Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 30, 2010

Spluttering Democrats

Here’s a clip of Representative Anthony Weiner losing his cool. It’s just the kind of civilized discourse and thoughtful engagement with the issues that the public is thirsting for.

I suppose Representative Weiner could be excused for his outburst; perhaps he just read the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, which Jennifer highlighted earlier today. It shows extremely bad disapproval numbers for Obama on the three issues that are shaping up to be the most important of the mid-term elections: The economy (59 percent), the deficit (65 percent), and health care (55 percent). It also shows Republicans with a double-digit lead on the generic Congressional ballot, which is something I can’t recall having occurred before.

It’s also possible that Representative Weiner had just perused the recent Pew survey, which, among other things, shows that 56 percent of Independents see the Democratic Party as more liberal than they themselves are, compared to only 39 percent who see the Republican Party as more conservative than they are. (h/t: William Galston)

It’s also possible that Mr. Weiner just read the results of the most recent CNN poll, which shows. …

Oh, well, you get the point. These are tough, depressing days for liberals and for liberalism. In both Congress and among the commentariat, heads are beginning to explode. They know what awaits them. And be prepared: it’s only going to get worse as they get more desperate.

Here’s a clip of Representative Anthony Weiner losing his cool. It’s just the kind of civilized discourse and thoughtful engagement with the issues that the public is thirsting for.

I suppose Representative Weiner could be excused for his outburst; perhaps he just read the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, which Jennifer highlighted earlier today. It shows extremely bad disapproval numbers for Obama on the three issues that are shaping up to be the most important of the mid-term elections: The economy (59 percent), the deficit (65 percent), and health care (55 percent). It also shows Republicans with a double-digit lead on the generic Congressional ballot, which is something I can’t recall having occurred before.

It’s also possible that Representative Weiner had just perused the recent Pew survey, which, among other things, shows that 56 percent of Independents see the Democratic Party as more liberal than they themselves are, compared to only 39 percent who see the Republican Party as more conservative than they are. (h/t: William Galston)

It’s also possible that Mr. Weiner just read the results of the most recent CNN poll, which shows. …

Oh, well, you get the point. These are tough, depressing days for liberals and for liberalism. In both Congress and among the commentariat, heads are beginning to explode. They know what awaits them. And be prepared: it’s only going to get worse as they get more desperate.

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Obama: A Gift to the GOP That Keeps On Giving

Jonathan Rauch has written an interesting cover story in the National Journal on “The Tea Party Paradox.” He argues that the country has indeed moved to the right but it’s not clear whether this is happening in a way that helps the GOP in the long run (he does say it will help Republicans in the short term, for sure).

In his article, Rauch quotes from something I recently wrote, in which I pointed to opinion polls showing that a growing percentage of Americans regard the Democrats as too liberal. “What’s happening, in other words, is that an increasing number of Americans are becoming more conservative,” I wrote. “This is more fallout from the Age of Obama. Mr. Obama is, for the GOP, the gift that keeps on giving.”

Then comes this:

Wrong, replies Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic-leaning political analyst and a senior fellow with the liberal Center for American Progress. “It’s not Obama that’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s the economy that’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said in a recent interview. “I think it’s a judgment on how things are going in the country. I don’t think it’s a judgment to take the country in a conservative direction.”

Teixeira is repeating an argument some of the New Republic’s bloggers make ad nauseam: the problem isn’t Obama; it’s the economy. If Obama had a roaring economy, he’d be far more popular than he is. Obama’s policies are not to blame; the conditions of the country are. To which one could respond: if during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the inflation and interest rates had been 2 percent instead of topping 18 percent, Carter would have been more popular too. But they weren’t, and he wasn’t. Mr. Carter was judged a failure and jettisoned from office after a single term because people believed the conditions of the country were due, in large measure, to his performance as president.

Teixeira’s argument can work when a president has been in office for one month; it’s harder to pull off when he’s been in office for more than 18 months. And if you read public-opinion polls carefully, what you will find isn’t simply that people are upset by the state of the economy; they are also troubled by Obama’s response to the economy. They believe he’s pursuing policies that are making things worse, not better. That is why Obama’s poll ratings are sinking and why his party is in danger of losing both the House and the Senate come November. And in response to Obamaism, the nation is, in significant respects, moving in a more conservative direction.

This trend is not inexorable. If liberals are correct and the policies that Obama is pursing are wise and necessary, then we will see their manifestation: unemployment figures will tumble, the deficit will shrink, the economy will come roaring back — and Obama will sail to victory in 2012. The country will also give liberalism a second look. But if conservatives are correct and the policies Obama is pursuing are misguided, then we will see that manifest itself, too. And Obama and his party will continue to pay a very heavy price for this.

It’s true that many people ascribe too much influence to the president when it comes to the economy. On the other hand, administration policies matter quite a lot — and when the Obama administration makes grand, sweeping claims for its economic policies and insists the stimulus package will keep unemployment below 8 percent when it ends up topping 10 percent, the public is right to hold the White House responsible.

American voters tend to be pretty fair and reasonable. They don’t expect the president to be a magician — but they do insist on progress, on results, and on accountability. Obama is no exception. These days, liberals comfort themselves by telling each other that in his second year as president, Ronald Reagan was unpopular too, and Obama is really another Reagan. Conservatives hear this comparison and chuckle; Obama is more nearly the antithesis of Reagan — they point out — and the policies Obama is pursuing will not meet with nearly the same success as Reagan’s did.

Time will tell who is right and who is wrong. At this stage, conservatives certainly have the better of the argument, though this political drama has several more acts to play out. But here’s one thing you can be sure of: if unemployment is still high, if the deficit and debt are still exploding, and if the economy is still struggling in 2011 and 2012, then the Teixeira/TNR effort to create miles of distance between Obama and the economic conditions of the country will fail. Appeals to sophisticated political-science models and pleas for more time and understanding will fail. Lashing out at critics and Bush won’t work. And if dogmatic liberals continue to insist, as they have in the past, that “the widespread conclusion that Obama is losing popularity because he’s too liberal … is totally unpersuasive,” they will be seen as increasingly detached from reality.

The public will hold the president accountable for his actions. That is what Obama’s increasingly desperate courtiers are most afraid of.

Jonathan Rauch has written an interesting cover story in the National Journal on “The Tea Party Paradox.” He argues that the country has indeed moved to the right but it’s not clear whether this is happening in a way that helps the GOP in the long run (he does say it will help Republicans in the short term, for sure).

In his article, Rauch quotes from something I recently wrote, in which I pointed to opinion polls showing that a growing percentage of Americans regard the Democrats as too liberal. “What’s happening, in other words, is that an increasing number of Americans are becoming more conservative,” I wrote. “This is more fallout from the Age of Obama. Mr. Obama is, for the GOP, the gift that keeps on giving.”

Then comes this:

Wrong, replies Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic-leaning political analyst and a senior fellow with the liberal Center for American Progress. “It’s not Obama that’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s the economy that’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said in a recent interview. “I think it’s a judgment on how things are going in the country. I don’t think it’s a judgment to take the country in a conservative direction.”

Teixeira is repeating an argument some of the New Republic’s bloggers make ad nauseam: the problem isn’t Obama; it’s the economy. If Obama had a roaring economy, he’d be far more popular than he is. Obama’s policies are not to blame; the conditions of the country are. To which one could respond: if during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the inflation and interest rates had been 2 percent instead of topping 18 percent, Carter would have been more popular too. But they weren’t, and he wasn’t. Mr. Carter was judged a failure and jettisoned from office after a single term because people believed the conditions of the country were due, in large measure, to his performance as president.

Teixeira’s argument can work when a president has been in office for one month; it’s harder to pull off when he’s been in office for more than 18 months. And if you read public-opinion polls carefully, what you will find isn’t simply that people are upset by the state of the economy; they are also troubled by Obama’s response to the economy. They believe he’s pursuing policies that are making things worse, not better. That is why Obama’s poll ratings are sinking and why his party is in danger of losing both the House and the Senate come November. And in response to Obamaism, the nation is, in significant respects, moving in a more conservative direction.

This trend is not inexorable. If liberals are correct and the policies that Obama is pursing are wise and necessary, then we will see their manifestation: unemployment figures will tumble, the deficit will shrink, the economy will come roaring back — and Obama will sail to victory in 2012. The country will also give liberalism a second look. But if conservatives are correct and the policies Obama is pursuing are misguided, then we will see that manifest itself, too. And Obama and his party will continue to pay a very heavy price for this.

It’s true that many people ascribe too much influence to the president when it comes to the economy. On the other hand, administration policies matter quite a lot — and when the Obama administration makes grand, sweeping claims for its economic policies and insists the stimulus package will keep unemployment below 8 percent when it ends up topping 10 percent, the public is right to hold the White House responsible.

American voters tend to be pretty fair and reasonable. They don’t expect the president to be a magician — but they do insist on progress, on results, and on accountability. Obama is no exception. These days, liberals comfort themselves by telling each other that in his second year as president, Ronald Reagan was unpopular too, and Obama is really another Reagan. Conservatives hear this comparison and chuckle; Obama is more nearly the antithesis of Reagan — they point out — and the policies Obama is pursuing will not meet with nearly the same success as Reagan’s did.

Time will tell who is right and who is wrong. At this stage, conservatives certainly have the better of the argument, though this political drama has several more acts to play out. But here’s one thing you can be sure of: if unemployment is still high, if the deficit and debt are still exploding, and if the economy is still struggling in 2011 and 2012, then the Teixeira/TNR effort to create miles of distance between Obama and the economic conditions of the country will fail. Appeals to sophisticated political-science models and pleas for more time and understanding will fail. Lashing out at critics and Bush won’t work. And if dogmatic liberals continue to insist, as they have in the past, that “the widespread conclusion that Obama is losing popularity because he’s too liberal … is totally unpersuasive,” they will be seen as increasingly detached from reality.

The public will hold the president accountable for his actions. That is what Obama’s increasingly desperate courtiers are most afraid of.

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Where’s the Palestinian Hadassah?

Today’s Haaretz Magazine profile of Palestinian filmmaker Rima Essa and her new documentary on a Palestinian child with leukemia raises important questions. Essa (and presumably her film) complains mainly about Israel. But she also has harsh words for Palestinian hospitals.

“‘At [Israeli hospital] Hadassah Ein Karem the oncology ward looks very nice and well kept; there’s a playroom and toys and someone who devotes their time to the sick children. … At the hospitals in the territories you don’t find conditions like that. At [West Bank hospital] Al-Hussein, I saw a nicely painted playroom with Lego and puzzles, but it was open only two hours a day because there was no budget and no volunteers.

‘The people who live in the territories don’t have the same kind of awareness. Maybe because they themselves live in difficult conditions; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I saw Ahlam’s mother pleading with neighbors and people from the area to donate blood for her daughter. There’s no awareness in our society about things like donating blood, or organ donations’. …

[Essa] documented Al-Hussein’s use of drugs from Israel that were past their expiration date. In one of the film’s toughest scenes, the medical staff knows that two injections of a certain drug are needed, but the department only has enough for one. The staff decides to divide the one dose they have between Ahlam and another little girl. …”

Clearly, the Palestinian Authority can’t fund its hospitals as Israel does (though it could stop buying expired drugs): It’s a young, struggling state-in-the-making, while Israel is a 62-year-old, comparatively wealthy state. But Israel had relatively good hospitals even when it, too, was a young, struggling state-to-be, thanks to the generosity of overseas Jews, who built, equipped, and staffed them. Hadassah Hospital, for instance, was founded by the American Hadassah organization, which built six hospitals in Israel before the state’s establishment. Even today, donations from overseas Jews contribute greatly to Israel’s cutting-edge medicine.

Like the Jews, Palestinians have a large Diaspora. Also like the Jews, parts of that Diaspora are well-educated and well-off, with estimated assets of $40-80 billion.

But there the similarity ends — because overseas Palestinians evidently have no interest in doing for the PA what overseas Jews did for pre-state Israel. If they did, their hospitals wouldn’t look as Essa described.

Moreover, Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. But there are 22 Arab states and 56 Muslim states, many of them among the richest in the world. Had they any interest in helping their Palestinian brethren, they could easily build hospitals rivaling anything in Israel. But they don’t.

Finally, there are the international-aid organizations that claim to care so deeply about the Palestinians, like Turkey’s IHH, which sponsored May’s flotilla to Gaza. But it turns out most of the medicines they donate are expired and must be tossed: According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, only 30 percent of donated medical aid is actually usable.

With friends like these, Palestinians don’t need enemies. But that’s precisely why, 17 years after the PA’s establishment, they still need Israel so much.

Today’s Haaretz Magazine profile of Palestinian filmmaker Rima Essa and her new documentary on a Palestinian child with leukemia raises important questions. Essa (and presumably her film) complains mainly about Israel. But she also has harsh words for Palestinian hospitals.

“‘At [Israeli hospital] Hadassah Ein Karem the oncology ward looks very nice and well kept; there’s a playroom and toys and someone who devotes their time to the sick children. … At the hospitals in the territories you don’t find conditions like that. At [West Bank hospital] Al-Hussein, I saw a nicely painted playroom with Lego and puzzles, but it was open only two hours a day because there was no budget and no volunteers.

‘The people who live in the territories don’t have the same kind of awareness. Maybe because they themselves live in difficult conditions; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I saw Ahlam’s mother pleading with neighbors and people from the area to donate blood for her daughter. There’s no awareness in our society about things like donating blood, or organ donations’. …

[Essa] documented Al-Hussein’s use of drugs from Israel that were past their expiration date. In one of the film’s toughest scenes, the medical staff knows that two injections of a certain drug are needed, but the department only has enough for one. The staff decides to divide the one dose they have between Ahlam and another little girl. …”

Clearly, the Palestinian Authority can’t fund its hospitals as Israel does (though it could stop buying expired drugs): It’s a young, struggling state-in-the-making, while Israel is a 62-year-old, comparatively wealthy state. But Israel had relatively good hospitals even when it, too, was a young, struggling state-to-be, thanks to the generosity of overseas Jews, who built, equipped, and staffed them. Hadassah Hospital, for instance, was founded by the American Hadassah organization, which built six hospitals in Israel before the state’s establishment. Even today, donations from overseas Jews contribute greatly to Israel’s cutting-edge medicine.

Like the Jews, Palestinians have a large Diaspora. Also like the Jews, parts of that Diaspora are well-educated and well-off, with estimated assets of $40-80 billion.

But there the similarity ends — because overseas Palestinians evidently have no interest in doing for the PA what overseas Jews did for pre-state Israel. If they did, their hospitals wouldn’t look as Essa described.

Moreover, Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. But there are 22 Arab states and 56 Muslim states, many of them among the richest in the world. Had they any interest in helping their Palestinian brethren, they could easily build hospitals rivaling anything in Israel. But they don’t.

Finally, there are the international-aid organizations that claim to care so deeply about the Palestinians, like Turkey’s IHH, which sponsored May’s flotilla to Gaza. But it turns out most of the medicines they donate are expired and must be tossed: According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, only 30 percent of donated medical aid is actually usable.

With friends like these, Palestinians don’t need enemies. But that’s precisely why, 17 years after the PA’s establishment, they still need Israel so much.

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Galston: The Democrats’ Cassandra

William Galston is back at it, warning the Democrats that they ignore polling data at their own peril. Looking at the recent Pew poll, he explains:

On the whole, 58 percent of voters see Democrats as liberal or very liberal, while 56 percent see Republicans as conservative or very conservative; no surprise there. But voters now place themselves much closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party on this left-right continuum. Indeed, the ideological gap between the Democratic Party and the mean voter is about three times as large as the separation between that voter and the Republican Party. And, startlingly, the electorate places itself a bit closer to the Tea Party movement (which is well to the right of the Republican Party) than to the Democratic Party.

As he notes, this is a ”major shift from five years ago” and a warning signal that Independents “who helped Democrats score a notable success in the 2006 midterm elections may well do the same for Republicans in 2010.”

Democrats have been reluctant to draw the obvious conclusion from this very stark data. As a result, they’ve not adjusted their agenda or moderated their rhetoric to arrest the Independents’ flight from their party. They prefer to increase the volume on their anti-Bush, anti-conservative vitriol. That — of course — only deepens the disaffection of Independents, who generally loathe partisan nastiness.

Galston advises Obama to think hard about “broadening his appeal beyond his core supporters,” but that would require an acknowledgment of failure and a dramatic re-orientation in his big-government liberalism. Perhaps the shock of an election wipe-out will do the trick. But for now, the Democrats remain stubbornly indifferent to all warning signs and reasoned advice.

William Galston is back at it, warning the Democrats that they ignore polling data at their own peril. Looking at the recent Pew poll, he explains:

On the whole, 58 percent of voters see Democrats as liberal or very liberal, while 56 percent see Republicans as conservative or very conservative; no surprise there. But voters now place themselves much closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party on this left-right continuum. Indeed, the ideological gap between the Democratic Party and the mean voter is about three times as large as the separation between that voter and the Republican Party. And, startlingly, the electorate places itself a bit closer to the Tea Party movement (which is well to the right of the Republican Party) than to the Democratic Party.

As he notes, this is a ”major shift from five years ago” and a warning signal that Independents “who helped Democrats score a notable success in the 2006 midterm elections may well do the same for Republicans in 2010.”

Democrats have been reluctant to draw the obvious conclusion from this very stark data. As a result, they’ve not adjusted their agenda or moderated their rhetoric to arrest the Independents’ flight from their party. They prefer to increase the volume on their anti-Bush, anti-conservative vitriol. That — of course — only deepens the disaffection of Independents, who generally loathe partisan nastiness.

Galston advises Obama to think hard about “broadening his appeal beyond his core supporters,” but that would require an acknowledgment of failure and a dramatic re-orientation in his big-government liberalism. Perhaps the shock of an election wipe-out will do the trick. But for now, the Democrats remain stubbornly indifferent to all warning signs and reasoned advice.

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Not Getting any Better for Dems

The latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics suggests that far from improving their position, the Democrats are continuing their slide. Obama’s current approval ties his all-time low (43 percent) and less than 40 percent of voters approve of his performance on the economy, job creation, immigration, and the deficit. As for the midterm elections, there is no good news in the numbers. Republicans (66 percent) best Democrats (59 percent) when it comes to excitement about the election (“extremely” or “very interested”). And in the generic congressional poll, Republicans have a huge 47-to-36 percent advantage. (Two weeks ago their margin of advantage was only four points.)

Maybe this is a temporary dip. But the Democrats are running out of time. Clearly, a large segment of the electorate would have to be talked out of their current opinion of the president and his party in order for a Democratic wipe-out to be avoided. And if the voters are to be persuaded, Obama isn’t the one to do it. Right now, I suspect far more Republican than Democratic candidates are rooting for him to show up in their districts and states. After all, it did wonders for Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, and Scott Brown.

The latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics suggests that far from improving their position, the Democrats are continuing their slide. Obama’s current approval ties his all-time low (43 percent) and less than 40 percent of voters approve of his performance on the economy, job creation, immigration, and the deficit. As for the midterm elections, there is no good news in the numbers. Republicans (66 percent) best Democrats (59 percent) when it comes to excitement about the election (“extremely” or “very interested”). And in the generic congressional poll, Republicans have a huge 47-to-36 percent advantage. (Two weeks ago their margin of advantage was only four points.)

Maybe this is a temporary dip. But the Democrats are running out of time. Clearly, a large segment of the electorate would have to be talked out of their current opinion of the president and his party in order for a Democratic wipe-out to be avoided. And if the voters are to be persuaded, Obama isn’t the one to do it. Right now, I suspect far more Republican than Democratic candidates are rooting for him to show up in their districts and states. After all, it did wonders for Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, and Scott Brown.

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Tracking “Jewish Money”

It’s not often that bald-faced, unashamed anti-Semitism is advertised by supposedly mainstream politicos. But these are no ordinary times. This report explains:

Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger for Mike McMahon’s Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to the Politicker.

The file, labeled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2,” for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

“Where is Grimm’s money coming from,” said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon’s campaign spokesman. “There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees.”

Jewish money. Gosh, even Walt and Mearsheimer are smart enough to use the “Israel lobby” rather than “Jewish money” to incite the public. Nelson immediately began back-peddling, confessing that “she did not know exactly how the finance team knew who was Jewish and who was not,” and bizarrely arguing that “I don’t think ethnicity matters.”

It was not enough to save her job (or most likely, her career). Both Nelson and the staffer who put together the list were canned and McMahon issued a heartfelt apology.

The incident is nevertheless telling. The multiplicity of incidents — like the White House press corps’ indulging Helen Thomas and the dual-loyalty canard that is bandied about by left-leaning bloggers and anonymous White House sources – is becoming hard to ignore. It suggests that the trip wire that snares racists and misogynists is curiously nowhere to be found when it comes to anti-Semitism.

America is not Europe and anti-Semitism is not yet fashionable or commonplace in “polite” company. (At least Nelson was canned rather than lionized and Thomas was finally put out to pasture.) But what was unheard of a few years ago is now popping up with alarming frequency. Peddlers of virulent anti-Semitism now appear in mainstream publications and their arguments are entertained as legitimate. That should concern us all.

Perhaps the Jew-bashing filmmakers and pundits will censor themselves when the public and their peers stop frequenting their movies or reading their bile-soaked columns. And when politicians and staffers are convinced that anti-Semitism is as unacceptable as racism, they too will refrain from fanning the flames of Jew-hatred.

It’s not often that bald-faced, unashamed anti-Semitism is advertised by supposedly mainstream politicos. But these are no ordinary times. This report explains:

Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger for Mike McMahon’s Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to the Politicker.

The file, labeled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2,” for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

“Where is Grimm’s money coming from,” said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon’s campaign spokesman. “There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees.”

Jewish money. Gosh, even Walt and Mearsheimer are smart enough to use the “Israel lobby” rather than “Jewish money” to incite the public. Nelson immediately began back-peddling, confessing that “she did not know exactly how the finance team knew who was Jewish and who was not,” and bizarrely arguing that “I don’t think ethnicity matters.”

It was not enough to save her job (or most likely, her career). Both Nelson and the staffer who put together the list were canned and McMahon issued a heartfelt apology.

The incident is nevertheless telling. The multiplicity of incidents — like the White House press corps’ indulging Helen Thomas and the dual-loyalty canard that is bandied about by left-leaning bloggers and anonymous White House sources – is becoming hard to ignore. It suggests that the trip wire that snares racists and misogynists is curiously nowhere to be found when it comes to anti-Semitism.

America is not Europe and anti-Semitism is not yet fashionable or commonplace in “polite” company. (At least Nelson was canned rather than lionized and Thomas was finally put out to pasture.) But what was unheard of a few years ago is now popping up with alarming frequency. Peddlers of virulent anti-Semitism now appear in mainstream publications and their arguments are entertained as legitimate. That should concern us all.

Perhaps the Jew-bashing filmmakers and pundits will censor themselves when the public and their peers stop frequenting their movies or reading their bile-soaked columns. And when politicians and staffers are convinced that anti-Semitism is as unacceptable as racism, they too will refrain from fanning the flames of Jew-hatred.

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Lindsey Graham Shows His True Colors

Lindsey Graham is second to none when it comes to shameless pandering and preening. Impress the liberal media? Why else slam the Bush administration’s position on detainees and enhanced interrogation techniques? Show he’s about the mere partisanship of his fellow Democrats? Why else vote to confirm unqualified judicial activists for the Supreme Court? But nothing quite tops this:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday that he’s talked with other senators about crafting a constitutional amendment that would deny American citizenship to illegal immigrants’ children born in the United States.

Graham’s idea is a stunning reversal for a senator whose advocacy of giving legal status to the country’s 12 million undocumented workers is so well known that conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and many of his listeners call him “Sen. Grahamnesty.”

Graham, along with President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were GOP leaders of a 2007 failed Senate effort to enact comprehensive immigration reforms including a path to legal residency or citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Even the most aggressive figures on immigration reform think this is idiotic. Although we agree on practically nothing concerning this issue, I fully concur with Mark Krikorian on this one:

Children who would have been citizens, Krikorian said, would become illegal aliens were Graham’s constitutional amendment pass Congress and be ratified by the states.

“I’m exactly against changing this,” he said. “I think it’s sort of a stupid thing. You would end up with lots of U.S.-born illegal immigrants. There’s something like 300,000 kids born here to illegal immigrants every year.”

Graham is, of course, talking about changing the Fourteenth Amendment, which has become the cornerstone of civil-rights jurisprudence for a century and a half. The idea of mucking with the definition of citizenship and tossing out those born to foreigners on American soil is so alarming and lacking in common sense that one has to question what Graham is doing on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That after all, is the committee meant to host those senators who have some interest in and grasp of our Constitutional traditions. Graham routinely demonstrates he is short on both. Maybe it’s about time he were booted from his perch.

Lindsey Graham is second to none when it comes to shameless pandering and preening. Impress the liberal media? Why else slam the Bush administration’s position on detainees and enhanced interrogation techniques? Show he’s about the mere partisanship of his fellow Democrats? Why else vote to confirm unqualified judicial activists for the Supreme Court? But nothing quite tops this:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday that he’s talked with other senators about crafting a constitutional amendment that would deny American citizenship to illegal immigrants’ children born in the United States.

Graham’s idea is a stunning reversal for a senator whose advocacy of giving legal status to the country’s 12 million undocumented workers is so well known that conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and many of his listeners call him “Sen. Grahamnesty.”

Graham, along with President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were GOP leaders of a 2007 failed Senate effort to enact comprehensive immigration reforms including a path to legal residency or citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Even the most aggressive figures on immigration reform think this is idiotic. Although we agree on practically nothing concerning this issue, I fully concur with Mark Krikorian on this one:

Children who would have been citizens, Krikorian said, would become illegal aliens were Graham’s constitutional amendment pass Congress and be ratified by the states.

“I’m exactly against changing this,” he said. “I think it’s sort of a stupid thing. You would end up with lots of U.S.-born illegal immigrants. There’s something like 300,000 kids born here to illegal immigrants every year.”

Graham is, of course, talking about changing the Fourteenth Amendment, which has become the cornerstone of civil-rights jurisprudence for a century and a half. The idea of mucking with the definition of citizenship and tossing out those born to foreigners on American soil is so alarming and lacking in common sense that one has to question what Graham is doing on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That after all, is the committee meant to host those senators who have some interest in and grasp of our Constitutional traditions. Graham routinely demonstrates he is short on both. Maybe it’s about time he were booted from his perch.

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

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Who Can Trust Sestak on Israel?

Rep. Joe Sestak’s “shut up” strategy followed by his “I’m really, honestly a friend of Israel” isn’t working. The local media have figured out that Sestak’s keynote speech to CAIR is far more revealing than his recent avowals of devotion to the Jewish state. Benyamin Korn writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Does it matter if a candidate for U.S. Senate served as a keynote speaker for an extremist group? Does it matter if he hired one of the group’s staff to serve on his staff? These are some of the questions being asked about Rep. Joe Sestak as voters learn about his ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

After reciting CAIR’s affection for Hamas (“CAIR executive director Nihad Awad has said, ‘I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO,’ the Palestine Liberation Organization”) and its well-known ties to terrorists, Korn observes:

Despite all this, Sestak hired CAIR’s director of communications in Philadelphia, Adeeba Al-Zaman, to work in his new Washington office in 2007. Soon thereafter, Al-Zaman had arranged for Sestak to be invited to speak at CAIR’s Philadelphia dinner that year.

Sestak accepted the invitation to headline the dinner. Members of the Jewish community met with him beforehand and pleaded with him to cancel, citing CAIR’s terrorism ties. But Sestak wouldn’t budge. To this day, Sestak refuses to acknowledge that his appearance at the dinner was a mistake. Instead, his campaign has tried to pressure Comcast to stop broadcasting an advertisement challenging his record on Israel. A letter from Sestak’s lawyer demanded that the ad be suppressed because it falsely characterized Sestak as anti-Israel.

Nor does Korn buy Sestak’s resume puffery that he “put his life on the line to defend Israel.” (“Pardon me for doubting that an Arab army would attack Israel during a joint American-Israeli military exercise.”)

Despite all of Sestak’s huffing and puffing, he has dodged the central concerns about his Israel record. Did he not realize that the Gaza 54 letter was a left-wing slam on Israel? Does he regret his slobbery praise for CAIR and now recognize that it is, in fact, a terrorist front group? Why hasn’t he — if he’s so devoted to Israel — demanded that the U.S. leave and refuse to fund the UN Human Rights Council?

Sestak is walking a fine line here. J Street has ponied up cash and run ads for him, so Sestak can’t fully embrace a robust pro-Israel line. But now that he has been exposed as a pol who “plays footsie with CAIR,” he’s had to rush toward a mainstream position on Israel. In the end, the Israel-bashing left and pro-Israel voters may very well both conclude he can’t be trusted. But CAIR still stands by their man (and he by the group). That should help clarify matters.

Rep. Joe Sestak’s “shut up” strategy followed by his “I’m really, honestly a friend of Israel” isn’t working. The local media have figured out that Sestak’s keynote speech to CAIR is far more revealing than his recent avowals of devotion to the Jewish state. Benyamin Korn writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Does it matter if a candidate for U.S. Senate served as a keynote speaker for an extremist group? Does it matter if he hired one of the group’s staff to serve on his staff? These are some of the questions being asked about Rep. Joe Sestak as voters learn about his ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

After reciting CAIR’s affection for Hamas (“CAIR executive director Nihad Awad has said, ‘I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO,’ the Palestine Liberation Organization”) and its well-known ties to terrorists, Korn observes:

Despite all this, Sestak hired CAIR’s director of communications in Philadelphia, Adeeba Al-Zaman, to work in his new Washington office in 2007. Soon thereafter, Al-Zaman had arranged for Sestak to be invited to speak at CAIR’s Philadelphia dinner that year.

Sestak accepted the invitation to headline the dinner. Members of the Jewish community met with him beforehand and pleaded with him to cancel, citing CAIR’s terrorism ties. But Sestak wouldn’t budge. To this day, Sestak refuses to acknowledge that his appearance at the dinner was a mistake. Instead, his campaign has tried to pressure Comcast to stop broadcasting an advertisement challenging his record on Israel. A letter from Sestak’s lawyer demanded that the ad be suppressed because it falsely characterized Sestak as anti-Israel.

Nor does Korn buy Sestak’s resume puffery that he “put his life on the line to defend Israel.” (“Pardon me for doubting that an Arab army would attack Israel during a joint American-Israeli military exercise.”)

Despite all of Sestak’s huffing and puffing, he has dodged the central concerns about his Israel record. Did he not realize that the Gaza 54 letter was a left-wing slam on Israel? Does he regret his slobbery praise for CAIR and now recognize that it is, in fact, a terrorist front group? Why hasn’t he — if he’s so devoted to Israel — demanded that the U.S. leave and refuse to fund the UN Human Rights Council?

Sestak is walking a fine line here. J Street has ponied up cash and run ads for him, so Sestak can’t fully embrace a robust pro-Israel line. But now that he has been exposed as a pol who “plays footsie with CAIR,” he’s had to rush toward a mainstream position on Israel. In the end, the Israel-bashing left and pro-Israel voters may very well both conclude he can’t be trusted. But CAIR still stands by their man (and he by the group). That should help clarify matters.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Obama economy isn’t getting better anytime soon: “The U.S. economic recovery will remain slow deep into next year, held back by shoppers reluctant to spend and employers hesitant to hire, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists. The latest quarterly AP Economy Survey shows economists have turned gloomier in the past three months. They foresee weaker growth and higher unemployment than they did before.”

The Obama Justice Department isn’t shy about its preferences. “The politically charged gang led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is more interested in helping felons vote than in helping the military to vote. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has put a legislative hold on the already troubled nomination of James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for voting rights of our military (and associated civilian personnel) stationed abroad.”

The Obama presidency isn’t what liberals imagined it would be (subscription required): “The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 32 to 42 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 255 Democratic and 178 Republican House members and two vacant seats, one formerly held by a Democrat and one by a Republican. Republicans need to net 39 seats to reach a bare majority of 218 seats. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 5 to 7 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 57 Democrats, two independents that caucus with Democrats, and 41 Republican Senators. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 3 to 5 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 26 Democratic and 24 Republican Governors.”

The Obama era isn’t “business as usual” inside the Beltway — it’s worse. “The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes.”

The Obama administration isn’t about to take responsibility for anything. According to Obama, firing Shirley Sherrod was the media’s fault. The only thing surprising is that he didn’t find a way to blame George W. Bush for this.

The Obama “smart” diplomatic set isn’t going to take smart advice from Aaron David Miller: “One of the most enduring myths in the lore surrounding Arab-Israeli diplomacy is that direct negotiations provide the key to successful peacemaking. They don’t. The actual history of negotiations tells a far different story. Direct talks are often necessary, but have never been sufficient to ensure success. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, together with the Obama administration, should stop raising expectations and deluding themselves and the rest of us into thinking otherwise.”

The Obama UN team isn’t exactly wowing them. In fact, Susan Rice’s record is downright “embarrassing”: “Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving. … Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence.  Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues.”

The Obama economy isn’t getting better anytime soon: “The U.S. economic recovery will remain slow deep into next year, held back by shoppers reluctant to spend and employers hesitant to hire, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists. The latest quarterly AP Economy Survey shows economists have turned gloomier in the past three months. They foresee weaker growth and higher unemployment than they did before.”

The Obama Justice Department isn’t shy about its preferences. “The politically charged gang led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is more interested in helping felons vote than in helping the military to vote. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has put a legislative hold on the already troubled nomination of James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for voting rights of our military (and associated civilian personnel) stationed abroad.”

The Obama presidency isn’t what liberals imagined it would be (subscription required): “The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 32 to 42 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 255 Democratic and 178 Republican House members and two vacant seats, one formerly held by a Democrat and one by a Republican. Republicans need to net 39 seats to reach a bare majority of 218 seats. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 5 to 7 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 57 Democrats, two independents that caucus with Democrats, and 41 Republican Senators. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 3 to 5 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 26 Democratic and 24 Republican Governors.”

The Obama era isn’t “business as usual” inside the Beltway — it’s worse. “The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes.”

The Obama administration isn’t about to take responsibility for anything. According to Obama, firing Shirley Sherrod was the media’s fault. The only thing surprising is that he didn’t find a way to blame George W. Bush for this.

The Obama “smart” diplomatic set isn’t going to take smart advice from Aaron David Miller: “One of the most enduring myths in the lore surrounding Arab-Israeli diplomacy is that direct negotiations provide the key to successful peacemaking. They don’t. The actual history of negotiations tells a far different story. Direct talks are often necessary, but have never been sufficient to ensure success. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, together with the Obama administration, should stop raising expectations and deluding themselves and the rest of us into thinking otherwise.”

The Obama UN team isn’t exactly wowing them. In fact, Susan Rice’s record is downright “embarrassing”: “Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving. … Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence.  Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues.”

Read Less