Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 22, 2012

Price Tags and the Bigotry of Low Palestinian Expectations

Earlier this week, a mosque in the West Bank was vandalized. This reprehensible attack is believed to be the work of radical Jews who wished to make it plain to Israeli authorities — and not as probably most Westerners think — the Palestinians, that the removal of settlers from housing that was not legally purchased or constructed with the permission of the state will carry with it a “price tag.” These so-called “price tag” attacks have grown in recent years, even though the overwhelming majority of settlers, not to mention the Israeli people, deplore them. But though any such attack on a religious institution is a stain on the honor of the Jewish people and inevitably generates negative coverage of Israel such as this feature published in the New York Times on Tuesday, the bottom line is that in a democracy thugs do not get their way. As the Times reported that same day, the Israeli government has secured agreement from the few inhabitants of Ulpana to leave their homes that were ruled by a court to be built on private Palestinian property in the vicinity of the existing and quite legal Beit El settlement. In doing so, the rule of law has been vindicated.

But amid the general condemnation of the behavior of the extremist settlers that for some calls into question the legitimacy of the entire Zionist enterprise, it is worth noting an element of the story generally missing from most accounts in the Western press of the “price tag” attacks as well as allegations of settler violence toward local Arabs. However wrong the extremists are–and they are dead wrong–their behavior has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on settler misbehavior ignores a context in which attacks on Jews in the West Bank is a regular occurrence. And that includes Arab attacks on synagogues. The problem is that the foreign press gives the Jewish violence the sort of “man bites dog” treatment that makes it worthy of notice, whereas Palestinian misbehavior is simply taken for granted. This bigotry of low expectations is at the heart of the problem.

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Earlier this week, a mosque in the West Bank was vandalized. This reprehensible attack is believed to be the work of radical Jews who wished to make it plain to Israeli authorities — and not as probably most Westerners think — the Palestinians, that the removal of settlers from housing that was not legally purchased or constructed with the permission of the state will carry with it a “price tag.” These so-called “price tag” attacks have grown in recent years, even though the overwhelming majority of settlers, not to mention the Israeli people, deplore them. But though any such attack on a religious institution is a stain on the honor of the Jewish people and inevitably generates negative coverage of Israel such as this feature published in the New York Times on Tuesday, the bottom line is that in a democracy thugs do not get their way. As the Times reported that same day, the Israeli government has secured agreement from the few inhabitants of Ulpana to leave their homes that were ruled by a court to be built on private Palestinian property in the vicinity of the existing and quite legal Beit El settlement. In doing so, the rule of law has been vindicated.

But amid the general condemnation of the behavior of the extremist settlers that for some calls into question the legitimacy of the entire Zionist enterprise, it is worth noting an element of the story generally missing from most accounts in the Western press of the “price tag” attacks as well as allegations of settler violence toward local Arabs. However wrong the extremists are–and they are dead wrong–their behavior has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on settler misbehavior ignores a context in which attacks on Jews in the West Bank is a regular occurrence. And that includes Arab attacks on synagogues. The problem is that the foreign press gives the Jewish violence the sort of “man bites dog” treatment that makes it worthy of notice, whereas Palestinian misbehavior is simply taken for granted. This bigotry of low expectations is at the heart of the problem.

If one reads the Israeli press, you know that a synagogue on a moshav in central Israel was vandalized with Muslim graffiti this week, but you missed it if all you see is the New York Times. Nor was that the first such attack on a synagogue. Similarly, tucked into some but by no means all of the stories about the dismantling of Ulpana is the fact that the houses were built there as a response to the murder 12 years ago of a Jewish mother and child by Arab terrorists.

Mentioning this does not rationalize settler violence, let alone excuse it. But doing so does spoil the prevailing narrative of the West Bank morality play that Israel’s critics promote which portrays the settlers as evil and the Palestinians the innocents. The situation in the West Bank is complex. The Arabs who live there have a right to have their property rights respected and to go about their lives without fear of violence. But the same should apply to the Jews who live nearby. But unfortunately, not only do the Palestinians not respect the right of Jews to live on this land, they also do not respect their right to do so in safety. This position is granted legitimacy of a sort by a foreign press that implicitly accepts the frame of reference that regards all Jews in the West Bank as usurpers or thieves, even if the land they live on is indisputably owned by Jews.

Those who believe Jews have no right to live anywhere in the West Bank or in the parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 can only do so by effectively negating the historic and legal rights of the Jewish people. But even those who hold this position must acknowledge that a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict cannot be built on the sort of anti-Jewish violence that is so routine it barely rates any coverage in the West.

More to the point, until Arab violence is treated as being as reprehensible as most Israelis consider the “price tag” attacks, the Palestinians will go on laboring under the misapprehension they can force the Jews out. That bigotry of low expectations directed at the Palestinians is a far greater obstacle to peace than any settlement.

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Left Can’t Defend Obama’s Privilege

Democrats and the political left hammered the Bush administration for using executive privilege, and are now faced with trying to justify President Obama’s much more questionable use of it. This isn’t as tricky for the Democratic politicians — they’re partisans, and it’s not exactly surprising they have a double-standard based on which party is in power. But left-wing pundits, columnists and bloggers (at least the ones who want to avoid being labeled as hacks) seem to be having a hard time justifying it.

Take Eugene Robinson’s valiant effort in today’s Washington Post:

These are the facts, and they don’t cover any Justice Department officials with glory. But neither do they remotely justify the partisan witch hunt by House Republicans who threaten, without legitimate cause, to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress. Obama has responded by asserting executive privilege — effectively shutting down the inquisition.

The House wants to go fishing in a vast sea of documents, some of which relate to ongoing investigations. As a believer in sunshine and disclosure, I don’t much care for questionable claims of executive privilege. But I like the politically motivated sideshow the GOP is staging even less.

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Democrats and the political left hammered the Bush administration for using executive privilege, and are now faced with trying to justify President Obama’s much more questionable use of it. This isn’t as tricky for the Democratic politicians — they’re partisans, and it’s not exactly surprising they have a double-standard based on which party is in power. But left-wing pundits, columnists and bloggers (at least the ones who want to avoid being labeled as hacks) seem to be having a hard time justifying it.

Take Eugene Robinson’s valiant effort in today’s Washington Post:

These are the facts, and they don’t cover any Justice Department officials with glory. But neither do they remotely justify the partisan witch hunt by House Republicans who threaten, without legitimate cause, to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress. Obama has responded by asserting executive privilege — effectively shutting down the inquisition.

The House wants to go fishing in a vast sea of documents, some of which relate to ongoing investigations. As a believer in sunshine and disclosure, I don’t much care for questionable claims of executive privilege. But I like the politically motivated sideshow the GOP is staging even less.

If you say you’re a “believer in sunshine and disclosure” only in situations when the people requesting the information have motives you personally approve of, then you probably aren’t a believer in sunshine and disclosure. Maybe you believe in it with limits or in times when your party is in power — fine. But Robinson is no principled sunshine advocate. He thinks there should be different rules for different sides, and would be better off admitting it than trying to act as if this was a weighty decision he came to after struggling against his deep-rooted respect for government transparency.

But this is really the only argument the left can make — that they dislike the use of executive privilege, but this “politically-motivated witch hunt” is one of those rare circumstances when it’s necessary. And that would be fine, if there wasn’t already plenty of evidence indicating that the DOJ has tried to mislead the Congress on this investigation. And if past investigations that the left has cheered on — i.e. the Plame affair — hadn’t clearly been blatantly politically motivated.

If this is the greatest defense from the left, then the Democrats are in trouble. No wonder Jon Stewart has already abandoned them on this.

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The Window for Iran Diplomacy Just Closed

If the Obama administration was seeking to reassure the pro-Israel community, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to make a joint appearance with James Baker on PBS’s Charlie Rose was a curious way to go about it. Baker, who earned a reputation as one of the least sympathetic to Israel of all of Clinton’s predecessors, joined with the current secretary in making it clear the Jewish state should under no circumstances be allowed to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own. Baker was right when he said stopping Iran is an American responsibility rather than that of Israel. But coming as it did in the days following the failure of the administration’s latest diplomatic initiative with Iran, the current secretary’s faith in efforts to keep trying to talk with the Iranians and to wait for them to buckle under the weight of sanctions is evidence that neither she nor the president have a clue as to how to stop the nuclear threat.

Clinton’s assertion to Rose that U.S. policy was to “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” was an indication that the sense of urgency about the problem is clearly lacking. Clinging to the false belief that the president has expressed in the existence of a “window of diplomacy” with Iran, Clinton seems to regard the international coalition she has assembled to pursue the talks and sanctions as an accomplishment in of itself, even though it seems incapable of bringing about a solution to the problem. It is that attitude that makes it hard to believe even after the latest P5+1 standoff in Moscow, this administration will ever come to grips with the fact that the Iranians don’t think they are serious.

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If the Obama administration was seeking to reassure the pro-Israel community, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to make a joint appearance with James Baker on PBS’s Charlie Rose was a curious way to go about it. Baker, who earned a reputation as one of the least sympathetic to Israel of all of Clinton’s predecessors, joined with the current secretary in making it clear the Jewish state should under no circumstances be allowed to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own. Baker was right when he said stopping Iran is an American responsibility rather than that of Israel. But coming as it did in the days following the failure of the administration’s latest diplomatic initiative with Iran, the current secretary’s faith in efforts to keep trying to talk with the Iranians and to wait for them to buckle under the weight of sanctions is evidence that neither she nor the president have a clue as to how to stop the nuclear threat.

Clinton’s assertion to Rose that U.S. policy was to “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” was an indication that the sense of urgency about the problem is clearly lacking. Clinging to the false belief that the president has expressed in the existence of a “window of diplomacy” with Iran, Clinton seems to regard the international coalition she has assembled to pursue the talks and sanctions as an accomplishment in of itself, even though it seems incapable of bringing about a solution to the problem. It is that attitude that makes it hard to believe even after the latest P5+1 standoff in Moscow, this administration will ever come to grips with the fact that the Iranians don’t think they are serious.

Though characteristically harsh about Israel and expressing the sort of “realist” views about foreign policy that marked his own unhappy tenure at the State Department during the presidency of the first George Bush, Baker did assert that it would be America’s job to take out the Iranian nuclear program if “at the end of the day” diplomacy failed. That was a bit farther than Clinton, who made the usual noises about keeping all options open, would go. But the reason why the Iranians acted in Moscow as if they had all the cards in their hands is that they think the Obama administration will never admit that “the end of the day” for diplomacy will ever come.

It is true that at the end of the month, the first step toward the implementation of a partial oil boycott of Iran will begin. That’s the sort of sanction that should have been put in place years ago rather than the foolish charade of diplomacy that characterized U.S policy toward Iran under George W. Bush and the farce of Obama’s attempt to “engage” Tehran. Unfortunately, with the Iranians having already stepped up refinement of uranium and now erasing evidence of their military research, it may be too late for even the toughest of sanctions to force them to back down.

That means months more of futile talks and meetings on Obama and Clinton’s watch will only bring the Iranians that much closer to their nuclear goal, with little indication that they are anywhere close to understanding that the “window” they have been trying to exploit closed even before they tried to open it. And so long as she is partnering with the Russians and the Chinese, Clinton should know by now that they have no intention of ever letting the U.S. prevail on this issue.

Though it would certainly be better for all the parties, especially the Iranians, if they were persuaded to give up before it comes to the use of force, it is time for Clinton to start sounding more like Baker when it comes to threatening Iran. Until the Iranians are finally convinced the president knows that “the end of the day” for diplomacy is about to arrive, there is little chance they will be persuaded that the Americans will ever really lift a finger to stop them.

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Mommy Wars, Round 6,695,237 1/2

Guess what, ladies! We still can’t have it all. Well, we could, if only the world of work adjusted itself to meet our requirements. As it currently stands, however, we just can’t have a really, really high-powered job and spend as much time taking care of our children as we’d like to — not even if we’re working for a feminist icon, in what is arguably the most aggressively woman-friendly presidential administration ever.

This sad news comes to us in a (ahem, rather lengthy) piece in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who left her job as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to spend two years as Director of Policy Planning in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. After two years in Washington, D.C., Ms. Slaughter hightailed it back to New Jersey in order to, well, spend more time with her 14- and 12-year-old sons.

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Guess what, ladies! We still can’t have it all. Well, we could, if only the world of work adjusted itself to meet our requirements. As it currently stands, however, we just can’t have a really, really high-powered job and spend as much time taking care of our children as we’d like to — not even if we’re working for a feminist icon, in what is arguably the most aggressively woman-friendly presidential administration ever.

This sad news comes to us in a (ahem, rather lengthy) piece in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who left her job as dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to spend two years as Director of Policy Planning in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. After two years in Washington, D.C., Ms. Slaughter hightailed it back to New Jersey in order to, well, spend more time with her 14- and 12-year-old sons.

She had an epiphany, you see: spending the week in D.C. with only weekends at home to attend the Little League games and pick up the dry cleaning just wasn’t working for her, even though her husband is the guy we girls have been dreaming about since we first traded our aprons and sewing kits for laptops and legal briefs; he even cooks Hungarian! Her family was suffering. Because of her career.

Who’s to blame? You guessed it: SOCIETY. Because men are still socialized to blah blah blah. Studies have shown that blah blah blah. Young women are agonizing over blah blah blah. Older women are agonizing over blah blah blah. And what’s to be done? Right again: CHANGE SOCIETY. Change the way we work; change the way we value different kinds of working (through email, phone and videoconferencing, and not thinking that #hours-spent-in-office=drive and dedication). Oh, and arrange school schedules so that our children can be kept at their own desks for as long as we are at ours. If we do this, we will finally, finally, figure out how to achieve, you guessed it again, WORK-LIFE BALANCE.

Now, Ms. Slaughter very nobly includes a couple of paragraphs where she acknowledges that she is writing, as she puts it, to her “demographic” (i.e., privileged, educated women who have considerate husbands and household help) and that the women stocking the shelves or ringing up on the cash register at Walmart might have a somewhat different notion of work-life balance from hers.

And if Ms. Slaughter’s demographic requires a 12,000-word Atlantic article and endless back-and-forth Internet discussion, not to mention a front-page New York Times story, to air and analyze grievances yet again, doubtless the ladies of Walmart will understand.

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Elizabeth Warren in 2016?

This is why the Democratic Party won’t abandon Elizabeth Warren, no matter how much embarrassment the Fauxcahontas controversy rains down on them. Warren isn’t just a Democratic rising star — she’s one of the few Democratic rising stars who can also rally the activist left. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports:

I went to a conference of liberal activists this week hoping to find out who the party’s activist base sees as its up-and-coming stars. But the exercise turned out to be revealing largely for how unprepared people were to answer the question. Nearly every answer I got began with a blank stare or incredulous laugh, followed by some fumbling around, followed by “Elizabeth Warren.”

Confirming the impression I’d gleaned from my conversations with activists and organizers, Warren ran away with the 2016 straw poll conducted at the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, winning 32 percent of the vote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who spoke at the conference and whose brand of gravelly-voiced populism is a perpetual hit with this crowd, was third with 16 percent; the other names on the ballot, all polling in single digits, were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.

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This is why the Democratic Party won’t abandon Elizabeth Warren, no matter how much embarrassment the Fauxcahontas controversy rains down on them. Warren isn’t just a Democratic rising star — she’s one of the few Democratic rising stars who can also rally the activist left. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports:

I went to a conference of liberal activists this week hoping to find out who the party’s activist base sees as its up-and-coming stars. But the exercise turned out to be revealing largely for how unprepared people were to answer the question. Nearly every answer I got began with a blank stare or incredulous laugh, followed by some fumbling around, followed by “Elizabeth Warren.”

Confirming the impression I’d gleaned from my conversations with activists and organizers, Warren ran away with the 2016 straw poll conducted at the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, winning 32 percent of the vote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who spoke at the conference and whose brand of gravelly-voiced populism is a perpetual hit with this crowd, was third with 16 percent; the other names on the ballot, all polling in single digits, were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.

That national enthusiasm explains why Massachusetts Democrats are particularly forgiving when it comes to Warren (that, and her ability to raise money at twice the rate of Sen. Scott Brown). While the GOP has a crop of new favorites like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, the Democratic Party lacks fresh talent, which is what makes people like Warren so valuable.

The Warren campaign hopes that by cutting off oxygen to the Cherokee controversy, the media will eventually get tired of it and drop the issue. Polls showing Warren tied with Brown seem to suggest the damage from the scandal has been minimal, though it’s hard to know how much higher Warren would have been in the polls otherwise. Even if she doesn’t win in Massachusetts, it seems unlikely that she’ll go away for long. She’s a precious commodity in the Democratic Party, and they won’t want to lose her.

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Romney Can’t Outbid Obama on Illegals

President Obama is heading to Florida today to address the same group of Hispanic legislators who heard Mitt Romney take a more conciliatory line on illegal immigrants. Romney’s walk back of his previous opposition to the substance of the DREAM Act is a good idea, and he was right to point out that the president’s election year decision to stop the deportation of young illegals is cynical. But it isn’t likely to gain him much traction with Hispanic voters. On this issue, he needs to quit now while he’s behind.

Though many pundits have been hounding Republicans to do more to appeal to Hispanics, at least as far as 2012 is concerned it’s a lost cause. Romney should not be tempted to waste any more time trying to outbid the president on an issue where he has far more to lose than to gain by changing his position. Any further shifts on immigration — an issue on which he staked out a hard right-wing position during the Republican primaries — will only remind voters of his reputation as a flip-flopper. In doing so, Romney also seems to be forgetting that the reason why he did his best to outflank Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on immigration is that his opposition to amnesty programs happens to be popular.

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President Obama is heading to Florida today to address the same group of Hispanic legislators who heard Mitt Romney take a more conciliatory line on illegal immigrants. Romney’s walk back of his previous opposition to the substance of the DREAM Act is a good idea, and he was right to point out that the president’s election year decision to stop the deportation of young illegals is cynical. But it isn’t likely to gain him much traction with Hispanic voters. On this issue, he needs to quit now while he’s behind.

Though many pundits have been hounding Republicans to do more to appeal to Hispanics, at least as far as 2012 is concerned it’s a lost cause. Romney should not be tempted to waste any more time trying to outbid the president on an issue where he has far more to lose than to gain by changing his position. Any further shifts on immigration — an issue on which he staked out a hard right-wing position during the Republican primaries — will only remind voters of his reputation as a flip-flopper. In doing so, Romney also seems to be forgetting that the reason why he did his best to outflank Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich on immigration is that his opposition to amnesty programs happens to be popular.

President Obama may have spent most of his presidency ignoring the wishes of his Hispanic supporters who wished him to use his executive power to stop enforcement of immigration laws. But now that he has belatedly done as they asked, Romney is in no position to keep up with the president on the issue. That demonstrates the power of incumbency, but even if the president hadn’t changed his position, the idea that there was a massive opening for Romney with Hispanic voters was probably always something of a myth.

It should also be remembered the assumption that the Hispanic vote is monolithic is also mythical. The community is really several groups whose members identify more strongly with their country of origin than the amorphous Hispanic tag. Cuban-Americans do not generally treat the plight of undocumented aliens from Mexico or Central America as a top issue. Nor do Puerto Ricans who are already American citizens.

Also forgotten in the rush to win the loyalty of Hispanics is the fact that in many key states, there are still far more votes to be won by taking a stand against illegal immigration than for it. It is possible that there is a large enough constituency that regards illegal immigrants with sympathy in swing states like Colorado and Nevada to reward the president for his stand. But the no deportation order could represent the end of his hopes in Arizona, where anger about the government’s failure to protect the border is far greater. The same could be true of other states where Romney’s previous tough stance was not a weakness.

There is good reason for both the president and his challenger to endorse the substance of the DREAM Act. But even if he thought it was in his interest to do so, Romney has to understand this is a losing fight and move on. The less attention he pays to the issue the better off he will be.

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Political Ads Are Slippery Evasions of Truth

Politics is an ugly, dirty business, a business where truth, in Winston Churchill’s marvelous phrase, is usually “attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in political TV ads, where the slippery evasions of marketing merge with the needs of ideology.

This week’s winner of the Lillian Hellman Memorial Prize for Mendacity (“Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the”—Mary McCarthy) is a new TV ad for the Obama campaign that the Washington Post, a liberal newspaper, gives four Pinocchios to.

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Politics is an ugly, dirty business, a business where truth, in Winston Churchill’s marvelous phrase, is usually “attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in political TV ads, where the slippery evasions of marketing merge with the needs of ideology.

This week’s winner of the Lillian Hellman Memorial Prize for Mendacity (“Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the”—Mary McCarthy) is a new TV ad for the Obama campaign that the Washington Post, a liberal newspaper, gives four Pinocchios to.

The ad, for instance, describes Mitt Romney as a “corporate raider,” a phrase that brings to mind the Michael Douglas character, Gordon Gecko, in the movie Wall Street. But as the Post points out, corporate raiders are invariably adversaries of the management of the corporation they seek to control. Bain Capital was an ally, one that worked long-term with management to make the company more profitable for everyone, not just Bain Capital. As the Post’s Fact Checker writes,

In a previous life, The Fact Checker covered renowned corporate raiders such as Carl Icahn and his ilk. We also have closely studied Bain Capital and can find no examples that come close to this situation; its deals were done in close association with management. Indeed, Bain generally held onto its investments for four or five years, in contrast to the quick bust-em-ups of real corporate raiders. So calling Romney a “corporate raider” is a real stretch.

It’s not a real stretch, it’s a lie. The Obama campaign’s justification for the term? A single use of the phrase by a Reuter’s stringer that apparently got by the Reuter’s copyeditors.

One of the nice things about living in a deep-blue TV market is being spared ads like this by the thousands. A school classmate of mine who lives in Ohio was complaining at a reunion two weeks ago that his airwaves are already saturated with political ads. I expect that come October, he will be reading a lot of books. They may be an old-fashioned form of entertainment, but they are blissfully ad-free.

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Pelosi: Contempt Vote Part of Plan to Disenfranchise Minorities

It was only a matter of time before Democrats played the race card on the Eric Holder contempt vote. What else are they going to say? They need to obscure the real issue here as quickly as possible, and what better way than to shout “racist!” again and again at bewildered Republicans?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi set the liberal narrative yesterday afternoon (h/t Joel Gehrke):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declared that House Republicans are charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress not as part of an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, but in order to weaken his ability to prevent voter suppression.

“They’re going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states,” Pelosi told reporters during her press briefing today. “This is no accident, it is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of Republicans.”

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It was only a matter of time before Democrats played the race card on the Eric Holder contempt vote. What else are they going to say? They need to obscure the real issue here as quickly as possible, and what better way than to shout “racist!” again and again at bewildered Republicans?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi set the liberal narrative yesterday afternoon (h/t Joel Gehrke):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declared that House Republicans are charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress not as part of an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, but in order to weaken his ability to prevent voter suppression.

“They’re going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states,” Pelosi told reporters during her press briefing today. “This is no accident, it is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of Republicans.”

Did you get that? Republicans are so intent on suppressing the minority vote that they began investigating the Fast and Furious scandal more than a year and a half ago because they suspected that, at some point in the future, Attorney General Eric Holder might attempt to overturn state voter ID laws that nobody had even heard of at the time — and the GOP would have the ultimate trump card ready to foil his plan. That sounds like a much more likely explanation than, say, Holder refusing to turn over thousands of pages of relevant documents to an investigating congressional committee.

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West Must Help Syrian Rebels

The news from Syria suggests that the balance of power between the regime and its enemies is shifting against Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists. Joseph Holliday of the Institute for the Study of War writes, “The conflict in Syria is approaching a tipping point at which the insurgency will control more territory than the regime.” The rebel forces, he reports, number 40,000 men and they control their “own de facto safe zones around Homs city, in northern Hama, and in the Idlib countryside,” while the regime still holds “key urban centers in Damascus, Homs, and Idlib,” which were seized in offensives in February and March. The regime has so few loyal forces at its disposal that it will be hard put to mount a major offensive in the countryside while still retaining control of the urban areas.

That point is buttressed by this report from the field filed by Marine infantryman-turned-reporter Austin Tice, who has been embedded with the rebel forces. He writes:

Weeks of observation of Syrian military operations while traveling with rebel forces leave the impression that the Syrian army is unfamiliar with modern military tactics. It rarely engages rebel forces directly and appears instead to rely on poorly aimed and random fire to intimidate its opponents. Helicopters observed in northern and central portions of the country fly at an altitude that prevents their effective tactical employment.

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The news from Syria suggests that the balance of power between the regime and its enemies is shifting against Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists. Joseph Holliday of the Institute for the Study of War writes, “The conflict in Syria is approaching a tipping point at which the insurgency will control more territory than the regime.” The rebel forces, he reports, number 40,000 men and they control their “own de facto safe zones around Homs city, in northern Hama, and in the Idlib countryside,” while the regime still holds “key urban centers in Damascus, Homs, and Idlib,” which were seized in offensives in February and March. The regime has so few loyal forces at its disposal that it will be hard put to mount a major offensive in the countryside while still retaining control of the urban areas.

That point is buttressed by this report from the field filed by Marine infantryman-turned-reporter Austin Tice, who has been embedded with the rebel forces. He writes:

Weeks of observation of Syrian military operations while traveling with rebel forces leave the impression that the Syrian army is unfamiliar with modern military tactics. It rarely engages rebel forces directly and appears instead to rely on poorly aimed and random fire to intimidate its opponents. Helicopters observed in northern and central portions of the country fly at an altitude that prevents their effective tactical employment.

It is not clear whether this is reflective of incompetence or dual loyalties among the government forces, but whatever the case, it indicates that the Syrian military is not as formidable as it appeared while slaughtering civilians in months past.

The need now is for the West to help the Syrian rebels become better organized. As Holliday writes: “The priority for U.S. policy on Syria should be to encourage the development of opposition structures that could one day establish a monopoly on the use of force. External support must flow into Syria in a way that reinforces the growth of legitimate and stable structures within the Syrian opposition movement.” Achieving that goal will require deeper American involvement with the rebel forces. As I have argued before, this is not a job we can leave to the Saudis or Qataris, lest they wind up backing jihadist groups.

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Court Win Won’t End the Fight for ObamaCare Foes

As Politico notes this morning, many of the groups that led the fight against ObamaCare are preparing to party next week. Though all say they understand there is no way of knowing what the Supreme Court will do when it finally issues its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, most of the foes of President Obama’s signature legislation are fairly bursting with optimism about the decision. Their glee at the impending demise of a deeply unpopular bill is matched by the gloom of the president’s supporters, who are already plotting their revenge on conservatives by preparing to spend the next four months complaining about the way the Court will have thwarted the will of the legislature.

In this respect, the left has an advantage, because while they have no more idea of what the Court will do than the right, they do seem to have a plan. That’s why conservatives should not be spending the last days before the Court’s announcement getting ready to party. If the Court overturns ObamaCare, its opponents must be prepared for a political battle that will be just as important as the one they have already fought and perhaps won. The wind can change pretty quickly in politics, and if ObamaCare’s detractors allow liberals to seize the initiative in the next few days, they may spend the next few years regretting the way Democrats got control of the health care narrative. If the president and his backers are able to change the conversation from one about constitutional usurpation and big government control of health care back to their favorite themes of the plight of the uninsured, rapacious insurance companies, it could not only affect the outcome of the presidential election but also set the stage for future debates on the issue that may not go as well for the right.

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As Politico notes this morning, many of the groups that led the fight against ObamaCare are preparing to party next week. Though all say they understand there is no way of knowing what the Supreme Court will do when it finally issues its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, most of the foes of President Obama’s signature legislation are fairly bursting with optimism about the decision. Their glee at the impending demise of a deeply unpopular bill is matched by the gloom of the president’s supporters, who are already plotting their revenge on conservatives by preparing to spend the next four months complaining about the way the Court will have thwarted the will of the legislature.

In this respect, the left has an advantage, because while they have no more idea of what the Court will do than the right, they do seem to have a plan. That’s why conservatives should not be spending the last days before the Court’s announcement getting ready to party. If the Court overturns ObamaCare, its opponents must be prepared for a political battle that will be just as important as the one they have already fought and perhaps won. The wind can change pretty quickly in politics, and if ObamaCare’s detractors allow liberals to seize the initiative in the next few days, they may spend the next few years regretting the way Democrats got control of the health care narrative. If the president and his backers are able to change the conversation from one about constitutional usurpation and big government control of health care back to their favorite themes of the plight of the uninsured, rapacious insurance companies, it could not only affect the outcome of the presidential election but also set the stage for future debates on the issue that may not go as well for the right.

It should be acknowledged that if the Court does strike down ObamaCare as a whole or even just the individual mandate that is at its core, it would be a signal victory for conservatives. Such a decision could mark a turning point in legal history, as for the first time in a century the expansion of government power via amorphous interpretations of the Commerce Clause would be halted. That will be an outcome worth celebrating for those who rightly fear the gradual erosion of individual liberty will accelerate as the government gives itself greater power over our lives.

But even a definitive ruling against the bill by the Court won’t end the political struggle about the ideas that led to this showdown. Conservatives have rightly touted the fact that a majority of the public has been against ObamaCare since before the then Democrat-controlled Congress passed it in 2010. But once the Court rules it dead, if indeed that is what will happen, then the existing game will be over and a new one will begin.

That will mean the president and the rest of the Democrats will immediately launch a campaign that will not only lambast the Court’s conservative majority for enabling evil insurance companies to go on harming people but also resurrect their previous rhetoric about the unhappy fate of the uninsured. While these ideas were overshadowed by the prospect of a national health care bureaucracy that most Americans rightly feared, once ObamaCare is history, the discussion will no longer be about government death panels. Instead, the national conversation could easily be turned back to the left’s evergreen Robin Hood guerrilla warfare on the health insurance industry.

That means that instead of whooping it up next week, conservatives need to come up with sensible free market solutions to health care that will eschew government mandates. This presents a particular challenge to Mitt Romney, who has his own health care mandate baggage and who may be required to present an alternative to what the president tried and failed to accomplish. Washington Times columnist Dr. Milton Wolf provides a good starting point for that debate with a piece explaining why car insurance works so much better than that for health care. But no matter what the details, the priority now for the right must be to forget the party hats and be prepared to hit back hard against the president next week. If they are too preoccupied with patting themselves on the back, they could lose control of the narrative on the issue and never get it back.

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