Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 27, 2010

Bush and Palin In Strong Year-End Showing

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.

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What’s the Mystery?

Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin quotes Jill Lawrence’s utter befuddlement over the lack of popularity of ObamaCare. Let’s see if we can clear up the mystery for Ms. Lawrence.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a horrible piece of legislation — incoherently written, damaging in its effects on our health-care system, terribly costly and inefficient, and passed through means much of the public considered either troubling or illegitimate. The more the president spoke on its behalf, the less popular it became. And right now it is, depending on which poll you consult, as unpopular as it has ever been. But it won’t end there. The more the people understand the full effects of this monstrosity, the more politically radioactive it will be.

Ms. Lawrence would learn a lot if she read, and then absorbed, Tevi Troy’s excellent essay in the January issue of COMMENTARY. But I suspect her views are too rigid to allow such a thing to happen.

Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin quotes Jill Lawrence’s utter befuddlement over the lack of popularity of ObamaCare. Let’s see if we can clear up the mystery for Ms. Lawrence.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a horrible piece of legislation — incoherently written, damaging in its effects on our health-care system, terribly costly and inefficient, and passed through means much of the public considered either troubling or illegitimate. The more the president spoke on its behalf, the less popular it became. And right now it is, depending on which poll you consult, as unpopular as it has ever been. But it won’t end there. The more the people understand the full effects of this monstrosity, the more politically radioactive it will be.

Ms. Lawrence would learn a lot if she read, and then absorbed, Tevi Troy’s excellent essay in the January issue of COMMENTARY. But I suspect her views are too rigid to allow such a thing to happen.

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RE: RE: Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Wehner’s point from last week about the need to make the moral case for conservative economics. The case is strong, and it has not been made well or often in general public debate in the last 20 years. The knowledge that there is such a case seems at times like the relic of an earlier era: it harks back to the argument made from the 1940s to the 1970s by a self-designated American rearguard against communism and “creeping socialism.” There was an aspect of national-security immediacy to the question then. In the wake of the Reagan years, however, when a consensus on conservative economics appeared to be in the ascendant and the Soviet Union had been put on an unsustainable defensive, the focus of debate shifted to deviations from conservative economics – and its importance to addressing crises and social problems. The basic outlines of the timeless moral case for conservative economics have largely disappeared from our set of popular understandings.

But this case cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government’s power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state. Read More

I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Wehner’s point from last week about the need to make the moral case for conservative economics. The case is strong, and it has not been made well or often in general public debate in the last 20 years. The knowledge that there is such a case seems at times like the relic of an earlier era: it harks back to the argument made from the 1940s to the 1970s by a self-designated American rearguard against communism and “creeping socialism.” There was an aspect of national-security immediacy to the question then. In the wake of the Reagan years, however, when a consensus on conservative economics appeared to be in the ascendant and the Soviet Union had been put on an unsustainable defensive, the focus of debate shifted to deviations from conservative economics – and its importance to addressing crises and social problems. The basic outlines of the timeless moral case for conservative economics have largely disappeared from our set of popular understandings.

But this case cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government’s power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state.

In this vein, I took particular notice of the following passage from Peter Wehner’s post today on Sarah Palin mocking the First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign.

… the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

I understand the question is meant to be rhetorical. But there is actually a very large segment of the American population that would answer, “Of course.” The central government’s interesting itself in our obesity because that government has made the cost of our health care “its” problem – and proposing therefore to ban vending machines from schools putatively governed by local school boards and the states – can legitimately be considered at odds with the American idea of government as limited, constitutional, and federal. This arguably puts the proposition at odds, by extension, with the American idea of the citizen, the state, and natural rights.

One key reason for the Tea Party movement is that there has been no real public debate on this most fundamental of topics for at least 30 years. I believe we do not have a common understanding today of where federal intervention in school vending machines stands in relation to political liberty. It’s true Sarah Palin often expresses the more libertarian side of this question with a populist inelegance that may be unhelpful, but that doesn’t mean that the debate is over regarding how much we should let government manage our life choices. That debate must form part of the discussion on conservative economics and morality as we advance toward 2012.

All that said, I concur with Peter’s gentle and well-considered point on mocking Michelle Obama. That’s not the way to introduce this topic. Contrarianism only goes so far: it is generosity of spirit, good humor, and courtesy that will win the day for the aspiring political leader who reclaims these fundamental issues for conservatives.

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New Yorker Editor Just Can’t Take Israel Anymore

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

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Bush’s Book Triumph

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, President George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, has sold 2 million copies since it was released early last month. By way of comparison, President Clinton’s memoir, My Life, has sold 2.2 million since it was published in 2004. A spokesman for Crown, which published Decision Points, called the performance “remarkable” and said that he could not think of any other non-fiction hardback book that has sold even a million copies in 2010.

At the end of the Bush presidency, some people argued that no publisher worth its salt would publish Bush’s memoir — and if it did, Bush should be paid much less than Clinton. The argument was that Bush was terribly unpopular and no one would have any interest in revisiting the Bush years. There was even speculation by a few that if Decision Points leaked out prior to the 2010 mid-term election, it would damage GOP prospects of taking back the House. And there were even a few who believed that Democrats who ran against Mr. Bush after his presidency would triumph (for example, the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman thought running against Bush would be the path to victory for Jon Corzine against Chris Christie).

All of this turned out to be complete nonsense. President Bush’s memoir is extremely well done, particularly for a presidential memoir (they tend to be poorly written and not terribly revealing). It provides readers with keen insights into the decision-making process that defined the Bush presidency, from stem cells to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Freedom Agenda to AIDS and malaria initiatives and much more.

As has often been the case with this two-term president, Mr. Bush’s critics misunderestimated him. His presidency is in the process of undergoing a significant reevaluation; the success of Decision Points is simply more testimony to this.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, President George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, has sold 2 million copies since it was released early last month. By way of comparison, President Clinton’s memoir, My Life, has sold 2.2 million since it was published in 2004. A spokesman for Crown, which published Decision Points, called the performance “remarkable” and said that he could not think of any other non-fiction hardback book that has sold even a million copies in 2010.

At the end of the Bush presidency, some people argued that no publisher worth its salt would publish Bush’s memoir — and if it did, Bush should be paid much less than Clinton. The argument was that Bush was terribly unpopular and no one would have any interest in revisiting the Bush years. There was even speculation by a few that if Decision Points leaked out prior to the 2010 mid-term election, it would damage GOP prospects of taking back the House. And there were even a few who believed that Democrats who ran against Mr. Bush after his presidency would triumph (for example, the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman thought running against Bush would be the path to victory for Jon Corzine against Chris Christie).

All of this turned out to be complete nonsense. President Bush’s memoir is extremely well done, particularly for a presidential memoir (they tend to be poorly written and not terribly revealing). It provides readers with keen insights into the decision-making process that defined the Bush presidency, from stem cells to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Freedom Agenda to AIDS and malaria initiatives and much more.

As has often been the case with this two-term president, Mr. Bush’s critics misunderestimated him. His presidency is in the process of undergoing a significant reevaluation; the success of Decision Points is simply more testimony to this.

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RE: Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

I agree with Pete that Sarah Palin is dead wrong on this one. Encouraging parents to monitor their children’s weight and to give them a healthy diet is one thing, mandating it is quite another.

That’s the difference between Michelle Obama and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which would like nothing better than to require that parents provide a prescribed diet, devoid of anything that tastes good. This group, which could with more accuracy be called the Center for the Suppression of All Pleasure in Life, is currently suing McDonald’s in California over the toys it puts in children’s “happy meals.” As detailed by my friend Walter Olson, their argument is that the toys make the meals too appealing to kids, who then bully their parents into buying the fattening meals, the parents giving in rather than face life with pouting children. They are seeking class-action status so that other parents, helpless before their children’s demands, can join in. San Francisco and Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) have already outlawed happy meals. They certainly have a low opinion of their citizens’ parenting skills. (Personally, I can remember all too well how my mother could bring my brother and me to heel with a single glance.)

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and such organizations, it seems to me, are staffed and supported by the philosophical descendants of New England Puritans. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill and, to do so, were only too happy to run everyone’s life for them.

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Why Did Barack Obama Endorse Dog-Killing QB?

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

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Palin’s Counterproductive Complaint

The Wall Street Journal has an intelligent editorial, “Palin’s Food Fight,” which begins this way:

President Obama’s indiscriminate expansion of federal power has inspired a healthy populist rebellion, but his opponents sometimes seem to lose their sense of proportion. Take Sarah Palin’s mockery of Michelle Obama’s childhood anti-obesity campaign.

Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. “What [Mrs. Obama] is  telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat,” according to Palin. “Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.” And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to “intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire” amid a “Nanny state run amok.”

This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.

For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion). And if a child is overweight between ages 10 and 15, he or she has a 70 percent chance of still being overweight/obese at 25. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to smoking. So the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

The Journal rightly compares Mrs. Obama’s effort to President Kennedy’s Presidential Fitness Award and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign on drugs, both of which were successes. So was Laura Bush championing of reading. Having people in positions of leadership use their authority to draw attention to national problems and positive solutions is a laudatory thing. In this instance, Mrs. Obama’s effort is providing parents with an ally instead of an adversary.

Mocking the First Lady and portraying her anti-obesity campaign as several steps on the Road to Serfdom is exactly the type of thing that will turn the public against the legitimate efforts by conservatives to rein in the reach and scope of government. Ms. Palin might consider this before she takes yet another unfair shot at Mrs. Obama.

The Wall Street Journal has an intelligent editorial, “Palin’s Food Fight,” which begins this way:

President Obama’s indiscriminate expansion of federal power has inspired a healthy populist rebellion, but his opponents sometimes seem to lose their sense of proportion. Take Sarah Palin’s mockery of Michelle Obama’s childhood anti-obesity campaign.

Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. “What [Mrs. Obama] is  telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat,” according to Palin. “Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.” And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to “intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire” amid a “Nanny state run amok.”

This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.

For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion). And if a child is overweight between ages 10 and 15, he or she has a 70 percent chance of still being overweight/obese at 25. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in America, second only to smoking. So the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the “nanny state run amok”?

The Journal rightly compares Mrs. Obama’s effort to President Kennedy’s Presidential Fitness Award and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign on drugs, both of which were successes. So was Laura Bush championing of reading. Having people in positions of leadership use their authority to draw attention to national problems and positive solutions is a laudatory thing. In this instance, Mrs. Obama’s effort is providing parents with an ally instead of an adversary.

Mocking the First Lady and portraying her anti-obesity campaign as several steps on the Road to Serfdom is exactly the type of thing that will turn the public against the legitimate efforts by conservatives to rein in the reach and scope of government. Ms. Palin might consider this before she takes yet another unfair shot at Mrs. Obama.

Read Less

Islamists Slaughter Christians, and Jews Are Blamed

The recent wave of deadly attacks on Iraqi Christians must have cast a pall over Christmas celebrations worldwide this year. But one can’t help wondering whether it also prompted any soul-searching at the Vatican.

After all, it was just two months ago that a synod of Middle East bishops proclaimed Israel the main source of Middle East Christians’ woes. As the Jerusalem Post reported, it “blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight of Christians from the Middle East” and “laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel.” The synod’s president, Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, even implied that Jews had no right to a state here at all and that Israel should be eradicated through the “return” of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees. And though the Vatican disavowed that comment, Pope Benedict XVI also said that Middle East peace – a term usually synonymous with “Israeli-Arab peace” – was the best way to halt Christian emigration.

In reality, of course, the plight of Palestinian Christians pales beside that of their Iraqi brethren. More than half of Iraq’s Christians – hundreds of thousands in all – have fled their country since 2003, after being targeted in numerous deadly attacks. And not even Al-Qaida has tried to link these attacks to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, though it’s not shy about inventing “justifications”: For instance, it deemed October’s bloody siege at a Baghdad church retaliation for an alleged offense by Egypt’s Coptic Church.

Compare this to the booming business scene in Bethlehem, where tourism is up 60 percent over 2009 despite Israeli “oppression.” One astute Palestinian businessman attributed the boom to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reduce violence – a tacit (and correct) acknowledgement that what previously destroyed the PA’s economy was not Israel, but Palestinian terror. Or compare Iraq’s Christian crisis to the fivefold increase in Israel’s Christian population, from 34,000 in 1949 to 152,000 in 2009.

This month, the New York Times reported that many fleeing Iraqi Christians “evoked the mass departure of Iraq’s Jews” after Israel’s establishment in 1948.

“It’s exactly what happened to the Jews,” said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once mixed neighborhood in Baghdad. “They want us all to go.”

It’s eerily reminiscent of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement about the Nazis: “They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me. And by that time, there was no one left to speak for me.”

But there’s one crucial difference. The Church, as the synod statement shows, isn’t merely remaining silent; it’s actively speaking out against the Jews – and thereby collaborating with its own enemies, the radical Islamists.

It evidently hopes to thereby turn the Islamists’ wrath away from Christians. But as the recent attacks show, appeasement hasn’t worked.

So perhaps it’s time for the Church to learn from its mistakes in World War II and instead try speaking out against its true enemies – the radical Islamists who seek to cleanse the Middle East of both Jews and Christians.

The recent wave of deadly attacks on Iraqi Christians must have cast a pall over Christmas celebrations worldwide this year. But one can’t help wondering whether it also prompted any soul-searching at the Vatican.

After all, it was just two months ago that a synod of Middle East bishops proclaimed Israel the main source of Middle East Christians’ woes. As the Jerusalem Post reported, it “blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight of Christians from the Middle East” and “laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel.” The synod’s president, Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, even implied that Jews had no right to a state here at all and that Israel should be eradicated through the “return” of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees. And though the Vatican disavowed that comment, Pope Benedict XVI also said that Middle East peace – a term usually synonymous with “Israeli-Arab peace” – was the best way to halt Christian emigration.

In reality, of course, the plight of Palestinian Christians pales beside that of their Iraqi brethren. More than half of Iraq’s Christians – hundreds of thousands in all – have fled their country since 2003, after being targeted in numerous deadly attacks. And not even Al-Qaida has tried to link these attacks to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, though it’s not shy about inventing “justifications”: For instance, it deemed October’s bloody siege at a Baghdad church retaliation for an alleged offense by Egypt’s Coptic Church.

Compare this to the booming business scene in Bethlehem, where tourism is up 60 percent over 2009 despite Israeli “oppression.” One astute Palestinian businessman attributed the boom to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reduce violence – a tacit (and correct) acknowledgement that what previously destroyed the PA’s economy was not Israel, but Palestinian terror. Or compare Iraq’s Christian crisis to the fivefold increase in Israel’s Christian population, from 34,000 in 1949 to 152,000 in 2009.

This month, the New York Times reported that many fleeing Iraqi Christians “evoked the mass departure of Iraq’s Jews” after Israel’s establishment in 1948.

“It’s exactly what happened to the Jews,” said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once mixed neighborhood in Baghdad. “They want us all to go.”

It’s eerily reminiscent of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement about the Nazis: “They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me. And by that time, there was no one left to speak for me.”

But there’s one crucial difference. The Church, as the synod statement shows, isn’t merely remaining silent; it’s actively speaking out against the Jews – and thereby collaborating with its own enemies, the radical Islamists.

It evidently hopes to thereby turn the Islamists’ wrath away from Christians. But as the recent attacks show, appeasement hasn’t worked.

So perhaps it’s time for the Church to learn from its mistakes in World War II and instead try speaking out against its true enemies – the radical Islamists who seek to cleanse the Middle East of both Jews and Christians.

Read Less




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