Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 6, 2012

Good Riddance to the Paycheck Fairness Act

The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that was ostensibly aimed at closing the fabled 77-cent-on-the-dollar pay gap between men and women in the workplace (and in reality aimed at helping Democrats increase the gender vote gap between them and Republicans next November). The bill failed mainly along party lines:

The Paycheck Fairness Act earned 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, short of the 60 votes necessary. Senate Republicans voted en masse against the measure, believing that it could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.

But Democratic senators spent the hours before the vote speaking about why the legislation is needed to protect women concerned with having lower pay rates than their male colleagues. No Republican lawmaker discussed the issue on the Senate floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

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The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that was ostensibly aimed at closing the fabled 77-cent-on-the-dollar pay gap between men and women in the workplace (and in reality aimed at helping Democrats increase the gender vote gap between them and Republicans next November). The bill failed mainly along party lines:

The Paycheck Fairness Act earned 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, short of the 60 votes necessary. Senate Republicans voted en masse against the measure, believing that it could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.

But Democratic senators spent the hours before the vote speaking about why the legislation is needed to protect women concerned with having lower pay rates than their male colleagues. No Republican lawmaker discussed the issue on the Senate floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is a seriously flawed bill, but it’s not completely without merit. A provision that would prevent employers from retaliating against workers who inquired about potential gender-based wage discrepancies sounds reasonable. And provisions that support more government research into the “gender wage gap” and supply job interview training for women aren’t necessarily bad — just ineffective and probably a waste of government money and time.

But other parts of the bill — particularly the burden of proof issue — are downright dangerous, as the Heritage Foundation explains:

Under the current Equal Pay Act, once employees have provided prima facie evidence of sex discrimination, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to show that the difference in wages results from “any factor other than sex.”

The PFA eliminates the “any factor other than sex” defense and replaces it with a “bona fide factor other than sex” defense. Employers can use this “bona fide factor” defense only if they demonstrate that “business necessity” demands it.

The legislation is fairly vague on what these “bona fide factors” might include, but lists education, training or experience. Of course, in real life there are other less tangible factors that could play a role in determining salary, including leverage during negotiations, innate talent or intelligence, competition from other employers, or a potential employee’s previous salary. The employer might find himself in legal trouble if he based the decision on one of these more subjective factors.

And that’s not the worst part — as Heritage explains further, the act would also require employers to provide training and education for female employees so that they can be on par with any male employees with higher salaries:

The PFA further provides:

Such [bona fide factor] defense shall not apply where the employee demonstrates that an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential and that the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice.

Consequently, the PFA would make virtually any pay difference between a male and female worker grounds for a lawsuit. An employee could sue if she could find an alternative pay practice that arguably serves the same business purpose. This would lead to the government and the courts dictating business practices to employers.

Consider a company with two employees in a division: a man with 10 years experience and a newly hired woman. If the company paid the man greater wages for his greater experience, the woman could insist that the employer provide her with intensive training to make up the experience gap and then pay her identical wages. And if the company refused? The woman in question could sue.

At best, the gender wage gap has been overstated. And to the extent that it does exist, it seems to have little to do with misogynistic employers trying to keep women down. If that were the case, the female Senate Democrats who have been championing the Paycheck Fairness Act wouldn’t have gender wage gaps in their own offices.

Actually, it seems like the proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act are the only ones who are nostalgic for workplace gender discrimination. While advocating for the act, President Obama has repeatedly claimed women make 77 cents for every dollar men make. That number is highly skewed and misleading — even Ezra Klein’s liberal WonkBlog crunched its own numbers and came up with 91-cents-on-the-dollar, when controlling for life choices. Is that nine-cent gap due to actual gender discrimination? It’s nearly impossible to say for certain, because there are a number of other factors that may also need to be taken into account. But the fact that advocates for the Paycheck Fairness Act have seized onto the scariest, least accurate number seems to be an intentional attempt to demoralize and disempower vulnerable women, convincing them they have less control over their lives and careers than they actually do.

This won’t be the last we hear about the Paycheck Fairness Act. Obama will likely keep it in his reelection pitch. But its failure in the Senate yesterday was a good thing for employers and for women in the workplace.

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A Tide in the Affairs of Men

As Jonathan noted, last night wasn’t just a big night for Scott Walker and a bad one for Wisconsin unions. It was also a very big night for the people of two of the nation’s largest cities (in true-blue California, yet)–San Diego and San Jose, where propositions on pension reform for public employees passed by overwhelming votes.

So let’s review:

Spring of 2009: The Tea Party emerges as a major political force.

Summer of 2009: Tea Party members confront members of Congress in town hall meetings, demanding fiscal reform, as the senators and congressmen stare back at them in the best deer-in-the-headlights fashion.

November 2009: Bob McDonnell wins the Virginia governorship 59-41 percent on a fiscal reform platform. Chris Christie wins the New Jersey governorship 48.5-44.9 percent (5.8 percent went to a third candidate) on a fiscal reform platform, running against a self-funded incumbent.

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As Jonathan noted, last night wasn’t just a big night for Scott Walker and a bad one for Wisconsin unions. It was also a very big night for the people of two of the nation’s largest cities (in true-blue California, yet)–San Diego and San Jose, where propositions on pension reform for public employees passed by overwhelming votes.

So let’s review:

Spring of 2009: The Tea Party emerges as a major political force.

Summer of 2009: Tea Party members confront members of Congress in town hall meetings, demanding fiscal reform, as the senators and congressmen stare back at them in the best deer-in-the-headlights fashion.

November 2009: Bob McDonnell wins the Virginia governorship 59-41 percent on a fiscal reform platform. Chris Christie wins the New Jersey governorship 48.5-44.9 percent (5.8 percent went to a third candidate) on a fiscal reform platform, running against a self-funded incumbent.

January 2010: Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley in deep-blue Massachusetts to win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.

November 2010: Republicans sweep to victory across the country, taking the House with their largest majority since 1928 and gaining seven seats in the Senate. Governorships and state legislative houses turn Republican across the country.

June 2012: Walker wins the recall election with a margin larger than his original win in November 2010. San Jose and San Diego voters rein in public pensions.

That sure looks like a trend to me. I’d advise the Romney campaign to follow Cole Porter’s advice and “Brush up Your Shakespeare,” specifically, Julius Caesar, IV:3:214-218.

And while they’re at it, I would also recommend a brilliant essay by James Pierson in The New Criterion, “The Fourth Revolution,” which explains the deeper tides of American history leading up to the present moment. It is illuminating to say the least.

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Bill Clinton for VP (for Romney)?

Michael Takiff has written a new book, A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him. My guess is President Obama might share the judgment that Clinton is a complicated fellow.

Within the last week or so the former president has declared that Mitt Romney had a “sterling” business career; that Romney easily crosses the qualification threshold for being president; that Bain Capital’s work is “good work;” that Congress should extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest Americans; and that we’re still in a recession.

This all comes from the most prominent Democrat in America after Obama.

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Michael Takiff has written a new book, A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him. My guess is President Obama might share the judgment that Clinton is a complicated fellow.

Within the last week or so the former president has declared that Mitt Romney had a “sterling” business career; that Romney easily crosses the qualification threshold for being president; that Bain Capital’s work is “good work;” that Congress should extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest Americans; and that we’re still in a recession.

This all comes from the most prominent Democrat in America after Obama.

At this rate, Clinton may be nominated to be vice president – by Mitt Romney. After all, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing more damage to Obama, or more on behalf of Romney, than what Clinton is doing day in and day out. Call it a unity ticket for America.

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t so wise of Barack Obama to accuse Bill Clinton of playing the race card in the South Carolina primary in 2008. It turns out The Big Dog has a long memory.

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What Does June 6 Mean to You?

For baby boomers whose childhoods fell during the two decades after the end of World War II, the memory of that conflict was never far from view. The war was deeply embedded in the popular culture of the day in terms of movies and television shows. And though much of our current impressions of the fight against Nazi Germany is seen, quite rightly, through the prism of the Holocaust, in that era to speak of the war was to conjure up images of glorious victory and the heroism and sacrifice of the Allied troops, who were often our fathers and uncles. To us, it was impossible — and is, in fact, still difficult — to hear or read the dates most associated with the war — December 7 and June 6 — without thinking of what happened on those days in 1941 and 1944. Thus today, like many others of my generation — the sons and daughters of that “greatest generation” — my thoughts turn to the invasion of Normandy and of those who played great parts in that drama as well as those who assumed small but by no means unimportant roles such as my own father, a member of the U.S. 8th Air Force.

But to the geniuses who run Google, that juggernaut that is part of the lifeblood of our commerce and culture, June 6 does not summon up thoughts of that famous “Longest Day” when American, British and other Allied troops stormed Hitler’s Fortress Europe. It is, instead, the anniversary of the first drive-in movie that apparently opened its doors on June 6, 1933. It is that event that is noted today in the Google Doodle on the ubiquitous search page that is as much the public square of the contemporary world as anything else you can name. While one must attribute this curious choice to the passage of time and the sea change in our culture, it also says something not particularly flattering about both the computer nerds at Google and the majority of the population whose attitudes they surely reflect.

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For baby boomers whose childhoods fell during the two decades after the end of World War II, the memory of that conflict was never far from view. The war was deeply embedded in the popular culture of the day in terms of movies and television shows. And though much of our current impressions of the fight against Nazi Germany is seen, quite rightly, through the prism of the Holocaust, in that era to speak of the war was to conjure up images of glorious victory and the heroism and sacrifice of the Allied troops, who were often our fathers and uncles. To us, it was impossible — and is, in fact, still difficult — to hear or read the dates most associated with the war — December 7 and June 6 — without thinking of what happened on those days in 1941 and 1944. Thus today, like many others of my generation — the sons and daughters of that “greatest generation” — my thoughts turn to the invasion of Normandy and of those who played great parts in that drama as well as those who assumed small but by no means unimportant roles such as my own father, a member of the U.S. 8th Air Force.

But to the geniuses who run Google, that juggernaut that is part of the lifeblood of our commerce and culture, June 6 does not summon up thoughts of that famous “Longest Day” when American, British and other Allied troops stormed Hitler’s Fortress Europe. It is, instead, the anniversary of the first drive-in movie that apparently opened its doors on June 6, 1933. It is that event that is noted today in the Google Doodle on the ubiquitous search page that is as much the public square of the contemporary world as anything else you can name. While one must attribute this curious choice to the passage of time and the sea change in our culture, it also says something not particularly flattering about both the computer nerds at Google and the majority of the population whose attitudes they surely reflect.

It may be that commemorations of World War II are now the province of the military and ancient veterans rather than television or the movies as it was during my childhood. The surviving veterans of that conflict are few. Most, like my own father of blessed memory, are gone now and what remains are our memories of them as well as the keepsakes such as his ribbons and campaign medals (including the small piece of cloth on which sits a battle star that signified his participation in D-Day) that sit in their velvet-lined box in the drawer of the desk at which I now sit and write.

Soon the D-Day veterans will be no more, and some day their children will also be gone. That was as true of the veterans of Valley Forge and Gettysburg as it is of Normandy. But think of how impoverished our spirit as a nation will be if, in the future, we think more about drive-ins than of Omaha Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église or the Pointe du Hoc. There is no current shortage of heroes, as the exploits of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan prove every day. But an America that no longer associates the date June 6 with D-Day will have lost one of its most precious memories.

So, I’m thankful to RealClearPolitics for placing on its list of important political articles of the day, the text of President Ronald Reagan’s wonderful speech delivered on the 40th anniversary of D-Day delivered at the invasion site and dedicated to “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.” Let’s hope that someone will circulate this to the drive-in fans at Google. President Reagan concluded it thusly:

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

May the memory of all the veterans as well as the great communicator who honored them be for a blessing.

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Ray Bradbury, 1920–2012

The science fiction writer Ray Bradbury died last night in Los Angeles at 91.

Although I have not read him since high school, Bradbury was a formative literary influence — and not upon me alone. Andrew Fox, himself an excellent SF writer, testifies to Bradbury’s lifelong influence upon him in this moving tribute.

As John Fund said over at National Review Online, Bradbury was a great conservative. Perhaps there is no better image of his conservatism than this. In Fahrenheit 451, his classic dystopian novel from 1953 about a world that burns books, there is a band of wandering scholars, headed by a mysterious man named Granger, who memorize books to preserve them from total destruction. Granger himself has memorized Plato’s Republic; or, as he puts it, “I am Plato’s Republic.”

The irony is delicious, because Plato too wanted to suppress books. “[W]e can admit no poetry into our city save only hymns to the gods and the praises of good men,” Socrates tells Glaucon in Paul Shorey’s translation [607a]. “For if you grant admission to the honeyed Muse in lyric or epic, pleasure and pain will be lords of your city instead of law. . . .” By poetry is meant everything that would now be called literature. In Bradbury’s city as opposed to Plato’s, cultural memory preserves even the calls for its own extermination.

It may be no exaggeration to suggest that Bradbury understood literature’s place in human life, to say nothing of the utopian seduction, better than Plato.

The science fiction writer Ray Bradbury died last night in Los Angeles at 91.

Although I have not read him since high school, Bradbury was a formative literary influence — and not upon me alone. Andrew Fox, himself an excellent SF writer, testifies to Bradbury’s lifelong influence upon him in this moving tribute.

As John Fund said over at National Review Online, Bradbury was a great conservative. Perhaps there is no better image of his conservatism than this. In Fahrenheit 451, his classic dystopian novel from 1953 about a world that burns books, there is a band of wandering scholars, headed by a mysterious man named Granger, who memorize books to preserve them from total destruction. Granger himself has memorized Plato’s Republic; or, as he puts it, “I am Plato’s Republic.”

The irony is delicious, because Plato too wanted to suppress books. “[W]e can admit no poetry into our city save only hymns to the gods and the praises of good men,” Socrates tells Glaucon in Paul Shorey’s translation [607a]. “For if you grant admission to the honeyed Muse in lyric or epic, pleasure and pain will be lords of your city instead of law. . . .” By poetry is meant everything that would now be called literature. In Bradbury’s city as opposed to Plato’s, cultural memory preserves even the calls for its own extermination.

It may be no exaggeration to suggest that Bradbury understood literature’s place in human life, to say nothing of the utopian seduction, better than Plato.

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Israel Is Home of Choice for its Citizens

An article by Pini Herman, a principal at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research, published today in the Forward, directly takes on the popular notion that “millions” of Israelis live abroad. If Herman is right, rather than facing an ongoing drain of some of its most successful Jewish citizens, Israel has been largely successful in either retaining them or recapturing those who left to spend significant time abroad.

In other words, even after a decade that has seen 1,000 Israelis killed in the worst terrorist onslaught in the history of modern Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, two inconclusive wars, an ongoing and seemingly insoluble conflict with the Palestinians, the rise to power of Islamists across its near abroad, the steady march of a foe committed to its destruction toward nuclear weapons, and rising condemnations of its very existence seemingly in every corner of the globe, the Jewish state continues to be the home of choice for its citizens, even those with easy opportunities to move their lives to other friendly and developed countries.

Herman bases his argument on a new study from Pew that found only 230,000 Jewish Israelis are now living outside of the country. He writes, “The new data confirms that Israel, at 4 percent, has retained its Jewish native-born population at a higher rate, usually double the average 8 percent retention of native borns of most other countries in the world.” Many Israelis return to their native country after spending time abroad picking up skills in valuable industries like high-tech that then become assets for the development of more initiatives based in Israel itself. So instead of draining talent, Israeli emigration is often circulatory, enabling an ever higher percentage of talented Israelis to find the work opportunities they seek without leaving home.

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An article by Pini Herman, a principal at Phillips and Herman Demographic Research, published today in the Forward, directly takes on the popular notion that “millions” of Israelis live abroad. If Herman is right, rather than facing an ongoing drain of some of its most successful Jewish citizens, Israel has been largely successful in either retaining them or recapturing those who left to spend significant time abroad.

In other words, even after a decade that has seen 1,000 Israelis killed in the worst terrorist onslaught in the history of modern Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, two inconclusive wars, an ongoing and seemingly insoluble conflict with the Palestinians, the rise to power of Islamists across its near abroad, the steady march of a foe committed to its destruction toward nuclear weapons, and rising condemnations of its very existence seemingly in every corner of the globe, the Jewish state continues to be the home of choice for its citizens, even those with easy opportunities to move their lives to other friendly and developed countries.

Herman bases his argument on a new study from Pew that found only 230,000 Jewish Israelis are now living outside of the country. He writes, “The new data confirms that Israel, at 4 percent, has retained its Jewish native-born population at a higher rate, usually double the average 8 percent retention of native borns of most other countries in the world.” Many Israelis return to their native country after spending time abroad picking up skills in valuable industries like high-tech that then become assets for the development of more initiatives based in Israel itself. So instead of draining talent, Israeli emigration is often circulatory, enabling an ever higher percentage of talented Israelis to find the work opportunities they seek without leaving home.

Some of the best-known recent success stories of Israelis confirm Herman’s idea. Tal Ben-Shahar achieved extraordinary success in the United States through his teaching of a popular course at Harvard on popular psychology, which itself led to the publication of a popular book, and appearances on “60 Minutes,” “The Daily Show,” and other popular media, opening the possibility of a lucrative and satisfying career on his subject matter of choice in the United States. Instead, as he explains in a new movie he narrates about life in Israel, after more than a decade in America he returned to Israel to be with his family and where he feels most at home. (While in the United States Ben-Shahar was also one of the early thought leaders behind The David Project.)

Similarly, as described in Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s Start-Up Nation, Israeli engineer Michael Laor had proven himself so important to Cisco in California that when he decided to return to Israel in 1997, they built their first R&D center outside of the United States in Israel in order to keep him.

Even many of Israel’s supporters have the strange habit of seeing in its successes – whether they are military victories or the creation of native industries – dangers to its ultimate survival. Serious challenges do indeed exist. But that’s no reason not to look with a clear eye at all the Jewish state has going in its favor.

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MSNBC’s Four Stages of Political Grief

What do you do if you host a program for MSNBC and Republican Scott Walker not only wins his recall election in Wisconsin, but (a) wins more votes and wins by a larger margin than he did in 2010 and (b) deals a devastating blow to organized labor?

Easy. First you pretend a near-landslide election is going to be razor-thin. Then you toss out charges that Governor Walker may well be indicted in the coming days. Then you deny the Wisconsin loss hurts President Obama. And then you insist the election actually helps Obama.

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What do you do if you host a program for MSNBC and Republican Scott Walker not only wins his recall election in Wisconsin, but (a) wins more votes and wins by a larger margin than he did in 2010 and (b) deals a devastating blow to organized labor?

Easy. First you pretend a near-landslide election is going to be razor-thin. Then you toss out charges that Governor Walker may well be indicted in the coming days. Then you deny the Wisconsin loss hurts President Obama. And then you insist the election actually helps Obama.

Call it the four stages of liberal grief. You can watch the whole pathetic, desperate drama play out here .

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Senators Call for Investigation of WH Leaks

Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chaimbliss are calling for a Senate probe into whether White House officials leaked details of the cyber warfare program against Iran to the media for political gain. But Senate Democrats are also furious about the leaks, according to The Hill:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.

“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”

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Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chaimbliss are calling for a Senate probe into whether White House officials leaked details of the cyber warfare program against Iran to the media for political gain. But Senate Democrats are also furious about the leaks, according to The Hill:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could “to some extent” provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.

“This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

“A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”

Both Kerry and Feinstein rejected the idea the leaks were politically motivated, but all signs point to White House authorization for the recent New York Times pieces on cyber warfare and drone strikes. This administration has not been shy when it comes to prosecuting leaks in the past, and yet it’s been notably nonchalant about a breach of this scale.

For example, the author of the Times’s cyber warfare story, David Sanger, told Gawker that “No government agency formally requested that I not publish the story.” The White House obviously knew about the article, and could have asked the Times to hold off if it believed the story was dangerous — but declined to do so. Why? And why call an FBI investigation well after the fact?

What we don’t know is whether the leak originated from the White House in the first place, or whether administration officials simply added additional information to a story that was already being written with help from other government sources or even Israeli officials.

We also don’t know what the White House’s motivation could have been for working with Sanger. Maybe officials talked to him because he agreed to withhold information that was even more sensitive from the final story, or because they wanted to make sure the article did as little damage as possible. But because this is the second big White House leak this spring that plays into the Obama campaign narrative, McCain and Chaimbliss are right to be suspicious.

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More Bad News for Unions From California

As if the epic defeat of their effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wasn’t enough, the union movement got even more bad news from California last night when voters in San Diego and San Jose gave huge majorities to referenda that called for cutbacks to retirement benefits for municipal workers. If only a year or two ago states and cities throughout the country appeared helpless to stop the march toward insolvency caused by the enormous expenditures required to pay for the generous benefits and pensions given public employees, it now appears the tide has turned in favor of the taxpayers.

Where once there was no greater political power in most states than the unions representing state workers, these once mighty groups look like paper tigers. The voters have rightly determined that the burden of the contracts is too great for the taxpayers to bear in a time of a shrinking economy when private sector workers cannot hope to do as well. Politicians who feared to cross the unions or to stand up to them in negotiations — because doing so meant running the risk of strikes and slowdowns that could bring states and municipalities to their knees — are suddenly discovering the courage to not only say no to further demands on the public exchequer but to request and get givebacks that make fiscal sense. After Scott Walker’s big win in Wisconsin and the 66 and 70 percent majorities won in California, this could be just the start of a broad movement that will end the stranglehold unions once had on state budgets.

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As if the epic defeat of their effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wasn’t enough, the union movement got even more bad news from California last night when voters in San Diego and San Jose gave huge majorities to referenda that called for cutbacks to retirement benefits for municipal workers. If only a year or two ago states and cities throughout the country appeared helpless to stop the march toward insolvency caused by the enormous expenditures required to pay for the generous benefits and pensions given public employees, it now appears the tide has turned in favor of the taxpayers.

Where once there was no greater political power in most states than the unions representing state workers, these once mighty groups look like paper tigers. The voters have rightly determined that the burden of the contracts is too great for the taxpayers to bear in a time of a shrinking economy when private sector workers cannot hope to do as well. Politicians who feared to cross the unions or to stand up to them in negotiations — because doing so meant running the risk of strikes and slowdowns that could bring states and municipalities to their knees — are suddenly discovering the courage to not only say no to further demands on the public exchequer but to request and get givebacks that make fiscal sense. After Scott Walker’s big win in Wisconsin and the 66 and 70 percent majorities won in California, this could be just the start of a broad movement that will end the stranglehold unions once had on state budgets.

To those who cry foul over the pension reform measures in California or Walker’s clipping of the unions’ wings in Wisconsin, we need to point out that treating public employees as a privileged class is what we might find in dictatorships, not a democracy. The ascendancy of the unions was the product not only of political muscle but the vast expansion of government during the last century. The bigger government got, the greater its appetite for revenue and the more leverage state worker unions had. Having used that power to extract exorbitant contract concessions from the people supposedly representing the taxpayers, the unions were determined to hold onto their grip on the nation’s purse strings.

But like any Ponzi scheme, this was a concept that had to go bust sooner or later. The costs of these contracts and pensions continued to grow with only the seemingly unlimited power of the government to confiscate more of the taxpayers’ income to pay for it. The Tea Party revolt that swept the nation in 2010 was an expression of the public’s disgust at the way states and cities were locked into spending patterns that could not be sustained. Rather than merely stopping the spigot of public funds flowing into union coffers, Scott Walker sought to put in place measures that would ensure unions could never again put a figurative gun to his state’s head in order to get a bigger share of the budget. In California, mayors have acted similarly by passing measures that will reverse the giveaways conducted by their predecessors.

Scott Walker’s defeat of a union movement determined to punish him for undermining their hold on Wisconsin’s finances as well as the result from California ensures that others will follow in those footsteps. The era of unions holding up states and cities is over. A new age of fiscal sanity may not be far off.

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In Nuclear Talks, Iran Plays the Victim Card

With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

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With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

So, as talks approach, it is useful to remind Western audiences of the basic facts around this matter.

First, Iran is a member of the NPT, and it is thus entitled to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only as long as it meets its obligations under the NPT. But the International Atomic Energey Agency (IAEA) regards Iran as being in breach of its treaty obligations. This was stated explicitly and forcefully by the IAEA on September 24, 2005:

… Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement … constitute non-compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute … [T]he history of concealment of Iran’s nuclear activities referred to in the Director General’s report, the nature of these activities, issues brought to light in the course of the Agency’s verification of declarations made by Iran since September 2002 and the resulting absence of confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Security Council has passed six UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929), which makes them mandatory and binding on all nations according to international law, commanding Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities.

The IAEA has reaffirmed this point in every report it published since Ambassador Yukiya Amano became its director general in early 2010.

And the June 2008 proposal to Iran, signed by the P5+1, further states that, provided Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and with the aforementioned resolutions, “China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness: to recognize Iran’s right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations; to treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program is restored.”

This text is now an integral part of UNSCR 1929 – and the details it offers (including detailed aspects of technological assistance) should leave no doubt to the following simple facts:

Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right to enrich for peaceful purposes, was never denied in principle and has been affirmed ad nauseam by Iran’s interlocutors. All Iranian protestations and lamentations to the contrary are lies, smokes and mirrors.

Iran’s right is suspended because Iran has failed to comply with the obligations that make it possible for Iran, and indeed any other nation who wishes to have a nuclear program, to pursue nuclear energy within the NPT framework.

Iran’s behavior is illegal. Iran’s non-compliance demands concrete steps sanctioned by UN Chapter VII binding resolutions.

No concession should be made, therefore, on these matters, and no compromise should be offered on enrichment suspension.

This provision, far from being a punishment, is the only remaining guarantee against the collapse of an already shaky non-proliferation regime.

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Obama Surrogates Need Better Material

Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

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Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

But Clinton isn’t the exception in the case of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s career. He is only the most high-profile Obama surrogate to improvise on the set. This morning, Larry Summers, who worked for both Clinton and Obama, also threw his (unqualified, as of yet) support for extending the tax cuts. After Cory Booker couldn’t go through with the Bain attacks either, and subsequently was asked by the Obama campaign to record the infamous “hostage video,” the Obama campaign sent out Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Romney’s successor, to sully his predecessor’s reputation as an executive. Patrick couldn’t do it either, singing Bain’s praises and admitting that Romney left the state with low unemployment.

The popular theory about Clinton’s behavior is that he doesn’t want Obama to win a second term. That might be the case, but I doubt that’s true of Booker, Patrick, or Summers. Other explanations seem closer to the mark: the sitting politicians, like Booker and Patrick, don’t want to burn bridges with Wall Street, and Summers, unlike his former boss, knows a thing or two about economics, and therefore cannot bring himself to attach his own name to the Obama campaign’s economic illiteracy.

In other words, the script is the problem. This may be “silly season,” but the Obama campaign’s rhetoric is too silly even for his allies.

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What Scott Walker’s Victory Signals

Governor Scott Walker’s victory last night – his seven-point win against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was by a greater margin than in 2010 – will have profound national ramifications. It was a historic defeat for organized labor, and most especially public sector unions. They chose Wisconsin as the ground on which they would make their stand and make an example out of Walker. Instead, they were decimated. In addition, Walker instantly becomes a dominant political player in the GOP, as well as a model to other reform-minded governors. The loss will also drive a wedge between President Obama and organized labor, which cannot be pleased at the indifference Obama showed toward this race. (Tom Barrett was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in 2007.) The president wasn’t there when organized labor needed him. They are likely to return the favor in November.

When combined with the dismal jobs report on Friday, the news Monday that new orders for U.S. factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months, and the downward revision of economic growth in the first quarter (to 1.9 percent) – all of which signal that our weak economy is growing still weaker – Democrats must feel as though the walls are beginning to crash down around them.

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Governor Scott Walker’s victory last night – his seven-point win against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was by a greater margin than in 2010 – will have profound national ramifications. It was a historic defeat for organized labor, and most especially public sector unions. They chose Wisconsin as the ground on which they would make their stand and make an example out of Walker. Instead, they were decimated. In addition, Walker instantly becomes a dominant political player in the GOP, as well as a model to other reform-minded governors. The loss will also drive a wedge between President Obama and organized labor, which cannot be pleased at the indifference Obama showed toward this race. (Tom Barrett was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in 2007.) The president wasn’t there when organized labor needed him. They are likely to return the favor in November.

When combined with the dismal jobs report on Friday, the news Monday that new orders for U.S. factory goods fell in April for the third time in four months, and the downward revision of economic growth in the first quarter (to 1.9 percent) – all of which signal that our weak economy is growing still weaker – Democrats must feel as though the walls are beginning to crash down around them.

The epic 2010 mid-term election was foreshadowed by three races in particular – the victories by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey in November 2009 and Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010. They were clear signals of what awaited Democrats in November 2010.

Scott Walker’s crushing win in Wisconsin – which occurred only 154 days before the presidential election — has a similar feel to it. Wisconsin ain’t Utah; it is the home of Robert La Follette and a state with a strong progressive tradition. Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008 and it hasn’t gone Republican since 1984. For Governor Walker to win by the margin he did, based on the agenda he’s enacted, is a sign that the political currents in America strongly favor conservatism and the GOP. Even in Wisconsin.

Intelligent Democrats know that. Which is why panic is spreading throughout their ranks this morning. They see another huge wave forming and growing. And right now, they have no idea how to avoid it.

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What Wisconsin Means for November

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

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The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

Last night’s exit polls still showed Obama with a double-digit lead. But they also showed Walker and his opponent Tom Barrett in a dead-heat, when Walker actually won the race by seven points — raising doubts about the accuracy of the exit polling.

Republicans may also have the ground game on their side. The Democratic Party relies heavily on unions to organize on the ground, but if Big Labor couldn’t get out the vote for Barrett against Walker — public enemy #1 for unions — they’ll likely also have trouble rallying support for Obama, whose relationship with the unions has been shaky at times.

Not only were Wisconsin Republicans able to out-organize the unions, they’re also passing this on-the-ground support directly to the Romney campaign, Politico reports:

The flip side: Republicans end the showdown more motivated than ever. Conservatives have arguably their best ground operation in place of any of the 50 states — and it’s all going to be transferred to Romney.

A Republican National Committee official confirmed the two dozen Walker campaign offices would immediately be converted into Romney working space as soon as later this week.

Romney’s Wisconsin co-chair, former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, said the campaign has already taken lessons from Walker’s well-oiled early vote effort and targeting tactics.

“We’re going to try to leverage everything that was learned and apply it to November,” he said.

Add that to the massive energy boost the Walker victory gave Republicans, as well as the signal that independent voters are receptive to Walker’s reform message, and these are promising signs for Romney next November.

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Unleash Drones Against Our Enemies

Congratulations are due to the CIA, which carried out the strike, and to President Obama, who ordered it (and approved the target personally, as the New York Times has revealed) for the elimination of a major enemy of the United States–Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander. Like many of al-Qaeda’s operatives, Libi was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan. He was the effective, day-to-day field commander of al-Qaeda, and his death will no doubt cause serious disruption to whatever operations al-Qaeda Central is involved in. The importance of his elimination is somewhat decreased, however, by the fact that so many of the terrorist organization’s operations have migrated outside of Pakistan, to regional affiliates from Mali to Yemen; Libi’s death probably will not have much impact on their operations.

This highlights the declining utility of targeting al-Qaeda Central: the organization has already been severely hurt by the continuous elimination of its top cadres. Such operations must be maintained to keep the pressure on, but they can no longer be the exclusive focus of counter-terrorism operations. It is good to see the drone campaign being ramped up in Yemen, but there are limits to what strikes from the air can achieve. There is a desperate need to expand lawful authority in such ungoverned areas to keep groups such as al-Qaeda from regenerating themselves. If the U.S. government has a plan to accomplish that in Pakistan, Yemen or other countries, from Mali to Libya, I have not heard of it.

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Congratulations are due to the CIA, which carried out the strike, and to President Obama, who ordered it (and approved the target personally, as the New York Times has revealed) for the elimination of a major enemy of the United States–Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander. Like many of al-Qaeda’s operatives, Libi was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan. He was the effective, day-to-day field commander of al-Qaeda, and his death will no doubt cause serious disruption to whatever operations al-Qaeda Central is involved in. The importance of his elimination is somewhat decreased, however, by the fact that so many of the terrorist organization’s operations have migrated outside of Pakistan, to regional affiliates from Mali to Yemen; Libi’s death probably will not have much impact on their operations.

This highlights the declining utility of targeting al-Qaeda Central: the organization has already been severely hurt by the continuous elimination of its top cadres. Such operations must be maintained to keep the pressure on, but they can no longer be the exclusive focus of counter-terrorism operations. It is good to see the drone campaign being ramped up in Yemen, but there are limits to what strikes from the air can achieve. There is a desperate need to expand lawful authority in such ungoverned areas to keep groups such as al-Qaeda from regenerating themselves. If the U.S. government has a plan to accomplish that in Pakistan, Yemen or other countries, from Mali to Libya, I have not heard of it.

Admittedly, it would not be easy to design or implement such a strategy. Much easier, however, would be to expand the drone strikes to a group that has been curiously exempt from such attacks: namely the Taliban. There have been a few drone strikes on the Haqqani Network in and around Waziristan, Pakistan, but none, so far as I am aware, on the Taliban leadership headquartered in Quetta, Pakistan–nor on the operational Taliban hub at Chaman, Pakistan, just across the border from southern Afghanistan. These groups are actively killing Americans all the time–more than al-Qaeda Central can boast of these days. Yet we have not unleashed the CIA and Special Operations Forces to do to them what they have done to al-Qaeda. Why not? Largely because of the sensitivities of the Pakistani government which is an active sponsor of the Taliban and the Haqqanis.

But so what? The Pakistanis have declining leverage over us; they have kept their supply line to Afghanistan closed since last fall and it has not seriously disrupted NATO operations. The administration needs to figure out whether it’s serious about leaving a more stable Afghanistan behind when the bulk of U.S. troops are withdrawn. If it is, it will unleash the Reapers against the Taliban and Haqqanis–not just against al-Qaeda.

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The Kernel of Truth in Liberal Complaints About American Jewish Leaders

I agree wholeheartedly with Seth’s post from yesterday about J.J. Goldberg’s shocking Forward column, but I’d like to tackle a different angle of the issue: the question of American Jewish leadership.

Goldberg charged that Jewish organizations are shifting their focus from “progressive” political policies to concerns more directly related to the Jewish community, and consequently, American Jews “are in danger of becoming, in classic Seinfeld fashion, a religion about nothing.” This not only implies, as Seth correctly noted, that Goldberg sees traditional Judaism as inimical to the American variety. It also implies that what I’d always considered a somewhat snide slur is actually true: To some liberal American Jews, Judaism really doesn’t consist of anything beyond the Democratic Party platform. Abandon those liberal political concerns, says Goldberg, and Judaism becomes “a religion about nothing.”

The problem with this is that you don’t need to be Jewish to promote liberal causes, and you certainly don’t need to be active in any Jewish communal organization. In fact, you’re arguably better off avoiding such organizations: Jewish groups inevitably end up wasting time and attention on pesky issues like Israel or anti-Semitism, which distracts from the all-important focus on progressive political causes.

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I agree wholeheartedly with Seth’s post from yesterday about J.J. Goldberg’s shocking Forward column, but I’d like to tackle a different angle of the issue: the question of American Jewish leadership.

Goldberg charged that Jewish organizations are shifting their focus from “progressive” political policies to concerns more directly related to the Jewish community, and consequently, American Jews “are in danger of becoming, in classic Seinfeld fashion, a religion about nothing.” This not only implies, as Seth correctly noted, that Goldberg sees traditional Judaism as inimical to the American variety. It also implies that what I’d always considered a somewhat snide slur is actually true: To some liberal American Jews, Judaism really doesn’t consist of anything beyond the Democratic Party platform. Abandon those liberal political concerns, says Goldberg, and Judaism becomes “a religion about nothing.”

The problem with this is that you don’t need to be Jewish to promote liberal causes, and you certainly don’t need to be active in any Jewish communal organization. In fact, you’re arguably better off avoiding such organizations: Jewish groups inevitably end up wasting time and attention on pesky issues like Israel or anti-Semitism, which distracts from the all-important focus on progressive political causes.

Consequently, the people who do choose to devote their lives to Jewish organizations – and who, as a result, become “American Jewish leaders” – tend to be precisely those who think Judaism is about something more than just progressive politics, and who consider that “something more” important enough to devote their careers to it, or at least sizable chunks of their spare time. And that is why, even though many are also committed liberal Democrats, these leaders are more focused on traditional Jewish concerns than Goldberg deems proper: Study after study has shown that the more one cares about Judaism – in its traditional sense, rather than as a mere synonym for liberal politics – the more one cares about issues like Israel and Jewish peoplehood. Hence, it’s precisely those who become American Jewish leaders who are most likely to, for instance, defend Israel even when they disagree with its policies, or think that just as your own family takes precedence over strangers, helping fellow Jews in need may take precedence over helping non-Jews.

And in that sense, Goldberg’s second complaint – that American Jewish leaders don’t represent their communities’ real views, and are in fact often well to the right of their communities – contains an important kernel of truth. This plaint, increasingly heard from many left-wing American Jews, clearly overstates the case: Many liberal American Jews agree with their leaders that Judaism is not solely about progressive politics, and thus have no problem with these leaders’ focus on Jewish communal concerns.

But American Jewish leaders are indeed unrepresentative of that specific segment of American Jewry which, like Goldberg, thinks that Judaism is solely about progressive politics. And moreover, they always will be. Because only someone who cares deeply about Judaism in its traditional sense – as a religion and a people – rather than merely as a vehicle for liberal politics will opt to devote his life to Jewish causes rather than generic liberal ones.

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Israel Loses a Friend in New Jersey

New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

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New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

There’s likely to be some debate about what the race means in the bigger picture. President Obama publicly backed Rothman (which makes the president 0-2 Tuesday night), while Bill Clinton sided with Pascrell, suggesting that Obama’s support may not carry as much weight as it once did in the heavily-Democratic district. Beyond that, both members tried to run as the true liberal in the race, and their policy positions are very similar.

Still, Rothman has been one of the key Democratic Israel supporters in Congress, using his position on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to back defense cooperation programs like Iron Dome and consistently speaking out in support of the Jewish state. He will no doubt be missed by pro-Israel Democrats.

While Pascrell came under fire during the election for some of his anti-Israel associations and his prior support for the Gaza 54 letter, his congressional voting record on Israel has been very similar to Rothman’s.

“Pascrell’s voting record was with AIPAC basically all the time,” a Democratic strategist told me after the race, but added that “Rothman was a standout leader on these issues.”

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White House Wisconsin Spin Won’t Wash

Given the decisive nature of Scott Walker’s recall victory, it’s not likely that Democrats who were prepared to cry foul if they lost in a squeaker will be talking about a “stolen election” after he won with 53 percent of the vote. Instead, the main Democratic talking point in the days after their recall debacle will be to claim that not only is it not a harbinger of more defeats in November but that it may not even have an impact on how Wisconsin will vote for president. Democrats were encouraged by exit polls that showed President Obama holding a big lead over Mitt Romney among recall voters. However, any liberal enthusiasm about the finding is bound to be diminished by the fact those polls were obviously skewed toward Democrats because the 50-50 split they predicted on the recall was disastrously wrong.

But the White House spin that the recall will have no impact on what happens in the fall is not just wrong because of the faulty exit polls. After months of attempts to interpret Republican and Democratic primary results in terms of their predictive value for a general election, Wisconsin didn’t just provide the country with its first partisan matchup of the year. It was the most bitterly contested state election in years, with money pouring in on both sides from around the country. And rather than being a test of personalities as most elections generally prove to be, the attempt by the unions and their liberal allies to take Walker’s scalp as revenge for his legislative achievements provided the country with a clear ideological battle. In a straightforward battle between liberals and conservatives, the latter won in a state that President Obama carried by 14 points in 2008. Anyone who thinks Obama isn’t in for the fight of his life there this year just isn’t paying attention.

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Given the decisive nature of Scott Walker’s recall victory, it’s not likely that Democrats who were prepared to cry foul if they lost in a squeaker will be talking about a “stolen election” after he won with 53 percent of the vote. Instead, the main Democratic talking point in the days after their recall debacle will be to claim that not only is it not a harbinger of more defeats in November but that it may not even have an impact on how Wisconsin will vote for president. Democrats were encouraged by exit polls that showed President Obama holding a big lead over Mitt Romney among recall voters. However, any liberal enthusiasm about the finding is bound to be diminished by the fact those polls were obviously skewed toward Democrats because the 50-50 split they predicted on the recall was disastrously wrong.

But the White House spin that the recall will have no impact on what happens in the fall is not just wrong because of the faulty exit polls. After months of attempts to interpret Republican and Democratic primary results in terms of their predictive value for a general election, Wisconsin didn’t just provide the country with its first partisan matchup of the year. It was the most bitterly contested state election in years, with money pouring in on both sides from around the country. And rather than being a test of personalities as most elections generally prove to be, the attempt by the unions and their liberal allies to take Walker’s scalp as revenge for his legislative achievements provided the country with a clear ideological battle. In a straightforward battle between liberals and conservatives, the latter won in a state that President Obama carried by 14 points in 2008. Anyone who thinks Obama isn’t in for the fight of his life there this year just isn’t paying attention.

It is true that the size of Walker’s victory was in no small measure the result of moderate disgust at a union vendetta that was rightly seen as an attempt to override the verdict of the voters in 2010. Some of those who cast ballots for Walker may wind up drifting back to the Democrats in November to back President Obama. Yet the Democratic defeat — and the widespread dismay by liberals at the way the president gave the recall his half-hearted support will have repercussions for his party.

Walker’s win is just one more of a string of recent events that are starting to convince the nation that Obama is likely to be a one-term president. Along with the growing list of economic statistics that make a summer economic recovery unlikely, the stunning conservative victory in Wisconsin will make it harder for the president to claim that Republican solutions are unpopular or that support for entitlement reform is a sign of extremism.

Instead of merely a local political fight that got national coverage, the failed recall may prove to be a decisive moment in an election that looked only a few months ago to be the president’s to lose. Though five months is a lifetime in politics, Wisconsin could be the moment when Mitt Romney’s campaign moves into overdrive and the rickety nature of the Obama re-election effort becomes manifest. The presidential election wasn’t won in Wisconsin on June 5, but the recall may be best remembered in the future as the tipping point that transformed Obama from a likely winner to an incumbent headed to one-term status.

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Walker’s Example: Courage Rewarded

There are a lot of ways to explain Scott Walker’s decisive victory in the Wisconsin recall election. Democrats will talk about the influence of money and, if they are honest, admit they were wrong to allow the anger of their union allies to drive them off the cliff as even moderates came to view the recall as an example of political misbehavior. Republicans will make hopeful predictions about this win being a harbinger of the defeat of President Obama this November even as the White House tries to claim it will have no influence on that race. But no amount of partisan spin can divert us from the basic narrative of this remarkable result: courage was rewarded.

In the face of an angry and violent union movement and hostile media, Scott Walker chose to attempt a fundamental reform of his state’s budget woes. He was told he couldn’t get away with it, and for a time it appeared as if his critics would make him pay for his resolve with his job. But by not merely surviving the recall, but winning big, Walker demonstrated that it is actually possible for a conservative Republican to not only win an election by promising change but to successfully deliver it.

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There are a lot of ways to explain Scott Walker’s decisive victory in the Wisconsin recall election. Democrats will talk about the influence of money and, if they are honest, admit they were wrong to allow the anger of their union allies to drive them off the cliff as even moderates came to view the recall as an example of political misbehavior. Republicans will make hopeful predictions about this win being a harbinger of the defeat of President Obama this November even as the White House tries to claim it will have no influence on that race. But no amount of partisan spin can divert us from the basic narrative of this remarkable result: courage was rewarded.

In the face of an angry and violent union movement and hostile media, Scott Walker chose to attempt a fundamental reform of his state’s budget woes. He was told he couldn’t get away with it, and for a time it appeared as if his critics would make him pay for his resolve with his job. But by not merely surviving the recall, but winning big, Walker demonstrated that it is actually possible for a conservative Republican to not only win an election by promising change but to successfully deliver it.

It should be recalled that in the spring of 2011, after the newly elected Walker and the Republican majority in the Wisconsin legislature decided to keep their campaign promises and to pass legislation that would restrain the ability of unions to hold states hostage, the conventional wisdom heard was that Walker had overplayed his hand and would be punished by the voters–even if he overcame the thuggish attempts of both the unions and the Democratic minority in the legislature to stop him.

It was widely believed that the controversy his stand on collective bargaining rights and the ability of unions to automatically deduct dues from unwilling members would never stand up if he were to be forced to face the voters again. Last year, even many Republicans thought Walker had gone too far and praised those GOP officials who avoided the sort of fight the Wisconsin governor had dared to make. That is why Wisconsin liberals and the union movement were sure that a recall would not just work but set an example for Republican governors throughout the nation.

Walker has not only proved them all wrong, but established that even in a generally blue state like Wisconsin with a long tradition of a strong labor movement, it is possible to challenge the unions and not just win, but win big.

After his recall victory, never again will union thugs storm a state capitol, as happened last year in Madison, secure in the belief that they had the muscle to intimidate a governor and a legislature with a fresh mandate for change from the people. Never again will liberals assume that the status quo they defend with such fervor is unassailable. The reforms Walker advocated and then passed have been shown to be more than theoretical ideas aired at symposiums at conservative think tanks. His recall victory shows that rather than being an example of how extremists always fail, he may well prove to be the first of a wave of reform-minded conservatives to successfully defeat the unions.

All it took for Scott Walker to accomplish what every liberal editorial page in the country was sure was impossible was the courage to try. The reward for his courage will ensure that he won’t be the last to make the attempt.

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