Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 18, 2011

Romney’s Still the Man to Beat

Tonight’s debate in Las Vegas was clearly the most spirited and most entertaining of all the Republican presidential debates so far. But aside from the opening sequence in which the entire field jumped on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax scheme, the main event of the evening was not much different from the last debate in which frontrunner Mitt Romney was attacked from all sides. Though Cain was the media’s flavor of the week, his rivals seemed convinced Romney was still the man to beat in the GOP race.

Romney’s patience and endurance was tested to the limit as he was subjected to a series of vicious attacks on immigration, health care and jobs policy. But Romney, who has emerged this year as one of the most polished and able political debaters in recent memory, ended the evening still on his feet without any of the others able to say they had floored him.

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Tonight’s debate in Las Vegas was clearly the most spirited and most entertaining of all the Republican presidential debates so far. But aside from the opening sequence in which the entire field jumped on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax scheme, the main event of the evening was not much different from the last debate in which frontrunner Mitt Romney was attacked from all sides. Though Cain was the media’s flavor of the week, his rivals seemed convinced Romney was still the man to beat in the GOP race.

Romney’s patience and endurance was tested to the limit as he was subjected to a series of vicious attacks on immigration, health care and jobs policy. But Romney, who has emerged this year as one of the most polished and able political debaters in recent memory, ended the evening still on his feet without any of the others able to say they had floored him.

The nastiest attack came from Rick Perry, who seemed to be a different man than the sleepy and unfocused performer in four previous debates. Perry was much improved over his previous tries, but that is not the same thing as saying he helped himself all that much. Perry’s aggression was certainly what his team wanted to see, but he overreached when he repeated a smear about Romney personally hiring illegal aliens. That charge fell flat in the face of Romney’s explanation, and it didn’t help that Perry kept repeating it. It was an obvious attempt on Perry’s part to distract conservatives from his more liberal stands on illegal immigration. It’s doubtful many bought it.

Later in the debate, we were reminded of Perry’s previous debate problems when he attempted to make a point about the United Nations and its role in facilitating Palestinian efforts to evade the peace process. Perry knew what he wanted to say but couldn’t quite spit it out and wound up sputtering when he could have made a strong argument. Even at his best, and this was the best we’ve seen of him, Perry still doesn’t sound presidential or that focused. He may get a bump in the polls, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever retrieve the lead he lost last month.

As for Cain, he weathered the gang tackle of the field on his 9-9-9 plan with good humor, but there’s no denying by the end of that segment, his plan was poked full of more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. Mitt Romney concluded the assault by pointing out the illogic of his claim that taxes wouldn’t be increased in many states. Cain’s stubborn defense on a point he clearly misunderstood left him looking foolish. In the end, he had to settle for a condescending rhetorical pat on the head from Newt Gingrich praising him for a nice try, and Romney gave him credit for chutzpah. But Cain’s moment in the spotlight did him little good.

The main conclusion to be drawn from the evening is that despite all the focus on Cain, it is still Romney who is ahead.

That isn’t all good news for him, because it means the field will continue to expend most of their ammunition on attempts to undermine him. Romney is vulnerable on health care because of the clear link between his Massachusetts plan and Obamacare. But as has been the case with past debates, his skill on defense and his ability to turn the tables on his opponents if given the slightest opportunity stood him in good stead. Romney isn’t loved or trusted by either Tea Partiers or social conservatives, but the failure of any of his more right-wing opponents to emerge as a viable alternative has put him on the fast track to the nomination.

This evening was feistier than the previous debates and rougher sledding in many ways for Romney. But it merely confirmed the same conclusion: despite the fireworks, this race is still Romney’s to lose.

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Live Blog: The GOP Presidential Debate

We came into the evening wondering whether Herman Cain would sound serious enough but after 2 hours, it was clear that Mitt Romney was still the main target for most of the other candidates. He took a lot of shots but emerged still sounding strong and was again the best debater on stage. Perry sounded better but not good enough to recover from his past debacles. It’ll be interesting to see whether the next round of polls shows Cain losing a bit ground and Romney staying on top.

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The debate ends abruptly with Michele Bachmann complaining that there was no equal time. She’s right about that.

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Mitt keeps saying he’s a businessman, as if he’s competing with Cain for the anti-politician vote. Of course, he’s spent most of the 20 years running for one office or another. Cain then says the difference between their business experience is that he’s main street, not Wall Street. Mitt answers by listing the companies he started. Enough already.

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We came into the evening wondering whether Herman Cain would sound serious enough but after 2 hours, it was clear that Mitt Romney was still the main target for most of the other candidates. He took a lot of shots but emerged still sounding strong and was again the best debater on stage. Perry sounded better but not good enough to recover from his past debacles. It’ll be interesting to see whether the next round of polls shows Cain losing a bit ground and Romney staying on top.

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The debate ends abruptly with Michele Bachmann complaining that there was no equal time. She’s right about that.

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Mitt keeps saying he’s a businessman, as if he’s competing with Cain for the anti-politician vote. Of course, he’s spent most of the 20 years running for one office or another. Cain then says the difference between their business experience is that he’s main street, not Wall Street. Mitt answers by listing the companies he started. Enough already.

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Romney and Perry are squabbling again about jobs record. Romney throws in the jibe about Perry backing Al Gore against Bush the elder. Still waiting for someone to bash Bachmann for supporting Jimmy Carter.

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Question about electability elicits Santorum’s bragging about winning in a swing state. He again omits his landslide loss in 2006 in that same state.

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This last segment reminded us of Perry’s past problem in debates. He knew what he wanted to say about the Palestinians and the UN but couldn’t spit it out without stumbling.

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Ron Paul has a point when he says Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages with Iran. The point is, once you’re president and have to deal with the appeals of a nation that wants hostages freed, even the toughest leader may no longer stick to slogans about never dealing with terrorists.

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Cain says don’t give money to enemies, give it friends like Israel.

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Ron Paul says cut aid to Israel. Michele Bachmann speaks up for Israel and blames troubles in the region on Obama’s distancing the U.S. from Israel.

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Rick Perry turns a question about foreign aid into one about defunding the UN. Romney doesn’t mention the UN but takes a shot at foreign aid as well as China.

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Would any one of these candidates trade prisoners for a hostage? Herman Cain wants to support Netanyahu but the more he talks about it, the more confused he sounds. Santorum eloquently denounces the threat from Iran and attacks Ron Paul on defense.

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Nearly 90 minutes into the debate, we get the first mention of foreign policy as Michele Bachmann ticks off a number of events in the last week and tears into Iran. Newt then attempts to change the subject to a rant about the budget supercommittee.

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Romney gets to the heart of the problem by denouncing Perry supporter’s attempt to persuade people to vote based solely on religion. That attack only winds up helping Romney.

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Gingrich tries to turn the question into defense of faith not prejudice. Perry follows his lead while saying he “didn’t agree” with supporter who attacked Mormons.

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Cooper raises the attack on Mormons by a Perry supporter. Santorum is given an opportunity to give a straight forward denunciation of prejudice. He fails to do so. Gingrich speaks up for the importance of faith.

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There’s no question that Perry had delivered a stronger performance and Romney has spent more time on the defensive than before.

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So far this has definitely been the most spirited of all the GOP debates and perhaps the best television.

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Romney keeps trying to refocus discussion on Obama’s failures. He’s the only one on the stage thinking about the general election.

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Cain draws applause for first shot of the night at Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. Says Wall Street isn’t to blame for bad policies, Obama is. He’s right about that.

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Santorum goes for the Tea Party vote by bashing TARP. Lucky for him, he lost in a landslide in 2006 so he wasn’t in office then. As a member of the Senate GOP leadership, there’s no way he would have voted against it had he still been in the Senate.

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Mitt agrees with Ron Paul about Yucca Mountain. He’d like to carry Nevada next November. So would Rick Perry.

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A question about Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste. Yes, we’re in Nevada. Newt answers logically but I doubt anyone in Nevada wants to hear anything but to keep the stuff out. Ron Paul turns it into a matter of states rights and opposing state-subsidized religion.

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Santorum reaches out to Hispanics on traditional values, faith and families. It’s his strong point.

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Anderson Cooper is right about the 14th amendment being a problem for anti-immigration activists.

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Perry seems to be trying a little too hard to overcome his past bad performances. The smear of Romney was an overreach and hurts him not Mitt. But at least he isn’t looking lost on the stage.

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Once again, Romney goes for the big picture and says Republicans like legal immigrants. An important point to be made for next November. Mitt then likens Perry’s “experience” in fighting illegals to a college coach who loses 40 games in a row wanting to go to the NFL. Ouch. Perry responds by repeating his smear about Mitt hiring illegals which draws boos. Point to Romney.

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Perry is right that all this big fence rhetoric is unrealistic.

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Bachmann tries to outdo Cain on building a bigger fence and she wants Obama’s relatives to get lost too.

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Time for Cain to account for his electrified fence “joke.” Typical unserious remark by Cain but he’s undaunted.

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Perry angrily sticks to his claim that Mitt hired illegals. Mitt makes a coherent defense. That dog hunt won’t hunt especially since it’s a transparent attempt to distract conservatives from Perry’s own more liberal stances on the issue.

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Perry turns into immigration hawk and turns on Romney and claims he hired illegal immigration. Romney laughs out loud and says he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Now it’s time for everyone to bash Obamacare. The scuffle turns into consensus.

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The first segment of the debate was taken up with attacks on Cain and Romney. The latter emerges a bit stronger than the former. But it must also be said that the surprise so far is Perry’s strong start. Had he sounded like this in the previous debates, he’d still be the frontrunner.

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Romney is quick on his feet and he’s playing defense on this issue for months which helps him slip some of these punches.

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After the gang tackle on Cain, it’s time for everyone else to beat up Romney on health care.

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Santorum lands the first punch at Romney about Obamacare. Romney is still refusing to own up to the similarities between Obamacare and his Mass. law. Santorum and Perry won’t let him get away with it.

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Instead of attacking Romney’s economic plan, Perry gets fired up about energy independence. He’s certainly wide awake tonight. Romney responds amiably returning to big picture economics. He’s got to be feeling confident.

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Newt gives Cain a condescending pat on the head for trying. Time for the debate to move on.

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Cain is still smiling but he was the clear loser in this exchange. Everyone agrees he’s a nice guy but doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Romney concludes the gang tackle by cogently pointing out that Perry was right about Cain doubling up sales taxes in some states. He calmly dissects Cain and then tries to turn the conversation back to the big picture of the economy.

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Now it’s Ron Paul’s turn to attack Cain. The question is, does Cain benefit from being the center of attention or does his smooth if simplistic defense of 9-9-9 fly.

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Perry piles on, telling his “brother” Cain that his plan won’t fly. Cain says he’s mixing apples and oranges. He’s not faltering but is anyone buying it?

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Herman Cain says his plan is opposed by accountants, lobbyists and politicians who like the current situation. He looks undaunted but both Bachmann and Santorum land solid punches. Santorum’s attack on it as anti-family is telling. All Cain can do is to keep telling people to read his own analysis.

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First question gives Michele Bachamnn a chance to take the first shot at the “problem solver’s” 9-9-9 plan. She says Congress will take a 9 percent sales tax will be run up by a liberal president and Congress to maybe 90 percent. Also makes a good point about taxing profits.

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Herman Cain claims he “solves problems for a living.” Romney says he solves problems too but also helps people. Rick Perry looking a bit livelier than usual says he’s “an authentic conservative not one of convenience.” Pretty clear who he’s talking about, right, Mitt?

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Anderson Cooper promises to be fair. Whatever happens, it can be as bad as Charlie Rose’s “kitchen table.”

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I hope everyone is standing at attention in front of their computers with caps off and hands over their hearts.

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The debate is about to start. CNN leads with what looks like an homage to the old Marlboro man commercial. The only thing missing was Jon Huntsman driving his motorbike through the scenery. He’ll also be missing on stage tonight. No one will care.

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Debate Preview: Can Cain Measure Up?

Tonight’s debate is the first of these gatherings since Herman Cain supplanted Rick Perry in the polls as Mitt Romney’s chief rival. That means that Cain’s performance tonight will not be judged on a curve as perhaps he had been in the past when few took him seriously as potential president. While it is certain that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum will take shots at Cain since they see him as their prime obstacle to first tier status, it remains to be seen whether the sinking Perry or even Romney will also subject the affable former pizza magnate to some tough questions. If so, that will be something of a compliment for Cain but it will also put him on the spot since he has never before been subjected to the sort of scrutiny that he is about to face.

Other questions that will be answered concern Perry and Romney.

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Tonight’s debate is the first of these gatherings since Herman Cain supplanted Rick Perry in the polls as Mitt Romney’s chief rival. That means that Cain’s performance tonight will not be judged on a curve as perhaps he had been in the past when few took him seriously as potential president. While it is certain that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum will take shots at Cain since they see him as their prime obstacle to first tier status, it remains to be seen whether the sinking Perry or even Romney will also subject the affable former pizza magnate to some tough questions. If so, that will be something of a compliment for Cain but it will also put him on the spot since he has never before been subjected to the sort of scrutiny that he is about to face.

Other questions that will be answered concern Perry and Romney.

Perry’s dismal performance in the past four debates has caused all but his most ardent supporters to give up on him as his precipitous decline in the polls show. It seems almost impossible to imagine him changing many minds tonight but after so many unsuccessful tries, it may be that he will finally make some sort of positive impression.

As for the frontrunner Romney, the question is whether he will continue to focus his fire on Republican rivals or if he will start to concentrate his fire on the man he hopes to face next November. With a long way to go before the first votes start to be counted in January, Romney has to be careful not to seem overconfident.

The debate is about to begin so let’s see what happens.

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Live Blogging the GOP Debate Tonight

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

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

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Communal Solidarity is an Illusion

Jonathan, let me push back against your post. Communal solidarity in Israel — or any democracy — is often ephemeral at best and an illusion at worst. Certainly, it seems the families whose loved ones were murdered by those whom Netanyahu released today are shattering any Israeli communal solidarity. The only groups benefiting from communal solidarity today are Hamas and the Palestinians, more broadly. Just as Hezbollah did after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, Hamas can now claim to have defeated Israel. For Hamas, the recruitment value will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The lesson Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Hamas’ other supporters will now learn is Israel is weak and terrorist actions can succeed at a lower cost to them than diplomacy.

According to a column in Haaretz, Israel has freed 13,509 prisoners in order to win the release of a total of 16 soldiers. Some, like the author of that column, see compassion and trust fulfilled to Israelis. I seldom have the opportunity to go to Israel; during the past six years, I have spent a total of three days in the Jewish state. During the same period, I have spent several months collectively in Arab countries and other majority Muslim countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey. It’s for this reason I firmly believe no matter what Israelis tell themselves about the justice of their deal, no one outside of Israel in Arab states or the broader Islamic world believes it.

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Jonathan, let me push back against your post. Communal solidarity in Israel — or any democracy — is often ephemeral at best and an illusion at worst. Certainly, it seems the families whose loved ones were murdered by those whom Netanyahu released today are shattering any Israeli communal solidarity. The only groups benefiting from communal solidarity today are Hamas and the Palestinians, more broadly. Just as Hezbollah did after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, Hamas can now claim to have defeated Israel. For Hamas, the recruitment value will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The lesson Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Hamas’ other supporters will now learn is Israel is weak and terrorist actions can succeed at a lower cost to them than diplomacy.

According to a column in Haaretz, Israel has freed 13,509 prisoners in order to win the release of a total of 16 soldiers. Some, like the author of that column, see compassion and trust fulfilled to Israelis. I seldom have the opportunity to go to Israel; during the past six years, I have spent a total of three days in the Jewish state. During the same period, I have spent several months collectively in Arab countries and other majority Muslim countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey. It’s for this reason I firmly believe no matter what Israelis tell themselves about the justice of their deal, no one outside of Israel in Arab states or the broader Islamic world believes it.

If Israel really wants to feel something akin to communal solidarity, it needs a national victory, not a prisoner swap. It must be able to celebrate not the release of one hostage, but a true and definitive counter-terror victory. It’s a myth put forward by European diplomats and American peace studies programs that parity and self-esteem are requirements for peace. Peace is seldom made between equals, but rather when one sides forces the unilateral surrender of the other side. Now that Shalit is safe, Prime Minister Netanyahu should truly take on Hamas the second the group violates Israel’s border–be it by rocket, tunnel, or man. And he should not stop until the group begs for mercy and is forced to choose between its own survival and any terms Israel chooses to offer. Alas, it does not appear that Netanyahu’s support for the prisoner swap is part of any cohesive or coherent Israeli policy.

Netanyahu has affirmed Hamas’ cost-benefit calculations; Hamas sees a net gain from its terror operations. Until Netanyahu makes every Hamas leader and Palestinian recognize the costs of their actions are far too great for them to bear, Israel will continue to suffer death by a thousand cuts.

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The New York Times, Its Editor, and Her Canine Staff

There are many eye-opening details in Ken Auletta’s massive New Yorker piece on the ascension of Jill Abramson to the editorship of the New York Times—suffice it to say that while he seems to admire her, he makes her sound pretty dreadful—but surely the most startling is this passage, which refers to the dog she got in 2007 that is the subject of her new book, The Puppy Diaries:

She planned to apply in the newsroom some of the “positive training” that she lavished on Scout. She and her husband, she writes in her book, used “encouragement, not punishment” to train Scout, rewarding her for good behavior with a piece of kibble. “In one’s relationship with dogs and with a newsroom, a generous amount of praise and encouragement goes much better than criticism,” she says.

This is apparently because she was known to be berating and abusive. So now Jill Abramson will improve her management skills by treating the employees of the New York Times as though they were dogs!

 

There are many eye-opening details in Ken Auletta’s massive New Yorker piece on the ascension of Jill Abramson to the editorship of the New York Times—suffice it to say that while he seems to admire her, he makes her sound pretty dreadful—but surely the most startling is this passage, which refers to the dog she got in 2007 that is the subject of her new book, The Puppy Diaries:

She planned to apply in the newsroom some of the “positive training” that she lavished on Scout. She and her husband, she writes in her book, used “encouragement, not punishment” to train Scout, rewarding her for good behavior with a piece of kibble. “In one’s relationship with dogs and with a newsroom, a generous amount of praise and encouragement goes much better than criticism,” she says.

This is apparently because she was known to be berating and abusive. So now Jill Abramson will improve her management skills by treating the employees of the New York Times as though they were dogs!

 

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The Life of Democrats in the Age of Obama

My home state of Virginia was supposed to be, for Democrats, a model political state, one that foreshadowed many good things to come. Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1964, after all, and Virginia, we were told, was in the process of moving from Red (reliably Republican) to Purple (up-for-grabs) on its way to Blue (reliably Democratic). Virginia symbolized the wide appeal of Obama, who would expand the electoral map for Democrats at every level. All of which makes this Associated Press story so disconcerting for Obama and his party.

According to the AP, “Don’t look for Democrats in fiercely contested Virginia legislative elections to join President Barack Obama as he brings his campaign-style American Jobs Act bus tour to three cities there. For that matter, don’t expect Tim Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia’s governor two years ago, to join his old ally either.”

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My home state of Virginia was supposed to be, for Democrats, a model political state, one that foreshadowed many good things to come. Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1964, after all, and Virginia, we were told, was in the process of moving from Red (reliably Republican) to Purple (up-for-grabs) on its way to Blue (reliably Democratic). Virginia symbolized the wide appeal of Obama, who would expand the electoral map for Democrats at every level. All of which makes this Associated Press story so disconcerting for Obama and his party.

According to the AP, “Don’t look for Democrats in fiercely contested Virginia legislative elections to join President Barack Obama as he brings his campaign-style American Jobs Act bus tour to three cities there. For that matter, don’t expect Tim Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia’s governor two years ago, to join his old ally either.”

The disappearing act of Kaine is significant. Kaine is not just any Democratic figure. He was, as the story points out, among the first nationally to endorse Obama’s campaign in early 2007, was instrumental in helping Obama carry Virginia, and later agreed to Obama’s request to head the Democratic National Committee.

But it turns out that Kaine, who resigned his DNC post to seek the Senate seat next year, won’t accompany Obama because of “a full schedule of events in Northern  Virginia,” a Kaine campaign spokeswoman said. Now isn’t that a coincidence? Senator Claire McCaskill ran into similar “scheduling problems” when the president recently visited her home state of Missouri. I guess scheduling problems often arise when a president’s disapproval rate tops 50 percent, which is the case in Virginia.

It turns out Kaine is not the only candidate who finds the president to be darn near radioactive. Virginia’s House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong has distanced himself from Obama. And last month, Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett renounced Obama after his Republican challenger began discrediting him as “Obama’s man in southwest Virginia” and tying him to Obama’s energy policies. Puckett said in a television interview he would not support Obama in 2012.

“Republicans say Democrats, particularly Senate incumbents trying to preserve a narrow majority in the Nov. 8 elections, are so afraid to embrace the unpopular president that Obama changed his Virginia itinerary to avoid stops near targeted Democrats,” according to the AP story.

It’s quite telling that a year and three weeks away from the election, Obama is so unpopular that one of his earliest supporters – and the former chairman of the DNC –doesn’t even want to be within the same area code as the president. And Obama’s class warfare rhetoric will only make him more unpopular in the Old Dominion. It’ll be interesting to see how, during his campaign for the Senate, Kaine handles his previous (strong) support for Obama. My guess is, with great care, he’ll distance himself as much as is humanly possible. Because in many swing states, in 2012 only Democrats with a political death wish will tie themselves to the head of their party.

Such is the life of Democrats in the Age of Obama.

 

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After Shalit’s Release: The Real Work

The enormous relief at the release of Gilad Shalit is, of course, tempered by the horrible knowledge that he was ransomed at so perilous a cost. And sadly, that cost will only now be begin to be borne in the form not only of a propaganda victory for Hamas and its relative strengthening vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority, but also tactically and strategically. The number of actual Hamas terrorists being freed is 477, and surely among them are planners and designers of skill who will have had time during their prison stays to come up with new schema for attacking Israel. Thus, if the Netanyahu government is to be serious about what has happened, it will have to remain vigilant, focused, and ready to attack. It will, in other words, have to do what did not happen after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which then-Premier Ariel Sharon predicated on the notion that there would be hell to pay if the Gazans made war on Israel. Sharon had his stroke and the rockets began flying and his successor, Ehud Olmert, was ineffectual in response. Ineffectuality on Netanyahu’s part will lead to more Israeli deaths and more Gilad Shalits. Israel will have to take preventive measures, exactly the sort that get it into trouble with the NGOs and the Europeans and the cluckers on the New York Times editorial page, to see it doesn’t happen.

The enormous relief at the release of Gilad Shalit is, of course, tempered by the horrible knowledge that he was ransomed at so perilous a cost. And sadly, that cost will only now be begin to be borne in the form not only of a propaganda victory for Hamas and its relative strengthening vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority, but also tactically and strategically. The number of actual Hamas terrorists being freed is 477, and surely among them are planners and designers of skill who will have had time during their prison stays to come up with new schema for attacking Israel. Thus, if the Netanyahu government is to be serious about what has happened, it will have to remain vigilant, focused, and ready to attack. It will, in other words, have to do what did not happen after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which then-Premier Ariel Sharon predicated on the notion that there would be hell to pay if the Gazans made war on Israel. Sharon had his stroke and the rockets began flying and his successor, Ehud Olmert, was ineffectual in response. Ineffectuality on Netanyahu’s part will lead to more Israeli deaths and more Gilad Shalits. Israel will have to take preventive measures, exactly the sort that get it into trouble with the NGOs and the Europeans and the cluckers on the New York Times editorial page, to see it doesn’t happen.

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Poll: One-Third of OWS Protesters Support Violence, Not Average Americans

Up until now we’ve been relying mainly on the incoherent ramblings of Occupy Wall Street activists to get an idea of what’s driving the movement. But Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen finally gives us some statistical insight into what OWS actually believes, with a must-read column today in the Wall Street Journal.

Schoen’s polling firm interviewed 200 activists in Zuccotti Park last week:

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Up until now we’ve been relying mainly on the incoherent ramblings of Occupy Wall Street activists to get an idea of what’s driving the movement. But Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen finally gives us some statistical insight into what OWS actually believes, with a must-read column today in the Wall Street Journal.

Schoen’s polling firm interviewed 200 activists in Zuccotti Park last week:

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52 percent) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98 percent) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31 percent) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15 percent) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1 percent).

Already you can see the potential crisis here for Democrats. Most Americans might be unhappy with the economy and Washington politics, but they at least trust the political system and use those mechanisms to effect change. When someone starts supporting violence (as nearly one-third of OWS does), or civil disobedience (as virtually the entire movement does), it’s a sign he’s lost faith in the system. These aren’t the people who are going to be running to the ballot box to vote Democrat next November.

And while Obama has said the activists represent the real concerns of Americans, Schoen found they’re actually ideologically homogeneous, in a way that’s radically out of step with the general public:

Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost. By a large margin (77 percent-22 percent), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58 percent oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36 percent in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49 percent) or unnecessary (51 percent).

While not much of the data comes as a surprise, it still contradicts a lot of the messaging from the Obama campaign. OWS isn’t a product of “the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America.” The majority of the protesters are habitual activists with socialist beliefs. They have little in common with the average American. And the longer the Obama campaign flirts with the movement, the clearer that will become to voters.

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Communal Solidarity Trumps Counter-Terrorism in Shalit Deal

Michael Rubin has again put forward a strong argument as to why Israel’s release of more than 1,000 terrorists is a strategic disaster that has lowered the costs and increased the potential benefits to the terrorists of their actions. He’s also right to call out Benjamin Netanyahu for his hypocrisy on this question, because the prime minister has skewered similar prisoner exchange deals in the past.

But even if we concede these points, as in all honesty, we must, it also must be acknowledged that Netanyahu had no choice but to agree to the deal. Some have dismissed Netanyahu’s motivations as a cynical appeal to popular opinion, but many of those who have criticized the deal need to recognize there was more behind the Israeli consensus in favor of the exchange than mere sympathy for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and his family. As COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis points out in a particularly insightful article in Foreign Affairs, backing for what even its supporters understand is a lopsided deal, is rooted in a sense of communal solidarity that resonates far more with average Israelis than the cold facts of strategy.

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Michael Rubin has again put forward a strong argument as to why Israel’s release of more than 1,000 terrorists is a strategic disaster that has lowered the costs and increased the potential benefits to the terrorists of their actions. He’s also right to call out Benjamin Netanyahu for his hypocrisy on this question, because the prime minister has skewered similar prisoner exchange deals in the past.

But even if we concede these points, as in all honesty, we must, it also must be acknowledged that Netanyahu had no choice but to agree to the deal. Some have dismissed Netanyahu’s motivations as a cynical appeal to popular opinion, but many of those who have criticized the deal need to recognize there was more behind the Israeli consensus in favor of the exchange than mere sympathy for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and his family. As COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis points out in a particularly insightful article in Foreign Affairs, backing for what even its supporters understand is a lopsided deal, is rooted in a sense of communal solidarity that resonates far more with average Israelis than the cold facts of strategy.

As Gordis points out, what Netanyahu did in agreeing to the swap was to reaffirm the basic social contract of Israeli life. In a small, besieged country where the overwhelming majority of all young men and many young women must serve in the army, the idea of never leaving anyone behind is more than just a function of military esprit de corps as one might find in any elite unit in the U.S. armed forces. Israelis accept the risks of serving as conscripts and then in the reserves for many years on the condition the country’s leadership will not treat them as expendable.

For Israelis, this is not just a matter of accountability but also an integral aspect of social cohesion. They rejoice at the homecoming of Shalit and celebrate Netanyahu’s willingness to make an unpalatable decision that will open him up to severe criticism because they see it as having reinforced the bonds that hold the country together. As Gordis writes, Israelis view this seemingly self-destructive decision that confounds justice with the release of hundreds of murderers as having upheld the core values of the society in which each soldier’s welfare is paramount.

That may not make much sense to those who (not unreasonably) prefer to focus on the geostrategic big picture. But it makes perfect sense to Israelis who pay a high price for their country’s freedom and need to know their nation’s leadership understands this.

Gordis also highlights a point that was key to Evelyn Gordon’s excellent piece on the Shalit dilemma published last year in COMMENTARY. Support for the deal also reflects the Israeli public’s absolute despair about the prospects for peace. Most Israelis understand that many of the killers who are being released this week will return to terrorism and kill more of their countrymen. But since the majority of Palestinians clearly have no interest in peace and regard the spilling of innocent Jewish blood as a form of heroism — as the celebrations for the returning terrorists demonstrate — the release of these killers will have no impact on the future course of the conflict. Israelis believe Hamas and Fatah will fight against peace and security no matter what Israel does, so if securing the release of Shalit – or any other Israeli who is captured in the future — requires the release of terrorists, they think it is worth the price.

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Axelrod: Romney Represents Wall Street

The Obama campaign ties its anti-Wall Street strategy all together:

“I think there’s some question as to what [Romney’s] core convictions are,” [White House adviser David] Axelrod said Tuesday on “Morning Joe.” “I think, also, he says he represents business, but he really represents the Wall Street side of business in ways — you know, he stripped down companies and outsourced jobs in ways that I think reflect people’s concerns about the economy.”

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The Obama campaign ties its anti-Wall Street strategy all together:

“I think there’s some question as to what [Romney’s] core convictions are,” [White House adviser David] Axelrod said Tuesday on “Morning Joe.” “I think, also, he says he represents business, but he really represents the Wall Street side of business in ways — you know, he stripped down companies and outsourced jobs in ways that I think reflect people’s concerns about the economy.”

Obama’s populist anti-Wall Street, tax-the-rich message isn’t just a way for him to reconnect with his base. It’s leading directly into a larger criticism of his most likely opponent, Mitt Romney. But the idea that Axelrod or any Obama campaign official is criticizing anybody for Wall Street ties or stripping down companies is absurd.

You only have to look at Obama’s handpicked job-creation panel – stuffed full of executives who cut their workforces the same way Axelrod accuses Romney of doing – to see the hypocrisy here:

 Just days before the president appointed Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, to the council, the company announced a massive restructuring that closed a facility in North Carolina and eliminated 550 jobs, or about 1 percent of the company’s workforce. At the same time, American Express announced it had made $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 48 percent from the same period the previous year.

Xerox, whose chief executive, Ursula Burns, sits on the board, has cut 4,500 jobs in the first six months of 2011.

Read the L.A. Times for the full story, but the list of job-cutters on the panel goes on and on: Boeing CEO Jeff McNerny (cut 1,100 jobs in January), Eastman Kodak CEO (cut more than 2,000 jobs during the last six years).

If the Obama campaign is going to argue that Romney’s business actions “[don’t] reflect people’s concerns about the economy,” it will have a hard time defending to his job-creation committee Obama’s appointment of executives who have carried out similar large-scale layoffs.

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If Iran Attacks the U.S., Its Because We’ve Pushed Them to Do So?

My AEI colleague Gary Schmitt points me to this Washington Post story regarding the difficulties Iran’s nuclear program faces. Toward the end of the story, the reporter turns toward the alleged Iranian terrorist plot targeting the Saudi ambassador in Washington and quotes a senior Obama administration official involved in talks with Iran saying, “We’re used to seeing them do bad things, but this plot was so bizarre, it could be a sign of desperation, a reflection of the fact that they’re feeling under siege.”

In other words, the Obama team seems to feel the response to Iranian bad behavior is conciliation. Any Iranian embrace of terrorism is the responsibility not of Iran’s leadership and the poisonous and xenophobic rhetoric Iran’s revolutionaries have embraced, but rather the United States. When will the Obama team realize the world’s ills do not rest on the United States, cease the self-flagellation, and recognize the motivation of our enemies lies in their own perverse ideologies?

My AEI colleague Gary Schmitt points me to this Washington Post story regarding the difficulties Iran’s nuclear program faces. Toward the end of the story, the reporter turns toward the alleged Iranian terrorist plot targeting the Saudi ambassador in Washington and quotes a senior Obama administration official involved in talks with Iran saying, “We’re used to seeing them do bad things, but this plot was so bizarre, it could be a sign of desperation, a reflection of the fact that they’re feeling under siege.”

In other words, the Obama team seems to feel the response to Iranian bad behavior is conciliation. Any Iranian embrace of terrorism is the responsibility not of Iran’s leadership and the poisonous and xenophobic rhetoric Iran’s revolutionaries have embraced, but rather the United States. When will the Obama team realize the world’s ills do not rest on the United States, cease the self-flagellation, and recognize the motivation of our enemies lies in their own perverse ideologies?

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Moral Equivalence Goes Beyond Amnesty International

Omri Ceren is absolutely correct to note how disgusting Amnesty International’s moral equivalence is regarding the ill-advised Gilad Shalit release. Alas, if such moral equivalence was only limited to non-governmental organizations.

I’m in Wiesbaden, Germany, for a conference on Afghanistan. A German friend points out this German story which quotes a German foreign ministry spokesman, like Amnesty, as calling the swap a “prisoner exchange” and continuing to suggest Israel and Hamas should build on this episode to advance the peace process. If Europeans cannot tell the difference between a democracy and an innocent soldier kidnapped in his own territory from that of a terrorist group whose charter embraces genocide, then Europe is in more of a black hole than Gilad Shalit ever was.

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Omri Ceren is absolutely correct to note how disgusting Amnesty International’s moral equivalence is regarding the ill-advised Gilad Shalit release. Alas, if such moral equivalence was only limited to non-governmental organizations.

I’m in Wiesbaden, Germany, for a conference on Afghanistan. A German friend points out this German story which quotes a German foreign ministry spokesman, like Amnesty, as calling the swap a “prisoner exchange” and continuing to suggest Israel and Hamas should build on this episode to advance the peace process. If Europeans cannot tell the difference between a democracy and an innocent soldier kidnapped in his own territory from that of a terrorist group whose charter embraces genocide, then Europe is in more of a black hole than Gilad Shalit ever was.

Separately, I was meaning to do this but have been on the road, and Caroline Glick beat me to it.  She quotes from Benjamin Netanyahu’s own book on terrorism:

The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmail situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best. Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.

There’s no nice way of putting it: Netanyahu is a hypocrite. With this swap, he has done as much to enable terrorism as have predecessors who believed they could negotiate with terrorists to bring peace. Had Israel made Shalit’s release the precondition for any talks with the Palestinians and stuck to their guns, then Western diplomats who see themselves as mediators would have understood they could not let Shalit slide to a lower agenda item. Unfortunately, the Israeli government lacks a coherent anti-terrorism strategy, and its diplomacy is notoriously amateurish.

Terrorism is a tactic. As I explained with former colleague Suzanne Gershowitz in this book chapter, there are costs and benefits to conducting it. The key to counter terrorism is to raise the costs so they far outweigh the benefits. With this swap, Netanyahu has legitimized terrorism and ensured the scourge will continue.

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Cain’s Lack of Seriousness Can’t Survive Debate Scrutiny

The main story coming into the Republican presidential debate tonight in Las Vegas is how Herman Cain will do now that he’s seen as a contender rather than a curiosity. With polls showing the former pizza executive battling Mitt Romney for the lead, he can expect the close scrutiny that sunk other candidates when they had their moments in the spotlight. Up until now some of his gaffes — especially those that betrayed his almost complete ignorance of foreign policy issues — didn’t get that much attention simply because not many people took his candidacy seriously. Now that he finds himself in the crosshairs of the media as well as of his rivals, he won’t have that luxury anymore.

Just as important for Cain is the question of how he can position himself as more than a source of glib audience-pleasing one-liners. His bump in the polls is the result of his generally strong debate performances, but as a first-tier candidate, he has to start acting and sounding like someone who can actually govern. That will require a greater command of the issues as well as an impression of seriousness that has so far been sorely lacking from his campaign. But that’s asking a lot from a man who, despite his charm and strong speaking style, has made it clear he hasn’t the interest or the ability to discuss any topic in depth other than his “9-9-9” tax plan.

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The main story coming into the Republican presidential debate tonight in Las Vegas is how Herman Cain will do now that he’s seen as a contender rather than a curiosity. With polls showing the former pizza executive battling Mitt Romney for the lead, he can expect the close scrutiny that sunk other candidates when they had their moments in the spotlight. Up until now some of his gaffes — especially those that betrayed his almost complete ignorance of foreign policy issues — didn’t get that much attention simply because not many people took his candidacy seriously. Now that he finds himself in the crosshairs of the media as well as of his rivals, he won’t have that luxury anymore.

Just as important for Cain is the question of how he can position himself as more than a source of glib audience-pleasing one-liners. His bump in the polls is the result of his generally strong debate performances, but as a first-tier candidate, he has to start acting and sounding like someone who can actually govern. That will require a greater command of the issues as well as an impression of seriousness that has so far been sorely lacking from his campaign. But that’s asking a lot from a man who, despite his charm and strong speaking style, has made it clear he hasn’t the interest or the ability to discuss any topic in depth other than his “9-9-9” tax plan.

There are those who have criticized the frequency of the Republican debates and the greater impact on the race than anyone expected. Yet the intense interest and large audiences shouldn’t have surprised us. The debates are, in effect, a political reality show that has focused like a laser beam on the shortcomings and strengths of the candidates. Tim Pawlenty was destroyed by one memorable miscue back in June. Rick Perry’s awful debate performances have downsized him from a frontrunner to an also-ran.

By contrast, Cain has benefited from the debates. They introduced him to a national audience who knew little of him before the summer and who liked what they saw. But if voters now perceive him as having a genuine chance of being nominated, they are not likely to judge his utterances with the same leniency. Stars get different treatment, but they also must perform deliberately. And that is the potential pitfall for Cain.

Cain has the impervious personality of a good salesman who is undaunted by resistance to his pitches. But presidents need more than a thick skin. While many of his apologists have been spouting nonsense about the candidate not needing to know much about foreign policy or to have a stronger grasp of how government actually works, most voters are smart enough to see through such arguments. Cain is clearly a policy novice who hasn’t thought or read much about most of the issues that the next president will encounter.

Cain’s problem tonight is not so much that some of those trailing him in the polls will attack him. He probably hasn’t much to fear from Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum even though both have more knowledge of the issues. Rather, it is that the more the discussion centers on him, the more likely it is his superficiality will become apparent. Cain’s rise so far has had more to do with the failures of others than his own strengths. Now that the spotlight is on him, he won’t be able to hide his glaring weaknesses.

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ADL Calls for Protest Organizers to Condemn Anti-Semitism

Good luck with that. As we’ve been told relentlessly, Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless movement (which means even the original creator and promoter of OWS doesn’t have to answer for his anti-Jewish writing, in the eyes of the movement’s supporters).

But with increasing reports of anti-Semitism at the OWS rallies, the Anti-Defamation League had to put out some sort of response. And while it’s a bit vague of the ADL to call for “organizers, participants and supporters” to condemn the bigotry at the rally, at least it acknowledges that the anti-Semitic incidents are becoming a problem:

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Good luck with that. As we’ve been told relentlessly, Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless movement (which means even the original creator and promoter of OWS doesn’t have to answer for his anti-Jewish writing, in the eyes of the movement’s supporters).

But with increasing reports of anti-Semitism at the OWS rallies, the Anti-Defamation League had to put out some sort of response. And while it’s a bit vague of the ADL to call for “organizers, participants and supporters” to condemn the bigotry at the rally, at least it acknowledges that the anti-Semitic incidents are becoming a problem:

We are seeing some individuals holding anti-Semitic signs at the “Occupy Wall Street” rallies, and some videos posted on YouTube from the rallies have shown individuals expressing classic anti-Semitic beliefs such as “Jews control the banks” and “Jews control Wall Street.”  While we believe that these expressions are not representative of the larger views of the OWS movement, it is still critical for organizers, participants and supporters of these rallies to condemn such bigoted statements clearly and forcefully.

There is no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are representative of the larger movement or that they are gaining traction with other participants.  However, history demonstrates time and again how economic downturns can embolden anti-Semites to spread malicious conspiracy theories and promote stereotypes about Jews and money. As a consequence, these statements must not be left unchallenged.

But if there are no leaders of the movement, who is even in the position to condemn the anti-Semitism at the rallies? The movement claims to have no official leaders, no official platform, no official aims. In an environment like that, it may not even make a difference if a few members speak out against the anti-Semites – they have no “legitimacy” as leaders in the eyes of the protesters.

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Obama’s Partisan Outreach Surrogates

It’s a small issue in the mindbending spectacle of argumentative and factual dishonesty that is President Obama’s Jewish outreach, but I genuinely don’t understand how Zvika Krieger, senior vice president of Robert Wexler’s avowedly nonpartisan S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, can continue publishing “Obama is pro-Israel” articles without acknowledging he’s doing work for the Obama campaign.

You’ll recall that, in the campaign’s haste to post a Jewish outreach website, they forgot to scrub author data from their talking point PDFs. It turns out at least two of those PDFs – stamped “Paid For By Obama For America” – were shown to have been produced by Krieger. The author data has been altered in newer versions of the PDFs, by the by.

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It’s a small issue in the mindbending spectacle of argumentative and factual dishonesty that is President Obama’s Jewish outreach, but I genuinely don’t understand how Zvika Krieger, senior vice president of Robert Wexler’s avowedly nonpartisan S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, can continue publishing “Obama is pro-Israel” articles without acknowledging he’s doing work for the Obama campaign.

You’ll recall that, in the campaign’s haste to post a Jewish outreach website, they forgot to scrub author data from their talking point PDFs. It turns out at least two of those PDFs – stamped “Paid For By Obama For America” – were shown to have been produced by Krieger. The author data has been altered in newer versions of the PDFs, by the by.

The Krieger-authored documents purported to show that, as a matter of objective record, widespread belief in Obama’s anti-Israel hostility is overblown. The evidence for said striking counterintuition included a document detailing media coverage of Obama’s actions, including a piece actually written by Krieger and Wexler themselves. On one side, Krieger was anonymously authoring ostensibly dispositive roundups of pro-Obama media coverage. On the other side, he was publicly producing the articles that went into the roundups.

And now it’s happening again, this time in an article criticizing UN defunding that Krieger published in The Atlantic. Claiming that “being seen as ‘pro-Israel’ in America seems to have increasingly little to do with actually supporting Israel,” Krieger sets out to demonstrate that pro-Israel conservatives are not pro-Israel, and anti-Israel Obama officials are not anti-Israel. It’s among the oldest tricks in political argument, but it still takes a lot of work – work for which the Obama administration and its surrogates seem to have more than enough enthusiasm.

The tenability of various UN defunding arguments aside – and I would recommend to you this weekend’s New York Sun editorial on the battle between Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and Secretary of State Clinton – the point is that Krieger continues to identify himself merely as the vice president of a 501(c)(3). He is presenting himself as, by all appearances, a nonpartisan think tanker. Someone’s going to make him stop doing that at some point, right? Or are Obama surrogates just going to keep publishing ostensibly objective analysis through the election?

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Egypt TV’s Indefensible Manipulation of Gilad Shalit

The Israel-Hamas prisoner swap seems to be popular with both Israelis and Palestinians, and the public relations battle has already commenced. But between the statements from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Gaza-based and exiled Hamas leadership, it’s easy to forget that the transitional Egyptian leadership needed a PR victory out of their role in mediating the final round of negotiations.

To drive the point home, Gilad Shalit was dragged in front of Egypt TV cameras to allow the Egyptians to spike the ball at Shalit’s expense. As if the “interview” wasn’t already asking a bit much, Amir Mizroch writes that the Egyptian translator mistranslates some of Shalit’s answers to maximize the propaganda effect. Haaretz has already picked up the story–without Mizroch’s correction–and the video is making the rounds. The worst translation, Mizroch writes, comes when Shalit says, “I don’t feel very well, am not used to seeing so many people,” which the TV station translates to: “He feels well, thanks the people who freed him.” The video is below:

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The Israel-Hamas prisoner swap seems to be popular with both Israelis and Palestinians, and the public relations battle has already commenced. But between the statements from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Gaza-based and exiled Hamas leadership, it’s easy to forget that the transitional Egyptian leadership needed a PR victory out of their role in mediating the final round of negotiations.

To drive the point home, Gilad Shalit was dragged in front of Egypt TV cameras to allow the Egyptians to spike the ball at Shalit’s expense. As if the “interview” wasn’t already asking a bit much, Amir Mizroch writes that the Egyptian translator mistranslates some of Shalit’s answers to maximize the propaganda effect. Haaretz has already picked up the story–without Mizroch’s correction–and the video is making the rounds. The worst translation, Mizroch writes, comes when Shalit says, “I don’t feel very well, am not used to seeing so many people,” which the TV station translates to: “He feels well, thanks the people who freed him.” The video is below:

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Obama is Losing His Honor

Even for a man of nearly limitless hypocrisy, it is a remarkable juxtaposition.

During his remarks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication on Saturday, the president said this:

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Even for a man of nearly limitless hypocrisy, it is a remarkable juxtaposition.

During his remarks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication on Saturday, the president said this:

[King] would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound.

These words were spoken by a man who says, on a regular basis, Republicans refuse to “put country ahead of party” (a not-so-subtle way of questioning their love of this country). In a speech earlier this year, he accused Republicans of wanting the elderly, autistic and Down syndrome children to fend for themselves. And this week, the president described the Republican economic plan as boiling down to this: “Let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.”

For Obama to sermonize on Saturday about civility and speak words that heal rather than wound while spending the rest of the week leveling charges that are indecent and meant to wound rather than heal demonstrates a level of cynicism, or self-delusion, that is almost hard to comprehend, even for one who has witnessed the Obama Act for several years now.

In either case, it doesn’t reflect well on Obama. He turns out to be both an incompetent president and a ruthless politician. It’s a troublesome combination.  When all is said and done, my guess is he’ll lose the election. But whether or not this happens, the president is in the process of losing something even more valuable: his honor.

 

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Palestinian Celebrations Show Crowds Reject Peace, Call for Genocide

The logic of Middle East peacemaking dictates that all events are “opportunities” for Israel to make territorial concessions to sundry Arab entities. When Fatah controlled the Gaza Strip it was “an opportunity” for Israel to make peace with a broad Palestinian government, and when Fatah lost control of the Gaza Strip it was “an opportunity” for Israel to make peace with a now unencumbered West Bank government. When Hafez Assad was alive it was “an opportunity” for Israel to strike the best deal possible, and when Hafez Assad died it was “an opportunity” for Israel to embrace newly-moderated Syrian reformers.

So naturally, today’s release of Gilad Shalit, bought at the price that included the freeing of 1,000-plus mass murderers, is an “opportunity” for peace. So muse reporters at Bloomberg and ABC News (quoting “hope from the U.S.”) and CNN and The Asia Times and so on.

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The logic of Middle East peacemaking dictates that all events are “opportunities” for Israel to make territorial concessions to sundry Arab entities. When Fatah controlled the Gaza Strip it was “an opportunity” for Israel to make peace with a broad Palestinian government, and when Fatah lost control of the Gaza Strip it was “an opportunity” for Israel to make peace with a now unencumbered West Bank government. When Hafez Assad was alive it was “an opportunity” for Israel to strike the best deal possible, and when Hafez Assad died it was “an opportunity” for Israel to embrace newly-moderated Syrian reformers.

So naturally, today’s release of Gilad Shalit, bought at the price that included the freeing of 1,000-plus mass murderers, is an “opportunity” for peace. So muse reporters at Bloomberg and ABC News (quoting “hope from the U.S.”) and CNN and The Asia Times and so on.

The Palestinian reception to the deal, on the other hand, seems to counsel somewhat more caution. Here are a couple of tweets from the scene of the transfer. You can consider them the bows on top of Jonathan’s post from yesterday about the unseemly Palestinian celebration of mass murder.

Khaybar, for those blissfully unfamiliar with the obsessive tropes of genocidal Muslim anti-Semitism, is a reference to a 7th-century battle in which Muhammad attacked and defeated an oasis of Arabian Jews. It’s particularly celebrated for the subsequent degradation of the Jews who survived, which included forced tribute to Muslim overlords until, finally, the Jews were ethnically cleansed from their homes. Historian Richard Rubenstein recently documented how “Khaybar, Khaybar” chants have become quite the celebratory ritual at global anti-Jewish hatefests, so it’s no surprise to see them here.

In other Palestinian Twitter-related news, the de facto Palestinian ambassador to Canada has been told she’s unwelcome by the Canadian government. Last month Ms. Sobeh Ali tweeted a video of a Palestinian girl calling for armies to wage war and “destroy the Jews,” a message that didn’t sit well with the Canadians. You’ll be glad to know, however, that the Globe and Mail was able to find an expert to explain that “destroy the Jews” was actually a mistranslation for “kill the soul of Zionism,” and that – quote – those are “not in any way” the same thing.

If peace ever does come to the Middle East, foreign policy experts, terror apologists, and perennially “hopeful” diplomats will be the last to know. In the meantime, their respective self-interested analysis, rank hypocrisy, and naive schemes are as counterproductive as they are obnoxious.

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Amnesty International’s Moral Equivalence

Inasmuch as Amnesty International bans pro-Israel advocates from entering their meetings – the latest to be denied entry, just last night, was Zionist Federation Vice Chair Jonathan Hoffman – it’s easy to see how they could cocoon themselves into producing mindless anti-Israel propaganda. And given that the organization pointedly never called for Gilad Shalit’s release, it’s predictable they would do so in the context of Israel’s kidnapped and now released soldier.

But Amnesty’s statement on the Shalit trade, titled “Israel-Hamas prisoner swap casts harsh light on detention practices of all sides,” is a barrel-scraping embarrassment even by the organization’s notoriously low standards. The vast majority of the press release is handed over to criticizing Israeli detention policies, while a grand total of two paragraphs are spent condemning Shalit’s ordeal.

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Inasmuch as Amnesty International bans pro-Israel advocates from entering their meetings – the latest to be denied entry, just last night, was Zionist Federation Vice Chair Jonathan Hoffman – it’s easy to see how they could cocoon themselves into producing mindless anti-Israel propaganda. And given that the organization pointedly never called for Gilad Shalit’s release, it’s predictable they would do so in the context of Israel’s kidnapped and now released soldier.

But Amnesty’s statement on the Shalit trade, titled “Israel-Hamas prisoner swap casts harsh light on detention practices of all sides,” is a barrel-scraping embarrassment even by the organization’s notoriously low standards. The vast majority of the press release is handed over to criticizing Israeli detention policies, while a grand total of two paragraphs are spent condemning Shalit’s ordeal.

Shalit’s name does not even appear below the fifth paragraph of the 20-paragraph statement, while alleged Israeli human rights violations- relevant to the swap or not – are repeatedly noted. Israel is explicitly and twice accused of Geneva violations. By the end of the statement, Amnesty is even demanding freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which would be a boon to (among others) the Hamas terrorists they’re wringing their hands over.

Moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas has become a tired mainstay on the human rights left, and criticizing it sometimes becomes a paint-by-numbers exercise for those who differentiate between civilized countries and genocidal lunatics. But just for the record, Israel is a fully-functioning democracy with the legal right to arrest and imprison criminals. Palestinian terrorists, regardless of the fanatic splinter group from which they hail, are not uniformed soldiers, do not represent a state, and – Amnesty’s weird implication aside – are not entitled to Geneva protections.

That’s in contrast to Gilat Shalit, who was a uniformed soldier, did represent a state, and was entitled to the Geneva protections denied to him for half a decade.

During that half-decade Amnesty specifically, and human rights groups in general, mixed their bare-minimum calls on Hamas with mass campaigns demonizing Israel:

International non-governmental organizations played a critical role in the political warfare against Israel. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – ostensibly neutral watchdogs – led the campaign. In 35 days, they issued over 40 press releases, statements and pseudo fact-finding reports, comprising hundreds of pages, largely ignoring the war crimes committed by the terrorist organization and instead focusing overwhelmingly and negatively on alleged Israeli crimes. The HRW and Amnesty allegations were immediately accepted, at face value, by the world’s media. Politicians and diplomats then echoed the war crimes accusations, without any fact-checking.

Not satisfied with having their obsessive campaign merely echoed by politicians, diplomats, and journalists, Amnesty has also spent considerable time and money pressuring European governments to actively join in their anti-Israel demonization.

Elsewhere in Europe they’ve recently held discussions about how “Zionists” control the media and hosted Palestinian writers who publicly call Jews “kikes.” Quite the force for good, these folks.

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