Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 26, 2012

Is the Brotherhood Moderating Hamas?

During the weekend, the New York Times reported that the Muslim Brotherhood, a rising force in post-Mubarak Egypt, is exerting pressure on its Hamas allies to do what is necessary to make its unity pact with Fatah work. The upshot of the report is that by seeking to influence the terrorist movement to join the Palestinian Authority, the Brotherhood is advancing the cause of peace. But the assumption that either Fatah or the newly moderate Hamas is actually interested in signing a peace agreement with Israel is utterly without foundation.

The Times buys into the Brotherhood’s spin that its effort to induce its ally to become a partner in the PA is a sign it has evolved from its fundamentalist origins. Rather than merely asserting its goal of destroying Israel and unceasing war with the West, these Islamist parties seek to co-opt existing Arab institutions such as the Egyptian government and the Palestinian Authority. In the sense that the Egyptian party is taking a more nuanced approach to power, they’re right. But the assumption that the ultimate aim of this tactic is peace, is a mistake.

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During the weekend, the New York Times reported that the Muslim Brotherhood, a rising force in post-Mubarak Egypt, is exerting pressure on its Hamas allies to do what is necessary to make its unity pact with Fatah work. The upshot of the report is that by seeking to influence the terrorist movement to join the Palestinian Authority, the Brotherhood is advancing the cause of peace. But the assumption that either Fatah or the newly moderate Hamas is actually interested in signing a peace agreement with Israel is utterly without foundation.

The Times buys into the Brotherhood’s spin that its effort to induce its ally to become a partner in the PA is a sign it has evolved from its fundamentalist origins. Rather than merely asserting its goal of destroying Israel and unceasing war with the West, these Islamist parties seek to co-opt existing Arab institutions such as the Egyptian government and the Palestinian Authority. In the sense that the Egyptian party is taking a more nuanced approach to power, they’re right. But the assumption that the ultimate aim of this tactic is peace, is a mistake.

Like Hamas, the Brotherhood’s long-term goal is still the eradication of Israel. But it knows that even if it could command the loyalty of the Egyptian Army — whose acquiescence it needs to consolidate its hold on a share of power in Cairo — this isn’t realistic. Rather, it seeks to govern Egypt and impose its ideology on the largest Arab nation. If it is advising Hamas to try to do the same thing, it does so on the assumption that sooner or later its ally will marginalize Fatah.

The last thing the Brotherhood needs right now is for Hamas to involve Egypt in a conflict that the country’s army wishes to avoid at all costs. But what is occurring is not a transition to an era that will herald a new dawn of peace. Rather, the clear aim is to create an alliance of Islamist-oriented Arab nations in which both moderates and liberals will be shunted aside.

The goal of this charm offensive on the part of the Brotherhood is to help lure both the United States and the European Union away from Israel on the question of Hamas’s designation as a terrorist group. Underlying this effort is the misleading notion that Palestinian unity is a necessary prerequisite to peace with Israel. Those who urge the United States to recognize Hamas are now arguing that including it in the PA will, with the Muslim Brotherhood’s support, create a situation in which there is a Palestinian consensus in favor of peace. But just because Hamas is now, with the Brotherhood’s encouragement, saying it will accept a state whose borders run along the 1967 lines, does not mean they will ever recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state on the other side of the border.

Rather, both Hamas and the Brotherhood seem to have come to the conclusion that they have a lot to gain from fostering a situation under which they assume power in the territories while maintaining a state of being armed. Indeed, many in Israel might be willing to accept a Hamas-dominated PA provided that cross-border violence was kept to a minimum.

The United States should not be fooled by this shift in tactics. The consolidation of power in both Cairo and Ramallah of Islamist parties will make the achievement of real peace impossible as well as undermining U.S. interests. A Brotherhood-dominated Egypt means that country will leave the fold of Arab moderates and be a reliable opponent of the United States. A PA in which Hamas has the upper hand will mean that the terrorist haven in Gaza will now expand to the West Bank, creating even more instability in the region and threatening Jordan.

While there may not be much the Obama administration can do to retrieve the situation in Egypt at this date, it is not too late to prevent the West Bank from becoming another Islamist stronghold. But if the U.S. weakens in its resolve to continue the ban on contacts with Hamas, that is exactly what will happen.

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ObamaCare and the Constitution

I agree with the Wall Street Journal that the Supreme Court’s case deciding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (with oral arguments commencing today) is among the most important and consequential in our lifetime. “The powers that the Obama Administration is claiming change the structure of the American government as it has existed for 225 years,” according to the Journal. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the Supreme Court’s answers may constitute a hinge in the history of American liberty and limited and enumerated government. The Justices must decide if those principles still mean something.”

But while President Obama is pushing the boundaries of federal power to the breaking point, his actions can also be seen as the logical extension of the progressive movement, what with its collectivist impulses, its disregard for the separation of powers, and its basic contempt for the American Constitution. The Constitution, after all, is (among other things) a check on the power of the state. Which means that James Madison’s handiwork is an impediment to the designs of progressives, who want to cede ever greater authority to the federal government.

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I agree with the Wall Street Journal that the Supreme Court’s case deciding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (with oral arguments commencing today) is among the most important and consequential in our lifetime. “The powers that the Obama Administration is claiming change the structure of the American government as it has existed for 225 years,” according to the Journal. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the Supreme Court’s answers may constitute a hinge in the history of American liberty and limited and enumerated government. The Justices must decide if those principles still mean something.”

But while President Obama is pushing the boundaries of federal power to the breaking point, his actions can also be seen as the logical extension of the progressive movement, what with its collectivist impulses, its disregard for the separation of powers, and its basic contempt for the American Constitution. The Constitution, after all, is (among other things) a check on the power of the state. Which means that James Madison’s handiwork is an impediment to the designs of progressives, who want to cede ever greater authority to the federal government.

Rather than publicly argue that we ought to jettison the Constitution, those on the left have settled on a strategy to fundamentally reinterpret it. This project travels under the banner of a “living Constitution.” What this means in reality is that the Constitution has no fixed meaning; it is as malleable as hot wax, to the point that new rights can be invented and old rights can be jettisoned based on judges’ predilections, ideologies, passions, and will; on the season of the year, the day of the week, the time of the day. It really doesn’t matter, since the Constitution is viewed as a means to a (political) end. It is a rootless document. Everything is up for grabs.

In that sense, what liberal judges and justices do is something of a charade. They will simply make the Constitution conform to their pre-ordained conclusions (and so abortion is deemed to be a constitutional right, the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, the Commerce Clause allows for an individual health care mandate, et cetera). But for a variety of reasons, they cannot be fully candid about how low their regard for the Constitution is. And so they often go through contortions that are intellectually unserious and, if the stakes were less, comical.

The Constitution is an “evolving” document, we’re told by those on the left, conforming to “standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” But who gets to decide which direction the evolution goes? Who is the arbiter of enlightenment, the adjudicator of decent standards, the fount of all human wisdom? Give yourself a gold star if you answered “a Supreme Court Justice.” Because surely Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer know more about standards of decency than — well, than whom exactly?

As Justice Scalia has written, “As soon as the discussion goes beyond the issue of whether the Constitution is static, the evolutionists divide into as many camps as there are individual views of the good, the true, and the beautiful. I think that is inevitably so, which means that evolutionism is simply not a practicable constitutional philosophy.”

For progressives, that may be precisely the point.

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Why is the White House Suddenly Calling it “ObamaCare”?

The amount of energy Democrats and the administration devoted to fighting the ObamaCare label never really made much sense. So President Obama thinks it’s a really phenomenal law, his signature presidential accomplishment, but also finds it insulting when people attach his name to it? That’s kind of weird.

Now all of a sudden, White House officials have started to embrace the term. David Plouffe, David Axelrod, and even the president himself have all mentioned it during the past few days. In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza considers why:

Embracing the term “Obamacare” is a recognition that the president owns the law politically-speaking no matter what the Court decides. That reality means he must re-define “Obamacare” in the eyes (or, more accurately, ears) of the public. “Obamacare” currently stands for everything people don’t like about the law. The White House has to make it stand for all the good things in the law.

We’ve written previously that the lack of movement in the Affordable Care Act’s poll numbers leads us to believe that very few people are either undecided or persuadable on the issue. The White House begs to differ, and the embrace of “Obamacare” is a leading edge of a strategy to change minds on what the law means.

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The amount of energy Democrats and the administration devoted to fighting the ObamaCare label never really made much sense. So President Obama thinks it’s a really phenomenal law, his signature presidential accomplishment, but also finds it insulting when people attach his name to it? That’s kind of weird.

Now all of a sudden, White House officials have started to embrace the term. David Plouffe, David Axelrod, and even the president himself have all mentioned it during the past few days. In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza considers why:

Embracing the term “Obamacare” is a recognition that the president owns the law politically-speaking no matter what the Court decides. That reality means he must re-define “Obamacare” in the eyes (or, more accurately, ears) of the public. “Obamacare” currently stands for everything people don’t like about the law. The White House has to make it stand for all the good things in the law.

We’ve written previously that the lack of movement in the Affordable Care Act’s poll numbers leads us to believe that very few people are either undecided or persuadable on the issue. The White House begs to differ, and the embrace of “Obamacare” is a leading edge of a strategy to change minds on what the law means.

Oddly, this shift in rhetoric comes on the heels of reports last week that Obama was trying to back away from his health care law. Many noted that the president didn’t personally mark the two-year anniversary of the law. The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday:

With the law still unpopular with many Americans, the White House has concluded that it is virtually impossible to change negative public opinions, particularly if Mr. Obama is front and center, a senior administration official said.

Instead, the White House wants to spotlight health-care officials and regular Americans who have benefited from the law, in hopes of draining politics from the issue. Involving Mr. Obama makes the matter more political and is therefore counterproductive to the long-term goal of boosting public support for the overhaul, the official said.

Apparently this was a pretty short-lived strategy. Either the White House was never seriously planning to go through with it, or the reports sparked enough backlash from Obama supporters to get his advisers to nix the idea.

When you think about it, the notion that Obama could ever hope to distance himself from his health care law just doesn’t seem logical. Americans who oppose the law aren’t just going to forget the president’s role in it if he stops mentioning it in speeches. But he risks losing support from his progressive base if he appears to be backing away from it. And Obama will need that group more than ever next November if the Supreme Court ends up striking the law down.

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Yelling at the NYT Won’t Help Santorum

At one time or another, it’s something most conservatives have wanted to do. While campaigning in Wisconsin, Santorum did: He blew up on a New York Times‘ reporter, questioning his journalistic integrity, his willingness to report on instead of create the news. Many conservatives cheered Santorum’s bravery, his willingness to take on the media bias at the New York Times and elsewhere. Will this be enough to fire up the conservative base in time for Santorum to have a shot at beating Romney for the nomination? In a word: no. Nothing short of a miracle could make that happen at this point, looking at the delegate math.

During the debates Newt Gingrich gained serious traction taking on the liberal establishment of all stripes, leading to the only standing ovation during a debate that I can remember. Has Santorum decided to take a page from his opponent’s book, deciding to go on the offensive to remind conservatives why he’s their only logical pick?

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At one time or another, it’s something most conservatives have wanted to do. While campaigning in Wisconsin, Santorum did: He blew up on a New York Times‘ reporter, questioning his journalistic integrity, his willingness to report on instead of create the news. Many conservatives cheered Santorum’s bravery, his willingness to take on the media bias at the New York Times and elsewhere. Will this be enough to fire up the conservative base in time for Santorum to have a shot at beating Romney for the nomination? In a word: no. Nothing short of a miracle could make that happen at this point, looking at the delegate math.

During the debates Newt Gingrich gained serious traction taking on the liberal establishment of all stripes, leading to the only standing ovation during a debate that I can remember. Has Santorum decided to take a page from his opponent’s book, deciding to go on the offensive to remind conservatives why he’s their only logical pick?

Since those debates, Gingrich’s support has plummeted and pundits are now on deathwatch, waiting for his campaign to finally announce its conclusion. Santorum’s appeal, meanwhile, has kept him in the final two contenders past Super Tuesday, something next to no one saw coming even a few months ago. Many a pundit has commented on what they believe Santorum’s appeal is to the base, why he has outlasted every other hype candidate to the final mile of the GOP nomination race. I think his ability to stay in the race this late in the game is thanks primarily to two factors: He stuck it out, kept his cool, and stayed on message long enough to become the Not-Romney at the right time. He also comes across as a pretty nice guy, if you don’t read into the liberal media narrative that he’s a General in the War on Women, that is.

Santorum appeals to the socially conservative that were faced with Gingrich, a serial philanderer and Cain, a man whose candidacy unraveled with new reports of shady behavior with women every day until he eventually succumbed and dropped out. He’s a family man who, at the apex of his run, took a few days off to spend time with his special needs daughter who had been hospitalized with serious complications. He wears a sweater vest unironically; he really does come across as the guy next door.

It’s best for Santorum to keep in mind what it is about his candidacy that appeals to voters. While videos of dust-ups with the New York Times may get a lot of spin, airtime and YouTube hits, the first thing I noticed was this: Twenty seconds after Santorum exclaims “It’s bullshit!” – a blonde head, half the height of everyone else around her, comes into view. Santorum lost his cool and cursed in front of what appears to be a young girl who was standing in line to get her campaign placard signed. This isn’t the candidate social conservatives have rallied around and it won’t get Santorum any closer to the nomination.

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Re: Obama’s Revealing Comments to Medvedev

To add to Pete’s post on President Obama’s revealing exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it should be noted that we now have two such incidents from the president. His first saw him insulting Benjamin Netanyahu with his French counterpart when he thought the microphones were off. In this regard, Obama fares quite poorly when compared with his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush had a memorable hot-mic moment during his presidency. It occurred as the Second Lebanon War raged on and the international community was hoping for a cease-fire. Bush was talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom suggested, while they thought their microphones were off, that they didn’t much like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a cease-fire, as it would not actually solve anything. Bush said to Blair:

The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh–, and it’s over.

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To add to Pete’s post on President Obama’s revealing exchange with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, it should be noted that we now have two such incidents from the president. His first saw him insulting Benjamin Netanyahu with his French counterpart when he thought the microphones were off. In this regard, Obama fares quite poorly when compared with his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Bush had a memorable hot-mic moment during his presidency. It occurred as the Second Lebanon War raged on and the international community was hoping for a cease-fire. Bush was talking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, both of whom suggested, while they thought their microphones were off, that they didn’t much like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a cease-fire, as it would not actually solve anything. Bush said to Blair:

The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh–, and it’s over.

He was, of course, correct. But the point is that when the microphones were off, Bush was–to no one’s surprise–just as supportive of our allies and as tough on our adversaries as he was in public. These moments might seem insignificant, but they reveal why some presidents are able to win the trust of our allies, and others are not. Our most candid moments will always play an outsized role in others’ approximations of our moral compass. This is even more so when they confirm a pattern of behavior.

I don’t remember if Bush had any hot-mic incidents with his Russian counterpart, but Condoleezza Rice had a famous one with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2006. The two were arguing about Russia’s lack of support for the American-led aid effort in Iraq. Here is the UK Telegraph’s writeup of the exchange:

Mr Lavrov tried to explain that the international community should not become involved in Iraq’s political process – something that Miss Rice opposes – but should be involved “in support of the political process.”

“What does that mean?” Miss Rice demanded.

After a long pause, Mr Lavrov replied with a sneer: “I think you understand.”

“No, I don’t,” she shot back. As Mr Lavrov refused to lend Russian support to the new aid programme, Miss Rice grew increasingly irritated.

“I just want to register that I think it’s a pity that we can’t endorse something that’s been endorsed by the Iraqis and by the UN,” she said. “But if that’s how Russia sees it, that’s fine.”

The article notes that the other foreign ministers barely spoke at all during the exchange. That’s because they usually rely on the Americans to register the West’s disapproval of Russia’s mischief making.

Well, they used to.

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CPAC Head: Conservatives Must Unite Behind Romney

Mitt Romney is racking up some key endorsements today, including one from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. But the biggest indicator that the conservative movement is starting to coalesce behind Romney is today’s endorsement from the head of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas.

Cardenas, the figurehead behind the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), gently tells the other candidates he thinks it’s time for them to step aside. From his Daily Caller op-ed:

As of today, it is clear neither Senator Santorum nor Speaker Gingrich nor Congressman Paul can amass the majority of delegates required to be the Republican nominee. Their only paths to victory feature a contested, anarchic floor fight just weeks before Americans vote on whether or not to give President Obama a second term.

With all due respect to my fellow conservative leaders determined to oppose Governor Romney, that is not a worthy endeavor. For the sake of our Republic, I’m not willing to wait until the Republican National Convention to sort this out. It’s time to unite behind a worthy presidential candidate, build our organization and raise the resources necessary to defeat the liberal electoral machine. …

Governor Romney is an honorable, worthy, competent, conservative candidate for our next commander-in-chief. I’m proud to support his campaign for president.

I’m calling on my fellow conservatives, for goals both lofty and pragmatic, to join me in supporting the only candidate that can ensure President Obama’s legacy is limited to just four years of fiscal irresponsibility and disregard for our Constitution, and not eight.

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Mitt Romney is racking up some key endorsements today, including one from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. But the biggest indicator that the conservative movement is starting to coalesce behind Romney is today’s endorsement from the head of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas.

Cardenas, the figurehead behind the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), gently tells the other candidates he thinks it’s time for them to step aside. From his Daily Caller op-ed:

As of today, it is clear neither Senator Santorum nor Speaker Gingrich nor Congressman Paul can amass the majority of delegates required to be the Republican nominee. Their only paths to victory feature a contested, anarchic floor fight just weeks before Americans vote on whether or not to give President Obama a second term.

With all due respect to my fellow conservative leaders determined to oppose Governor Romney, that is not a worthy endeavor. For the sake of our Republic, I’m not willing to wait until the Republican National Convention to sort this out. It’s time to unite behind a worthy presidential candidate, build our organization and raise the resources necessary to defeat the liberal electoral machine. …

Governor Romney is an honorable, worthy, competent, conservative candidate for our next commander-in-chief. I’m proud to support his campaign for president.

I’m calling on my fellow conservatives, for goals both lofty and pragmatic, to join me in supporting the only candidate that can ensure President Obama’s legacy is limited to just four years of fiscal irresponsibility and disregard for our Constitution, and not eight.

This is the general conclusion many analysts have been coming to the past few weeks. But Santorum’s campaign has been arguing that his big win in Louisiana during the weekend is a sign Romney isn’t inevitable. The fact that Cardenas published this column right on the heels of Santorum’s victory is a pretty direct repudiation of that argument.

Despite the outcome in Louisiana, the next month looks pretty grim for Santorum. He’s projected to lose in Wisconsin and the handful of other April primaries, and it’s not necessarily a given that he’ll win in his home state of Pennsylvania. It may not be long before he exits the race, though he could be the first candidate to do so. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if Newt Gingrich keeps up his novelty campaign until the convention, and Ron Paul still seems content to play out his own unique delegate strategy.

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Santorum Wants to be “Mr. May”

Byron York reports that Rick Santorum told a gathering of Washington reporters today while he knows the outlook for him isn’t bright in Wisconsin next week, he’s looking forward to winning in lots of states the following month. Given that the latest poll shows him losing badly in Wisconsin, his lowering of expectations there is smart. But the problem with his attempt to rationalize the defeats that are in store for him in the near future is that by the time May rolls around the landscape of the race may have been altered to his disadvantage.

The problem with being “Mr. May” is that even if Santorum can win some primaries that month — and even he concedes that running the table in a diverse group of states including some that Romney will probably win is unlikely — is that he really needed to be the man of the month in February and March when the nomination was still up for grabs. Santorum did win some states in those months, but he also lost some big ones, and the result is that waiting until deep into the spring to play catch up means he’s doomed himself to runner-up status.

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Byron York reports that Rick Santorum told a gathering of Washington reporters today while he knows the outlook for him isn’t bright in Wisconsin next week, he’s looking forward to winning in lots of states the following month. Given that the latest poll shows him losing badly in Wisconsin, his lowering of expectations there is smart. But the problem with his attempt to rationalize the defeats that are in store for him in the near future is that by the time May rolls around the landscape of the race may have been altered to his disadvantage.

The problem with being “Mr. May” is that even if Santorum can win some primaries that month — and even he concedes that running the table in a diverse group of states including some that Romney will probably win is unlikely — is that he really needed to be the man of the month in February and March when the nomination was still up for grabs. Santorum did win some states in those months, but he also lost some big ones, and the result is that waiting until deep into the spring to play catch up means he’s doomed himself to runner-up status.

In the wake of his victory during the weekend in Louisiana, Santorum is still pretending the Republican race is far from decided and that, as was the case earlier in the campaign, several more momentum changes are to be expected. But having already had the chance to really alter the dynamic of the GOP contest in states like Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and lost, it’s just not possible to go on pretending he has a ghost of a chance to win a majority of delegates. Even more to the point, by the time May arrives, he will have already lost another few contests that will make the current hole in which he finds himself (relative to Mitt Romney) far deeper.

If we concede, as Santorum already seems to have done, that he will lose Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia next week and almost certainly get creamed in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware later in the month, that leaves his home state of Pennsylvania as the only one where he has a chance in April. Even if he wins there, and that is by no means a certainty and will in any case be diminished by his failure to again field a full slate of delegates, Santorum will enter May even farther behind than he already is now. His prospects may be better in North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia on May 8, but by then even most conservatives will have gotten the message that prolonging the GOP contest is pointless. Even if Santorum refuses to take the hint and pull out sometime that month, by June, Romney will be so close to winning the necessary majority of delegates that any decision on Santorum’s part won’t be significant.

Of course, being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Santorum may not be aware that the designation of “Mr. May” isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some 30 years ago, the late George Steinbrenner labeled outfielder Dave Winfield with that moniker–and didn’t mean it as a compliment. What the New York Yankees needed he said was another “Mr. October” (i.e. Reggie Jackson) not a “Mr. May” who played like a star when the chips weren’t on the line. In this case, most Republicans seem to have decided that Romney is their “Mr. November” this year. It remains to be seen whether he can deliver, but whether he does or not, Santorum’s boasts about potential victories in the spring will be long forgotten by the time the real action happens in the fall.

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The CIA’s Muslim Terror Head

In some quarters of the right it is considered, so to speak, an article of faith that the war against al-Qaeda and its ilk is really a war against Islam, and that no Muslim can possibly be trusted to be an ally in this fight. Even talk of allowing Muslim judges in Afghanistan to issue warrants for “night raids” has been greeted with contempt by some even though many Muslim Afghan soldiers now go out on those raids. Indeed, thousands of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers have lost their lives fighting alongside American allies against our mutual foes in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Mahdist Army.

Further discrediting the anti-Muslim propaganda is the fact disclosed yesterday by the Washington Post that the long-serving head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center–the architect of policies which have sent countless jihadists to an early grave in drone strikes–is himself a Muslim. He converted after marrying a Muslim woman while serving abroad.

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In some quarters of the right it is considered, so to speak, an article of faith that the war against al-Qaeda and its ilk is really a war against Islam, and that no Muslim can possibly be trusted to be an ally in this fight. Even talk of allowing Muslim judges in Afghanistan to issue warrants for “night raids” has been greeted with contempt by some even though many Muslim Afghan soldiers now go out on those raids. Indeed, thousands of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers have lost their lives fighting alongside American allies against our mutual foes in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Mahdist Army.

Further discrediting the anti-Muslim propaganda is the fact disclosed yesterday by the Washington Post that the long-serving head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center–the architect of policies which have sent countless jihadists to an early grave in drone strikes–is himself a Muslim. He converted after marrying a Muslim woman while serving abroad.

The Post quotes CIA Director David Petraeus as saying, “No officer in the agency has been more relentless, focused, or committed to the fight against al-Qaeda than has the chief of the Counterterrorism Center.” The fact that the officer in question is a Muslim should hardly be cause for comment–except to the extent that it unsettles some objectionable assumptions about where most Muslims supposedly stand in the battle against violent extremists.

 

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MLA Rankings of American Writers

Since the 1980’s, literary scholars have complained of a “fixed” and “restrictive” canon of American literature. While working on another project, my curiosity was aroused. What actually is the American literary canon, as determined by what literary scholars actually work on?

Over the past 25 years, Henry James has been the top-ranked American writer, according to the latest MLA International Bibliography. More than 3,000 pieces of scholarship have been devoted to him in whole or part since 1987. Only William Faulkner approaches him in volume. If the scholarship is counted since 1947, however (the date of the earliest entries in the Bib), Faulkner is the runaway leader with 7,108 scholarly pieces on him. And James trails with 6,760.

One of the changes over the past 25 years, then, is that James has supplanted Faulkner as America’s best or most important writer. T. S. Eliot and Herman Melville have also swapped places. After that, things get interesting. Vladimir Nabokov has become of the five most talked-about American writers, and Toni Morrison (whose Beloved will be 25 years old in September) has jumped from far back into the top ten. The reputations of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Fitzgerald, and Frost have slipped badly. Poor William Dean Howells has fallen out of the top 25 altogether (to be replaced by Richard Wright). Has the literary scholars’ 25-year worship at the holy shrine of race, class, and gender brought about major changes in the canon? You be the judge.

Here are the top 25 American writers as determined by the amount of scholarship on each. In brackets is the rise or fall of each writer when compared to his or her ranking since 1947.

( 1.) Henry James (3,188 items) [+1]
( 2.) William Faulkner (2,955) [-1]
( 3.) T. S. Eliot (2,659) [+1]
( 4.) Herman Melville (2,579) [-1]
( 5.) Vladimir Nabokov (2,290) [+5]
( 6.) Ernest Hemingway (2,220) [-0-]
( 7.) Edgar Allan Poe (1,958) [-2]
( 8.) Toni Morrison (1,950) [+9]
( 9.) Nathaniel Hawthorne (1,751) [-4]
(10.) Walt Whitman (1,647) [-2]
(11.) Emily Dickinson (1,623) [+2]
(12.) Ezra Pound (1,620) [-3]
(13.) Willa Cather (1,482) [+5]
(14.) Ralph Waldo Emerson (1,326) [-3]
(15.) Wallace Stevens (1,122) [-1]
(16.) Edith Wharton (1,087) [+5]
(17.) Henry David Thoreau (1,076) [-5]
(18.) F. Scott Fitzgerald (1,002) [-3]
(19.) Flannery O’Connor (935) [+3]
(20.) Mark Twain (882) [-4]
(21.) John Steinbeck (823) [+2]
(22.) William Carlos Williams (772) [-0-]
(23.) Saul Bellow (706) [+2]
(24.) Richard Wright (670) [+2]
(25.) Robert Frost (661) [-5]

Disclaimer: These rankings are based entirely on the research of the author, and do not reflect the opinions or policies of the Modern Language Association in any way.

Since the 1980’s, literary scholars have complained of a “fixed” and “restrictive” canon of American literature. While working on another project, my curiosity was aroused. What actually is the American literary canon, as determined by what literary scholars actually work on?

Over the past 25 years, Henry James has been the top-ranked American writer, according to the latest MLA International Bibliography. More than 3,000 pieces of scholarship have been devoted to him in whole or part since 1987. Only William Faulkner approaches him in volume. If the scholarship is counted since 1947, however (the date of the earliest entries in the Bib), Faulkner is the runaway leader with 7,108 scholarly pieces on him. And James trails with 6,760.

One of the changes over the past 25 years, then, is that James has supplanted Faulkner as America’s best or most important writer. T. S. Eliot and Herman Melville have also swapped places. After that, things get interesting. Vladimir Nabokov has become of the five most talked-about American writers, and Toni Morrison (whose Beloved will be 25 years old in September) has jumped from far back into the top ten. The reputations of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Fitzgerald, and Frost have slipped badly. Poor William Dean Howells has fallen out of the top 25 altogether (to be replaced by Richard Wright). Has the literary scholars’ 25-year worship at the holy shrine of race, class, and gender brought about major changes in the canon? You be the judge.

Here are the top 25 American writers as determined by the amount of scholarship on each. In brackets is the rise or fall of each writer when compared to his or her ranking since 1947.

( 1.) Henry James (3,188 items) [+1]
( 2.) William Faulkner (2,955) [-1]
( 3.) T. S. Eliot (2,659) [+1]
( 4.) Herman Melville (2,579) [-1]
( 5.) Vladimir Nabokov (2,290) [+5]
( 6.) Ernest Hemingway (2,220) [-0-]
( 7.) Edgar Allan Poe (1,958) [-2]
( 8.) Toni Morrison (1,950) [+9]
( 9.) Nathaniel Hawthorne (1,751) [-4]
(10.) Walt Whitman (1,647) [-2]
(11.) Emily Dickinson (1,623) [+2]
(12.) Ezra Pound (1,620) [-3]
(13.) Willa Cather (1,482) [+5]
(14.) Ralph Waldo Emerson (1,326) [-3]
(15.) Wallace Stevens (1,122) [-1]
(16.) Edith Wharton (1,087) [+5]
(17.) Henry David Thoreau (1,076) [-5]
(18.) F. Scott Fitzgerald (1,002) [-3]
(19.) Flannery O’Connor (935) [+3]
(20.) Mark Twain (882) [-4]
(21.) John Steinbeck (823) [+2]
(22.) William Carlos Williams (772) [-0-]
(23.) Saul Bellow (706) [+2]
(24.) Richard Wright (670) [+2]
(25.) Robert Frost (661) [-5]

Disclaimer: These rankings are based entirely on the research of the author, and do not reflect the opinions or policies of the Modern Language Association in any way.

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Gannett Reporters Sign Walker Petition

On Sunday, Gannett’s Wisconsin team broke the news that 29 Wisconsin judges had signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Today, in an embarrassing follow-up, the paper’s publisher reports that 25 Gannett reporters apparently signed the petition as well. So, thanks for ruining it for the whole news team, guys:

In the interest of full transparency, we are informing readers today that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, signed the recall petition. It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett’s principles of ethical conduct.

It is little consolation to us that none of the editorial employees who signed a petition has any involvement in our news or political coverage or decides how those stories are developed and presented. None of the employees serve on the investigative team. Had they been directly involved, we would identify them.

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On Sunday, Gannett’s Wisconsin team broke the news that 29 Wisconsin judges had signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Today, in an embarrassing follow-up, the paper’s publisher reports that 25 Gannett reporters apparently signed the petition as well. So, thanks for ruining it for the whole news team, guys:

In the interest of full transparency, we are informing readers today that 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, signed the recall petition. It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett’s principles of ethical conduct.

It is little consolation to us that none of the editorial employees who signed a petition has any involvement in our news or political coverage or decides how those stories are developed and presented. None of the employees serve on the investigative team. Had they been directly involved, we would identify them.

The paper’s publisher really beats himself and the staff up in the apology today, which makes you wonder – if this lapse was taken so seriously by Gannett, why wasn’t it disclosed along with the initial story on the judges yesterday? You would imagine the Gannett i-team noticed that some of their fellow reporters’ signatures were on the list when they were first reporting the story. Waiting a whole day makes it look like the paper was forced into disclosing it, even if that wasn’t actually the case.

But it’s hard to get too worked up over this. When it comes to ideology and journalism, Jay Rosen seems to have the most reasonable philosophy. Having strong political opinions doesn’t preclude someone from being a quality reporter, and acknowledging those political opinions is probably a good step toward building trust with the public. At the same time, these journalists who signed the petition were in violation of Gannett’s own ethics rules. And considering the fact that Gannett was reporting on the potential ethical lapses of public officials, that blunder certainly undermines its credibility.

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Time May Be Running Out in Syria

The Washington Post reports:

Syrian rebels battling the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad are running out of ammunition as black market supplies dry up, neighboring countries tighten their borders and international promises of help fail to materialize, according to rebel commanders and defected soldiers who have crossed into this Turkish border town in recent days in a quest for money to buy arms.

They describe what appear to be desperate conditions for the already lightly armed and loosely organized rebel force, made up of defected soldiers and civilians who in recent months have banded together in the name of the Free Syrian Army, transforming what had been an overwhelmingly peaceful uprising into an armed revolt.

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The Washington Post reports:

Syrian rebels battling the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad are running out of ammunition as black market supplies dry up, neighboring countries tighten their borders and international promises of help fail to materialize, according to rebel commanders and defected soldiers who have crossed into this Turkish border town in recent days in a quest for money to buy arms.

They describe what appear to be desperate conditions for the already lightly armed and loosely organized rebel force, made up of defected soldiers and civilians who in recent months have banded together in the name of the Free Syrian Army, transforming what had been an overwhelmingly peaceful uprising into an armed revolt.

This news, if true, is a tragedy and a disgrace. The Free Syrian Army is, at this point, the best chance to force Basher Assad and his criminal regime from power–if only by putting enough pressure on him to lead to a negotiated transition. Yet the Syrian army is on the offensive and, having taken Homs with great brutality, now has the rebels on the run–and the rebels can’t even find enough bullets with which to defend themselves.

It did not have to be this way. This is a direct result of the Obama administration’s failure to engage actively in favor of a revolt that could tip the balance of power in the Levant in favor of the West and against Iran and its allies. All sorts of arguments have been made as to why we should not arm the rebels. All need to be taken account, but none is particularly persuasive in light of the likely fact that, unless we do more to arm the rebels, Assad will remain in power and will remain more dependent than ever on Iranian support. This would be both a humanitarian and a strategic tragedy, hurting not only the people of Syria but American interests in the region. It is still not too late for the administration to act in concert with our allies. But time may be running out.

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Militias Out of Control in Libya

One Libyan militia has taken to mounting raids against hotels over unpaid bills. Another militia recently captured and held two British PressTV journalists because militia members mistakenly believed Welsh materials in the journalists’ possession were written in Hebrew, and that the Iranian-employed Brits were Israeli agents.

Meanwhile, official Libyan police have finally gotten around to rounding up the vandals responsible for the disgraceful desecration of Christian and Jewish tombstones in a WWII-era cemetery. The problem is they’re too scared to do anything about it:

Police in Libya captured three members of an armed mob that desecrated British war graves in Benghazi – but released them after a few hours because they were ‘too dangerous.’ The extremists, who admitted smashing the gravestones with sledgehammers, belong to an Islamist militia with links to al-Qaeda. During questioning, police were so nervous they made the men wear blindfolds so they would not be able to identify their interrogators.

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One Libyan militia has taken to mounting raids against hotels over unpaid bills. Another militia recently captured and held two British PressTV journalists because militia members mistakenly believed Welsh materials in the journalists’ possession were written in Hebrew, and that the Iranian-employed Brits were Israeli agents.

Meanwhile, official Libyan police have finally gotten around to rounding up the vandals responsible for the disgraceful desecration of Christian and Jewish tombstones in a WWII-era cemetery. The problem is they’re too scared to do anything about it:

Police in Libya captured three members of an armed mob that desecrated British war graves in Benghazi – but released them after a few hours because they were ‘too dangerous.’ The extremists, who admitted smashing the gravestones with sledgehammers, belong to an Islamist militia with links to al-Qaeda. During questioning, police were so nervous they made the men wear blindfolds so they would not be able to identify their interrogators.

After the liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s crime family, liberal critics endlessly intoned that the Bush administration had made inadequate preparations for “winning the peace.” Bracketing the somewhat obnoxious spectacle of 20 year old DC newcomers suddenly declared themselves to be sage military historians, the argument was not wholly undue.

Criticism regarding the current administration’s lack of post-Qaddafi preparation has not reached a similar pitch, circumspection that’s doubly perplexing given how in contrast to Iraq there really was a hasty rush to war on Libya. Had a Bush-era official underwhelmingly expressed himself “concerned” about tens of thousands of airline-busting missiles falling into the hands of terrorists – while UN officials were acknowledging that nobody had a sense for the magnitude of the problem because “nobody has had a chance to look… across the country” – the howls of derision would have lasted weeks.

Al-Qaeda-linked militias are functionally in control of key parts of Libya, and have been for many months. Senior Libyan officers admit they “have no control over these men, they are too dangerous, they have more weapons.” Past attempts to reign in militia-linked criminals triggered raids on police stations, with the buildings overrun and the arrested militia members freed.

The post-Saddam/post-Qaddafi parellels run so close that Libya has even seen priceless archaeological artifacts stolen in the chaos. When the Iraqi Museum was raided, it led to no end of outrage and White House resignations. There are published books on the incident with titles that have words like “rape and “cultural cleansing.” The din in response to NATO’s hasty and underplanned intervention into Libya has been somewhat more muted, for some reason.

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Opposition to ObamaCare High Among Women, Youth

During the past year, opinion polls have consistently shown widespread public disapproval of President Obama’s health care reform law. The Hill has a new survey out reaffirming this, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law later today.

The most interesting takeaway from the poll is that the disapproval for ObamaCare is spread across most voting demographics, including two key groups that Democrats have argued benefit most from the law: young people and women. From The Hill:

By a 52-percent-to-39-percent margin women are more opposed to it than men, who oppose it 48 percent to 45 percent, a difference that matches the poll’s 3-point margin of error. …

While even the youngest voters oppose the law (47 percent to 42 percent among those aged 18-39), opposition grows to 53 percent among voters aged 65 and older.

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During the past year, opinion polls have consistently shown widespread public disapproval of President Obama’s health care reform law. The Hill has a new survey out reaffirming this, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law later today.

The most interesting takeaway from the poll is that the disapproval for ObamaCare is spread across most voting demographics, including two key groups that Democrats have argued benefit most from the law: young people and women. From The Hill:

By a 52-percent-to-39-percent margin women are more opposed to it than men, who oppose it 48 percent to 45 percent, a difference that matches the poll’s 3-point margin of error. …

While even the youngest voters oppose the law (47 percent to 42 percent among those aged 18-39), opposition grows to 53 percent among voters aged 65 and older.

While President Obama didn’t personally commemorate the two-year anniversary of his health care law last week, his campaign has been emphasizing the supposedly positive impact the law will have on women and young Americans. Obviously, the numbers in The Hill poll complicate that message. The fact that women are more likely to oppose the law than men is particularly interesting, and gives the GOP an opening to try to frame this as a women’s issue.

But the poll also bolsters one of the main arguments we may hear from Democrats if the Supreme Court does end up overturning the law or portions of it. While voters want to see the law repealed, they also believe the justices’ eventual decisions may be politically motivated:

Although voters want the Court to strike the law, they don’t necessarily trust the justices’ motivations. Fifty-six percent of likely voters believe the justices are swayed by their own political beliefs, while just 27 percent believe they “make impartial decisions based on their reading of the Constitution.”

Skepticism about the justices relying on their political beliefs ran consistently among age, racial and philosophical categories, with a majority of whites (54 percent), blacks (59 percent), Republicans (56 percent), Democrats (59 percent), conservatives (54 percent), centrists (56 percent) and liberals (59 percent) expressing the same viewpoint.

When people decry “judicial activism,” often they’re really using it as a euphemism for a decision they don’t like or don’t agree with. If the law is struck down, the health care issue will likely become an election-year motivator for Democratic voters, and the blame will no doubt be pinned on conservative activist judges.

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Is Economic Freedom Still Imaginable?

The nation will be holding its political breath this week when the U.S. Supreme Court spends three days hearing arguments about the constitutionality of ObamaCare. Though the issue is split into three parts, the main event will be on Tuesday, as the question of whether the Commerce clause of the Constitution can be interpreted in such a manner as to allow the government to require Americans to engage in commerce rather than to merely regulate it is debated.

For most liberals, including President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress that rammed this law down the throats of an unwilling people two years ago, the notion that there are any such limits on the power of the federal government is laughable. To be fair to them, they do have much of the history of 20th century American politics on their side. During the last century, Washington’s power has expanded to the point where there is almost nothing that can be imagined that can’t be justified by the Commerce clause. That’s why this case is so important. Barring an electoral revolution this November in which Republicans sweep both Houses of Congress and the White House, we will have lost our last chance to preserve our freedom.

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The nation will be holding its political breath this week when the U.S. Supreme Court spends three days hearing arguments about the constitutionality of ObamaCare. Though the issue is split into three parts, the main event will be on Tuesday, as the question of whether the Commerce clause of the Constitution can be interpreted in such a manner as to allow the government to require Americans to engage in commerce rather than to merely regulate it is debated.

For most liberals, including President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress that rammed this law down the throats of an unwilling people two years ago, the notion that there are any such limits on the power of the federal government is laughable. To be fair to them, they do have much of the history of 20th century American politics on their side. During the last century, Washington’s power has expanded to the point where there is almost nothing that can be imagined that can’t be justified by the Commerce clause. That’s why this case is so important. Barring an electoral revolution this November in which Republicans sweep both Houses of Congress and the White House, we will have lost our last chance to preserve our freedom.

As with so many contemporary political debates, the two sides have been talking past each other with opponents of the law discussing the principle of individual liberty and the fear of government compulsion and the proponents merely sticking to what they see as the undeniable benefits of the law and viewing the arguments on the other side as if they were a colonial remonstrance against the Stamp Act. Never was that made clearer than in an opinion piece published in the New York Times last week by Linda Greenhouse, the paper’s longtime Supreme Court reporter.

Greenhouse summed up the liberal response to challenges to the constitutionality of the individual mandate by merely dismissing them. She acknowledges that “half the public” believes the law is unconstitutional because they think the government ought not to have so much power. But while she concedes that this is “rhetorically powerful,” she contends it is “simply wrong.” She thinks so little of the idea that we dare not give Washington such unlimited authority that she more or less laughs it off as no more than a quaint notion of a long passed era. So lacking in respect for this notion, she merely laughs it off, asserting, “There’s just no there there.”

While she attempts to “unpack” all the arguments against the mandate’s constitutionality, she hones in on one idea, that of it being “unprecedented.” And it is on that ground, she makes her fight, asserting that all good things that come from the federal government such as Social Security, Medicare and a host of other congressional acts that are intended to do great good were once “unprecedented.” Her point is that Congress and the Courts have already gone so far in enlarging the scope of government power, why should anyone be bothered by a law that forces people to buy insurance and penalizes them if they don’t?

Why indeed? If we already have a federal leviathan that can do most anything, what’s the problem with stretching the Commerce clause one more bit to allow this latest good thing that will come from Washington? Seen in that light, it’s little wonder that Greenhouse and other commentators think the conservative fussing about liberty is just “rhetoric.”

That is why the Court’s decision is so important. After going so far, it can be argued that there is no way back, but it has an opportunity in this case to stand, as William F. Buckley once described the role of the National Review as to, “stand[s] athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

In this case, the Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to assess the drift of liberal governance and to finally yell stop after a century of nodding its acquiescence. If it doesn’t, then we will all understand, as liberals already seem to, that there is no limit to government power. The spirit of liberal fascism that Greenhouse reflects, in which there is no imaginable way our understanding of law can be recast to one in which the government can’t do anything it likes is what the Court will really be voting on here. That’s why this case is a potential turning point in our history. It is that sobering thought should put a halt to ObamaCare.

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The Romney-Ryan Tax Budget

On “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace yesterday morning, David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Obama, talked about Paul Ryan’s recently announced budget plan. You can see the discussion here with the relevant portion beginning about 9:30. With a distinct now-we’ve-got-’em! note of triumph in his voice, Plouffe said that the plan had been endorsed by the Republican presidential candidates and that, with Mitt Romney the frontrunner, this was now the Romney-Ryan Budget. It calls for cuts in government spending through basic entitlement reform, such as means testing and block grants to the states, and tax cuts coupled with limits on tax deductions that would be targeted at the rich. Obviously, the Obama team is looking forward to running against this proposal and is anxious to tie the probable Republican nominee to it.

This reminded me, as so much of the Obama presidency has reminded me of the Jimmy Carter presidency, of Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980. The country was in the throes of the worst peacetime inflation in its history, with 12 percent inflation in 1980 (with an unemployment rate well over 7 percent). The prime rate, the benchmark interest rate on loans, was over 20 percent (it’s 3.25 percent this morning). Read More

On “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace yesterday morning, David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Obama, talked about Paul Ryan’s recently announced budget plan. You can see the discussion here with the relevant portion beginning about 9:30. With a distinct now-we’ve-got-’em! note of triumph in his voice, Plouffe said that the plan had been endorsed by the Republican presidential candidates and that, with Mitt Romney the frontrunner, this was now the Romney-Ryan Budget. It calls for cuts in government spending through basic entitlement reform, such as means testing and block grants to the states, and tax cuts coupled with limits on tax deductions that would be targeted at the rich. Obviously, the Obama team is looking forward to running against this proposal and is anxious to tie the probable Republican nominee to it.

This reminded me, as so much of the Obama presidency has reminded me of the Jimmy Carter presidency, of Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980. The country was in the throes of the worst peacetime inflation in its history, with 12 percent inflation in 1980 (with an unemployment rate well over 7 percent). The prime rate, the benchmark interest rate on loans, was over 20 percent (it’s 3.25 percent this morning).

While decrying the problems that inflation was causing, many liberal politicians secretly liked inflation because at that time income tax brackets were not indexed for it. Thus, as wages were increased to match the rise in the cost of living, that pushed people into higher and higher tax brackets. In other words, marginal tax rates meant to sock it to the rich were now socking it to the middle class and federal revenues were rising even faster than inflation without Congress having to vote to raise taxes. For many liberals–who never saw a government revenue increase they didn’t like–that was a win-win situation.

Jack Kemp, a Republican congressman from Buffalo, New York, a former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and a future vice-presidential nominee (in 1996), and William Roth, Senator from Delaware, proposed to slash marginal rates and, crucially, to index tax rates to inflation to prevent bracket creep. When Ronald Reagan endorsed the proposal, the Carter campaign pounced, redubbing the Kemp-Roth tax proposal the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax proposal, convinced that it would be a drag on Reagan’s election prospects.

They were, of course, suffering from the “Pauline Kael effect,” named for the long-time movie critic of The New Yorker, who is supposed to have said after the 1972 election, “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Millions of voters outside the Beltway and the Upper West Side of New York thought the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal was a great idea. Ronald Reagan signed it into law only eight months into his presidency, while Jimmy Carter felt sorry for himself sitting in Plains, Georgia.

I suspect the same situation obtains today. The people are far more ready to seriously tackle the federal government’s chronic revenue imbalance than is the liberal establishment.

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Obama’s Revealing Comments to Medvedev

ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that at the end of his 90-minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today, President Obama said he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

Here’s the exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

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ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that at the end of his 90-minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev today, President Obama said he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

Here’s the exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

I imagine scores of voters will find it comforting to know President Obama is sharing his plans for a second term with both Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, even if he’s keeping them secret from the American people. And can anyone guess what it means when Obama says he’ll have “more flexibility” after his “last election”? A hint: This is a president who shelved his predecessor’s plan to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to “reset” our relations with Russia – and Obama did this without receiving any concessions from Russia in advance or since. (Russia has, in fact, been a consistent thorn in our side.) This action was also (rightly) seen as a betrayal by our allies in Eastern Europe. We can only imagine what a second Obama term would mean in terms of unwise concessions and reckless agreements with Russia, Iran, North Korea and countless other nations.

Like Jimmy Carter before him, we have a president today who, by instinct and disposition, is hard on our allies and weak toward our adversaries. It is not the kind of thing you hope to find in a commander-in-chief.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues — comment by comment, law by law, act by act.

 

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What Alienation? Donations to Israel Rise

More proof, as if any was needed after Sol Stern’s merciless evaluation in April’s COMMENTARY, that the alleged crisis in American Zionism is a psychodrama playing out inside Peter Beinart’s head and few other places:

Donations by U.S. Jews to Israeli nonprofits have doubled during the past 12 years, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by professors at Brandeis University. The study, scheduled to be completed in late April, disproves the widely held view by many Israelis that philanthropic donations from the United States have dropped over time due to economic and political reasons… [it] suggests quite the opposite.

The numbers are overstated a little bit – Ben Smith quickly noticed that the “doubled” claim doesn’t account for inflation — but otherwise conclusive.

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More proof, as if any was needed after Sol Stern’s merciless evaluation in April’s COMMENTARY, that the alleged crisis in American Zionism is a psychodrama playing out inside Peter Beinart’s head and few other places:

Donations by U.S. Jews to Israeli nonprofits have doubled during the past 12 years, according to a first-of-its-kind study conducted by professors at Brandeis University. The study, scheduled to be completed in late April, disproves the widely held view by many Israelis that philanthropic donations from the United States have dropped over time due to economic and political reasons… [it] suggests quite the opposite.

The numbers are overstated a little bit – Ben Smith quickly noticed that the “doubled” claim doesn’t account for inflation — but otherwise conclusive.

They’re also in line with overwhelming polling demonstrating that American Jews are as sympathetic or more sympathetic to Israel than they’ve ever been. Their identification with the Jewish State has remained inside a ten-point range, roughly between the upper 60′s and upper 70′s, for more than 10 years. There hasn’t been much work done on why the number fluctuates inside that range, e.g. if the changes are random noise or if they track with military and diplomatic conflict or if they follow the rest of America in dropping when Israel offers dangerous concessions. But overall American Jewish support for Israel simply hasn’t changed very much.

These findings should put an end to the pretenses of the anti-Israel American Jewish left. If American Jews were increasingly alienated from Israel, then J Street and Beinart and similarly minded partisans would be justified in trying to provide them with a “route into the pro-Israel world.” If the premise is false, then those partisans are bombarding broadly pro-Israel Americans with anti-Israel propaganda, with the only risk being that they decrease rather than increase sympathy for the Jewish State.

It can’t be emphasized enough how this part of the debate is no longer theoretical. It’s not a matter of two sides having different assumptions, each of which is backed by plausible arguments. Empirical evidence converges on the conclusion that American Jewish support for Israel is stable. Eventually, pretending otherwise goes from being understandable denial – after all, left-wing American Jews have invested a lot in the Alienation Thesis, literally and metaphorically – and slips into being willful dishonesty. We’re fast approaching that point.

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