The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin sought out the opinion of people to analyze the meaning and importance of character in politics. Her postings on what she calls the “character primary” can be found here,here and here.
When asked what aspects of character are most essential in political leaders, I mentioned qualities like courage, perseverance, loyalty and fidelity to principles all matter. But different circumstances may demand different attributes. And if I had to settle on one quality above the others, it would be prudence, which encompasses practical wisdom, insight, and knowledge. Prudence is, Aquinas wrote, “right reason in action.” In its classical understanding, prudence embraces moral purposes, though always with an eye toward what is achievable in the world as it is. It plays a vital role in terms of guiding and regulating all the other virtues. For example, courage in the pursuit of a foolish policy can lead to a catastrophe. For these reasons, prudence is, in my estimation, the charioteer of the virtues.
Once again, the announcement of a small housing project by Israel is causing the United Nations to claim that such settlement building prejudices the peace process. But the overwrought statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on this subject was even more off the mark than most such condemnations of Israeli actions. The plan that set off alarms at the UN and other Israel critics is for the building of 40 homes in the town of Efrat in the Gush Etzion bloc just outside of Jerusalem.
The place where the homes are being built is a town that even many Palestinians have conceded would remain part of Israel in the event of a peace deal. If there are to be the “land swaps” that President Obama has said would be part of his demand for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines, then there is no doubt that Efrat and Gush Etzion will be areas that are swapped. So how then would the addition of 40 new families or even 400 or 4,000 Jews to that settlement prevent a two-state solution in the event the Palestinians ever changed their minds and accepted one? More to the point, the history of Gush Etzion makes the effort by the Palestinians, and implicitly supported by the UN, to evict not only new settlers but also the existing inhabitations of Gush Etzion, particularly inappropriate.
Newt Gingrich has created a lot of waves by saying:
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”
The news that the United States Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of an Arizona law that sought to impose state penalties on illegal immigrants will do more than provide a resolution to the bitter debate that has been raging about the measure. Coming as it will during a presidential election year, the Court will help keep the issue on the front burner and has the potential to mobilize both anti-immigration voters as well as people angry about what they claim is the targeting of Hispanics.
But the decision will almost certainly not advance the debate about what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants who are believed to be already in the country. If the Court rules, as did the 9th Federal Circuit, that immigration is a federal issue and, not withstanding the disproportionate impact of illegals on Arizona, is not the business of an individual state, then it will effectively end all state efforts to force the government to crack down on illegals. Indeed, for all of the talk among Republicans about reviving the 10th Amendment and the right of states to deal with matters that are not specifically federal issues, it is difficult, if not impossible to claim that entry into the United States is not the business of Washington.
In his interview on Sunday with President Obama, Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” said, “You’re being judged now on your performance. To which Obama snapped back, “No, no, no. I’m being judged against the ideal. And, you know, Joe Biden has a good expression. He says – ‘Don’t judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative.’”
This answer is quite telling, beginning with Obama’s compulsive need to refute an invented claim.
Asked if the former House Speaker is the front-runner, Romney replied bluntly: “He is right now.”
Romney made it clear that he would rather lose than make incendiary charges about Gingrich that could help President Barack Obama in the general election. And the former Massachusetts governor said the nomination “is not going to be decided in just a couple of contests” and “could go for months and months.”
In an ad being run in Iowa, Texas Governor Rick Perry says, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian. But you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”
I have several thoughts about this, beginning with this one: To the degree that any person in this campaign has championed a “war” against religion, it is what Herman Cain advocated vis-à-vis Muslims – from saying he would deny them a spot in his Cabinet and on the federal bench to advocating a “loyalty proof.” So perhaps Governor Perry’s next ad can target Cain’s “war on religion.”
Last week, I wrote about New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s astonishing whitewash of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in which he allowed members of the Islamist party that is on the threshold of taking power to portray themselves as innocent moderates. In Kristof’s version of reality, the Brotherhood, which is the home office of Islamism in the Arab world, is democratic, feminist and non-violent and would never dream of imposing its fundamentalist vision of society on Egypt or anywhere else. Kristof’s effort to make us think the Brotherhood is no threat to secular Egyptians, let alone Israel or the West, was in the New York Times’ tradition of Walter Duranty’s lies about Stalin, Herbert Matthews’ glorification of Fidel Castro and Roger Cohen’s apologia for Iran’s ayatollahs.
But Kristof wasn’t satisfied with merely one column about his dinner with Islamists. During the weekend, he came for seconds, this time to allow members of the Salafis–an even more extreme Islamist party than the Muslim Brotherhood–to also paint themselves as “moderates.” It was much the same as his first column, with the Times writer again concluding that we have nothing to fear and should place our trust in the wisdom of Egyptian voters who have given these two Islamist factions an overwhelming majority in parliament. But this says much more about the unwillingness of Kristof to confront the reality of Islamism than it does about his subjects.
In its continued quest for media attention, the fading Occupy Wall Street movement has moved on to shutting down ports along the West Coast. The movement claims it’s doing this in solidarity with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which is currently feuding with a major grain exporter. But the union president isn’t exactly grateful for the “help” – in fact, he released a statement criticizing the OWS movement for “co-opting” the union’s fight:
As the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, sweeps this country, there is a real danger that forces outside of the ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as their own. Support is one thing, organization from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another and one that is destructive to our democratic process and jeopardizes our over two-year struggle in Longview. …
Most recently, groups directly connected to the Occupy movement and other loosely affiliated social media groups have called for the shutdown of certain terminals and the West Coast ports. At the same time, these groups seek to link these shutdowns to the ILWU’s labor dispute with employer [grain exporter] EGT. None of this is sanctioned by the membership of the ILWU or informed by the local and International leadership. Simply put, there has been no communication with the leadership and no vote within the ILWU ranks on EGT associated Occupy actions.
In the Egyptian elections, the Muslim Brotherhood is winning about as many seats as most analysts expected, but with the totalitarian Salafists unexpectedly picking up an additional fourth or so of the vote, the Islamists are clocking in with a two-thirds majority. That doesn’t mean Egypt will degenerate into an Afghanistan on the Nile, but it likely won’t look much like Turkey does either.
“Tourists don’t need to drink alcohol when they come to Egypt,” said Azza al-Jarf, a female candidate with the Muslim Brotherhood’s allegedly-but-not-really “moderate” Freedom and Justice Party. “They came to see the ancient civilization, not to drink alcohol…Tourism will be at its best under Freedom and Justice.”
The continuing saga of last week’s Russian elections had three important developments over the weekend–one expected, the other two coming as a bit of a surprise. The expected event was the protest rally in Moscow on Saturday that drew tens of thousands. (The Russian police say the crowd was at 20,000; organizers said it was 100,000.)
The rally was planned and approved ahead of time, though opposition activists are threatening more such rallies to protest the widespread election fraud of which Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, stands accused. But the other two developments suggest this vocal opposition to the Putin administration will continue.
To be fair to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her argument here isn’t as blatantly absurd and fallacious as it initially sounds. She doesn’t seem to be saying the unemployment rate hasn’t increased at all under Obama – that would be impossible to argue – just that numbers haven’t consistently gone up. After all, they dropped back down below 9 percent in November.
That claim is still faulty, because it doesn’t take into account the millions who have dropped out of the job market altogether since Obama took office. The dwindling pool of job-seekers has been the real source of the decreasing unemployment rate during the past few months, not anything the White House has done:
It’s been that kind of week for Mitt Romney. He put his foot firmly in his mouth by offering to bet Rick Perry $10,000 with a flippancy that a less wealthy man might wager $10; the New York Times published a lengthy feature detailing the former Massachusetts governor’s somewhat schizophrenic approach to money. The piece, titled “Two Romneys: Wealthy Man, Thrifty Habits,” painted a portrait of a man of means who disdains the trappings of wealth and disliked spending money except when it came to acquiring expensive real estate. In one sense, it was a highly sympathetic profile of someone who was raised to believe in hard work and the value of a dollar but who was also oddly tone deaf to how his stingy ways can come across to others.
While this aspect of his character doesn’t tell us any more about what kind of a president he will be (though his dislike of spending certainly bodes well), this story may give us some insight into his difficulties as a candidate. For some reason, this well -spoken, handsome and highly accomplished individual just can’t get enough people to like him. The distrust a great many voters seem to have for Romney goes deeper than just health care and abortion–though those issues certainly have harmed his image among conservatives. His inability to connect with people or to understand why they view him with distrust is making it hard for this consummate businessman to close the deal with Republicans, even though his chief rival — Newt Gingrich – is as guilty of flip-flopping as he is. As Romney launches ads this week focusing on Gingrich’s personal flaws, it could be that his own less easily perceptible imperfections are having a greater impact on the GOP battle than the former Speaker’s dubious personal history.
The Palestinians were objectively unready to ascend to UNESCO. Palestinian schoolbooks, for instance, were checked by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) for compliance with UNESCO’s guidelines on “international standards on peace and tolerance.” Suffice to say that IMPACT-SE found fault with passages like “Muslim countries need urgently jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant.”
But the Palestinians persisted and – because ostensibly objective international law is whatever anti-Israel partisans want it to be – they managed to easily join the UN body. Their tactical victory was described by the Associated Press under the meticulously objective headline “UNESCO Euphoria: Palestinians step up UN efforts/” It came over the objections of the U.S. and other Western countries, objections that were themselves described by Hezbollah as “racist” because Islamists long ago learned to couch their positions in soft multiculturalist language.
Here’s Mitt Romney recalling his austerity years as a Mormon missionary in France–all two and a half of them:
“You’re not living high on the hog at that level,” he said. “A number of the apartments that I lived in when I was there didn’t have toilets – we had instead the little pads on the ground – OK, you know how that works, pull – there was a chain behind you with kind of a bucket, bucket affair. I had not experienced one of those in the United States.”
Romney said he and his fellow missionaries showered once a week at a facility where you could pay a few francs to bathe – “Or if we were got lucky, we actually bought a hose and would hold it there on the sink … and wash ourselves that way.”
The International Solidarity Movement is one of those quirky peace-loving pro-Palestinian groups that also happens to support and provide succor to anti-Jewish mass murderers. The organization – which of course gets shady NGO funding – served as a cover for the UK terrorists who infiltrated Tel Aviv and committed mass murder at Mike’s Place. It attempted to assist Palestinian terrorists who hid in the Church of the Nativity. Its members help organize and proudly participate in efforts to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
None of that is an accident. In 2002 the group’s founders, Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf, advocated “Palestinian resistance… both non-violent and violent.” They tsk tsk’d that “people will get killed and injured” but reassured their audience that at least the injured Palestinians “would be considered shaheed,” a word not coincidentally used in other contexts to celebrate suicide bombers. Arraf took pains two months ago to point out that she hasn’t changed her mind, and that she and the ISM “recognize the Palestinian right to use armed struggle.”
Let’s give some credit to the Center for American Progress – after being accused of having an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slant last week, the think tank bluntly rejected the use of Jewish dual loyalty terms like “Israel Firster,” and the demonization of the Jewish state.
This is welcome news, not only because CAP acknowledged the noxious implications of the dual loyalty charge, but also because it drew a clear line in the sand that said this anti-Semitic canard isn’t acceptable in serious discourse, even on the political left.
On one side is President Obama’s still-not-fired Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, who told a crowd of Europeans that Muslim anti-Semitism has geopolitical rather than religious roots. On the other side are Saudi high school textbooks just exposed in a new report from the watchdog group MEMRI:
A twelfth-grade Saudi textbook is teaching hatred of Jews and jihad to liberate Palestine, according to MEMRI… “Whoever studies the nature of the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews understands an important fact, [namely that] this is a religious conflict, not a dispute about politics or nationality, or a conflict between races or tribes, or a fight over land or country, as some describe it,” states Saudi textbook Studies from the Muslim World. The book says that the conflict will not end unless one side vanquishes the other, because “throughout Islamic history, the Jews have striven to destroy the [Islamic] religion and spread fitna [chaos] among the Muslims.” The book also repeats classic anti-Semitic lies that Jews have taken control of Western media and culture, exploited their home societies, and aligned themselves with Christians to destroy Islam.