Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 2011

Weiner is Only Making Things Worse for Himself

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s story about hackers breaking into his Twitter account is completely plausible. So why is he acting so guilty about it? It’s the congressman’s evasiveness, not his original explanation, that’s drawing so much attention to the story. After days of dodging questions, Weiner held a useless press gaggle today, where he refused to answer even the most basic inquiries from reporters

Here’s the complete list of questions Weiner was asked, in order (via the CNN video):

“Was that picture of you?”

“Why did you hire a lawyer? Why not let law enforcement handle it?”

“Can you say if you’re concerned if there’s hacking going on with members of congress? That’s a serious thing. Aren’t you concerned if someone’s looking at your sensitive information?”

“Are the Capitol Hill police already looking into it?”

“Was it hacked or was it a prank?”

“Can you tell us why you were following a 21-year-old college student [on Twitter]?”

After each question, Weiner responded with a different version of  “This is a distraction” and “I’m going to get back to the conversation I care about.”

One frustrated reporter finally shot back that, “This distraction might go away if you answered some of the questions that are out there.”

“I’m not convinced of that,” replied Weiner. (He’s not alone there).

One thing is for sure. The story certainly isn’t going to go away after his bizarre press appearance. How difficult would it have been for him to say it wasn’t him in the photo? How difficult would it have been for him to ask the police to investigate the hacking?

Weiner isn’t going to be able to dodge legitimate questions for much longer. His odd behavior today just ensured that.

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s story about hackers breaking into his Twitter account is completely plausible. So why is he acting so guilty about it? It’s the congressman’s evasiveness, not his original explanation, that’s drawing so much attention to the story. After days of dodging questions, Weiner held a useless press gaggle today, where he refused to answer even the most basic inquiries from reporters

Here’s the complete list of questions Weiner was asked, in order (via the CNN video):

“Was that picture of you?”

“Why did you hire a lawyer? Why not let law enforcement handle it?”

“Can you say if you’re concerned if there’s hacking going on with members of congress? That’s a serious thing. Aren’t you concerned if someone’s looking at your sensitive information?”

“Are the Capitol Hill police already looking into it?”

“Was it hacked or was it a prank?”

“Can you tell us why you were following a 21-year-old college student [on Twitter]?”

After each question, Weiner responded with a different version of  “This is a distraction” and “I’m going to get back to the conversation I care about.”

One frustrated reporter finally shot back that, “This distraction might go away if you answered some of the questions that are out there.”

“I’m not convinced of that,” replied Weiner. (He’s not alone there).

One thing is for sure. The story certainly isn’t going to go away after his bizarre press appearance. How difficult would it have been for him to say it wasn’t him in the photo? How difficult would it have been for him to ask the police to investigate the hacking?

Weiner isn’t going to be able to dodge legitimate questions for much longer. His odd behavior today just ensured that.

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Asking the Wrong Question About Romney in 2012

In today’s Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. wonders whether Mitt Romney may “take health care off the table as an issue in the 2012 election if he wins the nomination.” If Romney were the Republican candidate, that would be true. The author of Massachusetts’s RomneyCare would be in no position to run against Obamacare.

But despite the mainstream media’s insistence on treating Romney as the putative GOP frontrunner because of the money he’s raised and his name recognition, that is also precisely the reason why he can’t win the Republican nomination.

As Bacon writes, we can be sure that President Obama will not be running on his record as the man who shoved a massive government health care bill down the throats of an unhappy America since, as the writer concedes, the bill is still unpopular.

The Post writer thinks Romney’s doubling down on his support for a government health care program is a manifestation of the candidate’s integrity that will help him overcome his image as a flip-flopper. But there are two problems with that formula. First, the one thing that unites Republicans is their abhorrence of Obamacare and it is unlikely that even the lack of many viable alternatives to his candidacy will convince many Republicans to back him. Second is the fact that there are still plenty of other issues on which Romney is a flip-flopper so it isn’t likely that he’ll live that moniker down anytime soon.

The fact is any Republican who wins the presidential nomination next year will have to run against Obama on health care. To comprehend that basic fact of contemporary political life is to understand why Romney has little or no chance of being the nominee.

In today’s Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. wonders whether Mitt Romney may “take health care off the table as an issue in the 2012 election if he wins the nomination.” If Romney were the Republican candidate, that would be true. The author of Massachusetts’s RomneyCare would be in no position to run against Obamacare.

But despite the mainstream media’s insistence on treating Romney as the putative GOP frontrunner because of the money he’s raised and his name recognition, that is also precisely the reason why he can’t win the Republican nomination.

As Bacon writes, we can be sure that President Obama will not be running on his record as the man who shoved a massive government health care bill down the throats of an unhappy America since, as the writer concedes, the bill is still unpopular.

The Post writer thinks Romney’s doubling down on his support for a government health care program is a manifestation of the candidate’s integrity that will help him overcome his image as a flip-flopper. But there are two problems with that formula. First, the one thing that unites Republicans is their abhorrence of Obamacare and it is unlikely that even the lack of many viable alternatives to his candidacy will convince many Republicans to back him. Second is the fact that there are still plenty of other issues on which Romney is a flip-flopper so it isn’t likely that he’ll live that moniker down anytime soon.

The fact is any Republican who wins the presidential nomination next year will have to run against Obama on health care. To comprehend that basic fact of contemporary political life is to understand why Romney has little or no chance of being the nominee.

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Perry’s Veto May Hint at a Presidential Run

Gov. Rick Perry appears to be inching even closer to a presidential run. Earlier today the Texas governor vetoed legislation that would require Amazon.com and other online retailers to collect sales tax from customers in the state. This could be an early warning sign that he plans to enter the 2012 race.

By vetoing the bill, Perry risks angering many of his constituents in the state, as well as other Texas Republican lawmakers who supported it. But the veto will also bolster his national reputation as a small-government, anti-tax conservative.

As Perry has shown more interest in entering the presidential race, enthusiasm for his candidacy has grown.

“I think Gov. Perry could well get in,” Bill Kristol predicted on Fox News Sunday, praising job creation in Texas during the governor’s term and describing him as a “Tea Party favorite.” The Republican nominee needs to have a proven record and be appealing to grassroots conservatives, Kristol said. “Perry checks both those boxes at once,” he said. “I think Perry could be formidable if he got in.”

Republicans are anxious to find a candidate they can get excited about, and Perry’s veto may indicate that he is becoming excited at the prospect too.

Gov. Rick Perry appears to be inching even closer to a presidential run. Earlier today the Texas governor vetoed legislation that would require Amazon.com and other online retailers to collect sales tax from customers in the state. This could be an early warning sign that he plans to enter the 2012 race.

By vetoing the bill, Perry risks angering many of his constituents in the state, as well as other Texas Republican lawmakers who supported it. But the veto will also bolster his national reputation as a small-government, anti-tax conservative.

As Perry has shown more interest in entering the presidential race, enthusiasm for his candidacy has grown.

“I think Gov. Perry could well get in,” Bill Kristol predicted on Fox News Sunday, praising job creation in Texas during the governor’s term and describing him as a “Tea Party favorite.” The Republican nominee needs to have a proven record and be appealing to grassroots conservatives, Kristol said. “Perry checks both those boxes at once,” he said. “I think Perry could be formidable if he got in.”

Republicans are anxious to find a candidate they can get excited about, and Perry’s veto may indicate that he is becoming excited at the prospect too.

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Violence Against Egypt’s Christians Linked to War on Israel

As the New York Times report about the fears of Coptic Christians makes clear today, the increasing influence of Islamists in Egypt in the wake of the collapse of the Mubarak regime calls into question the security of non-Muslim minorities. Some will simply ascribe the tragedy that seems to be unfolding to the perils of increasing democracy in societies where there is no tradition of either genuine religious freedom or the rule of law. That may be true, but Egypt’s problem runs deeper than merely blowback from the Arab Spring.

The role of the ahl al-dhimmah—religious minorities protected in principle under Muslim law but still subjected to discrimination and often mistreatment—is the kind of topic that those who wish to promote good relations with the Muslim world often treat as out of bounds for civil discussion. The mere utterance of the word dhimmi is enough to risk an unfair accusation of anti-Muslim bigotry.  Yet it goes to the heart not only of Egypt’s problems but those of the Middle East in general.

Although they make up approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population, Coptic Christians understand that the sensibilities of the Muslim majority are such that any assertion of equal rights or self-defense against discrimination is treated as a blow against Islam that will not be accepted. Thus, they must hope that whatever government emerges from the post-Mubarak transition will be able to protect them against the whims of an intolerant majority.

At the same time, it must also be understood that much of the anger against Israel in the region has little to do with disputes about borders as it does with revulsion against a Jewish majority state in which Muslims are the minority. As it happens, Israeli Arabs have, as has often been pointed out, more democratic rights (including the right to vote and hold office, seek legal redress in independent courts, and speak out via a free press) than those living in any Muslim country. But the idea that the Jews—who were reduced to dhimmitude in the Muslim world for 13 centuries—now rule over even a tiny portion of that part of the world is simply unthinkable to many Muslims.

Concern about the safety of the millions of Christians in the Egypt that will emerge in the coming months needs to be an integral element to U.S. policy toward that new government. But those who care about Middle East must also understand that the same dynamic that drives discrimination and violence against the Copts is just another aspect of the same ideology that refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy and keeps alive the war against the Jewish state 63 years after its rebirth.

As the New York Times report about the fears of Coptic Christians makes clear today, the increasing influence of Islamists in Egypt in the wake of the collapse of the Mubarak regime calls into question the security of non-Muslim minorities. Some will simply ascribe the tragedy that seems to be unfolding to the perils of increasing democracy in societies where there is no tradition of either genuine religious freedom or the rule of law. That may be true, but Egypt’s problem runs deeper than merely blowback from the Arab Spring.

The role of the ahl al-dhimmah—religious minorities protected in principle under Muslim law but still subjected to discrimination and often mistreatment—is the kind of topic that those who wish to promote good relations with the Muslim world often treat as out of bounds for civil discussion. The mere utterance of the word dhimmi is enough to risk an unfair accusation of anti-Muslim bigotry.  Yet it goes to the heart not only of Egypt’s problems but those of the Middle East in general.

Although they make up approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population, Coptic Christians understand that the sensibilities of the Muslim majority are such that any assertion of equal rights or self-defense against discrimination is treated as a blow against Islam that will not be accepted. Thus, they must hope that whatever government emerges from the post-Mubarak transition will be able to protect them against the whims of an intolerant majority.

At the same time, it must also be understood that much of the anger against Israel in the region has little to do with disputes about borders as it does with revulsion against a Jewish majority state in which Muslims are the minority. As it happens, Israeli Arabs have, as has often been pointed out, more democratic rights (including the right to vote and hold office, seek legal redress in independent courts, and speak out via a free press) than those living in any Muslim country. But the idea that the Jews—who were reduced to dhimmitude in the Muslim world for 13 centuries—now rule over even a tiny portion of that part of the world is simply unthinkable to many Muslims.

Concern about the safety of the millions of Christians in the Egypt that will emerge in the coming months needs to be an integral element to U.S. policy toward that new government. But those who care about Middle East must also understand that the same dynamic that drives discrimination and violence against the Copts is just another aspect of the same ideology that refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy and keeps alive the war against the Jewish state 63 years after its rebirth.

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Cain Takes a Page Out of Palin’s Book

In a Republican presidential field that is low on personality Herman Cain is an entertaining diversion. The pizza magnate has a charismatic style and is a good speaker. He also knows a few things about the foolishness of government intervention into the marketplace. But it appears that he is reading out of Sarah Palin’s playbook when it comes to coping with his shortcomings.

In a profile of the candidate in yesterday’s Washington Post, Cain says that those who have had the temerity to point out his almost complete ignorance about foreign affairs and security policy (not an unimportant point to make about someone who aspires to be commander-in-chief), like conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer are a manifestation of the of the gulf “between the establishment and the “real world.” This is the same defense of her lack of seriousness that was made by Sarah Palin in December when she too criticized the sage Krauthammer for expecting her to be “hoity toity.”

Populism is an interesting tactic to use against out of touch Washington liberals but it doesn’t work when candidates employ it as a defense of ignorance. Krauthammer is as far from official Washington’s idea of conventional wisdom as either Cain or Palin. But he is spot on when it comes to spotting candidates who lack not only the qualifications to deal with serious issues but the ability to even fake it.

Cain is an obvious example of the latter. In the Post profile, he attempts to excuse his astonishing gaffe in which he revealed that he had no idea what the “right of return” meant in Middle East politics when asked about it by Chris Wallace on Fox News:

“It would have helped if he would have said Palestinian right of return,” said Cain, adding, “Return to the bar? Return home?” Cain said he was focused in the interview on pronouncing Benjamin Netanyahu’s “name right.” He is currently reading a book on Israel.

Does he think that is supposed to reassure us that he has the faintest idea of what he’s talking about? He also stands by his comment in the first GOP presidential debate in South Carolina in which he said he had no opinion about the future conduct of the war in Afghanistan but would “listen to experts.” He says he’ll let the country know what he plans to do sometime between Election Day in 2012 and his inauguration!

If Sarah Palin runs, we may get a more full-blown test of the efficacy of using populism as cover for a lack of attention to the hard-core details of issues and presidential demeanor. But until that happens, we’ll just have to content ourselves with catching up with Herman Cain’s reading list.

In a Republican presidential field that is low on personality Herman Cain is an entertaining diversion. The pizza magnate has a charismatic style and is a good speaker. He also knows a few things about the foolishness of government intervention into the marketplace. But it appears that he is reading out of Sarah Palin’s playbook when it comes to coping with his shortcomings.

In a profile of the candidate in yesterday’s Washington Post, Cain says that those who have had the temerity to point out his almost complete ignorance about foreign affairs and security policy (not an unimportant point to make about someone who aspires to be commander-in-chief), like conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer are a manifestation of the of the gulf “between the establishment and the “real world.” This is the same defense of her lack of seriousness that was made by Sarah Palin in December when she too criticized the sage Krauthammer for expecting her to be “hoity toity.”

Populism is an interesting tactic to use against out of touch Washington liberals but it doesn’t work when candidates employ it as a defense of ignorance. Krauthammer is as far from official Washington’s idea of conventional wisdom as either Cain or Palin. But he is spot on when it comes to spotting candidates who lack not only the qualifications to deal with serious issues but the ability to even fake it.

Cain is an obvious example of the latter. In the Post profile, he attempts to excuse his astonishing gaffe in which he revealed that he had no idea what the “right of return” meant in Middle East politics when asked about it by Chris Wallace on Fox News:

“It would have helped if he would have said Palestinian right of return,” said Cain, adding, “Return to the bar? Return home?” Cain said he was focused in the interview on pronouncing Benjamin Netanyahu’s “name right.” He is currently reading a book on Israel.

Does he think that is supposed to reassure us that he has the faintest idea of what he’s talking about? He also stands by his comment in the first GOP presidential debate in South Carolina in which he said he had no opinion about the future conduct of the war in Afghanistan but would “listen to experts.” He says he’ll let the country know what he plans to do sometime between Election Day in 2012 and his inauguration!

If Sarah Palin runs, we may get a more full-blown test of the efficacy of using populism as cover for a lack of attention to the hard-core details of issues and presidential demeanor. But until that happens, we’ll just have to content ourselves with catching up with Herman Cain’s reading list.

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Note to Democrats: 2012 Will Not Be a Repeat of 2006

With their victory in the special election in New York’s 26th district last week, Congressional Democrats are feeling their oats. While their optimism is understandable, the notion that they can ride Medicare demagoguery back to majority control of Congress is debatable. Nevertheless, if the country’s mood is changing from one of outrage about deficits, taxes, and spending to one of fear about entitlement reform, it is well to ask what sort of party do Congressional Democrats think they are? The answer is a caucus that is not only obsessed with expanding the entitlement state, but one that is also increasingly isolationist.

That’s the only way to interpret the vote late last week in which virtually the entire House Democratic caucus endorsed a demand that the Obama administration accelerate its plans to withdraw completely from Afghanistan but to negotiate a deal with “all interested parties” in the country, meaning the Taliban. All but eight House Democrats voted for the amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that narrowly failed by a vote of 215 to 204, with 26 Republicans joined the Democrats on the issue. As Politico noted, many in the House Democratic leadership that opposed previous efforts by leftists to undermine the war effort in Afghanistan—Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, for example—joined with them this time.

Although some are characterizing this vote as mere “impatience” with the stalled conflict and anger about Pakistan’s double game in the region after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in that country, the decision of Congressional Democrats to play the anti-war card is still a curious one. After all, the war is being fought now by a Democratic administration. Though President Obama has sent the country mixed signals about his intentions at times, he has also been clear that he would not cut and run from the place.

Americans may be tired of the war and some may be misled into thinking the killing of one terrorist is a good excuse for abandoning the war against the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists who are still a potent threat. But the idea that the country is truly ready to abandon the so-called “good war” in Afghanistan (as opposed to the “bad war” in Iraq, which has already been largely won) is probably unfounded.

Democrats are hoping that invoking Paul Ryan’s name will be enough to wash the taste of their 2010 defeat out of their mouths. But they need to be careful. If they wish to return to power they need to take into account that 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2006 when an anti-Iraq war wave gave them control of Congress. With their own Democratic president still committed to fighting in Afghanistan, it won’t do him or their electoral prospects any good to be perceived as a party of anti-war extremists who are willing to hand a victory to the Taliban.

With their victory in the special election in New York’s 26th district last week, Congressional Democrats are feeling their oats. While their optimism is understandable, the notion that they can ride Medicare demagoguery back to majority control of Congress is debatable. Nevertheless, if the country’s mood is changing from one of outrage about deficits, taxes, and spending to one of fear about entitlement reform, it is well to ask what sort of party do Congressional Democrats think they are? The answer is a caucus that is not only obsessed with expanding the entitlement state, but one that is also increasingly isolationist.

That’s the only way to interpret the vote late last week in which virtually the entire House Democratic caucus endorsed a demand that the Obama administration accelerate its plans to withdraw completely from Afghanistan but to negotiate a deal with “all interested parties” in the country, meaning the Taliban. All but eight House Democrats voted for the amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that narrowly failed by a vote of 215 to 204, with 26 Republicans joined the Democrats on the issue. As Politico noted, many in the House Democratic leadership that opposed previous efforts by leftists to undermine the war effort in Afghanistan—Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, for example—joined with them this time.

Although some are characterizing this vote as mere “impatience” with the stalled conflict and anger about Pakistan’s double game in the region after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in that country, the decision of Congressional Democrats to play the anti-war card is still a curious one. After all, the war is being fought now by a Democratic administration. Though President Obama has sent the country mixed signals about his intentions at times, he has also been clear that he would not cut and run from the place.

Americans may be tired of the war and some may be misled into thinking the killing of one terrorist is a good excuse for abandoning the war against the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists who are still a potent threat. But the idea that the country is truly ready to abandon the so-called “good war” in Afghanistan (as opposed to the “bad war” in Iraq, which has already been largely won) is probably unfounded.

Democrats are hoping that invoking Paul Ryan’s name will be enough to wash the taste of their 2010 defeat out of their mouths. But they need to be careful. If they wish to return to power they need to take into account that 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2006 when an anti-Iraq war wave gave them control of Congress. With their own Democratic president still committed to fighting in Afghanistan, it won’t do him or their electoral prospects any good to be perceived as a party of anti-war extremists who are willing to hand a victory to the Taliban.

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Christie May Be Looking at 2016, Not 2012

Recently the efforts to draft Gov. Chris Christie into the 2012 race seem to have died down, even though there is still a lot of enthusiasm for drafting Gov. Rick Perry or Rep. Paul Ryan.

But that isn’t stopping a group of top Iowa donors from flying to New Jersey today to encourage Christie to run. It’s highly unlikely that he will. He hasn’t finished a full term and he’s currently tied up with the state legislative session. But the fact that he’s even having the meeting shows that he probably has national aspirations at some point down the road—potentially in 2012.

The Des Moines Register spoke with Steve Forbes, who’s unsatisfied with the current crop of candidates and wants Christie or Ryan to enter the race. “I think there will be others in the race, even though they don’t know it today,” Forbes said. “You’re looking at an incomplete field.”

If the wooing of Christie tells us anything, it’s that Republicans are still letting their eyes wander away from the current field. Despite the fact that many analysts are saying that Republicans have to choose from the candidates already running, many conservatives are still unwilling to accept it.

Recently the efforts to draft Gov. Chris Christie into the 2012 race seem to have died down, even though there is still a lot of enthusiasm for drafting Gov. Rick Perry or Rep. Paul Ryan.

But that isn’t stopping a group of top Iowa donors from flying to New Jersey today to encourage Christie to run. It’s highly unlikely that he will. He hasn’t finished a full term and he’s currently tied up with the state legislative session. But the fact that he’s even having the meeting shows that he probably has national aspirations at some point down the road—potentially in 2012.

The Des Moines Register spoke with Steve Forbes, who’s unsatisfied with the current crop of candidates and wants Christie or Ryan to enter the race. “I think there will be others in the race, even though they don’t know it today,” Forbes said. “You’re looking at an incomplete field.”

If the wooing of Christie tells us anything, it’s that Republicans are still letting their eyes wander away from the current field. Despite the fact that many analysts are saying that Republicans have to choose from the candidates already running, many conservatives are still unwilling to accept it.

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Who’s Blowing Smoke on Iranian Nukes? Seymour Hersh.

Just a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report showing that Iran is conducting work on atomic triggers and detonators as well as uranium fuel, the New Yorker is attempting to throw cold water on the whole idea that Tehran is a nuclear threat.

Seymour Hersh, a writer whose bias against Israel and any effort to restrain anti-American Islamists calls into question the validity of his “research,” suggests that the whole brouhaha about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is a scam. Indeed, his New Yorker piece takes the view that the Obama administration’s fears about Iran are as unjustified as George W. Bush’s warnings about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. As with many other apologists for Iran, Hersh seems motivated more by wanting to foil the Israelis (who have no desire to live with an existential threat) than by real evidence of Iranian innocence. Hersh claims that Obama is overstating the actual intelligence evidence, but as so often with him, he expects his readers to take that on faith. Faith in Hersh’s unerring instincts to oppose American interests and to endanger Israel, that is.

But the problem with Hersh’s Iranian thesis is that the evidence that points to Iranian nukes is considerable. The IAEA—an agency that has never been a source of alarmism about Iran—raises serious questions that Hersh can’t answer. If Iran is merely pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear energy then what are the mullahs doing by trying to construct triggers and detonators whose only practical purpose is to set off nuclear weapons?

Anyone who has followed this story for years will know that Iran has always tried to play it both ways on nukes. On the one hand, the regime of Sayyed Ali Khamenei has claimed no interest in nuclear weapons. On the other, the Iranians have made their pursuit of nukes a major source of national pride, which has created a certain ambivalence on Tehran’s part about keeping the program covert.

The IAEA report last week ought to scare Americans who thought the Stuxnet virus would solve the Iranian problem without further sacrifice or effort. Although Hersh claims the whole subject is something of a hoax—a typical claim for him—there is so much evidence on this subject that the only one blowing smoke on Iran is obviously Hersh.

Just a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report showing that Iran is conducting work on atomic triggers and detonators as well as uranium fuel, the New Yorker is attempting to throw cold water on the whole idea that Tehran is a nuclear threat.

Seymour Hersh, a writer whose bias against Israel and any effort to restrain anti-American Islamists calls into question the validity of his “research,” suggests that the whole brouhaha about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is a scam. Indeed, his New Yorker piece takes the view that the Obama administration’s fears about Iran are as unjustified as George W. Bush’s warnings about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. As with many other apologists for Iran, Hersh seems motivated more by wanting to foil the Israelis (who have no desire to live with an existential threat) than by real evidence of Iranian innocence. Hersh claims that Obama is overstating the actual intelligence evidence, but as so often with him, he expects his readers to take that on faith. Faith in Hersh’s unerring instincts to oppose American interests and to endanger Israel, that is.

But the problem with Hersh’s Iranian thesis is that the evidence that points to Iranian nukes is considerable. The IAEA—an agency that has never been a source of alarmism about Iran—raises serious questions that Hersh can’t answer. If Iran is merely pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear energy then what are the mullahs doing by trying to construct triggers and detonators whose only practical purpose is to set off nuclear weapons?

Anyone who has followed this story for years will know that Iran has always tried to play it both ways on nukes. On the one hand, the regime of Sayyed Ali Khamenei has claimed no interest in nuclear weapons. On the other, the Iranians have made their pursuit of nukes a major source of national pride, which has created a certain ambivalence on Tehran’s part about keeping the program covert.

The IAEA report last week ought to scare Americans who thought the Stuxnet virus would solve the Iranian problem without further sacrifice or effort. Although Hersh claims the whole subject is something of a hoax—a typical claim for him—there is so much evidence on this subject that the only one blowing smoke on Iran is obviously Hersh.

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Obama’s ‘1967’ Comments Prompt Social Media Backlash

In case there was any remaining doubt that President Obama’s statements on the 1967 lines were out of step with the American people, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellent in Journalism found that an overwhelming percentage of social media users sided with Israel on the issue:

By almost a 3-to-1 margin, bloggers and users of Twitter and Facebook expressed strong support for Israel over the Palestinians in the week following President Obama’s May 19 address on the Middle East, according to an analysis of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Many of those expressing support also took President Obama to task for suggesting that peace in the region would best be achieved by creating a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

The survey found that 60 percent of the Twitter/Facebook conversations about the president’s speech were pro-Israel. Twenty percent were pro-Palestinian, and 20 percent were “neutral” (i.e. giving a news update with no opinion attached).

According to the PEJ, these findings were unusual. With other contentious political topics the group has studied – such as the Ground Zero mosque and the 2010 election – opinions were more evenly divided.

But the survey results do correspond with the latest Gallup opinion polling, which has found that 63 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israelis, and 17 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians.

The PEJ numbers may also have some political implications for Obama. They indicate that politically-aware social media users – a prime demographic for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign – overwhelmingly side with Israel. And according to PEJ, these Israel supporters were very critical of Obama’s position on the 1967 borders:

Social media users who sided with Israel criticized Obama for not backing the U.S. ally strongly enough and consequently not upholding American values. Many used phrases suggesting Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” or “stabbed Israel in the back.”

This is something the president may want to keep in mind next time he’s tempted to snub America’s closest ally.

In case there was any remaining doubt that President Obama’s statements on the 1967 lines were out of step with the American people, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellent in Journalism found that an overwhelming percentage of social media users sided with Israel on the issue:

By almost a 3-to-1 margin, bloggers and users of Twitter and Facebook expressed strong support for Israel over the Palestinians in the week following President Obama’s May 19 address on the Middle East, according to an analysis of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Many of those expressing support also took President Obama to task for suggesting that peace in the region would best be achieved by creating a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

The survey found that 60 percent of the Twitter/Facebook conversations about the president’s speech were pro-Israel. Twenty percent were pro-Palestinian, and 20 percent were “neutral” (i.e. giving a news update with no opinion attached).

According to the PEJ, these findings were unusual. With other contentious political topics the group has studied – such as the Ground Zero mosque and the 2010 election – opinions were more evenly divided.

But the survey results do correspond with the latest Gallup opinion polling, which has found that 63 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israelis, and 17 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians.

The PEJ numbers may also have some political implications for Obama. They indicate that politically-aware social media users – a prime demographic for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign – overwhelmingly side with Israel. And according to PEJ, these Israel supporters were very critical of Obama’s position on the 1967 borders:

Social media users who sided with Israel criticized Obama for not backing the U.S. ally strongly enough and consequently not upholding American values. Many used phrases suggesting Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” or “stabbed Israel in the back.”

This is something the president may want to keep in mind next time he’s tempted to snub America’s closest ally.

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Palin’s Rule Breaking Won’t Matter—Until It Does

If Sarah Palin really is planning running for president, she’s breaking all the rules. The question is, does it matter? The answer is no and yes.

Palin’s tour bus is shlepping her family around the Northeast this week, and in doing so she’s proving that you don’t need advance people, schedules, or a good relationship with the press to make a splash. Palin is a magnet for cameras and audiences. Wherever she goes and however she manages to get there she will garner as much attention as possible. Nobody in the media likes her lack of a schedule, since it makes their lives miserable. Politicians are also incensed at her refusal to make courtesy calls to let local party officials know about her visits or to coordinate with them.

The point here couldn’t be any clearer: the former Alaska governor is in business for herself. That’s not just a reference to the fact that she is as much a one-woman media conglomerate as a politician. It means that, not only does she feel as if she doesn’t need the cooperation or at least the neutrality of other Republicans, but that she is also anxious to prove that she has no use for them. And she’s right. Her ability to swoop in and out like the touring celebrity that she is and not a politician on the hustings illustrates the fact that her putative candidacy would not be politics as usual. She would fly over the normal political structure of a state that she contested and rely on her ability to make news by just showing up rather than meticulous preparation.

The tour is also proving that her several months of quiet did not diminish her star quality. She is every bit the media superstar today that she was a year ago. Those who claim that she cannot wait until the fall to declare a presidential candidacy are wrong. She can swoop in virtually any time she likes prior to the voting and still have a chance if voters are buying what she is selling. Whether most will think, as George Will said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that “she can be trusted with nuclear weapons” is another question.

But to concede that she can play by her own rules is not the same thing as saying that she won’t pay a price for doing so. If the poorly staffed and chaotic nature of her tour is an indication of how she thinks she can run a presidential campaign, then she may not be as smart as she thinks she is. Primaries and caucuses require what the politicians call a “ground game” to get out the vote. Her complete lack of organization will eventually come back to haunt her. So, too will a decision to treat all other Republicans, including the local parties, as if they were reporters from the New York Times.

If Sarah Palin really is planning running for president, she’s breaking all the rules. The question is, does it matter? The answer is no and yes.

Palin’s tour bus is shlepping her family around the Northeast this week, and in doing so she’s proving that you don’t need advance people, schedules, or a good relationship with the press to make a splash. Palin is a magnet for cameras and audiences. Wherever she goes and however she manages to get there she will garner as much attention as possible. Nobody in the media likes her lack of a schedule, since it makes their lives miserable. Politicians are also incensed at her refusal to make courtesy calls to let local party officials know about her visits or to coordinate with them.

The point here couldn’t be any clearer: the former Alaska governor is in business for herself. That’s not just a reference to the fact that she is as much a one-woman media conglomerate as a politician. It means that, not only does she feel as if she doesn’t need the cooperation or at least the neutrality of other Republicans, but that she is also anxious to prove that she has no use for them. And she’s right. Her ability to swoop in and out like the touring celebrity that she is and not a politician on the hustings illustrates the fact that her putative candidacy would not be politics as usual. She would fly over the normal political structure of a state that she contested and rely on her ability to make news by just showing up rather than meticulous preparation.

The tour is also proving that her several months of quiet did not diminish her star quality. She is every bit the media superstar today that she was a year ago. Those who claim that she cannot wait until the fall to declare a presidential candidacy are wrong. She can swoop in virtually any time she likes prior to the voting and still have a chance if voters are buying what she is selling. Whether most will think, as George Will said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that “she can be trusted with nuclear weapons” is another question.

But to concede that she can play by her own rules is not the same thing as saying that she won’t pay a price for doing so. If the poorly staffed and chaotic nature of her tour is an indication of how she thinks she can run a presidential campaign, then she may not be as smart as she thinks she is. Primaries and caucuses require what the politicians call a “ground game” to get out the vote. Her complete lack of organization will eventually come back to haunt her. So, too will a decision to treat all other Republicans, including the local parties, as if they were reporters from the New York Times.

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Obsessed with Israel, Western Leaders Ignore Iran’s Nukes

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing his head off. As Abe noted yesterday, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report unveiled evidence that Iran has been working on technology to arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. It also disclosed evidence of Tehran’s work “on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.” If a smoking gun were needed, this is it.

Yet the “international community” hasn’t uttered a peep about the report. It’s too busy obsessing over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead.

Two days after the report’s publication, the G8 met in Deauville. Its concluding statement devoted six paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notable for both their specificity (“we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011”) and their urgency (“The time to resume the Peace Process is now.”)

In contrast, Iran’s nukes merited exactly one content-free paragraph:

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing his head off. As Abe noted yesterday, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report unveiled evidence that Iran has been working on technology to arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. It also disclosed evidence of Tehran’s work “on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.” If a smoking gun were needed, this is it.

Yet the “international community” hasn’t uttered a peep about the report. It’s too busy obsessing over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead.

Two days after the report’s publication, the G8 met in Deauville. Its concluding statement devoted six paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notable for both their specificity (“we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011”) and their urgency (“The time to resume the Peace Process is now.”)

In contrast, Iran’s nukes merited exactly one content-free paragraph:

We note with deep concern the recent report by the IAEA which underlines that Iran is not implementing a number of its obligations, that areas of concern remain regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme and that the Agency is therefore unable to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. . . . We regret that while Iran finally met twice with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative, following their intensive diplomatic efforts and the adoption of measures in UNSCR 1929, it was not possible to reach any substantive result, Iran having not yet entered into a genuine dialogue without preconditions. Depending on Iran’s actions, we will determine the need for additional measures in line with the dual-track approach.

Translation: At some unspecified future time, the G8 may—but then again it may not—decide on some unspecified new measures against Iran. But there’s no hurry, because it still hasn’t even concluded that Iran is pursuing nukes. The G8 is merely “unable to conclude” the opposite.

The same warped perspective characterized Obama’s May 19 speech. Granted, it predated the latest IAEA report, but Iran’s nuclear program isn’t new. Yet in a major Middle East policy address, Obama devoted exactly half a sentence to it: “Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known.” No hint of urgency there, or of any plans to stop the program.

In contrast, the president devoted 12 full paragraphs, almost one-fifth of the speech, to detailing his vision of an Israeli-Palestinian deal, which he deemed “more urgent than ever.”

Objectively speaking, Iran is by far the more important problem. Its strategic location on the Persian Gulf enables it to shut off much of the world’s oil supply at will, and even without nukes, it has fomented terror worldwide; with nukes to deter attack, Iran would have the West at its mercy. Israel, by contrast, controls no vital natural resources; its location is strategically insignificant; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hasn’t spread beyond its own borders in decades.

Yet the West continues blithely pursuing its pet obsession, leaving Tehran free to laugh all the way to the bomb.

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Weiner Investigation Would Benefit All Parties Involved

In case you missed this story, Rep. Anthony Weiner is under scrutiny for possibly sending a lewd photo to a female college student over Twitter. Weiner says that the picture was sent by a hacker who broke into his account, but others have alleged that the congressman meant to send the photo to the woman as a private message and accidentally sent it as a public Tweet.

Whatever the explanation, it’s hard to not feel sympathy for the college student at the center of the controversy. In a matter of hours, her life was ransacked – her phone number was allegedly published online, personal information was leaked, and she was bombarded with online messages.

“The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life,” she wrote in a statement to the New York Daily News. “I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.”

This is exactly why the congressman needs to call for an official investigation immediately, not just for his own sake, but for the sake of the woman involved. The longer he avoids this, the longer she’ll have this issue hanging over her.

Liberal bloggers should be the ones leading the campaign for an official investigation. Many of them have claimed that Andrew Breitbart, and other conservative activists, are responsible for hacking into Weiner’s official congressional Twitter account. If that’s the case, then let’s make sure these right-wing hackers are forced to face the legal consequences of their actions.

This is a fairly customary process. After President Obama’s official Twitter account was hacked, the FBI managed to track the hacker all the way to France, where he was tried and convicted. If Weiner’s account was compromised, there’s a good chance that law enforcement will find the person who did it.

But if it turns out that Weiner is unwilling to allow an official, transparent investigation, then he can’t expect journalists to stop digging for the truth on their own. After all, the public has legitimate questions, and the media is only doing its job.

In case you missed this story, Rep. Anthony Weiner is under scrutiny for possibly sending a lewd photo to a female college student over Twitter. Weiner says that the picture was sent by a hacker who broke into his account, but others have alleged that the congressman meant to send the photo to the woman as a private message and accidentally sent it as a public Tweet.

Whatever the explanation, it’s hard to not feel sympathy for the college student at the center of the controversy. In a matter of hours, her life was ransacked – her phone number was allegedly published online, personal information was leaked, and she was bombarded with online messages.

“The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life,” she wrote in a statement to the New York Daily News. “I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.”

This is exactly why the congressman needs to call for an official investigation immediately, not just for his own sake, but for the sake of the woman involved. The longer he avoids this, the longer she’ll have this issue hanging over her.

Liberal bloggers should be the ones leading the campaign for an official investigation. Many of them have claimed that Andrew Breitbart, and other conservative activists, are responsible for hacking into Weiner’s official congressional Twitter account. If that’s the case, then let’s make sure these right-wing hackers are forced to face the legal consequences of their actions.

This is a fairly customary process. After President Obama’s official Twitter account was hacked, the FBI managed to track the hacker all the way to France, where he was tried and convicted. If Weiner’s account was compromised, there’s a good chance that law enforcement will find the person who did it.

But if it turns out that Weiner is unwilling to allow an official, transparent investigation, then he can’t expect journalists to stop digging for the truth on their own. After all, the public has legitimate questions, and the media is only doing its job.

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No Nukes, Except Iranian Ones

You know that global priorities have been hopelessly perverted when responsible, stable democratic countries give up safe nuclear energy due to public pressure while fanatical despots leap toward nuclear-weapons capabilities without a hitch.

A remarkable bit of news out of Germany:

The German government agreed on Monday to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, a sharp reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at appeasing the country’s intensified antinuclear movement. . . . Mrs. Merkel has been grappling with the sudden deepening of German distrust of nuclear power since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

And an unremarkable bit of news out of Iran:

Iran has conducted work on technology to place nuclear material on a missile and detonate it, the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in a nine-page report published May 24. Documented evidence suggests that Iran has done “studies involving the removal of the conventional high-explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear payload,” the report states.

A single accident—a freakishly large geologic event combined with a uniquely situated island nuclear plant—sends policy and technology marching swiftly in reverse. But three decades of doomsday genocide threats, global terrorist facilitation, illicit nuclear programs, and violations of international law can’t bring the oh-so-concerned “antinuclear movement” to block production of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

You know that global priorities have been hopelessly perverted when responsible, stable democratic countries give up safe nuclear energy due to public pressure while fanatical despots leap toward nuclear-weapons capabilities without a hitch.

A remarkable bit of news out of Germany:

The German government agreed on Monday to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, a sharp reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at appeasing the country’s intensified antinuclear movement. . . . Mrs. Merkel has been grappling with the sudden deepening of German distrust of nuclear power since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

And an unremarkable bit of news out of Iran:

Iran has conducted work on technology to place nuclear material on a missile and detonate it, the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in a nine-page report published May 24. Documented evidence suggests that Iran has done “studies involving the removal of the conventional high-explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear payload,” the report states.

A single accident—a freakishly large geologic event combined with a uniquely situated island nuclear plant—sends policy and technology marching swiftly in reverse. But three decades of doomsday genocide threats, global terrorist facilitation, illicit nuclear programs, and violations of international law can’t bring the oh-so-concerned “antinuclear movement” to block production of an Iranian nuclear bomb.

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Gen. Dempsey an Excellent Choice for Chairman of Joint Chiefs

I still think Gen. David Petraeus—the most successful general the U.S. has produced in decades—would have been the logical candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral James Stavridis, currently Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and before that the head of Southern Command, would have been another logical choice because of his diplomatic experience.

But it is hard to argue with the selection of Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was only recently tapped to become army chief of staff. He is a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and a former acting commander of Central Command who is widely respected for his intellect and his grasp of Middle Eastern complexities. Certainly he is a far better choice than Gen. James Cartwright, the Marine who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and was widely seen as the front-runner for the top job until a few weeks ago in spite of his having absolutely no combat experience at a time of war.

Cartwright endeared himself to some in the White House by backing Vice President Biden in his opposition to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which was strongly backed by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In the process, Cartwright got a reputation within the Pentagon as a devious and disloyal bureaucratic operator. If he had been appointed as chairman, a crisis in civil-military relations would have ensued. That flare-up has now been avoided.

As a bonus, the selection of Dempsey as chairman opened up the army chief of staff’s job for Gen. Ray Odierno, who did as much as Petraeus to make the surge in Iraq a success. Odierno has been on the frontlines as long as any senior general, and he will bring to his new job a comprehensive knowledge of all the army units that served under his command—which by this point must include most of the army.

Today’s announcements confirm the point I had made earlier about Obama: He has had to undergo a long period of on-the-job training and he has made a number of stumbles along the way but he also has a capacity to learn from experience and correct course before things go too disastrously awry. The decision to drop Cartwright in favor of Dempsey is another indication of that process in action.

I still think Gen. David Petraeus—the most successful general the U.S. has produced in decades—would have been the logical candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral James Stavridis, currently Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and before that the head of Southern Command, would have been another logical choice because of his diplomatic experience.

But it is hard to argue with the selection of Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was only recently tapped to become army chief of staff. He is a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and a former acting commander of Central Command who is widely respected for his intellect and his grasp of Middle Eastern complexities. Certainly he is a far better choice than Gen. James Cartwright, the Marine who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and was widely seen as the front-runner for the top job until a few weeks ago in spite of his having absolutely no combat experience at a time of war.

Cartwright endeared himself to some in the White House by backing Vice President Biden in his opposition to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which was strongly backed by Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In the process, Cartwright got a reputation within the Pentagon as a devious and disloyal bureaucratic operator. If he had been appointed as chairman, a crisis in civil-military relations would have ensued. That flare-up has now been avoided.

As a bonus, the selection of Dempsey as chairman opened up the army chief of staff’s job for Gen. Ray Odierno, who did as much as Petraeus to make the surge in Iraq a success. Odierno has been on the frontlines as long as any senior general, and he will bring to his new job a comprehensive knowledge of all the army units that served under his command—which by this point must include most of the army.

Today’s announcements confirm the point I had made earlier about Obama: He has had to undergo a long period of on-the-job training and he has made a number of stumbles along the way but he also has a capacity to learn from experience and correct course before things go too disastrously awry. The decision to drop Cartwright in favor of Dempsey is another indication of that process in action.

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Memorial Day: Honoring the Boys in Blue

The discussion of Memorial Day usually (and rightly) focuses on the need for all Americans to take some time to honor those who are fighting right now to defend our freedom or our own parents, grandparents, and relatives who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or more recent conflicts. We Americans are fortunate to be living in a country where the day set aside to honor veterans and those who fell in defense of our republic is sufficiently remote from the experience of most citizens that, for most, it is a day of barbecues instead of national mourning, which is how, as I wrote a few weeks ago, it is observed in Israel.

However, I think it is also useful to take a moment to remember the origins of this holiday, especially in the year that we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. As David has already pointed out (here and here), Memorial Day began in the aftermath of that war, a conflict whose cost in American blood would be far greater than even that of the two World Wars of the following century. Decoration Day, as it was called prior to the First World War, was not observed in the former Confederate states where different days where set aside to honor the dead of the rebel cause. That division has been largely forgotten, but as much as we should not show disrespect to the memory of fallen Confederates, it is perhaps more appropriate not to lump together those who died to continue the shame of American slavery with those who sought to end it and to preserve the union.

As Adam Goodheart’s new book 1861: The Awakening admirably illustrates, the catastrophe that disunion would have been for the United States as well as the world (which would rely on a strong and united America to save it three times from catastrophe in the following century) was averted not by a general call to duty by those on both sides but by the courage and determination of a few loyal souls who stood by their country and its Constitution at its moment of greatest peril. The country—nay, the free world that we live in today—would not be possible without the tremendous sacrifices of those who served the union 150 years ago.

To most of us, those who died for the union are an abstraction often forgotten amid the entirely proper hero worship of Abraham Lincoln and the less praiseworthy idolatry devoted to Robert E. Lee and his comrades. But it is the boys in blue, in whose memory this holiday was first dedicated and whose herculean efforts preserved this great republic of ours that we should honor above all today.

The discussion of Memorial Day usually (and rightly) focuses on the need for all Americans to take some time to honor those who are fighting right now to defend our freedom or our own parents, grandparents, and relatives who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or more recent conflicts. We Americans are fortunate to be living in a country where the day set aside to honor veterans and those who fell in defense of our republic is sufficiently remote from the experience of most citizens that, for most, it is a day of barbecues instead of national mourning, which is how, as I wrote a few weeks ago, it is observed in Israel.

However, I think it is also useful to take a moment to remember the origins of this holiday, especially in the year that we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. As David has already pointed out (here and here), Memorial Day began in the aftermath of that war, a conflict whose cost in American blood would be far greater than even that of the two World Wars of the following century. Decoration Day, as it was called prior to the First World War, was not observed in the former Confederate states where different days where set aside to honor the dead of the rebel cause. That division has been largely forgotten, but as much as we should not show disrespect to the memory of fallen Confederates, it is perhaps more appropriate not to lump together those who died to continue the shame of American slavery with those who sought to end it and to preserve the union.

As Adam Goodheart’s new book 1861: The Awakening admirably illustrates, the catastrophe that disunion would have been for the United States as well as the world (which would rely on a strong and united America to save it three times from catastrophe in the following century) was averted not by a general call to duty by those on both sides but by the courage and determination of a few loyal souls who stood by their country and its Constitution at its moment of greatest peril. The country—nay, the free world that we live in today—would not be possible without the tremendous sacrifices of those who served the union 150 years ago.

To most of us, those who died for the union are an abstraction often forgotten amid the entirely proper hero worship of Abraham Lincoln and the less praiseworthy idolatry devoted to Robert E. Lee and his comrades. But it is the boys in blue, in whose memory this holiday was first dedicated and whose herculean efforts preserved this great republic of ours that we should honor above all today.

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Remembering the Veterans of the “Savage Wars of Peace”

Lawrence Kaplan raises a good point in the New Republic: why aren’t we having parades on Memorial Day, or on other occasions for that matter, to honor Iraq War veterans? Our reticence to honor the current crop of heroes stands in stark contrast to the ticker-tape parade held in 1991 in New York’s “canyon of heroes” to honor Gulf War vets.

I agree with Kaplan that the failure to honor our recent vets—and those still fighting in Afghanistan—is shameful. But it is not unexpected. The Gulf War was the kind of neat, tidy, short, decisive conflict—or so it appeared at the time—that makes for easy and pleasurable chest-thumping. The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are something else: long, messy, untidy counterinsurgencies where it will not be clear for decades after the fact whether our efforts succeeded or not. And unlike the Gulf War (which everyone supported, if only after the fact), the two more recent wars have created deep, uncomfortable divides in our society.

In this respect the current conflicts remind me of the Indian Wars, the long series of frontier clashes that were fought by the U.S. Army from its earliest days until 1890. Those veterans too were denied victory parades; they were more likely to appear in the newspaper when they were massacred (e.g. the Battle of the Little Big Horn) or when they were themselves accused by Eastern humanitarians of perpetrating war crimes against the “noble savages” (as indeed sometimes occurred).

It would be nice if all of our wars fit the tidy model of World War II, starting with an attack against us and ending with the unconditional surrender of the enemy, to be followed by the lionization of those who fought as the “Greatest Generation.” But most of our history has been more messy than that. Americans must come to terms with the nature of “small wars” and realize that even if these conflicts lack a moment of triumph such as the surrender on the USS Missouri, they are nevertheless an important part of our national defense—and that those who fight in the “savage wars of peace” (as Kipling called them) are every bit as worthy of respect as the veterans of our handful of big wars.

Lawrence Kaplan raises a good point in the New Republic: why aren’t we having parades on Memorial Day, or on other occasions for that matter, to honor Iraq War veterans? Our reticence to honor the current crop of heroes stands in stark contrast to the ticker-tape parade held in 1991 in New York’s “canyon of heroes” to honor Gulf War vets.

I agree with Kaplan that the failure to honor our recent vets—and those still fighting in Afghanistan—is shameful. But it is not unexpected. The Gulf War was the kind of neat, tidy, short, decisive conflict—or so it appeared at the time—that makes for easy and pleasurable chest-thumping. The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are something else: long, messy, untidy counterinsurgencies where it will not be clear for decades after the fact whether our efforts succeeded or not. And unlike the Gulf War (which everyone supported, if only after the fact), the two more recent wars have created deep, uncomfortable divides in our society.

In this respect the current conflicts remind me of the Indian Wars, the long series of frontier clashes that were fought by the U.S. Army from its earliest days until 1890. Those veterans too were denied victory parades; they were more likely to appear in the newspaper when they were massacred (e.g. the Battle of the Little Big Horn) or when they were themselves accused by Eastern humanitarians of perpetrating war crimes against the “noble savages” (as indeed sometimes occurred).

It would be nice if all of our wars fit the tidy model of World War II, starting with an attack against us and ending with the unconditional surrender of the enemy, to be followed by the lionization of those who fought as the “Greatest Generation.” But most of our history has been more messy than that. Americans must come to terms with the nature of “small wars” and realize that even if these conflicts lack a moment of triumph such as the surrender on the USS Missouri, they are nevertheless an important part of our national defense—and that those who fight in the “savage wars of peace” (as Kipling called them) are every bit as worthy of respect as the veterans of our handful of big wars.

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Jihadists Threaten to Seize Yemem

It has become popular to argue that the Arab Spring will be the downfall of Al Qaeda and its ilk. There is no doubt that mass protests have proven a more potent instrument of regime change than suicide bombs—but it is too early to write off the terrorists either. While the longterm impact of the changes sweeping the Arab world may well be to redress some of the grievances which have given rise to terrorism, in the short term this period of upheavals could create an opening for armed Islamists to seize power. While they are far from having majority support in the Muslim world, jihadists are just the kind of small, well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless clique that—like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917—can seize power in a moment of revolutionary turmoil.

The latest evidence of the danger comes from Yemen, where a decrepit and unpopular strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been tottering on the brink for weeks. So serious was his situation that he even agreed to give up power—only to renege on his pledge. But Yemen has never been all that strongly governed to begin with, and now there are reports that Islamists are taking advantage of the moment to seize power in the city of Zinjibar. This is a worrisome development because Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Along with Somalia, it is the country where jihadists currently have the best chance of seizing power.

The U.S. has tried to head off this catastrophe by providing aid to the Saleh regime as well as conducting some Special Operations raids within Yemen. But President Obama not long ago called for Saleh to step down, a belated recognition of how how much legitimacy he has lost. The challenge now will be to work behind the scenes in a country where our influence is distinctly limited to try to bolster a transition to a regime capable of exerting some degree of influence over this chaotic country. Or else the radical jihadists, who had appeared irrelevant just a few weeks ago, could stage a worrisome comeback.

It has become popular to argue that the Arab Spring will be the downfall of Al Qaeda and its ilk. There is no doubt that mass protests have proven a more potent instrument of regime change than suicide bombs—but it is too early to write off the terrorists either. While the longterm impact of the changes sweeping the Arab world may well be to redress some of the grievances which have given rise to terrorism, in the short term this period of upheavals could create an opening for armed Islamists to seize power. While they are far from having majority support in the Muslim world, jihadists are just the kind of small, well-organized, well-armed, and ruthless clique that—like the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917—can seize power in a moment of revolutionary turmoil.

The latest evidence of the danger comes from Yemen, where a decrepit and unpopular strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been tottering on the brink for weeks. So serious was his situation that he even agreed to give up power—only to renege on his pledge. But Yemen has never been all that strongly governed to begin with, and now there are reports that Islamists are taking advantage of the moment to seize power in the city of Zinjibar. This is a worrisome development because Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Along with Somalia, it is the country where jihadists currently have the best chance of seizing power.

The U.S. has tried to head off this catastrophe by providing aid to the Saleh regime as well as conducting some Special Operations raids within Yemen. But President Obama not long ago called for Saleh to step down, a belated recognition of how how much legitimacy he has lost. The challenge now will be to work behind the scenes in a country where our influence is distinctly limited to try to bolster a transition to a regime capable of exerting some degree of influence over this chaotic country. Or else the radical jihadists, who had appeared irrelevant just a few weeks ago, could stage a worrisome comeback.

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Ryan-Rubio Could Be the Ticket to Stop Obama in Florida

As Rep. Paul Ryan continues to brush off speculation that he may enter the presidential race, enthusiasm over his candidacy continues to heat up. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson analyzes the top potentialRepublican candidates, and finds that Ryan might be the best positioned to win in a general election:

Among top-tier prospective nominees, Ryan would have the biggest geographical advantage in a race against Obama. To win the presidency, Ryan would just have to win his home state and hold GOP-leaning Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. That would be it: election over, Obama defeated, Ryan’s pen poised to sign the Obamacare-repeal legislation.

Republicans will likely focus on flipping a Democratic-leaning tossup states like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, especially with President Obama’s beefing up his Florida operation. According to Politico, Democrats are planning to spend close to $50 million on a state-wide campaign aimed at attacking the GOP on Medicare.

That’s not to say the president would have an easy time picking up Florida. ObamaCare is still wildly unpopular, and his recent comments on Israel’s 1967 borders could be a problem in the state. But even if Obama does manage to succeed there, Anderson writes that Ryan is one of the only candidates who could win the election without Florida:

Ryan’s competitiveness in Wisconsin would open up scenarios in which he could potentially survive even the loss of the most important state on the electoral map: Florida. Without winning Florida, a Republican who doesn’t win Wisconsin would absolutely have to win Pennsylvania. Even then, he or she would face an uphill battle, as Pennsylvania is worth 9 fewer electoral votes than the Sunshine State. Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, however, would more than make up that difference. Moreover, Ryan could potentially survive the loss of both Florida and Pennsylvania​—​which no other potential GOP nominee could realistically do​—​by sweeping Wisconsin, Nevada, and the three toss-up states of Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Of course, if Republicans end up nominating a certain charismatic Floridian senator as their vice presidential candidate, Obama’s $50 million Florida campaign could all be for nothing.

As Rep. Paul Ryan continues to brush off speculation that he may enter the presidential race, enthusiasm over his candidacy continues to heat up. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson analyzes the top potentialRepublican candidates, and finds that Ryan might be the best positioned to win in a general election:

Among top-tier prospective nominees, Ryan would have the biggest geographical advantage in a race against Obama. To win the presidency, Ryan would just have to win his home state and hold GOP-leaning Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. That would be it: election over, Obama defeated, Ryan’s pen poised to sign the Obamacare-repeal legislation.

Republicans will likely focus on flipping a Democratic-leaning tossup states like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, especially with President Obama’s beefing up his Florida operation. According to Politico, Democrats are planning to spend close to $50 million on a state-wide campaign aimed at attacking the GOP on Medicare.

That’s not to say the president would have an easy time picking up Florida. ObamaCare is still wildly unpopular, and his recent comments on Israel’s 1967 borders could be a problem in the state. But even if Obama does manage to succeed there, Anderson writes that Ryan is one of the only candidates who could win the election without Florida:

Ryan’s competitiveness in Wisconsin would open up scenarios in which he could potentially survive even the loss of the most important state on the electoral map: Florida. Without winning Florida, a Republican who doesn’t win Wisconsin would absolutely have to win Pennsylvania. Even then, he or she would face an uphill battle, as Pennsylvania is worth 9 fewer electoral votes than the Sunshine State. Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, however, would more than make up that difference. Moreover, Ryan could potentially survive the loss of both Florida and Pennsylvania​—​which no other potential GOP nominee could realistically do​—​by sweeping Wisconsin, Nevada, and the three toss-up states of Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Of course, if Republicans end up nominating a certain charismatic Floridian senator as their vice presidential candidate, Obama’s $50 million Florida campaign could all be for nothing.

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Palestinians Tear Up Another Agreement, the World Yawns

This weekend, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure. Amid much talk about the move’s meaning for Gaza’s quality of life, for Israel’s security, and for the character of Egypt’s new government, perhaps its most significant element has been overlooked. A binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.

The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza’s border crossings would be run following Israel’s withdrawal from the territory earlier that year. From a security standpoint, Israel won’t mourn its demise, as the European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.

But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing “robust” security provisions (to quote President Barack Obama), it’s worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. In a mere six years, Hamas has replaced the PA as Gaza’s landlord and declined to honor the latter’s promises, while Egypt’s new government has scrapped former President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of upholding the agreement even though he wasn’t a formal signatory. And presto! there goes the agreement.

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This weekend, Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure. Amid much talk about the move’s meaning for Gaza’s quality of life, for Israel’s security, and for the character of Egypt’s new government, perhaps its most significant element has been overlooked. A binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.

The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza’s border crossings would be run following Israel’s withdrawal from the territory earlier that year. From a security standpoint, Israel won’t mourn its demise, as the European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.

But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing “robust” security provisions (to quote President Barack Obama), it’s worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. In a mere six years, Hamas has replaced the PA as Gaza’s landlord and declined to honor the latter’s promises, while Egypt’s new government has scrapped former President Hosni Mubarak’s policy of upholding the agreement even though he wasn’t a formal signatory. And presto! there goes the agreement.

Nor is this the only international agreement Israel has recently seen torn up. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, as 60 prominent jurists recently noted in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, states explicitly that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” The PA has publicly announced its intention to violate that one by asking the UN General Assembly to recognize those territories as a Palestinian state in September.

And then there’s UN Security Council Resolution 242, which explicitly required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted it, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s UN ambassador at the time, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental . . . the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” Yet the entire world has now adopted the 1967 lines as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

That same world has offered no protest at the Rafah agreement’s demise. The European Union, for instance, ”welcomed” the crossing’s agreement-breaking reopening. And most of the world also plans to back the PA’s agreement-breaking quest for statehood in September.

Which leaves only one question. When the world is so patently unwilling to insist that previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements be honored, why does it still think Israel should entrust its security to yet another one?

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What Are You Doing Today at 3 PM?

As Jonathan observed a few weeks ago, Memorial Day in the United States has become for too many simply a day off, uninterrupted by the sparsely attended memorial events of the day. We lack what Israel has on its Remembrance Day—a two-minute national silence, when the country remembers its fallen together, with even cars on the road stopped and drivers standing silent outside them.

Few know that in 2000, Congress enacted Public Law 106-579, establishing a “National Moment of Remembrance” for 3 p.m. local time, a “time for all Americans to observe, in their own way . . . a symbolic act of unity” in order to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that day is intended to be.”

The Los Angeles National Cemetery, established in 1889 in a largely vacant area of town, is today in the middle of Westwood, with 85,000 gravestones—a reflection of the fact that Americans have served in seven wars since the cemetery was founded. Visitors will see a small flag placed at each grave, a sight both stirring and sobering, and pass stone tablets inscribed with stanzas from “Bivouac of the Dead” by Theodore O’Hara (1820–1867)—a poem filled with what David called “the language of memory and respect.” Here is an excerpt, perhaps worth rereading today at 3 p.m.:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
   The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
   That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
   Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
   The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
   Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
   Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
   The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
   At dawn shall call to arms.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
   Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
   The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
   While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
   Where Valor proudly sleeps.

As Jonathan observed a few weeks ago, Memorial Day in the United States has become for too many simply a day off, uninterrupted by the sparsely attended memorial events of the day. We lack what Israel has on its Remembrance Day—a two-minute national silence, when the country remembers its fallen together, with even cars on the road stopped and drivers standing silent outside them.

Few know that in 2000, Congress enacted Public Law 106-579, establishing a “National Moment of Remembrance” for 3 p.m. local time, a “time for all Americans to observe, in their own way . . . a symbolic act of unity” in order to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that day is intended to be.”

The Los Angeles National Cemetery, established in 1889 in a largely vacant area of town, is today in the middle of Westwood, with 85,000 gravestones—a reflection of the fact that Americans have served in seven wars since the cemetery was founded. Visitors will see a small flag placed at each grave, a sight both stirring and sobering, and pass stone tablets inscribed with stanzas from “Bivouac of the Dead” by Theodore O’Hara (1820–1867)—a poem filled with what David called “the language of memory and respect.” Here is an excerpt, perhaps worth rereading today at 3 p.m.:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
   The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
   That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
   Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
   The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
   Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
   Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
   The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
   At dawn shall call to arms.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
   Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
   The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
   While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
   Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Read Less




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