Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 30, 2010

Change the Word ‘Christian’ to ‘Muslim,’ Broadcast Networks. I Dare You.

From deadline.com:

I hear ABC, NBC and CBS are all after Good Christian Bitches, which will be written by Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club scribe Robert Harling. Based on the book of the same name by Kim Gatlin, the project, referred to by some as “Desperate Housewives in Dallas,” centers on Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two who, to get a fresh start, moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew where she finds herself in the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud.

From deadline.com:

I hear ABC, NBC and CBS are all after Good Christian Bitches, which will be written by Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club scribe Robert Harling. Based on the book of the same name by Kim Gatlin, the project, referred to by some as “Desperate Housewives in Dallas,” centers on Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two who, to get a fresh start, moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew where she finds herself in the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud.

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Gallup and the GOP

Here’s the latest from Gallup:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP’s largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup’s history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

What Barack Obama is doing for the fortunes of the GOP is nearly unmatched by anyone in modern political history.

Here’s the latest from Gallup:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP’s largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup’s history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

What Barack Obama is doing for the fortunes of the GOP is nearly unmatched by anyone in modern political history.

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Speaking of Pro-Israel. . .

As I noted, the notion that voters and advocacy groups should actually hold officials and candidates responsible for their records on Israel, along with other matters of public policy, sends shivers down the spine of the left.

So, on cue, J Street pops its head out to launch an ad hominem attack on the Emergency Committee for Israel. Just a bunch of right-wingers! They won’t take a stance on a two-state solution! But what about the ads and the records of liberal lawmakers who self-label as “pro-Israel” but are in lockstep with CAIR? What about candidates who think the UN Commission on Human Rights does a swell job or who love the notion of a two-state solution so much that they want one imposed? Nothing about any of that. The name of the game for J Street and other leftist critics of Israel is to keep the focus off the records of those who aren’t all that pro-Israel. Make it about ECI. Make it about conservative pundits. Anything. But just don’t make it about voting records. (You know, J Street started things with endorsing leftist Israel-bashers, so it’s odd that now they’re being so fussy about making Israel a campaign issue.)

Meanwhile, if you want to talk about being pro-Israel, there is this rather charming account by the head of Jews for Palin about a Shabbat evening with the former governor, whose office displayed the Israeli flag. She doesn’t leave anyone confused about where she stands:

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. And she minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

On her lapel, she wore a pin showing the American and Israeli flags intertwined.

Somehow, that doesn’t “count” with liberal Jews because, well … because it’s not clear. What is clear is that she has a deep emotional and religious bond with the Jewish people:

As we enjoyed our Shabbat meal, we listened to Mrs. Palin’s references to “Judeo-Christian values” — a concept well understood by the deeply religious Christian audience with whom we shared the evening, including more than a few Amish ladies wearing their traditional bonnets. Mrs. Palin spoke of how the family is the building block of society and how strong families mean a strong nation. She did not suggest that Democrats do not share the attachment to family. But she warned that the most immediate threat to American families is the administration’s economic policies, which will burden our children’s generation with crushing, inescapable debt.

Such a wacky Christian, right? Probably believes Jews have a biblical claim to the Land of Israel. Really out-there stuff, huh?

You see, if she takes her Christianity seriously, she also takes the survival of the Jewish people seriously:

Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight year old daughter Piper. She wants Piper to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

If only more American Jews would read the Esther story at bedtime to their kids, right?

As I noted, the notion that voters and advocacy groups should actually hold officials and candidates responsible for their records on Israel, along with other matters of public policy, sends shivers down the spine of the left.

So, on cue, J Street pops its head out to launch an ad hominem attack on the Emergency Committee for Israel. Just a bunch of right-wingers! They won’t take a stance on a two-state solution! But what about the ads and the records of liberal lawmakers who self-label as “pro-Israel” but are in lockstep with CAIR? What about candidates who think the UN Commission on Human Rights does a swell job or who love the notion of a two-state solution so much that they want one imposed? Nothing about any of that. The name of the game for J Street and other leftist critics of Israel is to keep the focus off the records of those who aren’t all that pro-Israel. Make it about ECI. Make it about conservative pundits. Anything. But just don’t make it about voting records. (You know, J Street started things with endorsing leftist Israel-bashers, so it’s odd that now they’re being so fussy about making Israel a campaign issue.)

Meanwhile, if you want to talk about being pro-Israel, there is this rather charming account by the head of Jews for Palin about a Shabbat evening with the former governor, whose office displayed the Israeli flag. She doesn’t leave anyone confused about where she stands:

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. And she minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

On her lapel, she wore a pin showing the American and Israeli flags intertwined.

Somehow, that doesn’t “count” with liberal Jews because, well … because it’s not clear. What is clear is that she has a deep emotional and religious bond with the Jewish people:

As we enjoyed our Shabbat meal, we listened to Mrs. Palin’s references to “Judeo-Christian values” — a concept well understood by the deeply religious Christian audience with whom we shared the evening, including more than a few Amish ladies wearing their traditional bonnets. Mrs. Palin spoke of how the family is the building block of society and how strong families mean a strong nation. She did not suggest that Democrats do not share the attachment to family. But she warned that the most immediate threat to American families is the administration’s economic policies, which will burden our children’s generation with crushing, inescapable debt.

Such a wacky Christian, right? Probably believes Jews have a biblical claim to the Land of Israel. Really out-there stuff, huh?

You see, if she takes her Christianity seriously, she also takes the survival of the Jewish people seriously:

Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight year old daughter Piper. She wants Piper to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

If only more American Jews would read the Esther story at bedtime to their kids, right?

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Holding “Pro-Israel” Candidates Accountable

Ben Smith reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is up with a new ad hitting Democratic Rep. Rush Holt. In a new twist, ECI goes after Holt his 100 percent rating from CAIR. Smith writes, “The ad seeks, in part, to establish the boundaries of acceptable American politics on the issue of Israel.”  That is off-base, I think, in an important respect.

ECI isn’t declaring that “no member of Congress has a right to hold these views.” The group is saying that if the candidate himself is going to declare himself “pro-Israel,” it is fair game to look at his voting record and see if that is the case. ECI is not trying to define “boundaries of acceptable American politics” but rather to recapture the term “pro-Israel” from those who invoke the label but who take positions that are antithetical to Israel’s interests and that are supportive of Israel’s enemies. You can take whatever stance you like, but if you’re going to call yourself “pro-Israel,” says ECI, then you’d better be so.

Why is the distinction important? Well, the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel-haters like to claim that the “Israel Lobby” — that would be the pro-Israel Jews and Christians and the majority of Americans — wants to shut people up or drive them out of the public debate. But there is no evidence of that. In fact, the position that you can’t “politicize” Israel or make that a legitimate issue on which to evaluate candidates is a not a very subtle way of giving anti-Israel candidates a free pass. One reason why J Street, the National Democratic Jewish Council, and the leftist blogosphere wigged out when ECI appeared is that, until now, they have been able to shield candidates with a record of hostility to the Jewish state from scrutiny.

Well, those days are over. If candidates want to keynote for CAIR, or take money from CAIR, or sign letters bashing Israel, they can (to the extent CAIR is not found to be engaged in illegal activities, an investigation that Ben Smith points out is ongoing). If they want to cajole Israel to lift the Gaza blockade or urge an imposed peace deal, they can. But then they must expect to be criticized for it. That exercise — about any domestic or foreign policy issue — is not only legitimate but necessary in a democratic political system.

Ben Smith reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is up with a new ad hitting Democratic Rep. Rush Holt. In a new twist, ECI goes after Holt his 100 percent rating from CAIR. Smith writes, “The ad seeks, in part, to establish the boundaries of acceptable American politics on the issue of Israel.”  That is off-base, I think, in an important respect.

ECI isn’t declaring that “no member of Congress has a right to hold these views.” The group is saying that if the candidate himself is going to declare himself “pro-Israel,” it is fair game to look at his voting record and see if that is the case. ECI is not trying to define “boundaries of acceptable American politics” but rather to recapture the term “pro-Israel” from those who invoke the label but who take positions that are antithetical to Israel’s interests and that are supportive of Israel’s enemies. You can take whatever stance you like, but if you’re going to call yourself “pro-Israel,” says ECI, then you’d better be so.

Why is the distinction important? Well, the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel-haters like to claim that the “Israel Lobby” — that would be the pro-Israel Jews and Christians and the majority of Americans — wants to shut people up or drive them out of the public debate. But there is no evidence of that. In fact, the position that you can’t “politicize” Israel or make that a legitimate issue on which to evaluate candidates is a not a very subtle way of giving anti-Israel candidates a free pass. One reason why J Street, the National Democratic Jewish Council, and the leftist blogosphere wigged out when ECI appeared is that, until now, they have been able to shield candidates with a record of hostility to the Jewish state from scrutiny.

Well, those days are over. If candidates want to keynote for CAIR, or take money from CAIR, or sign letters bashing Israel, they can (to the extent CAIR is not found to be engaged in illegal activities, an investigation that Ben Smith points out is ongoing). If they want to cajole Israel to lift the Gaza blockade or urge an imposed peace deal, they can. But then they must expect to be criticized for it. That exercise — about any domestic or foreign policy issue — is not only legitimate but necessary in a democratic political system.

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Can You Imagine?

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

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Sadly, Obama Needs the Advice

Bill Kristol has penned an open note to the president with suggestions for his speech on Iraq. It should be read in its entirety, for it is chock-full of sage advice (e.g., thank the generals responsible, praise the Iraqis who fought and died). Most important is this plea:

And I hope you would also explain that, whatever one’s views of the decision to go to war, we now have a moral obligation and strategic opportunity to help a free and democratic Iraq succeed. This means emphasizing that we expect to work closely with Iraq in the future, and that we are open to stationing troops there. It means not repeating the vulgar and counter-productive emphasis in your Saturday address—”But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all our troops will be home.”

None of this is controversial, none of it is partisan. But it is remarkable that the advice need be given at all and that Obama to date hasn’t explained what we have accomplished or the importance of establishing a stable, non-despotic, non-terror supporting state in the Middle East. He perpetually focuses on the draw-down, the fulfillment of a promise by a candidate who opposed the winning strategy.

On one level, it is shocking — that a president would downplay success in one battlefield while we remain engaged in another. Had Iraq disintegrated into genocidal chaos, our task in Afghanistan would have been infinitely more difficult; and — to the extent that Obama’s agonizing and withdrawal deadline has not undercut it — the Iraq war has demonstrated that America will not abandon allies or oppressed people (Muslims, specifically — how’s that for Muslim outreach?). One would think that would be an argument Obama would want to make.

But as we learned from the stunning New York Times report, he’s really not that much into being commander in chief. Well, he is commander in chief, and he should start acting like it rather than a candidate auditioning for the MoveOn.org endorsement.

Bill Kristol has penned an open note to the president with suggestions for his speech on Iraq. It should be read in its entirety, for it is chock-full of sage advice (e.g., thank the generals responsible, praise the Iraqis who fought and died). Most important is this plea:

And I hope you would also explain that, whatever one’s views of the decision to go to war, we now have a moral obligation and strategic opportunity to help a free and democratic Iraq succeed. This means emphasizing that we expect to work closely with Iraq in the future, and that we are open to stationing troops there. It means not repeating the vulgar and counter-productive emphasis in your Saturday address—”But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all our troops will be home.”

None of this is controversial, none of it is partisan. But it is remarkable that the advice need be given at all and that Obama to date hasn’t explained what we have accomplished or the importance of establishing a stable, non-despotic, non-terror supporting state in the Middle East. He perpetually focuses on the draw-down, the fulfillment of a promise by a candidate who opposed the winning strategy.

On one level, it is shocking — that a president would downplay success in one battlefield while we remain engaged in another. Had Iraq disintegrated into genocidal chaos, our task in Afghanistan would have been infinitely more difficult; and — to the extent that Obama’s agonizing and withdrawal deadline has not undercut it — the Iraq war has demonstrated that America will not abandon allies or oppressed people (Muslims, specifically — how’s that for Muslim outreach?). One would think that would be an argument Obama would want to make.

But as we learned from the stunning New York Times report, he’s really not that much into being commander in chief. Well, he is commander in chief, and he should start acting like it rather than a candidate auditioning for the MoveOn.org endorsement.

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Not Obama’s Katrina

In his interview from New Orleans yesterday with NBC’s Brian Williams, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama assured the world that his handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not his administration’s Hurricane Katrina.

The president is right, if the people of Louisiana are to be believed. Mr. Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill is judged by them to be considerably worse than how Bush reacted to Katrina.

A Public Policy Polling survey reports this:

The oil spill in the Gulf may be mostly out of the headlines now but Louisiana voters aren’t getting any less mad at Barack Obama about his handling of it. Only 32% give Obama good marks for his actions in the aftermath of the spill, while 61% disapprove.

Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush’s leadership on Katrina was better than Obama’s on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.

Louisianans are generally softening with time in their feelings about how Bush handled Katrina. Almost as many, 44%, now approve of his actions on it as the 47% who disapprove.

President Obama casts his response to the oil spill, like his response to everything, as textbook perfect. Yet the silly people of Louisiana, like so much of the nation, just don’t appreciate how extraordinarily able and competent Obama is. How difficult it must be for The One We’ve Been Waiting For to go through his presidency without the public appreciating the magnitude of his greatness. For the president, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished, no great achievement gets its proper due, not enough villains (Bush, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, conservative bloggers, Fox News, etc.) get nearly enough blame.

When will the scales finally fall from our eyes?

In his interview from New Orleans yesterday with NBC’s Brian Williams, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama assured the world that his handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not his administration’s Hurricane Katrina.

The president is right, if the people of Louisiana are to be believed. Mr. Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill is judged by them to be considerably worse than how Bush reacted to Katrina.

A Public Policy Polling survey reports this:

The oil spill in the Gulf may be mostly out of the headlines now but Louisiana voters aren’t getting any less mad at Barack Obama about his handling of it. Only 32% give Obama good marks for his actions in the aftermath of the spill, while 61% disapprove.

Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush’s leadership on Katrina was better than Obama’s on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.

Louisianans are generally softening with time in their feelings about how Bush handled Katrina. Almost as many, 44%, now approve of his actions on it as the 47% who disapprove.

President Obama casts his response to the oil spill, like his response to everything, as textbook perfect. Yet the silly people of Louisiana, like so much of the nation, just don’t appreciate how extraordinarily able and competent Obama is. How difficult it must be for The One We’ve Been Waiting For to go through his presidency without the public appreciating the magnitude of his greatness. For the president, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished, no great achievement gets its proper due, not enough villains (Bush, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, conservative bloggers, Fox News, etc.) get nearly enough blame.

When will the scales finally fall from our eyes?

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Fighting Corruption in Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai’s firing of Afghanistan’s deputy attorney general, Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, over his refusal to block investigations of high-level corruption is extremely troubling — but hardly surprising. I sympathize with those such as Congresswoman Nita Lowey who want to hold up aid to Afghanistan in protest against such blatant cover-ups. Such efforts may actually be useful, in that they provide American officials in Kabul with a stick they can use to threaten Karzai with in private.

But the reality is that there are few Third World countries where the judiciary and law-enforcement authorities are independent enough to allow investigations of corruption reaching into the president’s office. Even in the U.S., we have experience with high-level malfeasance going unpunished; recall LBJ’s notorious corruption or Clinton’s perjury. This should not cause us to throw up our hands in despair and declare that the mission in Afghanistan is hopeless. It’s not. Nor should we say that fighting corruption is impossible. It must be fought, and it’s possible to do — as long as we don’t limit our efforts to Afghan criminal justice, where Karzai and his cronies can all too easily frustrate investigations of their shenanigans.

There are other legal options available. Since much of the money in question comes from U.S. taxpayers to begin with, malefactors can be prosecuted in U.S. courts or they can have their funds frozen in foreign bank accounts, whether in the United Arab Emirates, Europe, or the U.S.  Moreover, with the growing U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, our commanders on the ground have ways of squeezing corrupt officials that don’t require a court order. The sort of thing I have in mind is a staple of cops-and-robbers movies, where the police tell some notorious gangster that until he does what they want, they will harass him: raid his businesses, interrogate his employees, scare away his customers. Such pressure is perfectly legal and can be applied against all sorts of malign actors in Afghanistan — or at least threatened. Senior officials have substantial financial interests that are highly vulnerable to Western pressure, and those interests can be manipulated to put pressure on them to clean up their act. That won’t eliminate corruption altogether, but it could reduce it to less catastrophic levels.

President Hamid Karzai’s firing of Afghanistan’s deputy attorney general, Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, over his refusal to block investigations of high-level corruption is extremely troubling — but hardly surprising. I sympathize with those such as Congresswoman Nita Lowey who want to hold up aid to Afghanistan in protest against such blatant cover-ups. Such efforts may actually be useful, in that they provide American officials in Kabul with a stick they can use to threaten Karzai with in private.

But the reality is that there are few Third World countries where the judiciary and law-enforcement authorities are independent enough to allow investigations of corruption reaching into the president’s office. Even in the U.S., we have experience with high-level malfeasance going unpunished; recall LBJ’s notorious corruption or Clinton’s perjury. This should not cause us to throw up our hands in despair and declare that the mission in Afghanistan is hopeless. It’s not. Nor should we say that fighting corruption is impossible. It must be fought, and it’s possible to do — as long as we don’t limit our efforts to Afghan criminal justice, where Karzai and his cronies can all too easily frustrate investigations of their shenanigans.

There are other legal options available. Since much of the money in question comes from U.S. taxpayers to begin with, malefactors can be prosecuted in U.S. courts or they can have their funds frozen in foreign bank accounts, whether in the United Arab Emirates, Europe, or the U.S.  Moreover, with the growing U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, our commanders on the ground have ways of squeezing corrupt officials that don’t require a court order. The sort of thing I have in mind is a staple of cops-and-robbers movies, where the police tell some notorious gangster that until he does what they want, they will harass him: raid his businesses, interrogate his employees, scare away his customers. Such pressure is perfectly legal and can be applied against all sorts of malign actors in Afghanistan — or at least threatened. Senior officials have substantial financial interests that are highly vulnerable to Western pressure, and those interests can be manipulated to put pressure on them to clean up their act. That won’t eliminate corruption altogether, but it could reduce it to less catastrophic levels.

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Senate Spin

Chris Cillizza’s column is headlined “In 2010 Obama’s poll numbers less of an asset for congressional Democrats.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. In fact, the president’s a millstone, right?

Despite the headline, the column is actually about Senate Democrats. The only mention of the House, where substantial losses are now expected by everyone but Joe Biden, is this: “Historically, Senate races tend to be less heavily influenced by the direction — and strength — of the national political winds than House races in which the candidates are less well known to the electorate and on which the national parties typically spend less money.” As for the Senate, the most Cillizza will concede is that “the president’s numbers could make a difference at the margins — where a handful of races are typically decided.”

It’s the sort of analysis — GOP wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida, Colorado, Delaware, and the rest would not be a reflection on Obama — that likely induces approving nods and smiles in the White House. And, in case we did not appreciate the Obamaphile view of things, Cillizza adds: “White House allies argue that in the handful of Senate races widely regarded as those that Republicans must win to take back the chamber, the president isn’t a neutral or negative force but a positive one.” So why are Senate contests in Washington, Wisconsin, and California so close — would Democrats actually be trailing if not for the alleged “positive” Obama effect?

A less Obama-friendly analysis would go like this: Losing the Senate Majority is no longer out of the question. (Al Hunt is now confessing: “Republicans have a real shot at taking control of the Senate, as well as the House, in the U.S. midterm elections. … Even with [the Bush] card it’s an uphill struggle to match the Republicans’ anger and energy, as evidenced by the higher turnouts in primaries around the country.”) Obama’s economy, the disaffection of independent voters, and the populist backlash against Obama’s left-leaning agenda have put into play states that usually aren’t (e.g., California, Wisconsin) and shifted into the GOP column states that two years ago were won by Obama (Pennsylvania, Colorado). The results will probably induce a monstrous game of finger-pointing, and Senate Democrats who survive and those who are up in 2012 will be disinclined to rubber-stamp what remains of his agenda.

I suspect that the more sober-minded in the Democratic Party with agree with that take and will be advising 2012 candidates to look after their own political fortunes and pay close attention to their constituents. Otherwise, they will join the ranks of the 2010 Obama victims.

Chris Cillizza’s column is headlined “In 2010 Obama’s poll numbers less of an asset for congressional Democrats.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. In fact, the president’s a millstone, right?

Despite the headline, the column is actually about Senate Democrats. The only mention of the House, where substantial losses are now expected by everyone but Joe Biden, is this: “Historically, Senate races tend to be less heavily influenced by the direction — and strength — of the national political winds than House races in which the candidates are less well known to the electorate and on which the national parties typically spend less money.” As for the Senate, the most Cillizza will concede is that “the president’s numbers could make a difference at the margins — where a handful of races are typically decided.”

It’s the sort of analysis — GOP wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida, Colorado, Delaware, and the rest would not be a reflection on Obama — that likely induces approving nods and smiles in the White House. And, in case we did not appreciate the Obamaphile view of things, Cillizza adds: “White House allies argue that in the handful of Senate races widely regarded as those that Republicans must win to take back the chamber, the president isn’t a neutral or negative force but a positive one.” So why are Senate contests in Washington, Wisconsin, and California so close — would Democrats actually be trailing if not for the alleged “positive” Obama effect?

A less Obama-friendly analysis would go like this: Losing the Senate Majority is no longer out of the question. (Al Hunt is now confessing: “Republicans have a real shot at taking control of the Senate, as well as the House, in the U.S. midterm elections. … Even with [the Bush] card it’s an uphill struggle to match the Republicans’ anger and energy, as evidenced by the higher turnouts in primaries around the country.”) Obama’s economy, the disaffection of independent voters, and the populist backlash against Obama’s left-leaning agenda have put into play states that usually aren’t (e.g., California, Wisconsin) and shifted into the GOP column states that two years ago were won by Obama (Pennsylvania, Colorado). The results will probably induce a monstrous game of finger-pointing, and Senate Democrats who survive and those who are up in 2012 will be disinclined to rubber-stamp what remains of his agenda.

I suspect that the more sober-minded in the Democratic Party with agree with that take and will be advising 2012 candidates to look after their own political fortunes and pay close attention to their constituents. Otherwise, they will join the ranks of the 2010 Obama victims.

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Crist’s Demise

This perfectly sums up Charlie Crist:

When asked [on CNN’s State of the Union] if Florida voters have a right to know which side he’d choose, Crist dodged the question. “I think they know the way I’m going to go, I’m going to go the way that is best for them,” Crist said. “[...] I don’t have to say I’m going to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans.”

He didn’t really dodge it, then. He said, no, the voters don’t get to know which side he’d choose. It is hard to tell which is his defining characteristic — contempt for the voters or an utter lack of principle. As to the latter, here’s a Crist classic: “Crist reaffirmed that he would have voted against the bill, but stopped short of calling for its repeal — something he called for in March and something Rubio has consistently called for since launching his campaign.”

Nor does he have any views, not that he’ll tell us, on Sarah Palin:

In 2008, Crist told CNN’s “American Morning” that he thought then-vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin “would do a great job” if she had to run the country. Crist’s present thoughts on the matter were markedly different.

“Doesn’t really matter,” he said when asked if he felt the same way about Palin today.

“I’m not going to issue a statement on Sarah,” Crist added.

Even Arlen Specter was not this bad — at least he told you what his current views were. It would be hard to find a better example of what voters detest these days. Is there a yen in Florida for a squirrelly politician whose sole principle is “whatever is good for me”? I think it unlikely.

This perfectly sums up Charlie Crist:

When asked [on CNN’s State of the Union] if Florida voters have a right to know which side he’d choose, Crist dodged the question. “I think they know the way I’m going to go, I’m going to go the way that is best for them,” Crist said. “[...] I don’t have to say I’m going to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans.”

He didn’t really dodge it, then. He said, no, the voters don’t get to know which side he’d choose. It is hard to tell which is his defining characteristic — contempt for the voters or an utter lack of principle. As to the latter, here’s a Crist classic: “Crist reaffirmed that he would have voted against the bill, but stopped short of calling for its repeal — something he called for in March and something Rubio has consistently called for since launching his campaign.”

Nor does he have any views, not that he’ll tell us, on Sarah Palin:

In 2008, Crist told CNN’s “American Morning” that he thought then-vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin “would do a great job” if she had to run the country. Crist’s present thoughts on the matter were markedly different.

“Doesn’t really matter,” he said when asked if he felt the same way about Palin today.

“I’m not going to issue a statement on Sarah,” Crist added.

Even Arlen Specter was not this bad — at least he told you what his current views were. It would be hard to find a better example of what voters detest these days. Is there a yen in Florida for a squirrelly politician whose sole principle is “whatever is good for me”? I think it unlikely.

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How Obama Sees America

The Obama administration recently submitted a 29-page report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in America. It won the praise of the ACLU, which points out that the report “correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women’s rights, LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender People] rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent.”

The report — part of what the UN Human Rights Council calls its “Universal Periodic Review,” in which countries grade their own human rights records — is both ludicrous and offensive. Let’s take them in order.

The report reads like a term paper by a very earnest and very politically correct college freshman. After a few perfunctory words of praise for America in the introduction, the rest of the document is a catalogue of terrible liberal sins that are being washed away by wonderful liberal solutions, including (but not restricted to) ObamaCare; the recently passed financial reform law; suing Arizona for its law aimed to curb illegal immigration; the first White House Adviser on Violence Against Women; the “formation of the 9/11 Backlash Taskforce”; an internal review of the Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; a commitment to “protecting the rights of incarcerated persons … including the right to practice their religion”; and of course — who could ever forget? — President Obama’s hosting “a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications.”

Gems like these can be found on virtually every page.

The offensive element of this report is that human rights is a deeply serious matter that should be treated in a serious, scholarly way. For the Obama administration to corrupt the cause of human rights in such a flagrant, stupid manner is troubling.

It is also evidence of a particular cast of mind, one that is eager to undermine America’s moral standing in the world. That has been a consistent effort by the current administration. We have seen if from the president, who seems to take special delight in denigrating our country before the rest of the world, and those such as Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who went out of his way to assure us that in discussions with China about human rights, the Arizona law against illegal immigration was brought up “up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

The report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then, is of a piece. It is yet more evidence that when the president and his administration scan the world for human rights violations, they are irresistibly drawn back to the grave injustices they believe have been and are being perpetrated by America.

It is an unprecedented and alarming thing to witness — an administration that is not only unwilling to defend the United States but seems to take great joy and satisfaction in undermining her.

The Obama administration recently submitted a 29-page report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in America. It won the praise of the ACLU, which points out that the report “correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women’s rights, LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender People] rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent.”

The report — part of what the UN Human Rights Council calls its “Universal Periodic Review,” in which countries grade their own human rights records — is both ludicrous and offensive. Let’s take them in order.

The report reads like a term paper by a very earnest and very politically correct college freshman. After a few perfunctory words of praise for America in the introduction, the rest of the document is a catalogue of terrible liberal sins that are being washed away by wonderful liberal solutions, including (but not restricted to) ObamaCare; the recently passed financial reform law; suing Arizona for its law aimed to curb illegal immigration; the first White House Adviser on Violence Against Women; the “formation of the 9/11 Backlash Taskforce”; an internal review of the Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; a commitment to “protecting the rights of incarcerated persons … including the right to practice their religion”; and of course — who could ever forget? — President Obama’s hosting “a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications.”

Gems like these can be found on virtually every page.

The offensive element of this report is that human rights is a deeply serious matter that should be treated in a serious, scholarly way. For the Obama administration to corrupt the cause of human rights in such a flagrant, stupid manner is troubling.

It is also evidence of a particular cast of mind, one that is eager to undermine America’s moral standing in the world. That has been a consistent effort by the current administration. We have seen if from the president, who seems to take special delight in denigrating our country before the rest of the world, and those such as Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who went out of his way to assure us that in discussions with China about human rights, the Arizona law against illegal immigration was brought up “up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

The report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then, is of a piece. It is yet more evidence that when the president and his administration scan the world for human rights violations, they are irresistibly drawn back to the grave injustices they believe have been and are being perpetrated by America.

It is an unprecedented and alarming thing to witness — an administration that is not only unwilling to defend the United States but seems to take great joy and satisfaction in undermining her.

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Lining Up Against the Mosque

The liberals are pleading to make the whole Ground Zero mosque controversy go away. The excuses are endless. First, it was deemed to be unimportant. Then it was fomenting Islamophobia (so not unimportant). But mostly, and continually, Mayor Bloomberg has explained to the American people, “Shut up.” And the left did the equivalent: “You are a bigot if you oppose this.” So, yes, shut up. But the debate isn’t over; not by a long shot.

It was and remains a gash across the American landscape — liberal elites on one side and everyone else on the other. (Note to file: Obama may have “brought America together” in common revulsion over everything from the Ground Zero mosque to the debt, but in doing so he has magnified the chasm between his elite clique and the country.)

The image of a dividing line makes Mark Helprin’s suggestion all the more appropriate:

The Constitution is a marvelous document, and a reasonable interpretation of it means as well that no American can be forced to pour concrete. No American can be forced to deliver materials. No American can be forced to bid on a contract, to run conduit, dig a foundation, or join steel.

And a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that the firemen’s, police, and restaurant workers’ unions, among others, and the families of the September 11th dead, and anyone who would protect, sympathize with and honor them, are free to assemble, protest and picket at the site of the mosque that under the Constitution is free to be built.

A reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that no American can be forced to cross a picket line in violation of conscience or even of mere preference. Who, in all decency, would cross a picket line manned by those whose kin were slaughtered—by the thousands—so terribly nearby? And who in all decency would cross such a line manned by the firemen, police and other emergency personnel who know every day that they may be called upon to give their lives in a second act?

Oh my, can you imagine? On the line, quite literally, in defense of the sacred memory of our fallen and in recognition that we are in a war on our civilization waged by jihadists (for whom symbolic architecture is a powerful recruiting tool) would be a sampling of America: the fireman and the widow, the conservative pundit and the steelworker. It would be a sight to behold. And that’s why the mosque will never happen, not there at any rate.

But think about this for a moment. The picket line is virtual right now — that great cross section of Americans are arrayed in opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, although they have no need yet to physically congregate at designated times. And on the other side is Mayor Bloomberg, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the left punditocracy. Not remotely an even match is it?

The liberals are pleading to make the whole Ground Zero mosque controversy go away. The excuses are endless. First, it was deemed to be unimportant. Then it was fomenting Islamophobia (so not unimportant). But mostly, and continually, Mayor Bloomberg has explained to the American people, “Shut up.” And the left did the equivalent: “You are a bigot if you oppose this.” So, yes, shut up. But the debate isn’t over; not by a long shot.

It was and remains a gash across the American landscape — liberal elites on one side and everyone else on the other. (Note to file: Obama may have “brought America together” in common revulsion over everything from the Ground Zero mosque to the debt, but in doing so he has magnified the chasm between his elite clique and the country.)

The image of a dividing line makes Mark Helprin’s suggestion all the more appropriate:

The Constitution is a marvelous document, and a reasonable interpretation of it means as well that no American can be forced to pour concrete. No American can be forced to deliver materials. No American can be forced to bid on a contract, to run conduit, dig a foundation, or join steel.

And a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that the firemen’s, police, and restaurant workers’ unions, among others, and the families of the September 11th dead, and anyone who would protect, sympathize with and honor them, are free to assemble, protest and picket at the site of the mosque that under the Constitution is free to be built.

A reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that no American can be forced to cross a picket line in violation of conscience or even of mere preference. Who, in all decency, would cross a picket line manned by those whose kin were slaughtered—by the thousands—so terribly nearby? And who in all decency would cross such a line manned by the firemen, police and other emergency personnel who know every day that they may be called upon to give their lives in a second act?

Oh my, can you imagine? On the line, quite literally, in defense of the sacred memory of our fallen and in recognition that we are in a war on our civilization waged by jihadists (for whom symbolic architecture is a powerful recruiting tool) would be a sampling of America: the fireman and the widow, the conservative pundit and the steelworker. It would be a sight to behold. And that’s why the mosque will never happen, not there at any rate.

But think about this for a moment. The picket line is virtual right now — that great cross section of Americans are arrayed in opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, although they have no need yet to physically congregate at designated times. And on the other side is Mayor Bloomberg, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the left punditocracy. Not remotely an even match is it?

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Obama: Americans Are Dolts, He’s for the Ages

Obama said he didn’t pay attention to the Tea Party rallies, so we shouldn’t be surprised that in an NBC interview Sunday “Obama said he did not watch any of Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally Saturday on the National Mall.” Now, it would have been perfectly acceptable and noncontroversial for him to say he was busy. But Obama can never pass up a chance to condescend. He continued:

“It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That’s been true throughout our history,” he said. But “what I’m focused on is making sure that the decisions we’re making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily  for the next election, but are good for the next generation.”

Once again, the American people are cast in the roles of dupes, stooges, and sheep. Is it conceivable that Beck didn’t stir them up but that they already were stirred up and have been for some time? (Between Nancy Pelosi, who’s looking for the funding behind the Ground Zero mosque opponents, and Obama, who can’t imagine grassroots opposition to his presidency, we have a peek at just how little the liberal elites think of us.) And really, he gives Beck far too much credit; it is Obama, more than any other figure, who has stirred up a “portion” — that would be a majority — of Americans to oppose his policies.

But — the condescension cascades now — he’s not to be bothered with the short term (those 9.5 percent unemployed will have to tough it out) or the media cycle (his ardor has cooled now that they don’t fall at his feet). No, that short-term stuff is for mere mortals; he’s at work for the ages. So the enormous debt is for the children? A nuclear-armed Iran is for our grandchildren?

Obama does not handle adversity well. He should get used to it.

Obama said he didn’t pay attention to the Tea Party rallies, so we shouldn’t be surprised that in an NBC interview Sunday “Obama said he did not watch any of Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally Saturday on the National Mall.” Now, it would have been perfectly acceptable and noncontroversial for him to say he was busy. But Obama can never pass up a chance to condescend. He continued:

“It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That’s been true throughout our history,” he said. But “what I’m focused on is making sure that the decisions we’re making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily  for the next election, but are good for the next generation.”

Once again, the American people are cast in the roles of dupes, stooges, and sheep. Is it conceivable that Beck didn’t stir them up but that they already were stirred up and have been for some time? (Between Nancy Pelosi, who’s looking for the funding behind the Ground Zero mosque opponents, and Obama, who can’t imagine grassroots opposition to his presidency, we have a peek at just how little the liberal elites think of us.) And really, he gives Beck far too much credit; it is Obama, more than any other figure, who has stirred up a “portion” — that would be a majority — of Americans to oppose his policies.

But — the condescension cascades now — he’s not to be bothered with the short term (those 9.5 percent unemployed will have to tough it out) or the media cycle (his ardor has cooled now that they don’t fall at his feet). No, that short-term stuff is for mere mortals; he’s at work for the ages. So the enormous debt is for the children? A nuclear-armed Iran is for our grandchildren?

Obama does not handle adversity well. He should get used to it.

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Reviving More than Faith

Glenn Beck’s rally, perhaps wisely in anticipation of liberal criticism, kept policy and partisanship out of it. The focus was on patriotism and a call for a spiritual revival. As the country pivots toward the homestretch of the midterm-election season and the warm-up to the 2012 campaign (Already? Unfortunately, yes), conservatives running for office or advising those who are may be wise to focus on a different sort of revival.

The Tea Party has come to be seen as merely a brake on liberal economic policy — don’t raise taxes, control spending, end bailouts. But it was, at its start, also a cry of opposition to what all of that foretold for America: the decline of self-reliance, risk-taking, entrepreneurship, and the creative destructiveness of capitalism that requires that we punish failure and reward success.

Conservative reformers are right to focus on limited government, entitlement reform, and spending control. There has never been a more receptive audience for that, thanks to Obama. But modern conservatism’s success, both in policy and electorally, did not come from being the green-eye-shade party. It stemmed from an enthusiasm and celebration of free markets and from policies that sought to unleash the potential of individuals, investors, and employers. And it was Reagan whose embrace of supply-side economics, free trade, and modest regulation unleashed an economic boom — and launched a conservative political vision that was inclusive and successful.

In a speech delivered at Hillsdale College in 1977, Reagan explained:

In spite of all the evidence that points to the free market as the most efficient system, we continue down a road that is bearing out the prophecy of Tocqueville, a Frenchman who came here 130 years ago. He was attracted by the miracle that was America. Think of it: Our country was only 70 years old and already we had achieved such a miraculous living standard, such productivity and prosperity, that the rest of the world was amazed. So he came here and he looked at everything he could see in our country, trying to find the secret of our success, and then went back and wrote a book about it. Even then, 130 years ago, he saw signs prompting him to warn us that if we weren’t constantly on the guard, we would find ourselves covered by a network of regulations controlling every activity. He said if that came to pass we would one day find ourselves a nation of timid animals with government the shepherd.

It all comes down to this basic premise: If you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom and, in fact, all freedom. Freedom is something that cannot be passed on genetically. It is never more than one generation away from extinction. Every generation has to learn how to protect and defend it. Once freedom is gone, it is gone for a long, long time. Already, too many of us, particularly those in business and industry, have chosen to switch rather than fight.

This is both smart policy and the political formula for melding multiple strands that have been swirling around the conservative movement — American exceptionalism, defense of capitalism, and personal accountability. It is, at bottom, a platform for restoration — not necessarily a spiritual one, as Beck suggested, nor one based on defense of country in war, as Sarah Palin suggested. It is nevertheless a call to restore the economic vitality and the creative spirit of capitalism that made America a superpower and the envy of the world. The Republican presidential candidate who can put all that together, I would  suggest, will be a formidable contender and a well-prepared combatant to face off against Obama.

Glenn Beck’s rally, perhaps wisely in anticipation of liberal criticism, kept policy and partisanship out of it. The focus was on patriotism and a call for a spiritual revival. As the country pivots toward the homestretch of the midterm-election season and the warm-up to the 2012 campaign (Already? Unfortunately, yes), conservatives running for office or advising those who are may be wise to focus on a different sort of revival.

The Tea Party has come to be seen as merely a brake on liberal economic policy — don’t raise taxes, control spending, end bailouts. But it was, at its start, also a cry of opposition to what all of that foretold for America: the decline of self-reliance, risk-taking, entrepreneurship, and the creative destructiveness of capitalism that requires that we punish failure and reward success.

Conservative reformers are right to focus on limited government, entitlement reform, and spending control. There has never been a more receptive audience for that, thanks to Obama. But modern conservatism’s success, both in policy and electorally, did not come from being the green-eye-shade party. It stemmed from an enthusiasm and celebration of free markets and from policies that sought to unleash the potential of individuals, investors, and employers. And it was Reagan whose embrace of supply-side economics, free trade, and modest regulation unleashed an economic boom — and launched a conservative political vision that was inclusive and successful.

In a speech delivered at Hillsdale College in 1977, Reagan explained:

In spite of all the evidence that points to the free market as the most efficient system, we continue down a road that is bearing out the prophecy of Tocqueville, a Frenchman who came here 130 years ago. He was attracted by the miracle that was America. Think of it: Our country was only 70 years old and already we had achieved such a miraculous living standard, such productivity and prosperity, that the rest of the world was amazed. So he came here and he looked at everything he could see in our country, trying to find the secret of our success, and then went back and wrote a book about it. Even then, 130 years ago, he saw signs prompting him to warn us that if we weren’t constantly on the guard, we would find ourselves covered by a network of regulations controlling every activity. He said if that came to pass we would one day find ourselves a nation of timid animals with government the shepherd.

It all comes down to this basic premise: If you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom and, in fact, all freedom. Freedom is something that cannot be passed on genetically. It is never more than one generation away from extinction. Every generation has to learn how to protect and defend it. Once freedom is gone, it is gone for a long, long time. Already, too many of us, particularly those in business and industry, have chosen to switch rather than fight.

This is both smart policy and the political formula for melding multiple strands that have been swirling around the conservative movement — American exceptionalism, defense of capitalism, and personal accountability. It is, at bottom, a platform for restoration — not necessarily a spiritual one, as Beck suggested, nor one based on defense of country in war, as Sarah Palin suggested. It is nevertheless a call to restore the economic vitality and the creative spirit of capitalism that made America a superpower and the envy of the world. The Republican presidential candidate who can put all that together, I would  suggest, will be a formidable contender and a well-prepared combatant to face off against Obama.

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Juan Williams vs. Israel

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.’”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.’”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

Read Less




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