Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 23, 2011

Newsletter Controversy Not Isolated Affair

Some Ron Paul supporters act as if the newsletter controversy is the only real obstacle to him being taken seriously as a Republican contender. A few have even argued, in the comment section here and other places, that the content in the newsletters doesn’t match anything Paul has otherwise ever said or done.

On the last argument, these supporters have a point. The worst of the bigotry in the newsletters – i.e., mocking black people as lazy criminals and defending Holocaust deniers – goes well beyond anything Paul has said publicly, at least that we are aware of.

Read More

Some Ron Paul supporters act as if the newsletter controversy is the only real obstacle to him being taken seriously as a Republican contender. A few have even argued, in the comment section here and other places, that the content in the newsletters doesn’t match anything Paul has otherwise ever said or done.

On the last argument, these supporters have a point. The worst of the bigotry in the newsletters – i.e., mocking black people as lazy criminals and defending Holocaust deniers – goes well beyond anything Paul has said publicly, at least that we are aware of.

But keep in mind that the most inflammatory comments were written during a rare lull in Paul’s political career when he wasn’t in or running for public office, between 1990 and 1994. He had renounced his affiliation with the Republican Party, and beyond an advisory role for the controversial Pat Buchanan’s campaign, he wasn’t under the glare of the public spotlight. He was moving in circles that often engaged in bordlerline-racist rhetoric. And there are few speeches or outside columns that Paul wrote during this time period with which to compare his newsletter.

Even if you ignore the newsletters, it’s difficult to deny that Paul is a conspiracy theorist and an extremist who indulges bigots, crackpots and anti-Semites, based on statements he’s made much more recently. Many of his positions also put him at odds with the Republican electorate. Politico outlines just six of his stances that will haunt him this election cycle, if the newsletter controversy ever dies down:

The “disaster” of Ronald Reagan’s conservative agenda

“I think we can further thank Ronald Reagan for doing a good job [on furthering the Libertarian Party]. He certainly did a good job in 1980 pointing out the fallacies of the Democratic liberal agenda and he certainly did a good job on following up to show the disaster of the conservative agenda as well.”

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are unconstitutional

Fox News’s Chris Wallace: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.

Ron Paul: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause….

American drug laws are designed to fund rogue governments, CIA programs

“I think that might be the No. 1 reason for the drug laws … to raise the funds necessary for government to do illegal things, whether it’s some terrorist government someplace or whether it’s our own CIA to fund programs that they can’t get Congress to fund. I think it’s tragic and the sooner we get rid of the drug laws, the sooner this will end.” …

U.S. foreign policy “significantly contributed” to 9/11 attacks

“The flawed foreign policy of interventionism that we have followed for decades significantly contributed to the attacks. Warnings had been sounded by the more astute that our meddling in the affairs of others would come to no good.” …

Returning white supremacist donation is “pandering”

“I think it is pandering. I think it is playing the political correctness.” …

The Civil Rights Act “violated the Constitution”

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty, it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society.”

This list doesn’t even include his vehemently anti-Israel comments, his opposition to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, his close relationship with unhinged conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, and his wild claims that there’s a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and institute a “New World Order.”

So Paul’s supporters are right, to an extent – other than the newsletters, there is no evidence that he’s ever praised David Duke or decried the “evil of forced integration.” But there is plenty of evidence that for years Paul has aligned himself with – and benefited greatly from – the same movement that has spawned much of the racism and anti-Semitism on the right. Looking at his record and hearing his recent controversial comments, the content in the newsletters isn’t as “out of character” as some have tried to argue.

Read Less

Re: Conservatives and Climate Change

I want to thank Peter Wehner for his gracious remarks about my response to his pieces about climate change and the responsibility of conservatives to take a constructive approach to the issue. There is, as he said, much we agree upon, and I continue to be impressed by Peter’s seriousness of purpose and his desire to conduct this discussion on a high plane where hysteria and neo-religious rhetoric about global warming are out of place.

However, I also want to briefly respond to two of his points.

Read More

I want to thank Peter Wehner for his gracious remarks about my response to his pieces about climate change and the responsibility of conservatives to take a constructive approach to the issue. There is, as he said, much we agree upon, and I continue to be impressed by Peter’s seriousness of purpose and his desire to conduct this discussion on a high plane where hysteria and neo-religious rhetoric about global warming are out of place.

However, I also want to briefly respond to two of his points.

The first is to say he’s right that skeptical conservatives need not respond to global warming zealots with the same level of vituperation they have been subjected to by the other side. I should not have implied that responding in kind to unreasoning attacks was justifiable. There is no need for those who do not subscribe to the catechism of environmental extremists to sink to their level when it comes to trying to anathematize their foes.

Second, I want to note, as Peter has done, that though most scientists seem to think that a) there is no doubt about both the nature of the threat of climate change; b) the responsibility of humans for the problem; and c) the need for us to adopt stringent measures in response, many respected members of the scientific community still do not subscribe to these views. One such, Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published extensively on the issue. His persuasive writings (one of which can be found here), along with others who share his views, have given skeptics an informed leg to stand on with respect to the controversy.

I will leave it to Professor Lindzen and his colleagues to argue about the science. But so long as that debate is ongoing, it is likely that many of us who perceive the bias behind many environmental extremists and can foresee no practical result from the damaging and draconian measures they propose to avert the alleged danger, will continue to be skeptical about the issue.

Read Less

Obama’s Muddled Thinking on Afghanistan

The Washington Post has an article today about the umpteenth instance of failed talks with the Taliban, with the U.S. apparently offering to release Taliban detainees from Guantanamo in return for a (worthless) promise from the Taliban to renounce international terrorism. The deal was scuttled, according to the Post, by (legitimate) objections from Hamid Karzai, but it is not clear if the administration could have carried out its end anyway because of domestic opposition to releasing more hardened terrorists from Gitmo.

What was really fascinating to me in this article was a section from the middle:

Read More

The Washington Post has an article today about the umpteenth instance of failed talks with the Taliban, with the U.S. apparently offering to release Taliban detainees from Guantanamo in return for a (worthless) promise from the Taliban to renounce international terrorism. The deal was scuttled, according to the Post, by (legitimate) objections from Hamid Karzai, but it is not clear if the administration could have carried out its end anyway because of domestic opposition to releasing more hardened terrorists from Gitmo.

What was really fascinating to me in this article was a section from the middle:

President Obama has already ordered the withdrawal by September of the 33,000 troops he sent to Afghanistan last year. “The big debate,” a Defense official said, is “can you come up with another number for what happens over the next 12 months” after that drawdown. “The argument will once again be the military saying let’s keep it at 68,000,” the number of troops who will remain in September, “and [Vice President] Biden saying let’s get it down to 20,000 really quickly, with the reality somewhere in between.”

Although Biden lost the argument over the surge in late 2009, officials said the internal administration balance has shifted toward a steeper glide path that would put the Afghans in charge sooner rather than later, in conjunction with a political settlement.

This is a fair description, I believe, of the president’s deeply muddled thinking on the future of Afghanistan. It suggests that he will make future decisions as he made decisions in the past: on a split-the-difference model. In 2010, he tacitly endorsed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request to pursue a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy but provided the minimal amount of resources required—only about 30,000 extra troops, which was at the “high risk” side of the options offered by McChrystal. This was in essence an attempt to compromise between McChrystal and Joe Biden, who advocated sending even fewer troops and pursuing a lesser, counterterrorism-focused mission. Then in June of this year, Obama ordered the premature withdrawal of those 30,000+ troops—they will be pulled out by September 2012, well ahead of the recommendations of military commanders. Now, with military commanders asking to keep at least 68,000 troops through 2014, President Obama seems set to draw down much faster than they recommend—although not to the extent advocated by the most strident anti-war voices.

You can see the political logic of what Obama is doing: He is trying to please both hawks and doves. Unfortunately, war is not a realm where half measures are likely to succeed. Adopting an ambitious strategy, as we’ve done in Afghanistan, but not resourcing it adequately, as Obama has also done, is a recipe for slow-motion failure. It is a high-risk strategy that is likely to get a lot of troops killed and for no good reason. Paradoxically, sending more troops would actually reduce casualties by making it easier to dominate the battlefield.

Not only does this make little sense strategically, it makes little sense politically: Obama will get just as much flak for keeping 50,000 troops in Afghanistan
as he would for 68,000. But the higher number provides a greater chance of success; more troops still would heighten our chances even more. If we are going to fight in Afghanistan, Obama needs to go “all in” as President Bush did during the surge in Iraq. He should not pin his hopes on peace talks which are unlikely to go anywhere.

 

Read Less

Libertarians Must Confront Paul’s Hate

Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie attempted yesterday to confront the dirty little secret about Ron Paul. The libertarian hero may be leading in some Iowa polls, but as the story about the racist newsletters that were published under his name in the 1980s and 90s catches fire, his more respectable backers need to face up to their candidate’s past. To his credit, Gillespie admits that it’s not a “smear” to bring up the issue of the Texas congressman’s connections to hate literature as well as to 9/11 truthers, the John Birch Society and conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones. Gillespie even owns up to the fact that Paul has had as many different answers to the question of his connections to hate as Herman Cain did about allegations of sexual harassment.

But rather than fess up to the fact that their presidential standard-bearer has been a magnet for crackpot racists who regard the United States government as the enemy, Gillespie tried to argue that this ought not to “invalidate” his candidacy because a) Paul is a nice guy; and b) the hate he promoted and the lunatics in his camp are not as bad as the system he’s trying to destroy. Like a good Marxist, all Gillespie can do is to claim that the end justifies the means. But as anyone who listens to him discuss foreign policy, far from being tangential to Paul’s crusade, his hate connections are integral to his appeal on the margins of society.

Read More

Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie attempted yesterday to confront the dirty little secret about Ron Paul. The libertarian hero may be leading in some Iowa polls, but as the story about the racist newsletters that were published under his name in the 1980s and 90s catches fire, his more respectable backers need to face up to their candidate’s past. To his credit, Gillespie admits that it’s not a “smear” to bring up the issue of the Texas congressman’s connections to hate literature as well as to 9/11 truthers, the John Birch Society and conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones. Gillespie even owns up to the fact that Paul has had as many different answers to the question of his connections to hate as Herman Cain did about allegations of sexual harassment.

But rather than fess up to the fact that their presidential standard-bearer has been a magnet for crackpot racists who regard the United States government as the enemy, Gillespie tried to argue that this ought not to “invalidate” his candidacy because a) Paul is a nice guy; and b) the hate he promoted and the lunatics in his camp are not as bad as the system he’s trying to destroy. Like a good Marxist, all Gillespie can do is to claim that the end justifies the means. But as anyone who listens to him discuss foreign policy, far from being tangential to Paul’s crusade, his hate connections are integral to his appeal on the margins of society.

Gillespie is right that many libertarians and even Republicans will vote for Paul in spite of his troubling connections and not because of them. Many conservatives share with libertarians their disgust for big government and the compromises some Republicans have made in order to buy popularity. But Paul’s isolationism on foreign policy speaks to the conspiracy crowd precisely because his view of the world conforms to their vision of an evil America rampaging across the globe. Given his own extremism — which extends to his rationalizations of the Taliban and the Iranian regime — it’s little surprise that wingnuts of the extreme right and left flock to his cause (and deluge the websites of journalists who point out their candidate’s shortcomings with hate mail). Try as they might, respectable writers like Gillespie can’t explain away the fact that there is a straight line between the newsletters and many of his other views.

I understand that libertarians want to overturn the system, not just to reform it. There’s a facile logic to Paul’s approach, but that is exactly why the haters love him. As much as libertarians and anti-establishment Republicans want to believe in him, he is a product of the John Birch milieu of the far right, and that leaves them twisting themselves into pretzels trying to justify supporting a candidate for president who is irredeemably damaged by the lunatic fringe with which he has long associated himself.

In defense of Paul’s candidacy, Gillespie seems to be arguing that libertarians need to rally around him despite his imperfections because he is the most viable spokesman for their ideas:

Paul is not the perfect vessel for a libertarian message, but waiting for perfection is something ideologues insist on. Most of us are far more interested in someone who at least has shown he understands the most pressing issues of the moment — and the future.

With all due respect to Gillespie, you have to be taking some of the drugs that Paul wants to legalize in order to believe he has even a remote chance of being the Republican nominee, let alone elected president. Far from a pragmatic attempt to get him into the White House, his campaign is still very much the stuff of ideologues. Moreover, libertarians also need to face up to the fact that their little coalition of fellow travelers is populated by those to whom Paul’s disturbing record is an attraction rather than a drawback.

Principled libertarians need to rethink a decision to tie their ideas to such a flawed vessel. It’s more than obvious to all but his zealots that the vast majority of Americans want nothing to do with a candidate like Paul even if some aspects of his libertarian beliefs are attractive. Those intellectuals who try to justify supporting such a person’s futile run despite his long involvement with a hateful lunatic fringe are trashing their movement’s integrity for very little in return.

Read Less

Newt in 2007: Next President Must Listen

With the New York Times and Washington Post both examining the existence of a “new” Newt Gingrich–the Post concentrates on Nice Newt and the Times on Grandfather Newt–it’s worth remembering that the emergence of a more reflective Gingrich is not all that recent.

Though Gingrich didn’t run in 2008, he was back in the spotlight and part of the conversation again. As far back as December 2007, New Newt was already here. Gingrich was asked to participate in Foreign Policy magazine’s symposium on what the next president should do about foreign affairs once he settled in, and Gingrich’s answer was, “Listen”:

Read More

With the New York Times and Washington Post both examining the existence of a “new” Newt Gingrich–the Post concentrates on Nice Newt and the Times on Grandfather Newt–it’s worth remembering that the emergence of a more reflective Gingrich is not all that recent.

Though Gingrich didn’t run in 2008, he was back in the spotlight and part of the conversation again. As far back as December 2007, New Newt was already here. Gingrich was asked to participate in Foreign Policy magazine’s symposium on what the next president should do about foreign affairs once he settled in, and Gingrich’s answer was, “Listen”:

As soon as the new president is elected, he or she should immediately embark on a series of pre-inauguration visits to capitals around the world: not just London, Paris, and Jerusalem, but Ankara, Amman, Beijing, and Cairo. In the span of several weeks, the president should make dozens of stops in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. During these visits, not one moment needs to be spent trying to prove or demonstrate American power and dominance. Instead, the president-elect should simply listen. There should be no formal agenda, only questions. How do these other leaders think the United States can be most effective with its economic, military, and cultural might? And in turn, how do they propose to help achieve mutual goals during the next four years?

Listening does not mean obeying, or even agreeing. Trust begins not with agreement, but with mutual respect, which comes from an appreciation and understanding of the other person’s point of view. There is no obligation to accept or act upon the advice that is offered. The sole obligation is to understand the other side’s perspective.

This simple exercise of asking for advice and listening carefully and sympathetically will, in almost every part of the world, lead to dramatically improved relations and perceptions. If successful, this listening tour will enable the United States to build far more effective coalitions with our allies and further our strategic goals.

Of course, Barack Obama was elected president and, rather than listen, he traveled the world pulling stunts like offering Queen Elizabeth II an iPod filled with his speeches so that more experienced and revered world leaders could listen to him, over and over again.

In any event, Gingrich’s attempt to temper his bombast with some humility is not new to 2011–that is simply when reporters started listening.

Read Less

Iraq’s “March Backwards Into the Sun”

Yesterday, a barrage of at least 15 bombs were set off in Baghdad, which according to press reports rocked almost every major neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. Dozens of people were killed. We’re seeing a dramatic resurgence of sectarian and ethnic divisions. And the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, issued a warrant for the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni leader who has since fled to the autonomous northern Kurdish region. (Maliki has ordered the Kurds to “hand over” Hashemi or face “problems.”) This is precisely why U.S. commanders recommended we maintain a residual American force of 15,000 to 18,000, in order to keep violence down, ethnic divisions in check, and Maliki in line. But President Obama thought he knew better, and now we have no U.S. presence in Iraq to speak of.

Until now, Iraq had made impressive strides since the civil war that almost consumed it in 2006. But it has been a fragile affair. Iraq, and especially the Sunnis and Kurds, needed an American presence to continue to help bind up the wounds of the war. It was perfectly predictable that if America withdrew its troops, trouble would follow. And now trouble has come, only a week after the president declared Iraq to be “sovereign, self-reliant, and democratic.”

Read More

Yesterday, a barrage of at least 15 bombs were set off in Baghdad, which according to press reports rocked almost every major neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. Dozens of people were killed. We’re seeing a dramatic resurgence of sectarian and ethnic divisions. And the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, issued a warrant for the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni leader who has since fled to the autonomous northern Kurdish region. (Maliki has ordered the Kurds to “hand over” Hashemi or face “problems.”) This is precisely why U.S. commanders recommended we maintain a residual American force of 15,000 to 18,000, in order to keep violence down, ethnic divisions in check, and Maliki in line. But President Obama thought he knew better, and now we have no U.S. presence in Iraq to speak of.

Until now, Iraq had made impressive strides since the civil war that almost consumed it in 2006. But it has been a fragile affair. Iraq, and especially the Sunnis and Kurds, needed an American presence to continue to help bind up the wounds of the war. It was perfectly predictable that if America withdrew its troops, trouble would follow. And now trouble has come, only a week after the president declared Iraq to be “sovereign, self-reliant, and democratic.”

It is quite amazing that Maliki would begin what the Wall Street Journal rightly calls a “putsch” against his Sunni coalition partners so shortly after having met with President Obama. This is yet more evidence of the diplomatic skills our community-organizer-turned-president brought to the job. Indeed, having the United States steadily pull away from Maliki since Obama assumed office has created and exacerbated many of the problems we now face. And they are about to get a good deal worse. Now begins what the celebrated Arab writer Adonis called a “march backwards into the sun.”

CIA Director David Petraeus, who worked near-miracles overseeing the success of the so-called surge in 2007, was dispatched to Iraq earlier this week, to help undo the damage. But of course thanks to the president’s decisions, we have very little leverage now. “Tell me how this ends,” General Petraeus would often ask in the context of Iraq. It could have ended reasonably well; it now looks as if it will end very badly. We know which Western leader we have to thank for that.

What is happening in Iraq is sickening, in part because the gains came at such a high cost and in part because what is happening there was so avoidable. Obama was handed a war that was largely won. What America had given to Iraq is what the Arab scholar Fouad Ajami called “the foreigner’s gift.” But Iraq being Iraq, maintaining an American troop presence there, separate from engaging in combat operations, was necessary if Iraq was ever to become whole again. President Obama has undone much of what had been achieved there, almost in the blink of an eye. And when the history of his administration is written, it increasingly looks as if he will be fairly judged to have been the man who lost Iraq.

In an administration full of failures, this one may well rank among the highest. The human cost to Iraq and the strategic damage to America may be unimaginable. And so unnecessary.

 

 

Read Less

Now for the Fallout on Payroll Deal

The payroll deal is is being billed as a House Republican defeat, and from a political optics standpoint it is. But the deal, which was passed by unanimous consent, actually isn’t bad for Republicans, especially considering some of the new language that was inserted:

The deal entails a new bill with language protecting small businesses from a measure in the Senate bill that creates temporary new caps on the wages that are subject to payroll tax relief, a Republican aide said. Sen. Harry Reid accepted the House Republicans’ proposal late this afternoon.

The bill will be passed by unanimous consent, which would not require all the members to return for a vote.

Read More

The payroll deal is is being billed as a House Republican defeat, and from a political optics standpoint it is. But the deal, which was passed by unanimous consent, actually isn’t bad for Republicans, especially considering some of the new language that was inserted:

The deal entails a new bill with language protecting small businesses from a measure in the Senate bill that creates temporary new caps on the wages that are subject to payroll tax relief, a Republican aide said. Sen. Harry Reid accepted the House Republicans’ proposal late this afternoon.

The bill will be passed by unanimous consent, which would not require all the members to return for a vote.

It’s a minor consolation, but at least an acknowledgement that Republican concerns about the impact a two-month payroll tax extension would have on businesses were legitimate. Coupled with the fact that the bill will force the Obama administration to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, it represents a small victory for the GOP. Though as plenty of conservative pundits and bloggers have pointed out, this is one that wasn’t necessarily worth the political cost.

The idea that congressional Republicans “caved” to Obama will play into the narrative that the president’s fortunes are improving. Some see the standoff as the reason why Obama’s approval ratings have had a modest bounce this week, though that explanation may not be entirely accurate. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver thinks the poll boost is due to economic factors, not congressional gridlock:

The White House got a good headline number in this month’s unemployment report, with the unemployment rate dropping to 8.6 percent from 9 percent. Although the details of the report were not as strong, the findings have been bolstered by a steady decline in the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, which are at their lowest levels since 2008. Meanwhile, housing starts are upretail sales figures have been reasonably good, and various regional and national manufacturing indexes are generally coming in above expectations.

That does make a little more sense. With the holidays approaching, Americans are likely more focused on their families and vacation plans than the tedious payroll tax battle. The standoff didn’t reach the same level of media saturation that the debt-ceiling battle did during the summer, so the image damage may not be as bad for Republicans as it could have been otherwise.

Read Less

Guns for Cash Won’t Work With Hamas

Following the pattern set by some major American cities, which have tried to reduce the supply of firearms by offering to buy guns brought in by the public, the United States is attempting to purchase missiles circulating in Libya. One of the downsides of the fall of the Qaddafi regime was that his huge collection of military toys is now on the open market since militia members and other Libyans gathered it up in the aftermath of the civil war that brought the dictator’s rule to an end. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration’s plan is as follows:

The United States would provide money and technical support to Libya’s government, which would purchase the missiles, and either lock them up in government arsenals or destroy them.

According to the Times, programs like this have worked before in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the $40 million the administration has allocated to deal with the problem should do the trick. But the State Department, like the Times reporting of the story, seems to have forgotten that some of the most dangerous weapons in Qaddafi’s arsenal are not laying around in basements in Tripoli waiting to be turned in for U.S. cash. They’ve already been exported to Gaza.

Read More

Following the pattern set by some major American cities, which have tried to reduce the supply of firearms by offering to buy guns brought in by the public, the United States is attempting to purchase missiles circulating in Libya. One of the downsides of the fall of the Qaddafi regime was that his huge collection of military toys is now on the open market since militia members and other Libyans gathered it up in the aftermath of the civil war that brought the dictator’s rule to an end. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration’s plan is as follows:

The United States would provide money and technical support to Libya’s government, which would purchase the missiles, and either lock them up in government arsenals or destroy them.

According to the Times, programs like this have worked before in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the $40 million the administration has allocated to deal with the problem should do the trick. But the State Department, like the Times reporting of the story, seems to have forgotten that some of the most dangerous weapons in Qaddafi’s arsenal are not laying around in basements in Tripoli waiting to be turned in for U.S. cash. They’ve already been exported to Gaza.

Huge qualities of anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled out of Libya as the Qaddafi regime was in its last weeks in power. Most appear to have wound up in Gaza, where the Hamas government there was able to pay cash for weaponry that may have improved their ability to fend off Israeli air attacks. Their share of the Qaddafi collection was a qualitative upgrade on their existing armaments. The weapons not only have the capacity to alter somewhat the balance of power between the terrorists and Israel but also boosted the prestige of Hamas in its rivalry with Fatah as they jockeyed for position in their unity talks.

Other Islamic terrorists in Somalia also appear to have benefited from the Libyan crackup.

All of this renders the program the Times ballyhooed this morning as too little and far too late. If Washington is really serious about rounding up the vast supply of munitions that were dumped on the black market by the war in Libya, they’re going to have to offer the killers in Gaza and Somalia a bit more than the walking around money they’re dishing out on the streets of Tripoli or Benghazi. Which is to say that American efforts to recover the arms are utterly futile even if the Times went along with the pretense that everything was just fine.

But because we know Hamas can’t be bribed to give up its new air defense arsenal, perhaps the administration can try the same tactic used when the U.S. attempted to recover a surveillance drone recently lost in Iran: They can say “pretty please.”

Read Less

Chris Christie May Be Open to VP Bid

Gov. Chris Christie’s term will be up in January 2014, which would mean he’d have to cut out early from his current position to run for VP. He was also the first to argue that he doesn’t have a personality suited for the second-in-command position.

But I guess if he could reconsider a presidential run back in September, there’s no reason why he can’t also reconsider a vice presidential bid:

Read More

Gov. Chris Christie’s term will be up in January 2014, which would mean he’d have to cut out early from his current position to run for VP. He was also the first to argue that he doesn’t have a personality suited for the second-in-command position.

But I guess if he could reconsider a presidential run back in September, there’s no reason why he can’t also reconsider a vice presidential bid:

The outspoken governor, who himself declined to make a bid for the White House and threw his support behind Mitt Romney last month, noted that for him to reject a vice presidential spot at this point in the campaign would also be “presumptuous.”

“Running for president, that’s my decision and [wife] Mary Pat’s decision alone. We decide that. Vice president’s the decision of only one person — whoever the nominee of your party is,” he said. “I think it’s awful to say I won’t do something when it hasn’t been offered.”

If Romney does manage to win the nomination, what would Christie bring to the table? Like Romney, he’s also a governor from the Northeast. He’s a white, Christian male, and wouldn’t help capture any crucial ethnic or religious demographic.

But tapping Christie for the VP slot could benefit Romney in a lot of ways: Christie’s a strong social conservative, pro-life, and a staunch opponent to gay marriage. And yet he isn’t perceived as threatening by moderate-to-liberal East and West Coasters, which means he could satisfy social conservative voters without adding unnecessary baggage.

Christie would also reassure fiscal conservatives who may not trust Romney to champion bold entitlement reforms and stand up to the left on budget cuts.

Beyond that, Christie neutralizes some of Romney’s biggest weaknesses. Romney is seen as a bit of a panderer, someone who doesn’t hold firm positions and can’t always be trusted to speak candidly. Christie’s brand of no-nonsense candor could help balance out these flaws.

Read Less

Dissatisfaction in U.S. Near Record Levels

A new Gallup poll shows that throughout 2011, an average of 17 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. That is the second-lowest annual average in the more than 30-year history of the question (after the 15 percent from 2008). During the year, satisfaction ranged from lows of 11 percent in August and September to a high of 26 percent in May. And nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) currently mention some economic issue as the most important problem facing the country.

As a point of comparison, satisfaction has averaged as high as 60 percent in 1986, 1998, and 2000.

Read More

A new Gallup poll shows that throughout 2011, an average of 17 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. That is the second-lowest annual average in the more than 30-year history of the question (after the 15 percent from 2008). During the year, satisfaction ranged from lows of 11 percent in August and September to a high of 26 percent in May. And nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) currently mention some economic issue as the most important problem facing the country.

As a point of comparison, satisfaction has averaged as high as 60 percent in 1986, 1998, and 2000.

One other noteworthy finding is that 16 percent of Americans say “the government” or “politicians” is the most important problem — the highest Gallup has measured since  January 1996. That’s not terribly surprising, since Gallup has found Americans’ level of trust in government at historic lows in  2011.

The conclusions one can draw from these polls are obvious enough: the public is very unsatisfied with the way things are going in America and they’re deeply unhappy with the political class, whom they hold largely responsible for the state of things. This poses a threat to lawmakers at every level, starting with the president. Rightly or wrongly, if things aren’t going well, the chief executive is held largely responsible. So it has always been, and so it shall be.

 

Read Less

How to Handle Anti-Israelist Professors

The question of what to do about anti-Israelist professors who use their position to propagandize against the Jewish state is one that has perpetually bedeviled campus Israel advocacy efforts. An article published yesterday in the UK-based Jewish Chronicle points to a strategy for handling the problem that may work.

While short on some details, the article explains how Smadar Bakovic, an Israeli postgraduate student at Warwick University, successfully had the grade on her dissertation marked higher after complaining about the anti-Israelism of her supervisor, one Nicola Pratt, an associate professor in “international politics of the Middle East.” Pratt is an outspoken proponent of boycotts and other unpleasantness against the Jewish state, whose extraordinarily strong record on women’s rights and equality clearly is no reason for warm feelings from an intellectual whose work focuses on “feminist international relations theory.” As a result, Bakovic requested from the beginning of her studies to be reassigned to a different supervisor, a request that was denied. Her final paper was nevertheless marked up 11 points by two other professors from the grade it had been given by Pratt, with the university acknowledging only that “we should have done more to allow Ms. Bakovic to change her supervisor at the very beginning” but, in a feat of exemplary doublethink, standing behind Pratt’s mark.

Read More

The question of what to do about anti-Israelist professors who use their position to propagandize against the Jewish state is one that has perpetually bedeviled campus Israel advocacy efforts. An article published yesterday in the UK-based Jewish Chronicle points to a strategy for handling the problem that may work.

While short on some details, the article explains how Smadar Bakovic, an Israeli postgraduate student at Warwick University, successfully had the grade on her dissertation marked higher after complaining about the anti-Israelism of her supervisor, one Nicola Pratt, an associate professor in “international politics of the Middle East.” Pratt is an outspoken proponent of boycotts and other unpleasantness against the Jewish state, whose extraordinarily strong record on women’s rights and equality clearly is no reason for warm feelings from an intellectual whose work focuses on “feminist international relations theory.” As a result, Bakovic requested from the beginning of her studies to be reassigned to a different supervisor, a request that was denied. Her final paper was nevertheless marked up 11 points by two other professors from the grade it had been given by Pratt, with the university acknowledging only that “we should have done more to allow Ms. Bakovic to change her supervisor at the very beginning” but, in a feat of exemplary doublethink, standing behind Pratt’s mark.

A small success, no doubt, and there are grounds for not being overly impressed. But Bakovic’s strategy is one all who are interested in confronting campus anti-Israelism should consider carefully.

Following what the article says on the matter, Bakovic did not make an issue out of Pratt’s anti-Israelism per se. Instead, she focused on the manner in which Pratt’s ideological commitments affected her ability to perform her task as a teacher. It may seem like a small distinction. But the one thing the Massad affair at Columbia made plain was that no amount of pressure is likely to convince a university, however just the proposition, that the classroom is not a place where one can rightfully propagandize their own political views. In Columbia’s own terms, “the relationship between the views of any instructor and his or her pedagogy” is one the university believes to be beyond the terms of rightful outside inquiry. But the university did make plain that “pedagogical intimidation or the failure to create a civil learning environment” was unacceptable.

Rather than bewailing, rightfully, the failure this kind of thinking evinces toward the principles for which the notion of academic freedom was created, campus Israel advocates would be smarter to recognize the opening it grants us.

This is what Bakovic has done. By focusing her efforts on the manner in which Pratt had not fulfilled her basic teaching duties and not on the degree to which she propagandized on behalf of anti-Israelism, Bakovic won a small victory that would otherwise likely not have been possible.

Can such a strategy fundamentally diminish the power of anti-Israelist professors to poison young people against the Jewish state? Perhaps not. But it can make a significant difference. And that is more than any other tactic previously employed can say for itself.

 

Read Less

Elder Bush Makes Elite’s Choice Official

I’ve always been of the opinion that the idea there is such a thing as a Republican “establishment” is something of a myth. The GOP hasn’t really had anything approximating a ruling elite since conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater and booed Nelson Rockefeller off the stage at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco. The idea that Wall Street honchos or intellectuals running national magazines have any power over Republican voters and the party apparatus is based on a misunderstanding of how contemporary American politics works. The only thing that approximates an establishment is the family who produced two U.S. presidents during the course of a 20-year period encompassing the end of the last century and the beginning of the current one: the Bushes.

So the announcement yesterday that the elder George Bush is endorsing Mitt Romney comes as close as anything can to verifying one of the media’s favorite clichés about the Republican establishment’s role in the 2012 race. Given this mythical establishment’s lack of actual power and the resentment that the mere idea of its existence can conjure up among the party’s grass roots, it is doubtful the 41st president’s seal of approval will help Romney all that much. But what the Bush statement does do is make it clear exactly whom the GOP’s royal family doesn’t like: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

Read More

I’ve always been of the opinion that the idea there is such a thing as a Republican “establishment” is something of a myth. The GOP hasn’t really had anything approximating a ruling elite since conservatives nominated Barry Goldwater and booed Nelson Rockefeller off the stage at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco. The idea that Wall Street honchos or intellectuals running national magazines have any power over Republican voters and the party apparatus is based on a misunderstanding of how contemporary American politics works. The only thing that approximates an establishment is the family who produced two U.S. presidents during the course of a 20-year period encompassing the end of the last century and the beginning of the current one: the Bushes.

So the announcement yesterday that the elder George Bush is endorsing Mitt Romney comes as close as anything can to verifying one of the media’s favorite clichés about the Republican establishment’s role in the 2012 race. Given this mythical establishment’s lack of actual power and the resentment that the mere idea of its existence can conjure up among the party’s grass roots, it is doubtful the 41st president’s seal of approval will help Romney all that much. But what the Bush statement does do is make it clear exactly whom the GOP’s royal family doesn’t like: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

When President Bush praised Romney as someone who wasn’t a “bomb thrower,” it’s not exactly a secret that he was thinking about Newt Gingrich. Bush and other GOP moderates disdained Gingrich as a radical troublemaker during the Reagan administration and considered his scorched earth tactics as House Minority Leader during the first Bush presidency to be contemptible.

Though Bush also said that he “liked” Rick Perry, the blood feud between the Texas governor and his son’s political camp is also no secret. Had there been any affinity between Perry and the Bushes, the latter might have avoided any endorsements.

It is doubtful any endorsement these days carries all that much weight. Bush 41 had a similar profile to Romney during his political career. Like Romney, Bush came from wealth, flip-flopped on abortion and was unreliable on the key economic issue of his day (substitute his “read my lips” switch on raising taxes for Romneycare). So it’s not likely that Tea Partiers and social conservatives, most of whom never had much use for George W. Bush’s father in the first place, will be swayed by his support for Romney.

But in the context of a crowded GOP field with a gaggle of unsatisfactory candidates vying for the affections of a limited universe of social conservative voters, Romney can survive the unflattering comparison. Yet if Bush 41’s seal of approval does help convince some wavering middle-of-the-road Republicans and moderate conservatives to forget about Gingrich or Perry and go with the more electable Romney, it won’t hurt him.

Read Less