Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 18, 2012

Cubs May Pay the Price for Ricketts’ Attack

Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

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Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

Their hypocrisy doesn’t stem from the family patriarch’s subsidy for what would have been a foolish attack on the president. Contrary to the liberal orthodoxy on this point, one can oppose the president and even mention Rev. Wright while still espousing racial harmony and running a baseball team whose players and supporters come from across the racial and national spectrum.

The Ricketts’ hypocrisy comes from their desire for public subsidies for their baseball operation while opposing the president’s support for high taxes and unlimited government spending. The sorry truth is that almost all of the millionaires and billionaires who own sports teams in this country are ardent capitalists when it comes to taxing their incomes but devout socialists when it comes to getting government to subsidize their business. As far as I am concerned, baseball is a sacred institution and renovating Wrigley is a great idea. I wish the Ricketts luck with the project, but have no sympathy for the widespread policy of team owners picking the pockets of the taxpayers in order to make their operations even more profitable.

Emanuel and every other mayor and governor in the country should never take the phone calls of team owners — no matter who they are supporting in the presidential election — so long as their purpose is to raid the public treasury for their own profit.

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Who’s Really Persecuting Christians?

Last month CBS’s “60 Minutes” show earned itself some justified criticism for a biased report about the treatment of Palestinian Christians by Israel. As Alana noted then, the premise of the piece — that routine security precautions on the part of Israeli forces has led to a decline in the Christian population in the West Bank — was preposterous. Why would Israeli measures cause Christian numbers to diminish but not affect the rapidly growing Muslim population? Only a determination to blame Israel for everything could have led the “60 Minutes” team to avoid the obvious explanation: the rise of militant Islam in traditional Christian strongholds that has gradually forced many Christians to flee the country. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where the rights of the Christian minority — which is growing — are respected.

But the pushback against this calumny requires more background than just a fact check about the West Bank. The Gatestone Institute has published an important online monthly report about Muslim persecution of Christians throughout Asia and Africa and it makes for frightening reading. Even a brief summary of the litany of horrors being visited upon Christians by Muslims puts the ridiculous accusations against Israel in perspective.

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Last month CBS’s “60 Minutes” show earned itself some justified criticism for a biased report about the treatment of Palestinian Christians by Israel. As Alana noted then, the premise of the piece — that routine security precautions on the part of Israeli forces has led to a decline in the Christian population in the West Bank — was preposterous. Why would Israeli measures cause Christian numbers to diminish but not affect the rapidly growing Muslim population? Only a determination to blame Israel for everything could have led the “60 Minutes” team to avoid the obvious explanation: the rise of militant Islam in traditional Christian strongholds that has gradually forced many Christians to flee the country. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where the rights of the Christian minority — which is growing — are respected.

But the pushback against this calumny requires more background than just a fact check about the West Bank. The Gatestone Institute has published an important online monthly report about Muslim persecution of Christians throughout Asia and Africa and it makes for frightening reading. Even a brief summary of the litany of horrors being visited upon Christians by Muslims puts the ridiculous accusations against Israel in perspective.

* Attacks on churches took place in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia.

* Christians were threatened with death and imprisonment for “blasphemy” and apostasy in Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan. At the same time, Muslim terrorists have threatened Christian pastors in the Philippines.

* In a separate category called “dhimmitude,” the report discusses the “general abuse, debasement, and suppression of non-Muslims as tolerated citizens.” Such incidents were recorded in Egypt, India, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

The widespread scope of incidents of persecution throughout the Muslim world ought to alarm Christians in the West. But for some reason, it doesn’t. The Palestinians, whose goal is to eradicate the one Jewish state in the world, seem to generate more sympathy in Europe and America than the embattled Christians of the Third World.

All this took place in April of this year alone.

Those who purport to care about human rights undermine their already shaky credibility when they ignore the far greater instances of abuse of Christians by Arabs and Muslims while supporting the delegitimization of the one democracy in the Middle East as well as the one nation in the region that protects Christians.

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Biased Media’s Rope Line Hypocrisy

Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

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Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

In 2008, the contrast between John McCain’s media-friendly ways and Obama’s less open policies only got noticed when the Republican’s staff tried to change things and restrict access to their all-too loquacious candidate. But no one ever seemed to think there was much amiss about Obama’s practices in which highly choreographed events consisted of appearances with an ever-present teleprompter and little or no press access to the candidate. That many of those covering him — and their editors — might have been as seduced by the historic nature of his run and by his “hope” and “change” mantra is a given.

The point is, if Obama’s lack of openness to the press was not an issue in 2008, it’s not clear why Romney’s staff’s attempts to restrict access to their man should be worthy of much comment today. It is doubly absurd when you consider that it is virtually impossible to cover President Obama in the same way you can Romney because of security considerations.

The election won’t be decided on the issue of which presidential — or vice presidential — candidate is more open to the press on the rope line. But this minor kerfuffle and the staggering hypocrisy with which it was covered is another reminder that Romney’s greatest disadvantage in his effort to prevent the president’s re-election is not his tendency toward gaffes but a biased mainstream media always willing to judge and condemn by a standard they won’t apply to his opponents.

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Romney, Day One

What would Day One of a Romney presidency look like? In his first general election ad, Romney outlines the three main priorities he would address as soon as he took office: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, instituting tax cuts and reforms and replacing Obamacare:

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What would Day One of a Romney presidency look like? In his first general election ad, Romney outlines the three main priorities he would address as soon as he took office: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, instituting tax cuts and reforms and replacing Obamacare:

Notice Romney emphasizes “replacing” Obamacare, as opposed to his dubious primary claim that he would issue state waivers on his first day in office. The difficulty now is figuring out what exactly to replace it with. The vague promise of “common sense health reform” works in TV ads, but he’s going to have to get specific soon, which raises several political problems for him. Because he’s the author of RomneyCare, his plan will have to meet a very, very high bar with distrustful conservatives. And as soon as he actually issues a specific proposal, he’ll also give Democrats a major opening to attack him.

The commercial itself, which is reportedly a $1.2 million buy in four swing states, shows Romney is trying to keep his own campaign largely positive, and leave the attacks to outside conservative groups and surrogates. But this particular ad also seems ripe for parody, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a Democratic group released a horror movie-style ad about Day One of the Romney presidency to counter it.

It’s also true that it’s going to be much easier for Romney to run a positive-style campaign than it will be for Obama. While Romney has the advantage of being able to make lofty promises and create an idealistic image of what his administration would look like, Obama has to deal with the reality of his first term, which failed to live up to his glowing vision from 2008.

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How History Weighs on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In September 1993, Yasir Arafat told one of recent history’s most significant lies. At the time, Arafat still resided where he certainly belonged: on the State Department’s terrorism list. But the date of the White House ceremony announcing the signing of the declaration of principles was nearing, and the Clinton administration had given up its earlier resistance to asking Yitzhak Rabin to shake the bloodstained hand of the committed murderer on the White House lawn so everyone could have their “historic” moment in the sun.

So Arafat wrote a letter. He would–scout’s honor–end his campaign to annihilate the Jewish people. “Our lawyers judged this written renunciation as sufficient grounds for the president to take Arafat and the PLO off the State Department’s terrorism list,” wrote Martin Indyk in his memoir of the Clinton administration’s Middle East diplomacy. The rest, as they say, is history.

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In September 1993, Yasir Arafat told one of recent history’s most significant lies. At the time, Arafat still resided where he certainly belonged: on the State Department’s terrorism list. But the date of the White House ceremony announcing the signing of the declaration of principles was nearing, and the Clinton administration had given up its earlier resistance to asking Yitzhak Rabin to shake the bloodstained hand of the committed murderer on the White House lawn so everyone could have their “historic” moment in the sun.

So Arafat wrote a letter. He would–scout’s honor–end his campaign to annihilate the Jewish people. “Our lawyers judged this written renunciation as sufficient grounds for the president to take Arafat and the PLO off the State Department’s terrorism list,” wrote Martin Indyk in his memoir of the Clinton administration’s Middle East diplomacy. The rest, as they say, is history.

I recount this story not to take a gratuitous swipe at the naïveté of the Clinton administration nor at the cavalier way Israeli security concerns were put in a box in the White House attic so Clinton could mug for the cameras. The point is that allowing Arafat to hijack and destroy the chances for peace cannot be so easily undone, even if we’ve learned something from these mistakes.

Aaron David Miller, a member of the Clinton team, is now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a regular columnist for Foreign Policy, and has used his perch to attempt to atone for the mistakes of the Clinton administration. It is an honorable and laudable act. And yesterday at the center, Miller moderated an interesting discussion between former Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon and former Obama campaign adviser Robert Malley. The event was ostensibly about how the old negotiations paradigm has become somewhat useless and the value of unilateralism in moving forward.

Malley described a strategy of “parallel unilateral steps.” Ayalon mostly agreed, but insisted “this is a friendly unilateralism, not an antagonistic unilateralism.” Neither, however, went on to describe in any great detail what your friendly neighborhood unilateralism would look like in practice. And Malley restated Miller’s own thesis, suggesting that it was difficult to understand how giving up the fiction of a bilateral peace process could possibly be more damaging than maintaining it, at this point.

But there are two problems here. First, Ayalon readily admitted that “we know the parameters” of a final deal, and those would be “the Clinton parameters… and all that was discussed in the last 20 years.” Because the “last 20 years” have been used by the Palestinian leadership to broadcast as loudly and as often as possible that they utterly reject this idea, it’s hard to imagine why Ayalon still thinks this is a workable plan. But his opening seems to be that Israel should conform to those parameters with or without Palestinian cooperation.

This may or may not be worth exploring–I’ve written about “coordinated unilateralism” before, though I’m not sure changing the tactics while keeping the same parameters of a final-status agreement is practical.

But Ayalon does have one revolutionary idea, and it’s one he has been drawing attention to recently. That idea is: treat Israeli settlers like human beings. As Ayalon wrote in the New York Times in April: “We have learned that we must be candid about our proposed plan, discuss the settlers’ concerns and above all not demonize them. They are the ones who would pay the price of being uprooted from their homes and also from their deeply felt mission of settling the land.”

Ayalon repeated this thesis yesterday. This is important, because among mainstream media outlets and left-of-center journalists you will not find such empathy toward the settlers. Nor will you find nuance or complexity.

For his part, Malley wants the settlers at the table too. This is in part because Malley wants everyone at the table–he’s long been a proponent of negotiating with Hamas. But that just makes those who would exclude the settlers look that much more ridiculous. (Among leftists, the idea that you would talk to Hamas but not Orthodox Jews makes perfect sense–which helps explain the marginalization of the Israeli left.)

But this raises an important question: Are you bringing settlers to the table as props, to display your empathy and humanity and ask them to sit there quietly as you pat them on the head? Or are you bringing them to the table to include them in negotiations? Malley, Ayalon, and Miller are all men of the left, so it’s encouraging to hear them talk like this, but the panel was not exactly balanced. And history is, once again, an obstacle–disrespect of the settlers and the whitewashing of violent Palestinian rejectionism have become ingrained elements of the peace process.

During the presentation, Ayalon said he believes “there is no peace without partners.” If that’s true, then based on the behavior of Israel’s “partner,” there is no peace.

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Obama Backers Must Embrace Race Issue

The almost hysterical reaction in the mainstream press to the revelation that one super PAC was planning to run ads about President Obama’s former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was highly instructive. For two days, liberal newspapers like the New York Times and much of the rest of the chattering classes have been hyperventilating about something that not only had no connection to the campaign of Mitt Romney but which was specifically condemned by the candidate. And yet somehow we are told that this non-event changed the political narrative of the week and distracted Americans from thinking about the failing economy that is causing the president’s poll numbers to head south.

The alacrity with which the Obama campaign and their liberal cheerleaders seized on the Wright issue spoke volumes about the Democrats’ current weakness. The president’s chief problems revolve around the fact that the economy is so poor and his signature legislative accomplishment — ObamaCare — is deeply unpopular. Because he cannot run on his record, his path to victory in November must therefore involve a careful combination of calumnies against his opponent and attempts to change the subject from the nation’s fiscal health to the one that helped elect him in 2008: race. That is the only way to explain his campaign’s desperate attempt to leverage a marginal story into a major campaign issue.

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The almost hysterical reaction in the mainstream press to the revelation that one super PAC was planning to run ads about President Obama’s former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was highly instructive. For two days, liberal newspapers like the New York Times and much of the rest of the chattering classes have been hyperventilating about something that not only had no connection to the campaign of Mitt Romney but which was specifically condemned by the candidate. And yet somehow we are told that this non-event changed the political narrative of the week and distracted Americans from thinking about the failing economy that is causing the president’s poll numbers to head south.

The alacrity with which the Obama campaign and their liberal cheerleaders seized on the Wright issue spoke volumes about the Democrats’ current weakness. The president’s chief problems revolve around the fact that the economy is so poor and his signature legislative accomplishment — ObamaCare — is deeply unpopular. Because he cannot run on his record, his path to victory in November must therefore involve a careful combination of calumnies against his opponent and attempts to change the subject from the nation’s fiscal health to the one that helped elect him in 2008: race. That is the only way to explain his campaign’s desperate attempt to leverage a marginal story into a major campaign issue.

As we wrote yesterday, the argument that any mention of Wright is a sign of racism is absurd. Four years after his election, any time spent discussing the influences on Obama’s character is pointless. But because Wright is a part of his biography that can not be denied, reminding the public of his longstanding ties to a scoundrel is neither a sign of extremism nor racism. Any candidate who spent that much time in the church of such a person — be they black or white — would have much to explain.

The main point to take away from this story isn’t about whether the GOP is right to talk about Wright. Rather, it is the way it has illustrated that the main, if not the sole justification for the president’s re-election is still the issue of race. Four years ago, the president was careful to distance himself from Wright and successfully persuaded the media that this issue was not worth pursuing. But in a stroke of irony, today his campaign embraces the Wright issue — though not the man himself — because they think it is an effective way to remind voters of the historic nature of the Obama presidency.

The fulminations about the supposed ugliness of any mention of Wright in the campaign demonstrate that without race the Obama re-election effort has no convincing rationale other than the tired themes about the perfidy of the Bush administration and class warfare demagoguery that is more intended for the Democratic base than independent or swing voters.

Americans felt good about electing the first African-American to the presidency in 2008, but a big part of that was the notion that Barack Obama was not only a post-partisan politician but also a post-racial figure. The events of the last three and a half years have given the lie to Obama’s pose about partisanship. The Wright kerfuffle illustrates that he needs again to rely upon the sympathy of those who wish to right historic wrongs in order to win in November. But that is a political card that is much harder to play twice. As much as a focus on race is a powerful fact that works to his advantage, the lack of a more positive underlying principle could be fatal to his hopes. Though we should expect the liberal media to hold on to the race theme for all it is worth in the next few months, this is a dubious strategy that will be difficult to sustain in the absence of a genuine economic recovery.

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George W. Bush and the Freedom Agenda

President Bush returned to Washington earlier this week to mark the opening of the “Freedom Collection” at the Bush Institute in Dallas. At the event, President Bush gave a speech that was turned into an op-ed  for the Wall Street Journal that’s worth reading.

President Bush offered a sophisticated critique of (among other things) the so-called Arab Spring. “The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle,” the former president said. Years of transition can be difficult. He acknowledged that there is nothing easy about the achievement of freedom. But Bush pointed out that there is an inbuilt crisis in tyrannies, which is that they are illegitimate and, eventually, citizens rise up against them. Regardless of their culture, people don’t want to be subject to repression, violence, and the lash of the whip.

Egypt is a good example. Whatever one thinks about the short, medium, and long-term prospects there – and there are certainly reasons for concern —  the revolution itself was organic. America didn’t provoke the uprising and, until the 11th hour, we stood with Hosni Mubarak. We were essentially bystanders to events there. Mubarak did not take the necessary steps for reform and liberation when he could  — and in the end, he was consumed by the resentments and hatreds he helped to create.

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, then, tectonic plates are shifting, whether we like it or not. What does that mean for American policy? Read More

President Bush returned to Washington earlier this week to mark the opening of the “Freedom Collection” at the Bush Institute in Dallas. At the event, President Bush gave a speech that was turned into an op-ed  for the Wall Street Journal that’s worth reading.

President Bush offered a sophisticated critique of (among other things) the so-called Arab Spring. “The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle,” the former president said. Years of transition can be difficult. He acknowledged that there is nothing easy about the achievement of freedom. But Bush pointed out that there is an inbuilt crisis in tyrannies, which is that they are illegitimate and, eventually, citizens rise up against them. Regardless of their culture, people don’t want to be subject to repression, violence, and the lash of the whip.

Egypt is a good example. Whatever one thinks about the short, medium, and long-term prospects there – and there are certainly reasons for concern —  the revolution itself was organic. America didn’t provoke the uprising and, until the 11th hour, we stood with Hosni Mubarak. We were essentially bystanders to events there. Mubarak did not take the necessary steps for reform and liberation when he could  — and in the end, he was consumed by the resentments and hatreds he helped to create.

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, then, tectonic plates are shifting, whether we like it or not. What does that mean for American policy?

According to America’s 43rd president:

As Americans, our goal should be to help reformers turn the end of tyranny into durable, accountable civic structures. Emerging democracies need strong constitutions, political parties committed to pluralism, and free elections. Free societies depend upon the rule of law and property rights, and they require hopeful economies, drawn into open world markets.

This work will require patience, creativity and active American leadership. It will involve the strengthening of civil society—with a particular emphasis on the role of women. It will require a consistent defense of religious liberty. It will mean the encouragement of development, education and health, as well as trade and foreign investment. There will certainly be setbacks. But if America does not support the advance of democratic institutions and values, who will?

It’s important to bear in mind that the United States’ transition to freedom was hardly smooth. Nearly a century after our liberation from Great Britain we fought what the historian Daniel J. Boorstin called “probably the bloodiest civil war of the 19th century and perhaps even of all modern history.” It was, he said, “the great trauma of our national life.” With the Civil War on our record, we might want to show a bit of patience toward those who are emerging from broken and pathologized societies.

To be clear: the overthrow of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes does not always end well. One form of tyranny can give way to another. As Bush said in his speech, “Freedom is a powerful force.  But it does not advance on wheels of historical inevitability. And it is history that proves this point. The American Revolution of 1776 produced George Washington, who embodied the democratic habits of a new nation. The French Revolution of 1789 eventually produced Napoleon, who set out to conquer Europe. The outcome of a freedom revolution is determined by human choices and the creation of durable democratic traditions.”

To return to the here and now: Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafi could be much worse than Egypt under Mubarak. But the revolution came. We couldn’t have stopped it even if we wanted to. The pertinent question is whether the United States has either the interest or the capacity to help shape the outcome there and elsewhere in the Muslim world in ways that strengthen civil society and advance genuine human liberty; in ways that bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, one might say.

Once upon a time, the United States had a president – several presidents, in fact – who cared about such things. Today, it’s not at all clear that we do.

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Ignoring Munich Massacre Reminds Us Olympics Are Pure Baloney

In the history of the modern Olympic Games there have been many scandals but only one terrorist massacre. The 1972 Games in Munich will forever be remembered because Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes there in cold blood. But this summer when the Games reconvene in London there will be neither an official remembrance nor even a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Israelis. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, flatly denied requests from the State of Israel and members of the United States Congress for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London. The reason for this refusal is clear. Any reminder of that historic crime would offend the vast majority of member nations that participate in the Games who don’t want any mention of an event that puts the Palestinians in a bad light.

This is an outrage that should not pass unnoticed by those who promote and profit from the two-week-long television program that mostly features competitions in sports few will care about during the rest of this or any other year. Rogge and his predecessors have always condemned the politicization of sports–the reason many in the Olympic movement give for choosing to forget about Munich. But the toxic mix of nationalism and athletics has always been at the heart of the Games. While the athletes who participate deserve both respect and admiration, the decision to ignore Munich is just the latest illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the Games. Though we will hear much about the “Olympic Spirit” during the endless promotion of this event, it is and always has been a gigantic fraud that has always preferred to appease tyrants and ignore crimes in the pursuit of building a global business brand.

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In the history of the modern Olympic Games there have been many scandals but only one terrorist massacre. The 1972 Games in Munich will forever be remembered because Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes there in cold blood. But this summer when the Games reconvene in London there will be neither an official remembrance nor even a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Israelis. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, flatly denied requests from the State of Israel and members of the United States Congress for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London. The reason for this refusal is clear. Any reminder of that historic crime would offend the vast majority of member nations that participate in the Games who don’t want any mention of an event that puts the Palestinians in a bad light.

This is an outrage that should not pass unnoticed by those who promote and profit from the two-week-long television program that mostly features competitions in sports few will care about during the rest of this or any other year. Rogge and his predecessors have always condemned the politicization of sports–the reason many in the Olympic movement give for choosing to forget about Munich. But the toxic mix of nationalism and athletics has always been at the heart of the Games. While the athletes who participate deserve both respect and admiration, the decision to ignore Munich is just the latest illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the Games. Though we will hear much about the “Olympic Spirit” during the endless promotion of this event, it is and always has been a gigantic fraud that has always preferred to appease tyrants and ignore crimes in the pursuit of building a global business brand.

The popularity of the Games is undeniable, and any effort to punish the IOC or even boycott the opening ceremonies over the issue of ignoring Munich is bound to fail. The people of the world want their bread and circuses, and if the prospect of honoring Adolf Hitler and the Nazis as the Olympics did in 1936, the Soviet Communism (1980) or the tyrants of Beijing (2008) could not derail the show, then it isn’t likely that many will care about sweeping the memory of Munich under the rug in London this year. Though President Jimmy Carter made the Soviets pay a price for their invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 when he ordered the boycott of the Moscow Olympics — one of the few things for which one of our worst presidents deserves credit — the Games are now too big a business to be affected, let alone stopped by moral considerations.

There is a popular mythology that has grown up about the moral value of this international sports tournament that was promoted by the skillful documentaries created by the late Bud Greenspan. But though the Games can be fun, Greenspan’s wide-eyed belief in the majesty of sports triumphing over intolerance and division was always pure baloney.

We cannot force the Games or the sports establishment to remember the 11 Israelis or even acknowledge their indifference to the massacre. But we can at least stop pretending there is anything happening in London this summer that has intrinsic or moral value and not simply sporting significance. The Olympics are the sports equivalent of the United Nations, a high-minded ideal that is, in practice, merely the assemblage of rogues who pervert the concept to pursue their own often scandalous objectives. Though you may like the show, the Games deserve our scorn, not our admiration.

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Re: Fake Outrage About Obama Smears

I agree with both Jonathan and Alana that an ad campaign this year based on Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be a tactical error for the Romney forces and that the outrage on the left is totally synthetic. President Obama was a member of that church for purely local political reasons. As we have seen since he’s been president, he rarely attends church and, anyway, he needs a mirror to see what he truly worships.

But I can’t help but take note of one of the great for-want-of-a-nail moments in American political history. What would have happened had Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team in the 2008 primary campaign found those tapes of Jeremiah Wright before the Iowa caucuses? Had the Clinton campaign simply handed them off to a friendly TV journalist, I’m confident they would have sowed enough doubt about Obama that he would not have finished first in the Iowa caucuses. (The results were Obama 38 percent, John Edwards—whatever happened to him?—30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent, Joe Biden 1 percent.) Without the wind in his sails from his Iowa victory, Obama wouldn’t have fared so well in subsequent primaries, and the Romney campaign today would be trying to figure out how to defeat President Hillary Clinton’s re-election bid.

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I agree with both Jonathan and Alana that an ad campaign this year based on Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be a tactical error for the Romney forces and that the outrage on the left is totally synthetic. President Obama was a member of that church for purely local political reasons. As we have seen since he’s been president, he rarely attends church and, anyway, he needs a mirror to see what he truly worships.

But I can’t help but take note of one of the great for-want-of-a-nail moments in American political history. What would have happened had Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team in the 2008 primary campaign found those tapes of Jeremiah Wright before the Iowa caucuses? Had the Clinton campaign simply handed them off to a friendly TV journalist, I’m confident they would have sowed enough doubt about Obama that he would not have finished first in the Iowa caucuses. (The results were Obama 38 percent, John Edwards—whatever happened to him?—30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent, Joe Biden 1 percent.) Without the wind in his sails from his Iowa victory, Obama wouldn’t have fared so well in subsequent primaries, and the Romney campaign today would be trying to figure out how to defeat President Hillary Clinton’s re-election bid.

The 2008 Clinton campaign should certainly have found the tapes. After all, they were uncovered by a reporter who simply walked into the church store and purchased the DVDs. But they surfaced only in April 2008. By that time Obama had a big lead, plenty of momentum, and the mainstream media in his pocket. Still, he fared much worse in the late primaries than he had in the early ones and only stumbled across the finish line first. I think the Wright tapes were a factor in his late fade.

We’ll never know for sure, of course, but a less ideological, more centrist, more competent President Clinton would probably have done far less damage to the country and would be a lot harder to defeat this year.

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