Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 15, 2011

The Left and the OWS Movement

I was on a national radio program earlier this afternoon that appears on NPR stations. The topic was the Occupy Wall Street Movement and its progeny, and the guest included Occupy protesters from Chapel Hill and Tulsa, a reporter from The Nation magazine, and a historian of social movements from Vanderbilt University.

Let’s just say my critique of the various Occupy movements was in the minority. (The host was fine and fair enough, though I suspect not terribly sympathetic to my views.)

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I was on a national radio program earlier this afternoon that appears on NPR stations. The topic was the Occupy Wall Street Movement and its progeny, and the guest included Occupy protesters from Chapel Hill and Tulsa, a reporter from The Nation magazine, and a historian of social movements from Vanderbilt University.

Let’s just say my critique of the various Occupy movements was in the minority. (The host was fine and fair enough, though I suspect not terribly sympathetic to my views.)

There were some illuminating moments during the conversation. For example, the professor from Vanderbilt referred to the “habits of democracy” we’re seeing from the Occupy Wall Streeters. To which I replied that’s a very gentle way of referring to people whose movement has been marred by rape, violence, arson, public defecation, anti-Semitism, and all the rest. I was also struck by how the other guests were quite concerned when it came to (possible) violence used by the police, even as there was not a word of condemnation for the violence used by the protesters themselves. In fact, what the other guests tried (vainly) to do was to downplay the acts of violence, lawlessness, and filth that we’ve seen, to the point of arguing that much of it is imaginary (recalling the words of Groucho Marx, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”). There were also some unintentionally humorous moments, such as when the Occupy Chapel Hill protester spoke about an anarchist book fair and anarchist library he seemed quite protective of. (It cause me to wonder whether one actually checks out and returns books from an anarchist library.)

But what was most obvious to me was the palpable sense of excitement from others on the program. One got the sense they felt as if this was their time portal to Woodstock (and Altamont). One could see how for those on the left, life and politics post-Occupy movement is more vivid and thrilling. It’s the closest thing to being part of a social revolution they may ever experience.

I said on the program that what we’re seeing is the pathetic end to a pathetic (and at times violent and lawless) movement. If that’s the case, there will be a huge void in the lives of some on the left. This is a moment they’ll be telling their grandchildren about.

There is something both poignant and pitiful about this.

 

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What’s Assad Waiting For?

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has shown his true colors. A dozen visits by Arlen Specter, and repeated chats with John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi simply didn’t get him to see the light. Instead, he is currently slaughtering his own people–today reportedly has been the bloodiest day in recent weeks.

Yet, Western news anchors report about his growing isolation, symbolized most recently by Syria’s suspension from the Arab League. Still, Assad doesn’t seem to be getting the message he should step down. Perhaps he would have dragged his feet anyway, but there needs to be some serious introspection within the Obama administration: Defense Secretary Panetta removed pressure by ruling out any military force. Even if none was contemplated, there really was no reason to tell Assad that. More importantly, Assad knows he only has to wait another six weeks and then he’s home free. When the last American troops depart from Iraq, there will be little impediment to Iranian resupply of their beleaguered ally.

Alas, Obama’s triumph–the abandonment of Iraq, a country whose partnership he seems to dismiss because of latent Bush Derangement Syndrome–is already having a far greater effect than the White House or State Department are willing to admit.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has shown his true colors. A dozen visits by Arlen Specter, and repeated chats with John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi simply didn’t get him to see the light. Instead, he is currently slaughtering his own people–today reportedly has been the bloodiest day in recent weeks.

Yet, Western news anchors report about his growing isolation, symbolized most recently by Syria’s suspension from the Arab League. Still, Assad doesn’t seem to be getting the message he should step down. Perhaps he would have dragged his feet anyway, but there needs to be some serious introspection within the Obama administration: Defense Secretary Panetta removed pressure by ruling out any military force. Even if none was contemplated, there really was no reason to tell Assad that. More importantly, Assad knows he only has to wait another six weeks and then he’s home free. When the last American troops depart from Iraq, there will be little impediment to Iranian resupply of their beleaguered ally.

Alas, Obama’s triumph–the abandonment of Iraq, a country whose partnership he seems to dismiss because of latent Bush Derangement Syndrome–is already having a far greater effect than the White House or State Department are willing to admit.

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A Part-Time Congress?

Rick Perry’s poll numbers have been slipping by the day, so he needed a bold, last-ditch proposal to stay in the race. And during his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” speech today, he laid out several:

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Rick Perry’s poll numbers have been slipping by the day, so he needed a bold, last-ditch proposal to stay in the race. And during his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” speech today, he laid out several:

1. End lifetime appointments for federal judges.

2. Cut congressional pay, working hours and office budgets in half. Freeze congressional and agency salaries until budget is balanced.

3. End bank bailouts and earmarks.

4. Reduce spending to 18 percent of GDP.

5. Advocate for Balanced Budget Amendment.

6. Privatize Fannie and Freddie.

7. Get rid of Commerce, Energy and Department of Education. Restructure Dept. of Homeland Security. Hand over airport security to the private sector.

8. Moratorium on every pending federal regulation, and full audit of the last five years of new regulations.

We’ve heard many of these from Perry before, but it’s his proposal to create a “part-time Congress” that’s been getting the most attention today:

We send members of Congress to look out for America, not enrich themselves. But too often, they are taken captive by the Washington culture.

That’s why we need a part-time Congress. I say send them home to live under the laws they pass among the people they represent.

That would mean slashing the annual salary to $87,000, and cutting the number of days Congress is in session to just 62 per year. Why again does Perry think this is a good idea? And doesn’t he need Congress around to pass his other proposals, like installing a balanced budget amendment and capping spending at 18 percent of GDP?

We already have a method for making sure members of Congress look out for our interests, and it’s called elections. If the point is to reduce corruption, a part-time Congress wouldn’t have prevented the insider trading issues that Perry mentioned in his speech. A better (and much simpler) idea would be to enforce stricter rules on congressional trading.

Plus, like some of Perry’s other proposals – i.e., eliminating the Department of Education – there is almost no chance of this ever actually happening. He would have done better to steer clear of gimmicks.

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The Constitutional Moments of Obamacare

Exactly two years after Seth Lipsky, author of The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide, described the impending passage of Obamacare as a “constitutional moment,” the Supreme Court decided to review Obamacare’s constitutionality, allocating five and a half hours for oral argument — an indication of the seriousness of the moment.

At the time Lipsky made his observation – four months before Obamacare was enacted – many thought an enumerated powers challenge unlikely, given the Court’s expansive reading of the Commerce Clause since it acquiesced in FDR’s New Deal about 70 years ago. But six appellate courts have now struggled with the issue, producing conflicting opinions totaling 654 pages. The latest acknowledged a “troubling” fact: not only is the Obamacare mandate unprecedented, but if upheld there is no “limiting principle” (watch Elena Kagan try to address the “Broccoli” hypothetical here) that would preclude government-mandated purchases of things such as Obamacars, government bonds, etc.. As the D.C. Circuit noted:

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Exactly two years after Seth Lipsky, author of The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide, described the impending passage of Obamacare as a “constitutional moment,” the Supreme Court decided to review Obamacare’s constitutionality, allocating five and a half hours for oral argument — an indication of the seriousness of the moment.

At the time Lipsky made his observation – four months before Obamacare was enacted – many thought an enumerated powers challenge unlikely, given the Court’s expansive reading of the Commerce Clause since it acquiesced in FDR’s New Deal about 70 years ago. But six appellate courts have now struggled with the issue, producing conflicting opinions totaling 654 pages. The latest acknowledged a “troubling” fact: not only is the Obamacare mandate unprecedented, but if upheld there is no “limiting principle” (watch Elena Kagan try to address the “Broccoli” hypothetical here) that would preclude government-mandated purchases of things such as Obamacars, government bonds, etc.. As the D.C. Circuit noted:

The Government concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles; indeed, at oral argument, the Government could not identify any mandate to purchase a product or service in interstate commerce that would be unconstitutional, at least under the Commerce Clause.

There are several supreme ironies in the current constitutional moment — not the least of which is that a president’s attempt to “fundamentally transform” the country may lead, if not to a landmark legal precedent limiting the power of Congress to do so, then to the failure of his own re-election effort, as the voters avail themselves of their own “constitutional moment” — about four months after the Court rules next June.

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Is Romney a Rerun of Dole and McCain?

With the collapse of faith in Herman Cain’s ability to serve as commander-in-chief rapidly spreading, those seeking a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee are running out of options. Realists understand the Newt Gingrich boomlet will end the day the public starts taking the prospect of the former Speaker of the House seriously as a potential nominee, and that despite his financial resources, Rick Perry’s campaign is as dead in the water as that of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. That leaves Romney, the man many on the right despise as a RINO, in a strong position to cruise to a certain if not quite easy victory.

That leaves some of them not just grumpy but predicting defeat for Republicans if they succumb to the moderate temptation. As Thomas Sowell writes today on RealClearPolitics, a Romney nomination is a guarantee of Republican defeat in November 2012 in much the same way that Bob Dole and John McCain’s candidacies ensured Democratic wins in 1996 and 2008. But the assumption that Romney will duplicate those defeats may be off the mark.

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With the collapse of faith in Herman Cain’s ability to serve as commander-in-chief rapidly spreading, those seeking a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee are running out of options. Realists understand the Newt Gingrich boomlet will end the day the public starts taking the prospect of the former Speaker of the House seriously as a potential nominee, and that despite his financial resources, Rick Perry’s campaign is as dead in the water as that of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. That leaves Romney, the man many on the right despise as a RINO, in a strong position to cruise to a certain if not quite easy victory.

That leaves some of them not just grumpy but predicting defeat for Republicans if they succumb to the moderate temptation. As Thomas Sowell writes today on RealClearPolitics, a Romney nomination is a guarantee of Republican defeat in November 2012 in much the same way that Bob Dole and John McCain’s candidacies ensured Democratic wins in 1996 and 2008. But the assumption that Romney will duplicate those defeats may be off the mark.

In both 1996 and 2008, the odds would have been against virtually any Republican candidate. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had enormous advantages in those years that would not have been canceled out by the GOP putting forward a candidate who would have done a better job energizing their base than either Dole or McCain. Though both had heroic biographies, they were lackluster candidates who were not as good on television or as likeable as Romney. Both Dole and McCain came across as elderly public servants looking for one last honor to add to their resumes. Though Romney stands guilty of being favored by what passes for a GOP establishment these days much as they did, he is a very different sort of candidate with a better chance of exciting voters.

It is true the conventional wisdom about moderates being more electable than conservatives is not necessarily accurate. Sowell is right to point out if that were really true, Ronald Reagan would not have won two landslides. But it is also true that Obama’s failure to hold onto the support of independents makes the notion of a Republican who can appeal to the center a bit more important this time around.

Romney comes into the race with definite liabilities. His flip-flopping on the issues gives Democrats a club with which they will beat Romney in the general election. And it’s true that he leaves many Tea Partiers and social conservatives cold. But Sowell’s plea for the conservatives in the race to drop out and unite around one “non-Romney” misses the point. There is no viable “non-Romney.” If there had been, Romney’s unfortunate record on health care would have made his nomination impossible.

Nevertheless, the idea that a man who is running to cut spending and taxes and whose personal life embodies the family values conservatives like, has no chance to win the affection of the right seems to be a bit overstated. While Romney was seen as a soulless technocrat in 20008, he’s done a better job of connecting with voters now.

Despite a collapsing economy and his loss of the public’s confidence, Barack Obama will be no pushover in 2012. Any Republican, whether a moderate or a fire-breathing conservative, will have their work cut out next fall. But the belief that any of the possible conservative alternatives to Romney will have an easier time beating the president is without foundation. Despite his supposed moderation, Romney is no lock to be the next president. But if he loses it will have more to do with Obama’s good luck on the economy or foreign policy than the fact that some on the right don’t think he’s conservative enough to suit their tastes.

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What Was Israel Established For?

The first sentence in a Wall Street Journal article published today on Israel’s efforts to deal with illegal immigration from Africa via its border with Egypt describes Israel as “a country established to absorb Jewish refugees after World War II.” In its small way, this phrase points to the essential problem of a century of Zionist advocacy in the United States.

This problem was evident in the career of Louis Brandeis, the first prominent American Jewish advocate for Zionism. Already a famous lawyer when he assumed leadership of the Zionist movement in the United States in 1914 (a reputation that would bring him to the Supreme Court in 1916), he gave the movement a tremendous boost in American renown and credibility.

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The first sentence in a Wall Street Journal article published today on Israel’s efforts to deal with illegal immigration from Africa via its border with Egypt describes Israel as “a country established to absorb Jewish refugees after World War II.” In its small way, this phrase points to the essential problem of a century of Zionist advocacy in the United States.

This problem was evident in the career of Louis Brandeis, the first prominent American Jewish advocate for Zionism. Already a famous lawyer when he assumed leadership of the Zionist movement in the United States in 1914 (a reputation that would bring him to the Supreme Court in 1916), he gave the movement a tremendous boost in American renown and credibility.

But Brandeis brought with him an insistence that Zionism had nothing to say for American Jews. The establishment of a Jewish state would for him be a refuge for Jews lacking the means or ability to get to a place like the United States where their rights would be assured. So it was that principally along these
lines – Zionism as a refuge for the persecuted and impoverished Jews of Europe and elsewhere and little else besides – that the Zionist case was made by
American Jews before World War II.

The Holocaust only strengthened this line of argument, making the rhetoric of security and refuge irresistible. The same kind of thinking behind Brandeis’ Zionism remained evident in the important exchange of letters between the American Jewish Committee leader Jacob Blaustein and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in 1950. In them, Blaustein underlined the view that Israel was a “home” for “hundreds of thousands” of Jews from “Europe, Africa, and the Middle East,” but that “home” for American Jewry was the United States, and it was there that they found “freedom” and “security,” not a continuation of “exile.”

This thinking, whether from Brandeis, Blaustein, or the many other Jews they and other American Jewish leaders have represented, seems determined by the fear that defining Israel as the Jewish homeland puts into question their standing in their country of citizenship. Effective American Jewish Israel advocacy has largely been built in the last 50 years on the avoidance of this fear. It was and is far easier to invoke the Holocaust, to claim no more than “Israel is our insurance policy,” as the protagonist in the 2010 movie “Barney’s Version” learns.

No wonder then that the message Americans hear, whether the writers and editors of a “friendly” newspaper like the Wall Street Journal or the current American president, is exactly what we tell them: Israel’s foundation is Jewish persecution, and its establishment was and remains based on providing those Jews unlucky enough not to have landed in the United States freedom and security.

It would be foolishly easy today to criticize the fears for acceptance of Jews living in the immediate era of Russian pogroms and German Nazism. But Jewish acceptance in America is now something that is itself well-established. Long past time then for America’s Jews to start telling our fellow citizens that Israel
was established as the expression of the Jewish right to self-determination in our historic homeland, and not merely as a refuge.

 

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Solyndra Adviser: “Oddly, They Didn’t Give a Reason for That Date”

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released some jaw-dropping emails this morning, which point to more shady dealings between the Obama administration and Solyndra. The golden quote from the email exchange is when one Solyndra adviser puzzles over why the Obama administration was so intent on the company postponing layoffs until after election day, 2010 – “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3 – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date,” the adviser wrote, in a message to a Solyndra investor.

On Nov. 3, 2010, Solyndra announced it would lay off 40 workers and 150 contractors and shut down its Fab 1 factory. The [Department of Energy] agreed to continue giving Solyndra installments of its federal loan despite the company’s failure to meet key terms of the loan, and in February restructured its loan to give investors a chance to recover $75 million in new money they put into the company before taxpayers would be repaid.

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Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released some jaw-dropping emails this morning, which point to more shady dealings between the Obama administration and Solyndra. The golden quote from the email exchange is when one Solyndra adviser puzzles over why the Obama administration was so intent on the company postponing layoffs until after election day, 2010 – “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3 – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date,” the adviser wrote, in a message to a Solyndra investor.

On Nov. 3, 2010, Solyndra announced it would lay off 40 workers and 150 contractors and shut down its Fab 1 factory. The [Department of Energy] agreed to continue giving Solyndra installments of its federal loan despite the company’s failure to meet key terms of the loan, and in February restructured its loan to give investors a chance to recover $75 million in new money they put into the company before taxpayers would be repaid.

It’s bad enough if the Department of Energy put pressure on Solyndra to delay the announcement for political gain. But was there also a clear offer of a financial incentive – i.e. a bribe – for Solyndra to play along? In one email, a Solyndra adviser writes that he’s not sure whether the administration would commit to continued funding for Solyndra past December. So that possibility was hanging over the company’s head when the Department of Energy pushed them to postpone the layoffs.

The Solyndra adviser also mentions that the DOE had agreed to fund the company through November, after administration officials had already been informed of the looming layoffs. If the Obama administration continued to give Solyndra loan installments after it knew it was on the brink of collapse, what were those payments for?

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Chanting Iranian Human Shields Circle Nuclear Plant

Since the Iranian regime has already declared that no one will dare use force to stop Tehran’s genocidal drive for nuclear weapons, presumably this spectacle was just organized for the sheer hateful fun of it. It’s the apocalyptic chanting that makes the stunt particularly delightful:

Hundreds of students on Tuesday formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in central Iran, in a demonstration staged by students to show that Iranians were ready to sacrifice their lives if the nuclear sites were attacked by Israel… After holding a noon prayer session in front of the plant’s main gate, students from Isfahan universities shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” They vowed to resist in the event of an attack.

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Since the Iranian regime has already declared that no one will dare use force to stop Tehran’s genocidal drive for nuclear weapons, presumably this spectacle was just organized for the sheer hateful fun of it. It’s the apocalyptic chanting that makes the stunt particularly delightful:

Hundreds of students on Tuesday formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in central Iran, in a demonstration staged by students to show that Iranians were ready to sacrifice their lives if the nuclear sites were attacked by Israel… After holding a noon prayer session in front of the plant’s main gate, students from Isfahan universities shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.” They vowed to resist in the event of an attack.

I eagerly anticipate intricate lectures from Iran apologists explaining how the students were mistranslated. Yes, they were mobilized by Iranian authorities to serve as human shields for Iranian nuclear assets, the argument will run, but they weren’t chanting “Death to Israel” at all. Instead, what they were saying was “we’d like the mean Zionists who occasionally impose road blocks on the beatific Palestinian people to go back to Europe at some indeterminate time in the future.” And if you think that argument is too stupid for words, and that no media outlet would or could print it, you haven’t been reading the Washington Post lately.

In more recent news, both Russia and China responded to the new IAEA report by emphasizing their utter lack of enthusiasm for new sanctions. Buoyed in part by their support, Iran’s foreign minister recently declared that there’s “no more point” in making concessions, which is another way of saying that there’s no more point in negotiations.

And why would they negotiate? After years of IAEA foot dragging internationally – to the point where Israeli officials are now comfortable calling ElBaradei an out-and-out Iranian agent – capped off domestically by the 2007 NIE quasi-putsch that knocked out Bush’s legs, Iran is now close enough to the finish line that they don’t really need to maintain pretenses any more.

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Obama: A Prophet Without Honor in His Own Land

President Obama has decided to go for the hat-trick.

In September, Obama told an interviewer Americans have “gotten a little soft.” That was followed by a fundraiser in San Francisco where Obama said that “we have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.” And over the weekend at an APEC conference in Honolulu, speaking to CEOs, President Obama said this: “But you know we’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken it for granted – ‘Well, people will want to come here’ — and we’re not out there hungry selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”

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President Obama has decided to go for the hat-trick.

In September, Obama told an interviewer Americans have “gotten a little soft.” That was followed by a fundraiser in San Francisco where Obama said that “we have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge.” And over the weekend at an APEC conference in Honolulu, speaking to CEOs, President Obama said this: “But you know we’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken it for granted – ‘Well, people will want to come here’ — and we’re not out there hungry selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”

Set aside the fact that Obama bears a good deal of the responsibility for making America unattractive to new businesses. Set aside the fact that Obama’s opinion of America seems to track with America’s opinion of Obama. (When Obama was elected president by a comfortable margin in 2008, we were the ones we had been waiting for; today, with Obama’s public approval ratings at dangerously low levels, we’re a little soft, a little bit lazy, and lost our ambition and imagination). And set aside the political wisdom of taking monthly jabs at the American people.

What we’re learning about Obama, I think, is that the most authentic words he uttered during the 2008 campaign were words he wanted to keep private.

In April of that year Obama, speaking at what he thought was a private fundraiser in San Francisco,was trying to explain his troubles winning over some working-class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions. “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It’s all there, in a single sentence. The barely concealed disdain for the American people. The reflexive need to explain his lack of popularity based on the unenlightened views and moral defects of the masses. The insufferable moral superiority. Obama seems to believe the attitude of the American people to him should be the same as Wayne and Garth (of “Wayne’s World” fame) toward Alice Cooper: “We’re not worthy. We’re not  worthy.”

It must be frustrating to be president of a nation of people whom you look down on and for whom you have contempt. The good news for Obama is this problem may well be rectified round about a year from now. And if the president is rejected by the public after his first term and judged to have been a failure, we can already anticipate the title of his third autobiography: “A Prophet Without Honor in His Own Land.”

 

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Adbusters Outlines Strategy for Occupy Retreat

As Occupy Wall Street protesters attempt to reclaim Zuccotti Park after it was cleared out by police yesterday, the radical magazine that first inspired the movement is recommending a way for Occupiers to save face while retreating (via Verum Serum):

STRATEGY #2: We declare “victory” and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry. …

Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next spring.

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As Occupy Wall Street protesters attempt to reclaim Zuccotti Park after it was cleared out by police yesterday, the radical magazine that first inspired the movement is recommending a way for Occupiers to save face while retreating (via Verum Serum):

STRATEGY #2: We declare “victory” and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we’ve come, the comrades we’ve made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement’s three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry. …

Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next spring.

Adbusters also outlines a strategy for staying put, but seems to acknowledge the risk of keeping the movement going through the winter. “[A]s winter approaches an ominous mood could set in … hope thwarted is in danger of turning sour, patience exhausted becoming anger, militant nonviolence losing its allure,” it argues. “It isn’t just the mainstream media that says things could get ugly.”

It’s a little late to start warning about an ominous mood setting in. The rampant crime at Zuccotti Park and other protests has already been well-documented, and protesters seem to have no interest in retreating.

Adbusters seems to realize it’s created a monster, and is trying to cautiously rein it in before it completely destroys its own image. The OWS movement was supposed to evolve into a populist grassroots political coalition, a la the Tea Party. Instead, it’s rapidly discrediting itself.

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Palestinian “Peace Now?” Not Exactly.

Do Palestinians long for peace in the same way as Israelis? That’s an assumption many of those who blame Israel for the lack of a solution to the Middle East conflict consider to be self-evident. But while advocates for concessions to the Palestinians have always been a vocal part of Israel’s political culture, the absence of a “Peace Now” faction on the Palestinian side or even a more moderate faction that deplored terrorism has highlighted the difference between the two societies.

A recent feature in the Washington Post attempted to debunk this notion by pointing to a group of young Palestinians who offer an alternative to mainstream factions. But as Elliot Jager pointed out in an excellent piece in Jewish Ideas Daily, the idea that this is the start of a Palestinian “Peace Now” is way off the mark.

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Do Palestinians long for peace in the same way as Israelis? That’s an assumption many of those who blame Israel for the lack of a solution to the Middle East conflict consider to be self-evident. But while advocates for concessions to the Palestinians have always been a vocal part of Israel’s political culture, the absence of a “Peace Now” faction on the Palestinian side or even a more moderate faction that deplored terrorism has highlighted the difference between the two societies.

A recent feature in the Washington Post attempted to debunk this notion by pointing to a group of young Palestinians who offer an alternative to mainstream factions. But as Elliot Jager pointed out in an excellent piece in Jewish Ideas Daily, the idea that this is the start of a Palestinian “Peace Now” is way off the mark.

As Jager points out, the young Palestinians profiled by Washington Post reporter Joel Greenberg may have no use for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his attempts to win statehood at the United Nations, but that doesn’t mean they embrace a two-state solution. Indeed, these putative peaceniks may prefer community service to terror, but their political goals bear a striking resemblance to those of Hamas. The group’s leader Hurriyah Ziada’s idea of a solution to the dispute between the two peoples is the eradication of Israel and its replacement with an Arab majority state where Jews will be offered equal rights. While that is a bit different than Hamas’s genocidal plans for the Jews who remain after Israel is destroyed, that may be a difference without a distinction. Either way, it means no Israel.

Even among those Palestinians most disaffected from the existing political parties, there is still no commitment or even belief in the concept of living in peace with a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. If this is what liberal critics of Israel believe is a “new political and social force,” then there is little or no hope for genuine peace in the foreseeable future.

That’s a bitter pill for friends of Israel who find it hard to accept that the divide between the two peoples is so deep, but swallow it they must.

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Go Occupy a Shower

Finally, the Bloomberg administration moved in on the “Occupy Wall Street” encampment in Lower Manhattan. The response this morning has been nothing short of hilarious. The police made it clear what they were doing, told everybody what was happening, and were met with yells and heckles and some resistance. Dozens of arrests ensued, and one thing is for certain, which is that the cops devoutly hoped they could do this with as few arrests as possible, because arresting these protestors is a huge and pointless hassle for them. Journalists complained that, in the darkness of the night, the police weren’t providing them with proper freedom to cover the event. Yes, that is what happens when hundreds of cops have to enter an enclosed space and remove its inhabitants and their garbage when they won’t do it themselves, while attempting simultaneously to protect everybody around them from a potential riot and protecting themselves against attack. (One cop was injured when someone threw something at him. Because, you know, that cop is part of the 1 percent.)

Needless to say, in the finest tradition of New York leftism, Occupiers went judge-shopping—plaintiffs in New York city and state courtrooms have a wondrous ability to find themselves ideologically compatible judges—and found themselves a doozy to issue a temporary restraining order—which was sort of pointless, since the clearance of the park had already taken place and since the Bloomberg administration, playing a rare game of hardball, made it clear immediately afterward that they would simply keep the park empty if that was how the judge was going to play it. The judge’s name is Lucy Billings, and here is what she said of herself in 2009:

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Finally, the Bloomberg administration moved in on the “Occupy Wall Street” encampment in Lower Manhattan. The response this morning has been nothing short of hilarious. The police made it clear what they were doing, told everybody what was happening, and were met with yells and heckles and some resistance. Dozens of arrests ensued, and one thing is for certain, which is that the cops devoutly hoped they could do this with as few arrests as possible, because arresting these protestors is a huge and pointless hassle for them. Journalists complained that, in the darkness of the night, the police weren’t providing them with proper freedom to cover the event. Yes, that is what happens when hundreds of cops have to enter an enclosed space and remove its inhabitants and their garbage when they won’t do it themselves, while attempting simultaneously to protect everybody around them from a potential riot and protecting themselves against attack. (One cop was injured when someone threw something at him. Because, you know, that cop is part of the 1 percent.)

Needless to say, in the finest tradition of New York leftism, Occupiers went judge-shopping—plaintiffs in New York city and state courtrooms have a wondrous ability to find themselves ideologically compatible judges—and found themselves a doozy to issue a temporary restraining order—which was sort of pointless, since the clearance of the park had already taken place and since the Bloomberg administration, playing a rare game of hardball, made it clear immediately afterward that they would simply keep the park empty if that was how the judge was going to play it. The judge’s name is Lucy Billings, and here is what she said of herself in 2009:

“Justice Lucy Billings prepared for the Supreme Court as a lawyer for 25 years at the ACLU National Headquarters and as Litigation Director in Legal Services, handling complex civil rights litigation to enforce new rights for minority, disabled, and low-income persons. She forged new legal remedies by litigating issues not previously addressed in housing, environmental justice, including preventing lead poisoning, public health, child welfare, education, and employment.” As a judge, she praised herself for “recognizing same sex marriages, finding new avenues for recovery by injured construction workers and pothole victims, reforming the standards and procedures for issuing business licenses and granting and revoking parole, and ridding the public markets of corruption and unsanitary conditions.”

Evidently, “ridding the public markets of unsanitary conditions” does not extend to ridding Lower Manhattan of a breeding ground for tuberculosis and other maladies.

The most amusing aspect of the moves made against these encampments in New York, Oakland, Denver and other places is that they are all governed by mayors who desperately wanted not to act but did so because the situation became intolerable. If they had moved to prevent the encampments in the first place—if they had been brave about maintaining public order, in other words—they would not face the whirlwind of criticism that is overtaking them now.

 

 

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Europe Greets German Rescue Plan with Nazi Taunts

If your desire to be rescued depends on who is doing the rescuing, it’s fair to question how seriously you take your current predicament. Yet that is precisely the conundrum with which the Greek public is wrestling. With its economy failing, threatening to bring down the euro and trigger a cascade of failing European sovereign banks, Greece (egged on by a few neighbors) seems consumed with the specter of a rising Germany as the price of national solvency.

As GlobalPost reports (with the sensational headline “Is a German ‘Fourth Reich’ emerging?”), German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing that if the EU is going to bail out sinking economies, it should have an expanded role in individual European economic policymaking. Of course, when it comes to economic affairs these days, “EU” really means “Germany.” And that’s too much for Europeans with a long memory:

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If your desire to be rescued depends on who is doing the rescuing, it’s fair to question how seriously you take your current predicament. Yet that is precisely the conundrum with which the Greek public is wrestling. With its economy failing, threatening to bring down the euro and trigger a cascade of failing European sovereign banks, Greece (egged on by a few neighbors) seems consumed with the specter of a rising Germany as the price of national solvency.

As GlobalPost reports (with the sensational headline “Is a German ‘Fourth Reich’ emerging?”), German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing that if the EU is going to bail out sinking economies, it should have an expanded role in individual European economic policymaking. Of course, when it comes to economic affairs these days, “EU” really means “Germany.” And that’s too much for Europeans with a long memory:

The Greeks are not alone in harboring suspicions toward Germany, which occupied the country during World War II. The British conservative press is up in arms. The Daily Mail went so far as to accuse the Germans of attempting to use the euro crisis to “conquer Europe” and establish a “Fourth Reich.” Meanwhile in Poland, Germany’s supposed imperial ambitions became an issue in the recent elections….

With Italy now getting sucked into the debt spiral, Merkel has warned that deep structural reforms were needed quickly. “That will mean more Europe, not less Europe,” she has said repeatedly, most recently on Monday at a meeting of her conservative Christian Democratic party. Likewise, party members reportedly want more power for Germany in the European Central Bank, by changing its voting system so that it is based on economic strength. Currently, each member country has one vote.

This is sensible stuff. But the reaction from European countries shows just how prominent the scars from WWII remain. When Germany sent an envoy to Greece to start working on some of the details of a recovery plan, the Nazi jokes started immediately. (The German envoy’s name had something to do with it: Horst Reichenbach. When your name sounds like “Reich is back,” you can expect newspaper headline writers to have some fun with you. He was nicknamed “Third Reichenbach” by the Greek press.)

It’s not only on economic matters that Germany has taken up a more pronounced leadership role. Originally, Germany was supposed to be the EU’s bank and France its premier. But there is no more pressing political issue for the Europeans right now than the union’s economy, so France has been sidelined there as well.

But it’s time to curb the hysterics. If the EU was created in part to prevent the rise of another German power, perhaps that’s one more argument against the relevance and necessity of the EU. And with regard to who is calling the shots, as one professor of German politics told GlobalPost: “If not Germany, who?” Unless and until there’s an answer to that question, the bitter pill of German intervention remains the only cure.

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Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: James K. Glassman

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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The big question is whether America can continue to lead the world.

If we can’t, our future looks awfully grim. Either the world slips into chaos or another country—China?—takes the lead. Imagine that within the next decade, North Korea threatens Japan or Iran gets set to attack Israel or Pakistan falls completely apart. Will the United States be able to decide what to do—and have the authority to do it, with or without a coalition of the willing?

Global leadership has two requirements: one moral, the other economic. On the moral side, America’s will to lead seems to be slipping away, with the growing attraction of isolationism (to both parties); and on the flip side of that coin, multilaterism for its own sake. The superficial success of the lead-from-behind strategy in Libya doesn’t help. Waiting for the Arab League or the United Nations to step out first could easily become American custom and policy, especially at a time when we’re so preoccupied with domestic economic matters. The moral requirement for leadership is, of course, a function of desire and priority in a nation’s leader. But the zeitgeist counts, and right now, it bodes ill.

Which brings me to the second requirement of leadership. Today’s moral and political atmosphere is heavily determined by the state of the economy, and, in the short term, the U.S. economy is lousy. Typically, the economy snaps back like a rubber band: bad recessions are followed by strong recoveries. That hasn’t happened. But even worse is the long-term picture. Economists forecast growth in the 2-to-2.5-percent range as far as the eye can see. That’s a full percentage point lower than the post–World War II average. Living standards will still rise, but at a snail’s pace. The danger is that we won’t have the wealth to lead or, worse, we won’t have the confidence, in a crisis, to believe that we should spend what we must now, with the certainty that we can pay for it later, as we did in World War II. 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?

_____________

The big question is whether America can continue to lead the world.

If we can’t, our future looks awfully grim. Either the world slips into chaos or another country—China?—takes the lead. Imagine that within the next decade, North Korea threatens Japan or Iran gets set to attack Israel or Pakistan falls completely apart. Will the United States be able to decide what to do—and have the authority to do it, with or without a coalition of the willing?

Global leadership has two requirements: one moral, the other economic. On the moral side, America’s will to lead seems to be slipping away, with the growing attraction of isolationism (to both parties); and on the flip side of that coin, multilaterism for its own sake. The superficial success of the lead-from-behind strategy in Libya doesn’t help. Waiting for the Arab League or the United Nations to step out first could easily become American custom and policy, especially at a time when we’re so preoccupied with domestic economic matters. The moral requirement for leadership is, of course, a function of desire and priority in a nation’s leader. But the zeitgeist counts, and right now, it bodes ill.

Which brings me to the second requirement of leadership. Today’s moral and political atmosphere is heavily determined by the state of the economy, and, in the short term, the U.S. economy is lousy. Typically, the economy snaps back like a rubber band: bad recessions are followed by strong recoveries. That hasn’t happened. But even worse is the long-term picture. Economists forecast growth in the 2-to-2.5-percent range as far as the eye can see. That’s a full percentage point lower than the post–World War II average. Living standards will still rise, but at a snail’s pace. The danger is that we won’t have the wealth to lead or, worse, we won’t have the confidence, in a crisis, to believe that we should spend what we must now, with the certainty that we can pay for it later, as we did in World War II.

The trend lines for both the moral and economic imperatives of leadership are heading down, but they can both be raised. The moral side needs inspiration and purpose from policymakers and intellectuals, who should dedicate themselves to the project of its revival. The economic side needs a clear goal to which policy can be directed. The Bush Institute suggests 4 percent sustainable economic growth—perhaps a bit aspirational, but we can certainly get close with a consumption tax, cuts in wasteful spending and regulations, a sensible immigration policy that beckons the best, and policies to produce domestic energy production.

America can no longer get very far on momentum alone. The physics of inertia are kicking in. Yes, our comparative advantages in technological imagination, entrepreneurship, and good business management remain unmatched, and animal spirits haven’t been snuffed out. Will America continue to lead the world? I say yes, but right now that’s a judgment based more on faith than reason.

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James K. Glassman, formerly undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, is the founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute.

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Students Sour on Obama

The enthusiasm for Obama on college campuses has waned significantly since 2008, a fact that finally gets noticed by the New York Times. Polls have already been showing the decline, but the Times backs this up with interviews with students, who are now more concerned with finding jobs in the stagnant economy than with volunteering for Obama’s reelection campaign:

Ms. Guerrero said that she did not blame Mr. Obama for the 13.4 percent unemployment rate that has gripped this state, and that she was still likely to vote for him. But as she looks to graduation this June and her job hunt ahead, the emotion she feels is fear, and she cannot imagine having the time or spirit to work for Mr. Obama.

“I don’t think I could do it anymore,” she said. “That campaign was an amazing experience. But I don’t think I’m in the same mind-set anymore. He hasn’t really addressed the young people, and we helped him to get elected.”

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The enthusiasm for Obama on college campuses has waned significantly since 2008, a fact that finally gets noticed by the New York Times. Polls have already been showing the decline, but the Times backs this up with interviews with students, who are now more concerned with finding jobs in the stagnant economy than with volunteering for Obama’s reelection campaign:

Ms. Guerrero said that she did not blame Mr. Obama for the 13.4 percent unemployment rate that has gripped this state, and that she was still likely to vote for him. But as she looks to graduation this June and her job hunt ahead, the emotion she feels is fear, and she cannot imagine having the time or spirit to work for Mr. Obama.

“I don’t think I could do it anymore,” she said. “That campaign was an amazing experience. But I don’t think I’m in the same mind-set anymore. He hasn’t really addressed the young people, and we helped him to get elected.”

The Obama campaign disputes that its having a hard time finding volunteers, but it’s becoming obvious they’re not going to be able to recruit the army of supporters who helped him in 2008. Not only are students demoralized, so are other traditional Democratic supporters, like the union workers who were counting on the Keystone XL construction.

Nevada, the state where several of the Times interviews were based, has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Obama won Nevada by 12 percent in 2008, but recent polls have showed him tied with Romney in the state. If the students in the Times piece are any indication of Obama’s chances in Nevada, he’s clearly going to face quite an uphill battle.

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Lack of Trust in Obama Makes It Hard for Israel to Consult on Iran

Apologists for the Obama administration will spend the next year touting U.S.-Israel security cooperation in an effort to bolster the Democrat’s re-election chances. But a report in the Guardian this past weekend about the breakdown of communication between the two countries on the most important issue facing them undermines that talking point.

According to the Guardian, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both refused to reassure Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Israel would consult with the United States first before launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Panetta, who did the Iranians a favor last week by pouring cold water on the idea of a U.S. strike on their nukes, wanted a guarantee from the Israelis that they would ask America’s permission before acting. But though there was no confirmation such an Israeli campaign is being planned, Panetta did not get his guarantee. The reason for this is so clear that even Jeffrey Goldberg, who has served as one of the president’s chief cheerleaders on the question of his pro-Israel bona fides, understands what is going on: the Israelis simply don’t trust Obama.

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Apologists for the Obama administration will spend the next year touting U.S.-Israel security cooperation in an effort to bolster the Democrat’s re-election chances. But a report in the Guardian this past weekend about the breakdown of communication between the two countries on the most important issue facing them undermines that talking point.

According to the Guardian, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both refused to reassure Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Israel would consult with the United States first before launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Panetta, who did the Iranians a favor last week by pouring cold water on the idea of a U.S. strike on their nukes, wanted a guarantee from the Israelis that they would ask America’s permission before acting. But though there was no confirmation such an Israeli campaign is being planned, Panetta did not get his guarantee. The reason for this is so clear that even Jeffrey Goldberg, who has served as one of the president’s chief cheerleaders on the question of his pro-Israel bona fides, understands what is going on: the Israelis simply don’t trust Obama.

As even Goldberg noted in his most recent piece on the subject, the Obama-Sarkozy live microphone gaffe told us more about the splintering of the U.S.-Israel alliance than some thought. While Goldberg continues to insist those of us who have pointed out it is Israel Obama resents rather than just the prickly Netanyahu have it wrong, he admits blaming the problem on the Israeli doesn’t explain what is going on. The bottom line here is that after three years of Obama picking fights with the Jewish state that did nothing to enhance the chances of peace, nobody in Jerusalem thinks the president can be counted on to do the right thing on the life and death question of dealing with a nuclear Iran.

So rather than work to repair the relationship, Obama makes stupid remarks to the French and, according to the Guardian, has ordered U.S. intelligence to step up its surveillance of Israel.

It should be specified that it is obviously in the interests of Israel to allow little daylight between its policies and defense strategies and those of the United States. Israel has but one major power ally, and an open break between the two would be a disaster. But it is more than a little difficult for an administration that came into office determined to create more distance between the U.S. and Israel and which has jumped on every opportunity to widen that rift with pointless quarrels over settlements, Jerusalem and even petty insults such as Obama’s complaints about Netanyahu, to now start complaining about Israel’s refusal to confide in them.

The notion that Israel must always ask Washington for permission before acting to defend its people is not one Jerusalem has ever considered sacrosanct. Nor should it. The bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 took place without asking Ronald Reagan permission first. Israel has also undertaken offensives against Palestinian terror targets without prior consultation. But Iran is a horse of a different color. Israel’s leaders may ultimately be forced to decide that an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities is unavoidable given the existential threat that allowing the ayatollahs access to nukes poses. However, the consequences of initiating a conflict with Iran may well be felt by America as much as Israel. The potential for regional war involving Iran’s Hamas and Hezbollah allies and possible attacks on U.S. forces in the region make it vital that the United States not be taken off guard by an Israeli decision.

The problem lies not with Netanyahu’s unwillingness to consult as much as it does with Obama’s hostility and untrustworthiness. Though the president has continued to issue forth rhetoric deploring Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he has also acted in such a way as to undermine any Israeli faith that he takes the issue seriously. Three years of Obama’s ineffective diplomacy on the matter have merely allowed the Iranians to move closer to the moment when they can announce a successful nuclear test. Since Obama has shown himself reluctant even to enforce the tough sanctions that might give the Iranians a reason to step back from the brink, it is understandable that the Israelis have no confidence that he would, if push came to shove, use force to stop the Iranian bomb. Even more to the point, they may fear he would try to stop their last-ditch effort to spike the Iranian nukes or in some way sabotage it.

That Israel would even think about an attack on Iran without consulting first with America is tangible proof of just how much damage Barack Obama has done.

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In Defense of the “Establishment”

Here’s a link to an interview with Herman Cain on Libya. It’s painful to watch –worse, in some respects, than Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in last week’s debate. There’s no need to pile on Cain, whose campaign is in the early stages of a collapse. Let me instead make a point about the importance of competence and professionalism in politics.

Let me rise in defense of the “establishment.”

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Here’s a link to an interview with Herman Cain on Libya. It’s painful to watch –worse, in some respects, than Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in last week’s debate. There’s no need to pile on Cain, whose campaign is in the early stages of a collapse. Let me instead make a point about the importance of competence and professionalism in politics.

Let me rise in defense of the “establishment.”

It was clear months ago Cain wasn’t up to the challenge of running for president. On some issues he was uninformed (like the Palestinian “right of return” and our war strategy in Afghanistan); on others he embraced stands that were unconstitutional (saying he would impose a “loyalty proof” on Muslim Americans and not appoint Muslims to his cabinet or a federal judgeship based solely on their religion); and on still others he embraced mutually contradictory positions (see his comments on abortion and trading GITMO prisoners for hostages). No matter; for some conservatives, Cain was the real deal, “authentic,” the antithesis of the slick, establishment politician. His slip-ups made him more appealing because they made him more human, more like us.

That line of argument is about out of steam.

What we’re (re)learning is that substance matters and mastery of issues is something to be prized, that governing experience can be a virtue and sloppiness and shallowness can be costly. And I’ll add this gentle reminder as well: not everyone for whom the conservative “establishment” has concerns is, based simply on those concerns, worthy of praise. Even conservatives living in the Beltway, as alien and removed as they are from “real” America, might be able to detect flawed candidates when they see them; and they may even be able to resist the temptation to pretend those flaws are really strengths and mediocrity is really excellence.

 

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Events Tighten the Pressure on Assad

The Obama administration has not exactly been a profile in courage when it comes to Syria. It took many months of protests before the administration shifted from viewing Bashar al-Assad as a force for stability and a negotiating partner to denouncing him as an illegitimate ruler. U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has been courageously outspoken in denouncing Assad even while more senior administration figures have been cautious and generally quiet. But even with Ford withdrawn from Damascus because of death threats, the momentum of events continues to accelerate against Assad.

The Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria for its egregious human rights violations; Turkey’s increasingly anti-Assad stance; the statements of Jordan’s King Abdullah calling on Assad to step down; the European Union’s decision to levy fresh sanctions–all are tightening the  pressure on Assad. And all the while, existing sanctions continue to bite deeper and deeper into the Syrian economy.

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The Obama administration has not exactly been a profile in courage when it comes to Syria. It took many months of protests before the administration shifted from viewing Bashar al-Assad as a force for stability and a negotiating partner to denouncing him as an illegitimate ruler. U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has been courageously outspoken in denouncing Assad even while more senior administration figures have been cautious and generally quiet. But even with Ford withdrawn from Damascus because of death threats, the momentum of events continues to accelerate against Assad.

The Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria for its egregious human rights violations; Turkey’s increasingly anti-Assad stance; the statements of Jordan’s King Abdullah calling on Assad to step down; the European Union’s decision to levy fresh sanctions–all are tightening the  pressure on Assad. And all the while, existing sanctions continue to bite deeper and deeper into the Syrian economy.

It is too soon to say Assad is likely to be toppled; he could hold on for years. But keep in mind that Abdullah and most other Arab leaders (indeed most leaders period, Arab or otherwise) are opportunists and survivors–they will only turn on a fellow ruler if they sense he is weak and on his way out. That is the impression Assad now conveys despite the ruthlessness with which he has responded to continuing protests. The fact that Assad belongs to a Shiite sect surely does not help him out with his fellow Arabs; they are unlikely to bail him out in the way the Saudis and other Gulf states bailed out Bahrain (where they acted to keep in power a Sunni monarch threatened by protests from Shiites).

Most of this is not Obama’s doing, although he deserves some credit for marshaling European opposition. But, as they say, it’s better to be lucky than good. It is just possible that, largely due to factors beyond his control, Obama could preside over a major strategic realignment in the Levant in favor of the West–which would be the most likely consequence of Assad’s fall.

 

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Iran Base Blast Kills Top Missile Man

The death of Hassan Moqaddam in a blast at a military base in Iran last Saturday will continue to intrigue Western media.

Iran’s official version is that the IRGC top missile man died alongside 16 other soldiers due to an accidental explosion, as ammunition was being moved around. This may very well be – and speculation that Moqaddam was the victim of a hit job by some Western intelligence is, currently, just that: speculation. But the information about this incident, though scant, begs the question. If this was just a bunch of soldiers moving ammunition cases from point A to B, why was the explosion so powerful that it was heard all the way to Tehran? And, even more intriguingly, why would a senior commander and the IRGC top missile expert be doing that menial job along with conscripts?

 

The death of Hassan Moqaddam in a blast at a military base in Iran last Saturday will continue to intrigue Western media.

Iran’s official version is that the IRGC top missile man died alongside 16 other soldiers due to an accidental explosion, as ammunition was being moved around. This may very well be – and speculation that Moqaddam was the victim of a hit job by some Western intelligence is, currently, just that: speculation. But the information about this incident, though scant, begs the question. If this was just a bunch of soldiers moving ammunition cases from point A to B, why was the explosion so powerful that it was heard all the way to Tehran? And, even more intriguingly, why would a senior commander and the IRGC top missile expert be doing that menial job along with conscripts?

 

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Cain Blanks on Libya Question

Bloggers are already billing this as Herman Cain’s “oops” moment, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s bad – lots of long awkward pauses as Cain appears to frantically scour his brain for rehearsed lines on the topic. But to really be appalled by this you’d also have to take Cain seriously enough on foreign policy to find it surprising. To his credit, he is able to correctly identify Qaddafi as Libya’s former leader, and by the end he seems to recall that we’ve had a military intervention there. Expectations, met.

Beyond that, what made Rick Perry’s moment so awful was more the setting than the actual stumble. If you’re going to forget a point, you’re much better off doing it during an interview with a regional newspaper than in the middle of a nationally televised debate.

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Bloggers are already billing this as Herman Cain’s “oops” moment, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it’s bad – lots of long awkward pauses as Cain appears to frantically scour his brain for rehearsed lines on the topic. But to really be appalled by this you’d also have to take Cain seriously enough on foreign policy to find it surprising. To his credit, he is able to correctly identify Qaddafi as Libya’s former leader, and by the end he seems to recall that we’ve had a military intervention there. Expectations, met.

Beyond that, what made Rick Perry’s moment so awful was more the setting than the actual stumble. If you’re going to forget a point, you’re much better off doing it during an interview with a regional newspaper than in the middle of a nationally televised debate.

It’s embarrassing that one of the top Republican presidential candidate would get so flustered by a basic question, and for that Cain should get an obligatory slap on the wrist. But something tells me Cain’s supporters aren’t backing him because of his foreign policy chops. If they didn’t connect the dots after the Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan comments and other assorted clues, they’re probably not going to get it from this.

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