Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 11, 2011

Who’s the Frontrunner? Ask Mitt.

The most telling moment in tonight’s Republican presidential debate came at the start of the second hour when the candidates were given the opportunity to ask questions of their opponents. The result was that the majority of the contenders posed their query to Mitt Romney.  This was merely the confirmation of what we already had discovered by that point in the evening. Romney is the clear frontrunner with no one else even close.

By that point we had also learned that this was not going to be the night when Rick Perry began his comeback. Perry followed up his three previous poor debate performances with yet another weak showing. He looked uncomfortable and rambled at times even when served up a softball that he could have used to attack Romney. Perry may stay in the race but tonight he again proved himself unequal to the task of running for president.

Read More

The most telling moment in tonight’s Republican presidential debate came at the start of the second hour when the candidates were given the opportunity to ask questions of their opponents. The result was that the majority of the contenders posed their query to Mitt Romney.  This was merely the confirmation of what we already had discovered by that point in the evening. Romney is the clear frontrunner with no one else even close.

By that point we had also learned that this was not going to be the night when Rick Perry began his comeback. Perry followed up his three previous poor debate performances with yet another weak showing. He looked uncomfortable and rambled at times even when served up a softball that he could have used to attack Romney. Perry may stay in the race but tonight he again proved himself unequal to the task of running for president.

Though telling points were scored at his expense, Herman Cain gained as much as Perry lost. Cain’s “9-9-9” rants didn’t stand up to questioning, but his unflappable nature and ability to rattle off one-liners allows him to rise above criticism. It will be no surprise if the next polls confirm that Cain has eclipsed Perry as the leading conservative alternative to Romney.

That ensures a lively campaign as Cain continues to entertain viewers with his “simple” tax plan. But it also ensures that Romney will waltz to the nomination.

Cain might become the Mike Huckabee of the 2012 election as Perry collapses and Bachmann and Santorum (both of whom had strong debates) fail to catch fire. But though Huckabee won Iowa, he failed virtually everywhere else. Cain is unlikely to do any better.

Romney didn’t have his best debate but even with a few stumbles, he still appeared to have a far better command of the issues and economics than his competition. The fact is Perry was the only potentially viable alternative to Romney in the Republican field. His collapse only feeds the notion that Romney’s nomination is inevitable. Romney began the night riding the momentum of his endorsement by Chris Christie. He left the auditorium that much closer to the presidency. As the question segment proved, even his competitors seemed to agree.

Read Less

Live Blog: The GOP Presidential Debate

Romney concludes the evening with yet another small stumble but without anyone having laid a glove on him. He leaves the stage the way he entered it: as the clear frontrunner.

***

Gingrich rightly skewers the sympathy question posed by Charlie Rose.

***

Santorum finally gets back into the conversation with a great point about the importance of the role of the  breakdown of families in the increase of poverty. Unfortunately, Charlie Rose isn’t interested.

***

Back to the liberal narrative about income inequality.

***

99 minutes into the debate and Perry makes his first real pitch for himself as a job creator. Too little, too late. He’s lost again.

Read More

Romney concludes the evening with yet another small stumble but without anyone having laid a glove on him. He leaves the stage the way he entered it: as the clear frontrunner.

***

Gingrich rightly skewers the sympathy question posed by Charlie Rose.

***

Santorum finally gets back into the conversation with a great point about the importance of the role of the  breakdown of families in the increase of poverty. Unfortunately, Charlie Rose isn’t interested.

***

Back to the liberal narrative about income inequality.

***

99 minutes into the debate and Perry makes his first real pitch for himself as a job creator. Too little, too late. He’s lost again.

***

Forget Obamacare. Hatred for Chris Dodd and Barney Frank appear to be the one thing that unites all Republicans.

***

The Herman Cain-Ron Paul debate about the Federal Reserve is not helping Herman even if he does sound smart compared to Paul.

***

Perry’s given another chance to talk about healthcare. But instead of honing in on Romney’s weakness, he goes into a rambling answer about what he’s done in Texas and various problems. Another weak moment. Maybe the problem wasn’t his lack of rest before the last debates. Maybe it was the candidate.

***

Santorum launches another attack at Cain. He’s right but it doesn’t look like it’s hurting Herman.

***

Romney’s decision to pose his question at Bachmann rather than Perry hurts the Texan. Bachmann is no threat to Romney. Perry left sitting there. Romney wins.

***

Perry finally gets a chance to attack Romneycare as the model for Obamacare. It’s a telling point but Romney is so adept at defending himself on this that the damage is minimal.

***

It takes an attack from Ron Paul to make Herman Cain sound like a reasonable voice on economics.

***

If the candidate question segment is only going to be an ask Mitt Romney session, it only solidifies his stance as the frontrunner and presumed nominee.

***

Romney dismisses Cain’s attempt to nail him about his economic plan’s lack of simplicity by pointing out that simple doesn’t always work. He then goes on to list his top 7 points. Point to Romney.

***

Bachmann starts off the second half swinging away by blasting Perry for being a Democrat who supported Gore in 1988. He responds that Reagan started as a Democrat too. But he fails to nail her for being a Jimmy Carter supporter in 1976.

***

At the halfway mark, it’s clear that rather than a Rick Perry comeback, the real story is the attention that Herman Cain is getting. Cain’s plan is faulty but he benefits from the attention since he’s never at a loss for a quick verbal comeback. His strength is his unflappability. Perry looks lost. And Romney looks likes he’s cruising.

***

There are simply too many candidates for Charlie Rose’s conversational style to work. The result is that some of them spent much of the first hour just sitting there.

***

Santorum mocks Cain asking how many people in New Hampshire want a 9 percent sales tax and how many think the federal income tax would stay at 9 percent?

***

Perry’s touting of his China trade experience is a poor counter to Romney’s attack on China and demand for an end to its trade cheating. Perry falls short again.

***

Huntsman tries to play the wise man on China in contrast with Romney. Instead he’s playing right into Romney’s hand. Mitt says others have been played like a fiddle by the Chinese. He mocks the idea of a trade war with China. Point to Mitt.

***

Bachmann’s right when she says that when the government starts a tax, it never stops it. That’s the problem with Cain’s 9-9-9 assumption that he can initiate new taxes while doing away with others.

***

Back to Cain’s 9-9-9. Cain says Bloomberg’s analysis that it won’t work is “incorrect.” But his blue skies assumption and premise makes it sound like he’s selling snake oil.

***

Bachmann touts her leadership during the debt ceiling debate. She’s right about cutting spending but pretending, as she did, that a default wasn’t a possibility actually wasn’t leadership.

***

Romney won’t bite on choice between cutting defense or raising taxes. Instead talks about cutting entitlements. That’s still the right line for the GOP despite Dems’ Mediscare tactics.

***

Romney talks about the increasing share of the government in the economy. Good point and he is ready, as always, with statistics. And rather than just talking about cutting, he injects the idea of growth as the ultimate answer. Sounding an optimistic note is exactly what the GOP needs to do even in tough economic times.

***

Clip of Reagan’s acceptance of higher taxes on upper incomes. Perry’s response was right about the fact that Reagan didn’t get the spending reductions that he wanted. Says that’s the problem about Washington. Good answer. But he still sounds tentative.

***

If this was going to be Perry’s comeback night, why is he just sitting there like a bump on a log.

***

Gingrich warms to the idea of a European meltdown. He loves this futurist stuff. Always has.

***

Romney’s idea of good idea for a new head of the fed: Milton Friedman. Good answer. And it helps him to stop sounding defensive.

***

Romney’s answer to hypothetical question about a collapse is that he won’t have to ask the Secretary of the Treasury how the economy works. And he doesn’t like bailouts. Back to the leader theme.

***

Cain’s claim that his 9-9-9 consumption tax will pass because the American people will want it. That just proves again that he hasn’t the faintest idea of how Washington works.

***

Cain says 9-9-9 is not the price of a pizza. Good news.

***

Not that anyone cares but when Huntsman says his father is his model idea of an advisor it ought to remind them that his “businessman” claim just means he worked for his daddy.

***

Bachmann says Obama wants to collapse Medicare and fold it into Obamacare. Another strong point. Mitt has to hope that they change the subject soon. As long as they’re talking about Obamacare, it’s not good for him.

***

Gingrich gets the attention of middle-aged men by discussing the controversy over prostate cancer testing. Uses it to describe the problem of government intervention in medicine.

***

Every time the camera focuses in on Perry for a reaction shot, he looks uncomfortable. If he doesn’t relax, it’s going to be hard for him to keep up his energy in the second half of the debate.

***

Santorum says his plans are more realistic than Herman Cain’s because they can get passed. Maybe.

***

Rick Santorum thinks heavy industry will come back to Western Pennsylvania. That sort of dreaming works in PA (though not for him in 2006). It won’t wash now. Deregulation is important but it won’t bring back the past.

***

Tumulty takes up the liberal media narrative about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. Gingrich rightly draws the distinction between the behavior of the Tea Party and the left-wing protesters. Then starts in on Ben Bernanke and Dodd-Frank. Newt then says Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are the ones who should be investigated. Applause line for Republicans.

***

Karen Tumulty wants to know whether Wall Street execs should go to jail for the recession. Michele Bachmann rightly answers that it was the federal government that causes the mortgage meltdown. Then talks about repealing Dodd-Frank. Excellent, substantive point. Good opening for Bachmann.

***

Perry says he’ll lay out an economic plan over the next three days. Says Romney had a head-start in cooking up economic plans. Excuses won’t cut it, Rick.

***

Romney’s answer is that we need a leader. Starting off playing it safe.

***

Perry opens his economic solution by talking energy. His oil industry supporters will be pleased.

***

Cain says he has a bold solution. What is it? His 9-9-9 sales tax plan plus the usual stuff about a balanced budget.

***

Cain is not only in the middle of the table, he gets the first question. First tier respect.

***

If that’s a kitchen table, then we’re talking about one big kitchen.

*****

The debate is about to begin with PBS’s Charlie Rose moderating. Will the interaction between the candidates change because they’re sitting around a table rather than at separate podiums?

Read Less

Debate Preview: The Onus is on Perry

We’re only moments away from the start of tonight’s Republican presidential debate. Mitt Romney comes in as the frontrunner with momentum earned from a lead in the polls and an endorsement this afternoon from Chris Christie. Herman Cain is hoping his showing in recent polls means he is moving up to the first tier. And the rest of the field including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman is hoping that something can happen to give them a boost to get them into the conversation as viable contenders.

But there’s no question that the onus tonight is on the man who had a double-digit lead only a month ago: Rick Perry. The Texas governor’s September swoon was historic leaving him with only half of the support he had at the start of the September. His debate performance will have to drastically improve. But that means more than just exceeding the low expectations that currently exist for him. He’ll need to change the minds of Republicans who tuned into previous debates and left thinking him an inarticulate bumbler.

We’re only moments away from the start of tonight’s Republican presidential debate. Mitt Romney comes in as the frontrunner with momentum earned from a lead in the polls and an endorsement this afternoon from Chris Christie. Herman Cain is hoping his showing in recent polls means he is moving up to the first tier. And the rest of the field including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman is hoping that something can happen to give them a boost to get them into the conversation as viable contenders.

But there’s no question that the onus tonight is on the man who had a double-digit lead only a month ago: Rick Perry. The Texas governor’s September swoon was historic leaving him with only half of the support he had at the start of the September. His debate performance will have to drastically improve. But that means more than just exceeding the low expectations that currently exist for him. He’ll need to change the minds of Republicans who tuned into previous debates and left thinking him an inarticulate bumbler.

Read Less

Obama Seen as Lethal Political Threat

According to Reuters, “Four years ago, Senator Claire McCaskill was one of Barack Obama’s biggest boosters in his presidential campaign. But when he recently visited her state of Missouri, she did not have time to join him. Many of McCaskill’s fellow Democrats in Congress may also decide they are too busy to be with Obama, whose approval rating of about 40 percent as the economy struggles threatens to be a drag on their own reelection chances next year.”

“You may see a number of Democrats say ‘Sorry, I have a scheduling conflict,’” a senior Democratic lawmaker is quoted as saying.

Read More

According to Reuters, “Four years ago, Senator Claire McCaskill was one of Barack Obama’s biggest boosters in his presidential campaign. But when he recently visited her state of Missouri, she did not have time to join him. Many of McCaskill’s fellow Democrats in Congress may also decide they are too busy to be with Obama, whose approval rating of about 40 percent as the economy struggles threatens to be a drag on their own reelection chances next year.”

“You may see a number of Democrats say ‘Sorry, I have a scheduling conflict,’” a senior Democratic lawmaker is quoted as saying.

This is more evidence of how much Democrats themselves view the president as a lethal political threat. And the fact the greatest wish for many GOP candidates is that their Democratic opponents are closely linked to Obama shows how much the world has changed since the cocky early days of the Obama era.

The Obama presidency is being humbled by events and collapsing because of its own ineptness; even Obama’s own party members know it.

 

Read Less

Israel Needs a Death Penalty for Terrorism

I hate the death penalty and always have, so I do not say this lightly, but it’s high time even opponents of capital punishment start thinking seriously about executing convicted terrorists. Unlike even the worst criminals such as serial killers, terrorists remain dangerous to societies at large even after they’ve been locked up with life sentences because innocents outside the prison walls are frequently kidnapped to secure their release.

The Israeli government just struck a deal with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was kidnapped five years ago near the border with Gaza. In exchange for Shalit’s release, hundreds of Hamas prisoners will also be freed. All the hard work that went into capturing these people and removing them from the field has now been undone. Not even the most violent terrorists are executed by Israel because the country removed the death penalty from the books in 1954. Those hundreds collectively will almost certainly end up being responsible for more Israeli casualties.

Read More

I hate the death penalty and always have, so I do not say this lightly, but it’s high time even opponents of capital punishment start thinking seriously about executing convicted terrorists. Unlike even the worst criminals such as serial killers, terrorists remain dangerous to societies at large even after they’ve been locked up with life sentences because innocents outside the prison walls are frequently kidnapped to secure their release.

The Israeli government just struck a deal with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was kidnapped five years ago near the border with Gaza. In exchange for Shalit’s release, hundreds of Hamas prisoners will also be freed. All the hard work that went into capturing these people and removing them from the field has now been undone. Not even the most violent terrorists are executed by Israel because the country removed the death penalty from the books in 1954. Those hundreds collectively will almost certainly end up being responsible for more Israeli casualties.

Israel is not wrong to do everything possible to get its citizens out of enemy hands. It’s what decent societies do. But this is an awfully steep price, a price that would have been drastically lower if dangerous terrorists, rather than run-of-the-mill criminals or conventional prisoners of war, were no longer waiting for their comrades-in-arms to kidnap innocents on their behalf.

Read Less

Iranian Nukes Aren’t Just Israel’s Problem

I agree with Michael Rubin the Obama administration “projecting weakness” gave Iran the impression it could carry out a terror attack this brazen without serious consequences. Assassinations in the U.S. aren’t a new game for Iran, and this particular plot pushed the envelope much further. According to the FBI charges, the plotters weren’t just working to kill the Saudi ambassador; they were planning to blow up an entire restaurant in a populated neighborhood. The ambassador wouldn’t have been the only casualty.

If Iran feels safe planning a U.S.-based attack now, imagine how much more blatant its aggression would be if it had nuclear weapons. Some people like to pretend Israel is the only country that would be seriously threatened by a nuclear Iran. This case is a prime example of how wrong that assumption is.

Read More

I agree with Michael Rubin the Obama administration “projecting weakness” gave Iran the impression it could carry out a terror attack this brazen without serious consequences. Assassinations in the U.S. aren’t a new game for Iran, and this particular plot pushed the envelope much further. According to the FBI charges, the plotters weren’t just working to kill the Saudi ambassador; they were planning to blow up an entire restaurant in a populated neighborhood. The ambassador wouldn’t have been the only casualty.

If Iran feels safe planning a U.S.-based attack now, imagine how much more blatant its aggression would be if it had nuclear weapons. Some people like to pretend Israel is the only country that would be seriously threatened by a nuclear Iran. This case is a prime example of how wrong that assumption is.

So far, the Obama administration is handling the plot as a law enforcement issue, even filing charges against an Iran-based member of the Al-Qud’s forces reportedly involved in the alleged attack. Meanwhile, Eric Holder has explicitly pointed a finger at Iran, indicating the administration sees this as a state-sanctioned plot. If that’s the case, taking the law enforcement approach will be a signal to Iran the U.S. will tolerate its belligerence.

Read Less

The Political Future of Herman Cain

I understand the appeal of Herman Cain, who seems like a likeable and engaging man. He’s someone who has an impressive business history. He can also be quite strong when refuting the smears of people like Cornel West and Harry Belafonte. And there’s no doubt he’s helped himself in the presidential debates, much like Mike Huckabee did in 2008. But when the dust finally clears, I find it hard to believe Cain will win the GOP nomination.

Part of the explanation is that the presidency is not, in the words of Richard Brookhiser, “an entry-level position.” Beyond that, Cain is notably unknowledgeable and seemingly not curious about national security matters. He has demonstrated that weakness several times, including his cluelessness in interviews  about the issue of the Palestinian “right of return,” in debates about our military strategy in Afghanistan, and in his knowledge of what he (kiddingly) calls “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”

Read More

I understand the appeal of Herman Cain, who seems like a likeable and engaging man. He’s someone who has an impressive business history. He can also be quite strong when refuting the smears of people like Cornel West and Harry Belafonte. And there’s no doubt he’s helped himself in the presidential debates, much like Mike Huckabee did in 2008. But when the dust finally clears, I find it hard to believe Cain will win the GOP nomination.

Part of the explanation is that the presidency is not, in the words of Richard Brookhiser, “an entry-level position.” Beyond that, Cain is notably unknowledgeable and seemingly not curious about national security matters. He has demonstrated that weakness several times, including his cluelessness in interviews  about the issue of the Palestinian “right of return,” in debates about our military strategy in Afghanistan, and in his knowledge of what he (kiddingly) calls “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.”

Let’s stipulate that many people who run for president (especially governors) aren’t always well-versed in foreign policy matters. And let’s stipulate, too, that instincts and tendencies are quite important. (For example, one may be a strong supporter of Israel without having an exhaustive knowledge of the history of the Middle East since 1948.) Still, there is a certain baseline of information one hopes to find in presidential candidates – something Cain has not demonstrated. And for all the understandable talk about the importance of economic growth, prudence in and knowledge of national security matters remain the most important qualifications for a commander-in-chief.

I’d add two other concerns about Cain. The first is that his so-called “9-9-9” plan, which would replace the current tax system with one that combines a 9 percent personal flat tax, a 9 percent corporate flat tax and a 9 percent national sales tax, has real weaknesses, including instituting a consumption tax while the federal income tax remains in place. (It would eventually finance an even larger entitlement state, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently.) Then there’s Cain’s insistence  he would not appoint Muslims either to his cabinet or to the federal bench simply by virtue of their faith, and his advocacy of a “loyalty proof” for Muslim-Americans.

I take the latter to be evidence of Cain’s tendency to shoot from the hip (indeed, he’s walked back a bit from his statements). At times, provocative spontaneity can seem impressive and appealing. But at other times it can raise questions about an individual’s readiness to be president. Here’s what I do know: If Cain remains a top-tier candidate, the scrutiny on him will increase in ways he cannot even imagine. His lack of command on key issues will be exposed. How well he can hold up against it is a wide-open question. But my guess is that Cain looks better now, and polls better now, than he will a month from now. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t seen as the high water mark of Herman Cain’s campaign.

As a cancer survivor, he’s overcome a lot more than critical comments and negative predictions by the political class. Maybe he’ll do so again. We’ll know soon enough.

 

Read Less

Netanyahu Had No Choice But to Save Shalit

Max is right that the prisoner exchange Israel is about to conclude with Hamas is an enormous victory for terrorism and a blow to Israeli security. Evelyn Gordon summed up the problems inherent in this deal in her definitive COMMENTARY article on the subject in May 2010, when she pointed out the impetus to free so many killers in exchange for one Israeli was a manifestation of the country’s weakness and its despair about the prospects for peace.

Though the Shalit deal is undoubtedly a mistake that will come back to haunt Israel, it is an unavoidable one. Those who will flay Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being so foolish as to let 1,000 Palestinians, including convicted mass murderers, go free, need to remember that in doing so he is obeying the dictates of Jewish tradition: the ransoming of captives. It is also a fact that no leader of a democratic country can resist the pressure to save hostages, as Ronald Reagan proved in the 1980s when he traded for American captives held by Iran’s terrorist allies. What was true for Reagan is also the case for Netanyahu.

Read More

Max is right that the prisoner exchange Israel is about to conclude with Hamas is an enormous victory for terrorism and a blow to Israeli security. Evelyn Gordon summed up the problems inherent in this deal in her definitive COMMENTARY article on the subject in May 2010, when she pointed out the impetus to free so many killers in exchange for one Israeli was a manifestation of the country’s weakness and its despair about the prospects for peace.

Though the Shalit deal is undoubtedly a mistake that will come back to haunt Israel, it is an unavoidable one. Those who will flay Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being so foolish as to let 1,000 Palestinians, including convicted mass murderers, go free, need to remember that in doing so he is obeying the dictates of Jewish tradition: the ransoming of captives. It is also a fact that no leader of a democratic country can resist the pressure to save hostages, as Ronald Reagan proved in the 1980s when he traded for American captives held by Iran’s terrorist allies. What was true for Reagan is also the case for Netanyahu.

The concept of pidyon shvuyim, or the redemption of captives, is a religious imperative for Judaism, with deep roots in centuries of suffering. Jewish communities in the Diaspora have traditionally reduced themselves to penury to save hostages and done so with the approval of religious authorities.

In modern Israel, this tradition has become incorporated in the process whereby the families of those who were taken by the enemy become a permanent presence in the media and the political culture of the nation. Gilad Shalit wasn’t just an anonymous Israeli solider but, in the view of most Israelis, everyone’s son–who must be returned to his family at any cost. The pressure such families, the media and their sympathizers among the general public, place on the government is enormous.

Objectively viewed, Netanyahu’s decision makes no sense, because as both Evelyn and Max have rightly argued, the only winner here is Hamas, which has profited greatly by the kidnapping. The prestige of the terrorist organization will soar among Palestinians and that of the allegedly more moderate Fatah will drop. If, as is rumored, Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader who presided over that group’s terror campaign (and for which he is currently serving several life terms for mass murder) is among those released, it will be a bitter blow to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, who sees the convicted killer as a possible rival.

But all that pales in comparison to the overwhelming sentiment among Israelis that Shalit cannot be allowed to rot in captivity if there is a chance he might be ransomed. Israelis will rue the price of that ransom, but also take some perverse satisfaction in the fact they value the life of one Jew as being worth that of 1,000 Arab terrorists and killers. It may be the right thing would be for Netanyahu to refuse to agree to such a lopsided trade. But is there any politician in Israel or the United States who would be willing to tell the Shalits their boy must die to uphold a principle? The Israeli public’s conviction that Shalit must be freed no matter what was so strong, no leader could have stood against it.

Read Less

Live Blogging the GOP Debate Tonight

Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the latest Republican presidential debate from New Hampshire. So tune in to Bloomberg TV at 8 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the GOP contenders have at it once again.

Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the latest Republican presidential debate from New Hampshire. So tune in to Bloomberg TV at 8 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the GOP contenders have at it once again.

Read Less

Israel’s Hostage Deals Create Incentives for Future Hostage-Taking

Israel has a well-earned reputation for being tough on terrorism—witness its punitive raids and targeted killings of terrorists going back to the 1950s and beyond. But there is another side to Israeli policy—a softer side. Israel is not only one of the biggest killers/jailers of terrorists but also one of
the biggest releasers of jailed terrorists. As I noted in an op-ed in The Daily a few months ago:

A study published in 2008 by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs concluded that since 1985, Israel had “freed over 10,000 Palestinians who were serving prison sentences for hostile activity or terror actions.” Some were let go in massive deals with groups such as Hezbollah wherein a few Israeli hostages — or, in some cases, nothing more than Israeli corpses — were exchanged for hundreds of imprisoned militants. Others were freed as a “goodwill” gesture to Israel’s negotiating partners in the Palestinian Authority.

Read More

Israel has a well-earned reputation for being tough on terrorism—witness its punitive raids and targeted killings of terrorists going back to the 1950s and beyond. But there is another side to Israeli policy—a softer side. Israel is not only one of the biggest killers/jailers of terrorists but also one of
the biggest releasers of jailed terrorists. As I noted in an op-ed in The Daily a few months ago:

A study published in 2008 by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs concluded that since 1985, Israel had “freed over 10,000 Palestinians who were serving prison sentences for hostile activity or terror actions.” Some were let go in massive deals with groups such as Hezbollah wherein a few Israeli hostages — or, in some cases, nothing more than Israeli corpses — were exchanged for hundreds of imprisoned militants. Others were freed as a “goodwill” gesture to Israel’s negotiating partners in the Palestinian Authority.

Whatever the case, a large number returned to terrorism. Israel’s Defense Ministry later determined that out of 238 releasees in a 1985 deal, 114 subsequently engaged in terrorist acts.

Now, Israel may be poised to enact a similar deal with Hamas, potentially giving up hundreds of imprisoned terrorist suspects in return for the freedom of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in 2006. At least such a deal would result in the return of a living soldier—rather than, as in some deals in the past, a corpse. And Israel is of course to be commended for its devotion to the well-being of its soldiers, which includes doing everything possible to win their release from captivity—and thus helps to keep up morale among its forces. But Israel’s continuing willingness to enter into hostage deals inevitably creates an incentive for more hostage-taking in the future and generally undermines the credibility of its anti-terrorist deterrent by creating an image of Israeli “softness.” This gives hope to jihadists of the “you love life, we love death” camp.

 

Read Less

Not the First Iranian Plot to Target Area

The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has put together a formidable list of all the Iranian assassinations targeting Iranian dissidents outside Iran. Alas, one of the first things Hillary Clinton did when assuming leadership at the State Department was to cut off funding to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Its nonpartisan and well-documented reports got in the way of her efforts at rapprochement.

At any rate, in 2009, the New York Times provided an update on the hit man who carried out the assassination of an Iranian exile in Bethesda, Maryland. Unfortunately, by projecting weakness to an overconfident and ideological Iran, it seems President Obama has taken us back to the Carter-era in more ways than one. That said, kudos to the U.S. Justice Department for rolling this up before people died.

The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has put together a formidable list of all the Iranian assassinations targeting Iranian dissidents outside Iran. Alas, one of the first things Hillary Clinton did when assuming leadership at the State Department was to cut off funding to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Its nonpartisan and well-documented reports got in the way of her efforts at rapprochement.

At any rate, in 2009, the New York Times provided an update on the hit man who carried out the assassination of an Iranian exile in Bethesda, Maryland. Unfortunately, by projecting weakness to an overconfident and ideological Iran, it seems President Obama has taken us back to the Carter-era in more ways than one. That said, kudos to the U.S. Justice Department for rolling this up before people died.

Read Less

The Iranian Terror Plot

ABC News is reporting U.S. officials have disrupted an Iranian plot to bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington, and assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Alas, if true, it seems the Islamic Republic, to which Obama wrote multiple letters and sought an unclenched fist, has responded definitively.

It will be interesting to see how groups seeking engagement and diluted sanctions against the Islamic Republic will react. After all, Internet chat groups show that Trita Parsi, the leader of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), has denied any Iranian involvement in terrorism whatsoever. As Trita wrote, “There is no evidence hereto that links Iran to … any terrorist activities.” Mind you, this is after the Khobar Towers attack, kidnappings and bombings in Lebanon, and any number of assassinations in Europe.

Read More

ABC News is reporting U.S. officials have disrupted an Iranian plot to bomb the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington, and assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Alas, if true, it seems the Islamic Republic, to which Obama wrote multiple letters and sought an unclenched fist, has responded definitively.

It will be interesting to see how groups seeking engagement and diluted sanctions against the Islamic Republic will react. After all, Internet chat groups show that Trita Parsi, the leader of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), has denied any Iranian involvement in terrorism whatsoever. As Trita wrote, “There is no evidence hereto that links Iran to … any terrorist activities.” Mind you, this is after the Khobar Towers attack, kidnappings and bombings in Lebanon, and any number of assassinations in Europe.

NIAC and apologists for Iranian behavior will likely play the faction card: The Iranian government wasn’t responsible; it was a rogue group from the Qods Force or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Iranian government thrives on this plausible deniability, and it’s time the West stop falling for it. Governments are responsible for their actions, period.

I tried to address the issue of determining what constitutes rogue behavior in Iran in this article and in a subsequent presentation for the National Counter Terrorism Center. Long story short: Iran often conducts rogue operations and promotes those who participate. (Ahmad Vahidi, the current defense minister, was involved in the 1994 Buenos Aires bombing.) When an operation is truly rogue, the perpetrator, no matter how well connected, often ends up dead. However, because the Supreme Leader seldom gives a direct order, but rather is a dictator by veto power, there will rarely be a smoking gun. If we wait for one, the Supreme Leader will have won.

Read Less

Christie Endorsement a Coup for Romney

On a day when the political world was focused on the question of whether Rick Perry could mount a comeback, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has scored a coup that could overshadow even a strong performance by the Texas governor tonight. By getting the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today, Romney will dominate the political news and add to the growing perception his nomination is inevitable.

Any endorsement — even one from a political star like Christie — can’t change the race or guarantee any votes. It is also true that had he run, Christie would have largely competed with Romney for the backing of centrist Republicans. But his fights with New Jersey’s state worker and teacher unions means Christie has some credibility with Tea Party supporters, the very constituency where Romney is weakest.

Read More

On a day when the political world was focused on the question of whether Rick Perry could mount a comeback, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has scored a coup that could overshadow even a strong performance by the Texas governor tonight. By getting the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today, Romney will dominate the political news and add to the growing perception his nomination is inevitable.

Any endorsement — even one from a political star like Christie — can’t change the race or guarantee any votes. It is also true that had he run, Christie would have largely competed with Romney for the backing of centrist Republicans. But his fights with New Jersey’s state worker and teacher unions means Christie has some credibility with Tea Party supporters, the very constituency where Romney is weakest.

Along with the smart timing, the endorsement also feeds into the idea most Republicans have finally come to terms with Romney, a man few conservatives viewed with enthusiasm at the outset of the race. While Romney has a long way to go before his victory can be viewed as a certitude — after all, not a single vote has been cast in a primary or caucus yet — Christie’s endorsement is exactly the sort of momentum booster Romney needed this week. No matter what happens tonight, Romney will wake up tomorrow knowing he is ahead.

Read Less

Occupy Wall Street Has an Anti-Semitism Problem

A quick sampling of the anti-Semitism on display among the Occupy Wall Street set yields the flamboyant and aggressive protester who yells,“You’re a bum, Jew” at his yarmulke-wearing interlocutor; the conspiracy theorist who laments that “Jewish money controls American politics,” and warns the Russians not to let the Jews take over Russia too; and  the self-described Nazi with the swastika tattoo who regrets that America has been handed over to “other people.” Ah, people power.

The Jew-hatred among protesters and sympathizers is diverse and unapologetic. It is, in fact, atmospheric. Tune in randomly to live television coverage of the spectacle and you’ll see—as I did—placards scapegoating Israel, Zionism, or “Hitler’s bankers.”  Check out the continuous flurry of protest-supporting tweets and blog posts, and you’ll get more of the same.

Read More

A quick sampling of the anti-Semitism on display among the Occupy Wall Street set yields the flamboyant and aggressive protester who yells,“You’re a bum, Jew” at his yarmulke-wearing interlocutor; the conspiracy theorist who laments that “Jewish money controls American politics,” and warns the Russians not to let the Jews take over Russia too; and  the self-described Nazi with the swastika tattoo who regrets that America has been handed over to “other people.” Ah, people power.

The Jew-hatred among protesters and sympathizers is diverse and unapologetic. It is, in fact, atmospheric. Tune in randomly to live television coverage of the spectacle and you’ll see—as I did—placards scapegoating Israel, Zionism, or “Hitler’s bankers.”  Check out the continuous flurry of protest-supporting tweets and blog posts, and you’ll get more of the same.

Does anyone recall how hard the media worked to portray the Tea Party as bigoted? The false accusations of racial slurs, the cropped photograph of the gun-wielding Tea Partier—who turned out to be black, the tortured racial interpretation of the Tea Party’s desire to “take the country back”?

Despite the press’s efforts there would be no denying that in the 2010 midterm elections the Tea Party supported a multi-ethnic set of candidates straight out of a Benetton ad. And while Occupy Wall Street enumerates classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the name of progressivism, Herman Cain has become a Tea Party favorite, beating Mitt Romney by 41 percent to 7 among the movement’s supporters.

Where the Tea Party couldn’t be tagged as racist no matter how hard liberals tried, Occupy Wall Street protesters are literally boasting of their Nazi credentials. This striking distinction speaks to the core asymmetry of the two phenomena. The Tea Partiers held up signs that read, “Don’t Soak the Rich”; Wall Street Occupiers’ placards counter: “Soak the Rich.” The purpose of the Tea Party was to get government out of all Americans’ lives. The point of Occupy Wall Street is to scapegoat fellow Americans. And wherever political scapegoating takes place, anti-Semitism is sure to follow.

In a November 2010 COMMENTARY article, Ruth Wisse observed that “the doctrine of anti-Semitism arose in the 19th century not to address the realities of the Jewish situation but to meet the political needs of others and to satisfy the political ends of others.” In the 21st century it serves the same purpose. Wisse wrote:  “Anti-Semitism works through the strategy of the pointing finger. Through political prestidigitation, the accuser draws attention away from his own sins…by pointing to the Jews, whose demonically inflated image and luridly portrayed wickedness make them a plausible explanation for whatever ails his regime.” Welcome to Occupy Wall Street.

Anti-Semitism is the preferred métier of the pitchfork crowd. And today as the Manhattan mob heads uptown to protest at the homes of American business leaders (for their “”willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99 percent”) there can be little doubt that that’s whom we’re dealing with.

Outside of immigrant-rich America, class warfare is often synonymous with ethnic prejudice itself. The Jews or the Gypsies or the Southeast Asians simply constitute the class to be held accountable. Class warfare is the pointed finger as economic philosophy. It eats away at the national project, lays waste to the self-reliant citizen, and disguises prejudice as justice. Liberal pundits and leftist intellectuals are at pains to impose upon the protesters a thoughtfulness that just doesn’t exist. In the New York Times, Todd Gitlin wrote, “This new protest style is more Rousseau than Marx.” But in truth there is no new protest style. What we’re witnessing is dumb, ugly, dangerous, and very old. And we will see a lot more anti-Semitism as this toxic swarm grows.

Read Less

Perry Must Do More Than Exceed Expectations Tonight

While tonight’s Republican presidential debate sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg TV (where the debate will be seen) may seem like yet another of an endless stream of such events since the summer began, it is no exaggeration to say this one will be crucial. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes are literally on the line this evening as he tries to rebound from three consecutive disastrous performances.

Expectations for Perry have been set so low that many believe even a halfway credible showing will be enough to pump some life into his flagging campaign. But if he thinks that’s all he needs to do, he’s fooling himself. Exceeding low expectations won’t cut it. The bar is actually set much higher for him than ever before. This time Perry must look, act and speak in a presidential manner.

Read More

While tonight’s Republican presidential debate sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg TV (where the debate will be seen) may seem like yet another of an endless stream of such events since the summer began, it is no exaggeration to say this one will be crucial. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes are literally on the line this evening as he tries to rebound from three consecutive disastrous performances.

Expectations for Perry have been set so low that many believe even a halfway credible showing will be enough to pump some life into his flagging campaign. But if he thinks that’s all he needs to do, he’s fooling himself. Exceeding low expectations won’t cut it. The bar is actually set much higher for him than ever before. This time Perry must look, act and speak in a presidential manner.

Perry’s September swoon was every bit as historic as the collapse of the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves in baseball’s Wild Card playoff spot competition. Polls show he lost half of his support during the past few weeks. That’s an astounding drop, especially because it came only a month after he parachuted into the race. Though his stance on in-state tuition benefits for the children of illegal immigrants has helped erode his standing, most of the blame for his problems must be attributed to the way he looked in the debates. He looked and sounded tired and unfocused during the second half of each one. This led even his conservative supporters to question not only whether he could stand up to Barack Obama next fall but also if he is really qualified for the presidency.

So while even a mediocre performance might earn him some plaudits for improvement, exceeding low expectations doesn’t get him back where he was when he was lapping the field. After whiffing on a softball question that might have allowed him to skewer Romney on his flip-flops and left him looking like someone who had no business on the stage, the standard he must meet is actually much higher than that of the other candidates.

Most Americans didn’t know much about Perry before the debates, so his performances created the general impression that Perry is a bumbler. Whether that perception is correct or not is immaterial. It exists, and erasing it from the public mind and replacing it with a new image of a tough, competent and articulate candidate won’t be accomplished with a few practiced one-liners. It will require him to sound as good as Romney, who after more than five years of running for president is an excellent speaker and debater. He must have strong answers prepared on his weak points and be ready with incisive attacks on Romney’s inconsistent record on health care legislation. And he must follow up a good showing tonight with equally strong performances in the subsequent debates.

If Perry can do that, he has the money to stay in the race and outlast Herman Cain —who has been the principal beneficiary of his collapse — leaving him the only viable conservative still standing in the race. But this won’t be done by merely showing up and managing not to embarrass himself. If there is any candidate who can’t afford to play the expectations game tonight it is Rick Perry. He might have gotten away with a mediocre performance when he was riding high in the polls, but not anymore.

Read Less

Conservatives Launch “53 Percent” Website

The “53 Percent” website, created by Erick Erickson and Mike Wilson, is supposed to be a rebuttal to the Occupy Wall Street protest’s “We are the 99 Percent” blog:

Both sites feature webcam photos of people holding up signs inscribed with their own personal financial sob stories. But while the original seems to communicate a sense of hopelessness and anger directed at the rich and powerful, the 53 percenters — named after the percentage of Americans that pay income taxes — are comprised of, “Those of us who pay for those of you who whine about all of that… or that… or whatever.”

Read More

The “53 Percent” website, created by Erick Erickson and Mike Wilson, is supposed to be a rebuttal to the Occupy Wall Street protest’s “We are the 99 Percent” blog:

Both sites feature webcam photos of people holding up signs inscribed with their own personal financial sob stories. But while the original seems to communicate a sense of hopelessness and anger directed at the rich and powerful, the 53 percenters — named after the percentage of Americans that pay income taxes — are comprised of, “Those of us who pay for those of you who whine about all of that… or that… or whatever.”

I can see where Erickson and Wilson were going with this. While the 99 Percent website is filled with self-pitying mopers, the “53 Percent” blog is filled with people who have either overcome difficult challenges in their lives or just generally take a more optimistic view of their current obstacles.

At the same time, it always seems a bit pointless when political activists launch takeoffs on opposing movements (remember the Coffee Party?).

The “53 Percent” campaign also assumes the “99 Percent” blog needs a rebuttal. I’m not so sure it does. Who actually reads it, except for the Occupy Wall Street protesters who post on it, and the people who are just there to make fun of it? Most Americans probably don’t have the time or the desire to pore over other peoples’ mundane complaints, which is why the site hasn’t caught on with the general public.

Read Less

Forecaster: Recession Can’t Be Averted

The state of the economy is so bad these days that even negative statistics — such as last week’s unemployment report that showed the level of joblessness stuck at an unacceptably high rate — are often treated as good news, because the numbers are not as bad as some feared. But despite all the spinning by both the Obama administration and their cheerleaders in the media, the prospects for a recovery appear dim and are getting dimmer all the time.

One of the latest and most daunting predictions of financial doom comes from the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York forecasting firm that during the last 15 years has been right every time about recessions while issuing no false alarms. Their verdict provides chilling news for both the president as well as the country: not only is the weak recovery from the last recession over, but a new recession is certain.

Read More

The state of the economy is so bad these days that even negative statistics — such as last week’s unemployment report that showed the level of joblessness stuck at an unacceptably high rate — are often treated as good news, because the numbers are not as bad as some feared. But despite all the spinning by both the Obama administration and their cheerleaders in the media, the prospects for a recovery appear dim and are getting dimmer all the time.

One of the latest and most daunting predictions of financial doom comes from the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York forecasting firm that during the last 15 years has been right every time about recessions while issuing no false alarms. Their verdict provides chilling news for both the president as well as the country: not only is the weak recovery from the last recession over, but a new recession is certain.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, while there are still some who provide more hopeful predictions, economists at this institute are certain the numbers point to another drastic downturn. They say America’s Gross Domestic Product will go negative by the first quarter of 2012 if not sooner. Unemployment will likely go back into the double digits. As for the chances of averting this outcome, forget it. According to Lakshman Achuthan, the institute’s chief operations officer, “We’ve entered a vicious cycle, and it’s too late: a recession can’t be averted.”

Considering that economic confidence is already low, the prospect of another recession is terrible news for the country. It is even worse for Barack Obama, whose re-election hopes rest on the economy recovering by next summer. The institute’s forecast is more or less a guarantee of his defeat.

But the Republicans who hope to replace Obama in the White House should also be worried. Though this recession will likely sink Obama, the institute’s research leads economists to believe the nature of our economic cycles has been altered for more volatility–meaning more frequent recessions will be the norm in the foreseeable future. That means the next GOP president will likely have another recession to worry about before long.

Read Less

A Warning to Responsible Democrats

According to the New York Times:

Leading Democratic figures, including party fund-raisers and a top ally of President Obama, are  embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests in a clear sign that members of the Democratic establishment see the movement as a way to align  disenchanted Americans with their party. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s powerful House fund-raising arm, is circulating a petition seeking 100,000 party supporters to declare that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal organization run by John D. Podesta, who helped lead Mr.  Obama’s 2008 transition, credits the protests with tapping into pent-up anger over a political system that it says rewards the rich over the working class — a populist theme now being emphasized by the White House and the party. The center has encouraged and sought to help coordinate protests in different cities. Judd Legum, a spokesman for the center, said that its direct contacts with the protests have been limited, but that “we’ve definitely been publicizing it and supporting it.”

He said Democrats are already looking for ways to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012. “What attracts an organization like CAP to this movement is the idea that our country’s economic policies have been focused on the very top and not on the bulk of America,” Mr. Legum added. “That’s a message we certainly agree with.”

The story goes on to say, “That’s the danger with something like this [Occupy Wall Street protests] — that you go from peaceful protests to throwing trash cans,” said a senior House Democratic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Sure, there’s been some crazy anarchy stuff, but over all, the Democrats like their message about Wall Street and accountability,” the official said. “It overlaps with our own message.”

For reasons I explained yesterday, this is a very dangerous path the Democratic Party is on. They are embracing a movement that is comprised, at least in some significant part, of Big Government anarchists (something of a contradiction, I know). It is highly disorganized, dissolute, and made up of people who are deeply disaffected and who have found a home on the fringes of American politics. All of which means it has potential to go from being a controlled blaze to an out-of-control fire.

President Obama has spoken sympathetically of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Nancy Pelosi has endorsed it. So have others. Let me therefore offer some counsel to my Democratic friends: A party that embraces a movement like this is asking for, and will soon find, trouble. This is not a movement to which you want to link yourself. As John F. Kennedy once warned,  “those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

 

According to the New York Times:

Leading Democratic figures, including party fund-raisers and a top ally of President Obama, are  embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests in a clear sign that members of the Democratic establishment see the movement as a way to align  disenchanted Americans with their party. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s powerful House fund-raising arm, is circulating a petition seeking 100,000 party supporters to declare that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal organization run by John D. Podesta, who helped lead Mr.  Obama’s 2008 transition, credits the protests with tapping into pent-up anger over a political system that it says rewards the rich over the working class — a populist theme now being emphasized by the White House and the party. The center has encouraged and sought to help coordinate protests in different cities. Judd Legum, a spokesman for the center, said that its direct contacts with the protests have been limited, but that “we’ve definitely been publicizing it and supporting it.”

He said Democrats are already looking for ways to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012. “What attracts an organization like CAP to this movement is the idea that our country’s economic policies have been focused on the very top and not on the bulk of America,” Mr. Legum added. “That’s a message we certainly agree with.”

The story goes on to say, “That’s the danger with something like this [Occupy Wall Street protests] — that you go from peaceful protests to throwing trash cans,” said a senior House Democratic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Sure, there’s been some crazy anarchy stuff, but over all, the Democrats like their message about Wall Street and accountability,” the official said. “It overlaps with our own message.”

For reasons I explained yesterday, this is a very dangerous path the Democratic Party is on. They are embracing a movement that is comprised, at least in some significant part, of Big Government anarchists (something of a contradiction, I know). It is highly disorganized, dissolute, and made up of people who are deeply disaffected and who have found a home on the fringes of American politics. All of which means it has potential to go from being a controlled blaze to an out-of-control fire.

President Obama has spoken sympathetically of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Nancy Pelosi has endorsed it. So have others. Let me therefore offer some counsel to my Democratic friends: A party that embraces a movement like this is asking for, and will soon find, trouble. This is not a movement to which you want to link yourself. As John F. Kennedy once warned,  “those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

 

Read Less

Young American Jews and Israel

Few Jewish issues have seen as much ink spilled over them in recent years as the question of the strength of the attachment of young American Jews
to Israel. Yet none has likely been discussed with as little honesty.

The latest notable example of this genre was published during the Rosh Hashana holiday in Time. Written by Dana Goldstein, a fellow at both The Nation Institute and the New America Foundation, it is not notable for any of its content, which is no more than a recitation of the usual “young Jews are so moved by the Palestinian plight that they can’t be the diehard Zionists their parents are” narrative, with practically no information that is not at least a year old. (Even the Jewish Brown undergrad distraught over what she saw on Birthright shtick is not original.)

Read More

Few Jewish issues have seen as much ink spilled over them in recent years as the question of the strength of the attachment of young American Jews
to Israel. Yet none has likely been discussed with as little honesty.

The latest notable example of this genre was published during the Rosh Hashana holiday in Time. Written by Dana Goldstein, a fellow at both The Nation Institute and the New America Foundation, it is not notable for any of its content, which is no more than a recitation of the usual “young Jews are so moved by the Palestinian plight that they can’t be the diehard Zionists their parents are” narrative, with practically no information that is not at least a year old. (Even the Jewish Brown undergrad distraught over what she saw on Birthright shtick is not original.)

It’s notable solely because it was published in Time which, if that publication means much of anything any more, is one more indication of the mainstreaming of the meme from inside the Jewish press and into the general culture.

If Goldstein is interesting, it is for the way in her writing on Israel she so perfectly reflects the current thinking of certain American Jewish leftists. In another article for The American Prospect in 2009, she repeated another trope thought to be a devastating argument: that the true nature of Judaism is “questioning.” The centrality of the Land of Israel and modern Jewish state based on it are therefore a deviation from a more authentic Jewish tradition of diasporism. As far as young American Jews go, well, it is now beyond proven that the source of whatever Israel angst they may have is Israel’s supposedly brutal treatment of the Palestinians.

There are more than a few problems with this thinking.

As far as the numbers go, more than 260,000 young Jews (most from the United States), have now been to Israel via Birthright trips in a little over a
decade. The most recent registration session was closed after only seven days with over 22,000 applicants for spots available for only half of them. Goldstein’s repetition of the findings of the oft-cited 2007 “Beyond Distancing” study, while notable, don’t reference the feelings of Orthodox Jews, who, as the only growing sector in American Jewry, represent an ever larger percentage of the Jewish population. And the only significant study carried out on Birthright participants post-trip found that a feeling of attachment to the state of Israel increased among Birthright participants in comparison to their peers.

All of this is largely to the side, though. Because the truth of the matter, as Gary Rosenblatt noted well nearly a year ago, is that most young American Jews are woefully ignorant of even the basics of Israel. The non-Orthodox drop-off is there precisely because of the lack of Jewish literacy, Israel included, among those Jews, who also live largely in urban environments where supporting Israel or identifying as a Zionist comes increasingly with a
social cost
. Is it really any wonder why a person taught little to nothing about Israel would choose to distance himself from it if that’s what all his friends are doing?

So, no, whatever distance there is between young American Jews and Israelis is not the result of any Israeli policies. Bridging the gulf, therefore, will take a generational educational effort beyond even that undertaken by Birthright.

Read Less

The Literary Equivalent of a Walk-Off Grand Slam

Nelson Cruz ended the second game of the American League Championship Series with a bang not a whimper yesterday in Arlington, Tex., driving a pitch from Detroit Tigers’ righthander Ryan Perry deep into the left-field bleachers to give the Texas Rangers a 7-to-3 victory and a two-games-to-none lead in the last best-of-seven battle for the league pennant. Cruz’s blast was not the first game-ending or “walk-off” home run in the postseason history of Major League Baseball — the names of Bill Mazeroski, Bobby Thomson, Kirk Gibson, and Joe Carter come unbidden to the mind — but never before had a playoff game ended with a grand slam. I can’t even imagine the noise in the Rangers Ballpark when Cruz delivered his shot, but I can remember a game at the Astrodome that Jeff Bagwell ended with one of his signature drives that looked as if it would hit the roof before it cleared the fence. I couldn’t hear myself yell.

No sooner had Cruz homered, though, than Vicki Ziegler, a self-described “modest” book blogger from Toronto, tweeted the question: “What would be the literary equivalent of a walk-off grand slam?” (Somewhere, I am sure, a Jewish blogger is asking the related question, “Is a walk-off grand slam good for the Jews?”) Ziegler suggested that winning the Giller or Booker Prize or publishing a “NaNoWriMo” novel in December might just qualify. And though she allowed that “nothing in literary achievement” would make a writer “feel as euphoric as Nelson Cruz,” she went on to say that she had read things that obliged her to close the book and catch her breath. “That’s pretty walk-off,” she said.

I am trying to picture a crowd of readers rising to its feet and screaming itself hoarse at the ending of The Great Gatsby (“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”) or even Russell Banks’s Continental Drift (“Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is”). Nothing in literature can possibly approach the finality of a walk-off home run.

The ideology of “literary art” leads writers and readers alike to expect something that literature cannot deliver — what Howard Nemerov called “the quality of decisiveness and finish, of absolute completion to which nothing need be added nor could be added.” When Ziegler says that she catches her breath at something she has read, she is describing this sensation of “absolute completion.”

But it is entirely an illusion. Electronic texts, which enable the author to go on revising them forever, were anticipated by Henry James in The Middle Years (1893). Dencombe is staying at a hotel in Bournemouth when the postman brings his latest novel, “just out” in hard covers, its “fresh pages” carrying the “odour of sanctity.” Dencombe begins to read his own prose with a feeling of wonder. Although he realizes that his talent has never been so fine, and though he recognizes the problems he faced and sees where his art surmounted them, he cannot resist taking out a pen and altering the printed text:

Dencombe was a passionate corrector, a fingerer of style; the last thing he ever arrived at was a form final for himself. His ideal would have been to publish secretly, and then, on the published text, treat himself to the terrified revise, sacrificing always a first edition and beginning for posterity and even for the collectors, poor dears, with a second.

Why he assumed that the “terrified revise” would cease with a second edition, though, is beyond me. There is every chance that the novelist will revise errors and gaps into his book, as Herman Melville did with his famous phrase “soiled fish of the sea” in White-Jacket or as Mark Twain did with the missing raftsman episode in Huckleberry Finn, and generations of readers will catch their breaths at the absolute completion of a corrupt text.

The expression walk-off home run is only about fifteen years old. The earliest example of it that I’ve found is in a July 1996 story by John Hussey in the Manchester Union Leader, recalling Mazeroski’s famous home run that ended the 1960 World Series. “It was the only ‘walk-off’ home run ever recorded in the seventh game of the World Series,” Hussey wrote. Squeezing the phrase between quotation marks like this suggests that it may already have become familiar in speech (but not established in print) by the time Hussey wrote it. Seven years later, in the New York Times, Allen Barra assigned it to the category of buzz words, saying that the “noble ‘game-winning home run’ — a phrase that used to compliment the winner — has been transformed into one that thumbs its nose at the loser.”

The doctrine of the breath-catching finish is a lot older than that, although it may only be a way that the fidgety and sleepless novelist, unable to hit upon a “final form” that quiets his nerves, thumbs his nose at his unsuspecting readers.

Nelson Cruz ended the second game of the American League Championship Series with a bang not a whimper yesterday in Arlington, Tex., driving a pitch from Detroit Tigers’ righthander Ryan Perry deep into the left-field bleachers to give the Texas Rangers a 7-to-3 victory and a two-games-to-none lead in the last best-of-seven battle for the league pennant. Cruz’s blast was not the first game-ending or “walk-off” home run in the postseason history of Major League Baseball — the names of Bill Mazeroski, Bobby Thomson, Kirk Gibson, and Joe Carter come unbidden to the mind — but never before had a playoff game ended with a grand slam. I can’t even imagine the noise in the Rangers Ballpark when Cruz delivered his shot, but I can remember a game at the Astrodome that Jeff Bagwell ended with one of his signature drives that looked as if it would hit the roof before it cleared the fence. I couldn’t hear myself yell.

No sooner had Cruz homered, though, than Vicki Ziegler, a self-described “modest” book blogger from Toronto, tweeted the question: “What would be the literary equivalent of a walk-off grand slam?” (Somewhere, I am sure, a Jewish blogger is asking the related question, “Is a walk-off grand slam good for the Jews?”) Ziegler suggested that winning the Giller or Booker Prize or publishing a “NaNoWriMo” novel in December might just qualify. And though she allowed that “nothing in literary achievement” would make a writer “feel as euphoric as Nelson Cruz,” she went on to say that she had read things that obliged her to close the book and catch her breath. “That’s pretty walk-off,” she said.

I am trying to picture a crowd of readers rising to its feet and screaming itself hoarse at the ending of The Great Gatsby (“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”) or even Russell Banks’s Continental Drift (“Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is”). Nothing in literature can possibly approach the finality of a walk-off home run.

The ideology of “literary art” leads writers and readers alike to expect something that literature cannot deliver — what Howard Nemerov called “the quality of decisiveness and finish, of absolute completion to which nothing need be added nor could be added.” When Ziegler says that she catches her breath at something she has read, she is describing this sensation of “absolute completion.”

But it is entirely an illusion. Electronic texts, which enable the author to go on revising them forever, were anticipated by Henry James in The Middle Years (1893). Dencombe is staying at a hotel in Bournemouth when the postman brings his latest novel, “just out” in hard covers, its “fresh pages” carrying the “odour of sanctity.” Dencombe begins to read his own prose with a feeling of wonder. Although he realizes that his talent has never been so fine, and though he recognizes the problems he faced and sees where his art surmounted them, he cannot resist taking out a pen and altering the printed text:

Dencombe was a passionate corrector, a fingerer of style; the last thing he ever arrived at was a form final for himself. His ideal would have been to publish secretly, and then, on the published text, treat himself to the terrified revise, sacrificing always a first edition and beginning for posterity and even for the collectors, poor dears, with a second.

Why he assumed that the “terrified revise” would cease with a second edition, though, is beyond me. There is every chance that the novelist will revise errors and gaps into his book, as Herman Melville did with his famous phrase “soiled fish of the sea” in White-Jacket or as Mark Twain did with the missing raftsman episode in Huckleberry Finn, and generations of readers will catch their breaths at the absolute completion of a corrupt text.

The expression walk-off home run is only about fifteen years old. The earliest example of it that I’ve found is in a July 1996 story by John Hussey in the Manchester Union Leader, recalling Mazeroski’s famous home run that ended the 1960 World Series. “It was the only ‘walk-off’ home run ever recorded in the seventh game of the World Series,” Hussey wrote. Squeezing the phrase between quotation marks like this suggests that it may already have become familiar in speech (but not established in print) by the time Hussey wrote it. Seven years later, in the New York Times, Allen Barra assigned it to the category of buzz words, saying that the “noble ‘game-winning home run’ — a phrase that used to compliment the winner — has been transformed into one that thumbs its nose at the loser.”

The doctrine of the breath-catching finish is a lot older than that, although it may only be a way that the fidgety and sleepless novelist, unable to hit upon a “final form” that quiets his nerves, thumbs his nose at his unsuspecting readers.

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.