Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 21, 2011

Obama’s Poll Numbers Hit All-Time Lows

The most recent McClatchy-Marist poll, which gives Democrats an eight point sampling advantage, shows the president’s approval rating is at 39 percent among registered voters nationally, an all-time low for Obama.  And for the first time a majority — 52 percent — disapproves of the job he is doing in office. In fact, the president’s job approval rating, his favorability, and his rating on the economy have hit all-time lows. This data, by the way, comes in the aftermath of the president’s latest jobs speech/plan.

Mr. Obama job approval rating among independents is now less than one in three (32 percent). His approval ratings numbers on the economy are 33 percent approve v. 61 percent disapprove, with the disapproval percentage among independents up to nearly 70 percent (69 percent). And the president’s personal favorability rating is now, for the first time, lower than his personal disapproval rating (46 percent v. 48 percent).

Read More

The most recent McClatchy-Marist poll, which gives Democrats an eight point sampling advantage, shows the president’s approval rating is at 39 percent among registered voters nationally, an all-time low for Obama.  And for the first time a majority — 52 percent — disapproves of the job he is doing in office. In fact, the president’s job approval rating, his favorability, and his rating on the economy have hit all-time lows. This data, by the way, comes in the aftermath of the president’s latest jobs speech/plan.

Mr. Obama job approval rating among independents is now less than one in three (32 percent). His approval ratings numbers on the economy are 33 percent approve v. 61 percent disapprove, with the disapproval percentage among independents up to nearly 70 percent (69 percent). And the president’s personal favorability rating is now, for the first time, lower than his personal disapproval rating (46 percent v. 48 percent).

In addition, and by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent, voters said they definitely plan to vote against Obama. Independents said, by a 53 percent to 28 percent margin, they definitely plan to vote against him. And by 52 percent to 38 percent, voters think he’ll lose to the Republican nominee whoever that is. Even among Democrats, nearly one in three (31 percent) think the Republican nominee will win.

Things are so bad for the president that Sarah Palin – a figure who inspires (depending on the day) hate, contempt, derision and ridicule among the left – now leads Mr. Obama among independents.

To help understand why, consider this data point: three in four Americans still believe the nation is in a recession, while the proportion who thinks the country is moving in the wrong direction (73 percent) is at its highest point in more than a decade.

And in a new USA Today/Gallup survey, eight out of 10 of those polled say the country is in a recession, with a similar number of people think it hasn’t improved in the last year. Sixty-one percent of those polled predict the economy will be “the same or worse” in a year. In 2009, only 35 percent of people believed that the economy would be the same or worse in a year.

If there’s a silver lining in this polling for the president, I can’t find it. I suspect neither can he.

Read Less

Christie May Help Rather Than Hurt Perry

Though Rick Perry’s initial surge to a huge lead over the rest of the Republican presidential field has been whittled down in the last week, his nearest competitor still trails him by several points in every poll. Given that Romney remains a difficult sell for most conservatives and therefore a dubious pick for the party’s nod, that leaves those Republicans who either dislike or distrust Perry or believe he is a weak general election candidate in something close to a state of panic.

That’s the reason behind the revival of an effort to get Chris Christie to run. But those thumping the tub for Christie should be careful about what they wish for. Dragging Christie into the race may have the opposite effect of what his backers want, because it would only make it even more certain it will be Rick Perry who ascends the podium next year at the Republican convention in Tampa to accept the nomination.

Read More

Though Rick Perry’s initial surge to a huge lead over the rest of the Republican presidential field has been whittled down in the last week, his nearest competitor still trails him by several points in every poll. Given that Romney remains a difficult sell for most conservatives and therefore a dubious pick for the party’s nod, that leaves those Republicans who either dislike or distrust Perry or believe he is a weak general election candidate in something close to a state of panic.

That’s the reason behind the revival of an effort to get Chris Christie to run. But those thumping the tub for Christie should be careful about what they wish for. Dragging Christie into the race may have the opposite effect of what his backers want, because it would only make it even more certain it will be Rick Perry who ascends the podium next year at the Republican convention in Tampa to accept the nomination.

The fear and loathing Perry seems to inspire in some Republicans is curious. It’s true he’s far from a perfect candidate. His stands on many national issues are not sophisticated. The same can be said of his speaking style. And he’s said and written some over the top things over the years about odd topics such as Texas secession that are hard to explain out of context. For some, he’s too religious as well as not enough of a policy wonk. On foreign policy, outside of his longstanding and obviously heartfelt support for Israel, his positions are something of an improvisation that has led to confusion over what he would do about the war in Afghanistan.

But unless Perry implodes on the debate stage or real scandals that are more than sniping from local critics emerge, it’s hard to see how any of this will sink his campaign. After all, though calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme may be a burden in a general election, does anyone really think his criticisms of the system will set off a stampede of conservative Republicans to Romney? Perry is the clear favorite of conservatives and Tea Partiers who like his muscular style and respond to his homey manner. Romney’s advantage over him in head-to-head polls against Obama may have convinced some Perry can’t win next year, but it is not, at least as of yet, significant enough to indicate what would really happen next November if Perry were at the head of the GOP ticket.

The odd thing about the efforts to get Christie into the race is it is hard to see how that would derail Perry. Even if the New Jersey governor were to do the unexpected and succumb to the blandishments of those flatterers who are urging him to run, it would only split the centrist and moderate Republican vote.

Though Christie has rightly earned the applause of Tea Partiers for his battles with state worker unions and their Democratic allies, in the context of a Republican primary election outside of the Northeast, he won’t come across as somebody who conservatives will see as one of their own. That will only get worse once his life and record is examined with a microscope as has already happened with those in the race.  Christie’s candidacy would merely siphon votes away from Romney and ensure Perry would have an even easier path to the nomination than currently envisioned.

The problem here is many of those panicking over Perry understand Romney is not a good bet to prevail once the votes are counted in the caucuses and primaries. So it is no surprise they seek alternatives. But in doing so they may be doing Perry a favor. Those who  don’t want Perry to be their standard-bearer next year may be better off jumping on Romney’s rickety bandwagon now before they do something foolish that may only guarantee his defeat.

Read Less

The Face of Palestinian Statehood

In its September 8 report entitled “Palestinians and UN – Statehood or Stalemate?” the U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA) informed readers the Palestinians were “poised” to submit their UN petition, but Congress was “demanding President Barack Obama veto” it; that Israel was “considering a nullification of the Oslo Accords” if the Palestinians pushed their “ambitious bid;” and that the U.S. “would be perceived as a superpower crushing the aspirations of the Palestinian people” if it used its veto.

The piece was deemed a news report, not an editorial. But the more striking aspect was the picture that accompanied it — an elderly Palestinian woman standing in front of UN headquarters in Ramallah, holding the Palestinian letter to the UN. The VOA caption described her only as “Palestinian activist Latifa Abu Hmeid.” Thanks to Palestinian Media Watch, we know what the VOA omitted: Abu Hmeid was chosen to launch the Palestinian bid, as Evelyn noted, as the mother of five sons who murdered Israeli civilians in operations by Fatah and Hamas units, one son dead and the others serving life sentences in Israeli prison.

Read More

In its September 8 report entitled “Palestinians and UN – Statehood or Stalemate?” the U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA) informed readers the Palestinians were “poised” to submit their UN petition, but Congress was “demanding President Barack Obama veto” it; that Israel was “considering a nullification of the Oslo Accords” if the Palestinians pushed their “ambitious bid;” and that the U.S. “would be perceived as a superpower crushing the aspirations of the Palestinian people” if it used its veto.

The piece was deemed a news report, not an editorial. But the more striking aspect was the picture that accompanied it — an elderly Palestinian woman standing in front of UN headquarters in Ramallah, holding the Palestinian letter to the UN. The VOA caption described her only as “Palestinian activist Latifa Abu Hmeid.” Thanks to Palestinian Media Watch, we know what the VOA omitted: Abu Hmeid was chosen to launch the Palestinian bid, as Evelyn noted, as the mother of five sons who murdered Israeli civilians in operations by Fatah and Hamas units, one son dead and the others serving life sentences in Israeli prison.

In other words, the Palestinians wrapped their UN petition – a blatant violation of the prohibition under the Oslo Accords on unilateral action – in still another act of incitement, choosing as the face of their UN statehood effort the mother of terrorists, which the VOA failed to note in its “news report” on the “ambitious bid.”

Read Less

Obama’s “Buffett Rule” Branding

Warren Buffett is quickly becoming the face of Obama’s new “millionaires’ tax” (aka the “Buffett Rule”) and will likely play a major role in the president’s campaign messaging. But there are some potential pitfalls to this branding strategy, and it starts with the actual substance of the “Buffett Rule” – there isn’t any. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle writes:

At least in the White House document that I read, I saw no proposal to set some sort of AMT on millionaires.  Instead, it claims to do this, while rehashing a bunch of things that the administration has long proposed: allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making more than $250,000; changing the treatment of carried interest income accrued from capital gains; and altering the treatment of deductions for very high earners. If all of these things were passed, guess who would still pay a lower effective tax rate than his secretary?  Hint:  his initials are WB, and he lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

Read More

Warren Buffett is quickly becoming the face of Obama’s new “millionaires’ tax” (aka the “Buffett Rule”) and will likely play a major role in the president’s campaign messaging. But there are some potential pitfalls to this branding strategy, and it starts with the actual substance of the “Buffett Rule” – there isn’t any. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle writes:

At least in the White House document that I read, I saw no proposal to set some sort of AMT on millionaires.  Instead, it claims to do this, while rehashing a bunch of things that the administration has long proposed: allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making more than $250,000; changing the treatment of carried interest income accrued from capital gains; and altering the treatment of deductions for very high earners. If all of these things were passed, guess who would still pay a lower effective tax rate than his secretary?  Hint:  his initials are WB, and he lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

The likely reason, as McArdle goes on to explain, is a “Buffett Rule” would be incredibly tricky to institute. “[I]t would add complexity to the tax code; it might not be possible to do in a way that would stand up even in our very IRS-friendly tax courts; it would have upsetting effects on the market for various forms of capital, particularly municipal bonds,” she wrote.

So at the moment, the administration is linking its various stale proposals with the “Buffett Rule,” including a tax hike on families making more than $250,000 a year. And considering Buffett is the third richest man in the world and is worth around $50 billion, there’s a major disconnect here. As Rich Lowry writes:

Obama clearly thinks that wielding Warren Buffett’s support for higher taxes on “millionaires and billionaires,” as Obama invariably puts it, is a rhetorical clincher.

Except what Obama supports is raising taxes on people who are paupers compared with the Sage of Omaha. Half of Obama’s tax increase consists of allowing the Bush tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers to expire. “Upper-income” includes couples making $250,000 a year.

Americans can obviously grasp the difference between Buffett and a family pulling in $250,000 a year. But Obama doesn’t just lump people making more than $250k in with Buffett; his rhetoric virtually expels them from the rest of “ordinary” society. Writes the editorial board at Bloomberg:

The Buffett Rule plays right into Obama’s unfortunate tendency to vilify people and institutions (medical-insurance companies, banks and so on). The criticism may be appropriate, but the vilification isn’t. In accusing his critics on Monday of wanting to put “all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans,” the president casually expelled the wealthy from “ordinary” society.

Buffett is set to host some fundraisers for Obama, a sure sign he’ll be a regular presence alongside the campaign. But unless Obama proposes an actual “Buffett Rule,” he might want to be careful about linking the multi-billionaire to proposed tax hikes on Americans who are a far cry from millionaires.

Read Less

Don’t Be Distracted by Ahmadinejad’s Stunt

Unlike his last visit to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has struggled to get attention during his current junket to the annual opening session of the United Nations. Ahmadinejad, who is in the midst of a power struggle with his former patrons among the ayatollahs in Tehran, has been knocked off the front pages due to the showdown over Palestinian independence. Yet rather than doubling down on his old act, which centered on his denial of the Holocaust and threats to destroy Israel, the Iranian is trying to curry international sympathy by releasing the two Americans his government has held hostage for more than two years.

Ahmadinejad will attempt to use this act of mercy not only to boost his international profile but to lessen the pressure on his country to back off on their dangerous project of gaining nuclear weapons. Despite the general relief over the freedom of the prisoners, this must be recognized for what it is: a cynical ploy designed to weaken American resolve to deal harshly with Iran.

Read More

Unlike his last visit to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has struggled to get attention during his current junket to the annual opening session of the United Nations. Ahmadinejad, who is in the midst of a power struggle with his former patrons among the ayatollahs in Tehran, has been knocked off the front pages due to the showdown over Palestinian independence. Yet rather than doubling down on his old act, which centered on his denial of the Holocaust and threats to destroy Israel, the Iranian is trying to curry international sympathy by releasing the two Americans his government has held hostage for more than two years.

Ahmadinejad will attempt to use this act of mercy not only to boost his international profile but to lessen the pressure on his country to back off on their dangerous project of gaining nuclear weapons. Despite the general relief over the freedom of the prisoners, this must be recognized for what it is: a cynical ploy designed to weaken American resolve to deal harshly with Iran.

The story dates back to July 2009 when three American hikers were arrested in the vicinity of the border between Iraq and Iran and charged with spying by the Iranians. The one woman in the trio was released last year, but the two men were convicted on a bogus count of espionage. Ahmadinejad has clearly sought to use their lives as chips in a game of diplomatic poker. But the two prisoners wound up getting caught in the middle of the battle between Ahmadinejad and his rivals when the Iranian judiciary stalled their release in an effort to embarrass the president.

While Ahmadinejad has become the loathsome face of the Islamist regime, we must not be fooled into thinking his stance as the “moderate” in this power struggle entitles him to any sympathy. Ahmadinejad has lately taken to posing as the one person in Tehran who wants to resolve the nuclear issue. However, it is far from clear he is actually any more “moderate” than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who has apparently broken with his former front man.

No matter who emerges triumphant from this internal Islamist spat, the West should not be fooled into thinking Tehran is ready to deal. During the last decade, the Iranians have played a brilliant delay game encouraging the West to buy into misguided attempts at “engagement” with Iran or nuclear deals that always fall through at the last minute.

The problems with Iran have always been more serious than Ahmadinejad’s disgusting antics about the Holocaust or even provocations like the imprisonment of the three Americans. Iran’s nuclear ambitions present a deadly threat not just to the existence of Israel but also to the security of the entire world. Moreover, its sponsorship of terrorist allies such as Hamas and Hezbollah and its alliance with Syria make it a primary source of instability as well as violence.

Though we should rejoice in the release of the hikers, Ahmadinejad ought not to earn any credit for releasing these hostages. Nor should this stunt give either him or his rivals any leverage with which to evade the draconian sanctions that might provide the West with its only chance short of war to prevent an Iranian bomb.

Read Less

Good News For a Change

In a nation desperate for good news, here’s some. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,  during 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced a double-digit drop (13 percent) in the rate of violent victimization. There were 3.8 million violent crimes last year, down from 4.3 million in 2009. (The rate of property victimization, which includes burglary, motor vehicle theft and household theft also declined by six percent during the year.)

The drop in violent victimization, from about 17 victimizations per 1,000 residents in 2009 to 15 per 1,000 in 2010, was three times the average annual rate of decline experienced during the last nine years. And during the 10-year period from 2001 to 2010, the overall violent victimization rate decreased by 40 percent, and the property victimization rate fell by 28 percent. This, in turn, was part of a larger trend. From 1993 to 2010, the violent crime victimization rate decreased 70 percent, while the property crime victimization rate fell 62 percent.

Read More

In a nation desperate for good news, here’s some. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,  during 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced a double-digit drop (13 percent) in the rate of violent victimization. There were 3.8 million violent crimes last year, down from 4.3 million in 2009. (The rate of property victimization, which includes burglary, motor vehicle theft and household theft also declined by six percent during the year.)

The drop in violent victimization, from about 17 victimizations per 1,000 residents in 2009 to 15 per 1,000 in 2010, was three times the average annual rate of decline experienced during the last nine years. And during the 10-year period from 2001 to 2010, the overall violent victimization rate decreased by 40 percent, and the property victimization rate fell by 28 percent. This, in turn, was part of a larger trend. From 1993 to 2010, the violent crime victimization rate decreased 70 percent, while the property crime victimization rate fell 62 percent.

The drop in crime is, along with welfare reform, among the great social achievements of the last half-century. The progress we’ve made against crime, starting around 1993, is nothing short of stunning – and it occurred during a period when criminologists were predicting crime would rise for demographic reasons (on influx of males reaching adolescence and young adulthood).

There are many explanations for this achievement, including higher incarceration rates, private security, improved technology, and advances in policing. Law
enforcement officers are simply much better than ever at spotting crime trends and responding to them more quickly. Another possibility is that we are seeing
a social and moral “re-norming” Francis Fukuyama wrote about in The Great Disruption. (Fukuyama cited historical examples of societies undergoing periods of moral decline followed by periods of moral recovery and argued that in the case of America, the aftermath of the cultural breakdown of the 1960s had given way to a reassessment and recovery of social and moral norms.)

Whatever the case, at a time when faith in our public institutions, including government, is collapsing, it’s worth reminding ourselves the first duty of government is to secure order. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “that of providing for their safety seems to be the first.” Order, then, is the sine qua non, the necessary precondition. Without it, we can hardly expect justice and prosperity, family life and schools, to flourish.

For almost two decades now, in city after city, we have seen how enforcing good laws has allowed public space to be regained, order and civility restored, and civic life revivified. Progress against crime required government coercion, but it has been carried out in a manner far from capricious or draconian. Criminals have rights, from lawyers to trials to an appeals process. Third parties arbitrate the process. Punishment is meted out to the guilty, but they are protected
against the violent wrath of victims and their families and can avail themselves of the promise of rehabilitation. Our laws treat even the worst criminals with the kind of decency and respect they never demonstrated to their victims. That is a sign of a decent and humane civilization.

Crime is the result of evil that exists within the human heart. Government is charged with restraining such evil – and when it acts intelligently and comprehensively, as it has in the area of crime, it deserves the public’s esteem and gratitude. That’s something even–and maybe especially–conservatives need to keep in mind.

 

Read Less

Are Congressional Supporters of Israel “Complicating” U.S. Middle East Policy?

For the American foreign policy establishment there is no more frustrating aspect of American politics than the steadfast support for Israel in the United States Congress. As the New York Times pointed out in a front page article, this “significantly complicated the administration’s diplomatic efforts to avert a confrontation at the United Nations this week over the Palestinian bid for full membership as a state, limiting President Obama’s ability to exert pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to make concessions that could restart negotiations with the Palestinians.”

The Times article is focused on the fact the congressional Republican caucus is ardently pro-Israel, and the GOP hopes to capitalize on disaffection from Obama to win votes as the results in the special election in the heavily Jewish New York 9th congressional district showed. This ignores the fact the affection for Israel on both sides of the congressional aisle is far from a recent development. It’s true Obama’s often less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel has created an opening for the Republicans. But dismissing the GOP Congress’ stand on Israel as mere politics misses the point. Rather than a superficial partisan approach to foreign policy, the congressional effort to act as a brake on Obama’s tilting of the diplomatic playing field toward the Palestinians reflects the deeply held convictions of most Americans.

Read More

For the American foreign policy establishment there is no more frustrating aspect of American politics than the steadfast support for Israel in the United States Congress. As the New York Times pointed out in a front page article, this “significantly complicated the administration’s diplomatic efforts to avert a confrontation at the United Nations this week over the Palestinian bid for full membership as a state, limiting President Obama’s ability to exert pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to make concessions that could restart negotiations with the Palestinians.”

The Times article is focused on the fact the congressional Republican caucus is ardently pro-Israel, and the GOP hopes to capitalize on disaffection from Obama to win votes as the results in the special election in the heavily Jewish New York 9th congressional district showed. This ignores the fact the affection for Israel on both sides of the congressional aisle is far from a recent development. It’s true Obama’s often less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel has created an opening for the Republicans. But dismissing the GOP Congress’ stand on Israel as mere politics misses the point. Rather than a superficial partisan approach to foreign policy, the congressional effort to act as a brake on Obama’s tilting of the diplomatic playing field toward the Palestinians reflects the deeply held convictions of most Americans.

Netanyahu’s popularity in Congress is based on the fact both Republicans and Democrats see Israel as an ally, not just a political talking point. The Times finds it ironic many members of Congress trust the Israeli government’s opinion about whether they should continue aid to the Palestinian Authority more than that of the administration. But more than anything else, that is a measure of Obama’s generally poor record on the Middle East. Israel has signaled it favors U.S. support for the PA, but congressional efforts to put the PA and the UN on notice the flow of American taxpayer cash to these bodies cannot continue if our values and interests are flouted will not be stopped by a few words from Netanyahu.

Measures like House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s proposed bill mandating the cutoff of U.S. money to the PA as well as to the United Nations in the event of a successful vote for unilateral declaration of independence are portrayed as hurting the cause of peace. But it could help Obama bring the Palestinians to their senses if he understood it provides his only leverage over them and the world body.  The goal is not to create chaos on the West Bank by bankrupting the PA but to make Abbas and his cronies understand they can’t flout America’s interests while taking its money.

This morning at the UN, the president rightly articulated Israel’s case for security and for the need for a resolution of the conflict through negotiations. But if Abbas is not willing to negotiate or to sign a deal that will accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, the administration’s policy of seeking to sweeten the pot for the Palestinians to come back to the table will be of no avail. In this context, any attempt to draw a moral equivalence between Israel’s position and that of the Palestinians, as Obama did, will not bring the region closer to peace.

Congressional Republicans are often portrayed, as they are in this Times piece, as unthinking partisans of Israel. But in this case, their belief in bringing pressure to bear on the Palestinians seems far more realistic than the devotion of the administration to a policy of pressuring Israel in a futile attempt to bribe Abbas.

Read Less

Clinton Knocks Obama’s Debt Plan

Does anyone notice a pattern emerging from the Clinton camp? Last week, James Carville caused some commotion with his “Time to Panic” column, which evidently got under the White House’s skin. And today, Bill Clinton rejected the fundamental basis of Obama’s deficit-reduction plan – tax hikes – during an interview with Newsmax:

“I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending until we get this economy off the ground. If we cut government spending, which I normally would be very inclined to do when the deficit’s this big, with interest rates already near zero you can’t get the benefits out of it.

“So what I’d like to see them do is come up with a bipartisan approach, starting with the payroll tax cuts because they have the biggest return.”

Read More

Does anyone notice a pattern emerging from the Clinton camp? Last week, James Carville caused some commotion with his “Time to Panic” column, which evidently got under the White House’s skin. And today, Bill Clinton rejected the fundamental basis of Obama’s deficit-reduction plan – tax hikes – during an interview with Newsmax:

“I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending until we get this economy off the ground. If we cut government spending, which I normally would be very inclined to do when the deficit’s this big, with interest rates already near zero you can’t get the benefits out of it.

“So what I’d like to see them do is come up with a bipartisan approach, starting with the payroll tax cuts because they have the biggest return.”

I’m not sure which is worse for Obama: Clinton skewering the idea of tax hikes during a weak economy, or him calling for lawmakers to “come up with a bipartisan approach” to the jobs plan/debt debate. After all, Obama has been insisting for weeks his jobs plan is “bipartisan.” Apparently, Clinton doesn’t agree.

Clinton has a long-time habit of criticizing Obama through backhanded compliments and “friendly advice,” and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be tempered by a tough presidential election season. In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, James Taranto dubbed Clinton “Public Frenemy No. 1″ for Obama, which is a fitting description. Taranto has a round-up of some of Clinton’s cattiest swipes at Obama during the first term, and it’s hard not to have a dash of sympathy for Obama’s 2012 campaign staff. They already have Joe Biden’s mouth to contend with, and an uncooperative and chatty Clinton could potentially be an even bigger source of aggravation.

Read Less

How Will We Leave Afghanistan and Iraq?

One passage jumped out at me from President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Much of the speech was filled by commendable expressions of support for the Arab Spring; I was cheered, in particular, to see him include condemnation, however brief, of Iranian human rights violations. But what jumped out at me was what he said about our own commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan:

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq– for its government and Security Forces; for its people and their aspirations.

Read More

One passage jumped out at me from President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Much of the speech was filled by commendable expressions of support for the Arab Spring; I was cheered, in particular, to see him include condemnation, however brief, of Iranian human rights violations. But what jumped out at me was what he said about our own commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan:

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq– for its government and Security Forces; for its people and their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and Security Forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding.  When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline.

This is critical to the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

That’s it. Notice what’s missing? Any talk about what kind of end-state we would like to see in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nothing about preserving democracy against its enemies. Nothing about upholding human rights as he vowed to do in other parts of the Middle East. He did mention his desire for an “equal
partnership” with Iraq but also spoke of having a “normal relationship” with it–whatever that means. How can we have a “normal relationship” with a country where thousands of Americans have sacrificed life and limb in order to defeat our enemies? Do we have a “normal relationship” with South Korea, Germany,
and Japan–the same kind of relationship we have with Bolivia and Burkina Faso? Hardly. We have a “special relationship” with such lands, but Obama did not say that or anything close to it.

He did mention the desirability of an “enduring partnership with the Afghan people” (slightly warmer than our “equal partnership” with Iraq), but he put his emphasis there, as in Iraq, on the imperative to withdraw our forces. His proudest boast is not that he will leave Afghanistan and Iraq as free and stable countries–but that he will leave, period. Unfortunately, in both cases the latter goal (leaving) is not compatible with the former (creating peace and stability). It is amazing the president still has not figured that out–or maybe he has and simply doesn’t care.

 

Read Less

Obama Offers Common Sense at UN; Journalists Complain

The most interesting facet of the Palestinian unilateral declaration drama has been to try and figure out who wants this to proceed. The Palestinians, as we have noted, do not want unilateral declaration. The Israelis don’t want it, especially since Palestinian negotiators have volunteered that the first act of their new state will be to remove the Jews from their midst.

The Americans don’t want it, for the obvious reason if you encourage one side in the conflict to take unilateral measures anytime they get frustrated, you’ll have to abide the other side doing the same. And the Europeans prefer negotiations to unilateral declaration, even if some of them will ultimately vote for it, because they understand one primary purpose of the gambit is to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S., and, well, this is a bad time for that. So who really wants this, besides a Palestinian president whose term legally ended two years ago? Journalists, that’s who.

Read More

The most interesting facet of the Palestinian unilateral declaration drama has been to try and figure out who wants this to proceed. The Palestinians, as we have noted, do not want unilateral declaration. The Israelis don’t want it, especially since Palestinian negotiators have volunteered that the first act of their new state will be to remove the Jews from their midst.

The Americans don’t want it, for the obvious reason if you encourage one side in the conflict to take unilateral measures anytime they get frustrated, you’ll have to abide the other side doing the same. And the Europeans prefer negotiations to unilateral declaration, even if some of them will ultimately vote for it, because they understand one primary purpose of the gambit is to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S., and, well, this is a bad time for that. So who really wants this, besides a Palestinian president whose term legally ended two years ago? Journalists, that’s who.

The reaction to President Obama’s speech today at the United Nations was rather tepid, especially from those the president can usually count on. Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy magazine thinks it was a “pretty lousy speech.” Josh Marshall sighs, “Gimme a break.” CNN’s Kevin Flower tweeted, accurately, “No real surprises in Obama speech tdy … likely Israeli diplomats are much happier w/ it than their Palestinian counterparts.” Indeed, here’s the relevant portion:

Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

Israeli administrations have made increasingly generous offers, and the Palestinian response has been rejection and violence. So Israel began asking for some assurances the Palestinians would begin negotiating in earnest. This is not an unreasonable request, since Yasser Arafat admitted to American negotiators before the Clinton administration’s ill-fated Camp David summit he could not and would not say yes to any deal offered at the time, because he feared assassination. So Arafat went in saying no, the Israelis showed up anyway, Clinton pushed the conference, and Arafat made good on his word: he said no, then initiated a campaign of terror against Israeli men, women and children.

Now Benjamin Netanyahu–who is agreeing to sit down with his Palestinian counterpart in Ramallah, if need be—is trying to avoid a repeat of a deadly phenomenon. But the primary supporters of Palestinian unilateral declaration–leftist journalists—are frustrated. Here’s Marshall:

So this Israeli government has no interest in real negotiation; violence is off the table; what on Earth else are the folks at the PA supposed to do?

Yes, what on earth are Palestinians supposed to do if they can’t bomb buses and malls and cafes and elementary schools while pretending to negotiate?

Some forget this Israeli government is made up of people who have either signed or agreed to peace deals and withdrawn from territory only to be rewarded for both with bombs, rockets, incitement and the threat of genocide. Obama acknowledged as much in his speech today. And that is why the left hated it.

Read Less

Obama Contradicts Supporters on May Speech

At the United Nations this morning, President Obama characteristically tried to have it both ways on the Arab-Israeli conflict while also defending his own record of support for peace. He made the now obligatory appeal for a Palestinian state while also speaking up for Israeli security. He particularly deserves credit for pointing out Israel remains under siege from terrorists, and Jewish children grow up knowing Arab children in surrounding nations are taught to hate them.

Much of Obama’s speech was familiar material and little of it was of great interest, especially his lengthy tribute to the world body as an institution and his defense of its generally awful record in responding to human rights abuses. But there was one point that should have been of great interest to the president’s supporters, especially those who have been ardent defenders of his stance on Israel. In the course of reciting his administration’s efforts to revive the moribund peace process, Obama claimed his May speech (in which he demanded the 1967 lines be the starting point for future negotiations) put forward a “new basis” for the talks. That’s funny, because at the time he claimed it was nothing new, and that has been a talking point for Jewish Democrats ever since. So who was telling the truth? The Obama of May 26 or the Obama of Sept. 20? The answer is the latter.

Read More

At the United Nations this morning, President Obama characteristically tried to have it both ways on the Arab-Israeli conflict while also defending his own record of support for peace. He made the now obligatory appeal for a Palestinian state while also speaking up for Israeli security. He particularly deserves credit for pointing out Israel remains under siege from terrorists, and Jewish children grow up knowing Arab children in surrounding nations are taught to hate them.

Much of Obama’s speech was familiar material and little of it was of great interest, especially his lengthy tribute to the world body as an institution and his defense of its generally awful record in responding to human rights abuses. But there was one point that should have been of great interest to the president’s supporters, especially those who have been ardent defenders of his stance on Israel. In the course of reciting his administration’s efforts to revive the moribund peace process, Obama claimed his May speech (in which he demanded the 1967 lines be the starting point for future negotiations) put forward a “new basis” for the talks. That’s funny, because at the time he claimed it was nothing new, and that has been a talking point for Jewish Democrats ever since. So who was telling the truth? The Obama of May 26 or the Obama of Sept. 20? The answer is the latter.

The president’s UN speech today was right on this point. Obama was not the first president ever to mention the 1967 lines, but he was the first to explicitly demand Israel concede in advance any adjustments to those borders could only come with the consent of the Palestinians. This was completely different from George W. Bush’s 2004 stand, when he said it was the Palestinians who must understand the ’67 lines could not be resurrected. By saying today the Palestinians had a right to know the extent of the territory of their future state, Obama was more or less guaranteeing there would be no real give and take on borders by a U.S./Palestinian dictat that Israel must accept.

This completely contradicts the spin put forward by the president’s Jewish defenders, who have asserted not only was the May 26 speech nothing new, but it did not fundamentally tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians.

It is true this administration has maintained the strategic alliance with Israel, and this president has said and occasionally done things that reaffirm the friendship between the two nations. However, as he again confirmed today, Obama has also done more to support the Palestinian position against Israel than any of his predecessors. It is a great irony the Palestinian leadership has not taken advantage of his support and has instead preferred to boycott peace talks. Doing so protects them from having to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. But that doesn’t change the fact Obama has undermined Israel’s negotiating position, and his stands are a complete departure from the policies of his two most recent predecessors. As his speech today illustrated, this fact cannot be wished away by his supporters.

Read Less

Questions Arise About Partisan Documents

During the 2008 election, former Representative Robert Wexler grandiously assured pro-Israel voters there was “no doubt” Obama and Netanyahu would “get along very well.” After the exact opposite happened, culminating in the president’s “past Israeli concessions don’t matter any more” 1967 borders speech, Wexler took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to insist Obama was being horribly misunderstood. His op-ed was co-written with Zvika Krieger, the senior vice president of the avowedly “non-partisan” S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace where Wexler is the president.

Fast forward to yesterday morning when, as part of the effort to make Israel supporters forget about Obama’s repeated diplomatic offensives against the Jewish State, the Obama 2012 campaign launched a “Jewish Americans for Obama” website. The campaign trotted out Wexler to introduce reporters to the site and then, after the 40-minute conference call, Wexler spent the rest of the day doing telephone interviews on Obama’s behalf. He accused Perry of having a “religious obsession” with Israel, a pointlessly venomous slam and something to remember the next time Democrats whine about dog-whistle politics. He unblinkingly insisted Obama isn’t responsible for the peace process having ground to a halt, analysis that will be news to Palestinian President Abbas. It was roughly what you’d expect.

Read More

During the 2008 election, former Representative Robert Wexler grandiously assured pro-Israel voters there was “no doubt” Obama and Netanyahu would “get along very well.” After the exact opposite happened, culminating in the president’s “past Israeli concessions don’t matter any more” 1967 borders speech, Wexler took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to insist Obama was being horribly misunderstood. His op-ed was co-written with Zvika Krieger, the senior vice president of the avowedly “non-partisan” S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace where Wexler is the president.

Fast forward to yesterday morning when, as part of the effort to make Israel supporters forget about Obama’s repeated diplomatic offensives against the Jewish State, the Obama 2012 campaign launched a “Jewish Americans for Obama” website. The campaign trotted out Wexler to introduce reporters to the site and then, after the 40-minute conference call, Wexler spent the rest of the day doing telephone interviews on Obama’s behalf. He accused Perry of having a “religious obsession” with Israel, a pointlessly venomous slam and something to remember the next time Democrats whine about dog-whistle politics. He unblinkingly insisted Obama isn’t responsible for the peace process having ground to a halt, analysis that will be news to Palestinian President Abbas. It was roughly what you’d expect.

The “Jewish Americans for Obama” site offers readers three PDF documents, all of which show signs of hasty drafting and printing. The longest one – a gratingly titled “Myths vs. Facts” page – is riddled with typos, including a misspelling of Netanyahu’s name. All three documents have weird font and layout issues. The campaign didn’t even have time to rename the files properly, leaving one as “c69ef042a126db6b32_xcm6ibhka.pdf.”

The lack of simple copy-editing is in tension with the campaign’s insistence the launch was “planned long in advance” and the timing had nothing to do with panic over Obama’s cratering support in the Jewish community.

Perhaps it was the hurried pace of the launch, or perhaps they’re just careless, but the campaign neglected to wipe the metadata from the PDFs. It turns out two of the campaign documents were produced by Zvika Krieger – again, the VP of Wexler’s ostensibly non-partisan S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace – and they were finally printed out a few hours before the launch. The PDFs can be downloaded from here and here. Because the documents are all stamped “Paid For By Obama For America,” and because Wexler is doing surrogate work for the campaign while president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center, and because the Center’s VP is doing the documents for the campaign, that raises some questions:

(1) What is the financial relationship between the Obama campaign and Wexler’s “non-partisan” think tank?
(2) Did that financial relationship exist last May when Wexler and Krieger wrote their op-ed for the WSJ, and if so, did they disclose the conflict to the WSJ?
(3) Did that financial relationship exist last week when Krieger fed Laura Rozen a quote about how hard the Obama administration was working to avoid a Palestinian UDI resolution, and if so, did he disclose the conflict to her?
(4) Does that financial relationship extend to Wexler’s defenses of Obama and attacks on Perry yesterday – in other words, his work as an expert surrogate – or is that separate?
(5) The campaign team aren’t going to keep trotting out Wexler and Krieger as independent analysts are they?

Answers to these questions would be helpful, because right now, it seems like Wexler and Krieger are being paid to deny the extent to which Obama has eroded the U.S./Israeli relationship, and instead of disclosing as much, they’re giving interviews as non-partisan analysts.

Read Less

Obama’s Last-Minute Jewish Outreach

Yes, we’ve heard this all before (and before that), but President Obama is once again taking up renewed outreach to Jewish voters. This time, his problems are much more palpable than during his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May. NY-9 voters roundly rejected Obama’s Israel policy, his polling numbers have been sliding with Jewish voters, and he’s heading into a city where his face is plastered on billboards under the words “Not Pro-Israel.”

So he’s pushing back, both from the campaign and the White House, reports Lynn Sweet:

Read More

Yes, we’ve heard this all before (and before that), but President Obama is once again taking up renewed outreach to Jewish voters. This time, his problems are much more palpable than during his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May. NY-9 voters roundly rejected Obama’s Israel policy, his polling numbers have been sliding with Jewish voters, and he’s heading into a city where his face is plastered on billboards under the words “Not Pro-Israel.”

So he’s pushing back, both from the campaign and the White House, reports Lynn Sweet:

On Tuesday afternoon, I have learned, the Obama team reached out to leaders and activists in the U.S. Jewish community in two conference calls: one organized by the Obama 2012 campaign, the second by the White House.

The campaign call was put together by Ira Forman, the Obama 2012 Jewish Outreach Director, featured Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

The campaign has launched a new website (as it tends to do in these situations), and this one even features a video of Obama being praised by Danny Ayalon, of all people. Can’t wait to see how the anti-Israel groups on the left react to that.

Ben Smith also reports Obama has invited Ed Koch to a UN reception he’s hosting this week, a sign the White House isn’t completely ignoring the lessons of NY-9:

Mayor Ed Koch, his longtime aide George Arzt confirmed, received an unexpected invitation to a gathering of dignitaries the American president typically hosts during his New York visit. This is far from a private audience, but it does seem to be the beginning of a courtship of the former New York mayor, who emerged as a real thorn in Democrats’ side this summer. Koch had not, Arzt said, been invited to the event in Obama’s first two years, and the invitation is hardly a reward for loyalty.

Of course, Smith notes that “[n]either Koch nor the White House suggested any private meeting with the president tomorrow” – which raises the question of how much Obama has taken away from his past failed attempts at outreach. Obama’s engagement with the Jewish community has usually come when his relationship with the community has reached a crisis point. Then he’ll slap together a website, reassure Jewish leaders, and stage the necessary photo ops. But once the moment passes, he has no follow-through. If Obama really wants to improve his image with Israel supporters in the long-term, he needs to actually work with critics like Koch and make fundamental changes to his policies. Symbolic outreach might generate publicity, but it won’t help him in the long run.

Read Less

Republicans Not Allowed to Say Anything about the Fed

As the Federal Reserve Board gets ready to meet this afternoon—presumably to announce a new trick program to lower interest rates dubbed “the Twist”—pundits are expressing outrage that the four leading Republicans in the House and Senate would send Fed chair Ben Bernanke a letter hitting him on the notion of further easing: “It is our understanding that the Board Members of the Federal Reserve will meet later this week to consider additional monetary stimulus proposals. We write to express our reservations about any such measures.”

A representative item comes from Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who essentially compares the Republicans to gangsters threatening a hit with an item called “Nice central bank you got here. Shame if something should happen to it.”

The Fed has now spent four years working hand-in-glove with the executive branch on policy questions, in a clear but understandable breach of its legal obligation to remain separate and aloof from political interference. So the executive branch is allowed to coordinate policy with the Fed, but it is illegitimate and gangsterish for elected members of Congress to express their opinions of Fed actions? Klein himself acknowledges that “it is not intrinsically illegitimate for congressional leadership to convey its preferences to the Federal Reserve. The Fed is protected from political interference, not from the opinions of politicians.” Still, members of Congress shouldn’t evidently express their views because, you know, well, Ezra Klein and others just don’t like it.

Read More

As the Federal Reserve Board gets ready to meet this afternoon—presumably to announce a new trick program to lower interest rates dubbed “the Twist”—pundits are expressing outrage that the four leading Republicans in the House and Senate would send Fed chair Ben Bernanke a letter hitting him on the notion of further easing: “It is our understanding that the Board Members of the Federal Reserve will meet later this week to consider additional monetary stimulus proposals. We write to express our reservations about any such measures.”

A representative item comes from Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who essentially compares the Republicans to gangsters threatening a hit with an item called “Nice central bank you got here. Shame if something should happen to it.”

The Fed has now spent four years working hand-in-glove with the executive branch on policy questions, in a clear but understandable breach of its legal obligation to remain separate and aloof from political interference. So the executive branch is allowed to coordinate policy with the Fed, but it is illegitimate and gangsterish for elected members of Congress to express their opinions of Fed actions? Klein himself acknowledges that “it is not intrinsically illegitimate for congressional leadership to convey its preferences to the Federal Reserve. The Fed is protected from political interference, not from the opinions of politicians.” Still, members of Congress shouldn’t evidently express their views because, you know, well, Ezra Klein and others just don’t like it.

But he goes on to say that there is an implied threat in the letter from John Boehner and Mitch McConnell—a threat of political interference if their will is not heeded. Well, first of all, the rights and obligations of the Federal Reserve are written in law, not in the Constitution, and lawmakers are free to attempt to change those laws at any time. Indeed, they are obliged to do so if they believe the law in question is injurious to the good working order of the United States. But put that to one side.

This argument is a prime example of the Washington phenomenon of selective outrage—the condition in which you find horrifying activities undertaken by your ideological opponents that don’t bother you in the least when they’re undertaken by your own confreres. Ezra Klein doesn’t mind Geithner and Bernanke making policy together; that’s not political interference, in his eyes, because he likes what they’re doing. But let someone he doesn’t like say something he doesn’t like and the Mrs. Grundy swoons and the reach for smelling salts begin.

We see this same selective outrage at work in the reaction to the current proposal to change the way Pennsylvania apportions its electoral-college vote—by Congressional district rather than statewide. No one who is now screaming their lungs out about it cared a whit when Nebraska did the same thing in 2005, and why? Because Pennsylvania is a swing state that Obama won in 2008 and needs to win in 2012.

None of this is to endorse Fed-bashing of the Ron Paul variety, or to say that Rick Perry’s jocular threat to Ben Bernanke was a sound move. But it is a reminder to be very wary when people start acting shocked, shocked about something.

 

 

Read Less

“Palestine” to Deny Citizenship to 45 Percent of its Palestinian Residents

It’s eminently fitting the woman the Palestinian Authority chose to formally launch its statehood bid is a proud mother of five murderers, of whom one is now dead while the other four are serving life sentences in Israel. After all, a woman who teaches her sons to kill Israelis even at the expense of their own welfare is the perfect emblem of a Palestinian state dedicated to destroying Israel even at the expense of its people’s welfare. And if that accusation seems far-fetched, just consider the shocking interview the PLO’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdullah Abdullah, gave the Lebanese Daily Star last week:

The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state…

Read More

It’s eminently fitting the woman the Palestinian Authority chose to formally launch its statehood bid is a proud mother of five murderers, of whom one is now dead while the other four are serving life sentences in Israel. After all, a woman who teaches her sons to kill Israelis even at the expense of their own welfare is the perfect emblem of a Palestinian state dedicated to destroying Israel even at the expense of its people’s welfare. And if that accusation seems far-fetched, just consider the shocking interview the PLO’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdullah Abdullah, gave the Lebanese Daily Star last week:

The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state…

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”

Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees…

“When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.

This is simply unbelievable. For years, the world has backed a Palestinian state on the grounds Palestinians are stateless people who deserve a country of their own. And now, a senior Palestinian official has announced once they have received a state, most Palestinians will still be stateless – even those who actually live in “Palestine.”

Moreover, the new state won’t provide these residents with any services: It expects UNRWA – or, more accurately, the American and European taxpayers who provide the bulk of that organization’s funding – to continue providing their schooling, healthcare, welfare allowances, etc.

According to UNRWA, some 689,000 of the  West Bank’s 2.4 million Palestinians and 1.1 million of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians are refugees. Thus, aside from the 2.9 million Diaspora refugees, a whopping 45  percent of the new state’s residents will also remain stateless, deprived of both citizenship and services by the country the world fondly imagines is being created to serve their needs.

But of course, the PA doesn’t want a state to serve its people’s needs; it wants a state to further its goal of destroying Israel. Hence the refugees can’t be given citizenship; that would undermine its demand to resettle them in Israel, thereby destroying the Jewish state demographically.

And if the price is leaving half its people in stateless squalor for the next several decades or centuries, it’s a perfectly acceptable one to pay for the goal of killing the Jewish state. Just like Latifa Abu Hmeid thinks one son dead and four in jail is an acceptable price to pay for the goal of killing Jews.

 

Read Less

Abbas: No, Of Course We Won’t Ever Give Up Trying To Overrun Israel

These are now coming at a rate of once a month. Jonathan had an extended post on the topic at the end of August, but some in the media still seem to be under the impression that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel’s right to exist. On Monday the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler declared said acceptance to be nothing less than an absolute incontrovertible fact, worthy of mocking top-tier Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry as “stuck in a time warp” and “remarkably uninformed” for assuming otherwise.

So here is Abbas insisting three weeks ago the Palestinians will never give up on the right of return, which is the demand Israel open its borders so literally millions of the world’s most violently anti-Israel lunatics can overrun and destroy the Jewish State:

Read More

These are now coming at a rate of once a month. Jonathan had an extended post on the topic at the end of August, but some in the media still seem to be under the impression that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel’s right to exist. On Monday the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler declared said acceptance to be nothing less than an absolute incontrovertible fact, worthy of mocking top-tier Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry as “stuck in a time warp” and “remarkably uninformed” for assuming otherwise.

So here is Abbas insisting three weeks ago the Palestinians will never give up on the right of return, which is the demand Israel open its borders so literally millions of the world’s most violently anti-Israel lunatics can overrun and destroy the Jewish State:

See also this more extensive debunking by Power Line of that same obnoxious Kessler article.

We’re now entering the part of the campaign season where disagreements and concerns about Obama’s approach to Israel – including his first-phone-call embrace of Abbas and his policy of putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel – get dismissed as “smears” and “myths.” The strategy is an exact replay of what the Democrats did in 2008, where groups like the NJDC shouted down concerns about Obama’s anti-Israel advisers, his anti-Israel associates, and his anti-Israel rhetoric.

The goal isn’t to answer arguments. The president’s defenders want to categorically dismiss his critics as disingenuous liars, the better to ensure low-information voters don’t try to evaluate the criticisms. Having succeeded last time with press releases like “Another Ad, Another Lie” and accusations of “hypocrisy and the blatant disregard for truth,” Obama’s ostensibly pro-Israel defenders have no incentive to try anything new. That’s kind of lucky for them, because any actual defense would require exploring his record on Israel, which would involve Reuters articles with phrases like “historic crisis” and “35-year low.”

Read Less

Children and the Future of the Book

Over at the Atlantic’s technology blog, Edward Tenner asks whether children will save printed books. A historian of technology (whose 1996 book Why Things Bite Back ought to be required reading for the uncritical cheerleaders of technological progress), Tenner points out that, despite the “consensus of many e-book enthusiasts and elegiac traditionalists alike” that the codex is doomed, responsible thought about the future requires “alternative scenarios.”

And one possibility is that a younger generation will reject the prized possessions, the revolutionary amazements, of an older generation. Your father could not believe the convenience of his Remington Lektronic shaver and your mother raved about her Touch-o-Matic electric can opener; you shave with a safety razor and crank your cans open. Tenner suggests that a “pro-book rebellion” is possible, though not inevitable. The success of Mad Men has cleared the closets of wide neckties.

Indeed, heeding the Baseball Crank’s warning that knowledge is not settled, one possibility is as good as another at this point. Many of the features that Kindle and iPad devotees brag about (what Ed Driscoll hails, for example, as “being able to read a book anywhere, and carry the digital equivalent of a massive stack of them onto an airplane”) may not seem all that remarkable or important in a few years.

Electronic reading devices are new devices for old readers. Younger readers do not come to books with the same personal history. In fact, their own history with books might lead them to prefer paper and binding. I’ve suggested as much before (here and here). Children first encounter books as physical things. Board books, lift-the-flap books, touch-and-feel books, pop-up books — their first books are three-dimensional objects that encourage children to explore them in all three dimensions. When they acquire their own books, the books they have selected for themselves, children are proud of them. They like to display them on their shelves and carry them everywhere. They may even begin to develop a love for good paper and fine binding.

I’m not saying that printed books will triumph in the end. I’m no better than anyone else at predicting the future. What I am suggesting is that older readers, excited about their Kindles and iPads, have become strangers to their first experience with books and reading. The newfangled devices are exciting because they appear to solve longstanding problems — the problems of older readers, who have spent a lifetime with books. Younger readers, who do not share that excitement and are not yet estranged from their own literary history, may not prefer ebooks to printed books after all.
____________________

Many thanks to Daniel Bloom for getting this whole discussion started.

Over at the Atlantic’s technology blog, Edward Tenner asks whether children will save printed books. A historian of technology (whose 1996 book Why Things Bite Back ought to be required reading for the uncritical cheerleaders of technological progress), Tenner points out that, despite the “consensus of many e-book enthusiasts and elegiac traditionalists alike” that the codex is doomed, responsible thought about the future requires “alternative scenarios.”

And one possibility is that a younger generation will reject the prized possessions, the revolutionary amazements, of an older generation. Your father could not believe the convenience of his Remington Lektronic shaver and your mother raved about her Touch-o-Matic electric can opener; you shave with a safety razor and crank your cans open. Tenner suggests that a “pro-book rebellion” is possible, though not inevitable. The success of Mad Men has cleared the closets of wide neckties.

Indeed, heeding the Baseball Crank’s warning that knowledge is not settled, one possibility is as good as another at this point. Many of the features that Kindle and iPad devotees brag about (what Ed Driscoll hails, for example, as “being able to read a book anywhere, and carry the digital equivalent of a massive stack of them onto an airplane”) may not seem all that remarkable or important in a few years.

Electronic reading devices are new devices for old readers. Younger readers do not come to books with the same personal history. In fact, their own history with books might lead them to prefer paper and binding. I’ve suggested as much before (here and here). Children first encounter books as physical things. Board books, lift-the-flap books, touch-and-feel books, pop-up books — their first books are three-dimensional objects that encourage children to explore them in all three dimensions. When they acquire their own books, the books they have selected for themselves, children are proud of them. They like to display them on their shelves and carry them everywhere. They may even begin to develop a love for good paper and fine binding.

I’m not saying that printed books will triumph in the end. I’m no better than anyone else at predicting the future. What I am suggesting is that older readers, excited about their Kindles and iPads, have become strangers to their first experience with books and reading. The newfangled devices are exciting because they appear to solve longstanding problems — the problems of older readers, who have spent a lifetime with books. Younger readers, who do not share that excitement and are not yet estranged from their own literary history, may not prefer ebooks to printed books after all.
____________________

Many thanks to Daniel Bloom for getting this whole discussion started.

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.