Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 2011

Abbas Chooses Hamas, but What Will Obama Choose?

The news that Fatah and Hamas have agreed in principle to form a unity government to govern the Palestinian Authority answers the question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put to PA head Mahmoud Abbas about choosing between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Abbas has now chosen to partner with the Islamist terrorist movement.

There will be those who will try to spin this development as somehow helpful for peace. Palestinian unity will supposedly make it easier for the PA to accept a peace agreement—once the West has hammered Israel into accepting even more concessions. But those who make such an argument are either deluded or disingenuous. A Fatah-Hamas concordat dooms even the already remote chances that there will be a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Abbas’s Fatah-led government had already shown that it was incapable of taking an Israeli “Yes!” for an answer. It refused to negotiate with Netanyahu after turning down an offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem in 2008 made by Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert. But now that it is going to bed with Hamas, there is literally no chance that such a coalition could ever agree to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside the Palestinian one. No matter where its borders are drawn.

While Abbas has answered Netanyahu’s question, what remains to be seen is how President Obama will respond. Obama has been rumored to be mulling his own Middle East peace plan even though advancing one under these circumstances is an invitation to disaster and diplomatic humiliation. But Abbas’s decision to ally itself with an entity that the United States rightly considers a terrorist group means that Obama must now decide, not only whether to pressure Israel to deal with the new Palestinian axis, but also whether to sanction the PA as well. There is little question that there will be some voices within the administration raised in favor of ignoring or downplaying the fact that the PA is now formally part of a terrorist partnership.

If Obama is serious about standing up against terrorism and for peace he must denounce this deal. Even  more, he must show Abbas that there are consequences for those who cross the United States in this manner. The flow of aid, which is the lifeblood of the bankrupt PA must be threatened if not cut off. Even more, Obama must serve notice on the Palestinians. So long as they choose to be represented by Hamas, they will get no help from the United States in their quest for statehood.

The news that Fatah and Hamas have agreed in principle to form a unity government to govern the Palestinian Authority answers the question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put to PA head Mahmoud Abbas about choosing between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Abbas has now chosen to partner with the Islamist terrorist movement.

There will be those who will try to spin this development as somehow helpful for peace. Palestinian unity will supposedly make it easier for the PA to accept a peace agreement—once the West has hammered Israel into accepting even more concessions. But those who make such an argument are either deluded or disingenuous. A Fatah-Hamas concordat dooms even the already remote chances that there will be a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Abbas’s Fatah-led government had already shown that it was incapable of taking an Israeli “Yes!” for an answer. It refused to negotiate with Netanyahu after turning down an offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem in 2008 made by Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert. But now that it is going to bed with Hamas, there is literally no chance that such a coalition could ever agree to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside the Palestinian one. No matter where its borders are drawn.

While Abbas has answered Netanyahu’s question, what remains to be seen is how President Obama will respond. Obama has been rumored to be mulling his own Middle East peace plan even though advancing one under these circumstances is an invitation to disaster and diplomatic humiliation. But Abbas’s decision to ally itself with an entity that the United States rightly considers a terrorist group means that Obama must now decide, not only whether to pressure Israel to deal with the new Palestinian axis, but also whether to sanction the PA as well. There is little question that there will be some voices within the administration raised in favor of ignoring or downplaying the fact that the PA is now formally part of a terrorist partnership.

If Obama is serious about standing up against terrorism and for peace he must denounce this deal. Even  more, he must show Abbas that there are consequences for those who cross the United States in this manner. The flow of aid, which is the lifeblood of the bankrupt PA must be threatened if not cut off. Even more, Obama must serve notice on the Palestinians. So long as they choose to be represented by Hamas, they will get no help from the United States in their quest for statehood.

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Pushing Back on American “Decline”

President Obama’s critics often accuse him of not endorsing America’s leadership role in the world, and it’s not hard to see how they come to that conclusion. Not only has the president made some telling comments on the subject, but his actions have also indicated that he’s not entirely comfortable with outward displays of American power.

This couldn’t have been clearer than in Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker piece, when Obama’s aide said that he sees himself as leading the world “from behind.” The reason for this, some non-interventionists argue, is that the playing field has shifted so that America can no longer take the prominent global leadership role it once did. Therefore, the U.S. should get accustomed to its new position in the world and change its actions accordingly.

This notion of American decline will play a prominent role in the 2012 election, Robert Kagan said today at a discussion at the Center for American Progress. “[T]his is the terrain that to some extent the 2012 election will be fought on,” he said. “The candidate who does the better job of saying we can come back, we can make it, we can win the future is going to have a better chance of getting elected.”

Obama has been making the case for “winning the future,” at least in terms of domestic policies. But in terms of foreign policy, he’s been willing to relinquish a dominant position. Because of the country’s deficit problem, some Republicans have been hesitant to push back on this issue. This is misguided—getting through our debt crisis is a priority, but it shouldn’t shape our foreign policy philosophy.

During the election, the GOP will need to address the future of America’s role in the world. It is an issue unrelated to our economic policy. And they need to get across to the public that a future of declining American power is not one that we’ll be “winning.”

President Obama’s critics often accuse him of not endorsing America’s leadership role in the world, and it’s not hard to see how they come to that conclusion. Not only has the president made some telling comments on the subject, but his actions have also indicated that he’s not entirely comfortable with outward displays of American power.

This couldn’t have been clearer than in Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker piece, when Obama’s aide said that he sees himself as leading the world “from behind.” The reason for this, some non-interventionists argue, is that the playing field has shifted so that America can no longer take the prominent global leadership role it once did. Therefore, the U.S. should get accustomed to its new position in the world and change its actions accordingly.

This notion of American decline will play a prominent role in the 2012 election, Robert Kagan said today at a discussion at the Center for American Progress. “[T]his is the terrain that to some extent the 2012 election will be fought on,” he said. “The candidate who does the better job of saying we can come back, we can make it, we can win the future is going to have a better chance of getting elected.”

Obama has been making the case for “winning the future,” at least in terms of domestic policies. But in terms of foreign policy, he’s been willing to relinquish a dominant position. Because of the country’s deficit problem, some Republicans have been hesitant to push back on this issue. This is misguided—getting through our debt crisis is a priority, but it shouldn’t shape our foreign policy philosophy.

During the election, the GOP will need to address the future of America’s role in the world. It is an issue unrelated to our economic policy. And they need to get across to the public that a future of declining American power is not one that we’ll be “winning.”

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The Reality of Campus Anti-Semitism: An Exchange

Last Friday, I responded to an item published on the Website of the American Association of University Professors by Cary Nelson, the group’s president, and Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee. They have now replied. My response follows their letter.

To the Editor:

Jonathan S. Tobin completely misconstrues our piece on campus anti-Semitism.

He suggests that the American Jewish Committee is against including Jews under Title VI for protection from a pervasively hostile campus environment. AJC actually convened the coalition which helped persuade the Department of Education to issue its clarifying letter in October. We not only noted that achievement in our letter, but also said that all allegations of anti-Semitism on campus demanded serious attention, and that some of them may indeed form the basis of a Title VI violation. Violence, threats of violence, treating Jewish students in a discriminatory fashion, and other similar acts may establish a case for such a pervasively hostile environment.

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Last Friday, I responded to an item published on the Website of the American Association of University Professors by Cary Nelson, the group’s president, and Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee. They have now replied. My response follows their letter.

To the Editor:

Jonathan S. Tobin completely misconstrues our piece on campus anti-Semitism.

He suggests that the American Jewish Committee is against including Jews under Title VI for protection from a pervasively hostile campus environment. AJC actually convened the coalition which helped persuade the Department of Education to issue its clarifying letter in October. We not only noted that achievement in our letter, but also said that all allegations of anti-Semitism on campus demanded serious attention, and that some of them may indeed form the basis of a Title VI violation. Violence, threats of violence, treating Jewish students in a discriminatory fashion, and other similar acts may establish a case for such a pervasively hostile environment.

Our concern is that the recent cases also alleged that a pervasive hostile environment had been created where campuses allowed anti-Israel speech (from students, professors, and others) which may have transgressed the “working definition of anti-Semitism.” We applaud the use of the “working definition” to help universities identify and confront anti-Semitism—indeed AJC staffers were among the key drafters of the definition. But we reject its abuse, contorting it into a de facto “hate speech code.”

Both of us, in separate articles last year, made the point that students were wrong to disrupt Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California at Irvine. Students had the right to hear Oren.

Likewise students have the right to hear other speakers, including those whose anti-Israel stance impacts the “working definition.” Our point is that neither Title VI, nor the fight against anti-Semitism, is aided when universities are told that if they bring such speakers, their federal funding will be in jeopardy. That threat is just as much an effort of censorship as students shouting down Ambassador Oren.

Cary Nelson is President of the American Association of University Professors.
Kenneth Stern is AJC’s Director of the Division on Anti-Semitism and Extremism.

Jonathan S. Tobin replies:

The American Jewish Committee has a long and honorable tradition of bearing witness against anti-Semitism. However, the letter that Kenneth Stern signed with Cary Nelson stakes out a position that makes it unlikely that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act will ever be applied to protect Jews from anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Those who have requested that Jewish students be protected from the creation of a hostile environment are not asking for the creation of a “hate speech code.” What they are doing is seeking to compel the government to act when academic debate about the issues spills over into hostile actions that serve to suppress free speech and to threaten the safety of Jewish students. The egregious events at the University of California at Irvine in recent years is a classic example of this process. The debate over the situation at Cal-Irvine was the impetus for the Department of Education’s recent ruling that Jews are now covered by Title VI.

Nelson and Stern say they applauded that ruling in their letter. In fact, they merely noted the ruling’s existence without expressing an opinion and then went on to say how it should not be applied to a variety of subsequent incidents.

This is not an argument about whether universities should host “controversial” speakers. Obviously, not everyone need agree with Israel’s ambassador or those who oppose Israeli policies. Friends of Israel and the country’s critics have a right to be heard without being shouted down or banned. The question here is whether a consistent policy of encouraging genuine hate speech against Jews on campus—as was the case at Cal-Irvine—should be countenanced. Indeed, if the government were not to act there, then it must be expected that it was unlikely to act anywhere. While not every instance where Jewish students have complained may merit government action, anti-Semitism on campus is a real phenomenon, and aided by the movement to boycott, divest and isolate Israel (BDS), it is growing. The complaints by Jewish students on the campuses in question deserve better than the voluble dismissal they received by Nelson and Stern. Mere support for the principle of combating anti-Semitism is not enough if, when faced with instances of bias, those who should be speaking out instead counsel inaction.

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Virginia’s Impressive Governor

Yesterday the Manhattan Institute and e21 (with which I’m associated) hosted the latest in their Conversations With series – in this instance, a conversation with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

I was familiar with Governor McDonnell, in part because I’m a resident of Virginia; but I had never before heard him interviewed at length, in a setting like this. And I came away quite impressed. Governor McDonnell is serious and sober, fluent and knowledgeable on the issues, an engaging and likable fellow. He also, and most importantly, has amassed an impressive governing record in a short period of time.

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Yesterday the Manhattan Institute and e21 (with which I’m associated) hosted the latest in their Conversations With series – in this instance, a conversation with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

I was familiar with Governor McDonnell, in part because I’m a resident of Virginia; but I had never before heard him interviewed at length, in a setting like this. And I came away quite impressed. Governor McDonnell is serious and sober, fluent and knowledgeable on the issues, an engaging and likable fellow. He also, and most importantly, has amassed an impressive governing record in a short period of time.

For example, he reduced state spending to 2006 levels by cutting $6 billion out of two budgets while defeating attempts to levy a $2 billion increase in the state income tax. (McDonnell inherited a budget deficit of more than $4 billion; today the state has a surplus and has demonstrated remarkable revenue growth.) The state unemployment rate has dropped to 6.3 percent today from 7.2 percent in February 2010. Virginia is among the most pro-business states in the union. Governor McDonnell, facing a Democratic majority in the State Senate, has shown an impressive capacity to defuse partisan squabbles. He had arguably the most successful first legislative session of any Virginia governor in modern history. And his pension reforms, education initiatives, and transportation package are fairly impressive achievements.

In his conversation with Bryon York of the Washington Examiner, McDonnell was asked about whether we are in a “new moment” in which restraint on government spending—including entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid—are no longer politically lethal. Governor McDonnell believes we are in such a moment. Why? “Because it’s a math problem,” he says. We can’t get from where we are to where we need to be without seriously cutting programs that are large and popular. We’re seeing a new and more enlightened understanding among the citizenry when it comes to deficits and the debt. “People get it at a core level,” he insists. That doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t encounter stiff, even frantic, opposition to budget cuts. And polls may go down as cuts are made. But McDonnell believes Americans are ready for straight talk and adult leadership – and over time it’s something they’ll reward.

At least in Commonwealth of Virginia, that seems to be the case. Governor McDonnell’s approval rating is now 66 percent. He’s quite an impressive figure; but see for yourself.

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Assessing the National Security Reshuffle

The rumored appointment of Ryan Crocker as U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, which I commented on earlier, is apparently only part of a larger, long-rumored rejiggering of personnel at the highest reaches of the national security bureaucracy. Leon Panetta is leaving his post as CIA director to become secretary of defense. David Petraeus is leaving Afghanistan to become CIA Director. And Marine Lieutenant General John Allen, the deputy commander at Central Command, is replacing Petraeus in Kabul.

What to make of all these shifts? By and large they seem like sensible adjustments, replacing capable leaders with other capable leaders, and they confirm President Obama’s desire to chart a centrist path in national security policy. Crocker’s selection, as I mentioned previously, is particularly welcome news given how much he did to make the surge in Iraq a success. But there are also some obvious risks involved.

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The rumored appointment of Ryan Crocker as U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, which I commented on earlier, is apparently only part of a larger, long-rumored rejiggering of personnel at the highest reaches of the national security bureaucracy. Leon Panetta is leaving his post as CIA director to become secretary of defense. David Petraeus is leaving Afghanistan to become CIA Director. And Marine Lieutenant General John Allen, the deputy commander at Central Command, is replacing Petraeus in Kabul.

What to make of all these shifts? By and large they seem like sensible adjustments, replacing capable leaders with other capable leaders, and they confirm President Obama’s desire to chart a centrist path in national security policy. Crocker’s selection, as I mentioned previously, is particularly welcome news given how much he did to make the surge in Iraq a success. But there are also some obvious risks involved.

Panetta seems to have done well at CIA, and with his long record of government service it is hard to imagine a safer pair of hands to guide the Pentagon. The danger is that he has little background on defense issues but a lot as a green-eye shade type: former head of the House Budget Committee and the Office of Management and Budget. That may well give him a particular bias in the coming debate over whether and how much to slash the defense budget. Gates has warned about the consequences of overly extensive cuts such as those that Obama himself has publicly advocated. Will Panetta fight for the needs and interests of the armed forces in the White House—or will he be the White House’s emissary to force through irresponsible cuts in the defense budget that will endanger our global position? As CIA Director, he did gain a reputation as the agency’s champion. That’s a good sign, but it’s too soon to know how he will view his new post at the Pentagon. This should be an obvious issue for senators to grill him on during his confirmation hearings.

As for the other shifts: Petraeus’s leaving Kabul is a shame on multiple levels, because it is hard to imagine a better-qualified commander and because with his departure there will not be a chance to reunite the Crocker/Petraeus “dream team” that worked so effectively in Iraq. But Petraeus has spent much of the past decade deployed in war zones, and he made it clear that he was ready to leave Afghanistan after this summer’s fighting season. He has certainly earned the right to come home.

From President Obama’s perspective, putting Petraeus at CIA is a smart move, because it removes him from the political debate and forecloses the possibility (never a serious possibility, I think, but one that worried the Democratic Party brass) of Petraeus’s challenging Obama in the 2012 elections. Directing CIA is an important job, but not the job he deserved and had earned—that of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Presumably Obama must have been concerned about appointing such a high-profile general to a post where he could, if he chose, have become an impediment to the White House’s agenda. That is a shame, because the chairman’s job needs to be filled by a strong and independent leader who will give unvarnished military advice—not the “yes men” who have too often been appointed in the past.

From Petraeus’s perspective, it is hard to see any careerist advantage to becoming CIA Director, just as there was no careerist advantage last year in leaving Centcom to take over a subordinate command in Afghanistan. (Similarily there is no careerist reason for Ryan Crocker to come out of retirement for yet another ambassadorial posting.) The only way to interpret his willingness to perform such work is that he is a patriot who goes where the commander-in-chief summons him. His willingness to serve, and the skill with which he has performed numerous top-level jobs, should make him a strong contender for secretary of state after Hillary Clinton steps down. If he were to be appointed to that job, he would be following in the footsteps of his hero, George Marshall.

As for his successor as the top US/NATO commander in Kabul—John Allen—I have met him only once but have heard many good things about him. Allen is widely credited as one of the major forces behind the Sunni Awakening in Anbar Province, which occurred while he was deputy commander of Multi-National Forces-West. He also served at Centcom as deputy to both Petraeus and his successor, Jim Mattis. He has seen how two of the brightest four-stars in the armed forces operate, and he has presumably gained a fair degree of familiarity with Afghanistan and its neighbors, which are part of the Centcom Area of Operations.

His strategic instincts and management skills are said to be impressive. His challenge, after serving as a deputy, will be to step into the klieg lights as the top commander in a job where political, diplomatic, and communications skills are at least as important as the traditional military competencies. This was a transition that Stanley McChrystal, a superb Special Operations commander, had trouble making. The challenge for Allen will be to step into some very big shoes because he  will replace the most successful and respected American general since the World War II generation retired. But he has been groomed for this post, and there is every reason to expect that he will do a good job.

Overall, there is not much reason for complaint in this national-security reshuffle. But—a final point—leadership starts at the top. No team, matter how impressive, can achieve good results if the president is unsure of what direction he wants to follow. Unfortunately the past two years have shown—and Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker article on the “leading from behind” president has confirmed—that too often Obama has been uncertain of his path. We can only hope that he shows himself to be a stronger and more self-confident leader in national security affairs than he did in the early part of his administration.

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Re: We Win, Trump Loses

I agree with your excellent post, Abe. I’d simply add that it’s perfectly in character for Donald Trump to pat himself on the back (“Today I’m very proud of myself”) after having been shown to be even more of a clownish figure than we imagined.

Remember, Trump was saying on Monday, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that unnamed sources were telling him that the original birth certificate didn’t exist and he was now doubtful that the president was born in the United States, despite the overwhelming evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii. Yet Trump is interpreting the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate as a triumph, which goes to show that even successful businessmen can live in alternate universes.

The other thing to notice is how Trump has in the last few days portrayed himself as a victim of an irresponsible media. In his comments this morning Trump went so far as to say that he’s happy the White House released the president’s birth certificate “so the press can stop asking me questions” about it. This after Trump has spent the better part of the month obsessing on this issue and raising it in every forum imaginable.

One does not have to be naïve about American politics to believe that it is a serious enterprise, a forum in which we debate and decide on matters of justice and what constitutes a good society. Sometimes we do better than other times. But for the last few weeks a buffoon was allowed to hijack political discourse in America and mainstream an issue that was once relegated to the fever swamps. The public’s view of politics and politicians was already at low ebb; this whole episode will make things even worse.

For those of us who care about politics and the ideas and philosophies informing politics—who believe that politics is, in the words of the Scottish novelist John Buchan, an “honourable adventure”—the last few weeks have been discouraging, to say the least.

I agree with your excellent post, Abe. I’d simply add that it’s perfectly in character for Donald Trump to pat himself on the back (“Today I’m very proud of myself”) after having been shown to be even more of a clownish figure than we imagined.

Remember, Trump was saying on Monday, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that unnamed sources were telling him that the original birth certificate didn’t exist and he was now doubtful that the president was born in the United States, despite the overwhelming evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii. Yet Trump is interpreting the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate as a triumph, which goes to show that even successful businessmen can live in alternate universes.

The other thing to notice is how Trump has in the last few days portrayed himself as a victim of an irresponsible media. In his comments this morning Trump went so far as to say that he’s happy the White House released the president’s birth certificate “so the press can stop asking me questions” about it. This after Trump has spent the better part of the month obsessing on this issue and raising it in every forum imaginable.

One does not have to be naïve about American politics to believe that it is a serious enterprise, a forum in which we debate and decide on matters of justice and what constitutes a good society. Sometimes we do better than other times. But for the last few weeks a buffoon was allowed to hijack political discourse in America and mainstream an issue that was once relegated to the fever swamps. The public’s view of politics and politicians was already at low ebb; this whole episode will make things even worse.

For those of us who care about politics and the ideas and philosophies informing politics—who believe that politics is, in the words of the Scottish novelist John Buchan, an “honourable adventure”—the last few weeks have been discouraging, to say the least.

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A “Distraction” of His Own Making?

There’s no doubt that “birtherism” has been a problem for Republicans. During the 2008 elections the Obama campaign was able to turn it deftly into both a distraction and a way to tarnish the image of the entire GOP based on the views of some conservative conspiracy theorists. While mainstream conservatives have dismissed the birther theory, MSNBC and others on the left have continued to focus on it because they believe it helps to discredit the right.

But recently, bitherism may have become more of a political detriment for the Democrats than a benefit. A Fox News poll from earlier this month showed that 24 percent of voters believe Obama was born outside of the U.S.–and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only Republican voters who hold this view. While 37 percent of GOP voters question the president’s birthplace, 21 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats do as well.

This could have become a problem for Obama because polling also shows that he has almost no room for error in 2012. Only 31 percent of voters say they will definitely support Obama, while 23 percent say they might consider voting for him, according to the latest Gallup poll. And the president will need almost all of that 23 percent.

While most Americans were confident that Obama was born in Hawaii, the president’s refusal to release his birth certificate may finally have begun to frustrate them. The White House claimed that it didn’t make the birth certificate public in the past because it was a “distraction”—but it’s likely that many were wondering why he didn’t just release the thing and put the whole issue to rest. Now that he’s done so, perhaps we can get past the “distraction” and onto the legitimate issues.

There’s no doubt that “birtherism” has been a problem for Republicans. During the 2008 elections the Obama campaign was able to turn it deftly into both a distraction and a way to tarnish the image of the entire GOP based on the views of some conservative conspiracy theorists. While mainstream conservatives have dismissed the birther theory, MSNBC and others on the left have continued to focus on it because they believe it helps to discredit the right.

But recently, bitherism may have become more of a political detriment for the Democrats than a benefit. A Fox News poll from earlier this month showed that 24 percent of voters believe Obama was born outside of the U.S.–and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only Republican voters who hold this view. While 37 percent of GOP voters question the president’s birthplace, 21 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats do as well.

This could have become a problem for Obama because polling also shows that he has almost no room for error in 2012. Only 31 percent of voters say they will definitely support Obama, while 23 percent say they might consider voting for him, according to the latest Gallup poll. And the president will need almost all of that 23 percent.

While most Americans were confident that Obama was born in Hawaii, the president’s refusal to release his birth certificate may finally have begun to frustrate them. The White House claimed that it didn’t make the birth certificate public in the past because it was a “distraction”—but it’s likely that many were wondering why he didn’t just release the thing and put the whole issue to rest. Now that he’s done so, perhaps we can get past the “distraction” and onto the legitimate issues.

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Coincidence or Causation?

Will Collier at Pajamas Media has a fascinating story on gas prices. Oil prices ran up smartly in early 2008 and hit $145.16 a barrel on July 14th that year. But that was the very day that President Bush lifted a ban on off-shore drilling by executive order.

By July 18th, the price had fallen to $128.94–a 12 percent decrease in just four days–short-seller heaven. On August 14th, the price was at $115.05. By December 23rd, the price had collapsed all the way to $30.28.

Could that be a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, that the executive order and the price collapse had nothing to do with each other? That’s certainly what the left argued. The left said it was really the Great Recession that caused the collapse in oil prices. But Lehman Brothers didn’t fail until September 15th, two months after oil prices had begun their dramatic decline, and oil actually spiked in reaction to Lehman Brothers before resuming its decline. They also argued that off-shore drilling couldn’t add to supply for years–thus revealing a stunning ignorance of how current prices reflect not just current supply and demand but also perceived future supply and demand.

And when did oil prices begin their reassent into the stratosphere? That was in January, 2009, just as Barack Obama was inaugurated, having announced that he would reverse Bush’s order. When he actually did so, on February 8th, 2011, crude was at $85.85 a barrel. Two months later, the price has risen to $112.23 (as of this morning), an increase of 23 percent.

Again, is this post hoc ergo propter hoc, or is the market pricing in perceived future supply? I’m going with the latter.

Will Collier at Pajamas Media has a fascinating story on gas prices. Oil prices ran up smartly in early 2008 and hit $145.16 a barrel on July 14th that year. But that was the very day that President Bush lifted a ban on off-shore drilling by executive order.

By July 18th, the price had fallen to $128.94–a 12 percent decrease in just four days–short-seller heaven. On August 14th, the price was at $115.05. By December 23rd, the price had collapsed all the way to $30.28.

Could that be a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, that the executive order and the price collapse had nothing to do with each other? That’s certainly what the left argued. The left said it was really the Great Recession that caused the collapse in oil prices. But Lehman Brothers didn’t fail until September 15th, two months after oil prices had begun their dramatic decline, and oil actually spiked in reaction to Lehman Brothers before resuming its decline. They also argued that off-shore drilling couldn’t add to supply for years–thus revealing a stunning ignorance of how current prices reflect not just current supply and demand but also perceived future supply and demand.

And when did oil prices begin their reassent into the stratosphere? That was in January, 2009, just as Barack Obama was inaugurated, having announced that he would reverse Bush’s order. When he actually did so, on February 8th, 2011, crude was at $85.85 a barrel. Two months later, the price has risen to $112.23 (as of this morning), an increase of 23 percent.

Again, is this post hoc ergo propter hoc, or is the market pricing in perceived future supply? I’m going with the latter.

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We Win, Trump Loses

So it’s all over. President Obama has released his birth certificate. He was born in the U.S.A. Has Birtherism been delivered a deathblow? Unfortunately, no. Birtherism is a matter of toxic faith and therefore unrelated to the laws of evidence and objectivity. Like 9/11 Trutherism, it will be folded permanently into the paranoid fringe of American political culture, inspiring pamphlets, online videos, and low-I.Q. conventions for evermore.

But Obama’s releasing of the birth certificate will accomplish several things, all of them good. First, Birtherism’s seepage into the mainstream is no more.  Whatever curiosity it inspired in regular folks who didn’t have the time or inclination to play amateur detective was fed by the simple fact of there being no certificate. With the so-called “long form” now available, continued speculation is the exclusive province of fevered minds. Second, American political debate will now focus on the vitally pressing concerns of the day: the debt, the economy, unemployment, and upheaval in the greater Middle East. As a media phenomenon, Birtherism was an escapist fantasy that diverted our attention from scary challenges and tough choices. But now is no time for escapism. Last, Donald Trump is sidelined. He can walk around bragging that he forced the president to act. But getting the most powerful man in the world to conclusively disprove your central talking point is not exactly a masterstroke. It’s more like luring a retired champion out of retirement to knock you out in the first round. It is a spectacular own goal. The U.S. has been scoring enough of those lately. We hardly need a President Trump to bring his personal expertise to the task.

So it’s all over. President Obama has released his birth certificate. He was born in the U.S.A. Has Birtherism been delivered a deathblow? Unfortunately, no. Birtherism is a matter of toxic faith and therefore unrelated to the laws of evidence and objectivity. Like 9/11 Trutherism, it will be folded permanently into the paranoid fringe of American political culture, inspiring pamphlets, online videos, and low-I.Q. conventions for evermore.

But Obama’s releasing of the birth certificate will accomplish several things, all of them good. First, Birtherism’s seepage into the mainstream is no more.  Whatever curiosity it inspired in regular folks who didn’t have the time or inclination to play amateur detective was fed by the simple fact of there being no certificate. With the so-called “long form” now available, continued speculation is the exclusive province of fevered minds. Second, American political debate will now focus on the vitally pressing concerns of the day: the debt, the economy, unemployment, and upheaval in the greater Middle East. As a media phenomenon, Birtherism was an escapist fantasy that diverted our attention from scary challenges and tough choices. But now is no time for escapism. Last, Donald Trump is sidelined. He can walk around bragging that he forced the president to act. But getting the most powerful man in the world to conclusively disprove your central talking point is not exactly a masterstroke. It’s more like luring a retired champion out of retirement to knock you out in the first round. It is a spectacular own goal. The U.S. has been scoring enough of those lately. We hardly need a President Trump to bring his personal expertise to the task.

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Surprise: Seniors Favor the Ryan Budget

Democrats are growing increasingly desperate in their attempts to foment public anger over Paul Ryan’s budget—but the anger just isn’t there. One of their latest talking points via Politico is that Ryan’s proposal is infuriating seniors and giving Obama a chance to capture their votes in 2012:

But Ryan’s plan, embraced by most Republicans, gives Obama a big opportunity in 2012 to regain lost ground in key battleground states and narrow the generation gap. “It finally gives us an argument to make with seniors… It’s a godsend,” said a Democratic operative allied with Obama who sees the issue as a way to make up lost ground with seniors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Florida.

In reality, the latest Gallup/USA Today poll finds that seniors actually prefer Ryan’s plan over Obama’s. This makes sense, since the GOP proposed changes for Medicare won’t even impact anyone already over the age of 55.

The poll also found, interestingly enough, that Obama’s plan is overwhelmingly popular among people under the age of 30 – which probably explains why the president has been giving his recent televised budget speeches to young audiences.

Democrats will likely continue to demagogue on the Medicare issue in an attempt to win over seniors. But this poll disproves the conventional wisdom that retired voters are hostile to any changes to the Medicare system – and it even shows that Republicans have a head start on the budget issue with the 65-plus crowd.

Democrats are growing increasingly desperate in their attempts to foment public anger over Paul Ryan’s budget—but the anger just isn’t there. One of their latest talking points via Politico is that Ryan’s proposal is infuriating seniors and giving Obama a chance to capture their votes in 2012:

But Ryan’s plan, embraced by most Republicans, gives Obama a big opportunity in 2012 to regain lost ground in key battleground states and narrow the generation gap. “It finally gives us an argument to make with seniors… It’s a godsend,” said a Democratic operative allied with Obama who sees the issue as a way to make up lost ground with seniors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Florida.

In reality, the latest Gallup/USA Today poll finds that seniors actually prefer Ryan’s plan over Obama’s. This makes sense, since the GOP proposed changes for Medicare won’t even impact anyone already over the age of 55.

The poll also found, interestingly enough, that Obama’s plan is overwhelmingly popular among people under the age of 30 – which probably explains why the president has been giving his recent televised budget speeches to young audiences.

Democrats will likely continue to demagogue on the Medicare issue in an attempt to win over seniors. But this poll disproves the conventional wisdom that retired voters are hostile to any changes to the Medicare system – and it even shows that Republicans have a head start on the budget issue with the 65-plus crowd.

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Obama, Trump, Birth Certificate: Where to Begin…

“We don’t have time for such silliness,” the President said this morning. And then he flew off to Chicago to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. CULTURAL SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: On this day in 1737, Edward Gibbon was born.

“We don’t have time for such silliness,” the President said this morning. And then he flew off to Chicago to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. CULTURAL SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: On this day in 1737, Edward Gibbon was born.

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Dueling Narratives

You rarely see two news stories so diametrically opposed. The New York Times’s headline: “House G.O.P. Members Face Voter Anger Over Budget.” Slate’s headline: “Wanted: Angry Liberals.” If the Ryan budget is so unpopular, where are the town-hall meltdowns?

A paragraph from the Times’s story:

After 10 days of trying to sell constituents on their plan to overhaul Medicare, House Republicans in multiple districts appear to be increasingly on the defensive, facing worried and angry questions from voters and a barrage of new attacks from Democrats and their allies.

And from Slate:

These are good days to be a member of Congress. Your job is not popular, per se, and neither is the institution you work for. But at least you’re not getting yelled at. A controversial Republican budget just passed the House, you’re home in your district, and the anger that curdled town hall meetings for members of the last Congress is really nowhere to be seen.

The Times:

At roughly the same time in Wisconsin, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget proposal, faced a packed town meeting, occasional boos and a skeptical audience as he tried to lay out his party’s rationale for overhauling the health insurance program for retirees.

Slate:

So Democrats need some hot video of real, live Americans getting angry about Paul Ryan. How are they doing so far? For two days, a ThinkProgress video reporter tailed Paul Ryan in his district. The chairman of the budget committee talked to constituents. The reporter taped it. He talked to more constituents. The reporter taped it. It was at only one event, in the town of Milton, that one of Ryan’s constituents grilled Ryan about taxes and ThinkProgress’ reporter Scott Keyes got the video; according to ThinkProgress’ editor-in-chief, Faiz Shakir, it was the best clip from two days’ reporting.

Since Congress has been in recess for the last week and a half, it’s a good bet that had there been a large number of summer-of-2009-style town hall meetings, with constituents beating up Republican members of Congress over the Ryan budget, drowning them out with boos, the clips would have been all over the airwaves. Do you think that MSNBC and CNN would have spiked video like that? Neither do I.

So, absent more reporting, I’m going with Slate. And, if true, Slate’s reporting is highly significant. As Michael Barone explains in reaction to the Slate story, “My conclusion: there’s not nearly as large or articulate a constituency against the budget cuts the Republicans are proposing as there was and is against the Obama Democrats’ vast expansion of the size and scope of government.”

You rarely see two news stories so diametrically opposed. The New York Times’s headline: “House G.O.P. Members Face Voter Anger Over Budget.” Slate’s headline: “Wanted: Angry Liberals.” If the Ryan budget is so unpopular, where are the town-hall meltdowns?

A paragraph from the Times’s story:

After 10 days of trying to sell constituents on their plan to overhaul Medicare, House Republicans in multiple districts appear to be increasingly on the defensive, facing worried and angry questions from voters and a barrage of new attacks from Democrats and their allies.

And from Slate:

These are good days to be a member of Congress. Your job is not popular, per se, and neither is the institution you work for. But at least you’re not getting yelled at. A controversial Republican budget just passed the House, you’re home in your district, and the anger that curdled town hall meetings for members of the last Congress is really nowhere to be seen.

The Times:

At roughly the same time in Wisconsin, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget proposal, faced a packed town meeting, occasional boos and a skeptical audience as he tried to lay out his party’s rationale for overhauling the health insurance program for retirees.

Slate:

So Democrats need some hot video of real, live Americans getting angry about Paul Ryan. How are they doing so far? For two days, a ThinkProgress video reporter tailed Paul Ryan in his district. The chairman of the budget committee talked to constituents. The reporter taped it. He talked to more constituents. The reporter taped it. It was at only one event, in the town of Milton, that one of Ryan’s constituents grilled Ryan about taxes and ThinkProgress’ reporter Scott Keyes got the video; according to ThinkProgress’ editor-in-chief, Faiz Shakir, it was the best clip from two days’ reporting.

Since Congress has been in recess for the last week and a half, it’s a good bet that had there been a large number of summer-of-2009-style town hall meetings, with constituents beating up Republican members of Congress over the Ryan budget, drowning them out with boos, the clips would have been all over the airwaves. Do you think that MSNBC and CNN would have spiked video like that? Neither do I.

So, absent more reporting, I’m going with Slate. And, if true, Slate’s reporting is highly significant. As Michael Barone explains in reaction to the Slate story, “My conclusion: there’s not nearly as large or articulate a constituency against the budget cuts the Republicans are proposing as there was and is against the Obama Democrats’ vast expansion of the size and scope of government.”

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Leading from Behind 2.0

In his article “The Consequentialist” in this week’s New Yorker, Ryan Lizza reported the White House reaction to State Department staffer Jared Cohen, who contacted Twitter during the peak of the Green Revolution in Iran and asked it to delay its planned upgrade. Protesters were using Twitter to provide information to the international media, and the upgrade would have temporarily shut down Twitter. Lizza reported that:

White House officials “were so mad that somebody had actually ‘interfered’ in Iranian politics, because they were doing their damnedest to not interfere,” the former Administration official said. “Now, to be fair to them, it was also the understanding that if we interfered it could look like the Green movement was Western-backed, but that really wasn’t the core of it. The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters. . . . The official said that Cohen “almost lost his job over it. If it had been up to the White House, they would have fired him.”

Yesterday, in an informative interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Lizza added an interesting detail:

HH: I think buried in “The Consequentialist” is one revelation that some of Obama’s White House aides regretted having stood idly by why [sic] the Iranian regime brutally repressed the Green Revolution. And more than standing idly by, they rebuked the State Department young guy for getting involved with the Twitter controversy. It confirms every conservative’s critique of President Obama’s indifference to the smashing of the Green Revolution. I think that’s one of the huge takeaways of your piece.

RL: I agree. . . . I was very surprised to find that this young guy, Jared Cohen, who unilaterally, essentially all by himself, contacted Twitter. . . . It was a very controversial, I mean, inside, someone at the White House referred to it as, when I asked about it, they said oh yeah, you’re talking about Twittergate, right?

Later in the interview, Hewitt tells Lizza “we’re getting standing idly by 2.0 underway right now in Syria.”

Call it leading from far behind, while sipping a slurpee.

In his article “The Consequentialist” in this week’s New Yorker, Ryan Lizza reported the White House reaction to State Department staffer Jared Cohen, who contacted Twitter during the peak of the Green Revolution in Iran and asked it to delay its planned upgrade. Protesters were using Twitter to provide information to the international media, and the upgrade would have temporarily shut down Twitter. Lizza reported that:

White House officials “were so mad that somebody had actually ‘interfered’ in Iranian politics, because they were doing their damnedest to not interfere,” the former Administration official said. “Now, to be fair to them, it was also the understanding that if we interfered it could look like the Green movement was Western-backed, but that really wasn’t the core of it. The core of it was we were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters. . . . The official said that Cohen “almost lost his job over it. If it had been up to the White House, they would have fired him.”

Yesterday, in an informative interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Lizza added an interesting detail:

HH: I think buried in “The Consequentialist” is one revelation that some of Obama’s White House aides regretted having stood idly by why [sic] the Iranian regime brutally repressed the Green Revolution. And more than standing idly by, they rebuked the State Department young guy for getting involved with the Twitter controversy. It confirms every conservative’s critique of President Obama’s indifference to the smashing of the Green Revolution. I think that’s one of the huge takeaways of your piece.

RL: I agree. . . . I was very surprised to find that this young guy, Jared Cohen, who unilaterally, essentially all by himself, contacted Twitter. . . . It was a very controversial, I mean, inside, someone at the White House referred to it as, when I asked about it, they said oh yeah, you’re talking about Twittergate, right?

Later in the interview, Hewitt tells Lizza “we’re getting standing idly by 2.0 underway right now in Syria.”

Call it leading from far behind, while sipping a slurpee.

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Still Bragging about Fraudulent Pulitzer

The announcement of the 2011 Pulitzer Prizes was mostly ignored by the general public last week, but the few remaining large newspapers take them very seriously. So seriously in fact that Arthur S. Brisbane, the Public Editor of the New York Times, saw fit to tweak his colleagues by pointing out that the Los Angeles Times won as many Pulitzers this year (2) as the Grey Lady. While most of us may dismiss this artificial competition as meaningless, Brisbane sees the result as something of a rejoinder to a New York Times article in January that, as he put it, described the L.A. paper as being “in steep decline.” As far as he is concerned, the employees of the New York paper should spend less time “needling” other news organizations and more applying the “laser-like focus to itself.”

Brisbane is, of course, right. But if Brisbane wanted to shine some light on the Times’s Pulitzer hypocrisy, he could have done no better than to look at the full page announcement that ran on page 15 of the paper’s first section on Sunday. In it the newspaper bragged not only about this year’s awards but its history of winning the big prize. On that page the Times listed all 106 Pulitzers that it has won since 1918. It’s an impressive list but, shockingly, the paper saw fit to include the one it got in 1932 which was awarded to “Walter Duranty for coverage of the news in Russia.”

Yes, that’s what citation said. But as anyone with even a passing knowledge of history knows, what Duranty reported that year wasn’t the news. Instead, what he was doing was serving as an unpaid propagandist for Communist dictator Josef Stalin as he set about reporting from Russia the business of mass murder. Writing in response to the reports of mass starvation in the Ukraine—the terror famine in which Stalin orchestrated the deaths of up to 3 million Ukrainians—Duranty wrote the following on November 15, 1931: “There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.” Two years later on August 23, 1933, he wrote: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”

There is no longer any debate, if there ever really was one, about the fraudulent nature of Duranty’s reporting. He was a knowing accomplice to one of the greatest crimes in history. Yet in 2003, the Pulitzer committee refused to rescind Duranty’s prize saying, “[T]he board concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case.” That is, of course, nonsense since Duranty’s apologetics for Stalin were obvious lies and based on a deliberate decision to ignore the mounds of corpses accumulating in the region in order to bolster Stalin.

The Pulitzer Committee’s disgraceful decision tarnishes the award, but what explains the Times’s own decision to continue listing Duranty on its honor roll? The Duranty scandal may belong to history now, but those searching for the roots of the Times’s contemporary biases need to understand that the ideological vise which grips the paper has been squeezing it for a long time.

The announcement of the 2011 Pulitzer Prizes was mostly ignored by the general public last week, but the few remaining large newspapers take them very seriously. So seriously in fact that Arthur S. Brisbane, the Public Editor of the New York Times, saw fit to tweak his colleagues by pointing out that the Los Angeles Times won as many Pulitzers this year (2) as the Grey Lady. While most of us may dismiss this artificial competition as meaningless, Brisbane sees the result as something of a rejoinder to a New York Times article in January that, as he put it, described the L.A. paper as being “in steep decline.” As far as he is concerned, the employees of the New York paper should spend less time “needling” other news organizations and more applying the “laser-like focus to itself.”

Brisbane is, of course, right. But if Brisbane wanted to shine some light on the Times’s Pulitzer hypocrisy, he could have done no better than to look at the full page announcement that ran on page 15 of the paper’s first section on Sunday. In it the newspaper bragged not only about this year’s awards but its history of winning the big prize. On that page the Times listed all 106 Pulitzers that it has won since 1918. It’s an impressive list but, shockingly, the paper saw fit to include the one it got in 1932 which was awarded to “Walter Duranty for coverage of the news in Russia.”

Yes, that’s what citation said. But as anyone with even a passing knowledge of history knows, what Duranty reported that year wasn’t the news. Instead, what he was doing was serving as an unpaid propagandist for Communist dictator Josef Stalin as he set about reporting from Russia the business of mass murder. Writing in response to the reports of mass starvation in the Ukraine—the terror famine in which Stalin orchestrated the deaths of up to 3 million Ukrainians—Duranty wrote the following on November 15, 1931: “There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.” Two years later on August 23, 1933, he wrote: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”

There is no longer any debate, if there ever really was one, about the fraudulent nature of Duranty’s reporting. He was a knowing accomplice to one of the greatest crimes in history. Yet in 2003, the Pulitzer committee refused to rescind Duranty’s prize saying, “[T]he board concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case.” That is, of course, nonsense since Duranty’s apologetics for Stalin were obvious lies and based on a deliberate decision to ignore the mounds of corpses accumulating in the region in order to bolster Stalin.

The Pulitzer Committee’s disgraceful decision tarnishes the award, but what explains the Times’s own decision to continue listing Duranty on its honor roll? The Duranty scandal may belong to history now, but those searching for the roots of the Times’s contemporary biases need to understand that the ideological vise which grips the paper has been squeezing it for a long time.

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Crocker Nomination, a Good Sign

On the heels of the dispiriting news out of Kandahar concerning the Taliban jailbreak, comes some very good news indeed: If published accounts are to be believed, President Obama is preparing to nominate Ryan Crocker as ambassador to Kabul.

It is hard to imagine anyone better qualified for this post. Crocker had already established his reputation as one of the State Department’s top Arabists by the time he arrived in Iraq in 2007, having previously served as ambassador to Pakistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Syria. In Iraq he became, along with General David Petraeus, part of the “Dream Team” that implemented the surge and turned around a war effort on the verge of failure. A key part of the U.S. success was the fact that that the low-key Crocker cooperated so closely with Petraeus; civil-military relations were never as close in Iraq before or after as they were under the Petraeus-Crocker tandem. Read More

On the heels of the dispiriting news out of Kandahar concerning the Taliban jailbreak, comes some very good news indeed: If published accounts are to be believed, President Obama is preparing to nominate Ryan Crocker as ambassador to Kabul.

It is hard to imagine anyone better qualified for this post. Crocker had already established his reputation as one of the State Department’s top Arabists by the time he arrived in Iraq in 2007, having previously served as ambassador to Pakistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Syria. In Iraq he became, along with General David Petraeus, part of the “Dream Team” that implemented the surge and turned around a war effort on the verge of failure. A key part of the U.S. success was the fact that that the low-key Crocker cooperated so closely with Petraeus; civil-military relations were never as close in Iraq before or after as they were under the Petraeus-Crocker tandem.

In Afghanistan the civil-military relationship has long been dysfunctional. Karl Eikenberry has been the ambassador for the past two years and from the start he gained a reputation for feuding with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander. Eikenberry did not even give McChrystal a heads-up before sending memos back to Washington opposing the troop surge that McChrystal advocated. Eikenberry has been careful to be more collegial with Petraeus, but the embassy still hasn’t been working closely enough with the military on issues of mutual concern such as fighting corruption and improving governance. Moreover, Eikenberry long ago alienated Hamid Karzai, whom he harshly criticized in cables published by WikiLeaks.

Now there is a chance for a fresh start with the “Dream Team” reunited in Kabul. This should be cause for optimism on many levels, not the least being what it indicates about President Obama’s mindset: He would hardly be luring our top diplomat out of retirement if he planned to bug out of Afghanistan. This is a welcome sign of commitment from Washington, and, more than that, a sign of commitment to fixing the fraying civil-military ties which have too long stood in the way of a successful and unified war effort.

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So Long, Katie

It’s official: Katie Couric is stepping down as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

A generation ago, this would have been a huge event; today, it’s essentially a yawn. I follow politics far more closely than most Americans – and I don’t think I’ve ever watched Ms. Couric anchor the CBS Evening News. Not even once. And aside from Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin in 2008, I can’t think of a segment that was on the program that ever created a ripple, or even generated a comment. It isn’t that her show was bad (I have no way of knowing); it’s that it was irrelevant.

One other thing: Ms. Couric made her announcement official in an exclusive interview with… People magazine. And if you go to the link, you’ll find this at the bottom:

For more from Couric’s exclusive interview – including details of her life with longtime boyfriend Brooks Perlin and whether there may be wedding bells in her future – pick up PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

That doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the state of the media in our time, but it does tell you something.

It’s official: Katie Couric is stepping down as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

A generation ago, this would have been a huge event; today, it’s essentially a yawn. I follow politics far more closely than most Americans – and I don’t think I’ve ever watched Ms. Couric anchor the CBS Evening News. Not even once. And aside from Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin in 2008, I can’t think of a segment that was on the program that ever created a ripple, or even generated a comment. It isn’t that her show was bad (I have no way of knowing); it’s that it was irrelevant.

One other thing: Ms. Couric made her announcement official in an exclusive interview with… People magazine. And if you go to the link, you’ll find this at the bottom:

For more from Couric’s exclusive interview – including details of her life with longtime boyfriend Brooks Perlin and whether there may be wedding bells in her future – pick up PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

That doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the state of the media in our time, but it does tell you something.

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Amnesty International Plays Host to Hamas-Friendly Publication

Amnesty International has a history of promoting anti-Israel bigotry, so this report that the NGO is hosting an event with the Hamas-friendly publication Middle East Monitor (MEMO) doesn’t come as a major shock. But that doesn’t make this collaboration any less disgraceful:

But now Amnesty has taken the next step in its easy-breezy attitude towards religious fundamentalism. The celebrated NGO has cosied up to a Hamas-friendly magazine based in London known as Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO). On May 23, Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre will co-host what promises to be a ripping debate on “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?” The other co-hosts are MEMO and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The magazine has published a column dubbing the Israelis “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breathe oxygen.” Last week it printed a piece by Sheikh Raed Salah, a convicted Hamas fundraiser. MEMO is also led by Dr Daud Abdullah, who has called on Muslims to “carry on jihad and Resistance” against Israel.

So the fact that Amnesty is apparently hosting the magazine’s event at its Human Rights Action Center is farcical. It could be that the NGO is simply unaware of MEMO’s history. But given Amnesty’s own track record, it might not even deserve the benefit of the doubt here.

Amnesty International has a history of promoting anti-Israel bigotry, so this report that the NGO is hosting an event with the Hamas-friendly publication Middle East Monitor (MEMO) doesn’t come as a major shock. But that doesn’t make this collaboration any less disgraceful:

But now Amnesty has taken the next step in its easy-breezy attitude towards religious fundamentalism. The celebrated NGO has cosied up to a Hamas-friendly magazine based in London known as Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO). On May 23, Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre will co-host what promises to be a ripping debate on “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?” The other co-hosts are MEMO and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The magazine has published a column dubbing the Israelis “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breathe oxygen.” Last week it printed a piece by Sheikh Raed Salah, a convicted Hamas fundraiser. MEMO is also led by Dr Daud Abdullah, who has called on Muslims to “carry on jihad and Resistance” against Israel.

So the fact that Amnesty is apparently hosting the magazine’s event at its Human Rights Action Center is farcical. It could be that the NGO is simply unaware of MEMO’s history. But given Amnesty’s own track record, it might not even deserve the benefit of the doubt here.

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An “I” Sore

By widespread consensus, even (and maybe especially) among Washington Redskin fans, Dan Snyder is a lousy owner. It turns out he’s an even worse writer.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “Why I’m suing the City Paper,” Snyder uses the pronoun “I” more than 30 times. Here’s but a sampling:

I am the son of a University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate whose professional pedigree includes working at United Press International and National Geographic. I am proud of that legacy from my dad and understand the journalist’s perspective and challenges.

I am not thin-skinned about personal criticism. I consider myself very fortunate to own the Redskins. Criticism comes with the territory and I respect it. I have never sued people who publish critical opinions of me, nor have I previously sued any news organization.

I understand the anger people feel toward me when the Redskins have a losing season or when we sign a veteran player who does not meet expectations. I have been a Redskins fan all my life, and I get angry, too, including at myself. I am the first to admit that I’ve made mistakes as an owner. I hope I’ve learned from them. All I want is for the Redskins to win!

And all I want is for Snyder to stop writing! And if he really feels he must write something, perhaps he can hire an editor. Mr. Snyder’s prose is even worse than his teams, which is saying something.

By widespread consensus, even (and maybe especially) among Washington Redskin fans, Dan Snyder is a lousy owner. It turns out he’s an even worse writer.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “Why I’m suing the City Paper,” Snyder uses the pronoun “I” more than 30 times. Here’s but a sampling:

I am the son of a University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate whose professional pedigree includes working at United Press International and National Geographic. I am proud of that legacy from my dad and understand the journalist’s perspective and challenges.

I am not thin-skinned about personal criticism. I consider myself very fortunate to own the Redskins. Criticism comes with the territory and I respect it. I have never sued people who publish critical opinions of me, nor have I previously sued any news organization.

I understand the anger people feel toward me when the Redskins have a losing season or when we sign a veteran player who does not meet expectations. I have been a Redskins fan all my life, and I get angry, too, including at myself. I am the first to admit that I’ve made mistakes as an owner. I hope I’ve learned from them. All I want is for the Redskins to win!

And all I want is for Snyder to stop writing! And if he really feels he must write something, perhaps he can hire an editor. Mr. Snyder’s prose is even worse than his teams, which is saying something.

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Happy Birthday, Bernard Malamud

Of the Jewish writers who dominated American fiction in the mid-1950s, Bernard Malamud, born on this day in Brooklyn in 1914, was perhaps the greatest voice. His writing is not riddled with cynicism or laced with overt sexuality, as can be the case in the work of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Instead, Malamud focused on the very vivid and universal lines between suffering and hope, guilt and redemption, limitation and desire while, as Joseph Epstein wrote for us in 1982, making his subject “the ethical import of being a Jew.”

Today Malamud is known mostly for a story that is without Jewish characters, however—his first novel, The Natural, which he wrote at age 38 and is not his best (or worst) work. (For reading on his decline as a writer, see the aforementioned Epstein article and this 2008 essay by Cheryl Miller.) Take an evening or two this week, though, to read some of his outstanding early short stories, many of them published first in COMMENTARY and later collected in what Epstein calls “the splendid literary house that is The Magic Barrel,” which won the National Book Award in 1958. Below, an excerpt from “Angel Levine” to whet your appetite:

Manischewitz, a tailor, in his fifty-first year suffered many reverses and indignities. Previously a man of comfortable means, he overnight lost all he had when his establishment caught fire, and, because a metal container of cleaning fluid exploded, burned to the ground. Although Manischewitz was insured, damage suits against him by two customers who had been seriously hurt in the flames deprived him of every penny he had collected. At almost the same time, his son, of much promise, was killed in the war, and his daughter, without a word of warning, married a worthless lout and disappeared with him, as if off the face of the earth. Thereafter Manischewitz became the victim of incessant excruciating backaches that knifed him over in pain, and he found himself unable to work even as a presser—the only job available to him—for more than an hour or two daily, because after that the pain from standing became maddening. His Leah, a good wife and mother, who had taken in washing, began before his eyes to waste away. Suffering marked shortness of breath, she at last became seriously ill and took to her bed. The doctor, a former customer of Manischewitz, who out of pity treated them, at first had difficulty diagnosing her ailment but later put it down as hardening of the arteries, at an advanced stage. He took Manischewitz aside, prescribed complete rest for her, and in whispers gave him to know there was little hope.

Here are more stories from The Magic Barrel that ran first in our pages, but make sure to get the book itself so you can relish the truly exceptional title story at the end: “Behold the Key,” “The Prison,” “The Loan,” and “The Bill.”

Of the Jewish writers who dominated American fiction in the mid-1950s, Bernard Malamud, born on this day in Brooklyn in 1914, was perhaps the greatest voice. His writing is not riddled with cynicism or laced with overt sexuality, as can be the case in the work of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. Instead, Malamud focused on the very vivid and universal lines between suffering and hope, guilt and redemption, limitation and desire while, as Joseph Epstein wrote for us in 1982, making his subject “the ethical import of being a Jew.”

Today Malamud is known mostly for a story that is without Jewish characters, however—his first novel, The Natural, which he wrote at age 38 and is not his best (or worst) work. (For reading on his decline as a writer, see the aforementioned Epstein article and this 2008 essay by Cheryl Miller.) Take an evening or two this week, though, to read some of his outstanding early short stories, many of them published first in COMMENTARY and later collected in what Epstein calls “the splendid literary house that is The Magic Barrel,” which won the National Book Award in 1958. Below, an excerpt from “Angel Levine” to whet your appetite:

Manischewitz, a tailor, in his fifty-first year suffered many reverses and indignities. Previously a man of comfortable means, he overnight lost all he had when his establishment caught fire, and, because a metal container of cleaning fluid exploded, burned to the ground. Although Manischewitz was insured, damage suits against him by two customers who had been seriously hurt in the flames deprived him of every penny he had collected. At almost the same time, his son, of much promise, was killed in the war, and his daughter, without a word of warning, married a worthless lout and disappeared with him, as if off the face of the earth. Thereafter Manischewitz became the victim of incessant excruciating backaches that knifed him over in pain, and he found himself unable to work even as a presser—the only job available to him—for more than an hour or two daily, because after that the pain from standing became maddening. His Leah, a good wife and mother, who had taken in washing, began before his eyes to waste away. Suffering marked shortness of breath, she at last became seriously ill and took to her bed. The doctor, a former customer of Manischewitz, who out of pity treated them, at first had difficulty diagnosing her ailment but later put it down as hardening of the arteries, at an advanced stage. He took Manischewitz aside, prescribed complete rest for her, and in whispers gave him to know there was little hope.

Here are more stories from The Magic Barrel that ran first in our pages, but make sure to get the book itself so you can relish the truly exceptional title story at the end: “Behold the Key,” “The Prison,” “The Loan,” and “The Bill.”

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The Worst Study Ever?

COMMENTARY has just made available  to all online readers Scott W. Atlas’s “The Worst Study Ever?” from our April issue. Atlas is a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology  at the Stanford University Medical Center and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His article is a comprehensive and devastating indictment of the World Health Organization’s World Health Report 2000, which has been cited far and wide as the go-to reference on America’s health-care failings. As Atlas demonstrates, the report is actually an insult to objective research and a milestone in successful leftist activism:

In fact, World Health Report 2000 was an intellectual fraud of historic consequence—a profoundly deceptive document that is only marginally a measure of health-care performance at all. The report’s true achievement was to rank countries according to their alignment with a specific political and economic ideal—socialized medicine—and then claim it was an objective measure of “quality.”

Read it all.

COMMENTARY has just made available  to all online readers Scott W. Atlas’s “The Worst Study Ever?” from our April issue. Atlas is a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology  at the Stanford University Medical Center and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His article is a comprehensive and devastating indictment of the World Health Organization’s World Health Report 2000, which has been cited far and wide as the go-to reference on America’s health-care failings. As Atlas demonstrates, the report is actually an insult to objective research and a milestone in successful leftist activism:

In fact, World Health Report 2000 was an intellectual fraud of historic consequence—a profoundly deceptive document that is only marginally a measure of health-care performance at all. The report’s true achievement was to rank countries according to their alignment with a specific political and economic ideal—socialized medicine—and then claim it was an objective measure of “quality.”

Read it all.

Read Less