Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 28, 2011

Poll Numbers Continue Alarming Trend for Obama

As Alana wrote  earlier today, according to the latest McClatchy-Marist poll:

  • Only 37 percent of registered voters approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, his lowest rating ever.
  • By nearly 2-1 (61 percent v. 32 percent) voters disapprove of how he’s handling the federal budget deficit.
  • Fifty-eight percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, comprising 60 percent of independents, 31 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of Republicans.

Not all the news was bleak for the president.

Fifty percent of voters said they had favorable impressions of him versus 44 percent who didn’t. By 2-1, Americans said today’s economic conditions mostly were something the president inherited rather than the result of his own policies. And overall, 45 percent said they approved of the job the president is doing, while 47 percent disapproved.

Overall, though, these numbers continue an alarming trend for the president.

“It’s a real caution sign … the four-year lease on the White House is very much dependent on how people end up looking at the economy,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which performed the survey.

If Miringoff is right, then Obama’s lease on the White House may very well end on the first Tuesday in November 2012.

As Alana wrote  earlier today, according to the latest McClatchy-Marist poll:

  • Only 37 percent of registered voters approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, his lowest rating ever.
  • By nearly 2-1 (61 percent v. 32 percent) voters disapprove of how he’s handling the federal budget deficit.
  • Fifty-eight percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, comprising 60 percent of independents, 31 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of Republicans.

Not all the news was bleak for the president.

Fifty percent of voters said they had favorable impressions of him versus 44 percent who didn’t. By 2-1, Americans said today’s economic conditions mostly were something the president inherited rather than the result of his own policies. And overall, 45 percent said they approved of the job the president is doing, while 47 percent disapproved.

Overall, though, these numbers continue an alarming trend for the president.

“It’s a real caution sign … the four-year lease on the White House is very much dependent on how people end up looking at the economy,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which performed the survey.

If Miringoff is right, then Obama’s lease on the White House may very well end on the first Tuesday in November 2012.

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Sen. Cornyn Confronts Napolitano Over ‘Backdoor Amnesty’ Controversy

During a hearing on the DREAM Act today, Sen. John Cornyn confronted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about whether her agency directed its attorneys to dismiss the deportation cases of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of crimes.

The exchange was prompted by a Houston Chronicle investigation yesterday, which revealed that DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials encouraged attorneys to seek dismissals for dozens of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of criminal acts ranging from sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, theft, drug dealing and DUIs.

“In 2010, I wrote you a letter and asked you for details with regard to this program,” said Cornyn. “In response, the Department of Homeland Security assured me that a directive instructing ICE attorneys to seek dismissals of certain classes of criminal aliens ‘does not exist.’”

The senator asked Napolitano whether she could “explain the apparent discrepancy between the existence of this memo and what the Houston Chronicle reported on Monday?”

Napolitano denied her office was involved in a cover-up, arguing that the Houston ICE field office that instructed its attorneys to seek dismissals for these illegal immigrants had “misconstrued” the orders given by the ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The plain fact of the matter is that a miscommunication occurred at the regional level in one of 26 offices,” she said.

But Napolitano’s response doesn’t completely explain the inconsistency. As the Chronicle reported, after the chief counsel of the Houston office gave the instructions to his attorneys, he forwarded the email to ICE headquarters. ICE officials replied with an email praising the chief counsel’s decision and asking him to share his strategies with other offices.

Napolitano has a lot more to answer for, and it sounds like at least one senator plans to pursue an investigation.

“When an agency not only misleads the public and Congress, but also attempts to block public information, merely citing an unfortunate ‘miscommunication’ is not a good enough explanation for the American people,” Cornyn said in a press statement after the hearing. “I intend to pursue whatever means necessary to get to the bottom of this and shine light on this wrongheaded policy.”

During a hearing on the DREAM Act today, Sen. John Cornyn confronted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about whether her agency directed its attorneys to dismiss the deportation cases of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of crimes.

The exchange was prompted by a Houston Chronicle investigation yesterday, which revealed that DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials encouraged attorneys to seek dismissals for dozens of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of criminal acts ranging from sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, theft, drug dealing and DUIs.

“In 2010, I wrote you a letter and asked you for details with regard to this program,” said Cornyn. “In response, the Department of Homeland Security assured me that a directive instructing ICE attorneys to seek dismissals of certain classes of criminal aliens ‘does not exist.’”

The senator asked Napolitano whether she could “explain the apparent discrepancy between the existence of this memo and what the Houston Chronicle reported on Monday?”

Napolitano denied her office was involved in a cover-up, arguing that the Houston ICE field office that instructed its attorneys to seek dismissals for these illegal immigrants had “misconstrued” the orders given by the ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The plain fact of the matter is that a miscommunication occurred at the regional level in one of 26 offices,” she said.

But Napolitano’s response doesn’t completely explain the inconsistency. As the Chronicle reported, after the chief counsel of the Houston office gave the instructions to his attorneys, he forwarded the email to ICE headquarters. ICE officials replied with an email praising the chief counsel’s decision and asking him to share his strategies with other offices.

Napolitano has a lot more to answer for, and it sounds like at least one senator plans to pursue an investigation.

“When an agency not only misleads the public and Congress, but also attempts to block public information, merely citing an unfortunate ‘miscommunication’ is not a good enough explanation for the American people,” Cornyn said in a press statement after the hearing. “I intend to pursue whatever means necessary to get to the bottom of this and shine light on this wrongheaded policy.”

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Lawsuit Threat Slows Flotilla Launch

Most of the world has been looking on helplessly as pro-Hamas activists prepares to stage yet another naval photo op intended to besmirch Israel. But, as the New York Times reports today, one group of crafty lawyers has found a way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of these anti-Israel agitators. Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, a group that has dedicated itself to holding the funders of terrorism accountable for the crimes they finance, has been contacting companies that have insured the ships that have been assembled to sail to Gaza to break the blockade of the Hamas-run strip to tell them they are leaving themselves open to prosecution for aiding terrorists. This ploy has understandably sent a chill down the spines of the some 30 maritime insurance providers who just assumed there would be no liability with their involvement in this farce.

While organizers claim their goal is humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, their attempt to break the international isolation imposed on an area run by a bloodthirsty terrorist group will help no one but Hamas. That is especially so since no one disputes the free flow of food and medicine into Gaza, a place where not only is there no humanitarian crisis but which boasts a bustling mall and brisk car sales.

Shurat HaDin was founded in Israel in 2003 and models itself after the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that used lawsuits to bankrupt racist groups. Shurat HaDin seeks to do the same thing to terrorists via legal work undertaken on behalf of terror victims. In the past eight years, they have sued Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other terror groups and won judgments that have helped slow the flow of funds to the murderers. Indeed, thanks in part to some of their lawsuits, Hamas is no longer able to use the international banking system to get cash but is instead forced to smuggle money into Gaza. That makes efforts like the flotilla to break the blockade and thus ease Hamas’s cash flow problems all the more sinister.

While the flotilla supporters say all ten of their ships are seaworthy and insured, Shurat HaDin has filed complaints with the Greek Coast Guard raising questions about the registration and insurance of seven of the vessels. Given Greece’s antipathy for Israel, it is far from clear the complaints will be fairly heard. But either way, Shurat HaDin has sent those businesses even tangentially connected to the flotilla a warning they face possible legal repercussions. Those who help fund and insure a stunt whose only purpose is to provide political support for the Islamist terror group need to know there may be consequences for their involvement in this travesty.

Most of the world has been looking on helplessly as pro-Hamas activists prepares to stage yet another naval photo op intended to besmirch Israel. But, as the New York Times reports today, one group of crafty lawyers has found a way to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of these anti-Israel agitators. Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, a group that has dedicated itself to holding the funders of terrorism accountable for the crimes they finance, has been contacting companies that have insured the ships that have been assembled to sail to Gaza to break the blockade of the Hamas-run strip to tell them they are leaving themselves open to prosecution for aiding terrorists. This ploy has understandably sent a chill down the spines of the some 30 maritime insurance providers who just assumed there would be no liability with their involvement in this farce.

While organizers claim their goal is humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, their attempt to break the international isolation imposed on an area run by a bloodthirsty terrorist group will help no one but Hamas. That is especially so since no one disputes the free flow of food and medicine into Gaza, a place where not only is there no humanitarian crisis but which boasts a bustling mall and brisk car sales.

Shurat HaDin was founded in Israel in 2003 and models itself after the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that used lawsuits to bankrupt racist groups. Shurat HaDin seeks to do the same thing to terrorists via legal work undertaken on behalf of terror victims. In the past eight years, they have sued Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other terror groups and won judgments that have helped slow the flow of funds to the murderers. Indeed, thanks in part to some of their lawsuits, Hamas is no longer able to use the international banking system to get cash but is instead forced to smuggle money into Gaza. That makes efforts like the flotilla to break the blockade and thus ease Hamas’s cash flow problems all the more sinister.

While the flotilla supporters say all ten of their ships are seaworthy and insured, Shurat HaDin has filed complaints with the Greek Coast Guard raising questions about the registration and insurance of seven of the vessels. Given Greece’s antipathy for Israel, it is far from clear the complaints will be fairly heard. But either way, Shurat HaDin has sent those businesses even tangentially connected to the flotilla a warning they face possible legal repercussions. Those who help fund and insure a stunt whose only purpose is to provide political support for the Islamist terror group need to know there may be consequences for their involvement in this travesty.

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Rubio Makes Eloquent Plea About War in Libya

Earlier, I commended Tim Pawlenty for staking out a principled position for a strong foreign policy that puts him at odds with the growing isolationist sentiment in Republican ranks. Another honorable exception to the general, dreary trend is Sen. Marco Rubio, the great right hope from Florida.

He gave a first-rate speech today on the Senate floor about the war in Libya. He rightly castigated Obama for his mistakes in waging this conflict, ranging from the president’s failure to ask Congress for approval in the beginning to his persistent refusal to use enough force to bring Qaddafi down. But, he went on to argue:

No matter how you may feel about the original decision, we must now deal with the situation as it now stands. And the bottom line here is that if we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.

Thus, he made an eloquent plea for Republicans to swallow their anger against Obama and act in the best interests of the country by rejecting attempts to hamstring the war effort. He is exactly right—and almost alone on Capitol Hill where too many of his fellow Republicans seem to have more interest in bringing down Obama than Qaddafi.


Earlier, I commended Tim Pawlenty for staking out a principled position for a strong foreign policy that puts him at odds with the growing isolationist sentiment in Republican ranks. Another honorable exception to the general, dreary trend is Sen. Marco Rubio, the great right hope from Florida.

He gave a first-rate speech today on the Senate floor about the war in Libya. He rightly castigated Obama for his mistakes in waging this conflict, ranging from the president’s failure to ask Congress for approval in the beginning to his persistent refusal to use enough force to bring Qaddafi down. But, he went on to argue:

No matter how you may feel about the original decision, we must now deal with the situation as it now stands. And the bottom line here is that if we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.

Thus, he made an eloquent plea for Republicans to swallow their anger against Obama and act in the best interests of the country by rejecting attempts to hamstring the war effort. He is exactly right—and almost alone on Capitol Hill where too many of his fellow Republicans seem to have more interest in bringing down Obama than Qaddafi.


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Wisconsin Choke Charge Appears Bogus

The Associated Press is reporting a criminal inquiry has been opened into the accusation that conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser “choked” liberal colleague Ann Walsh Bradley. On the surface, this is a black eye for both Prosser and Wisconsin Republicans who worked hard to ensure his re-election in a tough race that revolved around efforts to overturn the state legislature’s votes to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employee unions in order to balance the budget. But it turns out the charge against Prosser may be as bogus as the liberal claims that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature were turning the Badger state into Nazi Germany.

Christian Schneider, a fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, writes in National Review today to tell the inside story about this judicial brawl. According to Schneider’s sources, the set-to between the two judges turns out to have been instigated by Bradley, who charged Prosser, who had put his hands up to ward off his colleague’s assault. The two were immediately separated, after which Bradley claimed she had been “choked,” even though the majority of those present said it never happened. Schneider says those involved believe Bradley chose not to make a complaint herself because she knew it wouldn’t stand up in court. The story was leaked to the George Soros-funded Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which promoted the accusation against Prosser and backed it up with anonymous sources.

This is just another sign of how brutal the battle between liberals and conservatives in Wisconsin has become. Having failed to stop the governor’s legislative agenda via boycotts by Democratic legislators and then a failed court challenge, is appears the next phase of this no-hold-barred dustup are attempts to personally destroy those associated with support of Walker’s ideas. While not much may come of the investigation against Prosser, it is a sign of how nasty things have gotten there. While one would hope that judges, of all people, would use this incident as a sign its time to turn down the temperature in Wisconsin, it may be the start of a new round of political mudslinging.

The Associated Press is reporting a criminal inquiry has been opened into the accusation that conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser “choked” liberal colleague Ann Walsh Bradley. On the surface, this is a black eye for both Prosser and Wisconsin Republicans who worked hard to ensure his re-election in a tough race that revolved around efforts to overturn the state legislature’s votes to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employee unions in order to balance the budget. But it turns out the charge against Prosser may be as bogus as the liberal claims that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature were turning the Badger state into Nazi Germany.

Christian Schneider, a fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, writes in National Review today to tell the inside story about this judicial brawl. According to Schneider’s sources, the set-to between the two judges turns out to have been instigated by Bradley, who charged Prosser, who had put his hands up to ward off his colleague’s assault. The two were immediately separated, after which Bradley claimed she had been “choked,” even though the majority of those present said it never happened. Schneider says those involved believe Bradley chose not to make a complaint herself because she knew it wouldn’t stand up in court. The story was leaked to the George Soros-funded Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which promoted the accusation against Prosser and backed it up with anonymous sources.

This is just another sign of how brutal the battle between liberals and conservatives in Wisconsin has become. Having failed to stop the governor’s legislative agenda via boycotts by Democratic legislators and then a failed court challenge, is appears the next phase of this no-hold-barred dustup are attempts to personally destroy those associated with support of Walker’s ideas. While not much may come of the investigation against Prosser, it is a sign of how nasty things have gotten there. While one would hope that judges, of all people, would use this incident as a sign its time to turn down the temperature in Wisconsin, it may be the start of a new round of political mudslinging.

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Obama Economic Polling Numbers Hit New Low

Two new polls out today show President Obama is in an increasingly perilous position with voters when it comes to the economy. The first, a McClatchy-Marist poll, has the president hitting a record low on his economic approval rating. Just 37 percent of registered voters approve of how he’s managing the economy, with voters disapproving his handling of the federal deficit by a 2-1 margin.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll found U.S. economic confidence has plummeted by seven percentage points since last month, and is hovering near its 2011 low. Only 31 percent of Americans say the economy is improving, and 45 percent rate the economy as “poor.”

But not all of the numbers indicated trouble for the president. According to McClatchy-Marist, his favorability rating is at a steady 50 percent and his overall approval rating is at 45 percent. Of course, the longer the economic problems drag out, the more likely it is those numbers will start to deteriorate as well — especially once voters are faced with a Republican alternative for 2012. Obama’s polling numbers continue to be highly polarized, with 91 percent of Republicans disapproving of his economic performance, compared to just 31 percent of Democrats. But the president still appears to be losing ground with independents, who disapprove of his handling of the economy by 60 percent. With the economy as the top concern for independent voters, combating this perception is sure to be one of Obama’s biggest challenges as his campaign gets under way.


Two new polls out today show President Obama is in an increasingly perilous position with voters when it comes to the economy. The first, a McClatchy-Marist poll, has the president hitting a record low on his economic approval rating. Just 37 percent of registered voters approve of how he’s managing the economy, with voters disapproving his handling of the federal deficit by a 2-1 margin.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll found U.S. economic confidence has plummeted by seven percentage points since last month, and is hovering near its 2011 low. Only 31 percent of Americans say the economy is improving, and 45 percent rate the economy as “poor.”

But not all of the numbers indicated trouble for the president. According to McClatchy-Marist, his favorability rating is at a steady 50 percent and his overall approval rating is at 45 percent. Of course, the longer the economic problems drag out, the more likely it is those numbers will start to deteriorate as well — especially once voters are faced with a Republican alternative for 2012. Obama’s polling numbers continue to be highly polarized, with 91 percent of Republicans disapproving of his economic performance, compared to just 31 percent of Democrats. But the president still appears to be losing ground with independents, who disapprove of his handling of the economy by 60 percent. With the economy as the top concern for independent voters, combating this perception is sure to be one of Obama’s biggest challenges as his campaign gets under way.


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Iran Flexes Its Muscles With Missile Tests

In recent months, the Obama administration seems to have de-emphasized efforts to create an international coalition aimed at restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions in favor of yet another futile try to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But unfortunately for Washington, Tehran has just reminded its neighbors that they, and not the Americans, are the ones to worry about in the Middle East these days.

As Haaretz  reports today, yesterday Iran unveiled underground silos that house missiles which can hit both Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf. The move, which came as part of war games carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, were clearly aimed at demonstrating the country’s military strength. Iran has flexed its muscles by sending forces to help prop up the regime of its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria and by stepping up arms shipments to both Hezbollah and Hamas, its terrorist surrogates bordering Israel.

But the missile tests, in which surface-to-surface projectiles with a 2,000-kilometer range were fired, show the ultimate threat from Iran is not terrorism but weapons that will provide its burgeoning empire with a nuclear umbrella that will give it impunity to act as it likes.

The purpose of these exercises is not only to prop up the Iranian regime itself but also to reinforce for regional consumption the notion the United States is in retreat while Iran’s influence grows.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is too preoccupied with attempting to force Israel to make concessions in order to entice the Palestinians into peace talks that all sides know can’t succeed to pay much notice to Iran’s provocations. For all of the attention given to “Arab Spring” protests against Arab dictators, the great divide in the region remains between those countries under the influence of Iran and those who are uncomfortable with Tehran’s power. While many in the United States hoped the Stuxnet computer virus would solve the Iranian nuclear problem, it is increasingly obvious it created only a brief delay in Iran’s march towards nuclear capability. Which means sooner or later, President Obama will have to come to grips with the question of whether he will accept a nuclear Iran or not. This week’s missile tests are a reminder that day may not be as far off as he had hoped.

In recent months, the Obama administration seems to have de-emphasized efforts to create an international coalition aimed at restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions in favor of yet another futile try to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But unfortunately for Washington, Tehran has just reminded its neighbors that they, and not the Americans, are the ones to worry about in the Middle East these days.

As Haaretz  reports today, yesterday Iran unveiled underground silos that house missiles which can hit both Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf. The move, which came as part of war games carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, were clearly aimed at demonstrating the country’s military strength. Iran has flexed its muscles by sending forces to help prop up the regime of its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria and by stepping up arms shipments to both Hezbollah and Hamas, its terrorist surrogates bordering Israel.

But the missile tests, in which surface-to-surface projectiles with a 2,000-kilometer range were fired, show the ultimate threat from Iran is not terrorism but weapons that will provide its burgeoning empire with a nuclear umbrella that will give it impunity to act as it likes.

The purpose of these exercises is not only to prop up the Iranian regime itself but also to reinforce for regional consumption the notion the United States is in retreat while Iran’s influence grows.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is too preoccupied with attempting to force Israel to make concessions in order to entice the Palestinians into peace talks that all sides know can’t succeed to pay much notice to Iran’s provocations. For all of the attention given to “Arab Spring” protests against Arab dictators, the great divide in the region remains between those countries under the influence of Iran and those who are uncomfortable with Tehran’s power. While many in the United States hoped the Stuxnet computer virus would solve the Iranian nuclear problem, it is increasingly obvious it created only a brief delay in Iran’s march towards nuclear capability. Which means sooner or later, President Obama will have to come to grips with the question of whether he will accept a nuclear Iran or not. This week’s missile tests are a reminder that day may not be as far off as he had hoped.

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Truth and the Modern American University

An article by Nathan Bloom and Phyllis Chessler published yesterday on FrontPageMag.com highlights the absurd hypocrisy that characterizes academic debate over Jew-hatred.

Bloom and Chessler focus on the release on June 23 of an “Islamophobia” report co-sponsored by Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). That release date happened to coincide with Yale’s strange flip-flop on its anti-Semitism program, providing an unusually stark juxtaposition that tells us a great deal about the ideological assumptions of those who man the watchtowers of the current American university.

The ostensible reason for the Yale anti-Semitism program’s closure was a failure to “meet high standards for research and instruction,” but not even anti-Israelist blogs like Mondoweiss bought that as an explanation. The explanation became, instead, that the original “Initiative”  (YIISA) was too focused on “advocacy” as opposed to “scholarship.” Since some of the presentations at YIISA’s conferences moved from dispassionate analysis of Jew-hatred to a consideration of what actually should be done about it, a holy intellectual line had been crossed. The program’s death and rebirth seems to have been, in the end, a successful effort to remove Charles Small from its leadership, thereby hopefully avoiding all that unseemly advocacy. Read More

An article by Nathan Bloom and Phyllis Chessler published yesterday on FrontPageMag.com highlights the absurd hypocrisy that characterizes academic debate over Jew-hatred.

Bloom and Chessler focus on the release on June 23 of an “Islamophobia” report co-sponsored by Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). That release date happened to coincide with Yale’s strange flip-flop on its anti-Semitism program, providing an unusually stark juxtaposition that tells us a great deal about the ideological assumptions of those who man the watchtowers of the current American university.

The ostensible reason for the Yale anti-Semitism program’s closure was a failure to “meet high standards for research and instruction,” but not even anti-Israelist blogs like Mondoweiss bought that as an explanation. The explanation became, instead, that the original “Initiative”  (YIISA) was too focused on “advocacy” as opposed to “scholarship.” Since some of the presentations at YIISA’s conferences moved from dispassionate analysis of Jew-hatred to a consideration of what actually should be done about it, a holy intellectual line had been crossed. The program’s death and rebirth seems to have been, in the end, a successful effort to remove Charles Small from its leadership, thereby hopefully avoiding all that unseemly advocacy.

Which brings us back to the “Islamophobia” report. It’s worth noting – because it doesn’t get said nearly often enough – that CAIR was founded by the Islamic Association for Palestine, a group the ADL calls“a Hamas-affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization.” Leaving all that to the side, CAIR says itself that its “vision” is to be “a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” Yet such blatant advocacy does not prevent an “interdisciplinary research center” at Berkeley from plastering its name on, promoting on its website, and sending its director to CAIR headquarters in Washington, D.C., to help announce the release of a report authored, save for sections on the Ground Zero mosque and the 2010 election, by CAIR itself.

The hard truth is the humanities departments of the American university have been effectively transformed away from centers of scholarship and into centers for ideological advocacy for at least a generation now. Those who guard its prerogatives do not guard intellectual purity but the perpetuation of an intellectual monoculture that stifles the free inquiry of students and faculty alike, setting rigid boundaries around what can and cannot be thought.

Instead of confronting this reality honestly, brave academic advocates like Deborah Lipstadt nevertheless go on shoveling the argument that YIISA essentially has itself to blame for its closure, since it didn’t watch the advocacy/scholarship line closely enough. As a tactical argument (in the sense that if we want to change the university we must acknowledge that stern power is held there by our adversaries and therefore we must tread carefully) it is fine as far as it goes. But in demanding Jews hold themselves to a standard perpetually ignored by everyone else in the interest of principle alone, Lipstadt and others are arguing in favor of Jewish weakness and not much else.   

To fight effectively for truth in the modern American university, we need to acknowledge honestly where we are. Only then will we be able to discern how to get to where we need to go.


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Bachmann’s History Lessons

Michele Bachmann needs to understand that along with her new mainstream contender status will come not only increased scrutiny from the press but a willingness of many in the Fourth Estate to directly challenge her on even minor details of her statements. Today on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos attempted to draw blood from the Republican presidential candidate when he asked her whether she was standing by a previous statement in which she claimed America’s founding fathers had “worked tirelessly to end slavery.”

In response, Bachmann cited the career of John Quincy Adams. Stephanopoulos replied that he wasn’t a founding father but the son of one, but Bachmann didn’t back down.

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Michele Bachmann needs to understand that along with her new mainstream contender status will come not only increased scrutiny from the press but a willingness of many in the Fourth Estate to directly challenge her on even minor details of her statements. Today on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos attempted to draw blood from the Republican presidential candidate when he asked her whether she was standing by a previous statement in which she claimed America’s founding fathers had “worked tirelessly to end slavery.”

In response, Bachmann cited the career of John Quincy Adams. Stephanopoulos replied that he wasn’t a founding father but the son of one, but Bachmann didn’t back down.

The question of whether J.Q. Adams should be considered a “founding father” is something of a hair-splitter. He was the son of one of our undoubted founding fathers, John Adams, but belongs more to the second generation of American leaders rather than the first. To her credit, Bachmann knew enough history to cite the fact the younger Adams was his father’s secretary during his diplomatic missions in Europe during the Revolutionary War and even struck out on his own while still a teenager as a key member of a U.S. delegation to Russia during that conflict.  And he was a life-long opponent of slavery.

However, if the point of this exchange is to try and nail Bachmann on a gaffe, the debate about Adams is beside the point. Certainly many of the people we would all agree are founders were not against slavery, let alone worked to end it. Some, like Jefferson, acknowledged that slavery was evil but, to their everlasting shame, did nothing to eradicate it in large part because their own livelihoods were dependent on their “human property.”

But, though the examples of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others stand as rebuke to Bachmann’s attempt to pretty up our history, there were some undoubted founders who do fit into her definition. The two most prominent were Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, both of whom helped found anti-slavery groups.

If you’re keeping score here, give Bachmann a minus for implying all founders were anti-slavery. Give her pass for her citation of John Quincy Adams, an early opponent of slavery but not really a founder and a plus for actually knowing all about his career. And give her a minus for failing to mention the actual founders who were against slavery. Give Stephanopoulos a plus for knowing all founders were not anti-slavery and for being knowledgeable about J.Q. Adams but a minus for implying none of the founders were against slavery.

Now that we’ve cleared this up, here are a few points more germane to the 2012 presidential election.

First, Michele Bachmann has to understand minor mistakes like this one will always be blown out of proportion because she is a) a presidential candidate; b) a Republican; and c) a female Republican. While she has generally handled the fallout from these clunkers with humor and grace, at some point she has to stop making them if she’s going to win the GOP nomination.

Second, those Republicans as well as those in media who hope these stories help reinforce Bachmann’s image as, to use Chris Wallace’s phrase, a “flake” and will ultimately sink her candidacy, are whistling into the wind. Bachmann may be gaffe-prone, but voters are unlikely to hold it too much against an otherwise personable, smart and articulate woman. Neither the John Wayne nor the John Quincy Adams comments are going to kill her candidacy. Like it or not, she’s here to stay in this race.

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Some People Never Learn

I honestly thought even fools should realize by now Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has no interest whatever in reform, peace, democracy, or anything else we’d like to see over there. Representative Dennis Kucinich, though, recently set out on “a fact-finding mission to Syria” and Lebanon where he hopes he’ll be able to help. No doubt he’ll be greeted warmly by everybody, including by Assad and his people, and he’ll come away feeling better than he did before he went there.

“Peace is a conscious, active pursuit that requires work and communication,” he said. Well, yes. That’s true. And since a predator like Assad has no interest in peace with either Arabs or Jews, he won’t do any of the work necessary to achieve it. He will continue murdering Syrians until they either kill or expel him, or until he’s killed enough of them that they finally stand down. Then we’ll have peace. It won’t come a day earlier.

You don’t have to visit Beirut or Damascus to figure this out, and Kucinich likely won’t figure it out even after he’s back from Beirut and Damascus.

I’m almost willing to write his trip off as a harmless yet useless comic diversion, but there’s a tiny chance Assad might end up fleeing Syria if he comes to believe the entire world is gearing up to smash him if he refuses. Kucinich would have a better chance at success if he told Assad, “you’re next after Qaddafi,” but he’s Dennis Kucinich (a man the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart once referred to as “a small woodland creature”), so he won’t.

I honestly thought even fools should realize by now Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has no interest whatever in reform, peace, democracy, or anything else we’d like to see over there. Representative Dennis Kucinich, though, recently set out on “a fact-finding mission to Syria” and Lebanon where he hopes he’ll be able to help. No doubt he’ll be greeted warmly by everybody, including by Assad and his people, and he’ll come away feeling better than he did before he went there.

“Peace is a conscious, active pursuit that requires work and communication,” he said. Well, yes. That’s true. And since a predator like Assad has no interest in peace with either Arabs or Jews, he won’t do any of the work necessary to achieve it. He will continue murdering Syrians until they either kill or expel him, or until he’s killed enough of them that they finally stand down. Then we’ll have peace. It won’t come a day earlier.

You don’t have to visit Beirut or Damascus to figure this out, and Kucinich likely won’t figure it out even after he’s back from Beirut and Damascus.

I’m almost willing to write his trip off as a harmless yet useless comic diversion, but there’s a tiny chance Assad might end up fleeing Syria if he comes to believe the entire world is gearing up to smash him if he refuses. Kucinich would have a better chance at success if he told Assad, “you’re next after Qaddafi,” but he’s Dennis Kucinich (a man the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart once referred to as “a small woodland creature”), so he won’t.

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Kudos to Pawlenty for Standing on Principle

I have been complaining that too many Republicans seem eager to run away from their party’s proud legacy of being strong on national security policy. But there are some notable exceptions, including presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. As Jonathan noted earlier, today he gave an outstanding address at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York about how the U.S. should deal with the revolutions sweeping the Middle East. 

He laid out a compelling approach for adhering to our pro-democracy principles while also being aware of the need to take on-the-ground realities into account in their implementation. He staked out a strongly pro-Israel position and backed reform in moderate monarchies such as Jordan and Morocco while issuing an unwavering call for regime change in Syria and Iran.

He tore into President Obama for failing “to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events”—and into “parts of the Republican Party,” which “now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments. “ His best line: “America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal.  It does not need a second one.”

Of course any politician can deliver a good speech. But Pawlenty showed in the question and answer session that he understood what he was talking about. Several times he was asked what we should do when democracy is likely to bring a more anti-American regime into power. He deftly parried by arguing—rightly—that in the case of countries like Egypt simply supporting the status quo is not tenable; far better to push for change in the right direction.

Kudos to Pawlenty for standing on principle. He is standing up for his party’s best tradition, which is represented by Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan—not Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. Not only is this good policy, but it should be good politics too. He is differentiating himself from the horde of poll-followers in today’s GOP leadership ranks.


I have been complaining that too many Republicans seem eager to run away from their party’s proud legacy of being strong on national security policy. But there are some notable exceptions, including presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. As Jonathan noted earlier, today he gave an outstanding address at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York about how the U.S. should deal with the revolutions sweeping the Middle East. 

He laid out a compelling approach for adhering to our pro-democracy principles while also being aware of the need to take on-the-ground realities into account in their implementation. He staked out a strongly pro-Israel position and backed reform in moderate monarchies such as Jordan and Morocco while issuing an unwavering call for regime change in Syria and Iran.

He tore into President Obama for failing “to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events”—and into “parts of the Republican Party,” which “now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments. “ His best line: “America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal.  It does not need a second one.”

Of course any politician can deliver a good speech. But Pawlenty showed in the question and answer session that he understood what he was talking about. Several times he was asked what we should do when democracy is likely to bring a more anti-American regime into power. He deftly parried by arguing—rightly—that in the case of countries like Egypt simply supporting the status quo is not tenable; far better to push for change in the right direction.

Kudos to Pawlenty for standing on principle. He is standing up for his party’s best tradition, which is represented by Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan—not Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. Not only is this good policy, but it should be good politics too. He is differentiating himself from the horde of poll-followers in today’s GOP leadership ranks.


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The Most Serious Candidate on Foreign Policy

Tim Pawlenty has had a rough month, but though his campaign has faltered recently, he can still lay claim to having the most serious approach to foreign policy of any of the Republican presidential contenders. Pawlenty is delivering a major speech on foreign policy this morning to the Council on Foreign Relations in which he is not only laying out the failures of the Obama administration but confronting those elements in his own party that are undermining support for a strong American role in world affairs:

What is wrong is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world. History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item. America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal; it does not need a second one.

While most of his competitors in the GOP field have confined their remarks on foreign policy to sniping at the Libyan intervention or waffling on the U.S. commitment to the war in Afghanistan, Pawlenty is also taking on the president for his abysmal handling of the Middle East. In particular, he calls Obama to account for not only a “timid” approach to the movement for democracy in the Arab world but also for the administration’s increasingly hostile attitude toward Israel. He also lambasted Obama for wasting the first year of his presidency attempting to “engage” the ayatollahs of Iran.

While the GOP field has understandably concentrated its fire on the president’s mismanagement of the economy as well as the stimulus boondoggle and the massive expansion of government entitlements via Obamacare, it is high time one of the mainstream candidates began addressing what will remain the primary responsibility of any president: foreign policy.

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Tim Pawlenty has had a rough month, but though his campaign has faltered recently, he can still lay claim to having the most serious approach to foreign policy of any of the Republican presidential contenders. Pawlenty is delivering a major speech on foreign policy this morning to the Council on Foreign Relations in which he is not only laying out the failures of the Obama administration but confronting those elements in his own party that are undermining support for a strong American role in world affairs:

What is wrong is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world. History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item. America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal; it does not need a second one.

While most of his competitors in the GOP field have confined their remarks on foreign policy to sniping at the Libyan intervention or waffling on the U.S. commitment to the war in Afghanistan, Pawlenty is also taking on the president for his abysmal handling of the Middle East. In particular, he calls Obama to account for not only a “timid” approach to the movement for democracy in the Arab world but also for the administration’s increasingly hostile attitude toward Israel. He also lambasted Obama for wasting the first year of his presidency attempting to “engage” the ayatollahs of Iran.

While the GOP field has understandably concentrated its fire on the president’s mismanagement of the economy as well as the stimulus boondoggle and the massive expansion of government entitlements via Obamacare, it is high time one of the mainstream candidates began addressing what will remain the primary responsibility of any president: foreign policy.

Though he has spent his political career in Minnesota rather than in Washington, Pawlenty brings to the race the most coherent approach to security and defense issues of any of the major contenders. Pawlenty seems to have a firm grasp of not only America’s place in the world but the need for a strong foreign policy that will strengthen U.S. allies and discomfit its foes.

Rather than running to the left of the president as Jon Huntsman has done with his call for a speedier bug out of Afghanistan or waffling on major foreign policy issues as Romney has done, Pawlenty has brought forth a consistent and informed approach. Other Republican candidates are acting as if their party’s voters no longer support a strong defense or a policy of bringing the fight to our foes rather than sitting back and waiting for the next disaster. By contrast, Pawlenty is striking an aggressive note that ought to resonate with GOP voters.

The economy will be the main point of contention in 2012, but it is not the only one. By prioritizing support for Israel (and to oppose Obama’s pressure on the Jewish state) as well as by his focus on Iran, Pawlenty is staking out a position as the most serious candidate on foreign policy. That alone won’t save a campaign that has so far failed to catch fire. But his stance on security issues does provide Pawlenty with a solid rationale for his presidential ambitions and a platform from which he can begin his comeback.

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News Coverage of Bachmann Gaffe is Trivial

Here is NBC News’ coverage of Michele Bachmann’s presidential announcement. It focuses on her most recent gaffe, claiming the actor John Wayne was born in Waterloo instead of Winterset. (it turns out the serial killer John Wayne Gacy is from Waterloo.

This mistake has become the narrative when it comes to coverage of Representative Bachmann’s announcement, and it’s quite stupid. (NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell also helpfully informs us when Bachmann left the stage in Iowa, her campaign played the Tom Petty song “American Girl,” and Petty’s manager says he will ask the Bachmann campaign not to use that song.)

You don’t have to be a huge fan of Bachmann to see how trivial this all is. We’re constantly told how few and precious the minutes on the eventing news programs are, and then we are lectured by journalists like NBC’s Brian Williams about how lamentable the state of American political discourse is, how it focuses on the ephemeral and unimportant, and how we should concentrate on substance and the complexity of real issues. And then they produce a shallow piece like this.

I’m reminded of the words of St. Augustine: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”  The motto of many in the modern-day media is, “Lord, make us serious, but not yet.”


Here is NBC News’ coverage of Michele Bachmann’s presidential announcement. It focuses on her most recent gaffe, claiming the actor John Wayne was born in Waterloo instead of Winterset. (it turns out the serial killer John Wayne Gacy is from Waterloo.

This mistake has become the narrative when it comes to coverage of Representative Bachmann’s announcement, and it’s quite stupid. (NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell also helpfully informs us when Bachmann left the stage in Iowa, her campaign played the Tom Petty song “American Girl,” and Petty’s manager says he will ask the Bachmann campaign not to use that song.)

You don’t have to be a huge fan of Bachmann to see how trivial this all is. We’re constantly told how few and precious the minutes on the eventing news programs are, and then we are lectured by journalists like NBC’s Brian Williams about how lamentable the state of American political discourse is, how it focuses on the ephemeral and unimportant, and how we should concentrate on substance and the complexity of real issues. And then they produce a shallow piece like this.

I’m reminded of the words of St. Augustine: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”  The motto of many in the modern-day media is, “Lord, make us serious, but not yet.”


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The Obama Doctrine Defined

In “The Obama Doctrine Defined,” the lead article from the July/August issue of COMMENTARY, Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey examine the motivations and methods behind Barack Obama’s dogged effort to constrain American power around the globe:

The words “vacillating” and “aimless” are commonly used by both left and right to describe President Barack Obama’s approach to the Libya war. His political friends and foes alike lament that he has no clear goal in Libya—and that, by failing to articulate one, he is revealing his unease at having been dragged into the fight to oust the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia issued a press release on March 21, 2011, noting that the U.S. mission in Libya “lacks clarity.” Former Republican Senator Slade Gorton wrote in the Washington Post: “We should never enter a war halfway and with an indecisive goal. Regrettably, that is where we stand today.”

The criticism has some validity, but it misses an important point: the administration’s approach has logic and coherence in the service of strategic considerations that extend far beyond Libya.

Since his campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama has declared that he wants to transform America’s role in world affairs. And now,in the third year of his term, we can see how he is bringing about that transformation. The United States under Barack Obama is less assertive, less dominant, less power-minded, less focused on the American people’s particular interests, and less concerned about preserving U.S. freedom of action.

Read the rest here.

In “The Obama Doctrine Defined,” the lead article from the July/August issue of COMMENTARY, Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey examine the motivations and methods behind Barack Obama’s dogged effort to constrain American power around the globe:

The words “vacillating” and “aimless” are commonly used by both left and right to describe President Barack Obama’s approach to the Libya war. His political friends and foes alike lament that he has no clear goal in Libya—and that, by failing to articulate one, he is revealing his unease at having been dragged into the fight to oust the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia issued a press release on March 21, 2011, noting that the U.S. mission in Libya “lacks clarity.” Former Republican Senator Slade Gorton wrote in the Washington Post: “We should never enter a war halfway and with an indecisive goal. Regrettably, that is where we stand today.”

The criticism has some validity, but it misses an important point: the administration’s approach has logic and coherence in the service of strategic considerations that extend far beyond Libya.

Since his campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama has declared that he wants to transform America’s role in world affairs. And now,in the third year of his term, we can see how he is bringing about that transformation. The United States under Barack Obama is less assertive, less dominant, less power-minded, less focused on the American people’s particular interests, and less concerned about preserving U.S. freedom of action.

Read the rest here.

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What Purpose do Arrest Warrants for Qaddafi Serve?

Supposedly, when in 1832 the Supreme Court issued a ruling he disagreed with, President Andrew Jackson said: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” I thought of that (apocryphal) quotation after the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Muammar Qaddafi, his son, and his military intelligence chief.

I have no doubt this trio are guilty of all the crimes with which they are charged—and many more. But what purpose does it serve now to issue these indictments? Is the ICC planning to send an army of international lawyers to Tripoli to arrest Qaddafi and bring him back for trial in the Hague? 

The Sudan precedent is hardly encouraging in this regard: In 2005 the ICC indicted Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. Bashir remains very much at liberty, still running his country and even preparing for a visit to China.  It is hard to know whether such empty indictments help or hurt the cause of justice. Perhaps they help to isolate Qaddafi and Bashir, but they also make these tyrants more intransigent about remaining in power. They know if they step down they are more likely to wind up in a prison cell than in a villa on the Riviera.

I don’t have any problem with the existence of the ICC but, like any other prosecutor, it needs to be reviewed by responsible political authorities to make sure its actions are not only lawful but advisable.  There is, however, no mechanism for political review built into the ICC, and it is hard to discern any real strategy behind its indictments. All of this risks making the ICC a laughing-stock.

As I’ve argued before, there needs to be a mechanism for the UN Security Council to grant immunity from prosecution when it’s warranted. In the case of Libya, a grant of immunity could be just the ticket to convince Qaddafi to leave power. Failing that, he is likely to fight to the death, taking more lives with him to the grave.


Supposedly, when in 1832 the Supreme Court issued a ruling he disagreed with, President Andrew Jackson said: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” I thought of that (apocryphal) quotation after the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Muammar Qaddafi, his son, and his military intelligence chief.

I have no doubt this trio are guilty of all the crimes with which they are charged—and many more. But what purpose does it serve now to issue these indictments? Is the ICC planning to send an army of international lawyers to Tripoli to arrest Qaddafi and bring him back for trial in the Hague? 

The Sudan precedent is hardly encouraging in this regard: In 2005 the ICC indicted Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. Bashir remains very much at liberty, still running his country and even preparing for a visit to China.  It is hard to know whether such empty indictments help or hurt the cause of justice. Perhaps they help to isolate Qaddafi and Bashir, but they also make these tyrants more intransigent about remaining in power. They know if they step down they are more likely to wind up in a prison cell than in a villa on the Riviera.

I don’t have any problem with the existence of the ICC but, like any other prosecutor, it needs to be reviewed by responsible political authorities to make sure its actions are not only lawful but advisable.  There is, however, no mechanism for political review built into the ICC, and it is hard to discern any real strategy behind its indictments. All of this risks making the ICC a laughing-stock.

As I’ve argued before, there needs to be a mechanism for the UN Security Council to grant immunity from prosecution when it’s warranted. In the case of Libya, a grant of immunity could be just the ticket to convince Qaddafi to leave power. Failing that, he is likely to fight to the death, taking more lives with him to the grave.


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More Jewish Donor Trouble for Obama

The White House has been trying to downplay the news it’s been having trouble with pro-Israel donors recently. But the Washington Post reports today the administration is still attempting to placate key Jewish supporters after President Obama’s controversial 1967 border comments:

In one case this month, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spent an hour visiting a major pro-Israel donor identified by the campaign as a potential financial supporter. …

In her meeting with the pro-Israel supporter, Jarrett listened as the donor expressed dissatisfaction with the White House’s approach to the Middle East. The donor remained on the fence after their discussion but later said the meeting left an impression.

“She’s got very limited time, so I should see it as meaningful, right?” said the donor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation. “You don’t get a visit every day from the White House’s senior adviser.”

Probably the most amazing part of this story is the White House actually sent Valerie Jarrett to try to convince this Jewish donor of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides. Was Zbigniew Brzezinski not available that day?

But the rest of the Post article is worth reading as well, especially since it also touches on the president’s problems with the business and gay donor community. From the sound of it, the Obama administration hasn’t done nearly enough donor upkeep since his last campaign and is hastily trying to play catch-up. One prominent business donor even told the Post the president’s attempts to reach out to the community felt like a rushed courtship, and added, ”It’s not a friendly relationship.”

The White House has been trying to downplay the news it’s been having trouble with pro-Israel donors recently. But the Washington Post reports today the administration is still attempting to placate key Jewish supporters after President Obama’s controversial 1967 border comments:

In one case this month, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spent an hour visiting a major pro-Israel donor identified by the campaign as a potential financial supporter. …

In her meeting with the pro-Israel supporter, Jarrett listened as the donor expressed dissatisfaction with the White House’s approach to the Middle East. The donor remained on the fence after their discussion but later said the meeting left an impression.

“She’s got very limited time, so I should see it as meaningful, right?” said the donor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation. “You don’t get a visit every day from the White House’s senior adviser.”

Probably the most amazing part of this story is the White House actually sent Valerie Jarrett to try to convince this Jewish donor of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides. Was Zbigniew Brzezinski not available that day?

But the rest of the Post article is worth reading as well, especially since it also touches on the president’s problems with the business and gay donor community. From the sound of it, the Obama administration hasn’t done nearly enough donor upkeep since his last campaign and is hastily trying to play catch-up. One prominent business donor even told the Post the president’s attempts to reach out to the community felt like a rushed courtship, and added, ”It’s not a friendly relationship.”

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Reconciling May 19, May 20 and May 22

The State Department says the Quartet held a “good meeting” Friday — they issued no statement at the end, but began “a conversation about when they’re going to meet next.” Perhaps the Quartet is having trouble reconciling its May 20 statement, supporting President Obama’s “May 19 vision,” with the President’s May 22 speech that modified it. The Quartet – like the State Department – may be unclear how the two presidential speeches relate.     

Maybe we can help — by combining the May 22 restatement of the May 19 vision with the general principles of the Quartet’s May 20 statement. On May 22, the President specified what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means: 

By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 … to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years … including the new demographic realities on the ground … The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. 

So the vision is mutual recognition of “two states for two peoples” with a border that accounts for the new demographic realities on the ground. Combine that with the May 20 Quartet statement calling for “direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions,” and add — since the Quartet reiterated its “previous statements and principles” — the principle repeated over and over and over,  unilateral actions will not be recognized by the international community.

Finally, add the principle borders must be “defensible” — as the Clinton and Bush administrations (and Obama himself in his let-me-be-clear 2008 AIPAC address) formally assured Israel. No need to reference the 1967 lines, since no one considers them defensible, and the new border – as the President helpfully clarified – will necessarily be different.

So here is a draft of the next Quartet statement, harmonizing all of the above:

The Quartet supports President Obama’s vision of “two states for two peoples,” to be mutually recognized in direct bilateral negotiations conducted without preconditions, accounting for demographic realities on the ground and establishing defensible borders. The Quartet will not recognize any unilateral attempt to establish different borders in a different forum.

The Palestinians will not endorse such a statement, because they will not: (1) agree to two states “for two peoples” (which implicitly rejects a “right of return”); (2) negotiate without preconditions; (3) recognize demographic realities on the ground; (4) endorse defensible borders; or (5) stop their unilateral effort to establish different borders via the UN. But at least the statement would help identify the actual “obstacles to peace.”

The State Department says the Quartet held a “good meeting” Friday — they issued no statement at the end, but began “a conversation about when they’re going to meet next.” Perhaps the Quartet is having trouble reconciling its May 20 statement, supporting President Obama’s “May 19 vision,” with the President’s May 22 speech that modified it. The Quartet – like the State Department – may be unclear how the two presidential speeches relate.     

Maybe we can help — by combining the May 22 restatement of the May 19 vision with the general principles of the Quartet’s May 20 statement. On May 22, the President specified what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means: 

By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 … to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years … including the new demographic realities on the ground … The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. 

So the vision is mutual recognition of “two states for two peoples” with a border that accounts for the new demographic realities on the ground. Combine that with the May 20 Quartet statement calling for “direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions,” and add — since the Quartet reiterated its “previous statements and principles” — the principle repeated over and over and over,  unilateral actions will not be recognized by the international community.

Finally, add the principle borders must be “defensible” — as the Clinton and Bush administrations (and Obama himself in his let-me-be-clear 2008 AIPAC address) formally assured Israel. No need to reference the 1967 lines, since no one considers them defensible, and the new border – as the President helpfully clarified – will necessarily be different.

So here is a draft of the next Quartet statement, harmonizing all of the above:

The Quartet supports President Obama’s vision of “two states for two peoples,” to be mutually recognized in direct bilateral negotiations conducted without preconditions, accounting for demographic realities on the ground and establishing defensible borders. The Quartet will not recognize any unilateral attempt to establish different borders in a different forum.

The Palestinians will not endorse such a statement, because they will not: (1) agree to two states “for two peoples” (which implicitly rejects a “right of return”); (2) negotiate without preconditions; (3) recognize demographic realities on the ground; (4) endorse defensible borders; or (5) stop their unilateral effort to establish different borders via the UN. But at least the statement would help identify the actual “obstacles to peace.”

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Republicans Wavering on Defense Spending?

It has taken Republicans decades to acquire a reputation as the party voters trust to defend the country. Now they seem intent on frittering it away within days.

It is by no means a natural the GOP  would be known as the “strong on defense” party, given its isolationism in the 1920s-30s. The Democrats looked tough when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were winning World War II and laying the foundations to win the Cold War. But then came the Vietnam War. Having gotten America into the war (with Republican support), Democrats had turned against the conflict by 1968. At the time it seemed like a smart move because the Vietnam War was so unpopular. But, followed as it was by Jimmy Carter’s invertebrate presidency, the Democratic conversion to dovishness did incalculable damage to the party. It made it impossible to elect another Democrat until after the end of the Cold War, and that was a fairly conservative Southerner. Yet Republicans continued to enjoy an advantage on national security affairs—one that was solidified by President George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.

How much longer will that reputation last, however, when so many House Republicans are voting to defund, or at least not support, the conflict in Libya designed to bring down a homicidal dictator? How long will it last when so many Republicans are hesitating to speak out strongly in favor of the strategy our best general has formulated to win the war in Afghanistan? And how much longer will it last when so many Republicans appear eager—as the Washington Post reports–to sacrifice our armed forces on the green eyeshade altar?  The Post quotes one freshman Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, as follows:

Defense spending is “a pillar of Republican strength. It’s a pillar of national strength. Look, I know there are sacred cows,” Kinzinger said in an interview. “But we cannot afford them anymore.”

 We cannot afford defense spending? Really?

I would reply we can’t afford not to spend adequately on defense. Whenever we have made that mistake in the past—after the Mexican War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf  War—we have paid a heavy cost in squandered lives and lost treasure.

Today, defense spending is hardly the cause of our budget woes; the core defense budget (excluding emergency appropriations for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) is as low as it has ever been as a percentage of GDP and of the federal budget. (Less than 4 percent and less than 20 percent, respectively). The notion we are going bankrupt because of defense spending is, quite simply, intellectually bankrupt. And if Republicans choose to embrace this erroneous assumption, it will be a sign of their political, intellectual, and moral bankruptcy, because they will be needlessly sacrificing their party’s most enduring advantage.


It has taken Republicans decades to acquire a reputation as the party voters trust to defend the country. Now they seem intent on frittering it away within days.

It is by no means a natural the GOP  would be known as the “strong on defense” party, given its isolationism in the 1920s-30s. The Democrats looked tough when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were winning World War II and laying the foundations to win the Cold War. But then came the Vietnam War. Having gotten America into the war (with Republican support), Democrats had turned against the conflict by 1968. At the time it seemed like a smart move because the Vietnam War was so unpopular. But, followed as it was by Jimmy Carter’s invertebrate presidency, the Democratic conversion to dovishness did incalculable damage to the party. It made it impossible to elect another Democrat until after the end of the Cold War, and that was a fairly conservative Southerner. Yet Republicans continued to enjoy an advantage on national security affairs—one that was solidified by President George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11.

How much longer will that reputation last, however, when so many House Republicans are voting to defund, or at least not support, the conflict in Libya designed to bring down a homicidal dictator? How long will it last when so many Republicans are hesitating to speak out strongly in favor of the strategy our best general has formulated to win the war in Afghanistan? And how much longer will it last when so many Republicans appear eager—as the Washington Post reports–to sacrifice our armed forces on the green eyeshade altar?  The Post quotes one freshman Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, as follows:

Defense spending is “a pillar of Republican strength. It’s a pillar of national strength. Look, I know there are sacred cows,” Kinzinger said in an interview. “But we cannot afford them anymore.”

 We cannot afford defense spending? Really?

I would reply we can’t afford not to spend adequately on defense. Whenever we have made that mistake in the past—after the Mexican War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf  War—we have paid a heavy cost in squandered lives and lost treasure.

Today, defense spending is hardly the cause of our budget woes; the core defense budget (excluding emergency appropriations for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) is as low as it has ever been as a percentage of GDP and of the federal budget. (Less than 4 percent and less than 20 percent, respectively). The notion we are going bankrupt because of defense spending is, quite simply, intellectually bankrupt. And if Republicans choose to embrace this erroneous assumption, it will be a sign of their political, intellectual, and moral bankruptcy, because they will be needlessly sacrificing their party’s most enduring advantage.


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Why is Dennis Kucinich Shilling for the Syrian Crackdown?

If ever there was a story that demonstrated either how the American anti-war left has lost its moral compass, it is this piece from Syria’s official news agency. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is in Syria with a conservative British MP to speak out about how Syria’s stability under Assad remains a key American interest.

If there was ever an example of just how engagement provides a propaganda victory for dictators and sullies America’s image, this is it. I didn’t believe anyone could top former Senator Arlen Specter or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on their counterproductive embrace of Assad, but Kucinich proves me wrong.

If ever there was a story that demonstrated either how the American anti-war left has lost its moral compass, it is this piece from Syria’s official news agency. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is in Syria with a conservative British MP to speak out about how Syria’s stability under Assad remains a key American interest.

If there was ever an example of just how engagement provides a propaganda victory for dictators and sullies America’s image, this is it. I didn’t believe anyone could top former Senator Arlen Specter or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on their counterproductive embrace of Assad, but Kucinich proves me wrong.

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No Need for Bachmann to Accept Chris Wallace’s Apology

As Jonathan wrote earlier, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has apologized for asking Rep. Michele Bachmann if she was a “flake” during an interview yesterday. But so far, Bachmann hasn’t accepted the apology. And she shouldn’t. Wallace’s apology is unnecessary. The anchor didn’t appear to mean any offense when he leveled the “flake” question at the candidate – and by answering it the way she did, Bachmann proved she has the tenacity and poise to withstand confrontational questioning.

Wallace’s question was important for two reasons. The first was it gave Bachmann an opportunity to respond to the claims of her critics. But more significantly, it gave the public a chance to see how she responds when she’s pushed out of her comfort zone. In both respects, Bachmann fared very well.

The presidential hopeful is in a position right now where she can play the role of the media bias victim. But she could potentially gain even more respect by refusing to act wounded. It would be great to see her laugh off the incident, and dismiss it as the usual scrutiny that comes with being a leading Republican presidential candidate.

And it would be even better to see Wallace and other reporters use this line of questioning with other politicians. Why not ask President Obama whether he’s a thin-skinned egotist? Or ask Nancy Pelosi whether she’s a conniving ideologue? A lot of people would probably be interested in their reactions. And it would sure beat the typical Sunday morning interview questions that tend to elicit the predictable canned responses from lawmakers.

As Jonathan wrote earlier, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has apologized for asking Rep. Michele Bachmann if she was a “flake” during an interview yesterday. But so far, Bachmann hasn’t accepted the apology. And she shouldn’t. Wallace’s apology is unnecessary. The anchor didn’t appear to mean any offense when he leveled the “flake” question at the candidate – and by answering it the way she did, Bachmann proved she has the tenacity and poise to withstand confrontational questioning.

Wallace’s question was important for two reasons. The first was it gave Bachmann an opportunity to respond to the claims of her critics. But more significantly, it gave the public a chance to see how she responds when she’s pushed out of her comfort zone. In both respects, Bachmann fared very well.

The presidential hopeful is in a position right now where she can play the role of the media bias victim. But she could potentially gain even more respect by refusing to act wounded. It would be great to see her laugh off the incident, and dismiss it as the usual scrutiny that comes with being a leading Republican presidential candidate.

And it would be even better to see Wallace and other reporters use this line of questioning with other politicians. Why not ask President Obama whether he’s a thin-skinned egotist? Or ask Nancy Pelosi whether she’s a conniving ideologue? A lot of people would probably be interested in their reactions. And it would sure beat the typical Sunday morning interview questions that tend to elicit the predictable canned responses from lawmakers.

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