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Posts For: November 11, 2011
The Obama approach to Middle East peacemaking, it can’t be emphasized enough, is premised on the gamble that if Israel stops building schools and homes in the West Bank, then this will go away. Other people have suggested that broadcasting primitive “nature provides rain to cleanse away the filthiness of Jews” incitement is evidence of deeply-seated cultural bigotry. So there are arguments on both sides.
The theory was broadcast on Fatah-controlled PA TV last Sunday. The key part goes:
The golden dome [of the mosque] shines with colors of the sky, with the white of clouds, while the joyous holiday [Eid Al-Adha] is good to the residents. The light rain cleanses the steps of the foreigners [Jews] so that the feet [of Muslims] in prayer will not step on impurity.
So this phrase now exists:
With wintry weather poised to swoop into the cramped outdoor quarters of Occupy Wall Street protesters, it may not be long before more campers catch what’s being called “Zuccotti lung.” That’s what demonstrators have dubbed the sickness that seems to be spreading among them at an unpleasantly high rate these days: “It’s a real thing,” Willie Carey, 28, told the New York Times.
Obama’s non-decision on the Keystone XL pipeline yesterday was supposed to mollify both the unions and the environmentalists, encouraging them to play nice until after the election. But the move may have come too late. The project seemed like a certainty, so when Obama put the kibosh on it the green groups saw it as a victory, and the labor unions took it as a stunning rebuke.
Terry O’Sullivan, head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, didn’t hold back in a statement slamming the Obama administration yesterday:
There are several longish posts to be written about the meltdown currently taking place on the anti-Israel and pro-Iran foreign policy left. In the span of a month they’ve had to explain why the oh-so-rational Iranians – who, on account of said rationality, were ostensibly amenable to engagement – tried to commit an act of war on U.S. soil. Then they had to explain why the oh-so-not-developing-nukes Iranians – who, on account of not developing nukes, did not have to be confronted – were declared by the IAEA to be developing nukes.
Their efforts on both of those specific issues were kind of magical – the clinical description would label them as “symptomatic outbursts” – but it’s also important to keep an eye on the general meltdown taking place.
The strange career of Veterans Day from its origins after the First World War as a day on which America could (in the words of Woodrow Wilson) “show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations” to a day on which America could (as Ronald Reagan said nearly seven decades later) “pay tribute to all those men and women who throughout our history, have left their homes and loved ones to serve their country” is neatly traced by Leon R. Kass at the Weekly Standard’s blog this morning.
What has always interested me, as a literary critic, is the degree to which American literature is a veterans’ literature. Not merely because so many American writers “left their homes . . . to serve their country,” especially during the Second World War. Even more importantly, because so many who did not serve in uniform made combat veterans their heroes.
Four American novels in particular take on renewed and deepened significance when they are read, correctly, as veterans’ novels — The American (1877) by Henry James, The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henderson the Rain King (1959) by Saul Bellow, and The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy.
James’s hero Christopher Newman is a veteran of the Civil War, a former brigadier-general, whose “four years in the army had left him with an angry, bitter sense of the waste of precious things” and had fired him with a “passionate zest and energy” for the postwar “pursuits of peace.” His military service was the pivotal experience in his life. It leads him first to success in business and then to Europe, where he goes in search of “something else.”
Fitzgerald’s narrator is a veteran of the Great War (“that delayed Teutonic migration”), and so is the title character, an officer and decorated war hero. Jay Gatsby came back, like James’s Newman, with a sense of purpose — a “creative passion,” an “incorruptible dream,” which he nurtured during his years in the army. Although he may have been shady and not entirely law-abiding, Gatsby was like no one else in the whole “rotten crowd” of the postwar boom. Compared to the “careless” rich, who avoided military service and “smashed up things and creatures,” he really was a great man — or at least as great as a man could be in such a lost generation.
Bellow’s hero is a veteran of the Second World War, one of only two soldiers in his unit who survived the Italian campaign, although he was wounded by a land mine and received the Purple Heart. “The whole experience gave my heart a large and real emotion,” Eugene Henderson says. “Which I continually require.” The voice within that ceaselessly chants I want, I want, I want, oh, I want formed its first words when Henderson was in the army. His search, like Newman’s and Gatsby’s, commences upon demobilization.
Walker Percy’s hero and narrator is a veteran of the Korean War, who is also on a search (“what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life”). Binx Bolling’s is an existential search, a religious search, a search for meaning. And the first time the search occurred to him was in 1951. Knocked unconscious in battle, he came to with a “queasy-quince taste” in his mouth, his shoulder pressed into the ground, and the vow that, if he ever got out of this fix, he would relentlessly pursue the search.
None of these novelists served in the military, but when thinking about the kind of experience that would turn a man around — that would even create him anew — they immediately thought of what Kass calls the one percent who guard and protect the 99 percent. Except for the crazed Vietnam vet, the soldier who becomes an adult in the military — who learns the responsibilities of adulthood, defined by the U.S. Army as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage — has now largely disappeared from American literature. James, Fitzgerald, Bellow, and Percy demonstrate what has been lost.
Today is the day we honor the ordinary heroes who are better than 99 percent of us.
The Herman Cain sexual harassment charges have raised an interesting issue beyond the charges themselves: political discourse and personal motivations. An intra-conservative dispute that’s arisen in the last two weeks helps shed some light on this matter.
Some on the right have decided that the charges against Cain are false, and he’s the target of a smear campaign. They are so convinced of Cain’s innocence they cannot fathom how other conservatives don’t rally to support him. The case is so open-and-shut, in fact, that Cain’s lack of support among conservatives can only be explained by factors other than the evidence. And so it’s said that those on the right who have concerns about Cain – either as they relate to the charges or in how Cain has handled the story – must have a rooting interest against him. The other possibilities are that these conservatives are cowardly, RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), part of the “establishment.” They’re afraid to defend Cain because, this argument goes, they want to ingratiate themselves with the dominant, liberal press. They are ashamed of true conservatives like Cain and the Tea Party more broadly. And if these (nominal) conservatives want to be invited to dinners and cocktail parties in Georgetown, they have to show their independence from true conservatives. They are even willing to leave the wounded on the battlefield in order to win favor with the political class.
Here’s an article from February about how the IRS is hiring its own small battalion of 1,054 workers because of Obamacare. These workers – who are sufficient to monitor only the very, very early stages of the federal power grab – will be charged with what Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso described as “auditing Americans’ healthcare.”
Now here’s an article from today about how the IRS hasn’t implemented basic security protocols, leading to what the GAO tersely refers to as “information security deficiencies”:
Taxpayer information held by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is vulnerable to access by unauthorized people, according to a report released today from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report cites “information security deficiencies” at the IRS… Among other things, the report faulted the IRS for “continu[ing] to use unencrypted protocols for a sensitive tax processing application.” Testing by the GAO revealed that “systems used to process tax and financial information did not effectively prevent access from unauthorized users or excessive levels of access for authorized users.”
Herman Cain has a Mark Block problem.
Block is the chief of staff of the Cain campaign. And in a recent interview, Block insisted that he wasn’t backing off the accusation the Rick Perry campaign was responsible for leaking the sexual harassment story to Politico. “No, no, I will not back off of the Perry thing… I’m not backing off on the Perry thing. I backed off on the guy [consultant Curt Anderson], because he came out and said that it wasn’t him. But I’m still not backing off that the pot wasn’t stirred by the Perry folks.”
It’s easy to dismiss the Gingrich surge as just the next flavor of the week. Two reasons why he may last longer than the others: First, 43 percent of his supporters say they’re with him for the long haul, which is substantially higher than the numbers for the two other frontrunners (see the McClatchy link below). And second…where else could Republicans possibly go from here? The only three left in the race who haven’t had their 15 minutes are Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. Which means if Gingrich fails his audition, there’s pretty much only one viable candidate left waiting in the wings.
Here are the polls that are undoubtedly giving Rick Santorum room for hope. First, McClatchy:
— Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, 23 percent;
—Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, 19 percent;
—Cain, the former restaurant executive, 17 percent;
And the CBS News poll:
The field of Republican candidates now has three candidates within striking distance of each other at the top of the list: with 18 percent, Herman Cain is in the top spot, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich with 15% each. Support for both Cain and Romney has declined since late last month, and Gingrich is the only one of the top three whose support is steadily – if slowly – on the upswing.
While Cain still leads in the CBS News poll, there are plenty of signs that he’s on the downswing. His support among women has plummeted from 28 percent to 15 percent in the last month, and he’s lost conservative and Tea Party backers. Most Republicans are still sticking by Cain, with 60 percent saying the allegations won’t impact their vote. But 30 percent say the scandal makes them less likely to support him.
The Solyndra scandal has made the high cost of President Obama’s politicized approach to energy policy a major issue. But with the decision to delay a decision about completing the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada until after the 2012 election, the bankruptcy of this administration’s approach to this issue has been confirmed. As Alana wrote yesterday, Obama has effectively bowed to pressure from environmental groups in order to secure his base heading into his re-election effort. But in doing so, the president has handed the Republicans a club with which to beat him over the course of the next year.
By refusing to approve a project that would have increased the flow of oil into the country from a friendly nation, Obama has shown that getting closer to genuine energy independence through projects that are not pie-in-the-sky “green” boondoggles is not something that interests him. While, as a report in Politico noted, there seemed little political incentive for Obama to pull the trigger on Keystone XL one way or the other now, next summer may be a different story. If oil prices go up next year as the result of further turmoil in the Middle East or a conflict involving Iran, the president may regret a short-sighted political calculation that will decrease the country’s ability to avoid dependence on the Persian Gulf and other oil-rich hotspots.
What significance, if any, should we assign to the administration’s plan to sell thousands of “smart bombs” known as JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) to the United Arab Emirates? The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, says it is “part of a stepped-up U.S. effort to build a regional coalition to counter Iran.” But what do these bombs actually do to counter the Iranian nuclear program?
Potentially a lot if you imagine the UAE in concert with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states launching a preemptive strike on the Iranian program. The GCC states certainly have the military potential to penetrate Iran’s air defenses and carry out such a strike. But that’s about as likely as Arabian sand turning into nuggets of gold. The Emiratis and their neighbors all fear and loathe Iran, but they are keenly aware that they are micro-states located near a big, aggressive country with a propensity for terrorism and subversion—and they have no intention of alienating Iran if they can help it.
So the fatal shooting near Occupy Oakland last night has finally pushed Mayor Quan to call for the camp to be shut down…voluntarily. She sent an open letter asking the Occupiers to leave peacefully last night, which they promptly ignored. After what happened last time Quan sent the police in to clear out the park, will she have the guts to do it again? We can only hope, but somehow, I doubt it:
We asked the mayor’s spokesperson what’s going to happen if people don’t leave voluntarily and she did not answer the question. By the way, a recent Chamber of Commerce poll found that 73 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Quan’s handling of Occupy Oakland.
If the leaders of the Iranian regime were worried about Jeffrey Goldberg’s prediction that Barack Obama would confound the world and launch a U.S. military strike designed to save Israel from nuclear destruction, they can now calm down. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made it crystal clear at a Pentagon news conference yesterday he has no intention of supporting an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Echoing remarks uttered by his predecessor Robert Gates, Panetta said a U.S. strike would only deal a temporary setback to the Iranians and emphasized his fear that the “unintended consequences” of an American offensive would negatively impact the position of U.S. forces elsewhere in the region.
Panetta’s fears about conflict with Iran are reasonable. We don’t know whether it will be possible to completely eradicate their nuclear facilities (though a U.S. campaign would have a much greater chance of success than one conducted solely by Israel) and war with Iran could set off a series of other struggles around the region which would, at best, be messy, and at worst, be disastrous. But by publicly throwing cold water on the idea the United States is ready and able to militarily squash Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Panetta has sent a dangerous signal to Tehran that the Pentagon intends to veto any use of force against them. Combined with Russia’s pledge to block any further sanctions on Iran, the statement should leave the Khameini/Ahmadinejad regime feeling entirely secure as they push ahead to the moment when they can announce their first successful nuclear test.
I had some fun with the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago when they published a terribly misleading and inaccurate article intended to cast doubt on Marco Rubio’s family history. I joked that the Post was becoming the Ron Burgundy of the newspaper world, talking about itself more than any other subject, and insisting to its readers that its reporting is important and influential.
While much of the criticism of the Post’s story has focused on its habit of ginning up controversy and then reporting on its reporting, we now know that it failed in its objective as well. Tim Mak calls attention to the latest poll of Rubio’s job approval, and it shows he has emerged from this absurd non-scandal unscathed:
That’s a brilliant op-ed a geopolitical savant named Paul Kane has penned in the New York Times today.
He suggests, in an example of true “out of the box” thinking, that President Obama should get our economy going with a little diplomatic legerdemain: “He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.” True, that would consign 23 million people on Taiwan who live in a democracy to suffer under a Communist dictatorship that doesn’t even allow its people to use Google freely and consigns dissidents to hellacious prisons or mental hospitals. But, hey, what’s a little freedom compared to a trillion bucks?
As Alana notes, Mitt Romney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizes the Obama administration’s Iran policy and advocates for a tougher public posture against the Iranian regime. “I will back up American diplomacy with a very real and very credible military option,” Romney writes.
Because Romney has made a habit of allowing his positions on issues to “evolve” over the years, some see flip-flopping in every statement he makes, parsing the language for any justification to file another “Romney changes his stance on…” article. Over at the Danger Room, Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman have fallen into this trap:
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?
The 1990s were a decade to make you believe there was no such thing as an intractable problem. We had defeated the Soviets. We won in the Persian Gulf War in a matter of weeks and quieted ancient ethnic furies in the Balkans. At home, we beat back crime. Welfare reform was a success. We seemed to have the business cycle figured out. It wasn’t really until the financial crisis of 2008 that we were reminded of what it means for things to be utterly out of control. It was a calamity for which no remedy presented itself; and, even if we made the best decisions, it might still have ended in catastrophe. Everything since—the spiraling debt, the persistent unemployment, the sense we might be on the precipice of another collapse—has been a great humbling.
I still tend to be an optimist about most of what dominates our public debate. Over time, the economy will recover. One way or another, we’ll bring the deficit under control. We’ll reform entitlements, inadequately and clumsily, but reform them nevertheless. Our international power will diminish, yet we’ll still be far ahead of any competitor. The American public has shown an admirable resistance to the vast designs of the Obama administration, and I expect President Obama to be either defeated or even more hemmed in during a second term than he is now. Read More