Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 7, 2011

Why Is Donald Trump Embracing an Anti-Semite?

I’ve never been very good with Hollywood. Flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles yesterday, Courtney Cox was sitting two rows in front of me. Even after an episode of Friends came on the in-flight entertainment, my seatmate had to point her out to me. After I got off the plane, one of the other passengers commented on how lucky I was to sit next to a rather well-known model; I hadn’t recognized her either.

I did recognize one face recently, though. Catching a commercial for Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, I was surprised to see Gary Busey featured as a key draw. The highlight of Mr. Busey’s career was a starring role in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story, after which he accepted a number of smaller parts.

In 2006,Busey signed on to Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. Financed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political allies, the film was a virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic polemic. It was too over the top even for Sean Penn. The film was not subtle: it legitimized blood libel and endorsed the idea that Americans were genocidal maniacs. Busey threw himself into the role of a Jewish U.S. Army doctor who orchestrates massacres of Iraqis in order to sell their organs to Israel.

Certain choices are irredeemable. Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism has ruined his career. Michael Richards’s racist rant permanently stained the Seinfeld actor’s career. Hollywood can’t run away from Hitler-loving fashion designer John Galliano fast enough. All of which raises the question, why is Donald Trump working to resurrect the career of an actor who endorsed the most vile anti-Semitic and anti-American conspiracy theories and libel at a time when Americans were making the ultimate sacrifice?

I’ve never been very good with Hollywood. Flying from Honolulu to Los Angeles yesterday, Courtney Cox was sitting two rows in front of me. Even after an episode of Friends came on the in-flight entertainment, my seatmate had to point her out to me. After I got off the plane, one of the other passengers commented on how lucky I was to sit next to a rather well-known model; I hadn’t recognized her either.

I did recognize one face recently, though. Catching a commercial for Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, I was surprised to see Gary Busey featured as a key draw. The highlight of Mr. Busey’s career was a starring role in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story, after which he accepted a number of smaller parts.

In 2006,Busey signed on to Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. Financed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political allies, the film was a virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic polemic. It was too over the top even for Sean Penn. The film was not subtle: it legitimized blood libel and endorsed the idea that Americans were genocidal maniacs. Busey threw himself into the role of a Jewish U.S. Army doctor who orchestrates massacres of Iraqis in order to sell their organs to Israel.

Certain choices are irredeemable. Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism has ruined his career. Michael Richards’s racist rant permanently stained the Seinfeld actor’s career. Hollywood can’t run away from Hitler-loving fashion designer John Galliano fast enough. All of which raises the question, why is Donald Trump working to resurrect the career of an actor who endorsed the most vile anti-Semitic and anti-American conspiracy theories and libel at a time when Americans were making the ultimate sacrifice?

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President Obama Signs Order Resuming Gitmo Trials

This was predictable, considering the comments from Robert Gates and Eric Holder recently, but it still has to be a bit of an embarrassing moment for President Obama. Two years after Obama signed (with much fanfare) an order to shutter Guantanamo Bay detention center, he’s now approved an order to resume military tribunals at the prison:

President Barack Obama approved Monday the resumption of military trials for detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ending a two-year ban.

It was the latest acknowledgement that the detention facility Obama had vowed to shut down within a year of taking office will remain open for some time to come.

In a press release today, Obama said that this new policy will “broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees.”

No doubt. But back in 2009, Obama claimed that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Easy words to say shortly after an election, but if he truly believed them, how could he now justify keeping Guantanamo open?

In a May 2009 speech, the president dismissed the opposition to closing the prison as partisan politics designed to create a “climate of fear”:

Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult.  These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials.  You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue — designed to frighten the population.  I get it.  But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes.  And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.

In reality, there were serious roadblocks to closing Guantanamo, ones that the administration still hasn’t been able to overcome. It wasn’t Obama’s critics who “refuse[d] to deal with these issues” back in 2009, as he claimed. It was Obama himself who ignored the legitimate problems with his proposal and is now being forced to eat his words two years later.

This was predictable, considering the comments from Robert Gates and Eric Holder recently, but it still has to be a bit of an embarrassing moment for President Obama. Two years after Obama signed (with much fanfare) an order to shutter Guantanamo Bay detention center, he’s now approved an order to resume military tribunals at the prison:

President Barack Obama approved Monday the resumption of military trials for detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ending a two-year ban.

It was the latest acknowledgement that the detention facility Obama had vowed to shut down within a year of taking office will remain open for some time to come.

In a press release today, Obama said that this new policy will “broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of detainees.”

No doubt. But back in 2009, Obama claimed that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” Easy words to say shortly after an election, but if he truly believed them, how could he now justify keeping Guantanamo open?

In a May 2009 speech, the president dismissed the opposition to closing the prison as partisan politics designed to create a “climate of fear”:

Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult.  These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials.  You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue — designed to frighten the population.  I get it.  But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes.  And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.

In reality, there were serious roadblocks to closing Guantanamo, ones that the administration still hasn’t been able to overcome. It wasn’t Obama’s critics who “refuse[d] to deal with these issues” back in 2009, as he claimed. It was Obama himself who ignored the legitimate problems with his proposal and is now being forced to eat his words two years later.

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Obama Is Setting Records but Not in a Good Way

According to press reports, the federal government posted its largest monthly deficit in history in February at $223 billion, according to preliminary numbers the Congressional Budget Office released this morning. Matt Drudge does us the service of linking to an October 5, 2007, story that reported that the “Congressional Budget Office estimated … that the U.S. federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2007, which ended Sunday, was about $161 billion, or 1.2% of gross domestic product.”

In other words, the FY 2007 deficit for the year was $62 billion lower than the deficit for last month. And to make matters worse, President Obama, rather than reining in federal spending, is adding mightily to it.

On the fiscal side of things, Barack Obama is turning out to be a record-setter, though not in the way he or we had wanted.

According to press reports, the federal government posted its largest monthly deficit in history in February at $223 billion, according to preliminary numbers the Congressional Budget Office released this morning. Matt Drudge does us the service of linking to an October 5, 2007, story that reported that the “Congressional Budget Office estimated … that the U.S. federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2007, which ended Sunday, was about $161 billion, or 1.2% of gross domestic product.”

In other words, the FY 2007 deficit for the year was $62 billion lower than the deficit for last month. And to make matters worse, President Obama, rather than reining in federal spending, is adding mightily to it.

On the fiscal side of things, Barack Obama is turning out to be a record-setter, though not in the way he or we had wanted.

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Syria, Russia, and the Cruise Missiles

These days, as Michael Rubin suggests, it seems that most new developments serve to indict more than one facet of the Obama foreign policy. Modern Russian cruise missiles headed to Syria demonstrate not just the futility of Obama’s engagement policy with Damascus but also the failure of his strategy to secure cooperation from Moscow.

There’s another dimension to the Russian-Syrian missile deal, however. Syria could use the missiles from its territory to threaten Israeli warships operating off of Lebanon, but Russia would realize no conventional maritime-strategic goals from such a deployment, since the missiles wouldn’t reach global shipping lanes (e.g., on the Strait of Hormuz model). They would have to be launched from southern Lebanon for that purpose.

But from Syrian territory, the missiles can threaten something very particular: the maritime infrastructure to exploit the offshore oil and mineral resources of the Levantine Basin, between Cyprus and the coast. Last year, the media were abuzz with a major oil and gas discovery off the Israeli coast; in December, Israel consolidated its offshore claims by concluding its first exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement with Cyprus. From positions in Syrian territory, the Russian cruise missiles could hold at risk the entire offshore area involved in these developments. Read More

These days, as Michael Rubin suggests, it seems that most new developments serve to indict more than one facet of the Obama foreign policy. Modern Russian cruise missiles headed to Syria demonstrate not just the futility of Obama’s engagement policy with Damascus but also the failure of his strategy to secure cooperation from Moscow.

There’s another dimension to the Russian-Syrian missile deal, however. Syria could use the missiles from its territory to threaten Israeli warships operating off of Lebanon, but Russia would realize no conventional maritime-strategic goals from such a deployment, since the missiles wouldn’t reach global shipping lanes (e.g., on the Strait of Hormuz model). They would have to be launched from southern Lebanon for that purpose.

But from Syrian territory, the missiles can threaten something very particular: the maritime infrastructure to exploit the offshore oil and mineral resources of the Levantine Basin, between Cyprus and the coast. Last year, the media were abuzz with a major oil and gas discovery off the Israeli coast; in December, Israel consolidated its offshore claims by concluding its first exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement with Cyprus. From positions in Syrian territory, the Russian cruise missiles could hold at risk the entire offshore area involved in these developments.

Beyond oil and gas, Russia and Syria have multiple layers of common goals in the Eastern Mediterranean. But until now, post-Soviet Russia hasn’t elected to align itself overtly with a new maritime threat there. Russia and Syria will be positioned to carve out a sphere of maritime control – an area over which a veto is effectively exercised – in contravention of one of America’s longest-running policy interests: the free, consensual, and conventional use of international waters. Over the last decade, China has mounted just such an effort in the South China Sea and the Strait of Taiwan. But NATO has been tacitly understood as guaranteeing the Mediterranean against such encroachments.

That implied understanding will be directly challenged if the missile deal goes through. This matter won’t necessarily remain an exclusively maritime and localized problem: the ports and shipping of disputed Cyprus – where Turkey alone recognizes the government of “Northern Cyprus” – would be in the crosshairs of Russian cruise missiles deployed in Syria. New risk factors there could harden Turkey’s alignment with Russia and Syria and widen the Greek-Turkish division inside NATO.

The best time to persuade Russia not to go through with the missile transfer is now. Unfortunately, we would be justified in worrying about what Obama might give up in such a negotiation.

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Chris Christie Rates High in Latest Poll

According to a Quinnipiac poll in which voters rated their feelings about politicians and other national figures, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is “the hottest politician on the thermometer.” (Of note: 55 percent of American voters said they don’t know enough about Christie to form an option.)

Former speaker Nancy Pelosi received the coolest rating from voters, while Majority Leader Harry Reid ranks next lowest, followed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

I would place some people in the poll higher and others lower, but it strikes me that the person at the top and the people at the bottom are more or less where they belong. Beyond that, it should reassure conservatives that Governor Christie, much more than Ms. Palin, is the type of figure the public is looking for from its political class.

One can sense how much Palin has been diminished in the public’s esteem in recent months. Her endless Twittering, her lack of basic knowledge about public policy and inability to articulate a compelling case for conservatism, and her striking sense of grievances and resentments (some of which are understandable) have come at quite a cost.

Ms. Palin has also suffered in contrast to other Republicans, and most especially Republican governors, many of whom embody a maturity, a proper governing temperament, and a seriousness of purpose. Compared to what Christie, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Bob McDonnell, Bobby Jindal, and other lawmakers are doing, Palin seems to be shrinking before our eyes.

According to a Quinnipiac poll in which voters rated their feelings about politicians and other national figures, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is “the hottest politician on the thermometer.” (Of note: 55 percent of American voters said they don’t know enough about Christie to form an option.)

Former speaker Nancy Pelosi received the coolest rating from voters, while Majority Leader Harry Reid ranks next lowest, followed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

I would place some people in the poll higher and others lower, but it strikes me that the person at the top and the people at the bottom are more or less where they belong. Beyond that, it should reassure conservatives that Governor Christie, much more than Ms. Palin, is the type of figure the public is looking for from its political class.

One can sense how much Palin has been diminished in the public’s esteem in recent months. Her endless Twittering, her lack of basic knowledge about public policy and inability to articulate a compelling case for conservatism, and her striking sense of grievances and resentments (some of which are understandable) have come at quite a cost.

Ms. Palin has also suffered in contrast to other Republicans, and most especially Republican governors, many of whom embody a maturity, a proper governing temperament, and a seriousness of purpose. Compared to what Christie, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Bob McDonnell, Bobby Jindal, and other lawmakers are doing, Palin seems to be shrinking before our eyes.

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Senator Ensign to Retire?

Sen. John Ensign has called a press conference this afternoon to discuss his “political future,” and he’s expected to announce his retirement.

Recent polls have shown Ensign lagging significantly in a 2012 matchup with Rep. Dean Heller, his potential challenger in the GOP Senate primary. If Ensign retires, Heller will likely be the Republican nominee.

Heller recently spearheaded an unsuccessful foreign-aid-reduction bill that would cut $211 million from a State Department program that funded the Democracy Fund, the World Bank International Development Association, and UNICEF, among other organizations. He was also one of the House Republicans who broke ranks and voted against the extension of the Patriot Act provisions last month.

Heller is also on the House Republican Israel Caucus, and the American Conservative Union gave him an 89 score on its conservative ratings.

Ensign’s retirement will definitely make it easier for the GOP to hold onto that seat in 2012. With Ensign’s multitude of ethics problems, it would have been a challenge for him to win in a general election.

Sen. John Ensign has called a press conference this afternoon to discuss his “political future,” and he’s expected to announce his retirement.

Recent polls have shown Ensign lagging significantly in a 2012 matchup with Rep. Dean Heller, his potential challenger in the GOP Senate primary. If Ensign retires, Heller will likely be the Republican nominee.

Heller recently spearheaded an unsuccessful foreign-aid-reduction bill that would cut $211 million from a State Department program that funded the Democracy Fund, the World Bank International Development Association, and UNICEF, among other organizations. He was also one of the House Republicans who broke ranks and voted against the extension of the Patriot Act provisions last month.

Heller is also on the House Republican Israel Caucus, and the American Conservative Union gave him an 89 score on its conservative ratings.

Ensign’s retirement will definitely make it easier for the GOP to hold onto that seat in 2012. With Ensign’s multitude of ethics problems, it would have been a challenge for him to win in a general election.

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The Unraveling of ObamaCare (continued)

According to the Hill newspaper: “The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago.”

At best, it appears, the waivers are granted capriciously; at worst, they are handed out to those groups that support the president, as a way for them to escape the costs and burdens of ObamaCare.

This news comes after Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS, admitted to double-counting in the ObamaCare budget in her appearance late last week before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. As the Daily Caller reported, Secretary Sebelius was asked by Republican Representative John Shimkus about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law. “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what?” Shimkus asked. “Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. … What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?”

Secretary Sebelius replied, “Both.”

Representative Shimkus was referring to the recent testimony by Chief Actuary Richard Foster, whose office is responsible for independent, long-range cost estimates and whose testimony before the House Budget Committee blew up the claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicare provisions could both reduce the deficit and extend the solvency of Medicare, as President Obama has claimed. Mr. Foster pointed out the obvious: this isn’t possible unless you double-count the savings.

It should be said that double counting was always a concern. In December 2009, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned members about it well before they voted on the bill. “To describe the full amount of HI [Hospital Insurance] trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position,” according to the CBO. What’s new is that Republicans were successful in getting Secretary Sebelius to admit this.

It’s quite remarkable, really: we’re still less than a year removed from the passage of President Obama’s signature domestic initiative and already more than 1,000 waivers have been granted and massive double-counting is being done in order to produce imaginary savings. This legislation is as much a monstrosity as many of us predicted, and more evidence is amassing seemingly every week.

According to the Hill newspaper: “The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago.”

At best, it appears, the waivers are granted capriciously; at worst, they are handed out to those groups that support the president, as a way for them to escape the costs and burdens of ObamaCare.

This news comes after Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS, admitted to double-counting in the ObamaCare budget in her appearance late last week before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. As the Daily Caller reported, Secretary Sebelius was asked by Republican Representative John Shimkus about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law. “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what?” Shimkus asked. “Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. … What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?”

Secretary Sebelius replied, “Both.”

Representative Shimkus was referring to the recent testimony by Chief Actuary Richard Foster, whose office is responsible for independent, long-range cost estimates and whose testimony before the House Budget Committee blew up the claim that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicare provisions could both reduce the deficit and extend the solvency of Medicare, as President Obama has claimed. Mr. Foster pointed out the obvious: this isn’t possible unless you double-count the savings.

It should be said that double counting was always a concern. In December 2009, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned members about it well before they voted on the bill. “To describe the full amount of HI [Hospital Insurance] trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position,” according to the CBO. What’s new is that Republicans were successful in getting Secretary Sebelius to admit this.

It’s quite remarkable, really: we’re still less than a year removed from the passage of President Obama’s signature domestic initiative and already more than 1,000 waivers have been granted and massive double-counting is being done in order to produce imaginary savings. This legislation is as much a monstrosity as many of us predicted, and more evidence is amassing seemingly every week.

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BBC Poll: Israel Ranks with Iran, North Korea as One of World’s Most Unpopular Countries (Updated)

The bad news? Even the authoritarian police state of China — which is currently imprisoning the latest Nobel Peace Prize laureate — is enjoying a better global reputation than Israel.

The good news? Apparently the poll shows that Israel’s public image has actually improved since 2007. And when Iran and North Korea are barely edging out the Jewish state as the world’s most despised countries, it’s worth acknowledging the small victories:

A poll conducted by the BBC revealed Tuesday that Israel is one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world, ranking at the bottom of the chart along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

In 2011, 22 out of 27 countries leaned toward a negative view of Israel, headed by Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia. The countries which had the most positive view of Israel were the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.

In light of Egypt’s uncertain future, it’s troubling (but not surprising) that it has the most negative view of Israel. Also disconcerting is that negative perceptions of Israel have increased in certain Western countries, such as Britain, Canada, and Australia.

The anti-Israel movement is waging an extremely successful PR battle in the West. The reason isn’t because it has the truth on its side — far from it. It’s because it’s become adept at handling a media that is already unsympathetic to Israel. This poll is yet another example of why the Israeli government needs to consider a massive overhaul of its ineffective (nonexistent?) public-relations strategy.

UPDATE: Elder of Ziyon contends that the BBC survey has been unfairly construed as a popularity poll. He points out that the poll didn’t ask people whether they liked Israel, but instead whether they believed the country has had “mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world.”

But whichever way the poll is interpreted, there’s no legitimate reason for Israel’s ranking to be so low. This isn’t Israel’s fault, of course — it’s the fault of an international community that’s always too quick to turn the Jewish state into a scapegoat. It’s time for Israel to stop holding on to the false notion that if it keeps doing the right things, the world will one day wake up and embrace it. Israel can’t rely on the world to change; it needs to step up and seek these changes itself.


The bad news? Even the authoritarian police state of China — which is currently imprisoning the latest Nobel Peace Prize laureate — is enjoying a better global reputation than Israel.

The good news? Apparently the poll shows that Israel’s public image has actually improved since 2007. And when Iran and North Korea are barely edging out the Jewish state as the world’s most despised countries, it’s worth acknowledging the small victories:

A poll conducted by the BBC revealed Tuesday that Israel is one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world, ranking at the bottom of the chart along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

In 2011, 22 out of 27 countries leaned toward a negative view of Israel, headed by Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia. The countries which had the most positive view of Israel were the United States, Russia, Ghana, and China.

In light of Egypt’s uncertain future, it’s troubling (but not surprising) that it has the most negative view of Israel. Also disconcerting is that negative perceptions of Israel have increased in certain Western countries, such as Britain, Canada, and Australia.

The anti-Israel movement is waging an extremely successful PR battle in the West. The reason isn’t because it has the truth on its side — far from it. It’s because it’s become adept at handling a media that is already unsympathetic to Israel. This poll is yet another example of why the Israeli government needs to consider a massive overhaul of its ineffective (nonexistent?) public-relations strategy.

UPDATE: Elder of Ziyon contends that the BBC survey has been unfairly construed as a popularity poll. He points out that the poll didn’t ask people whether they liked Israel, but instead whether they believed the country has had “mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world.”

But whichever way the poll is interpreted, there’s no legitimate reason for Israel’s ranking to be so low. This isn’t Israel’s fault, of course — it’s the fault of an international community that’s always too quick to turn the Jewish state into a scapegoat. It’s time for Israel to stop holding on to the false notion that if it keeps doing the right things, the world will one day wake up and embrace it. Israel can’t rely on the world to change; it needs to step up and seek these changes itself.


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Obama Administration Too Harsh on Leakers, Good-Government Groups Say

Some open-government proponents are apparently unhappy with the Obama administration’s “aggressive legal offensive” against whistleblowers in the federal government, according to Politico.

Since the beginning of President Obama’s term, “prosecutors have filed criminal charges in five separate cases involving unauthorized distribution of classified national security information to the media.” But that’s quite a step up from previous administrations; in the four decades before Obama took office, the U.S. government had filed only three of these types of cases, Politico reported.

Hypocrisy on Obama’s part? Not exactly. While his vow to run the most transparent administration in history has been shown to be complete bunk (his obsessive control of the media and his horrific track record on responding to Freedom of Information Act requests are just two examples), the administration has both a legal and national-security responsibility to prosecute leaks of classified information. So he can’t be faulted for taking this job seriously.

The increased prosecutions of leaks may also have to do with the growing number of leakers. The insatiable 24-hour news cycle, the online media and blogger boom, the expansion of the government workforce, the simplicity of exchanging information, and the anonymity of the Web could have contributed to an environment that’s more hospitable to leakers. And if that’s the case, then the Obama administration may have even more reason to crack down on breaches in national security as an example to others who might be tempted to stray in the same direction.

Some open-government proponents are apparently unhappy with the Obama administration’s “aggressive legal offensive” against whistleblowers in the federal government, according to Politico.

Since the beginning of President Obama’s term, “prosecutors have filed criminal charges in five separate cases involving unauthorized distribution of classified national security information to the media.” But that’s quite a step up from previous administrations; in the four decades before Obama took office, the U.S. government had filed only three of these types of cases, Politico reported.

Hypocrisy on Obama’s part? Not exactly. While his vow to run the most transparent administration in history has been shown to be complete bunk (his obsessive control of the media and his horrific track record on responding to Freedom of Information Act requests are just two examples), the administration has both a legal and national-security responsibility to prosecute leaks of classified information. So he can’t be faulted for taking this job seriously.

The increased prosecutions of leaks may also have to do with the growing number of leakers. The insatiable 24-hour news cycle, the online media and blogger boom, the expansion of the government workforce, the simplicity of exchanging information, and the anonymity of the Web could have contributed to an environment that’s more hospitable to leakers. And if that’s the case, then the Obama administration may have even more reason to crack down on breaches in national security as an example to others who might be tempted to stray in the same direction.

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The Cost of Ignoring Iraq

The New York Times reports on very worrisome happenings in Iraq: “Two political parties that led demonstrations in Baghdad over the past two weeks said on Monday that security forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had ordered them to close their offices. The actions came amid growing concerns that Mr. Maliki, who is backed by the United States, is using force and other measures to stifle this country’s democracy.”

This would not be going on if the Obama administration had taken a minimal interest in the war that the U.S. will soon have devoted almost a decade to winning. Washington has seen Iraq through far more difficult challenges than this: heading off civil war, getting Maliki to turn his guns on Shiite militias, and handing security for cities over to Iraqis — to say nothing of pulling together an Iraqi parliamentary democracy.

We see popular convulsions across the Middle East, and without having any real handle on who or what is being represented, we pronounce them democratic. At the same time, we watch with perfect indifference as the Arab world’s one verifiable democratic project courts political necrosis. Today’s Iraq, paid for in thousands of American lives, should continue as a regional model of democratic governance, a thriving rebuke to the dead letter that is the despotic ownership of Arab populations. But the U.S. administration looks to the only viable Arab democracy and sees nothing more than some loony New Yorker cover drawing depicting Bush-age imperialism. So Barack Obama’s “responsible” exit from Iraq continues apace.

The New York Times reports on very worrisome happenings in Iraq: “Two political parties that led demonstrations in Baghdad over the past two weeks said on Monday that security forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had ordered them to close their offices. The actions came amid growing concerns that Mr. Maliki, who is backed by the United States, is using force and other measures to stifle this country’s democracy.”

This would not be going on if the Obama administration had taken a minimal interest in the war that the U.S. will soon have devoted almost a decade to winning. Washington has seen Iraq through far more difficult challenges than this: heading off civil war, getting Maliki to turn his guns on Shiite militias, and handing security for cities over to Iraqis — to say nothing of pulling together an Iraqi parliamentary democracy.

We see popular convulsions across the Middle East, and without having any real handle on who or what is being represented, we pronounce them democratic. At the same time, we watch with perfect indifference as the Arab world’s one verifiable democratic project courts political necrosis. Today’s Iraq, paid for in thousands of American lives, should continue as a regional model of democratic governance, a thriving rebuke to the dead letter that is the despotic ownership of Arab populations. But the U.S. administration looks to the only viable Arab democracy and sees nothing more than some loony New Yorker cover drawing depicting Bush-age imperialism. So Barack Obama’s “responsible” exit from Iraq continues apace.

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Is Glenn Beck Facing the Ax at Fox?

In case you missed it yesterday morning, Howard Kurtz had Jennifer Rubin and David Frum on Reliable Sources to make the conservative case against Glenn Beck.

A spate of news reports over the past few days has claimed that Beck is on the downward spiral. Late last week, Rolling Stone magazine pointed out the striking similarity between some of Beck’s conjectures and Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories — leading the author to the conclusion that the Fox News host may have done a bit of borrowing from Jones’s website.

And today, New York Times media reporter David Carr has a story out suggesting that Beck may get the axe from Fox News at the end of the year. Carr reports that Beck has lost more than 1 million viewers during the past year.

“[T]he erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck,” he wrote.

Carr rightly notes that Beck may be able to survive without Fox. He has a die-hard fan base as well as a media empire that consists of a radio show, book deals, and the Blaze (a news website that he appears to be expanding). Even if Fox decides not to renew his contract next December, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the end of Beck.

In case you missed it yesterday morning, Howard Kurtz had Jennifer Rubin and David Frum on Reliable Sources to make the conservative case against Glenn Beck.

A spate of news reports over the past few days has claimed that Beck is on the downward spiral. Late last week, Rolling Stone magazine pointed out the striking similarity between some of Beck’s conjectures and Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories — leading the author to the conclusion that the Fox News host may have done a bit of borrowing from Jones’s website.

And today, New York Times media reporter David Carr has a story out suggesting that Beck may get the axe from Fox News at the end of the year. Carr reports that Beck has lost more than 1 million viewers during the past year.

“[T]he erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck,” he wrote.

Carr rightly notes that Beck may be able to survive without Fox. He has a die-hard fan base as well as a media empire that consists of a radio show, book deals, and the Blaze (a news website that he appears to be expanding). Even if Fox decides not to renew his contract next December, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the end of Beck.

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Is the GOP Race Really Down to Five Candidates?

The man who is probably the best newspaper columnist that ever was, George F. Will, has a typically tough column about the Republican presidential field in which he savages Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich on grounds that both of them talk about Barack Obama in ways that are unhelpful to their cause, not to mention stupid and a little crazy. He calls them “careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.” Ow. And then there’s this:

To the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama’s natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America’s academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Brilliant. But what of Will’s conclusion?

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished …

If Will is right, then the right is in critical condition heading into 2012. Aside from Daniels, who deserves inclusion in any list of plausibles no matter the controversy he has courted by calling for a truce on social issues and owing to the fact that he has been without question America’s best governor for the past half-decade, none of the others on this list has a prayer. Romney is the man who invented the individual mandate in health care, and now seeks the presidency in a campaign that will revolve around ObamaCare? He’ll be lucky to win a single primary, let alone the nomination. I’ve enjoyed Haley Barbour since I worked with him briefly nearly a quarter-century ago in the White House, thought he did a brilliant job as RNC chairman, and I gather he’s been a very effective governor — but his lobbying record will kill him as a candidate. Pawlenty ended his tenure as governor of Minnesota with an approval rating under 50 percent, which suggests the kind of staying power he might have even with primary voters who liked him. And Huntsman? A chemical-company magnate who was governor of a small state before quitting that job to serve as Obama’s ambassador to China? Granted, he has the resources to raise his name ID, but so what?

Obviously, someone has to be the Republican nominee. But that someone is not on this list, and it sure won’t be Gingrich — who is not only on his third marriage, not only served his first wife divorce papers in a cancer ward, but also has a large number of politicians who actually served with him in Congress determined to make sure he doesn’t make it to the nominating convention. Nor will it be Huckabee, who was a genuinely surprising and interesting candidate in 2008 when he was unknown but now doesn’t have the “Hey, who is that guy?” thing going for him.

Once again, we have to be reminded of a few things. First, the candidate for president who won in 1992 didn’t declare his intention to seek office until the fall of 1991. Second, Barack Obama declared his candidacy in February 2007 and promptly wasted six months of money and energy and bad debating appearances. He gained no traction against Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t until October that he actually figured out how to run, and he might have spared himself the trouble if he’d waited until then.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the person who can win has either not reached the point of deciding to run or that he is biding his time until later. It could be Chris Christie. It could be Paul Ryan. It could be Marco Rubio. It could be Bobby Jindal. One hears that the 2016 GOP race will feature all these guys in a superstar battle. If that one could, so could this one. And there’s plenty of time. Plenty.

The man who is probably the best newspaper columnist that ever was, George F. Will, has a typically tough column about the Republican presidential field in which he savages Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich on grounds that both of them talk about Barack Obama in ways that are unhelpful to their cause, not to mention stupid and a little crazy. He calls them “careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.” Ow. And then there’s this:

To the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama’s natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America’s academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Brilliant. But what of Will’s conclusion?

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished …

If Will is right, then the right is in critical condition heading into 2012. Aside from Daniels, who deserves inclusion in any list of plausibles no matter the controversy he has courted by calling for a truce on social issues and owing to the fact that he has been without question America’s best governor for the past half-decade, none of the others on this list has a prayer. Romney is the man who invented the individual mandate in health care, and now seeks the presidency in a campaign that will revolve around ObamaCare? He’ll be lucky to win a single primary, let alone the nomination. I’ve enjoyed Haley Barbour since I worked with him briefly nearly a quarter-century ago in the White House, thought he did a brilliant job as RNC chairman, and I gather he’s been a very effective governor — but his lobbying record will kill him as a candidate. Pawlenty ended his tenure as governor of Minnesota with an approval rating under 50 percent, which suggests the kind of staying power he might have even with primary voters who liked him. And Huntsman? A chemical-company magnate who was governor of a small state before quitting that job to serve as Obama’s ambassador to China? Granted, he has the resources to raise his name ID, but so what?

Obviously, someone has to be the Republican nominee. But that someone is not on this list, and it sure won’t be Gingrich — who is not only on his third marriage, not only served his first wife divorce papers in a cancer ward, but also has a large number of politicians who actually served with him in Congress determined to make sure he doesn’t make it to the nominating convention. Nor will it be Huckabee, who was a genuinely surprising and interesting candidate in 2008 when he was unknown but now doesn’t have the “Hey, who is that guy?” thing going for him.

Once again, we have to be reminded of a few things. First, the candidate for president who won in 1992 didn’t declare his intention to seek office until the fall of 1991. Second, Barack Obama declared his candidacy in February 2007 and promptly wasted six months of money and energy and bad debating appearances. He gained no traction against Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t until October that he actually figured out how to run, and he might have spared himself the trouble if he’d waited until then.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the person who can win has either not reached the point of deciding to run or that he is biding his time until later. It could be Chris Christie. It could be Paul Ryan. It could be Marco Rubio. It could be Bobby Jindal. One hears that the 2016 GOP race will feature all these guys in a superstar battle. If that one could, so could this one. And there’s plenty of time. Plenty.

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Fareed Zakaria’s Stale Talking Points

In his column today, Fareed Zakaria writes, “President Obama sounded this call for investment in his State of the Union address. His budget tries to preserve and even expand spending in key areas that will contribute to future growth. But he faces a Republican Party that is fixated by a budget-cutting mentality but refuses to propose entitlement cuts and in which a sledgehammer is preferred to a scalpel.”

Somebody needs to update Zakaria’s talking points, which are outdated. As I have pointed out several times before, Republicans — who gained control of the House only two months ago — have announced that their 2012 budget will include reforms to entitlement programs, including Medicare. When asked if they were talking about “minor tinkering,” Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said, “No, I think it’s important that you do comprehensive health care entitlement reform, other kinds of entitlement reform.” Last week, in an address to the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention, Speaker John Boehner said, “Our budget, under the leadership of our Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, will specifically deal with entitlement reform. To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure.”

So it’s Republicans, not Obama, who are preparing to do what Zakaria demands. Yet his opposition to Republicans seems to be so deep and reflexive that he cannot take “yes” for an answer.

I hope that when Ryan’s budget does reform and rein in entitlement costs, Zakaria, along with other pundits (Frank Rich and Dana Milbank come to mind) who have criticized the GOP for not taking on entitlements, will be leading the cheers. If so, good for him. And if not, then one can reasonably assume that Zakaria’s criticisms are partisan rather than informed, cynical rather than intellectually honest.

In his column today, Fareed Zakaria writes, “President Obama sounded this call for investment in his State of the Union address. His budget tries to preserve and even expand spending in key areas that will contribute to future growth. But he faces a Republican Party that is fixated by a budget-cutting mentality but refuses to propose entitlement cuts and in which a sledgehammer is preferred to a scalpel.”

Somebody needs to update Zakaria’s talking points, which are outdated. As I have pointed out several times before, Republicans — who gained control of the House only two months ago — have announced that their 2012 budget will include reforms to entitlement programs, including Medicare. When asked if they were talking about “minor tinkering,” Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said, “No, I think it’s important that you do comprehensive health care entitlement reform, other kinds of entitlement reform.” Last week, in an address to the annual National Religious Broadcasters convention, Speaker John Boehner said, “Our budget, under the leadership of our Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, will specifically deal with entitlement reform. To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure.”

So it’s Republicans, not Obama, who are preparing to do what Zakaria demands. Yet his opposition to Republicans seems to be so deep and reflexive that he cannot take “yes” for an answer.

I hope that when Ryan’s budget does reform and rein in entitlement costs, Zakaria, along with other pundits (Frank Rich and Dana Milbank come to mind) who have criticized the GOP for not taking on entitlements, will be leading the cheers. If so, good for him. And if not, then one can reasonably assume that Zakaria’s criticisms are partisan rather than informed, cynical rather than intellectually honest.

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Alternatives to Entitlement

In the Weekly Standard, I argue that “[t]he great project for this generation is to offer an alternative to this governing philosophy of entitlement, to put in place policies that encourage individual responsibility and dignity, self-reliance and self-government.” I elaborate on what this might mean in concrete terms; the editorial can be found here.

In the Weekly Standard, I argue that “[t]he great project for this generation is to offer an alternative to this governing philosophy of entitlement, to put in place policies that encourage individual responsibility and dignity, self-reliance and self-government.” I elaborate on what this might mean in concrete terms; the editorial can be found here.

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Schizoid, Simplistic, and Surreal

Victor Davis Hanson on the schizoid foreign policy of the Obama administration:

In the last two years scarcely a week has gone by in which we did not in some way criticize democratic and once allied Israel. Perhaps if the Israeli government had stoned some homosexuals, or assassinated a leading Lebanese reform figure, or bombed its own cities, we might either have kept silent or publicly promised not to meddle in Israeli affairs. Or we might have apologized for something we purportedly did decades ago that offended Israeli sensibilities.

One of the participants in Obama’s soul-searching session with Jewish leaders last week said that the president told the group that if we can get a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the entire region will turn against Iran. Stronger adjectives than schizoid are necessary to describe an administration that still thinks the solution to the problem of Iran is to solve a problem having nothing to do with it.

Future historians will find it difficult to explain how the United States determined that the way to pressure Iran was to pressure Israel; or that the key to Middle East problems was to craft still another offer of a Palestinian state to those who had already refused one three times in the past decade; or that a peace agreement could be effected when half the putative state was in the hands of an Iranian proxy and the other half in a Potemkin democracy unable even to schedule elections.

Hanson suggests that the administration may simply have no clue what it should be doing in foreign affairs and more or less makes things up as it goes along — which would explain its varying positions adopted day to day with respect to Egypt and Libya. With respect to Israel, however, the administration’s policy has been unfortunately all too consistent.

Victor Davis Hanson on the schizoid foreign policy of the Obama administration:

In the last two years scarcely a week has gone by in which we did not in some way criticize democratic and once allied Israel. Perhaps if the Israeli government had stoned some homosexuals, or assassinated a leading Lebanese reform figure, or bombed its own cities, we might either have kept silent or publicly promised not to meddle in Israeli affairs. Or we might have apologized for something we purportedly did decades ago that offended Israeli sensibilities.

One of the participants in Obama’s soul-searching session with Jewish leaders last week said that the president told the group that if we can get a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the entire region will turn against Iran. Stronger adjectives than schizoid are necessary to describe an administration that still thinks the solution to the problem of Iran is to solve a problem having nothing to do with it.

Future historians will find it difficult to explain how the United States determined that the way to pressure Iran was to pressure Israel; or that the key to Middle East problems was to craft still another offer of a Palestinian state to those who had already refused one three times in the past decade; or that a peace agreement could be effected when half the putative state was in the hands of an Iranian proxy and the other half in a Potemkin democracy unable even to schedule elections.

Hanson suggests that the administration may simply have no clue what it should be doing in foreign affairs and more or less makes things up as it goes along — which would explain its varying positions adopted day to day with respect to Egypt and Libya. With respect to Israel, however, the administration’s policy has been unfortunately all too consistent.

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Hezbollah International Airport

After an airport worker opened fire on U.S. airmen at Frankfurt’s airport, killing two, there is once again attention on the vulnerabilities of airlines and their passengers to airport workers who embrace terrorism. While European airports must get their acts in order, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut may look more like its European counterparts than other Middle Eastern airports, but since 2008 it has been under the control of Hezbollah, a terrorist group.

Hezbollah has long justified its refusal to disarm because it defines itself as a resistance movement. After the United Nations certified Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon complete, Hezbollah manufactured the Shebaa Farms controversy to continue the fiction that its aim was “resistance” rather than power and terror.

In the aftermath of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in which Hezbollah’s unilateral actions saddled Lebanon with a huge cost in terms of infrastructure and lives, the Lebanese government sought to extend its own control over major infrastructure; the cost of letting Hezbollah run rampant was too high.

After the Lebanese government — then dominated by the March 14 movement — sought to assert control over the airport, however, Hezbollah turned its guns on fellow Lebanese, casting aside its fiction of resistance. Beirut’s airport was simply too important for the crates of weaponry and supplies that rolled out of the cargo bays of Iranian airliners. Read More

After an airport worker opened fire on U.S. airmen at Frankfurt’s airport, killing two, there is once again attention on the vulnerabilities of airlines and their passengers to airport workers who embrace terrorism. While European airports must get their acts in order, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut may look more like its European counterparts than other Middle Eastern airports, but since 2008 it has been under the control of Hezbollah, a terrorist group.

Hezbollah has long justified its refusal to disarm because it defines itself as a resistance movement. After the United Nations certified Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon complete, Hezbollah manufactured the Shebaa Farms controversy to continue the fiction that its aim was “resistance” rather than power and terror.

In the aftermath of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in which Hezbollah’s unilateral actions saddled Lebanon with a huge cost in terms of infrastructure and lives, the Lebanese government sought to extend its own control over major infrastructure; the cost of letting Hezbollah run rampant was too high.

After the Lebanese government — then dominated by the March 14 movement — sought to assert control over the airport, however, Hezbollah turned its guns on fellow Lebanese, casting aside its fiction of resistance. Beirut’s airport was simply too important for the crates of weaponry and supplies that rolled out of the cargo bays of Iranian airliners.

It was against this backdrop that the Bush administration acquiesced to reward Hezbollah for its bad behavior. By 2008, Bush had surrendered to State Department insurgents and ceased to base policy on principle, instead returning to the moral relativism of the Clinton years. Condoleezza Rice supported the Doha Accords, in which Hezbollah received veto power over Lebanese government policy in exchange for a promise of stability. Having won its battle with the Lebanese government, if not militarily than diplomatically, Hezbollah returned to the Rafik Hariri International Airport, albeit in the uniforms of the Lebanese army.

Today any number of international airlines — British, French, German, and Middle Eastern — fly into Beirut. Airport workers load the planes with bags and cargo that get transferred across the world, including to the United States. They pass through X-ray machines run by Hezbollah operatives or their sympathizers, and they board planes loaded by Hezbollah airport workers. At any time it sees fit, Hezbollah can place a bomb on a plane originating in Beirut rather than simply remove them from the planes landing there. If there is quiet now, it is only because Hezbollah does not want attention over its airport activities in the limelight, for the airport is a key resupply hub.

Two American servicemen dead is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to their families, and those of the wounded. But one day, the West will be facing another Lockerbie-style incident, with a return address this time in Lebanon rather than in Libya. American and European diplomats understand the vulnerabilities of the Beirut airport but live under the fiction that it is secure. Doing nothing and pretending everything is OK is always the path of least resistance. Fictions may make for diplomatic niceties, but ultimately they lead to fatalities.

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