Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 16, 2010

SPECIAL PREVIEW: The Re-Hollowing of the Military

On May 3, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a speech at the Navy League in Washington to an audience of veterans, retired and current defense-industry executives, and supporters of the tradition of American naval power. Gates gave it to them. He told his audience that the time had come “to re-examine and question basic assumptions” about how their beloved Navy works, “in light of evolving technologies, new threats, and budget realities”—specifically, a federal deficit in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.

To read the rest of Arthur Herman’s “The Re-Hollowing of the Military,” a special preview from the September issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

On May 3, 2010, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a speech at the Navy League in Washington to an audience of veterans, retired and current defense-industry executives, and supporters of the tradition of American naval power. Gates gave it to them. He told his audience that the time had come “to re-examine and question basic assumptions” about how their beloved Navy works, “in light of evolving technologies, new threats, and budget realities”—specifically, a federal deficit in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.

To read the rest of Arthur Herman’s “The Re-Hollowing of the Military,” a special preview from the September issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

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Yet Another New GOP High

According to Real Clear Politics, five recent polls – Gallup, Fox News, PPP (D), CNN/Opinion Research, and Rasmussen Reports – show that the GOP advantage on the generic congressional vote is 6.4 percent, a new high. If this continues, it probably would, when combined with other political metrics (the intensity gap, the hemorrhage of support Obama has experienced among independents, the GOP’s dominance among voters on the issue, Obama’s approval/disapproval ratings on the economy, et cetera), translate into Democratic losses in the House that would more than wipe away their gains from the past two elections (55 seats).

According to Real Clear Politics, five recent polls – Gallup, Fox News, PPP (D), CNN/Opinion Research, and Rasmussen Reports – show that the GOP advantage on the generic congressional vote is 6.4 percent, a new high. If this continues, it probably would, when combined with other political metrics (the intensity gap, the hemorrhage of support Obama has experienced among independents, the GOP’s dominance among voters on the issue, Obama’s approval/disapproval ratings on the economy, et cetera), translate into Democratic losses in the House that would more than wipe away their gains from the past two elections (55 seats).

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Just Words

“Don’t give in to fear,” President Obama said Monday, in a campaign stop in Milwaukee. “Let’s reach for hope.”

When Obama said those words in 2008, they were empty. Now, more than 18 months into his presidency, they are discredited.

The public is rising up in massive numbers against Obama’s version of “hope and change” — and Obama’s party is going to suffer massively because of it.

“Don’t give in to fear,” President Obama said Monday, in a campaign stop in Milwaukee. “Let’s reach for hope.”

When Obama said those words in 2008, they were empty. Now, more than 18 months into his presidency, they are discredited.

The public is rising up in massive numbers against Obama’s version of “hope and change” — and Obama’s party is going to suffer massively because of it.

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Obama, the Mosque, and Ground Zero

At Friday’s iftar dinner at the White House, President Obama declared, “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” On Saturday he offered this clarification: “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”

A few thoughts on this:

1. This has never been about the right to worship or religious freedom; it is about the wisdom of placing a proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic Center near Ground Zero. By his comments the president has shown, inadvertently, that the two issues are entirely separable. After all, if building the mosque were a matter of our “unshakable” commitment to religious freedom, and if that is what the controversy over the mosque were really all about, then Obama would have declared, in emphatic terms, what his position is. The fact that he won’t indicates that even Obama knows this is not an issue of high Constitutional principle; it’s a matter of a prudential judgment about context and location.

2. Assume the leader of the mosque had celebrated the American deaths on 9/11 and said that the agony of the slain brought him utter delight. Would that matter to Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, and the supporters of building the mosque? If not, they should say so and allow the voters to render their verdict on that disposition.

If so — if it is considered inappropriate to allow a Ground Zero mosque run by an imam who, while stopping short of advocating violence, did hold “radical” as opposed to “moderate” views — then aren’t we getting into dangerous territory, with government officials saying yes to religious leaders who are sufficiently “moderate” but no to religious leaders who don’t meet the Obama and Bloomberg test for theological integrity?

3. It’s hard to understand what President Obama is trying to achieve by wading into these waters. If his purpose was to speak out in behalf of the importance of religious liberty in America, the point is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be made. No serious person is arguing against religious liberty. If the purpose of Obama speaking out was to advance inter-faith comity and ensure that tensions don’t rise in America, then he has damaged that cause.

The American people were extremely fair-minded toward Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. There was no backlash against Muslims — appropriately so — and our political leaders, including President Bush, went out of their way to praise Muslim Americans and to distinguish between Islam and al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam. But precisely because those who plotted and executed the attacks on 9/11 did so in the name of Islam — and because Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said that the U.S. was “an accessory to the crime that happened” — there is resistance to allowing this particular mosque to be built in this particular place.

Many people believe that Imam Rauf is trying to co-opt a brutal attack against innocent Americans in order to make his own point. But even if you don’t agree with that assessment, forcing the public to accept the mosque may well (and unfortunately) deepen resentment against Muslims — and, as we have seen, for no high-minded, first-amendment reasons. The public will feel as if this were a stick in the eye — something unnecessary and even provocative.

Prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues and one of the qualities that is most important for political leaders to have. It involves, among other things, the ability to anticipate the effects of one’s words and actions. What Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama have done is to undermine the very cause they say they are trying to defend. By implicitly and explicitly siding with Feisal Abdul Rauf’s effort and trying to turn this matter into a false debate about religious freedom, they are sharpening the divisions in our country in a way that is both unnecessary and harmful.

Well done, gentlemen.

At Friday’s iftar dinner at the White House, President Obama declared, “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” On Saturday he offered this clarification: “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”

A few thoughts on this:

1. This has never been about the right to worship or religious freedom; it is about the wisdom of placing a proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic Center near Ground Zero. By his comments the president has shown, inadvertently, that the two issues are entirely separable. After all, if building the mosque were a matter of our “unshakable” commitment to religious freedom, and if that is what the controversy over the mosque were really all about, then Obama would have declared, in emphatic terms, what his position is. The fact that he won’t indicates that even Obama knows this is not an issue of high Constitutional principle; it’s a matter of a prudential judgment about context and location.

2. Assume the leader of the mosque had celebrated the American deaths on 9/11 and said that the agony of the slain brought him utter delight. Would that matter to Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, and the supporters of building the mosque? If not, they should say so and allow the voters to render their verdict on that disposition.

If so — if it is considered inappropriate to allow a Ground Zero mosque run by an imam who, while stopping short of advocating violence, did hold “radical” as opposed to “moderate” views — then aren’t we getting into dangerous territory, with government officials saying yes to religious leaders who are sufficiently “moderate” but no to religious leaders who don’t meet the Obama and Bloomberg test for theological integrity?

3. It’s hard to understand what President Obama is trying to achieve by wading into these waters. If his purpose was to speak out in behalf of the importance of religious liberty in America, the point is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be made. No serious person is arguing against religious liberty. If the purpose of Obama speaking out was to advance inter-faith comity and ensure that tensions don’t rise in America, then he has damaged that cause.

The American people were extremely fair-minded toward Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. There was no backlash against Muslims — appropriately so — and our political leaders, including President Bush, went out of their way to praise Muslim Americans and to distinguish between Islam and al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam. But precisely because those who plotted and executed the attacks on 9/11 did so in the name of Islam — and because Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said that the U.S. was “an accessory to the crime that happened” — there is resistance to allowing this particular mosque to be built in this particular place.

Many people believe that Imam Rauf is trying to co-opt a brutal attack against innocent Americans in order to make his own point. But even if you don’t agree with that assessment, forcing the public to accept the mosque may well (and unfortunately) deepen resentment against Muslims — and, as we have seen, for no high-minded, first-amendment reasons. The public will feel as if this were a stick in the eye — something unnecessary and even provocative.

Prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues and one of the qualities that is most important for political leaders to have. It involves, among other things, the ability to anticipate the effects of one’s words and actions. What Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama have done is to undermine the very cause they say they are trying to defend. By implicitly and explicitly siding with Feisal Abdul Rauf’s effort and trying to turn this matter into a false debate about religious freedom, they are sharpening the divisions in our country in a way that is both unnecessary and harmful.

Well done, gentlemen.

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More Smearing of “Second America”

Marc Ambinder has become the go-to guy for the most ludicrous pro-Obama spin in the blogosphere. Try this one out:

I think we’ve misread Obama’s opinion. He suggested Saturday that there’s a difference between objecting to the placement of a mosque and objecting to the right of a mosque to place itself wherever it legally can. In other words, one might have an objection to that mosque, or might be suspicious of the motives of the imam, but one can simultaneously accept the need for sensitivity and still find it offensive to use the instruments of government to enforce that sensitivity — the freedom of religious practice is the paramount value here. This is a sophisticated position, but in attempting to be careful about how he expressed it, the President confused rather than clarified.

So sophisticated it bears an uncanny resemblance to gobbledygook. If you think I’ve taken something out of context, read the rest (or don’t) for the complete, incomprehensible “analysis.”

Meanwhile “second America” (shall we make up T-shirts for 68% of us?) is not amused: FDNY firefighters are protesting the mosque, Ambinder tells us. Ambinder terms this kind of activity “soft bigotry.” Then there is brave, lonely Obama:

He’s pushing against a resurgence in anti-cosmopolitanism, against the constructed identity of America as a collection of white ethnic immigrants, against the forces that fear a majority minority nation — AND against the emotional scars that New Yorkers, even cosmopolitan New Yorkers who couldn’t care less if their daughters marry other women, carry on a daily basis.

We’re really not worthy. Americans may discover they only deserve a representative of “second America” as their president. They’ll get their chance in 2012.

Marc Ambinder has become the go-to guy for the most ludicrous pro-Obama spin in the blogosphere. Try this one out:

I think we’ve misread Obama’s opinion. He suggested Saturday that there’s a difference between objecting to the placement of a mosque and objecting to the right of a mosque to place itself wherever it legally can. In other words, one might have an objection to that mosque, or might be suspicious of the motives of the imam, but one can simultaneously accept the need for sensitivity and still find it offensive to use the instruments of government to enforce that sensitivity — the freedom of religious practice is the paramount value here. This is a sophisticated position, but in attempting to be careful about how he expressed it, the President confused rather than clarified.

So sophisticated it bears an uncanny resemblance to gobbledygook. If you think I’ve taken something out of context, read the rest (or don’t) for the complete, incomprehensible “analysis.”

Meanwhile “second America” (shall we make up T-shirts for 68% of us?) is not amused: FDNY firefighters are protesting the mosque, Ambinder tells us. Ambinder terms this kind of activity “soft bigotry.” Then there is brave, lonely Obama:

He’s pushing against a resurgence in anti-cosmopolitanism, against the constructed identity of America as a collection of white ethnic immigrants, against the forces that fear a majority minority nation — AND against the emotional scars that New Yorkers, even cosmopolitan New Yorkers who couldn’t care less if their daughters marry other women, carry on a daily basis.

We’re really not worthy. Americans may discover they only deserve a representative of “second America” as their president. They’ll get their chance in 2012.

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Big Defection

Majority Leader Harry Reid opposes building the Ground Zero mosque (H/T: Weekly Standard). I suspect many other Democrats running for office are going to follow his lead.

The president seems to be mobilizing opposition against his position.

He’s rather good at that, isn’t he?

Majority Leader Harry Reid opposes building the Ground Zero mosque (H/T: Weekly Standard). I suspect many other Democrats running for office are going to follow his lead.

The president seems to be mobilizing opposition against his position.

He’s rather good at that, isn’t he?

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RE: Latest New Lows

Jen, you can add the latest Gallup poll numbers — 42 approve of Obama vs. 49 disapprove — to your list of new lows. And that poll doesn’t take into full account the fallout from what’s being called President Obama’s “mosque mess.”

Approval ratings in the 30s may now be within Obama’s grasp before the midterm elections.

Jen, you can add the latest Gallup poll numbers — 42 approve of Obama vs. 49 disapprove — to your list of new lows. And that poll doesn’t take into full account the fallout from what’s being called President Obama’s “mosque mess.”

Approval ratings in the 30s may now be within Obama’s grasp before the midterm elections.

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Latest New Lows

I suspect it’s going to get worse for Obama after the full impact of his Ground Zero debacle is measured but he’s hitting new lows in approval nearly every day. Today is the trifecta at RealClearPolitics — a new low (44.4 percent) in approval, a new high in disapproval (50.8 percent), and a new record for the difference between the two (6.4 percent).

But if you think things are dicey now, wait until all the Democrats on the ballot are forced to take a stand. (Unlike Chuck Schumer, who has gone into hiding, those who are running this year do have to go out in public.) They can either side with Obama, sinking themselves, or oppose him and highlight how badly out of step Obama is, even among Democrats. Larry Sabato remarks:

A lot of endangered congressional Democrats must be wondering why President Obama waded into this hot controversy when it was both politically foolish and unnecessary. … The political damage is done and now all Democrats will have to take a stand on this “local issue” that Obama has nationalized.

The consolation for Democrats is that voters have resisted a long list of other distractions (the BP oil spill, immigration, gay marriage) to focus heavily on the rotten economy. Come to think of it, that isn’t much of a consolation.

No, it’s not. But there is a whole lot of political karma for a president and party who have spent a year and a half ignoring and ridiculing voters.

I suspect it’s going to get worse for Obama after the full impact of his Ground Zero debacle is measured but he’s hitting new lows in approval nearly every day. Today is the trifecta at RealClearPolitics — a new low (44.4 percent) in approval, a new high in disapproval (50.8 percent), and a new record for the difference between the two (6.4 percent).

But if you think things are dicey now, wait until all the Democrats on the ballot are forced to take a stand. (Unlike Chuck Schumer, who has gone into hiding, those who are running this year do have to go out in public.) They can either side with Obama, sinking themselves, or oppose him and highlight how badly out of step Obama is, even among Democrats. Larry Sabato remarks:

A lot of endangered congressional Democrats must be wondering why President Obama waded into this hot controversy when it was both politically foolish and unnecessary. … The political damage is done and now all Democrats will have to take a stand on this “local issue” that Obama has nationalized.

The consolation for Democrats is that voters have resisted a long list of other distractions (the BP oil spill, immigration, gay marriage) to focus heavily on the rotten economy. Come to think of it, that isn’t much of a consolation.

No, it’s not. But there is a whole lot of political karma for a president and party who have spent a year and a half ignoring and ridiculing voters.

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RE: Smearing 68% of America

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

Alongside Douthat’s “first America” — that is, J Street, CAIR, the ACLU, and the Friday and Sunday but not the Saturday Obama, all of whom support the Ground Zero mosque — is that bastion of religious toleration and goodwill toward men, Hamas. The New York Post reports:

A leader of the Hamas terror group yesterday jumped into the emotional debate on the plan to construct a mosque near Ground Zero — insisting Muslims “have to build” it there.

“We have to build everywhere,” said Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and the organization’s chief on the Gaza Strip.

“In every area we have, [as] Muslim[s], we have to pray, and this mosque is the only site of prayer,” he said on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on WABC.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”

Now wait. The mosque, the left punditocracy keeps telling us, is a warm and fuzzy statement about tolerance and reconciliation. But Hamas didn’t get that memo. In fact, Cordoba House has a rather different meaning for the terrorists:

Zahar said Muslims around the world, including those who live in this country, are united in a common cause. “First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” he said. “We already are living under the tradition of Islam. “Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships,” Zahar said. “Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting; they are praying.”

Sounds like a message about Islamic triumphalism and separatism. Pity the poor slobs in second America, who think we shouldn’t be cheering that sort of thing.

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Someone Else’s Fault

Let’s see, now: on Friday evening President Obama, at an iftar dinner at the White House, gives remarks that everyone took to be an endorsement of building the mosque at Ground Zero (“Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site,” read the New York Times headlines on Saturday). Then Obama issues a “clarification,” arguing that he was saying no such thing and that he “will not comment” on the wisdom of building the mosque there.

So Professor Obama and his team of high-IQ aides succeeded in upsetting just about everyone — on the right, to the center (with his initial remarks implicitly endorsing the building the mosque), and on the left (with his backtracking clarification). The president looks unprincipled and weak, as well as wrong.

Not bad for 24 hours.

My guess is that Obama’s supporters will soon settle on their response. They will blame this latest snafu on (a) George W. Bush, (b) our suddenly dysfunctional political system, (c) FOX News, and/or (d) the Tea Party. After all, this has to be someone else’s fault.

Doesn’t it?

Let’s see, now: on Friday evening President Obama, at an iftar dinner at the White House, gives remarks that everyone took to be an endorsement of building the mosque at Ground Zero (“Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site,” read the New York Times headlines on Saturday). Then Obama issues a “clarification,” arguing that he was saying no such thing and that he “will not comment” on the wisdom of building the mosque there.

So Professor Obama and his team of high-IQ aides succeeded in upsetting just about everyone — on the right, to the center (with his initial remarks implicitly endorsing the building the mosque), and on the left (with his backtracking clarification). The president looks unprincipled and weak, as well as wrong.

Not bad for 24 hours.

My guess is that Obama’s supporters will soon settle on their response. They will blame this latest snafu on (a) George W. Bush, (b) our suddenly dysfunctional political system, (c) FOX News, and/or (d) the Tea Party. After all, this has to be someone else’s fault.

Doesn’t it?

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RE: Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam

A spokesman for NGO Monitor e-mails me today with news that the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee “approved a draft bill requiring transparency in foreign government funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The legislation next will move to a series of three readings and votes. NGO Monitor further explains in a press release:

At today’s hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, provided background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“Government funding using taxpayer revenues for political NGOs, and allocated in secret, cannot be compared to donations made by private individuals and charitable funds,” Steinberg said to the Committee. “Governments are supposed to operate with greater transparency and democracies are supposed to respect other democracies.  They should not provide secret funds in order to manipulate the policy making processes. But for Europe, Israel is an exception and is seen as a political playground in which the norms are irrelevant. European Union funding for highly political NGOs, for which there is no accountability, has a very damaging influence. Many recipients are among the leaders of the demonization campaigns targeting Israel in the UN, the media, and elsewhere.  When Israeli officials are threatened with war crimes trials, the European funded NGOs are usually involved.”

In his testimony before the Knesset, Steinberg also related his experience in providing testimony on NGOs before the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in June:

“This session was part of the campaign led by Israeli NGOs to maintain the secrecy of their foreign funding by claiming that transparency is somehow anti-democratic. Similarly, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, leader of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Jafar Farah, head of Mossawa – both EU funded groups – attempted to prevent me from speaking, claiming I was part of the Israeli government. In reality, I represented the only NGO present at the session that was not funded by a government.”

With all this fuss, you can imagine that it must be very important for the front groups … er, NGOs … to protect their patrons’ identities. If the bill becomes law, Israel-bashing in the name of “humanitarian” relief might become harder to pull off and the true aims of these groups might be revealed. It’s not sufficient, but it would be a positive development in counteracting the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

A spokesman for NGO Monitor e-mails me today with news that the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee “approved a draft bill requiring transparency in foreign government funding of Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” The legislation next will move to a series of three readings and votes. NGO Monitor further explains in a press release:

At today’s hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, provided background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“Government funding using taxpayer revenues for political NGOs, and allocated in secret, cannot be compared to donations made by private individuals and charitable funds,” Steinberg said to the Committee. “Governments are supposed to operate with greater transparency and democracies are supposed to respect other democracies.  They should not provide secret funds in order to manipulate the policy making processes. But for Europe, Israel is an exception and is seen as a political playground in which the norms are irrelevant. European Union funding for highly political NGOs, for which there is no accountability, has a very damaging influence. Many recipients are among the leaders of the demonization campaigns targeting Israel in the UN, the media, and elsewhere.  When Israeli officials are threatened with war crimes trials, the European funded NGOs are usually involved.”

In his testimony before the Knesset, Steinberg also related his experience in providing testimony on NGOs before the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights in June:

“This session was part of the campaign led by Israeli NGOs to maintain the secrecy of their foreign funding by claiming that transparency is somehow anti-democratic. Similarly, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, leader of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Jafar Farah, head of Mossawa – both EU funded groups – attempted to prevent me from speaking, claiming I was part of the Israeli government. In reality, I represented the only NGO present at the session that was not funded by a government.”

With all this fuss, you can imagine that it must be very important for the front groups … er, NGOs … to protect their patrons’ identities. If the bill becomes law, Israel-bashing in the name of “humanitarian” relief might become harder to pull off and the true aims of these groups might be revealed. It’s not sufficient, but it would be a positive development in counteracting the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

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A Human Rights Breakthrough, No Thanks to the International Community

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the “international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the “international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

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Obstruction of Justice

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

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China Redux

China is now number two in the world in GDP, having just passed Japan. As the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, its 2nd-quarter GDP was $1.339 trillion, while Japan racked up $1.288 trillion. It has been number two for a quarter before, but only in the 4th quarter, which is always a good one for China.

With China’s passing Japan in the 2nd quarter, it looks likely that it will surpass Japan for the entire year. With their differential growth rates, China will then be firmly in second place in total GPD. On a per-capita GDP basis, of course, China remains far behind Japan as well as Germany, France, and Britain (fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively). If present trends continue (which they never do), China would pass the United States in total GDP in another few decades.

But if it does, China would only be returning to its former status as the world’s leading economy, which it was for centuries. It was only when the Industrial Revolution transformed Western economies (and Western militaries) in the early 19th century that China under the Ching (or Ch’ing or Quing — take your pick) dynasty sank into decay and it lost its place.

It is an old axiom of geopolitics that “Great Powers shuffle on and off the stage of history noisily.” And China’s return to being one of the main engines of the world economy is likely to be noisy, with profound implications for the balance of power. China is already asserting itself in its neighborhood and elsewhere, and its military is growing quickly in both reach and capacity. It’s new naval strategy has shifted from coastal defense to “far sea defense.”

But as China’s population gets richer, better educated, and more widely familiar with the world outside its borders, it is undoubtedly going to demand more and more say in the running of the country. Already there has been a lot of labor unrest and demonstrations, which are probably considerably underreported. The current system, which gives people a lot of economic freedom but little political freedom (or the protection of the rule of law), is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.

China has come a long, long way in an astonishingly short period of time, but it has a long way to go before it is the equal of the other Great Powers in anything but economic clout.

China is now number two in the world in GDP, having just passed Japan. As the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, its 2nd-quarter GDP was $1.339 trillion, while Japan racked up $1.288 trillion. It has been number two for a quarter before, but only in the 4th quarter, which is always a good one for China.

With China’s passing Japan in the 2nd quarter, it looks likely that it will surpass Japan for the entire year. With their differential growth rates, China will then be firmly in second place in total GPD. On a per-capita GDP basis, of course, China remains far behind Japan as well as Germany, France, and Britain (fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively). If present trends continue (which they never do), China would pass the United States in total GDP in another few decades.

But if it does, China would only be returning to its former status as the world’s leading economy, which it was for centuries. It was only when the Industrial Revolution transformed Western economies (and Western militaries) in the early 19th century that China under the Ching (or Ch’ing or Quing — take your pick) dynasty sank into decay and it lost its place.

It is an old axiom of geopolitics that “Great Powers shuffle on and off the stage of history noisily.” And China’s return to being one of the main engines of the world economy is likely to be noisy, with profound implications for the balance of power. China is already asserting itself in its neighborhood and elsewhere, and its military is growing quickly in both reach and capacity. It’s new naval strategy has shifted from coastal defense to “far sea defense.”

But as China’s population gets richer, better educated, and more widely familiar with the world outside its borders, it is undoubtedly going to demand more and more say in the running of the country. Already there has been a lot of labor unrest and demonstrations, which are probably considerably underreported. The current system, which gives people a lot of economic freedom but little political freedom (or the protection of the rule of law), is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.

China has come a long, long way in an astonishingly short period of time, but it has a long way to go before it is the equal of the other Great Powers in anything but economic clout.

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What’s in a Name?

Michael Lame of the decidedly non-partisan Re-Think The Middle East provides some useful background on the history of Cordoba for which the Ground Zero mosque is to be named. He writes:

Many writers have waxed rhapsodic about a golden age of peace and prosperity in Muslim Spain. But is that really what it was like? “Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding,” warns historian Richard Fletcher, author of Moorish Spain. “The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was a land of tranquility.”

The 800 years referred to by the Cordoba Initiative constitutes the entire era of Muslim rule in Spain, stretching from 711 to 1492. Yet Cordoba itself, the cultural and for long periods of time the political capital of al-Andalus, succumbed to Christian conquest (or reconquest) in 1236.

Imam Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West, narrows the pertinent time frame, explaining that the Cordoba Initiative is “named after the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today’s Spain.”

But Rauf’s nostalgia should concern us, and give pause to his defenders. As Lame notes:

The idea of an Andalusian golden age, when Christians and Jews lived contentedly under Muslim rule, has become a fixture of Western historical thinking over the last hundred years. But is it true?

Professor [Richard] Fletcher weighs in on the question: “Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as ‘Peoples of the Book’ is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited – Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions – and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society.”

Lame advises that we should be aware of what Rauf’s “tolerance” entails:

One should not forget that Cordovan tolerance was predicated on Islamic rule. Jews and Christians, once they accepted their status as dhimmi, protected albeit subservient peoples, could participate in the intellectual, artistic, and economic life of the broader community. But one fact was clear throughout medieval Spain, that a single faith was dominant – Islam in the south and Christianity in the north – and the other religious communities were allowed to remain at the pleasure, or rather the sufferance, of the dominant religious-political power.

Sufferance as the basis for a multi-religious society is not a model that will appeal to 21st century Christians, Muslims, or Jews. For that reason alone, Cordoba is a questionable symbol of inter-faith co-existence. A better model might be … New York City!

In fact, New York has so many mosques that the question of tolerance of Muslims in America is not in doubt, except in the minds of the mosque’s defenders, who equate the placement of the mosque with religious “freedom.” Now, Rauf can hardly be ignorant of the history of Cordoba, as many of his defenders seem to be. He has, in the selection of his mosque’s name and placement, chosen to carry a message to his fellow Muslims and the world at large. It’s not a message the any of us, especially the left, which is supposedly opposed to religious domination of societies (or is that only a rule for Christians?), should embrace.

Michael Lame of the decidedly non-partisan Re-Think The Middle East provides some useful background on the history of Cordoba for which the Ground Zero mosque is to be named. He writes:

Many writers have waxed rhapsodic about a golden age of peace and prosperity in Muslim Spain. But is that really what it was like? “Nostalgia is the enemy of historical understanding,” warns historian Richard Fletcher, author of Moorish Spain. “The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was a land of tranquility.”

The 800 years referred to by the Cordoba Initiative constitutes the entire era of Muslim rule in Spain, stretching from 711 to 1492. Yet Cordoba itself, the cultural and for long periods of time the political capital of al-Andalus, succumbed to Christian conquest (or reconquest) in 1236.

Imam Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam: a New Vision for Muslims and the West, narrows the pertinent time frame, explaining that the Cordoba Initiative is “named after the period between roughly 800 and 1200 CE, when the Cordoba Caliphate ruled much of today’s Spain.”

But Rauf’s nostalgia should concern us, and give pause to his defenders. As Lame notes:

The idea of an Andalusian golden age, when Christians and Jews lived contentedly under Muslim rule, has become a fixture of Western historical thinking over the last hundred years. But is it true?

Professor [Richard] Fletcher weighs in on the question: “Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as ‘Peoples of the Book’ is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited – Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions – and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society.”

Lame advises that we should be aware of what Rauf’s “tolerance” entails:

One should not forget that Cordovan tolerance was predicated on Islamic rule. Jews and Christians, once they accepted their status as dhimmi, protected albeit subservient peoples, could participate in the intellectual, artistic, and economic life of the broader community. But one fact was clear throughout medieval Spain, that a single faith was dominant – Islam in the south and Christianity in the north – and the other religious communities were allowed to remain at the pleasure, or rather the sufferance, of the dominant religious-political power.

Sufferance as the basis for a multi-religious society is not a model that will appeal to 21st century Christians, Muslims, or Jews. For that reason alone, Cordoba is a questionable symbol of inter-faith co-existence. A better model might be … New York City!

In fact, New York has so many mosques that the question of tolerance of Muslims in America is not in doubt, except in the minds of the mosque’s defenders, who equate the placement of the mosque with religious “freedom.” Now, Rauf can hardly be ignorant of the history of Cordoba, as many of his defenders seem to be. He has, in the selection of his mosque’s name and placement, chosen to carry a message to his fellow Muslims and the world at large. It’s not a message the any of us, especially the left, which is supposedly opposed to religious domination of societies (or is that only a rule for Christians?), should embrace.

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Christopher Hitchens Talks to Charlie Rose

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

Christopher Hitchens gave a fascinating, wide-ranging, and at times affecting interview to Charlie Rose. He spoke about his new memoir (Hitch-22), his struggle with cancer, and religious faith; Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair; the Iraq war and Iran; Orwell and Hemingway; his lifelong friendships; and his life as a writer.

It can be found here.

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Smearing 68% of America

Granted, the “conservative spot” on the Gray Lady’s op-ed pages comes with plenty of caveats and handcuffs. So if a conservative columnist is going to last more than a year, he will have to suppress his harshest impulses toward the left and a great deal of his critical faculties. The result is likely to be condescending columns like today’s by Ross Douthat.

He posits two Americas: “The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes.” The first cares about the Constitution, and the second is composed of a bunch of racist rubes, it seems. “The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.” Yes, you can guess which are the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. (I was wondering if he was going to write, “The first America helped little old ladies across the street; the second America drowned puppies.)

I assume that this is what one has to do to keep your piece of turf next to such intellectual luminaries as Maureen Dowd, but it’s really the worst straw man sort of argument since, well, the last time Obama spoke. But he’s not done: “The first America is correct to insist on Muslims’ absolute right to build and worship where they wish. But the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith.” OK, on behalf of the rubes in Second America, enough!

Second America — that’s 68% of us — recognizes (and we’ve said it over and over again) that there may be little we can do legally (other than exercise eminent domain) to halt the Ground Zero mosque, but that doesn’t suspend our powers of judgment and moral persuasion. Those who oppose the mosque are not bigots or constitutional ruffians. They merely believe that our president shouldn’t be cheerleading the desecration of “hallowed ground” (“first America’s” term, articulated by Obama) or averting our eyes from the funding sources of the imam’s planned fortress.

Well, maybe all this was the price to be paid at the left’s altar for Douthat’s final two graphs — the ultimate buried lede. After acknowledging that second America has a point (“the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith”), he admits:

By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a “moderate Muslim.” But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.

They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum.

OK, it’s something, at any rate. Think of it as a little consciousness-raising for the Upper West Side, a reminder that the object of their affection isn’t the best role model to promote religious reconciliation. No, it doesn’t excuse the rest of an obnoxious, fractured history of American history. (Which America is it that hired the infamous Israel Lobby authors to spout thinly disguised anti-Semitism from its Ivy-covered buildings? Which America does Reverend Wright belong to? Which America routinely ridicules Christian evangelicals?) But it does tell you what passes for “conservative” at the New York Times.

Granted, the “conservative spot” on the Gray Lady’s op-ed pages comes with plenty of caveats and handcuffs. So if a conservative columnist is going to last more than a year, he will have to suppress his harshest impulses toward the left and a great deal of his critical faculties. The result is likely to be condescending columns like today’s by Ross Douthat.

He posits two Americas: “The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes.” The first cares about the Constitution, and the second is composed of a bunch of racist rubes, it seems. “The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.” Yes, you can guess which are the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. (I was wondering if he was going to write, “The first America helped little old ladies across the street; the second America drowned puppies.)

I assume that this is what one has to do to keep your piece of turf next to such intellectual luminaries as Maureen Dowd, but it’s really the worst straw man sort of argument since, well, the last time Obama spoke. But he’s not done: “The first America is correct to insist on Muslims’ absolute right to build and worship where they wish. But the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith.” OK, on behalf of the rubes in Second America, enough!

Second America — that’s 68% of us — recognizes (and we’ve said it over and over again) that there may be little we can do legally (other than exercise eminent domain) to halt the Ground Zero mosque, but that doesn’t suspend our powers of judgment and moral persuasion. Those who oppose the mosque are not bigots or constitutional ruffians. They merely believe that our president shouldn’t be cheerleading the desecration of “hallowed ground” (“first America’s” term, articulated by Obama) or averting our eyes from the funding sources of the imam’s planned fortress.

Well, maybe all this was the price to be paid at the left’s altar for Douthat’s final two graphs — the ultimate buried lede. After acknowledging that second America has a point (“the second America is right to press for something more from Muslim Americans — particularly from figures like Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the mosque — than simple protestations of good faith”), he admits:

By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a “moderate Muslim.” But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.

They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum.

OK, it’s something, at any rate. Think of it as a little consciousness-raising for the Upper West Side, a reminder that the object of their affection isn’t the best role model to promote religious reconciliation. No, it doesn’t excuse the rest of an obnoxious, fractured history of American history. (Which America is it that hired the infamous Israel Lobby authors to spout thinly disguised anti-Semitism from its Ivy-covered buildings? Which America does Reverend Wright belong to? Which America routinely ridicules Christian evangelicals?) But it does tell you what passes for “conservative” at the New York Times.

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Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state’”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state’”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

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It Would Have Helped if They Hadn’t Been Rubber Stamps

The Washington Post headline pronounces: “Some Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama.” Well, at least those who aren’t politically suicidal. Yes, as always, the party’s leaders warn that if they don’t embrace Obama, they’ll lose their seats (worse than they otherwise would?). But then this was the same crowd that told Democrats that ObamaCare was their insurance against an electoral wipeout. Not surprisingly, many Democrats are ignoring the advice of the party big shots and trying to save their own skins:

Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly is running a television ad in which he details his generally conservative stance on immigration while images of Obama and Pelosi are shown on screen. “That may not be what the Washington crowd wants, but I don’t work for them,” Donnelly says in the ad. “I work for you.”

Rep. Travis Childers, who represents a district in northern Mississippi where Obama won just 38 percent of the vote in 2008, takes a similar approach in his TV advertising — promoting the fact that he has “voted against every big budget” since winning a special election two years ago.

You know how bad things are when the political operatives start dishing like this on background:

One senior Democratic consultant suggested that the distance candidates are seeking to put between themselves and Obama is reflective of the ascendance of economic issues in voters’ minds. “Barack Obama’s economic policy of spending our way out of recession is seen as a failure at best and harmful at worst,” the source said. “That should tell candidates in competitive jurisdictions all they need to know about running with the president.”

Ouch. Unfortunately for themselves, nearly all incumbent Democrats have to date failed to demonstrate any ideological independence from the president. It’s hard for a pol to convince voters that what he says in the last three months of a campaign should supersede 18 months of voting in lockstep with Obama-Pelosi-Reid. And for those Democratic challengers pledging independence from the extremist agenda of their party leaders, the voters have reason to doubt that, once in office, they will be any more moderate than the current crop, who capitulated on virtually everything that was tossed their way, be it the now widely derided stimulus plan, ObamaCare, Supreme Court nominees, or tax hikes. In short, the key to convincing voters you will exercise moderation and independent judgment is to point to some evidence that you’ve done so in the past, an impossibility for the vast number of Democrats on the ballot this year.

The Washington Post headline pronounces: “Some Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama.” Well, at least those who aren’t politically suicidal. Yes, as always, the party’s leaders warn that if they don’t embrace Obama, they’ll lose their seats (worse than they otherwise would?). But then this was the same crowd that told Democrats that ObamaCare was their insurance against an electoral wipeout. Not surprisingly, many Democrats are ignoring the advice of the party big shots and trying to save their own skins:

Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly is running a television ad in which he details his generally conservative stance on immigration while images of Obama and Pelosi are shown on screen. “That may not be what the Washington crowd wants, but I don’t work for them,” Donnelly says in the ad. “I work for you.”

Rep. Travis Childers, who represents a district in northern Mississippi where Obama won just 38 percent of the vote in 2008, takes a similar approach in his TV advertising — promoting the fact that he has “voted against every big budget” since winning a special election two years ago.

You know how bad things are when the political operatives start dishing like this on background:

One senior Democratic consultant suggested that the distance candidates are seeking to put between themselves and Obama is reflective of the ascendance of economic issues in voters’ minds. “Barack Obama’s economic policy of spending our way out of recession is seen as a failure at best and harmful at worst,” the source said. “That should tell candidates in competitive jurisdictions all they need to know about running with the president.”

Ouch. Unfortunately for themselves, nearly all incumbent Democrats have to date failed to demonstrate any ideological independence from the president. It’s hard for a pol to convince voters that what he says in the last three months of a campaign should supersede 18 months of voting in lockstep with Obama-Pelosi-Reid. And for those Democratic challengers pledging independence from the extremist agenda of their party leaders, the voters have reason to doubt that, once in office, they will be any more moderate than the current crop, who capitulated on virtually everything that was tossed their way, be it the now widely derided stimulus plan, ObamaCare, Supreme Court nominees, or tax hikes. In short, the key to convincing voters you will exercise moderation and independent judgment is to point to some evidence that you’ve done so in the past, an impossibility for the vast number of Democrats on the ballot this year.

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Obama’s Ground Zero Debacle

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

Read Less




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