Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 27, 2010

Afghanistan — No Graveyard of Empires

Christian Caryl has a terrific column in Foreign Policy expounding a point I’ve made in passing in the past: Afghanistan is not really the “graveyard of empires.” He cites the work of Boston University anthropologist Thomas Barfield, who has been studying the country since the early 1970s and has a new history of Afghanistan out:

“Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a ‘highway of conquest’ rather than the ‘graveyard of empires,'” Barfield points out. “For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody’s empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C.”

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Babur: all had little problem conquering Afghanistan. The British fared worse in the First Afghan War (1839-42) but, as Caryl reminds us, they made a comeback in the Second Afghan War (1878-80), which gave them control of Afghan foreign policy — all that they really needed or wanted.

Read the whole article. It’s a welcome corrective to what Caryl calls the “fake version” of Afghan history, which seems to have become accepted wisdom among those (sadly, the great majority) who know little of the actual history.

Christian Caryl has a terrific column in Foreign Policy expounding a point I’ve made in passing in the past: Afghanistan is not really the “graveyard of empires.” He cites the work of Boston University anthropologist Thomas Barfield, who has been studying the country since the early 1970s and has a new history of Afghanistan out:

“Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a ‘highway of conquest’ rather than the ‘graveyard of empires,'” Barfield points out. “For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody’s empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C.”

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Babur: all had little problem conquering Afghanistan. The British fared worse in the First Afghan War (1839-42) but, as Caryl reminds us, they made a comeback in the Second Afghan War (1878-80), which gave them control of Afghan foreign policy — all that they really needed or wanted.

Read the whole article. It’s a welcome corrective to what Caryl calls the “fake version” of Afghan history, which seems to have become accepted wisdom among those (sadly, the great majority) who know little of the actual history.

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House Democratic Memo Is Another Blow to J Street

Last week,  Jennifer noted the Democrats’ panic, which led to the release of the Howard Berman e-mail extolling the Obama administration’s supposedly pro-Israel record. The memo seemed to be a reaction to the beating that Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak is taking in Pennsylvania in ads from the Emergency Coalition for Israel.

But there’s more to discuss here than just the fact that Sestak has been wrong-footed on the issue and forced to play defense. The Berman memo is yet more proof that J Street’s assertion that the Democrats have embraced its idea — that criticism of Israel is the highest form of love for the Jewish state — is bunk.

The memo is yet another aspect of the charm offensive that has been conducted by the administration since its disastrous decision to pick a fight over building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Ever since the supposed insult to Vice President Joe Biden was answered with unprecedented discourtesy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the administration has been backtracking furiously from its desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather than follow along with the J Street program of putting pressure on Jerusalem to acquiesce to Palestinian demands, the Obama team has been going out of its way to cozy up to Netanyahu since the spring. Given the instincts of those running things in both the White House and the State Department, this has been an awkward and at times inconsistent change of heart. But as much as Obama’s critics are still right to question both his sincerity and his long-term intentions, in the last few months the heretofore rapidly expanding amount of daylight between the positions of Washington and Jerusalem has been shrinking.

Ever since November 2008, leftists have been trying to assert that the Jewish vote for Obama was proof that J Street and not AIPAC or other mainstream pro-Israel groups truly represented Jewish opinion. But if that were so, why would Obama be trying so hard to convince everyone that his administration was as reliable a supporter of Israel as any of its predecessors? Perhaps the answer is that Obama and his advisers know that many, if not most, of the Jewish votes he received came from people who were convinced by his 2008 campaign statements that attempted to show that he was an AIPAC-style friend of Israel rather than a J Street critic. And with the Democrats heading for a midterm disaster this November and putting their Congressional majorities in jeopardy, it’s no wonder that their caucus is producing memos drawing attention to the common ground between the administration and Israel rather than harping on settlement policy and the need for more concessions to the Palestinians, as J Street preaches.

It is true that most Jews are not single-issue voters who care only about Israel. But as shown by the administration’s recent behavior as well as by the House Democrats’ memo, liberals know that a candidate, party, or president who is seen as a critic rather than a friend of Israel will lose Jewish votes and campaign contributions. It is deeply ironic that it turns out that the most cogent skewering of J Street’s basic premise about public opinion has come from their idol in the White House and the political party they support, not their Jewish critics.

Last week,  Jennifer noted the Democrats’ panic, which led to the release of the Howard Berman e-mail extolling the Obama administration’s supposedly pro-Israel record. The memo seemed to be a reaction to the beating that Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak is taking in Pennsylvania in ads from the Emergency Coalition for Israel.

But there’s more to discuss here than just the fact that Sestak has been wrong-footed on the issue and forced to play defense. The Berman memo is yet more proof that J Street’s assertion that the Democrats have embraced its idea — that criticism of Israel is the highest form of love for the Jewish state — is bunk.

The memo is yet another aspect of the charm offensive that has been conducted by the administration since its disastrous decision to pick a fight over building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Ever since the supposed insult to Vice President Joe Biden was answered with unprecedented discourtesy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the administration has been backtracking furiously from its desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather than follow along with the J Street program of putting pressure on Jerusalem to acquiesce to Palestinian demands, the Obama team has been going out of its way to cozy up to Netanyahu since the spring. Given the instincts of those running things in both the White House and the State Department, this has been an awkward and at times inconsistent change of heart. But as much as Obama’s critics are still right to question both his sincerity and his long-term intentions, in the last few months the heretofore rapidly expanding amount of daylight between the positions of Washington and Jerusalem has been shrinking.

Ever since November 2008, leftists have been trying to assert that the Jewish vote for Obama was proof that J Street and not AIPAC or other mainstream pro-Israel groups truly represented Jewish opinion. But if that were so, why would Obama be trying so hard to convince everyone that his administration was as reliable a supporter of Israel as any of its predecessors? Perhaps the answer is that Obama and his advisers know that many, if not most, of the Jewish votes he received came from people who were convinced by his 2008 campaign statements that attempted to show that he was an AIPAC-style friend of Israel rather than a J Street critic. And with the Democrats heading for a midterm disaster this November and putting their Congressional majorities in jeopardy, it’s no wonder that their caucus is producing memos drawing attention to the common ground between the administration and Israel rather than harping on settlement policy and the need for more concessions to the Palestinians, as J Street preaches.

It is true that most Jews are not single-issue voters who care only about Israel. But as shown by the administration’s recent behavior as well as by the House Democrats’ memo, liberals know that a candidate, party, or president who is seen as a critic rather than a friend of Israel will lose Jewish votes and campaign contributions. It is deeply ironic that it turns out that the most cogent skewering of J Street’s basic premise about public opinion has come from their idol in the White House and the political party they support, not their Jewish critics.

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Prime Minister Cameron’s Slander Against Israel

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

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Using Sherrod to Undermine the New Black Panther Case

While Andrew Breitbart’s release of a misleading edited version of the now-famous Shirley Sherrod speech on race has led him to rightly note that he has become “public enemy number one,” the left is using the controversy he engendered to knock down a wide array of right-wing targets. Not surprising, they hope to drown the outrage over the New Black Panther Party case along with Breitbart.

That’s the not-so-subtle message of a New York Times feature published yesterday, which claims, as its headline insists, “When Race Is the Issue, Misleading Coverage Sets Off an Uproar.” Though the piece leads with Breitbart’s on-target charge that the left is seeking to brand everyone on the right as racist no matter what the facts of the case might be, the subject quickly changes to one the paper is more comfortable with: the idea that accusations of reverse racism (as the Sherrod speech was initially and wrongly thought to be) are all false. As reporter Brian Stelter puts it: “It is an open question whether conservative media outlets risk damage to their credibility when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion.”

And what, other than the Breitbart/Sherrod fiasco, can the Times produce to prove this thesis? None other than the New Black Panther case, in which an African-American hate group engaged in voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day in 2008. The fact that Fox News pursued the story of this crime, which went unpunished by local Philadelphia authorities and which the Justice Department has been reluctant to take up as a violation of civil rights, is presented by the Times as proof that Fox and its news anchor Megyn Kelly engaged in racist coverage.

As Jennifer has written, the mainstream media has been painfully slow to cover this story, which, as many others have said, would have been front-page news if, say, the equally small remnants of the Ku Klux Klan had stood outside of voting places threatening poll watchers and voters with sticks. But despite the fact that the Times itself did eventually get around to printing a story about the case and the allegations that a reluctance to prosecute a black group for offenses that were once solely the avocation of white racists is the reason why the crime is still unpunished, Stelter merely repeats without demurral the dismissal of the entire topic by liberal ideologues like Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Whatever one may think about whether the Justice Department has grounds to take on the New Black Panthers and those who have protected them from prosecution, there is nothing “obscure and misleading” about the uproar over what appears to be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

While Breitbart is still taking a drubbing for his role in the Sherrod story, with Stelter’s piece, the Times more or less proves his point — that the liberal media’s goal is not truth or responsible journalism but rather the advancement of their own brand of partisan smear mongering.

While Andrew Breitbart’s release of a misleading edited version of the now-famous Shirley Sherrod speech on race has led him to rightly note that he has become “public enemy number one,” the left is using the controversy he engendered to knock down a wide array of right-wing targets. Not surprising, they hope to drown the outrage over the New Black Panther Party case along with Breitbart.

That’s the not-so-subtle message of a New York Times feature published yesterday, which claims, as its headline insists, “When Race Is the Issue, Misleading Coverage Sets Off an Uproar.” Though the piece leads with Breitbart’s on-target charge that the left is seeking to brand everyone on the right as racist no matter what the facts of the case might be, the subject quickly changes to one the paper is more comfortable with: the idea that accusations of reverse racism (as the Sherrod speech was initially and wrongly thought to be) are all false. As reporter Brian Stelter puts it: “It is an open question whether conservative media outlets risk damage to their credibility when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion.”

And what, other than the Breitbart/Sherrod fiasco, can the Times produce to prove this thesis? None other than the New Black Panther case, in which an African-American hate group engaged in voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day in 2008. The fact that Fox News pursued the story of this crime, which went unpunished by local Philadelphia authorities and which the Justice Department has been reluctant to take up as a violation of civil rights, is presented by the Times as proof that Fox and its news anchor Megyn Kelly engaged in racist coverage.

As Jennifer has written, the mainstream media has been painfully slow to cover this story, which, as many others have said, would have been front-page news if, say, the equally small remnants of the Ku Klux Klan had stood outside of voting places threatening poll watchers and voters with sticks. But despite the fact that the Times itself did eventually get around to printing a story about the case and the allegations that a reluctance to prosecute a black group for offenses that were once solely the avocation of white racists is the reason why the crime is still unpunished, Stelter merely repeats without demurral the dismissal of the entire topic by liberal ideologues like Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Whatever one may think about whether the Justice Department has grounds to take on the New Black Panthers and those who have protected them from prosecution, there is nothing “obscure and misleading” about the uproar over what appears to be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

While Breitbart is still taking a drubbing for his role in the Sherrod story, with Stelter’s piece, the Times more or less proves his point — that the liberal media’s goal is not truth or responsible journalism but rather the advancement of their own brand of partisan smear mongering.

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Making Some Noise in Missouri

A new poll in Missouri – a key swing state – shows President Obama’s numbers tanking. According to the Post-Dispatch/KMOV poll results, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 34 v. 57 – a 23 point gap. Among independents, the numbers are even worse: 27 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, while 63 percent disapprove. And on the most important issue in the minds of the voters, the economy, Obama’s approval ratings are even worse: 33-61 overall and 25-68 among independents. (Eight percent of independents in Missouri approve of the job Congress is doing.)

So it’s no wonder  – as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post points out – that Missouri Representative Roy Blunt (R) is running a new ad against his opponent for the open Senate seat, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D). In it, he describes her as a “rubber stamp” for Obama’s agenda and quotes Obama, who said that financial regulatory reform “would’ve already been done if I had Robin Carnahan there.”

Barack Obama is now one of the best issues the GOP has on its side.

But remember: Obama’s policies and performance have nothing at all to do with any of this. At least that is what some bloggers/former Journolisters never tire of telling us. Let’s be compassionate conservatives, though. It’s been a difficult 18 months for them, so let’s not shake them out of their slumber and their self-delusion. Obama is in terrific shape, he’s doing just the right things, his policies are wildly popular, he’s terrifically competent, and the polls are simply “white noise.”

Sure they are.

A new poll in Missouri – a key swing state – shows President Obama’s numbers tanking. According to the Post-Dispatch/KMOV poll results, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 34 v. 57 – a 23 point gap. Among independents, the numbers are even worse: 27 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, while 63 percent disapprove. And on the most important issue in the minds of the voters, the economy, Obama’s approval ratings are even worse: 33-61 overall and 25-68 among independents. (Eight percent of independents in Missouri approve of the job Congress is doing.)

So it’s no wonder  – as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post points out – that Missouri Representative Roy Blunt (R) is running a new ad against his opponent for the open Senate seat, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D). In it, he describes her as a “rubber stamp” for Obama’s agenda and quotes Obama, who said that financial regulatory reform “would’ve already been done if I had Robin Carnahan there.”

Barack Obama is now one of the best issues the GOP has on its side.

But remember: Obama’s policies and performance have nothing at all to do with any of this. At least that is what some bloggers/former Journolisters never tire of telling us. Let’s be compassionate conservatives, though. It’s been a difficult 18 months for them, so let’s not shake them out of their slumber and their self-delusion. Obama is in terrific shape, he’s doing just the right things, his policies are wildly popular, he’s terrifically competent, and the polls are simply “white noise.”

Sure they are.

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Here’s a damaging local Boston story on Senator John Kerry, his $7 million yacht, and his hypocrisy. The senator — who constantly rails against the “rich” (though he himself is rich, thanks to his wife) and speaks about how paying higher taxes evinces a spirit of admirable sacrifice — doesn’t look terribly happy trying to explain his own effort to (legally) evade paying higher taxes (on the order of $500,000). But it strikes me as though voters have a lot more reason to be unhappy with Kerry than Kerry has to be with reporters.

Hypocrisy isn’t an impressive trait in anyone, liberal or conservative.

Here’s a damaging local Boston story on Senator John Kerry, his $7 million yacht, and his hypocrisy. The senator — who constantly rails against the “rich” (though he himself is rich, thanks to his wife) and speaks about how paying higher taxes evinces a spirit of admirable sacrifice — doesn’t look terribly happy trying to explain his own effort to (legally) evade paying higher taxes (on the order of $500,000). But it strikes me as though voters have a lot more reason to be unhappy with Kerry than Kerry has to be with reporters.

Hypocrisy isn’t an impressive trait in anyone, liberal or conservative.

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Voices of Restraint and Civility Among the Crackpots and Haters

Having offered my thoughts on some of the more disturbing things that have emerged from Journolisters, it’s worth linking to this story in the Daily Caller, which commends several people — Dan Froomkin, James Surowiecki, Jeffrey Toobin, Michael Tomasky, and Ezra Klein — for acting responsibly.

Even among the crackpots and the haters, there were some voices of restraint and civility. Good for them. I only wish there were more names to add to their ranks.

Having offered my thoughts on some of the more disturbing things that have emerged from Journolisters, it’s worth linking to this story in the Daily Caller, which commends several people — Dan Froomkin, James Surowiecki, Jeffrey Toobin, Michael Tomasky, and Ezra Klein — for acting responsibly.

Even among the crackpots and the haters, there were some voices of restraint and civility. Good for them. I only wish there were more names to add to their ranks.

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Note to E.J. Dionne: What’s Good for the Right Is Good for the Left

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. argues in his most recent column that it’s time to stand up to the right wing. Here’s a thought: how about, E.J., standing up, even just once, to the left wing?

Dionne has a long-time habit of praising conservatives whenever they make critical comments of other conservatives. He did that recently when he praised Michael Gerson for criticizing the “Tea Party excess” and pointing out the need to distinguish between “the injudicious from the outrageous.”

As it happens, I agreed with what Gerson wrote. But when will E.J. follow the example of his Washington Post colleague and deplore the “excess” and the “outrageous” comments and actions within liberalism and the modern Democratic Party? They have been amply documented on CONTENTIONS and elsewhere for a great long while now. It’s actually a fairly target-rich environment. He could start with some of what was said by Journolisters. Just a suggestion.

Yet Dionne never seems able to do to (and for) his side what he praises Gerson for doing to (and for) conservatism, which is to police its excesses.  Unless and until Dionne begins to do what he asks of others, it will be hard to take his pronouncements terribly seriously.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. argues in his most recent column that it’s time to stand up to the right wing. Here’s a thought: how about, E.J., standing up, even just once, to the left wing?

Dionne has a long-time habit of praising conservatives whenever they make critical comments of other conservatives. He did that recently when he praised Michael Gerson for criticizing the “Tea Party excess” and pointing out the need to distinguish between “the injudicious from the outrageous.”

As it happens, I agreed with what Gerson wrote. But when will E.J. follow the example of his Washington Post colleague and deplore the “excess” and the “outrageous” comments and actions within liberalism and the modern Democratic Party? They have been amply documented on CONTENTIONS and elsewhere for a great long while now. It’s actually a fairly target-rich environment. He could start with some of what was said by Journolisters. Just a suggestion.

Yet Dionne never seems able to do to (and for) his side what he praises Gerson for doing to (and for) conservatism, which is to police its excesses.  Unless and until Dionne begins to do what he asks of others, it will be hard to take his pronouncements terribly seriously.

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Rival Palestinian Governments Abusing Their Own People — Again

Israel is constantly accused of turning Gaza into “one big prison” — and never mind the fact that Egypt, which also borders Gaza, sharply restricts the number of Palestinians allowed to transit its territory, too. But a stunning report by Haaretz’s Amira Hass, who identifies so profoundly with the Palestinian cause that she spent years living in both Gaza and Ramallah, reveals another factor: even Gazans who do receive permission to leave, whether via Egypt or Israel, sometimes can’t do so, because the two feuding Palestinian governments have denied them passports.

Sometimes, Gaza’s Hamas-led government confiscates existing passports because the holders belong to Fatah. Sometimes, the West Bank’s Fatah-led government (which owns the blank passport books) refuses to issue passports to applicants affiliated with Hamas. And sometimes, the Ramallah government even denies passports to Fatah members, because they allegedly have ties to Hamas.

Thus Fiza Za’anin, a Hamas-affiliated midwife who won a UN award for her work, received Israel’s permission both to attend a course in East Jerusalem and to transit its territory en route to the prize ceremony in the U.S. But she couldn’t do either, because the Ramallah government denied her a passport. Needless to say, international human rights groups haven’t trumpeted her case.

Hass’s report recalls the Fatah-Hamas dispute that shut down a major Gazan power plant last month, because both parties insisted the other pay for the fuel.

At full capacity, the plant would increase Gaza’s power supply by 50 percent over and above what Israel supplies. Instead, it was shut down completely, leaving parts of Gaza with only eight hours a day of power — all because Hamas and Fatah would rather “argue over a few million dollars a month” than improve Gazans’ lives, as Haaretz Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff correctly observed. But “because Israel is not involved in this affair,” he noted, “the United Nations has not held an emergency session to discuss the matter, the (non-Palestinian) Human Rights organizations will overlook it,” and it “will probably not receive much coverage by the international media.”

And then there’s that new mall in Gaza. As the Jerusalem Post’s Liat Collins perceptively noted, a two-story, 9,700-square-foot shopping mall must have required huge amounts of cement and metal — all presumably smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, since Israel wasn’t allowing building materials across its border. And Hamas controls the smuggling tunnels.

But according to Hamas, thousands of Gazans whose houses were destroyed in its war with Israel 18 months ago remain homeless. So what kind of government would allocate scarce construction material to a mall instead of homes for its people? Clearly, one that doesn’t care about their suffering — and indeed, actually prefers perpetuating it, to fan anti-Israel sentiment. And the world, naturally, plays along.

If Hamas and Fatah both spent less time and effort on anti-Israel incitement and more on improving their people’s lives, Palestinians would be much better off. But that would require them to actually care more about their people’s welfare than they do about undermining Israel. And despite the world’s willful refusal to believe it, neither faction ever has.

Israel is constantly accused of turning Gaza into “one big prison” — and never mind the fact that Egypt, which also borders Gaza, sharply restricts the number of Palestinians allowed to transit its territory, too. But a stunning report by Haaretz’s Amira Hass, who identifies so profoundly with the Palestinian cause that she spent years living in both Gaza and Ramallah, reveals another factor: even Gazans who do receive permission to leave, whether via Egypt or Israel, sometimes can’t do so, because the two feuding Palestinian governments have denied them passports.

Sometimes, Gaza’s Hamas-led government confiscates existing passports because the holders belong to Fatah. Sometimes, the West Bank’s Fatah-led government (which owns the blank passport books) refuses to issue passports to applicants affiliated with Hamas. And sometimes, the Ramallah government even denies passports to Fatah members, because they allegedly have ties to Hamas.

Thus Fiza Za’anin, a Hamas-affiliated midwife who won a UN award for her work, received Israel’s permission both to attend a course in East Jerusalem and to transit its territory en route to the prize ceremony in the U.S. But she couldn’t do either, because the Ramallah government denied her a passport. Needless to say, international human rights groups haven’t trumpeted her case.

Hass’s report recalls the Fatah-Hamas dispute that shut down a major Gazan power plant last month, because both parties insisted the other pay for the fuel.

At full capacity, the plant would increase Gaza’s power supply by 50 percent over and above what Israel supplies. Instead, it was shut down completely, leaving parts of Gaza with only eight hours a day of power — all because Hamas and Fatah would rather “argue over a few million dollars a month” than improve Gazans’ lives, as Haaretz Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff correctly observed. But “because Israel is not involved in this affair,” he noted, “the United Nations has not held an emergency session to discuss the matter, the (non-Palestinian) Human Rights organizations will overlook it,” and it “will probably not receive much coverage by the international media.”

And then there’s that new mall in Gaza. As the Jerusalem Post’s Liat Collins perceptively noted, a two-story, 9,700-square-foot shopping mall must have required huge amounts of cement and metal — all presumably smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, since Israel wasn’t allowing building materials across its border. And Hamas controls the smuggling tunnels.

But according to Hamas, thousands of Gazans whose houses were destroyed in its war with Israel 18 months ago remain homeless. So what kind of government would allocate scarce construction material to a mall instead of homes for its people? Clearly, one that doesn’t care about their suffering — and indeed, actually prefers perpetuating it, to fan anti-Israel sentiment. And the world, naturally, plays along.

If Hamas and Fatah both spent less time and effort on anti-Israel incitement and more on improving their people’s lives, Palestinians would be much better off. But that would require them to actually care more about their people’s welfare than they do about undermining Israel. And despite the world’s willful refusal to believe it, neither faction ever has.

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Wikibore

From the left, right, and center, we finally have consensus on Afghanistan — or at least the Wikileaks about Afghanistan. In short — as Max ably pointed out yesterday — so what? As the Washington Post editors note:

Though it may represent one of the most voluminous leaks of classified military information in U.S. history, the release by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan hardly merits the hype offered by the Web site’s founder. …

The Obama administration harshly condemned the release of documents, saying they “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” But that, too, seemed an exaggeration. Both Wikileaks and the news organizations said they had withheld documents and other information that might endanger individuals. On the whole, the reports appear likely to add modestly to public understanding of the war. But they are not likely to change many minds.

Bret Stephens was similarly bored by the Wikileaks “revelations”:

Innocent civilians become the tragic casualties of war. Insurgents plant thousands of IEDs. Special-ops teams hunt down insurgents. The Taliban may have a few Stinger missiles. Pakistan plays a double game with the Taliban. The U.S. government can’t keep its secrets. The New York Times has about as much regard for those secrets as a British tabloid has for a starlet’s privacy. The Obama administration blames everything on Bush. Is any of this news? Not exactly.

This is no doubt a downer to the antiwar left, which had hoped this would shock the administration, lawmakers, and the public, accelerating the demand for a quick retreat. But Americans know the war is tough, and are waiting — as they did on Iraq — for the administration to take charge and turn things around. There remains a curious void at the center of the Afghanistan operation — no commanding president to explain, cajole, and inspire. That void is filled with exaggerated news stories, gaffes, and leaks.

It would be helpful if the president — not Robert Gibbs, not Gen. David Petraeus, and not the media feeding frenzy — would set the tone of the debate and explain the stakes. Obama’s diminishing popularity and the impending backlash from an irate public will not make his task easier. Before he and the country are entirely absorbed by the November election, it might be a good idea for Obama to get out in front of the news, and not simply scramble to react to events.

From the left, right, and center, we finally have consensus on Afghanistan — or at least the Wikileaks about Afghanistan. In short — as Max ably pointed out yesterday — so what? As the Washington Post editors note:

Though it may represent one of the most voluminous leaks of classified military information in U.S. history, the release by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan hardly merits the hype offered by the Web site’s founder. …

The Obama administration harshly condemned the release of documents, saying they “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” But that, too, seemed an exaggeration. Both Wikileaks and the news organizations said they had withheld documents and other information that might endanger individuals. On the whole, the reports appear likely to add modestly to public understanding of the war. But they are not likely to change many minds.

Bret Stephens was similarly bored by the Wikileaks “revelations”:

Innocent civilians become the tragic casualties of war. Insurgents plant thousands of IEDs. Special-ops teams hunt down insurgents. The Taliban may have a few Stinger missiles. Pakistan plays a double game with the Taliban. The U.S. government can’t keep its secrets. The New York Times has about as much regard for those secrets as a British tabloid has for a starlet’s privacy. The Obama administration blames everything on Bush. Is any of this news? Not exactly.

This is no doubt a downer to the antiwar left, which had hoped this would shock the administration, lawmakers, and the public, accelerating the demand for a quick retreat. But Americans know the war is tough, and are waiting — as they did on Iraq — for the administration to take charge and turn things around. There remains a curious void at the center of the Afghanistan operation — no commanding president to explain, cajole, and inspire. That void is filled with exaggerated news stories, gaffes, and leaks.

It would be helpful if the president — not Robert Gibbs, not Gen. David Petraeus, and not the media feeding frenzy — would set the tone of the debate and explain the stakes. Obama’s diminishing popularity and the impending backlash from an irate public will not make his task easier. Before he and the country are entirely absorbed by the November election, it might be a good idea for Obama to get out in front of the news, and not simply scramble to react to events.

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The Left Knows the Jig Is Up

Greg Sargent sort of gets it when he writes, “The Democrats’ political predicament on unemployment comes down to this: Dems have no way of proving the alternate scenarios — that a smaller stimulus would have resulted in more job loss, or that a larger one would have led to more job growth.”

It’s not simply that they can’t “prove” it — it isn’t so. The Keynesian multiplier turned out to be a divider — the more we spent, the less we got. It’s not simply a marketing problem or a communications problem; it’s a policy blunder. But at least the left has realized the jig is up and Obama’s failure to deliver on his jobs bonanza is now a major liability.

Greg Sargent sort of gets it when he writes, “The Democrats’ political predicament on unemployment comes down to this: Dems have no way of proving the alternate scenarios — that a smaller stimulus would have resulted in more job loss, or that a larger one would have led to more job growth.”

It’s not simply that they can’t “prove” it — it isn’t so. The Keynesian multiplier turned out to be a divider — the more we spent, the less we got. It’s not simply a marketing problem or a communications problem; it’s a policy blunder. But at least the left has realized the jig is up and Obama’s failure to deliver on his jobs bonanza is now a major liability.

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Give Back the Money, Joe

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

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Blaming Bush for the New Black Panther Scandal

Liberal Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman was embarrassed and attacked by constituents recently when he claimed no knowledge of the New Black Panther scandal. So in true liberal pol style, he’s using his own gaffe as an excuse to savage the Bush administration. Yeah, really.

On July 19, Sherman wrote Attorney General Eric Holder — sorry, liberal spin squad — to acknowledge that voter intimidation and fraud are, gosh, serious matters and that he understands that charges were dropped against all but one defendant and “downgraded against one.” He also urges Holder to “review the matter and pursue the criminal case that your department did not originally pursue.” Well, there never was a criminal case, but Sherman now has joined the legions of conservatives calling for an investigation and the refiling of charges. I guess there really is an important case.

But then Sherman takes a bizarre turn and recites a litany of cases he claims the Bush administration (Brad, blaming Bush doesn’t work; look at the polls) did not pursue. Huh? He says this all might have occurred — get this — because of “politicization.” You know, usually pols are not so pathetically obvious in their misdirection gambits.

Nevertheless, it is heart-warming to see Sherman undercut the “no big deal” patrol, which seems so organized and so uniform on the New Black Panther counteroffensive you’d almost believe Journolist still lives.

Liberal Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman was embarrassed and attacked by constituents recently when he claimed no knowledge of the New Black Panther scandal. So in true liberal pol style, he’s using his own gaffe as an excuse to savage the Bush administration. Yeah, really.

On July 19, Sherman wrote Attorney General Eric Holder — sorry, liberal spin squad — to acknowledge that voter intimidation and fraud are, gosh, serious matters and that he understands that charges were dropped against all but one defendant and “downgraded against one.” He also urges Holder to “review the matter and pursue the criminal case that your department did not originally pursue.” Well, there never was a criminal case, but Sherman now has joined the legions of conservatives calling for an investigation and the refiling of charges. I guess there really is an important case.

But then Sherman takes a bizarre turn and recites a litany of cases he claims the Bush administration (Brad, blaming Bush doesn’t work; look at the polls) did not pursue. Huh? He says this all might have occurred — get this — because of “politicization.” You know, usually pols are not so pathetically obvious in their misdirection gambits.

Nevertheless, it is heart-warming to see Sherman undercut the “no big deal” patrol, which seems so organized and so uniform on the New Black Panther counteroffensive you’d almost believe Journolist still lives.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Israel can bank on the Tea Partiers (but the “pro-Israel left” — an oxymoron if there ever was one — not at all): “Now that the congressional supporters of the Tea Party movement have formed their own caucus, their policy positions are becoming easier to track. Expanding their foray into foreign policy, 21 members of the new caucus have now come out explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear program.”

You can’t take any “facts” in an E.J. Dionne column to the bank. Quin Hillyer reads (and demolishes) Dionne’s latest so you don’t have to.

You can bank on Sen. Joe Lieberman to see through the hysteria on the Afghanistan war-documents leak: “The disclosure of tens of thousands of classified documents on the Afghanistan war is profoundly irresponsible and harmful to our national security. The Obama administration is absolutely right to condemn these leaks. ‘Most of these documents add nothing to the public understanding of the war in Afghanistan. The materials –which cover the period from 2004 to 2009 — reflect the reality, recognized by everyone, that the insurgency was gaining momentum during these years while our coalition was losing ground.'”

I guess the Palestinians can’t bank on Obama to deliver up Israel on a platter: “A senior U.S. envoy warned the Palestinian president that he must move quickly to direct talks with Israel if he wants President Barack Obama’s help in setting up a Palestinian state, according to an internal Palestinian document obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.”

Democrats banking on Obama or the capping of the BP oil leak to lift their poll numbers are going to be disappointed: “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 25, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

You can’t bank on the liberal media even to advertise their own leaks accurately these days. Peter Feaver: “Another week, and another Big Bombshell Story in the national security press, this time a series of stories based on the leak by Wikileaks of over 90,000 classified cables and reports from the Afghan theater. (A sidebar: The word “leak” just doesn’t seem adequate for a data dump and security breach of this magnitude. This is not so much a leak as a gusher.) … There does not appear to be any bombshell revelation here. Perhaps the more interesting and damning revelations are to come, but presumably the newspapers led with their best stuff.”

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika can’t even bank on a First Amendment–stomping win on campaign-finance “reform”: “Despite some last-minute prodding from President Barack Obama on Monday, Senate Democrats still are scrambling to find the remaining few votes needed to overcome a filibuster of a campaign finance bill that appears destined to fail Tuesday.”

Child rapists? Anti-Semites? You can always bank on Hollywood to support their own.

Israel can bank on the Tea Partiers (but the “pro-Israel left” — an oxymoron if there ever was one — not at all): “Now that the congressional supporters of the Tea Party movement have formed their own caucus, their policy positions are becoming easier to track. Expanding their foray into foreign policy, 21 members of the new caucus have now come out explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to strike Iran’s nuclear program.”

You can’t take any “facts” in an E.J. Dionne column to the bank. Quin Hillyer reads (and demolishes) Dionne’s latest so you don’t have to.

You can bank on Sen. Joe Lieberman to see through the hysteria on the Afghanistan war-documents leak: “The disclosure of tens of thousands of classified documents on the Afghanistan war is profoundly irresponsible and harmful to our national security. The Obama administration is absolutely right to condemn these leaks. ‘Most of these documents add nothing to the public understanding of the war in Afghanistan. The materials –which cover the period from 2004 to 2009 — reflect the reality, recognized by everyone, that the insurgency was gaining momentum during these years while our coalition was losing ground.'”

I guess the Palestinians can’t bank on Obama to deliver up Israel on a platter: “A senior U.S. envoy warned the Palestinian president that he must move quickly to direct talks with Israel if he wants President Barack Obama’s help in setting up a Palestinian state, according to an internal Palestinian document obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.”

Democrats banking on Obama or the capping of the BP oil leak to lift their poll numbers are going to be disappointed: “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 25, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

You can’t bank on the liberal media even to advertise their own leaks accurately these days. Peter Feaver: “Another week, and another Big Bombshell Story in the national security press, this time a series of stories based on the leak by Wikileaks of over 90,000 classified cables and reports from the Afghan theater. (A sidebar: The word “leak” just doesn’t seem adequate for a data dump and security breach of this magnitude. This is not so much a leak as a gusher.) … There does not appear to be any bombshell revelation here. Perhaps the more interesting and damning revelations are to come, but presumably the newspapers led with their best stuff.”

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika can’t even bank on a First Amendment–stomping win on campaign-finance “reform”: “Despite some last-minute prodding from President Barack Obama on Monday, Senate Democrats still are scrambling to find the remaining few votes needed to overcome a filibuster of a campaign finance bill that appears destined to fail Tuesday.”

Child rapists? Anti-Semites? You can always bank on Hollywood to support their own.

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