Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 10, 2011

U.S. and NATO: If We Don’t Shoulder the Burden, Nobody Will

Bob Gates is leaving the Defense Department with a bang—or at least a blast—rather than a whimper. Today in Brussels he gave a tough speech blasting NATO allies for failing to do more and warning that the alliance faces a “dim, if not dismal future” unless they step up their contributions.

There is no disputing his list of particulars. As he noted, in Afghanistan, “ Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – NOT counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25- to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more. “ Meanwhile, in Libya,  “while every alliance member voted for Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. “

He went on to note that to run the air war over Libya, “the NATO air operations center in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the U.S., to do the job.” “Furthermore,” he added, “the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

There is no secret about why other NATO members aren’t doing more. As Gates said, “For all but a handful of allies, defense budgets – in absolute terms, as a share of economic output – have been chronically starved for adequate funding for a long time, with the shortfalls compounding on themselves each year.  Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan – the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history – total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11.”

That means that more and more of the burden has been falling on the U.S., but American politicians and the public are increasingly impatient with the costs of defense.  “The blunt reality,” Gates  warned, “is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” Read More

Bob Gates is leaving the Defense Department with a bang—or at least a blast—rather than a whimper. Today in Brussels he gave a tough speech blasting NATO allies for failing to do more and warning that the alliance faces a “dim, if not dismal future” unless they step up their contributions.

There is no disputing his list of particulars. As he noted, in Afghanistan, “ Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – NOT counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25- to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more. “ Meanwhile, in Libya,  “while every alliance member voted for Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. “

He went on to note that to run the air war over Libya, “the NATO air operations center in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the U.S., to do the job.” “Furthermore,” he added, “the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

There is no secret about why other NATO members aren’t doing more. As Gates said, “For all but a handful of allies, defense budgets – in absolute terms, as a share of economic output – have been chronically starved for adequate funding for a long time, with the shortfalls compounding on themselves each year.  Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan – the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history – total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11.”

That means that more and more of the burden has been falling on the U.S., but American politicians and the public are increasingly impatient with the costs of defense.  “The blunt reality,” Gates  warned, “is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

All points well taken. But they are hardly novel: the trends have been present for decades. And just as long American policymakers have been decrying European free-loading—without achieving any real changes.

The problem is that European states devote such a large share of their GDP to social welfare programs that they simply have no money left to spend on defense. The real novelty today is that with their reckless spending binge President Obama and Congress are placing us in the same dire fiscal distress as the Europeans. Obama is devoting more and more of the budget to entitlements and other domestic programs—leaving less and less for defense.

Jawboning the Europeans to step up their spending isn’t going to achieve any concrete results. We might as well grow up and realize that if we don’t play “globocop” nobody else will—and our interests, above all, will suffer. That is why it is so irresponsible for Obama to advocate even deeper defense cuts—he wants to cut $400 billion more over the next decade—at a time when we face so many crises around the world. We know the Europeans aren’t going to fill the gap. Either we do it, or it doesn’t get done—and well pay the price.

That may not be fair but neither is life.

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Syria’s Democratic Future?

Elliott Abrams, longtime COMMENTARY contributor (and my brother-in-law), has an important post on his blog at the Council on Foreign Relations that ought to offer surprising grounds for hope about the future of Syria following the eventual collapse of the Assad regime—there is a working document that offers a map to a democratic future called the “Damascus Declaration.”

In October 2005, a group of brave Syrian democrats—twelve of whom landed in prison for their activities—wrote and issued this call for liberty.  It called the Assad regime “authoritarian, totalitarian, and cliquish” and denounced “the stifling isolation which the regime has brought upon the country as a result of its destructive, adventurous, and short-sighted policies on the Arab and regional levels, and especially in Lebanon”… The Declaration calls for a truly democratic state under the rule of law, and discusses both the role of Islam and the situation of Syria’s Kurdish population in a sophisticated manner. Some day, and tomorrow would not be soon enough, the Assad mafia will be gone and Syria will face the difficult challenge  of building a democracy after decades of bloody repression.  The Damascus Declaration—and the courage of those who wrote it and suffered time in Assad’s prisons for their principles and their patriotism—provides Syrians with the key guidelines to follow, and provides us all with some hope that democracy can indeed be built in Syria.

Read the whole thing.

Elliott Abrams, longtime COMMENTARY contributor (and my brother-in-law), has an important post on his blog at the Council on Foreign Relations that ought to offer surprising grounds for hope about the future of Syria following the eventual collapse of the Assad regime—there is a working document that offers a map to a democratic future called the “Damascus Declaration.”

In October 2005, a group of brave Syrian democrats—twelve of whom landed in prison for their activities—wrote and issued this call for liberty.  It called the Assad regime “authoritarian, totalitarian, and cliquish” and denounced “the stifling isolation which the regime has brought upon the country as a result of its destructive, adventurous, and short-sighted policies on the Arab and regional levels, and especially in Lebanon”… The Declaration calls for a truly democratic state under the rule of law, and discusses both the role of Islam and the situation of Syria’s Kurdish population in a sophisticated manner. Some day, and tomorrow would not be soon enough, the Assad mafia will be gone and Syria will face the difficult challenge  of building a democracy after decades of bloody repression.  The Damascus Declaration—and the courage of those who wrote it and suffered time in Assad’s prisons for their principles and their patriotism—provides Syrians with the key guidelines to follow, and provides us all with some hope that democracy can indeed be built in Syria.

Read the whole thing.

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Is Wasserman Schultz the DNC’s ‘Michael Steele’?

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been in office for just over a month, but already her gaffes are piling up.bFirst came her fantastic distortions of the GOP Medicare plan, which were quickly torn apart by the three most prominent media fact-checkers. Then came the “anti-women” blunder, the “illegal immigration” stumble, the faux pas with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the “Jim Crow” flap.

And according to Politico, Democrats are privately growing concerned:

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DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been in office for just over a month, but already her gaffes are piling up.bFirst came her fantastic distortions of the GOP Medicare plan, which were quickly torn apart by the three most prominent media fact-checkers. Then came the “anti-women” blunder, the “illegal immigration” stumble, the faux pas with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the “Jim Crow” flap.

And according to Politico, Democrats are privately growing concerned:

No one seems ready to declare her the Democratic version of Michael Steele, the gaffe-prone former Republican National Committee chairman whose rhetorical and administrative missteps led numerous party leaders to publicly insist he had to go. But some Democrats are already privately fretting about the media-loving Wasserman Schultz’s tendency to put her foot in her mouth — after all, her ability to be the party’s frontwoman and messenger was a major reason President Barack Obama selected her as chairwoman.

One consultant with DNC ties told Politico that, “This is a growing pain that she and Team Obama are going to need to figure out, and it’s a good thing for both sides that she’s making the gaffes now — so that they can address this.”

It is the very beginning of Wasserman Schultz’s tenure, and there’s certainly some time to play damage control. But her recent errors will be tricky to clean up. Conservatives are already jumping on Wasserman Schultz’s gaffes, and American Crossroads released a pretty devastating campaign ad mocking the DNC chair earlier this week.

At the moment, these attacks aren’t a top dilemma for Democrats. But as the presidential election gets closer, Republicans will tie any of Wasserman Schultz’s goofy statements to President Obama. At some point soon the DNC will need to decide whether it’s worth trying to rein her in, or whether she’s too much of a liability.

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Herman Cain, Foreign Policy Ignoramus At Large

This is more or less Herman Cain’s moment as a populist favorite among the Republican presidential hopefuls. His charm lies in his straight talking style and common sense business experience. But since he is running for the post of commander-in-chief at a time when the United States is involved in two shooting wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), a NATO intervention in Libya and the ongoing war against international Islamist terrorism, his ignorance about foreign policy isn’t merely embarrassing, it’s pathetic.

You may recall that at the South Carolina GOP presidential debate he said he had no idea what to do about Afghanistan but would consult with experts about it. Later he said he would come up with a plan sometime between his election in November 2012 and his inauguration the following January. Then he was asked about the Palestinian right of return by Chris Wallace on Fox News and had no idea what he was talking about. He later said that he was reading a book about Israel but wouldn’t say what book it was. This week he said he would go to Israel to join a Glenn Beck rally.

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This is more or less Herman Cain’s moment as a populist favorite among the Republican presidential hopefuls. His charm lies in his straight talking style and common sense business experience. But since he is running for the post of commander-in-chief at a time when the United States is involved in two shooting wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), a NATO intervention in Libya and the ongoing war against international Islamist terrorism, his ignorance about foreign policy isn’t merely embarrassing, it’s pathetic.

You may recall that at the South Carolina GOP presidential debate he said he had no idea what to do about Afghanistan but would consult with experts about it. Later he said he would come up with a plan sometime between his election in November 2012 and his inauguration the following January. Then he was asked about the Palestinian right of return by Chris Wallace on Fox News and had no idea what he was talking about. He later said that he was reading a book about Israel but wouldn’t say what book it was. This week he said he would go to Israel to join a Glenn Beck rally.

Last night, as The Hill notes, Cain went on the Bill O’Reilly show to further showcase the fact that he knows about as much about the dangers facing the world abroad as many of us do about the intricacies of managing a fast food franchise. O’Reilly asked him what he would do to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and all he could say in reply was that he would work for energy independence for the United States. That’s a good cause but as O’Reilly tried to put out to Cain, it wouldn’t do anything about the terrible danger to the West that Iranian nukes pose.

Cain may be a good man and he may even be on the right side on these issues, as his instinct to support Israel seems to show. But the point about Cain and foreign policy is not just that he’s not very knowledgeable about such things. It’s that he is so self-confident about his abilities that it seemingly hasn’t occurred to him that this ignorance is a liability.

Despite his momentary upswing, Herman Cain isn’t going to win the Republican presidential nomination or be elected president. So perhaps it doesn’t matter what he doesn’t know. But one of the purposes of a presidential campaign is to force candidates to discuss the issues and to debate their ideas about them. Though for understandable reasons we are currently obsessed about economics in this country, ensuring national security remains the president’s first and most important duty. It does neither the Republican Party nor the country any good to have a person who is treated, whether rightly or wrongly, as a major presidential contender to be wandering around the country spouting nonsense about foreign policy.

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A Lost Generation in the Making?

Ron Brownstein has a fascinating column in National Journal, in which writes, “It’s hard to say this spring whether it’s more difficult for the class of 2011 to enter the labor force or for the class of 1967 to leave it.” The Great Recession and its aftermath have created a very high (17 percent) youth unemployment rate. But the meltdown “vaporized” both housing values and retirement plans, forcing aging baby boomers to work longer than they intended. “For every member of the millennial generation frustrated that she can’t start a career, there may be a baby boomer frustrated that he can’t end one,” according to Brownstein. “Cumulatively, these forces are inverting patterns that have characterized the economy since Social Security and the spread of corporate pensions transformed retirement.”

Brownstein goes on to report that what economists call the “idleness rate” is rising. “The share of Americans younger than 24 neither at work nor in school has steadily increased since 2007,” he writes. “That disconnection creates the risk of what Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz calls ‘a lost generation.’” Read More

Ron Brownstein has a fascinating column in National Journal, in which writes, “It’s hard to say this spring whether it’s more difficult for the class of 2011 to enter the labor force or for the class of 1967 to leave it.” The Great Recession and its aftermath have created a very high (17 percent) youth unemployment rate. But the meltdown “vaporized” both housing values and retirement plans, forcing aging baby boomers to work longer than they intended. “For every member of the millennial generation frustrated that she can’t start a career, there may be a baby boomer frustrated that he can’t end one,” according to Brownstein. “Cumulatively, these forces are inverting patterns that have characterized the economy since Social Security and the spread of corporate pensions transformed retirement.”

Brownstein goes on to report that what economists call the “idleness rate” is rising. “The share of Americans younger than 24 neither at work nor in school has steadily increased since 2007,” he writes. “That disconnection creates the risk of what Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz calls ‘a lost generation.’”

This is but one manifestation of how our prolonged economic crisis is having far-reaching social effects. We are in the process of changing habits and patterns that will alter our country in fairly profound ways. And what’s most worrisome of all is that there’s no evidence that our economy is turning around. As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal puts it, in terms of economic policy, the Obama armory is empty. “From within the exclusively demand-side context of the president’s economic policy,” he writes, “there are no more bullets in the carbines. This president is now virtually defenseless against the inexorable forces of the U.S. economy.”

An interesting and important question to wrestle with is how much of our current economic struggles are structural and the result of events largely beyond a president’s ability to change, at least in the short term, versus misguided and unwise policies emanating from the president and the Federal Reserve Board. The answer, I suspect, is a combination of both; what’s more difficult to discern is how much responsibility to apportion to each. But what we can say with confidence, I think, is that what the president is doing isn’t working well at all. Our economy is getting weaker rather than stronger. The trajectory is down rather than up. And the ramifications of all this may well be with us long after Mr. Obama has left the presidency.

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Who Benefits From the Gingrich Implosion? Nobody.

As the New Gingrich campaign implodes, some are asking who would benefit the most from his withdrawal from the race?  While I suppose it must be asked, it’s a silly question. Though his name recognition allowed him to register some support in the polls, Gingrich had no natural constituency in his party. Nor did he have a coherent rationale as to why Republicans should tap an iconic figure from the past whose career as speaker of the house ended in embarrassment ought to be president.

So the easy answer is that there isn’t much, if any, Gingrich support to divvy up among the other contenders. And it is unlikely that he will withdraw from the race that quickly. Until he runs out of money Gingrich may well decide to carry on with this strange ego trip even if all his senior advisors have already left the sinking ship of his candidacy.

It is possible that a Gingrich exit will encourage others to get into the race. But I doubt that either Rick Perry or Rudy Giuliani or some other Republican who decides to jump in sometime this summer was waiting to see how Gingrich did.

Others will say that Gingrich’s crash is illustrative of the weak nature of the Republican presidential field. But to say that is to generalize the specific. Whatever shortcomings the other candidates have, Gingrich’s problems were of a completely different nature. The lessons of this personal disaster apply to no one but himself.

As the New Gingrich campaign implodes, some are asking who would benefit the most from his withdrawal from the race?  While I suppose it must be asked, it’s a silly question. Though his name recognition allowed him to register some support in the polls, Gingrich had no natural constituency in his party. Nor did he have a coherent rationale as to why Republicans should tap an iconic figure from the past whose career as speaker of the house ended in embarrassment ought to be president.

So the easy answer is that there isn’t much, if any, Gingrich support to divvy up among the other contenders. And it is unlikely that he will withdraw from the race that quickly. Until he runs out of money Gingrich may well decide to carry on with this strange ego trip even if all his senior advisors have already left the sinking ship of his candidacy.

It is possible that a Gingrich exit will encourage others to get into the race. But I doubt that either Rick Perry or Rudy Giuliani or some other Republican who decides to jump in sometime this summer was waiting to see how Gingrich did.

Others will say that Gingrich’s crash is illustrative of the weak nature of the Republican presidential field. But to say that is to generalize the specific. Whatever shortcomings the other candidates have, Gingrich’s problems were of a completely different nature. The lessons of this personal disaster apply to no one but himself.

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Newest Spin: Weiner Can’t Leave Office Because He’s Broke

Or at least I assume this has to be spin – right? It certainly makes Weiner seem a bit more sympathetic to the public. And it sure sounds better than the alternative explanation – which would be that he’s gripping on to his congressional seat because he’s just some sort of shameless, power-hungry narcissist:

Weiner has also complained to friends that he wasn’t sure how he would make a living if he were to leave Congress and its $174,000 annual salary. “He’s worried about money and how to pay his bills,” said a Democratic insider. “He’s very concerned about that.” Read More

Or at least I assume this has to be spin – right? It certainly makes Weiner seem a bit more sympathetic to the public. And it sure sounds better than the alternative explanation – which would be that he’s gripping on to his congressional seat because he’s just some sort of shameless, power-hungry narcissist:

Weiner has also complained to friends that he wasn’t sure how he would make a living if he were to leave Congress and its $174,000 annual salary. “He’s worried about money and how to pay his bills,” said a Democratic insider. “He’s very concerned about that.”

At the New York Post, Chuck Bennett adds that Weiner owes over $10K on his credit card, and has no prior business experience or law degree to fall back on.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey also notes that other politicians have had serious problems finding high-profile careers after sex scandals, and that disgraced-politician-turned-media-star Eliot Spitzer was the rare exception to this rule:

For most politicians, the two obvious routes would either be lobbying or media.  Disgrace has a way of eroding market value in both industries. Eliot Spitzer managed to overcome it when CNN hired him as an analyst and then as a host, but he’s a singular exception to the rule.  No one’s offering Eric Massa or Chris Lee talking-head slots, and they’re not getting high-profile lobbying jobs, either.

Morrissey makes good points about Chris Lee and Eric Massa, but to be fair, neither of them have the same potential of Anthony Weiner. Massa was a loose cannon and a lunatic who became a major source of embarrassment to the Democrats only a year after taking office. Chris Lee was hardly an essential power player in the GOP, and also ended up engulfed in a sex scandal before he finished his first congressional term.

Weiner’s different. He’s a bomb-thrower, who has just as many enemies on the right as fans on the left. And despite his astonishing sleaziness, also an allegedly charismatic guy and a talented strategic thinker. He would almost be more useful to the left as a political strategist outside of congress than as an attack dog inside. Not to mention, he’d bring in a lot more money in the private sector.

So while the “money woes” explanation might be better for his overall reputation, the “shameless, power-hungry narcissist” conclusion seems a bit more realistic.

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Obama Still Pussyfooting

After paying far too much heed to the Democratic Party’s protectionist wing, President Obama has become a born-again believer in the benefits of free trade. Or has he? As with so many other issues, he can’t help equivocating. Thus, as the Wall Street Journal reports, he has endorsed free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama but he is refusing to send them to Congress for ratification until Republicans agree to spend roughly $1 billion annually for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program designed to help workers who suffer as a result of these deals. As if we really need more deficit spending.

All of these trade deals have already been languishing far too long—the Korea and Panama deals were signed in 2007, the Colombia one in 2006. It is hard to see any substantive reason to wait any longer. The delay is pure pandering to the labor unions, which are (wrongly) scared about the costs of free trade. In point of fact, these free-trade agreements would be of great benefit to the U.S. economy by lifting foreign trade barriers; the South Korea pact alone is estimated to be worth $11 billion a year in new U.S. exports. The national security benefits cannot be underestimated either: these treaties would bind the U.S. more closely to key allies in Latin America and Asia.

If there is any major issue in Washington where the pros and cons are not remotely close, it is free trade—which is why Republican and Democratic presidents alike have consistently backed policies to lift tariffs since World War II. The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, scored a particularly notable victory in this regard with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was far more controversial than any of the trade deals on the table today. The least Obama can do is usher through these deals negotiated by the Bush administration, which matter so much to our key allies—and to our economy.

After paying far too much heed to the Democratic Party’s protectionist wing, President Obama has become a born-again believer in the benefits of free trade. Or has he? As with so many other issues, he can’t help equivocating. Thus, as the Wall Street Journal reports, he has endorsed free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama but he is refusing to send them to Congress for ratification until Republicans agree to spend roughly $1 billion annually for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program designed to help workers who suffer as a result of these deals. As if we really need more deficit spending.

All of these trade deals have already been languishing far too long—the Korea and Panama deals were signed in 2007, the Colombia one in 2006. It is hard to see any substantive reason to wait any longer. The delay is pure pandering to the labor unions, which are (wrongly) scared about the costs of free trade. In point of fact, these free-trade agreements would be of great benefit to the U.S. economy by lifting foreign trade barriers; the South Korea pact alone is estimated to be worth $11 billion a year in new U.S. exports. The national security benefits cannot be underestimated either: these treaties would bind the U.S. more closely to key allies in Latin America and Asia.

If there is any major issue in Washington where the pros and cons are not remotely close, it is free trade—which is why Republican and Democratic presidents alike have consistently backed policies to lift tariffs since World War II. The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, scored a particularly notable victory in this regard with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was far more controversial than any of the trade deals on the table today. The least Obama can do is usher through these deals negotiated by the Bush administration, which matter so much to our key allies—and to our economy.

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Herman Cain’s Ugly Remarks About Muslims

Herman Cain is popular among certain small groups within the GOP. But some of his views are not only wrong; they are pernicious. Three months ago, for example, Cain said he wouldn’t be comfortable appointing a Muslim either to his cabinet or as a federal judge. He then “clarified” his comments by saying, according to this news report, that he might be willing to name a Muslim who disavows Sharia law — and then added he’s unaware of any Muslim who’d be willing to make such a disavowal. Now Cain, in an interview with Glenn Beck, says he wants to impose a “loyalty proof” on Muslims but not on Catholics or Mormons or any other religious group. Read More

Herman Cain is popular among certain small groups within the GOP. But some of his views are not only wrong; they are pernicious. Three months ago, for example, Cain said he wouldn’t be comfortable appointing a Muslim either to his cabinet or as a federal judge. He then “clarified” his comments by saying, according to this news report, that he might be willing to name a Muslim who disavows Sharia law — and then added he’s unaware of any Muslim who’d be willing to make such a disavowal. Now Cain, in an interview with Glenn Beck, says he wants to impose a “loyalty proof” on Muslims but not on Catholics or Mormons or any other religious group.It’s worth recalling that a half-century ago, John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith was a source of concern, with some people believing that if he was president he would be loyal to the Pope rather than the Constitution. In response, Kennedy gave an address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, where he spoke about not what kind of church he believed in but what kind of America he believed in. Kennedy issued this warning:

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been — and may someday be again — a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.

No one is asking anyone to look the other way when it comes to combating terrorism on our shores. The radicalization of young Muslim men is a real threat, one even Attorney General Eric Holder perceives, and lawful, responsible steps need to be taken to prevent attacks on our fellow citizens. But for a presidential candidate to be making such sweeping and indiscriminate attacks on American Muslims, insisting that they can’t be judges or belong to the cabinet and should bear the burden of proof as to their loyalty to their country, is dangerous and ugly. And it needs to stop.

I hope that in forthcoming presidential debates other GOP candidates are asked about Mr. Cain’s idea, and I hope they condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

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Poll: Americans Blame the Deficit on Wars, Not Domestic Programs

This latest Pew Research Center poll does not hold good news for proponents of strong national defense. According to the findings, 60 percent of Americans believe that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed “a great deal” to the size of the national debt. In comparison, just 24 percent said increased spending on domestic programs contributed a great deal to the deficit.

Not only does this indicate that the public may be over-eager to slash defense spending, but it also shows that many Americans have been misled about the true source of our nation’s debt.

Since 1965, our national defense spending as a percentage of GDP has actually declined – currently it hovers around 5 percent. But since 1965, entitlement spending has more than tripled, going from 2.5 percent of GDP to its current 10 percent. To say that defense contributes more to our spending problems than entitlement programs is simply inaccurate.

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This latest Pew Research Center poll does not hold good news for proponents of strong national defense. According to the findings, 60 percent of Americans believe that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed “a great deal” to the size of the national debt. In comparison, just 24 percent said increased spending on domestic programs contributed a great deal to the deficit.

Not only does this indicate that the public may be over-eager to slash defense spending, but it also shows that many Americans have been misled about the true source of our nation’s debt.

Since 1965, our national defense spending as a percentage of GDP has actually declined – currently it hovers around 5 percent. But since 1965, entitlement spending has more than tripled, going from 2.5 percent of GDP to its current 10 percent. To say that defense contributes more to our spending problems than entitlement programs is simply inaccurate.

Rep. Paul Ryan made a similar point during his recent foreign-policy address to the Alexander Hamilton Society:

Our fiscal crisis is above all a spending crisis that is being driven by the growth of our major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the budget. Today that number has grown to over 40 percent.

Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the federal budget from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent – even as we conduct an ambitious global war on terrorism. The fact is, defense consumes a smaller share of the national economy today than it did throughout the Cold War.

There are many myths about spending that have gained traction over the years. For example, according to the same Pew poll, 72 percent of respondents said that the U.S. should “reduce U.S. assistance to foreign countries” in order to help rein in the deficit. But even though this suggestion tops the list of deficit-reduction ideas, cutting foreign aid would have a negligible effect on the nation’s debt.

Conservatives, especially ones who support a strong national defense, need to do a better job ensuring that the public is informed on the true nature of the deficit. If not, this misinformation will just continue to spread.

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What Is It?

Being unloaded from a Pan Am plane in 1956, believe it or not, is a computer hard drive. It weighed over a ton and could hold–wait for it!–5 megabytes of data. One of my flash drives (also called a thumb drive because they are about the size of a thumb–on a six-year-old) holds 3,200 times as much data and costs, at a guess, one-millionth as much. I imagine that hooking up that behemoth to a computer system required a lot more than just slipping it into a USB port.

Now if only we could get liberals to notice that the world has changed….

Being unloaded from a Pan Am plane in 1956, believe it or not, is a computer hard drive. It weighed over a ton and could hold–wait for it!–5 megabytes of data. One of my flash drives (also called a thumb drive because they are about the size of a thumb–on a six-year-old) holds 3,200 times as much data and costs, at a guess, one-millionth as much. I imagine that hooking up that behemoth to a computer system required a lot more than just slipping it into a USB port.

Now if only we could get liberals to notice that the world has changed….

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Quartet Ignores Its Own Envoy’s Warning about Arab Spring’s Effect on Peace Talks

In 2007, the self-proclaimed Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators (comprising the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia) appointed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as its envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, financing his salary, office, staff, expenses, etc. Four years later, two conclusions are inevitable. First, the Quartet has been well-served; Blair’s situation assessments are often far more accurate than anything Quartet members seem to get from their own diplomats. Second, the Quartet is wasting its money — because his advice is steadfastly ignored.

This week, for instance, Blair warned that the Arab Spring, far from making Israeli-Palestinian peace talks more urgent, makes them almost impossible. Israel no longer knows what regional threats it may face, he explained, while Palestinian leaders will have trouble making “difficult compromises which will be tough to sell, in circumstances where they don’t know the regional context into which such compromises will be played.”

That should be obvious. After decades of stable peace with Egypt and a quiet border with Syria, Israel today enjoys neither. The past month saw two mass infiltration attempts along the Syrian border, while the signs from Egypt are worrying: The Muslim Brotherhood, as the best-organized political movement, is likely to increase its influence significantly in this fall’s planned election; Egypt has already repeatedly violated one agreement with Israel; even secular, Western-oriented politicians want to “renegotiate” the peace treaty out of existence; and 54 percent of Egyptians want it abrogated altogether.

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In 2007, the self-proclaimed Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators (comprising the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia) appointed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as its envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, financing his salary, office, staff, expenses, etc. Four years later, two conclusions are inevitable. First, the Quartet has been well-served; Blair’s situation assessments are often far more accurate than anything Quartet members seem to get from their own diplomats. Second, the Quartet is wasting its money — because his advice is steadfastly ignored.

This week, for instance, Blair warned that the Arab Spring, far from making Israeli-Palestinian peace talks more urgent, makes them almost impossible. Israel no longer knows what regional threats it may face, he explained, while Palestinian leaders will have trouble making “difficult compromises which will be tough to sell, in circumstances where they don’t know the regional context into which such compromises will be played.”

That should be obvious. After decades of stable peace with Egypt and a quiet border with Syria, Israel today enjoys neither. The past month saw two mass infiltration attempts along the Syrian border, while the signs from Egypt are worrying: The Muslim Brotherhood, as the best-organized political movement, is likely to increase its influence significantly in this fall’s planned election; Egypt has already repeatedly violated one agreement with Israel; even secular, Western-oriented politicians want to “renegotiate” the peace treaty out of existence; and 54 percent of Egyptians want it abrogated altogether.

Under these circumstances, how could Israel withdraw from the West Bank — its only remaining stable front — when its two previous withdrawals, from southern Lebanon and Gaza, both resulted in terrorist organizations (Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively) taking over and using these areas as bases for launching rockets at Israel?

Moreover, how can the Palestinian Authority make concessions when it doesn’t know whether the new Egyptian government will support it or denounce it as a traitor? Just this week, for instance, Amr Moussa, widely considered Egypt’s leading presidential contender, said he favored Israeli-Palestinian peace, but “not at any price” — a sharp departure from Egypt’s previous willingness to accept any agreement the Palestinians make, and a clear warning that he may oppose Palestinian concessions.

Similarly, how can the PA concede the refugees’ “right of return” when Damascus, which has sought to distract attention from its repression of pro-democracy protests by using Palestinian refugees in Syria against Israel, would undoubtedly use them against the PA for the same purpose?

But instead of recognizing these obvious facts, France is pushing a plan to resume negotiations in Paris this fall, while the U.S. is working on its own plan for autumn talks in Washington. That both also propose a formula entirely unacceptable to Israel — requiring it to cede the entire West Bank without any Palestinian concession on the refugees in exchange, in line with Barack Obama’s May 19 speech — is mere icing on the cake.

It would be better if the Quartet actually took Blair’s advice. But since it won’t, it may as well at least stop wasting money on an unheeded envoy.

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David Mamet, Neoconservative

In today’s New York Post, I talk to David Mamet, the most successful and celebrated American playwright of the past 40 years and unquestionably the most prominent cultural figure of our time to announce his abandonment of liberalism and his embrace of the ideas of Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, and Whittaker Chambers. He is without question the most prominent ideological convert to the Right ever to emerge from the community of American artists. One point I don’t make in the piece, but which is undeniable, is that Mamet is the first true neoconservative to emerge in decades. His journey takes in all the qualities that led the first generation of neoconservatives to change their views: Increasing discomfort with anti-Americanism, anger at the left’s turn against Jewish nationalism, a growing understanding of the wisdom of markets, and a sense of outrage at the promulgation of ideas like affirmative action that suggest we should judge people as a collective rather than on the basis of their own individual characters and accomplishments:

Jesus I love this country,” says a president of the United States about to lose his re-election bid in the last line of his hilarious 2009 play, “November.” Mamet, who knows a great deal about the darker recesses of the human heart, has freed himself here to express unambiguous love — love of country, love of tradition, love of his own people and (most exciting in terms of the book itself) the love of a good day’s work.

The piece appears here. You’ll like it. Believe me.

In today’s New York Post, I talk to David Mamet, the most successful and celebrated American playwright of the past 40 years and unquestionably the most prominent cultural figure of our time to announce his abandonment of liberalism and his embrace of the ideas of Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, and Whittaker Chambers. He is without question the most prominent ideological convert to the Right ever to emerge from the community of American artists. One point I don’t make in the piece, but which is undeniable, is that Mamet is the first true neoconservative to emerge in decades. His journey takes in all the qualities that led the first generation of neoconservatives to change their views: Increasing discomfort with anti-Americanism, anger at the left’s turn against Jewish nationalism, a growing understanding of the wisdom of markets, and a sense of outrage at the promulgation of ideas like affirmative action that suggest we should judge people as a collective rather than on the basis of their own individual characters and accomplishments:

Jesus I love this country,” says a president of the United States about to lose his re-election bid in the last line of his hilarious 2009 play, “November.” Mamet, who knows a great deal about the darker recesses of the human heart, has freed himself here to express unambiguous love — love of country, love of tradition, love of his own people and (most exciting in terms of the book itself) the love of a good day’s work.

The piece appears here. You’ll like it. Believe me.

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Palestinians Use Obama’s 1967 Statement as Their Latest Excuse for Not Talking

From the beginning of the Obama presidency, the Palestinian Authority has shown that it will never allow itself to accept less than whatever the United States has demanded on its behalf. Thus, when the administration asked Israel for a settlement freeze that became a Palestinian precondition for talking with Israel. When the president decided that building in existing Jewish neighborhoods within Jerusalem was an “insult” to the United States, a freeze in Israel’s capital became another Palestinian precondition.

Now in the wake of President Obama’s decision to demand that the 1967 lines be the starting point for future Middle East negotiations, the Palestinians have adopted that point as their latest precondition for talks. Earlier this week, PA “negotiator” Saeb Erekat stated that they would only return to the talks with Israel that they have largely boycotted for three years, if Netanyahu accepts Obama’s dictat.

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From the beginning of the Obama presidency, the Palestinian Authority has shown that it will never allow itself to accept less than whatever the United States has demanded on its behalf. Thus, when the administration asked Israel for a settlement freeze that became a Palestinian precondition for talking with Israel. When the president decided that building in existing Jewish neighborhoods within Jerusalem was an “insult” to the United States, a freeze in Israel’s capital became another Palestinian precondition.

Now in the wake of President Obama’s decision to demand that the 1967 lines be the starting point for future Middle East negotiations, the Palestinians have adopted that point as their latest precondition for talks. Earlier this week, PA “negotiator” Saeb Erekat stated that they would only return to the talks with Israel that they have largely boycotted for three years, if Netanyahu accepts Obama’s dictat.

Apologists for Obama have said that the 1967 lines demand was nothing new in terms of U.S. policy just as they have attempted to argue that his position on Jerusalem was no innovation. But once again the Palestinians have exposed this defense as mere sophistry. No previous American president had ever treated Jerusalem as if it were a remote West Bank settlement nor had any ever explicitly said that the 1967 must be focus of negotiations or done so (as President George W. Bush did in 2004) without acknowledging that the Palestinians were going to have to accept the demographic changes in both Jerusalem and the West Bank in any peace accord.

While Obama may have though that each time he sought to impose conditions on Israel without making similar demands on the Palestinians he was jumpstarting the peace process, he has done the exact opposite. It isn’t clear whether the Palestinians will ever recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders may be drawn. But they will never do so long as they think the Americans will do their negotiating for them. Every Obama statement about what Israel should give up has become an ironclad Palestinian demand. One would have thought that Obama would have learned his lesson during his first two disastrous forays into Middle East peace processing but that was not the case. American diplomats are fond of discussing what they believe to be the prime obstacles to peace. But this latest exchange proves that there is no greater obstacle to negotiations, if not peace, than the foolishness of Barack Obama.

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Huntsman Still Too Loyal to Obama to Criticize Him by Name

Jon Huntsman has been arguing that his two years as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China was mere public service and ought not to disqualify him for the Republican nomination for president next year. But the former Utah governor’s mealy-mouthed attitude toward the man that all GOP candidates are aiming their barbs at is undermining his effort to present himself as someone Republicans can trust to forcefully oppose the president.

According to Politico, Huntsman is trying out a unique strategy for a dark horse opposition party candidate for president: never mentioning the incumbent he seeks to defeat by name. In his speeches, the upbeat Huntsman talks a lot about what he likes about America but not much about what is wrong with the man currently living in the White House. The administration that he served faithfully seems to appreciate the courtesy, as Obama’s spokespersons have had nothing negative to say about Huntsman in what Politico has dubbed a “de facto non-aggression pact.”

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Jon Huntsman has been arguing that his two years as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China was mere public service and ought not to disqualify him for the Republican nomination for president next year. But the former Utah governor’s mealy-mouthed attitude toward the man that all GOP candidates are aiming their barbs at is undermining his effort to present himself as someone Republicans can trust to forcefully oppose the president.

According to Politico, Huntsman is trying out a unique strategy for a dark horse opposition party candidate for president: never mentioning the incumbent he seeks to defeat by name. In his speeches, the upbeat Huntsman talks a lot about what he likes about America but not much about what is wrong with the man currently living in the White House. The administration that he served faithfully seems to appreciate the courtesy, as Obama’s spokespersons have had nothing negative to say about Huntsman in what Politico has dubbed a “de facto non-aggression pact.”

Huntsman’s fans, a small group populated by Washington insiders like columnist George Will but precious few actual Republican activists, may like this high-toned approach to running for president. Indeed, if he’s going to behave this way, maybe he should stay home (wherever his home is these days) and campaign only on his front porch the way any self-respecting 19th century candidate for president would. But it is not the sort of thing that most Republican primary and caucus voters are likely to appreciate.

More to the point, Huntsman’s unwillingness to say what’s wrong with the Obama administration underlines conservative concerns about a candidacy that few in the party are excited about. Given that most Republicans think that Barack Obama is a terrible president whose statist domestic policies and feckless foreign policy are a danger to America’s future, it’s hard to understand how he thinks he can get Republicans to back him if he’s too polite and too loyal to his former boss to say what’s wrong with the administration. If Huntsman thinks his “non-aggression pact” with Obama will endear him to the people whose votes he seeks, he’s not just misguided. He’s in the wrong party.

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Giuliani and the Real Lessons of 2008

As John noted on Wednesday, it appears as if Rudy Giuliani has been unable to shake the presidential virus. Like many another politician with presidential fever, the lure of the White House is too much to resist even if the odds are against him. He believes that his 2008 run for the presidency was badly executed and thinks that he not only deserves a second chance but that this time he can win. And given what is considered, perhaps unfairly, a weak field of current candidates running, why shouldn’t he try again?

Of course, unlike many others with this malady, Giuliani has much to offer the country. He is a proven leader, an able administrator and a bold voice on foreign policy even if Democrats mocked his focus on the need to learn the lessons of 9/11.

But the idea that Rudy has learned from his 2008 mistakes is based on a misunderstanding about what happened four years ago. The problem with Giuliani’s candidacy was not just that he was foolish to ignore the early states and concentrate on Florida where he lost anyway. Giuliani enthusiasts tend to forget that the reason why he stayed out of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina was that he and his handlers understood he had little chance to win there. For all of Giuliani’s many virtues, the fact remains that a candidate with a record of being pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights and an advocate of the sort of draconian gun control laws that are to be found in New York, is just not going to win the votes of many GOP voters in those states as well as many others.

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As John noted on Wednesday, it appears as if Rudy Giuliani has been unable to shake the presidential virus. Like many another politician with presidential fever, the lure of the White House is too much to resist even if the odds are against him. He believes that his 2008 run for the presidency was badly executed and thinks that he not only deserves a second chance but that this time he can win. And given what is considered, perhaps unfairly, a weak field of current candidates running, why shouldn’t he try again?

Of course, unlike many others with this malady, Giuliani has much to offer the country. He is a proven leader, an able administrator and a bold voice on foreign policy even if Democrats mocked his focus on the need to learn the lessons of 9/11.

But the idea that Rudy has learned from his 2008 mistakes is based on a misunderstanding about what happened four years ago. The problem with Giuliani’s candidacy was not just that he was foolish to ignore the early states and concentrate on Florida where he lost anyway. Giuliani enthusiasts tend to forget that the reason why he stayed out of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina was that he and his handlers understood he had little chance to win there. For all of Giuliani’s many virtues, the fact remains that a candidate with a record of being pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights and an advocate of the sort of draconian gun control laws that are to be found in New York, is just not going to win the votes of many GOP voters in those states as well as many others.

Giuliani’s supporters may answer by reminding us that John McCain was no fervent right-winger on most issues and he was the Republican nominee four years ago. Giuliani’s scenario for victory in 2012 does seem reminiscent of McCain’s extraordinary string of unlikely primary victories. He’s got to hope that the various conservative candidates cancel each other out and that, like McCain, he somehow squirms through that opening and winds up winning by pluralities in states that he might otherwise be expected to lose.

Yet if there is any lesson to be learned from 2008 it is that nominating a GOP candidate that can’t energize the party’s conservative grass roots is a recipe for disaster. The party’s 2010 triumph was based on the enthusiasm of Tea Party activists and other conservatives who rallied to the GOP on the assumption that it had assumed the role of the ideological opposition to Barack Obama. While it cannot win on right wing votes alone, only a Republican who can unite the party in a way that McCain didn’t and Giuliani can’t, has a chance to beat Obama next year.

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Iran Anticipates the Day After Nuclear Test

Though the evidence that Iran is working on building a nuclear bomb is overwhelming, apologists for the Islamist regime have accepted its cover story that their program is only aimed at peaceful civil uses of the technology. But apparently a website run by the country’s Revolutionary Guard deviated from the party line on April 24.

The Guardian’s security blog reports that on that date Gerdab, the Guard’s website ran a piece anticipating what the day after the successful explosion of an Iranian bomb would be like. The Guardian translation of the piece fairly bubbles with excitement about the happiness in Iran and the “shock and despair” in Israel. The point of the piece is to show that life will go on normally in Iran but that people there will have a “sparkle” in their eyes.

Lest anyone think the hypothetical piece is pure science fiction, the news about the article came the same week that Iran announced that it would triple their production of enriched uranium.

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Though the evidence that Iran is working on building a nuclear bomb is overwhelming, apologists for the Islamist regime have accepted its cover story that their program is only aimed at peaceful civil uses of the technology. But apparently a website run by the country’s Revolutionary Guard deviated from the party line on April 24.

The Guardian’s security blog reports that on that date Gerdab, the Guard’s website ran a piece anticipating what the day after the successful explosion of an Iranian bomb would be like. The Guardian translation of the piece fairly bubbles with excitement about the happiness in Iran and the “shock and despair” in Israel. The point of the piece is to show that life will go on normally in Iran but that people there will have a “sparkle” in their eyes.

Lest anyone think the hypothetical piece is pure science fiction, the news about the article came the same week that Iran announced that it would triple their production of enriched uranium.

The notion of normal life in post-nuclear Iran ought to focus the attention of those in the West on the consequences of allowing Tehran to fulfill its ambitions. The greatest danger of a nuclear Iran is not so much the possibility of them actually launching a strike at Israel, though that horrifying scenario can’t be discounted. Rather, it is that the existence of this “Shia Bomb” as the Guard article calls it, would make Iran a regional superpower. It would also mean that Iran’s terrorist allies; the shaky Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas would suddenly have a nuclear umbrella protecting them. Such a development would give the despot of Damascus and the terrorist groups on Israel’s borders the ability to operate with impunity. That means the “normal” day after the announcement of an Iranian bomb would be one that would bring untold dangers both to Israel and to the West.

It isn’t clear what the regime’s motivation was in running such a piece in a publication that the Guardian informs us is normally devoted to ensuring conformity with the regime on the web and identifying and threatening independent bloggers. Perhaps it was just a momentary lapse. It might also have been intended as a warning to the international community to back down on sanctions because of the consequences of angering a future nuclear power. Either way it ought to concentrate minds in Washington and elsewhere in the West.

As the International Atomic Energy Agency has recently said, there is little doubt about Iran’s intentions. President Obama has pledged that he will not allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons. But the Iranians are not any more impressed by Obama’s sanctions campaign than they were by his efforts to “engage” them. The question remains whether Obama and the West will do what needs to be done in order to ensure that the day the Islamists anticipate never dawns.

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The Sarah Palin E-Mail Treasure Hunt

The state of Alaska is planning to release more than 24,000 e-mails sent by Sarah Palin during her brief governorship today. The move was the result of public records requests first made after her being picked as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008. The obvious intent was to hamstring the then governor as part of a Democratic Party strategy to make her life miserable by burdening her with investigations.  It was this pattern of harassment and the burden of legal bills that ensued, as much as anything else (including the financial benefits of life as a one-woman media conglomerate and television celebrity), that led to her resignation in 2009.

Almost three years later, it’s not clear what the point of the e-mail dump is today. But that has not stopped the media from rushing to the Palin e-mails as if it were another gold rush in the Klondike. For example, liberal-leaning MSNBC has teamed with the more openly leftist journalists from ProPublica and Mother Jones to hire a research company to compile a database of the documents. But the mighty New York Times has its own solution: enlist its readers as part of an army of e-mail snoops sifting through the e-mails. The Washington Post is asking their readers to do the same thing.

What motivates these publications and their civilian volunteers to spend so much time going through every Palin communication? The answer is obvious. Leftists who hate Palin will spend days, if not weeks, sifting through boring routine communications as if they were panning for gold in order to find something embarrassing or silly that can then be published in order to humiliate her. Of course, what they are really hoping for is to find is evidence of some unnamed and unproven wrongdoing or corruption. That is because ideologues cannot conceive of a political opponent as being merely wrong but must, instead, try and prove them to be criminal or evil.

I have no brief for Palin. She is a flawed public figure whom I have criticized sharply. But there is something unseemly if not indecent about the way publications like the Times and the Post have embraced this project and sought to involve readers. If Palin has done anything wrong, she should account for her actions. But there is no reason to believe that any of this “investigating” has anything to do with a reasonable suspicion of malfeasance on her part. Rather it is just a crude fishing expedition whose end result will in all likelihood produce evidence of nothing worth writing about.

That Palin’s e-mails should be the object of such abnormal attention is testimony to her celebrity as well as the malice that she provokes in her political foes. It is, in a way, a tribute to Palin’s ability to keep the national spotlight focused on her. But no one, especially not the mainstream newspapers and their civilian collaborators that are taking part in this absurd hunt, should be under any illusion that what they are doing here has much to do with responsible journalism.

The state of Alaska is planning to release more than 24,000 e-mails sent by Sarah Palin during her brief governorship today. The move was the result of public records requests first made after her being picked as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008. The obvious intent was to hamstring the then governor as part of a Democratic Party strategy to make her life miserable by burdening her with investigations.  It was this pattern of harassment and the burden of legal bills that ensued, as much as anything else (including the financial benefits of life as a one-woman media conglomerate and television celebrity), that led to her resignation in 2009.

Almost three years later, it’s not clear what the point of the e-mail dump is today. But that has not stopped the media from rushing to the Palin e-mails as if it were another gold rush in the Klondike. For example, liberal-leaning MSNBC has teamed with the more openly leftist journalists from ProPublica and Mother Jones to hire a research company to compile a database of the documents. But the mighty New York Times has its own solution: enlist its readers as part of an army of e-mail snoops sifting through the e-mails. The Washington Post is asking their readers to do the same thing.

What motivates these publications and their civilian volunteers to spend so much time going through every Palin communication? The answer is obvious. Leftists who hate Palin will spend days, if not weeks, sifting through boring routine communications as if they were panning for gold in order to find something embarrassing or silly that can then be published in order to humiliate her. Of course, what they are really hoping for is to find is evidence of some unnamed and unproven wrongdoing or corruption. That is because ideologues cannot conceive of a political opponent as being merely wrong but must, instead, try and prove them to be criminal or evil.

I have no brief for Palin. She is a flawed public figure whom I have criticized sharply. But there is something unseemly if not indecent about the way publications like the Times and the Post have embraced this project and sought to involve readers. If Palin has done anything wrong, she should account for her actions. But there is no reason to believe that any of this “investigating” has anything to do with a reasonable suspicion of malfeasance on her part. Rather it is just a crude fishing expedition whose end result will in all likelihood produce evidence of nothing worth writing about.

That Palin’s e-mails should be the object of such abnormal attention is testimony to her celebrity as well as the malice that she provokes in her political foes. It is, in a way, a tribute to Palin’s ability to keep the national spotlight focused on her. But no one, especially not the mainstream newspapers and their civilian collaborators that are taking part in this absurd hunt, should be under any illusion that what they are doing here has much to do with responsible journalism.

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