Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 8, 2010

Turning the Tables on the Turks

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

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Who’s out of Touch with Reality? Israelis or “Liberal Zionists”?

A consistent theme — not only of the post-Gaza-flotilla criticism of Israel but also of the entire thrust of the Obama administration’s attempt to “reset” the Middle East — has been the notion that Israel is out of touch with the rest of the world. In this formulation, a reactionary, right-wing Israeli government is driving crazy the rest of the world and a basically sympathetic American ally by pursuing self-destructive policies. This thesis was sounded anew by Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast yesterday by means of a piece in which he attacked Elliott Abrams for accurately describing the pack of jackals who are attacking Israel’s right of self-defense as a “lynch mob.” Beinart considered that politically incorrect because it links an administration led by an African-American and a multi-cultural institution like the United Nations with a phrase that conjures up “black men hanging from trees.” For Beinart, talking about the siege of Israel in terms of life and death is apparently beyond his comprehension. In his worldview, the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza — and who would like to kill all the Jews of Israel — or the more moderate Palestinians who refuse to make peace because they are afraid of Hamas, don’t really count in a discussion of Israeli actions. Nor does he understand that the vicious global attacks on Israel can only be properly understood in the context of the rise of a new wave of anti-Semitism around the world.

Beinart goes on to knock the Netanyahu government and its American supporters as out of touch with America because Obama, as well as Hispanics and African-Americans, are less inclined to support the Jewish state than the rest of the country, which remains solidly pro-Israel. Sounding like James Carville in January 2009, Beinart assumes that Obama and the Democrats will rule in Washington forever, dismissing the overwhelming current pro-Israel majority in Congress as well as the near certainty that it will be even more pro-Israel next January because Obama’s party is likely to face heavy losses to the Republicans in November. Nor does he take into account that, as Jennifer noted earlier, a new Rasmussen poll shows most Americans side with Israel rather than the Palestinians on the Gaza flotilla, as they have on virtually every issue over the years. But because J Street and “liberal Zionist” critiques of Israel have little to do with the nonexistent chances of peace with the Palestinians and everything to do with attempting to replace a bipartisan pro-Israel American consensus with an Obama-like moral equivalence about the Middle East, it’s hard to take Beinart’s analysis seriously, despite the attention he has been getting lately.

But even as Beinart and J Street continue to trumpet their anger at Israel’s government, you have to ask what they make of the fact that the majority of his people support Netanyahu’s policies or that his coalition remains so stable. As it happens, writer Ethan Perlson weighed in with an explanation in the same Daily Beast that is now Beinart’s regular perch. Perlson reports that Israeli liberals and left-wingers — the people Beinart supposes he is speaking up for — are fed up with criticisms of their country and are rallying against the hypocritical Israel-bashers and in support of their government’s determination to continue trying to isolate Hamas. Even the opposition Kadima Party, led by supposed Obama favorite Tzipi Livni, which miserably failed to get a no-confidence motion passed by the Knesset this week, supported the government’s policy on the blockade.

The point is, even most of the Israeli left and those in the center, who are actually prepared to make painful territorial concessions if peace were a real possibility, understand that the failure to attain peace is the fault of the Palestinians, not of Netanyahu. They know that Israel withdrew from Gaza hoping that the Palestinians would use their freedom to work for peace and instead saw the area fall under the sway of the most violent and extreme Islamist factions, who used it as a launching pad for terror. They know that lifting the blockade of Hamas would give it — and its patron, Iran — a victory that would make the region even more dangerous.

Though they claim that Israelis are out of touch with America, given the continuing support for Israel by most Americans, it may be Beinart and his friends in the mainstream media who are out of sync with public opinion. And instead of chiding Israelis to adopt policies that they know make no sense, perhaps “liberal Zionists,” like Beinart and other Americans who purport to be friends of the Jewish state while incessantly bashing it, should start listening to the Israeli people.

A consistent theme — not only of the post-Gaza-flotilla criticism of Israel but also of the entire thrust of the Obama administration’s attempt to “reset” the Middle East — has been the notion that Israel is out of touch with the rest of the world. In this formulation, a reactionary, right-wing Israeli government is driving crazy the rest of the world and a basically sympathetic American ally by pursuing self-destructive policies. This thesis was sounded anew by Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast yesterday by means of a piece in which he attacked Elliott Abrams for accurately describing the pack of jackals who are attacking Israel’s right of self-defense as a “lynch mob.” Beinart considered that politically incorrect because it links an administration led by an African-American and a multi-cultural institution like the United Nations with a phrase that conjures up “black men hanging from trees.” For Beinart, talking about the siege of Israel in terms of life and death is apparently beyond his comprehension. In his worldview, the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza — and who would like to kill all the Jews of Israel — or the more moderate Palestinians who refuse to make peace because they are afraid of Hamas, don’t really count in a discussion of Israeli actions. Nor does he understand that the vicious global attacks on Israel can only be properly understood in the context of the rise of a new wave of anti-Semitism around the world.

Beinart goes on to knock the Netanyahu government and its American supporters as out of touch with America because Obama, as well as Hispanics and African-Americans, are less inclined to support the Jewish state than the rest of the country, which remains solidly pro-Israel. Sounding like James Carville in January 2009, Beinart assumes that Obama and the Democrats will rule in Washington forever, dismissing the overwhelming current pro-Israel majority in Congress as well as the near certainty that it will be even more pro-Israel next January because Obama’s party is likely to face heavy losses to the Republicans in November. Nor does he take into account that, as Jennifer noted earlier, a new Rasmussen poll shows most Americans side with Israel rather than the Palestinians on the Gaza flotilla, as they have on virtually every issue over the years. But because J Street and “liberal Zionist” critiques of Israel have little to do with the nonexistent chances of peace with the Palestinians and everything to do with attempting to replace a bipartisan pro-Israel American consensus with an Obama-like moral equivalence about the Middle East, it’s hard to take Beinart’s analysis seriously, despite the attention he has been getting lately.

But even as Beinart and J Street continue to trumpet their anger at Israel’s government, you have to ask what they make of the fact that the majority of his people support Netanyahu’s policies or that his coalition remains so stable. As it happens, writer Ethan Perlson weighed in with an explanation in the same Daily Beast that is now Beinart’s regular perch. Perlson reports that Israeli liberals and left-wingers — the people Beinart supposes he is speaking up for — are fed up with criticisms of their country and are rallying against the hypocritical Israel-bashers and in support of their government’s determination to continue trying to isolate Hamas. Even the opposition Kadima Party, led by supposed Obama favorite Tzipi Livni, which miserably failed to get a no-confidence motion passed by the Knesset this week, supported the government’s policy on the blockade.

The point is, even most of the Israeli left and those in the center, who are actually prepared to make painful territorial concessions if peace were a real possibility, understand that the failure to attain peace is the fault of the Palestinians, not of Netanyahu. They know that Israel withdrew from Gaza hoping that the Palestinians would use their freedom to work for peace and instead saw the area fall under the sway of the most violent and extreme Islamist factions, who used it as a launching pad for terror. They know that lifting the blockade of Hamas would give it — and its patron, Iran — a victory that would make the region even more dangerous.

Though they claim that Israelis are out of touch with America, given the continuing support for Israel by most Americans, it may be Beinart and his friends in the mainstream media who are out of sync with public opinion. And instead of chiding Israelis to adopt policies that they know make no sense, perhaps “liberal Zionists,” like Beinart and other Americans who purport to be friends of the Jewish state while incessantly bashing it, should start listening to the Israeli people.

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RE: President Obama: Jimmy Carter Redux?

A reader e-mails:

Glad to see the left is stumbling through to Jimmy Carter redux. I bought a shirt from one of the websites that has The One’s picture on it with the caption “Welcome Back, Carter.” I wear it for my trainer, who is a serial apologist for, among other things, ObamaCare. I keep explaining to him that when the tax increases get high enough, his services will be the first thing that “rich” people like me will have to cut out. He says that’s a question of priorities, to which I respond that he’s setting my priorities for me! We often spend the rest of the hour in silence.

No better lesson in economics could be given.

A reader e-mails:

Glad to see the left is stumbling through to Jimmy Carter redux. I bought a shirt from one of the websites that has The One’s picture on it with the caption “Welcome Back, Carter.” I wear it for my trainer, who is a serial apologist for, among other things, ObamaCare. I keep explaining to him that when the tax increases get high enough, his services will be the first thing that “rich” people like me will have to cut out. He says that’s a question of priorities, to which I respond that he’s setting my priorities for me! We often spend the rest of the hour in silence.

No better lesson in economics could be given.

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“It’s a Shame”

While calling her words “offensive,” Barack Obama today offered more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger commentary on the retirement of Helen Thomas:

The comments were offensive. It’s a shame because Helen was somebody who had been a correspondent through I don’t know how many presidents, was a real institution in Washington. But I think she made the right decision. I think that those comments were out of line, and hopefully she recognizes that.

She was indeed a “real institution” in Washington. But given her decades-long vitriol toward Jews and Israel, not to mention the genuinely deep unpleasantness with which she conducted herself, such a thing says more about Washington and its press corps, and what is tolerable to both than it does about Helen Thomas, who is and has always been a particularly repellent example of her city’s and her profession’s self-regard. And what these words say about Barack Obama himself I leave to you to decide.

While calling her words “offensive,” Barack Obama today offered more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger commentary on the retirement of Helen Thomas:

The comments were offensive. It’s a shame because Helen was somebody who had been a correspondent through I don’t know how many presidents, was a real institution in Washington. But I think she made the right decision. I think that those comments were out of line, and hopefully she recognizes that.

She was indeed a “real institution” in Washington. But given her decades-long vitriol toward Jews and Israel, not to mention the genuinely deep unpleasantness with which she conducted herself, such a thing says more about Washington and its press corps, and what is tolerable to both than it does about Helen Thomas, who is and has always been a particularly repellent example of her city’s and her profession’s self-regard. And what these words say about Barack Obama himself I leave to you to decide.

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Priceless

You can’t say Israelis aren’t a creative bunch:

Although most of the recent talk regarding flotillas has revolved around ships sailing toward Gaza, at least two plans have emerged for “reverse flotillas” – from Israel toward Turkey – to highlight what organizers have labeled the Turks’ “shameless hypocrisy” in their criticisms of the Jewish state.

The most ambitious of the two plans has been devised by members of Israel’s National Student Union, who this week announced their intention to set sail toward Turkey, in an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the “oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan” and to members of the “Turkish Armenian minority.”

They also might think of granting asylum to the women and girls of Turkey. They, too, are a brutalized and oppressed group.

You can’t say Israelis aren’t a creative bunch:

Although most of the recent talk regarding flotillas has revolved around ships sailing toward Gaza, at least two plans have emerged for “reverse flotillas” – from Israel toward Turkey – to highlight what organizers have labeled the Turks’ “shameless hypocrisy” in their criticisms of the Jewish state.

The most ambitious of the two plans has been devised by members of Israel’s National Student Union, who this week announced their intention to set sail toward Turkey, in an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the “oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan” and to members of the “Turkish Armenian minority.”

They also might think of granting asylum to the women and girls of Turkey. They, too, are a brutalized and oppressed group.

Read Less

President Obama: Jimmy Carter Redux?

That’s not my own title — that’s the subject of a Politico forum on whether Obama is another failed president. I think we can all agree that Obama is in bad shape if that’s the conversation.

Stuart Gottlieb of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale has this to say:

For 18 months Obama supporters, especially in the media, have returned time and again to the “Reagan analogy” — a transformative president comes to office in a time of deep economic recession and intense foreign policy challenge, charts a bold course, loses popularity (and many seats in Congress) during his first term, only to see his economic and foreign policy visions vindicated in time for a landslide re-election and a revered place in presidential history. Unfortunately, Obama has thus far charted an opposite course.

Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern University adds:

Obama is showing signs of serious incompetence in crisis management with the Gulf oil spill that do call to mind memories of Jimmy Carter’s botched effort to manage the Iranian hostage crisis. In addition, he is projecting U.S. weakness abroad which is emboldening Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and North Korea to take aggressive anti-Western threats. At home, he is pursuing economic policies that will eventually lead to a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. There is essentially no new jobs creation in the private sector because Obama has scared the daylights out of small businesses and no one wants to invest or expand in this economic climate. Meanwhile, the steady cranking of the government printing presses to pay for our gargantuan deficits almost guarantees that inflation will eventually return. Once the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, the recovery will take a huge hit as taxes go up. Higher unemployment, higher inflation, and ultimately higher interest rates are what lie before us. Taken together these three things mean a higher misery Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if this trip back to the 1970s were limited to just wearing bell bottoms! But, it is not.

The Democrats’ rebuttals aren’t that effective. Patrick J. Egan says: “The Gulf oil spill is certainly hurting and humbling the Obama presidency. But unlike the Iranian hostage crisis, the disaster does not give Republicans any evidence they can use to promote an obvious policy alternative.” Umm, executive incompetence? A government stretched too thin to do the fundamental tasks? A blame-somebody-else fixation? Surely they can do better than that.

This, from Princeton’s Julian E. Zelizer, might be the wisest counsel:

Carter stumbled as a result of the difficulties he faced heading his own party – failing to offer policies that nurtured intraparty alliances – as well particular decisions that he made which did not offer effective political responses to the crises. President Obama is still early in his presidency and can chart a different history for himself. But Carter’s history is one he should take a close look at.

True, but does Obama know he’s failing? Does he want to change? We’ve seen no evidence of that to date, but maybe after the midterms, there will be some soul-searching in the White House.

That’s not my own title — that’s the subject of a Politico forum on whether Obama is another failed president. I think we can all agree that Obama is in bad shape if that’s the conversation.

Stuart Gottlieb of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale has this to say:

For 18 months Obama supporters, especially in the media, have returned time and again to the “Reagan analogy” — a transformative president comes to office in a time of deep economic recession and intense foreign policy challenge, charts a bold course, loses popularity (and many seats in Congress) during his first term, only to see his economic and foreign policy visions vindicated in time for a landslide re-election and a revered place in presidential history. Unfortunately, Obama has thus far charted an opposite course.

Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern University adds:

Obama is showing signs of serious incompetence in crisis management with the Gulf oil spill that do call to mind memories of Jimmy Carter’s botched effort to manage the Iranian hostage crisis. In addition, he is projecting U.S. weakness abroad which is emboldening Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and North Korea to take aggressive anti-Western threats. At home, he is pursuing economic policies that will eventually lead to a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. There is essentially no new jobs creation in the private sector because Obama has scared the daylights out of small businesses and no one wants to invest or expand in this economic climate. Meanwhile, the steady cranking of the government printing presses to pay for our gargantuan deficits almost guarantees that inflation will eventually return. Once the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, the recovery will take a huge hit as taxes go up. Higher unemployment, higher inflation, and ultimately higher interest rates are what lie before us. Taken together these three things mean a higher misery Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if this trip back to the 1970s were limited to just wearing bell bottoms! But, it is not.

The Democrats’ rebuttals aren’t that effective. Patrick J. Egan says: “The Gulf oil spill is certainly hurting and humbling the Obama presidency. But unlike the Iranian hostage crisis, the disaster does not give Republicans any evidence they can use to promote an obvious policy alternative.” Umm, executive incompetence? A government stretched too thin to do the fundamental tasks? A blame-somebody-else fixation? Surely they can do better than that.

This, from Princeton’s Julian E. Zelizer, might be the wisest counsel:

Carter stumbled as a result of the difficulties he faced heading his own party – failing to offer policies that nurtured intraparty alliances – as well particular decisions that he made which did not offer effective political responses to the crises. President Obama is still early in his presidency and can chart a different history for himself. But Carter’s history is one he should take a close look at.

True, but does Obama know he’s failing? Does he want to change? We’ve seen no evidence of that to date, but maybe after the midterms, there will be some soul-searching in the White House.

Read Less

Mitch Daniels Makes the Rounds

Mitch Daniels is clearly raising his profile and leaving the door open to a 2012 presidential run. COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Ferguson’s story is as comprehensive a piece on his views and persona as we have seen. Daniels is in Washington this week doing interviews and meeting with groups like the Business Roundtable. This morning, he met with a group of mostly conservative new-media and print journalists. He proved both impressive and problematic for conservatives seeking a favorite in the 2012 race.

On the positive side, he is plainly not Obama. He is precise, self-effacing, down to earth, and rooted in conservative philosophy. The first question was about education, and, out of the box, he acknowledged that education was “one of the shortcomings of our administration,” and although he has made limited progress, he wants to step up his efforts in the remainder of his term. He then went on to discuss the substantial reforms he has made with the help of a new superintendent (ending social promotion, insulating teachers from lawsuits if they enforce discipline, opening up credentials so people who have had other careers can get into the classrooms, etc.). What he conveyed was both candor and a big-picture view (“Public education has evolved into a situation . . . where it is set up as much for the benefit of the adults as for the kids.”)

He also explained his effort to tame public-employees’ unions, pointing out that teachers in his state are paid 22 percent more than the average worker and that he needed to bring the union to heel if “we were going to overhaul government.” By executive order, he ended mandatory union dues, and 90 percent of the employee chose not to pay. (“They gave themselves a 2 percent pay increase.”) But he is not anti-union by any means. He explained that the playing field should be level, and workers should have the choice to unionize. He said the right to join a union is “fundamental” and has “led to freedom in a lot of countries.”

He was at his best when discussing political theory and domestic policy. Asked what conservatives he looks to for guidance, he listed Hayek, Friedman, and Charles Murray. All of them, he explained, “are realistic and therefore modest in what government is capable of doing.” He continued that they evince “skepticism of bigness — in all its forms.” When I asked him what the principle errors of Obama and Congress had been, he began by pointing out that most of them “have not spent a day in a profit-making enterprise.” He explained that the choice between political parties is the clearest we’ve ever had. Conservatives believe, he said, that public service is a temporary job and that their duty is “to promote free enterprise, family, and other intermediary institutions.” Democrats believe the opposite, he said — that society will work better “if the ‘enlightened’” make the decisions.

He explained: “I’m concerned. I’m alarmed about the direction of the country.” Even apart from the theoretical argument, he observed that looking at entitlements and the debt, “Can we all agree the arithmetic doesn’t work?” But he said he is interested in the bigger philosophical questions: “What kind of people do we want to be?” Are we still capable of preserving liberty and independence?

About entitlements and the debt, he said he has faith that we can have a “grown-up” conversation. He then proceeded to have one. “Americans,” he asserted, “have a renewed sense of the menace of too much debt.” In their personal lives, with credit-card and mortgage debt, he notes that “they had a searing personal experience.” What to do about entitlements? “Paul Ryan is right — we need to bifurcate these programs.” He said that Democrats would have been best suited to do the hard work, given the negative rhetoric hurled at Republicans when they undertake entitlements control, but he said that is a “lost opportunity. Someone’s got to try.” He continued: “Why should we pay for Warren Buffet’s health care? Why should be pay Bill Gates a pension?” Like businesses that have phased out defined-benefit plans, he recommended that we have “a new plan and an old plan.” And he wasn’t shy about criticizing Republicans for grandstanding on Medicare cuts during the health-care debate.

He explained: “None of this will work if we don’t have a sustained period of growth.” Unfortunately, he said, “Everything they are doing as far as I can see leans against economic growth.” And he pointed to his own job-creation record. Indiana has 2 percent of the population and 7 percent of the new jobs. He has made sure “the next job comes to Indiana and not someplace else.”

He also showed a knack for political message. He questioned “what the hell” did “change you can believe in.” He suggested that the conservatives’ motto should be “Change that believes in you,” stressing that Americans are “fully capable” of running their own lives, buying their own health-care insurance, etc.

If Daniels makes a run in 2012 — although he said we should now focus on the “what” and figure out the “who” later — he may have trouble with both social conservatives and those favoring a vigorous foreign policy that projects American power and promotes our values. On social policy, John McCormack followed up on a point Daniels had made in the Weekly Standard story. Daniels had said we should declare a truce on social issues. McCormack asked whether that meant Daniels would stand down on opposing taxpayer-funded abortions and reversing the Mexico City policy on funding international institutions that provide abortion services. It was an easy moment to clarify and assert that you can’t simply concede the playing field to the opposition. Instead, Daniels reiterated his view that we should “set aside” these issues for a while to focus on our fiscal emergency. So do the pro-abortion forces win these issues? Not clear.

I asked him the sole question on foreign policy — in what fundamental ways Obama had erred? He did not address any of the basic concerns conservatives have been discussing (e.g., engagement with despots, indifference on human rights, animus toward Israel). Instead, he gave a platitude, “Peace through strength has totally been vindicated.” And then he immediately asserted that we have to “ask questions about the extent of our commitments.” He said, “If we go broke, no one will follow a pauper.” At least temporarily, he said, we can’t maintain all our commitments. But if our foes don’t take a break, what do we do? Should we pull up stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and hack away at the defense budget? It’s not clear whether he has thought these issues through, or whether he views foreign policy as anything more than a cost-control issue.

Daniels is an impressive figure. If he wants to run for another office, however, he will have to stretch beyond his comfort zone and address the full gamut of issues that concern Republican primary voters. If he doesn’t want to or can’t do that, he’d make a heck of a Treasury Secretary.

Mitch Daniels is clearly raising his profile and leaving the door open to a 2012 presidential run. COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Ferguson’s story is as comprehensive a piece on his views and persona as we have seen. Daniels is in Washington this week doing interviews and meeting with groups like the Business Roundtable. This morning, he met with a group of mostly conservative new-media and print journalists. He proved both impressive and problematic for conservatives seeking a favorite in the 2012 race.

On the positive side, he is plainly not Obama. He is precise, self-effacing, down to earth, and rooted in conservative philosophy. The first question was about education, and, out of the box, he acknowledged that education was “one of the shortcomings of our administration,” and although he has made limited progress, he wants to step up his efforts in the remainder of his term. He then went on to discuss the substantial reforms he has made with the help of a new superintendent (ending social promotion, insulating teachers from lawsuits if they enforce discipline, opening up credentials so people who have had other careers can get into the classrooms, etc.). What he conveyed was both candor and a big-picture view (“Public education has evolved into a situation . . . where it is set up as much for the benefit of the adults as for the kids.”)

He also explained his effort to tame public-employees’ unions, pointing out that teachers in his state are paid 22 percent more than the average worker and that he needed to bring the union to heel if “we were going to overhaul government.” By executive order, he ended mandatory union dues, and 90 percent of the employee chose not to pay. (“They gave themselves a 2 percent pay increase.”) But he is not anti-union by any means. He explained that the playing field should be level, and workers should have the choice to unionize. He said the right to join a union is “fundamental” and has “led to freedom in a lot of countries.”

He was at his best when discussing political theory and domestic policy. Asked what conservatives he looks to for guidance, he listed Hayek, Friedman, and Charles Murray. All of them, he explained, “are realistic and therefore modest in what government is capable of doing.” He continued that they evince “skepticism of bigness — in all its forms.” When I asked him what the principle errors of Obama and Congress had been, he began by pointing out that most of them “have not spent a day in a profit-making enterprise.” He explained that the choice between political parties is the clearest we’ve ever had. Conservatives believe, he said, that public service is a temporary job and that their duty is “to promote free enterprise, family, and other intermediary institutions.” Democrats believe the opposite, he said — that society will work better “if the ‘enlightened’” make the decisions.

He explained: “I’m concerned. I’m alarmed about the direction of the country.” Even apart from the theoretical argument, he observed that looking at entitlements and the debt, “Can we all agree the arithmetic doesn’t work?” But he said he is interested in the bigger philosophical questions: “What kind of people do we want to be?” Are we still capable of preserving liberty and independence?

About entitlements and the debt, he said he has faith that we can have a “grown-up” conversation. He then proceeded to have one. “Americans,” he asserted, “have a renewed sense of the menace of too much debt.” In their personal lives, with credit-card and mortgage debt, he notes that “they had a searing personal experience.” What to do about entitlements? “Paul Ryan is right — we need to bifurcate these programs.” He said that Democrats would have been best suited to do the hard work, given the negative rhetoric hurled at Republicans when they undertake entitlements control, but he said that is a “lost opportunity. Someone’s got to try.” He continued: “Why should we pay for Warren Buffet’s health care? Why should be pay Bill Gates a pension?” Like businesses that have phased out defined-benefit plans, he recommended that we have “a new plan and an old plan.” And he wasn’t shy about criticizing Republicans for grandstanding on Medicare cuts during the health-care debate.

He explained: “None of this will work if we don’t have a sustained period of growth.” Unfortunately, he said, “Everything they are doing as far as I can see leans against economic growth.” And he pointed to his own job-creation record. Indiana has 2 percent of the population and 7 percent of the new jobs. He has made sure “the next job comes to Indiana and not someplace else.”

He also showed a knack for political message. He questioned “what the hell” did “change you can believe in.” He suggested that the conservatives’ motto should be “Change that believes in you,” stressing that Americans are “fully capable” of running their own lives, buying their own health-care insurance, etc.

If Daniels makes a run in 2012 — although he said we should now focus on the “what” and figure out the “who” later — he may have trouble with both social conservatives and those favoring a vigorous foreign policy that projects American power and promotes our values. On social policy, John McCormack followed up on a point Daniels had made in the Weekly Standard story. Daniels had said we should declare a truce on social issues. McCormack asked whether that meant Daniels would stand down on opposing taxpayer-funded abortions and reversing the Mexico City policy on funding international institutions that provide abortion services. It was an easy moment to clarify and assert that you can’t simply concede the playing field to the opposition. Instead, Daniels reiterated his view that we should “set aside” these issues for a while to focus on our fiscal emergency. So do the pro-abortion forces win these issues? Not clear.

I asked him the sole question on foreign policy — in what fundamental ways Obama had erred? He did not address any of the basic concerns conservatives have been discussing (e.g., engagement with despots, indifference on human rights, animus toward Israel). Instead, he gave a platitude, “Peace through strength has totally been vindicated.” And then he immediately asserted that we have to “ask questions about the extent of our commitments.” He said, “If we go broke, no one will follow a pauper.” At least temporarily, he said, we can’t maintain all our commitments. But if our foes don’t take a break, what do we do? Should we pull up stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and hack away at the defense budget? It’s not clear whether he has thought these issues through, or whether he views foreign policy as anything more than a cost-control issue.

Daniels is an impressive figure. If he wants to run for another office, however, he will have to stretch beyond his comfort zone and address the full gamut of issues that concern Republican primary voters. If he doesn’t want to or can’t do that, he’d make a heck of a Treasury Secretary.

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If You Like Scrubs

My recommendation for smart, funny summer reading? “Experiments in Torture,” by an organization called Physicians for Human Rights. At fewer than 30 pages, this breezy PDF is a must-have for poolside or beach.

“Experiments” is built around a comic device at once so simple and ingenious it’s reminiscent of classic absurd contrivances, such as those that drove Mel Brooks’s The Producers or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. The idea is that the Bush administration, by making sure doctors were present during terrorist interrogations, proved itself to be an illegal torture and research operation. You see:

Medical personnel were ostensibly responsible for ensuring that the legal threshold for “severe physical and mental pain” was not crossed by interrogators, but their presence and complicity in intentionally harmful interrogation practices were not only apparently intended to enable the routine practice of torture, but also to serve as a potential legal defense against criminal liability for torture.

Get it? By doing the right thing, the administration proved its intention of doing the wrong thing! Read it quickly, so you can pass it on to your friends and let them in on the fun. The sequel, of course, writes itself: Barack Obama gets charged with war crimes after prosecutors cite his executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.

My recommendation for smart, funny summer reading? “Experiments in Torture,” by an organization called Physicians for Human Rights. At fewer than 30 pages, this breezy PDF is a must-have for poolside or beach.

“Experiments” is built around a comic device at once so simple and ingenious it’s reminiscent of classic absurd contrivances, such as those that drove Mel Brooks’s The Producers or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. The idea is that the Bush administration, by making sure doctors were present during terrorist interrogations, proved itself to be an illegal torture and research operation. You see:

Medical personnel were ostensibly responsible for ensuring that the legal threshold for “severe physical and mental pain” was not crossed by interrogators, but their presence and complicity in intentionally harmful interrogation practices were not only apparently intended to enable the routine practice of torture, but also to serve as a potential legal defense against criminal liability for torture.

Get it? By doing the right thing, the administration proved its intention of doing the wrong thing! Read it quickly, so you can pass it on to your friends and let them in on the fun. The sequel, of course, writes itself: Barack Obama gets charged with war crimes after prosecutors cite his executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.

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Marco Rubio on Israel

As I noted earlier, among prominent Republicans, Marco Rubio is one of the most articulate and fervent in his pro-Israel statements. This interview is only one example:

In responding to the Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla, Obama has ignored the fact that the flotilla’s organizers and participants were looking for a confrontation and have “strong direct ties to Islamic fundamentalists, jihadists, and terrorists and to many who do not believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, says.

“I believe that there is an organized, systematic attempt to de-legitimize Israel’s right to exist and to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself,” Rubio says. “And so Israel has never needed strong American support more than it needs it now.”

Yet, Rubio says, “Some of the pronouncements and actions of this administration over the last year have emboldened those who are trying to de-legitimize Israel.”

It will be interesting to see how Jewish voters in Florida assess the Senate and House candidates. By those Democrats who have been unwilling to criticize Obama with regard to his policy on Israel and Iran, is there a price to be paid? There is a reason why the president and Joe Biden have been out to “charm” American Jews — they are rightly worried that their record on Israel has alienated a once reliable voting bloc. With candidates such as Rubio to emphasize the point, American Jews might figure out (or is that too much to hope for?) which party is more devoted to the Jewish state these days.

As I noted earlier, among prominent Republicans, Marco Rubio is one of the most articulate and fervent in his pro-Israel statements. This interview is only one example:

In responding to the Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla, Obama has ignored the fact that the flotilla’s organizers and participants were looking for a confrontation and have “strong direct ties to Islamic fundamentalists, jihadists, and terrorists and to many who do not believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, says.

“I believe that there is an organized, systematic attempt to de-legitimize Israel’s right to exist and to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself,” Rubio says. “And so Israel has never needed strong American support more than it needs it now.”

Yet, Rubio says, “Some of the pronouncements and actions of this administration over the last year have emboldened those who are trying to de-legitimize Israel.”

It will be interesting to see how Jewish voters in Florida assess the Senate and House candidates. By those Democrats who have been unwilling to criticize Obama with regard to his policy on Israel and Iran, is there a price to be paid? There is a reason why the president and Joe Biden have been out to “charm” American Jews — they are rightly worried that their record on Israel has alienated a once reliable voting bloc. With candidates such as Rubio to emphasize the point, American Jews might figure out (or is that too much to hope for?) which party is more devoted to the Jewish state these days.

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We Don’t Need Clint Eastwood

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

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Embarrassing

In an interview with NBC, President Obama sets the record straight with respect to his administration’s much-criticized handling of the oil-spill crisis. Far from flailing in his response to the environmental disaster, Obama has been way ahead of the curve all along. As early as a month ago, he assures us, he was facing the elements down in the Gulf, gaining first-hand intelligence from local fishermen on “whose a** to kick.”

The nation should rejoice in being led by such a diligent a**-kicker in chief in this time of crisis. The latest Punic mission has been to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Slope of Alaska for at least another six months, halt already-planned exploratory deep-sea-drilling operations, and cancel lease sales in the Gulf. Subjected to such measures — as proactive as would be the crippling of the airline industry in response to a plane crash — the guilty a**es are indeed sore already. Which is warm comfort for the administration’s repeated failures to stop the spill or contain its spread along the coast.

In an interview with NBC, President Obama sets the record straight with respect to his administration’s much-criticized handling of the oil-spill crisis. Far from flailing in his response to the environmental disaster, Obama has been way ahead of the curve all along. As early as a month ago, he assures us, he was facing the elements down in the Gulf, gaining first-hand intelligence from local fishermen on “whose a** to kick.”

The nation should rejoice in being led by such a diligent a**-kicker in chief in this time of crisis. The latest Punic mission has been to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Slope of Alaska for at least another six months, halt already-planned exploratory deep-sea-drilling operations, and cancel lease sales in the Gulf. Subjected to such measures — as proactive as would be the crippling of the airline industry in response to a plane crash — the guilty a**es are indeed sore already. Which is warm comfort for the administration’s repeated failures to stop the spill or contain its spread along the coast.

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Who Backs Israel?

Yesterday, Rasmussen reported: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters believe pro-Palestinian activists on the Gaza-bound aid ships raided by Israeli forces are to blame for the deaths that resulted in the high-profile incident. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think the Israelis are to blame.” That’s pretty noteworthy and speaks well of average Americans’ common sense and loyalty to Israel, right?

Well, sort of. Premium subscribers to Rasmussen get a further peek behind the numbers. It turns out that 49 percent overall think the Palestinian activists are to blame, but 65 percent of Republicans and only 37 percent of Democrats do. While only 19 percent overall blame Israel, that number goes to 26 percent among Democrats. Only 11 percent of Republicans finger Israel as primarily responsible.

So why is it again that American Jewry remains “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party“? This poll is more evidence — if any more were needed — that the majority of American Jews cling to the Democratic Party ever so more tightly than to the Jewish state. Thankfully, there are millions of other Americans to take up the slack, most especially evangelical Christians, who aren’t a bit confused about who is responsible for the flotilla incident and who remain devoted to Israel.

Yesterday, Rasmussen reported: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of U.S. voters believe pro-Palestinian activists on the Gaza-bound aid ships raided by Israeli forces are to blame for the deaths that resulted in the high-profile incident. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think the Israelis are to blame.” That’s pretty noteworthy and speaks well of average Americans’ common sense and loyalty to Israel, right?

Well, sort of. Premium subscribers to Rasmussen get a further peek behind the numbers. It turns out that 49 percent overall think the Palestinian activists are to blame, but 65 percent of Republicans and only 37 percent of Democrats do. While only 19 percent overall blame Israel, that number goes to 26 percent among Democrats. Only 11 percent of Republicans finger Israel as primarily responsible.

So why is it again that American Jewry remains “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party“? This poll is more evidence — if any more were needed — that the majority of American Jews cling to the Democratic Party ever so more tightly than to the Jewish state. Thankfully, there are millions of other Americans to take up the slack, most especially evangelical Christians, who aren’t a bit confused about who is responsible for the flotilla incident and who remain devoted to Israel.

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Maybe Democrats Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet

In case you had any doubt that voters are in a throw-the-bums-out mood, the Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 29 percent of voters are inclined to re-elect their House member, a figure lower than in 1994, when the House flipped to GOP control. With each week that passes, a rebound for Democratic incumbents seems more remote. Indeed, as Obama gets hammered on everything from his shady job offers to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to the BP spill, languishing job growth, and expansion of the debt, there is good reason to predict that the political climate will get worse for Democrats.

This does not mean that individual candidates can’t swim against the tide. If Republican challengers are too wacky for the electorate (e.g., Rand Paul) or run lousy races, they are entirely capable of blowing their chances. And conversely, the few Democrats who are able to show that they voted against Obama on the most unpopular legislation might save themselves.

What Democrats aren’t going to get away with is an abrupt change of face that attempts to fudge their record. A case in point is Gerry Connolly, my representative in the 11th Virginia congressional  district. Although he has no primary challengers, he is running automated calls telling voters that he stood up to Obama on excess spending. Uh, not remotely. He voted for ObamaCare, for cap-and-trade, and for the stimulus bill. Voters aren’t as gullible as Connolly imagines, so he better hope that voters who are going to get socked with a bevy of new taxes as a result of legislation he helped pass are in a forgiving mood.

In case you had any doubt that voters are in a throw-the-bums-out mood, the Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 29 percent of voters are inclined to re-elect their House member, a figure lower than in 1994, when the House flipped to GOP control. With each week that passes, a rebound for Democratic incumbents seems more remote. Indeed, as Obama gets hammered on everything from his shady job offers to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to the BP spill, languishing job growth, and expansion of the debt, there is good reason to predict that the political climate will get worse for Democrats.

This does not mean that individual candidates can’t swim against the tide. If Republican challengers are too wacky for the electorate (e.g., Rand Paul) or run lousy races, they are entirely capable of blowing their chances. And conversely, the few Democrats who are able to show that they voted against Obama on the most unpopular legislation might save themselves.

What Democrats aren’t going to get away with is an abrupt change of face that attempts to fudge their record. A case in point is Gerry Connolly, my representative in the 11th Virginia congressional  district. Although he has no primary challengers, he is running automated calls telling voters that he stood up to Obama on excess spending. Uh, not remotely. He voted for ObamaCare, for cap-and-trade, and for the stimulus bill. Voters aren’t as gullible as Connolly imagines, so he better hope that voters who are going to get socked with a bevy of new taxes as a result of legislation he helped pass are in a forgiving mood.

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Does Sestak Agree with His J Street Backers?

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) – and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.’”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) – and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.’”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

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Brown on Israel

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

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Bemoaning the Bigot’s Retirement

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  – e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  – e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

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Obama’s Mishandling of Karzai Is Bearing Bitter Fruit

What accounts for President Hamid Karzai’s bizarre decision to fire two of the most effective members of his government — Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence director Amrullah Saleh? The supposed cause was their failure to prevent a Taliban attack on a recent peace jirga, even though the incident was a relatively minor one and did not result in many casualties. It is said that there are deeper disputes beneath the surface, including Saleh’s opposition to large-scale releases of Taliban detainees — something that Karzai favors even though the Taliban has not offered any comparable concessions. But Ali Jalali, an esteemed former Afghan interior minister who now teaches at National Defense University in Washington, thinks there is something else going on as well. The New York Times quotes him as follows:

“The root of this is the perception that President Karzai got last year from the kind of cold reception that he got from the American administration, and that made him feel insecure,” said Ahmed Ali Jalali, who was Afghanistan’s interior minister from 2003 to 2005. He now teaches at the National Defense University in Washington.

The insecurity has left Mr. Karzai alternately lashing out in anger and searching for new allies, turning to Iran and elements within the Taliban. Both are antagonistic to American interests.

“He is trying to create new networks, new allies and contacts both inside the country and outside the country in case there’s a premature withdrawal, so a lot of this is more of a survival gesture,” Mr. Jalali said.

That certainly accords with my own analysis of Karzai: like most politicians, he is primarily interested in personal survival, and if the U.S. does not commit itself to helping him, he will look for allies in all the wrong places — among warlords and drug traffickers, for a start, but also among the Taliban and even in Iran. In other words, the Obama administration’s get-tough approach with Karzai has backfired, precisely as I and many other analysts warned it would.

The administration has since tried to reverse course; it hosted Karzai for a gala state visit in Washington, for instance. But such gestures, while welcome, cannot instantly dispel more than a year of distrust. Moreover, Obama’s deadline for starting to withdraw from Afghanistan (July 2011) causes Karzai to doubt that the U.S. will be around long term and only reinforces his desire to ingratiate himself with other powerful actors — to the detriment of the goals we seek to accomplish in Afghanistan.

I don’t want to let Karzai off the hook. He is erratic, moody, and deeply flawed. He is certainly no great leader. But his flaws have only been exacerbated by the Obama administration’s mishandling.

What accounts for President Hamid Karzai’s bizarre decision to fire two of the most effective members of his government — Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence director Amrullah Saleh? The supposed cause was their failure to prevent a Taliban attack on a recent peace jirga, even though the incident was a relatively minor one and did not result in many casualties. It is said that there are deeper disputes beneath the surface, including Saleh’s opposition to large-scale releases of Taliban detainees — something that Karzai favors even though the Taliban has not offered any comparable concessions. But Ali Jalali, an esteemed former Afghan interior minister who now teaches at National Defense University in Washington, thinks there is something else going on as well. The New York Times quotes him as follows:

“The root of this is the perception that President Karzai got last year from the kind of cold reception that he got from the American administration, and that made him feel insecure,” said Ahmed Ali Jalali, who was Afghanistan’s interior minister from 2003 to 2005. He now teaches at the National Defense University in Washington.

The insecurity has left Mr. Karzai alternately lashing out in anger and searching for new allies, turning to Iran and elements within the Taliban. Both are antagonistic to American interests.

“He is trying to create new networks, new allies and contacts both inside the country and outside the country in case there’s a premature withdrawal, so a lot of this is more of a survival gesture,” Mr. Jalali said.

That certainly accords with my own analysis of Karzai: like most politicians, he is primarily interested in personal survival, and if the U.S. does not commit itself to helping him, he will look for allies in all the wrong places — among warlords and drug traffickers, for a start, but also among the Taliban and even in Iran. In other words, the Obama administration’s get-tough approach with Karzai has backfired, precisely as I and many other analysts warned it would.

The administration has since tried to reverse course; it hosted Karzai for a gala state visit in Washington, for instance. But such gestures, while welcome, cannot instantly dispel more than a year of distrust. Moreover, Obama’s deadline for starting to withdraw from Afghanistan (July 2011) causes Karzai to doubt that the U.S. will be around long term and only reinforces his desire to ingratiate himself with other powerful actors — to the detriment of the goals we seek to accomplish in Afghanistan.

I don’t want to let Karzai off the hook. He is erratic, moody, and deeply flawed. He is certainly no great leader. But his flaws have only been exacerbated by the Obama administration’s mishandling.

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Not Remotely a B+

Charlie Gasparino gets to the nub of Obama’s failure on spurring an economic recovery:

Obama is making a bad situation a hell of a lot worse—and that’s a far bigger scandal than offering Sestak a job to go away. …

His stimulus package was supposed to produce shovel-ready jobs that would repair our infrastructure much like the various public-works programs instituted by Hoover and Roosevelt. But instead of spending the money on building roads and bridges, states have hoarded much of the stimulus cash to keep their own workforces fat and happy. While the construction industry suffers 20 percent unemployment, state and local governments are keeping employment at the DMV just humming along.

It should come as no surprise that unemployment is alarmingly high just about everywhere—except in government and on Wall Street, the recipient of government bailouts, which is yet another reason why investors are getting antsy and stocks are starting to slide.

The former law professor and community organizer, as Gasparino points out, knows precious little about the free market. Raising taxes in a recession? Silly. Increasing the burdens on small business? Ridiculous. It must come as a shock to those in what passes as elite company in the media and academia that their icon is rather economically illiterate. Nor has that icon a very good grasp of history. (“He promised hope and change, but brought 1930s economic remedies that are producing similar results.”)

To recap, Obama’s not good at crises. He doesn’t excel in economics or history. Our foreign policy is in a shambles as foes run amok and allies realize they have an unreliable partner in the White House. Oh, and he’s driven his party’s electoral prospects into the ground. Most conservatives never imagined it would be this bad — and on so many fronts.

Charlie Gasparino gets to the nub of Obama’s failure on spurring an economic recovery:

Obama is making a bad situation a hell of a lot worse—and that’s a far bigger scandal than offering Sestak a job to go away. …

His stimulus package was supposed to produce shovel-ready jobs that would repair our infrastructure much like the various public-works programs instituted by Hoover and Roosevelt. But instead of spending the money on building roads and bridges, states have hoarded much of the stimulus cash to keep their own workforces fat and happy. While the construction industry suffers 20 percent unemployment, state and local governments are keeping employment at the DMV just humming along.

It should come as no surprise that unemployment is alarmingly high just about everywhere—except in government and on Wall Street, the recipient of government bailouts, which is yet another reason why investors are getting antsy and stocks are starting to slide.

The former law professor and community organizer, as Gasparino points out, knows precious little about the free market. Raising taxes in a recession? Silly. Increasing the burdens on small business? Ridiculous. It must come as a shock to those in what passes as elite company in the media and academia that their icon is rather economically illiterate. Nor has that icon a very good grasp of history. (“He promised hope and change, but brought 1930s economic remedies that are producing similar results.”)

To recap, Obama’s not good at crises. He doesn’t excel in economics or history. Our foreign policy is in a shambles as foes run amok and allies realize they have an unreliable partner in the White House. Oh, and he’s driven his party’s electoral prospects into the ground. Most conservatives never imagined it would be this bad — and on so many fronts.

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Saving American Employees in Iraq

U.S. forces are rapidly withdrawing from Iraq; they are supposed to be down to 50,000 by the end of August and to zero by the end of 2011. What does that mean for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have worked for U.S. military and civilian representatives? That is unclear, but the portents are ominous.

Iraq is getting more peaceful, but extremist groups have openly talked about “nine bullets for the traitors.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq is, no doubt, much weakened by a recent wave of raids by Iraqi and U.S. forces that have taken out much of its top leadership, but it could well regenerate itself to carry out such threats or other groups could rise up to target these American employees. Many have already died in such terrorist attacks since 2003, and those who remain an American employee are scared about what happens once American troops leave. This article in an English-language Abu Dhabi paper quotes one “‘terp,” who works for American troops:

“They’re going to leave us behind, I can see that now,” he said. “I never thought this day would come and even when [president] Obama said they’d pull-out, I believed all the promises from the soldiers that they’d take us with them, that we were their brothers, their buddies, their guys.

“But now they’re going and it’s obvious they’re not going to take us. We’ll be left here, we’ll be hung out to dry, we’ll be [expletive].”

The question is whether America will accept a moral responsibility to help out those who have helped us. Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker in Iraq who has started an NGO called the List Project to resettle Iraqi allies, urges what he calls the Guam option:

In the 1970s, then-President Gerald Ford eventually did the right thing by airlifting hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, using the U.S. military base in Guam as a staging area, but not before thousands were slain or lost to Ho Chi Minh’s “re-education camps.” Bill Clinton used Guam again in 1996 when he ordered Operation Pacific Haven, which flew 7,000 at-risk Iraqis to safety in an effort that took weeks, not months or years. Since then, the “Guam option” has been the standard for swiftly saving refugees, while also maintaining security, as processing occurs in military bases.

One may well object that the Vietnam analogy doesn’t apply, because we haven’t lost in Iraq. That’s true. And if some U.S. troops remain in Iraq after 2011 — as I hope will occur — the Guam option may not be necessary, because U.S. forces can play an important peacekeeping role to ensure that Iraq remains on a stable, democratic path. But if we do execute a full pullout by the end of next year, then all bets are off, and the Guam option should be given serious consideration as a way to save our brave allies, whose safety cannot otherwise be assured.

U.S. forces are rapidly withdrawing from Iraq; they are supposed to be down to 50,000 by the end of August and to zero by the end of 2011. What does that mean for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have worked for U.S. military and civilian representatives? That is unclear, but the portents are ominous.

Iraq is getting more peaceful, but extremist groups have openly talked about “nine bullets for the traitors.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq is, no doubt, much weakened by a recent wave of raids by Iraqi and U.S. forces that have taken out much of its top leadership, but it could well regenerate itself to carry out such threats or other groups could rise up to target these American employees. Many have already died in such terrorist attacks since 2003, and those who remain an American employee are scared about what happens once American troops leave. This article in an English-language Abu Dhabi paper quotes one “‘terp,” who works for American troops:

“They’re going to leave us behind, I can see that now,” he said. “I never thought this day would come and even when [president] Obama said they’d pull-out, I believed all the promises from the soldiers that they’d take us with them, that we were their brothers, their buddies, their guys.

“But now they’re going and it’s obvious they’re not going to take us. We’ll be left here, we’ll be hung out to dry, we’ll be [expletive].”

The question is whether America will accept a moral responsibility to help out those who have helped us. Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker in Iraq who has started an NGO called the List Project to resettle Iraqi allies, urges what he calls the Guam option:

In the 1970s, then-President Gerald Ford eventually did the right thing by airlifting hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, using the U.S. military base in Guam as a staging area, but not before thousands were slain or lost to Ho Chi Minh’s “re-education camps.” Bill Clinton used Guam again in 1996 when he ordered Operation Pacific Haven, which flew 7,000 at-risk Iraqis to safety in an effort that took weeks, not months or years. Since then, the “Guam option” has been the standard for swiftly saving refugees, while also maintaining security, as processing occurs in military bases.

One may well object that the Vietnam analogy doesn’t apply, because we haven’t lost in Iraq. That’s true. And if some U.S. troops remain in Iraq after 2011 — as I hope will occur — the Guam option may not be necessary, because U.S. forces can play an important peacekeeping role to ensure that Iraq remains on a stable, democratic path. But if we do execute a full pullout by the end of next year, then all bets are off, and the Guam option should be given serious consideration as a way to save our brave allies, whose safety cannot otherwise be assured.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats seem to have lost track of what the electorate cares about. According to Gallup: “The Republican Party is preferred over the Democratic Party for handling the two top-ranking issues of public concern — terrorism and federal government debt. The Democratic Party is preferred by much wider margins for the environment and discrimination against minority groups — but these are among the least worrisome issues to Americans.”

Obama has lost Hispanic support. Again from Gallup: “Hispanics — and particularly Hispanics who appear to be more closely associated with Hispanic immigrants — have become increasingly disenchanted with President Obama this year. That said, it is important to note that in all instances a majority of Hispanics continue to say they approve of the president’s job performance, exceeding approval among non-Hispanic whites. While Obama has tried to show strong moral support for the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, his reluctance to expend any real political capital to make it happen may be taking a toll on his approval rating in the Hispanic community.” Voters expect more than rhetoric from Obama, which is a significant problem for someone who has gotten by on rhetoric.

Obama is losing the anti-war crowd: “A senior House Democrat likened President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney over his handling of the war in Iraq. … Rangel blasted Obama for having stayed in Iraq to continue the war initiated by the preceding administration, accusing the president of being there for oil — a refrain leveled often by Democrats against Bush during the Iraq war.”

The Democrats may lose the governorship of a key swing state: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio shows [John] Kasich picking up 47% support, while [incumbent Gov.] Strickland earns 42%.”

European leftists never lose the opportunity to attack Israel: “Two members of Germany’s ‘post-communist’ Left party, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, were on the Mavi Marmara last week and apparently used tax monies to fund their terror raid on Israel.”

Who’s the loser here? If unions and not corporations are the big winners, will Democrats knock off the efforts to curb the Supreme Court’s campaign-finance decision in Citizens United?

If it’s possible to lose more respect from the voters, this will do it: “If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts. … With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions.”

Better to lose this one: “The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear arguments that Hillary Rodham Clinton is ineligible to be secretary of state because of an obscure rule about pay increases. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, without ruling on the underlying issue.” Obama would only get someone worse. (Or is that not possible?)

Democrats seem to have lost track of what the electorate cares about. According to Gallup: “The Republican Party is preferred over the Democratic Party for handling the two top-ranking issues of public concern — terrorism and federal government debt. The Democratic Party is preferred by much wider margins for the environment and discrimination against minority groups — but these are among the least worrisome issues to Americans.”

Obama has lost Hispanic support. Again from Gallup: “Hispanics — and particularly Hispanics who appear to be more closely associated with Hispanic immigrants — have become increasingly disenchanted with President Obama this year. That said, it is important to note that in all instances a majority of Hispanics continue to say they approve of the president’s job performance, exceeding approval among non-Hispanic whites. While Obama has tried to show strong moral support for the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, his reluctance to expend any real political capital to make it happen may be taking a toll on his approval rating in the Hispanic community.” Voters expect more than rhetoric from Obama, which is a significant problem for someone who has gotten by on rhetoric.

Obama is losing the anti-war crowd: “A senior House Democrat likened President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney over his handling of the war in Iraq. … Rangel blasted Obama for having stayed in Iraq to continue the war initiated by the preceding administration, accusing the president of being there for oil — a refrain leveled often by Democrats against Bush during the Iraq war.”

The Democrats may lose the governorship of a key swing state: “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio shows [John] Kasich picking up 47% support, while [incumbent Gov.] Strickland earns 42%.”

European leftists never lose the opportunity to attack Israel: “Two members of Germany’s ‘post-communist’ Left party, Inge Höger and Annette Groth, were on the Mavi Marmara last week and apparently used tax monies to fund their terror raid on Israel.”

Who’s the loser here? If unions and not corporations are the big winners, will Democrats knock off the efforts to curb the Supreme Court’s campaign-finance decision in Citizens United?

If it’s possible to lose more respect from the voters, this will do it: “If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts. … With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions.”

Better to lose this one: “The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear arguments that Hillary Rodham Clinton is ineligible to be secretary of state because of an obscure rule about pay increases. The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, without ruling on the underlying issue.” Obama would only get someone worse. (Or is that not possible?)

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