Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 2, 2012

Author Speaks to America’s Resilience

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution has written a short, thoughtful book, The World America Made, which he discussed in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.

Kagan argues that America remains–contrary to common perception–in very strong shape vis-à-vis the rest of the world, and he explains why. But he warns that we can “talk ourselves into decline” by indulging the misplaced perception that we are in decline. And if that were to happen, it would have very bad consequences for the world order America helped to create and has maintained, at an admittedly high cost.

Read More

Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution has written a short, thoughtful book, The World America Made, which he discussed in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.

Kagan argues that America remains–contrary to common perception–in very strong shape vis-à-vis the rest of the world, and he explains why. But he warns that we can “talk ourselves into decline” by indulging the misplaced perception that we are in decline. And if that were to happen, it would have very bad consequences for the world order America helped to create and has maintained, at an admittedly high cost.

Kagan is no Pollyanna; he recognizes the crises we face (especially on the fiscal side of things). But he provides a nuanced perspective, reminding Rose of past challenges. (There is a tendency in every generation, I think, to assume the problems we confront are unprecedented and more difficult than anything that came before, which is for the most part sheer nonsense.) Kagan also speaks to America’s remarkable resilience and some of the unique advantages we still have (including the fact that we face no great power threat in our own hemisphere); the damage of deep defense cuts; the dangers and possibilities of the so-called Arab Spring; and why he considers the right sensibilities to be even more important than experience when it comes to selecting a president.

America is, and has always been, a conflicted, even schizophrenic, nation when it comes to its role in the world. The president, Kagan argues, needs to push back against the sentiments for withdrawal and isolation that periodically arise in the United States. We retain, after all, the capacity to shape the world and bend events in the direction of justice. That’s a heavy burden, but a noble one, too.

The World America Made is a useful antidote to talk of an inevitable American decline; and it’s a good reminder why Bob Kagan remains one of America’s finest foreign policy minds.

 

Read Less

Obama, Limbaugh and the Law Student

The White House has escalated the controversy about Rush Limbaugh’s supposedly grave insult of a Georgetown University law student who testified on Capitol Hill in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for birth control. President Obama called Sandra Fluke today to tell her her parents should be proud of her. The call and the effort to inflate Limbaugh’s satirical remarks about Fluke’s complaints about the high cost of birth control during her congressional testimony are clearly part of a Democratic effort to change the discussion from defending religious liberty against ObamaCare to one about the subjugation of women. Unfortunately, for those who care about defending the Catholic Church’s freedom to defend their faith, Limbaugh’s typically over-the-top humorous jibe at Fluke’s expense is being exploited to obfuscate the real issue at stake here.

Republicans are running for cover as the Democrats and left-wing women’s groups attempt to make Fluke a feminist martyr. Speaker of the House John Boehner called Limbaugh’s comments “inappropriate.” He’s right about that, but the problem is that while Democrats seem to regard Rush as some kind of Republican pope, much of what is said on the show needs to be understood to be no different than the rhetorical excesses of Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Limbaugh’s use of the words “prostitute” and “slut” in connection to Fluke were not intended to be a literal accusation but a hyperbolic takedown of the notion that women at Georgetown are oppressed because they must spend as much as $1,000 of their own money for contraception the Jesuit-run school refuses to pay for.

Read More

The White House has escalated the controversy about Rush Limbaugh’s supposedly grave insult of a Georgetown University law student who testified on Capitol Hill in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for birth control. President Obama called Sandra Fluke today to tell her her parents should be proud of her. The call and the effort to inflate Limbaugh’s satirical remarks about Fluke’s complaints about the high cost of birth control during her congressional testimony are clearly part of a Democratic effort to change the discussion from defending religious liberty against ObamaCare to one about the subjugation of women. Unfortunately, for those who care about defending the Catholic Church’s freedom to defend their faith, Limbaugh’s typically over-the-top humorous jibe at Fluke’s expense is being exploited to obfuscate the real issue at stake here.

Republicans are running for cover as the Democrats and left-wing women’s groups attempt to make Fluke a feminist martyr. Speaker of the House John Boehner called Limbaugh’s comments “inappropriate.” He’s right about that, but the problem is that while Democrats seem to regard Rush as some kind of Republican pope, much of what is said on the show needs to be understood to be no different than the rhetorical excesses of Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Limbaugh’s use of the words “prostitute” and “slut” in connection to Fluke were not intended to be a literal accusation but a hyperbolic takedown of the notion that women at Georgetown are oppressed because they must spend as much as $1,000 of their own money for contraception the Jesuit-run school refuses to pay for.

Let’s specify that what Limbaugh said did nothing to advance the cause of civil debate on the issue. But those who decry the lack of civility in politics generally tend to limit their complaints to hyperbole uttered by people whose views they do not share. The same people who are voicing outrage at the hurt feelings of Ms. Fluke do not scruple at mocking or name calling when it comes to Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum or others whose beliefs on this or any other subject they believe to be antediluvian. The church and its adherents have been subjected to withering ridicule.

Moreover, though it has been lost amid the outcry against Limbaugh, he’s right to point out that, those who believe institutions ought to be compelled to fund free birth control are, in effect, demanding a subsidy for having sex. Of course, that is not the same thing as being a prostitute. Nor does it make anyone who wishes to take advantage of such a subsidy a “slut.” Such terms are abusive. But that is exactly why an entertainer like Limbaugh uses them much as Stewart and liberal comics employ similarly nasty terms to people they wish to deride. Need we really point out that comments made in the context of this sort of show is not the same thing as remarks recorded in the Congressional Record and should thus be judged by a slightly different standard?

Rush Limbaugh will survive this latest attempt to destroy him and may, in fact, benefit from being the subject of a White House barb. But conservatives and those who care about religious liberty should be dismayed by the way the left has been allowed to shield an ominous attempt to expand government power and subvert religious freedom behind a faux defense of women’s rights.

No one is trying to prevent Sandra Fluke or any other woman — or man — from doing whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedrooms. But what Fluke and President Obama are trying to do is to force religious institutions to pay for conduct their faith opposes. That, and not Rush Limbaugh’s scorn for Fluke’s birth control bill, remains the real issue at stake in this debate.

Read Less

Santorum’s Effort to Rewrite His Words

I just wanted to add an additional thought to what Alana wrote regarding Senator Rick Santorum. It isn’t simply that he spoke about his private beliefs on contraception; it’s that he publicly and proudly declared he would, as president, hold forth on the subject (see here for more).

It was Santorum, not the liberal media, who said, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It was Santorum, not MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said, “I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.”

So for Santorum, a man for whom I have respect, to say it’s a “bogus issue,” that to bring it up is “just absurd” and is an example of “gotcha politics,” just isn’t right.

Read More

I just wanted to add an additional thought to what Alana wrote regarding Senator Rick Santorum. It isn’t simply that he spoke about his private beliefs on contraception; it’s that he publicly and proudly declared he would, as president, hold forth on the subject (see here for more).

It was Santorum, not the liberal media, who said, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It was Santorum, not MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said, “I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.”

So for Santorum, a man for whom I have respect, to say it’s a “bogus issue,” that to bring it up is “just absurd” and is an example of “gotcha politics,” just isn’t right.

I suspect I know what happened. When Santorum made his comments in October 2011, he was an asterisk in the polls, he was trying to gain traction with social conservatives in Iowa, and he views himself as more intrepid than the other GOP candidates. So he decided to separate himself from his competitors.

He succeeded. He went out of his way to find this issue. And oh, how he did. But now he has to live with his words; and blaming others isn’t a fair representation of reality.

I can sympathize with Santorum wanting to put this issue to rest. He is, in fact, a “full spectrum” conservative – knowledgeable, informed, and conversant on the issues. But there’s a better way to put the topic to rest than to attempt to rewrite history. Why not simply say he made a mistake, that his formulation was awkward and misguided, he regrets it, and move on?

 

Read Less

Libyan Mob Desecrates WWII Graves

So aside from detainees getting tortured and killed, at least the rest of the situation in Libya is going well:

Fury over the accidental burning of Korans in Afghanistan seemed to spill into Libya last month when an angry mob descended upon Benghazi Military Cemetery and smashed dozens of Christian and Jewish graves… Libya’s National Transitional Council has condemned the actions of the mob and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Read More

So aside from detainees getting tortured and killed, at least the rest of the situation in Libya is going well:

Fury over the accidental burning of Korans in Afghanistan seemed to spill into Libya last month when an angry mob descended upon Benghazi Military Cemetery and smashed dozens of Christian and Jewish graves… Libya’s National Transitional Council has condemned the actions of the mob and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The desecrated WWII cemetery contained the graves of Jewish and Christian troops from the U.S. and the U.K. The Daily Mail declared it an “insult to WWII heroes” before exploring – at length – what America did to trigger all the rioting. They even managed to rope in the on-going domestic controversy about FBI counter-terrorism materials, for completion’s sake. No one has yet investigated whether the crowd would have been placated had we hanged the U.S. officers and burned down the White House in penance, as Iranian Basij Commander Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Reza Naqdi ordered us to do.

Late last year, Reuters FaithWorld blogger Tom Heneghan mused aloud about “which kind” of Islamism would take hold in the post-Arab Spring countries. Islamism was now undeniably sweeping the region – in sharp contrast to the gratingly condescending predictions of Middle East experts – but maybe it would be the kind of Islamism that didn’t involve desecrating the graves of Christians and Jews in Libya when Korans are burned in Afghanistan.

Turns out, not so much.

It’s not a total loss though. The administration has been demagoguing Republicans for criticizing the president and thereby “inflam[ing]” the issue – an unfortunate choice of verbs, but there you have it – so this graveyard desecration will at least give them an additional talking point.

Here’s the video:

http://youtu.be/ZawXJANkL-A

Read Less

The James Q. Wilson Archive

As I promised earlier in my post about the death of the great James Q. Wilson, Commentary is making available the entirety of his 45 years of contributions to our magazine. You can find the James Q. Wilson Archive here.  There is so much wonderful stuff it’s hard even to know where to begin, so let me start with the last words he published here, in our symposium called “Are You Optimistic or Pessimistic About America’s Future?” It will give you a flavor of the man’s unmatchable perspective:

“Many years ago, I confidently published an essay in which I made a prediction. It was hopelessly, embarrassingly wrong. Since then I have embraced the view that social scientists should never predict; leave that job to pundits. If you doubt me, make a list of the economists who predicted the 2008 recession, political scientists who predicted the Arab Spring, or criminologists who said that this recession would be accompanied by falling crime rates. A few names may make the list, but very few.

Read More

As I promised earlier in my post about the death of the great James Q. Wilson, Commentary is making available the entirety of his 45 years of contributions to our magazine. You can find the James Q. Wilson Archive here.  There is so much wonderful stuff it’s hard even to know where to begin, so let me start with the last words he published here, in our symposium called “Are You Optimistic or Pessimistic About America’s Future?” It will give you a flavor of the man’s unmatchable perspective:

“Many years ago, I confidently published an essay in which I made a prediction. It was hopelessly, embarrassingly wrong. Since then I have embraced the view that social scientists should never predict; leave that job to pundits. If you doubt me, make a list of the economists who predicted the 2008 recession, political scientists who predicted the Arab Spring, or criminologists who said that this recession would be accompanied by falling crime rates. A few names may make the list, but very few.

“Historians may do a better job than other scholars in making generalizations, but that is because the good ones never predict, they generalize from past experiences. Those experiences suggest that this country has been extraordinarily lucky, and they hint at some reasons for that good fortune: an adaptable government, an optimistic national character—and extraordinary good fortune (we won the Revolutionary War against a superior enemy, defeated the Confederacy despite a series of terrible northern generals, overcame the Great Depression because the Second World War increased the demand for goods and services, sent transports to confront Germany just at the time when the Nazi code had been broken, confronted an armed Japan that made every conceivable tactical mistake, and defeated Saddam Hussein by discovering that he was an incompetent military leader). We had some bad luck as well (racism and Vietnam, for example), but the good outweighed it.

“It is easy to understand why Commentary would ask whether one is optimistic or pessimistic. We remain in the depths of a major recession, the nation’s deficit grew by more than $4 trillion in the first three years of the current administration, our military faces unjustified cuts in its budget, many people who want to vote against President Obama feel they lack a suitable Republican alternative, the federal government (except for the military) lacks any public confidence, and most Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

“It would be easy to be grumpy, but it also would not be hard to be optimistic. We face serious problems, but this recession like all before it will end, something will probably be done to reduce the growth in the deficit, international reality will require the maintenance of a serious military force, and somebody will run against Obama and may well defeat him. Dislike of government institutions will no doubt persist (but without any reduction in American patriotism), and the meaning of answers to the poll question about whether the country is on the right track will remain, as it is now, obscure. Take your pick.”

It would be easy to be grumpy, but it also would not be hard to be optimistic. To read those words is to see Jim’s face, which always seemed to have a smile on it even when there was no smile. He had an extraordinary disposition. He was a man who loved his work, loved his life, loved his wife, loved his family, loved his country, and loved humankind—probably because, despite his belief in reason and his dedication to the empirical…well, why shouldn’t he!

 

Read Less

Should the GOP Just Focus on the Senate?

The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:

“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.

However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.

“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.

Read More

The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:

“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.

However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.

“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.

Without having access to Will’s full column yet, it’s hard to judge the persuasiveness of his argument. But two problems immediately jump out:

1.) Will Republicans be able to draw enough conservative voters to the polls if they prematurely resign themselves to losing the presidential race? This seems like a recipe for low GOP turnout, which would decrease the possibility of winning control of the Senate. If voters don’t believe there’s at least a fighting chance of taking back the White House, many might not even bother to come out.

2.) Today, Romney is leading the Republican field nationally. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum. A little over a month ago, Gingrich was surging. Public opinion has turned so quickly and dramatically it’s impossible to predict what the race will look like next month, let alone next November. Toss in the wild cards of rising gas prices, the economy, Iran and the Supreme Court’s look at ObamaCare, and the GOP would be selling itself short if it surrendered so prematurely. Remember last summer when all the pundits pronounced Tim Pawlenty’s campaign dead? He listened to them – and that turned out to be one of the dumbest political moves of the race.

The Republican Party would be crazy to make a similar mistake. As depressing as the current field may be for conservatives, winning the White House isn’t impossible – unless, of course, the GOP gives up before it even begins.

Read Less

Reminder: Israel Can’t Rely on Obama’s Iran Assurances Because They Don’t Exist

Jonathan neatly summed up the reasons behind the oh come on, dude sensation one gets from reading this morning’s Jeffrey Goldberg interview with President Obama. The discussion seems to take place in a universe where this White House hasn’t made an annual spring-time tradition of launching diplomatic offensives against Israel, bragging and chortling in the media about slapping Netanyahu around in 2009, declaring in 2010 that abandoning previous understandings on Jerusalem was “paying off”, trying to sandbag and isolate Netanyahu in 2011, and so on. It concludes with the president, at Goldberg’s prompting, insisting he “has Israel’s back,” which is a phrase you’ve read before on this blog in the context of Obama abandoning previous American assurances toward Israel.

But of the many surreal aspects of the conversation, the most grating is the president’s borderline-petulant insistence that Israel should take his security assurances on Iran seriously:

And one of the things that I like to remind them of is that every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept. I mean, part of your — not to put words in your mouth — but part of the underlying question is: Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?

Read More

Jonathan neatly summed up the reasons behind the oh come on, dude sensation one gets from reading this morning’s Jeffrey Goldberg interview with President Obama. The discussion seems to take place in a universe where this White House hasn’t made an annual spring-time tradition of launching diplomatic offensives against Israel, bragging and chortling in the media about slapping Netanyahu around in 2009, declaring in 2010 that abandoning previous understandings on Jerusalem was “paying off”, trying to sandbag and isolate Netanyahu in 2011, and so on. It concludes with the president, at Goldberg’s prompting, insisting he “has Israel’s back,” which is a phrase you’ve read before on this blog in the context of Obama abandoning previous American assurances toward Israel.

But of the many surreal aspects of the conversation, the most grating is the president’s borderline-petulant insistence that Israel should take his security assurances on Iran seriously:

And one of the things that I like to remind them of is that every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept. I mean, part of your — not to put words in your mouth — but part of the underlying question is: Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?

The somewhat nuanced, word-parsing answer to that question goes something like: it might be true the president has kept all the commitments that he specifically has made to the Israelis, of which there have been very few, but the problem is that he has abandoned wholesale the assurances made by previous administrations, undermining the faith that the Israelis (to say nothing of our other allies) have in American assurances as such.

But that’s just a reason why the Israelis don’t trust Obama’s assurances in general. There’s a much more specific reason why the Israelis can’t trust Obama’s assurances on Iran, which would stipulate that the United States will attack Iran if it hardens its nuclear program past the reach of Israel’s military. And that specific reason is that those assurances quite literally don’t exist. Via Newsweek from two weeks ago, Obama refuses to provide them:

Israeli officials say that the United States thinks it can afford to wait until Iran is on the very verge of weaponizing, because U.S. forces have the capacity to carry out multiple bombing sorties and cripple the Iranian program at that point. Israel, however, would not be able to carry out such a sustained attack and would need to hit much sooner to be effective—before Iran could shelter much of its program deep underground. One former Israeli official tells Newsweek… that Israel has asked Obama for assurances that if sanctions fail, he will use force against Iran. Obama’s refusal to provide that assurance has helped shape Israel’s posture: a refusal to promise restraint, or even to give the United States advance notice.

Thus we get the spectacle of the president of the United States complaining to one of America’s more serious journalists that a critical American ally won’t rely on assurances the president refuses to give.

Read Less

Santorum Should Do This Every Time He’s Asked About Birth Control

BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

Read More

BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.

Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.

Exactly. This is the position Santorum has maintained since the birth control issue was first raised in the race: he’s personally opposed to it, he wouldn’t use it in his own life, but he has no interest in regulating it in the lives of other people and believes birth control should remain a legal product. The media continues to try to divert attention away from economic issues by bringing up the much more sensational contraception debate, and Santorum needs to take a cue from the Newt Gingrich media relations playbook and simply refuse to engage on the subject.

On the other hand, as ridiculous as the media’s obsession with the birth control issue is, it’s hard to have a ton of sympathy for Santorum here. He’s the main reason this has become a campaign issue. If he doesn’t want the government to crack down on birth control use, then the public really never had any need to know his own personal opinions on it. Santorum was the one who shared this part of his private life by writing and speaking about it openly. Notice that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich aren’t constantly pressed about their own personal views on contraception – that’s not a coincidence. They didn’t bring it up, and Santorum did.

Read Less

Democrats Could Tip the Scales in Ohio

Mitt Romney seems to have gotten a small post-Michigan bounce in the next key primary state of Ohio, but he’s still trailing Rick Santorum by a few points in the state, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today. By all indications, the momentum of the race seems to be shifting to Romney nationally, so that gap in Ohio could close even more between now and Super Tuesday:

The Republican presidential face-off in Ohio is too close to call as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

This compares to a 36 – 29 percent Santorum lead in a February 27 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll, the day before the hotly-contested Michigan primary.

Read More

Mitt Romney seems to have gotten a small post-Michigan bounce in the next key primary state of Ohio, but he’s still trailing Rick Santorum by a few points in the state, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today. By all indications, the momentum of the race seems to be shifting to Romney nationally, so that gap in Ohio could close even more between now and Super Tuesday:

The Republican presidential face-off in Ohio is too close to call as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

This compares to a 36 – 29 percent Santorum lead in a February 27 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll, the day before the hotly-contested Michigan primary.

While attempts by Democrats to tilt the race by voting for Rick Santorum in Michigan weren’t successful, left-wing activists were still encouraged by reports that they accounted for three percent of Santorum votes.

These activists are now focusing on the Super Tuesday phase of what they’ve dubbed “Operation Hilarity,” and it’s possible this could have an impact on Ohio. Like Michigan, Ohio’s a semi-open primary state, which means you don’t have to be a registered Republican to vote. The Washington Post reports:

The blog Daily Kos, which launched Operation Hilarity to encourage Democratic crossovers in Michigan, said in a post Wednesday that it was shifting focus for Super Tuesday to North Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont.

It didn’t include the Buckeye state — maybe because the Republican National Committee put out a list that says the Ohio primary is “closed.” And we haven’t heard of any crossover effort there so far.

But we called the Ohio Republican Party and were told it was “semi-open,” which sounds a lot like the Michigan rules. “You can ask for a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot,” a worker at the party headquarters in Columbus said. The Democrats called it “semi-closed,” which sounds to us like pretty much the same thing.

On the other hand, if the point of Operation Hilarity was to boost Santorum’s chances of getting the nomination (because many Democrats believe he’s a weaker general election candidate than Romney), it may have backfired. That Santorum seems to be the left’s favorite Republican candidate is actually starting to raise questions about his electability. And while it’s still unclear how much of the Michigan Democratic crossover vote can be chalked up to Operation Hilarity – as opposed to legitimate interest in voting Republican – Santorum will be criticized if a sizeable percentage of his support comes from outside the GOP on Tuesday. Even if the majority of Democrats who vote for Santorum do it earnestly, it will still hurt his image and make him appear like a weaker candidate.

Read Less

James Q. Wilson, 1931-2012

James Q. Wilson—who was this nation’s foremost political scientist, literally the author of the definitive textbook on the workings of American government, a writer of uncommon grace and clarity, and a man who believed more than anyone I’ve ever known in the power of the human capacity to reason to change things for the better—died this morning at the age of 80.

To my mind, his greatest and most enduring book in his oeuvre is The Moral Sense, in which this very practically-minded man carefully lays out the case for the existence of the title condition as an innate condition of humankind. But his signal contribution to American life over the past 30 years lies in his work as a criminologist, and his delineation (with George Kelling) of the theory of “broken windows,” about how social disorder and crime are in large measure the result of little transgressions in behavior and against the common weal, that, ignored and unchallenged, grow into ever larger ones. The expostulation of the broken windows theory literally inaugurated the revolution in consciousness in American policing and criminal justice that led to the astounding crime drop of the 1990s—a drop that continues to this day.

Read More

James Q. Wilson—who was this nation’s foremost political scientist, literally the author of the definitive textbook on the workings of American government, a writer of uncommon grace and clarity, and a man who believed more than anyone I’ve ever known in the power of the human capacity to reason to change things for the better—died this morning at the age of 80.

To my mind, his greatest and most enduring book in his oeuvre is The Moral Sense, in which this very practically-minded man carefully lays out the case for the existence of the title condition as an innate condition of humankind. But his signal contribution to American life over the past 30 years lies in his work as a criminologist, and his delineation (with George Kelling) of the theory of “broken windows,” about how social disorder and crime are in large measure the result of little transgressions in behavior and against the common weal, that, ignored and unchallenged, grow into ever larger ones. The expostulation of the broken windows theory literally inaugurated the revolution in consciousness in American policing and criminal justice that led to the astounding crime drop of the 1990s—a drop that continues to this day.

Jim Wilson was also the author of nearly 60 articles for COMMENTARY, the first in 1966, the last in 2007. Here is a sample of the limpidity of his prose, from a 1993 piece called “What Is Moral, and How Do We Know It?”:

I am inclined to think that most people most of the time live lives of ordinary decency as they struggle to raise children, earn a living, and retain the respect of their friends. But we cannot dismiss the possibility that what many intellectuals have come to discredit some people will come to ignore. If morality is thought to be nothing but convention or artifice, then it will occur to those persons who are weakly attached to society and its rules that they are free to act as they wish provided they can get away with it. And if they would have broken the rules anyway, the relativism of our age makes it easier for them to justify their action by the claim that the rules are arbitrary enactments.

I wish to argue for an older view of human nature, one that assumes that people are naturally endowed with certain moral sentiments. We have a peculiar, fragile, but persistent disposition to make moral judgments, and we generally regard people who lack this disposition to be less than human. Despite our wars, crimes, envies, snobberies, fanaticisms, and persecutions, there is to be found a desire not only for praise but for praiseworthiness, for fair dealings as well as for good deals, for honor as well as for advantage. These desires become evident when we think disinterestedly about ourselves or others.

This article, along with every other article written by James Q. Wilson for COMMENTARY, is now free to everyone as a tribute to his decency, his soundness of mind, and his contribution to American thought at its best. His loss is irreplaceable, but his writing will live on.

 

Read Less

Obama Sending Wrong Signals to Syria

Why on earth are Obama administration officials loudly proclaiming they have no intention of taking any military action in Syria? “At this point, we do not believe that the further militarization of the situation is the best course,” senior State Department officials said Thursday. “It is not clear to us whether arming [rebel forces] would actually save lives or help topple Bashar Assad,” Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, told a Senate panel.

There is little doubt arming the rebels or taking other actions would carry some risks. But there is also a considerable risk of doing nothing and letting the civil war rage. If the administration is really worried about al-Qaeda and other extremists making inroads in Syria, then they should be doing something to end the fighting. Recall how Hezbollah arose out of Lebanon’s civil war and al-Qaeda in Iraq arose out of that country’s post-2003 turmoil. That is what we should be striving to avoid in Syria.

Read More

Why on earth are Obama administration officials loudly proclaiming they have no intention of taking any military action in Syria? “At this point, we do not believe that the further militarization of the situation is the best course,” senior State Department officials said Thursday. “It is not clear to us whether arming [rebel forces] would actually save lives or help topple Bashar Assad,” Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, told a Senate panel.

There is little doubt arming the rebels or taking other actions would carry some risks. But there is also a considerable risk of doing nothing and letting the civil war rage. If the administration is really worried about al-Qaeda and other extremists making inroads in Syria, then they should be doing something to end the fighting. Recall how Hezbollah arose out of Lebanon’s civil war and al-Qaeda in Iraq arose out of that country’s post-2003 turmoil. That is what we should be striving to avoid in Syria.

Even if the administration wants to avoid military action (as it should if at all possible), it should be talking tough so as to help along diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis and ease Bashar al-Assad out of power. Unless there are some visible sticks, a carrots-only approach is not likely to work. The president seems to have belatedly figured this out with regard to Iran, which presumably is why he is talking tougher about the mullahs’ nuclear project, telling Jeffrey Goldberg, “I don’t bluff. I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”

So why at the same time is the administration sending a signal to the Syrian regime it has nothing to worry about regarding outside intervention to end its horrific and indiscriminate violence?

 

Read Less

Goldberg Interview Can’t Disguise the Divide Between Obama and Israel

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for years of diligent cheerleading for Barack Obama with an exclusive interview that was published this morning. Goldberg asks some interesting questions as well as some that can be characterized as mere sucking up. But though there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard, the transcript of the exchange provides a summary of the Obama attempt to persuade Israel, American supporters of Israel, Iran and the rest of the world that he means business about stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Much of what the president says in this interview is exactly what he should be stating. But his credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.

Read More

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for years of diligent cheerleading for Barack Obama with an exclusive interview that was published this morning. Goldberg asks some interesting questions as well as some that can be characterized as mere sucking up. But though there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard, the transcript of the exchange provides a summary of the Obama attempt to persuade Israel, American supporters of Israel, Iran and the rest of the world that he means business about stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Much of what the president says in this interview is exactly what he should be stating. But his credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.

Obama complains, with Goldberg’s assent, that it is unfair to characterize his administration as unfriendly to Israel. But in order to buy into his assumption, you have to ignore the entire tenor and much of the substance of the U.S.-Israel relationship since January 2009. Though, as I have often written, Barack Obama has not sought to obstruct the decades-old security alliance between the two countries, he has needlessly and repeatedly quarreled with Israel’s government in such a way as to create the justified impression there is a wide gap between America and the Jewish state on a host of issues including borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem and settlements.

More to the point, despite Obama’s statements about an Iranian nuke being as much a danger to the United States and the West as it is to Israel, talk is cheap, and that is all he has ever done on the issue. That has left Israel with the impression Obama will never take action on an issue that is an existential threat to the Jewish state.

The Goldberg interview is, of course, not just one more salvo in the administration’s charm offensive to American Jewish voters. It is part of his effort to head off an Israeli strike on Iran, something he may fear far more than the ayatollahs getting their fingers on the nuclear button. For all of his lip service to the Iranian threat, Obama clearly is still more worried about Israel.

But the problem is Obama is bluffing when he talks about being willing to hit Iran. His halfhearted attempt to force Iran to its knees via sanctions is failing, and the idea that waiting until the end of the year (when, Obama hopes, he will be safely re-elected and thus free from needing to worry about Jewish voters or donors) to see if it works is just hot air. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will be in Washington to meet with Obama following his address to the AIPAC conference, knows this, and that will be focal point of their next confrontation.

Netanyahu knows Obama does not have his country’s back despite Goldberg’s cajoling this promise out of the president. But he will likely smile when he reads Obama’s answer to Goldberg’s question about the relationship between the two men. Though Obama has bragged of his close relationships with other leaders such as the Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he makes little effort to disguise his contempt for Netanyahu. He tells Goldberg he and Netanyahu are too busy to discuss anything other than policy. Obama then slips up a bit and attempts to explain their differences as being the result of belonging to “different political traditions,” as if there was some sort of natural tension between being an American Democrat and an Israeli Likudnik. This actually tells us more about Obama than anything else.

The truth is, these two “traditions” are not natural antagonists because they are the result of two entirely different political systems and histories. If Obama sees them as inherently opposed to each other it is because his conception of American liberalism sees an Israeli nationalist faction dedicated to their nation’s security as somehow antithetical to his own view. In fact, the origins of both parties are “liberal” with a small “l” in the sense that they are based on the idea of democracy and opposed to socialism. Indeed, the Likud is far closer to both American major parties because it is dedicated to free market principles the Israeli left abhors.

The divide here is not between a Democrat and a member of the Likud but between an American who is ambivalent about Israel and an Israeli who is deeply sympathetic to the United States. That is why a close reading of Goldberg’s attempt to help Obama to portray himself as Israel’s best friend only reinforces the phony nature of the president’s Jewish charm offensive.

Read Less

Will Obama Clarify His Shorthand Answers on Iran at AIPAC on Sunday?

At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”

Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.

Read More

At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”

Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.

Carney’s answer was, “Well, I think I’ve been clear that we are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Clinton’s answer was, “I think it’s absolutely clear that the president’s policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability.” Clinton then asserted that her answer – which differed not only from Carney’s response but from her own response the day before – reiterated the existing policy of the administration: “Let there be no confusion in any shorthand answer to any question. The policy remains the same.”

Someone should tell President Obama. On multiple occasions, he has articulated his policy as – to use Berman’s words – merely preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. In his 2008 AIPAC speech, Obama said “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” In his first White House press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009, Obama said he would not allow Iran to proceed with “deploying a nuclear weapon.” In the 2012 State of the Union Address, he said “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” [Emphasis added].

Israel is highly unlikely to stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons capability, much less actually obtaining, deploying, or getting a nuclear weapon. Israel’s policy reflects the fact that once nuclear weapons capability is attained, getting nuclear weapons requires only a secret political decision that may not be discovered by U.S. intelligence until after the fact. That is what happened in North Korea.

Sen. Graham and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), together with prominent senators and representatives from both parties, have introduced identical “Sense of the Senate” and “Sense of the House” resolutions, which affirm that it is “a vital national interest of the United States to prevent [Iran] from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” and reject “any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.”

On Sunday, the president speaks again to AIPAC. We will see if he endorses the Graham/Ros-Lehtinen resolutions or sticks with his prior shorthand answers.

Read Less

Obama Campaign’s Disgraceful Birth Control Fear-Mongering

At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney flags an offensively dishonest attack on opponents of the contraception insurance mandate from the Obama campaign’s website. The campaign published a fake birth control “permission slip” that would supposedly be filled out by an employee and employer. It reads:

Employer Authorization for Contraception

I have discussed the employee’s contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS/IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES/DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other types of contraception.

This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of the employee’s contraception plans.

__________________

Employer Signature

Read More

At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney flags an offensively dishonest attack on opponents of the contraception insurance mandate from the Obama campaign’s website. The campaign published a fake birth control “permission slip” that would supposedly be filled out by an employee and employer. It reads:

Employer Authorization for Contraception

I have discussed the employee’s contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS/IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES/DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other types of contraception.

This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of the employee’s contraception plans.

__________________

Employer Signature

Click over to look at the actual photo, because this needs to be seen to understand how absurd it is. Carney does a great job debunking this attack, though I won’t get into all the falsehoods in this post.

The bottom line is that this mock “permission slip” is such a fundamental distortion of the opposition to the mandate that Catholic organizations should have little faith Obama takes them or their concerns seriously. He clearly has no interest in understanding, or even pretending to understand, their religious objections to the mandate. The level of insensitivity here is astounding.

Almost as offensive is what this attack says about the Obama campaign’s views of women. Clearly, this is designed to misrepresent the opposition to the mandate in such a way that women are scared into believing their employer might personally question them about their contraception use, or bar them from accessing birth control. This would obviously be an alarming personal intrusion – if it had any grounding in reality.

In fact, it has absolutely no relation to what the Blunt amendment, or any resolution supported by the GOP candidates and Catholic organizations, are actually arguing for. There is no movement out there trying to force women to get permission from work in order to access birth control, and it’s sad the Obama campaign thinks women can be duped into thinking otherwise.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.