Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 3, 2012

Is Santorum Contesting 2012 or 2016?

Mitt Romney’s victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add more than 80 delegates to his total and extend his commanding lead over Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. That sets up Pennsylvania as the primary that has the chance to put the Republicans out of their misery and finally end the GOP race. Since the other states that will vote on April 24 — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — will almost certainly go for Romney, Santorum’s homecoming may be his last stand.

While Pennsylvania is being given the opportunity to finally put a fork in the long, agonizing Republican presidential race, listening to Santorum’s speech in his home state tonight one got the feeling the candidate was thinking as much about 2016 as he was the 2012 contest. By repeatedly invoking Ronald Reagan’s presidential runs in 1976 and 1980, Santorum seemed to be preparing more to tell the GOP, “I told you so,” if Romney loses in November, than about his own chances this year.

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Mitt Romney’s victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add more than 80 delegates to his total and extend his commanding lead over Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. That sets up Pennsylvania as the primary that has the chance to put the Republicans out of their misery and finally end the GOP race. Since the other states that will vote on April 24 — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — will almost certainly go for Romney, Santorum’s homecoming may be his last stand.

While Pennsylvania is being given the opportunity to finally put a fork in the long, agonizing Republican presidential race, listening to Santorum’s speech in his home state tonight one got the feeling the candidate was thinking as much about 2016 as he was the 2012 contest. By repeatedly invoking Ronald Reagan’s presidential runs in 1976 and 1980, Santorum seemed to be preparing more to tell the GOP, “I told you so,” if Romney loses in November, than about his own chances this year.

Though Santorum’s chances of winning the GOP nomination are rapidly diminishing, his anger at what he called the party “aristocracy” that backed Romney seems to be increasing. Rather than easing up on the all-but inevitable nominee as Republicans prepare to face off against the Obama re-election juggernaut, Santorum appears to be doubling down on his resentment at the fact that his party is choosing the more moderate candidate.

Part of that can be attributed to a desire on Santorum’s part not to have his remarkable primary run end with a humiliating loss in three weeks in his home state that would all but end the GOP competition. Yet it’s doubtful that even many Santorum’s backers are still under the delusion that he has a ghost of a chance to prevail in the “second half” of the delegate race. But by continuing to brand Romney as indistinguishable from Obama, Santorum may have more in mind than just trying to save face in Pennsylvania or winning a few more primaries in May.

During the course of his Tuesday night speech, Santorum compared himself to George Washington as well as Ronald Reagan. But when he brought up Reagan’s challenge to the moderate GOP establishment of his day, he didn’t limit himself to the example of the 40th president’s successful 1980 run but also mentioned his close loss to Gerald Ford in 1976. Reagan took the battle for the GOP nomination to the convention that year much as Santorum would like to do in 2012. The difference between the two is that the delegate race that year was almost evenly divided between Reagan and Ford while this year’s contest is a runaway for Romney.

Yet what Santorum seems to be doing is not so much comparing his chances this year to Reagan’s in 1976 as he is to the Gipper’s picking up the pieces of his party after Ford lost the general election to Jimmy Carter. Just as Reagan conservatives argued in 1980 that the party had erred by choosing the moderate four years earlier, Santorum appears more interested in being able to tell the GOP it is making a mistake on Romney than anything else. So rather than being a good “team player” for his party and laying off Romney as the race winds down, Santorum is increasing the volume of his attacks on the frontrunner.

Even though there are good reasons to believe Santorum’s shortcomings as a candidate will never enable him to win the presidency, should Romney lose to Obama, there’s little doubt that the Pennsylvanian’s name will be at the top of the list of GOP contenders for 2016 next January. Santorum may well believe his hopes for another run will not be enhanced by doing the right thing by the GOP and giving up once it’s clear he hasn’t a prayer to win this year. Instead, he will concentrate on a kamikaze run aimed solely at proving that Romney ought not to be the nominee.

Just as Romney appears to have pivoted away from beating his Republican competitors to  being solely focused on the battle with Obama, Santorum may well be running with 2016 more in mind than 2012. Should Romney win in November, all this will be in vain, but right now Santorum appears to be betting heavily on Obama’s re-election and another primary run four years from now.

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Israel Policy to Blame if Obama Loses Jewish Votes

Earlier today, Seth commented on the results from a poll conducted by the liberal-leaning Public Religion Research Institute that contained some mixed results for the Obama administration. As Seth noted, the survey showed that even among a liberal population, the president didn’t find broad support for his policies on Israel. But, predictably, the New York Times is spinning the poll in a very different way. The headline in the paper’s political blog The Caucus is simply: “In Poll, Jewish Voters Overwhelmingly Support Obama.” The Times reports that it finds:

Support for Mr. Obama is still higher among Jews than among the general electorate, with 62 percent of Jewish voters saying they would like to see him elected, and 30 percent saying they preferred the Republican candidate.

The Times interprets this result as meaning:

The results cast doubt on the claim that Mr. Obama has alienated a significant swath of Jewish voters because of his rocky relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But does it really? Considering the president won a whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, even if he does wind up getting 62 percent that would mean a loss of a fifth of the Jewish support he got four years ago.

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Earlier today, Seth commented on the results from a poll conducted by the liberal-leaning Public Religion Research Institute that contained some mixed results for the Obama administration. As Seth noted, the survey showed that even among a liberal population, the president didn’t find broad support for his policies on Israel. But, predictably, the New York Times is spinning the poll in a very different way. The headline in the paper’s political blog The Caucus is simply: “In Poll, Jewish Voters Overwhelmingly Support Obama.” The Times reports that it finds:

Support for Mr. Obama is still higher among Jews than among the general electorate, with 62 percent of Jewish voters saying they would like to see him elected, and 30 percent saying they preferred the Republican candidate.

The Times interprets this result as meaning:

The results cast doubt on the claim that Mr. Obama has alienated a significant swath of Jewish voters because of his rocky relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But does it really? Considering the president won a whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, even if he does wind up getting 62 percent that would mean a loss of a fifth of the Jewish support he got four years ago.

To place this result in perspective, it should be remembered that it has been 24 years since a Republican got as much as 30 percent of the Jewish vote. If Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee, equals or tops that figure while the Democrats’ share declines that far, Jewish Republicans would consider it a major victory. Moreover, as I pointed out in the March issue of COMMENTARY, such a swing of Jewish votes could conceivably make a difference in determining the outcome of the election should states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and especially Florida go down to the wire.

If Obama does lose a fifth of his Jewish support when compared to four years ago, what other explanation can there be for such a result other than the fact that many Jewish Democrats are rightly concerned about the administration’s policy of hostility toward Israel during its first three years? While the current Jewish charm offensive may help shore up the president’s backing in this overwhelmingly Democratic demographic, if this poll is correct and the Republicans make such large gains, the most likely reason for a shift in the Jewish vote would be Israel.  Indeed, given the fact that the poll shows Jews having grave doubts about Obama’s attitude toward Israel, the idea that it would not be responsible for the shrinkage of the Democrats’ share of the Jewish vote makes no sense.

While there is no doubt there is virtually nothing Obama could do to prevent the majority of Jews from voting for him, even this liberal poll illustrates that Democrats are going into the fall with much lower expectations than they might have had four years ago.

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Obama Mocks Romney’s Word “Marvelous”

In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:

OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].

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In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:

OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].

That’s because using the word “marvelous” is totally weird, unless you’re Obama or one of his speechwriters. Maybe Romney picked up the term from “Mad Men,” because he’s so old-fashioned he thinks it’s the evening news (that last nonsensical insult was David Axelrod’s contribution to the “Romney is uncool and out-of-touch” debate this morning).

It sounds like the Obama campaign is finally rolling out that personal-attack strategy they floated last summer to define Romney as “weird” and “awkward.” As Politico reported last August:

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”

A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.

“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” the adviser said, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”

It won’t be a stretch to define Romney as strange, especially with the media and Hollywood willing to play along. The worst thing Romney can do is to go on the defense or try to refute these attacks. No matter what he does, he’s not going to seem cool, so he shouldn’t even bother to try that. But he will be able to draw a contrast between his own campaign and Obama’s if he declines to get into the mud, and keeps the focus on substance, not personality. And if Zooey Deschanel’s and Michael Cera’s careers prove anything, sometimes the public likes awkward.

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Why Did Santorum Refuse RNC Offer?

As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journal reported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.

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As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journal reported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.

If Santorum or Gingrich believed they were going to clinch the nomination this time around, taking a few days out of their campaigning schedule to raise this amount of cash would be a no-brainer (it certainly was for Romney). The fact that Santorum and Gingrich turned down the opportunity means that in all likelihood, even they don’t believe they’ll be the nominee. They either don’t want Romney to get the cash they’ve raised or they believe their campaigns couldn’t survive even a day or two out of the news cycle to attend the fundraisers.

While one can’t fault Santorum or Gingrich for prioritizing their own campaigns while the race is still ongoing, their refusal to raise this kind of cash speaks volumes about where their campaigns see the future of this primary season going.

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Is Obama Blaming Israel for Gas Prices?

The campaign of administration leaks aimed at undermining Israel’s position on Iran has been widely noted. But according to Robert Satloff, the respected head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the White House isn’t satisfied with blaming Israel for the chance that Americans might be killed in the event force is used against Iran. Satloff says the Israelis see President Obama as blaming them for rising oil prices as well.

In comments quoted in the WorldTribune.com:

Satloff, who met “virtually everybody in the Iran debate,” said the Israeli leadership also saw the administration as blaming Israel for the sharp rise in U.S. gasoline prices. He said Washington attributed the higher prices to “Israel’s posturing” on Iran. “They [the Israelis] think the Iranians should be held responsible for the higher gasoline prices,” Satloff said.

The possibility that Washington would seek to scapegoat Israel for higher oil prices is an ominous development. While there have been, as yet, no public statements to that effect, or, as is generally the case with this administration, front page features in the New York Times claiming this is what anonymous senior officials are thinking, Israeli may believe this is something they expect to happen. Perhaps by making their fears on this score public, they hope to head off what they believe is an obvious next step from an administration that is friendly to Israel in public but oozing with hostility off the record.
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The campaign of administration leaks aimed at undermining Israel’s position on Iran has been widely noted. But according to Robert Satloff, the respected head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the White House isn’t satisfied with blaming Israel for the chance that Americans might be killed in the event force is used against Iran. Satloff says the Israelis see President Obama as blaming them for rising oil prices as well.

In comments quoted in the WorldTribune.com:

Satloff, who met “virtually everybody in the Iran debate,” said the Israeli leadership also saw the administration as blaming Israel for the sharp rise in U.S. gasoline prices. He said Washington attributed the higher prices to “Israel’s posturing” on Iran. “They [the Israelis] think the Iranians should be held responsible for the higher gasoline prices,” Satloff said.

The possibility that Washington would seek to scapegoat Israel for higher oil prices is an ominous development. While there have been, as yet, no public statements to that effect, or, as is generally the case with this administration, front page features in the New York Times claiming this is what anonymous senior officials are thinking, Israeli may believe this is something they expect to happen. Perhaps by making their fears on this score public, they hope to head off what they believe is an obvious next step from an administration that is friendly to Israel in public but oozing with hostility off the record.

Rising gas prices are a direct threat to the president’s re-election and, as some administration officials made clear in a leaked story in the Times last week, they think Obama’s desire to sound tough on Iran in order to win votes in November is heightening tension with Tehran. As that leak made clear, the president has boxed himself in with his public declaration that he was not willing to “contain” a nuclear Iran. That means the U.S. and its European allies are going to have to make good on their threat of an oil embargo this summer, just when gas prices normally go up anyway. If Obama and the Euros blink on Iran and pass on the embargo, they will rightly be accused of appeasing the ayatollahs. In the event that they keep their word and choke off Iran’s oil export business, the consequent dislocation of petroleum supplies will cause a politically expensive hike in the price of gas.

The Israelis are right to complain that if anyone should be blamed, it is Iran. It should also be pointed out that if Obama hadn’t wasted much of his first three years in office trying to “engage” Iran rather than enforcing sanctions on the regime, he might not be in this bind now. Blame should also go to those countries that may well continue to buy Iranian oil, such as China, India and Obama’s special friend, Turkey.

But while U.S. officials may grouse about Israeli pressure to act on Iran and leak damaging stories about them to the press, any comments that could be traced back to the White House about Israel and oil prices would boomerang on the president. Scapegoating the Jews on oil is exactly the sort of strategic mistake rooted in the administration’s true sentiments that could have a highly negative impact on the voters in November.

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China’s Getting Our Oil Because of Obama, Says Canada PM

This is big news, and not just because it refutes a lot of the skepticism that Canada would ever actually go through with its threats to sell its oil to China. It also shows there will be major consequences from what the Obama administration clearly believed was a harmless little political game it could play with the Keystone XL permitting. Even if the president backs down from his Keystone XL objections now – as Republicans have continued to urge him to do – Canadian PM Stephen Harper says it won’t make a difference.

Canada’s Sun News reports:

In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.

And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.

“Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets,” Harper told Harman in front of a live audience of businesspeople, scholars, diplomats, and journalists.

“We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.” Read More

This is big news, and not just because it refutes a lot of the skepticism that Canada would ever actually go through with its threats to sell its oil to China. It also shows there will be major consequences from what the Obama administration clearly believed was a harmless little political game it could play with the Keystone XL permitting. Even if the president backs down from his Keystone XL objections now – as Republicans have continued to urge him to do – Canadian PM Stephen Harper says it won’t make a difference.

Canada’s Sun News reports:

In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.

And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.

“Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets,” Harper told Harman in front of a live audience of businesspeople, scholars, diplomats, and journalists.

“We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.”

Where to begin on this? First, there’s the amateurishness of an administration that thinks it can string along Canada for political convenience, without realizing the potential fallout. It’s also yet another example of Obama’s commitment to alienating allies while simultaneously aiding adversaries.

And the damages aren’t limited to diplomacy and the U.S. losing out on oil to China. The U.S. will also take a hit on the oil it already purchases, at a reduced rate, from Canada, because of the added competition in the market:

Harper also told Harman that Canada has been selling its oil to the United States at a discounted price.

So not only will America be able to buy less Canadian oil even if Keystone is eventually approved, the U.S. will also have to pay more for it because the market for oilsands crude will be more competitive.

“We have taken a significant price hit by virtue of the fact that we are a captive supplier and that just does not make sense in terms of the broader interests of the Canadian economy,” Harper said. “We’re still going to be a major supplier of the United States. It will be a long time, if ever, before the United States isn’t our number one export market, but for us the United States cannot be our only export market.

“That is not in our interest, either commercially or in terms of pricing.”

The U.S. could be paying for Obama’s political stunt long after he leaves office.

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Barack Obama: Desperate and Demagogic

From National Journal:

Obama called the GOP budget “a Trojan horse. Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

“It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it– a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.”

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From National Journal:

Obama called the GOP budget “a Trojan horse. Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

“It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it– a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.”

It’s also antithetical for a president who portrayed himself as the antidote to “worn-out dogmas,” “worn-out ideas” and “stale political arguments” – who doesn’t subscribe to an “old, discredited philosophy” and would do away with “childish things”– to employ stale, worn-out, discredited, dogmatic, and uncreative arguments in order to advance his re-election chances.

It turns out it is Obama, not Republicans, whose policies are a “Trojan horse”– in this case, by using the uninsured as an excuse to promote an unconstitutional health care plan that confers upon the federal government unlimited powers. (See this post by Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Gordon Gray.)

It is Obama’s policies that are crushing opportunity and upward mobility in America. And what’s really radical is a president who submits multiple budgets with trillion-dollar deficits and doesn’t appear to give a damn about it.

As for “thinly veiled social Darwinism”: Only a politician who is (a) deeply dishonest; (b) deeply cynical; and/or (c) a product of the hard left could make such a preposterous claim. The most vulnerable members of society will sustain the greatest damage when the fiscal crisis that Obama has done so much to contribute to — and nothing to mitigate — arrives on our shores. For a preview of coming attractions, see Greece and other European nations.

The GOP, to its credit, is presenting a budget that is equal to this moment. It is bold, reasonable, and courageous — everything Obama is not. Unable to defend his record and seemingly unable to articulate a governing vision, the president has become desperate and demagogic, an unusually small man in an unusually small party. And it’s only just begun.

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Buffett’s Overtaxed, Underpaid Secretary

In case the nation had not yet heard quite enough about Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, she is back in the news. To her credit, it was due to an appearance at a charitable event. And, no, this time it wasn’t to do with her earning no ordinary secretarial salary. Rather, it was a particular comment she made in a scripted performance that merits brief attention.

She came onstage to list in jest the five things she would buy with the extra money she would accrue by falling into Buffett’s tax bracket, a bemusing statement noted by the host, who proceeded to clarify:

Host: Wait, wait, wait. I thought Warren [Buffett] wanted to get more people into the upper [tax] bracket?

Bosanek: I’ll take the lower bracket, thank you. Read More

In case the nation had not yet heard quite enough about Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, she is back in the news. To her credit, it was due to an appearance at a charitable event. And, no, this time it wasn’t to do with her earning no ordinary secretarial salary. Rather, it was a particular comment she made in a scripted performance that merits brief attention.

She came onstage to list in jest the five things she would buy with the extra money she would accrue by falling into Buffett’s tax bracket, a bemusing statement noted by the host, who proceeded to clarify:

Host: Wait, wait, wait. I thought Warren [Buffett] wanted to get more people into the upper [tax] bracket?

Bosanek: I’ll take the lower bracket, thank you.

Indeed, like the host, we were under the impression that, in Buffett’s – and Obama’s – vision, Bosanek’s (or, at least, the lower salaried taxpayers she is meant to represent) tax rate would remain as it is, and the novelty was the ‘‘Buffett rule,’’ a millionaires’ tax designed solely to raise the rate for high earners. Although the entire Buffett affair was, as far as Obama was concerned, about ‘‘fairness,’’ and raising Buffett’s tax rate and lowering Bosanek’s does not contradict that objective (as the president understands it), that never appeared to be the idea. Indeed, to reduce the tax rate for lower earners could obviate the need for a millionaires’ tax, based on the ”fairness” rationale.

Either way, the takeaway here is that neither the lower earners (whom Bosanek is meant to represent) nor the higher earners (of whom Bosanek, despite her apparent credentials, is almost certainly one) want to pay more taxes. Everyone would prefer a lower tax bracket. Of course we already knew this, but it’s amusing to hear it from one of the saga’s stars herself.

Perhaps in jest Buffett’s secretary is teaching President Obama a profound lesson: fairness is not in paying more to the government for expensive services of dubious quality, but in having more of one’s own hard-earned money to use as one sees fit. In a similar vein, as she put it, with the extra cash will she be able to purchase ‘‘a brand new iMac so I can stop using those crappy PCs [Buffett] gets from Bill Gates.’’

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One Academic’s Breathtakingly Dishonest Attack on Israel’s Press Freedoms

It’s easy to find examples of anti-Israel partisans, having run out of actual Israeli imperfections over which to obsess, literally inventing Israeli behavior to condemn. Last January, U.K. diplomats attacked Israel over an East Jerusalem construction announcement that they made up. The most generous interpretation is that they made a genuine albeit revelatory mistake: already suspecting the worst about Israel, they had their suspicions confirmed.

This week’s example of anti-Israel partisanship in search of a pretext doesn’t have that excuse. University of Maine journalism professor Justin D. Martin posted an article in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) asserting that it “is a powerful statement” to note that Israel is second only to Eritrea in “per capita” jailed reporters. He defined “per capita” as the number of imprisoned journalists per the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), divided by a country’s size in millions (for Israel, 4 divided by 7). The attack collapses so quickly, and is such a transparent hatchet job, that it raises legitimate questions of intellectual and academic integrity.

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It’s easy to find examples of anti-Israel partisans, having run out of actual Israeli imperfections over which to obsess, literally inventing Israeli behavior to condemn. Last January, U.K. diplomats attacked Israel over an East Jerusalem construction announcement that they made up. The most generous interpretation is that they made a genuine albeit revelatory mistake: already suspecting the worst about Israel, they had their suspicions confirmed.

This week’s example of anti-Israel partisanship in search of a pretext doesn’t have that excuse. University of Maine journalism professor Justin D. Martin posted an article in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) asserting that it “is a powerful statement” to note that Israel is second only to Eritrea in “per capita” jailed reporters. He defined “per capita” as the number of imprisoned journalists per the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), divided by a country’s size in millions (for Israel, 4 divided by 7). The attack collapses so quickly, and is such a transparent hatchet job, that it raises legitimate questions of intellectual and academic integrity.

Martin avails himself of obviously bad numbers. He relies on an artificial, self-serving, and meaningless definition of “per capita.” And he equates twilight totalitarian roundups with open Israeli jurisprudence. For a scholar to publish something like this in an academic outlet is disgraceful, and any CJR editor who touched the post is complicit in nakedly politicizing their journal.

(1) The CPJ numbers are straightforwardly wrong. They have eight journalists listed for Turkey, which is off by more than 1000%. Even where the numbers might have been right in the past they’re obviously wrong now. Martin writes that the Palestinian Authority jails “zero” journalists, which wasn’t true as of last month or last week or even Sunday.

(2) The “per capita” calculation is so obviously misleading as to strain whatever benefit of the doubt Martin might request. The Elder of Ziyon blog has an extended takedown so there’s no reason to belabor the details here. If you want a “per capita” number describing which countries disproportionately target journalists, you divide the jailed journalists in each country by the total number of journalists in each country, not by the total number of people.

Otherwise you end up nonsensically insisting that a huge country with three journalists and two in jail is freer than a tiny country with 2,000 journalists and one in jail. That misses not just the actual proportion of imprisoned journalists but even the absolute number of reporters on the ground. Worse, it rewards closed societies with few journalists and punishes open democracies that are crawling with them, because in the democracies, the larger group increases the odds that one will commit a crime. This is the stuff of high school statistics.

(3) Any comparison between Israel and totalitarian regimes is morally vacuous. Israel is one of the few places in the world where journalists “go native” during wartime and start actively aiding one side. When they’re caught, they’re given an open trial guided by the rule of law. Even CPJ notes that one of the journalists was detained by Israel due to “terrorist activity.” To compare that to what happens in Iran is simply untenable.

Martin tips his hand when he compares Israel to Palestinian groups, noting that “Israel jails more journalists than… [the] militant group Hamas (three).” That’s the only place where he uses absolute numbers rather than his per capita statistic. Had he been consistent, he would have had to acknowledge that Hamas’s three imprisoned journalists divided by Gaza’s 1.5 million people swamps the Israeli per capita number.

This is at least the second CJR post by Martin denigrating Israel’s democratic institutions, so the editors there know how they’re being used. As for any journalist who passed around Martin’s hackjob as if it was solid work, they should be asked to explain whether they just didn’t read the post, or if they didn’t recognize his transparent mistakes, or if they didn’t care.

I don’t believe Martin is sloppy enough to have missed that the CPJ numbers were bad; or statistically ignorant enough to think scaling by total population was meaningful; or ethically shallow enough to think it’s “powerful” to compare Israeli and Iranian press treatment; or careless enough to accidentally slip into absolute figures only when talking about Hamas.

I believe he’s just pretending that he is.

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Romney to Raise Money With RNC

This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

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This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:

In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.

The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.

If the slew of high-profile Romney endorsements for GOP figures this week didn’t already cement his standing as the inevitable nominee, then this news puts the official stamp on it. For the past couple of weeks, the question has been how long Rick Santorum will play out his losing hand. But party leaders are obviously getting anxious, with President Obama significantly outraising the Republican candidates.

This is a firm push for Santorum and others to step aside and let the general election commence.

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Survey: Even Liberal Jews Not Crazy About Obama’s Israel Policy

The Public Religion Research Institute, recently in the news for its survey on Catholic attitudes toward the Obama administration’s decision to include religious institutions in its contraception mandate, today released the findings of its polling on American Jewish values: “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” a report based on its recent survey of 1,004 self-identified American Jews. Here is one of the key findings highlighted by the report:

When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20 percent) or religious observance (17 percent). Fewer than 1-in-10 say that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6 percent) or a general set of values (3 percent) are most important to their Jewish identity.

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The Public Religion Research Institute, recently in the news for its survey on Catholic attitudes toward the Obama administration’s decision to include religious institutions in its contraception mandate, today released the findings of its polling on American Jewish values: “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” a report based on its recent survey of 1,004 self-identified American Jews. Here is one of the key findings highlighted by the report:

When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20 percent) or religious observance (17 percent). Fewer than 1-in-10 say that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6 percent) or a general set of values (3 percent) are most important to their Jewish identity.

This is a strong theme of secular liberalism running through the report, authored by PPRI’s Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, who recently contributed an essay on President Obama for an anthology of presidents and religious influence. The organization’s surveys often focus on testing the Obama administration’s most visible narratives on policy issues. (The previous three surveys were on whether religious liberty is under attack, Americans’ opinion on economic inequality, and whether Catholics support the contraception mandate.)

“Chosen for What?” tests many of these themes among the Jewish population, with similar findings. Tikkun olam, for example, is held to be either somewhat important or very important to 72 percent of respondents. On religion, however, a full 41 percent say it is not too important or not at all important. About 18 percent of respondents said they do not believe in God.

Partisan splits account for some of the other issues polled. On health care, for example, Jewish Republicans say they would overwhelmingly support a Supreme Court decision overturning Obamacare, while Jewish Democrats favor keeping the law by about the same margin. A majority of Jewish independents would favor overturning the administration’s health care reform law.

While the poll paints a picture of a markedly liberal American Jewish community, that fact should give Obama supporters pause on certain issues. Though only 4 percent say Israel is the most important issue for them in the upcoming presidential election, Obama gets mixed reviews for his Middle East policies: “Twenty percent report that they agree with the president’s policies and that they like the way he is executing these policies. Fifteen percent say that they agree with the president’s policies but don’t like the way he is executing these policies. About 3-in-10 (28 percent) say they disagree with the president’s policies.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets high marks, which may help explain why even many of those who agree with Obama’s Mideast policies don’t like the way he carries them out, which usually involved picking a fight with or expressing his contempt for Netanyahu. A majority (59 percent) also support the U.S. taking military action against Iran’s nuclear program if sanctions fail.

This polling institute is led by outspoken allies of, and current or former advisers to, President Obama (as Alana pointed out last month, David Saperstein is its chairman), that polled what turned out to be a mostly liberal population with very liberal answers (high support for abortion in all cases and a majority who think Israel’s “ultra-Orthodox” are too powerful and a “major problem”), and still the president can’t find broad support for his treatment of Israel.

This is a subset of the population ready to defend the president’s policies. They are, however, still waiting for a defensible Israel policy.

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Santorum’s Lead Narrows in Pennsylvania

Via Quinnipiac, Rick Santorum is now leading Mitt Romney by just six points among likely Pennsylvania Republican voters. The last Quinnipiac survey in mid-March showed Santorum with a 14-point lead, though keep in mind that poll was also taken among registered, not likely, Republican voters.

Favorite Son Rick Santorum leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 41 – 35 percent among likely voters in Pennsylvania’s Republican presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has 10 percent, with 7 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Santorum tops Romney 43 – 33 percent among men, while women split 39 – 38 percent. Santorum also leads 53 – 24 percent among white evangelical Christians, 50 – 32 percent among Tea Party members and 48 – 30 percent among self-described conservatives. Romney is ahead 45 – 29 percent among self-described moderates.

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Via Quinnipiac, Rick Santorum is now leading Mitt Romney by just six points among likely Pennsylvania Republican voters. The last Quinnipiac survey in mid-March showed Santorum with a 14-point lead, though keep in mind that poll was also taken among registered, not likely, Republican voters.

Favorite Son Rick Santorum leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 41 – 35 percent among likely voters in Pennsylvania’s Republican presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has 10 percent, with 7 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Santorum tops Romney 43 – 33 percent among men, while women split 39 – 38 percent. Santorum also leads 53 – 24 percent among white evangelical Christians, 50 – 32 percent among Tea Party members and 48 – 30 percent among self-described conservatives. Romney is ahead 45 – 29 percent among self-described moderates.

There seems to be a trend of Santorum losing ground in Pennsylvania, as we saw with the Franklin & Marshall College poll late last month. And assuming Romney sweeps all three primaries tonight, as it looks like he’s going to, this could become an extremely competitive race in Pennsylvania. There are still three weeks until the primary, plenty of time for Romney to rack up more endorsements and momentum.

And there are already other good signs for Romney in the state, according to Quinnipiac. He has a 59 percent favorability, and the majority believes that the “Etch A Sketch” criticism of Romney is an unfair attack. But that could also be because likely GOP voters expect politicians, including Romney, to flip on issues. They said 27 to 7 that Romney changes his position more than most public figures, with 60 percent saying he changes his positions about the same as most public figures.

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Why Did the Administration Leak the Israel-Azerbaijan Story?

Veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari has written in the Times of Israel claiming last week’s bombshell from Foreign Policy magazine about Azerbaijan’s willingness to allow Israel to use its air bases to strike Iran was pure fiction. Yaari excoriates the editors of Foreign Policy, the Israeli press (including, presumably, the Times of Israel, which prominently reported it) and anyone else (including, presumably, me) for taking it seriously. But though Yaari presents some good arguments why it might not be true, unlike magazine author Mark Perry, he offers no sources or reporting to back up his assertion.

But even if we assume Yaari is right and Perry’s piece is wrong, there are some interesting questions to be posed about the piece. Unless you are willing to believe, as perhaps Yaari and others disputing its authenticity do, that Perry is lying about the fact that senior officials in the Obama administration leaked the story to him, it’s still important to ask why they did so. What possible motive could they have had?

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Veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari has written in the Times of Israel claiming last week’s bombshell from Foreign Policy magazine about Azerbaijan’s willingness to allow Israel to use its air bases to strike Iran was pure fiction. Yaari excoriates the editors of Foreign Policy, the Israeli press (including, presumably, the Times of Israel, which prominently reported it) and anyone else (including, presumably, me) for taking it seriously. But though Yaari presents some good arguments why it might not be true, unlike magazine author Mark Perry, he offers no sources or reporting to back up his assertion.

But even if we assume Yaari is right and Perry’s piece is wrong, there are some interesting questions to be posed about the piece. Unless you are willing to believe, as perhaps Yaari and others disputing its authenticity do, that Perry is lying about the fact that senior officials in the Obama administration leaked the story to him, it’s still important to ask why they did so. What possible motive could they have had?

The answer is simple. Whether the air base angle was true or not, publicizing the ongoing close cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan (something Yaari actually concedes is factual) can only make it more difficult for that relationship to continue. Because, as Yaari rightly notes, Perry is no friend of Israel, the willingness of Obama’s minions to circulate the tale speaks volumes about the off-the-record malevolence that lurks beneath the surface of the president’s current charm offensive aimed at Jewish voters.

As to the facts of the piece, Yaari has a fair point when he asks how Israeli planes could fly to Azerbaijan to launch strikes against Iran. As he notes, Iran’s friend Turkey is not likely to permit the Israeli Air Force to fly over its territory to get to the Azeri bases. But Perry’s story seems to indicate that the use of the bases would be used to land the planes after an attack on Iran, not necessarily as the source of possible attacks. Because Yaari knows Israel is currently able to fly in arms it is supplying to the Azeris, the notion that it has the ability to send personnel needed for refueling, rescue or other services that the IAF might need in the event of an attack on Iran does not seem to be such a flight of fancy.

Yaari also has a cogent criticism when he ponders how exactly the authoritarian government of Azerbaijan could hope to get away with defying Iran as Tehran has been so helpful to the Azeris in their conflict with Armenia. He also might have asked whether Russia would tolerate such behavior. But to ask such questions is not the same thing as having proof that the Azeris are not contemplating life after Iran’s regional ambitions are cut down to size by an Israeli attack. Moreover, as Yaari himself readily concedes, the fact that Azerbaijan “maintains close relations with Israel including big arms and oil deals,” it is also not unreasonable to assume that the conflict with Iran is now part of that equation.

Yaari seems to infer that because Perry has no love for Israel, his effort to publicize the Israel-Azeri alliance is to undermine it. Yaari also appears to believe that any story whose premise is based on the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran is similarly ill-intentioned. But that brings us back to what I have always thought was just as important as the idea of the air bases themselves: why the Obama administration leaked it in the first place.

Rather than breaking our heads on the question of just how far the Azeris are prepared to go in defying Iran for the sake of their friendship with Israel (the answer to which is as much a mystery to Yaari as it is to me), we would all do better to consider why it was so important for the State Department and the White House that this friendship be placed in jeopardy. Those pondering what a second term for President Obama would mean to Israel need to think more about the leakers’ motives than those of Perry or the editors at Foreign Policy.

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Presidential Chutzpah

Presidential chutzpah. Well, at least you can admire him for that perhaps. After all, someone who graduated from Harvard Law School, edited the Harvard Law Review, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School must be familiar with Marbury v. Madison. As Wikipedia explains, it’s an important case:

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803) is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.” The landmark decision helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.

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Presidential chutzpah. Well, at least you can admire him for that perhaps. After all, someone who graduated from Harvard Law School, edited the Harvard Law Review, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School must be familiar with Marbury v. Madison. As Wikipedia explains, it’s an important case:

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803) is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.” The landmark decision helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.

And yet President Obama yesterday implicitly claimed never to have heard of it, allowing him to say regarding Obamacare that it would be an “unprecedented, extraordinary” step for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation passed by a “strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” The precedents go back 209 years and, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out on “Special Report” last night, the Supreme Court has been overturning acts of Congress ever since, on average every 16 months. So overturning Obamacare would be about as unprecedented as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning. Actually the precedents go back even further, as Alexander Hamilton mentioned the power of judicial review in Federalist Paper 78, written in 1788. The last president to seriously challenge the court’s power to overturn an act of Congress under the doctrine of judicial review was Andrew Jackson, who famously said after one decision he didn’t like, “The court has made its decision; now let it enforce it.”

The court has overturned laws based on the Commerce Clause as recently as 1995 (United States v. Lopez) and 2000 (United States v. Morrison). Both of those were relatively minor cases, although significant for putting limits on federal power under the Commerce Clause for the first time since the early New Deal. But major pieces of legislation have also been overturned. The National Recovery Act of 1933 was the last piece of legislation passed during the “Hundred Days.” Its purpose was, essentially, to cartelize the entire United States economy under the direction of the National Recovery Administration (the NRA, whose symbol was the famous blue eagle). Franklin Roosevelt called the legislation “the most important and far-reaching ever enacted by the American Congress.” But that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from overturning it in May 1935, by a vote of 9-0.

The National Recovery Act passed the House by a large majority and the Senate by 46-39. The “strong majority” mentioned by Obama in the passage of Obamacare did not exist. It passed the Senate 60-39 on Christmas Eve, when the Senate, briefly, had a filibuster-proof majority. But by the time a vote neared in the House, that filibuster-proof majority had vanished with the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. So the House had to pass the Senate bill unchanged in order to get it to the President’s desk. Only much arm-twisting and deal-making allowed the bill to pass the House with a majority of only seven votes, 219-212. It garnered not a single Republican vote in either house, the first time so important a piece of legislation was passed on a totally partisan basis.

As I said, one can only admire his chutzpah. It seems there is simply no lie President Obama will not tell in pursuit of his agenda. He can count on the mainstream media buying it, but will anyone else?

 

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Israel’s “Worst Case” Scenario After Iran

You could argue that this leak – which has the Israelis gaming out an Iranian-led assault on Israel and capping Israeli casualties at below 300 – is a ruse designed to make the world think they’re not bluffing about a kinetic operation against Iranian nuclear facilities. Alternatively, it could be that the report is absolutely true, and that having already concluded that an attack would reap significant benefits, the Israelis are now confirming that its costs have been exaggerated. The math would then work itself out:

In the event of an Iranian attack on Israel, less than 300 people would be killed during three weeks of non-stop fighting on multiple fronts, according to estimates delivered to the security cabinet in a briefing, Channel 10 reported on Monday. According to the estimates, described as a worst-case scenario, thousands of missiles would be launched toward Israel from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as part of the Iranian attack. The scenario took into account Israel’s defenses as of 2012, with the Iron Dome rocket-defense system not yet at its full deployment.

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You could argue that this leak – which has the Israelis gaming out an Iranian-led assault on Israel and capping Israeli casualties at below 300 – is a ruse designed to make the world think they’re not bluffing about a kinetic operation against Iranian nuclear facilities. Alternatively, it could be that the report is absolutely true, and that having already concluded that an attack would reap significant benefits, the Israelis are now confirming that its costs have been exaggerated. The math would then work itself out:

In the event of an Iranian attack on Israel, less than 300 people would be killed during three weeks of non-stop fighting on multiple fronts, according to estimates delivered to the security cabinet in a briefing, Channel 10 reported on Monday. According to the estimates, described as a worst-case scenario, thousands of missiles would be launched toward Israel from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as part of the Iranian attack. The scenario took into account Israel’s defenses as of 2012, with the Iron Dome rocket-defense system not yet at its full deployment.

These assessments are in line with statements by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to the effect that scenarios describing unending cataclysmic war are overblown.

It’s apparently taken as a given that Iran and its proxies would have leeway to target Israeli civilians in the aftermath of Israeli pin-point strikes. Rockets and missiles fired at Israeli civilian centers would be shrugged off by the international community with something in between “well, what did you expect would happen” and “if you think about it, the Israelis kind of have it coming.” Even pro-forma condemnations about limiting the violence and calls to think about the morning after would be slow in arriving, except in the immediate aftermath of Israeli strikes against attacks from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and perhaps even Egypt and Syria.

The double standards, indifference, and rationalizations with which atrocities against Israeli civilians are greeted, of course, is exactly why Jerusalem is committed to holding its genocidal enemies to conventional means. Given that Iranian leaders are again exhorting the religiously-driven annihilation of Israel, it’s no wonder that solid majorities of Israelis are supporting last-ditch military strikes on Iran.

On one side they see 300 deaths. On the other side they see the events depicted in this harrowing video, which you shouldn’t watch if you’re easily shaken:

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What Afghans Think About Declining U.S. Support

In the current issue of COMMENTARY, Jamie M. Fly has an excellent article reminding readers of the moral case for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. With the Koran burning in February and a lone, deranged soldier’s massacre of Afghan civilians last month, U.S. support for our continued intervention in Afghanistan has declined precipitously. Both American progressives—for whom Afghanistan was once the good war—and many conservatives increasingly say the United States is at the point of decline returns, and that our occupation has become the problem. News reports showing 500 people in Kabul protesting and chanting anti-American slogans can be disheartening given the blood and treasure which the United States has invested into Afghanistan. The situation looks dire especially if one forgets that Kabul is a city of five million people, and so spontaneous demonstrations of 500 are pitiful by even rent-a-mob standards. Seldom, however, do journalists and officials consider what the Afghans are thinking before they project their own doubts onto the Afghan population.

It is in this context that a March 28 article in Hasht-e Sobh (8 a.m.), Afghanistan’s newspaper of record, is so interesting. In an editorial entitled, “Will support for war wane?” (with a translation provided by the Open Source Center), the newspaper places blame for declining U.S. public support not on the United States but rather on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

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In the current issue of COMMENTARY, Jamie M. Fly has an excellent article reminding readers of the moral case for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. With the Koran burning in February and a lone, deranged soldier’s massacre of Afghan civilians last month, U.S. support for our continued intervention in Afghanistan has declined precipitously. Both American progressives—for whom Afghanistan was once the good war—and many conservatives increasingly say the United States is at the point of decline returns, and that our occupation has become the problem. News reports showing 500 people in Kabul protesting and chanting anti-American slogans can be disheartening given the blood and treasure which the United States has invested into Afghanistan. The situation looks dire especially if one forgets that Kabul is a city of five million people, and so spontaneous demonstrations of 500 are pitiful by even rent-a-mob standards. Seldom, however, do journalists and officials consider what the Afghans are thinking before they project their own doubts onto the Afghan population.

It is in this context that a March 28 article in Hasht-e Sobh (8 a.m.), Afghanistan’s newspaper of record, is so interesting. In an editorial entitled, “Will support for war wane?” (with a translation provided by the Open Source Center), the newspaper places blame for declining U.S. public support not on the United States but rather on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

The question is why war in Afghanistan is losing support after a decade? This has happened due to some internal and external factors. It appears that prolongation of war, increasing casualties of the US forces and the high financial costs are the main factors behind the fall in support for the Afghan war in the United States… Over the past 10 years, the Afghan government has not been able to prove its capability. The inability of the government in ensuring security and rule of law is one of the factors which questions continuation of US support and US forces’ presence in Afghanistan. In addition, US-Afghan relations have seen many ups and downs over the past 10 years. Many times, Mr. Karzai strongly criticized the United States and sometimes supported the neighboring countries’ anti-US policies. Now, it is expected that there will be less tension with the signing of the strategic agreement, however the presence of some anti-US circles in the government and the government’s stances have caused the Americans to lose hope about the continuation of their presence in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, we will witness a fall in support for Afghanistan from other countries if Mr. Karzai does not change his policies and bring about changes in the presidential office.

Americans have a bad habit to self-flagellate. But leadership requires not allowing strategic goals to be undercut by the vicissitudes of war or short-term public opinion. Indeed, if the Afghan press is believed, the situation might improve considerably if, rather than throw up their hands and surrender, Obama administration officials would do a better job of holding Hamid Karzai to account for his own double-dealing.

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The Bankruptcy of Beinart Inc.

Peter Beinart, aspirant to the pedestal of liberal Zionism and prospective successor to Tony Judt, is witnessing the unravelling of his carefully choreographed arrangement. It was going so well: on the heels of his infamous article in the New York Review of Books came the commission to expand the thesis into a book, and, with the assistance of an army of interns and researchers, The Crisis of Zionism was released at the annual J Street conference and with an article in the New York Times, and, to accompany this momentous event, with the inauguration of a new blog, Zion Square, which would alter the discourse on Zionism in the American Jewish community. And he, with a righteous cause and the reward of royalties, would be at the forefront.

So far, so bold.

Unfortunately for Beinart, however, even the blueprint, much less the execution, was ill-conceived. To begin with, the book itself has received scathing reviews (see for instance, Sol Stern’s take in this month’s COMMENTARY, as well as here, here, here, and here). There is no need to rehearse their salient criticisms, except to note that between the article and the book, Beinart altered one of his key theses, namely, that it was not Israeli policies which were alienating American Jews, as he had earlier claimed, but rather intermarriage among the latter which was alienating them from the Jewish community, and consequently from Israel. Read More

Peter Beinart, aspirant to the pedestal of liberal Zionism and prospective successor to Tony Judt, is witnessing the unravelling of his carefully choreographed arrangement. It was going so well: on the heels of his infamous article in the New York Review of Books came the commission to expand the thesis into a book, and, with the assistance of an army of interns and researchers, The Crisis of Zionism was released at the annual J Street conference and with an article in the New York Times, and, to accompany this momentous event, with the inauguration of a new blog, Zion Square, which would alter the discourse on Zionism in the American Jewish community. And he, with a righteous cause and the reward of royalties, would be at the forefront.

So far, so bold.

Unfortunately for Beinart, however, even the blueprint, much less the execution, was ill-conceived. To begin with, the book itself has received scathing reviews (see for instance, Sol Stern’s take in this month’s COMMENTARY, as well as here, here, here, and here). There is no need to rehearse their salient criticisms, except to note that between the article and the book, Beinart altered one of his key theses, namely, that it was not Israeli policies which were alienating American Jews, as he had earlier claimed, but rather intermarriage among the latter which was alienating them from the Jewish community, and consequently from Israel.

Next, the J Street conference itself was something of a sham, and the first Israeli diplomat to attend in two years – Israel’s deputy ambassador to the United States – slammed the group, calling on it to change its ways and ‘‘stand with us.’’ A harsher critique of a self-described ‘‘pro-Israel’’ group would be hard to find; perhaps that’s why J Street removed the speech from the group’s official record. Beinart, though, still had his backers, including one Lara Friedman, an activist with Americans for Peace Now, who recently discovered (to no effect) the Arabs do not reciprocate her goodwill.

Beinart’s accompanying op-ed at the New York Times calling for a ‘‘Zionist BDS’’ to save Israel’s democracy from the ‘‘nondemocratic’’ Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria was also panned – immediately by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, and then by everyone else in the Jewish community, including J Street! Apparently, Beinart missed the BDS memo: even sympathizers now see its faults, and examples abound of the failure to do precisely what Beinart prescribes: differentiate boycotts of Judea and Samaria from those of the rest of Israel.

Finally, Zion Square, barely a month old, has (a bit embarrassingly) become Open Zion, in response to a similar blog of the same name launched somewhat pre-emptively. And now one of its few moderate, best credentialed, and less outspoken bloggers, Dr Yoel Finkelman, has, with a public letter at Jewish Ideas Daily, resigned his charge as a regular contributor, in protest of the blog’s content, style, and agenda.

And so, the crisis of Zionism emerges as comparatively chimerical, and the crisis of Beinart – and of Beinart Inc. – is unfolding before us. Like Zion’s many other critics, perhaps he’ll go on to blame the Israel Lobby. Alternatively – and hopefully – he’ll revise his viewpoint and finish this farce.

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With Eye on Iran, Israel Warns Palestinians

The Iranian proxies in the Gaza Strip have not been shy about their eagerness to renew hostilities, preferably but not necessarily at their convenience. Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh recently reiterated that Hamas will never cease trying to destroy Israel, and to make sure everyone was on the same page the Palestinians fired rockets into Israel while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in town. All of which lead to a military flare-up last month, leaving some Palestinian groups badly damaged but not even scraping Hamas’s military infrastructure.

So naturally attacks on Israeli troops, especially around the southern Gaza border, are again on the rise. IDF patrols are being targeted with 50 kg explosives, more than 50 mortar attacks have been launched at Israeli soldiers, and anti-tank missiles are a constant threat. Israeli leaders are describing the attacks as an escalation, and have apparently had enough:

Israeli planes dropped pamphlets in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, warning Palestinians not to enter a no-go zone on its southern border. The leaflets, signed by Israeli forces general command, include a map of the zone, a Ma’an correspondent said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the leaflets were dropped in several locations, and “reiterated to the citizens of the Gaza Strip to keep a 300-meter distance,” from the border area.

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The Iranian proxies in the Gaza Strip have not been shy about their eagerness to renew hostilities, preferably but not necessarily at their convenience. Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh recently reiterated that Hamas will never cease trying to destroy Israel, and to make sure everyone was on the same page the Palestinians fired rockets into Israel while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in town. All of which lead to a military flare-up last month, leaving some Palestinian groups badly damaged but not even scraping Hamas’s military infrastructure.

So naturally attacks on Israeli troops, especially around the southern Gaza border, are again on the rise. IDF patrols are being targeted with 50 kg explosives, more than 50 mortar attacks have been launched at Israeli soldiers, and anti-tank missiles are a constant threat. Israeli leaders are describing the attacks as an escalation, and have apparently had enough:

Israeli planes dropped pamphlets in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, warning Palestinians not to enter a no-go zone on its southern border. The leaflets, signed by Israeli forces general command, include a map of the zone, a Ma’an correspondent said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the leaflets were dropped in several locations, and “reiterated to the citizens of the Gaza Strip to keep a 300-meter distance,” from the border area.

The IDF expects the situation to get worse before it gets better:

But for Ben-Ezra and other commanders, it appears just a matter of time before they are forced to undertake a more aggressive mission in the Gaza Strip. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has already given orders to start training for operations in Gaza, and the infantry brigades are scheduled to complete their preparations for these drills shortly. “This pressure cooker will explode some time,” said Ben-Ezra.

Why are Israeli military officials so sure that Iran’s Palestinian proxies will sooner rather than later unleash their rockets and missiles on Israeli civilians?

There’s the straightforward answer, which is that those groups continue to openly declare their intent to kill Israeli civilians, and – a few years removed from Operation Cast Lead – they’re again ready to instigate war. According to this line of reasoning, the IDF knows roughly how many rockets and missiles Palestinian groups need before they feel safe renewing hostilities, and the IDF also knows that the Palestinians are approaching that number. Thus the preparation.

But Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their sundry ilk aren’t the only actors in the Middle East (putting aside analysts who continue to peddle definitively debunked theories on linkage, it’s arguable if the Palestinians even count as significant regional actors). It could easily be that the Israelis are concerned with Gaza because they have their sights set on the day after an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Knowing that Tehran will order its Gaza proxies to unleash their Iranian-provided missiles, the IDF may be gearing up to respond to Hamas’s mullah-ordered retaliation.

Under this theory, you can add Israel’s Gaza-related drills to the ever-growing pile of analysis and evidence suggesting that Jerusalem is very much not bluffing about Iran.

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