Initially residents of the deeply blue cities of New York and Washington, DC were sympathetic to the message of Occupy Wall Street. Having dozens of unwashed campers with a history of rape and assault occupying their public parks for months on end, however, quickly evaporated any goodwill the city’s residents may have had towards the group. This week the patience the residents of New York City and Washington, DC was worn to the breaking point by members of the movement in two unrelated incidents that show just how little regard the campers have towards their fellow man.
In Washington the normally sympathetic DCist reports,
Last night, in the span of about two hours, Occupy D.C. managed to get on the nerves of two groups that tend to be progressive: LGBT activists who organized a 700-person march in support of hate-crime victims, and City Paper readers in attendance at a debate of at-large D.C. Council candidates sponsored by the alt-weekly.
The march last night was meant to be a mostly quiet affair, with some participants taping over their mouths as a way of expressing the silence they feel when a member of their community is attacked. The marchers who didn’t seal their mouths spoke quietly, save a few quick speeches by the organizers and some District officials.
But the 50 or so members of Occupy D.C. who joined up couldn’t stick to the script. They mic-checked, chanted and lingered in busy intersections as police officers escorting the march reopened the streets after rolling closures. Some said they were part of a “radical queer bloc” that was enjoined by members of Occupy D.C., but with the “mic checks” and chants that wouldn’t be out of place at an Occupy rally, the distinction was unclear.
This is far from the first time that Occupy D.C. has been loud and disruptive in a public meeting, nor is it the first time they have blocked traffic. It is the first time they’ve taken aim at their fellow liberals, and given the tone of the DCist’s coverage, liberals don’t like the taste of their own medicine.
Rick Santorum’s already minimal chances to win Jewish votes in November just got a tiny bit smaller. Politico reports that the GOP presidential candidate spoke in 2010 at a conference of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, a group whose adherents claim Jewish identity while also professing belief in the divinity of Jesus. Santorum picked up $6,000 for the speaking gig that went unnoticed at the time but now must be considered a minor embarrassment for the former senator.
Messianics, like the better-known group that calls themselves Jews for Jesus, are ardent supporters of the Jewish state and wanted Santorum to speak at their event because of his pro-Israel views. But Christians who may be puzzled by any Jewish resentment about his appearance need to understand two things about this controversy. The first is that the only one thing upon which virtually all Jews — no matter where they stand on the religious or political spectrum — agree on is that belief in Jesus makes a person a Christian rather than a Jew. There is also a strong consensus that Messianic groups are engaging in deceptive practices when they seek to proselytize Jews to join them. Therefore, any connection with such groups is bound to be seen as controversial.
The progressive movement is really squeezing every last drop out mock outrage out of this increasingly-stale controversy:
Rush Limbaugh’s opponents are starting a radio campaign against him Thursday, seizing upon the radio star’s attack of a Georgetown law student as a “slut” to make a long-term effort aimed at weakening his business. …
Media Matters is spending at least $100,000 for two advertisements that will run in eight cities.
The ads use Limbaugh’s own words about student Sandra Fluke, who told congressional Democrats that contraception should be paid for in health plans. Limbaugh, on his radio programs, suggested Fluke wanted to be paid to have sex, which made her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” In return for the money, he said Fluke should post videos of herself having sex. Under sharp criticism, Limbaugh later apologized.
In one of the anti-Limbaugh ads, listeners are urged to call the local station that carries Limbaugh to say “we don’t talk to women like that” in our city.
Media Matters is placing the radio ads in cities with strong progressive activist networks and place where it believes Rush Limbaugh is particularly vulnerable. The group says it’s modeling this after its “Stop Beck” campaign, but that’s a little misleading. While Media Matters did target Glenn Beck’s advertisers, the main reason he was dropped from Fox News was because of his plummeting ratings. That had more to do with conservatives tuning out than anything Media Matters orchestrated.
Soldiers in Mali have overthrown that West African nation’s government, claiming that the elected government has incompetently managed efforts to defeat the long-running Tuareg insurgency. Mali may not often be on American policymakers’–let alone the public’s–radar, but it was important for a number of reasons. One of the world’s poorest countries, Mali was consistently not only ranked free by Freedom House, but it was also the world’s freest majority Muslim country—much freer than Turkey, and freer than both Bosnia and Albania.
About a decade ago, I was fortunate to spend some time in Mali, where I got to visit Timbuktu—to see just where my parents had always threatened to send me when I misbehaved. I wrote this piece at the time, lamenting how the squeaky wheels in Sudan and Lebanon got the American grease, but the quiet democrats in Bamako were ignored. Mali was the perfect antidote to the diplomatic tripe that poverty—rather than ideology—caused terrorism. Mali was dirt poor, but aside from very specific and isolated pockets, Saudi-funded imams had made little headway. Still, it was shortsighted for American officials to basically cede Mali to the Libyans and the Saudis to proselytize and indoctrinate.
The transformation of the Republican Party in the mid to late 20th century from one dominated by a moderate-liberal Eastern establishment to the current conservative model is a historic fact. Even the mere hint of moderation on the part of a Republican candidate is enough to send the party’s grass roots into conniption fits. The most damning accusation that can be lodged against anyone in the GOP these days is that of being a RINO — Republican in name only — a term that is synonymous with betrayal of principle and mushy statism. But two important Senate contests this year raises an interesting question that Republicans ought to seriously consider: is it ever okay for the party to nominate a moderate?
In Connecticut, two candidates are contesting the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman: Wrestling mogul Linda McMahon and former congressman Chris Shays. For conservatives in this very blue state, the choice may be an easy one since McMahon is a Tea Party sympathizer. By contrast, Shays is more or less what most people think of when they hear the term RINO. In his 21 years representing Fairfield County in Congress Shays voted more often with liberals than conservatives. Yet a Quinnipiac University poll showing the pair in matchups against the two prospective Democratic challengers in the race ought to give even the most ardent RINO-haters pause. The survey shows Shays in a virtual dead heat against either Democrat while McMahon is badly beaten in both matchups. Should that influence GOP voters?
About this Washington Times story regarding efforts by the left to silence Rush Limbaugh, I had some thoughts.
The first is that we know by now that the outrage on the left about Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke was largely false and feigned. We know this because if the fury were genuine, it would extend to vulgar comments leveled against all women, not just liberal ones. But the refusal of the Obama campaign team to return Bill Maher’s $1 million Super PAC contribution, combined with their silence in the wake of other attacks on conservative women, has given away the game. I’m reminded of how the feminist movement reacted to Anita Hill’s charges against Clarence Thomas v. the actions of Bill Clinton. Even if you believed everything Ms. Hill said (and I do not), Thomas’s actions paled in comparison to how Clinton has treated women. And yet the former was vilified and the latter was celebrated.
Second, liberals have failed to beat Limbaugh at his own game (talk radio) for almost three decades now. The left tried Air America and all sorts of other routes; none has worked. So they have settled on this one. What they are aiming to do is to delegitimize Limbaugh, to silence him because they hate him, his style, and his ideas.
When foreign policy “realists,” pseudo-realists, and leftists claim that the pro-Israel establishment is preventing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, their argument fails to account for one aspect of recent Mideast history: During the administrations of American presidents seen as favoring Israel, the Jewish state’s leaders made serious offers for a final-status agreement.
So the argument that more “daylight” is needed between the U.S. and Israel is generally met with proper skepticism. So is the declaration that President Obama is just as pro-Israel as his predecessors, he’s just showing his friends a bit of tough love–heavy on the tough, light on the love. Aaron David Miller, part of Bill Clinton’s Mideast negotiating team, doesn’t think there’s any reason to fool yourself about that last point. He has written an article for Foreign Policy’s website detailing the six most damaging myths of the U.S.-Israel relationship. No. 6 is: “Barack Obama is just as pro-Israel as Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.” Miller writes:
There’s no question that Obama understands and appreciates the special relationship between Israel and the United States. But Obama isn’t Bill Clinton or George W. Bush when it comes to Israel — not even close. These guys were frustrated by Israeli prime ministers too, but they also were moved and enamored by them (Clinton by Yitzhak Rabin, Bush by Ariel Sharon). They had instinctive, heartfelt empathy for the idea of Israel’s story, and as a consequence they could make allowances at times for Israel’s behavior even when it clashed with their own policy goals. Obama is more like George H.W. Bush when it comes to Israel, but without the strategy…
If Obama had a chance to reset the U.S.-Israel relationship and make it a little less special, he probably would. But I guess that’s the point: He probably won’t have the chance.
Max Boot believes that France is a success at counter-terrorism, despite “bungling” the case of Mohammad Merah. “Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters,” Max writes; “the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.”
Perhaps he is right. I am reminded, though, of something that Jean-François Revel wrote for COMMENTARY nearly three decades ago. The philosopher and former Résistance fighter who succeeded Raymond Aron as France’s most trenchant political commentator, Revel warned that Western democracies have a susceptibility to internal threats written into their genetic code. A democratic state can mobilize against external enemies, but:
can defend itself from within only very feebly; its internal enemy has an easy time of it because he exploits the right to disagree that is inherent in democracy. His aim of destroying democracy itself, of actively seeking an absolute monopoly of power, is shrewdly hidden behind the citizen’s legitimate right to oppose and criticize the system. Paradoxically, democracy offers those seeking to abolish it a unique opportunity to work against it legally.
Not surprisingly, the support is highest among Republicans. But a majority of independents and plurality of Democrats support the pipeline construction as well, highlighting just how much of a political miscalculation President Obama made by standing in the way of the Keystone XL.
And while Obama has claimed his objections to the pipeline stem from concern over the safety of the proposed route, the Keystone XL receives the highest support in the states it would cut through. The reason is obvious: the pipeline would bring jobs to areas of the country that badly need them.
The pipeline would travel through the Midwest and the South, and Americans in those two regions are the most likely to approve of the project. Nearly 7 in 10 Midwesterners want the government to approve the building of the pipeline and 61% of those in the South do as well. There has been discussion in Washington and in the media about the potential new jobs the pipeline project would create, which may partly explain the higher support seen in those regions. Americans in the West and East are less likely to approve.
In a great op-ed at Fox News, Mackenzie Eaglen points out the degree to which Barack Obama’s passion for underfunding the Pentagon is at odds with America’s defense obligations. In March of last year, “for the first time, according to the Pentagon’s Transportation Command chief, every combatant commander had a priority one mission requiring the help of the Air Force,” she notes. Even with an administration whose first foreign-policy priority is to curtail intervention abroad, air power was maxed out.
And, in historical terms, it didn’t take much: Leading from behind in Libya, the surge in Afghanistan, support in Japan after the tsunami, and air support for Obama’s trip to South America. We did it all and we did it well but unless you believe in the end of humanitarian disaster and international conflict, America’s defense load is never going to lighten to the point that the Obama budget envisions. Instead, we’ll just be unable to carry it.
The widespread consensus among pundits and political operators that Mitt Romney’s nomination is no longer in doubt has generated some predictable pushback from conservatives who are still trying to convince themselves that it is possible to stop him. Some seized on this analysis by the Wall Street Journal of the delegate math from earlier in the week as proof that the road ahead for the frontrunner was still steep since it made it clear that Romney had to keep winning at least 50 percent of the delegates in play to clinch before the Tampa convention. When you combine that with the dismay over the Etch A Sketch gaffe as well as the ongoing angst about the candidate’s bona fides still being expressed by respected commentators such as William Kristol, it is possible to imagine there is still room for skepticism about the inevitability of the outcome.
But the are two problems for those trying to concoct such a scenario. The first is that no matter how you play around with the delegate math, nothing short of a Romney collapse will prevent him from getting a majority of convention delegates by the end of June. The second is that even if you think Romney will still find a few more banana peels to slip on in the upcoming weeks, a deadlocked convention requires one of his competitors to catch fire during this period. Yet the only possible alternative is Rick Santorum, a candidate who has already proven repeatedly that he cannot compete in any state that isn’t dominated by evangelicals.
One of the themes of President Obama’s energy tour this week is that oil production increased under his watch. Speaking in Boulder, Colorado, he claimed:
“We’re going to continue to produce oil and gas at a record pace,” he told one crowd.
The president first paid a visit to the largest solar plant of its kind in the country, in Boulder City, Nev., a city southeast of Las Vegas. The plant is home to nearly a million solar panels.
He blasted Republicans, who he says have favored oil companies over investments in alternative energy.
“The current members of the Flat Earth Society in Congress,” Mr. Obama said, “they would rather see us continue to provide $4 billion in tax subsidies, tax giveaways to the oil companies.”
Domestic oil production may have increased under Obama, but it has absolutely nothing to do with his policies.
Just as there was a certain segment of the intelligentsia which claimed after 9/11 that the U.S. “had it coming,” so too there will no doubt be some who claim that the Jews somehow had it coming because the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, cited the plight of the Palestinians along with other issues (e.g., the public ban on the veil in France) to justify his murderous rampage. The best riposte to this despicable line of argument comes from none other than Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who says as Jonathan noted yesterday: “It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.”
This will not, of course, silence the anti-Israel lobby which will claim that Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza will continue to drive would-be terrorists around the bend until a real Palestinian state is established. The argument, plausible on its face, falls apart at the slightest examination.
Salena Zito has posted her full interview with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in which Bush suggests there is no need to look further for a vice presidential nominee than Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio has been among the most common suggestions for the GOP nominee’s running mate, but now that Romney appears to have wrapped up the nomination, the calls for Rubio to join the ticket are growing louder. (Romney’s blandness has encouraged some commentators to caution him away from choosing Bob McDonnell or Rob Portman.)
But Bush’s other comments in the interview offer some good advice for Romney as well. Romney has been hoping to run against Obama’s record–massive deficits, unsustainable entitlements, high gas prices, high unemployment, etc. But he has already begun conceding the economy’s improvement and searching for someone other than the president to credit. Paul Ryan gave Romney an opportunity to make this election about advocating for future generations when Ryan released his budget aiming to steer the country away from crushing deficits and entitlement insolvency. If Romney follows Ryan in this direction, Bush gave him some more to work with yesterday:
Bush said he is confident Romney would advocate for education issues, an issue the former governor said he was “passionate” about.
“He knows the proper role of government in education, which is limited,” Bush said. “You do not have to have an interventionist federal policy to make something as important as education a national priority.”
D.G. Myers is right that French authorities bungled badly in the affair of Mohamed Merah who was on a terrorist watch list but was allowed to roam freely. That terrible mistake was obviated somewhat by the swift and massive French response after the terrible shootings at the Jewish day school; Merah was identified and cornered within two days of that attack and stopped before he could kill again.
But whatever the French did wrong in this case — and there is no doubt that a terrible oversight occurred — on the whole French counter-terrorism is a success story. I recommend reading this 2008 article by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary Schmitt that calls France “the European country most serious about counterterrorism.” The secret of French success has been their willingness “to grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist, investigative magistrates, the juges d’instruction” — powers that far exceed any authorities given U.S. government officials even under the Patriot Act. With those powers, French forces have done an impressive job of stopping terrorist plots of which there is no shortage because of the large number of marginalized and aggrieved Muslim immigrants living there. Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters; the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.
The good news is that President Obama will announce his plan to expedite the review process for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline at a campaign stop in Cushing, Oklahoma. The bad news is that it will have absolutely no impact on the timeline for pipeline construction, which was already on track to begin as early as June:
TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, Alex Pourbaix, said in an interview March 6 that construction on the Cushing phase of Keystone could begin as soon as June. The company doesn’t expect the new review process to change that schedule, Cunha said yesterday. …
Since the Cushing phase doesn’t cross an international border, it doesn’t require permission from the U.S. Department of State and president, as the full project did. Nonetheless, the Obama administration immediately endorsed TransCanada’s Cushing plan and released a statement in February saying the White House will “take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.”
So Obama is endorsing a portion of the Keystone pipeline that doesn’t even need his consent for construction, while refusing to approve the only part of the pipeline that actually needs State Department permission. In other words, he’s shuffling around a lot of papers and trying to make it look like he’s doing something.
The siege in Toulouse ended with rough justice delivered to Mohammed Merah, the terrorist responsible for murdering three French soldiers, a rabbi, and three Jewish schoolchildren. He died battling the French security forces that stormed his apartment. But the debate over his heinous acts will live for some time. No doubt we will hear many voices raised to counsel against anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigotry because Merah was of Algerian descent and a follower of al Qaeda’s twisted ideology. And those voices will be absolutely right: Fanatics like Merah are a tiny portion of the world’s billion-plus Muslims and even a tiny portion of Europe’s Muslim population of more than 50 million (excluding Turkey). The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding and utterly unsympathetic to the siren call of extremism–indeed polls shows that Muslim opinion has turned firmly against Al Qaeda and its ilk over the past decade.
Yet it is undeniable that the most prominent acts of terrorism in the past several decades have been committed by Islamists, whose ideology has displaced Marxism and even nationalism as the primary propellant for terrorism, as it was in the 1960s-1970s. That is no reason to discriminate against Muslims; indeed the best protection against violence is to assimilate Muslim immigrants so that they have a stake in society–something that the U.S. has done notably better than Europe, which is why Europe has to worry about homegrown terrorism more than we do.
Mohammad Merah, the self-confessed murderer of Jewish schoolchildren and French soldiers, died while jumping from his bathroom window in a torrent of police gunfire around 11:30 this morning in Toulouse. “This man doesn’t interest me,” Nicole Yardeni, the president of the regional Council of Jews, scoffed after the 32-hour siege had finally ended. “He is only an instrument of death.” But the French press seemed plenty interested. “Itinerary of a killer,” Le Parisien headlined its story over a front-page photo of a smirking Merah. “End of the road for a killer,” L’Humanite trumpeted. “Trajectory of hatred,” Libération blared.
Perhaps it was well that the French had become interested in Merah at last. Although he was on a Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur “watch list” since 2008, no one was apparently watching him.
Alana Goodman is correct to highlight the current battle between Attorney-General Eric Holder and a bipartisan array of prominent former U.S. officials who have accepted hefty honoraria from Mujahedin al-Khalq (MEK) front groups, even though the State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group. While cultivating prominent endorsers is one front in the group’s public relations battle, the largest war – and the reason the MEK has spent millions on former American officials – is for their support in its battle to be delisted as a terrorist entity.
There is no doubt that in the past, the MEK engaged in terrorism against Americans and that it has embraced a fiercely anti-Western ideology. Proponents of delisting the MEK, however, argue that the group has not engaged in terrorism against the United States or its interests for decades. The State Department may eventually be forced by the letter of the law to delist the MEK. That does not mean the group is entitled to any American support. The group’s culpability in recent terrorist attacks in Iran is murkier. Still, it would be a mistake to boil the MEK issue—and the question of U.S. support—down to the terrorism listing, however. Working with the MEK is simply bad policy.
Yesterday, after erroneous reports that the Toulouse shooter was a neo-Nazi, the New York Times speculated that the attack was inspired by anti-immigrant rhetoric from right wing politicians. The paper hinted that the incident was a sign of larger societal problems in France, and would prompt public soul-searching:
But the political debate around the shootings, and whether the deaths of an instructor and three young children were somehow inspired by anti-immigrant political talk, is likely to continue — both as a weapon in the presidential campaign and as a more general soul-searching about the nature of France.
You would think the Times would come to a different conclusion yesterday, after the French authorities announced the suspect was a radicalized Muslim with possible al Qaeda ties. And yet its latest article still seems to blame the attack on right-wing, anti-immigrant rhetoric:
After the shootings on Monday, the main candidates in the French presidential campaign, including Mr. Sarkozy, suspended their campaigns as political debate swirled around whether the killings were somehow inspired by anti-immigrant rhetoric. The campaign has been long and heated, and Mr. Sarkozy has been trying to win back voters who drifted to the far-right National Front party.
It remained unclear what the effect of the killings would be on the election, which is only a few weeks away. Nor was it clear whether they would further stoke anti-Muslim rhetoric in the country. Muslims complain widely of feeling vilified by some political elements, on the right in particular, and the anti-immigration far right has been gaining unprecedented popularity in recent months. Some analysts have suggested that the deaths could cause a calming of the political discourse.
The Times has a double standard on Jew-hatred.