Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 1, 2011

Koran Burning and Massacres

According to news reports, at least 11 UN workers have been killed in Afghanistan by a band of thugs protesting Pastor Terry Jones’s recent Koran burning. Two of the victims have reportedly been beheaded.

This is an appalling tragedy. And it’s made worse by those who pathetically try to excuse the actions of murderers by placing the blame on the shoulders of others.

“Eleven people lost their lives so Terry Jones could burn a Koran and feed the 24/7 news monster,” wrote NBC reporter Luke Russert on Twitter.

The problem is where that line of thinking leads. If Jones is responsible for these murders, then Jyllands-Posten is responsible for the deadly Mohammad cartoon protests back in 2006. And Salman Rushdie is to blame for the rioting and fatalities that greeted the release of his Satanic Verses in 1989.

No, 11 people didn’t lose their lives so that Jones could burn a Koran. They lost their lives because some religious fanatics – driven by a twisted, feverish ideology – decided to murder them. And by failing to hold the true culprits responsible, we invite attacks on our freedom of expression – not just the freedom to burn a Koran, but to write, say, or do anything that offends their fragile sensibilities in the future.

According to news reports, at least 11 UN workers have been killed in Afghanistan by a band of thugs protesting Pastor Terry Jones’s recent Koran burning. Two of the victims have reportedly been beheaded.

This is an appalling tragedy. And it’s made worse by those who pathetically try to excuse the actions of murderers by placing the blame on the shoulders of others.

“Eleven people lost their lives so Terry Jones could burn a Koran and feed the 24/7 news monster,” wrote NBC reporter Luke Russert on Twitter.

The problem is where that line of thinking leads. If Jones is responsible for these murders, then Jyllands-Posten is responsible for the deadly Mohammad cartoon protests back in 2006. And Salman Rushdie is to blame for the rioting and fatalities that greeted the release of his Satanic Verses in 1989.

No, 11 people didn’t lose their lives so that Jones could burn a Koran. They lost their lives because some religious fanatics – driven by a twisted, feverish ideology – decided to murder them. And by failing to hold the true culprits responsible, we invite attacks on our freedom of expression – not just the freedom to burn a Koran, but to write, say, or do anything that offends their fragile sensibilities in the future.

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Where Should Conservatives Take Their Fiscal Last Stand?

A number of influential voices (see here, here, here, and here) are weighing in on the Continuing Resolution (CR) and the 2011 budget. What they are all saying, in one form or another, is that while the debate over the CR is important, it’s a mistake for conservatives to make it their fiscal Ground Zero. What matters most is not the outcome of a debate focused on several billion dollars in discretionary spending cuts for the FY 2011 budget. The key debate is about reforming government in deep structural ways that would save trillions of dollars in the next decade.

Which brings us to the Ryan budget. Next week Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, will release the GOP House budget for FY 2012. It’s likely to include far-reaching tax and entitlement reforms, significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending, spending caps, the rollback of injurious laws, and more. We’re talking about savings of more than $2 trillion over the next decade. If that’s the case – and we’ll know by early next week – it will rank as arguably the best, most important policy document produced by any Congress in our lifetime.

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A number of influential voices (see here, here, here, and here) are weighing in on the Continuing Resolution (CR) and the 2011 budget. What they are all saying, in one form or another, is that while the debate over the CR is important, it’s a mistake for conservatives to make it their fiscal Ground Zero. What matters most is not the outcome of a debate focused on several billion dollars in discretionary spending cuts for the FY 2011 budget. The key debate is about reforming government in deep structural ways that would save trillions of dollars in the next decade.

Which brings us to the Ryan budget. Next week Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, will release the GOP House budget for FY 2012. It’s likely to include far-reaching tax and entitlement reforms, significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending, spending caps, the rollback of injurious laws, and more. We’re talking about savings of more than $2 trillion over the next decade. If that’s the case – and we’ll know by early next week – it will rank as arguably the best, most important policy document produced by any Congress in our lifetime.

Remember, too, that based on the actions they have taken on the CR, Congressional Republicans will already have cut some $100 billion in the short term (returning discretionary spending to pre-stimulus levels), as well as several hundred billion dollars over the next decade. Yet for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, some conservatives are disposed to denigrate these achievements, to characterize the House leadership as weak and unprincipled, and to make the CR a matter of strategic importance. It’s not; it’s a tactical fight that will do nothing to alter what Douglas Holtz-Eakin calls “the underlying architecture” of the modern welfare state.

I understand the disappointment with Congressional Republicans over the years; “trust but verify” certainly applies to them. And outside pressure can keep lawmakers from going wobbly. But the eagerness among some on the right to throw up their hands in disgust when it comes to Republican House members, even in advance of the 2012 budget, is odd and unmerited. If the House budget is as good as advertised, it will become a governing blueprint for conservatives – the public policy embodiment of the limited government philosophy – and will help frame the 2012 election. It would be a tremendous error in judgment for conservatives to miss the significance of this moment, to make the CR (and for some, the shut-down of the federal government) the main focus of their energy and attention.

Paul Ryan and his colleagues are attempting structural reforms that exceed anything even Ronald Reagan attempted. It is a political and intellectual undertaking of historic importance. And for conservatives, it’s a cause worth rallying behind.

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A Master Class on the Constitutionality of ObamaCare

If you want to understand the constitutional arguments of both sides on ObamaCare, watch this debate at Harvard Law School last week among Randy Barnett, Charles Fried, and Lawrence Tribe, three of the finest constitutional lawyers in the country.

It seems safe to say that those who pushed ObamaCare through the Congress last year never thought it would be subject to a constitutional challenge as compelling as Barnett’s. His case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a tour de force that begins with a couple of “thought experiments” – one designed to demonstrate that an economic mandate is fundamentally different from economic regulation or even economic prohibition; another, to establish that the ObamaCare mandate is unprecedented.

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If you want to understand the constitutional arguments of both sides on ObamaCare, watch this debate at Harvard Law School last week among Randy Barnett, Charles Fried, and Lawrence Tribe, three of the finest constitutional lawyers in the country.

It seems safe to say that those who pushed ObamaCare through the Congress last year never thought it would be subject to a constitutional challenge as compelling as Barnett’s. His case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a tour de force that begins with a couple of “thought experiments” – one designed to demonstrate that an economic mandate is fundamentally different from economic regulation or even economic prohibition; another, to establish that the ObamaCare mandate is unprecedented.

In reply, Fried argues that, under the Commerce Clause, Congress can require citizens to do whatever it wants them to do, if what it wants them to do substantially affects interstate commerce – a position that renders the Commerce Clause a plenary power over the economy limited only by the Bill of Rights. Tribe then holds that no personal liberties under the Constitution are violated by requiring citizens to buy health insurance. The video ends with Barnett’s five-minute rebuttal.

In my view, Barnett beat a two-man tag team that was slightly dazed to be wrestling with the issue in the first place. But there are strong arguments on both sides. Perhaps the best in favor of ObamaCare is the statement that Walter Dellinger submitted in Congressional testimony earlier this year, which summarizes the case with a concision that is (almost) compelling — until you listen to Barnett.

The fact that five courts have so far split 3 to 2 on the issue suggests that it could ultimately go either way (perhaps depending on how Anthony Kennedy is feeling the morning of oral argument). It will be worth your time to watch the video and decide for yourself.

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Obama and Assad Both Tripped Up by Focus on Israel

Bashar Assad and Barack Obama don’t have much else in common, but as recent events have shown, both have labored under the delusion that an obsession with Israel could solve their problems.

Earlier this week, Syrian dictator Assad addressed his country in the wake of violent protests in which his security forces had killed dozens. But rather than play the Arab reformer — the pose that this British-trained opthamologist has often assumed during his decade as Syria’s strong man — Assad showed that he was his father’s son. Like the murderous Hafez Assad who slaughtered tens of thousands of his opponents during thirty years in power, Bashar didn’t back down. Instead, he claimed that dissent against his regime was the result of a foreign conspiracy designed to bring down Syria and “enforce an Israeli agenda.”

But on Friday, protesters ignored the charge that they were Israeli agents and again took to the streets of Syria’s cities. Assad’s thugs were there too with, as the New York Times reported, “tear gas, electrified batons, clubs and bullets.”

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this latest turn of events.

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Bashar Assad and Barack Obama don’t have much else in common, but as recent events have shown, both have labored under the delusion that an obsession with Israel could solve their problems.

Earlier this week, Syrian dictator Assad addressed his country in the wake of violent protests in which his security forces had killed dozens. But rather than play the Arab reformer — the pose that this British-trained opthamologist has often assumed during his decade as Syria’s strong man — Assad showed that he was his father’s son. Like the murderous Hafez Assad who slaughtered tens of thousands of his opponents during thirty years in power, Bashar didn’t back down. Instead, he claimed that dissent against his regime was the result of a foreign conspiracy designed to bring down Syria and “enforce an Israeli agenda.”

But on Friday, protesters ignored the charge that they were Israeli agents and again took to the streets of Syria’s cities. Assad’s thugs were there too with, as the New York Times reported, “tear gas, electrified batons, clubs and bullets.”

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this latest turn of events.

First, as in other Arab countries, the citizens of this so-called “confrontation state” were not deflected from their demands for freedom by Assad’s attempt to brand all dissent as somehow inspired by Israel. Even in Syria, a country where hatred of Israel has been deeply inculcated by the educational system and popular culture, the practice of using the war against the Jews to stifle all dissent against the Assads’ minority Alawite regime may no longer be true. If so, it would call into question not only the false notion that Israel is the source of all the Arabs’ troubles and grievances but also the legitimacy of a government that has no other policy than war with Israel.

Second, the illusion that “engagement” — to use the Obama administration’s way of describing its attempts to appease dictatorships like Syria and Iran — was essential to reviving the Middle East peace process ought now to be finished.

Since he took office, Obama has acted as if the only real problem in the Middle East was Israel and its democratically elected government. For two years, Obama’s foreign policy team has been promising to detach Syria from its alliance with Iran. They swore that Assad’s decision to accept a land-for-peace deal with Israel would transform the region.

These false assumptions have now been exploded. Assad never had any interest in peace or abandoning Iran. He is, in fact, showing the sincerest admiration for Iran by slavishly following its own pattern of brutally suppressing dissent. Obama’s team ignored the danger signs about Syria and its role in putting Hezbollah into power in Lebanon. And why? They were focused exclusively on Israel and committed to picking fights with the Netanyahu government over Jews’ building in Jerusalem. No wonder the administration has been caught flat-footed by the Arab Spring.

Obama now finds himself half-heartedly pursuing regime change in Libya, and may soon be prodded to do something about Syria. Like Assad, the president assumed that Israel could solve all his Middle East problems. Instead, Obama has discovered that what is really needed is the sort of democracy promotion he used to dismiss as a discredited relic of the Bush administration. As Assad futilely waves the bloody shirt of the Arab-Israeli conflict to save his sinking regime, Obama, who is reportedly mulling another campaign of pressure on Israel later this year, might want to re-think some his own shattered policy assumptions.

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Obama’s False Nuance

At the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus points out President Obama’s excessive use of the “false choice” paradigm in his speeches. Obama supporters often praise his “nuance” – but as Marcus notes, the president is only “nuanced” if you believe that most people view arguments in extreme black-or-white terms:

The false-choice dodge takes three overlapping forms. The first, a particular Obama specialty, is the false false choice. Set up two unacceptable extremes that no one is seriously advocating and position yourself as the champion of the reasonable middle ground between these unidentified straw men.

Some of Obama’s false choices involve two positions that nobody is realistically supporting. But Marcus argues that this tactic is slightly different than the straw man he set up in his Libya speech last week:

“In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya,” the president said on Monday night. “On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all — even in limited ways — in this distant land.” Meanwhile, he noted, others “have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people and do whatever it takes to bring down [Libyan leader Moammar] Gaddafi and usher in a new government.”

As Marcus writes, “This isn’t a false choice — it’s a hard one.” She’s correct. But worse than that, these aren’t even two sides of the same argument. We are already in Libya – so whether or not we should intervene is not up for debate. What should be questioned is whether we need to expand our mission to include regime change. It was a mistake for Obama to rule this option out at the beginning. And based on the situation in Libya right now, the president may end up having to face this very real prospect soon.

At the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus points out President Obama’s excessive use of the “false choice” paradigm in his speeches. Obama supporters often praise his “nuance” – but as Marcus notes, the president is only “nuanced” if you believe that most people view arguments in extreme black-or-white terms:

The false-choice dodge takes three overlapping forms. The first, a particular Obama specialty, is the false false choice. Set up two unacceptable extremes that no one is seriously advocating and position yourself as the champion of the reasonable middle ground between these unidentified straw men.

Some of Obama’s false choices involve two positions that nobody is realistically supporting. But Marcus argues that this tactic is slightly different than the straw man he set up in his Libya speech last week:

“In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya,” the president said on Monday night. “On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all — even in limited ways — in this distant land.” Meanwhile, he noted, others “have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people and do whatever it takes to bring down [Libyan leader Moammar] Gaddafi and usher in a new government.”

As Marcus writes, “This isn’t a false choice — it’s a hard one.” She’s correct. But worse than that, these aren’t even two sides of the same argument. We are already in Libya – so whether or not we should intervene is not up for debate. What should be questioned is whether we need to expand our mission to include regime change. It was a mistake for Obama to rule this option out at the beginning. And based on the situation in Libya right now, the president may end up having to face this very real prospect soon.

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Bush Warns that Pulling Out of Afghanistan Will Leave Women at Risk

Despite the encouraging news of recent progress in Afghanistan, the chorus of lawmakers urging the U.S. to pull out of the war is growing. Which might be why President George W. Bush – not usually one to weigh in on current policies – warned of the consequences of leaving Afghanistan too early in a speech yesterday:

“My concern, of course, is that the United States gets weary of being in Afghanistan and says, ‘it’s not worth it, let’s leave,'” Bush said. “If that were to happen, women would suffer again and we don’t believe that’s in the interests of the United States or the world to create safe havens for terrorists and stand by and watch women’s rights be abused.” …

“Part of our objective is to remind people that isolationism will end up subjecting certain people to horrors that — I don’t see how our country could live with that kind of decision,” he said.

The former president was speaking at a conference on promoting human rights and economic opportunities for Afghan women, which was hosted by the George W. Bush Institute. Child marriages, honor killings, and the use of women as currency are still prevalent problems in the country. Companies like Goldman Sachs and Kate Spade participated in the event, and discussed initiatives for reaching out to women and girls in Afghanistan through business and financial education programs.

Despite the encouraging news of recent progress in Afghanistan, the chorus of lawmakers urging the U.S. to pull out of the war is growing. Which might be why President George W. Bush – not usually one to weigh in on current policies – warned of the consequences of leaving Afghanistan too early in a speech yesterday:

“My concern, of course, is that the United States gets weary of being in Afghanistan and says, ‘it’s not worth it, let’s leave,'” Bush said. “If that were to happen, women would suffer again and we don’t believe that’s in the interests of the United States or the world to create safe havens for terrorists and stand by and watch women’s rights be abused.” …

“Part of our objective is to remind people that isolationism will end up subjecting certain people to horrors that — I don’t see how our country could live with that kind of decision,” he said.

The former president was speaking at a conference on promoting human rights and economic opportunities for Afghan women, which was hosted by the George W. Bush Institute. Child marriages, honor killings, and the use of women as currency are still prevalent problems in the country. Companies like Goldman Sachs and Kate Spade participated in the event, and discussed initiatives for reaching out to women and girls in Afghanistan through business and financial education programs.

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When Did Human Resources Drop Common Courtesy?

When I was applying for internships and jobs back in the 1990s, we still did things the old fashioned way: I would put together a one page resume, get some stationery to print out cover letters, include some writing samples, and hope to get lucky. Most often, I did not: But, I could always take solace in the knowledge that, within a month, I’d have some certainty either way. When the rejection letter came, I knew that the powers-that-be had at least considered my application.

I’m lucky now to be in my dream job: Monday marks the start of my eighth year at the American Enterprise Institute. Needless to say, I hope to remain at AEI for years to come. Still, I’ve watched many interns and friends apply for onward jobs in recent years. Almost exclusively, they are required to apply online. Sometimes, the system acknowledges their application; more often, it does not. Organizations say they will contact applicants if the company is interested, but they do not send rejection letters or emails: They simply leave applicants in limbo. This shows amazing disrespect for applicants, and a profound arrogance among the administration of prominent NGOs, companies, and government agencies. Read More

When I was applying for internships and jobs back in the 1990s, we still did things the old fashioned way: I would put together a one page resume, get some stationery to print out cover letters, include some writing samples, and hope to get lucky. Most often, I did not: But, I could always take solace in the knowledge that, within a month, I’d have some certainty either way. When the rejection letter came, I knew that the powers-that-be had at least considered my application.

I’m lucky now to be in my dream job: Monday marks the start of my eighth year at the American Enterprise Institute. Needless to say, I hope to remain at AEI for years to come. Still, I’ve watched many interns and friends apply for onward jobs in recent years. Almost exclusively, they are required to apply online. Sometimes, the system acknowledges their application; more often, it does not. Organizations say they will contact applicants if the company is interested, but they do not send rejection letters or emails: They simply leave applicants in limbo. This shows amazing disrespect for applicants, and a profound arrogance among the administration of prominent NGOs, companies, and government agencies.

The situation is often compounded by dysfunctional online application programs: They freeze, they lose applications, they require hours of input without having a save draft function. If an applicant is applying from overseas—as many contractors and servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan might be—there is tremendous uncertainty about the strength of signals and the operation of servers a half hour into the future.

One computer programmer explained to me that so many organizations seek to save money by doing programming in-house, the result being glitch-filled programs that simply do not work. To add insult to injury, many organizations refuse to respond to queries by anything but email, but never check email accounts. I have a sneaking suspicion human resources doesn’t like to acknowledge applications because they are inefficient, lose material, and it’s easier not to be accountable. More often than not, when I talk to top level people in organizations, they  have no knowledge of applications sent weeks or months before by people who had been considered serious candidates.

It does not take much effort or energy to send rejection notes. Apply online, receive a rejection online. Maybe applicants could not wallpaper dorm rooms with them as we did in my day, but common courtesy might at least put the human back in human resources.

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Norwegian Universities Discourage Pro-Israel Views, Speakers

Alan Dershowitz writes a troubling account of his recent visit to Norway. Norwegian universities have recently welcomed speakers like Stephen Walt and Ilan Pappe to address the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But when Dershowitz offered to speak about Israel free of charge, all of the major schools apparently declined, saying that the subject was too controversial.

Further, the university libraries reportedly turned down free copies of a Norwegian translation of Dershowitz’s most well-known book, The Case for Israel.

Dershowitz did end up speaking at several universities, after being invited by student groups. But he writes that his speeches sparked a faculty boycott:

But despite the refusal of the faculties of Norway’s three major universities to invite me to deliver lectures on Israel and international law, I delivered three lectures to packed auditoriums at each university. It turns out that the students wanted to hear me, despite their professors’ efforts to keep my views from them. Student groups invited me. I came. And I received sustained applause both before and after my talks. Faculty members boycotted my talks and declined even to meet with me.

According to Dershowitz, the sustained effort at Norwegian schools to initiate an Israeli cultural and academic boycott has resulted in a “de facto” boycott of Jewish pro-Israel speakers. “Moreover,” writes Dershowitz, “all Jews are presumed to be pro-Israel unless they have a long track record of anti-Israel rhetoric.”

The worst part of such an academic boycott is that the students genuinely sound like they’re interested in hearing pro-Israel perspectives. But if the universities continue to shut these voices out, the upcoming generation won’t have the opportunity to hear anything other than anti-Israel arguments, at least not in an academic setting.

Alan Dershowitz writes a troubling account of his recent visit to Norway. Norwegian universities have recently welcomed speakers like Stephen Walt and Ilan Pappe to address the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But when Dershowitz offered to speak about Israel free of charge, all of the major schools apparently declined, saying that the subject was too controversial.

Further, the university libraries reportedly turned down free copies of a Norwegian translation of Dershowitz’s most well-known book, The Case for Israel.

Dershowitz did end up speaking at several universities, after being invited by student groups. But he writes that his speeches sparked a faculty boycott:

But despite the refusal of the faculties of Norway’s three major universities to invite me to deliver lectures on Israel and international law, I delivered three lectures to packed auditoriums at each university. It turns out that the students wanted to hear me, despite their professors’ efforts to keep my views from them. Student groups invited me. I came. And I received sustained applause both before and after my talks. Faculty members boycotted my talks and declined even to meet with me.

According to Dershowitz, the sustained effort at Norwegian schools to initiate an Israeli cultural and academic boycott has resulted in a “de facto” boycott of Jewish pro-Israel speakers. “Moreover,” writes Dershowitz, “all Jews are presumed to be pro-Israel unless they have a long track record of anti-Israel rhetoric.”

The worst part of such an academic boycott is that the students genuinely sound like they’re interested in hearing pro-Israel perspectives. But if the universities continue to shut these voices out, the upcoming generation won’t have the opportunity to hear anything other than anti-Israel arguments, at least not in an academic setting.

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Unemployment: Don’t Get Too Excited

The March unemployment numbers are out, and they are favorable: 216,000 jobs created, following a month in which 214,000 were created. The trend line is unmistakably positive, especially since all of the job creation is in the private sector. But these are only good numbers relative to the horrific numbers of the past three years. (You can see a chart of monthly job creation in the United States here; you can adjust it back 50 years.) Given the growth in the size of the American population, producing a little in excess of 200,000 jobs a month will not be enough to bring the unemployment rate back to a level at which the newly employed can—through their own economic activity—help to lower the rate still further. It’s still the case that the overall unemployment rate, which fell a tenth of a point to 8.8 percent, continues to fall less because of job creation than the continuing fact that people are dropping out of the workforce altogether. As Jim Pethokoukis tweeted this morning, “labor force participation is at the lowest point in 27 years,” with less than 65 percent of the able-bodied gainfully employed.

The political impact of this will be interesting; it’s hard to predict, really. As always, the issue for a president in a troubled economy is not what the statistics say but what the American people feel. If they feel as though the economy is in recovery and it cheers them, it will be of immense benefit to Obama. If, however, that’s not the feeling—if even among the comfortably employed, rising gas and food prices combine with the fact that the value of their house may still be underwater to make them feel uncertain about the future—a slowly declining unemployment rate isn’t likely to make much of a difference.

The March unemployment numbers are out, and they are favorable: 216,000 jobs created, following a month in which 214,000 were created. The trend line is unmistakably positive, especially since all of the job creation is in the private sector. But these are only good numbers relative to the horrific numbers of the past three years. (You can see a chart of monthly job creation in the United States here; you can adjust it back 50 years.) Given the growth in the size of the American population, producing a little in excess of 200,000 jobs a month will not be enough to bring the unemployment rate back to a level at which the newly employed can—through their own economic activity—help to lower the rate still further. It’s still the case that the overall unemployment rate, which fell a tenth of a point to 8.8 percent, continues to fall less because of job creation than the continuing fact that people are dropping out of the workforce altogether. As Jim Pethokoukis tweeted this morning, “labor force participation is at the lowest point in 27 years,” with less than 65 percent of the able-bodied gainfully employed.

The political impact of this will be interesting; it’s hard to predict, really. As always, the issue for a president in a troubled economy is not what the statistics say but what the American people feel. If they feel as though the economy is in recovery and it cheers them, it will be of immense benefit to Obama. If, however, that’s not the feeling—if even among the comfortably employed, rising gas and food prices combine with the fact that the value of their house may still be underwater to make them feel uncertain about the future—a slowly declining unemployment rate isn’t likely to make much of a difference.

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Is Frank Ricciardone Again Shilling for Dictatorship?

Just days after a series of Turkish police raids targeting unpublished books and criticism of political Islam, Francis “Frank” J. Ricciardone, Obama’s un-confirmable ambassadorial recess appointment to Turkey, is at it again. Having made his career in the 1980s shilling for Saddam Hussein, in the 1990s trying to undermine Iraqi opposition unity, and this past decade arguing that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was so popular in Egypt that he could even win election in the United States, Ricciardone is now interjecting himself in the midst of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition crackdown to praise the strength of Turkey’s democracy.

According to Zaman, a newspaper affiliated with Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen, Ricciardone said, “There has been a great development in democratic structure in Turkey,” and praised Turkey’s “open democracy.”

On the same day Ricciardone made his comments, Turkey’s most prominent bank chairman resigned after criticizing the ruling party for threatening police measures against bankers who did not follow the ruling party’s political dictates.

Ricciardone and, by extension, President Obama just don’t get it: American interests do not lay in ingratiation to dictators. Ricciardone should not put lipstick on a pig. Saying nice things about dictators does not make abuse-of-power go away; it encourages it. When an ambitious, corrupt Islamist like Erdogan tries to monopolize power, it is essential to encourage Turkey’s system to develop checks-and-balances that protect civil society.

Just days after a series of Turkish police raids targeting unpublished books and criticism of political Islam, Francis “Frank” J. Ricciardone, Obama’s un-confirmable ambassadorial recess appointment to Turkey, is at it again. Having made his career in the 1980s shilling for Saddam Hussein, in the 1990s trying to undermine Iraqi opposition unity, and this past decade arguing that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was so popular in Egypt that he could even win election in the United States, Ricciardone is now interjecting himself in the midst of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opposition crackdown to praise the strength of Turkey’s democracy.

According to Zaman, a newspaper affiliated with Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen, Ricciardone said, “There has been a great development in democratic structure in Turkey,” and praised Turkey’s “open democracy.”

On the same day Ricciardone made his comments, Turkey’s most prominent bank chairman resigned after criticizing the ruling party for threatening police measures against bankers who did not follow the ruling party’s political dictates.

Ricciardone and, by extension, President Obama just don’t get it: American interests do not lay in ingratiation to dictators. Ricciardone should not put lipstick on a pig. Saying nice things about dictators does not make abuse-of-power go away; it encourages it. When an ambitious, corrupt Islamist like Erdogan tries to monopolize power, it is essential to encourage Turkey’s system to develop checks-and-balances that protect civil society.

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