Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 12, 2012

IDF, Activists Expose Anti-Israel Campaign

When anti-Israel lies are spread online, a lot of times they stick around for good. Even after the false claims are wholly debunked, it’s hard to get rid of them once they’ve seeped into the Twitter bloodstream.

But the Israeli Defense Force public relations office has improved its response efforts, and today it was able to push back fairly effectively against three disgraceful smears spread by anti-Israel activists and Palestinian officials about the current IDF operation in Gaza.

Read More

When anti-Israel lies are spread online, a lot of times they stick around for good. Even after the false claims are wholly debunked, it’s hard to get rid of them once they’ve seeped into the Twitter bloodstream.

But the Israeli Defense Force public relations office has improved its response efforts, and today it was able to push back fairly effectively against three disgraceful smears spread by anti-Israel activists and Palestinian officials about the current IDF operation in Gaza.

The first was a photo posted on Twitter by anti-Israel activist Khulood Badawi, which she claimed showed a young girl who had been injured in Israeli air strikes over the weekend. It was subsequently spread around Twitter by hundreds of other users.

But in fact, as Avi Mayer pointed out, and the IDF blog explained, the photo was actually taken by Reuters in 2009, and had nothing to do with an Israeli air strike. The injured girl in the photo had reportedly fallen off a swing.

Anti-Israel activists also claimed that a second photo, showing a large aerial strike in Gaza, was taken yesterday. As the IDF blog points out, that turned out to be another old photo from 2009.

The third allegation – which has been reported as a fact by major news organizations – is that an Israeli strike killed a 15-year-old Palestinian school boy yesterday. The Israeli government denied that it conducted air raids at that location during the time the teenager was killed, and an AFP correspondent on the scene confirmed no sign of an aerial attack (via Avi Mayer):

The Israeli army on Monday denied it had carried out an air strike on northern Gaza which killed a teenager, with an AFP correspondent confirming there was no sign of an air raid. …

According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, there were no signs of any impact on the ground which could have been caused by a missile, with the most likely cause of his death being some kind of explosive device he was carrying.

The victim lost his legs in the blast and his body was covered with shrapnel wounds, he said.

While the record seems to have been corrected for the most part, some media outlets like MSNBC are continuing to report that the teenager was killed by an Israeli air strike.

Read Less

“Anti-Israel” the Same as “Israel-Firster?”

JTA editor Ami Eden draws our attention today to the fact that M.J. Rosenberg has waved the white flag on his penchant for labeling supporters of Israel as “Israel-firsters.” That term is redolent of anti-Semitic stereotypes that seek to smear Jews with the charge of dual loyalty. On his Media Matters blog, Rosenberg writes he won’t use the term any more, but writing in his characteristically obnoxious and abusive manner, Rosenberg doesn’t admit that what he had done was wrong but merely discards it now as a “distraction” from his great work of preventing a war with Iran. That is, I suppose, some sort of progress. With Rosenberg, style long ago became substance as his impotent rage at the fact that his views have been rejected by Israel’s voters and the vast majority of American Jews, bubbled over in abusive language aimed at anyone who disagreed with him. “Israel-firster” was just the tip of the iceberg for Rosenberg, whose writing and tweeting has become an object lesson in the myth that liberals or leftists believe in civil discourse.

However, Eden takes Rosenberg’s concession as an opportunity to play the moral equivalence game with those who have criticized the Media Matters staffer. He pivots the discussion into one about the way the term “anti-Israel” has been applied to critics of Israel’s government and asks whether right-wingers will give up that practice now that Rosenberg has taken the pledge. But the problem with this argument put forward by my old friend and colleague is that there is a big difference between the two charges.

Read More

JTA editor Ami Eden draws our attention today to the fact that M.J. Rosenberg has waved the white flag on his penchant for labeling supporters of Israel as “Israel-firsters.” That term is redolent of anti-Semitic stereotypes that seek to smear Jews with the charge of dual loyalty. On his Media Matters blog, Rosenberg writes he won’t use the term any more, but writing in his characteristically obnoxious and abusive manner, Rosenberg doesn’t admit that what he had done was wrong but merely discards it now as a “distraction” from his great work of preventing a war with Iran. That is, I suppose, some sort of progress. With Rosenberg, style long ago became substance as his impotent rage at the fact that his views have been rejected by Israel’s voters and the vast majority of American Jews, bubbled over in abusive language aimed at anyone who disagreed with him. “Israel-firster” was just the tip of the iceberg for Rosenberg, whose writing and tweeting has become an object lesson in the myth that liberals or leftists believe in civil discourse.

However, Eden takes Rosenberg’s concession as an opportunity to play the moral equivalence game with those who have criticized the Media Matters staffer. He pivots the discussion into one about the way the term “anti-Israel” has been applied to critics of Israel’s government and asks whether right-wingers will give up that practice now that Rosenberg has taken the pledge. But the problem with this argument put forward by my old friend and colleague is that there is a big difference between the two charges.

Calling someone “anti-Israel” is wrong if the persons at whom it is aimed are in fact merely supporters of Israel who are critics of its current government. But it is more than apt when applied to those who actually are foes of Israel, such as those who are either neutral about or supporters of the movement to boycott, divest and sanction the Jewish state.

But contrary to Eden’s formulation, it is not just the right that plays the “anti-Israel” game. In recent years, people like Rosenberg and others on the left have taken to labeling those who support the settlement movement or even those who regard the issue as superseded by security concerns as “anti-Israel” because they think the “occupation” is a threat to the country’s future. Eden is right when he lambasts those who seek to view anyone who dissents from a particular position on Israeli politics as foes of the state though nowadays that’s a sin that left-wingers are as likely to commit as their foes. However, he goes too far when he claims the term “anti-Israel” has led “to as much bullying and violence, probably even more, than the use of terms like ‘Israel-firster’ (see the Yitzhak Rabin assassination and the failed assassination plot against Shimon Peres, death threats and attacks against left-wing activists, and efforts to blackball some liberal groups from communal settings).”

Bringing up the Rabin assassination in conjunction with an argument about whether American Jews are sufficiently supportive of Israel is nothing but a red herring. It has long been used in Israel as unfair tactic intended to smear anyone who opposed or raised questions about the Oslo Accords as having somehow been connected to an extremist unconnected with any real political movement. It has no bearing on this discussion and dragging it into this dispute does nothing but to further muddy the waters. Moreover, the idea that liberal American Jewish critics of Israel are living in fear seems the stuff of satire more than anything else. If there is anything that we have learned in the last 30 years as Israel-bashing has become one of the mainstream media’s favorite sports it is that it takes little courage to run with the pack of abusers of the Jewish state.

As for the charge of “bullying,” it is more than a little out of place when discussing a vigorous public debate about the future of Israel. Civility and good manners are always to be encouraged, but as M.J. Rosenberg and others of his ilk on the far left has showed us the idea that the right has a monopoly on bad behavior is a joke.

Let’s also remember that while “anti-Israel” is sometimes used promiscuously and incorrectly, there are a lot of people out there who really are “anti-Israel” and many, if not most of them, are on the left. Even worse, when Jewish newspapers like the Forward honor those who call for economic war to be waged on Israel with flattering profiles, editors should not be surprised when some observers begin to question their motives.

It is also a mistake to minimize the damage the term “Israel-firster” can cause. To call the pro-Israel community “Israel-firsters,” as Rosenberg repeatedly did, is an attempt to delegitimize more than just his ideological foes. It’s a canard intended to silence all Jews. Using it is an implicit endorsement of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theory that is thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Those who do so cross a line that no supporter of Israel or Jew should cross. The fact that Rosenberg has begrudgingly and belatedly given it up does little to restore his credibility.

Read Less

Republicans, Obama and the Muslim Myth

A new survey by PPP (Public Policy Polling) finds that Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe, by large margins, that President Obama is a Muslim. PPP asked Republicans in both states, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?”

In Alabama, a near-majority (45 percent) said “Muslim,” while 41 percent said “unsure.” Only 14 percent said Obama is a Christian.

In Mississippi, a majority (52 percent) said the president was Muslim, while 36 percent said they are unsure and only 12 percent said Obama was a Christian.

Republicans in these states hold these views despite Obama’s own public profession of Christian faith and the fact that there’s no credible evidence that he’s a Muslim. And yet this belief persists. Why?

It’s impossible to know without doing more research and in-depth interviews. But my hunch is that there are several factors at play.

Read More

A new survey by PPP (Public Policy Polling) finds that Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe, by large margins, that President Obama is a Muslim. PPP asked Republicans in both states, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?”

In Alabama, a near-majority (45 percent) said “Muslim,” while 41 percent said “unsure.” Only 14 percent said Obama is a Christian.

In Mississippi, a majority (52 percent) said the president was Muslim, while 36 percent said they are unsure and only 12 percent said Obama was a Christian.

Republicans in these states hold these views despite Obama’s own public profession of Christian faith and the fact that there’s no credible evidence that he’s a Muslim. And yet this belief persists. Why?

It’s impossible to know without doing more research and in-depth interviews. But my hunch is that there are several factors at play.

One of them is the belief of some Republicans that because Obama is a political liberal, he cannot be a Christian. I strongly dissent from this view, but there are those who believe the only “good” Christian is a conservative one; that faith in Jesus translates into a high score from the American Conservative Union. Another reason undoubtedly has to do with Obama’s family history (his father and step-father were Muslim) and his middle name. A third reason may have to do with the durability of Internet conspiracies. We live in an age in which people can find sources of support for virtually any view they hold, including elaborate conspiracy theories. And of course one cannot discount simple ignorance as a factor.

But there’s something deeper and more disturbing going on, I think. We live in a political culture that is so polarized that for some people, the worst thing that is said about one’s political opponent is assumed to be true. Being a Muslim shouldn’t automatically disqualify a person from being a president, of course; but for many people who (absurdly) assume that being a person of the Muslim faith and being a jihadist are interchangeable, it is.

Like the birth certificate issue, the claim that Obama is a Muslim [read: terrorist sympathizer] is a pernicious effort by some to discredit and disqualify him. It focuses on make-believe charges at the expense of real policy disagreements. But in some respects it’s even worse than the birth certificate issue, because it attempts to divide us on explicitly religious grounds, something that America at its best has always avoided.

I served a president who was at the center of crazy left-wing conspiracies. Ben Smith, then of Politico, reported: “More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks.” They asserted this not because there was a shred of evidence to support it but because they wanted to believe the worst they could about a president they had come to hate.

Those on the right shouldn’t replicate a similar tactic when it comes to President Obama. The GOP presidential candidates, if and when they’re asked about it, should do everything they reasonably can to discredit this belief which is, in some places at least, widespread. There are right ways and wrong ways to win elections – and Obama should not lose this election, or even a single vote, based on the false claim that he’s a Muslim.

 

Read Less

Obama’s Energy Promises Ring Hollow

President Obama isn’t the only one whose poll numbers seem to be sinking lately. A new Rasmussen poll found that Democrats in Congress are also losing ground to the GOP on the Generic Congressional Ballot:

Republicans hold a six-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, March 11.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44 percent of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for the Republican in their district’s congressional race if the election were held today, while 38 percent would choose the Democrat instead. Last week, the Republican led by three points, 44 percent to 41 percent.

Read More

President Obama isn’t the only one whose poll numbers seem to be sinking lately. A new Rasmussen poll found that Democrats in Congress are also losing ground to the GOP on the Generic Congressional Ballot:

Republicans hold a six-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, March 11.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44 percent of Likely U.S. Voters would vote for the Republican in their district’s congressional race if the election were held today, while 38 percent would choose the Democrat instead. Last week, the Republican led by three points, 44 percent to 41 percent.

It’s not clear whether the shift has anything to do with rising gas prices – which appears to be a reason behind Obama’s dip in the polls – but it sounds like the White House is pretty nervous that it is. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pushed back on criticism of Obama’s energy policy at a White House briefing this afternoon:

Salazar insisted that Obama is reviewing short- and long-term actions to lower gas prices, while also noting that there are no quick fixes to the problem.

“All options are on the table because the president obviously feels the pain that the American people are facing,” Salazar said when asked if the administration would tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a 696-million barrel emergency oil stockpile.

But based on Obama’s own comments today, he’s only interested in dragging out the same recycled energy rhetoric he’s been pushing since he took office: America needs to reduce its oil dependency and pursue clean energy alternatives. Here’s part of Obama’s statement, via CNN:

“Our focus on increased domestic oil and gas production, currently at an eight-year high, combined with the historic fuel economy standards we put in place, means that we will continue to reduce our nation’s vulnerability to the ups and downs of the global oil market. We’ve also made progress in the expansion of clean energy, with renewable energy from sources like wind and solar on track to double, along with the construction of our first advanced biofuel refineries. And yet, despite the gains we’ve made, today’s high gas prices are a painful reminder that there’s much more work to do free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil and take control of our energy future. And that’s exactly what our administration is committed to doing in the months ahead.”

This has been a regular mantra from the administration since 2009, but Obama has yet to follow through on it.

Obama in a 2009 speech: “Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there’s a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.”

Obama after the BP oil spill in 2010: “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” And yet the can was only kicked further down the road.

And remember, it was just last March when the president made his big, much-celebrated energy address. “[W]e cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again,” he proclaimed.

So when Obama says we need to “free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil,” and promises this is something that “our administration is committed to doing in the months ahead,” it’s hardly surprising if the American people don’t take him seriously. If this were something the administration was capable of doing in a matter of months, they would have done it the first time Obama promised it. Instead, this sounds more like empty talk to placate the public until gas prices drop again.

Read Less

A Lot on the Line in Southern Primary Tossups for Santorum

After consecutive weeks of coping with do-or-die primaries in Michigan and Ohio, it is fair to say the pressure’s off Mitt Romney this week. While his candidacy would receive a major boost from victories in either Mississippi or Alabama, he’s not under the same pressure to win there. With evangelicals predominating in both of these southern states, the assumption is either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum ought to be the favorite. Yet with both challengers competing hard to win there, the frontrunner may have as good a chance as any of them.

But the outcome in Mississippi and Alabama will have major implications for both Santorum and Gingrich. Santorum has spent the last month playing the role of the principal “not Romney” in the GOP race. But wins in these states by anybody but him will undermine that claim, perhaps fatally. Anything that burnishes Gingrich’s assertion that he is the true conservative hope will play into Romney’s hands, because it will mean that a divided field won’t be winnowed down to Santorum’s desired one-on-one matchup with the former Massachusetts governor. If Santorum is to be the conservative standard bearer in the fight for the Republican nomination, he’s got to beat both Gingrich and Romney in the South.

Read More

After consecutive weeks of coping with do-or-die primaries in Michigan and Ohio, it is fair to say the pressure’s off Mitt Romney this week. While his candidacy would receive a major boost from victories in either Mississippi or Alabama, he’s not under the same pressure to win there. With evangelicals predominating in both of these southern states, the assumption is either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum ought to be the favorite. Yet with both challengers competing hard to win there, the frontrunner may have as good a chance as any of them.

But the outcome in Mississippi and Alabama will have major implications for both Santorum and Gingrich. Santorum has spent the last month playing the role of the principal “not Romney” in the GOP race. But wins in these states by anybody but him will undermine that claim, perhaps fatally. Anything that burnishes Gingrich’s assertion that he is the true conservative hope will play into Romney’s hands, because it will mean that a divided field won’t be winnowed down to Santorum’s desired one-on-one matchup with the former Massachusetts governor. If Santorum is to be the conservative standard bearer in the fight for the Republican nomination, he’s got to beat both Gingrich and Romney in the South.

The latest polls from the two states from Public Policy Polling show both states to be a virtual three-way tossup. But the bad news for Santorum is he seems to be in third place in both–trailing Gingrich by six percentage points in Mississippi and Romney by two points in Alabama. While he can look forward to another strong performance this weekend in Missouri, third place finishes, no matter what the margin might be, will be a blow to a campaign that has little margin for error.

Romney has much to gain and little to lose in the Deep South. Gingrich, a candidate with little real hope for the nomination, just seems to want a victory or two in order to justify continuing his ego-driven campaign. But Santorum, whose victories and close losses in major states has persuaded his backers he has a real chance, needs wins badly. If somehow he can prevail in both on the strength of his powerful appeal to evangelicals and other social conservatives, the pressure will grow on Gingrich to withdraw. Failing that, the argument that he presents a credible rather than a symbolic challenge to Romney will lose strength.

All of this means that for the first time in this race, Santorum is the one with the pressure on him. By Wednesday, Santorum’s pretensions to genuine contention will be either exposed or bolstered.

Read Less

Holder Makes the U.S. Less Safe

Eric Holder oversees the most politicized Department of Justice in American history. Every attorney general chooses his or her battles. Holder’s legacy—beyond the Fast and Furious gun running boondoggle—will be an obsession with race. Jonathan Tobin is right to label Holder’s latest move a war against voter integrity.

As important as what Holder does is what he chooses not to do, however: Whether the Obama administration likes it or not, the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism or, if Obama and Holder prefer, a war against man-made disasters.

Read More

Eric Holder oversees the most politicized Department of Justice in American history. Every attorney general chooses his or her battles. Holder’s legacy—beyond the Fast and Furious gun running boondoggle—will be an obsession with race. Jonathan Tobin is right to label Holder’s latest move a war against voter integrity.

As important as what Holder does is what he chooses not to do, however: Whether the Obama administration likes it or not, the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism or, if Obama and Holder prefer, a war against man-made disasters.

In July 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism red-flagged the lack of trained American linguistics in languages important to U.S. national security. “All U.S. government agencies face a drastic shortage of linguists to translate raw data into useful information. This shortage has a direct impact on counterterrorism efforts,” the Commission reported. In 2004, despite the 9/11 shock which underlined the Commission’s findings, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report detailing how “The FBI’s electronic surveillance collection in languages primarily related to counterterrorism activities (i.e., Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashto) has increased by 45 percent, when comparing total collection in Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 to total collection in FY 2001. Text collection in these languages has increased 566 percent….” Just because material was collected, however, did not mean that the Justice Department had the capacity to listen to it or translate it: “Since September 11, 2001, more than 119,000 hours of … counterterrorism languages have not been reviewed. Additionally, over 370,000 hours of audio in languages associated with counterintelligence activities have not been reviewed…,” the report found.

In 2009, the Office of the Inspector General issued a follow-up report. The news was not good: Between FY 2006 and 2008, it found “the FBI did not review 14.2 million (31 percent) of the 46 million electronic files it collected….” The report continued, “For counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations between FYs 2003 and 2008 and for criminal investigations between FYs 2005 and 2008, we found that the FBI did not review 1.2 million hours (25 percent) of the 4.8 million audio hours it collected.”

Granted, that deficit occurred during the Bush administration, and so the Bush administration bears blame for the deficit which accrued during its time. But Obama asserted throughout his campaign that Bush had mishandled U.S. security, and that he could do a better job. He appointed Holder to be his point man.

And the results? Alas, Holder’s Justice Department has yet to audit—or at least report—its linguistic and monitoring deficit. Civil libertarians and the press can debate until they are blue in the face what American officials should monitor and how extensive surveillance can be with or without a warrant. However, unless Holder’s Justice Department actually listens to what it records, the only certainty is that the United States is less safe than it should be.

Read Less

A GOP War on Voting? More Like an Administration War on Voter Integrity

To no one’s surprise, the Department of Justice has formally blocked the state of Texas from enforcing its law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ claims the law will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanics, which allows the federal government to spike the measure before it can be put into effect. The argument is that because Hispanics are 46.5 to 120 percent (depending on which statistics you believe) less likely to have a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID, the law is inherently discriminatory. That sounds pretty bad, but once you read what those numbers actually mean, the argument is not quite as clear cut.

Many of the liberal claims that the push for voter ID laws constitutes a GOP “war on voting” seem to be based on the assumption that the lack of photo ID is quite common. Yet even in Texas, the DOJ acknowledges that 93.7 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to 95.7 percent of non-Hispanics. That is a not-inconsiderable number, but it is difficult to pretend this amounts to disenfranchising Hispanics or any other sector of the population. Yet rather than seek to aid the state’s offer of a free ID to anyone who wants one, the Obama administration prefers to use its power under the Civil Rights Act to prevent the passage of what is merely a common-sense measure to prevent voter fraud. In doing so, it appears they are not so much defending the disadvantaged but seeking to play politics on a good government measure. The fact that they are not also claiming discrimination against African-Americans raises other questions about both the numbers and the situation on the ground in Texas.

Read More

To no one’s surprise, the Department of Justice has formally blocked the state of Texas from enforcing its law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ claims the law will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanics, which allows the federal government to spike the measure before it can be put into effect. The argument is that because Hispanics are 46.5 to 120 percent (depending on which statistics you believe) less likely to have a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID, the law is inherently discriminatory. That sounds pretty bad, but once you read what those numbers actually mean, the argument is not quite as clear cut.

Many of the liberal claims that the push for voter ID laws constitutes a GOP “war on voting” seem to be based on the assumption that the lack of photo ID is quite common. Yet even in Texas, the DOJ acknowledges that 93.7 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to 95.7 percent of non-Hispanics. That is a not-inconsiderable number, but it is difficult to pretend this amounts to disenfranchising Hispanics or any other sector of the population. Yet rather than seek to aid the state’s offer of a free ID to anyone who wants one, the Obama administration prefers to use its power under the Civil Rights Act to prevent the passage of what is merely a common-sense measure to prevent voter fraud. In doing so, it appears they are not so much defending the disadvantaged but seeking to play politics on a good government measure. The fact that they are not also claiming discrimination against African-Americans raises other questions about both the numbers and the situation on the ground in Texas.

It bears repeating that in an era in which there are few things that one can legally do in this country without a photo ID, asking citizens to credibly identify themselves before voting is hardly unreasonable. Doing so is no more discriminatory than the refusal of the government to allow someone to board an airplane without similar identification. Americans are obsessed (with good reason) with the problem of identity theft. Despite the liberal assertion that election stealing is unheard of in this country (something they weren’t saying in November 2000 when false charges of stealing votes in Florida and other states were being broadcast by liberals), American political parties have a long and dishonorable tradition of voting the graveyards. It is naïve to assume that such practices would not reappear if safeguards were not put in place.

The charge that those who propose such laws ought to be assumed to be seeking to prevent minorities from voting without any proof of motive or intent is inherently unreasonable. Indeed, it is no more fair to claim that advocates of voter ID laws want to prevent people from voting than it is to assume that those who wish to block those laws from being enforced are really seeking to facilitate voter fraud. However, the zeal with which the administration and the Democrats have taken up this cause does make one wonder.

As for the claims of discrimination in Texas, it is significant that, as even the New York Times noticed, the Department of Justice made no mention of a discriminatory impact of the voter ID law on African-Americans. Can it be there is no such impact or that they only seized on the numbers about the Hispanics because they could be portrayed as having a worse impact on minorities or the poor? Their willingness to only make an issue of Hispanic voters raises the possibility that perhaps there are other issues at play among Hispanics, and perhaps the slightly higher number without proper ID may have something to do with the issue of undocumented aliens.

Meanwhile, other states are not being deterred from making similar efforts. The Pennsylvania legislature is set to vote on a voter ID law this week. However, unlike Texas and South Carolina, whose voter ID law was also halted by the Justice Department, Pennsylvania is not covered by the provisions of the Civil Rights Law, meaning that Obama will not be able to prevent that state from acting to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

Read Less

Team Obama’s Negative Ads Against Palin

The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

Read More

The Obama campaign wishes so badly it could run against a divisive national figure like Sarah Palin that it’s decided to just pretend it actually is. Here’s Obama’s latest ad, which attacks Palin for calling him a radical (via HotAir):

The strategy of attacking Palin – who is still influential with the conservative base but increasingly marginal in the Republican Party – could be chalked up to Obama’s nostalgia for the 2008 campaign. But it also seems remarkably similar to a communications strategy the White House orchestrated back in 2009, when it tried to elevate another polarizing figure, Rush Limbaugh, to the position of “de facto” Republican leader, thus forcing congressional Republicans to respond to his inflammatory comments. Politico reported on the White House’s internal plan at the time:

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s. …

The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh’s name in a survey and found that many Americans just don’t like him.

“His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent,” Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.

Then came what Begala called “the tripwire.”

“I hope he fails,” Limbaugh said of Obama on his show four days before the president was sworn in. It was a time when Obama’s approval ratings were soaring, but more than that, polls showed even people who didn’t vote for him badly wanted him to succeed, coming to office at a time of economic meltdown.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the first to jump on the statement, sending the video to its membership to raise cash and stir a petition drive.

Come to think of it, this seems to bear a close resemblance to how the White House and Democrats manufactured the whole Susan Fluke/Rush Limbaugh controversy duringthe past few weeks. The strategy goes something like this:

1.)   Obama personally responds to inflammatory comments from a loose-cannon conservative figure, in an attempt to raise this person’s standing to the level of a serious Republican leader.

2.)   The media reports on the “controversy.”

3.)   Right-wing bloggers and Fox News pundits defend the loose-cannon conservative.

4.)  Democrats call on Republican candidates to repudiate the comments.

5.)   The media asks Republican candidates whether they agree with the polarizing conservative’s comments, which sets up a lose-lose scenario. If the candidate criticizes the comments too forcefully, he risks alienating the Fox News demographic. If the GOP candidate criticizes the comments too gently, Democrats slam him for pandering.

Maybe the anti-Sarah Palin campaign video really is just a sign the Obama team is in completely desperate straits and simply has nothing else to run on or against. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats start trying to emphasize Palin’s influence in the Republican Party, and call on Romney, Santorum, et al, to condemn her comments in the coming weeks.

Read Less

NYT: No Nukes Are Good Nukes

The New York Times editorializes today (in a piece actually labeled “Editorial,” I should note) that the United States has too many nukes, because the Cold War is over. I have no objection to the Times voicing its support for reducing our supply of Things That Go Boom–the Times’s predictability is oddly comforting–but I have a couple of questions about their reasoning. Here is the Times:

For strategic and budgetary reasons, [Obama and his nuclear experts] need to further reduce the number of deployed weapons and the number kept in reserve. If this country can wean itself from its own dependence, it will be safer and will have more credibility in its efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.

That is the argument: We must not be dependent on our own nuclear weapons. But the rest of the editorial doesn’t seem to back this up. It argues we will be safer with fewer tactical nukes because it will reduce the chance of an unplanned exchange of weapons we never intend to use anyway. But it doesn’t explain why our dependence on our own weapons is a problem. This is the type of phrasing commonly used to suggest one of two things: either that reducing our own dependence makes us more likely to strike a conciliatory tone with our enemies, or that we would be more likely to depend on others. The editorialists do not tell us on which other country’s nukes we should rely, rather than our own. And the other countries mentioned in the editorial–Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China–have all adopted tougher lines when we have sought that conciliatory tone.

Read More

The New York Times editorializes today (in a piece actually labeled “Editorial,” I should note) that the United States has too many nukes, because the Cold War is over. I have no objection to the Times voicing its support for reducing our supply of Things That Go Boom–the Times’s predictability is oddly comforting–but I have a couple of questions about their reasoning. Here is the Times:

For strategic and budgetary reasons, [Obama and his nuclear experts] need to further reduce the number of deployed weapons and the number kept in reserve. If this country can wean itself from its own dependence, it will be safer and will have more credibility in its efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.

That is the argument: We must not be dependent on our own nuclear weapons. But the rest of the editorial doesn’t seem to back this up. It argues we will be safer with fewer tactical nukes because it will reduce the chance of an unplanned exchange of weapons we never intend to use anyway. But it doesn’t explain why our dependence on our own weapons is a problem. This is the type of phrasing commonly used to suggest one of two things: either that reducing our own dependence makes us more likely to strike a conciliatory tone with our enemies, or that we would be more likely to depend on others. The editorialists do not tell us on which other country’s nukes we should rely, rather than our own. And the other countries mentioned in the editorial–Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China–have all adopted tougher lines when we have sought that conciliatory tone.

Which brings me to the other problem with the editorial. “Many experts believe the United States can easily go down to 1,000 warheads in total — deployed and stored — without jeopardizing security. We agree,” write the editors. That may well be true, but the Times’s logic claimed we would gain credibility with others if we cut our nuclear supply. Let’s say we cut it to 1,000–a number the Times indicates it will be satisfied with for at least five minutes before it hectors the administration to cut more. What will such credibility get us? Let me put it this way: Why wouldn’t the reaction of Iran, North Korea, and China (Russia has more than 1,000, so they’re exempted from this hypothetical) decide that 1,000 is a great target, and that they shouldn’t have to stop producing nukes until they, too, hit that number?

The evidence seems to support my pessimism on this. After all, if reducing our nuclear stockpile would convince other countries to reduce theirs (or at least stop expanding), why, as the Times admits, has China continued expanding its nuclear weapons program after we have already agreed to reduce our count more than once?

Furthermore, is it really true that, as the Times claims, China is “the only major power expanding its arsenal”? I suppose we can argue about what constitutes a “major power,” but it seems North Korea may have still been conducting nuclear tests in 2010, and they may have been on behalf of Iran (evidence suggests the West thinks one was probably for Iran and one was probably their own, which would make the most sense).

The IAEA–not exactly Iran’s biggest or most determined critic–now admits Iran is probably building a nuclear weapons program, surprising no one. That sure sounds like an expansion. Why wasn’t Iran convinced by our New START treaty with Russia?

The fact remains that the Times is either offering us unsubstantiated theories (dependence on our own capabilities is bad) or already disproved assertions (our agreement to reduce our stockpile encourages others to do the same). What the Times wants is for us to reduce our supply no matter what other countries do. That’s fine–they’re certainly free to keep saying so. But the more they try to justify their plans, the weaker their arguments sound.

Read Less

Revisiting the Failed Gaza Experiment

This past weekend, southern Israel was hit by more than 200 rockets flying over the border from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Dozens of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system but most got through with some casualties and damage. The lives of more than a million Israelis living in the southern part of the country were disrupted by the assault. Schools were closed as the population was urged to take shelter until the latest crisis passed.

To the extent the world is paying much attention to this (it was overshadowed by the story of the American soldier who murdered Afghan civilians) it has been in the form of the usual “cycle of violence” stories that depict the situation as one in which both Israel and the Palestinians are seen as being at fault. As is generally the case, the focus quickly shifts to efforts to reinstate a cease-fire, with Secretary of State Clinton condemning the missile fire while also calling for both sides to show “restraint.” But the real issue here is not who started it or how well the Iron Dome system is working. It is the way Israel must learn to live with an independent Palestinian state in Gaza in all but name that is run by terrorists. Those who continue to demand Israel withdraw completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem, as they did from Gaza in 2005, need to understand the lessons of that failed experiment will not be forgotten.

Read More

This past weekend, southern Israel was hit by more than 200 rockets flying over the border from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Dozens of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system but most got through with some casualties and damage. The lives of more than a million Israelis living in the southern part of the country were disrupted by the assault. Schools were closed as the population was urged to take shelter until the latest crisis passed.

To the extent the world is paying much attention to this (it was overshadowed by the story of the American soldier who murdered Afghan civilians) it has been in the form of the usual “cycle of violence” stories that depict the situation as one in which both Israel and the Palestinians are seen as being at fault. As is generally the case, the focus quickly shifts to efforts to reinstate a cease-fire, with Secretary of State Clinton condemning the missile fire while also calling for both sides to show “restraint.” But the real issue here is not who started it or how well the Iron Dome system is working. It is the way Israel must learn to live with an independent Palestinian state in Gaza in all but name that is run by terrorists. Those who continue to demand Israel withdraw completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem, as they did from Gaza in 2005, need to understand the lessons of that failed experiment will not be forgotten.

This latest dustup along the border started when the Israeli Defense Forces acted to foil an impending terror attack being launched by one of the dissident Islamic groups that operate in Gaza with Hamas’s permission. The Popular Resistance Committees’ leader and several of his terrorist cadres were killed by Israeli action. The Palestinians responded with a massive missile barrage in response to the Israeli “aggression.” But as Israelis who live in the region know, missile fire from Gaza is hardly an unusual occurrence. Since the cease-fire agreed to by Hamas and Israel in January 2009, more than 1,200 rockets have been fired from Gaza, including 100 in just the last month prior to this weekend’s fighting.

The missiles are a fact of life in southern Israel, and though the country has learned to live with this threat, it has taken a toll on the people who live there that is often ignored abroad as well as by some who live in the central part of the country not currently under fire. If anything, the improved missile defense has lessened some of the pressure on the Israeli government to consider a repeat of the December 2008 Operation Cast Lead in which the IDF conducted a counter-offensive designed to silence the intolerable attacks on the country.

But few in Israel are oblivious to the meaning of this standoff. By its withdrawal of every settlement, soldier and Jew from Gaza in 2005, Israel set the stage for the creation of a terrorist state there that has given an indifferent world a foretaste of what Palestinian independence looks like. The assumption then, reinforced by the presence of the legendarily tough Ariel Sharon in the prime minister’s office, was that any cross-border attacks would be met with such force as to make them unlikely. However, the terrorist government of the strip has launched terrorist attacks on Israel with relative impunity and counts on the international community’s outrage to force Israel to always respond to these provocations with the “restraint” that Secretary Clinton desires. It is far from clear the stricken Sharon would have been any more capable of reversing this situation than his successors Ehud Olmert or Benjamin Netanyahu.

While few in Israel seek a permanent return to Gaza as they have no interest in ruling over Palestinians there, possible negotiations with the Palestinian Authority about withdrawal from the West Bank are necessarily informed by this example. Should the West Bank become as much of a no-go zone for the IDF as Gaza is, the likelihood of its long border with central Israel turning into another battleground is a nightmare for Israelis. With Hamas now planning on joining Fatah in the government of the West Bank, it takes little imagination to understand what a sovereign Palestinian state there would mean for Israel’s security. Rather than rockets flying over just the southern portion of the country, Hamas would acquire the ability to terrorize the whole of Israel as well as to interdict flights out of its international airport. No missile defense system could possibly protect the nation under those circumstances.

The vast majority of Israelis, including the majority of the members of its right-of-center government, have embraced a two-state solution as the answer to the conflict. Were the PA to return to the negotiating table, they would find most Israelis willing to talk about such an outcome. But the missiles flying out of Gaza provide us with a vision of what an independent Palestinian state actually looks like. So long as the Palestinian sovereignty is expressed in this manner, there is little chance Israel will be so foolish as to repeat the failed experiment in Gaza.

Read Less

Are Women Really Ditching the GOP?

Are Republicans losing female supporters because of the Democratic Party’s incessant attempts to smear them as anti-women? Polls say no, but when do liberals ever let statistics get in the way of a good narrative? The truth vigilantes at the New York Times put seven reporters across the country on the case, and, after “dozens of interviews in recent weeks,” managed to track down five female Republicans and one independent who displayed varying degrees of disappointment at the GOP candidates’ recent comments on social issues. The result was this headline: “Centrist Women Tell of Disenchantment with Republicans.”

The Times reports:

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all.

Read More

Are Republicans losing female supporters because of the Democratic Party’s incessant attempts to smear them as anti-women? Polls say no, but when do liberals ever let statistics get in the way of a good narrative? The truth vigilantes at the New York Times put seven reporters across the country on the case, and, after “dozens of interviews in recent weeks,” managed to track down five female Republicans and one independent who displayed varying degrees of disappointment at the GOP candidates’ recent comments on social issues. The result was this headline: “Centrist Women Tell of Disenchantment with Republicans.”

The Times reports:

In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.

And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all.

The Times is careful to note that “[to] what extent women feel alienated remains unclear: most interviews for this article were conducted from a randomly generated list of voters who had been surveyed in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, and their responses are anecdotal, not conclusive.”

Fortunately, there have been actual polls conducted on whether women have become disenchanted with the Republican candidates. Today’s Washington Post/ABC poll found “no measurable effect at this point” showing that women are moving toward the Democratic Party. In fact, President Obama actually appears to have lost ground with women in a general election matchup against Mitt Romney:

Compared with last month, disapproval of Obama’s job performance is up slightly among men, and there’s no increase in approval among women. And on vote preference vs. Romney, Obama did better among men and women alike last month, and has lost ground slightly among both sexes this month. In the latest results Romney has a 12-point lead among men who are registered voters; among women, it’s Obama +6.

So the only evidence that Republicans have lost support among women at this point is in a few cherry-picked anecdotes from the New York Times.

Read Less

The Afghan Massacre and the U.S. Mission

The actions of a U.S. army staff sergeant who went door-to-door in a village in the district of Panjwai outside Kandahar, killing nine children and seven adults, are heinous, horrific, and inexplicable–as many expressions of pure evil often are. If the facts are as reported, he will no doubt be dealt with by the efficient U.S. military justice system; he will be lucky to avoid the death penalty. It is hard to say anything else about this terrible event with any certainty. It is likely to impair the U.S. mission in Afghanistan–and will certainly make it harder to win the trust of the villagers whose friends and neighbors were just massacred–but how much damage it will do remains unclear. So far, the expression of outrage in Afghanistan has been muted–more so than after the Koran burnings. It should count for something that the sergeant’s actions were in no way sanctioned by the high command; in fact it was a U.S. unit that captured him and American prosecutors and judges who will bring him to justice. Even Seymour Hersh will have a hard time depicting these abhorrent acts as expressions of official American policy.

It would be a tragedy if some of the collateral damage from this rampage were to fall on the Village Stability Platform of which the sergeant was a part. This is a program run by the Special Forces, with help from some conventional soldiers (such as the sergeant), to stand up an auxiliary security force known as the Afghan Local Police in various locations around Afghanistan where there is not a major presence of U.S. troops. I have visited a couple of these sites duringthe past couple of years and have found them making real progress though also facing real challenges, primarily having to do with the need to understand local dynamics and not inadvertently empower the wrong actors when security forces are set up.

Read More

The actions of a U.S. army staff sergeant who went door-to-door in a village in the district of Panjwai outside Kandahar, killing nine children and seven adults, are heinous, horrific, and inexplicable–as many expressions of pure evil often are. If the facts are as reported, he will no doubt be dealt with by the efficient U.S. military justice system; he will be lucky to avoid the death penalty. It is hard to say anything else about this terrible event with any certainty. It is likely to impair the U.S. mission in Afghanistan–and will certainly make it harder to win the trust of the villagers whose friends and neighbors were just massacred–but how much damage it will do remains unclear. So far, the expression of outrage in Afghanistan has been muted–more so than after the Koran burnings. It should count for something that the sergeant’s actions were in no way sanctioned by the high command; in fact it was a U.S. unit that captured him and American prosecutors and judges who will bring him to justice. Even Seymour Hersh will have a hard time depicting these abhorrent acts as expressions of official American policy.

It would be a tragedy if some of the collateral damage from this rampage were to fall on the Village Stability Platform of which the sergeant was a part. This is a program run by the Special Forces, with help from some conventional soldiers (such as the sergeant), to stand up an auxiliary security force known as the Afghan Local Police in various locations around Afghanistan where there is not a major presence of U.S. troops. I have visited a couple of these sites duringthe past couple of years and have found them making real progress though also facing real challenges, primarily having to do with the need to understand local dynamics and not inadvertently empower the wrong actors when security forces are set up.

But done right, the Village Stability Platform and the associated Afghan Local Police program have the potential to be major “force multipliers” by creating a lot of problems for the Taliban for relatively little expenditure of U.S. resources. Indeed, this is potentially a model program as U.S. conventional units draw down–although, in dangerous and unstable areas, there is no substitute for the presence of substantial ground-combat forces.

One of the characteristics that makes this program so effective is that it puts small groups of U.S. soldiers in close proximity to Afghan civilians. That allows them to build bonds of trust–bonds which, in at least one place, have just been done grave damage by the actions of an apparent psychotic in uniform. His crimes should not, however, lead to a condemnation of the large program or of the broader counterinsurgency effort. It is only by taking risks–including the risk which no one had considered: of unleashing an American psychopath on innocent villagers–that U.S. troops can drive the Taliban out of their strongholds.

Read Less

Why Obama’s Slipping Nationally

Despite the Democratic Party’s determined efforts to paint Republicans as out-of-touch with the mainstream (particularly on contraception issues, women’s rights and foreign policy), President Obama’s numbers are sliding in general election matchups with the GOP candidates, according to the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post-ABC News polls.

Rasmussen found that Obama is now trailing Mitt Romney by five points, while WaPo/ABC found him tied with both Romney and Santorum.

Read More

Despite the Democratic Party’s determined efforts to paint Republicans as out-of-touch with the mainstream (particularly on contraception issues, women’s rights and foreign policy), President Obama’s numbers are sliding in general election matchups with the GOP candidates, according to the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post-ABC News polls.

Rasmussen found that Obama is now trailing Mitt Romney by five points, while WaPo/ABC found him tied with both Romney and Santorum.

 

Both polls cite different reasons for Obama’s weakened standing. Rasmussen finds that Romney’s support has increased among Republicans, and he’s attracting in more defectors from the opposing party than Obama is:

Romney’s support among Republican voters has moved up to 83 percent, just about matching the president’s 84 percent support among Democrats. However, only six percent of GOP voters would vote for Obama if Romney is the nominee. Twice as many Democrats (12 percent) would cross party lines to vote for Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts also has an eight-point advantage among unaffiliated voters.

The numbers show that Obama needs to focus more on getting his own party in line, before he can start reaching out to independent voters and Republicans. But so far, the attempts to paint Romney and the GOP as extreme on social issues, unsympathetic to the middle class, and recklessly aggressive on foreign policy haven’t seemed to have much impact.

Another problem for the Obama campaign is that, despite the positive economic news over the past couple of months, the president still gets low ratings on economic performance. This seems to be because rising gas prices is replacing unemployment as a major personal financial concern. According to the WaPo poll:

Gas prices are a main culprit: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard. Just 26 percent approve of his work on the issue, his lowest rating in the poll. Most Americans say higher prices are already taking a toll on family finances, and nearly half say they think that prices will continue to rise, and stay high.

Obama had been trying to play both sides of the fence on Keystone XL construction until last week, when he actively lobbied against a Senate bill that would move the pipeline project forward. Unless he flips on this issue, it’s going to dog his campaign as long as gas prices keep rising. Nobody expects gas prices to drop immediately if the Keystone XL gets the green light, but the public wants to hear some long-term plan for dealing with rising gas prices – temporary credits aren’t going to cut it.

Read Less

Gingrich’s Silly Claims

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, said, “The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican frontrunner since Leonard Wood in 1920. Yes, he’s the frontrunner, but he’s not a very strong frontrunner, nearly all conservatives are opposed to him. In places where no one else can compete … he does fine.” (Leonard Wood was an Army General who lost the GOP nomination to Warren Harding in 1920.)

How weak or how strong a frontrunner Mitt Romney is will be determined by future events. But we do know several things. The first is that against this “weakest Republican frontrunner since … 1920,” Gingrich has won precisely two primaries–South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. Which makes Gingrich 2-26 in all the primary and caucus elections held to date– a winning percentage of less than 0.08 percent (versus better than 60 percent for Romney). So if Romney is the weakest frontrunner since 1920, does that make Gingrich the weakest challenger since the pre-Civil War era?

Read More

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, said, “The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican frontrunner since Leonard Wood in 1920. Yes, he’s the frontrunner, but he’s not a very strong frontrunner, nearly all conservatives are opposed to him. In places where no one else can compete … he does fine.” (Leonard Wood was an Army General who lost the GOP nomination to Warren Harding in 1920.)

How weak or how strong a frontrunner Mitt Romney is will be determined by future events. But we do know several things. The first is that against this “weakest Republican frontrunner since … 1920,” Gingrich has won precisely two primaries–South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. Which makes Gingrich 2-26 in all the primary and caucus elections held to date– a winning percentage of less than 0.08 percent (versus better than 60 percent for Romney). So if Romney is the weakest frontrunner since 1920, does that make Gingrich the weakest challenger since the pre-Civil War era?

As for the argument that “nearly all conservatives are opposed to him,” that is simply wrong. It’s true that those who consider themselves “strongly conservative” have voted for Romney’s opponents more than they’ve voted for Romney — but it’s also true that Romney does quite well with those who self-identify as “somewhat conservative.” And for those for whom Romney is not the first choice, he’s often the second choice. By my count, Romney has finished third or worse in two contests; Gingrich has finished third or worse in more than 20. So the idea that there’s widespread conservative opposition to Romney just isn’t supported by the data.

As for Gingrich’s claim Romney does fine “in places where no one else can compete” with him, that claim is also silly. In virtually every contest he’s won, Romney has faced competition, including winning three crucial come-from-behind victories in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio (the former Massachusetts governor trailed by double digits).

It doesn’t take a person with a degree in psychiatry to understand what’s happening here. Gingrich is a person who views himself as a world-historical figure. He sees a nomination he (foolishly) believed he had wrapped up three months ago slip away. He has convinced himself his loss is the result of a cosmic injustice, that he was the victim of the worst smear campaign since Jefferson v. Adams. And he simply cannot let it go.

There is something poignant in hearing Gingrich repeat, time and time again, that there was a moment in time, in December, when he led the Gallup poll. (Having a lead in a Gallup poll is a claim most people who entered the GOP race can make, including Donald Trump, who was tied for the GOP lead in August.)

Newt Gingrich is a talented fellow. But his inability to control his emotions, combined with an inflated sense of his own greatness, has plagued him throughout this campaign, as it has for his entire career. One can only hope that he soon makes his own inner peace with his failure to win the GOP nomination

Read Less

Mrs. Clinton, Leave Sri Lanka Alone

The civil war in Sri Lanka was both brutal and a human tragedy. The United Nations estimated that the death toll from the Tamil Tigers’ long secession struggle might exceed 100,000. The Tigers were brutal in their tactics. Their kidnapping and exploitation of young Tamils was not unlike that perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Like radical Islamists, the Tamil Tigers exploited a culture of martyrdom to promote suicide bombing. Like Hezbollah, the Tamil Tigers received technical assistance from North Korea (making Condoleezza Rice’s recommendation to remove North Korea from the state sponsor of terror list indefensible).

In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army did what hundreds of diplomats and UN pronouncements over more than a quarter century had failed to do: They defeated the Tamil Tigers and finally liberated Sri Lanka from the nightmare of terrorism and insurgency. No civil war is pretty, and the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s bloody struggle was no different. Britain’s Channel 4, for example, has acquired footage purporting to show the execution of the 12-year-old son of the rebel leader son of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers’ leader. If he was executed, that was wrong. But given Prabhakaran’s use of children and his glorification of suicide bombing, it would be unfair to ask any Sri Lankan soldier to risk life and limb to take prisoners. Had the Tamil Tigers cared an iota for the Geneva Conventions, perhaps it would be different, but if they eschewed the Conventions in life, then they should not seek their recompense in death.

Read More

The civil war in Sri Lanka was both brutal and a human tragedy. The United Nations estimated that the death toll from the Tamil Tigers’ long secession struggle might exceed 100,000. The Tigers were brutal in their tactics. Their kidnapping and exploitation of young Tamils was not unlike that perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Like radical Islamists, the Tamil Tigers exploited a culture of martyrdom to promote suicide bombing. Like Hezbollah, the Tamil Tigers received technical assistance from North Korea (making Condoleezza Rice’s recommendation to remove North Korea from the state sponsor of terror list indefensible).

In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army did what hundreds of diplomats and UN pronouncements over more than a quarter century had failed to do: They defeated the Tamil Tigers and finally liberated Sri Lanka from the nightmare of terrorism and insurgency. No civil war is pretty, and the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s bloody struggle was no different. Britain’s Channel 4, for example, has acquired footage purporting to show the execution of the 12-year-old son of the rebel leader son of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers’ leader. If he was executed, that was wrong. But given Prabhakaran’s use of children and his glorification of suicide bombing, it would be unfair to ask any Sri Lankan soldier to risk life and limb to take prisoners. Had the Tamil Tigers cared an iota for the Geneva Conventions, perhaps it would be different, but if they eschewed the Conventions in life, then they should not seek their recompense in death.

Enter the United Nations: After decades of trying to talk to terrorists and legitimizing the Tamil Tigers, the United Nations now seeks to condemn Sri Lanka and force it to reopen old wounds.  Rather than build toward a peaceful future, the United Nations Human Rights Council seeks an inquisition for Sri Lanka, a move that will set the country’s future back years and could ultimately reopen conflict.

Now, enter the Obama administration: Even as the Human Rights Council demonstrates repeatedly that it stands for anything but, and rather shields dictators, condemns democracies, and glorifies terrorist groups past and present, the Obama administration has chosen to side with the Council and undermine Sri Lanka’s future. Maria Otero, Secretary of State Clinton’s Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, has confirmed that the United States will support a Council resolution this month which will demand greater Sri Lankan support not only for the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, but also greater “accountability,” a catch all term that will paralyze the Sri Lankan government and its efforts to rebuild. Internationalizing reconciliation may provide the human rights community with billets to fill, but it often undermines true reconciliation.

Rather than meddle, the White House should celebrate Sri Lanka’s win in the war against terrorism and cheer the Tigers’ demise. The Sri Lankans did against the Tigers what the United States seeks to do against al- Qaeda. Instead of seeking to force the Sri Lankans to rehash the past at this point in time, the United States should help the Sri Lankans rebuild their country with aid and investment.  Rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars to send diplomats to Sri Lanka to lecture Colombo, the Obama administration should rather spend that money conducting lessons learned to determine whether years of diplomacy and mediation emboldened the terrorists rather than resolved the conflict.  Absent a coherent strategic vision, perhaps Mrs. Clinton should simply leave Sri Lanka alone.

Read Less

Time for the UN to Retract Terror Approval

Almost a decade ago, histrionics were running high at the United Nations. After enduring months of a Palestinian terrorist campaign, Israel launched Operation Defense Shield during which Israeli commandoes went door to booby-trapped door in Jenin to root out bomb makers and their factories. During the course of the Jenin operation, Israel lost 23 soldiers, men who would be alive had the Israelis simply bombed the city instead of attempting surgical excision of the terror cells. The world cried foul, and promoted the myth of the Jenin massacre. Here, for example, is the BBC report from the time.

It was against this backdrop that on April 15, 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Commission—which has since been reconstituted as the United Nations Council— and at the time under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson, passed a resolution embracing an earlier General Assembly resolution which declared “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all supported the resolution.

Read More

Almost a decade ago, histrionics were running high at the United Nations. After enduring months of a Palestinian terrorist campaign, Israel launched Operation Defense Shield during which Israeli commandoes went door to booby-trapped door in Jenin to root out bomb makers and their factories. During the course of the Jenin operation, Israel lost 23 soldiers, men who would be alive had the Israelis simply bombed the city instead of attempting surgical excision of the terror cells. The world cried foul, and promoted the myth of the Jenin massacre. Here, for example, is the BBC report from the time.

It was against this backdrop that on April 15, 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Commission—which has since been reconstituted as the United Nations Council— and at the time under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson, passed a resolution embracing an earlier General Assembly resolution which declared “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all supported the resolution.

For those who argue that the United Nations Human Rights Commission and its successor Council define humanitarian law, the vote taken against the backdrop of anti-Israel animus created a precedent which blessed any and all terrorism: Hijackings, bus bombings, sniper attacks on civilians all became legal so long as the terrorists justified it in terms of liberation. The Palestinian Authority did just that—citing the resolution to justify a subsequent terrorist attack against Jews in Hebron, but the Basque separatist organization ETA and Tamil Tigers could just as easily justify their bloodshed in the resolution.

As the world marks a decade since the resolution, it remains a dark mark on the United Nations. Terrorists have killed thousands across the globe in the name of “liberation” ever since. Indeed, groups such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Taliban both cynically exploit anti-colonialist rhetoric to justify their terrorism. That Robinson and the UN provided an intellectual and legal framework for them to do so is especially shameful.

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Susan Rice make no secret of their desire to promote the United Nations as the moral authority for international relations. Unless they are willing to force the United Nations to correct its moral failings, however, then no Western democrat or liberal should ever take the United Nations for anything more than a regressive club for autocrats and moral failing.

Read Less