Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 2, 2011

Obama’s Donor Charade Begins Again

Back during the last round of Democratic presidential primaries in 2008, the Obama campaign disseminated the completely disingenuous claim that that it didn’t take money from special interest groups and lobbyists. Even after this was debunked time and time again, Obama continued to stand by it.

And now his campaign is pushing this falsehood yet again, according to a mass email it sent me this afternoon:

“We’re not just gathering donations here. We’re gathering people,” reads the email. “We didn’t get this far by doing things the usual way. Our campaign doesn’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs. We’re doing this the right way — with a whole lot of people like you taking the lead.”

This is complete nonsense. As anyone can see from Obama’s public disclosures, PACs were some of his top individual donors. And while he made a show about not accepting money from registered Washington lobbyists, he had no ban on taking money from organizations with in-house lobbying teams, state lobbyists, and law firms.

Obama was able to make these claims during the last election because he was largely given a free pass by the media. Based on his campaign email, he seems to think he can get away with it again this time. And he may be right.

Back during the last round of Democratic presidential primaries in 2008, the Obama campaign disseminated the completely disingenuous claim that that it didn’t take money from special interest groups and lobbyists. Even after this was debunked time and time again, Obama continued to stand by it.

And now his campaign is pushing this falsehood yet again, according to a mass email it sent me this afternoon:

“We’re not just gathering donations here. We’re gathering people,” reads the email. “We didn’t get this far by doing things the usual way. Our campaign doesn’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs. We’re doing this the right way — with a whole lot of people like you taking the lead.”

This is complete nonsense. As anyone can see from Obama’s public disclosures, PACs were some of his top individual donors. And while he made a show about not accepting money from registered Washington lobbyists, he had no ban on taking money from organizations with in-house lobbying teams, state lobbyists, and law firms.

Obama was able to make these claims during the last election because he was largely given a free pass by the media. Based on his campaign email, he seems to think he can get away with it again this time. And he may be right.

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When Journalism Substitutes For Religion

In a story announcing that Jill Abramson will replace Bill Keller as the executive editor of the New York Times, we’re told this:

Ms. Abramson, 57, said that as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of the Times to be like “ascending to Valhalla.” “In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion,” she said. “If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

This is a practically perfect quote from Ms. Abramson, simply in terms of giving voice to what one imagines the people who run the Times are like. She believed the Times wasn’t simply a great newspaper; the stories were written on tablets of stone. (Perhaps she viewed reporters at the Times as secular prophets and the op-ed columnists as secular apostles.) But it goes even deeper than that: the Times was a substitute for religious faith, meaning it must have provided her not simply with the news but with existential meaning and moral guidance.

For a person to have viewed (and presumably to still view, at least to some degree) a newspaper with religious reverence and its stories as sacred text is slightly weird and quite revealing. Devotion to a journalistic enterprise is one thing; cultism is quite another.

Jill Abramson’s mindset is exactly the kind conservatives assume liberals at the Times possess. To see it confirmed by her own words is, in its own way, quite useful.

In a story announcing that Jill Abramson will replace Bill Keller as the executive editor of the New York Times, we’re told this:

Ms. Abramson, 57, said that as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she considered being named editor of the Times to be like “ascending to Valhalla.” “In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion,” she said. “If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

This is a practically perfect quote from Ms. Abramson, simply in terms of giving voice to what one imagines the people who run the Times are like. She believed the Times wasn’t simply a great newspaper; the stories were written on tablets of stone. (Perhaps she viewed reporters at the Times as secular prophets and the op-ed columnists as secular apostles.) But it goes even deeper than that: the Times was a substitute for religious faith, meaning it must have provided her not simply with the news but with existential meaning and moral guidance.

For a person to have viewed (and presumably to still view, at least to some degree) a newspaper with religious reverence and its stories as sacred text is slightly weird and quite revealing. Devotion to a journalistic enterprise is one thing; cultism is quite another.

Jill Abramson’s mindset is exactly the kind conservatives assume liberals at the Times possess. To see it confirmed by her own words is, in its own way, quite useful.

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DNC Chair Leaps over a Rhetorical Cliff

On MSNBC this morning, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in defending President Obama’s economic stewardship, laid out a very weak defense. It included her claim that “In the month before he was inaugurated, the economy was bleeding 750,000 jobs a month. We had an economy that was literally about to go over a cliff.”

Wasserman Schultz needs new talking points. For one thing, an aide might consider pulling her aside and warning her against using vivid, clashing metaphors in consecutive sentences (an economy that both bleeds and goes over cliffs). For another, the economy was not literally going over a cliff, though it may have been figuratively going over one.

I understand that we don’t need Strunk & White to be DNC chairmen. But Democrats should be able to do better than this.

For some of us Wasserman Schultz’s answers are figuratively, if not literally, like fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

On MSNBC this morning, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in defending President Obama’s economic stewardship, laid out a very weak defense. It included her claim that “In the month before he was inaugurated, the economy was bleeding 750,000 jobs a month. We had an economy that was literally about to go over a cliff.”

Wasserman Schultz needs new talking points. For one thing, an aide might consider pulling her aside and warning her against using vivid, clashing metaphors in consecutive sentences (an economy that both bleeds and goes over cliffs). For another, the economy was not literally going over a cliff, though it may have been figuratively going over one.

I understand that we don’t need Strunk & White to be DNC chairmen. But Democrats should be able to do better than this.

For some of us Wasserman Schultz’s answers are figuratively, if not literally, like fingernails scratching a chalkboard.

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Romney Enters Race Above the Fray

Mitt Romney officially entered the 2012 presidential race today with a strong but predictable speech in New Hampshire that focused almost entirely on economic issues. While other candidates have taken shots at Romney on the campaign trail, he stayed above the fray by directing all of his attacks at President Obama.

“Barack Obama has failed America,” Romney said. He compared his business success with Obama’s lack of private sector work experience, and outlined his plan to cap federal spending at 20 percent without a tax hike.

His direct barbs at Obama, and his refusal to engage the other GOP candidates, show that Romney envisions himself as the frontrunner in the race. Whether this is true is debatable, but his war chest is going to be hard for any of the other current candidates to match.

The Democrats are also helping to drive this perception of Romney as the leading candidate, though it isn’t clear whether this proves they believe he would be a formidable foe in the general election. The DNC just released an online ad about Romney’s flip-flops on the health care issue, and his support for the individual mandate. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the state Democratic Party has been selling t-shirts that lampoon his shifting views on health care.

Mitt Romney officially entered the 2012 presidential race today with a strong but predictable speech in New Hampshire that focused almost entirely on economic issues. While other candidates have taken shots at Romney on the campaign trail, he stayed above the fray by directing all of his attacks at President Obama.

“Barack Obama has failed America,” Romney said. He compared his business success with Obama’s lack of private sector work experience, and outlined his plan to cap federal spending at 20 percent without a tax hike.

His direct barbs at Obama, and his refusal to engage the other GOP candidates, show that Romney envisions himself as the frontrunner in the race. Whether this is true is debatable, but his war chest is going to be hard for any of the other current candidates to match.

The Democrats are also helping to drive this perception of Romney as the leading candidate, though it isn’t clear whether this proves they believe he would be a formidable foe in the general election. The DNC just released an online ad about Romney’s flip-flops on the health care issue, and his support for the individual mandate. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the state Democratic Party has been selling t-shirts that lampoon his shifting views on health care.

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Here’s to Bipartisan Support for Israel

It’s always great when a political issue manages to transcend the Washington gridlock, and bring together Republicans and Democrats in support of a worthy and noble cause. In honor of the great bipartisan support that Israel enjoys in Washington, Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel has rolled out a new political ad thanking Israel’s true friends in both parties:

The video comes on the heels of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz’s comments last week, when she said that Israel should not be allowed to become a partisan issue: “Everyone who is involved in advancing the cause of peace and everyone that calls themselves legitimately pro-Israel believes that we should not make Israel a partisan issue,” Wasserman Schultz said.

No doubt about that. As the ECI ad says, the pro-Israel community should recognize all friends of Israel, “Democrats and Republicans alike.” But the conversation shouldn’t stop there. Members of either party who are anti-Israel need to be called out as well. Voters have a right to know which Republican or Democratic lawmakers are pushing policies that will hurt America’s relationship with the Jewish state.

Oddly enough, the DNC and Democratic Jewish groups have objected to campaign ads that inform voters about which Democratic candidates hold anti-Israel views. I contacted the DNC for comment on ECI’s ad, and haven’t heard back yet. But the National Jewish Democratic Council issued this response to Jen Rubin when asked about ECI’s new campaign:

“The Emergency Committee for Israel is playing a dangerous game by continuing to politicize support for Israel at this critical time—including their new ad that ludicrously suggests ‘President Obama sided with the Palestinians,’” said the NJDC.

Would the NJDC prefer that Americans are left in the dark about Obama’s bias toward the Palestinians, simply because he’s a fellow Democrat? ECI’s ad showed that leaders from both parties agree on Israel. Instead of embracing that, NJDC decided to criticize ECI for pointing out Obama’s anti-Israel positions. This is exactly the sort of partisanship that’s unhelpful to the conversation.

It’s always great when a political issue manages to transcend the Washington gridlock, and bring together Republicans and Democrats in support of a worthy and noble cause. In honor of the great bipartisan support that Israel enjoys in Washington, Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel has rolled out a new political ad thanking Israel’s true friends in both parties:

The video comes on the heels of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz’s comments last week, when she said that Israel should not be allowed to become a partisan issue: “Everyone who is involved in advancing the cause of peace and everyone that calls themselves legitimately pro-Israel believes that we should not make Israel a partisan issue,” Wasserman Schultz said.

No doubt about that. As the ECI ad says, the pro-Israel community should recognize all friends of Israel, “Democrats and Republicans alike.” But the conversation shouldn’t stop there. Members of either party who are anti-Israel need to be called out as well. Voters have a right to know which Republican or Democratic lawmakers are pushing policies that will hurt America’s relationship with the Jewish state.

Oddly enough, the DNC and Democratic Jewish groups have objected to campaign ads that inform voters about which Democratic candidates hold anti-Israel views. I contacted the DNC for comment on ECI’s ad, and haven’t heard back yet. But the National Jewish Democratic Council issued this response to Jen Rubin when asked about ECI’s new campaign:

“The Emergency Committee for Israel is playing a dangerous game by continuing to politicize support for Israel at this critical time—including their new ad that ludicrously suggests ‘President Obama sided with the Palestinians,’” said the NJDC.

Would the NJDC prefer that Americans are left in the dark about Obama’s bias toward the Palestinians, simply because he’s a fellow Democrat? ECI’s ad showed that leaders from both parties agree on Israel. Instead of embracing that, NJDC decided to criticize ECI for pointing out Obama’s anti-Israel positions. This is exactly the sort of partisanship that’s unhelpful to the conversation.

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Is the “Obama Generation” in Play for 2012?

In late May, I wrote about an informal survey of recent college graduates that showed a major drop in support for President Obama since 2008, with only 27 percent of respondents saying they would definitely vote for Obama in the next election. Although the survey seemed a little too optimistic, it attracted a lot of media attention at the time, because it was the only recent attempt (as far as I have found) to look into whether enthusiasm for Obama has decreased among young voters since 2008.

Recent college graduate Joseph Maddalone, the founder of executive recruitment firm Maddalone Global and the organizer the survey, spoke to me about some of the impressions he got from interviewing 500 young people about their views on the 2012 election. According to Maddalone, many told him that they have become disillusioned with Obama since 2008. “This demographic is ‘in play’ in 2012,” he told me. “I don’t think we are sure who we will vote for . . . but we just know what we are seeing now is suboptimal.” Here were his take-aways from the survey:

1. Many young people are frustrated by Obama’s failure to deliver on the lofty promises of his campaign. Maddalone said that many people he surveyed noted Obama’s soaring campaign rhetoric from 2008. “However, as I spoke with these same Obama supporters three years later, there is a tremendous amount of disappointment,” he said According to Maddalone, many got caught up in the high expectations of Obama’s 2008 campaign, and are now frustrated that they haven’t seen a noticeable improvement in their lives since then. The problem, Maddalone said, was one of “overpromising and underdelivering.”

2. The priorities of young Obama voters have changed since 2008. “After speaking with many young professionals that supported President Obama in 2008, there has definitely been a shift in opinion,” Maddalone said. “The general consensus seemed to be as we transition from college the work force, our decision making process changes.” Maddalone said that these young people didn’t focus on issues like taxes during the 2008 election, but now this has become a serious concern.

3. The economic problems are a growing concern. “The number one concern of the majority of the people I spoke with is the economy and spending,” Maddalone said. The economic crisis, which may not have seemed like a top issue for these voters in 2008, has hit the young demographic very hard. Many have been unable to find jobs in the subject areas they got their degrees in.

But young voters aren’t alone here. Economic issues are the top concern for independents and conservative voters. This won’t be a single-issue election, but it will be as close to it as you can get. But Republican candidates can’t just focus on the spending cuts if they want to reach out to a younger demographic. They also need to concentrate on job creation and tax cuts, which will both be major priorities to the youth in the next election.

In late May, I wrote about an informal survey of recent college graduates that showed a major drop in support for President Obama since 2008, with only 27 percent of respondents saying they would definitely vote for Obama in the next election. Although the survey seemed a little too optimistic, it attracted a lot of media attention at the time, because it was the only recent attempt (as far as I have found) to look into whether enthusiasm for Obama has decreased among young voters since 2008.

Recent college graduate Joseph Maddalone, the founder of executive recruitment firm Maddalone Global and the organizer the survey, spoke to me about some of the impressions he got from interviewing 500 young people about their views on the 2012 election. According to Maddalone, many told him that they have become disillusioned with Obama since 2008. “This demographic is ‘in play’ in 2012,” he told me. “I don’t think we are sure who we will vote for . . . but we just know what we are seeing now is suboptimal.” Here were his take-aways from the survey:

1. Many young people are frustrated by Obama’s failure to deliver on the lofty promises of his campaign. Maddalone said that many people he surveyed noted Obama’s soaring campaign rhetoric from 2008. “However, as I spoke with these same Obama supporters three years later, there is a tremendous amount of disappointment,” he said According to Maddalone, many got caught up in the high expectations of Obama’s 2008 campaign, and are now frustrated that they haven’t seen a noticeable improvement in their lives since then. The problem, Maddalone said, was one of “overpromising and underdelivering.”

2. The priorities of young Obama voters have changed since 2008. “After speaking with many young professionals that supported President Obama in 2008, there has definitely been a shift in opinion,” Maddalone said. “The general consensus seemed to be as we transition from college the work force, our decision making process changes.” Maddalone said that these young people didn’t focus on issues like taxes during the 2008 election, but now this has become a serious concern.

3. The economic problems are a growing concern. “The number one concern of the majority of the people I spoke with is the economy and spending,” Maddalone said. The economic crisis, which may not have seemed like a top issue for these voters in 2008, has hit the young demographic very hard. Many have been unable to find jobs in the subject areas they got their degrees in.

But young voters aren’t alone here. Economic issues are the top concern for independents and conservative voters. This won’t be a single-issue election, but it will be as close to it as you can get. But Republican candidates can’t just focus on the spending cuts if they want to reach out to a younger demographic. They also need to concentrate on job creation and tax cuts, which will both be major priorities to the youth in the next election.

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No Back to the Future for Ex-Senator Obama

Joseph Califano, who was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, has a plan in today’s New York Times for how Obama can get the Congressional Republicans to bend to his will: maneuver them the way Lyndon Johnson maneuvered Congress when he needed the debt ceiling raised in 1968.

It’s not a bad plan except for one thing. President Obama is no Lyndon Johnson. Obama was in Congress for a mere four years (and had an out-to-lunch sign on his desk for the last two years while he ran for president). He played no part in the Senate leadership and has no significant legislative accomplishments to his credit. Johnson, by contrast, was in the House of Representatives for 12 years (from 1937 to 1949) and in the Senate for 12 years (from 1949 to 1961). He was majority whip in the Senate for two years, minority leader for two, and majority leader for six years. So there’s a reason Robert Caro entitled the third volume of his massive biography of Johnson Master of the Senate. Johnson knew the workings of Congress intimately and knew exactly how to push the various buttons to get what he wanted. He relished doing so.

(One of my favorite Johnson stories is when he invited a group of freshmen Congressmen to the Oval Office to lobby them on some piece of legislation. Most had never been to the White House, let alone the Oval Office, so they were gawking like tourists as they filed in. “Take a good look around,” Johnson told them. “Because if you aren’t with me on this bill, you’ll never see this place again.”)

Obama has shown no capacity or, indeed, inclination to manipulate Congress in this way. He’s been anything but a hands-on president when it came to legislation, with unfortunate results for both the stimulus package and Obamacare.

Califano notes that Johnson “even got the last laugh, as the year [1969] ended with a $3.2 billion surplus, the first in decades, and the Great Society survived.” It was, in fact, the first budget surplus in nine years, not decades. And it was achieved mainly by putting Social Security “on budget” so that its surplus that year could be counted among general government revenues. Since then there has never been a budget surplus without cooking the books via Social Security.

In 1968, Lyndon Johnson enjoyed  a 64-to-36 Democratic edge in the Senate and a 248-to-187 edge in the House. Many of those Democrats, to be sure, were conservative Southerners, but it’s a lot easier to twist the arms in your own party. Today’s large Republican majority in the House and the Republican gains in the Senate are there precisely because they were sent to Washington to fix the budget mess.

Joseph Califano, who was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, has a plan in today’s New York Times for how Obama can get the Congressional Republicans to bend to his will: maneuver them the way Lyndon Johnson maneuvered Congress when he needed the debt ceiling raised in 1968.

It’s not a bad plan except for one thing. President Obama is no Lyndon Johnson. Obama was in Congress for a mere four years (and had an out-to-lunch sign on his desk for the last two years while he ran for president). He played no part in the Senate leadership and has no significant legislative accomplishments to his credit. Johnson, by contrast, was in the House of Representatives for 12 years (from 1937 to 1949) and in the Senate for 12 years (from 1949 to 1961). He was majority whip in the Senate for two years, minority leader for two, and majority leader for six years. So there’s a reason Robert Caro entitled the third volume of his massive biography of Johnson Master of the Senate. Johnson knew the workings of Congress intimately and knew exactly how to push the various buttons to get what he wanted. He relished doing so.

(One of my favorite Johnson stories is when he invited a group of freshmen Congressmen to the Oval Office to lobby them on some piece of legislation. Most had never been to the White House, let alone the Oval Office, so they were gawking like tourists as they filed in. “Take a good look around,” Johnson told them. “Because if you aren’t with me on this bill, you’ll never see this place again.”)

Obama has shown no capacity or, indeed, inclination to manipulate Congress in this way. He’s been anything but a hands-on president when it came to legislation, with unfortunate results for both the stimulus package and Obamacare.

Califano notes that Johnson “even got the last laugh, as the year [1969] ended with a $3.2 billion surplus, the first in decades, and the Great Society survived.” It was, in fact, the first budget surplus in nine years, not decades. And it was achieved mainly by putting Social Security “on budget” so that its surplus that year could be counted among general government revenues. Since then there has never been a budget surplus without cooking the books via Social Security.

In 1968, Lyndon Johnson enjoyed  a 64-to-36 Democratic edge in the Senate and a 248-to-187 edge in the House. Many of those Democrats, to be sure, were conservative Southerners, but it’s a lot easier to twist the arms in your own party. Today’s large Republican majority in the House and the Republican gains in the Senate are there precisely because they were sent to Washington to fix the budget mess.

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Obama Is Associated with American Decline

“It seems that almost every bit of data about the health of the U.S. economy has disappointed expectations recently,” Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London, told CNBC yesterday. “U.S. house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed, and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing. And that’s just in the last week and a bit,” Riddell said.

The anemic and weakening state of the economy is now dominating the news. The Wall Street Journal’s front page headline today is, “Economic Outlook Darkens”; the Washington Post headline is, “Few remedies left as recovery’s momentum lags.” And the New York Times front page story on the economy begins this way: “No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent. Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.”

What is so politically dangerous for Obama are three things. First, his entire presidency has been marred by a sick economy and a stunningly weak recovery (so weak that roughly half of the public believes we’re either still in a recession or now in a depression). Second, in many key areas the trajectory is getting worse, not better. And third, the Obama  administration made promises early on that have either already been broken (e.g. unemployment will not rise above 8 percent) or cannot possibly keep (cutting the deficit in half, restoring millions of lost jobs, etc.).

The president has less time than he may think to turn impressions around. The public is associating Barack Obama’s tenure with American decline. And that, for a president, is politically dangerous—quite possibly politically lethal.

“It seems that almost every bit of data about the health of the U.S. economy has disappointed expectations recently,” Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London, told CNBC yesterday. “U.S. house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed, and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing. And that’s just in the last week and a bit,” Riddell said.

The anemic and weakening state of the economy is now dominating the news. The Wall Street Journal’s front page headline today is, “Economic Outlook Darkens”; the Washington Post headline is, “Few remedies left as recovery’s momentum lags.” And the New York Times front page story on the economy begins this way: “No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent. Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.”

What is so politically dangerous for Obama are three things. First, his entire presidency has been marred by a sick economy and a stunningly weak recovery (so weak that roughly half of the public believes we’re either still in a recession or now in a depression). Second, in many key areas the trajectory is getting worse, not better. And third, the Obama  administration made promises early on that have either already been broken (e.g. unemployment will not rise above 8 percent) or cannot possibly keep (cutting the deficit in half, restoring millions of lost jobs, etc.).

The president has less time than he may think to turn impressions around. The public is associating Barack Obama’s tenure with American decline. And that, for a president, is politically dangerous—quite possibly politically lethal.

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Obama Administration to Boycott Durban III Conference

After much speculation, the Obama administration has finally announced that it will join Canada in boycotting the Durban III “World Conference against Racism” at the UN next September. The Durban conference is purportedly a forum on racism, but it’s actually an excuse for dictators and assorted criminal leaders to promote anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and the demonization of Israel.

The Obama administration voted against the resolution to convene the conference last December, but up until now it wasn’t clear whether the U.S. would attend or not.

In a letter to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), Joseph Macmanus, acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department, confirmed that the U.S. will not be participating:

“The United States will not participate in the Durban Commemoration,” Macmanus wrote. “In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated.”

The American Jewish Committee applauded the Obama administration’s decision in a press release, saying that the announcement is “the clearest indication that this gathering will be just as bad for Israel—and for those truly dedicated to the fight against racism—as were the previous two international conferences in 2001 and 2009.”

Yes, the Obama administration made the right decision, but there are other problems with the Durban III conference that need to be addressed. The fact that terrorist governments will be in attendance at the conference, which will take place in New York shortly after the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, is appalling and should be condemned more strongly by the White House.

After much speculation, the Obama administration has finally announced that it will join Canada in boycotting the Durban III “World Conference against Racism” at the UN next September. The Durban conference is purportedly a forum on racism, but it’s actually an excuse for dictators and assorted criminal leaders to promote anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and the demonization of Israel.

The Obama administration voted against the resolution to convene the conference last December, but up until now it wasn’t clear whether the U.S. would attend or not.

In a letter to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), Joseph Macmanus, acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department, confirmed that the U.S. will not be participating:

“The United States will not participate in the Durban Commemoration,” Macmanus wrote. “In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated.”

The American Jewish Committee applauded the Obama administration’s decision in a press release, saying that the announcement is “the clearest indication that this gathering will be just as bad for Israel—and for those truly dedicated to the fight against racism—as were the previous two international conferences in 2001 and 2009.”

Yes, the Obama administration made the right decision, but there are other problems with the Durban III conference that need to be addressed. The fact that terrorist governments will be in attendance at the conference, which will take place in New York shortly after the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, is appalling and should be condemned more strongly by the White House.

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Huntsman’s Advocacy for Afghan Bug Out Gives George Will a Thrill

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has no discernable base among Republican voters and no rationale for his presidential candidacy. Having spent the first two years of the Obama administration as a loyal employee of the man he wishes to replace in the White House, it is unclear exactly why he is running, since his name is associated with no cause or issue or set of beliefs around which Americans can rally. All we really know about him is that he is as ambitious as he is wealthy and currently unemployed.

But Huntsman does appear to have staked out at least one position that has given him a few prominent friends: opposition to continue fighting the war on Islamist terrorists. It is this point that seemed to intrigue George Will the most in his puff-piece column on Huntsman that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Will could find nothing unusual or noteworthy about any of Huntsman’s positions except a commitment to “clean up the map” of American foreign policy. Apparently Huntsman wishes to cut the defense budget, bug out of Afghanistan, and avoid the use of American military power against human-rights abusers. It is this vision of a Republican presidency that will drop the ball on the struggle to defend the West that excites Will.

The columnist has been pining for a return to the foreign policy of the first George Bush for two decades. Thus the idea that Huntsman could be “the neoconservatives’ nightmare” prompts Will to drop such complimentary-to-Huntsman adjectives such as “cool hand,” “polished,” “attractive,” and “photogenic.” His crush on the former Utah governor is so thorough that if Will were an excitable liberal like Chris Matthews rather than an uptight conservative, he might have confessed to Huntsman’s giving him a chill up his leg.

But the problem with Will’s love song is that America already elected a president with a “realist” foreign policy: Barack Obama, the man Huntsman represented in China for two years. The constituency for defeat and surrender to the Taliban is in the other party where restive Democrats are unhappy about the fact that Obama decided to do the right thing and carry on with our commitments in Afghanistan. The idea that a Republican can be nominated by running to the left on foreign policy while also flirting with the left on global warming is so absurd that even Will admits that it is difficult to chart a path to the nomination for Huntsman. But we repeat ourselves. Jon Huntsman has no constituency and no appeal for Republicans. Makes you wonder why he is bothering.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has no discernable base among Republican voters and no rationale for his presidential candidacy. Having spent the first two years of the Obama administration as a loyal employee of the man he wishes to replace in the White House, it is unclear exactly why he is running, since his name is associated with no cause or issue or set of beliefs around which Americans can rally. All we really know about him is that he is as ambitious as he is wealthy and currently unemployed.

But Huntsman does appear to have staked out at least one position that has given him a few prominent friends: opposition to continue fighting the war on Islamist terrorists. It is this point that seemed to intrigue George Will the most in his puff-piece column on Huntsman that appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Will could find nothing unusual or noteworthy about any of Huntsman’s positions except a commitment to “clean up the map” of American foreign policy. Apparently Huntsman wishes to cut the defense budget, bug out of Afghanistan, and avoid the use of American military power against human-rights abusers. It is this vision of a Republican presidency that will drop the ball on the struggle to defend the West that excites Will.

The columnist has been pining for a return to the foreign policy of the first George Bush for two decades. Thus the idea that Huntsman could be “the neoconservatives’ nightmare” prompts Will to drop such complimentary-to-Huntsman adjectives such as “cool hand,” “polished,” “attractive,” and “photogenic.” His crush on the former Utah governor is so thorough that if Will were an excitable liberal like Chris Matthews rather than an uptight conservative, he might have confessed to Huntsman’s giving him a chill up his leg.

But the problem with Will’s love song is that America already elected a president with a “realist” foreign policy: Barack Obama, the man Huntsman represented in China for two years. The constituency for defeat and surrender to the Taliban is in the other party where restive Democrats are unhappy about the fact that Obama decided to do the right thing and carry on with our commitments in Afghanistan. The idea that a Republican can be nominated by running to the left on foreign policy while also flirting with the left on global warming is so absurd that even Will admits that it is difficult to chart a path to the nomination for Huntsman. But we repeat ourselves. Jon Huntsman has no constituency and no appeal for Republicans. Makes you wonder why he is bothering.

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I Can Say with Certitude that Weiner Is Starting to Remind Me of Chris Lee

When Congressman Anthony Weiner said yesterday that he “couldn’t say with certitude” that the lewd photo that was allegedly sent to a young woman from his Twitter account wasn’t a self-portrait, he ensured that this controversy wasn’t going to die any time soon. If he isn’t sure about whose crotch was in the photo he could only have been sure that the subject was none other than Anthony Weiner. Even if some evil right-wing pranksters sent the photo, then—a scenario that is sounding more doubtful every minute, considering that Weiner still hasn’t asked for a police investigation—it’s time to stop accepting the notion that he’s some kind of innocent victim.

Instead, it’s time to start making comparisons with Chris Lee. Lee is a forgotten man these days, remembered only for the fact that it was his indiscretion and forced resignation that led to the Democrats triumph in the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District last month. But it was Lee’s decision to send a stripped-to-the-waist self-portrait to a woman while trolling the Internet for illicit adulterous sex that set the Dem’s Mediscare victory in motion. Lee, too, initially claimed that his account might have been hacked.

There are differences between the two stories. One is that while we know what Lee was up to, we don’t know for certain the purpose of Weiner’s even more salacious self-portrait. Another is that, unlike Lee’s Republican leaders—who demanded his resignation before he even had time to try to spin the story and thus prolong his party’s agony—Weiner’s Democratic colleagues have taken no action against him and are, instead, playing the role of passive onlookers as this melodrama unfolds.

Weiner probably  doesn’t have to worry about holding on to his Congressional seat in a district where Republicans have trouble even coming up with a sacrificial lamb to oppose him every two years. But Weiner wants more than that. He wants to be mayor of New York. And he wants to retain his status as a go-to liberal Democrat on the news channels, where he has bullied and smeared his political antagonists with impunity. Even on Tuesday, while in the midst of not answering questions about his own behavior, he attempted to sell the media on a smear of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

So while we should have no expectations that either the Democratic leadership or the voters of Brooklyn and Queens will do something about him in the wake of this scandal, Weiner might stop being treated by the media as a person who deserves serious attention. Instead, he ought to be treated the way Chris Lee would have been had he had the chutzpah to resist calls for his resignation: as the Washington equivalent of a circus freak.

When Congressman Anthony Weiner said yesterday that he “couldn’t say with certitude” that the lewd photo that was allegedly sent to a young woman from his Twitter account wasn’t a self-portrait, he ensured that this controversy wasn’t going to die any time soon. If he isn’t sure about whose crotch was in the photo he could only have been sure that the subject was none other than Anthony Weiner. Even if some evil right-wing pranksters sent the photo, then—a scenario that is sounding more doubtful every minute, considering that Weiner still hasn’t asked for a police investigation—it’s time to stop accepting the notion that he’s some kind of innocent victim.

Instead, it’s time to start making comparisons with Chris Lee. Lee is a forgotten man these days, remembered only for the fact that it was his indiscretion and forced resignation that led to the Democrats triumph in the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District last month. But it was Lee’s decision to send a stripped-to-the-waist self-portrait to a woman while trolling the Internet for illicit adulterous sex that set the Dem’s Mediscare victory in motion. Lee, too, initially claimed that his account might have been hacked.

There are differences between the two stories. One is that while we know what Lee was up to, we don’t know for certain the purpose of Weiner’s even more salacious self-portrait. Another is that, unlike Lee’s Republican leaders—who demanded his resignation before he even had time to try to spin the story and thus prolong his party’s agony—Weiner’s Democratic colleagues have taken no action against him and are, instead, playing the role of passive onlookers as this melodrama unfolds.

Weiner probably  doesn’t have to worry about holding on to his Congressional seat in a district where Republicans have trouble even coming up with a sacrificial lamb to oppose him every two years. But Weiner wants more than that. He wants to be mayor of New York. And he wants to retain his status as a go-to liberal Democrat on the news channels, where he has bullied and smeared his political antagonists with impunity. Even on Tuesday, while in the midst of not answering questions about his own behavior, he attempted to sell the media on a smear of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

So while we should have no expectations that either the Democratic leadership or the voters of Brooklyn and Queens will do something about him in the wake of this scandal, Weiner might stop being treated by the media as a person who deserves serious attention. Instead, he ought to be treated the way Chris Lee would have been had he had the chutzpah to resist calls for his resignation: as the Washington equivalent of a circus freak.

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