Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 13, 2011

Obama’s Happy Talk Doesn’t Change Iraq Reality

Those were some pretty astonishing statements that President Obama made after his meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq: He said that “what we have now achieved is an Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive and that has enormous potential.”

Only the last part of that sentence is true: Iraq does have “enormous potential”–both good and bad. It could become another opulent petrostate–or it could revert to a hellish state of civil war. Either is possible at this point because Iraq is only barely “self-governing” and its government is acting in ways that are less “inclusive” all the time–witness Maliki’s arrest of more than 600 people on vague charges of “Baathism.”

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Those were some pretty astonishing statements that President Obama made after his meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq: He said that “what we have now achieved is an Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive and that has enormous potential.”

Only the last part of that sentence is true: Iraq does have “enormous potential”–both good and bad. It could become another opulent petrostate–or it could revert to a hellish state of civil war. Either is possible at this point because Iraq is only barely “self-governing” and its government is acting in ways that are less “inclusive” all the time–witness Maliki’s arrest of more than 600 people on vague charges of “Baathism.”

Obama’s happy talk is seriously at odds with reality–and I’m sure Obama knows it. He is only attempting to put his abandonment of Iraq in the best possible light.

In the process he is taking an enormous gamble, not only with the security of Iraq, the United States, and the entire Middle East but also with his own historical reputation. True, the pullout from Iraq is popular today. It won’t be so popular a year or two from now if the result of the U.S. pullout is greater instability or tyranny. Obama will then shoulder the bulk of the blame for messing up the end game of a war that he never supported.

I hope Obama’s optimism is vindicated. I really do. But there are many troubling signs which suggest that his statements this week could be remembered much as George W. Bush’s proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” is today.

For more see these excellent articles by K2 (that would be Fred and Kim Kagan) and by the Washington Post editors.

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Wiesenthal Center Slams CAP, Media Matters Over Israel Comments

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has issued a brutal condemnation of the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America, blasting the organizations for supporting bloggers who promote “dangerous political libels” and “toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.”

Click over to read the full statement the Wiesenthal Center gave to WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin, if you have a minute. But here’s the key section:

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center has issued a brutal condemnation of the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America, blasting the organizations for supporting bloggers who promote “dangerous political libels” and “toxic anti-Jewish prejudices.”

Click over to read the full statement the Wiesenthal Center gave to WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin, if you have a minute. But here’s the key section:

When it comes to the charges of being “Israel Firsters” and having “dual loyalty,” we not only plead innocent but also counter-charge that these sponsored bloggers are guilty of dangerous political libels resonating with historic and toxic anti-Jewish prejudices. ….

The Center for American Progress ought to stick to fair-minded discussion of serious issues about the U.S’. future. It ought to disown immediately “Israel Laster” bloggers who take the low road and drag down policy debates into the gutter of individual and group defamation.

The Wiesenthal Center took offense with several articles and Tweets written by CAP and Media Matters writers, as well as their use of the expression “Israel firsters.” While CAP blogger Zaid Jilani has apologized for using the term on Twitter, saying that he didn’t understand its connotation, Media Matters Senior Fellow MJ Rosenberg still continues to use it.

While the majority of Wiesenthal Center’s criticism is focused on anti-Israel pieces written by CAP and Media Matters, it also decries the revival of the “Israel firster” dual-loyalty charge. This libel has unfortunately gained traction on the left in recent years, as evidenced by the “Jewish neocon cabal” theories about the Iraq war, and Walt and Mearsheimer’s AIPAC delusions. It’s a trend that should give pro-Israel Democrats pause, and make them consider what the future of their party will look like if it follows the progressive movement’s path on Israel.

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Public Fears of Big Government Near All-Time High

The most recent Gallup Poll is an encouraging one for conservatives. When asked which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future – big business, big labor, or big government – those surveyed responded this way: 64 percent of said big government, 26 percent said big business, and eight percent said big labor.

Gallup’s analysis points out that the portion of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high — while the 26 percent who say big business is down from the 32 percent recorded during the recession. Moreover, Democrats – by a 48 percent v. 44 percent margin – say big government is more of a threat than big business. Sixty-four percent of independents, and 82 percent of Republicans, worry more about big government.

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The most recent Gallup Poll is an encouraging one for conservatives. When asked which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future – big business, big labor, or big government – those surveyed responded this way: 64 percent of said big government, 26 percent said big business, and eight percent said big labor.

Gallup’s analysis points out that the portion of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high — while the 26 percent who say big business is down from the 32 percent recorded during the recession. Moreover, Democrats – by a 48 percent v. 44 percent margin – say big government is more of a threat than big business. Sixty-four percent of independents, and 82 percent of Republicans, worry more about big government.

Given the ferocious assault against business, led by the president, these numbers are somewhat surprising. They re-confirm, I think, that this remains a center-right nation, one instinctively committed to limited government and the free market. And that commitment has only deepened during the Obama Era. We’re seeing confidence in government decline to near-record levels, and concern for big government grow to near-record levels, during a period in which liberals have been politically dominant and had their way.

They probably don’t appreciate the irony.

In any event, the Gallup Survey is reason to wonder about the wisdom of the president’s re-election strategy. It’s not simply that he runs government like a “big government liberal;” it’s that more and more he’s sounding like one. That is a dramatic break with his approach in 2008. Mr. Obama’s obsession with class divisions, income inequality, and millionaires and billionaires may excite the left. It may even poll well from time to time. But it has never been a particularly effective election strategy for Democrats — and my guess is that it won’t be again, either.

Mr. Obama may be pursuing the only political strategy that’s available to him, given his wall-to-wall failures as president. But in the process he’s cutting against the American grain. Barack Obama wants to frame this election as one pitting two competing philosophies against each other. To which conservatives should say: Bring it on.

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Russian Protests Did Not Surprise Everyone

While working on my story for the December issue of COMMENTARY about the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I spoke with Pavel Palazchenko, who was Mikhail Gorbachev’s translator and advisor during Gorbachev’s term in office, and with Robert Amsterdam, who until two years ago represented the jailed “oligarch” Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Both men had something to say about the future of Russian democracy.

Given the steady protest movement and pro-democracy momentum we’re seeing in Russia I think they are worth sharing. Here is what Palazchenko told me about the current Russian “stability” versus the drive for change:

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While working on my story for the December issue of COMMENTARY about the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I spoke with Pavel Palazchenko, who was Mikhail Gorbachev’s translator and advisor during Gorbachev’s term in office, and with Robert Amsterdam, who until two years ago represented the jailed “oligarch” Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Both men had something to say about the future of Russian democracy.

Given the steady protest movement and pro-democracy momentum we’re seeing in Russia I think they are worth sharing. Here is what Palazchenko told me about the current Russian “stability” versus the drive for change:

So far as whether this is some kind of stasis and that this is here to stay for a long time, no I don’t think so. I believe that Russia will make another attempt to create a democratic society or a society that is closer to the democratic ideal than what we have now…

Why is Russia less than Turkey or Mongolia or Estonia or other countries where there is democracy today, [even] imperfect democracy?

Russia is not backwards. People are educated, young people have a chance to travel…. Based on what I see around myself, they are no different from others and absolutely, definitely they will–when the circumstances are right–they will not only demand democracy but I think they will be more ready for democracy than people think.

For his part, Amsterdam directly challenged the popular theory that Russians aren’t interested in or cut out for democracy. “Russians have no damage to their national DNA,” he told me. “No Russian child is born with a driving desire to lose his freedom. No Russian child is born desperate to have to pay a bribe in order to reach university. It’s not in their genetic makeup.”

What about those who say a Russian attraction to authoritarianism was forged over centuries of such rule? “Let those people spend a day with Russian democrats, and understand the heroism of Russia,” he said.

Will the Russian public be able to upend the status quo? It is no easy task, but this month’s protests, coming just in time for the twentieth anniversary of the great liberation of the Russian people, certainly doesn’t lack for symbolism.

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Is Romney the Hillary of 2012?

At Politico, Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman make the case that Mitt Romney is following the same path as Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign four years ago.

Like the great, fallen front-runner of 2008, here is another well-funded, establishment-blessed, presumptive nominee whose supposedly firm hold on his party’s greatest prize seems to be slip-sliding away.

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At Politico, Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman make the case that Mitt Romney is following the same path as Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign four years ago.

Like the great, fallen front-runner of 2008, here is another well-funded, establishment-blessed, presumptive nominee whose supposedly firm hold on his party’s greatest prize seems to be slip-sliding away.

Smith and Haberman go on to outline some of the most striking similarities:

*Like Clinton’s stance on the Iraq War authorization, Romney premised his campaign on an early and crucial decision not to apologize for what some partisans see as a fatal flaw: the health care mandate.

*Like Clinton, Romney has found it almost impossible to play halfway in Iowa, which has emerged as an inevitable test for the front-runner.

*Like Clinton, Romney has abruptly dropped any pretense to be above the fray, punching hard at Gingrich after the former House speaker raced by him in the polls.

*And most striking of all, Romney’s campaign, like Clinton’s – driven by raw political necessity – has smashed personal red lines the candidate spent decades erecting, racing to humanize a distant and sometimes awkward politician with tales from his time as a Mormon lay pastor.

It is a decent analogy once you start thinking about it: the concerns over their “likability”; the sense that everything they say or do is focus-group tested and scripted to the last detail; and their difficulty connecting with their party base. Both of them also had well-honed operations that would allow them to fight hard in the later primary states.

The most significant difference, of course, is their opponents. Politico points out that the Gingrich campaign has nowhere near the level of late-state primary organization that the Obama campaign had in 2008:

Romney’s organization may not be even as extensive as Clinton’s, but the sum of his rivals’ presence in the later states is – with a single exception – zero. The exception is Rep. Ron Paul, whose supporters have already taken over obscure local party organizations, and who is poised to take the unheralded caucus delegates Obama received in 2008, denying them to the front-runner – but also closing the space for a well-organized underdog with broader appeal.

Romney may well be the Clinton of 2012 – but allies argue that Clinton would have beaten a candidate with Gingrich’s organization, a boast that may bode well for the former Massachusetts governor.

Obama was also able to fake the part of a centrist reformer, which made him nearly as attractive to independent voters as he was to Democrats and progressives. As much as Clinton supporters moaned that Obama was unelectable in a general election, Republicans would have much preferred going up against her instead.

Unlike Obama, Gingrich is actually a centrist is many ways. But he has a bomb-throwing personality and partisan history that independent voters may find off-putting. Democrats would relish the idea of running against Gingrich instead of Romney in 2012. And that’s the point Romney will need to drive home if he wants to avoid following in Hillary’s footsteps.

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The Heart of the Matter of the Jewish State

The extraordinary focus of the West in particular and the world in general on the Jews and the Jewish state is a shocking thing that, through a century (at least) of repetition, no longer shocks. With the ability to dominate the headlines of an American presidential campaign and to give nine deaths the gravity to capture the attention of a world that blithely ignores the deaths of millions, the “Jewish question” should perpetually astound in its power.

As David Mamet writes today in the Wall Street Journal, that all says much more about the world than it does about the Jews.

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The extraordinary focus of the West in particular and the world in general on the Jews and the Jewish state is a shocking thing that, through a century (at least) of repetition, no longer shocks. With the ability to dominate the headlines of an American presidential campaign and to give nine deaths the gravity to capture the attention of a world that blithely ignores the deaths of millions, the “Jewish question” should perpetually astound in its power.

As David Mamet writes today in the Wall Street Journal, that all says much more about the world than it does about the Jews.

In his op-ed, Mamet uses an ancient and true reading of the akedah to highlight the stakes in the current Western debate over the legitimacy and future of Jewish independence. As Lenn Goodman has written probably better than anyone, the true challenge God posed to Abraham on Moriah was not whether he could believe in a God that would demand he sacrifice his son. (Mamet correctly notes that is something humans had believed for “tens of thousands of years.”) Abraham’s trial was whether he could believe in a God that would demand he not kill his son – that His message of goodness and unity could be so complete that it did not require that people give up that which they most cherished to demonstrate their belief in Him, but that they hold on to it and care for it as well as they could.

It’s a message that’s been driving the Jews first, the West second, and the rest of the world last crazy for the last 4,000 years, precisely because it is at once so true and so expansive in its claims on our behavior. It’s an idea of love and divinity that is much harder to live up to than the relatively easy sacrifice of a loved one in an extroverted demonstration of the depth of one’s belief. The Jewish idea propounded by Abraham demands that we take the responsibility we bear to those we most cherish with the first and last seriousness, avoiding the easy out of casting them into the pit to add glory to our own pretensions.

It may be, as Mamet argues, that the Jewish state puts this question before Western eyes more starkly today than anything else does. Israel’s existence and need are a permanent call on the conscience. In an era of guilt and declinism, Israel’s successes, whether technological, military, economic, cultural, are for many so much more grist for the mill: instead of lying down and accepting its eclipse, Israel fights. Its very existence is the proclamation of a right.

It’s all for the worse for enlightened Western consciousness. Many prefer their museums of Jewish death to the reality of the Jewish life that once walked and thrived in Europe. They would also find it easier to piously mourn a defeated Jewish state than to defend an existing one.

All the harder for us then to generate the support and concern Israel both needs and deserves.

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Will Gingrich Disown Himself?

Yesterday, Mitt Romney was asked if he thought Newt Gingrich should return the $1.6 million he earned for advising Freddie Mac. “Boy, I sure do,” Romney said. “He [Gingrich] was on a debate saying politicians who took money from Freddie and Fannie should go to jail, which is outrageous in itself.” To which Gingrich shot back, “I would say if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over the years at Bain, I would be glad to listen to him — and I bet you $10, not $10,000, he won’t take the offer.”

This is a ludicrous caricature of Romney’s work at Bain Capital, where he earned a reputation for excellence, investing in startups (like Staples), turning companies around in some cases and cutting payrolls and shutting down companies that couldn’t be revived in other cases.

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Yesterday, Mitt Romney was asked if he thought Newt Gingrich should return the $1.6 million he earned for advising Freddie Mac. “Boy, I sure do,” Romney said. “He [Gingrich] was on a debate saying politicians who took money from Freddie and Fannie should go to jail, which is outrageous in itself.” To which Gingrich shot back, “I would say if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over the years at Bain, I would be glad to listen to him — and I bet you $10, not $10,000, he won’t take the offer.”

This is a ludicrous caricature of Romney’s work at Bain Capital, where he earned a reputation for excellence, investing in startups (like Staples), turning companies around in some cases and cutting payrolls and shutting down companies that couldn’t be revived in other cases.

Beyond that, though, I wonder if it bothers Gingrich that he’s basically echoing the same criticisms of Romney made by the late Edward Kennedy in their 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts. If it doesn’t, it should. Because the argument Gingrich is making is, at its core, anti-capitalist, the kind of thing you would expect to hear from an Occupy Wall Street protester, not a Republican presidential candidate.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising. After all, Gingrich started his campaign by referring to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare as “right-wing social engineering” — a phrase Republican House members who voted for the Ryan plan are likely to hear used against them.

What is important about this latest exchange, I think, is that it is entirely typical of Gingrich. It is yet more evidence he is not a man who is intellectually grounded in conservatism (no person who has professed admiration for the ideas of Alvin Toffler could be). It explains why his statements over the years have
been all over the lot. Like Bill Clinton, Gingrich is a man of alarming personal indiscipline. But unlike Clinton, Gingrich is also a man of intellectual indiscipline.

And then there’s this nice Newtonian touch: Gingrich, after his blistering attack on Romney, said  ”Tomorrow morning, I will release a letter to staff and consultants indicating my determination to run a positive campaign.” He added he would ”disown any super-PAC or staff member” who participated in negative attacks on rival GOP candidates.

What Gingrich didn’t say is whether he would disown himself.

 

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How Gingrich is Closing the Electability Gap

Even before Mitt Romney’s subpar debate performance Saturday night, more and more commentators had been wondering aloud if he is really as electable as conventional wisdom suggests. Romney’s defenders point to polls consistently showing him garnering more votes in a theoretical general election matchup with President Obama.

But Gingrich is making gains there as well, as a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows. The accompanying article also explains the improvements in Gingrich’s numbers:

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Even before Mitt Romney’s subpar debate performance Saturday night, more and more commentators had been wondering aloud if he is really as electable as conventional wisdom suggests. Romney’s defenders point to polls consistently showing him garnering more votes in a theoretical general election matchup with President Obama.

But Gingrich is making gains there as well, as a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows. The accompanying article also explains the improvements in Gingrich’s numbers:

In swing states, Obama trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among registered voters by 5 points, 43% vs. 48%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 3, 45% vs. 48%.

That’s a bit worse than the president fares nationwide, where he leads Gingrich 50%-44% and edges Romney 47%-46%.

The candidates’ performance in swing states is more important than the popular vote count, though both are key indicators. Why is Gingrich gaining on Obama? There are several possible reasons, and one of them is–like much of Gingrich’s political persona–the sense that what looks at first like a weakness can actually be a strength of the campaign.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote last week about how Gingrich, as president, would be held back by his insistence that so much of government needs “fundamental reform” rather than modest improvements. It’s a reasonable concern, as so much of Washington is institutionalized and full of bureaucratic white blood cells ready to destroy any infection of common sense or restraint.

And while some may object that Obamacare is evidence that “fundamental transformation” can be engineered at the federal level, remember that not only did the health care overhaul require one-party dominance, but the end result was less to “transform” the system than to simply overburden it. Friedersdorf’s skepticism is therefore understandable.

But with the revelation that the real unemployment rate is actually over 11 percent, perhaps voters will be attracted to the thought of “fundamental transformation” of the Obama economy. The USA Today story indicates that might even be the case for former Obama voters:

Amy Rybarczyk, 37, a pharmacist from Uniontown, Ohio, who was among those surveyed, voted with élan for Obama in 2008, helping him carry what has been the nation’s quintessential swing state for a generation.

This time, she wants to see which contender the GOP nominates before deciding.

“I’m still kind of waiting to see how things are going to turn out,” Rybarczyk said in a follow-up interview. “I just feel that the system is so broken that anybody you put there is ineffective. It’s hard to see actual change happen.”

That’s Gingrich’s argument. It’s a tall order, but it might be a more attractive approach than promising to work–even effectively–within the system.

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The Real Threat to Peace is Western Support of Palestinian Rejectionism

As Jonathan correctly noted yesterday, it’s ridiculous to assert that Israeli-Palestinian peace is threatened by plans to build 40 new homes inside a settlement that everyone knows will remain Israeli under any agreement. But if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would like to see a genuine obstacle to peace, I suggest he study what happened at a conference of Mediterranean writers in Marseille last week: An Israeli author was kicked off a panel discussion because a Palestinian writer refused to sit at the same table with him.

Organizer Pierre Assouline told Haaretz that in the previous two years, Palestinian writers refused to attend the conference at all because Israelis were present. This year, poet Najwan Darwish agreed to show up, but only if he didn’t have to participate on the same panels as any Israeli authors. When he discovered that he was in fact listed as speaking on one panel together with Israeli Moshe Sakal, he told Assouline he would boycott the discussion unless Sakal was ousted. And Assouline, deciding that Sakal in any case wasn’t important to the issue at hand (the Arab Spring), acquiesced.

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As Jonathan correctly noted yesterday, it’s ridiculous to assert that Israeli-Palestinian peace is threatened by plans to build 40 new homes inside a settlement that everyone knows will remain Israeli under any agreement. But if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would like to see a genuine obstacle to peace, I suggest he study what happened at a conference of Mediterranean writers in Marseille last week: An Israeli author was kicked off a panel discussion because a Palestinian writer refused to sit at the same table with him.

Organizer Pierre Assouline told Haaretz that in the previous two years, Palestinian writers refused to attend the conference at all because Israelis were present. This year, poet Najwan Darwish agreed to show up, but only if he didn’t have to participate on the same panels as any Israeli authors. When he discovered that he was in fact listed as speaking on one panel together with Israeli Moshe Sakal, he told Assouline he would boycott the discussion unless Sakal was ousted. And Assouline, deciding that Sakal in any case wasn’t important to the issue at hand (the Arab Spring), acquiesced.

It is, of course, problematic that Palestinian authors refuse to even sit in the same room with Israeli authors, who as a group (and Sakal is no exception) are overwhelmingly critical of Israeli government policy and consistently advocate greater concessions to the Palestinians. If Palestinian intellectuals won’t deign to talk even with the Israelis most supportive of their cause, it’s hard to see how a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace could ever emerge.

Far more problematic, however, was the response of Darwish’s Western enablers: Instead of telling him that such boycotts won’t be tolerated, the conference organizers cravenly capitulated to his demands. Moreover, this decision was supported by many of the conference-goers: While half the audience was angry, Assouline related, “the other half was thrilled.”

This is the problem of the entire peace process in a nutshell: Much of the Western political, cultural, and intellectual elite cravenly acquiesces in Palestinian rejectionism, and thereby encourages its continuance. What Assouline did was essentially no different from what Ban Ki-moon does when he condemns plans to build 40 houses in Efrat but never utters a peep about the real obstacles to peace – like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders, or his refusal to negotiate with Israel’s prime minister even during the 10 months when Israel acceded to his demand for a freeze on settlement construction. Just as Assouline and his colleagues effectively agreed that Sakal’s presence, rather than Darwish’s boycott, was the problem, Western leaders who routinely condemn construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem or major settlement blocs while remaining silent on such issues as Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state are effectively agreeing that the problem is Israel’s very existence – even in areas that everyone knows will be part of Israel under any deal – rather than Palestinian opposition to this existence.

And as long as such Palestinian rejectionism continues to receive Western support, Palestinians will have no incentive whatsoever to abandon it.

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Right-Wing Talkers Turn Against Gingrich

Think it’s only those squishy, Chardonnay-swigging, elitist Republicans who are opposed to a Gingrich nomination? Not necessarily. Yesterday two prominent, right-wing talk show hosts launched into controversial anti-Newt diatribes, and both for very different reasons.

First, here’s Glenn Beck, who caught a lot of heat for the following comments, made on Fox Business:

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Think it’s only those squishy, Chardonnay-swigging, elitist Republicans who are opposed to a Gingrich nomination? Not necessarily. Yesterday two prominent, right-wing talk show hosts launched into controversial anti-Newt diatribes, and both for very different reasons.

First, here’s Glenn Beck, who caught a lot of heat for the following comments, made on Fox Business:

If you have a big government progressive, or a big government progressive in Obama… ask yourself this, Tea Party: is it about Obama’s race? Because that’s what it appears to be to me. If you’re against him but you’re for this guy, it must be about race. I mean, what else is it? It’s the policies that matter.

Beck’s remarks caused a firestorm on Twitter, with some conservatives saying that he used the “race card” as an attack in the same way that the left does. But it doesn’t sound like Beck was trying to smear Tea Partiers as racist here. He was making a slightly different point that gets lost under the hyperbole, which is that Gingrich’s policies are supposedly so similar to Obama’s that there’s no reason to vote for one over the other.

Of course, that’s self-evidently untrue. Gingrich may be a centrist in a lot of ways, but he’s to the right of Obama on a number of things, most notably foreign policy and social issues. There are plenty of reasons for a Republican to support Gingrich over Obama that have absolutely nothing to do with race. Beck may be right that Romney is more of a conservative than Gingrich, but he certainly could have framed it in a better way.

Meanwhile, radio host Michael Savage made a very different case against Gingrich, this time attacking the former speaker as “unelectable.” In order to ensure that this information was picked up by the mainstream media, Savage decided to offer Gingrich $1 million to drop out of the race in the next 72-hours. Instant publicity.

Here’s Savage’s press statement (caps lock is his; apparently he wanted to make sure he conveyed his anger):

NEWT GINRICH IS UNELECTABLE. MITT ROMNEY IS THE ONLY CANDIDATE WITH A CHANCE OF DEFEATING BARACK OBAMA, AND THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT FOR FUTURE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND SECURITY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. THEREFORE, I AM OFFERING NEWT GINGRICH ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO DROP OUT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE FOR THE SAKE OF THE NATION.

Ridiculous media ploys aside, Savage’s comments have a lot of truth to them. Gingrich really does have serious electability problems, and would be much more vulnerable than Romney in a general election. And beyond the race card controversy, Beck had some good points, too – Gingrich is hardly the true conservative in the race. Others have been making both these arguments for awhile now. If more conservative talk show hosts start picking these points up, that could eat into Gingrich’s support from the base.

That is, unless Gingrich saves them all the trouble by taking Savage up on his offer at some point in the next 72-hours. The clock is ticking.

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Identities Have Consequences

Max notes that the identities of various nations have been “invented” relatively recently, including those of Americans, Italians, and others, and argues there is little point at this stage in disputing whether the Palestinians have forged a national identity, or whether they should have a state. But identities have consequences, and the Palestinian one bears on their claim to statehood, since identity and statehood are not synonymous (as the Kurds and Tibetans know).

The “Palestinians” have not been invented so much as renamed; not so much renamed as repurposed; not so much repurposed as redefined as “refugees” — under a definition that applies to no other people in the world. The number of all other refugees decreases each year, as they are resettled; the number of Palestinian “refugees” increases each year, as they are born, since they are the only people in the world entitled to inherit refugee status. Their refugee status is fundamental to their identity; it is the reason they reject offers of a state again and again and again: a two-state solution would require their acceptance of a Jewish state, but acceptance of such a state would require them to give up their identity.

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Max notes that the identities of various nations have been “invented” relatively recently, including those of Americans, Italians, and others, and argues there is little point at this stage in disputing whether the Palestinians have forged a national identity, or whether they should have a state. But identities have consequences, and the Palestinian one bears on their claim to statehood, since identity and statehood are not synonymous (as the Kurds and Tibetans know).

The “Palestinians” have not been invented so much as renamed; not so much renamed as repurposed; not so much repurposed as redefined as “refugees” — under a definition that applies to no other people in the world. The number of all other refugees decreases each year, as they are resettled; the number of Palestinian “refugees” increases each year, as they are born, since they are the only people in the world entitled to inherit refugee status. Their refugee status is fundamental to their identity; it is the reason they reject offers of a state again and again and again: a two-state solution would require their acceptance of a Jewish state, but acceptance of such a state would require them to give up their identity.

The barrier to Palestinian statehood has never been the Jews or the State of Israel. The Jews offered Arabs a two-state solution in 1919; accepted the two-state solution of the Peel Commission in 1937; accepted the UN two-state solution in 1947. Israel offered the Palestinians a state in 2000; accepted the Clinton Parameters in 2000-01; and offered a state again at the end of 2008. The Palestinians rejected every offer, becoming the first people in history to reject multiple offers of a state and then set conditions for discussing another one.

The Palestinians continue to assert they will never recognize a Jewish state. They can’t – it is inconsistent with their identity, and the purpose for which the Palestinian identity was forged. From the Palestinian standpoint, the “peace process” is not about peace, or even about a state, but about reversing history: they seek a state on the 1967 lines to reverse the 1967 war, and a “right of return” to reverse the 1948 war — to return to the time before the wars the Arabs started and lost, and before there was a Jewish state. The real barrier to Palestinian statehood is the identity the Palestinians have invented.

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