Put me down as being among those who are highly skeptical about the prospect of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The media frenzy about the possibility is understandable but despite all the arguments weighing her possible impact on the general election, you really don’t have to go further than the impact of the issue of abortion. Simply put, Mitt Romney needs a united Republican Party and given the questions that were raised about whether he was a genuine conservative and his late conversion to the anti-abortion cause, the idea that he will pick someone who is pro-choice rather than pro-life seems utterly improbable.
As some wags pointed out during the prelude to the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision, covering a story like Romney’s vice presidential pick is like covering an election without opinion polls. Nobody knows what’s really going on except for Romney. Both Michael and Alana have discussed some of the problems that Rice would create for Romney. The list is already long but there’s one more point to be raised. If Romney is planning on taking advantage of President Obama’s questionable record on Israel in order to eat into the Democrats’ historic monopoly on the Jewish vote, Rice will make that task harder. During her tenure as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, Rice consistently took stands that were viewed with suspicion by the pro-Israel community. Indeed, it could be said that during Bush’s last two years of office, which was the period during which was ascendant on foreign policy, Rice had reversed the president’s tilt toward Israel as she embarked upon another failed attempt to revive the peace process.
Last week, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, wrote in the Jerusalem Post about a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007 at which he said it was up to her and other leaders as to whether the rising tide of anti-Semitism would determine the future of Jewish life in Europe. He said afterwards she asked him what she could do to help. Thinking back on the question, he said he now had an answer: override the ban on circumcision handed down by a judge in Cologne last month.
While the ruling, along with the troubling growth of Jew-hatred throughout Western Europe and violence in France has raised questions about the viability of Jewish life in Europe, Merkel has answered the rabbi’s challenge. As Reuters reports, the chancellor’s office has issued a statement telling both Jews and Muslims in Germany that they should not be deterred from practicing their faith despite the court ruling. The Berlin government said it would seek a quick resolution that would enable it to override the Cologne decision that banned the circumcision of infants. Yet, while Merkel is to be commended for speaking up for religious freedom in Germany, the bris ban remains a bitter reminder of the history of German anti-Semitism. But it also shone a spotlight on the way in which Jews have been targeted not just by thugs or terrorists but also by European elites in recent years.
At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol confirms new details of Mitt Romney’s upcoming visit to Israel:
During discussions about the trip over the last month, advisers to Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the appropriateness of a Romney visit to Israel on this date [Tisha B'Av]. But Netanyahu, the Weekly Standard has confirmed from top aides in Jerusalem and Boston, encouraged Romney to be in Jerusalem on this solemn day, one that recalls the tragedies of Jewish history and calls to mind current threats to the Jewish people.
Indeed, the Weekly Standard can report that Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu have invited the Romneys to join them for the traditional meal breaking the fast following sundown after Tisha B’Av. This gesture suggests that what may have started out as a routine candidate touchdown in Israel has become a more serious and significant moment for both Netanyahu and Romney.
For several years, the international human rights “community” has been claiming the situation in Hamas-run Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a lie, because the flow of food and medicine into Gaza has not been halted by Israel and residents of the terrorist enclave are not in danger of perishing for lack of essential materials (unless you think the munitions and construction materials needed for Hamas fortifications qualify under that category). But there is a human rights crisis in the Strip, although it is not the result of any Israeli action. Rather, it is the mass child abuse going under the guise of a summer camp program being run by Hamas.
As the Times of Israel reports, Hamas has replaced UNRWA, the UN agency devoted to caring for and perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem, as the main provider of summer programs for children in the Strip. But rather than fun activities or education designed to promote peace or productive skills, the Hamas camps are geared toward indoctrinating and training the terrorists of the future. The 70,000 children taking part in the “We Will Live Honorably” camps are forced to undergo paramilitary training that apparently includes forcing them to walk on nails and knife blades as well as preparing them for prison. Rather than worrying about what Israel is doing to protect the people living near the Gaza border from terrorist missile fire, human rights groups should be investigating and condemning what appears to be activities that would be labeled as abuse were it taking place in the West.
The first time I watched this, I thought it was just Obama trying to fudge his way out of a difficult question, the way people tend to spin the “what’s your biggest weakness?” answer during job interviews. (Nobody’s buying that claim you’re “sometimes too much of a team player.”)
But after watching a second time, I’m now wondering whether Obama actually believes his own fables. His political team is notoriously insular, and the cult of personality surrounding him would tell him that his biggest problem is he just hasn’t explained his policies to the American people well enough, goshdarnit. The scary news is Obama may truly be as out-of-touch as he appears in this CBS News interview:
In 2007, the American intelligence establishment issued a National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran was not working toward a nuclear weapon. The finding was criticized around the world and was soon disavowed by the Bush administration. Since then, the evidence compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency has made it clear the NIE was more a reflection of the post-Iraq caution on the part of U.S. intelligence in which they are reluctant to sound the alarms about potential threats than an actual belief in Iran’s good intentions. The refinement of uranium at increasingly high rates and other clues as to work on the military applications of nuclear technology have reinforced the widespread conviction that it is only a matter of time before the Iranians achieve their goal. The only serious debate has been about when that day will arrive.
Thus, the statement by the head of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, that Iran will achieve nuclear capability within two years is sobering news. Sir John Sawyer’s reported remarks give the lie to those who have been attempting to deny the existence of the threat. It also makes clear that whoever wins the U.S. presidency this fall will be faced with a momentous decision that is not being fully discussed in the campaign. Both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have said they will not allow Iran to go nuclear. But putting a date on the expected time that Iran will realize its deadly ambition means that by 2014, either man will have to decide whether to use force to prevent Iran from obtaining the means to make good on their pledge to eliminate Israel and to exercise hegemony over the Middle East. Given the utter failure of the president’s feckless attempts at engagement and diplomacy to deal with the problem, Americans must ask themselves whether he or his challenger can be relied upon to act.
During the last half-century, you’d be hard-pressed to find many programs in college football that were more respected than Penn State or a coach who was more revered than Joe Paterno. But all that they had achieved now lies in ashes. To understand why, one need only read the results of this investigation into Penn State’s sexual abuse scandal.
The seven-month investigation, based on 430 interviews and some 3.5 million documents, excoriates the university’s leadership – including then-Head Coach Joe Paterno, President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and Vice President Gary Schultz – for covering up allegations of sexual abuse by Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. (Last month Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 sex abuse counts.) This happened in part because they were concerned about negative publicity.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who led the investigation. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” The report highlights a “striking lack of empathy” for the victims. And the investigation shows that Paterno, who died in January, was an integral part of an “active decision to conceal.” It appears as if the former coach of the Nittany Lions not only lied to reporters but to a grand jury as well. (Paterno insisted he had no knowledge of a 1998 police inquiry into child molestation accusations against Sandusky, his assistant coach.)
The report is a horrifying account of individual and institutional failure, based in part on a “culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus.”
Back in May, I wrote about the controversy that ensued when a Miami synagogue invited Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to speak at a Friday evening Sabbath service. When members protested about the hijacking of a religious observance for partisan purposes, Miami’s Temple Israel disinvited her, leading to some spurious charges that local Republicans had “bullied” the shul. As Bryan Schwartzman of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent reports, DWS is back in the news this week for another synagogue appearance, this time at Reform Congregation Knesseth Israel (KI) in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and again, Republicans are complaining.
While this event is far more defensible than the Miami appearance, it still raises some important questions about the way religious institutions get dragged into partisan politics. With polls showing President Obama losing popularity among Jewish voters, Democrats are going all out to try to prevent a precipitous drop in support in this otherwise solidly liberal community. Which means synagogues are on the front lines of a nasty partisan argument that they would do well to avoid.
It is certainly good news, as I have previously noted, that Mahmoud Jibril’s secular National Forces Alliance is the big winner in the recent Libyan legislative election–better news certainly than the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has dominated Egypt’s elections or that the more moderate Islamist party Ennahda has taken taken power in Tunisia. It suggests that free elections in the Middle East need not be synonymous with an Islamist takeover; indeed, Libyan voters seemed to recoil from the Islamists’ message that they were somehow better Muslims than anyone else.
But we must not lose sight of the big picture: We are talking about one election only in each country. No matter which path they set down–Islamist or secular–their ultimate destination remains very much unknown. Much will be determined by the success or failure of the new governments, of whatever ideological stripe, in addressing the basic pocketbook issues that people everywhere care about.
Yesterday morning, the idea that Condoleezza Rice was topping Mitt Romney’s VP list would have seemed wildly unlikely. It’s amazing what a Drudge scoop and banner headline can do in just a few short hours:
There is no doubt whatsoever that what is occurring in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy. The Assad regime has concluded that Western governments do not have the will to back up their rhetoric with action, and so have accelerated the atrocity and mass slaughter to new levels. While reports once spoke of a dozen people being killed in a day, some recent reports from Syria suggest an order of greater magnitude is now the norm.
Human rights groups wring their hands that Russia and China are not on the same page at the UN Security Council, but representatives from several prominent groups hold out hope that there can be some sort of magic formula that will bring Moscow and Beijing onboard. Such hope is, of course, misplaced. Syria hosts Russia’s only military base outside the confines of the former Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin will always prioritize strategic position above averting humanitarian tragedy.
The questions human rights groups need to face is whether it is moral to, in effect, sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians upon the principle that no action is legitimate unless the United Nations says it is. They may not like the question framed in that way, but there is no avoiding it.
Speculation that Governor Romney will choose Condoleezza Rice as his running mate is all the rage right now in Washington and among political reporters. Dr. Rice evidently gave a bang-up speech in Park City at a closed-door fundraising retreat. Rice is poised and articulate; a huge contrast to Vice President Joe Biden, who often lacks both qualities. She also adds diversity to the ticket, not only in terms of race and gender, but also in terms of life story; she has perhaps the most compelling life story next to that of President Obama himself.
Rice also has much experience at the senior levels of government, serving both as George W. Bush’s national security advisor and also his second term secretary of state. Whether Rice would bring electoral benefit is an open question, especially because she has not held elective office and it is questionable, therefore, whether Californians would consider her native enough to call their own simply based on her tenure at Stanford. Nevertheless, she has a demonstrated ability to charm the press, and that is a quality that should not be dismissed. Like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, she used it to great effect during the internecine wars that plagued the George W. Bush administration.
Rice’s record should raise various questions about her suitability to be vice president. As national security advisor, she presided over one of the most chaotic National Security Councils in recent memory. The job of the National Security Council (NSC) is first to coordinate policy between various bureaucracies and second to define policy and enforce decisions when disputes occur within the administration. Rice was a poor administrator. The meetings she chaired ran like college seminars and seldom reached a conclusion. This led to policy chaos and polarization, especially during the Iraq conflict. Many of her colleagues—on both sides of the philosophical debate—speculated that she was hesitant to present the president with decision memos until she could divine his thoughts on an issue. Hence, she let basic issues like pre-war planning and questions about whether the Iraq campaign was simply to unseat Saddam or whether the U.S. would rebuild Iraq’s government slip until just weeks before Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
Yesterday — for the third time this week — AP reporter Matt Lee asked the State Department spokesperson what the U.S. had done to meet its June 8 commitment to include Israel in the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which the U.S. established and co-chairs.
Monday, the spokesman said he was unfamiliar with the issue; Tuesday, he was unable to provide any details; yesterday, Lee pitched the question again:
QUESTION: So I’m led to believe that you have an answer to my question about Israel and the Global Counterterrorism Cooperation Forum or whatever it’s called?
MR. VENTRELL: I do, Matt.
MR. VENTRELL: We believe that Israel would make a valuable contribution to the Global Counterterrorism Forum. We have raised the issue of Israeli participation in relevant GCTF activities with a number of GCTF partners at very senior levels. We will continue to do so as we move forward. Our discussion with Israel concerning the GCTF – our discussions have focused on Israeli participation and relevant activities to allow Israel to share its counterterrorism expertise with CT practitioners from GCTF-member and other countries.