Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 19, 2012

Time for Another Throw-Granny-Off-the-Cliff Ad

A conservative group calling itself American Doctors for Truth is launching a new ad campaign in Florida and Texas tomorrow that’s sure to get some attention. Mirroring the controversial liberal ad last year that showed Rep. Paul Ryan shoving an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff, this one has President Obama pushing the wheelchair instead. Over the top? Absolutely, but that’s clearly the point.

While last year’s anti-Ryan ad slammed the GOP for wanting to give Medicare beneficiaries private vouchers for coverage, the American Doctors for Truth ad depicts the cost-cutting measures of ObamaCare as the cause of Grandma’s demise. Specifically, the ad targets the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board that would oversee Medicare, which conservatives say will lead to health-care rationing and government control over the personal medical care of Medicare recipients.

Fittingly, the ad campaign is launching the same day Rep. Ryan is set to unveil his latest budget proposal, which was the catalyst for the provocative Granny-off-the-cliff ad last year. Ryan’s new budget is expected to include many of the same Medicare reforms, and Democrats are no doubt relishing the idea of Medi-scaring the elderly during an election year.

A conservative group calling itself American Doctors for Truth is launching a new ad campaign in Florida and Texas tomorrow that’s sure to get some attention. Mirroring the controversial liberal ad last year that showed Rep. Paul Ryan shoving an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff, this one has President Obama pushing the wheelchair instead. Over the top? Absolutely, but that’s clearly the point.

While last year’s anti-Ryan ad slammed the GOP for wanting to give Medicare beneficiaries private vouchers for coverage, the American Doctors for Truth ad depicts the cost-cutting measures of ObamaCare as the cause of Grandma’s demise. Specifically, the ad targets the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board that would oversee Medicare, which conservatives say will lead to health-care rationing and government control over the personal medical care of Medicare recipients.

Fittingly, the ad campaign is launching the same day Rep. Ryan is set to unveil his latest budget proposal, which was the catalyst for the provocative Granny-off-the-cliff ad last year. Ryan’s new budget is expected to include many of the same Medicare reforms, and Democrats are no doubt relishing the idea of Medi-scaring the elderly during an election year.

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Obama Still Lying About Mother’s Health Insurance Problem

Last summer, a brief stir was caused when a book published by New York Times reporter Janny Scott uncovered an uncomfortable fact about President Obama: He had been lying about his mother’s health insurance problems. During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his signature health care legislation, the president used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. But as Scott discovered during the course of writing her biography of Anne Dunham, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, it turned out that her correspondence showed that “the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.”

At the time the White House chose not to dispute Ms. Scott’s findings. But apparently the Obama campaign thinks the public’s memory is mighty short. As Glenn Kessler writes today in the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, the president’s much ballyhooed campaign biography film “The Road We’ve Traveled,” narrated by Tom Hanks repeats the same line that Scott debunked. Though the film’s script tries to avoid repeating the president’s false claims from 2008, as Kessler says, any reasonable person would infer from the movie that the president’s mother died because her insurance was denied.

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Last summer, a brief stir was caused when a book published by New York Times reporter Janny Scott uncovered an uncomfortable fact about President Obama: He had been lying about his mother’s health insurance problems. During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his signature health care legislation, the president used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. But as Scott discovered during the course of writing her biography of Anne Dunham, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, it turned out that her correspondence showed that “the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.”

At the time the White House chose not to dispute Ms. Scott’s findings. But apparently the Obama campaign thinks the public’s memory is mighty short. As Glenn Kessler writes today in the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, the president’s much ballyhooed campaign biography film “The Road We’ve Traveled,” narrated by Tom Hanks repeats the same line that Scott debunked. Though the film’s script tries to avoid repeating the president’s false claims from 2008, as Kessler says, any reasonable person would infer from the movie that the president’s mother died because her insurance was denied.

As Kessler notes, the filmmakers were aware of the fact that the president had been caught in a lie about his mother’s insurance but were determined to get this story into the film without exactly repeating his mendacious statement:

We think there are few viewers of this film who would watch this sequence and conclude that Dunham was involved in anything but a fight over health-insurance coverage. … The filmmakers must have known they had a problem with this story or else they would have recounted it as Obama had done in the 2008 campaign, using phrases such as “pre-existing conditions,” “health insurance,” and “treatment.”

Instead, they arranged the quotes and images to leave a misleading impression of what really happened.

President Obama’s willingness to falsify the facts about a personal tragedy in order to make a political point speaks volumes about not only his cynicism but also his character. It’s important to remember that this is no misunderstanding but rather a bald-faced lie. Here’s what Obama said during one of his debates with Republican opponent John McCain:

For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.

It is true that Ms. Dunham did have a separate dispute about disability insurance but this had nothing to do with pre-existing conditions. Nor did it affect her fight for her life. And given that her son acted as her attorney, there’s no doubt he was not ignorant of the truth of the matter.

President Obama never apologized for his original lie. He just assumed, rightly it turns out, that even though this whopper was uncovered by the New York Times, neither that paper nor the rest of the liberal mainstream media would pursue the matter further as they almost certainly would (and should have) had his Republican predecessor been found out in a similar matter. Thus encouraged, he has now repeated the falsehood, albeit artfully recast in an attempt to avoid blame.

Having won election and then rammed his ObamaCare bill through Congress in part on the strength of this false argument, he has doubled down on it with the lie now coming from the lips of American’s favorite everyman, actor Tom Hanks as well as in edited clips of interviews with the president and his wife. Kessler gives the performance three out of a possible four Pinocchios on his scale of accuracy. This seems a bit generous but the point is that the story proves that Obama is willing to do and/or say anything, even lying about the death of his mother, in order to gain an advantage. That he thinks repeating the lie will help him get re-elected says a lot about what he thinks of the intelligence of the American people and the integrity of the press that failed to vet him the first time around.

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Bristol Palin’s Challenge to Obama

Bristol Palin has weighed in with her thoughts on Barack Obama, the GOP’s supposed “war on women,” and the president’s hypocrisy.

Ms. Palin indicates that she has yet to receive (as Sandra Fluke did) a call of encouragement after Rush Limbaugh referred to Ms. Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

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Bristol Palin has weighed in with her thoughts on Barack Obama, the GOP’s supposed “war on women,” and the president’s hypocrisy.

Ms. Palin indicates that she has yet to receive (as Sandra Fluke did) a call of encouragement after Rush Limbaugh referred to Ms. Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”


Here’s Bristol Palin:

But here’s why I’m a little surprised my phone hasn’t rung.  Your $1,000,000 donor Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family.  He’s made fun of my brother because of his Down’s Syndrome. He’s said I was “f–d so hard a baby fell out.”  (In a classy move, he did this while his producers put up the cover of my book, which tells about the forgiveness and redemption I’ve found in God after my past – very public – mistakes.)

If Maher talked about Malia and Sasha that way, you’d return his dirty money and the Secret Service would probably have to restrain you.  After all, I’ve always felt you understood my plight more than most because your mom was a teenager.  That’s why you stood up for me when you were campaigning against Sen. McCain and my mom – you said vicious attacks on me should be off limits.

Yet I wonder if the Presidency has changed you.  Now that you’re in office, it seems you’re only willing to defend certain women.  You’re only willing to take a moral stand when you know your liberal supporters will stand behind you.

But … What if you did something radical and wildly unpopular with your base and took a stand against the denigration of all women… even if they’re just single moms? Even if they’re Republicans?

I’m not expecting your SuperPAC to return the money.  You’re going to need every dime to hang on to your presidency.  I’m not even really expecting a call.  But would it be too much to expect a little consistency?  After all, you’re President of all Americans, not just the liberals.

This is a powerful rebuke to the president, just as this new RNC web ad, titled “Obama’s War on Women,” is. And it underscores the blinding hypocrisy of liberals when it comes to their supposed solidarity with women.

Now I’m not in favor of people loosely throwing around terms like “war on women,” especially when the United States is engaged in real wars. But since those on the left are the ones who started this campaign to portray Republicans as anti-women, I suppose that turnabout is fair play.

I also can’t help but wonder if this whole effort isn’t going quite according to script. Despite the efforts of liberals to push their “war on women” narrative, which has been aided by many members of the media, it doesn’t seem to be working that well. For example, last week’s New York Times poll showed Mr. Obama losing a dozen percentage points of support among women compared to its previous poll (which was taken before this campaign has begun). And the Times poll showed that on the question of whether “religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital and university,” should be able to opt out of offering coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraception, women support this stand by 53 percent to 38 percent.

The left thought it had found a convenient political weapon to use against the GOP in the form of Rush Limbaugh’s disturbing attack of Ms. Fluke. But it’s own double standards, and Bill Maher’s million-dollar contribution to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign; seem to be ruining all that.

Mr. Obama could have used Bill Maher’s contribution to his Super PAC as a “teachable moment” and returned the money. But the president decided to keep it, even as his top aides and allies make fools of themselves trying to justify it. I wonder what Malia and Sasha must think of all that.

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Majority Want SCOTUS to Scrap Mandate

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Obama’s health care law next week, and still an overwhelming majority of Americans say that the court should either scrap the mandate or the entire law:

This ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent. And 67 percent believe the high court should either ditch the law or at least the portion that requires nearly all Americans to have coverage.

The high court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from today.

The law has never earned majority support in ABC/Post polls – and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately; just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive. Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives. Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

As Chris Cillizza reports, Americans are set in their opinions on ObamaCare, which may be the big reason why Obama rarely talks about it in the context of his reelection.

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Obama’s health care law next week, and still an overwhelming majority of Americans say that the court should either scrap the mandate or the entire law:

This ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent. And 67 percent believe the high court should either ditch the law or at least the portion that requires nearly all Americans to have coverage.

The high court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from today.

The law has never earned majority support in ABC/Post polls – and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately; just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive. Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives. Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

As Chris Cillizza reports, Americans are set in their opinions on ObamaCare, which may be the big reason why Obama rarely talks about it in the context of his reelection.

Since the law was passed, opposition has remained near the low 50s, while support has remained near the low 40s. And of course the opposition climbs higher when you specifically ask about the individual mandate.

What’s interesting is that while Obama’s most significant legislative achievement provides him with little-to-no political advantage on the campaign trail, Republicans will be able to benefit from it no matter how the Supreme Court rules. If the Court deems the law, or parts of the law, unconstitutional, then the GOP will have that as a bludgeon. And even if the Court upholds the law in its current form, there’s still widespread public opposition to the mandate. The only way to get rid of it at that point would be to replace Obama with a Republican, which would be an added incentive to vote GOP.

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ObamaCare Remains Deeply Unpopular

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration. And so it can’t be good news that according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say the Supreme Court should throw out either the individual mandate or the law in its entirety. (The Supreme Court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from today.)

The poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent.

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration. And so it can’t be good news that according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say the Supreme Court should throw out either the individual mandate or the law in its entirety. (The Supreme Court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from today.)

The poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent.

According to ABC’s Greg Holyk:

The law has never earned majority support in ABC/Post polls – and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately; just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive. Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives. Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

Intensity of sentiment is more negative as well: Forty-one percent strongly oppose the law, while only a quarter strongly support it.

The Obama administration has long had difficulty convincing Americans of the benefits of the law. In a January 2011 ABC/Post poll, for example, more people expected the law to increase rather than decrease the deficit (62-29 percent), hurt rather than help the economy (54-39 percent) and cut rather than create jobs (46-38 percent).

When combined with soaring gas prices and President Obama’s nearly unrivaled record of incompetence, it’s little wonder, then, that George Will is now stressing that in a column he wrote several weeks ago, he wasn’t advocating the white flag of surrender in the presidential race. At least not just yet.

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Santorum Won’t Sabotage Romney

The day after being embarrassed by Mitt Romney in Puerto Rico, Rick Santorum was taking tough in Illinois about a brokered Republican convention. Blasting the frontrunners as a “Massachusetts moderate,” Santorum vowed the convention would nominate a conservative, meaning that he would fight to the last ditch and last delegate to prevent a Romney nomination. But if the latest polls indicating a substantial Romney victory in Illinois are true, then perhaps Santorum will be singing a different tune in the upcoming weeks.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks monitoring Newt Gingrich’s campaign for signals that he was about to pull out possibly in favor of Santorum. The Pennsylvanian can look forward to a possible victory in Louisiana this coming weekend. But after that, despite all of the brave talk coming from his campaign, the list of states that he can win is not that long. So if Santorum falls short tomorrow in Illinois as he did in Michigan and Ohio or, even worse, gets badly beaten there in the popular vote as well as in the individual delegate contests, it might be time for him to start reassessing his own options.

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The day after being embarrassed by Mitt Romney in Puerto Rico, Rick Santorum was taking tough in Illinois about a brokered Republican convention. Blasting the frontrunners as a “Massachusetts moderate,” Santorum vowed the convention would nominate a conservative, meaning that he would fight to the last ditch and last delegate to prevent a Romney nomination. But if the latest polls indicating a substantial Romney victory in Illinois are true, then perhaps Santorum will be singing a different tune in the upcoming weeks.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks monitoring Newt Gingrich’s campaign for signals that he was about to pull out possibly in favor of Santorum. The Pennsylvanian can look forward to a possible victory in Louisiana this coming weekend. But after that, despite all of the brave talk coming from his campaign, the list of states that he can win is not that long. So if Santorum falls short tomorrow in Illinois as he did in Michigan and Ohio or, even worse, gets badly beaten there in the popular vote as well as in the individual delegate contests, it might be time for him to start reassessing his own options.

No matter what happens in the next weeks and months, Santorum has run a remarkable campaign. Considering that virtually no one other than himself thought he had a chance to even last this long, let alone win 10 primaries and caucuses, he’s come a very long way in the last six months. During this presidential election cycle, pundits wondered who would be the 2012 version of Mike Huckabee in terms of a dark horse who does far better than anyone imagined. But in future GOP presidential contests — whether the next one is 2016 or 2020 — we will be asking who will be the next Santorum since he has surpassed the paltry victories won by Huckabee.

But the mention of 2016 or 2020 ought to also cause us to wonder whether Santorum is really going to be willing to wreck the GOP convention just to prove a point about the need to prevent the nomination of a moderate or to give Romney some payback for all the abuse he has dished out in attack ads.

Right now, even if Santorum doesn’t get walloped in Illinois, the odds of him winning the nomination are slim. If he ends the primary season with a reasonable chance of stopping Romney, no one in the party could fault him for carrying his efforts to the national convention the way Ronald Reagan did in 1976 when the GOP nomination was a close-run thing. But if, after the next few weeks, Santorum is nowhere near Romney in terms of pledged delegates and Romney is quite close to clinching, the question that must asked and answered is whether Santorum is prepared to destroy his future in the party just to spite the eventual nominee.

Though he continues to be abused as an extremist on social issues by the mainstream media, Santorum has established himself on the national stage as a figure to be reckoned with this year. If the Republicans don’t win in November, he will automatically become considered a strong candidate for 2016. He is also young enough at 53 to contemplate a presidential run in 2020 or beyond. While he is not the sort of person that I would expect to play a cynical game when it comes to presidential politics, it should also be remembered that he spent most of his political life as a “team player,” that was always ready to see the big picture on issues and elections.

After having won so many contests, he deserves to play out the hand he is dealt in the coming weeks. But put me down as being skeptical that Santorum would do anything out of spite or to merely drag down Romney once it is certain that his own chances are lost. In the last few months, Rick Santorum, a man whose 2006 Pennsylvania defeat marked him as something of a joke, has redeemed his reputation as a politician. Like him or not, and in contrast to Newt Gingrich, he is now someone with a future in Republican politics. I doubt Santorum will do anything to burn his bridges with his party.

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Turkish Promotion Suggests State-Sanctioned Murder

Almost two years ago, I did a presentation for analysts at the National Counter Terrorism Center looking at determining which Iranian actions may be termed rogue exploits. I’ve since refined that talk, and presented it for a number of carrier strike groups heading to the Persian Gulf.  The talk goes into a number of assassinations and terrorist attacks from the early 1980s to the present.

While diplomats and pundits are willing to excuse the worst Iranian actions as simply the act of rogue agents or officers and while the Islamic Republic is happy to maintain its own plausible deniability, without exception it is possible tell which actions were state-sanctioned and which were rogue by looking at their aftermath. In two famous cases—the Mehdi Hashemi affair and the aftermath of the Khorramshahr missile base incident—the perpetrators ended up dead, even though they were politically connected. They had conducted rogue operations and, even when successful, they paid the ultimate price.  In other cases—the Qassemlou Affair, the Mykonos Café attack, the AMIA bombings, the British small boat incident, among others—the perpetrator got promoted.

As an out-group in the study, I considered the same trend in Turkey.

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Almost two years ago, I did a presentation for analysts at the National Counter Terrorism Center looking at determining which Iranian actions may be termed rogue exploits. I’ve since refined that talk, and presented it for a number of carrier strike groups heading to the Persian Gulf.  The talk goes into a number of assassinations and terrorist attacks from the early 1980s to the present.

While diplomats and pundits are willing to excuse the worst Iranian actions as simply the act of rogue agents or officers and while the Islamic Republic is happy to maintain its own plausible deniability, without exception it is possible tell which actions were state-sanctioned and which were rogue by looking at their aftermath. In two famous cases—the Mehdi Hashemi affair and the aftermath of the Khorramshahr missile base incident—the perpetrators ended up dead, even though they were politically connected. They had conducted rogue operations and, even when successful, they paid the ultimate price.  In other cases—the Qassemlou Affair, the Mykonos Café attack, the AMIA bombings, the British small boat incident, among others—the perpetrator got promoted.

As an out-group in the study, I considered the same trend in Turkey.

When members of the 173rd Airborne Division intercepted a rogue Turkish Special Forces unit in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003, allegedly seeking to assassinate local politicians, American forces captured and hooded the rogue unit. The Turks screamed bloody murder and denied that their own forces had been up to no good. Turkish-American relations—already at a low-point—tumbled even further. And yet, despite all of Ankara’s protestations of innocence—national security and military correspondents for major Turkish newspapers confided what they could not report openly: None of the Turkish personnel involved in the incident received subsequent promotion. They were apparently rogue activities, and treated as such.

It is against this backdrop that the Turkish government’s promotion of a policeman photographed honoring Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink’s assassin is particularly revealing. Dink, of course, was a prominent intellectual long persecuted in Turkey’s repressive intellectual environment. In January 2007, he was gunned down outside his office. A decision handed down five-years later was met with widespread disbelief when judges ruled the murder was, in effect, the act of a lone gunman. That Yakup Kurtaran has now been promoted to be deputy manager of public security in Malatya should certainly raise eyebrows about the degree of state sanction for his behavior.

This past year, Turkey fell below even Russia in terms of media freedom, according to Reporters without Frontiers. Kurtaran’s promotion suggests that the rating is no fluke. Turkey’s government, police, and judiciary simply do not respect intellectual freedom and, indeed, seem to endorse efforts to quash it or celebrate those who do.

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Tapping Strategic Oil Reserve Won’t Work

President Obama has been backed into a tight political corner over rising gas prices. While it’s true that the president has little control over present gas prices as they currently stand, it’s also true that he’s made some high-profile blunders on energy policy during his first term, which makes him an open target for public blame. The Hill’s latest poll finds that a whopping 58 percent of American voters say Obama’s policies will lead to higher gas prices:

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil.

Voters’ wide-ranging pessimism comes as gasoline prices have risen sharply, which often dampens attitudes among U.S. voters toward those in power, and as opinions remain sharply divided on the president’s healthcare law.

Obama is setting out on a campaign tour to defend his energy policies this week, but his tools for dealing with the public anger are minimal. He’s been playing up his support for domestic oil production, but his recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline squashes that message. He’s pushing for an end to tax subsidies for oil and gas companies, but that will do nada to reign in gas prices and has more to do with his personal views on “fairness” than anything else. Republicans are also sure to point out that if raising taxes on oil companies has any impact on gas costs whatsoever, it’s more likely to raise the price at the pump.

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President Obama has been backed into a tight political corner over rising gas prices. While it’s true that the president has little control over present gas prices as they currently stand, it’s also true that he’s made some high-profile blunders on energy policy during his first term, which makes him an open target for public blame. The Hill’s latest poll finds that a whopping 58 percent of American voters say Obama’s policies will lead to higher gas prices:

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil.

Voters’ wide-ranging pessimism comes as gasoline prices have risen sharply, which often dampens attitudes among U.S. voters toward those in power, and as opinions remain sharply divided on the president’s healthcare law.

Obama is setting out on a campaign tour to defend his energy policies this week, but his tools for dealing with the public anger are minimal. He’s been playing up his support for domestic oil production, but his recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline squashes that message. He’s pushing for an end to tax subsidies for oil and gas companies, but that will do nada to reign in gas prices and has more to do with his personal views on “fairness” than anything else. Republicans are also sure to point out that if raising taxes on oil companies has any impact on gas costs whatsoever, it’s more likely to raise the price at the pump.

The one big option Obama has, and the one that liberal Democrats have been lobbying for, is for him to tap into the strategic petroleum reserves. As I wrote on Friday, this would be a blatantly political move that could end up backfiring phenomenally  on the president.

And the political backlash is likely to be much greater than the political gain. There’s no way to predict exactly how the release of reserve oil would impact the market, but if history is any indication, the effect on gas prices has diminished each time the reserves have been tapped into. At the Washington Times, Stephen Dinan writes:

Last June, when President Obama last ordered a release from the U.S. reserves, oil was trading at $95.41 a barrel. It dropped about $5 over the next few days, but quickly shot back up and two weeks after the announcement the price was right back where it was before the release was announced. …

Democrats said a 1991 oil release in the middle of the first Gulf War dropped prices at the pump by 33.4 percent, and said a 2000 release by President Clinton lowered prices by 18.7 percent. President George W. Bush’s 2005 move to stop filling the reserve dropped prices 9.1 percent.

Those numbers showed declining returns over the years, and analysts said that is one reason why Mr. Obama’s recent release didn’t have much lasting effect at all: The world market is far bigger than it used to be, thus the release of U.S. reserves has less impact.

Breaking into the strategic petroleum reserves for a two-week drop in gas prices? It’s such a joke that I can’t imagine Obama would ever take the risk. And for those who think the public wouldn’t notice the president playing political games with the reserves, William Galston at TNR notes that Al Gore was shredded for proposing a similar idea during the fall of 2000. Another reason to be skeptical that Obama would actually go ahead with this plan.

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The Toulouse Shooting and the Jewish State

The murderer who gunned down children and teachers on their way to school at Ozar Hatorah in the French city of Toulouse this morning was acting from “no clear motive,” according to the New York Times. Gil Taieb, a vice president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, was only one of many who knew a lie when he heard one. “For someone to locate this school in a place like Toulouse means he knew what he was doing,” Taieb told the Jerusalem Post. “He went there to kill Jews.”

So far four have died in the attack: Yonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old teacher at the school who had recently emigrated from Jerusalem, along with his two children, six-year-old Aryeh and three-year-old Gavriel, and Miriam Monstango, the eight-year-old daughter of Ozar Hatorah’s principal. “At some point, the shooter entered the school and began firing inside,” a witness told Haaretz. A 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded, and is said to be hovering between life and death. After the attack, the gunman hopped on a motorbike and sped away. French police and anti-terrorism forces have launched an all-out search for the killer, but so far he has not been found.

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The murderer who gunned down children and teachers on their way to school at Ozar Hatorah in the French city of Toulouse this morning was acting from “no clear motive,” according to the New York Times. Gil Taieb, a vice president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, was only one of many who knew a lie when he heard one. “For someone to locate this school in a place like Toulouse means he knew what he was doing,” Taieb told the Jerusalem Post. “He went there to kill Jews.”

So far four have died in the attack: Yonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old teacher at the school who had recently emigrated from Jerusalem, along with his two children, six-year-old Aryeh and three-year-old Gavriel, and Miriam Monstango, the eight-year-old daughter of Ozar Hatorah’s principal. “At some point, the shooter entered the school and began firing inside,” a witness told Haaretz. A 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded, and is said to be hovering between life and death. After the attack, the gunman hopped on a motorbike and sped away. French police and anti-terrorism forces have launched an all-out search for the killer, but so far he has not been found.

Nor have his ethnicity and affiliations (if any) been established. That did not stop commentators on the Washington Post’s story from issuing the standard “Israelis kill innocent children too” equivalencies. This much can be said for certain, however: the shooting at a Jewish religious school had nothing to do with Israel, except in as far as all Jews are identified with Israel, for better or worse. The gunman could not have singled out Rabbi Sandler and his two children, since according to witnesses, he “shot at everything he could see.” As Jonathan said, he simply wanted to kill as many Jews as possible.

But the fact that commentators were quick to draw a connection to Israel — Arab commentators on the Jerusalem Post story did the same — reveals an undeniable truth: Anti-Zionism is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, precisely because all Jews are identified with Israel, for better or worse.

And there is another connection between this morning’s shooting and the Jewish state as well. If the innocent dead and wounded at Ozar Hatorah were targeted only because they are Jews, there is one place on earth where they will be protected, only because they are Jews. Perhaps there is no better justification than that for the state of Israel.

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Beinart’s Slippery Slope of Delegitimization

Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

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Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

The slippery slope, of course, is that the “legitimate” vs. “illegitimate” argument will immediately be applied to those, anywhere and anytime, who voice any support for the Jews Beinart says to stay away from. When reading Beinart’s proposed division, I immediately remembered hearing this before. It was, in fact, John Mearsheimer who proposed the formulation. (See Michael’s post for some more on Mearsheimer.) In a speech in April 2010, the noted conspiracy theorist offered two categories of Jews: “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners” (there was a third category of the fence-sitters as well). Both Beinart and Mearsheimer want to draw these lines to save Israel from itself. Beinart warns:

If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself.

We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit. Sticking to the old comfortable ways endangers Israel’s democratic future. If we want to effectively oppose the forces that threaten Israel from without, we must also oppose the forces that threaten it from within.

And here is Mearsheimer:

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide. Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era…. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective.

At the time of Mearsheimer’s speech, those who occasionally defend Beinart excoriated Mearsheimer. Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, thought Mearsheimer’s speech sounded an awful lot like the leftwing anti-Semite of the Roosevelt era, Father Coughlin. He reproduced a quote that Meryl Yourish found from one of Coughlin’s speeches:

My purpose is to help eradicate from the world its mania for persecution, to help align all good men. Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, Christian and non-Christian, in a battle to stamp out the ferocity, the barbarism and the hate of this bloody era. I want the good Jews with me, and I’m called a Jew-baiter, an anti-Semite.

Goldberg added that what he finds most interesting about Mearsheimer “is how his understanding of Jews and their nefarious role in American (sic) and in the world has caused him to abandon the principles of foreign policy realism that he advocated in his previous career, the reputable career he had before the Jews conquered his brain.”

And apparently Mearsheimer’s cautionary tale couldn’t prevent them from conquering Beinart’s as well. No doubt Beinart’s vapid, vainglorious crusade to lead the good Jews against who he characterizes as consisting in part of “poor Sephardic, Russian and ultra-Orthodox Jews” will be treated with the same revulsion. Beinart may, as he says, care deeply about Jewish survival. But echoing Mearsheimer is a funny way to show it.

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The Abu Ghraib Double Standard

The Abu Ghraib scandal—when the 320th Military Police Battalion abused prisoners—was both horrendous and inexcusable in its own right. In addition, treating detainees inhumanely for sport certainly led to vengeance attacks and the deaths of American soldiers and made the U.S. mission more difficult. Those perpetrating the abuse should have suffered far greater penalty. The military, however, dealt admirably when the abuses were bought to their attention. After all, it was not press exposure that forced the military to take action, but rather the military’s own investigation into the issue, which someone leaked to CBS.

The recent shooting at a village near Kandahar is as tragic. It has already sparked retaliatory strikes, and it severely under undermines the U.S. mission. President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, however, have handled the crisis with aplomb. Obama was correct to apologize—and quickly too. None of the excuses the suspect’s lawyers put forward can ever mitigate the alleged perpetrator’s actions.

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The Abu Ghraib scandal—when the 320th Military Police Battalion abused prisoners—was both horrendous and inexcusable in its own right. In addition, treating detainees inhumanely for sport certainly led to vengeance attacks and the deaths of American soldiers and made the U.S. mission more difficult. Those perpetrating the abuse should have suffered far greater penalty. The military, however, dealt admirably when the abuses were bought to their attention. After all, it was not press exposure that forced the military to take action, but rather the military’s own investigation into the issue, which someone leaked to CBS.

The recent shooting at a village near Kandahar is as tragic. It has already sparked retaliatory strikes, and it severely under undermines the U.S. mission. President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, however, have handled the crisis with aplomb. Obama was correct to apologize—and quickly too. None of the excuses the suspect’s lawyers put forward can ever mitigate the alleged perpetrator’s actions.

American journalists and commentators should reflect on the aftermath of both within the United States. The reaction to Abu Ghraib was too often cheap, as pundits and partisans sought to ascribe guilt up to and including President Bush and Vice President Cheney. In the aftermath of the Afghanistan shooting, some Republicans criticized Obama for apologizing—but were roundly and rightly castigated by other Republicans.

That so many sought to transform the evil occurrences at Abu Ghraib into a partisan whip with which to flog Bush was wrong. It is a relief that the same pundits do not seek to capitalize on tragedy to bash President Obama. Perhaps these critics learned their lesson after Abu Ghraib, but I’d be willing to bet that the self-restraint has more to do with partisanship. The discrepancy certainly gives pause for reflection about the bias of the media and its willingness to use national security as a political football.

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Poll: Romney Poised for Landslide in Illinois

According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey today, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum, 45 percent to 30 percent, in Illinois. And the obstacles aren’t easily surmountable for Santorum. Not only is Romney polling ahead with groups he normally tends to do poorly with – rural voters, for example – but Santorum’s support is lagging with groups he needs to win. In this case, Tea Partiers and values voters:

Santorum’s winning the group he tends to do well with- Tea Partiers, Evangelicals, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ But he’s not winning them by the kinds of wide margins he would need to take an overall victory- he’s up only 8 with Tea Party voters and 10 with Evangelicals, groups he needs to win by more like 25 points with to hope to win in a northern state.

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According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey today, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum, 45 percent to 30 percent, in Illinois. And the obstacles aren’t easily surmountable for Santorum. Not only is Romney polling ahead with groups he normally tends to do poorly with – rural voters, for example – but Santorum’s support is lagging with groups he needs to win. In this case, Tea Partiers and values voters:

Santorum’s winning the group he tends to do well with- Tea Partiers, Evangelicals, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ But he’s not winning them by the kinds of wide margins he would need to take an overall victory- he’s up only 8 with Tea Party voters and 10 with Evangelicals, groups he needs to win by more like 25 points with to hope to win in a northern state.

One reason could be Santorum’s perceived lack of expertise on economic issues, which Romney has begun emphasizing on the trail this week:

“I don’t think we’re going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight,” Romney said yesterday at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Rockford, Illinois, referring to Santorum, 53, and the president. “To beat Barack Obama, it’s going to take someone who understands the economy in his bones, and I do, and I will beat him with that understanding.”

The polling data is a sign that the seemingly-interminable race may finally be winding down soon. If Romney is able to lock up a strong victory, he’ll begin to rebuild the narrative of his inevitability, and the calls for party unity and the end of the infighting of the primary season will start up again in earnest. Of course, Santorum has outperformed polls in the past, so there’s certainly a chance he could do so again tomorrow.

Then again, while a Santorum victory tomorrow would extend the race, how far would it take him toward his ultimate goal of winning the nomination? Barring a game-changing miracle, his chance of becoming the nominee is still slim, as Nate Silver writes:

If Mr. Santorum were a little closer to Mr. Romney (say that he had qualified for the ballot in Virginia and won the state) and the allocation rules in the remaining states were a little more favorable to him (say that Texas was winner-take-all rather than proportional), perhaps the small-ball strategy would be worth pursing.

But he is far enough behind that he instead needs a “game change” — something that fundamentally alters the dynamics of the race and allows him to substantially improve on his benchmarks from previous states. …

Mr. Santorum’s odds of winning his campaign are nowhere near that good; the betting market Intrade, instead, now gives him just a 3 percent chance to win the nomination. His campaign is in more need of a game change than Mr. McCain’s ever was, and has even less to lose from high-risk strategies.

The most obvious game-changer would be if Newt Gingrich agreed to drop out and hand over his delegates to Santorum. Gingrich has been splitting the conservative vote, and if Santorum loses by a significant margin tomorrow night, Gingrich will likely get a good portion of the blame. But PPP found that even with Gingrich out of the race, Santorum would still trail Romney by 11 points, which suggests that Santorum’s problems may be more substantial.

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Jews Are Being Hunted

The Toulouse massacre has hit Jews hard today, though perhaps none so hard as those who, like the kids and adults shot today, go to or work at or send their kids to Jewish day schools. If you live in the world of Jewish education, you’ve gotten used to conversations and briefings on security—what is being done to prevent violence, what will happen if God forbid there is violence, how to find your kids in the aftermath of violence.

Since 9/11, the possibility of staged attacks on Jewish institutions has been a consuming concern, and institutions with resources have spent enormous amounts of money on metal detectors and guards and “man-traps.” And with good reason; in 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq shot six people at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle while shouting “I am a Muslim-American.” One of the busted terrorist plots in recent years involved a planned assault on a JCC in Riverdale, one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in America, just north of Manhattan. One school I know, on an upper floor in a building, is literally locked off during the day; its elevators cannot stop on the floor and it is impossible to enter through the staircase.

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The Toulouse massacre has hit Jews hard today, though perhaps none so hard as those who, like the kids and adults shot today, go to or work at or send their kids to Jewish day schools. If you live in the world of Jewish education, you’ve gotten used to conversations and briefings on security—what is being done to prevent violence, what will happen if God forbid there is violence, how to find your kids in the aftermath of violence.

Since 9/11, the possibility of staged attacks on Jewish institutions has been a consuming concern, and institutions with resources have spent enormous amounts of money on metal detectors and guards and “man-traps.” And with good reason; in 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq shot six people at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle while shouting “I am a Muslim-American.” One of the busted terrorist plots in recent years involved a planned assault on a JCC in Riverdale, one of the most Jewish neighborhoods in America, just north of Manhattan. One school I know, on an upper floor in a building, is literally locked off during the day; its elevators cannot stop on the floor and it is impossible to enter through the staircase.

What makes the Toulouse shooting so chilling, therefore, is that it circumvents many security efforts to some extent. It took place outside, not inside, and it was not a systematic attack but rather a spraying of bullets. It is, in other words, a crime that can be imitated. All it takes is a street, and kids, and parents, and maybe a yarmulke or two as a means of identifying targets.

Jews are being hunted.

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Soldiers Won’t Cut Afghan Killer Any Slack

All I can say is: It’s a good thing that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who apparently killed 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood, will be tried by a panel of his peers (i.e. fellow soldiers) in a military court-martial rather than by a civilian jury. The latter, I suspect, will be more sympathetic than the former to the media-driven image of him as a poster boy for post-traumatic stress disorder rather than simply judging him to be a murderous fiend.

The New York Times, for example, has a lengthy account todaythat portrays Bales as an all-American type—high school football player, family man, patriotic volunteer—who simply snapped, through no fault of his own, under the weight of four combat deployments combined with marital and money woes. The depiction may be accurate enough, and there is no doubt that PTSD is a real problem and that nonstop combat deployments take a toll, but there is no excuse or justification for the heinous act he is accused of committing.

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All I can say is: It’s a good thing that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who apparently killed 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood, will be tried by a panel of his peers (i.e. fellow soldiers) in a military court-martial rather than by a civilian jury. The latter, I suspect, will be more sympathetic than the former to the media-driven image of him as a poster boy for post-traumatic stress disorder rather than simply judging him to be a murderous fiend.

The New York Times, for example, has a lengthy account todaythat portrays Bales as an all-American type—high school football player, family man, patriotic volunteer—who simply snapped, through no fault of his own, under the weight of four combat deployments combined with marital and money woes. The depiction may be accurate enough, and there is no doubt that PTSD is a real problem and that nonstop combat deployments take a toll, but there is no excuse or justification for the heinous act he is accused of committing.


According to the statistics provided to me by the army, there are 51,270 soldiers, active duty, reserve and retired, who, like Bales, have four or more deployments. (More than 81,000 have at least three deployments.) Arguably that it is too much stress for any one person to carry and no doubt many of those who have deployed that many times engage in all sorts of reckless behavior–drinking, driving fast, and so forth. But there have been precious few war crimes like the one that was allegedly committed by Bales–and none as terrible measured by the loss of life. A civilian jury might not understand that and might buy into an argument from his lawyers that he was a victim of the army’s deployment tempo. His fellow combat vets, who have been through similar experiences but have maintained their composure, will not, I would guess, be so quick to cut him a lot of slack.

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Mearsheimer’s Conspiracies Get Wackier

On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

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On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

As Mearsheimer heads to the present day, he rehashes his usual talking “It’s also important to recognize that supporters of Israel have great influence in the American media,” he claims although, fortunately, he leaves out the lobby’s penchant for making Hamantaschen from the blood of Christian children.

That Mearsheimer claims, “there’s no meaningful Arab lobby” is risible, however. If one accepts Mearsheimer’s definition that “the lobby is a loose coalition of individuals and groups that work actively to push US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction,” then Mearsheimer might be called part of the “Hamas lobby” in America, as he and his friends seek to push the United States in the opposite direction.

It is when the radio host turns to the end of the Cold War that Mearsheimer takes his conspiracies to a new level:

There is no question that as a result of the 1979 revolution in Iran and the subsequent hostage crisis, that the United States had bad relations with Iran. However, the Iranians were very interested at different points in the 1990s and even in the 2000s in trying to improve relations with the United States, and the United States itself was interested in improving its relations with Iran. But this never happened and the main reason is that Israel was deeply committed, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to making Iran the bogeyman for the United States and for Israel in the Middle East

Now, there certainly was optimism in certain circles once Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Rafsanjani would change Iran’s direction. That was reflected in George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address. But the elder Bush—even with Brent Scowcroft at his side—quickly learned that Iran was not serious. Israel had nothing to do with it.  The same lesson was learned by Austria and Germany, both sites of Iranian assassinations in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of course, there was also the Khobar Towers attack. Mohammad Khatami, but Khatami’s attempts at may have charmed Mearsheimer even superficial reform foundered against the opposition of hardliners and regime-sponsored vigilante groups. Mearsheimer is ignorant if he does not realize that it was during the 1980s and 1990s that Iran revived its nuclear and ballistic missile program, and built a formidable base almost from scratch.  It was during the period that it solicited the assistance of rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, as well.

Mearsheimer’s animus blinds him to reality, however, and so he continues:

The Israelis understood that in the absence of the Soviet Union there was no strategic room for a special relationship. So what was needed was to create a threat, a common threat. I think the Israelis concluded in the early ‘90s that Iran was that threat. And since the early 1990s, the Israelis have worked overtime to portray Iran as the second coming of the Third Reich and to make the argument that the United States cannot engage in diplomacy with Iran. And of course there are all sorts of evidence that that’s what’s happening today with regard to the Iranian nuclear program.

That’s right: According to Mearsheimer, the Israelis and the “Israel lobby” manufactured the Iranian nuclear threat so that Israel could entrap the United States. Never mind Iran’s repeated threats to eradicate the Jewish state. Here, Mearsheimer displays an obsession not only with American Jews, but also an almost racist condescension toward Iranians whom he does not credit as independent actors. Nor does Mearsheimer accept—perhaps his ideological blinders prevent him from seeing—Iranian aggression toward American troops or its aid and assistance to Al Qaeda including free passage for the 9/11 hijackers, or its increasing bellicosity in the Persian Gulf.

In every generation brings a new class of useful idiots who allow ideology to blind them to reality. In Mr. Mearsheimer, they have found their chairman.

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Specter of Euro Anti-Semitism Hangs over Toulouse Terror Attack

Today’s terror attack in Toulouse has shocked France as well as the rest of the civilized world. Since the perpetrator escaped the scene of the crime, his identity — or that of any group to which he might belong — remains still unknown. Nevertheless, his purpose was quite clear: to kill as many Jews as possible. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has often spoken out against anti-Semitism, has acted responsibly and we can expect appropriate statements from other world leaders in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school.

But it must be understood that such an attack cannot be understood outside of the context of a revival of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world. This wave of Jew-hatred has been fueled by an unreasoning anger at Israel and a campaign to delegitimize the state as well as its right to self-defense. But while some — including President Obama’s ambassador to Belgium — have attempted to rationalize this trend and to distinguish it from “traditional” anti-Semitism, that is a delusion. There is a very thin line between the efforts of those who seek to brand Israel as a pariah and those who simply wish (as do the Palestinian terrorists European intellectuals honor) to kill Jews. And as the world has just witnessed in Toulouse, that line is getting thinner all the time.

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Today’s terror attack in Toulouse has shocked France as well as the rest of the civilized world. Since the perpetrator escaped the scene of the crime, his identity — or that of any group to which he might belong — remains still unknown. Nevertheless, his purpose was quite clear: to kill as many Jews as possible. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has often spoken out against anti-Semitism, has acted responsibly and we can expect appropriate statements from other world leaders in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school.

But it must be understood that such an attack cannot be understood outside of the context of a revival of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world. This wave of Jew-hatred has been fueled by an unreasoning anger at Israel and a campaign to delegitimize the state as well as its right to self-defense. But while some — including President Obama’s ambassador to Belgium — have attempted to rationalize this trend and to distinguish it from “traditional” anti-Semitism, that is a delusion. There is a very thin line between the efforts of those who seek to brand Israel as a pariah and those who simply wish (as do the Palestinian terrorists European intellectuals honor) to kill Jews. And as the world has just witnessed in Toulouse, that line is getting thinner all the time.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted this morning in reaction to the French killings, it is no accident that such an event would happen the day before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva was scheduled to receive a representative of the Hamas terrorist organization. The Israel haters of the UN and throughout Western Europe have concentrated their efforts in recent years on singling out Israel and Jewish institutions for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. They have tried to ban Israeli books and scholars, to make it impossible for Israeli products to be sold and to make its public officials fear arrest when visiting European capitals. They have imported the raw anti-Semitism so prevalent in the Arab and Muslim world and allowed it to find a home in countries where, before the Holocaust, such hate speech was common. And they have made such inroads among intellectuals who are always ready to believe any slander of Israel that anti-Semitic insinuations have found their way into the mainstream media of Europe.

The question that must be asked today is whether so much hatred for Jews can become commonplace in Europe without it eventually spilling over into violence? The answer is obviously not. The people of Israel understand that Palestinian terrorists are going to take every possible opportunity to fire missiles or attempt other sorts of attacks on Jewish targets. But those who treat the suffering of Israelis living under terrorist fire as unimportant when compared to the plight of Gazans who cheer such attacks must understand that once the genie of Jew-hatred is unleashed there is no way it can be quarantined in just one country.

The Toulouse attack is just one more reminder that the war against Israel isn’t one about borders or settlements but about the spirit of Jew hatred that has made it impossible for Palestinians to embrace peace offers. Anti-Zionism is just a thinly veiled version of the old recognizable anti-Semitism whose familiar calling card has been left in Toulouse. While we trust that the French authorities will eventually find the killer, let us not be deceived into thinking this is an incident that can be isolated from the atmosphere of Jew-hatred that hangs over Europe.

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Troubling Signs for Obama’s Fundraising

Don’t let the record number of fundraisers President Obama has been attending fool you. The Washington Post reports that Obama is having a difficult time pulling in large donors, a sign that the president may have some serious fundraising problems down the road:

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.

This would explain why Obama has been frantically jumping from fundraiser to fundraiser, with little to show for it.

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Don’t let the record number of fundraisers President Obama has been attending fool you. The Washington Post reports that Obama is having a difficult time pulling in large donors, a sign that the president may have some serious fundraising problems down the road:

But Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election. At this point in the last election cycle, Obama had received such large donations from more than 23,000 supporters, more than double the 11,000 who have given him that much this time. President George W. Bush had more than four times that number of big donations at this point in his reelection.

This would explain why Obama has been frantically jumping from fundraiser to fundraiser, with little to show for it.

Obama and the DNC raised $45 million in February, his campaign announced today. It’s a step up from the $29 million he raised in January, but still falls short of the $50 million-per-month he needs to amass the billion-dollar war chest Democrats initially indicated he was aiming for last spring:

Obama’s totals for February fell short of the $56 million he raised in February 2008, when he was seeking the Democratic nomination against now Secratary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republicans said it was a sign of tepid support.

Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said Obama was “having a hard time convincing voters he deserves another term” following three years of “record debt, high unemployment and soaring gas prices and health care costs.”

Obama has boosted fundraising efforts in recent weeks, holding events last month in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Last week, Obama raised money in Chicago and Atlanta.

And it’s not just the large donors Obama is having a hard time with. While his campaign reports an impressive number of small-dollar donations, Karl Rove notes that Obama’s fundraising emails typically ask for $3 contributions, and often frame the appeals as “lotteries.”

There are other troubling signs. Team Obama’s email appeals don’t ask for $10, $15, $25 or $50 donations as they did in 2008, but generally for $3. Nor are the appeals mostly about issues; many are lotteries. Give three bucks and your name will be put in a drawing for a private dinner with the president and first lady.

This is clever marketing, but it suggests the campaign has found that only a low price point with a big benefit can overcome donor resistance among people who contributed via mail or the Internet in 2008. It also points to higher-than-expected solicitation costs and lower-than-expected fund-raising returns.

It’s a smart public relations tactic to give the impression that Obama isn’t losing the small-money; grassroots donors he claimed fueled his campaign in 2008. But is it cost-effective? Even in 2008, the plurality of his donations came from people who gave $1,000 or more. No matter how many $3 contributions Obama pulls it, it probably won’t be enough to make up for the lack of money from major donors. Which tells you why the Obama campaign has finally come around to embracing the Super PACs it’s derided and demonized for years – it literally has no other choice.

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J Street Rolls Out the Red Carpet for BDS

These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.

This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.

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These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.

This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.

(1) In practice — which is to say, outside of Beinart’s singular too-clever-by-half advocacy — there’s no such thing as a limited anti-Israel boycott. There isn’t this critical mass of Western activists waiting to learn from Peter Beinart which Israelis they’re supposed to like and who they need to ostracize, and takes either shallow narcissism or revelatory cocooning to believe otherwise. Meanwhile the Palestinians talk about Israeli chains that “spread like cancer,” a nice rhetorical reminder that boycott movements get their strength not just from revulsion but from the cheap superiority to be found in feeling revulsed. Israel doesn’t actually make all that much in the West Bank, and the typical attraction of BDS has far more to do with chasing the never-quite-adequate pleasure of hating those people — of indulging in an ugly sneer at the thought of rotting Israeli goods and suffering Israeli families — than with utilizing objective economic leverage.

That’s why calls for so-called “targeted” BDS routinely metastasize into calls for total boycotts of the Jewish State. In Britain efforts to label products from settlements spurred greater efforts for full boycotts. Partisans inclined to hate Israel hijack not just the campaigns but also even the physical forums where partial vs. full BDS gets debated. The consistency with which that dynamic has played out raises questions about whether limited BDS advocates are merely naive.

(2) BDS is such a vulgar advocacy that even Norman Finkelstein, who once made John Mearsheimer’s list of good Jews, can’t stomach it. He recently lashed out against the “cult” in general, and he was specifically bothered by the nudge-wink pretense that BDS advocates can somehow untangle their campaigns from wholesale calls to wipe out Israel:

Finkelstein got into trouble when he said that some people in BDS “don’t want Israel.” He lectured his BDS colleagues: “Stop trying to be so clever, because you’re only clever in your cult. The moment you step out, you have to deal with Israeli propaganda … They say, ‘No, they’re not really talking about rights; they’re talking about they want to destroy Israel.’ And in fact I think they’re right, I think that’s true.”

In fact, Finkelstein said, it is “not an accident, an unwitting omission, that BDS does not mention Israel”: They “know it will split the movement, because there’s a large segment—component—of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.” You can see why anti-Israel people were offended to hear this from Finkelstein, of all people. Yet Finkelstein was not revealing some deep secret about the motives of those BDS-ers. Anyone who has listened to their leaders, read their papers, seen them at play, or checked out their circle of acquaintances, supporters, and collaborators can hardly be surprised.

It would be great if someone could push Beinart on Finkelstein’s points, especially on the issue of left-wing BDS disingenuousness. The odds of that particular conversation happening at the J Street conference are, for obvious reasons, not particularly great.

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Jews Divided on Iran? Not Really

Worry over the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is one issue that has long united the pro-Israel community. The strength of this consensus, which is shared by the majority of Americans, is such that the only real division is over whether it is advisable for Israel or the West to strike Iran relatively soon or to wait a while for crippling sanctions to force a diplomatic solution before force is used. Some on the left continue to weakly argue that Iran doesn’t want to build such a weapon or, alternatively, that a nuclear Iran can be contained. But President Obama’s recent speech to the AIPAC conference in which he reiterated his determination to stop Iran and disavowed a containment strategy, demonstrated that such voices are very much on the margins of public debate, let alone the Jewish community.

However that didn’t stop the New York Times from running an article today on the front page that claimed in the headline in the version published online on Sunday afternoon “Pro-Israel Groups Differ on Iran” (by Monday, the headline had been changed to read “Hawks Steer Debate on How to Take on Iran”). But those readers eager to discover which mainstream Jewish groups were taking a contrary position on Iran were disappointed. The only organizations that the Times could find to back up that headline were J Street and Tikkun. While the former claims to be “pro-Israel” even the latter’s adherents do not attempt to play that game. But however you wish to label them, the idea that disagreement from these two left-wing outliers constitutes any sort of a Jewish debate is comical. Perhaps only in the pages of the New York Times or that of Tikkun itself, could a situation where the opposition of groups as marginal as these be considered a serious news story.

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Worry over the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is one issue that has long united the pro-Israel community. The strength of this consensus, which is shared by the majority of Americans, is such that the only real division is over whether it is advisable for Israel or the West to strike Iran relatively soon or to wait a while for crippling sanctions to force a diplomatic solution before force is used. Some on the left continue to weakly argue that Iran doesn’t want to build such a weapon or, alternatively, that a nuclear Iran can be contained. But President Obama’s recent speech to the AIPAC conference in which he reiterated his determination to stop Iran and disavowed a containment strategy, demonstrated that such voices are very much on the margins of public debate, let alone the Jewish community.

However that didn’t stop the New York Times from running an article today on the front page that claimed in the headline in the version published online on Sunday afternoon “Pro-Israel Groups Differ on Iran” (by Monday, the headline had been changed to read “Hawks Steer Debate on How to Take on Iran”). But those readers eager to discover which mainstream Jewish groups were taking a contrary position on Iran were disappointed. The only organizations that the Times could find to back up that headline were J Street and Tikkun. While the former claims to be “pro-Israel” even the latter’s adherents do not attempt to play that game. But however you wish to label them, the idea that disagreement from these two left-wing outliers constitutes any sort of a Jewish debate is comical. Perhaps only in the pages of the New York Times or that of Tikkun itself, could a situation where the opposition of groups as marginal as these be considered a serious news story.

The article attempts to frame the debate as one between evangelical Christians and “neocons” on the right and the peace faction on the left represented by J Street and Tikkun. But there is, in fact, no great division on the issue. It is true that conservatives are deeply skeptical of President Obama’s promises on the issue and point out that his actions have never matched the fierce rhetoric on the subject that he has been spouting since even before he was elected president. But the argument about whether Obama has done much on the issue or if he will ultimately do anything at all is a very different question than the one posed by the Times.

As even the Times noted, the only opposition to tough sanctions that mandate an oil embargo on Iran came from the far left or the isolationist far right. But to represent the views put forward by Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul as having anything but a miniscule following in the country in general, let alone in the Jewish community is an astonishing distortion.

As for J Street, while it once hoped to replace AIPAC as the voice of American Jewry on Israel, that is an assertion that is not treated seriously anywhere but in the pages of the Times. J Street’s positions opposing Israeli measures of self-defense and refusal to join the consensus on Iran has prevented it from achieving the success it thought it would achieve. Congress pays little attention to its attempt to bite AIPAC’s ankles on the issues and even President Obama, whose cause it was set up to support against attacks from the left, has deserted it. Obama’s speech to AIPAC made it clear that, at least while he was running for re-election, he has ditched the group’s agenda of pressure on Israel for the sake of a dead-in-the-water peace process.

As for Tikkun, it is so far out of the mainstream that it makes J Street look moderate. Tikkun isn’t merely a supporter of Israel’s discredited Peace Now faction as is the case with J Street. It is a home for those on the far left who oppose the state’s existence altogether and back measures of economic warfare to bring it to its knees.

The Times article framed J Street and Tikkun as representing a sizable Jewish faction simply because the editorial slant of the piece demanded it. To claim they represent anything but the far left is absurd. Indeed, the piece’s conclusion contradicted both the lead and the headline when it noted:

The harder line that Mr. Obama articulated also happens to be good domestic politics, according to experts. The president’s statements, they said, calmed the jitters of some Jewish voters about his support for Israel and defused the effort of Republican presidential candidates to use Iran as a wedge issue against him.

That is true. While the left hopes to buttress what it believes is Obama’s true wish to stay out of a conflict on Iran, his tilt on the issue shows that he knows there are very few votes, Jewish or non-Jewish, to be won by sounding as soft on Iran as J Street and Tikkun would like. The only real Jewish debate on the issue is strictly in the imaginations of these extremists and their cheering section at the Times.

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