Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 5, 2010

Turning of the Tide?

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

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Losing the Heartland

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

Tom Jensen, of Democratic Public Policy Polling, writes:

It may be the Midwest — rather than the South — that proves to be the worst region for Democrats at the polls this year. We’ve polled on Barack Obama’s approval rating in 16 states since the beginning of March. In 6 of those his approval rating is 10 points or worse than the share of the vote he got on election day — and all but one of them is a Big Ten state.

Obama’s approval in California on our last poll represented a 12 point drop from his 2008 performance. The other five ones are all Midwestern — Illinois (50% approval, 62% 2008 vote), Ohio (40% approval, 51% 2008 vote), Michigan (46% approval, 57% 2008 vote), Iowa (43% approval, 54% 2008 vote) and Wisconsin (46% approval, 56% 2008 vote).

As Jensen notes, this could put at risk five Democratic governors in each of these states. But it also may help the GOP nail down Midwest Senate races. Rasmussen reports that Dan Coats leads in Indiana by 14 points. Illinois is rated as “leans Republican” by Charlie Cook.

Historically, poor presidential approval ratings are the single biggest indicator of midterm losses for the president’s party. And if that pattern continues and Obama’s ratings continue to flounder in the mid-40s, it’s going to be a catastrophic midterm election for Democrats in the Midwest — and in a lot of other places too.

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Will Obama Pay a Price?

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: ”Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: ”Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

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