Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 2010

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.

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He Really Doesn’t Want to Be Commander In Chief

It is not that we didn’t know this before, but reading the New York Times surely designed to be as favorable toward Obama as the reporter could possibly manage — one is left slack-jawed. Obama doesn’t like being commander in chief, isn’t good at it, and has relied on one tutor, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is leaving next year. The report should be read in full. But a few low-lights:

A year and a half into his presidency, Mr. Obama appears to be a reluctant warrior. Even as he draws down troops in Iraq, he has been abundantly willing to use force to advance national interests, tripling forces in Afghanistan, authorizing secret operations in Yemen and Somalia, and escalating drone strikes in Pakistan. But advisers said he did not see himself as a war president in the way his predecessor did. His speech on Tuesday is notable because he talks in public about the wars only sporadically, determined not to let them define his presidency.

A former adviser to the president, who like others insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the situation candidly, said that Mr. Obama’s relationship with the military was ‘troubled’ and that he ‘doesn’t have a handle on it.’ …

Reliant on Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama has made limited efforts to know his service chiefs or top commanders, and has visited the Pentagon only once, not counting a Sept. 11 commemoration. He ended Mr. Bush’s practice of weekly videoconferences with commanders, preferring to work through the chain of command and wary, aides said, of being drawn into managing the wars. …

Last December, the president gave the military 30,000 more troops, but also a ticking clock. … “He didn’t understand or grasp the military culture,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former Pentagon official at the liberal Center for American Progress. “He got over that particular quandary and put them back in the box by saying, ‘O.K., I’m giving you 18 months.’ ”

As we all suspected, he compromised our Afghanistan war strategy for the sake of domestic politics:

One adviser at the time said Mr. Obama calculated that an open-ended commitment would undermine the rest of his agenda. “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” the adviser said. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

He simply doesn’t want to do the things that are expected of the commander in chief, and the military’s ire is profound:

The schisms among his team, though, are born in part out of uncertainty about his true commitment. His reticence to talk much publicly about the wars may owe to the political costs of alienating his base as well as the demands of other issues. Senior Pentagon and military officials said they understood that he presided over a troubled economy, but noted that he was not losing 30 American soldiers a month on Wall Street. …

“From an image point of view, he doesn’t seem to embrace it, almost like you have to drag him into doing it,” said Peter D. Feaver, a Bush adviser with military contacts. “There’s deep uncertainty and perhaps doubt in the military about his commitment to see the wars through to a successful conclusion.”

This was a man not only unprepared to be president but disposed to shirk the most important aspect of the job. It is a measure of his hubris and stubbornness that he has refused to, as Feaver succinctly puts it, “embrace” the role, that is, to commit in word and deed his full attention and effort to leading the country in war. He doesn’t want to be a wartime president? Well, sorry — he is.

The only comfort one can draw from this appalling portrait is that perhaps, just perhaps, after November, when his dream of transforming America is crushed by an electoral blow-back, he will belatedly do his job.

It is not that we didn’t know this before, but reading the New York Times surely designed to be as favorable toward Obama as the reporter could possibly manage — one is left slack-jawed. Obama doesn’t like being commander in chief, isn’t good at it, and has relied on one tutor, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is leaving next year. The report should be read in full. But a few low-lights:

A year and a half into his presidency, Mr. Obama appears to be a reluctant warrior. Even as he draws down troops in Iraq, he has been abundantly willing to use force to advance national interests, tripling forces in Afghanistan, authorizing secret operations in Yemen and Somalia, and escalating drone strikes in Pakistan. But advisers said he did not see himself as a war president in the way his predecessor did. His speech on Tuesday is notable because he talks in public about the wars only sporadically, determined not to let them define his presidency.

A former adviser to the president, who like others insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the situation candidly, said that Mr. Obama’s relationship with the military was ‘troubled’ and that he ‘doesn’t have a handle on it.’ …

Reliant on Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama has made limited efforts to know his service chiefs or top commanders, and has visited the Pentagon only once, not counting a Sept. 11 commemoration. He ended Mr. Bush’s practice of weekly videoconferences with commanders, preferring to work through the chain of command and wary, aides said, of being drawn into managing the wars. …

Last December, the president gave the military 30,000 more troops, but also a ticking clock. … “He didn’t understand or grasp the military culture,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former Pentagon official at the liberal Center for American Progress. “He got over that particular quandary and put them back in the box by saying, ‘O.K., I’m giving you 18 months.’ ”

As we all suspected, he compromised our Afghanistan war strategy for the sake of domestic politics:

One adviser at the time said Mr. Obama calculated that an open-ended commitment would undermine the rest of his agenda. “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” the adviser said. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

He simply doesn’t want to do the things that are expected of the commander in chief, and the military’s ire is profound:

The schisms among his team, though, are born in part out of uncertainty about his true commitment. His reticence to talk much publicly about the wars may owe to the political costs of alienating his base as well as the demands of other issues. Senior Pentagon and military officials said they understood that he presided over a troubled economy, but noted that he was not losing 30 American soldiers a month on Wall Street. …

“From an image point of view, he doesn’t seem to embrace it, almost like you have to drag him into doing it,” said Peter D. Feaver, a Bush adviser with military contacts. “There’s deep uncertainty and perhaps doubt in the military about his commitment to see the wars through to a successful conclusion.”

This was a man not only unprepared to be president but disposed to shirk the most important aspect of the job. It is a measure of his hubris and stubbornness that he has refused to, as Feaver succinctly puts it, “embrace” the role, that is, to commit in word and deed his full attention and effort to leading the country in war. He doesn’t want to be a wartime president? Well, sorry — he is.

The only comfort one can draw from this appalling portrait is that perhaps, just perhaps, after November, when his dream of transforming America is crushed by an electoral blow-back, he will belatedly do his job.

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Palin in Ascendance, Liberals Admit Defeat

She certainly has them on the run. At the National Mall rally on Saturday, Sarah Palin delivered an eloquent and moving tribute to servicemen and a nonpartisan call to restore — not transform — America. The complete text should be read in full. (If you are not moved to tears by the stories of three heroic military men, you have a heart of stone.)

I admit that I had some serious reservations about the Glenn Beck rally. To put it mildly, I’m no fan of Beck’s, and his rhetoric has given liberals plenty of fodder to paint the right as extreme and incendiary. But both he and certainly Palin conducted themselves well — sticking to general themes of faith and service. That the media could not find a single controversial statement is a tribute to the good judgment and restraint that was exercised.

Meanwhile, Palin clearly has the left in a tizzy. They have finally gotten it: she is redefining feminism. In the New York Times, two liberal feminists exhibit more than a little anxiety over the Palin juggernaut. To put it bluntly, they have Palin envy:

In the 24 months since her appearance onstage in Dayton, Ohio, Ms. Palin has enthralled pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update, while provoking outrage and exasperation from the left. …

The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin’s ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

You betcha. You see, Palin has proved by example that a woman politician need not spout the pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-welfare-state line. “Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to ‘take back’ America with ‘common-sense’ solutions.” She sure did, and she proved herself to be the most effective female politician in the country. Sorry, Hillary — while you have been playing errand girl for the Obama foreign-policy train wreck, Palin has ascended to the throne. (Nancy Pelosi’s days are numbered.) The left is waving the white flag of surrender:

It’s easy of course, for liberals to laugh off Ms. Palin’s “you go, girl!” ethos and increasingly aggressive co-optation of feminist symbols. We progressives discount her references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle. …

If Sarah Palin and her acolytes successfully redefine what it means to be a groundbreaking political woman, it will be because progressives let it happen — and in doing so, ensured that when it comes to making history, there will be no one but Mama Grizzlies to do the job.

Wow.

And it’s really worse than the New York Times worriers admit. Palin not only trumped the left on style but she also managed to connect on nearly every issue — ObamaCare, bailouts, Israel, taxes, American exceptionalism, and the stimulus plan — in a way the president and his liberal supporters could not. For all of her supposed lack of “policy muscle,” it was she who defined the debate on ObamaCare and she who synced up with the Tea Party’s small-government, personal-responsibility, anti-tax-hike message. Who’s short on policy muscle — the White House or Palin? Does “engagement” of despots, Israel-bashing, and capitulation to Russia make for a meaty foreign-policy agenda? Go read a Palin foreign-policy address or two. Plenty of meat and common sense there.

But I give the Times gals credit — they know they are losing the battle to discredit Palin. Now they need to figure out what to do about it. They might start with examining whether their agenda has as much sell as hers.

She certainly has them on the run. At the National Mall rally on Saturday, Sarah Palin delivered an eloquent and moving tribute to servicemen and a nonpartisan call to restore — not transform — America. The complete text should be read in full. (If you are not moved to tears by the stories of three heroic military men, you have a heart of stone.)

I admit that I had some serious reservations about the Glenn Beck rally. To put it mildly, I’m no fan of Beck’s, and his rhetoric has given liberals plenty of fodder to paint the right as extreme and incendiary. But both he and certainly Palin conducted themselves well — sticking to general themes of faith and service. That the media could not find a single controversial statement is a tribute to the good judgment and restraint that was exercised.

Meanwhile, Palin clearly has the left in a tizzy. They have finally gotten it: she is redefining feminism. In the New York Times, two liberal feminists exhibit more than a little anxiety over the Palin juggernaut. To put it bluntly, they have Palin envy:

In the 24 months since her appearance onstage in Dayton, Ohio, Ms. Palin has enthralled pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update, while provoking outrage and exasperation from the left. …

The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin’s ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

You betcha. You see, Palin has proved by example that a woman politician need not spout the pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-welfare-state line. “Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to ‘take back’ America with ‘common-sense’ solutions.” She sure did, and she proved herself to be the most effective female politician in the country. Sorry, Hillary — while you have been playing errand girl for the Obama foreign-policy train wreck, Palin has ascended to the throne. (Nancy Pelosi’s days are numbered.) The left is waving the white flag of surrender:

It’s easy of course, for liberals to laugh off Ms. Palin’s “you go, girl!” ethos and increasingly aggressive co-optation of feminist symbols. We progressives discount her references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle. …

If Sarah Palin and her acolytes successfully redefine what it means to be a groundbreaking political woman, it will be because progressives let it happen — and in doing so, ensured that when it comes to making history, there will be no one but Mama Grizzlies to do the job.

Wow.

And it’s really worse than the New York Times worriers admit. Palin not only trumped the left on style but she also managed to connect on nearly every issue — ObamaCare, bailouts, Israel, taxes, American exceptionalism, and the stimulus plan — in a way the president and his liberal supporters could not. For all of her supposed lack of “policy muscle,” it was she who defined the debate on ObamaCare and she who synced up with the Tea Party’s small-government, personal-responsibility, anti-tax-hike message. Who’s short on policy muscle — the White House or Palin? Does “engagement” of despots, Israel-bashing, and capitulation to Russia make for a meaty foreign-policy agenda? Go read a Palin foreign-policy address or two. Plenty of meat and common sense there.

But I give the Times gals credit — they know they are losing the battle to discredit Palin. Now they need to figure out what to do about it. They might start with examining whether their agenda has as much sell as hers.

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RE: The F-35 and the Israel-Obama Relationship

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

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Religious Freedom Beyond Ground Zero

Obama’s indifference toward international religious freedom is well known – especially when it concerns despotic regimes of the Middle East. It is not as if the pervasive abuses are a secret.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year put both Egypt and Turkey on its watch list. Egypt has received billions in new aid and a pass on re-implementation of its so-called Emergency Laws from the Obama administration, despite the Commission’s findings:

Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. The reporting period marked a significant upsurge in violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Egyptian government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. This increase in violence, and the failure to prosecute those responsible, fosters a growing climate of impunity. … Disfavored Muslims continue to face discrimination and repression. The government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

In the wake of the Flotilla incident, the administration treated Turkey (from which the weapon-wielding terrorists embarked, and home to the terrorist-connected IHH “charity” ) with kid gloves, refraining from public criticism. Nor does it have much to say about the Commission’s findings:

Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. … An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques.

And just yesterday, writing in the Washington Post, Roxana Saberi (herself a captive in Iran’s notorious Evin prison) described the persecution of Bahais in Iran and the hellish experience of two Bahai mothers, sentenced to 20 years on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel as well as “insulting religious sanctities and, later, ‘spreading corruption on earth.’” They were shipped off to Rajai Shahr, a facility “known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.” Obama, however, came into office determined to bet on his “engagement” prowess, ignored the Green Movement, and still declines to spotlight the mullahs’ abominable record on religious (and every other) freedom.

It is regrettable that Obama’s Iftar speech not only mangled the Ground Zero mosque issue (which is a matter of discretion and comity, not legality) but ignored the massive deprivation of religious rights in the Middle East. But that would be like going to Cairo and talking about religious freedom for Copts or state-encouraged anti-Semitism. It is, in a word, inconceivable.

Obama’s indifference toward international religious freedom is well known – especially when it concerns despotic regimes of the Middle East. It is not as if the pervasive abuses are a secret.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year put both Egypt and Turkey on its watch list. Egypt has received billions in new aid and a pass on re-implementation of its so-called Emergency Laws from the Obama administration, despite the Commission’s findings:

Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. The reporting period marked a significant upsurge in violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Egyptian government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. This increase in violence, and the failure to prosecute those responsible, fosters a growing climate of impunity. … Disfavored Muslims continue to face discrimination and repression. The government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

In the wake of the Flotilla incident, the administration treated Turkey (from which the weapon-wielding terrorists embarked, and home to the terrorist-connected IHH “charity” ) with kid gloves, refraining from public criticism. Nor does it have much to say about the Commission’s findings:

Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. … An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques.

And just yesterday, writing in the Washington Post, Roxana Saberi (herself a captive in Iran’s notorious Evin prison) described the persecution of Bahais in Iran and the hellish experience of two Bahai mothers, sentenced to 20 years on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel as well as “insulting religious sanctities and, later, ‘spreading corruption on earth.’” They were shipped off to Rajai Shahr, a facility “known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.” Obama, however, came into office determined to bet on his “engagement” prowess, ignored the Green Movement, and still declines to spotlight the mullahs’ abominable record on religious (and every other) freedom.

It is regrettable that Obama’s Iftar speech not only mangled the Ground Zero mosque issue (which is a matter of discretion and comity, not legality) but ignored the massive deprivation of religious rights in the Middle East. But that would be like going to Cairo and talking about religious freedom for Copts or state-encouraged anti-Semitism. It is, in a word, inconceivable.

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Liberals Surprised Again

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

Liberals continually expect that conservatives will match the cartoonish image that the left has concocted. They were shocked that Christian conservatives didn’t run Sarah Palin out of town on a rail because of her pregnant unwed daughter. Aren’t conservatives prudes and intolerant misogynists? Umm, no. Now, they can’t believe conservatives are so accepting of  Ken Mehlman, who publicly announced he is gay. You can sense the disappointment and surprise on the left — aren’t conservative going to repudiate him? No, nor do most of them even care.

I think the problem is this: liberals have more friends who are gay than friends who are conservative…  or evangelical… or gun owners. They often accuse conservatives of living cloistered lives, but it is urban liberals who congregate in homogeneous communities ( e.g., San Francisco, West L.A.) and may live their entire lives without forming a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their laundry list of inviolate truths (e.g., global warming is real, abortion-on-demand is sacred, government creates jobs). They don’t much bother to understand conservatives’ rationales for their positions — so much easier to assume they are rooted in ignorance or bigotry. Or as Michelle Obama put it, “meanness.”

This is why liberal media outlets try to hire reporters to cover the “conservative” beat. Like Margaret Mead, they are supposed to go trampling in far-off lands and report back on the natives’ habits and customs. If they really understood and knew conservatives, they would have no need for a special-assignment reporter.

It has been and remains a great advantage for conservatives — they understand their ideological opponents far better than their opponents understand them. That is why Harry Reid is amazed Hispanics can be Republicans, the left can’t imagine there is an explanation for Ground Zero mosque opposition other than Islamaphobia, and Obama treats his gun- and Bible-clinging countrymen as if they were aliens. Actually, to him and many of his ilk, they are.

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A Shot Across Their Bow

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

On Friday, Democrats (other than Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer, who are vying to lead their party in the Senate) got some bad news that, for a change, was not economic: “The National Rifle Association declines to endorse Senator Harry Reid, citing his votes for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, which is a blow, since the group backed him in the past.”

This is significant for several reasons. First, the NRA’s endorsement is critical in a large number of states. No less a political guru than Bill Clinton acknowledged that the NRA “made Gingrich the House speaker” in 1994 and  toppled Al Gore in  2000. Granted, ardor on the Second Amendment may have cooled as Democrats have sought to downplay the issue and since the Supreme Court affirmed it is both a personal right and binding on the states. However, the NRA continues to be a powerful interest group that can provide troops on the ground and critical advertising for its preferred candidates.

The announcement is also important because it signals that the group thinks Reid is a dead duck. Otherwise, why risk annoying the Senate Majority Leader? Its political calculation may influence donors and other special-interest groups to dump Reid and place their bets and money elsewhere.

And finally, this is a fitting and unmistakable warning about Supreme Court nominees. For years, Democrats and some Republicans felt their votes were “free” — they could, with impunity and without regard to their constituents’ views, vote to confirm nominees whose records reflected outright hostility to the Second Amendment. The NRA is making it clear that lawmakers are going to be held responsible for their votes. So Lindsey Graham, who voted yes on both the Kagan and Sotomayor nominations, is on notice: don’t expect the NRA’s support.

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The Lightbulb Goes on

As this report explains, the Fed will not come to the Democrats’ rescue, at least not in time to stave off a shellacking in November:

Fed chief Ben Bernanke said Friday the nation’s central bank would take action to prop up the economy if absolutely necessary. … He did not pledge any immediate, dramatic steps to goose growth and suggested the bank’s remaining tools might not work very well anyway. The mild statement from Bernanke, while soothing to investors, creates a potentially serious political problem for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, some of whom are feeling their House majority slip away with every passing piece of bad economic news.

The more candid in the left’s blogosphere get that the Democrats are in very big trouble. David Corn, for example, confesses: “It doesn’t appear that Obama has forged and maintained that sort of bond with a majority of voters. Democrats were hoping that a summer economic turn-around would ease the way toward the fall elections. But no such harvest is looming.” They have only figured this out recently? Well, denial is an attractive coping mechanism. And there is reason not to freak out donors and activists with predictions of impending doom.

However, reality is seeping in, and candor is breaking out after months and months of pooh-poohing polls, assuring themselves ObamaCare was essential to their political survival, and lamely trying to sow dissension in Republican ranks (Tea Party vs. mainstream GOP!). Despondency may follow.

As the dismal news piles up and liberals give up the pretense that the economic and electoral outlook is bright, how much worse will the polling get for those Democrats on the ballot in November? And do the pollsters have models to gauge just how depressed the Democrats’ turnout will be? We’ll see, but Democrats are wise, I think, to prepare themselves for the deluge.

As this report explains, the Fed will not come to the Democrats’ rescue, at least not in time to stave off a shellacking in November:

Fed chief Ben Bernanke said Friday the nation’s central bank would take action to prop up the economy if absolutely necessary. … He did not pledge any immediate, dramatic steps to goose growth and suggested the bank’s remaining tools might not work very well anyway. The mild statement from Bernanke, while soothing to investors, creates a potentially serious political problem for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, some of whom are feeling their House majority slip away with every passing piece of bad economic news.

The more candid in the left’s blogosphere get that the Democrats are in very big trouble. David Corn, for example, confesses: “It doesn’t appear that Obama has forged and maintained that sort of bond with a majority of voters. Democrats were hoping that a summer economic turn-around would ease the way toward the fall elections. But no such harvest is looming.” They have only figured this out recently? Well, denial is an attractive coping mechanism. And there is reason not to freak out donors and activists with predictions of impending doom.

However, reality is seeping in, and candor is breaking out after months and months of pooh-poohing polls, assuring themselves ObamaCare was essential to their political survival, and lamely trying to sow dissension in Republican ranks (Tea Party vs. mainstream GOP!). Despondency may follow.

As the dismal news piles up and liberals give up the pretense that the economic and electoral outlook is bright, how much worse will the polling get for those Democrats on the ballot in November? And do the pollsters have models to gauge just how depressed the Democrats’ turnout will be? We’ll see, but Democrats are wise, I think, to prepare themselves for the deluge.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t you expect Eric Holder will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republicans get a majority — and subpoena power — in the House and/or Senate? “Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is a man with blood on his hands.A year before 9/11, the Saudi al Qaeda operative masterminded the bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors as the vessel refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden.A Guantanamo tribunal was ready to arraign him last year, but since the Obama administration took office, it’s been a case of trial and error. No trial — plenty of error. … Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that because the Cole bombing was an attack on the military, Nashiri’s trial should proceed in a military tribunal. Did it really take nine months to figure that out?”

Don’t faint: “BBC Exonerates Israel.” When will J Street?

Don’t underestimate the cluelessness of liberal politicians: “The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.”

Don’t think Florida Democrats should be celebrating Rick Scott’s win: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of the Florida governor’s race finds Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink in a close contest.Scott, the winner of Tuesday’s bruising GOP Primary, earns the support of 41% of Likely Voters in the state, while Sink picks up 36% of the vote.”

Don’t be surprised if Charlie Crist comes in third in the Senate race. A distant third.

Don’t you wonder what compelled James Fallows, after his magazine invited one of the most effective neocon pundits to join in a week-long symposium, to go out of his way to “disassociate” himself not once but twice from his guest’s views? Could be that the left-leaning readership threw a hissy fit (how dare Atlantic allow a conservative to make mincemeat of their arguments!), or maybe it’s just a dirth of graciousness. These are not mutually exclusive explanations. (To his credit, Jeffrey Goldberg — “kudos to the assorted luminaries” — did not follow his colleague’s lead.)

Don’t miss Peter Berkowitz’s latest column. A sample: “In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish. … Messrs. [George] Packer, [E.J.] Dionne and [Sam] Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to say “victory” or “democracy” in connection with Iraq. It’s all about keeping his campaign promise. And more money spent on the VA. I had hoped he would grow into the role of commander in chief. Hasn’t happened yet.

Don’t you expect Eric Holder will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republicans get a majority — and subpoena power — in the House and/or Senate? “Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is a man with blood on his hands.A year before 9/11, the Saudi al Qaeda operative masterminded the bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors as the vessel refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden.A Guantanamo tribunal was ready to arraign him last year, but since the Obama administration took office, it’s been a case of trial and error. No trial — plenty of error. … Attorney General Eric Holder said last year that because the Cole bombing was an attack on the military, Nashiri’s trial should proceed in a military tribunal. Did it really take nine months to figure that out?”

Don’t faint: “BBC Exonerates Israel.” When will J Street?

Don’t underestimate the cluelessness of liberal politicians: “The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.”

Don’t think Florida Democrats should be celebrating Rick Scott’s win: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary survey of the Florida governor’s race finds Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink in a close contest.Scott, the winner of Tuesday’s bruising GOP Primary, earns the support of 41% of Likely Voters in the state, while Sink picks up 36% of the vote.”

Don’t be surprised if Charlie Crist comes in third in the Senate race. A distant third.

Don’t you wonder what compelled James Fallows, after his magazine invited one of the most effective neocon pundits to join in a week-long symposium, to go out of his way to “disassociate” himself not once but twice from his guest’s views? Could be that the left-leaning readership threw a hissy fit (how dare Atlantic allow a conservative to make mincemeat of their arguments!), or maybe it’s just a dirth of graciousness. These are not mutually exclusive explanations. (To his credit, Jeffrey Goldberg — “kudos to the assorted luminaries” — did not follow his colleague’s lead.)

Don’t miss Peter Berkowitz’s latest column. A sample: “In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish. … Messrs. [George] Packer, [E.J.] Dionne and [Sam] Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to say “victory” or “democracy” in connection with Iraq. It’s all about keeping his campaign promise. And more money spent on the VA. I had hoped he would grow into the role of commander in chief. Hasn’t happened yet.

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RE: Brutal for Obama and Klein

Pete, that will be forthcoming right after the abject apology for opposing the surge.

But in the spirit of goodwill and comity, I will go first: I was wrong — I underestimated how badly Obama would harm his own party and how quickly the American people would turn on him. But in answer to your query, I am not holding my breath; the clique that scoffed at the notion that Ronald Reagan (or Margaret Thatcher or John Paul II) could win the Cold War and that has bowed before the false idol of Keynesianism should not be expected to reflect on its misjudgments. Unlike the Bourbons (who managed to remember everything), the left learns nothing and remembers nothing. It is why it is so drearily predictable and so often surprised.

Pete, that will be forthcoming right after the abject apology for opposing the surge.

But in the spirit of goodwill and comity, I will go first: I was wrong — I underestimated how badly Obama would harm his own party and how quickly the American people would turn on him. But in answer to your query, I am not holding my breath; the clique that scoffed at the notion that Ronald Reagan (or Margaret Thatcher or John Paul II) could win the Cold War and that has bowed before the false idol of Keynesianism should not be expected to reflect on its misjudgments. Unlike the Bourbons (who managed to remember everything), the left learns nothing and remembers nothing. It is why it is so drearily predictable and so often surprised.

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Brutal for Obama and Joe Klein

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

According to Public Policy Polling (PPP), President Obama’s approval ratings in the key states of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania are “brutal.”

How brutal?

In Florida, Obama’s approval-disapproval numbers are 39 percent v. 55 percent, with independents registering a 52 disapprove v. 36 percent approve rating.

In Pennsylvania Obama’s approval is 40 percent, while 55 percent of voters disapprove of him. Independents line up against the president by a 63/32 margin.

And in Ohio, Obama’s approval is 42 percent with 54 percent of voters disapproving of him — while the split among independents is 58/33.

These findings should be combined with Jennifer’s posting on the latest analysis by The Cook Report and the story she linked to in Politico, in which a Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone” and that that his data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse (“It’s spreading,” the pollster said.)

I recall that once upon a time, Obama courtiers over at the New Republic and Time magazine ridiculed the amassing evidence Jennifer and I cited, warning of the impending political problems Democrats faced in the midterm. They would have none of it. The polls were nothing more than “white noise.” It was wishful thinking on our part. The election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts were anomalous and didn’t foreshadow a thing. According to Joe Klein, we were part of the “sky is falling” crowd. Democrats would be fine; the public would learn to appreciate all the wonderful achievements off Obama and his party.

Lately, I haven’t heard much from them about how baseless and irresponsible our analyses were, or how well things are shaping up for Democrats. In fact, poor Joe now refers to the “dismal electoral shape” the Democrats are now in.

Gee, that was a quick turnabout. And it’s so unlike Klein to experience such wide emotional and analytical swings.

By the way, I’m still waiting for an apology — or at least a note of explanation — from our liberal friends, Jen.

How about you?

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On Winston Churchill and Former Gov. Blagojevich

On Fox News Sunday, a slightly incredulous Chris Wallace asked former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he were serious when he compared himself to Winston Churchill in his ability to come back from political oblivion. Blagojevich replied: “You’re right, I’m not serious. I don’t smoke cigars or scotch, and I think I can run faster than him.” As Sir Winston died in 1965, it would be most surprising if the Governor were not fleeter of foot.

But Churchill would have smiled at Blagojevich’s observations on smoking, drinking, and running. The Governor’s first claim reminded me of one of Churchill’s interchanges with General Bernard Montgomery. The slightly priggish general is alleged to have said that he neither drank nor smoked and was 100 percent fit. Churchill immediately shot back that he both drank and smoked and was 200 percent fit.

And as for physical fitness, Churchill’s views on that subject, and its connection with leadership ability, are curiously relevant to Blagojevich’s desire to mount a comeback. In February 1941, Churchill – as recorded in the third volume of his World War II memoirs – wrote to his Secretary of State for War as follows:

Please see the Times of February 4. It is really true that a seven-mile cross-country run is enforced upon all in this division, from generals to privates? … A colonel or a general ought not to exhaust himself in trying to compete with young boys running across country seven miles at a time. The duty of officers is no doubt to keep themselves fit, but still more to think for their men, and to take decisions affecting their safety or comfort. Who is the general of this division, and does he run the seven miles himself? If so, he may be more useful for football than war. Could Napoleon have run seven miles across country at Austerlitz? Perhaps it was the other fellow he made run. In my experience, based on many years’ observation, officers with high athletic qualifications are not usually successful in the higher ranks.

It would seem that Churchill’s maxim also applies to governors.

On Fox News Sunday, a slightly incredulous Chris Wallace asked former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he were serious when he compared himself to Winston Churchill in his ability to come back from political oblivion. Blagojevich replied: “You’re right, I’m not serious. I don’t smoke cigars or scotch, and I think I can run faster than him.” As Sir Winston died in 1965, it would be most surprising if the Governor were not fleeter of foot.

But Churchill would have smiled at Blagojevich’s observations on smoking, drinking, and running. The Governor’s first claim reminded me of one of Churchill’s interchanges with General Bernard Montgomery. The slightly priggish general is alleged to have said that he neither drank nor smoked and was 100 percent fit. Churchill immediately shot back that he both drank and smoked and was 200 percent fit.

And as for physical fitness, Churchill’s views on that subject, and its connection with leadership ability, are curiously relevant to Blagojevich’s desire to mount a comeback. In February 1941, Churchill – as recorded in the third volume of his World War II memoirs – wrote to his Secretary of State for War as follows:

Please see the Times of February 4. It is really true that a seven-mile cross-country run is enforced upon all in this division, from generals to privates? … A colonel or a general ought not to exhaust himself in trying to compete with young boys running across country seven miles at a time. The duty of officers is no doubt to keep themselves fit, but still more to think for their men, and to take decisions affecting their safety or comfort. Who is the general of this division, and does he run the seven miles himself? If so, he may be more useful for football than war. Could Napoleon have run seven miles across country at Austerlitz? Perhaps it was the other fellow he made run. In my experience, based on many years’ observation, officers with high athletic qualifications are not usually successful in the higher ranks.

It would seem that Churchill’s maxim also applies to governors.

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More Economic Misery

The economic news today, in which we learned that the second-quarter growth figure was reduced down to 1.6 percent, is extremely discouraging. This rate is well below what is needed even to sustain the current unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. On top of that, as a friend of mine reminds me, the current deficit, which the CBO estimates will be more than $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is already seen as “unsustainable” by even the Obama administration, will get worse rather than better. Anemic economic growth translates into lower revenues and higher deficits.

Among the array of political problems facing Democrats is that since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the economy grew 5.0 percent, we are rapidly decelerating. In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew at 3.7 percent, and last quarter, it grew at 1.6 percent. Next quarter is likely to be about as dismal, meaning unemployment will rise.

What this all means is that the public is far more inclined to hold Obama responsible for the state of the economy, especially because the administration lauded the “economic recovery” at the end of last year. If it took credit for things at the end of last year, it’s doubly difficult to blame things on Bush this year.

A double-dip recession, then, is about the worst thing that could happen to Democrats.

Compounding their problem was the announcement that this was going to be the “Recovery Summer.” It has, in fact, turned out to be a summer characterized by more economic misery. This mistake was comparable to the White House predicting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent and Vice President Biden assuring us that we’d see 500,000 new jobs a month this summer. All of these qualify as unforced errors, and the White House is paying dearly for them.

The economic news today, in which we learned that the second-quarter growth figure was reduced down to 1.6 percent, is extremely discouraging. This rate is well below what is needed even to sustain the current unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. On top of that, as a friend of mine reminds me, the current deficit, which the CBO estimates will be more than $1.3 trillion in 2010 and is already seen as “unsustainable” by even the Obama administration, will get worse rather than better. Anemic economic growth translates into lower revenues and higher deficits.

Among the array of political problems facing Democrats is that since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the economy grew 5.0 percent, we are rapidly decelerating. In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew at 3.7 percent, and last quarter, it grew at 1.6 percent. Next quarter is likely to be about as dismal, meaning unemployment will rise.

What this all means is that the public is far more inclined to hold Obama responsible for the state of the economy, especially because the administration lauded the “economic recovery” at the end of last year. If it took credit for things at the end of last year, it’s doubly difficult to blame things on Bush this year.

A double-dip recession, then, is about the worst thing that could happen to Democrats.

Compounding their problem was the announcement that this was going to be the “Recovery Summer.” It has, in fact, turned out to be a summer characterized by more economic misery. This mistake was comparable to the White House predicting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent and Vice President Biden assuring us that we’d see 500,000 new jobs a month this summer. All of these qualify as unforced errors, and the White House is paying dearly for them.

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Our Clueless White House

From ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week,” a White House official told ABC News, acknowledging the need for the president to talk about the issue on the minds of Americans in the midst of a schedule packed with events focused on other priorities. “We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

A sick economy is now combined with a clueless White House. This must be terrifically reassuring to panic-stricken Democrats.

From ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week,” a White House official told ABC News, acknowledging the need for the president to talk about the issue on the minds of Americans in the midst of a schedule packed with events focused on other priorities. “We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

A sick economy is now combined with a clueless White House. This must be terrifically reassuring to panic-stricken Democrats.

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What’s Wrong with Obama’s Muslim Outreach

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

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Peace Through Self-Defenestration

In a New York Times op-ed entitled “For Once, Hope in the Middle East,” Martin Indyk argues that while “the commentariat is already dismissing [Obama’s] chances of reaching a peace agreement,” the “negotiating environment is better suited to peacemaking today than it has been at any point in the last decade.” Take security for example – no problem:

Security arrangements were all but settled in 2000 at Camp David before the talks collapsed. The increased threat of rocket attacks since then, among other developments, require the two sides to agree on stricter border controls and a robust third-party force in the Jordan Valley. But one year is ample time to resolve this.

The “increased threat of rocket attacks… among other developments” is Indyk’s diplomatic way of describing the two rocket wars waged on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza after it withdrew every soldier and settler from those areas. The all-but-settled arrangements in 2000 would not have worked, as Indyk implicitly acknowledges with his admission that arrangements would have to be “stricter” today.

But the key word in Indyk’s sunny description is his proposal for a “robust” third-party force. The word “robust” is a familiar term in Middle East diplomacy. It is the adjective commonly used to give meaning to an otherwise unimpressive noun. One might be skeptical of a third-party force, but a robust third-party force – that would be effective virtually by definition.

The most recent experience with a “robust” third-party force, however, might give one pause. In July 2006, 10 days into the Second Lebanon War, Condoleezza Rice told reporters she wanted a “robust” international military force to replace Hezbollah’s forces because a “cease-fire would be a false promise if it just returns us to the status quo.” On Aug. 11, 2006, as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on Resolution 1701, she told Wolf Blitzer the force would have an “absolutely robust mandate.” In an Aug. 16 interview with Susan Page, who congratulated her on passage of the UN resolution, Rice noted the force’s “quite robust mandate, which is a really very robust mandate.”

We now know that the “robust” force turned into 15,000 de facto human shields for Hezbollah, which today has at least twice the number of rockets trained on Israel as before the insertion of the “robust” force.

Indyk ends his piece by quoting Shimon Peres that “history is like a horse that gallops past your window and the true test of statesmanship is to jump from that window onto the horse.” Indyk suggests it is time for Abbas and Netanyahu to take that “politically perilous leap.” Trying to leap out your window onto a galloping horse seems an apt metaphor for Indyk’s solution of a “robust” third-party force — particularly if you remember the last time Israel was persuaded to jump out the window.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled “For Once, Hope in the Middle East,” Martin Indyk argues that while “the commentariat is already dismissing [Obama’s] chances of reaching a peace agreement,” the “negotiating environment is better suited to peacemaking today than it has been at any point in the last decade.” Take security for example – no problem:

Security arrangements were all but settled in 2000 at Camp David before the talks collapsed. The increased threat of rocket attacks since then, among other developments, require the two sides to agree on stricter border controls and a robust third-party force in the Jordan Valley. But one year is ample time to resolve this.

The “increased threat of rocket attacks… among other developments” is Indyk’s diplomatic way of describing the two rocket wars waged on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza after it withdrew every soldier and settler from those areas. The all-but-settled arrangements in 2000 would not have worked, as Indyk implicitly acknowledges with his admission that arrangements would have to be “stricter” today.

But the key word in Indyk’s sunny description is his proposal for a “robust” third-party force. The word “robust” is a familiar term in Middle East diplomacy. It is the adjective commonly used to give meaning to an otherwise unimpressive noun. One might be skeptical of a third-party force, but a robust third-party force – that would be effective virtually by definition.

The most recent experience with a “robust” third-party force, however, might give one pause. In July 2006, 10 days into the Second Lebanon War, Condoleezza Rice told reporters she wanted a “robust” international military force to replace Hezbollah’s forces because a “cease-fire would be a false promise if it just returns us to the status quo.” On Aug. 11, 2006, as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on Resolution 1701, she told Wolf Blitzer the force would have an “absolutely robust mandate.” In an Aug. 16 interview with Susan Page, who congratulated her on passage of the UN resolution, Rice noted the force’s “quite robust mandate, which is a really very robust mandate.”

We now know that the “robust” force turned into 15,000 de facto human shields for Hezbollah, which today has at least twice the number of rockets trained on Israel as before the insertion of the “robust” force.

Indyk ends his piece by quoting Shimon Peres that “history is like a horse that gallops past your window and the true test of statesmanship is to jump from that window onto the horse.” Indyk suggests it is time for Abbas and Netanyahu to take that “politically perilous leap.” Trying to leap out your window onto a galloping horse seems an apt metaphor for Indyk’s solution of a “robust” third-party force — particularly if you remember the last time Israel was persuaded to jump out the window.

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