza after a security inspection. Egypt made similar offers.  And these offers were rejected time and again.”

Then the details of the battle:

Our naval personnel, just as they landed on the ship – you can see this in the videos – the first soldier – they were met with a vicious mob. They were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon. I talked to some of these soldiers. One was shot in the stomach, one was shot in the knee. They were going to be killed and they had to act in self-defense.

It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance. They were members of an extremist group that has supported international terrorist organizations and today support the terrorist organization called Hamas. They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons. They chanted battle cries against the Jews. You can hear this on the tapes that have been released.

This was not a love boat. This was a hate boat. These weren’t pacifists. These weren’t peace activists. These were violent supporters of terrorism.

As for the second-guessers and those who want to set parameters — before any review is conducted and before the full facts are known — for what is and is not permitted in the name of Israeli self-defense:

Once again, Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but is condemned every time it exercises that right. Now you know that a right that you cannot exercise is meaningless. And you know that the way we exercise it – under these conditions of duress, under the rocketing of our cities, under the impending killing of our soldiers – you know that we exercise it in a way that is commensurate with any international standard. I have spoken to leading leaders of the world, and I say the same thing today to the international community: What would you do? How would you stop thousands of rockets that are destined to attack your cities, your civilians, your children? How would your soldiers behave under similar circumstances? I think in your hearts, you all know the truth.

Israel regrets the loss of life. But we will never apologize for defending ourselves. Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territory. And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.

He makes a plea then for a cessation of double standards and for Israel to be treated “just like any other state.”

Other than being a bit quicker with the statement, I have only one quibble: he should not apologize for the loss of life. Did we apologize in WWII when we killed Nazis? Do we apologize when we kill Taliban fighters? The notion that these are innocent bystanders in the war to destroy the Jewish state is wrong — they were participants. Yes, yes, it’s a small tip of the hat to public opinion , but we could do without any concessions to the howling mob right now.

I have neither the intelligence data nor the expertise — who but the Israelis do at this point? — to claim that there were alternatives to the raid. (Each situation is unique, so other really smart operations don’t necessarily work in different situations.) In due time –after the situation has cooled — we will have an assessment from Israelis with complete data. And as soon as Israel starts getting praised by the UN for restraint, I’ll argue it should show more. But for now, I’ll offer a hearty “Right on!” and suggest that in a nation using drone weapons to kill terrorists that inevitably kill civilians, we should promote the idea, not undermine it, that the international community doesn’t get to set the rules of war for democratic nations that have internal checks and balances and that respect the rule of law. In sum, Israel, like the U.S., gets to decide for itself, subject to its own laws and its own free press and democratic system, what is “proportional” and what is essential to its own security.

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Stumping the State Department

Quick – name three good things that have come from the U.S.’s participating in the UN Human Rights Council! OK, it was a trick question. We have accomplished nothing there. P.J. Crowley couldn’t even come up with one:

QUESTION: P.J., earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council passed a pretty strong condemnatory resolution about the flotilla incident. Among the items in this resolution is the creation of a independent fact-finding mission to go and investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. I realize that you guys voted against this along with two of your stalwart allies, but it passed pretty overwhelmingly. I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing that you were thinking about when you were talking about an international component to the Israeli investigation. 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you heard in our explanation of vote that we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.. .

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that you are — 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve? 

MR.CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive. 

QUESTION: How did that manifest itself in this vote? 

CROWLEY: Well, we — there was a — I mean, all we can do — we have — we don’t — we don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council. …

QUESTION: The previous administration didn’t — didn’t — I mean, didn’t — they basically ignored the whole council because — because of situations like this. 

CROWLEY: Well, and we don’t think ignoring, you know, these issues. …

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough? 

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work — you know, I mean, we’ll — we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council, just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court review conference. You had a briefing about that earlier this afternoon. 

We — we are willing to work constructively with countries around the world on the most urgent issues that face us all. We understand that there will be times where our view may carry the day, and there will be times where our — you know, other countries have different points of view.

Got that? In fact, we’ve done plenty of damage by being there — displaying our impotence and elevating the profile of regimes that are among the worst human rights abusers. The administration keeps saying it defends Israel in international bodies. When? How?

The administration’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a sop to the thugocracies. The notion that we are doing good by showing them deference is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Hillary told us that “ideology is so yesterday.” Actually, it’s alive and well in the State Department.

Quick – name three good things that have come from the U.S.’s participating in the UN Human Rights Council! OK, it was a trick question. We have accomplished nothing there. P.J. Crowley couldn’t even come up with one:

QUESTION: P.J., earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council passed a pretty strong condemnatory resolution about the flotilla incident. Among the items in this resolution is the creation of a independent fact-finding mission to go and investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. I realize that you guys voted against this along with two of your stalwart allies, but it passed pretty overwhelmingly. I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing that you were thinking about when you were talking about an international component to the Israeli investigation. 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you heard in our explanation of vote that we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.. .

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that you are — 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve? 

MR.CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive. 

QUESTION: How did that manifest itself in this vote? 

CROWLEY: Well, we — there was a — I mean, all we can do — we have — we don’t — we don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council. …

QUESTION: The previous administration didn’t — didn’t — I mean, didn’t — they basically ignored the whole council because — because of situations like this. 

CROWLEY: Well, and we don’t think ignoring, you know, these issues. …

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough? 

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work — you know, I mean, we’ll — we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council, just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court review conference. You had a briefing about that earlier this afternoon. 

We — we are willing to work constructively with countries around the world on the most urgent issues that face us all. We understand that there will be times where our view may carry the day, and there will be times where our — you know, other countries have different points of view.

Got that? In fact, we’ve done plenty of damage by being there — displaying our impotence and elevating the profile of regimes that are among the worst human rights abusers. The administration keeps saying it defends Israel in international bodies. When? How?

The administration’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a sop to the thugocracies. The notion that we are doing good by showing them deference is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Hillary told us that “ideology is so yesterday.” Actually, it’s alive and well in the State Department.

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What Israel Did Not Do Wrong

My take today in the New York Post.

My take today in the New York Post.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

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