Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 7, 2011

Liberals Make Deal With Violent, Anti-Zionist OWS Devil

The news stories have been piling up documenting violence and disruptive behavior stemming from Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the country. In Washington, Occupiers sought to storm a conference being held by a conservative group. In Boston, a group of the Occupiers marched on the Israeli consulate chanting “viva, viva Palestina.” And in New York, fear of sexual assault led to the creation of a special guarded tent for female protesters.

Defenders and sympathizers of the OWS movement have claimed that conservatives have cherry-picked isolated incidents out of context in order to besmirch a legitimate effort on the part of citizens to express their discontent with the economy and the political situation. It must be admitted that when it was just a matter of stray signs or utterances that might have been true, though it must also be said this was exactly the tactic used by liberals in the media to try to demonize the Tea Party movement. But with the sort of group violence we saw last week in Oakland and the attempt to interfere with the right of conservatives to free speech and assembly in Washington this past weekend, it is no longer possible to pretend that a spirit of hooliganism is not integral to OWS. Nor, after the march in Boston, is it possible for OWS’s Jewish defenders to assert that the sort of anti-Zionism that raised its head in Boston is an aberration.

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The news stories have been piling up documenting violence and disruptive behavior stemming from Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the country. In Washington, Occupiers sought to storm a conference being held by a conservative group. In Boston, a group of the Occupiers marched on the Israeli consulate chanting “viva, viva Palestina.” And in New York, fear of sexual assault led to the creation of a special guarded tent for female protesters.

Defenders and sympathizers of the OWS movement have claimed that conservatives have cherry-picked isolated incidents out of context in order to besmirch a legitimate effort on the part of citizens to express their discontent with the economy and the political situation. It must be admitted that when it was just a matter of stray signs or utterances that might have been true, though it must also be said this was exactly the tactic used by liberals in the media to try to demonize the Tea Party movement. But with the sort of group violence we saw last week in Oakland and the attempt to interfere with the right of conservatives to free speech and assembly in Washington this past weekend, it is no longer possible to pretend that a spirit of hooliganism is not integral to OWS. Nor, after the march in Boston, is it possible for OWS’s Jewish defenders to assert that the sort of anti-Zionism that raised its head in Boston is an aberration.

It bears repeating that despite all of the huffing and puffing by the chattering classes about the threat to democracy that the Tea Party was alleged to pose, nothing like any of this ever happened at Tea Party rallies or their protests against members of Congress at Town Hall meetings. The Tea Party protesters may have occasionally been rude to a member of Congress or a senator, but they did not block traffic, attempt to stop those who disagreed with them from holding meetings or attempt to shut down an Israeli consulate.

This is not an accident.

The OWS movement is a spiritual descendant of the leftist protest of the 1960s that embraced violence and sought to disrupt and shut down institutions they didn’t like. Many Americans don’t like Wall Street and rich people. But the idea that a movement that has easily morphed into a piece of dangerous street theater represents the views of anything more than the far left is absurd.

The outrage in Boston also ought to remind liberal Jews who might otherwise be inclined to sympathize with OWS that the far left in this country is a cesspool of anti-Zionism. Liberals who make common cause with OWS are making a deal with an anti-Semitic and radical devil.

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Livestreaming: “The Case for Optimism”

Live from the American Enterprise Institute, I speak on the subject of my article, “The Case for Optimism.” Follow in real time below.

Live from the American Enterprise Institute, I speak on the subject of my article, “The Case for Optimism.” Follow in real time below.

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While the West Stands By Watching, Iran Marches to Nuclear Status

The IAEA report on Iran, being released this week, provides further evidence–as if any were necessary–about the development of Iran’s nuclear program. It also shows the bankruptcy of Western attempts to stop that program–as if any more evidence were necessary on that score either.

The most successful initiatives to date have been covert, with U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies apparently cooperating to introduce the Stuxnet virus into computers controlling the Iranian nuclear program. Stuxnet–and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, most likely by Mossad–has slowed down the Iranian program but not stopped it. It has bought time for the West, but we have not used that time wisely. Not even the recently uncovered Iranian terror plot–in which Iranian operatives allegedly plotted with a Mexican drug gang to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington–has spurred Washington into taking tougher action against Tehran.

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The IAEA report on Iran, being released this week, provides further evidence–as if any were necessary–about the development of Iran’s nuclear program. It also shows the bankruptcy of Western attempts to stop that program–as if any more evidence were necessary on that score either.

The most successful initiatives to date have been covert, with U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies apparently cooperating to introduce the Stuxnet virus into computers controlling the Iranian nuclear program. Stuxnet–and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, most likely by Mossad–has slowed down the Iranian program but not stopped it. It has bought time for the West, but we have not used that time wisely. Not even the recently uncovered Iranian terror plot–in which Iranian operatives allegedly plotted with a Mexican drug gang to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington–has spurred Washington into taking tougher action against Tehran.

There had been talk of sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, but apparently the administration has decided not to proceed with that option, which is one of the few sanctions measures that could apply real pressure on the regime–for fear that it would do damage to global oil markets and the U.S. economy. If we are not willing to suffer any collateral damage, not even economic damage, to stop the Iranian program, then that suggests we are not serious about stopping it. Israel is obviously more serious, but it is questionable whether a military strike on its part–said to be contemplated by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak for the umpteenth time this past week—could do more than delay the Iranian program.

Really stopping the Iranian program would require much tougher steps on the part of the U.S.–steps such as a naval blockade to cripple the Iranian economy and/or air strikes to cripple Iran’s military capacity. Neither is in the offing. Nor, as far as I can tell, is there any serious American-led effort to foment peaceful regime change in Tehran–something ardently desired by most Iranians who have been fed up by years of theological misrule.

So amid all the recriminations and rhetoric this week, the reality will remain unchanged: Iran continues its march to nuclear status, while the West stands by ineffectually watching.

 

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Judging Cain

The allegations against Herman Cain are no longer vague, and they’re no longer coming from anonymous sources. So, if Cain has been honest about his past, he should be able to give a straightforward response to the charges. Sharon Bialek provided plenty of details that he can dispute: did he meet her in Washington to talk about a job? Did he buy her a hotel suite? Did he grope her in his car?

Any discrepancies over the details, especially ones that can be independently established, could end up unraveling her claims. And if Bialek had an ulterior motive to manufacture this story, there’s a good chance it will be uncovered during the next few days, as her background and associations are scoured by reporters and Cain campaign operatives.

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The allegations against Herman Cain are no longer vague, and they’re no longer coming from anonymous sources. So, if Cain has been honest about his past, he should be able to give a straightforward response to the charges. Sharon Bialek provided plenty of details that he can dispute: did he meet her in Washington to talk about a job? Did he buy her a hotel suite? Did he grope her in his car?

Any discrepancies over the details, especially ones that can be independently established, could end up unraveling her claims. And if Bialek had an ulterior motive to manufacture this story, there’s a good chance it will be uncovered during the next few days, as her background and associations are scoured by reporters and Cain campaign operatives.

But if Cain hasn’t been honest about his past, this is just the beginning of the very slow and painful end of his political career. Anonymous accusers can be attacked and dismissed. It’s much harder to do that when there’s a name, a face, and serious, detailed allegations. Cain is going to have to answer to the accusations, and his latest statement saying the charges are “completely false” doesn’t cut it.

Like we saw with the Anthony Weiner scandal, an initial statement by one woman could also encourage others to come out publicly with more accusations. Bialek is the fourth woman to claim Cain treated her inappropriately, and the pattern suggests there are more shoes to drop. Whether or not it’s fair to judge someone based on “he said-she said” allegations from more than a decade ago, this all but ensures Cain will be contending with this sexual harassment scandal for the rest of his time on the campaign trail.

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Serious Doubts About Iraq’s Future

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal–the two leading newspapers in America–have produced important reports in the past two days which call into serious doubt the future of Iraq.

The Times reports on the ability of al-Qaeda in Iraq to stay extant despite years of efforts by the American and Iraqi security forces to stamp it out: “It conducts a little more than 30 attacks a week, carries out a large-scale strike every four to six weeks, and has expanded its efforts to recruit Iraqis, leading to a significant increase in the number of Iraqi-born suicide bombers.”

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The New York Times and Wall Street Journal–the two leading newspapers in America–have produced important reports in the past two days which call into serious doubt the future of Iraq.

The Times reports on the ability of al-Qaeda in Iraq to stay extant despite years of efforts by the American and Iraqi security forces to stamp it out: “It conducts a little more than 30 attacks a week, carries out a large-scale strike every four to six weeks, and has expanded its efforts to recruit Iraqis, leading to a significant increase in the number of Iraqi-born suicide bombers.”

The Journal, meanwhile, reports on Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s troubling attempts to gain absolute dominance over the Iraqi security by purging Sunnis whom, he claims, are closet Baathists. Naturally Sunnis are deeply concerned about these moves. As the Journal notes, “[T]he prime minister’s moves have triggered countermoves by his Sunni political rivals that are threatening to further fragment the country. The leaders of Salahuddin Province, a predominantly Sunni area north of Baghdad, said last month they would begin the process of becoming a semi-autonomous region—complaining that, among other things, they wanted to be better represented in the security services, both in rank and file and executive positions.”

Neither of these nuggets is exactly new: AQI has been a threat for years, feeding directly off sectarian tensions. But these reports remind us that old animosities are not exactly buried. They are barely being repressed, and that’s with a sizable American force in Iraq. Without that force, one of the most important shock absorbers in Iraqi society will be gone. Iraq may continue its journey toward democracy, but the odds of a major smashup have increased dramatically. Which is why it is so tragic that President Obama did not work harder to achieve an accord that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq past the end of this year.

 

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How Romney’s Opponents Prove His Electoral Strength

Having already been overtaken once in the polls by a late entrant (Rick Perry) and an unlikely outsider with a modest campaign organization (Herman Cain), Mitt Romney is far from the usual candidate whose victory is routinely described as “inevitable.” In fact, his campaign has displayed one striking similarity with Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 bid: the mere suggestion of the candidate’s “inevitability” is only inspiring its opposition to work harder.

One major difference, however, is that Hillary Clinton was unable to hold a monopoly on her party’s elite, which freed up money and support for Barack Obama. In Romney’s case, he has no trouble collecting endorsements from his party’s establishment. (Romney dodged a bullet recently when the Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint announced he wouldn’t endorse anyone before the primaries.) But Romney is facing a young and energized group of conservative activists and bloggers who, in addition to pressing the case against him on Twitter and throughout the conservative blogosphere, have formed a coalition to oppose his nomination:

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Having already been overtaken once in the polls by a late entrant (Rick Perry) and an unlikely outsider with a modest campaign organization (Herman Cain), Mitt Romney is far from the usual candidate whose victory is routinely described as “inevitable.” In fact, his campaign has displayed one striking similarity with Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 bid: the mere suggestion of the candidate’s “inevitability” is only inspiring its opposition to work harder.

One major difference, however, is that Hillary Clinton was unable to hold a monopoly on her party’s elite, which freed up money and support for Barack Obama. In Romney’s case, he has no trouble collecting endorsements from his party’s establishment. (Romney dodged a bullet recently when the Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint announced he wouldn’t endorse anyone before the primaries.) But Romney is facing a young and energized group of conservative activists and bloggers who, in addition to pressing the case against him on Twitter and throughout the conservative blogosphere, have formed a coalition to oppose his nomination:

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Ali Akbar, a GOP operative who help found the coalition but isn’t publicly supporting any other candidate yet, said no other campaign is behind the effort to go after the GOP front-runner, though many of those involved in the effort include supporters of other candidates.

Akbar said the coalition has not filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to form a political action committee yet, and won’t do so until it has spent or raised $5,000 the FEC requires to file.

According to that Daily Caller story, Akbar was joined by John Hawkins of RightWingNews.com and Matt Mackowiak in founding Not Mitt Romney. The organization’s membership has some interesting names, including Roger Stone. The group’s participants are listed under the banner reading: “We the undersigned can agree on one thing: ‘Mitt Romney should NOT be OUR nominee.’”

The group’s influence is probably of secondary significance to what they represent: the “new media” wing of the Not Romney movement within the Republican party. The new Washington Post/ABC poll gives them some fuel today, with a good rundown of Romney’s weaknesses among the conservative faithful. But it also underscores the reason Romney keeps hovering at or near the top of the GOP polls: there would be no need for a group called Not Mitt Romney if the field contained a candidate who fit the profile of what these activists are looking for while also exuding the all-important quality of “electability.”

The fact that the Not Romney movement remains stronger than Romney’s opponents only increases the likelihood that Not Mitt Romney will be stuck with Mitt Romney.

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Saboteurs on the Right

Get ready for the next big election conspiracy theory, which has absolutely nothing to do with long-forms or Donald Trump. The Washington Monthly catches the New York Times claiming that the Republicans are intentionally sabotaging the economy, in order to win in 2012:

The New York Times editorial board had a piece today on the importance of unemployment benefits, and made an observation in passing that stood out for me.

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Get ready for the next big election conspiracy theory, which has absolutely nothing to do with long-forms or Donald Trump. The Washington Monthly catches the New York Times claiming that the Republicans are intentionally sabotaging the economy, in order to win in 2012:

The New York Times editorial board had a piece today on the importance of unemployment benefits, and made an observation in passing that stood out for me.

“Tragically,” the editorial said, “the more entrenched the jobs shortage becomes, the more paralyzed Congress becomes, with Republicans committed to doing nothing in the hopes that the faltering economy will cost President Obama his job in 2012.”

The point was made in passing, but it’s nevertheless striking. As far as the editorial board of the nation’s most important newspaper is concerned, it’s simply accepted as fact that congressional Republicans want to hold back the economy, on purpose, to undermine the Obama presidency.

In other words, just ignore Obama’s previous failed attempts to kick-start the economy, and the ideological factors that are driving the Republican opposition. The Washington Monthly predicts this could be a helpful issue for the Democrats to push during the election:

It’s easy to imagine the sabotage question undermining Republican support in 2012, but it’s clearly not automatic. The more Democrats push the question into the public bloodstream, and get voters thinking about the impact of GOP tactics, the better it will be for Dems’ electoral efforts.

There’s no doubt this would be a popular idea with liberals who don’t want to acknowledge that Obama’s economic policies have been useless so far, and would love nothing more than to blame the current problems on congressional Republicans. But would it catch on with average voters? The notion isn’t just cynical, it’s also alarmingly paranoid – not the type of argument the Obama campaign would want to be openly pushing during a general election. But with media outlets like the New York Times mainstreaming it, this could end up playing a role in the election.

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Has Evidence of Iran’s Nuclear Advances Been Withheld?

There are two embarrassing pieces of evidence buried in all the reporting about the IAEA quarterly report on the Iranian program, due to be released later this week. One is the fact that much of Iran’s military program continued after 2003 –not what the key findings of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program seemed to suggest. Whatever the merits of the entire document – still classified – the key judgments published in early December 2007 not only undermined the case for military action against Iran, it also did considerable damage to the case for sanctions – no significant sanctions were approved between March 2008 and June 2010.

As the report is released in the next few days, we will learn that much of the military clandestine program actually never stopped.

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There are two embarrassing pieces of evidence buried in all the reporting about the IAEA quarterly report on the Iranian program, due to be released later this week. One is the fact that much of Iran’s military program continued after 2003 –not what the key findings of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program seemed to suggest. Whatever the merits of the entire document – still classified – the key judgments published in early December 2007 not only undermined the case for military action against Iran, it also did considerable damage to the case for sanctions – no significant sanctions were approved between March 2008 and June 2010.

As the report is released in the next few days, we will learn that much of the military clandestine program actually never stopped.

The second embarrassment is that much of the evidence now mentioned in the report appears to be old – member states and the Agency knew about these apparently incriminating activities for a long time now.

How come the Agency sat on this information for so long?

Iran is already trying to claim that the report is “political.”

Russia and China, in an unprecedented step, have sought to limit the extent of its revelations, pretty much under the same pretext.

But the IAEA is not a political body – it is a UN technical agency, whose mandate is to enforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To have that information and not reveal it smacks of politics.

This is not an embarrassment for the current Director General of the IAEA, Ambassador Yukiya Amano. Since he took over the Agency, the quality and
clarity of its reports on Iran has dramatically improved. But his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, now a candidate for Egypt’s presidency, and in his time a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IAEA, might have much to answer.

If indeed the evidence was withheld for so long, one must ask the motives for ElBaradei’s decision to use his role, influence and prestige, in order to shield Iran’s nuclear advances.

America’s clumsy release of the NIE key judgments may have been irresponsible – as it was surely wrong.

The withholding of intelligence that could potentially provide conclusive incriminating evidence against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, if it happened, would not just be irresponsible. It would be criminal.

 

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The Double Standard of the Press When it Comes to OWS vs. the Tea Party

This report should be of particular interest to the progressive politicians (like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and journalists who have been eager to praise Occupy Wall Street protesters and compare it to the Tea Party.

According to the New York Post:

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This report should be of particular interest to the progressive politicians (like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and journalists who have been eager to praise Occupy Wall Street protesters and compare it to the Tea Party.

According to the New York Post:

Zuccotti Park has become so overrun by sexual predators attacking women in the night that organizers felt compelled to set up a female-only sleeping tent yesterday to keep the sickos away. The large, metal-framed “safety tent” –which will be guarded by an all-female patrol — can accommodate as many as 18 people and will be used during the day for women-only meetings, said Occupy Wall Street organizers. “This is all about safety in numbers,” said Becky Wartell, 24, a protester from Portland, Maine.

The Post goes on to report, “The safety measure comes amid a terrifying spree of sexual assaults –including an alleged rape — in the Zuccotti Park camp.”  A male OWS protesters added this enlightened comment. “Sexual harassment gets called rape, and it’s not.”

This is a movement which Obama and his party have voiced support to, encouraged, and signed petitions on behalf of. They helped give rise to it, and now they can rightly claim some paternity over it. Yet the media has been terribly reluctant to connect those dots. I wonder why?

As I pointed out last week, imagine if these incidents were happening not at OWS protests but at Tea Party gatherings. Can you imagine the wall-to-wall (negative) coverage the Tea Party would be receiving? But when it comes to OWS, the offenses just aren’t that troubling. Journalists like Anderson Cooper have shown an almost super-human ability to contain what I’m sure is a sense of profound outrage.

Speaking of the media, perhaps CNN, which has demonstrated an insatiable interest in the sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain and tried its mightiest to discredit the Tea Party Movement with its coverage the last few years, will set aside a bit more of its precious air time to show Americans the true, the ugly, and the violent face of OWS. And I don’t have in mind the obligatory, check-the-box coverage. I have in mind, rather, the intense, cause-driven coverage it has shown in other instances.

I rather doubt that will happen. And I rather suspect we all know the reason. It can be found in three words that are both true and drive many journalists  crazy: Liberal Media Bias.

It really is that simple.

 

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Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Eric Ormsby

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

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When America’s future looks grim—and it’s seldom looked grimmer—I take no comfort in the splenetic pronouncements of talk-show hosts or the equivocations of pundits, all of whom reinforce a stubborn sense of despair. It takes bloody-mindedness to be an optimist. Optimism is a bit like religious belief—a faith in things unseen. But such faith is meaningless if it doesn’t take a hard look at things seen. No harder look has ever been cast on our republic than Walt Whitman’s in the years following the Civil War.

Whitman believed fervently in American spiritual energy, in that astonishing capacity we possess for ceaseless reinvention of ourselves. He had no rosy illusions. America, he warned, could yet prove to be “the most tremendous failure of time.” He wrote inDemocratic Vistas, that scathing prophecy of 1871:

Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings) nor is humanity itself believed in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, etc., the most dismal phantoms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. Read More

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

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When America’s future looks grim—and it’s seldom looked grimmer—I take no comfort in the splenetic pronouncements of talk-show hosts or the equivocations of pundits, all of whom reinforce a stubborn sense of despair. It takes bloody-mindedness to be an optimist. Optimism is a bit like religious belief—a faith in things unseen. But such faith is meaningless if it doesn’t take a hard look at things seen. No harder look has ever been cast on our republic than Walt Whitman’s in the years following the Civil War.

Whitman believed fervently in American spiritual energy, in that astonishing capacity we possess for ceaseless reinvention of ourselves. He had no rosy illusions. America, he warned, could yet prove to be “the most tremendous failure of time.” He wrote inDemocratic Vistas, that scathing prophecy of 1871:

Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us. The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in, (for all this hectic glow, and these melodramatic screamings) nor is humanity itself believed in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, etc., the most dismal phantoms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable.

I’ve lived abroad now for some 25 years, and my perspective on America may be skewed. But it isn’t the obvious dangers that America faces—terrorist attack, fiscal collapse—that most get me down but something humbler, less catastrophic, and yet more insidious. I think of it as the death of discourse. Nowadays, even among friends, a dissenting opinion is met not with rebuttal or debate but with stony silence or Whitman’s “melodramatic screamings.” The purpose of conversation on any serious topic is no longer a “mass of badinage” but an occasion for sniffing out “deviant” views and affixing labels.

I grew up in the South in the bad old times. During Sunday dinners, my family, all Atlanta-born, refought the Civil War, sometimes bitterly. My mother and brother and I displayed disagreeable “Yankee” tendencies: we proclaimed segregation evil. When I went so far as to praise William Tecumseh Sherman, a mighty rumpus ensued. Still, we voiced our beliefs, we raged and we wrangled, and in the end we were reconciled in mutual affection. What has happened in America that no common ground—the simple assumption of good faith, if not of affection—seems open for civil discourse?

If I remain optimistic about the future of America, even against the odds, it’s because I share Walt Whitman’s belief that we still provide “full play for human nature to expand itself in numberless and even conflicting directions.” But for that to occur, we need to learn how to listen to one another once again.

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Eric Ormsby is a writer in London whose most recent books include Fine Incisions: Essays on Poetry and Place (Porcupine’s Quill) and The Baboons of Hada: Selected Poems (Carcanet).

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Obama Still Has Options on Iran

The Washington Post’s write-up of the upcoming report from the UN’s nuclear watchdog confirms the key elements of Iran’s nuclear program: they have “mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles,” and the Iranians intend to use this capability for “weapons-related” purposes.

None of this is particularly shocking, nor is the Iranian government’s yawn in response: “Let them publish and see what happens.” As Jonathan noted yesterday, sabotage (either through the Stuxnet worm or assassinations of nuclear scientists) was never considered a silver bullet to stop the Iranian program; sanctions that would do the trick will be blocked by Russia and China; and sanctions targeting the Central Bank of Iran would be helpful but not conclusive. So what should President Obama do? He has three options.

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The Washington Post’s write-up of the upcoming report from the UN’s nuclear watchdog confirms the key elements of Iran’s nuclear program: they have “mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles,” and the Iranians intend to use this capability for “weapons-related” purposes.

None of this is particularly shocking, nor is the Iranian government’s yawn in response: “Let them publish and see what happens.” As Jonathan noted yesterday, sabotage (either through the Stuxnet worm or assassinations of nuclear scientists) was never considered a silver bullet to stop the Iranian program; sanctions that would do the trick will be blocked by Russia and China; and sanctions targeting the Central Bank of Iran would be helpful but not conclusive. So what should President Obama do? He has three options.

First, he should take action that could collapse the Central Bank of Iran anyway. It’s true this is not going to stop the program, but it would help and it would send a message. If the U.S. cannot effectively sanction the Iranian Central Bank, it will have no credibility to enact tougher sanctions. The Republican currently holding Obama’s old Senate seat, Mark Kirk, has been pushing the president on this and called a press conference today to continue doing so. Kirk and Charles Schumer have been rallying their respective caucuses behind the effort, and a letter calling for such action received the signatures of 92 senators in August. The purpose of Kirk’s press conference today is to outline an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill under consideration this week. “We have to use the strongest non-military means available to reduce the coming danger to America, Saudi Arabia, and Israel,” Kirk said.

Second, the U.S. should stop pretending it has no leverage over Russia. The last hurdle to Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization–Georgian opposition–has been cleared. But the U.S. can still block it. If Obama wants an indisputable success with regard to the “reset,” getting Russia to stand down and allow real sanctions on Iran would be an especially good place to start. Of course it benefits the American economy to have Russia in the WTO, but so does doing business with Iran. So far, the U.S. has wrung zero concessions from Vladimir Putin over Russia’s long-awaited accession to the WTO, and in fact has ignored its illegal behavior toward Georgia in order to welcome Russia to the club. Iranian sanctions wouldn’t be too much to ask from an authoritarian country looking to join a global organization dedicated to ethical trade practices.

Third, Obama should keep the pressure up on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad any way he can. He should start by figuring out what can be done to stop the American and European companies currently outfitting the Syrian regime with surveillance equipment to help their brutal crackdown on Syrian opposition and civilian protesters, as Bloomberg Businessweek reported a few days ago. Every Iranian ally in the Middle East relies on Syria as well in some form or another, most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And those allies are key to Iran’s deterrent capability, through its terrorist proxies with thousands of missiles aimed at Israel in case of attack. Any weakening of that nexus will weaken Iran.

Obama cannot stop the Iranian nuclear program with any of these measures, but they will all do more than simply describing the news as “unhelpful” and changing the subject, as this administration likes to do.

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The Taliban Celebrates American Surrender

On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, my colleague Ahmad Majidyar pointed me to this statement he translated from a Taliban website:

For the past ten years, our brave Mujahedeen have been engaged in jhad against a brutal and invading enemy for a noble cause, and are rendering sacrifices on a daily basis. And with God’s help, they have pushed the wealthiest and most arrogant power of the world to the brink of collapse. They have killed and wounded thousands of their troops and inflicted permanent disabilities and mental disorders on many others.

As a result, their people have risen up, are protesting, and the American and Western nations are no longer ready to extend the Afghanistan war and see their soldiers return in coffins. It is only God’s Almighty’s grace and mercy that He chose us to serve this nation and the Islamic community at this determining and sensitive juncture and defeated the greatest enemy of Islam by our hands.

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On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, my colleague Ahmad Majidyar pointed me to this statement he translated from a Taliban website:

For the past ten years, our brave Mujahedeen have been engaged in jhad against a brutal and invading enemy for a noble cause, and are rendering sacrifices on a daily basis. And with God’s help, they have pushed the wealthiest and most arrogant power of the world to the brink of collapse. They have killed and wounded thousands of their troops and inflicted permanent disabilities and mental disorders on many others.

As a result, their people have risen up, are protesting, and the American and Western nations are no longer ready to extend the Afghanistan war and see their soldiers return in coffins. It is only God’s Almighty’s grace and mercy that He chose us to serve this nation and the Islamic community at this determining and sensitive juncture and defeated the greatest enemy of Islam by our hands.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton may believe they are pursuing “smart diplomacy.” But, when it comes to negotiating with the Taliban, we’ve been down this road before, and it led directly to 9/11. Between the peace talks and the deadlines, Mullah Omar believes the Taliban is on the verge of a great victory. Frankly, ordinary Afghans, not to mention the Iranians, Pakistanis, and Chinese agree.  Perhaps Obama and Clinton believe their own spin. If so, they may be the last two on earth who do.

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Later Today: A Speech on “The Case for Optimism”

At 5:30 pm today, I’ll be speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on the subject of my article, “The Case for Optimism.” Come back here to commentarymagazine.com at 5:30 if you want to watch a live-stream of the speech.

At 5:30 pm today, I’ll be speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on the subject of my article, “The Case for Optimism.” Come back here to commentarymagazine.com at 5:30 if you want to watch a live-stream of the speech.

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Death Match: Greens vs. Big Labor

The most entertaining fight of the election may not be the one between Obama and the Republican nominee. Big Labor and environmental groups have been feuding for a while over the Keystone XL pipeline (which greens argue would hurt the environment, and unions argue would create jobs). And now environmentalists are reportedly holding their political support hostage unless Obama agrees to block the pipeline from getting built:

Activists calling on Obama to scuttle the project expect thousands of people at a major demonstration outside the White House Sunday afternoon.

They’re arriving with a warning: Environmentalists say a federal permit for TransCanada would sap their appetites for door-knocking, political giving and other work on behalf of Obama next year.

Who wins this battle? Labor has the money and the organization, but environmentalists have the passion. They also have the crazy on their side. You won’t see a labor leader throwing himself in front of a bulldozer to protest Obama’s decision, but don’t put those tactics past the environmentalists.

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The most entertaining fight of the election may not be the one between Obama and the Republican nominee. Big Labor and environmental groups have been feuding for a while over the Keystone XL pipeline (which greens argue would hurt the environment, and unions argue would create jobs). And now environmentalists are reportedly holding their political support hostage unless Obama agrees to block the pipeline from getting built:

Activists calling on Obama to scuttle the project expect thousands of people at a major demonstration outside the White House Sunday afternoon.

They’re arriving with a warning: Environmentalists say a federal permit for TransCanada would sap their appetites for door-knocking, political giving and other work on behalf of Obama next year.

Who wins this battle? Labor has the money and the organization, but environmentalists have the passion. They also have the crazy on their side. You won’t see a labor leader throwing himself in front of a bulldozer to protest Obama’s decision, but don’t put those tactics past the environmentalists.

Do environmental groups have the political power to back up their threats, though? It’s not like they have any other 2012 option besides supporting Obama – Republicans are largely in favor of the pipeline, as well as other policies that greens despise.

There are two political hazards here for environmentalists: 1.) If they succeed at damaging Obama’s reelection chances, they risk ushering in a GOP president who would be even more opposed to their goals, or 2.) If they fail to hurt Obama, they’ll severely dent their political clout. As Julian Zelizer explains to The Hill:

“Whenever any political movement/organization/interest group challenges a president, and warns about the electoral implications of ignoring them, they are in the spotlight as well,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

“If the president does ignore them and there is no political fallout, their clout will vastly diminish in the next fight that they have,” he said.

My money is on Big Labor. Obama would have to be suicidal to block the Keystone XL with unemployment hovering at 9 percent. But, as with most intra-leftist feuds, it’s fun to watch no matter who comes out on top.

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Lack of Narratives Is Not Obama’s Problem

According to the New York Times:

Last summer, as Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated the former president’s 65th birthday with a party at their rented Hamptons home, talk among their guests turned to President Obama’s travails over the debt crisis and doubts about his re-election. “I’m really trying to help him,” the white-haired former president said, shaking his head, “but he seems to have lost his narrative.”

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According to the New York Times:

Last summer, as Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated the former president’s 65th birthday with a party at their rented Hamptons home, talk among their guests turned to President Obama’s travails over the debt crisis and doubts about his re-election. “I’m really trying to help him,” the white-haired former president said, shaking his head, “but he seems to have lost his narrative.”


Clinton, who is releasing a new book this week, Back to Work, was frustrated “about the lack of a powerful Democratic message in the midterm elections. “[Clinton] said that he and Mr. Biden failed to persuade the Democratic National Committee to send out talking points back then.”

Having worked in three administrations, I don’t want to dismiss the importance of a narrative. On the other hand, most people in the political class vastly overrate its importance.

The main problem for Obama isn’t that he’s lost his storyline; the main problem is that his stewardship has produced a terribly weak economy. (see here for more:) And that, in turn, is the product, at least in part, of the president having implemented deeply misguided policies.

If unemployment was 6.5 percent (as the Obama administration said it would be at this juncture), the economy was growing at a four-and-a-half percent rate, the housing market was coming back, and poverty was going down instead of up, the president would have an easy narrative to sell. But that isn’t an option now, is it?

Miserable circumstances and manifold failures, on the other hand, are difficult to pitch to the public in an appealing way.

The enemy of the Obama presidency is reality, empirical facts, and objective circumstances. The focus on the lack of a narrative is to miss the point almost entirely.

What Democrats, including Clinton, are unprepared to do is to grapple with the intellectual and philosophical failures of the Obama presidency. If they wanted to be genuinely helpful to Obama, they would explain to him that his policies have produced failure upon failure. That isn’t a particularly hard case to make.

The problem is liberalism, not narratives; and unless and until Obama and his party accept this uncomfortable truth, their failures (both substantive and political) will continue to multiply.

 

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Far From Over: Cain Drops in Latest Poll

The Cain campaign is eager to get back on message after last week’s wall-to-wall coverage of his sexual harassment scandal. Unfortunately for him, yesterday’s Reuters/Ipsos poll is a sign his fallout with Republican voters may just be beginning:

The poll showed the percentage of Republicans who view Cain favorably dropped 9 percentage points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week ago.

Among all registered voters, Cain’s favorability declined 5 percentage points, to 32 percent from 37 percent. …

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The Cain campaign is eager to get back on message after last week’s wall-to-wall coverage of his sexual harassment scandal. Unfortunately for him, yesterday’s Reuters/Ipsos poll is a sign his fallout with Republican voters may just be beginning:

The poll showed the percentage of Republicans who view Cain favorably dropped 9 percentage points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week ago.

Among all registered voters, Cain’s favorability declined 5 percentage points, to 32 percent from 37 percent. …

A majority of respondents, 53 percent, believe sexual harassment allegations against Cain are true despite his denials. Republicans were less likely to believe they are true, with 39 percent thinking they are accurate. …

Four in 10 poll respondents said the harassment issue had made them less favorable toward Cain. About one in three Republicans, or 35 percent, said the controversy had made them less favorable toward Cain.

Late last week it looked like Cain might have been able to get out of this controversy relatively unscathed. His campaign, which had initially bungled the PR push-back, had even begun to hit its stride: this scandal is a liberal media creation, Cain’s team argued, and Republican voters see right through it. That line of reasoning was backed up by last week’s Rasmussen poll, showing that Cain’s support among Republicans had actually increased since the controversy broke.

The Reuters poll complicates that messaging. If it were just the media – or even the general public – that cared about the scandal, Cain could potentially have gotten away with dismissing it. That becomes much more difficult if he’s also starting to lose Republican voters.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind this is the first poll to show a loss of GOP support. Other surveys will have to corroborate this before it can be seen as a trend. But the immediate effect will be to keep this story at the top of the news cycle for at least another few days, ensuring that both the general public and Republican voters will hear a lot more of the details. And to Cain’s detriment, it seems the more they hear, the less they like.

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The Golem of Prague and the Jewish Aversion to Fantasy

Its devotees are entitled to their opinion that fantasy is not a genre of Christianity. They are not, however, entitled to distort the facts. The Golem of Prague, I am informed again and again, is proof positive that fantasy is not alien to Judaism. But the Golem is not the supernatural fantasy that those who know the legend only through its modern retellings think it is. As Michael Weingrad said in dismissing a similar objection to his pathbreaking essay “Why There Is No Jewish Narnia,”

Those who have offered golems, dybbuks, and magic dreidels as the answer to my question are skimming the surface or unfamiliar with the heft and richness of Judaism.

Exactly so. Michael Chabon relied heavily upon the Golem of Prague in writing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), his novel about the Jewish creators of comic-book superheroes. The novel’s revisionist claim is that the artist-and-writer duos of the “Golden Age of Comics” — Jewish duos like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Will Eisner and Jerry Iger, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee — reinvented a significant subgenre of Jewish literature that had originated in the legends of the Golem, the man of clay enchanted into life by the 16th-century Rabbi Judah Löw of Prague.

The Golem’s status as an oral legend is central to the case that Jewish fantasy has, in contradistinction to those who hold otherwise, a long and honorable tradition. A short passage from the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin is usually cited as the source of the legend:

Raba said: If the righteous desired it, they could be creators, for it is written, “But your iniquities have been a barrier between” etc. (Isa 59.2) Rabbah created a man, and sent him to R. Zera. R. Zera spoke to him, but received no answer. Thereupon he said unto him: “Thou art a creature of the magicians. Return to thy dust.”

In the medieval sources, though, “the creation of the golem had not a real, but only a symbolic meaning,” Gershom Scholem says. By the 17th century, legends of a Frankensteinian golem who is the servant of his creator had become popular among German Jews, although Scholem believes that the legends were, at least in part, a Jewish adaptation of ideas found in non-Jewish alchemy.

The version that everybody knows comes much later. And the most striking thing about it is that the most famous Golem is not an oral legend at all, but a literary reenactment. The historian Hillel J. Kieval found that the legend of the Golem of Prague was written down and published by two different folklorists — a non-Jew and a Jew — within six years of each other in 1841 and 1847.

The non-Jewish version, which called the legendary creature a Golam [sic], appeared in German in a popular Prague monthly. The legend was presented to the magazine’s readers as “partly newly told, party retold” by its author. The Jewish version, also written in German, was published in a widely read collection of Jewish legend and folklore from biblical, rabbinic, and popular sources. Its author affixed a short prologue in which he swears that the story to come is a faithful transcript of what he had heard “from the mouth of the old.” The prologue is intended to establish his reliability as a narrator, but like the prologue to The Turn of the Screw, its effect is exactly the opposite.

As Kieval says, the way in which the legend was presented to the German reading public is “testimony to the fact that the self-conscious recovery of oral traditions is a decidedly modern act.” Given the modernity of its retelling, the legend is inevitably transformed into something more closely resembling the authors’ literary influences. In the case of the Golem, the immediate and obvious predecessors are the Brothers Grimm, whose Fairy Tales had gone through four German editions by 1840.

In the last stages of its oral form, the legend had become attached to the figure of Rabbi Judah Löw, the Maharal of Prague. The story of the Golem, as Kieval puts it, was a way of “mythologizing” the Maharal, a popular testament to his greatness. It was not really “about” the Golem at all. And in its earliest stages, the oral tale testified to the power of God’s name, which was placed in the Golem’s mouth to bring him to life. Again, the story was not really “about” the Golem at all.

In the version retailed by Chabon and other recent adapters, the Golem is a champion of the Jews, heroically fighting anti-Semites in Rabbi Judah’s Prague. This version, the most popular of all, is a literary forgery created out of whole cloth early in the 20th century and reprinted three years ago by Yale University Press. The truth is that the Jewish Golem (as opposed to the Golem of popular imagination) does not belong to fantasy, does not concern a supernatural hero (who is secondary to the legend’s religious purposes), and does not loom large in Jewish thinking.

Other than that it’s a great example of Jewish fantasy.

Its devotees are entitled to their opinion that fantasy is not a genre of Christianity. They are not, however, entitled to distort the facts. The Golem of Prague, I am informed again and again, is proof positive that fantasy is not alien to Judaism. But the Golem is not the supernatural fantasy that those who know the legend only through its modern retellings think it is. As Michael Weingrad said in dismissing a similar objection to his pathbreaking essay “Why There Is No Jewish Narnia,”

Those who have offered golems, dybbuks, and magic dreidels as the answer to my question are skimming the surface or unfamiliar with the heft and richness of Judaism.

Exactly so. Michael Chabon relied heavily upon the Golem of Prague in writing The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), his novel about the Jewish creators of comic-book superheroes. The novel’s revisionist claim is that the artist-and-writer duos of the “Golden Age of Comics” — Jewish duos like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Will Eisner and Jerry Iger, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee — reinvented a significant subgenre of Jewish literature that had originated in the legends of the Golem, the man of clay enchanted into life by the 16th-century Rabbi Judah Löw of Prague.

The Golem’s status as an oral legend is central to the case that Jewish fantasy has, in contradistinction to those who hold otherwise, a long and honorable tradition. A short passage from the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin is usually cited as the source of the legend:

Raba said: If the righteous desired it, they could be creators, for it is written, “But your iniquities have been a barrier between” etc. (Isa 59.2) Rabbah created a man, and sent him to R. Zera. R. Zera spoke to him, but received no answer. Thereupon he said unto him: “Thou art a creature of the magicians. Return to thy dust.”

In the medieval sources, though, “the creation of the golem had not a real, but only a symbolic meaning,” Gershom Scholem says. By the 17th century, legends of a Frankensteinian golem who is the servant of his creator had become popular among German Jews, although Scholem believes that the legends were, at least in part, a Jewish adaptation of ideas found in non-Jewish alchemy.

The version that everybody knows comes much later. And the most striking thing about it is that the most famous Golem is not an oral legend at all, but a literary reenactment. The historian Hillel J. Kieval found that the legend of the Golem of Prague was written down and published by two different folklorists — a non-Jew and a Jew — within six years of each other in 1841 and 1847.

The non-Jewish version, which called the legendary creature a Golam [sic], appeared in German in a popular Prague monthly. The legend was presented to the magazine’s readers as “partly newly told, party retold” by its author. The Jewish version, also written in German, was published in a widely read collection of Jewish legend and folklore from biblical, rabbinic, and popular sources. Its author affixed a short prologue in which he swears that the story to come is a faithful transcript of what he had heard “from the mouth of the old.” The prologue is intended to establish his reliability as a narrator, but like the prologue to The Turn of the Screw, its effect is exactly the opposite.

As Kieval says, the way in which the legend was presented to the German reading public is “testimony to the fact that the self-conscious recovery of oral traditions is a decidedly modern act.” Given the modernity of its retelling, the legend is inevitably transformed into something more closely resembling the authors’ literary influences. In the case of the Golem, the immediate and obvious predecessors are the Brothers Grimm, whose Fairy Tales had gone through four German editions by 1840.

In the last stages of its oral form, the legend had become attached to the figure of Rabbi Judah Löw, the Maharal of Prague. The story of the Golem, as Kieval puts it, was a way of “mythologizing” the Maharal, a popular testament to his greatness. It was not really “about” the Golem at all. And in its earliest stages, the oral tale testified to the power of God’s name, which was placed in the Golem’s mouth to bring him to life. Again, the story was not really “about” the Golem at all.

In the version retailed by Chabon and other recent adapters, the Golem is a champion of the Jews, heroically fighting anti-Semites in Rabbi Judah’s Prague. This version, the most popular of all, is a literary forgery created out of whole cloth early in the 20th century and reprinted three years ago by Yale University Press. The truth is that the Jewish Golem (as opposed to the Golem of popular imagination) does not belong to fantasy, does not concern a supernatural hero (who is secondary to the legend’s religious purposes), and does not loom large in Jewish thinking.

Other than that it’s a great example of Jewish fantasy.

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Obama’s Diplomatic Epitaph

“He left empty-handed.”

In the print edition of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, this sentence comprises the entire second paragraph (it’s been changed a bit in this online edition:).

The context of this statement was President Obama’s effort in France to cajole European leaders to resolve a debt crisis that could weaken the U.S. economy. But it could just as easily have applied to virtually the entire diplomatic record of the Obama presidency.

Read More

“He left empty-handed.”

In the print edition of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, this sentence comprises the entire second paragraph (it’s been changed a bit in this online edition:).

The context of this statement was President Obama’s effort in France to cajole European leaders to resolve a debt crisis that could weaken the U.S. economy. But it could just as easily have applied to virtually the entire diplomatic record of the Obama presidency.

Whether we’re talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, North Korea, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, European nations accepting Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and even the 2016 Olympic bid (Chicago was eliminated in the first round), Obama’s diplomatic outreach efforts have been rebuffed time and time again. And it’s not simply that the Obama administration has been inept in its diplomacy; it is that this was the arena in which we were told (by Obama himself) that it would excel.

This is simply another reminder of the enormous gap that exists between words and deeds, between campaign speeches and governing achievements. Obama, a former community organizer and one-term senator, thought that it would be easy to bend the world to his will and ways. The world thought differently — and so far at least, the world is winning.

The Journal’s report may have inadvertently written the epitaph of the Obama presidency in the realm of diplomacy: “He left empty-handed.”

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Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Dennis Prager

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

I am both optimistic and pessimistic regarding America’s future. Here are my reasons for pessimism: first, the unique American values system, what I call the American Trinity, is under assault. These three values are announced on every American coin: Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust. The left has declared war on all three. It seeks to replace Liberty with equality (of result), E Pluribus Unum with multiculturalism, and In God We Trust with secularism. America is being transformed—candidate Barack Obama’s favorite word for what he sought to do to America—into another Western European country, the left’s model of a great society.

Second, the primary purpose of high schools and colleges—and increasingly, even elementary schools—is to turn the students into secular leftists. Many of these graduates know what the climate will be like in 2080 but don’t know who Stalin was, let alone who Cain and Abel were. They are proficient at using condoms and recycling, but little else. They have been taught nothing of American exceptionalism and would likely find the term incomprehensible, if not repulsive. They would save their dog before a human they didn’t know because morality is a matter of feelings, and they feel more for their dog.

Third, the expansion of the state has produced a new American. This American believes in rights more than in obligations and that the state should take care of him, his parents, his children, and his neighbor. Read More

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

I am both optimistic and pessimistic regarding America’s future. Here are my reasons for pessimism: first, the unique American values system, what I call the American Trinity, is under assault. These three values are announced on every American coin: Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust. The left has declared war on all three. It seeks to replace Liberty with equality (of result), E Pluribus Unum with multiculturalism, and In God We Trust with secularism. America is being transformed—candidate Barack Obama’s favorite word for what he sought to do to America—into another Western European country, the left’s model of a great society.

Second, the primary purpose of high schools and colleges—and increasingly, even elementary schools—is to turn the students into secular leftists. Many of these graduates know what the climate will be like in 2080 but don’t know who Stalin was, let alone who Cain and Abel were. They are proficient at using condoms and recycling, but little else. They have been taught nothing of American exceptionalism and would likely find the term incomprehensible, if not repulsive. They would save their dog before a human they didn’t know because morality is a matter of feelings, and they feel more for their dog.

Third, the expansion of the state has produced a new American. This American believes in rights more than in obligations and that the state should take care of him, his parents, his children, and his neighbor.

Fourth, the melting pot of Americans has been replaced by a patchwork quilt of Latinos, African Americans, and other identity groups, all of whom are victims of an oppressive sexist, racist, intolerant, Islamophobic, xenophobic society.

Fifth, half or more of the Jews and Christians who attend synagogue or church are more likely to be led by a priest, minister, or rabbi who preaches not about their sins but about America’s.

Sixth, civilization’s single most important institution, marriage, is increasingly regarded as pointless and is being redefined for the first time in history to include members of the same sex. Why? Because the notions that marriage is sacred and that men and women are intrinsically different—a difference that carries unique significance—are depicted as patriarchal, anachronistic, and sexist.

And seventh, most American Jews are on the wrong side of this American divide. They do not even understand that an America that abandons her unique values will join most of the rest of the world in abandoning Israel. And many, incredibly, do not even care.

Now, my reasons for optimism:

Many Americans have finally awakened to the threat posed by leftism. They understand that the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen; that the death of God leads to the death of objective moral standards; and that the Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps, are the greatest force for world peace. And they are fighting to reassert small government, Judeo-Christian values, American exceptionalism, and a strong military, and to undo the Balkanization of America.

If these Americans win the next presidential election, I will be optimistic…about America. But the world is another matter.

_____________

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His next book, Still the Last Best Hope (HarperCollins), will be published in 2012. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

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