Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 11, 2011

Live Blog — The Iowa GOP Debate

Who won the debate?

First, Mitt Romney because he managed to go two hours with no one really laying a glove on him which means that he keeps his frontrunner status. Pawlenty had the most to lose and he lost most of it. Spending the first hour of the debate playing an attack dog may have seemed like a good idea but he sounded awful doing it. Michele Bachmann slaughtered him and lost no ground by standing on her principles, even when she was clearly wrong as on the debt ceiling. But she seemed to wear down over the course of the two hours. Rick Santorum scored points but he’s so hopelessly behind it doesn’t make any difference. The same goes for Newt Gingrich.

The bottom line. Romney stays on top. Bachmann still in a strong position. Pawlenty looks to be finished.

And Rick Perry seems poised to join the frontrunners on Saturday.

Read More

Who won the debate?

First, Mitt Romney because he managed to go two hours with no one really laying a glove on him which means that he keeps his frontrunner status. Pawlenty had the most to lose and he lost most of it. Spending the first hour of the debate playing an attack dog may have seemed like a good idea but he sounded awful doing it. Michele Bachmann slaughtered him and lost no ground by standing on her principles, even when she was clearly wrong as on the debt ceiling. But she seemed to wear down over the course of the two hours. Rick Santorum scored points but he’s so hopelessly behind it doesn’t make any difference. The same goes for Newt Gingrich.

The bottom line. Romney stays on top. Bachmann still in a strong position. Pawlenty looks to be finished.

And Rick Perry seems poised to join the frontrunners on Saturday.

***

Romney stays on message with support for capitalism. Bachmann does the same by focusing on defeating Obama and getting people to come to the straw poll to vote for her. Pawlenty speaks of freedom and, thankfully, says nothing about Bachmann.

***

Okay, give some credit to Huntsman for supporting the Boehner plan on the debt ceiling.

***

Oddly enough, a candidate who has no chance has scored the most points in the second half of the debate: Rick Santorum.

***

Give some credit to Rick Santorum for noting that Bachmann’s opposition to raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances is “showmanship, not leadership. Not what the Tea Party wants to hear but he’s right.

***

The question about the Fed is catnip for Paul even if no one other than the libertarians in attendance care much about it.

***

Bachmann still claims the credit downgrade means she was proven right for opposing raising the debt ceiling. It makes no sense but no one, not even Pawlenty, will challenge her on this.

***

Huntsman’s experience creating jobs in China for his daddy’s company is a weak argument for both his own leadership and his stewardship of the economy.

***

Mitt Romney makes some sense about unemployment insurance and the foolishness of endless extensions of benefits.

***

Is Pawlenty really the most pro-life? Free plug for our friends at National Review.

***

Santorum is scoring points with social conservatives on gay marriage. So does Bachmann but she’s sounding a little less strong and confident than when this thing started.

***

Huntsman looks and sounds terrible. But he stands his ground on support for civil unions and equality but still sounds weak doing so.

***

A not very submissive sounding Bachmann asked by Byron York whether she would be “submissive toward your husband” in the White House. She doesn’t take the bait. Her answer: submission means respect.

***

Uncomfortable moment for Cain, accounting for comment about Southerners and their prejudice against Mormons. But he still failed to make a strong statement opposing such prejudice.

***

Unfortunately, much of the foreign policy portion of the debate was hijacked by Ron Paul. Still, Pawlenty, Bachmann and especially Santorum all made some important points about Iran and the war on terror.

***

Santorum points up that the mullahs trample the rights of gays in Iran.

***

Good moment for Santorum. Unlike the others, he’s not willing to ignore Ron Paul’s revisionist history and isolationist apology for the mullahs.

***

Embarrassing moment: Ron Paul defending Iran and denying that they’re building a nuke. Best part of it: the shot with Mitt Romney looking on with a bemused look.

***

Pawlenty gives a strong answer about Iran, even endorsing the “good work” of assassinating Iranian scientists. Then rightly slams Obama on Syria and Israel. He sounds so much better now that he’s not futilely attacking Bachmann.

***

The main thing about Huntsman’s largely coherent answer about cyberwar is how stressed and uncomfortable he looks.

***

Newt claims calling him out for wild inconsistency about Libya. He responds by attacking the question and blaming Fox.

***

Romney is called out for flip-flopping about fighting for freedom abroad. He denies the contradiction and then gives a reasonable answer about withdrawal in Afghanistan. But he still flip flopped.

***

Asked about Afghanistan, Pawlenty drops the artificial attack dog routine and once again sounds like the thoughtful candidate that he was when he started out.

***

Asked about Perry, Cain and Paul slam him. Huntsman makes a joke about Perry praying for the candidates. Bachmann does the smart thing and won’t take the bait about Palin or Perry.

***

An odd moment. Michele Bachmann was late getting back to the stage at the commercial break.

***

At the halfway point, the big story is still the new snarling attack dog Pawlenty trying to take down Bachmann. He hasn’t succeeded. Nor is he helping his own cause much. But he may be helping Romney. In terms of the straw poll, it might also be helping Ron Paul who could slip into first place if Bachmann loses some ground by being dragged into the mud by Pawlenty.

***

Rick Santorum slams the field for valuing the 10th amendment over moral values.

***

Bachmann gets the follow up on the constitution and health care. She sounds stronger on this issue than either attack dog Pawlenty or Romney.

***

Since the point about Pawlenty’s question to Romney about health care was more about Pawlenty than Romneycare, it doesn’t sting as much. Romney gives his stock answer about the differences between his plan and Obamacare. Not that convincing but he’s still sounding calm and confident.

***

Pawlenty gets a second chance to slam Romney about healthcare. He’s right. But the moment is so staged, it doesn’t have the same effect as it would have had he done it in June in New Hampshire.

***

Newt slams the budget super committee as irrational. A pointless argument.

***

Yes, Rick Santorum, we know you’re still there. Unfortunately, not too many are interested in listening to him instead of watching Bachmann slap Pawlenty around.

***

Bachmann’s answer about her vote on the cigarette tax knocks it out of the park by saying that saving the unborn was more important than money. Pawlenty then blames her again for the fact that there was a Democratic majority in the House in 2009-10. Bachmann’s still winning.

***

Pawlenty’s answer about the cigarette tax in Minnesota is long enough that by the end of it he agreed he regretted it but then talks about Obama.

***

Byran York puts Romney to the question about his S&P pitch about taxes. Romney tap dances and swears he won’t raise taxes. Will anyone follow up?

***

Note to Ron Paul: We’re worried about the borders in Afghanistan and Pakistan because the people who live there launched the 9/11 attacks.

***

Chris Wallace seems to have awakened Gingrich. Not that it matters, but he’s doing pretty well.

***

Okay, Cain scores a point about America needing to learn to take a joke.

***

Romney looks relaxed while talking about giving green cards to immigrant college graduates. He’s got to be pleased that the other candidates are too busy attacking each other or Fox.

****

Huntsman’s answer on immigration is to ignore his past stands. If he was a real contender that might matter.

***

Herman Cain defends his ignorance by saying he’s less ignorant than he used to be. If you don’t believe him, just read his press release.

***

9:30pm

Huntsman’s running on love of country. But it still doesn’t explain why he supported Obama’s stimulus.

***

We’re ready for the Iowa debate. A lot of questions will be answered tonight.

***

During the introductions, it sounded as if both Gingrich and Huntsman forgot to get their friends and relatives into the hall.

***

Michele Bachmann gets the first question. She’s sticking to her position against raising the debt ceiling. And ends with her customary energy. Will anyone challenge her for taking an unrealistic answer?

***

Brett Baier challenges Romney on being AWOL on the debt ceiling debate. After a good prior answer about the economy, he’s tap dancing now.

***

Romney won’t “eat Barack Obama’s dog food?” Not much of an answer as to why he didn’t back Boehner’s final deal.

***

Ron Paul was stumped for a minute when asked how he could get anything through a divided Congress. He had no answer but then danced away by reverting to his usual libertarian extremist line about stopping American “militarism.”

***

Huntsman’s running on his record on his record as governor of Utah. Sounds good. But Salt Lake City isn’t Washington, D.C.

***

Newt Gingrich’s answer to the question of divided government: Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. Too bad they’re not still around.

***

Tim Pawlenty was armed and ready with a quip about coming to anyone’s house and cooking them dinner or mowing their lawns and concludes with a cheap shot at Romney. Good energy but it looks like he’s trying too hard.

***

Chris Wallace goes right for Pawlenty’s jugular asking him about Bachmann’s record. Pawlenty stays on his feet by talking about Obama and saying her record in Congress is non-existent. Bachmann’s reply will be interesting.

***

Bachmann was ready. She went right back at him about his support for cap and trade and support for the individual mandate. Then she talks about her record as a fighter against Obama. This point goes to Bachmann.

***

Pawlenty doubles down on his attack on Bachmann. But accusing her of being responsible for not stopping Obama and Pelosi on Obamacare won’t wash. Pawlenty sounds a little desperate. Bachmann looks furious but manages to keep her cool even as she refuses to look at him.

***

Asked about jobs in Massachusetts, Romney decides to defend his record as a layoff specialist at Bain Capital before being attacked for it. Smart.

***

At the first commercial break everyone, there’s no question that the Pawlenty-Bachmann slapdown is the highlight so far. And no question that Bachmann came out the winner: “When I fought.When others ran, I fought.” So far that’s the most memorable line of the debate.

***

Do we really need to re-hash Gingrich’s hopeless campaign? Chris Wallace just made Gingrich almost look good. Quite a feat.

Read Less

RE: Romney’s “Gaffe” Not Fatal

I agree with Jonathan the Romney “gaffe” is not fatal. I’m not sure it’s a gaffe at all, as I think this clip, which has gone viral, is a big net plus for Romney. For the first time, he showed some passion and some Reaganesque I’m-paying-for-this-microphone! backbone. Confronted by a bunch of liberal provocateurs, he stood up to them but treated them politely. That always plays well with the average guy.

As for the gaffe of saying corporations are people, I think that could hurt him only with people who wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances anyway. After all, “the corporations” serve the same political purpose among the far left in this country that the Jews did for the Nazis and the bourgeoisie did for Communists: the all-purpose villains responsible for whatever ails society at the moment.

Read More

I agree with Jonathan the Romney “gaffe” is not fatal. I’m not sure it’s a gaffe at all, as I think this clip, which has gone viral, is a big net plus for Romney. For the first time, he showed some passion and some Reaganesque I’m-paying-for-this-microphone! backbone. Confronted by a bunch of liberal provocateurs, he stood up to them but treated them politely. That always plays well with the average guy.

As for the gaffe of saying corporations are people, I think that could hurt him only with people who wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances anyway. After all, “the corporations” serve the same political purpose among the far left in this country that the Jews did for the Nazis and the bourgeoisie did for Communists: the all-purpose villains responsible for whatever ails society at the moment.

And he has the truth as a defense. Corporations actually are people: the investors and workers who come together in hopes of creating more wealth collectively
than they could create individually. The very etymology of the word argues Romney is right: To incorporate means, quite literally, to form into a body
(corpus in Latin).

It should be noted one of the great unsettled (or more likely unsettleable) problems in economics is who actually pays corporate income taxes. They come
out of some combination of higher prices for customers, lower wages for workers, and lower returns on investment for stockholders (all three groups made up of actual human beings, please note). It undoubtedly varies among corporations depending on such things as degree of competitive pressure, industry profit margins and degree of unionization. Develop a formula for determining how the taxes are allocated among the three groups in particular circumstances, and you will have a Nobel Prize in economics bagged.

It was a good day for Mitt Romney, and well timed, too.

Read Less

Paying a Political Price in Great Britain

There have been many eloquent attempts to mine the cause of the British riots in the deepest recesses of the British national character. Whatever flaws may be exposed in the state of contemporary Britain, to my mind the reason why the riots have raged of control is fairly straightforward. It is the reason why nearly all riots occur: a failure of effective, aggressive policing. To understand what I’m talking about, simply compare the ongoing British riots with the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the Crown Heights (New York) riots of 1991.

In each case there was a proximate cause for the explosion: In Los Angeles, the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King; in New York, the death of an African-American child in an accident caused by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew; in London, the shooting death of a black criminal suspect named Mark Duggan at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. In each instance, too, the headline event tapped into deeper discontent in aggrieved, marginalized communities. But–and this is the critical point–that discontent would not have resulted in out-of-control rioting if the police had stepped in firmly and massively to restore order at the start. They did not. In all three cases, the police response was half-hearted and delayed, thus allowing the disorder to build on itself. When young men see other young men running riot through the streets, breaking shop windows and helping themselves to whatever is inside, they will make a quick cost-benefit calculation: is it worth it to join in? If the police are largely absent from the streets, the decision is a no brainer. Only the probability of arrest will curb their runaway id.

Read More

There have been many eloquent attempts to mine the cause of the British riots in the deepest recesses of the British national character. Whatever flaws may be exposed in the state of contemporary Britain, to my mind the reason why the riots have raged of control is fairly straightforward. It is the reason why nearly all riots occur: a failure of effective, aggressive policing. To understand what I’m talking about, simply compare the ongoing British riots with the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the Crown Heights (New York) riots of 1991.

In each case there was a proximate cause for the explosion: In Los Angeles, the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King; in New York, the death of an African-American child in an accident caused by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew; in London, the shooting death of a black criminal suspect named Mark Duggan at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. In each instance, too, the headline event tapped into deeper discontent in aggrieved, marginalized communities. But–and this is the critical point–that discontent would not have resulted in out-of-control rioting if the police had stepped in firmly and massively to restore order at the start. They did not. In all three cases, the police response was half-hearted and delayed, thus allowing the disorder to build on itself. When young men see other young men running riot through the streets, breaking shop windows and helping themselves to whatever is inside, they will make a quick cost-benefit calculation: is it worth it to join in? If the police are largely absent from the streets, the decision is a no brainer. Only the probability of arrest will curb their runaway id.

Clearly, the current crisis has revealed–even more than the furor over tabloids tapping voicemails–the utter failure of Scotland Yard, just as the previous crises revealed the failure of the LAPD and NYPD.  Both the New York and Los Angeles departments were subsequently reformed, thanks in part to the work of William Bratton, who served as police chief in both cities. He would obviously be a good choice to head Scotland Yard now.

But, it takes more than effective leadership to make a police department effective. It also requires the necessary resources to blanket the streets. In this regard, the British police have been failed by their prime minister, David Cameron, who has rammed through a 6 percent cut in police funding which is likely to lead to the loss of more than 16,000 officers by 2015: cutbacks the prime minister stubbornly refuses to reconsider even as disorder rampages across the land.

There is an analogy here with how Cameron has handled defense spending: Here too, he has cut to the bone, and yet somehow he expects the British armed forces to meet all of their existing commitments–including a new war in Libya.

Something doesn’t add up here. The British experience should serve as a cautionary tale for budget-cutters in Washington: Tempting as it may be to take money away from the police or the armed forces, there is no price too high to be paid for public safety. And when the police or armed services are seen to fail in part because of budget cuts, it is the budget cutters who will pay a political price.

 

Read Less

Hamas May Help Kill U.S. Aid to Gaza

Worries about the way funds are spent haven’t been enough to prevent the continued flow of U.S. taxpayer money to Gaza. But apparently, Hamas may succeed where others have failed. The terrorist group’s efforts to exercise control over various non-governmental organizations that operate in Gaza may finally lead to the suspension of America’s $100 million aid program.

Hamas is apparently seeking to audit the books of all foreign funded non-profits in Gaza. But if these groups allow any contact with the Islamist regime there, let alone give it the power to influence their decisions or policies, it would be a violation of U.S. law. The question now is whether the Obama administration will obey the law and cut off the money or instead find a way to evade the restrictions mandated by congressional action.

Read More

Worries about the way funds are spent haven’t been enough to prevent the continued flow of U.S. taxpayer money to Gaza. But apparently, Hamas may succeed where others have failed. The terrorist group’s efforts to exercise control over various non-governmental organizations that operate in Gaza may finally lead to the suspension of America’s $100 million aid program.

Hamas is apparently seeking to audit the books of all foreign funded non-profits in Gaza. But if these groups allow any contact with the Islamist regime there, let alone give it the power to influence their decisions or policies, it would be a violation of U.S. law. The question now is whether the Obama administration will obey the law and cut off the money or instead find a way to evade the restrictions mandated by congressional action.

This will prove a key test of the administration’s willingness to enforce the law when it comes to the Palestinians. Despite criticism from Congress, the administration has ignored the Hamas-Fatah unity pact that should render all aid to the Palestinian Authority illegal. That ought to have endangered the direct allocations to the PA but not the funds that go to NGOs in the West Bank. But in Gaza, Hamas is the government, and any interference on its part will make it legally impossible for the U.S. funds to continue to be sent to help infrastructure and other projects in the territory under its control.

The NGOs have to hope Hamas backs off on its threats to conduct on-site audits that will raise sinister questions about its impact on the groups. But if they don’t, it will be an interesting test of the administration’s credibility about Hamas.

During the last 17 years, the United States has always found ways to evade restrictions on aid to the Palestinians that might have cut off money to the Palestinian Authority because of its support for terrorism and other issues. For years, the State Department turned a blind eye to such activity in order to protect the aid (which it thought to be a higher priority than concerns about anti-Israel terror or incitement).

Washington, even in the Obama era, has always stayed clear of contacts with Hamas. If it finds a legal rationale to avoid observing the law and lets the money go to NGOs that have had contacts with Hamas, then it will be a clear signal the dam has been broken with respect to the U.S. policy of refusing to deal with Hamas.

Read Less

Obama Campaigns Against Congress: “Something’s Wrong With Our Politics”

The same politician who vowed to “change the political map and end gridlock” just a few years ago is now blaming his presidential failures…on partisan gridlock. How’s that for change you can believe in:

President Obama blasted Congress from the road on Thursday, saying things would be worse if lawmakers returned to Washington.

Read More

The same politician who vowed to “change the political map and end gridlock” just a few years ago is now blaming his presidential failures…on partisan gridlock. How’s that for change you can believe in:

President Obama blasted Congress from the road on Thursday, saying things would be worse if lawmakers returned to Washington.

“There is nothing wrong with our country,” Obama said in a speech at a Holland, Mich., plant. “There is something wrong with our politics.” …

Obama did not single out Republicans or Democrats, but blasted Congress for what he said had been “the worst part of partisanship, the worst part of gridlock.”

“There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than America win,” Obama said. “And that’s got to stop.” …

“That’s why people are frustrated,” Obama said. “Maybe you hear it in my voice. It’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better.”

Without any serious accomplishments and a teetering economy, Obama’s anxious to pin his lack of progress on Congress (namely, congressional Republicans – though he’s been careful not to say that directly). He’s once again campaigning as a Washington outsider, though the public is probably far less willing to buy that after giving him three years in the White House.

But there’s some logic to his statements. Obama’s job approval ratings aren’t great, but at least he’s more popular than Congress – and the public also likes him personally. His campaign may be hoping voters are so disgusted with Congress they cut him slack for failing to revive the economy. It’s by no means a good excuse, but at least it’s an excuse.

Read Less

Hiring Bancroft Security is Justified

It is hard to believe anyone could be outraged by the U.S. government paying for contractors to train the African Union peacekeepers trying to keep Somalia from totally spinning out of control. Those armed forces are the only thing standing in the way of a complete takeover of the country by the Shabab, the Taliban-like militia which has close links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is absolutely no appetite in Washington for sending any troops into Somalia, beyond perhaps an occasional Special Operations raid; everyone remembers all too vividly the Black Hawk Down disaster of 1993. So how do we stop the Shabab? The CIA has an active presence there. But that’s not enough. We also need to provide arms and training to African Union peacekeepers, and because we’re not willing to send even U.S. trainers, that job has been contracted out indirectly to a security company called Bancroft Global Development, based in Washington.

Bancroft’s role is the subject of a breathless, page one expose in the New York Times today. The article includes these passages about a roguish former French Army officer named Richard Rouget who works for Bancroft:

Read More

It is hard to believe anyone could be outraged by the U.S. government paying for contractors to train the African Union peacekeepers trying to keep Somalia from totally spinning out of control. Those armed forces are the only thing standing in the way of a complete takeover of the country by the Shabab, the Taliban-like militia which has close links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is absolutely no appetite in Washington for sending any troops into Somalia, beyond perhaps an occasional Special Operations raid; everyone remembers all too vividly the Black Hawk Down disaster of 1993. So how do we stop the Shabab? The CIA has an active presence there. But that’s not enough. We also need to provide arms and training to African Union peacekeepers, and because we’re not willing to send even U.S. trainers, that job has been contracted out indirectly to a security company called Bancroft Global Development, based in Washington.

Bancroft’s role is the subject of a breathless, page one expose in the New York Times today. The article includes these passages about a roguish former French Army officer named Richard Rouget who works for Bancroft:

Some critics view the role played by Mr. Rouget and other contractors as a troubling trend: relying on private companies to fight the battles that nations have no stomach for. Some American congressional officials investigating the money being spent for operations in Somalia said that opaque arrangements like those for Bancroft — where money is passed through foreign governments — made it difficult to properly track how the funds were spent.

It also makes it harder for American officials to monitor who is being hired for the Somalia mission. In Bancroft’s case, some trainers are veterans of Africa’s bush wars who sometimes use aliases in the countries where they fought. Mr. Rouget, for example, used the name Colonel Sanders.

This is called creating a controversy where none exists–with reporters referring vaguely to “some critics” without quoting any by name. It leads to the suspicion the critics in question are those who produced this article.

Perhaps these nameless critics should be asked to come up with their own solution to the problem of the Shabab. How can we defeat these violent Islamist extremists without providing some on-the-ground training and support for the rag-tag Somali armed forces and their African allies? But that’s the beauty of the reporter’s role–or the congressional aide’s–you can criticize, but you don’t have to provide a useful alternative. Alas, officials in the executive branch don’t have that luxury; they  actually have to do something, and to my mind, their employment of Bancroft is perfectly justified.

 

Read Less

U.S. Decline not a Failure of a Nation, but a Failure of a Nation’s Leaders

Amid the renewed bout of hand-wringing over American decline (see, e.g., this Washington Post story Pete referred to earlier), Mike O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution delivers a welcome rejoinder in the Los Angeles Times.

O’Hanlon ponts to U.S. strengths–ranging from demography (we’re not aging as fast as our competitors) to R&D spending (we spend more than a third of the global total). He concludes the U.S. is not only the “greatest country on Earth” but the one with the “most promising future.”

Read More

Amid the renewed bout of hand-wringing over American decline (see, e.g., this Washington Post story Pete referred to earlier), Mike O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution delivers a welcome rejoinder in the Los Angeles Times.

O’Hanlon ponts to U.S. strengths–ranging from demography (we’re not aging as fast as our competitors) to R&D spending (we spend more than a third of the global total). He concludes the U.S. is not only the “greatest country on Earth” but the one with the “most promising future.”

I fully agree. As I argued a few days ago, what we are seeing is not the failure of a nation but a failure of a nation’s leaders–and particularly of Obama’s leadership. But I do not believe we will be consigned to indefinite paralysis in  Washington. If our track record as a country shows anything, it is when problems become severe, our political class addresses them–however belatedly. Examples range from the Whiskey rebellion of the 1790s to the home-mortgage crisis of recent years. Perhaps the current debt crisis will prove to be the exception. But I doubt it. Sooner or later, Congress and the White House will make hard choices to bring our spending and our revenues into closer alignment. The only question is how quickly they will act, and how much economic pain we will experience before they do.

 

Read Less

Romney’s Corporations “Gaffe” Not Fatal

The big news so far out of Iowa today didn’t have to do with tonight’s debate. It was a comment made by Mitt Romney as he spoke at the Iowa State Fair while being heckled by a gaggle of leftist provocateurs. While being peppered with interruptions challenging him to answer how he would deal with the deficit, Romney said the one thing he wouldn’t do was to raise taxes on people. The heckler interjected that taxes should be raised on corporations. Romney, who was standing only a few feet away quickly responded, “Corporations are people, too.”

As the film clip circulated around the Internet, Democratic strategists and their ad men started to salivate. There’s little doubt we’ll be seeing this exchange for as long as Romney is a presidential candidate. But though the former Massachusetts governor will be mocked mercilessly, anyone who views the full exchange — and that should include Democrats — should know there was nothing wrong with what he said.

Read More

The big news so far out of Iowa today didn’t have to do with tonight’s debate. It was a comment made by Mitt Romney as he spoke at the Iowa State Fair while being heckled by a gaggle of leftist provocateurs. While being peppered with interruptions challenging him to answer how he would deal with the deficit, Romney said the one thing he wouldn’t do was to raise taxes on people. The heckler interjected that taxes should be raised on corporations. Romney, who was standing only a few feet away quickly responded, “Corporations are people, too.”

As the film clip circulated around the Internet, Democratic strategists and their ad men started to salivate. There’s little doubt we’ll be seeing this exchange for as long as Romney is a presidential candidate. But though the former Massachusetts governor will be mocked mercilessly, anyone who views the full exchange — and that should include Democrats — should know there was nothing wrong with what he said.

Romney was almost certainly joking with the hecklers who were doing everything possible to shout him down. But as he bantered back and forth with those trying to interrupt him, he went on to point out corporations are nothing but the aggregated efforts of individuals. Although liberals seem to think modern businesses are soulless, heartless science fiction monsters who destroy everything in their paths, raising taxes on corporations means taking money out of the pockets not only of the wealthy but also from the middle class who work, manage and invest in them. Confiscating the income of corporations via higher taxes hurts people as much as raising the taxes of individuals. But it also has the effect of harming business and killing jobs.

Which is to say that unlike the liberal ideologues who will skewer Romney for this quip, all this incident proves is he knows a thing or two about economics.

Let’s also pause a moment to comment on one aspect of this gaffe that will not be discussed much by the leftist blogosphere. The full exchange on C-Span shows Romney being harassed as he tries to speak and conduct a question and answer session. The leftist hecklers were, it should be said, well within their rights, as they peppered the candidate with comments and questions and did their best to drown him out. When Tea Party activists did the same to members of Congress last year in the aftermath of the approval of Obamacare, liberal pundits were quick to treat such exchanges as proof conservatives have destroyed civility in public discourse if not a sign of incipient fascism. But don’t expect anyone to say the same about liberals heckling Romney.

It should also be said during what was a stressful moment on the stump, Romney’s demeanor was consistently cheerful and good-humored. Rather than fumbling his way into a gaffe, as no doubt this incident will be portrayed in some quarters, Romney actually showed grace under pressure. While there remain good reasons for conservatives to be wary of his candidacy, at that moment, Romney actually demonstrated why he remains a strong candidate for president.

Read Less

The Death of the Ames Straw Poll?

At the Examiner, Phil Klein predicts Ron Paul will pull off a victory in Ames on Saturday, which could potentially destroy the last of the poll’s credibility as a national political gauge:

When Paul launched his candidacy last time, his team was just winging it and figuring out things as they went along — and they weren’t really trying to win the straw poll. This time, Paul spent $31,000 to secure the top placement at the event and by all accounts has been making an earnest attempt to win.

Were Paul to win, I imagine it would be used more to discredit the poll than to start to take him seriously as a viable candidate, which could play into the hands of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty if he has a poor showing.

Read More

At the Examiner, Phil Klein predicts Ron Paul will pull off a victory in Ames on Saturday, which could potentially destroy the last of the poll’s credibility as a national political gauge:

When Paul launched his candidacy last time, his team was just winging it and figuring out things as they went along — and they weren’t really trying to win the straw poll. This time, Paul spent $31,000 to secure the top placement at the event and by all accounts has been making an earnest attempt to win.

Were Paul to win, I imagine it would be used more to discredit the poll than to start to take him seriously as a viable candidate, which could play into the hands of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty if he has a poor showing.

While the voting pool at Ames is much larger than in the polls Paul’s won at CPAC or the Republican Leadership Conference, the congressman does have some advantages on his side.

For one, he’s the only candidate besides Romney who has participated in the Ames poll before, and he knows the drill. And Romney hasn’t done any organizing for the poll this year, while Paul has. In addition to the $30K he spent to procure the most coveted space at the event, he’s also busing in supporters from anywhere across the state, subsidizing their $30 tickets and providing them with lunch. He’s also spent $100,000 on advertising.

“The Ron Paul network here is stronger than I think the media has reported,” Rep. Steve King told the National Review’s Katrina Trinko today. “He’s been working in the state a long time. He has a core of loyal followers. If there is no expectation that Ron Paul will do well in the straw poll, that’ll be a surprise.”

But a Paul win could also diminish the poll’s importance in the GOP primaries. Already two of the three presumed frontrunners – Romney and Rick Perry – are not participating in the event. Paul’s recurring victories in the CPAC and RLC polls have rendered them fairly irrelevant in terms of measuring the opinions of the conservative movement. The same could happen in Ames.

Read Less

Perry Is Loose and Confident, But Will He Stay That Way?

One of the early buzzwords of the Republican primary race was “authenticity.” It has since faded a bit, but it might be worth reexamining as Rick Perry enters the race.

A clear definition of authenticity is never supplied, but (as with Potter Stewart and obscenity), we purport to know it when we see it. And it was, for many GOP voters, noticeably absent in the case of Mitt Romney. But Tim Pawlenty had his own struggles with authenticity, as he seemed to become increasingly uncomfortable in his own skin. Michele Bachmann’s popularity was partially explained by her authenticity–the genuine nature of her beliefs both heartened her supporters and frightened her opponents. But Perry’s interview with Mark Halperin, published this morning, reveals above all else a confident and comfortable candidate:

Read More

One of the early buzzwords of the Republican primary race was “authenticity.” It has since faded a bit, but it might be worth reexamining as Rick Perry enters the race.

A clear definition of authenticity is never supplied, but (as with Potter Stewart and obscenity), we purport to know it when we see it. And it was, for many GOP voters, noticeably absent in the case of Mitt Romney. But Tim Pawlenty had his own struggles with authenticity, as he seemed to become increasingly uncomfortable in his own skin. Michele Bachmann’s popularity was partially explained by her authenticity–the genuine nature of her beliefs both heartened her supporters and frightened her opponents. But Perry’s interview with Mark Halperin, published this morning, reveals above all else a confident and comfortable candidate:

Does any aspect of running for president intimidate you?
No.

Does any aspect of it excite you or enthuse you?
Yeah, I’m kind of getting to the haul-in point and the idea that, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I mean, this is starting to get to that comfort level and I’ve got the calmness in my heart. I think that was a bit of a hurdle initially but I’m very calm in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Halperin has the video up of the relevant exchange, and I encourage readers to watch it. Perry’s comment, “I’ve got the calmness in my heart,” is said with obvious sincerity. His answers may not be too revealing, but his delivery is–loose, poised, and prepared but unrehearsed. It’s a stark contrast with Romney, who has changed his appearance and approach since the last campaign, and with Bachmann, who seems to have a narrower comfort zone. Pawlenty seems to be finding his voice, though it may be too late.

Romney is, however, more relaxed this time around and seems more in his element. He and Perry will be making similar arguments on job growth and their experience as governors. But although Perry’s Texas charm may be grating to his antagonists, he shows some charisma in the Halperin interview. Whether he can demonstrate that on the campaign trail and retain it through the rigors of the primary season remains to be seen. If he can, he may have found an effective way to distinguish himself from candidates with whom he may see eye-to-eye on the issues.

Read Less

Obama Has Raised the Stakes on Jerusalem

In the spring of last year, the Obama administration picked a fight with the Israel over the routine approval of some housing starts in Jerusalem because it coincided with a visit to the country by Vice President Joe Biden. Washington ginned this “insult” to Biden up into a full-scale attempt to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Though that effort failed, as would subsequent ambushes for Netanyahu set by the White House, the after shocks still linger as Obama’s precedent-setting attack on Jewish Jerusalem has become a major problem for the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Today, the Israeli government gave the final approval for the construction of the same apartment buildings in the Ramat Shlomo district of the city that were deemed such an affront to Biden’s honor. We can expect the routine condemnation of these homes from both the administration as well as other critics of Israel. But while the debate over the status of Jerusalem is, as Seth wrote earlier today, nothing new, it is important to note the significance of this particular controversy and to understand why it signaled an unprecedented policy shift on the city’s future by the United States.

Read More

In the spring of last year, the Obama administration picked a fight with the Israel over the routine approval of some housing starts in Jerusalem because it coincided with a visit to the country by Vice President Joe Biden. Washington ginned this “insult” to Biden up into a full-scale attempt to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Though that effort failed, as would subsequent ambushes for Netanyahu set by the White House, the after shocks still linger as Obama’s precedent-setting attack on Jewish Jerusalem has become a major problem for the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Today, the Israeli government gave the final approval for the construction of the same apartment buildings in the Ramat Shlomo district of the city that were deemed such an affront to Biden’s honor. We can expect the routine condemnation of these homes from both the administration as well as other critics of Israel. But while the debate over the status of Jerusalem is, as Seth wrote earlier today, nothing new, it is important to note the significance of this particular controversy and to understand why it signaled an unprecedented policy shift on the city’s future by the United States.

While no American government has ever recognized Israeli sovereignty over any part of the ancient capital, it is equally true never before had an American president made an issue of the building of homes in the existing Jewish neighborhoods begun in the immediate aftermath of the reunification of the city in 1967. Though settlement building in the West Bank has been a constant source of tension, and projects such as the one at Har Homa outside these Jewish sections of the city (although it was on vacant, Jewish-owned land) were disputed by Washington, housing in places like Ramat Sharon had never been a bone of contention.

That’s because even administrations deemed less than friendly to Israel always took it as a given these neighborhoods must be treated differently from West Bank settlements. There was no chance they would ever be surrendered in a peace settlement. That stance was reinforced in 2004 when President George W. Bush sent then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a letter specifying any deal with the Palestinians must take into account control of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem were no longer on the table.

But all that changed under Barack Obama. It was Obama’s personal condemnation of the creation of new apartments in these existing Jewish parts of the city that has made their future a matter of dispute and encouraged Palestinians to hold onto false hopes that one day the Jewish residents of these homes will be forcibly evicted. This foolish decision to raise the stakes on Jerusalem has forced the Palestinian leadership to ramp up their already unrealistic demands on the issue and therefore made peace an even more remote possibility.

While news accounts of decisions about housing starts in Jerusalem routinely refer to them as obstacles to peace, it bears repeating this assertion is absolutely false. Because everyone knows (as they have always known), neither Ramot Sharon nor any other of the existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem will ever be given up, it doesn’t matter how many homes are built there. The number of new apartments created there doesn’t matter any more than the vast number of new homes built in Arab neighborhoods in the city.

These homes are a red herring that have no bearing on the future of the peace process. It was Barack Obama who made Ramat Shlomo and the right of Jews to build and live in the rest of Jerusalem into the bitter and pointless controversy it has now become.

Read Less

UK May Block Twitter to Suppress Riots

It’s amazing it’s actually come to this. British police are still terrified to use necessary force against gangs of violent looters out of fear of the legal ramifications. But instead of the obligation of law enforcement to do its job, the government is apparently considering curtailing free online expression in order to contain the unrelenting street riots:

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organized via social media,” [Prime Minister David] Cameron said. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.”

Read More

It’s amazing it’s actually come to this. British police are still terrified to use necessary force against gangs of violent looters out of fear of the legal ramifications. But instead of the obligation of law enforcement to do its job, the government is apparently considering curtailing free online expression in order to contain the unrelenting street riots:

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organized via social media,” [Prime Minister David] Cameron said. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.”

The U.K. government is expected to meet with executives from Facebook, Twitter and Research in Motion (the company behind BlackBerry Messenger, a key organizing device in the spread of the riots) over the next several weeks, Cameron said.

He continued: “We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

The government is apparently looking into how it can immediately limit Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry communications, but it sounds like they may also be considering long-term restrictions (unless Cameron actually expects the riots to continue for the next few weeks while he holds these meetings with social media executives).

Shutting down social media isn’t just morally objectionable and ineffective (it certainly wasn’t successful when Hosni Mubarak tried it), it will also give political cover to tyrannical regimes when they employ the same tactics. Plus, it could potentially end up invigorating the anarchist and militant left-wing movements that have tried to co-opt the civil unrest.

There’s no reason to set such a dangerous precedent when law enforcement has legitimate tools at its disposal it has so far neglected to use.

Read Less

“The American Empire in Twilight?”

Assume you are a senior political aide in the Obama White House. This morning, while eating a bowl of Cheerios, you read the front page of the Washington Post, where you found an above-the-fold story by Joel Achenbach. The story, titled “Is debt downgrade an alarm bell for a great nation in decline?” quotes Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served Jimmy Carter, who was jettisoned from office after his first term in large part because of the sense his policies were ushering in a period of American decline.

According to Brzezinski, “We have been for decades now the number one global economic power. But an increasing question mark is whether we are going to remain one.”

Read More

Assume you are a senior political aide in the Obama White House. This morning, while eating a bowl of Cheerios, you read the front page of the Washington Post, where you found an above-the-fold story by Joel Achenbach. The story, titled “Is debt downgrade an alarm bell for a great nation in decline?” quotes Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served Jimmy Carter, who was jettisoned from office after his first term in large part because of the sense his policies were ushering in a period of American decline.

According to Brzezinski, “We have been for decades now the number one global economic power. But an increasing question mark is whether we are going to remain one.”

After you spit out your spoonful of Cheerios, you come across this analysis by Achenbach:

This is a low moment. America is in a funk that’s being felt around the world. “Downgrade” is the verb of the week. Our debt is now second-rate if you believe the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s. The country is mired in a seemingly endless financial crisis. It has an economy that doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. The two major political parties seem to inhabit different, non-intersecting dimensions of reality. The whole world is watching, and it is rather appalled.

And at this point you, as a senior political aide to Obama, crawl back into bed. Because when journalists take to the front page of the Washington Post to analyze whether or not we are seeing “the American empire in twilight,” you can bet things are–politically speaking–very bad and about to get even worse.

 

Read Less

SPECIAL PREVIEW: What We Got Right in the War on Terror

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I’ve written an article for the  September issue of COMMENTARY on the ways in which the United States has successfully prosecuted the war on terror. We have just released it online. I hope you enjoy it:

1. Closure

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs put one bullet through the chest and one through the head of Osama bin Laden—nine years, seven months, and 20 days after al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people in the name of Islam. Historical eras are rarely framed as neatly as this. Though not precisely a decade after 9/11, the secret mission in Pakistan on May 1 was close enough to impose some poetic shape on the period in which the United States first fought back against Islamist terrorism.

Within minutes, discussion of Bin Laden’s death was dominated by a term not common to war-making or foreign policy, but one crucial to wellness and pop-psychology spheres: closure. “New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” New York Senator Chuck Schumer sounded a similar note: “This at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families.” Across the Hudson, in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie commented on the “extraordinary sense of closure” brought about by the killing.

Read the rest of this COMMENTARY Special Preview here.

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I’ve written an article for the  September issue of COMMENTARY on the ways in which the United States has successfully prosecuted the war on terror. We have just released it online. I hope you enjoy it:

1. Closure

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs put one bullet through the chest and one through the head of Osama bin Laden—nine years, seven months, and 20 days after al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people in the name of Islam. Historical eras are rarely framed as neatly as this. Though not precisely a decade after 9/11, the secret mission in Pakistan on May 1 was close enough to impose some poetic shape on the period in which the United States first fought back against Islamist terrorism.

Within minutes, discussion of Bin Laden’s death was dominated by a term not common to war-making or foreign policy, but one crucial to wellness and pop-psychology spheres: closure. “New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” New York Senator Chuck Schumer sounded a similar note: “This at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families.” Across the Hudson, in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie commented on the “extraordinary sense of closure” brought about by the killing.

Read the rest of this COMMENTARY Special Preview here.

Read Less

Iowa Debate’s the Last Dance Before Perry

There will be plenty at stake tonight at the Ames Debate that will be broadcast on Fox News at 9 pm. Mitt Romney will try to capitalize on the economic crisis by sounding like an experienced business executive and looking presidential. Michele Bachmann will be looking to build her strength in a state where she has been surging in the last two months. Tim Pawlenty will be hoping to save his candidacy by striking a different and hopefully more aggressive tone than his passive performance in New Hampshire back in June. Ron Paul will be playing to his usual enthusiastic pack of libertarians. And the others will be looking to take pot shots at the frontrunners in order to get noticed.

But the biggest question looming over this debate will be about the man who isn’t there: Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is set to announce his presidential candidacy on Saturday in order to overshadow the results of the Iowa straw poll held that day.

Read More

There will be plenty at stake tonight at the Ames Debate that will be broadcast on Fox News at 9 pm. Mitt Romney will try to capitalize on the economic crisis by sounding like an experienced business executive and looking presidential. Michele Bachmann will be looking to build her strength in a state where she has been surging in the last two months. Tim Pawlenty will be hoping to save his candidacy by striking a different and hopefully more aggressive tone than his passive performance in New Hampshire back in June. Ron Paul will be playing to his usual enthusiastic pack of libertarians. And the others will be looking to take pot shots at the frontrunners in order to get noticed.

But the biggest question looming over this debate will be about the man who isn’t there: Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is set to announce his presidential candidacy on Saturday in order to overshadow the results of the Iowa straw poll held that day.

The Iowa debate will be the last gathering of the candidates before Perry becomes what will probably be the last major player to enter the GOP presidential field. That means it will be even more important for candidates who see him as direct competition for the affections of conservatives — namely, Michele Bachmann — to impress voters.

It will be interesting to see whether some of the entrants take shots at Perry on issues where they think he might be vulnerable. Rick Santorum for one will almost certainly mention Perry’s somewhat equivocal reaction to the New York legislature’s approval of gay marriage. But since Perry is popular among evangelicals and other social conservatives, this minor brouhaha is more about Santorum’s forlorn hopes than anything else.

Though Romney remains the national frontrunner with the most money and the best standing in the polls, it is probably Bachmann who will be the debater with the bull’s-eye on her back. If Bachmann is again perceived as the winner in the debate as she was in New Hampshire and then goes on to take the straw poll, that could wipe out the struggling Pawlenty and put a dent in the ability of marginal figures such as Santorum or Herman Cain to continue. So expect them all to be looking for openings to denigrate her lack of experience. But the problem for them is Bachmann is obviously the better performer, and if that shines through as clearly as it did in New Hampshire in June, they will regret tangling with her.

As for Romney, he escaped the last debate without being seriously challenged on his own shaky record on health care, taxes or any of his other flip-flops on the issues. Look for Pawlenty or some of the other lesser candidates to try and muss up Romney’s perfectly coiffed hair this time around.

But the main story here is this will be the last dance without Perry and an opportunity for Bachmann to shore up her support among social and religious conservatives as well as Tea Partiers, the sectors of the party Perry will be looking to steal from her after he jumps in.

Read Less

Romney Pitched Tax Revenues During 2004 S&P Meeting

Mitt Romney’s latest campaign talking point about Standard & Poor’s upgrading the Massachusetts credit rating under his governorship hit a snag today when both the Wall Street Journal and Politico unearthed his 2004 pitch to the credit agency. It turns out his presentation touted the same sort of tax revenues Tea Partiers fought against during the recent debt ceiling debate. Politico reports:

But Romney’s case to S&P is a far cry from the anti-tax absolutism of the Republican Party he hopes to lead. Indeed, it bears a far closer resemblance to the right-of-center grand compromise rejected by House Republicans this year — dismissed because it would include new taxes and end tax breaks President Barack Obama described as “loopholes” — or the more modest compromise that passed, than to the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan Romney “applauded.”

Read More

Mitt Romney’s latest campaign talking point about Standard & Poor’s upgrading the Massachusetts credit rating under his governorship hit a snag today when both the Wall Street Journal and Politico unearthed his 2004 pitch to the credit agency. It turns out his presentation touted the same sort of tax revenues Tea Partiers fought against during the recent debt ceiling debate. Politico reports:

But Romney’s case to S&P is a far cry from the anti-tax absolutism of the Republican Party he hopes to lead. Indeed, it bears a far closer resemblance to the right-of-center grand compromise rejected by House Republicans this year — dismissed because it would include new taxes and end tax breaks President Barack Obama described as “loopholes” — or the more modest compromise that passed, than to the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan Romney “applauded.”

The presentation to the ratings agency reveals Romney’s administration made the case to Standard & Poor’s that his state was creditworthy because of both spending cuts — the current preferred GOP method — and new revenues, including fees he imposed and tax “loopholes” he closed.

You can read the full presentation here. It’s not exactly a secret Romney closed tax “loopholes” (which many have argued were actually “tax hikes”) during his tenure. The issue here is his administration’s apparent defense of controversial tax increases that were instituted by the state legislature shortly before Romney took office.

However, Romney’s team points out he also initiated tax reductions during his time as governor:

“Gov. Romney balanced the budget primarily by cutting waste and inefficiency, by streamlining and economizing, and by reducing nonessential state spending,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in an email. “Obama was talking about raising taxes.”

“At the time of Massachusetts’s upgrade, [Romney] clearly said he was proud to have done it without raising taxes and he cut taxes 19 times as governor,” she said.

While the story isn’t a major blow to the campaign, it’s yet another dent in his economic record, which has already been marred by RomneyCare and the layoffs he oversaw at Bain Capital. It also takes some of the wind out of Romney’s S&P upgrade argument, which he was undoubtedly planning to pull out during the Iowa Republican debate tonight. Interesting “coincidence” that both Politico and the WSJ both happened to obtain FOIA requests of his 2004 presentation before such a key day in the primaries.

Read Less

The “Jerusalem, Israel” Controversy: Neither the Beginning Nor the End

Presidents generally love to visit Jerusalem, but hate talking about it. Not the city per se—they’ll happily gush over the beauty, history and intensity of the city. But ask them to identify where they are when they’re in Jerusalem, and you won’t be impressed.

The issue has come up again this week, and got a dose of controversy when the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper caught the Obama administration scrubbing photo references to Jerusalem’s location. The photo captions had been changed from “Jerusalem, Israel” to “Jerusalem.” The Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo then noted a perusal of the photo archives of George W. Bush finds Jerusalem unidentified as being in Israel as well. Jennifer Rubin called Elliott Abrams, who objected to the suggestion the Jerusalem policy of the Bush and Obama administrations are comparable. Rubin dismissed the comparison between the two presidents on Israel, generally, as one between the Bad News Bears and the Yankees (Bush is the Yankees here), and she is, of course, correct.

Read More

Presidents generally love to visit Jerusalem, but hate talking about it. Not the city per se—they’ll happily gush over the beauty, history and intensity of the city. But ask them to identify where they are when they’re in Jerusalem, and you won’t be impressed.

The issue has come up again this week, and got a dose of controversy when the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper caught the Obama administration scrubbing photo references to Jerusalem’s location. The photo captions had been changed from “Jerusalem, Israel” to “Jerusalem.” The Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo then noted a perusal of the photo archives of George W. Bush finds Jerusalem unidentified as being in Israel as well. Jennifer Rubin called Elliott Abrams, who objected to the suggestion the Jerusalem policy of the Bush and Obama administrations are comparable. Rubin dismissed the comparison between the two presidents on Israel, generally, as one between the Bad News Bears and the Yankees (Bush is the Yankees here), and she is, of course, correct.

But that obscures the fact that on Jerusalem, presidents have been consistently inconsistent–Democrat and Republican alike. Bush had a rare ability to connect with the Israeli public, to his great credit and that of the people in his administration, Abrams among them. (Many Israelis feel Clinton had this ability as well; everyone remembers “Shalom, chaver” at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral.) But despite the heartfelt speeches—and Bush’s speech on the occasion of Israel’s 60th birthday was truly memorable—on policy American presidents avoid the obvious: someone governs Israel. Kredo is right that Bush administration photographs exclude Jerusalem’s location. There is one batch of photos in which Abu Ghosh is listed as an Israeli city, but Jerusalem (in the very next photo on the same trip) is not.

This latest controversy, by the way, immediately followed the Obama administration’s criticism on Jewish building in Har Homa in Jerusalem. In 2008, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had this to say about Jewish building on Jewish-owned (vacant) land in Har Homa: “Har Homa is a settlement the United States has opposed from the very beginning.” Rice also said that “the United States doesn’t make a distinction” between Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Does this put the Bush administration on the same level as the Obama administration when it comes to Israel? Of course not. The two, as Rubin says, are at opposite ends of the spectrum. In fact, an argument can be made the two Har Homa controversies aren’t identical either. Bush probably deserves more hakarat hatov on Israel than he often gets, but we don’t do ourselves any favors by pretending this is the beginning–or the end–of the fight over Jerusalem.

Read Less

Anti-Semitism, Political Correctness and the New York Times—20 Years Later

In an astonishing piece today in the Jewish Week, Ari L. Goldman recounts his experiences as a reporter for the New York Times during the riots that broke out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991 after a Lubavitch driver in a motorcade tragically hit and killed a black child with his station wagon. Goldman—telling his story for the first time on the 20th anniversary of the riots—reveals the absurd lengths to which the paper for which he worked attempted to make it seem as though the culpability for the riots rested equally between those attacking Hasidim and the Hasidim who were defending themselves against attack. All this happened while the New York Police Department stood by and deliberately failed to intervene, in one of the stunning moments of the mayoralty of David Dinkins that led to his defeat two years later at the hands of Rudy Giuliani and the complete overhaul of city policing strategy that led to the vertiginous crime drop, which proved to the be the salvation of New York City:

Read More

In an astonishing piece today in the Jewish Week, Ari L. Goldman recounts his experiences as a reporter for the New York Times during the riots that broke out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991 after a Lubavitch driver in a motorcade tragically hit and killed a black child with his station wagon. Goldman—telling his story for the first time on the 20th anniversary of the riots—reveals the absurd lengths to which the paper for which he worked attempted to make it seem as though the culpability for the riots rested equally between those attacking Hasidim and the Hasidim who were defending themselves against attack. All this happened while the New York Police Department stood by and deliberately failed to intervene, in one of the stunning moments of the mayoralty of David Dinkins that led to his defeat two years later at the hands of Rudy Giuliani and the complete overhaul of city policing strategy that led to the vertiginous crime drop, which proved to the be the salvation of New York City:

My job was to file memos to the main “rewrite” reporters back in the Times office in Manhattan about what I saw and heard. We had no laptops or cellphones in those days so the other reporters and I went to payphones and dictated our memos to a waiting band of stenographers in the home office…Yet, when I picked up the paper, the article I read was not the story I had reported. I saw headlines that described the riots in terms solely of race. “Two Deaths Ignite Racial Clash in Tense Brooklyn Neighborhood,” the Times headline said. And, worse, I read an opening paragraph, what journalists call a “lead,” that was simply untrue:

“Hasidim and blacks clashed in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn through the day and into the night yesterday.” In all my reporting during the riots I never saw — or heard of — any violence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions. To show Jewish culpability in the riots, the paper even ran a picture — laughable even at the time — of a chasidic man brandishing an open umbrella before a police officer in riot gear. The caption read: “A police officer scuffling with a Hasidic man yesterday on President Street.”

I was outraged but I held my tongue. I was a loyal Times employee and deferred to my editors….But then I reached my breaking point. On Aug. 21, as I stood in a group of chasidic men in front of the Lubavitch headquarters, a group of demonstrators were coming down Eastern Parkway. “Heil Hitler,” they chanted. “Death to the Jews.” Police in riot gear stood nearby but did nothing.

Suddenly rocks and bottles started to fly toward us and a chasidic man just a few feet away from me was hit in the throat and fell to the ground….I ran for a payphone and, my hands shaking with rage, dialed my editor. I spoke in a way that I never had before or since when talking to a boss.

“You don’t know what’s happening here!” I yelled. “I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone next to me just got hit. I am writing memos and what comes out in the paper? ‘Hasidim and blacks clashed’? That’s not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You’ve got this story all wrong. All wrong.”

I didn’t blame the “rewrite” reporter. I blamed the editors. It was clear that they had settled on a “frame” for the story. The way they saw it, there were two narratives here: the white narrative and the black narrative. And both had equal weight.

You must read the whole thing. The piece is obviously timely because of the riots that have broken out in England, though anti-Semitism is clearly not an issue in that case. But what is and will be relevant is the development of elite opinion in Britain in relation to the riots. The British public is enraged, and that David Cameron and others are responding to that outrage, but that won’t stop elite opinion from deciding that the rioters were and are in some way justified in their conduct and need to be mollified and supported. Should that happen, as did happen in New York, the same kind of bewilderment that greeted Rudy’s rise and the strength he took not only from failing to mind elite opinion in New York but consciously to work against it to do what was necessary for the city’s safety and its future will greet the populist political movement that may arise from the sense in England that their society has derailed.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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