Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 22, 2010

Where Is the International Community When You Need It?

When we had last left the story of the ongoing tragedy in Western Sahara, the chief of police of the Polisario Front (the “liberation group” that has blocked a plan for autonomy put forth by Morocco and continues to warehouse Sahrawis in dismal conditions) had denounced his own rebel movement and championed the Moroccan autonomy plan, despite fears he would be arrested. He fled to Mauritania and was planning on rejoining his family in the Tindouf camps and continuing his advocacy. But the Polisario Front would have none of it:

Polisario top security official Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud was arrested on Tuesday evening by the militia of the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front upon his arrival in the border post leading to the Tindouf camps, coming from the Mauritanian territory, international media reported.

Polisario militiamen, who were on board of two vehicles, arrested Ould Sidi Mouloud, in the region of Mhiriz, before taking him to unknown destination, according to Al Arabiya sources.

So much for freedom of travel. So much for freedom of speech. Earlier in the day, Sidi Mouloud, we are told, “urged the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to support him to preserve his right of free speech and his physical integrity.” Not quickly enough, it turns out.

And where is the “international community”? Humanitarian groups have called on the UN to take action. For example:

The Leadership Council for Human Rights this morning called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek the release of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, the 42 year old police inspector of the Polisario.

Sidi Mouloud was arrested yesterday by Algerian and Polisario authorities after speaking out in favor of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.

“Not only is Sidi Mouloud’s arrest illegal — all he did was speak his mind; I don’t remember freedom of speech having been removed from the list of fundamental rights — it raises concerns for his overall safety,” stated Kathryn Cameron Porter, Founder and President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights. “The last senior figure to come out in support of the Autonomy Plan, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, had a sudden and unexpected heart attack immediately after his announcement.”

We should not get our hopes up that the UN will spring him. But this does raise once again a fundamental question. Morocco has presented an autonomy plan to the UN, which the Obama administration supports, but the UN has done nothing while Algeria and its pets in the Polisario Front maintain their grip on the throats of the Sahrawis and commit violations of human rights. Why doesn’t the UN agree to the plan and then use its persuasive powers (we keep hearing they have some) to implement it? Oh, is the UN Human Rights Council too busy bashing Israel?

The Obami have great faith in the efficacy of multi-lateral institutions. Perhaps it’s time to put that faith to the test and challenge the UN to end the suffering and the abuse of fundamental rights in Western Sahara.

When we had last left the story of the ongoing tragedy in Western Sahara, the chief of police of the Polisario Front (the “liberation group” that has blocked a plan for autonomy put forth by Morocco and continues to warehouse Sahrawis in dismal conditions) had denounced his own rebel movement and championed the Moroccan autonomy plan, despite fears he would be arrested. He fled to Mauritania and was planning on rejoining his family in the Tindouf camps and continuing his advocacy. But the Polisario Front would have none of it:

Polisario top security official Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud was arrested on Tuesday evening by the militia of the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front upon his arrival in the border post leading to the Tindouf camps, coming from the Mauritanian territory, international media reported.

Polisario militiamen, who were on board of two vehicles, arrested Ould Sidi Mouloud, in the region of Mhiriz, before taking him to unknown destination, according to Al Arabiya sources.

So much for freedom of travel. So much for freedom of speech. Earlier in the day, Sidi Mouloud, we are told, “urged the United Nations and all international human rights organizations to support him to preserve his right of free speech and his physical integrity.” Not quickly enough, it turns out.

And where is the “international community”? Humanitarian groups have called on the UN to take action. For example:

The Leadership Council for Human Rights this morning called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek the release of Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, the 42 year old police inspector of the Polisario.

Sidi Mouloud was arrested yesterday by Algerian and Polisario authorities after speaking out in favor of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.

“Not only is Sidi Mouloud’s arrest illegal — all he did was speak his mind; I don’t remember freedom of speech having been removed from the list of fundamental rights — it raises concerns for his overall safety,” stated Kathryn Cameron Porter, Founder and President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights. “The last senior figure to come out in support of the Autonomy Plan, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, had a sudden and unexpected heart attack immediately after his announcement.”

We should not get our hopes up that the UN will spring him. But this does raise once again a fundamental question. Morocco has presented an autonomy plan to the UN, which the Obama administration supports, but the UN has done nothing while Algeria and its pets in the Polisario Front maintain their grip on the throats of the Sahrawis and commit violations of human rights. Why doesn’t the UN agree to the plan and then use its persuasive powers (we keep hearing they have some) to implement it? Oh, is the UN Human Rights Council too busy bashing Israel?

The Obami have great faith in the efficacy of multi-lateral institutions. Perhaps it’s time to put that faith to the test and challenge the UN to end the suffering and the abuse of fundamental rights in Western Sahara.

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No Thanks, Mr. President

Prince William County is a suburb of Washington D.C. It may not be the largest or wealthiest county in Northern Virginia, but it deserves some attention for this one:

Prince William County officials are balking at accepting $17 million in federal school funds, claiming that an Obama administration initiative to save teaching jobs encourages irresponsible spending.

The $10 billion federal program, designed to fund about 160,000 education jobs, has met with obstacles in several places across the country since it was enacted last month. Many state and local officials have found it difficult to add teaching positions in time for the current school year because the money has just started to flow.

Officials in some states are accepting millions of dollars in federal money while lowering their own contributions to education. Others are using the money for personnel costs, such as pension benefits, that do not add jobs.

Well, bravo! City officials are blunt. The chairman of the board of supervisors is quoted: “The president’s program is a sham. … If the [school] district plans to use one-time funds to create ongoing expenses, we’re going to reject the funds.” The only question is: why aren’t more local officials as responsible as those in Prince William County?

Prince William County is a suburb of Washington D.C. It may not be the largest or wealthiest county in Northern Virginia, but it deserves some attention for this one:

Prince William County officials are balking at accepting $17 million in federal school funds, claiming that an Obama administration initiative to save teaching jobs encourages irresponsible spending.

The $10 billion federal program, designed to fund about 160,000 education jobs, has met with obstacles in several places across the country since it was enacted last month. Many state and local officials have found it difficult to add teaching positions in time for the current school year because the money has just started to flow.

Officials in some states are accepting millions of dollars in federal money while lowering their own contributions to education. Others are using the money for personnel costs, such as pension benefits, that do not add jobs.

Well, bravo! City officials are blunt. The chairman of the board of supervisors is quoted: “The president’s program is a sham. … If the [school] district plans to use one-time funds to create ongoing expenses, we’re going to reject the funds.” The only question is: why aren’t more local officials as responsible as those in Prince William County?

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Obama’s One-Man Wrecking Crew

If possible, Obama has done still more harm to the Democrats who are on the ballot this year. Liz Cheney of Keep America Safe was fast on the draw, calling for Obama to explain what he meant about 9/11:

Americans expect our President to do everything possible to defend the nation from attack. We expect him to use every tool at his disposal to find, defeat, capture and kill terrorists. We expect him to deter attacks by making clear to our adversaries that an attack on the United States will carry devastating consequences. Instead, President Obama is reported to have said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack.” This comment suggests an alarming fatalism on the part of President Obama and his administration. Once again the President seems either unwilling or unable to do what it takes to keep this nation safe. The President owes the American people an explanation.

Soon other Republicans will be denouncing the comment and challenging their opponents to do the same. It seems as though there is no end to the damage Obama can wreak on his party.

Moreover, the comments come in the context of the rest of the eye-popping disclosures in the book, suggesting, at best, an indifferent commander in chief. The slow-motion reaction to the Christmas Day bomber and the fetish for criminalizing the war on terror now seem to have stemmed from a rather lackadaisical stance toward another attack. If it’s coming anyway, why ruin a Hawaii vacation, no? This hardly helps Obama’s standing, either at home or internationally.

And finally, this revelation may potentially reignite the Ground Zero mosque controversy. If 9/11 is simply the first of many anticipated attacks to be “absorbed,” that location and the event itself fade into insignificance. For Obama, maybe the most searing experience in the last generation is just one of any number of spots where Americans can and will die.

All in all, it is yet another revealing moment, in which conservatives whisper to each other in horror, “I never expected him to be THIS bad,” Democrats shudder, and independents confess they were snowed by a candidate who appeared sober and serious at the time.

If possible, Obama has done still more harm to the Democrats who are on the ballot this year. Liz Cheney of Keep America Safe was fast on the draw, calling for Obama to explain what he meant about 9/11:

Americans expect our President to do everything possible to defend the nation from attack. We expect him to use every tool at his disposal to find, defeat, capture and kill terrorists. We expect him to deter attacks by making clear to our adversaries that an attack on the United States will carry devastating consequences. Instead, President Obama is reported to have said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack.” This comment suggests an alarming fatalism on the part of President Obama and his administration. Once again the President seems either unwilling or unable to do what it takes to keep this nation safe. The President owes the American people an explanation.

Soon other Republicans will be denouncing the comment and challenging their opponents to do the same. It seems as though there is no end to the damage Obama can wreak on his party.

Moreover, the comments come in the context of the rest of the eye-popping disclosures in the book, suggesting, at best, an indifferent commander in chief. The slow-motion reaction to the Christmas Day bomber and the fetish for criminalizing the war on terror now seem to have stemmed from a rather lackadaisical stance toward another attack. If it’s coming anyway, why ruin a Hawaii vacation, no? This hardly helps Obama’s standing, either at home or internationally.

And finally, this revelation may potentially reignite the Ground Zero mosque controversy. If 9/11 is simply the first of many anticipated attacks to be “absorbed,” that location and the event itself fade into insignificance. For Obama, maybe the most searing experience in the last generation is just one of any number of spots where Americans can and will die.

All in all, it is yet another revealing moment, in which conservatives whisper to each other in horror, “I never expected him to be THIS bad,” Democrats shudder, and independents confess they were snowed by a candidate who appeared sober and serious at the time.

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Surge for New York GOP Portends National Disaster for Dems

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

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Scenes from a Political Meltdown

Astounding news, courtesy of the Daily Caller:

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is slated to testify at a congressional hearing Friday on immigration titled “Protecting America’s Harvest,” two sources have told The Daily Caller. One Republican source said Colbert will be testifying “in character,” the Bill O’Reilly-like muse Colbert uses for his show A Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, confirming Colbert would testify, said the hearing matter was a “serious issue . . . this is not a TV stunt.”

I kind of doubt this will actually end up happening, because this is, to put it mildly, not the best moment for the party in power to include a piece of self-consciously ludicrous performance art in the political process they are in charge of and garnering huge media attention for doing so. But it does make one wonder: Are Democrats on Capitol Hill having a collective nervous breakdown?

Astounding news, courtesy of the Daily Caller:

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is slated to testify at a congressional hearing Friday on immigration titled “Protecting America’s Harvest,” two sources have told The Daily Caller. One Republican source said Colbert will be testifying “in character,” the Bill O’Reilly-like muse Colbert uses for his show A Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, confirming Colbert would testify, said the hearing matter was a “serious issue . . . this is not a TV stunt.”

I kind of doubt this will actually end up happening, because this is, to put it mildly, not the best moment for the party in power to include a piece of self-consciously ludicrous performance art in the political process they are in charge of and garnering huge media attention for doing so. But it does make one wonder: Are Democrats on Capitol Hill having a collective nervous breakdown?

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Not Doing His Party Any Favors

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

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Obama’s Grave 9/11 Offense

If Barack Obama were running in the November election, the sentence revealed today from the president’s interview with Woodward — “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger” — would guarantee his defeat and his removal from Washington in a condition of ignominy. It would go down in the annals of history as the most damaging election-eve gaffe of all time. It won’t be that, because it’s 2010, not 2012. But what does it say about the president who said it?

On the one hand, Obama is right in the narrowest sense. We will not collapse into a heap. But is it conceivable he has forgotten that Flight 93 was clearly aiming for Washington, target unknowable but conceivably intended for the Capitol or the White House? The decapitation or partial decapitation of our government we could “absorb,” if by absorb you mean suffer a national catastrophe the recovery from which would have taken decades. That actually nearly happened. Another plane hit the Pentagon, don’t forget, and had it landed 75 feet further west and smashed directly into the building’s core, it’s likely another few thousand Americans would have perished, including military personnel critical to whatever effort would have had to be made to answer the attack.

And this is to say nothing of the cavalier claim that we came out of 9/11 “stronger.” Why? Because we all sang and held hands and cried together? That was nice, and moving, and powerful. Stronger, though, it did not make us. It made us aware of our commonality as Americans, which is a good thing, but good things aren’t necessarily strengthening things, and that unity was astonishingly short-lived.

No, ask the families of the 3,000 who perished whether they are stronger, whether their “absorption” of our national wound is something they have recovered from, or will ever recover from. No nation that has suffered terrorism’s assaults is the stronger for having done so. That is why terrorism is such a nefarious weapon — because it is designed to create wounds that can never heal in the body politic in the form of a sense of defenselessness, or insecurity, or loss, or impotent rage. Israel is not stronger for the second intifada; it is stronger, perhaps, because it defeated the second intifada, but the cost of even having to fight it was nightmarishly high.

The words Obama speaks are profoundly worrying because the issue after 9/11 is not that there might be a terrorist attack like 9/11, but whether it might be followed by something much, much worse — the proverbial “nuke in a suitcase” scenario. It is to prevent such an occurrence that we have spent untold billions in public and private dollars to secure the homeland, that we strip ourselves of shoes and belt and jacket and stand in hour-long lines at airports for the privilege of boarding a plane, that we can no longer comfortably go in and out of public buildings, public facilities, ballparks, you name it. None of this makes us stronger. It makes us less free. That loss of freedom is necessary, but it is a tragedy and a crime.

One doesn’t know the specific context in which the president spoke, so it would hard to analogize his words to statements of urgency he has made about other matters he seems certain we cannot absorb — like, say, a continuation of the current health-care system, or a failure to extend unemployment benefits, or the dire necessity for his stimulus package. Once again, we are left with the impression of a leader who finds national security something from which he can stand apart and think as an analyst rather than as the man on the watch, the man whose chief job it is to ensure not that we absorb an attack but that an attack never occur while he stands guard.

If Barack Obama were running in the November election, the sentence revealed today from the president’s interview with Woodward — “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger” — would guarantee his defeat and his removal from Washington in a condition of ignominy. It would go down in the annals of history as the most damaging election-eve gaffe of all time. It won’t be that, because it’s 2010, not 2012. But what does it say about the president who said it?

On the one hand, Obama is right in the narrowest sense. We will not collapse into a heap. But is it conceivable he has forgotten that Flight 93 was clearly aiming for Washington, target unknowable but conceivably intended for the Capitol or the White House? The decapitation or partial decapitation of our government we could “absorb,” if by absorb you mean suffer a national catastrophe the recovery from which would have taken decades. That actually nearly happened. Another plane hit the Pentagon, don’t forget, and had it landed 75 feet further west and smashed directly into the building’s core, it’s likely another few thousand Americans would have perished, including military personnel critical to whatever effort would have had to be made to answer the attack.

And this is to say nothing of the cavalier claim that we came out of 9/11 “stronger.” Why? Because we all sang and held hands and cried together? That was nice, and moving, and powerful. Stronger, though, it did not make us. It made us aware of our commonality as Americans, which is a good thing, but good things aren’t necessarily strengthening things, and that unity was astonishingly short-lived.

No, ask the families of the 3,000 who perished whether they are stronger, whether their “absorption” of our national wound is something they have recovered from, or will ever recover from. No nation that has suffered terrorism’s assaults is the stronger for having done so. That is why terrorism is such a nefarious weapon — because it is designed to create wounds that can never heal in the body politic in the form of a sense of defenselessness, or insecurity, or loss, or impotent rage. Israel is not stronger for the second intifada; it is stronger, perhaps, because it defeated the second intifada, but the cost of even having to fight it was nightmarishly high.

The words Obama speaks are profoundly worrying because the issue after 9/11 is not that there might be a terrorist attack like 9/11, but whether it might be followed by something much, much worse — the proverbial “nuke in a suitcase” scenario. It is to prevent such an occurrence that we have spent untold billions in public and private dollars to secure the homeland, that we strip ourselves of shoes and belt and jacket and stand in hour-long lines at airports for the privilege of boarding a plane, that we can no longer comfortably go in and out of public buildings, public facilities, ballparks, you name it. None of this makes us stronger. It makes us less free. That loss of freedom is necessary, but it is a tragedy and a crime.

One doesn’t know the specific context in which the president spoke, so it would hard to analogize his words to statements of urgency he has made about other matters he seems certain we cannot absorb — like, say, a continuation of the current health-care system, or a failure to extend unemployment benefits, or the dire necessity for his stimulus package. Once again, we are left with the impression of a leader who finds national security something from which he can stand apart and think as an analyst rather than as the man on the watch, the man whose chief job it is to ensure not that we absorb an attack but that an attack never occur while he stands guard.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Christine O’Donnell, Made and Broken by TV

The Fox News poll in Delaware has parlous news for Republican senatorial nominee Christine O’Donnell — she’s 14 points behind, her opponent is well over 50 percent, and 60 percent of those polled say she is not fit to be a senator. Ninety-one percent of Delaware’s voters say their minds are made up. If this number is anywhere near right, O’Donnell needs a startling turnaround in her fortunes to win the race. Much of this, one presumes, is the fallout not only from the revelations of various irregularities in the week before the primary but also the media revelations since — her “witchcraft” comment, her remarks on masturbation, and so on.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The Fox News poll in Delaware has parlous news for Republican senatorial nominee Christine O’Donnell — she’s 14 points behind, her opponent is well over 50 percent, and 60 percent of those polled say she is not fit to be a senator. Ninety-one percent of Delaware’s voters say their minds are made up. If this number is anywhere near right, O’Donnell needs a startling turnaround in her fortunes to win the race. Much of this, one presumes, is the fallout not only from the revelations of various irregularities in the week before the primary but also the media revelations since — her “witchcraft” comment, her remarks on masturbation, and so on.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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The Irresponsible Commander in Chief

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

The Washington Post is teasing the release of Bob Woodward’s newest book, Obama’s Wars, which focuses on the war in Afghanistan. Usually in Woodward’s offerings, those who cooperate with the author come off the best, and those who don’t — well, don’t. But in this case, Obama did agree to be interviewed, and it is therefore surprising, at least from the Post‘s telling, how poorly Obama comes across. And frankly, those who are forever  searching for some sign of maturity in the commander in chief and pronouncing that he really “gets it” look rather silly themselves.

First off, Obama was obsessed with an Afghanistan exit strategy, determined to get out no matter what the advice of his military advisers:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives.

“This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling White House aides as he laid out his reasons for adding 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.” … Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

The disregard for his responsibilities — the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and humming — is stunning. It also stands in sharp contrast with his predecessor, who insisted on a review of flawed policy and ultimately the implementation of a winning one:

The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus and Gates: “In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, ‘We’re doing fine, Mr. President, but we’d be better if we just do more.’ We’re not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] … unless we’re talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011.”

Imagine FDR telling General Eisenhower, “I don’t want to hear things aren’t going well in Italy.” It’s inconceivable that Obama’s supposed role model, Abraham Lincoln, would have said, “No more news about McClellan’s shortcomings.” But then Obama’s not much for “victory”:

Obama told Woodward in the July interview that he didn’t think about the Afghan war in the “classic” terms of the United States winning or losing. “I think about it more in terms of: Do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end?” he said.

After Obama, it is his political advisers who come off worst:

National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

But then it is the president who put political hacks in the thick of war-planning.

Obama’s peevishness and determination to avoid facts that conflict with his ideological disposition are chilling. His apparent disinclination to pursue victory should frighten both allies and foes. Has he matured since the events detailed in the book? We have no evidence of that. I think it’s time to stop pretending that Obama is “growing” in the job and that he understands the responsibilities of a wartime president.

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Delay Would Make Israeli-Palestinian Deal More Likely, Not Less

On Monday, I argued that Washington’s push for final-status talks now, when neither Israelis nor Palestinians actually think a deal is possible, could substantially worsen a situation that’s currently tolerable for both sides — a concern that Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces, reiterated yesterday. But there’s another reason why talks now are a bad idea: Contrary to the accepted wisdom, the conflict is likely to be more resolvable in another few decades, not less.

First, after 16 years of existence, the Palestinian Authority has only now, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, finally started building institutions of statehood. Time would enable these institutions to grow and develop, increasing the chances that whatever Palestinian state a deal established would be viable rather than collapse into chaos.

Second, after years of alternately attacking Israel itself and tacitly abetting Hamas’s attacks, the PA has only now started seriously fighting terror — albeit mainly because Hamas threatens its own survival. This long track record of complicity in terror has been a major obstacle to an agreement, because it convinced Israelis that further territorial withdrawals would undermine their own security unless accompanied by stringent security provisions, including the continued IDF presence in parts of the West Bank, which Palestinians reject.

But if the PA now demonstrates a serious, long-term commitment to counterterrorism — and two years isn’t even close to constituting “long-term” — less stringent security provisions would be possible. The paradigm is Israel’s 1994 treaty with Jordan: The 27 years of de facto peace that preceded the agreement created a level of trust that enabled far less complex security arrangements than peace with Egypt did.

Most importantly, however, time is needed to enable the emergence of a new generation of leaders who are actually prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state — something both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have repeatedly refused to do.

Indeed, just yesterday, Fayyad stormed out of a meeting of the UN Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates financial aid to the PA, rather than sign a summary statement referencing “two states for two peoples,” Jewish and Palestinian, rather than merely “two states.” Nor was this accidental: PA leaders are fine with two states, but only if both are Palestinian — with Israel’s conversion into a second Palestinian state being accomplished by flooding it with millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

This is due partly to the long shadow cast by Yasir Arafat, who dominated Palestinian politics for 50 years until his death in 2004. As Munib al-Masri — the West Bank’s wealthiest businessman, a close associate of Arafat’s, and a former supporter of Oslo who vehemently opposes the current talks — told Haaretz (Hebrew only) this month, neither Abbas “nor anyone else can concede more than Arafat did in negotiations with Israel. The Americans and Israelis don’t understand this.” And regarding the current generation, who grew up under Arafat’s thumb, he’s undoubtedly right.

But a new generation, growing up in a post-Arafat world, might be able to free itself of this shadow. And only once this happens will peace be possible.

On Monday, I argued that Washington’s push for final-status talks now, when neither Israelis nor Palestinians actually think a deal is possible, could substantially worsen a situation that’s currently tolerable for both sides — a concern that Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces, reiterated yesterday. But there’s another reason why talks now are a bad idea: Contrary to the accepted wisdom, the conflict is likely to be more resolvable in another few decades, not less.

First, after 16 years of existence, the Palestinian Authority has only now, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, finally started building institutions of statehood. Time would enable these institutions to grow and develop, increasing the chances that whatever Palestinian state a deal established would be viable rather than collapse into chaos.

Second, after years of alternately attacking Israel itself and tacitly abetting Hamas’s attacks, the PA has only now started seriously fighting terror — albeit mainly because Hamas threatens its own survival. This long track record of complicity in terror has been a major obstacle to an agreement, because it convinced Israelis that further territorial withdrawals would undermine their own security unless accompanied by stringent security provisions, including the continued IDF presence in parts of the West Bank, which Palestinians reject.

But if the PA now demonstrates a serious, long-term commitment to counterterrorism — and two years isn’t even close to constituting “long-term” — less stringent security provisions would be possible. The paradigm is Israel’s 1994 treaty with Jordan: The 27 years of de facto peace that preceded the agreement created a level of trust that enabled far less complex security arrangements than peace with Egypt did.

Most importantly, however, time is needed to enable the emergence of a new generation of leaders who are actually prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state — something both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have repeatedly refused to do.

Indeed, just yesterday, Fayyad stormed out of a meeting of the UN Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates financial aid to the PA, rather than sign a summary statement referencing “two states for two peoples,” Jewish and Palestinian, rather than merely “two states.” Nor was this accidental: PA leaders are fine with two states, but only if both are Palestinian — with Israel’s conversion into a second Palestinian state being accomplished by flooding it with millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

This is due partly to the long shadow cast by Yasir Arafat, who dominated Palestinian politics for 50 years until his death in 2004. As Munib al-Masri — the West Bank’s wealthiest businessman, a close associate of Arafat’s, and a former supporter of Oslo who vehemently opposes the current talks — told Haaretz (Hebrew only) this month, neither Abbas “nor anyone else can concede more than Arafat did in negotiations with Israel. The Americans and Israelis don’t understand this.” And regarding the current generation, who grew up under Arafat’s thumb, he’s undoubtedly right.

But a new generation, growing up in a post-Arafat world, might be able to free itself of this shadow. And only once this happens will peace be possible.

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A Preview of 2012?

It’s an ad ostensibly in support of the Tea Party. But it is certainly a preview of what one might see should Sarah Palin decide to make a run for the presidency in 2012:

What’s missing are the grating pose of victimhood and a sense of aggrievement toward the media that inform some of her rhetoric. What’s present is a merging of her own message (“commonsense conservatism”) with Tea Party populism. Would it work as a successful campaign theme? We may very well find out.

It’s an ad ostensibly in support of the Tea Party. But it is certainly a preview of what one might see should Sarah Palin decide to make a run for the presidency in 2012:

What’s missing are the grating pose of victimhood and a sense of aggrievement toward the media that inform some of her rhetoric. What’s present is a merging of her own message (“commonsense conservatism”) with Tea Party populism. Would it work as a successful campaign theme? We may very well find out.

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Feinstein: A Democratic Grown-Up

Sen. Diane Feinstein has certainly had her moments over the last year or so. She spoke out against the foolishness of a troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan. She chaired a committee that came up with a 14-count indictment of the Obami’s handling of terror attacks. And now she’s giving her candid assessment of the White House class-warfare stunt — a pre-election tax vote:

On Tuesday, Democrats appeared to be making only slow progress in their efforts to resolve a range of lingering internal differences over the tax-cut extensions, and the possibility that Congress won’t vote on a plan before the November elections is rising.

“In my opinion, I don’t know who takes a tax vote, in their right mind, just before an election,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) complained. “But that’s just me.” Ms. Feinstein’s California colleague, Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, is in a difficult re-election fight where taxes are a hot topic; voting on a middle-class extension that allows rates to rise for higher earners could worsen her problems.

Priceless. Maybe if the president listened more closely to her and less to David Axelrod, the White House wouldn’t be in such a fix. But that’s just me.

Sen. Diane Feinstein has certainly had her moments over the last year or so. She spoke out against the foolishness of a troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan. She chaired a committee that came up with a 14-count indictment of the Obami’s handling of terror attacks. And now she’s giving her candid assessment of the White House class-warfare stunt — a pre-election tax vote:

On Tuesday, Democrats appeared to be making only slow progress in their efforts to resolve a range of lingering internal differences over the tax-cut extensions, and the possibility that Congress won’t vote on a plan before the November elections is rising.

“In my opinion, I don’t know who takes a tax vote, in their right mind, just before an election,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) complained. “But that’s just me.” Ms. Feinstein’s California colleague, Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, is in a difficult re-election fight where taxes are a hot topic; voting on a middle-class extension that allows rates to rise for higher earners could worsen her problems.

Priceless. Maybe if the president listened more closely to her and less to David Axelrod, the White House wouldn’t be in such a fix. But that’s just me.

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A Two-State Solution but Not Two Peoples?

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

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Obama Boxed In

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems. Read More

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems.

Deputy Prime Minister Danny Ayalon got into the act, too:

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angrily left a UN Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee  meeting and canceled a scheduled subsequent press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in New York on Tuesday, after Ayalon refused to approve a summary of the meeting which said “two states” but did not include the words “two states for two peoples.”

“What I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about,” Ayalon told the Post in a telephone interview. “And also, I said if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

But that wasn’t all. As this report makes clear, Israel’s American supporters have been busy — and clever:

A bipartisan group of senators are circulating a new letter urging President Obama to speak out publicly to pressure the Palestinian leadership not to abandon the Middle East peace talks.

The new initiative comes ahead of the Sept. 26 deadline expiration of Israel’s 10-month settlement construction moratorium, which presents the first obstacle to the direct peace talks being spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that he will withdraw from the negotiations if settlement construction resumes, but Israeli leaders have been equally adamant that they will not extend the moratorium.

President Obama has told Jewish leaders to ignore negative public statements by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, calling it all part of the diplomatic game. But the administration has publicly called on Israel to extend the freeze, at least in part.

Lawmakers, who have also bristled at the administration’s public pressure on Netanyahu, are now calling on Obama to make it clear to Abbas that even if the freeze isn’t extended, he should stay at the table.

It is a not-so-subtle message from lawmakers (Barbara Boxer, Robert Casey, Johnny Isakson, and Richard Burr are the initial sponsors, more signatories are expected) that there will be little patience with finger-pointing at Bibi should/when the talks collapse:

“Obviously this is a direct message to President Abbas, and President Obama, that many in Congress … want the Palestinian leadership to stop making what they see as threats and to put public pressure on the Palestinian Authority to move their position,” said one Capitol Hill insider who had seen the letter.

“Many Capitol Hill office see Abbas quitting the talks over the settlements as him using the same issue he was clinging to when trying to set preconditions for the talks in the first place.”

No, these letters don’t just appear on their own, so credit goes not only to the clear-minded senators but also to pro-Israel advocates who decided it would be much more productive to box in Obama than to gloss over his anti-Israel moves (e.g., opening the door to a UN investigation of the flotilla incident). This is, I would suggest, one more sign that Obama’s prestige and authority are slipping fast. Lawmakers and Jewish groups aren’t about to put up with Obama’s Israel-bashing any longer and have decided that they’ve carried enough water for him when it comes to the Middle East.

For more than 18 months, Obama and his hapless envoy, George Mitchell, have made zero progress in promoting peace in the Middle East. Rather, they have strained relations with Israel, raised and then dashed the Palestinians’ hopes, annoyed American Jews, and emphasized the growing alienation of Obama from his own party. If friends of Israel thought it would help, they might suggest that Mitchell join Larry Summers in the “retired in failure” club. But so long as Obama is in the Oval office, there is little possibility that our Middle East diplomacy will get any smarter. Let’s pray it doesn’t get worse.

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Dems Flee the Scene

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that, contrary to press reports, the House isn’t bugging out this week. Now, however, the Senate Democrats are, in fact, talking about fleeing the Capitol early:

Senate Democrats are seriously weighing whether to leave town at the end of next week, instead of staying in session until Oct. 7 or Oct. 8, as had been anticipated.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democrats might pass a stop-gap spending measure to keep government funded beyond Sept. 30 and then go back to their home states to campaign.

Democrats in Congress are getting restless to hit the campaign trail and brace for what some experts predict will be a Republican wave in the midterm election.

It’s not just that Democrats are anxious to get back to the campaign trail; they can’t wait to get out of D.C. As long as they stay, the headlines and talk show buzz about failed maneuvers (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and DREAM Act amendments, the class warfare vote on Obama’s stimulus plan) will continue to plague them. Even Dana Milbank is grouchy that the Democrats never managed to get much done:

They still have their largest majority in decades, but the Democrats have succumbed to paralysis in the closing days of the legislative session. Congress has yet to pass a budget or a single one of the annual spending bills. Plans to spur the economy with tax cuts await action. Senate Democrats, faced with a GOP filibuster, have now punted on immigration reform and repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Meanwhile, House Democrats have so little on their schedule that their first vote of the week is coming at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, when Americans are most of the way through their workweeks.

Well, they did a lot already, but none of it is all that popular. “[T]hey don’t want to talk about the achievements. The stimulus bill is unpopular; they’re not getting credit for health-care legislation, financial reforms and many other accomplishments; and the spent majority can’t limp out of town fast enough.” I guess they aren’t achievements if no one wants to talk about them.

So onto the trail they will go. If they can avoid those sticky situations when voters call them out, disassociate themselves from Obama, and convince voters that the recession is over, they’ll do just fine, right? Come to think of it, maybe it’s safer inside the Beltway.

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No Tears for Harry if He Loses

Harry Reid is in a fight for his political life against Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle (who’s mighty relieved that Christine O’Donnell is now the left’s poster girl for its scare campaign against the GOP). He’s majority leader but has told us he’s not responsible for the economic bad news. He just works there, apparently.

This week, he again proved that he’s of little use to the people of Nevada and the Democratic Senate caucus. Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped the defense policy bill would help make a final pre-election argument for Democrats while energizing the base on gay rights and immigration.

But what he got was a failed vote and a mix of frustration and disappointment from the people he was trying to help. The stalled defense authorization bill — one of the last major Senate votes before November’s elections — was emblematic of the Nevada senator’s struggles to cut deals with the GOP while still pleasing core Democratic constituencies.

He managed to upset gay groups, Hispanics, and “Democrats on both sides of the Capitol [who] are unhappy that a debate on gay rights and immigration distracted yet again from issue No. 1: jobs.” It’s never Reid’s fault, yet he doesn’t seem to get the job done. (“But while blaming Republicans for obstruction — a well-worn pattern for  Reid — the majority leader also seemed to alienate some of his moderates, who were not eager to jump into a debate about immigration and gays in the military at the end of the session and with the economy slumping.”)

Aside from the Republicans and many of his constituents, his fellow Democratic senators and Democratic interest groups, one suspects, won’t be sorry to see him go either:

Jarrod Chlapowski, field director for Servicemembers United, a group that backs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” called it a “cynical move” for Reid to push forward with the bill in such a manner, saying it was “pretty much a recipe for failure.”

“It will be part of our education plan that Democratic leaders are just as accountable as the Republicans that are obstructing this right now,” he said.

No, don’t expect Big Labor to really hold Democrats accountable. But neither do I see them going to the mat for Reid.

It’s no wonder Reid tried to make the race about Angle, going negative as soon as she got the GOP nomination. But as the focus returns to Reid, his leadership, his economic policies, and his penchant for gaffes, he may find himself out of a job (along with 14.4 percent of Nevadans) come November. In a year in which Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats anyway, his loss wouldn’t be the worst news for Democrats or for Democratic activists.

Harry Reid is in a fight for his political life against Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle (who’s mighty relieved that Christine O’Donnell is now the left’s poster girl for its scare campaign against the GOP). He’s majority leader but has told us he’s not responsible for the economic bad news. He just works there, apparently.

This week, he again proved that he’s of little use to the people of Nevada and the Democratic Senate caucus. Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped the defense policy bill would help make a final pre-election argument for Democrats while energizing the base on gay rights and immigration.

But what he got was a failed vote and a mix of frustration and disappointment from the people he was trying to help. The stalled defense authorization bill — one of the last major Senate votes before November’s elections — was emblematic of the Nevada senator’s struggles to cut deals with the GOP while still pleasing core Democratic constituencies.

He managed to upset gay groups, Hispanics, and “Democrats on both sides of the Capitol [who] are unhappy that a debate on gay rights and immigration distracted yet again from issue No. 1: jobs.” It’s never Reid’s fault, yet he doesn’t seem to get the job done. (“But while blaming Republicans for obstruction — a well-worn pattern for  Reid — the majority leader also seemed to alienate some of his moderates, who were not eager to jump into a debate about immigration and gays in the military at the end of the session and with the economy slumping.”)

Aside from the Republicans and many of his constituents, his fellow Democratic senators and Democratic interest groups, one suspects, won’t be sorry to see him go either:

Jarrod Chlapowski, field director for Servicemembers United, a group that backs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” called it a “cynical move” for Reid to push forward with the bill in such a manner, saying it was “pretty much a recipe for failure.”

“It will be part of our education plan that Democratic leaders are just as accountable as the Republicans that are obstructing this right now,” he said.

No, don’t expect Big Labor to really hold Democrats accountable. But neither do I see them going to the mat for Reid.

It’s no wonder Reid tried to make the race about Angle, going negative as soon as she got the GOP nomination. But as the focus returns to Reid, his leadership, his economic policies, and his penchant for gaffes, he may find himself out of a job (along with 14.4 percent of Nevadans) come November. In a year in which Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats anyway, his loss wouldn’t be the worst news for Democrats or for Democratic activists.

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How About a Competent Replacement for Summers?

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A “primer in rotten politics”: Assemblyman Vito Lopez is captured on videotape “threatening a group of old ladies during an effort to consolidate power as Kings County kingmaker.”

A chilling thought: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (who gets his Iraq info from Google) tells us that the Obami will make sure Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful before another fruitless round of engagement. “Just when will Iran have to demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program? After they build the bomb as a check on Israeli aggression, perhaps? And anyway, Ben Rhodes is not a national security adviser, or rather, would not be in any universe that made sense. He was Obama’s top foreign-policy speechwriter and was then made a Deputy National Security adviser … for Communications. I suppose it’s possible that he’s not only writing speeches but also dictating foreign policy, in which case it’s time I take my suicide pills.”

A dopey suggestion from Bill Clinton on the Ground Zero mosque: “Much or even most of the controversy … could have been avoided, and perhaps still can be, if the people who want to build the center were to simply say, ‘We are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11.’” Because Muslims should dedicate things only to Muslims, you see.

And a noxious analysis by the ex-president of the problem with Russian immigrants in Israel. Maybe he’s competing with Jimmy Carter for the ex-president limelight.

An exercise in self-delusion: Nate Silver says the generic polls don’t really mean that a debacle is ahead for the Democrats.

Another result of “reform” Obama-style: drug companies may hike prices to offset the ObamaCare drug discount. It was supposed to fill “the doughnut hole.” Instead, it may worsen the health-care inflation problem.

A 10-point plan for reducing unemployment: “If we truly want to create jobs, it is not enough to simply berate business to create them. We must address the dynamics that keep businesses from offering jobs and that keep people from accepting jobs. We can use policy to create jobs — we just have to care enough about the jobless to make creating jobs a political priority.”

A sign of a weak president and Senate minority leader: “In the face of a promised filibuster by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats could not convince a single GOP senator to cross over and provide the 60th vote needed to begin debate on a defense spending bill containing the repeal measure. The vote to open debate failed, 56-43, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) joining all Republicans in opposing taking up the bill.”

An undersecretary of something’s bailiwick? No, the sort of mini-issue Hillary lives for: “She told the Clinton Global Initiative forum that the public-private clean stoves plan, dubbed ‘Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,’ would seek to install the new, 25-dollar units by 2020.”

A “primer in rotten politics”: Assemblyman Vito Lopez is captured on videotape “threatening a group of old ladies during an effort to consolidate power as Kings County kingmaker.”

A chilling thought: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (who gets his Iraq info from Google) tells us that the Obami will make sure Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful before another fruitless round of engagement. “Just when will Iran have to demonstrate the peaceful intent of its nuclear program? After they build the bomb as a check on Israeli aggression, perhaps? And anyway, Ben Rhodes is not a national security adviser, or rather, would not be in any universe that made sense. He was Obama’s top foreign-policy speechwriter and was then made a Deputy National Security adviser … for Communications. I suppose it’s possible that he’s not only writing speeches but also dictating foreign policy, in which case it’s time I take my suicide pills.”

A dopey suggestion from Bill Clinton on the Ground Zero mosque: “Much or even most of the controversy … could have been avoided, and perhaps still can be, if the people who want to build the center were to simply say, ‘We are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11.’” Because Muslims should dedicate things only to Muslims, you see.

And a noxious analysis by the ex-president of the problem with Russian immigrants in Israel. Maybe he’s competing with Jimmy Carter for the ex-president limelight.

An exercise in self-delusion: Nate Silver says the generic polls don’t really mean that a debacle is ahead for the Democrats.

Another result of “reform” Obama-style: drug companies may hike prices to offset the ObamaCare drug discount. It was supposed to fill “the doughnut hole.” Instead, it may worsen the health-care inflation problem.

A 10-point plan for reducing unemployment: “If we truly want to create jobs, it is not enough to simply berate business to create them. We must address the dynamics that keep businesses from offering jobs and that keep people from accepting jobs. We can use policy to create jobs — we just have to care enough about the jobless to make creating jobs a political priority.”

A sign of a weak president and Senate minority leader: “In the face of a promised filibuster by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Democrats could not convince a single GOP senator to cross over and provide the 60th vote needed to begin debate on a defense spending bill containing the repeal measure. The vote to open debate failed, 56-43, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) joining all Republicans in opposing taking up the bill.”

An undersecretary of something’s bailiwick? No, the sort of mini-issue Hillary lives for: “She told the Clinton Global Initiative forum that the public-private clean stoves plan, dubbed ‘Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,’ would seek to install the new, 25-dollar units by 2020.”

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