Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 8, 2010

Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and America’s “Crisis in Spirit”

I’ve certainly had my run-ins with Joe Klein in recent years. But this story, written after a four-week road trip across America, is worth reading. “Topic A is the growing sense that our best days as a nation are behind us,” Klein writes, “that our kids won’t live as well as we did, that China is in the driver’s seat. … I found the same themes dominant everywhere — a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection.”

The reasons for this anxiety and national introspection are complicated — based in part, but certainly not solely, on the failure of our political class. Yet in the coming years, this cast of mind is going to frame politics in America, much like Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of spirit” speech framed politics at the end of the 1970s. On July 15, 1979, Carter gave his most memorable, and disastrous, speech – declaring, in part, this:

But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

In the end, the public will (rightfully) insist that its political leaders not simply diagnosis such problems, but do something to solve them. Ronald Reagan did this for the country as a whole, which is one reason he’s now widely seen as having been a great president. On a smaller scale, Rudy Giuliani could have lamented the desiccated state of New York City when he became mayor. Instead, he took steps to repair it. The result was a better, stronger, prouder city. New York became great again.

So far, President Obama has fallen terribly short of what the citizenry expects of him. He has contributed rather than ameliorated the anxieties and concerns people have. His policies, especially on the economy, are holding us down. Mr. Obama doesn’t seem able to tap into America’s remarkable strengths, spirit, and resilience, which are unique in the world and virtually unmatched in history. Indeed, in some deep way, he doesn’t even seem to recognize them and can therefore hardly acknowledge them.

If the president doesn’t correct these things relatively soon – if this “crisis of confidence” continues to spread and the president seems impotent to deal with the problems we face – then Barack Obama will share a fate similar to that of Jimmy Carter.

I’ve certainly had my run-ins with Joe Klein in recent years. But this story, written after a four-week road trip across America, is worth reading. “Topic A is the growing sense that our best days as a nation are behind us,” Klein writes, “that our kids won’t live as well as we did, that China is in the driver’s seat. … I found the same themes dominant everywhere — a rethinking of basic assumptions, a moment of national introspection.”

The reasons for this anxiety and national introspection are complicated — based in part, but certainly not solely, on the failure of our political class. Yet in the coming years, this cast of mind is going to frame politics in America, much like Jimmy Carter’s “crisis of spirit” speech framed politics at the end of the 1970s. On July 15, 1979, Carter gave his most memorable, and disastrous, speech – declaring, in part, this:

But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

In the end, the public will (rightfully) insist that its political leaders not simply diagnosis such problems, but do something to solve them. Ronald Reagan did this for the country as a whole, which is one reason he’s now widely seen as having been a great president. On a smaller scale, Rudy Giuliani could have lamented the desiccated state of New York City when he became mayor. Instead, he took steps to repair it. The result was a better, stronger, prouder city. New York became great again.

So far, President Obama has fallen terribly short of what the citizenry expects of him. He has contributed rather than ameliorated the anxieties and concerns people have. His policies, especially on the economy, are holding us down. Mr. Obama doesn’t seem able to tap into America’s remarkable strengths, spirit, and resilience, which are unique in the world and virtually unmatched in history. Indeed, in some deep way, he doesn’t even seem to recognize them and can therefore hardly acknowledge them.

If the president doesn’t correct these things relatively soon – if this “crisis of confidence” continues to spread and the president seems impotent to deal with the problems we face – then Barack Obama will share a fate similar to that of Jimmy Carter.

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Block This Sale

The bad ideas just keep coming. A few bloggers and news outlets picked up this week on the report that a Russian company wants to acquire a 51 percent stake in a U.S. uranium-mining operation. Four congressmen have written to Timothy Geithner asking him to block the sale, pointing out that if it goes through, a Russian corporation will control 20 percent of America’s uranium resources.

The sale should be blocked. The congressmen fear – with reason – that Russia could deliver uranium from the Wyoming mine to Iran, but that’s not the only consideration. Russia acquiring a 51 percent interest in a natural-resources operation creates unnecessary vulnerabilities for the nations involved. Multiple rounds of natural-gas extortion in Europe have made that clear. Russia behaves badly in its natural-resources dealings, using them alternately to build leverage with the wealthy and to strong-arm the struggling.

Russia and China are competing vigorously to acquire control of natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Besides its gas and oil investments in the Caribbean, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, Russia has signed uranium-development agreements with Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Russians are also prospecting for oil and gas off Cuba’s West coast in the Gulf of Mexico, an enterprise unaffected by President Obama’s moratorium on U.S. drilling. (See here for an extended treatment of Russia’s oil and gas acquisitions.) Between them, Russia and China are gradually narrowing the resource options of the U.S., the EU, and Japan; if geopolitical shifts drive us to seek new suppliers, we will find, wherever we look, that the Asian giants are already there. We certainly don’t need to collude in their strategy by handing our own resources over to their companies.

In turning markedly against Japan last week over the Kuril Islands issue – which carries major implications for undersea resources – the Putin-Medvedev regime sent a very clear signal about where it is headed. If we invite Russia to control the commercial destiny of a significant amount of our natural resources, we will be buying political problems for the future. Our current ability to stand up to extortion is no excuse for courting it unnecessarily. The Russia factor makes this sale an issue of national security; it is inherently political and should be decided for political reasons. The sale should be blocked.

The bad ideas just keep coming. A few bloggers and news outlets picked up this week on the report that a Russian company wants to acquire a 51 percent stake in a U.S. uranium-mining operation. Four congressmen have written to Timothy Geithner asking him to block the sale, pointing out that if it goes through, a Russian corporation will control 20 percent of America’s uranium resources.

The sale should be blocked. The congressmen fear – with reason – that Russia could deliver uranium from the Wyoming mine to Iran, but that’s not the only consideration. Russia acquiring a 51 percent interest in a natural-resources operation creates unnecessary vulnerabilities for the nations involved. Multiple rounds of natural-gas extortion in Europe have made that clear. Russia behaves badly in its natural-resources dealings, using them alternately to build leverage with the wealthy and to strong-arm the struggling.

Russia and China are competing vigorously to acquire control of natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Besides its gas and oil investments in the Caribbean, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, Russia has signed uranium-development agreements with Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Russians are also prospecting for oil and gas off Cuba’s West coast in the Gulf of Mexico, an enterprise unaffected by President Obama’s moratorium on U.S. drilling. (See here for an extended treatment of Russia’s oil and gas acquisitions.) Between them, Russia and China are gradually narrowing the resource options of the U.S., the EU, and Japan; if geopolitical shifts drive us to seek new suppliers, we will find, wherever we look, that the Asian giants are already there. We certainly don’t need to collude in their strategy by handing our own resources over to their companies.

In turning markedly against Japan last week over the Kuril Islands issue – which carries major implications for undersea resources – the Putin-Medvedev regime sent a very clear signal about where it is headed. If we invite Russia to control the commercial destiny of a significant amount of our natural resources, we will be buying political problems for the future. Our current ability to stand up to extortion is no excuse for courting it unnecessarily. The Russia factor makes this sale an issue of national security; it is inherently political and should be decided for political reasons. The sale should be blocked.

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Obama’s Independents Problem

The Third Way group put out a report that argues that the Democratic Party needs to motivate moderates, not just the liberal base, to turn out and vote. The report argues that because the number of conservatives has grown during the Obama years, energizing liberals is simply not enough. Indeed, because of the shrinking liberal base and the growing conservative one, the group found that “[i]n 16 of the 21 most hotly contested states this cycle, Democratic candidates who simply match President Obama’s overall 2008 performance with liberals, moderates and conservatives still won’t have the votes to win.” Hence the need to reach out to moderates.

The problem is that at this stage, only 25 days away from the midterm elections, Democrats can do almost nothing to appeal to moderates, particularly given that so many Democratic candidates are locked in because of their voting record. They are tied to the policies they have supported and to the larger failures of Obamaism. The public isn’t going to ignore the past 20 months; lawmakers cannot airbrush their record from history.

Third Way seems to grasp what is, to my mind, the most important political development during the Obama presidency: the hemorrhaging of support from among independents. What’s complicating the life of Obama and his party is that at the same time that independents are being alienated, the liberal base is being discouraged. The president has achieved quite a difficult feat: convincing most of the country he’s too liberal and convincing much of the Democratic base he’s not liberal enough.

As a political strategy, Obama has decided in the past few weeks to try and rally his base by (typical for Obama) hectoring and lecturing it. In the process, though, he is further estranging independents. The Obama administration, in other words, is doubling down on an approach it’s pursued (more or less) for 20 months now: governing in a deeply liberal manner. In a nation in which voters self-identify as conservatives rather than liberals by a margin of more than 2-to-1, this is destined to fail. The Obama administration has taken a bad hand and, in almost every case, made it worse. Which is why we’re going to see an epic repudiation on November 2.

The Third Way group put out a report that argues that the Democratic Party needs to motivate moderates, not just the liberal base, to turn out and vote. The report argues that because the number of conservatives has grown during the Obama years, energizing liberals is simply not enough. Indeed, because of the shrinking liberal base and the growing conservative one, the group found that “[i]n 16 of the 21 most hotly contested states this cycle, Democratic candidates who simply match President Obama’s overall 2008 performance with liberals, moderates and conservatives still won’t have the votes to win.” Hence the need to reach out to moderates.

The problem is that at this stage, only 25 days away from the midterm elections, Democrats can do almost nothing to appeal to moderates, particularly given that so many Democratic candidates are locked in because of their voting record. They are tied to the policies they have supported and to the larger failures of Obamaism. The public isn’t going to ignore the past 20 months; lawmakers cannot airbrush their record from history.

Third Way seems to grasp what is, to my mind, the most important political development during the Obama presidency: the hemorrhaging of support from among independents. What’s complicating the life of Obama and his party is that at the same time that independents are being alienated, the liberal base is being discouraged. The president has achieved quite a difficult feat: convincing most of the country he’s too liberal and convincing much of the Democratic base he’s not liberal enough.

As a political strategy, Obama has decided in the past few weeks to try and rally his base by (typical for Obama) hectoring and lecturing it. In the process, though, he is further estranging independents. The Obama administration, in other words, is doubling down on an approach it’s pursued (more or less) for 20 months now: governing in a deeply liberal manner. In a nation in which voters self-identify as conservatives rather than liberals by a margin of more than 2-to-1, this is destined to fail. The Obama administration has taken a bad hand and, in almost every case, made it worse. Which is why we’re going to see an epic repudiation on November 2.

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Voters to Obama: Thumbs Down on Your Israel Policy

Bill Kristol highlights a new poll concerning voters’ attitudes toward Israel. As he explains:

The American people strongly support the state of Israel, and want their elected representatives to do so as well. An astounding 93 percent of those polled say the United States should be concerned about the security of the state of Israel. A majority—54 percent—say the U.S. should be “very concerned” about Israel’s security.

But once again, there is a sharp divide between the right and left:

Among those intending to vote Republican this fall, 69 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who was pro-Israel, 15 percent would be less likely—a margin of 54 percent. On the other hand, among Democratic voters, the pro-Israel margin is only 7 percent—40 percent of Democratic voters are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate, 33 percent are less likely. Conservatives (and Tea Party sympathizers) mirror Republicans; their pro-Israel margins are also over 50 percent. The margin among self-described liberals is only 5 percent. And while Fox News fans are very pro-Israel, by 73 percent to 16 percent, devotees of the New York Times are actually negative on Israel, by 30 percent to 35 percent.

The bottom line: The public is strongly pro-Israel. But the public consists basically of two groups. The GOP/conservative/Fox News-viewing part of the public is overwhelmingly pro-Israel. The Democratic/liberal/New York Times-reading part of America is … comme-ci, comme-ca.

The full poll results are here. The poll and the accompanying cross tabs, while lengthy, are worth delving into. There are many nuggets to keep political junkies busy for some time. I’ll highlight a few items (rounding up the percentages for ease of reading) and will discuss more in future posts.

First, the sample seems to be tilted in the Democrats’ favor. There is a four-point generic lead for the GOP (compared with 5.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average). That seems to be the result of a healthy sampling of Democrats (40 percent of those surveyed). Still, the numbers for the president are quite poor: 55 percent would consider voting for someone else, and 52 percent disapprove of his overall performance. While a majority approve of his handling of foreign policy (51 to 45 percent), opinion on his handling of Israel is negative (44 percent disapprove, 43 percent approve).

The public gives thumbs down on Obama’s approach to Israel. A large plurality (43 to 30 percent) think Obama is harming Israel’s security, and by a 52 to 30 percent margin, voters think Obama is less friendly to Israel than past presidents. By a 54 to 27 percent margin, voters disapprove of Obama’s public criticism of Israel but not the Palestinians.

The poll also tests some J Streetisms. Guess what? Americans aren’t buying what Soros Street is peddling. Do Israel’s policies force Palestinians to become terrorists? By a 59 to 27 percent margin, voters say no. Are they “strongly opposed to an attack by the U.S. or Israel on Iran”? Only 35 percent say they are; 53 percent seem to think it might be a good idea. Only 12 percent hold Israel and its West Bank policies responsible for the conflict; 57 percent say it is the Palestinians’ fault. Nor do they sign on to the notion that a peace deal will diminish Arab hostility toward the U.S. Eighty-two percent say Arabs will find other excuses.

And it seems that Israel matters, at least according to this poll, in deciding between candidates. Fifty-four percent say they couldn’t vote for a candidate with whom they agreed on other policies if he were anti-Israel.

Finally, voters are extremely hawkish on Iran and skeptical of Obama’s handling of the regime. Seventy-eight percent don’t think Obama’s policies will prevent Iran from going nuclear. Fifty-nine percent would support an Israeli attack on Iran if sanctions don’t work. Sixty-three percent would consider this an act of self-defense.

So far, Obama’s Israel and Iran policies are ineffective and politically unpopular. Maybe with new advisers and an eye on 2012, he can be persuaded to adjust his policies to get in line with the pro-Zionist nation he leads.

Bill Kristol highlights a new poll concerning voters’ attitudes toward Israel. As he explains:

The American people strongly support the state of Israel, and want their elected representatives to do so as well. An astounding 93 percent of those polled say the United States should be concerned about the security of the state of Israel. A majority—54 percent—say the U.S. should be “very concerned” about Israel’s security.

But once again, there is a sharp divide between the right and left:

Among those intending to vote Republican this fall, 69 percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who was pro-Israel, 15 percent would be less likely—a margin of 54 percent. On the other hand, among Democratic voters, the pro-Israel margin is only 7 percent—40 percent of Democratic voters are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate, 33 percent are less likely. Conservatives (and Tea Party sympathizers) mirror Republicans; their pro-Israel margins are also over 50 percent. The margin among self-described liberals is only 5 percent. And while Fox News fans are very pro-Israel, by 73 percent to 16 percent, devotees of the New York Times are actually negative on Israel, by 30 percent to 35 percent.

The bottom line: The public is strongly pro-Israel. But the public consists basically of two groups. The GOP/conservative/Fox News-viewing part of the public is overwhelmingly pro-Israel. The Democratic/liberal/New York Times-reading part of America is … comme-ci, comme-ca.

The full poll results are here. The poll and the accompanying cross tabs, while lengthy, are worth delving into. There are many nuggets to keep political junkies busy for some time. I’ll highlight a few items (rounding up the percentages for ease of reading) and will discuss more in future posts.

First, the sample seems to be tilted in the Democrats’ favor. There is a four-point generic lead for the GOP (compared with 5.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average). That seems to be the result of a healthy sampling of Democrats (40 percent of those surveyed). Still, the numbers for the president are quite poor: 55 percent would consider voting for someone else, and 52 percent disapprove of his overall performance. While a majority approve of his handling of foreign policy (51 to 45 percent), opinion on his handling of Israel is negative (44 percent disapprove, 43 percent approve).

The public gives thumbs down on Obama’s approach to Israel. A large plurality (43 to 30 percent) think Obama is harming Israel’s security, and by a 52 to 30 percent margin, voters think Obama is less friendly to Israel than past presidents. By a 54 to 27 percent margin, voters disapprove of Obama’s public criticism of Israel but not the Palestinians.

The poll also tests some J Streetisms. Guess what? Americans aren’t buying what Soros Street is peddling. Do Israel’s policies force Palestinians to become terrorists? By a 59 to 27 percent margin, voters say no. Are they “strongly opposed to an attack by the U.S. or Israel on Iran”? Only 35 percent say they are; 53 percent seem to think it might be a good idea. Only 12 percent hold Israel and its West Bank policies responsible for the conflict; 57 percent say it is the Palestinians’ fault. Nor do they sign on to the notion that a peace deal will diminish Arab hostility toward the U.S. Eighty-two percent say Arabs will find other excuses.

And it seems that Israel matters, at least according to this poll, in deciding between candidates. Fifty-four percent say they couldn’t vote for a candidate with whom they agreed on other policies if he were anti-Israel.

Finally, voters are extremely hawkish on Iran and skeptical of Obama’s handling of the regime. Seventy-eight percent don’t think Obama’s policies will prevent Iran from going nuclear. Fifty-nine percent would support an Israeli attack on Iran if sanctions don’t work. Sixty-three percent would consider this an act of self-defense.

So far, Obama’s Israel and Iran policies are ineffective and politically unpopular. Maybe with new advisers and an eye on 2012, he can be persuaded to adjust his policies to get in line with the pro-Zionist nation he leads.

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If You Want to Know Why the Democrats Are Going to Lose Nov. 2…

Consider this tidbit from a recent Dave Letterman monologue: “Here now is the difference between Obama’s dog, Bo, and the economy. Obama fixed the dog.”

Consider this tidbit from a recent Dave Letterman monologue: “Here now is the difference between Obama’s dog, Bo, and the economy. Obama fixed the dog.”

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More on Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

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Or He Could Hold His Breath Until He Faints

The Palestinian leadership in all its majesty:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed U.S. envoy George Mitchell last week that the renewal of settlement construction will not only bring about the collapse of peace talks but it will also induce his resignation from the post of Palestinian Authority president.

According to Palestinian sources close to the PA leadership, Abbas told Mitchell of his plans during their last meeting together.

Abbas’s resignation means the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, since it was agreed inside the government that no one from the leadership of Fatah will step up to replace Abbas as president, and no new elections will be held.

In a conversation he held last week in his plane with a reporter, Abbas said “this is the last time that you will fly with me while I am president of the PA.”

Goodness knows how Mitchell responded. But this sort of negotiation by temper tantrum places the entire “peace process” in perfect perspective. For 60 years the Palestinians have been playing the rejectionist, victim card. They figured they had the perfect “mark” in Obama and his hapless crew. In a sense, they were right; never have we had a president so susceptible to Palestinian bluster and so willing to heed their refrain of victimology. But those nettlesome Jews are having none of it. They’ve grown weary of the gamesmanship, have learned the futility of land for not-peace, and have figured out that Abbas not going to quit (And lose his invitations to European capitals? Perish the thought!), nor is he going to recognize the Jewish state.

So Abbas can return or not. Quit or not. I hope the Obami now fully appreciate the infantile leadership they have been coddling. And, by the way, why hasn’t George Mitchell threatened to quit?

The Palestinian leadership in all its majesty:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed U.S. envoy George Mitchell last week that the renewal of settlement construction will not only bring about the collapse of peace talks but it will also induce his resignation from the post of Palestinian Authority president.

According to Palestinian sources close to the PA leadership, Abbas told Mitchell of his plans during their last meeting together.

Abbas’s resignation means the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, since it was agreed inside the government that no one from the leadership of Fatah will step up to replace Abbas as president, and no new elections will be held.

In a conversation he held last week in his plane with a reporter, Abbas said “this is the last time that you will fly with me while I am president of the PA.”

Goodness knows how Mitchell responded. But this sort of negotiation by temper tantrum places the entire “peace process” in perfect perspective. For 60 years the Palestinians have been playing the rejectionist, victim card. They figured they had the perfect “mark” in Obama and his hapless crew. In a sense, they were right; never have we had a president so susceptible to Palestinian bluster and so willing to heed their refrain of victimology. But those nettlesome Jews are having none of it. They’ve grown weary of the gamesmanship, have learned the futility of land for not-peace, and have figured out that Abbas not going to quit (And lose his invitations to European capitals? Perish the thought!), nor is he going to recognize the Jewish state.

So Abbas can return or not. Quit or not. I hope the Obami now fully appreciate the infantile leadership they have been coddling. And, by the way, why hasn’t George Mitchell threatened to quit?

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Can’t Anybody Here Play This White House Game?

The breaking news is that the national security adviser, General James Jones, has resigned and is being replaced by his deputy, Thomas Donilon. There had been speculation Jones could not possibly retain his job after saying uncomplimentary things about other Obama officials in Bob Woodward’s book. (Jones was evidently no great shakes in his current position, though according to Woodward, Defense Secretary Bob Gates considers Donilon a disaster.) Even so, this is astonishing. Just weeks before an election widely seen as a referendum on the past two years and the West Wing has lost its chief of staff and its national security adviser, without question the two most important jobs in the White House below the president’s. Turnover of this sort can only contribute to a general sense of disarray and disorder, which will only worsen the White House’s standing with those depressed voters it is so eager to buck up and get to the polls on November 2. This is what is known as an unforced error, a gift to the other team, exactly the sort of behavior that led Casey Stengel, managing the Mets in the first year of their existence to a 40-120 record, to cry out as if to the gods, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

The breaking news is that the national security adviser, General James Jones, has resigned and is being replaced by his deputy, Thomas Donilon. There had been speculation Jones could not possibly retain his job after saying uncomplimentary things about other Obama officials in Bob Woodward’s book. (Jones was evidently no great shakes in his current position, though according to Woodward, Defense Secretary Bob Gates considers Donilon a disaster.) Even so, this is astonishing. Just weeks before an election widely seen as a referendum on the past two years and the West Wing has lost its chief of staff and its national security adviser, without question the two most important jobs in the White House below the president’s. Turnover of this sort can only contribute to a general sense of disarray and disorder, which will only worsen the White House’s standing with those depressed voters it is so eager to buck up and get to the polls on November 2. This is what is known as an unforced error, a gift to the other team, exactly the sort of behavior that led Casey Stengel, managing the Mets in the first year of their existence to a 40-120 record, to cry out as if to the gods, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

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ObamaCare’s Thorny Implementation

In interpreting a key Department of Health and Human Services announcement, the New York Times reported that so far, 30 insurers, employers, and union plans, responsible for covering about one million people, have been given one-year waivers by the government on the new rules that phase out annual limits on coverage for limited-benefit plans, also known as “mini-meds.” In the words of the Times, “the waivers have been issued in the last several weeks as part of a broader strategic effort to stave off threats by some health insurers to abandon markets, drop out of the business altogether or refuse to sell certain policies.”

This action highlights one of the great dangers of ObamaCare, which is that every health-care decision now has to run through the federal government. Private companies have to bow before its throne, asking for waivers and massively complicating their own lives. The federal government is now in a much stronger position to pick winners and losers and rig the game. This is the kind of expansion of federal power that many people feared and warned about – and it’s happening within weeks of the law taking effect.

The waivers are also the Obama administration’s attempt to minimize the negative impact of ObamaCare less than a month before the midterm election. It’s now clear that the new health-care law was very poorly constructed and is having enormous implementation problems. To issue waivers to undo the damaging effects of a new law is a very bad sign. No wonder so few Democratic candidates are running on their support for ObamaCare – and why so many Republican candidates are running hard against it.

This story is part of a broader, unfolding one: the collision between Obama’s promises on health care and reality. Promise after promise – including bending the health-care cost curve down, the cost of premiums being lower, and no person being forced to give up their existing coverage – is being shattered. On almost every particular, what Obama said would happen not only isn’t coming to pass; the opposite is occurring. I discussed some of this on my appearance on Special Report with Bret Bair last night.

The waivers are real trouble for Obama on health care – but they are also damaging his credibility. When the gap between what one says will happen and what actually happens becomes the size of a canyon, it has an acidic effect on one of the most important things an American president relies on: his trustworthiness, the belief that his word is good and he can be counted on.

In interpreting a key Department of Health and Human Services announcement, the New York Times reported that so far, 30 insurers, employers, and union plans, responsible for covering about one million people, have been given one-year waivers by the government on the new rules that phase out annual limits on coverage for limited-benefit plans, also known as “mini-meds.” In the words of the Times, “the waivers have been issued in the last several weeks as part of a broader strategic effort to stave off threats by some health insurers to abandon markets, drop out of the business altogether or refuse to sell certain policies.”

This action highlights one of the great dangers of ObamaCare, which is that every health-care decision now has to run through the federal government. Private companies have to bow before its throne, asking for waivers and massively complicating their own lives. The federal government is now in a much stronger position to pick winners and losers and rig the game. This is the kind of expansion of federal power that many people feared and warned about – and it’s happening within weeks of the law taking effect.

The waivers are also the Obama administration’s attempt to minimize the negative impact of ObamaCare less than a month before the midterm election. It’s now clear that the new health-care law was very poorly constructed and is having enormous implementation problems. To issue waivers to undo the damaging effects of a new law is a very bad sign. No wonder so few Democratic candidates are running on their support for ObamaCare – and why so many Republican candidates are running hard against it.

This story is part of a broader, unfolding one: the collision between Obama’s promises on health care and reality. Promise after promise – including bending the health-care cost curve down, the cost of premiums being lower, and no person being forced to give up their existing coverage – is being shattered. On almost every particular, what Obama said would happen not only isn’t coming to pass; the opposite is occurring. I discussed some of this on my appearance on Special Report with Bret Bair last night.

The waivers are real trouble for Obama on health care – but they are also damaging his credibility. When the gap between what one says will happen and what actually happens becomes the size of a canyon, it has an acidic effect on one of the most important things an American president relies on: his trustworthiness, the belief that his word is good and he can be counted on.

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The Nail in the Dems’ Coffin

There is no way to spin this one:

The economy shed 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday, with most of the decline the result of the layoffs by local governments and of temporary decennial Census workers.

The steep drop was far worse than economists had been predicting.

While total government jobs fell by 159,000, private sector companies added 64,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of workers who are actively looking for but unable to find jobs, stayed flat at 9.6 percent.

Obama’s ludicrous rhetoric (“Recovery Summer”) and economic stewardship will be a millstone around the neck of every Democrat on the ballot three weeks from Tuesday. Many of them are going to lose. And today’s awful economic news will silence even the most deluded spinners that the Democrats have abated their electoral slide. Expect it to accelerate.

There is no way to spin this one:

The economy shed 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday, with most of the decline the result of the layoffs by local governments and of temporary decennial Census workers.

The steep drop was far worse than economists had been predicting.

While total government jobs fell by 159,000, private sector companies added 64,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of workers who are actively looking for but unable to find jobs, stayed flat at 9.6 percent.

Obama’s ludicrous rhetoric (“Recovery Summer”) and economic stewardship will be a millstone around the neck of every Democrat on the ballot three weeks from Tuesday. Many of them are going to lose. And today’s awful economic news will silence even the most deluded spinners that the Democrats have abated their electoral slide. Expect it to accelerate.

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A Better Choice for the Peace Prize

Aside from giving it to Richard Goldstone (you think I jest, but he was on the short list), the Nobelians could hardly have done worse than last year’s choice for the Peace Prize. In fact, they did a whole lot better, honoring someone who is actually doing something for the cause of human rights, justice, and democracy:

Jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for decades of non-violent struggle for human rights, infuriating China, which called the award “an obscenity.”

The prize puts China’s human rights record in the spotlight at a time when it is starting to play a bigger role on the global stage as a result of its growing economic might.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Liu for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” and reiterated its belief in a “close connection between human rights and peace.”

Liu is serving an 11-year jail term for helping to draw up a manifesto calling for free speech and multi-party elections.

Whenever a totalitarian regime calls something an “obscenity,” you know you’re on the right track. But the irony is great here. During his 2009 visit to China, Obama drew howls of protest from activists because of his lack of focus on human rights. In February of this year, Kelly Currie wrote:

On Christmas Day 2009, the Chinese regime sentenced writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for “incitement to subvert state power.” His crime was co-authoring and circulating on-line a manifesto for democratic change in China called Charter 08, an intentional homage to the Czech dissident movement’s Charter 77. Charter 08 got Mr. Liu into trouble because it challenged the legitimacy of one-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr. Liu’s trial was the usual Kafkaesque totalitarian exercise: brief, closed, and one-sided, with a pre-determined outcome cleared at the highest level of the Chinese regime. The official U.S. response to this outrageous detention was a mild December 24 statement from the Acting Press Spokesman at the State Department. There has been nothing further from either Secretary Clinton or President Obama, despite Liu being among the most prominent dissidents in China and having received one of the harshest sentences in recent memory for a non-violent political crime.

And just yesterday, U.S. lawmakers were pressing Obama to speak out on Chinese human rights abuses:

US lawmakers have urged President Barack Obama to speak up to China to ensure the safety of two prominent dissidents, one of whom is a favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thirty lawmakers asked Obama to raise the cases of writer Liu Xiaobo, thought to be in contention when the Nobel is announced Friday, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, when he meets next month with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

“We write to ask that you urge President Hu to release two emblematic Chinese prisoners of conscience, Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng,” 29 of the House members across party lines wrote in a letter released Wednesday. …

Obama has sought to broaden relations with a growing China on issues ranging from climate change to the global economy. His administration has claimed success, with China last week agreeing to resume military ties with Washington.

But human rights activists have accused the administration of downplaying human rights. In a break with past practice, China did not release any dissidents when Obama paid his maiden visit to Beijing last year.

Could it be that the 2009 Peace Prize winner has done nothing to advance the causes for which the 2010 winner is sacrificing so much?

Aside from giving it to Richard Goldstone (you think I jest, but he was on the short list), the Nobelians could hardly have done worse than last year’s choice for the Peace Prize. In fact, they did a whole lot better, honoring someone who is actually doing something for the cause of human rights, justice, and democracy:

Jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for decades of non-violent struggle for human rights, infuriating China, which called the award “an obscenity.”

The prize puts China’s human rights record in the spotlight at a time when it is starting to play a bigger role on the global stage as a result of its growing economic might.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Liu for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” and reiterated its belief in a “close connection between human rights and peace.”

Liu is serving an 11-year jail term for helping to draw up a manifesto calling for free speech and multi-party elections.

Whenever a totalitarian regime calls something an “obscenity,” you know you’re on the right track. But the irony is great here. During his 2009 visit to China, Obama drew howls of protest from activists because of his lack of focus on human rights. In February of this year, Kelly Currie wrote:

On Christmas Day 2009, the Chinese regime sentenced writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for “incitement to subvert state power.” His crime was co-authoring and circulating on-line a manifesto for democratic change in China called Charter 08, an intentional homage to the Czech dissident movement’s Charter 77. Charter 08 got Mr. Liu into trouble because it challenged the legitimacy of one-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr. Liu’s trial was the usual Kafkaesque totalitarian exercise: brief, closed, and one-sided, with a pre-determined outcome cleared at the highest level of the Chinese regime. The official U.S. response to this outrageous detention was a mild December 24 statement from the Acting Press Spokesman at the State Department. There has been nothing further from either Secretary Clinton or President Obama, despite Liu being among the most prominent dissidents in China and having received one of the harshest sentences in recent memory for a non-violent political crime.

And just yesterday, U.S. lawmakers were pressing Obama to speak out on Chinese human rights abuses:

US lawmakers have urged President Barack Obama to speak up to China to ensure the safety of two prominent dissidents, one of whom is a favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thirty lawmakers asked Obama to raise the cases of writer Liu Xiaobo, thought to be in contention when the Nobel is announced Friday, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, when he meets next month with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

“We write to ask that you urge President Hu to release two emblematic Chinese prisoners of conscience, Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng,” 29 of the House members across party lines wrote in a letter released Wednesday. …

Obama has sought to broaden relations with a growing China on issues ranging from climate change to the global economy. His administration has claimed success, with China last week agreeing to resume military ties with Washington.

But human rights activists have accused the administration of downplaying human rights. In a break with past practice, China did not release any dissidents when Obama paid his maiden visit to Beijing last year.

Could it be that the 2009 Peace Prize winner has done nothing to advance the causes for which the 2010 winner is sacrificing so much?

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The Nonviolent Victory That Wasn’t

The New York Times ran a paean this week to a new documentary, Budrus, that purports to show how 10 months of nonviolent protests in 2003-04 persuaded Israel to reroute its security fence near the eponymous West Bank village. The story has only two flaws: the protests weren’t nonviolent, and the victory was at least partly due to Israel’s own legal system. And those flaws reflect a problem far larger than the film itself.

Though the movie shows occasional stone-throwing, most of the protests look “utterly peaceful,” noted reporter Ethan Bronner. But even some of the protesters themselves told Bronner otherwise.

“It is obvious that the filmmaker was not there,” said one, Jonathan Pollak. “The movie represents what happened as more nonviolent that it really was.”

And Pollak is no Israeli flack He co-founded the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall, which regularly joins Palestinian protests against the fence; he’s been injured and arrested repeatedly during anti-fence demonstrations; and he even toured the U.S. with the film’s hero, Ayed Morrar, to fundraise for the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement.

Indeed, even the usually pro-Palestinian Haaretz admits that most anti-fence demonstrations involve “a great deal of stone throwing” — generally with slingshots, which are lethal weapons — and “many [Israeli] soldiers and Border Police are wounded.”

The other issue ignored by both the film and Bronner is the role of Israel’s Supreme Court. The Budrus protests coincided with hearings on what became a landmark decision ordering the fence rerouted to reduce harm to Palestinian villagers. The verdict was issued only in July 2004. But the government had already begun rerouting the fence in various locales during the previous six months, because the justices’ comments during the hearings made the likely outcome clear.

The film thus turned a highly complex situation (let’s not forget that the fence was built to begin with only to stop the murderous Palestinian terror of those years) into a simplistic tale of good Palestinians versus evil Israelis.

The same is true of almost every other movie about the conflict — and for good reason, as Israeli filmmaker Noa Ben Hagai acknowledged in a stunning interview with Haaretz last month.

After Ben Hagai’s documentary about her own family’s discovery of Palestinian relatives in the West Bank was shown at Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival,

[i]nternational producers asked me what my next film was going to be, and hinted that they would be glad if it were about the occupation, but from an extreme direction, from a new angle showing how terrible the reality can be. It was clear that they wanted something very extreme and bloody about the Israeli reality, if possible something about apartheid, and to mix in the Holocaust, too, if possible. I understood that … if I want to succeed in the world, then I have to keep on dealing with political subjects.

In short, if you want money, critical acclaim, and festival screenings, the storyline has to be “good Palestinians versus bad Israelis,” regardless of the truth. And that means viewers should take all such films with a large grain of salt.

The New York Times ran a paean this week to a new documentary, Budrus, that purports to show how 10 months of nonviolent protests in 2003-04 persuaded Israel to reroute its security fence near the eponymous West Bank village. The story has only two flaws: the protests weren’t nonviolent, and the victory was at least partly due to Israel’s own legal system. And those flaws reflect a problem far larger than the film itself.

Though the movie shows occasional stone-throwing, most of the protests look “utterly peaceful,” noted reporter Ethan Bronner. But even some of the protesters themselves told Bronner otherwise.

“It is obvious that the filmmaker was not there,” said one, Jonathan Pollak. “The movie represents what happened as more nonviolent that it really was.”

And Pollak is no Israeli flack He co-founded the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall, which regularly joins Palestinian protests against the fence; he’s been injured and arrested repeatedly during anti-fence demonstrations; and he even toured the U.S. with the film’s hero, Ayed Morrar, to fundraise for the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement.

Indeed, even the usually pro-Palestinian Haaretz admits that most anti-fence demonstrations involve “a great deal of stone throwing” — generally with slingshots, which are lethal weapons — and “many [Israeli] soldiers and Border Police are wounded.”

The other issue ignored by both the film and Bronner is the role of Israel’s Supreme Court. The Budrus protests coincided with hearings on what became a landmark decision ordering the fence rerouted to reduce harm to Palestinian villagers. The verdict was issued only in July 2004. But the government had already begun rerouting the fence in various locales during the previous six months, because the justices’ comments during the hearings made the likely outcome clear.

The film thus turned a highly complex situation (let’s not forget that the fence was built to begin with only to stop the murderous Palestinian terror of those years) into a simplistic tale of good Palestinians versus evil Israelis.

The same is true of almost every other movie about the conflict — and for good reason, as Israeli filmmaker Noa Ben Hagai acknowledged in a stunning interview with Haaretz last month.

After Ben Hagai’s documentary about her own family’s discovery of Palestinian relatives in the West Bank was shown at Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival,

[i]nternational producers asked me what my next film was going to be, and hinted that they would be glad if it were about the occupation, but from an extreme direction, from a new angle showing how terrible the reality can be. It was clear that they wanted something very extreme and bloody about the Israeli reality, if possible something about apartheid, and to mix in the Holocaust, too, if possible. I understood that … if I want to succeed in the world, then I have to keep on dealing with political subjects.

In short, if you want money, critical acclaim, and festival screenings, the storyline has to be “good Palestinians versus bad Israelis,” regardless of the truth. And that means viewers should take all such films with a large grain of salt.

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Same Old PA, Same Old “Peace Process”

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

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Sometimes Hard to Remember He’s the President

With each passing day, the president sounds less presidential. He’s been hollering at, insulting, and belittling his own supporters. And every day, he seems to hit a new low. An example:

Republican majority in Congress would mean “hand-to-hand combat” on Capitol Hill for the next two years, threatening policies Democrats have enacted to stabilize the economy, President Obama warned Wednesday.

Speaking on Michael Baisden’s syndicated radio show, Obama also made a direct appeal to African Americans about the importance of the November vote, even though he’s not on the ballot himself.

“The reason we won [in 2008] is because young people, African Americans, Latinos — people who traditionally don’t vote in high numbers — voted in record numbers. We’ve got to have that same kind of turnout in this election,” he said. “If we think that we can just vote one time, then we have a nice party at Obama’s inauguration, and then we can kind of sit back and suddenly everything’s going to change – that’s just not how it works.”

It’s bad enough that he considers divided government — a frequent phenomenon in American history — to be the staging ground for a fistfight, an unspeakable horror unresolvable by discussion and compromise. It’s bad enough that he continues to insult and demean his opponents. But he is the president, for goodness’ sakes, and he’s making a naked appeal on race and ethnic lines? It’s shameful. It’s quite a message to the rest of Americans, isn’t it? He’s given up on you — and apparently you on him.

And he’s back to petulant blame-casting, with, you guessed it, George W. Bush returning for an appearance in this episode of “Not my fault!”:

Days before the release of a key jobs report, Obama said most of the job losses his administration gets blamed for occurred before “any of my economic plans were put into place,” and that the country is still “experiencing the hangover from the misguided policies” of the last decade.

Good grief. He told us his stimulus plan would keep unemployment at 8 percent, conceded that he should be judged on the economy, and touted the “Recovery Summer.” But now all he has left is “Bush did it!” It’s not only silly and ineffective (Ohio voters, for example, would gladly trade him in for Bush, according to a recent poll); it’s embarrassing for the president, after nearly two years in office, to disclaim responsibility for his record and his results.

You wonder how Obama will behave after the election. He is going to have to deal with a Republican majority in one or both houses, and he’s really not going to be able to run against George W. Bush a second time (John McCain was beside the point in 2008). He’d better lose the petulant demeanor, knock off the divisive appeals, and figure out how to revise his failing agenda. Otherwise, it will be a long two years for him and a dismal 2012 for both him and his party.

With each passing day, the president sounds less presidential. He’s been hollering at, insulting, and belittling his own supporters. And every day, he seems to hit a new low. An example:

Republican majority in Congress would mean “hand-to-hand combat” on Capitol Hill for the next two years, threatening policies Democrats have enacted to stabilize the economy, President Obama warned Wednesday.

Speaking on Michael Baisden’s syndicated radio show, Obama also made a direct appeal to African Americans about the importance of the November vote, even though he’s not on the ballot himself.

“The reason we won [in 2008] is because young people, African Americans, Latinos — people who traditionally don’t vote in high numbers — voted in record numbers. We’ve got to have that same kind of turnout in this election,” he said. “If we think that we can just vote one time, then we have a nice party at Obama’s inauguration, and then we can kind of sit back and suddenly everything’s going to change – that’s just not how it works.”

It’s bad enough that he considers divided government — a frequent phenomenon in American history — to be the staging ground for a fistfight, an unspeakable horror unresolvable by discussion and compromise. It’s bad enough that he continues to insult and demean his opponents. But he is the president, for goodness’ sakes, and he’s making a naked appeal on race and ethnic lines? It’s shameful. It’s quite a message to the rest of Americans, isn’t it? He’s given up on you — and apparently you on him.

And he’s back to petulant blame-casting, with, you guessed it, George W. Bush returning for an appearance in this episode of “Not my fault!”:

Days before the release of a key jobs report, Obama said most of the job losses his administration gets blamed for occurred before “any of my economic plans were put into place,” and that the country is still “experiencing the hangover from the misguided policies” of the last decade.

Good grief. He told us his stimulus plan would keep unemployment at 8 percent, conceded that he should be judged on the economy, and touted the “Recovery Summer.” But now all he has left is “Bush did it!” It’s not only silly and ineffective (Ohio voters, for example, would gladly trade him in for Bush, according to a recent poll); it’s embarrassing for the president, after nearly two years in office, to disclaim responsibility for his record and his results.

You wonder how Obama will behave after the election. He is going to have to deal with a Republican majority in one or both houses, and he’s really not going to be able to run against George W. Bush a second time (John McCain was beside the point in 2008). He’d better lose the petulant demeanor, knock off the divisive appeals, and figure out how to revise his failing agenda. Otherwise, it will be a long two years for him and a dismal 2012 for both him and his party.

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Don’t Let the Door Hit You, Rahm

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel's] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him – to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel's] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him – to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

Read Less




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