Commitment to “diversity” on college campuses is nothing new, but the debate over what true diversity might look like on an elite college campus took a lively turn this week with the publication of an essay on the subject by Tom Klingenstein in the Claremont Review of Books.
The occasion for Klingenstein’s piece was a convocation speech by Bowdoin College president Barry Mills last fall, which included a reference to a conversation the two men had while playing golf. In Mills’s retelling, Klingenstein plays stand-in for all benighted conservatives who distrust liberal elite colleges.
“I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons. . . . And I would never support Bowdoin or Williams (his alma mater) because of all your misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.”
Conservative Republicans had good reason to be wary of the budget deal that passed this week. It’s true that many of the cuts were more smoke and mirrors than genuine restraints upon government spending. Nevertheless, for all of the justified concerns about the deal, Congressional Republicans in general and House Speaker John Boehner in particular did well to avoid the trap set for them by the Democrats. Had they decided to shut down the government rather than accept this compromise, the political damage to them would probably have done more to set back their longterm strategic plan for budget reform than anything else.
Nevertheless, there was at least one bright spot in the deal that principled conservatives, as well as those who care about education, could embrace. As part of the last minute deal, President Obama and the Democrats caved on their opposition to the GOP plan to revive the school choice program in the District of Columbia. This voucher program had benefited disadvantaged D.C. children until Obama and the Congressional Democrats axed it in the previous Congress. Although pressed by their teacher union allies to squelch this effort to help poor children trapped in failed public schools, the president gave in to save other initiatives favored by Democrats.
This is good news for the children of the District of Columbia who once again will have the chance to attend a pricey private school like the tony Sidwell Friends attended by the president’s own two daughters. Although he will have to answer to his angry union friends, the president will be spared at least from having to go on playing the hypocrite on this issue.
But the victory is also a boost to the school choice movement around the country. Efforts to break the government education monopoly and give all parents the right to pick their children’s schools, and not just the wealthy, is advancing in several states. As the New York Times reported yesterday, campaigns in Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin to expand voucher programs have gained new momentum this week in the wake of what happened in the capital. Although some in the GOP may decry the willingness of the Republican House majority to get what was probably the best deal they could make this week, Speaker Boehner’s successful resuscitation of school choice in Washington may ultimately prove to be a far more significant victory for conservatives than any stand on the budget.
The murder of Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza is noteworthy for two things: the ironic nature of his slaying and the anti-Semitic slanders that the killing has engendered.
Arrigoni’s body was found in a house in Gaza by Hamas operatives looking for the Italian after he was kidnapped by an even more extremist Palestinian group named Tawhid and Jihad. This previously little known organization had snatched the activist in an attempt to force the Hamas rulers of Gaza to release their leader, who was arrested in March.
The killing of Arrigoni by a Palestinian group is a bitter irony. While Arrigoni is being hailed today as a “human rights” worker, his activities and those of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to which he belonged have nothing whatever to do with aiding the people of Gaza.
As Max observes, NATO faced another embarrassment yesterday, when a triumphant, fist-pumping Qaddafi languidly rode his open-top SUV past cheering crowds in Tripoli. It’s clearly not a coincidence that he chose to take this highly-publicized joyride while NATO officials were holed up at a summit trying to breath life back into their ineffective intervention.
Qaddafi’s actions yesterday are the latest sign that he’s not interested in striking any sort of deal to concede power. So while there’s been a lot of talk about removing him through diplomatic channels, it appears that removing him by force may be the only option.
But there are internal conficts within NATO about whether regime change would be beyond the scope of the UN mandate. France has been leading the charge to remove Qaddafi, but French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet said regime change is not covered by the current UN resolution and a new resolution would have to be voted on.
If a new resolution is proposed, it’s questionable whether the U.S. would even support it. For awhile now President Obama has said that Qaddafi must go, but he’s also been eager to distance the U.S. from the intervention. It is doubtful that he’d be anxious to escalate the military operation, especially in the current political climate with presidential elections on the horizon.
Alana Goodman and Ted Bromund both make great points about the Chinese “I’m rubber and you’re glue” human rights report and the leftist embrace of China. But just to enunciate the point in the context of President Obama’s willingness to cut the U.S. military. The international system as we know it is the result of generations of investment in the military. The United Nations is a side-show: Countries do not always embrace the UN’s lofty principles when they walk into the building on Turtle Bay, nor do they abandon their cynical interests and repressive philosophies just because they have signed a document. Strong militaries do more than ensure international stability; they also shape it. Simply put, might makes right.
If the United States abandons the credibility that having the strongest military in the world guarantees then we effectively enable Chinese diplomacy and the Chinese vision to become the predominant influence on international events. And what is that Chinese vision? A strong dose of racialism, a prioritization of stability over liberty, outright animosity toward a free press. In the human rights context, group rights would triumph over individual rights.
Many in the Western NGO and human rights community nurse a personal animosity toward American servicemen and servicewomen. The alienation has grown more severe since the end of the draft enabled many Ivory Tower elite to pass through life without having any meaningful contact with the military. Add to this deficiency a noxious moral equivalency that imagines all countries and all cultures as equal—the plague of multiculturalism—and the self-deception becomes malignant.
Forget the Chinese human rights report. The key issue is whether President Obama believes it is better for the United States to shape the world in its image, or to defer responsibility to another state or entity who will make values judgments quite different from what we and our Founding Fathers held dear.
Does the Libyan affair remind anyone of Kosovo? It’s taking place on Europe’s borders, yet—as always when Europe’s hour strikes—no one from the EU is home. NATO has taken over, but most of its members are unenthusiastic. British leadership is a constant, while France has replaced Germany—even more riven by pacifism today than it was in the 1990s—as Britain’s comrade in arms. The U.S., militarily essential as always, gives the appearance of indecision when compared to Britain, although the sentiments of the British people are less clear.
The UN has been summoned to action, but thanks to its inevitable divisions, it is incapable of taking a clear line. In both cases, the ability of those in the region to defend themselves had already been blighted by a UN arms embargo that the U.S. backed and then almost immediately repented: we now pronounce “lift and strike” as “Qatar.” Unfortunately, aid from the Middle East—as it was in Kosovo—is frequently accompanied by support for radical Islamism.
In Kosovo, the result of the UN’s divisions was a war fought without its approval; in Libya, it’s a war that dare not speak the name of regime change.
In 1989, Chinese troops attacked protesters at Tienanmen Square. Just over a decade later, Iranian government vigilantes attacked students at a Tehran University dormitory, setting off what were, at the time, the worst riots in Iran since the Islamic Revolution itself. The rioting spread so quickly through Iran for two reasons: First, the security goons’ brutality—they cracked heads and even threw one student out a window—outraged Iranians in other cities and provinces; and second, cell phones allowed these Iranians to communicate as never before. Eventually, the Iranian government shut down the cell phone system, but by then it was already too late. For a few days, it was touch-and-go whether the students or the security forces would end up on top, but the Iranian security forces eventually triumphed.
After re-consolidating control, the Iranian regime clearly considered what lessons might be learned from their near miss. They did not do so alone, however, but brought in Chinese security consultants. Because Iran was a tinderbox, creating sparks was dangerous. Using the latest facial recognition software, the Chinese helped the Iranians set up a system of repression in which security forces would photograph rallies and demonstrations, and then round up people in the middle of the night over subsequent weeks. They would break down doors in the middle of the night, rather than drag people out of mobs of already agitated students. It has been effective.
Many of the Arab revolts—and the uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan—exploded after security forces fired into crowds or sent policemen to crack heads. As Iran lends help to regimes like Syria, it remains an open question whether Iran will pass along the same tactics they learned from the Chinese to repressive Arab governments. What we are witnessing is not only a proliferation of arms from China, but also a proliferation of repressive technologies. Whether the Obama administration and forces of liberalism are prepared to counter this seeping facilitation of repression, however, is anyone’s guess.
In his remarks last night, President Obama had this to say: “When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure he’s just being America’s accountant . . . this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill—but wasn’t paid for. So it’s not on the level.”
What a nice ending to an ugly week.
Put out of your mind the fact that Bush’s tax cuts, especially the ones in 2003, led to economic growth that in 2007 helped to trim the deficit to barely more than one percent of GDP. Set aside the fact that the prescription drug plan Ryan supported was less than half the cost of what Democrats were proposing. Forget too that the free-market reforms helped the new plan beat its cost projections by around 40 percent. The point is that Obama has decided to get down and dirty this week rather than to engage the fiscal debate in a serious and honest fashion. Even Mark Halperin of Time magazine, a fine, fair, but not terribly unsympathetic-to-Obama reporter, agreed that Obama crossed a line in his speech this week by saying, in Halperin’s words, “They’re not American in their proposal.”
Labor leaders are fed up with the Obama administration’s economic positions, but they’re finding themselves in a tough spot. Unions can’t exactly support the Republicans in the 2012 election, so they have practically no leverage against the administration.
While labor leaders aren’t speaking out about their concerns publicly, they’ve been slamming the White House behind closed doors, Politico reports:
Top labor leaders excoriated President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a closed session of the AFL-CIO’s executive board meeting in Washington Wednesday, three labor sources said. …
“Now, not only are we getting screwed by the Republicans but the Democrats are doing it too,” said one union official, characterizing the mood at a summit of labor leaders who are worried that Democrats seem unlikely to go to the mat for them as an election year approaches.
This is a clear warning shot at the administration. While labor leaders won’t speak out publicly about their dissatisfaction yet, they’re threatening to get to that point.
And while Obama won’t have to worry about unions supporting his GOP opponent, he will have to worry about the unions being willing to go on the offense against the Republicans. A lack of enthusiasm from labor could not only translate into fundraising problems, but it could also impact the president’s strategy to portray himself as a centrist.
The key to Obama’s strategy is to stay above the partisan fray to win over independents, while letting other leaders on the left – liberal Democrats, union officials – act as attack dogs against the GOP. But that, of course, depends largely on how energized these progressive leaders are about Obama. If they’re nearly as discontented with the current administration as they are with the Republicans, they may not be as willing to take up the fight.
The U.S. Senate passed a unanimous consent resolution last night, calling on the UN to rescind the Goldstone report and work to repair any damage it’s caused to Israel’s reputation.
While the resolution itself can’t compel the UN to act, it’s a positive development for numerous reasons. Not only does it reaffirm America’s rejection of the report, but it also bolsters Israel’s case to get it rescinded. It’s also a way to keep Justice Richard Goldstone’s renunciation of the report in the news cycle. While the document’s release in 2009 was met with a deluge of press coverage, Goldstone’s repudiation of the findings unfortunately hasn’t received as much attention.
Here’s the crux of the Senate resolution:
President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and President Nicolas Sarkozy have published an op-ed today that only highlights the incoherence of their approach to Libya. They write:
Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.
So we’re not going to remove Qaddafi by force but we are going to insist that he leave? So far he has refused to budge. What, if anything, are we prepared to do to force him out?
Our failure to do more is especially telling when we read that even as NATO leaders were meeting to discuss Libya, “Gaddafi chose the same day and, according to some reports, the very hour NATO ministers were meeting to ride around Tripoli in an open-top sport-utility vehicle, pumping his fist defiantly, in an act broadcast on Libyan state TV.” Why can’t a NATO F-16 drop a JDAM on Qaddafi’s head and hasten “the genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process” that Obama, Cameron, and Sarkozy call for? Because that’s outside the parameters of the UN resolution? In fact the UN resolution gives the allies broad powers to end Qaddafi’s reign of terror, and while it does not specifically call for Qaddafi’s elimination, it does not preclude such action either.
It’s time for the leaders of NATO to get serious. They have gone to war against Qaddafi. Let’s finish the job as quickly as possible, thereby sparing the people of Libya further bloodshed, and get on with the task of building a better state—something that will demand, by the way, a large commitment from the international community.
The more I think about it, the more it seems clear that something vitally important happened over the past week to and within the GOP. The efforts to turn the government-shutdown battle into a confrontation over Planned Parenthood and the subsequent revelation that the budget savings in 2011 were minuscule (1 percent of what was originally trumpeted) were test cases for the new Republican Party and its understanding of how to handle the Tea Party. And for the Tea Party. And both passed.
What does the Tea Party want? Clearly, what it doesn’t want is what it got from 2009 onward: A vast expansion of the federal government with more to come. But with a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate, the ability of the GOP to reverse the trend line immediately is extraordinarily limited. That’s what the outcome of the budget negotiations between the House and the Senate over the weekend demonstrated.
All through the budget negotiation, some self-appointed leaders of the Tea Party were excited by the prospect of a shutdown. They hate government, they hate Democrats, they hate Obama, and this would have been an expression of those hatreds. They also knew that the last GOP government shutdown in 1995 was a political catastrophe. So why did they want it so much? I think that, without necessarily knowing it consciously, they wanted it as a demonstration of their power over the GOP. What could prove that power more clearly than the GOP following them rather than pursuing a more pragmatic and mainstream strategy?
In the end, though, the actual grass roots as opposed to these supposed gardeners of the grass roots did not rise up and force the GOP to make this Hobson’s choice. The millions who fueled the Tea Party’s triumph didn’t lose it as the negotiation was nearing its conclusion last Friday, and didn’t this week when the fact that the actual deficit reduction would be $352 million rather than $38.5 billion became widely known. Even more telling, the GOP leadership had enough votes for the deal that it could afford not to complain when 59 House members angered by the deal decided to say No to it.
Why didn’t the Tea Party rise up? Perhaps because it remains convinced of the stark choice before the United States—Obamaism or its alternative. The only thing that schisms, splits, ideological purity contests and the like will do is confuse matters and weaken the possibility of an end to Obamaism. Keeping an eye on the main event is the most important task for the opposition, and it’s made even more important by how tempted some in the opposition camp are by the prospect of an internal ideological cleansing.
Earlier this week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels fielded questions about the idea of running for president during a meeting with the Indianapolis Star’s Editorial Board. The story says this:
The pundits and others who have pushed Daniels to run are doing so primarily because he is willing to have adult conversations on issues such as Social Security, Medicare and defense spending. Tuesday, he talked idealistically about the idea that voters would welcome such conversations, even though they would lead to tough decisions.
It would take the right message, he said.
“I hope you would call the American people to the challenge of our day,” he said, adding: “We have arrived at a testing point, and some people are already writing our obituary.”
It sounds good. But, I asked, is the nation, and the political world, truly capable of a reasonable debate over such hot-button issues? Recent history casts doubt on that premise.
“I can’t prove it to you,” he said. “But we’d better find out.”
This is very similar to the way in which Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is framing things: time is short, the fiscal challenges are enormous, entitlement programs need to be restructured, the public is ready for a mature, honest discussion about what needs to be done—and it may even reward those who lead it. The argument is that we’re in a new moment, which will allow lawmakers to do unprecedented things.
Is this the case? No one knows. Based on his speech Wednesday afternoon, Barack Obama is placing his reelection hopes on an immature, dishonest discussion of what needs to be done. I hope the Daniels/Ryan view prevails—but it’s not a sure thing by any means it will. The next year-and-a-half should tell us.
William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, now says that “It would be useful to have a larger number of aircraft capable of striking ground targets.” He is right. What Britain needs is an aircraft capable of taking off from an aircraft carrier conveniently parked off the coast of Libya, capable of landing on rough or improved airstrips, capable of engaging both air and ground targets. Such an aircraft would allow Britain to respond more quickly to targets as they are identified, to maintain a continual presence in the air and thus keep the heads of Qaddafi’s thugs down, and to spend less time and aviation fuel flying its small force of Tornado GR4s back and forth across the Mediterranean.
But Britain already has such an aircraft. It’s called the Harrier.
Of course, Britain grounded its Harrier force as a result of its last defense review, conducted by Hague’s own government. Hague either has a lot of nerve or a limited sense of the absurd to issue demands on this subject. The last operational Harrier flight was in December 2010, and the fleet of 44 planes will be fully retired this very month. The Harrier is no longer state of the art, but it is still effective in the roles it would see in Libya, as shown by the fact that U.S. Marine Harriers struck Libyan defenses during the first wave of U.S. and allied attacks last month.
Normally I leave arm-chair psychiatric evaluations to Charles Krauthammer, who once practiced psychiatry. In this case, though, I’ll make an exception.
Why was President Obama’s budget speech at George Washington University on Wednesday so splenetic, so hyper-partisan? I have a hunch. Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee, has (rightly) criticized the president for “punting” when it comes to entitlement reform and dealing with the deficit and debt. My guess is that the notoriously thin-skinned Obama was enraged by this. To be accused of being timid, passive, a mere bystander cuts very deep; for Ryan to get credit for political courage and intellectual seriousness (even from his critics) made things even worse. Obama viewed the speech as payback.
The problem for Obama is that he revealed himself to be an unusually petty and partisan figure, particularly in comparison to Ryan. And the narrative of Obama’s being a weak leader is taking hold. What the president doesn’t seem to comprehend is that petulance is not the same thing as leadership. I can’t imagine that many people were impressed by Obama’s churlish attacks.
An activist with the International Solidarity Movement—the anti-Israel group that regularly holds protests against the Israel “occupation”—has been taken hostage by the Islamist terrorist organization A-Tawheed wal Jihad. The group is reportedly threatening to execute the activist unless Hamas releases several prisoners:
The kidnappers belong to A-Tawheed wal Jihad, a terror group of the Salafist Muslim stream. They have released a video showing Arrigoni bruised, tied and blindfolded, and text scrolling across the screen “threatens that he will die unless Hamas releases Salafist prisoners by 5 p.m. Friday.
As you can imagine, the video is quite disturbing. The kidnapped activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, is apparently a blogger for Guerilla Radio as well as the Communist newspaper Il Manifesto. His writing about Israel is all over the web (although most of it is in Italian).
The political views of the International Solidarity Movement are wildly misguided, and its goals are to damage, if not to destroy, the Jewish state. Obviously, that does absolutely nothing to diminish the hideousness of Arrigoni’s kidnapping. Over the past year, 14 foreigners have been taken hostage in Gaza. All of them have been released quickly, and let’s pray that happens again in this case.