Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 2011

Do Israelis Get To Determine Who’s Pro-Israel?

The debate about whether President Obama is truly a friend of Israel has heated up again in the last week since his Middle East policy speech. But in spite of the widespread dissatisfaction with Obama’s latest attempt to tilt the diplomatic field in favor of the Palestinians, Jewish Democrats have furiously insisted that to question the president’s intentions is not only unfair but also bad for Israel. With their eyes firmly on the 2012 election, Democrats have sought to downplay the splat with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, something that suits the interests of not only American Jewish organizations but also the Israeli government. Yet with the nasty exchanges of the last few days and the Congressional ovations for Netanyahu still ringing in our ears, the question of whether or not Obama is a genuine ally of the Jewish state lingers.

Even though many American Jews feel that to even ask the question about Obama’s attitude is divisive, few here have stopped to ask what the Israelis themselves think about the president. If they did, they’ll hear an answer that Democrats won’t like.

A new Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll published yesterday reveals that Israelis have an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Obama. Rather than view the president as the friend of the Jewish state that the Democrats claim he is, 40 percent of Israelis view him as pro-Palestinian with only 12 percent seeing him as pro-Israel and 34 percent thinking of  him as neutral.

But lest one think that this poll is mere the backlash from the recent spat with Netanyahu, these poor polling numbers are actually an improvement on the results that Obama got last July. At that time, 46 percent viewed the president as pro-Palestinian and only 10 percent as pro-Israel with, again, 34 percent perceiving him as neutral.

This is a far cry from the poll that was taken in 2009 before his first fights with Israel’s government and his Cairo speech to the Arab world. In May of that year, 31 percent of Israelis saw him as pro-Israel and only 14 percent pro-Palestinians with 40 percent claiming that he was neutral.

It’s clear from these numbers as well as the remarkable boost in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s popularity at home that Israelis have come to the firm conclusion that Obama is no friend to their country. Most Israelis were shocked by the president’s invocation of the 1967 borders as well as his refusal to demand that the Palestinians give up the right of return. Indeed, he is clearly the most unpopular American president in decades.

American Jews are entitled to their own opinion about Obama and Israel but it seems only reasonable that they should, at the very least, show some deference to the people to whom the question matters most. Israelis don’t trust Obama. After the events of the last week, perhaps American Jews should be listening to them.

The debate about whether President Obama is truly a friend of Israel has heated up again in the last week since his Middle East policy speech. But in spite of the widespread dissatisfaction with Obama’s latest attempt to tilt the diplomatic field in favor of the Palestinians, Jewish Democrats have furiously insisted that to question the president’s intentions is not only unfair but also bad for Israel. With their eyes firmly on the 2012 election, Democrats have sought to downplay the splat with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, something that suits the interests of not only American Jewish organizations but also the Israeli government. Yet with the nasty exchanges of the last few days and the Congressional ovations for Netanyahu still ringing in our ears, the question of whether or not Obama is a genuine ally of the Jewish state lingers.

Even though many American Jews feel that to even ask the question about Obama’s attitude is divisive, few here have stopped to ask what the Israelis themselves think about the president. If they did, they’ll hear an answer that Democrats won’t like.

A new Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll published yesterday reveals that Israelis have an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Obama. Rather than view the president as the friend of the Jewish state that the Democrats claim he is, 40 percent of Israelis view him as pro-Palestinian with only 12 percent seeing him as pro-Israel and 34 percent thinking of  him as neutral.

But lest one think that this poll is mere the backlash from the recent spat with Netanyahu, these poor polling numbers are actually an improvement on the results that Obama got last July. At that time, 46 percent viewed the president as pro-Palestinian and only 10 percent as pro-Israel with, again, 34 percent perceiving him as neutral.

This is a far cry from the poll that was taken in 2009 before his first fights with Israel’s government and his Cairo speech to the Arab world. In May of that year, 31 percent of Israelis saw him as pro-Israel and only 14 percent pro-Palestinians with 40 percent claiming that he was neutral.

It’s clear from these numbers as well as the remarkable boost in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s popularity at home that Israelis have come to the firm conclusion that Obama is no friend to their country. Most Israelis were shocked by the president’s invocation of the 1967 borders as well as his refusal to demand that the Palestinians give up the right of return. Indeed, he is clearly the most unpopular American president in decades.

American Jews are entitled to their own opinion about Obama and Israel but it seems only reasonable that they should, at the very least, show some deference to the people to whom the question matters most. Israelis don’t trust Obama. After the events of the last week, perhaps American Jews should be listening to them.

Read Less

Questioning Ryan Plan Isn’t Sacrilege

In Roll Call Stuart Rothenberg writes that, “elevating Ryan to a point where it’s somehow sacrilegious to criticize him or question some of his arguments — or even to suggest that he must save his party by jumping into the presidential contest — isn’t healthy for Ryan or his party.”

What Rothenberg clearly has in mind in his “sacrilegious” reference is Newt Gingrich’s comments about Ryan’s plan, which Gingrich referred to as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” The response to what Gingrich said was so strong because the comments themselves were so irresponsible (to say nothing about them being at odds with what Gingrich had said a few weeks before). If Gingrich had simply said he believes the entitlement crisis is real but he has honest differences with Ryan’s approach — and then laid them out in a careful way — it would have caused relatively little stir.

Indeed, if Tim Pawlenty or others offer alternatives to the Ryan plan, my guess is that many, and perhaps most, conservatives will share my view: let the debate begin. If there are flaws in either Ryan’s arguments or his math, by all means let’s hear them. And most conservatives – including Paul Ryan himself – wouldn’t be bothered one bit by the words of Senator Bob Corker, who said this about the Ryan plan during the Senate debate about it earlier this week: “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that would say it’s an article of faith.”

To take the conservative reaction to Gingrich’s comments and to extrapolate from them that any departure from Ryan’s plan, or any counterarguments to his case, are “somehow sacrilegious” isn’t really accurate. It in fact perpetuates a caricature, which is why it’s too bad that Rothenberg, a serious political analyst, wrote what he did.

In Roll Call Stuart Rothenberg writes that, “elevating Ryan to a point where it’s somehow sacrilegious to criticize him or question some of his arguments — or even to suggest that he must save his party by jumping into the presidential contest — isn’t healthy for Ryan or his party.”

What Rothenberg clearly has in mind in his “sacrilegious” reference is Newt Gingrich’s comments about Ryan’s plan, which Gingrich referred to as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” The response to what Gingrich said was so strong because the comments themselves were so irresponsible (to say nothing about them being at odds with what Gingrich had said a few weeks before). If Gingrich had simply said he believes the entitlement crisis is real but he has honest differences with Ryan’s approach — and then laid them out in a careful way — it would have caused relatively little stir.

Indeed, if Tim Pawlenty or others offer alternatives to the Ryan plan, my guess is that many, and perhaps most, conservatives will share my view: let the debate begin. If there are flaws in either Ryan’s arguments or his math, by all means let’s hear them. And most conservatives – including Paul Ryan himself – wouldn’t be bothered one bit by the words of Senator Bob Corker, who said this about the Ryan plan during the Senate debate about it earlier this week: “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that would say it’s an article of faith.”

To take the conservative reaction to Gingrich’s comments and to extrapolate from them that any departure from Ryan’s plan, or any counterarguments to his case, are “somehow sacrilegious” isn’t really accurate. It in fact perpetuates a caricature, which is why it’s too bad that Rothenberg, a serious political analyst, wrote what he did.

Read Less

The Democrats’ Israel Problem

Shortly after Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic primary to Barack Obama in 2008, Portfolio magazine published a profile on Democratic financier and media mogul Haim Saban. Clearly still stinging from Clinton’s defeat—whose political career and presidential campaign he had pumped millions into—Saban contemplated the ways he could help the designated Democratic nominee.

“Option No. 1 is to vote for Obama send him a $2,300 check, and sayonara—hope he wins,” Haim Saban told the magazine. “Option No. 2 is, Go big. If I’m going to go big, I have to go biggest. I have zero interest in being big. Biggest, I have an interest.”

In fact, Saban never appeared to follow through with either option. A major Obama fundraising event he considered throwing never ended up materializing. And according to election filings, the mogul didn’t even chip in the $2,300 donation to the Obama campaign—pocket-change for a notorious political kingmaker worth billions. Instead, the ardent Democrat has become something of an Obama critic, even suggesting last week that he has no plans to donate to the president’s 2012 campaign.

So what happened? What makes one of the biggest Democratic donors of all time go from considering a massive fundraising campaign for a politician, to saying he doesn’t plan to contribute a cent to his reelection just three years later?

The answer to that question lies at the heart of a major problem that the Democratic Party is currently facing: its growing divide over Israel policy. While most Democratic lawmakers are strong Israel supporters, there is a budding subset in the Obama administration that believes the U.S. needs to ramp up its pressure on the Jewish state. And this coldness toward Israel is what’s making some Jewish voters and donors increasingly uneasy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue many on the left want to contemplate, or even acknowledge. Over at Think Progress, Ali Gharib writes that my post yesterday gave the “misleading implication that Saban’s comments [about not contributing to Obama] are ‘significant.’ ”

But Gharib is missing a crucial distinction between 2008 and 2011.  It’s one thing for an influential Democratic Party donor to quietly sit on his hands after a contentious primary. It’s quite another for him to announce that he has no plans to support to his party’s only 2012 candidate for the presidency. The fact is, Saban is one of the top Democratic fundraisers and an invested party member who gives generously to presidential nominees. While he’s been critical of Obama’s Middle East policy, the announcement that he has no plans to get involved in this election isn’t a small matter.

But more that that, Saban is seen as a bellwether for Jewish voters and donors, many of whom share his liberal views on social issues and strong support for Israel. He has a reputation as both a devoted Zionist and a devoted Democrat. So the fact that he’s breaking with his party’s candidate over Israel is something that will be widely noted in the Jewish community—and that’s exactly what has many Democrats worried.

Shortly after Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic primary to Barack Obama in 2008, Portfolio magazine published a profile on Democratic financier and media mogul Haim Saban. Clearly still stinging from Clinton’s defeat—whose political career and presidential campaign he had pumped millions into—Saban contemplated the ways he could help the designated Democratic nominee.

“Option No. 1 is to vote for Obama send him a $2,300 check, and sayonara—hope he wins,” Haim Saban told the magazine. “Option No. 2 is, Go big. If I’m going to go big, I have to go biggest. I have zero interest in being big. Biggest, I have an interest.”

In fact, Saban never appeared to follow through with either option. A major Obama fundraising event he considered throwing never ended up materializing. And according to election filings, the mogul didn’t even chip in the $2,300 donation to the Obama campaign—pocket-change for a notorious political kingmaker worth billions. Instead, the ardent Democrat has become something of an Obama critic, even suggesting last week that he has no plans to donate to the president’s 2012 campaign.

So what happened? What makes one of the biggest Democratic donors of all time go from considering a massive fundraising campaign for a politician, to saying he doesn’t plan to contribute a cent to his reelection just three years later?

The answer to that question lies at the heart of a major problem that the Democratic Party is currently facing: its growing divide over Israel policy. While most Democratic lawmakers are strong Israel supporters, there is a budding subset in the Obama administration that believes the U.S. needs to ramp up its pressure on the Jewish state. And this coldness toward Israel is what’s making some Jewish voters and donors increasingly uneasy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue many on the left want to contemplate, or even acknowledge. Over at Think Progress, Ali Gharib writes that my post yesterday gave the “misleading implication that Saban’s comments [about not contributing to Obama] are ‘significant.’ ”

But Gharib is missing a crucial distinction between 2008 and 2011.  It’s one thing for an influential Democratic Party donor to quietly sit on his hands after a contentious primary. It’s quite another for him to announce that he has no plans to support to his party’s only 2012 candidate for the presidency. The fact is, Saban is one of the top Democratic fundraisers and an invested party member who gives generously to presidential nominees. While he’s been critical of Obama’s Middle East policy, the announcement that he has no plans to get involved in this election isn’t a small matter.

But more that that, Saban is seen as a bellwether for Jewish voters and donors, many of whom share his liberal views on social issues and strong support for Israel. He has a reputation as both a devoted Zionist and a devoted Democrat. So the fact that he’s breaking with his party’s candidate over Israel is something that will be widely noted in the Jewish community—and that’s exactly what has many Democrats worried.

Read Less

Time For Fox News to Put Palin to the Question

Liberal conspiracy theorists sometimes imagine that Fox News is somehow mysteriously pulling the strings of the conservative movement and even the United States. That is, of course, just nuts. But those who obsess about Fox’s outsize influence actually have something to chew on this year. It turns out that by forcing public figures who are under contract to it as commentators to declare their presidential intentions one way or the other the network my have more influence on the roster and the timing of the Republican presidential field than any group or party faction.

Earlier this year, Fox helped Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to make up their minds by suspending them after it became clear that both were planning campaigns. Without the nudge from Fox, both could have played coy about actually running while still claiming they were “exploring” the possibility of a candidacy. That was followed by the network’s strong-arming of Mike Huckabee to fess up about his plans. The 2008 Republican contender probably never intended to run but, like anybody with a television show and other media projects, he benefited from the uncertainty. That is, until Fox made it clear that unless he withdrew his name from consideration he would lose his weekly show on the channel.

Fox’s motivation in forcing these men to stop playing around is entirely principled. The network rightly considers it improper to give a candidate or possible candidate a paid forum. But no matter how you look at it, their decision to collect a roster of presidential wannabes gives them a certain degree of clout, at least as far as the composition of the GOP candidate’s list.

But there is one more possible Republican candidate that is still on the Fox payroll: Sarah Palin. Given the relative silence from the Palin camp for the last few months, there was no need to force her hand since it appeared that she had no interest in running in 2012. But with Palin returning to a schedule of speaking engagements this weekend—she is planning on touring the Northeast in a red, white and blue bus that bears a striking resemblance to the sort of conveyance candidates like to cruise around in—it may be time for Fox to put the former Alaska governor to the question.

Nobody really knows whether Palin’s upcoming appearances are campaign stops or if she is just enjoying her celebrity and influence with no real intention of entering the race. She is, no doubt, enjoying the speculation and would like to milk it for as long as possible before she makes a decision. But it’s doubtful that Fox News chief Roger Ailes will let her get away with this for very long.

Despite liberal whining, Fox isn’t really very different from the rest of the media except for the fact that it is more honest about its political tilt. But by compelling its commentators to halt the guessing about their presidential intentions, it must be conceded that Fox has more influence in terms of the choices that Republican voters will have than any other outlet in recent memory.

Liberal conspiracy theorists sometimes imagine that Fox News is somehow mysteriously pulling the strings of the conservative movement and even the United States. That is, of course, just nuts. But those who obsess about Fox’s outsize influence actually have something to chew on this year. It turns out that by forcing public figures who are under contract to it as commentators to declare their presidential intentions one way or the other the network my have more influence on the roster and the timing of the Republican presidential field than any group or party faction.

Earlier this year, Fox helped Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to make up their minds by suspending them after it became clear that both were planning campaigns. Without the nudge from Fox, both could have played coy about actually running while still claiming they were “exploring” the possibility of a candidacy. That was followed by the network’s strong-arming of Mike Huckabee to fess up about his plans. The 2008 Republican contender probably never intended to run but, like anybody with a television show and other media projects, he benefited from the uncertainty. That is, until Fox made it clear that unless he withdrew his name from consideration he would lose his weekly show on the channel.

Fox’s motivation in forcing these men to stop playing around is entirely principled. The network rightly considers it improper to give a candidate or possible candidate a paid forum. But no matter how you look at it, their decision to collect a roster of presidential wannabes gives them a certain degree of clout, at least as far as the composition of the GOP candidate’s list.

But there is one more possible Republican candidate that is still on the Fox payroll: Sarah Palin. Given the relative silence from the Palin camp for the last few months, there was no need to force her hand since it appeared that she had no interest in running in 2012. But with Palin returning to a schedule of speaking engagements this weekend—she is planning on touring the Northeast in a red, white and blue bus that bears a striking resemblance to the sort of conveyance candidates like to cruise around in—it may be time for Fox to put the former Alaska governor to the question.

Nobody really knows whether Palin’s upcoming appearances are campaign stops or if she is just enjoying her celebrity and influence with no real intention of entering the race. She is, no doubt, enjoying the speculation and would like to milk it for as long as possible before she makes a decision. But it’s doubtful that Fox News chief Roger Ailes will let her get away with this for very long.

Despite liberal whining, Fox isn’t really very different from the rest of the media except for the fact that it is more honest about its political tilt. But by compelling its commentators to halt the guessing about their presidential intentions, it must be conceded that Fox has more influence in terms of the choices that Republican voters will have than any other outlet in recent memory.

Read Less

The European Media Obsession with Israel

Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK have been on the rise, according to recent reports, and that trend has coincided with anti-Israel sentiment. Which is why a new study revealing the obsession that the often-hostile British media have with the Jewish state is worth noting. The latest report by media watchdog group Just Journalism compared the coverage of Israel to the coverage of the “Arab spring” countries—Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—during 2010.

The group found that the attention given to the Arab spring countries (before the uprisings) was almost nonexistent. At BBC News alone, news coverage of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia combined and doubled still amounted to less than was written about Israel. At the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, news coverage of the Arab countries combined and tripled still amounted to less than was written about Israel. Meanwhile, the Guardian published 16 editorials on Israel in 2010 and not a single one on the three Arab countries that were on the verge of turmoil.

“It has been true for many years that so-called Middle East reporting all too often means daily news coverage and criticism of Israel and not a great deal else,” said Just Journalism’s spokesperson Michael Weiss. “Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deserving of media attention, but the disproportionate focus on it to the near exclusion of the rest of the region has left journalists on the back foot in reacting to the current political earthquake shaking the Arab world. I hope that the British”

Israel was scapegoated as the root of Middle East unrest for years, while the oppression and corruption throughout the Arab world were largely ignored. Now that the uprisings have fully debunked this myth, news outlets have a chance to refocus their coverage on the rest of the Middle East, instead of obsessing over the single democratic state.

Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK have been on the rise, according to recent reports, and that trend has coincided with anti-Israel sentiment. Which is why a new study revealing the obsession that the often-hostile British media have with the Jewish state is worth noting. The latest report by media watchdog group Just Journalism compared the coverage of Israel to the coverage of the “Arab spring” countries—Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—during 2010.

The group found that the attention given to the Arab spring countries (before the uprisings) was almost nonexistent. At BBC News alone, news coverage of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia combined and doubled still amounted to less than was written about Israel. At the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, news coverage of the Arab countries combined and tripled still amounted to less than was written about Israel. Meanwhile, the Guardian published 16 editorials on Israel in 2010 and not a single one on the three Arab countries that were on the verge of turmoil.

“It has been true for many years that so-called Middle East reporting all too often means daily news coverage and criticism of Israel and not a great deal else,” said Just Journalism’s spokesperson Michael Weiss. “Clearly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deserving of media attention, but the disproportionate focus on it to the near exclusion of the rest of the region has left journalists on the back foot in reacting to the current political earthquake shaking the Arab world. I hope that the British”

Israel was scapegoated as the root of Middle East unrest for years, while the oppression and corruption throughout the Arab world were largely ignored. Now that the uprisings have fully debunked this myth, news outlets have a chance to refocus their coverage on the rest of the Middle East, instead of obsessing over the single democratic state.

Read Less

Nothing but Nonsense and Headaches

President Obama’s address to Parliament in Westminster Hall yesterday was of a piece with all his other major public statements. In fact, it was all his other major public statements. Except for some boilerplate on Britain, it was the same speech he has been giving since his inauguration: unobjectionable generalities coupled with sketchy history, a rejection of false choices, and the confident assertion that everything he wants to achieve is modest, reasonable, and entirely in tune with the unobjectionable generalities. Will he ever get bored with sham reasonableness?

Even so, the President’s speech was better than the commentary on his visit to Britain. Consider Julian Lindley-French of the Atlantic Council, for example, who manages to insist, in the same column, that the Anglo-American Special Relationship no longer exists (because Britain is no longer a great power), Britain’s decline is exaggerated, and the kingdom’s new task is to organize all of Europe and the Commonwealth into outward-looking and Western-aligned blocs that work in partnership with the U.S. Not a bad summary of Harold Macmillan’s hopes for Britain and the world circa 1954! Both contradictory and completely irrelevant to 2011, though.

Lindley-French is a thought-provoking goad next to David Brooks. In his Monday effort, “Britain Is Working,” Brooks praises the British strategy of muddling through, which has been working nicely, he swears, ever since 1979. This is a thesis that has no contact with reality.

Read More

President Obama’s address to Parliament in Westminster Hall yesterday was of a piece with all his other major public statements. In fact, it was all his other major public statements. Except for some boilerplate on Britain, it was the same speech he has been giving since his inauguration: unobjectionable generalities coupled with sketchy history, a rejection of false choices, and the confident assertion that everything he wants to achieve is modest, reasonable, and entirely in tune with the unobjectionable generalities. Will he ever get bored with sham reasonableness?

Even so, the President’s speech was better than the commentary on his visit to Britain. Consider Julian Lindley-French of the Atlantic Council, for example, who manages to insist, in the same column, that the Anglo-American Special Relationship no longer exists (because Britain is no longer a great power), Britain’s decline is exaggerated, and the kingdom’s new task is to organize all of Europe and the Commonwealth into outward-looking and Western-aligned blocs that work in partnership with the U.S. Not a bad summary of Harold Macmillan’s hopes for Britain and the world circa 1954! Both contradictory and completely irrelevant to 2011, though.

Lindley-French is a thought-provoking goad next to David Brooks. In his Monday effort, “Britain Is Working,” Brooks praises the British strategy of muddling through, which has been working nicely, he swears, ever since 1979. This is a thesis that has no contact with reality.

How can it be said that Labour Governments from 1997 to 2010 were making serious efforts at reforming the welfare state, “energizing the populace,” and moving to a “networked, postindustrial” society? In reality, they oversaw the massive growth of the state sector and a steady increase in centralized, inefficient government. How can it be argued that Prime Minister Cameron has “remained popular”? In reality, every poll shows the Tories have lost their 2010 lead and are now running behind Labour.

Above all, how can anyone claim that British leaders “are less likely [than their American counterparts] to get away with distortions and factual howlers”? This is nothing but an armchair declaration. It stems not from any assessment of the British system, but from the apparently standard clause in the contracts of Times columnists that requires them to slag off the American political system. Tom Friedman fulfills his contact by praising China, while Brooks praises Britain. Point to Mr. Brooks, I suppose, but this relentless elite disparagement of the Constitutional order bodes very ill.

The only thing that has not happened so far as a result of Obama’s visit to Britain is a single announcement that bears in a serious way on a substantial issue of public policy. And there are a lot of open questions in the Anglo-American relationship, from the U.S.–U.K. Extradition Treaty to the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty to the future of the Mutual Defence Agreement. But if we’re not going to address these questions, we could at least lay off the think pieces, which have produced nothing but nonsense and headaches.


Read Less

A Guide for the Perplexed

Alana’s post on Haim Saban’s disenchantment with President Obama quotes Saban as saying that he does not understand why Obama has not visited Israel: 

I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people. . . . I believe that the president can clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are on Israel and calm them down. Because they are not calm right now.

This is the same message Obama has received—and ignored—three years in a row. 

In 2009, with a single-digit percentage of Israelis believing Obama was pro-Israel, the prominent Haaretz commentator Aluf Benn took to the op-ed page of the New York Times to suggest Obama deliver his message directly to Israelis, noting that he had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans—but not Israelis. Benn urged Obama to visit Israel. But Obama’s message was already fairly obvious, and no trip materialized. 

In 2010, Obama met with 37 Jewish Congressional Democrats, who asked him to travel to Israel. A group of friendly rabbis went to the White House and urged the same thing, saying they were not confident that he “feels Israel in his kishkes.” In a joint press conference a couple months later, Netanyahu personally invited Obama, and Obama responded he was “ready”—but no trip followed. It was obvious for several reasons that Obama would not go. 

This year various people or groups suggested Obama go; some expected he might announce a visit in his AIPAC speech last Sunday, but he did not. He needed to use the occasion for damage control from his latest attempt to humiliate the Israeli prime minister (having announced a U.S. position on negotiations without consulting him, rejecting his strenuous objections after giving him a few hours notice, and proceeding with the announcement without waiting to meet with him the next day). 

Saban suggests Obama can visit Israel and “clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are.” But what we got here is not a failure to communicate. It has been clear for quite a while exactly what Obama feels in his kishkes.

Alana’s post on Haim Saban’s disenchantment with President Obama quotes Saban as saying that he does not understand why Obama has not visited Israel: 

I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people. . . . I believe that the president can clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are on Israel and calm them down. Because they are not calm right now.

This is the same message Obama has received—and ignored—three years in a row. 

In 2009, with a single-digit percentage of Israelis believing Obama was pro-Israel, the prominent Haaretz commentator Aluf Benn took to the op-ed page of the New York Times to suggest Obama deliver his message directly to Israelis, noting that he had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans—but not Israelis. Benn urged Obama to visit Israel. But Obama’s message was already fairly obvious, and no trip materialized. 

In 2010, Obama met with 37 Jewish Congressional Democrats, who asked him to travel to Israel. A group of friendly rabbis went to the White House and urged the same thing, saying they were not confident that he “feels Israel in his kishkes.” In a joint press conference a couple months later, Netanyahu personally invited Obama, and Obama responded he was “ready”—but no trip followed. It was obvious for several reasons that Obama would not go. 

This year various people or groups suggested Obama go; some expected he might announce a visit in his AIPAC speech last Sunday, but he did not. He needed to use the occasion for damage control from his latest attempt to humiliate the Israeli prime minister (having announced a U.S. position on negotiations without consulting him, rejecting his strenuous objections after giving him a few hours notice, and proceeding with the announcement without waiting to meet with him the next day). 

Saban suggests Obama can visit Israel and “clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are.” But what we got here is not a failure to communicate. It has been clear for quite a while exactly what Obama feels in his kishkes.

Read Less

Climate Scientist Ordered to Release Thousands of Documents

After ClimateGate, when a trove of emails from an East Anglia climate research institute appeared to show scientists conspiring to distort date on global warming, other public climate centers were asked to release similar email exchanges under the Freedom of Information Act. Documents from the University of Virginia were of particular interest, because one of its professors, scientist Michael Mann, was at the center of the ClimateGate controversy.

UVa has refused to release Mann’s emails for over a year, but now it looks as if the public might finally get a glimpse at some of these exchanges. The university has been court-ordered to turn over 9,000 of Mann’s correspondences within the next 90 days, the Washington Examiner’s Barabara Hollingsworth reports:

The documents must be released electronically, unlike the printed “hieroglyphics” UVA has released to date. The university must also allow [American Tradition Institute] attorneys David Schnare and Chris Horner to view any it believes are exempt from release under FOIA—with the burden of proof on UVA. “The court will determine whether the public’s right to know how taxpayer-funded employees use the taxpayers’ resources can be hidden behind the ivy-covered walls of our public colleges and universities under a non-existent FOIA exemption,” Horner said in a statement.

UVa may try to hold back some of the most damaging documents by claiming they are exempt from FOIA, but as Hollingsworth points out, these exchanges will still have to be shown to the two attorneys who filed the public information request.

If the documents released by UVa are half as damning as the ones from East Anglia, it will be a serious obstacle for both the scientists who peddle the anthropogenic global warming theory and for lawmakers who favor climate change legislation. A Rasmussen poll from April found that 47% of voters say long-term planetary changes are primarily responsible for climate change, while 36% said that human activity is primarily at fault. This perception will likely grow if more corruption among climate scientists is uncovered, which could be one reason why UVA was so resistant to handing over these documents.

After ClimateGate, when a trove of emails from an East Anglia climate research institute appeared to show scientists conspiring to distort date on global warming, other public climate centers were asked to release similar email exchanges under the Freedom of Information Act. Documents from the University of Virginia were of particular interest, because one of its professors, scientist Michael Mann, was at the center of the ClimateGate controversy.

UVa has refused to release Mann’s emails for over a year, but now it looks as if the public might finally get a glimpse at some of these exchanges. The university has been court-ordered to turn over 9,000 of Mann’s correspondences within the next 90 days, the Washington Examiner’s Barabara Hollingsworth reports:

The documents must be released electronically, unlike the printed “hieroglyphics” UVA has released to date. The university must also allow [American Tradition Institute] attorneys David Schnare and Chris Horner to view any it believes are exempt from release under FOIA—with the burden of proof on UVA. “The court will determine whether the public’s right to know how taxpayer-funded employees use the taxpayers’ resources can be hidden behind the ivy-covered walls of our public colleges and universities under a non-existent FOIA exemption,” Horner said in a statement.

UVa may try to hold back some of the most damaging documents by claiming they are exempt from FOIA, but as Hollingsworth points out, these exchanges will still have to be shown to the two attorneys who filed the public information request.

If the documents released by UVa are half as damning as the ones from East Anglia, it will be a serious obstacle for both the scientists who peddle the anthropogenic global warming theory and for lawmakers who favor climate change legislation. A Rasmussen poll from April found that 47% of voters say long-term planetary changes are primarily responsible for climate change, while 36% said that human activity is primarily at fault. This perception will likely grow if more corruption among climate scientists is uncovered, which could be one reason why UVA was so resistant to handing over these documents.

Read Less

Obama’s Friends Join the New Gaza Flotilla

Ruth Gretzinger of Michigan kindly emailed to call my attention to the fact that I reported only half the story about the new Mavi Marmara. Here are some interesting points that she makes. A U.S. boat, The Audacity of Home, will join the Mavi Marmara flotilla. As Gretzinger notes, “Two of the valiant activists on board will be the president’s favorite domestic terrorists, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.” And Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman in Beirut who has also been President Obama’s mentor on the Arab-Israeli conflict, is directly involved in fundraising for the flotilla.

Again, the Los Angeles Times refuses to release a video of a speech Obama gave in honor of Khalidi. That’s too bad. Obama complains that his call to return to the 1949 Armistice lines has been misinterpreted. The tape which the Los Angeles Times doesn’t want us to see would go a long way to enabling us to understand Obama’s approach and certainly would achieve the goals of transparency which Obama has embraced, and fulfill the function of a newspaper which isn’t beholden to political bias.

Ruth Gretzinger of Michigan kindly emailed to call my attention to the fact that I reported only half the story about the new Mavi Marmara. Here are some interesting points that she makes. A U.S. boat, The Audacity of Home, will join the Mavi Marmara flotilla. As Gretzinger notes, “Two of the valiant activists on board will be the president’s favorite domestic terrorists, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.” And Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman in Beirut who has also been President Obama’s mentor on the Arab-Israeli conflict, is directly involved in fundraising for the flotilla.

Again, the Los Angeles Times refuses to release a video of a speech Obama gave in honor of Khalidi. That’s too bad. Obama complains that his call to return to the 1949 Armistice lines has been misinterpreted. The tape which the Los Angeles Times doesn’t want us to see would go a long way to enabling us to understand Obama’s approach and certainly would achieve the goals of transparency which Obama has embraced, and fulfill the function of a newspaper which isn’t beholden to political bias.

Read Less

Nothing to Applaud in Federal Prosecution of John Edwards

There is no more loathsome figure in recent American politics than John Edwards. The former Democratic vice presidential candidate is a phony, a philanderer, and a cheat. His work as an attorney using his rhetorical skills to bamboozle juries made him a poster child for tort reform. Leaving aside his political flim-flammery, Edwards’s betrayal of his dying wife with a videographer and subsequent coverup and denials of the paternity of his illegitimate child earned him an ironic place in history as one of the most personally dishonorable major party presidential contenders ever to come down the pike.

That said, the effort to haul Edwards into federal court for campaign-finance violations related to the diversion of money to his mistress strikes me as the worst sort of prosecutorial excess. The Justice Department may well be able to prove that the way Edwards’s campaign money was spent was a violation of the complicated and arcane campaign finance laws. But the decision to indict Edwards seems to be more about finding a way for the government to express its outrage about the North Carolinian’s behavior more than anything else.

That’s not just because campaign finance laws are generally ill-considered attempts to restrict free speech. Violations of these measures are often unintended and largely the result of the fact that is almost impossible to navigate through the maze that they create without constant legal advice that is itself often incorrect. The prosecutions that result from violations of their provisions are also often highly political in nature.

But the main point about the attempt to imprison Edwards for his misdeeds is that it seems to be yet another lamentable example of the justice system seeking to capitalize on public anger at unpopular celebrity. More often than not such prosecutions are merely fishing expeditions in which prosecutors with virtually unlimited power search for some legal violation on which to hang a defendant and then attempt to bully them into accepting a plea bargain. We’ve seen such dramas played out time and again in which people Martha Stewart and Barry Bonds have had the full force of the federal government against them for actions that, while arguably reprehensible, were crimes in only the technical sense of the term.

The spectacle of Edwards’ prosecution may gladden the hearts of some conservatives who have seen similarly flimsy legal attacks on some of their former leaders like Tom DeLay succeed. But that doesn’t make what is happening to Edwards right.

Seeing John Edwards brought into court may satisfy a public that rightly thinks him deserving of some rough justice for the way he treated his wife. But however despicable he may be, putting him through the wringer for campaign finance violations is no triumph for American jurisprudence.

There is no more loathsome figure in recent American politics than John Edwards. The former Democratic vice presidential candidate is a phony, a philanderer, and a cheat. His work as an attorney using his rhetorical skills to bamboozle juries made him a poster child for tort reform. Leaving aside his political flim-flammery, Edwards’s betrayal of his dying wife with a videographer and subsequent coverup and denials of the paternity of his illegitimate child earned him an ironic place in history as one of the most personally dishonorable major party presidential contenders ever to come down the pike.

That said, the effort to haul Edwards into federal court for campaign-finance violations related to the diversion of money to his mistress strikes me as the worst sort of prosecutorial excess. The Justice Department may well be able to prove that the way Edwards’s campaign money was spent was a violation of the complicated and arcane campaign finance laws. But the decision to indict Edwards seems to be more about finding a way for the government to express its outrage about the North Carolinian’s behavior more than anything else.

That’s not just because campaign finance laws are generally ill-considered attempts to restrict free speech. Violations of these measures are often unintended and largely the result of the fact that is almost impossible to navigate through the maze that they create without constant legal advice that is itself often incorrect. The prosecutions that result from violations of their provisions are also often highly political in nature.

But the main point about the attempt to imprison Edwards for his misdeeds is that it seems to be yet another lamentable example of the justice system seeking to capitalize on public anger at unpopular celebrity. More often than not such prosecutions are merely fishing expeditions in which prosecutors with virtually unlimited power search for some legal violation on which to hang a defendant and then attempt to bully them into accepting a plea bargain. We’ve seen such dramas played out time and again in which people Martha Stewart and Barry Bonds have had the full force of the federal government against them for actions that, while arguably reprehensible, were crimes in only the technical sense of the term.

The spectacle of Edwards’ prosecution may gladden the hearts of some conservatives who have seen similarly flimsy legal attacks on some of their former leaders like Tom DeLay succeed. But that doesn’t make what is happening to Edwards right.

Seeing John Edwards brought into court may satisfy a public that rightly thinks him deserving of some rough justice for the way he treated his wife. But however despicable he may be, putting him through the wringer for campaign finance violations is no triumph for American jurisprudence.

Read Less

The Battle over Medicare Reform Begins Today

In addition to the lessons from Tuesday’s special election in NY-26, Republicans and conservatives face four consequences regarding Medicare in the aftermath of that defeat:

(1.) Medicare wasn’t the only reason Republicans lost the seat, but it was the most important reason—and the loss should act as a warning shot across the GOP bow. Right now Republicans are losing the political debate on Medicare, and unless they are able to substantially alter public opinion, the results in NY-26 will be writ large across the country.

(2.) Republicans face essentially two choices. One is to abandon the plan put forward by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, hoping the Emily Latella appeal, “Never mind,” works as a political strategy. It won’t. The vast number of Congressional Republicans, in both the House and Senate, are on record having voted for the Ryan plan. To jettison the plan now would be political calamitous, giving the GOP the worst of all worlds. Having cast a difficult but principled vote and then backing away from it or refusing to defend it would embolden Democrats, dispirit the GOP base, and disgust independents. Democrats are going after the GOP on Medicare with ferocious intensity regardless what Republicans do; GOP lawmakers therefore need to decide whether they’ll fight back or be eviscerated.

(3.) The other option is to defend the Ryan plan in an effort to reshape public sentiments. Now, I suppose it’s possible that even a perfectly executed PR offensive will fail, that the nation is unalterably opposed to reforming Medicare along the lines that Paul Ryan has sketched out, and that the public is wed to the system we have. But that type of fatalism is, I think, unmerited. American history if chock full of successful social reforms that many people once thought were pipe dreams. That doesn’t necessarily mean Medicare reform will take its place among them; it simply means that difficult tasks aren’t impossible ones. And Americans tend to be drawn to political movements and parties led by operational optimists rather than theoretical pessimists.

Read More

In addition to the lessons from Tuesday’s special election in NY-26, Republicans and conservatives face four consequences regarding Medicare in the aftermath of that defeat:

(1.) Medicare wasn’t the only reason Republicans lost the seat, but it was the most important reason—and the loss should act as a warning shot across the GOP bow. Right now Republicans are losing the political debate on Medicare, and unless they are able to substantially alter public opinion, the results in NY-26 will be writ large across the country.

(2.) Republicans face essentially two choices. One is to abandon the plan put forward by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, hoping the Emily Latella appeal, “Never mind,” works as a political strategy. It won’t. The vast number of Congressional Republicans, in both the House and Senate, are on record having voted for the Ryan plan. To jettison the plan now would be political calamitous, giving the GOP the worst of all worlds. Having cast a difficult but principled vote and then backing away from it or refusing to defend it would embolden Democrats, dispirit the GOP base, and disgust independents. Democrats are going after the GOP on Medicare with ferocious intensity regardless what Republicans do; GOP lawmakers therefore need to decide whether they’ll fight back or be eviscerated.

(3.) The other option is to defend the Ryan plan in an effort to reshape public sentiments. Now, I suppose it’s possible that even a perfectly executed PR offensive will fail, that the nation is unalterably opposed to reforming Medicare along the lines that Paul Ryan has sketched out, and that the public is wed to the system we have. But that type of fatalism is, I think, unmerited. American history if chock full of successful social reforms that many people once thought were pipe dreams. That doesn’t necessarily mean Medicare reform will take its place among them; it simply means that difficult tasks aren’t impossible ones. And Americans tend to be drawn to political movements and parties led by operational optimists rather than theoretical pessimists.

(4.) For those who don’t believe the outcome of this debate is preordained, it comes down to (a) the intellectual merits of the case for reform and (b) the ability to communicate in a compelling way to the public. I’ll deal with the former in a later post. For now, though, the mindset of the GOP needs to be that this debate can be won, which requires a robust defense of the Ryan plan (including countering the avalanche of lies about it); going on the offensive against the defenders of the status quo ante (who will, if they have their way, both destroy Medicare and do enormous damage to the lives of future seniors); and mapping out an comprehensive and intensive 18-month public education campaign.

Representative Ryan is far and away the best advocate for entitlement reform in America. But Republicans can’t simply rely on his appearances on Morning Joe, interviews on talk radio, and columns in the Wall Street Journal—as important as they are—to carry the day. Each Member of Congress and candidate for high public office needs to master this issue and the art of public persuasion and proclaim their message in every conceivable venue.

Those of us who don’t believe this particular battle is lost barely before it has begun shouldn’t kid ourselves about degree of difficulty we face. There is no politically successful precedent for the scale of entitlement reform Ryan is proposing; there are tens of millions of Americans who, at the outset of this debate, are uninformed or misinformed about the fiscal threat we face and Medicare’s role in it; and Democrats are engaged in a campaign to frighten seniors that is, even by normal standards, unusually dishonest and demagogic. Some issue like welfare, crime, and taxes play to traditional GOP strengths. Medicare does not belong in the category. The habits and reflexes of the public start out against the Ryan plan.

But I for one believe the public can be won over by those championing reform, if only because I’m convinced that we conservatives have the far stronger case on the merits, and in the end the American public will settle, as they usually do, on the right and responsible course. And who knows, they may even reward lawmakers for courage.

In any event, the results of NY-26 revealed what most of us (including, I would hope, Members of Congress who voted for the Ryan plan) already knew. The contours of a Medicare debate are well-established and won’t be changed easily or overnight. Which means the campaign to win the hearts and minds of Americans better begin in earnest today.

Read Less

The Pain in Spain

For the purest distillation of perilous socialist decadence look to today’s Spain, not Greece. Athens is grabbing headlines due to its explosive riots, but Spaniards are suffering from the most advanced strain of leftist mass-delusion we’ve seen since the end of the Cold War.

Greeks wants an end to the austerity measures that are their only shot at solvency.  In truth, that’s just a more dramatic version of the eccentric syndrome animating today’s Democrat lawmakers in the U.S. But Spain’s anti-government protest movement, according to the New York Times, “has no leadership, no party affiliation and so far no detailed objectives.” It is a straightforward temper tantrum, an expression of political impotence and its necessary twin: entitlement. Once you’ve ceded all power to the government all you can do is petition it to give you the things you can no longer get on your own. Like spoiled cranky children, Spaniards have literally splayed out on the streets and refused to move. “The demonstrators have transformed Sol into a bustling tent town at the heart of Spain’s capital,” spins the Times’s Raphael Minder. Spain’s inarticulate public is squatting in protest.

Read More

For the purest distillation of perilous socialist decadence look to today’s Spain, not Greece. Athens is grabbing headlines due to its explosive riots, but Spaniards are suffering from the most advanced strain of leftist mass-delusion we’ve seen since the end of the Cold War.

Greeks wants an end to the austerity measures that are their only shot at solvency.  In truth, that’s just a more dramatic version of the eccentric syndrome animating today’s Democrat lawmakers in the U.S. But Spain’s anti-government protest movement, according to the New York Times, “has no leadership, no party affiliation and so far no detailed objectives.” It is a straightforward temper tantrum, an expression of political impotence and its necessary twin: entitlement. Once you’ve ceded all power to the government all you can do is petition it to give you the things you can no longer get on your own. Like spoiled cranky children, Spaniards have literally splayed out on the streets and refused to move. “The demonstrators have transformed Sol into a bustling tent town at the heart of Spain’s capital,” spins the Times’s Raphael Minder. Spain’s inarticulate public is squatting in protest.

The Spanish protestors’ incorrigible behavior is the end result of years of overindulgence. In 2004, Spain took a celebratory leap leftward. Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero took office and promised the usual catalogue of confections: Spain would pull out of Iraq, sanction gay marriages, and erase gender lines wherever they existed.

The socialist government saw to all the really important challenges that face a modern European nation. In 2008, for example, the Spanish Parliament granted human rights to apes. “This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity,” Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, said at the time.

Today, Spain could learn a thing or two from their “evolutionary comrades.”  Apes are big on social hierarchy; it’s how they survive. Our Spanish protestors? Not so much: The protest movement, Minder writes, “has to keep a completely horizontal structure.”

I somehow think they’ll manage that. There seems little evidence of leadership in the crowd. Spain’s socialists have thoroughly infantilized the population. The economy is a wreck.  Unemployment is at 21 percent, and what passes for “employment” looks more like the occasional tasks one assigns oneself in order to breakup an otherwise lazy vacation.

The one thing that could potentially turn this dystopian vacationland back into a viable country is the one thing Spaniards will never countenance: less government. Either that, or the newly empowered apes whip their fellow citizens into shape.

Read Less

Going on the Offensive after NY-26

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove outlines what Republicans need to do to win the messaging war on the Ryan budget. According to Rove, the majority of voters in NY-26 agreed with the GOP arguments for Medicare reforms, but the candidate Republican Jane Corwin failed to get these arguments out to the public:

An earlier, more aggressive explanation and defense of the Ryan plan would have turned the issue: 55% in the Crossroads survey [of voters in the NY-26 district] agreed with GOP arguments for the Ryan reforms while just 36% agreed with the Democrats’ arguments against it.

Rove proposes that Republicans create a “political war college” to educate members on how to publicize these arguments:

Congressional Republicans—especially in the House—need a political war college that schools incumbents and challengers in the best way to explain, defend and attack on the issue of Medicare reform. They have to become as comfortable talking about Medicare in the coming year as they did in talking about health-care reform last year.

The reason why Ryan has been so successful at town halls is because he has an strong grasp of the budget issues and he’s excellent at articulating the arguments. Other members who don’t focus solely on the budget will understandably have a more difficult time explaining the details to their constituents.

Rove is right. Republicans need to go on the offense, but they will also need help to stay on message, especially when they’re speaking off-the-cuff at town halls. Setting up a crash course on the best way to articulate budget arguments is something that the House GOP should look into.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove outlines what Republicans need to do to win the messaging war on the Ryan budget. According to Rove, the majority of voters in NY-26 agreed with the GOP arguments for Medicare reforms, but the candidate Republican Jane Corwin failed to get these arguments out to the public:

An earlier, more aggressive explanation and defense of the Ryan plan would have turned the issue: 55% in the Crossroads survey [of voters in the NY-26 district] agreed with GOP arguments for the Ryan reforms while just 36% agreed with the Democrats’ arguments against it.

Rove proposes that Republicans create a “political war college” to educate members on how to publicize these arguments:

Congressional Republicans—especially in the House—need a political war college that schools incumbents and challengers in the best way to explain, defend and attack on the issue of Medicare reform. They have to become as comfortable talking about Medicare in the coming year as they did in talking about health-care reform last year.

The reason why Ryan has been so successful at town halls is because he has an strong grasp of the budget issues and he’s excellent at articulating the arguments. Other members who don’t focus solely on the budget will understandably have a more difficult time explaining the details to their constituents.

Rove is right. Republicans need to go on the offense, but they will also need help to stay on message, especially when they’re speaking off-the-cuff at town halls. Setting up a crash course on the best way to articulate budget arguments is something that the House GOP should look into.

Read Less

Civility Watch: Comcast Tries Civilizing MSNBC

That liberal radio/TV talker Ed Schultz called a conservative antagonist a “right-wing slut” wasn’t a big surprise. Schultz is a vulgarian and thug who is a repeat offender when it comes to this sort of disgusting verbal combat. Although we conservatives passed most of the last year—and especially the weeks after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by an apolitical lunatic—being lectured by the left about how mean-spirited and divisive the rhetoric of the right has been, the left’s own attack dogs like Schultz were happily romping in the muck.

But what was most interesting about the fallout from Schultz’s attack on Laura Ingraham wasn’t the usual liberal hypocrisy about political hate speech and the usual assertions that when such talk is heard from right-wingers, it leads to violence. Instead, it’s the way the new owners of the NBC empire have decided to crack down on their left-wing outlet. In the past year, Comcast’s management has chosen to discipline MSNBC personalities when they stepped out of line, including the odious Keith Olbermann. Their swift suspension of Schultz and his abject apology show that Comcast doesn’t like the idea of being responsible for disseminating his bile.

The point to be made here is that if liberals are sincere about promoting civility in political discourse—and there is every reason to doubt it—then they can start by cleaning up their own houses. Whether Schultz and the left like it, it appears that this is exactly what Comcast intends to do.

That liberal radio/TV talker Ed Schultz called a conservative antagonist a “right-wing slut” wasn’t a big surprise. Schultz is a vulgarian and thug who is a repeat offender when it comes to this sort of disgusting verbal combat. Although we conservatives passed most of the last year—and especially the weeks after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by an apolitical lunatic—being lectured by the left about how mean-spirited and divisive the rhetoric of the right has been, the left’s own attack dogs like Schultz were happily romping in the muck.

But what was most interesting about the fallout from Schultz’s attack on Laura Ingraham wasn’t the usual liberal hypocrisy about political hate speech and the usual assertions that when such talk is heard from right-wingers, it leads to violence. Instead, it’s the way the new owners of the NBC empire have decided to crack down on their left-wing outlet. In the past year, Comcast’s management has chosen to discipline MSNBC personalities when they stepped out of line, including the odious Keith Olbermann. Their swift suspension of Schultz and his abject apology show that Comcast doesn’t like the idea of being responsible for disseminating his bile.

The point to be made here is that if liberals are sincere about promoting civility in political discourse—and there is every reason to doubt it—then they can start by cleaning up their own houses. Whether Schultz and the left like it, it appears that this is exactly what Comcast intends to do.

Read Less

Springtime for Hamastan

Egypt’s decision to open its border with Gaza is the latest evidence that the fallout from the Arab Spring protests won’t necessarily lead to democracy or peace. The announcement by Egypt’s transitional government appears to be an effort to curry favor with the Egyptian public as well as rewarding Hamas for signing a unity pact with Fatah, the group that runs the Palestinian Authority.

The open border will be an immense boost for the Hamas terror group that runs Gaza. They will now no longer be forced to smuggle weapons in through tunnels but will now presumably be able to have munitions and other strategic materials trucked over the border in larger quantities than ever before. This will not only make it easier for them to conduct terror operations against Israel but raise the price of any possible Israeli counterattack.

This will not only strengthen Hamas’s vise-like grip on the Strip but also reconfigure the balance of power between the Islamist group and its more secular Fatah rivals. The unity pact that brought the two groups together was an admission on the part of the Palestinian Authority that it had no hope of ever retaking Gaza (control of which was seized by Hamas in a bloody 2007 coup). Fatah also had a reasonable fear of growing Hamas strength in the West Bank. The open supply line from Egypt to Gaza will weaken Fatah even further, rendering PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s pledge that Hamas will have no role in a future Palestinian administration even more farcical.

But there is another point to be made about Egypt’s drift toward Hamas. Despite all the talk about democracy in the Arab world, including President Obama’s speech last week, as Sol Stern wrote yesterday at Jewish Ideas Daily, no one seems terribly interested in promoting Palestinian democracy. Gaza is a place, Stern observes, “where more than a million Palestinians suffer under a regime so repressive that Mubarak’s Egypt seems like a bastion of liberty by comparison.” And yet not only did the president have no encouragement to offer those who chafe under Hamas’s Islamist rule, it now appears that the largest victory of the Arab Spring—the fall of Mubarak—will strengthen Hamas’s hold on power.

Democracy and the rule of law are the right of every people but it is far from clear that post-Mubarak Egypt will have either. The army may wind up sharing a bit of power with the Muslim Brotherhood. While some argue that the Arab Spring protests ought to inspire Israel to make concessions that might lead to peace, the reality is that post-protest Arab world may be less interested in peace than in efforts to renew the 63-year-old war on the Jewish state.

Egypt’s decision to open its border with Gaza is the latest evidence that the fallout from the Arab Spring protests won’t necessarily lead to democracy or peace. The announcement by Egypt’s transitional government appears to be an effort to curry favor with the Egyptian public as well as rewarding Hamas for signing a unity pact with Fatah, the group that runs the Palestinian Authority.

The open border will be an immense boost for the Hamas terror group that runs Gaza. They will now no longer be forced to smuggle weapons in through tunnels but will now presumably be able to have munitions and other strategic materials trucked over the border in larger quantities than ever before. This will not only make it easier for them to conduct terror operations against Israel but raise the price of any possible Israeli counterattack.

This will not only strengthen Hamas’s vise-like grip on the Strip but also reconfigure the balance of power between the Islamist group and its more secular Fatah rivals. The unity pact that brought the two groups together was an admission on the part of the Palestinian Authority that it had no hope of ever retaking Gaza (control of which was seized by Hamas in a bloody 2007 coup). Fatah also had a reasonable fear of growing Hamas strength in the West Bank. The open supply line from Egypt to Gaza will weaken Fatah even further, rendering PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s pledge that Hamas will have no role in a future Palestinian administration even more farcical.

But there is another point to be made about Egypt’s drift toward Hamas. Despite all the talk about democracy in the Arab world, including President Obama’s speech last week, as Sol Stern wrote yesterday at Jewish Ideas Daily, no one seems terribly interested in promoting Palestinian democracy. Gaza is a place, Stern observes, “where more than a million Palestinians suffer under a regime so repressive that Mubarak’s Egypt seems like a bastion of liberty by comparison.” And yet not only did the president have no encouragement to offer those who chafe under Hamas’s Islamist rule, it now appears that the largest victory of the Arab Spring—the fall of Mubarak—will strengthen Hamas’s hold on power.

Democracy and the rule of law are the right of every people but it is far from clear that post-Mubarak Egypt will have either. The army may wind up sharing a bit of power with the Muslim Brotherhood. While some argue that the Arab Spring protests ought to inspire Israel to make concessions that might lead to peace, the reality is that post-protest Arab world may be less interested in peace than in efforts to renew the 63-year-old war on the Jewish state.

Read Less

The Times Gets Israel Wrong Again—And Why It Matters

The New York Times is certain it knows exactly what Israelis think of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s U.S. visit: “Israelis see Netanyahu trip as diplomatic failure,” it proclaimed in a headline yesterday. The story asserted “a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel’s security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”

One can easily see how correspondent Ethan Bronner reached this conclusion: As he correctly reported, Israeli “newspapers and airwaves were filled with similar commentary.”

But it’s utterly refuted by the lead story in today’s Haaretz, the Times’s very own Israeli partner, which details the unequivocal verdict of a new poll: Ordinary Israelis—as opposed to the exclusive club of journalists, academics and leftist politicians who dominate the newspapers and airwaves—considered the visit a rousing success.

Read More

The New York Times is certain it knows exactly what Israelis think of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s U.S. visit: “Israelis see Netanyahu trip as diplomatic failure,” it proclaimed in a headline yesterday. The story asserted “a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel’s security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”

One can easily see how correspondent Ethan Bronner reached this conclusion: As he correctly reported, Israeli “newspapers and airwaves were filled with similar commentary.”

But it’s utterly refuted by the lead story in today’s Haaretz, the Times’s very own Israeli partner, which details the unequivocal verdict of a new poll: Ordinary Israelis—as opposed to the exclusive club of journalists, academics and leftist politicians who dominate the newspapers and airwaves—considered the visit a rousing success.

Of respondents who followed the trip closely enough to express an opinion, those who deemed it a success outnumbered those who deemed it a failure by a whopping 37 points (47% to 10%). Of respondents who thought the visit would affect U.S.-Israeli relations, twice as many foresaw improvement as foresaw deterioration. And Netanyahu’s overall approval rating rose by an incredible 30 points, from minus 15 five weeks ago (38% favorable, 53% unfavorable) to plus 15 today (51% favorable, 36% unfavorable).

Moreover, the claim that the visit dashed hopes of advancing peace talks is ludicrous, because outside the small circle Bronner quotes, most Israelis entertained no such hopes. Every poll for years has shown that roughly two-thirds of Israelis see no chance of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in the coming years (i.e. this one from October 2010), because they believe the Palestinians “have not accepted Israel’s existence and would destroy it if they could.”

But why does it matter if the Times got it wrong? Because most people, including policy makers, rely heavily on the media for their understanding of foreign countries. Thus when journalists misinterpret elite opinion as the majority view, policy makers wind up making egregious errors.

A prime example is the “Arab Spring.” The media had proclaimed for years that ordinary Arabs were concerned above all with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Western governments set policy accordingly. They devoted enormous efforts to the “peace process” and virtually none to pressing Arab autocrats to democratize. And then they were taken by surprise when it turned out that what ordinary Arabs really cared about was their tyrannical, corrupt governments.

Similarly, President Barack Obama has been repeatedly surprised by Netanyahu’s ability to defy him successfully, because Israeli elites, via the media and diplomatic corps, had assured him Israelis would turn on any premier who risked a fight with an American president. In reality, most Israelis will back their prime minister if they perceive him as defending core Israeli interests, which has been the case in every Obama-Netanyahu spat.

Ideally, foreign correspondents would explore the world beyond their comfortable circle of like-minded elites. But since they don’t, readers need to take their reports with a large grain of salt.

Read Less

Does a Home in Arizona Mean Palin is Running? Not Necessarily.

With so many big names having dropped out of the Republican presidential contest, speculation about those who are still thought to be considering running is getting more intense. That means that any kernel of information about a potential candidate is going to be analyzed to death and perhaps blown out of proportion. Which is one way of interpreting a report in the New York Times about Sarah Palin buying a home in Arizona.

The piece, which bears the headline “Signs Grow That Palin May Run,” contains some recycled gossip about Palin’s intentions. But it also contains one original piece of information. The paper has learned that the former Alaska governor and her husband have purchased a $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By itself this doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about whether Palin will run. It is true, as the Times tells us, an Arizona home would be a convenient spot to serve as a home base for a national campaign than Wasilla, Alaska. But it is just as likely that she wanted a place close to her daughter Bristol who has already moved to Arizona. The scheduled release of a film about her brief service as governor of Alaska as well as her planned return to public appearances is fueling speculation about Palin running and encouraging her fans. But, as the paper also points out, most of her other recent moves seem better suited to the serve the interests of her one-woman media conglomerate than a presidential candidacy.

Palin did recently tell Greta van Susteren that she still had “that fire in the belly” that got her into politics. But she also said time is running out for her to make up her mind. Yet that self-imposed deadline may not be valid since Palin’s name recognition and ability to raise money could easily overcome the disadvantages that come with a late start.

A more interesting obstacle for Palin would be the prior entry of a candidate who is seeking to appeal to the almost the exact same demographic: Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann’s Tea Party and conservative Christian stands overlap almost completely with those of Palin. Though Bachmann’s name recognition and resources are miniscule compared to Palin’s, if the Alaskan waits until her rival establishes herself as a well-funded challenger it could create a damaging conflict in the event of her own candidacy. With Bachmann already raising money and about to declare, her progress may have an impact on Palin’s decision.

But all that is assuming that Palin has any real intention of running for president. Which is something that despite the desperate attempts of both her supporters and the mainstream media to unravel the mystery is a question to which the answer remains unknown to everyone except Palin.

With so many big names having dropped out of the Republican presidential contest, speculation about those who are still thought to be considering running is getting more intense. That means that any kernel of information about a potential candidate is going to be analyzed to death and perhaps blown out of proportion. Which is one way of interpreting a report in the New York Times about Sarah Palin buying a home in Arizona.

The piece, which bears the headline “Signs Grow That Palin May Run,” contains some recycled gossip about Palin’s intentions. But it also contains one original piece of information. The paper has learned that the former Alaska governor and her husband have purchased a $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By itself this doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about whether Palin will run. It is true, as the Times tells us, an Arizona home would be a convenient spot to serve as a home base for a national campaign than Wasilla, Alaska. But it is just as likely that she wanted a place close to her daughter Bristol who has already moved to Arizona. The scheduled release of a film about her brief service as governor of Alaska as well as her planned return to public appearances is fueling speculation about Palin running and encouraging her fans. But, as the paper also points out, most of her other recent moves seem better suited to the serve the interests of her one-woman media conglomerate than a presidential candidacy.

Palin did recently tell Greta van Susteren that she still had “that fire in the belly” that got her into politics. But she also said time is running out for her to make up her mind. Yet that self-imposed deadline may not be valid since Palin’s name recognition and ability to raise money could easily overcome the disadvantages that come with a late start.

A more interesting obstacle for Palin would be the prior entry of a candidate who is seeking to appeal to the almost the exact same demographic: Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann’s Tea Party and conservative Christian stands overlap almost completely with those of Palin. Though Bachmann’s name recognition and resources are miniscule compared to Palin’s, if the Alaskan waits until her rival establishes herself as a well-funded challenger it could create a damaging conflict in the event of her own candidacy. With Bachmann already raising money and about to declare, her progress may have an impact on Palin’s decision.

But all that is assuming that Palin has any real intention of running for president. Which is something that despite the desperate attempts of both her supporters and the mainstream media to unravel the mystery is a question to which the answer remains unknown to everyone except Palin.

Read Less

Budget Debate Flashback

Now that Senate Democrats have forced a pointless vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan this afternoon, it’s worth taking a look back at the time (long ago) when they actually claimed to be serious about passing a budget:

Gearing up for negotiations with Congress over his proposed budget, President Obama chided Republican lawmakers Monday for opposing his initiatives without offering alternatives.

“I do think that the Republican Party right now hasn’t sort of figured out what it’s for,” Obama said in a White House interview with The Courier-Journal and reporters from five other newspapers. “And so as a proxy, they’ve just decided ‘we’re going to be against whatever the other side is for.’ That’s not what’s needed in an economic crisis.”

The old Obama attacked the GOP for being the party of no ideas, and now the new Obama is attacking the GOP for proposing changes to the unsustainable status quo.

Democrats will now ramp up this criticism against the majority of Senate Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan today. Even though the budget vote failed (as was expected) the GOP managed to hold it together, with only five members opposing the plan: Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Scott Brown, Sen. Lisa Murkowsky, and Sen. Rand Paul.

Public opinion on Ryan’s budget plan is still shifting, and the GOP hopes to have an opportunity to still win that debate. Putting up a unified front like they did today is an important first step.

Now that Senate Democrats have forced a pointless vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan this afternoon, it’s worth taking a look back at the time (long ago) when they actually claimed to be serious about passing a budget:

Gearing up for negotiations with Congress over his proposed budget, President Obama chided Republican lawmakers Monday for opposing his initiatives without offering alternatives.

“I do think that the Republican Party right now hasn’t sort of figured out what it’s for,” Obama said in a White House interview with The Courier-Journal and reporters from five other newspapers. “And so as a proxy, they’ve just decided ‘we’re going to be against whatever the other side is for.’ That’s not what’s needed in an economic crisis.”

The old Obama attacked the GOP for being the party of no ideas, and now the new Obama is attacking the GOP for proposing changes to the unsustainable status quo.

Democrats will now ramp up this criticism against the majority of Senate Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan today. Even though the budget vote failed (as was expected) the GOP managed to hold it together, with only five members opposing the plan: Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Scott Brown, Sen. Lisa Murkowsky, and Sen. Rand Paul.

Public opinion on Ryan’s budget plan is still shifting, and the GOP hopes to have an opportunity to still win that debate. Putting up a unified front like they did today is an important first step.

Read Less

Bachmann Takes to the Internet to Raise Funds and Blast Obama on Israel

In 2008, the Obama campaign revolutionized political fundraising with a massive Internet operation that enabled him to overcome Hillary Clinton’s advantage with large givers via a deluge of small contributors. Though all candidates are attempting to reach out to supporters via technology and social networks, it looks as if Republican outlier Michelle Bachmann is the one most determined to emulate the president she hopes to unseat in using the Internet to fund her campaign.

Today, Bachmann sent out an e-mail blast to supporters urging them to donate to her potential candidacy. Her goal is to raise $240,000 in 24 hours. While that isn’t much compared to the vast sums Mitt Romney has been raising on Wall Street, if she succeeds, it will be a sign that the Tea Party favorite’s effort to create a boomlet to launch her candidacy is starting to click. As Obama proved four years ago, if you have a message that resonates with a broad connected audience you can overcome even the most formidable financial resources deployed by your rivals.

But the fundraiser isn’t all Bachmann has going for her. Seeking to capitalize on the opening provided to pro-Israel Republicans by President Obama’s swipe at Israel this past week, Bachmann’s campaign has already put up an Internet ad asking readers to sign a petition attacking the president saying “Obama Betrays Israel.” The ad, which is linked to a microsite that is sponsored by her Congressional campaign committee, is aimed at Jewish and Israeli websites and will help her build an e-mail list of pro-Israel readers that will probably net her more Christian names than those of Jewish supporters.

Bachmann is hoping to use a coalition of Tea Party activists and conservative Christians to break out of the second tier of GOP candidates. While she has yet to declare her candidacy, her ability to tap into the Republican grass roots via the Internet proves that she could be a formidable primary and caucus opponent for a group of establishment candidates that are failing to generate as much fervor from the party rank and file.

In 2008, the Obama campaign revolutionized political fundraising with a massive Internet operation that enabled him to overcome Hillary Clinton’s advantage with large givers via a deluge of small contributors. Though all candidates are attempting to reach out to supporters via technology and social networks, it looks as if Republican outlier Michelle Bachmann is the one most determined to emulate the president she hopes to unseat in using the Internet to fund her campaign.

Today, Bachmann sent out an e-mail blast to supporters urging them to donate to her potential candidacy. Her goal is to raise $240,000 in 24 hours. While that isn’t much compared to the vast sums Mitt Romney has been raising on Wall Street, if she succeeds, it will be a sign that the Tea Party favorite’s effort to create a boomlet to launch her candidacy is starting to click. As Obama proved four years ago, if you have a message that resonates with a broad connected audience you can overcome even the most formidable financial resources deployed by your rivals.

But the fundraiser isn’t all Bachmann has going for her. Seeking to capitalize on the opening provided to pro-Israel Republicans by President Obama’s swipe at Israel this past week, Bachmann’s campaign has already put up an Internet ad asking readers to sign a petition attacking the president saying “Obama Betrays Israel.” The ad, which is linked to a microsite that is sponsored by her Congressional campaign committee, is aimed at Jewish and Israeli websites and will help her build an e-mail list of pro-Israel readers that will probably net her more Christian names than those of Jewish supporters.

Bachmann is hoping to use a coalition of Tea Party activists and conservative Christians to break out of the second tier of GOP candidates. While she has yet to declare her candidacy, her ability to tap into the Republican grass roots via the Internet proves that she could be a formidable primary and caucus opponent for a group of establishment candidates that are failing to generate as much fervor from the party rank and file.

Read Less

Standing Up to Demagoguery

Although John is probably right that the “boomlet” for Paul Ryan fizzled yesterday when the Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election to represent western New York in Congress, the lasting and more significant lesson is that demagoguery works. Even at a time when Medicare is “headed for a painful collapse” (in Ryan’s words), the Democrats convinced voters that, if elected to Congress, Jane Corwin would cruelly support “the radical Republican plan to end Medicare.”

Whether Corwin was any good at answering the charge is beside the question. Nor is Peter wrong when he says that “Republicans need . . . to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is.” The more basic question, though, is not how to defend the Ryan plan—or any other Republican proposal—but how to counter the demagoguery.

Ryan’s ability to untangle complicated policy ideas, as displayed in the five-minute video that Pete posted, is second to none. Moreover, Ryan’s generous impulse to clarify and explain—to treat policy disagreements respectfully—is the ethos of a great statesman. Small wonder that Jonah Goldberg is chanting over at National Review Online: “Run, Paul Ryan, Run.”

Read More

Although John is probably right that the “boomlet” for Paul Ryan fizzled yesterday when the Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election to represent western New York in Congress, the lasting and more significant lesson is that demagoguery works. Even at a time when Medicare is “headed for a painful collapse” (in Ryan’s words), the Democrats convinced voters that, if elected to Congress, Jane Corwin would cruelly support “the radical Republican plan to end Medicare.”

Whether Corwin was any good at answering the charge is beside the question. Nor is Peter wrong when he says that “Republicans need . . . to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is.” The more basic question, though, is not how to defend the Ryan plan—or any other Republican proposal—but how to counter the demagoguery.

Ryan’s ability to untangle complicated policy ideas, as displayed in the five-minute video that Pete posted, is second to none. Moreover, Ryan’s generous impulse to clarify and explain—to treat policy disagreements respectfully—is the ethos of a great statesman. Small wonder that Jonah Goldberg is chanting over at National Review Online: “Run, Paul Ryan, Run.”

But Ryan is doomed to fail. Rational dialogue and respectful policy disagreement cannot stand up to demagoguery, at least not in the American public square, at least not since the summer of 1987, when the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy torpedoed the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court with one speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

Because he was a public figure, Senator Kennedy was not liable for slander, but he crossed a bright moral line into viciousness, and when he was not driven from public life as a consequence, he brought America over the line with him. The only reasonable response to Kennedy was delivered 17 years too late—and to a different senator altogether—but by then Kennedy had already been honored with a public service award named for the vice president of the same administration that nominated Bork.

For much of my adult life, I have watched as the American left destroys careers and reputations with shamelessness and impunity. The right treats the left as the ideological opposition, but the left treats the right as its enemy. And in that sense, the Democratic Party (the electioneering wing of the American left) has ceased to be a party at all. In 1798, John Adams wrote to the inhabitants of Harrison County, Virginia:

The parties ought to be like the sexes, mutually beneficial to each other. And woe will be to that country, which supinely suffers malicious demagogues to excite jealousies, foment prejudices, and stimulate animosities between them.

Democratic partisans will scoff that Republicans are the true demagogues. But as its response to the budget crisis abundantly shows—from President Obama’s cartoonish budget speech last month to the advertisements for Kathy Hochul in suburban Buffalo and Rochester this week—the Democratic Party is not interested in solving a national problem. It is interested only in stimulating animosity against anyone who threatens its power. Demagoguery is not a style of rhetoric, but a mode of conduct. Republicans need not descend into demagoguery to hit back hard—to sharpen its arguments, broaden its characterizations, unleash its ridicule, point its slogans. More than anything, though, Republicans need to acknowledge that they do not find themselves in a debate with friendly opponents, but in a life-and-death struggle for America’s very future. Fight accordingly.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.