Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 4, 2010

An Idea for Bibi: Never Mind

Jeffrey Goldberg has revised his position not only on Soros Street but also on settlements. On September 27, in “An Idea for Bibi,” he offered a “modest suggestion” for Benjamin Netanyahu:

Why not risk your governing coalition and impose a total freeze on settlement growth outside of the greater Jerusalem area? This way, you’ll show the world, and the Palestinians — who are governed, on the West Bank, at least, by a group of true moderates, who have done a great deal for your security over the past year — that you are serious about grappling with the challenges before you. …

It was not a very good suggestion: (1) Netanyahu’s center-right coalition is the only one with sufficient credibility to persuade a skeptical Israeli public to accept a peace agreement, assuming there is ever a peace agreement; (2) the prospects for such an agreement do not likely depend on Bibi showing he is “serious about grappling with the challenges” — not after he agreed to new negotiations without preconditions, publicly endorsed a two-state solution as demanded by Obama, implemented an unprecedented ten-month moratorium, and received nothing in return from Arab states or the PA; and (3) the “true moderates” have yet to make any concessions of their own, continually telling their public that they will make none about borders or the right of return.

Goldberg’s post resulted in dissent from Robert Satloff, who argued that while there might come a time for Bibi to break his coalition to approve a “real, lasting, and secure” peace agreement (whatever that means), it is “probably not wise to do it to satisfy a shortsighted fixation by the Obama administration to be the first in history to have made the pursuit of peace contingent on a settlement freeze”:

The Palestinians’ Woody Allen argument that they should be compensated just for showing up for negotiations that are designed, in the end, to provide them with major territorial concessions, the end of Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state is, on the face of it, more than a bit odd.

In a post this afternoon, Goldberg effectively withdrew his modest suggestion:

On certain days of the week, and in certain moods, I used to think that the U.S. could pressure Israel out of the settlements. … But it doesn’t work. Israel wants the settlements to be a subject of negotiation with the Palestinians, along with everything else — and not the subject of a preemptive concession — and it seems that it is during negotiations (as President Clinton showed during Camp David) that the U.S. could best make the case against settlements, just as it is during negotiations that the U.S. could move the Palestinians away from their position on the so-called right-of-return.

In other words, what Netanyahu has been arguing every day of the week, in every mood, for a year and a half — that all issues need to be negotiated without preconditions, and without demanding concessions from only one side, particularly prior to negotiations — has been right.

Jeffrey Goldberg has revised his position not only on Soros Street but also on settlements. On September 27, in “An Idea for Bibi,” he offered a “modest suggestion” for Benjamin Netanyahu:

Why not risk your governing coalition and impose a total freeze on settlement growth outside of the greater Jerusalem area? This way, you’ll show the world, and the Palestinians — who are governed, on the West Bank, at least, by a group of true moderates, who have done a great deal for your security over the past year — that you are serious about grappling with the challenges before you. …

It was not a very good suggestion: (1) Netanyahu’s center-right coalition is the only one with sufficient credibility to persuade a skeptical Israeli public to accept a peace agreement, assuming there is ever a peace agreement; (2) the prospects for such an agreement do not likely depend on Bibi showing he is “serious about grappling with the challenges” — not after he agreed to new negotiations without preconditions, publicly endorsed a two-state solution as demanded by Obama, implemented an unprecedented ten-month moratorium, and received nothing in return from Arab states or the PA; and (3) the “true moderates” have yet to make any concessions of their own, continually telling their public that they will make none about borders or the right of return.

Goldberg’s post resulted in dissent from Robert Satloff, who argued that while there might come a time for Bibi to break his coalition to approve a “real, lasting, and secure” peace agreement (whatever that means), it is “probably not wise to do it to satisfy a shortsighted fixation by the Obama administration to be the first in history to have made the pursuit of peace contingent on a settlement freeze”:

The Palestinians’ Woody Allen argument that they should be compensated just for showing up for negotiations that are designed, in the end, to provide them with major territorial concessions, the end of Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state is, on the face of it, more than a bit odd.

In a post this afternoon, Goldberg effectively withdrew his modest suggestion:

On certain days of the week, and in certain moods, I used to think that the U.S. could pressure Israel out of the settlements. … But it doesn’t work. Israel wants the settlements to be a subject of negotiation with the Palestinians, along with everything else — and not the subject of a preemptive concession — and it seems that it is during negotiations (as President Clinton showed during Camp David) that the U.S. could best make the case against settlements, just as it is during negotiations that the U.S. could move the Palestinians away from their position on the so-called right-of-return.

In other words, what Netanyahu has been arguing every day of the week, in every mood, for a year and a half — that all issues need to be negotiated without preconditions, and without demanding concessions from only one side, particularly prior to negotiations — has been right.

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RE: Reaction to J Street

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

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Double Standards Regarding Political Civility

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

Courtesy of Hotair comes this clip of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz at the “One Nation” rally this weekend. I do hope that liberals who are so eager to argue for civility in public discourse might have a word or two to say about Mr. Schultz, who, among other things, refers to conservatives as the “forces of evil” and says that while conservatives talk about our forefathers, “they want discrimination.”

Now, I don’t expect much more from someone like Ed Schultz. But liberal commentators (E.J. Dionne, Jr., Eugene Robinson, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, and Jim Wallis, for starters) who complain about political discourse only when the offending parties are on the right would do themselves and the nation a favor if they spoke out against haters such as Schultz and Representative Alan Grayson. (Grayson’s deeply dishonest and repulsive ad, accusing his opponent of being “Taliban Dan Webster,” can be found here.)

If pundits like E.J. Dionne and others remain silent when people who share their philosophical and ideological precepts cross the line, then it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that their counsel for civility is being driven by partisan impulses rather than a genuine concern about the quality of public discourse.

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A Safe Bet on the Future of the House Leadership

There is a certain sense of unreality about this piece:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a punching bag for struggling Democratic House colleagues this fall, but some mouthy members have hit below the belt, raising questions about whether they’ll face a Pelosi punishment after the elections.

Pelosi has blown off the public slights from the likes of Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, who recently said he would not commit to backing Pelosi for another term as speaker, and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright, who recently predicted Pelosi could “get sick and die” before the next Congress. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina even suggested that he might run for the position of speaker himself.

But will Pelosi be yanking committee seats or chairmanships after the election?

OK, how many of you think the Democrats are going to keep the majority? Umm. How many think that after the deluge, the Democrats are going to elect Pelosi their minority leader? No, I don’t suppose they will. You see, in the real world, the Democrats sprinting away from Pelosi are unlikely to survive, and if they do, she won’t. In other words, the entire story is daft.

There is an explanation for a story as bizarrely out-of-touch as this: it’s a heavy-handed leaked/suggested piece by the Democratic leadership. The hint comes on the last page (my comment in brackets):

Democratic insiders have already warned members [in silly stories like this one!] that incumbents should keep attacks against Pelosi to policy points, rather than attacking her individually. No specific instructions have been doled out to Democratic incumbents about how to treat attacks on the speaker’s record, according to the DCCC.

And when you’re going to push a nonsensical story that can only benefit political insiders, what better place to do it than in D.C.’s equivalent of Variety?

There is a certain sense of unreality about this piece:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a punching bag for struggling Democratic House colleagues this fall, but some mouthy members have hit below the belt, raising questions about whether they’ll face a Pelosi punishment after the elections.

Pelosi has blown off the public slights from the likes of Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, who recently said he would not commit to backing Pelosi for another term as speaker, and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright, who recently predicted Pelosi could “get sick and die” before the next Congress. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina even suggested that he might run for the position of speaker himself.

But will Pelosi be yanking committee seats or chairmanships after the election?

OK, how many of you think the Democrats are going to keep the majority? Umm. How many think that after the deluge, the Democrats are going to elect Pelosi their minority leader? No, I don’t suppose they will. You see, in the real world, the Democrats sprinting away from Pelosi are unlikely to survive, and if they do, she won’t. In other words, the entire story is daft.

There is an explanation for a story as bizarrely out-of-touch as this: it’s a heavy-handed leaked/suggested piece by the Democratic leadership. The hint comes on the last page (my comment in brackets):

Democratic insiders have already warned members [in silly stories like this one!] that incumbents should keep attacks against Pelosi to policy points, rather than attacking her individually. No specific instructions have been doled out to Democratic incumbents about how to treat attacks on the speaker’s record, according to the DCCC.

And when you’re going to push a nonsensical story that can only benefit political insiders, what better place to do it than in D.C.’s equivalent of Variety?

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More Cowbell!

It seems like just last week Obama was rallying the base in Wisconsin. Oh, wait. He was. But how could that be? This report from Madison tells us:

On a sunny and mild Sunday this weekend, there was no political paraphernalia to be seen and no campaign volunteers to be found along State Street, the main drag of this liberal-leaning college town.

Progressive young residents milling around the area expressed concerns that the energy they saw in 2008 was lacking this year, and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold has not done enough to get their like-minded peers engaged in his race against self-funding Republican Ron Johnson.

What is the matter with these people! Didn’t they hear? It’s unacceptable –unacceptable, the president said — to sit at home. Plainly, the problem is that Obama did not stay long enough or holler at them with sufficient intensity. More Obama! More nagging!

It seems like just last week Obama was rallying the base in Wisconsin. Oh, wait. He was. But how could that be? This report from Madison tells us:

On a sunny and mild Sunday this weekend, there was no political paraphernalia to be seen and no campaign volunteers to be found along State Street, the main drag of this liberal-leaning college town.

Progressive young residents milling around the area expressed concerns that the energy they saw in 2008 was lacking this year, and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold has not done enough to get their like-minded peers engaged in his race against self-funding Republican Ron Johnson.

What is the matter with these people! Didn’t they hear? It’s unacceptable –unacceptable, the president said — to sit at home. Plainly, the problem is that Obama did not stay long enough or holler at them with sufficient intensity. More Obama! More nagging!

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Big Labor’s Big Bucks Poured Down the Drain

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

This report explains:

Armed with as much as $100 million, labor leaders and volunteers are trying to engage union families at home and work, by phone and through the mail. Some undecided voters could get contacted as many as 20 to 30 times. Last week, the AFL-CIO sent 3.5 million pieces of mail that will be augmented by seven million phone calls. AFL-CIO members participated in hundreds of ongoing door-knocking campaigns over the weekend. …

But in this year’s midterm elections, there are signs that union-member households may be less likely to vote for Democrats than they did in the 2006 midterms — if they vote at all.

“There seems to be a lot of apathy out here,” said Debbie Olander, the political liaison for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Denver. “People are just disheartened by the whole process.”

There are two points worth noting here. The president and his minions keep grousing about independent expenditures who are giving to conservative candidates. Does any individual or any group on the right come close to $100M? By comparison, Karl Rove’s group Crossroads has raised only $52M. Not chump change, but not in the same ballpark as Big Labor. (And who knows if the $100M includes astroturf events like this weekend’s anemic liberal version of the Glenn Beck rally.)

But meanwhile, Big Labor is having the same problem as Obama — their core supporters are indifferent to the Democrats’ peril and, in fact, receptive to the GOP’s message:

On a scale of one to 10, 54% of union-member households ranked their level of voting interest at nine or 10, compared with 57% of households overall, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll found 55% of union-member households prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress now. In 2006, 68% of union-member households voted for Democrats in the U.S. House, according to a poll conducted by Edison/Mitofsky on behalf of media companies.

Volunteers say the main concern of members have been job creation. …

“When it to comes to rank-and-file employees such as myself, we have our activists and those we can’t mobilize,” said Sylvia Pino, a Safeway grocery clerk who volunteered in the 2008 election. She added that it has been more challenging this year to get out the vote for Democrats.

“These are people that were happy that we got President Obama into office,” she said, “and now they’re upset.”

Maybe if Obama came and screamed at them, excoriating them for sitting on their hands, it would help? No, I don’t suppose it would.

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Nouri al-Maliki’s Maneuvering

One cannot but be awed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s unbridled will to win another term. He has managed to make a deal with his sometime-enemies in the Sadrist movement and win their support — this, only two years after he had sent the Iraqi army to clear the Sadrist militia out of Basra and Sadr City. Maliki is personally unpopular, not only with the Sadrists but with pretty much everyone else in Iraq’s political elite. Yet he has managed to put himself into a position to become prime minister for another term. Unfortunately, Iraq is not close to actually forming a government, because he still has to reach some sort of accommodation with the Sunnis, who are now represented by a secular Shiite — Ayad Allawi. It seems likely that Allawi’s coalition will be accorded some cabinet posts in the new government, as will the Sadrists, the Kurds, and other prominent players. There is still much camel trading to be done, which could drag the protracted process of forming the new government formation into next year.

Is Maliki’s recent success good or bad from the American perspective? At this point, it’s still hard to say. Obviously, the fact that the Sadrists — the most anti-American faction in Iraq — will be part of the government isn’t good news. But nor would it have been good news if Maliki had made a deal with ISCI, another major Shiite party also seen as extremely close to Iran. Some analysts are suggesting that these latest developments mean that Iran is calling the shots in Iraqi politics. I wouldn’t be so sure. There is no question that Iran has an influence but it is hardly in charge. No one is. At some level, this is good news for a country like Iraq, which has been scarred by so many years of dictatorial misrule. But there is a thin line between inclusiveness and chaos and Iraq is now on the border between the two. The failure of a political class to agree on a coalition government is undermining public confidence and providing an opening to both Sunni and Shiite extremists.

I have some trepidation about seeing the power-hungry Maliki return for another term. But at this point, I just wish the Iraqi politicos would reach an agreement on a new government — any government. Their failure to do so is making a mockery of Iraq’s nascent democracy, which showed such great promise with the fair and open elections held in March.

One cannot but be awed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s unbridled will to win another term. He has managed to make a deal with his sometime-enemies in the Sadrist movement and win their support — this, only two years after he had sent the Iraqi army to clear the Sadrist militia out of Basra and Sadr City. Maliki is personally unpopular, not only with the Sadrists but with pretty much everyone else in Iraq’s political elite. Yet he has managed to put himself into a position to become prime minister for another term. Unfortunately, Iraq is not close to actually forming a government, because he still has to reach some sort of accommodation with the Sunnis, who are now represented by a secular Shiite — Ayad Allawi. It seems likely that Allawi’s coalition will be accorded some cabinet posts in the new government, as will the Sadrists, the Kurds, and other prominent players. There is still much camel trading to be done, which could drag the protracted process of forming the new government formation into next year.

Is Maliki’s recent success good or bad from the American perspective? At this point, it’s still hard to say. Obviously, the fact that the Sadrists — the most anti-American faction in Iraq — will be part of the government isn’t good news. But nor would it have been good news if Maliki had made a deal with ISCI, another major Shiite party also seen as extremely close to Iran. Some analysts are suggesting that these latest developments mean that Iran is calling the shots in Iraqi politics. I wouldn’t be so sure. There is no question that Iran has an influence but it is hardly in charge. No one is. At some level, this is good news for a country like Iraq, which has been scarred by so many years of dictatorial misrule. But there is a thin line between inclusiveness and chaos and Iraq is now on the border between the two. The failure of a political class to agree on a coalition government is undermining public confidence and providing an opening to both Sunni and Shiite extremists.

I have some trepidation about seeing the power-hungry Maliki return for another term. But at this point, I just wish the Iraqi politicos would reach an agreement on a new government — any government. Their failure to do so is making a mockery of Iraq’s nascent democracy, which showed such great promise with the fair and open elections held in March.

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Encumbered Female Marines

The New York Times has a fascinating story on how female Marines are making a contribution in Marja, a still dangerous district in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. They are assigned to a “female engagement team,” which is designed to interact with Afghanistan’s women; turns out, they also do a good job of interacting with Afghanistan’s men, who sometimes open up more when confronted with women Marines than with their male counterparts.

But their deployment has run into legal problems because of the anachronistic and overly restrictive Pentagon rules on employing women in combat roles. They are technically forbidden from serving in infantry, armor, or Special Forces, but are nevertheless often in the field, sometimes under the legal fiction of being “attached to” (allowed) rather than “assigned to” (forbidden) a combat unit. The rules only allow women “temporary stays” at combat bases. So, the Times reports, “To fulfill the letter but hardly the spirit of the guidelines, the female Marines now travel from their combat outposts every six weeks for an overnight stay at a big base like Camp Leatherneck, then head back out the next morning.”

The commander of the female engagement team, Capt. Emily Naslund, thinks “the legal hoops are absurd when there are no front lines — and when members of her team are taking fire almost daily on foot patrols. ‘The current policy on women in combat is outdated and does not apply to the type of war we are fighting,’ she wrote to her parents, friends and this reporter in an e-mail after the legal review in July.”

Capt. Naslund is right. These old-fashioned rules from the Department of Defense need to be adjusted to conform with the “no front-lines” reality of today’s wars.

The New York Times has a fascinating story on how female Marines are making a contribution in Marja, a still dangerous district in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. They are assigned to a “female engagement team,” which is designed to interact with Afghanistan’s women; turns out, they also do a good job of interacting with Afghanistan’s men, who sometimes open up more when confronted with women Marines than with their male counterparts.

But their deployment has run into legal problems because of the anachronistic and overly restrictive Pentagon rules on employing women in combat roles. They are technically forbidden from serving in infantry, armor, or Special Forces, but are nevertheless often in the field, sometimes under the legal fiction of being “attached to” (allowed) rather than “assigned to” (forbidden) a combat unit. The rules only allow women “temporary stays” at combat bases. So, the Times reports, “To fulfill the letter but hardly the spirit of the guidelines, the female Marines now travel from their combat outposts every six weeks for an overnight stay at a big base like Camp Leatherneck, then head back out the next morning.”

The commander of the female engagement team, Capt. Emily Naslund, thinks “the legal hoops are absurd when there are no front lines — and when members of her team are taking fire almost daily on foot patrols. ‘The current policy on women in combat is outdated and does not apply to the type of war we are fighting,’ she wrote to her parents, friends and this reporter in an e-mail after the legal review in July.”

Capt. Naslund is right. These old-fashioned rules from the Department of Defense need to be adjusted to conform with the “no front-lines” reality of today’s wars.

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Parker-Spitzer — You Gotta Be Kidding

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

I haven’t been motivated to watch CNN’s new talking-heads show hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. Howard Kurtz’s column reviewing his own network’s show and the work of his colleague at the Post’s — why is this remotely acceptable, even with a disclaimer? — doesn’t entice me to reconsider. Kurtz pulls his punches a bit and explains that the show’s problem may be the insufficient amount of conflict. Parker is so darn nice. And she and Spitzer talk past one another without engaging in much debate.

If Kurtz were less conflicted (interest-wise) and less timid, he’d come out and say it: Parker isn’t an impressive representative of the right. She is the sort of conservative whom liberals love — scornful of Sarah Palin, uncreative, and ineffective. In other words, she isn’t going to advance the conservative agenda, so it’s fine to have her on. Meanwhile, Spitzer isn’t a representative of anything other than the debasement of “news.” He resigned in disgrace, spied on his enemies, and is regarded as entirely lacking in judgment (political and personal). So exactly what expertise does he bring to the show? Why should we accept the premise that he has some viable analysis to offer? Put aside whether he deserves public rehabilitation. He is utterly unqualified for the role he is assuming — political guru.

Jon Klein, the former head of CNN, came up with this show. He’s since been booted. Let’s hope this embarrassing excuse for a serious political program will as well.

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The Problem with the Obama Letter

Paul Mirengoff concurs with Evelyn Gordon’s suggestion that Barack Obama’s proposed letter, promising significant “goodies” for Israel if it extends its settlement moratorium, is unreliable — given Obama’s failure to abide by promises made by the U.S. in his predecessor’s letter. My own view is that the problem with the proposed letter is not simply its credibility but also its substance.

The Obama administration has refused 22 times to state whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter, which conceded that it “seems clear” that Palestinian refugees must be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than in Israel and that it is “unrealistic” to expect a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, given the major Israeli population centers there. Those factual statements remain true notwithstanding Obama’s refusal to acknowledge them. But the critical part of the Bush letter was the promise that the U.S. would stand by its “steadfast commitment” to “defensible borders” (a term with a long diplomatic history and military meaning) — a commitment made not only by Bush, but by the Clinton administration in its own letter to Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to David Makovsky’s quasi-official summary of the proposed Obama letter, the administration promises to help ensure “a complete ban” on the smuggling of arms and terrorists into a Palestinian state; maintain a “transitional period” for Israeli enforcement of security in the Jordan Valley; and enhance Israel’s defense capabilities in a “post-peace era.” But there was no reiteration of the prior U.S. commitment to such borders as are necessary for Israel to defend itself if the ban proves less than complete, the transitional period not quite long enough, and the “post-peace era” similar to the one that followed withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure of the proposed letter to reiterate the commitment to defensible borders made by both Democratic and Republican administrations is another indication the Obama administration has reneged on it. In its place, the administration offers a “complete ban” that no one can guarantee; a “transitional period” no one can assure will be long enough; and a promised enhancement of Israel’s defense capabilities, which is an implicit admission that Israel’s current capabilities are insufficient for the risks involved in a “post-peace era.” Even if given in good faith, the Obama letter cannot substitute for defensible borders, but that is the function the proposed letter seems intended to serve.

Paul Mirengoff concurs with Evelyn Gordon’s suggestion that Barack Obama’s proposed letter, promising significant “goodies” for Israel if it extends its settlement moratorium, is unreliable — given Obama’s failure to abide by promises made by the U.S. in his predecessor’s letter. My own view is that the problem with the proposed letter is not simply its credibility but also its substance.

The Obama administration has refused 22 times to state whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter, which conceded that it “seems clear” that Palestinian refugees must be resettled in a Palestinian state rather than in Israel and that it is “unrealistic” to expect a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, given the major Israeli population centers there. Those factual statements remain true notwithstanding Obama’s refusal to acknowledge them. But the critical part of the Bush letter was the promise that the U.S. would stand by its “steadfast commitment” to “defensible borders” (a term with a long diplomatic history and military meaning) — a commitment made not only by Bush, but by the Clinton administration in its own letter to Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to David Makovsky’s quasi-official summary of the proposed Obama letter, the administration promises to help ensure “a complete ban” on the smuggling of arms and terrorists into a Palestinian state; maintain a “transitional period” for Israeli enforcement of security in the Jordan Valley; and enhance Israel’s defense capabilities in a “post-peace era.” But there was no reiteration of the prior U.S. commitment to such borders as are necessary for Israel to defend itself if the ban proves less than complete, the transitional period not quite long enough, and the “post-peace era” similar to the one that followed withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure of the proposed letter to reiterate the commitment to defensible borders made by both Democratic and Republican administrations is another indication the Obama administration has reneged on it. In its place, the administration offers a “complete ban” that no one can guarantee; a “transitional period” no one can assure will be long enough; and a promised enhancement of Israel’s defense capabilities, which is an implicit admission that Israel’s current capabilities are insufficient for the risks involved in a “post-peace era.” Even if given in good faith, the Obama letter cannot substitute for defensible borders, but that is the function the proposed letter seems intended to serve.

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Japan: Russia Piling On

As Americans turn their attention inward, China and Russia are beginning to make geopolitical moves that evoke nothing so much as the environment of the 1930s. I have written elsewhere about China’s dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands and Beijing’s resort to a direct confrontation over them in September. Russia added to Japan’s troubles last week, when Dmitry Medvedev planned to make an unprecedented visit to the Kuril Islands in the north, which have been disputed by Japan and Russia since the end of World War II.

Medvedev’s trip was curtailed by bad weather on this occasion (a verifiable excuse, incidentally). But his government has affirmed that he will visit the islands in the near future. In fact, it has doubled down by calling Japan’s claims to the Kurils a “dead end” and flatly warning Japan against complaining about the visit.

Seen as a signal, this uncompromising Russian attitude is very different from the attitude shown by the same government almost exactly a year ago. In late September 2009, Medvedev was shaking hands with then-Prime Minister Hatoyama and vowing solemnly to “work together” to resolve the question of the Kuril Islands. Indeed, there was speculation at the time that Russia was wooing Japan, hoping to weaken Tokyo’s ties with the U.S. As with the Senkakus dispute, the one over the Kurils involves economic claims. But Russia and Japan have set a standard for cooperative development in exploiting the natural gas of Russia’s nearby Sakhalin Island. The ugly face shown by Russia in the past few days is a new one, at least where Japan is concerned.

Its significance cannot be overemphasized. In approaching this confrontation, Russia is effectively treating Japan — a G-8 nation, economic powerhouse, and U.S. ally — the way it treated Georgia in the months leading up to the 2008 invasion. The dispute is over tangible territory, and Russia is pressing its claims coincident with China’s confrontational campaign to the south. Unless the U.S. steps in to prevent the extortion of Japan, the Kan government in Tokyo is faced with a choice between evils. To gain the support of either Moscow or Beijing, Japan would — at the very least — have to cede effective control of the islands in question. In all likelihood, Japan might see both island chains occupied by the other claimants.

Japan’s other option is to assert its claims with military force. This is not infeasible if the Japanese choose their tactics carefully, but it would infuriate and galvanize Russia and China. Only one outcome can avert an onset of instability in the Far East: America enforcing Japan’s position that the disputes over the islands must be resolved peacefully and not through extortion. Uttering sympathetic bromides will not suffice in this case. China and Russia have already proved that they are prepared to breach the conditions of good-faith resolutions. Direct assertion of a U.S. security interest is the only thing that will work — and the U.S posture must not be subverted by Russia or China turning this issue into a perpetual bargaining chip in larger, unrelated negotiations.

This is a bad trend that will not right itself. Either Obama stops it before it gets started, or all our security problems are about to get much harder.

As Americans turn their attention inward, China and Russia are beginning to make geopolitical moves that evoke nothing so much as the environment of the 1930s. I have written elsewhere about China’s dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands and Beijing’s resort to a direct confrontation over them in September. Russia added to Japan’s troubles last week, when Dmitry Medvedev planned to make an unprecedented visit to the Kuril Islands in the north, which have been disputed by Japan and Russia since the end of World War II.

Medvedev’s trip was curtailed by bad weather on this occasion (a verifiable excuse, incidentally). But his government has affirmed that he will visit the islands in the near future. In fact, it has doubled down by calling Japan’s claims to the Kurils a “dead end” and flatly warning Japan against complaining about the visit.

Seen as a signal, this uncompromising Russian attitude is very different from the attitude shown by the same government almost exactly a year ago. In late September 2009, Medvedev was shaking hands with then-Prime Minister Hatoyama and vowing solemnly to “work together” to resolve the question of the Kuril Islands. Indeed, there was speculation at the time that Russia was wooing Japan, hoping to weaken Tokyo’s ties with the U.S. As with the Senkakus dispute, the one over the Kurils involves economic claims. But Russia and Japan have set a standard for cooperative development in exploiting the natural gas of Russia’s nearby Sakhalin Island. The ugly face shown by Russia in the past few days is a new one, at least where Japan is concerned.

Its significance cannot be overemphasized. In approaching this confrontation, Russia is effectively treating Japan — a G-8 nation, economic powerhouse, and U.S. ally — the way it treated Georgia in the months leading up to the 2008 invasion. The dispute is over tangible territory, and Russia is pressing its claims coincident with China’s confrontational campaign to the south. Unless the U.S. steps in to prevent the extortion of Japan, the Kan government in Tokyo is faced with a choice between evils. To gain the support of either Moscow or Beijing, Japan would — at the very least — have to cede effective control of the islands in question. In all likelihood, Japan might see both island chains occupied by the other claimants.

Japan’s other option is to assert its claims with military force. This is not infeasible if the Japanese choose their tactics carefully, but it would infuriate and galvanize Russia and China. Only one outcome can avert an onset of instability in the Far East: America enforcing Japan’s position that the disputes over the islands must be resolved peacefully and not through extortion. Uttering sympathetic bromides will not suffice in this case. China and Russia have already proved that they are prepared to breach the conditions of good-faith resolutions. Direct assertion of a U.S. security interest is the only thing that will work — and the U.S posture must not be subverted by Russia or China turning this issue into a perpetual bargaining chip in larger, unrelated negotiations.

This is a bad trend that will not right itself. Either Obama stops it before it gets started, or all our security problems are about to get much harder.

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Emanuel’s Record on Israel Catches Up with Him

As Rahm Emanuel hits the campaign trail in Chicago, he is finding his association with (some would claim, his authorship of) Obama’s Israel policy to be a handicap:

“There are questions about his positions on Israel,” said Chesky Montrose, 32, who was wearing a skull cap and pushing one child in a stroller while keeping an eye on two others bicycling down Devon. “It’s not logical that international policy would influence a race for mayor. But there is some resentment here, no doubt.” … Obama got a huge percent of Jewish voters, many of whom assumed Emanuel would give voice to their concerns as chief of staff, noted Cheryl Jacobs Lewin, Chicago co-chair of Americans for a Safe Israel.

“That has not happened, judging by the White House’s heavy-handedness toward Israel,” Lewin said in an e-mail. …

Another person leery of Emanuel on the Israel issue is Norm Levin, who said, “I used to be a devout Democrat.”

Levin is president of the Great Vest Side Club, an alumni association of the West Side neighborhood that was once the epicenter of Chicago’s Jewish community. (The pronunciation “vest” commemorates the immigrant accent of members’ parents.)

“I like to vote for Jewish people,” Levin said. “But if they’re sort of negative on Israel, they lose me.”

On the other hand, Emanuel seems to have sewed up the swank Soros Street set — leftist Jews who hate Israel:

Yet that very quality [Israel-animus] could be a plus for Emanuel among lakefront liberals, many of them secular Jews uncomfortable with a right-leaning Israeli administration.

“I’m sort of hostile to Israel,” said James Alter, a founding father of independent politics in Chicago.

Well, good to know that there is agreement on Emanuel’s contribution to U.S.-Israel relations. It should serve as a warning to other Obama advisers who enjoyed solid reputations with the Jewish community prior to their tenure in the administration. After a couple of years with Obama, should they choose to resume their political careers, they will now have to explain why they participated in and facilitated the most anti-Israel administration in history.

As Rahm Emanuel hits the campaign trail in Chicago, he is finding his association with (some would claim, his authorship of) Obama’s Israel policy to be a handicap:

“There are questions about his positions on Israel,” said Chesky Montrose, 32, who was wearing a skull cap and pushing one child in a stroller while keeping an eye on two others bicycling down Devon. “It’s not logical that international policy would influence a race for mayor. But there is some resentment here, no doubt.” … Obama got a huge percent of Jewish voters, many of whom assumed Emanuel would give voice to their concerns as chief of staff, noted Cheryl Jacobs Lewin, Chicago co-chair of Americans for a Safe Israel.

“That has not happened, judging by the White House’s heavy-handedness toward Israel,” Lewin said in an e-mail. …

Another person leery of Emanuel on the Israel issue is Norm Levin, who said, “I used to be a devout Democrat.”

Levin is president of the Great Vest Side Club, an alumni association of the West Side neighborhood that was once the epicenter of Chicago’s Jewish community. (The pronunciation “vest” commemorates the immigrant accent of members’ parents.)

“I like to vote for Jewish people,” Levin said. “But if they’re sort of negative on Israel, they lose me.”

On the other hand, Emanuel seems to have sewed up the swank Soros Street set — leftist Jews who hate Israel:

Yet that very quality [Israel-animus] could be a plus for Emanuel among lakefront liberals, many of them secular Jews uncomfortable with a right-leaning Israeli administration.

“I’m sort of hostile to Israel,” said James Alter, a founding father of independent politics in Chicago.

Well, good to know that there is agreement on Emanuel’s contribution to U.S.-Israel relations. It should serve as a warning to other Obama advisers who enjoyed solid reputations with the Jewish community prior to their tenure in the administration. After a couple of years with Obama, should they choose to resume their political careers, they will now have to explain why they participated in and facilitated the most anti-Israel administration in history.

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The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.'” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.'” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

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How Anti-Israel Groups Undermine Their Own Credibility

Liberal American Jews are often appalled by allegations of Israeli “war crimes” against Palestinians — and equally appalled by Israelis’ apparent indifference to these allegations. What is wrong with their Israeli brethren, these well-meaning Jews wonder, that they seemingly countenance such heinous acts?

Haaretz’s woman in Ramallah, Amira Hass, unintentionally provides the answer in her citation today of the following testimony collected by Breaking the Silence, a group formed to allow ex-soldiers to “break their silence” about Israeli “war crimes”:

And there is another soldier who suddenly understood, during Operation Defensive Shield, that “the tank is a crazy source of fire. You’re moving around in (a populated area ) with all these refugee villages around and all these clumsy weapons, and you fire in a place like that. To fire with a cannon inside a neighborhood … I felt bad.

“Defensive Shield is a complicated and hysterical story … they constantly spoke in terms of war. It took me two or three months to understand … that I hadn’t returned from a war. I was in some campaign … that was worthless in many senses.

“And all the time there was that terminology of shoot in every direction, at anything that moves, and all the time the word war was repeated. … To this day, I go around with the feeling that someone from the outside orchestrated the atmosphere.”

Two ostensible facts about Defensive Shield, Israel’s April 2002 incursion into the West Bank, emerge from this testimony: soldiers opened fire indiscriminately, and the operation was militarily unjustifiable to begin with — downright “worthless.” Yet both are demonstrably false.

First, Palestinian allegations of an Israeli-perpetrated “massacre” in Jenin during the operation sparked intensive investigations. Yet even the UN — not an organization known for its pro-Israel bias — concluded that the death toll in Jenin was exactly 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers, while Human Rights Watch (another organization not known for pro-Israel bias) concluded that only 22 of those Palestinians were civilians.

Given the difficulty of fighting in a crowded urban environment where combatants and noncombatants are intermingled, and where combatants don’t even wear uniforms (making them harder to distinguish from civilians), this is an extraordinarily low civilian casualty rate, one no other Western army involved in urban warfare has matched. Thus, far from constituting indiscriminate fire, Defensive Shield exemplified the most discriminating fire imaginable.

Second, far from being “worthless,” this was one of the most successful operations in Israel’s history. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinian terror — which peaked at 449 in the intifada’s second year (September 2001–September 2002), including 134 in March 2002 alone — fell by about 50 percent a year in each of the next several years. And the main reason was Defensive Shield, launched in response to that deadly March 2002.

Allegations are rarely so easily disprovable; most pit one person or group’s word against another, with no way to know who’s right. But when organizations like Breaking the Silence treat even such patently false allegations as credible indictments, most Israelis find it hard to give their other claims any credence.

Liberal American Jews are often appalled by allegations of Israeli “war crimes” against Palestinians — and equally appalled by Israelis’ apparent indifference to these allegations. What is wrong with their Israeli brethren, these well-meaning Jews wonder, that they seemingly countenance such heinous acts?

Haaretz’s woman in Ramallah, Amira Hass, unintentionally provides the answer in her citation today of the following testimony collected by Breaking the Silence, a group formed to allow ex-soldiers to “break their silence” about Israeli “war crimes”:

And there is another soldier who suddenly understood, during Operation Defensive Shield, that “the tank is a crazy source of fire. You’re moving around in (a populated area ) with all these refugee villages around and all these clumsy weapons, and you fire in a place like that. To fire with a cannon inside a neighborhood … I felt bad.

“Defensive Shield is a complicated and hysterical story … they constantly spoke in terms of war. It took me two or three months to understand … that I hadn’t returned from a war. I was in some campaign … that was worthless in many senses.

“And all the time there was that terminology of shoot in every direction, at anything that moves, and all the time the word war was repeated. … To this day, I go around with the feeling that someone from the outside orchestrated the atmosphere.”

Two ostensible facts about Defensive Shield, Israel’s April 2002 incursion into the West Bank, emerge from this testimony: soldiers opened fire indiscriminately, and the operation was militarily unjustifiable to begin with — downright “worthless.” Yet both are demonstrably false.

First, Palestinian allegations of an Israeli-perpetrated “massacre” in Jenin during the operation sparked intensive investigations. Yet even the UN — not an organization known for its pro-Israel bias — concluded that the death toll in Jenin was exactly 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers, while Human Rights Watch (another organization not known for pro-Israel bias) concluded that only 22 of those Palestinians were civilians.

Given the difficulty of fighting in a crowded urban environment where combatants and noncombatants are intermingled, and where combatants don’t even wear uniforms (making them harder to distinguish from civilians), this is an extraordinarily low civilian casualty rate, one no other Western army involved in urban warfare has matched. Thus, far from constituting indiscriminate fire, Defensive Shield exemplified the most discriminating fire imaginable.

Second, far from being “worthless,” this was one of the most successful operations in Israel’s history. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinian terror — which peaked at 449 in the intifada’s second year (September 2001–September 2002), including 134 in March 2002 alone — fell by about 50 percent a year in each of the next several years. And the main reason was Defensive Shield, launched in response to that deadly March 2002.

Allegations are rarely so easily disprovable; most pit one person or group’s word against another, with no way to know who’s right. But when organizations like Breaking the Silence treat even such patently false allegations as credible indictments, most Israelis find it hard to give their other claims any credence.

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The Blue Dogs Won’t Just Be Playing Dead

The Blue Dog Democrats fancy themselves as fiscal conservatives. It is those other Democrats, they tell us, who are responsible for all the debt, the out-of-control spending, etc. Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth says that this is bunk:

In the House of Representatives, the 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition are the self-described fiscal conservatives in the Democratic caucus. Unfortunately, the description doesn’t fit. …

[T]he Blue Dogs became Mrs. Pelosi’s lap dogs, voting with her 80% of the time on economic issues. Every one of them voted for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty-three percent voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program; 91% voted for the stimulus package in February 2009; 85% voted for the cash-for-clunkers program; 74% voted for President Obama’s debt-tripling 2010 budget; 73% voted for the auto bailout; and 54% voted for the federal takeover of health care.

But now their voting records have caught up with them, and it is precisely these Democrats who are at extreme risk in the midterms. You hear pundits bemoan how the “moderate” Democrats will be lost, leaving the party controlled by the extreme left. Listen, that’s been the story for a while now. Had they pushed back against Nancy Pelosi, neither they nor their party would be headed for a thumping. It seems that the Blue Dogs’ obedience to their liberal leaders may cost them their political careers.

The Blue Dog Democrats fancy themselves as fiscal conservatives. It is those other Democrats, they tell us, who are responsible for all the debt, the out-of-control spending, etc. Chris Chocola of the Club for Growth says that this is bunk:

In the House of Representatives, the 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition are the self-described fiscal conservatives in the Democratic caucus. Unfortunately, the description doesn’t fit. …

[T]he Blue Dogs became Mrs. Pelosi’s lap dogs, voting with her 80% of the time on economic issues. Every one of them voted for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty-three percent voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program; 91% voted for the stimulus package in February 2009; 85% voted for the cash-for-clunkers program; 74% voted for President Obama’s debt-tripling 2010 budget; 73% voted for the auto bailout; and 54% voted for the federal takeover of health care.

But now their voting records have caught up with them, and it is precisely these Democrats who are at extreme risk in the midterms. You hear pundits bemoan how the “moderate” Democrats will be lost, leaving the party controlled by the extreme left. Listen, that’s been the story for a while now. Had they pushed back against Nancy Pelosi, neither they nor their party would be headed for a thumping. It seems that the Blue Dogs’ obedience to their liberal leaders may cost them their political careers.

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This Is Not the Worst of Times

As others have pointed out, during his farewell remarks from the White House, Rahm Emanuel said to President Obama, “I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Earlier that week, Jimmy Carter told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Obama took office facing “the most difficult circumstances a president has ever faced.” And Mr. Obama added his own interpretation of events in his interview with Rolling Stone: “Guys, wake up. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.”

None of this is true or even close to true, as any elementary-school student who has studied American history could tell you. What these comments useful highlight, though, is the mindset that has taken hold of the president, his closest aides, and some of his remaining supporters. They really seem to believe that the scale of problems they face is unprecedented in American history, that the hand they have been dealt is worse than any who have come before them.

I worked in the White House during the worst attack on our homeland in history, two wars, a recession, and one of the worst natural disasters in our history (I had left the White House by the time the financial collapse of 2008 occurred) — and neither I nor any of my colleagues entertained, even for a moment, the thought that what we faced held a candle to what Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt (to name just three past presidents) confronted. If we had, it would have rightly elicited ridicule.

At least the Book of Lamentations contains real poetry and some important theological lessons in it. What we are getting from the president and his team is simply self-pitying nonsense.

As others have pointed out, during his farewell remarks from the White House, Rahm Emanuel said to President Obama, “I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.” Earlier that week, Jimmy Carter told PBS’s Charlie Rose that Obama took office facing “the most difficult circumstances a president has ever faced.” And Mr. Obama added his own interpretation of events in his interview with Rolling Stone: “Guys, wake up. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.”

None of this is true or even close to true, as any elementary-school student who has studied American history could tell you. What these comments useful highlight, though, is the mindset that has taken hold of the president, his closest aides, and some of his remaining supporters. They really seem to believe that the scale of problems they face is unprecedented in American history, that the hand they have been dealt is worse than any who have come before them.

I worked in the White House during the worst attack on our homeland in history, two wars, a recession, and one of the worst natural disasters in our history (I had left the White House by the time the financial collapse of 2008 occurred) — and neither I nor any of my colleagues entertained, even for a moment, the thought that what we faced held a candle to what Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt (to name just three past presidents) confronted. If we had, it would have rightly elicited ridicule.

At least the Book of Lamentations contains real poetry and some important theological lessons in it. What we are getting from the president and his team is simply self-pitying nonsense.

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No Good Explanation for Not Taking a Vote

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases. Read More

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases.

KRISTOL: The fact is — I was with four Republican Senate candidates this week by chance in New York at a little event. And they said — I asked, “How is the tax debate going?”

And they said, look, until now, it’s been the traditional Democratic/Republican debate. Democrats say they want to cut taxes for the middle class. Republicans say, you don’t want to raise any taxes in a recession. And it was probably kind of a wash politically.

All of that — now, maybe they’re wrong, but all of them were extremely happy. This was the night — the day after Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House without allowing a vote — without allowing a vote on the coming tax increase. Every Republican challenger can now say you have been in charge for two years, you could have dealt with this, you could have cut whatever deals you needed to cut to do as Juan said and bring over some of those moderate Republicans. You could have insisted on an up-or- down vote. You didn’t.

Every American now faces a tax increase in January thanks to this Democratic Congress doing nothing.

LIASSON: … Well, the problem is that they might very well get some kind of a deal, a temporary extension or whatever, in the lame duck.

The problem is that every Democrat now has to go home now without saying, “I voted to continue lower taxes for the middle class.” I do think that the White House and the Democrats overestimated how strong their argument was going to be and how easy it was going to be to keep all the Democrats on one page on this. I mean, I think if they had all their Democrats, they would have brought it up for a vote.

Now, their argument is Republicans are holding the middle class tax cut hostage to continuing the tax cuts for the rich. The problem with that is, if you don’t have a vote and kind of show them holding it hostage, how do you know that they really are?

Yeah, that’s a problem. So the Obama-Pelosi-Reid brain trust has saddled incumbent Democrats with more baggage. OK, but after the deluge that’s about to hit, won’t the Obami have a post-election epiphany, as Bill Clinton did? Don’t be too certain.

Mara Liasson says the White House doesn’t believe in all that moving to the center hooey, but reality is reality: “Look, I think that I can tell you on very good authority that at the White House, they totally reject the idea that he would adopt the Clinton model and move to the center. Now, that being said, everything is going to change in November.” Bill Kristol thinks some personnel changes may help: “I think the president has cleverly and sort of carefully gotten rid of the incredibly arrogant, smart alecks who dominated the White House in the first term — Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Pete Orszag. They knew best. They were so clever. Never let a crisis go to waste. We can jam stuff through. No problem. This president can carry anything off. That is not Pete Rouse’s attitude. Pete Rouse worked for Tom Daschle for 19 years. He cut a lot of deals with Congress.”

But it really is up to Obama — he’s not one for cutting deals, and he certainly isn’t one to admit error. His liberal extremism has imperiled his presidency and sunk his party. His irritation with all but his most fervent supporters has left him alienated from voters and even from his party’s base. The question remains: is he willing and able to shift course? After running on a change theme and trying to radically change America, he is the one who will have to change. Unless, of course, one term is plenty for him.

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RE: Immigration and the Golden State

Like Jennifer, I’m an advocate of increased legal immigration. I believe immigration is a net positive. There is no question that today’s illegal immigrants are a net burden to California’s government-provided social services. But the place to look for the root of that problem is California policy.

If you don’t have an ever-expanding list of entitlement benefits, illegal immigrants can’t take advantage of it. The original problem is the expansion of benefits and “services” well beyond anything that makes sense. The authors of that problem are in the statehouse in Sacramento. The key reasons why state expenditures on social services have increased dramatically in the last quarter-century are the following: the scope of benefits has expanded; the eligibility standards have been loosened; and the state has expanded its own payroll to include hundreds of analysts and managers who function as advocates for enlarging their programs.

In 1999, for example, California’s Healthy Families program made families eligible for state health benefits at incomes up to 250 percent of the poverty level. Then, in the 2000s, the list of state benefits lengthened significantly.  By 2009, with the housing market and the overall economy crashing, Governor Schwarzenegger had to freeze enrollments in the program. It had driven the state’s direct expenditures on medical services up from a little over $8 billion in the 1999 budget to more than $14.3 billion in 2007. (Budget figures here.)

From 1985 to the high-water spending year of 2008, California’s total state expenditures on health and social services — in non-adjusted dollars — rose from $8.64 billion to $29.34 billion. In adjusted dollars (adjusting the 1985 figure to $17.28 billion), the difference represents an increase in social spending of 64 percent in that 23-year period, while the population increased only 39 percent. Read More

Like Jennifer, I’m an advocate of increased legal immigration. I believe immigration is a net positive. There is no question that today’s illegal immigrants are a net burden to California’s government-provided social services. But the place to look for the root of that problem is California policy.

If you don’t have an ever-expanding list of entitlement benefits, illegal immigrants can’t take advantage of it. The original problem is the expansion of benefits and “services” well beyond anything that makes sense. The authors of that problem are in the statehouse in Sacramento. The key reasons why state expenditures on social services have increased dramatically in the last quarter-century are the following: the scope of benefits has expanded; the eligibility standards have been loosened; and the state has expanded its own payroll to include hundreds of analysts and managers who function as advocates for enlarging their programs.

In 1999, for example, California’s Healthy Families program made families eligible for state health benefits at incomes up to 250 percent of the poverty level. Then, in the 2000s, the list of state benefits lengthened significantly.  By 2009, with the housing market and the overall economy crashing, Governor Schwarzenegger had to freeze enrollments in the program. It had driven the state’s direct expenditures on medical services up from a little over $8 billion in the 1999 budget to more than $14.3 billion in 2007. (Budget figures here.)

From 1985 to the high-water spending year of 2008, California’s total state expenditures on health and social services — in non-adjusted dollars — rose from $8.64 billion to $29.34 billion. In adjusted dollars (adjusting the 1985 figure to $17.28 billion), the difference represents an increase in social spending of 64 percent in that 23-year period, while the population increased only 39 percent.

Until 2009, when the state had to cut funding for whole categories of medical benefits — thereby creating a political fracas — most Californians probably had little idea what their tax dollars were going for. I gained a direct understanding myself in the summer of 2008, during my annual optometric exam. The optometry benefit under Healthy Families had recently kicked in, and my optometrist had seen a huge increase in low-margin Medi-Cal business. (This put her practice under stress, incidentally: she needed another office worker to handle the additional traffic, but couldn’t hire one because she was taking a net loss on the new business.) As a cash patient, I had become a rarity in her practice — but I was also footing the bill for the dozens of new working-class patients for whom she was now submitting Medi-Cal claims.

It’s very unlikely that most of the benefits cut in 2009 were being used by illegals in any great numbers. Likewise, serving illegals had almost nothing to do with the fastest-growing sector of the state’s health services in the 2000s: the provision of “developmental services” (e.g., services for autism, epilepsy, and mental disabilities). California guaranteed spiraling costs for this line of effort by choosing to create much of the infrastructure itself rather than emphasizing voucher assistance for privately-provided services. Paying for infrastructure – practitioners’ salaries, clerical support, pension plans, facilities and maintenance – is a huge and growing problem for California’s public finances; in too many fields, the state has become the employer of first resort. That has nothing to do with illegals. It’s a function of the excessive privilege enjoyed by public-policy advocacy, whether the subject is education, health care, environmentalism, unionism, or schemes for income redistribution.

Under no demographic conditions is California’s path sustainable. Without illegals, it might have taken a little longer for the house of cards to collapse. But the fundamental problems are a bloated, activist public sector and a tax-and-regulatory environment that discourages the private economy. Illegals haven’t created those problems; immigration per se certainly hasn’t. It’s the state policies, stupid, and only changing those policies can fix what’s wrong.

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The Non-Direct, Non-Peace Talks

This report is emblematic of the double-talk that now passes for the “peace process”:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he was holding Israel responsible for the impasse in direct negotiations, but vowed to continue to search for solutions that could yield to progress in the recently renewed peace process.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Abbas said “there is an impasse, because we cannot carry on with the negotiations, and we have to follow up this impasse with the Arab side.”

“Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to the negotiating table,” Abbas said.

So Abbas will go back to talking to Mitchell but not to the Israelis? No, no, both sides really want to keep talking to each other, Mitchell assures us:

In Cairo earlier on Sunday, Mitchell said both Israel and the Palestinians wanted to continue direct peace negotiations, despite an ongoing dispute over Israel’s refusal to renew its moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

But Abbas said he didn’t want to keep talking to the Israelis. So is Mitchell, you know, dissembling? Meanwhile, we learn that the “Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it would halt direct talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. The decision was announced by the general secretary of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo.” So no direct talks, right? Mitchell tries out this gibberish:

“Both the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations,” Mitchell wrote in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s website. “They do not want to stop the talks.”

But didn’t the Palestinians say that … oh never mind. We are now into the phase of the charade when Mitchell and the rest of the Obami try to pretend the direct talks haven’t broken off. But they have. Do they think we won’t notice? In this regard, the Palestinians are helping with the subterfuge: “Despite the PLO’s declaration, the Palestinian leadership and Arab countries appear in no hurry to actually make the decision final. In all probability the Americans have requested time from the Arab states to reach a compromise on the settlement issue.” Because it would look really bad if all that the Obama team could accomplish in two years was less than a month of “direct” negotiations.

This report is emblematic of the double-talk that now passes for the “peace process”:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he was holding Israel responsible for the impasse in direct negotiations, but vowed to continue to search for solutions that could yield to progress in the recently renewed peace process.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Abbas said “there is an impasse, because we cannot carry on with the negotiations, and we have to follow up this impasse with the Arab side.”

“Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to the negotiating table,” Abbas said.

So Abbas will go back to talking to Mitchell but not to the Israelis? No, no, both sides really want to keep talking to each other, Mitchell assures us:

In Cairo earlier on Sunday, Mitchell said both Israel and the Palestinians wanted to continue direct peace negotiations, despite an ongoing dispute over Israel’s refusal to renew its moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

But Abbas said he didn’t want to keep talking to the Israelis. So is Mitchell, you know, dissembling? Meanwhile, we learn that the “Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it would halt direct talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. The decision was announced by the general secretary of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo.” So no direct talks, right? Mitchell tries out this gibberish:

“Both the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations,” Mitchell wrote in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s website. “They do not want to stop the talks.”

But didn’t the Palestinians say that … oh never mind. We are now into the phase of the charade when Mitchell and the rest of the Obami try to pretend the direct talks haven’t broken off. But they have. Do they think we won’t notice? In this regard, the Palestinians are helping with the subterfuge: “Despite the PLO’s declaration, the Palestinian leadership and Arab countries appear in no hurry to actually make the decision final. In all probability the Americans have requested time from the Arab states to reach a compromise on the settlement issue.” Because it would look really bad if all that the Obama team could accomplish in two years was less than a month of “direct” negotiations.

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Time for Democrats to Correct Course on Israel

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

Read Less




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