Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 17, 2012

Re: The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012

John called it “The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012 . . .” and I fully agree. Not only will Obama’s comment be used by every Chamber of Commerce in the country to alert their memberships to just what sort of president they are dealing with, but it has already produced a fair amount of what every politician dreads: ridicule.

There will be a lot more to come.

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John called it “The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012 . . .” and I fully agree. Not only will Obama’s comment be used by every Chamber of Commerce in the country to alert their memberships to just what sort of president they are dealing with, but it has already produced a fair amount of what every politician dreads: ridicule.

There will be a lot more to come.

Take for instance this hilarious Tumblr called “You Didn’t Build That.” (h/t Instapundit)

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Romney Can’t Afford to Play it Safe

All the articles published in the last days and weeks speculating about Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick or the timing of his announcement have one thing in common: they are all mostly bunk. The rumors about Condoleezza Rice, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman are just that. Rumors. Only Romney and his inner circle know whom he’ll tap, and until the announcement is made, the Republican presidential contender can always change his mind. That renders all the predictions an exercise in filling space and trying to appease a public hungry for news more than anything else.

But there is one element to much of the veep speculation that I think does bear refutation. It is the notion, probably encouraged by the Romney campaign, that they view their goal as primarily to do no harm rather than to help the GOP ticket. That sounds like sound advice, especially when you recall the way the Sarah Palin pick turned out (contrary to the mythology cherished by her fan club, Palin hurt John McCain more with independents and centrists than she helped with the GOP base). But though the Romney camp thinks it is in a far stronger position than McCain was when he decided he needed a game-changing pick and went for Palin, they would be foolish to assume they don’t need help. A brilliant vice presidential pick, assuming one exists, may not make or break Romney’s chances, but if he and his staff think they can cruise through the next three and a half months to an inevitable victory without trying to do something big, they have underestimated their opponent.

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All the articles published in the last days and weeks speculating about Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick or the timing of his announcement have one thing in common: they are all mostly bunk. The rumors about Condoleezza Rice, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman are just that. Rumors. Only Romney and his inner circle know whom he’ll tap, and until the announcement is made, the Republican presidential contender can always change his mind. That renders all the predictions an exercise in filling space and trying to appease a public hungry for news more than anything else.

But there is one element to much of the veep speculation that I think does bear refutation. It is the notion, probably encouraged by the Romney campaign, that they view their goal as primarily to do no harm rather than to help the GOP ticket. That sounds like sound advice, especially when you recall the way the Sarah Palin pick turned out (contrary to the mythology cherished by her fan club, Palin hurt John McCain more with independents and centrists than she helped with the GOP base). But though the Romney camp thinks it is in a far stronger position than McCain was when he decided he needed a game-changing pick and went for Palin, they would be foolish to assume they don’t need help. A brilliant vice presidential pick, assuming one exists, may not make or break Romney’s chances, but if he and his staff think they can cruise through the next three and a half months to an inevitable victory without trying to do something big, they have underestimated their opponent.

Romney’s position is stronger than that of McCain four years ago, but he is still likely to head into the conventions as a slight underdog. As I wrote yesterday, the polls showing a tight race haven’t budged in months. But that shouldn’t be considered great news for the GOP. President Obama has presided over a lousy economy, has few accomplishments to his name, and spends most of his time blaming his predecessors. That makes him vulnerable, but Romney’s weaknesses have allowed the president to retain a steady if tiny lead among registered voters and a virtual dead heat among likely voters.

The common assumption among political experts is that in a close race, undecided voters tend to break for the challenger. That’s a trend that puts a smile on the face of members of Romney’s camp, but that prediction is about as valuable as the latest skinny on the Internet about who the GOP veep will be.

It can’t be said often enough that political science isn’t science. There is no reason to believe that any past political trends will be repeated. More to the point, if Romney can’t break through and take a lead sometime during the summer, he may never do so.

Which leads me to the conclusion that while Romney should obviously avoid a rash, unvetted and unprepared choice like Sarah Palin, he would be foolish to assume he doesn’t need help from the bottom of the ticket. It’s true that vice presidential nominees are not the difference between victory and defeat, but if Romney decides to play it safe, he will regret it. A dull as dishwater vice presidential pick will help turn the GOP showcase in Tampa into a snoozer. It will also lead to a minimal convention bump that will be widely interpreted as a portent of doom and deprive him of the momentum he needs heading into the home stretch.

The assumption on the part of some Republicans that Obama is so weak that Romney doesn’t need to do something to galvanize his party and seize the attention of the public is based on a misreading of the president’s position. President Obama has no case for re-election, but he remains a historic figure with lots of goodwill and the loyalty of his party and its base. He can be defeated but not if Romney thinks he’s already got the election in his pocket. Rather than worrying about reliving the Palin debacle, Romney needs to understand that at the moment he has no better than an even chance of winning in November. If that doesn’t factor into his choice, then he’s making a big mistake.

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Ready for Weiner, Part Deux?

Perhaps it was always inevitable but ready or not, it appears that Anthony Weiner is trying to worm his way back into public life. Using his always-formidable powers of self-promotion, the disgraced former congressman has started an understated media campaign aimed at testing the waters to see if the world is ready for Weiner, part deux. A story in the New York Post last weekend about his potential run for either mayor or public advocate of New York City has spawned subsequent pieces in the New York Times and other venues, including a feature in Politico in which pollsters are queried about whether it’s too soon for him to risk the judgment of the voters.

The jury is still out as to whether enough time has passed since the scandal about his tweeting pictures of his private parts to women around the country blew up. But with a formidable campaign war chest of $4.5 million still in his possession and a less than scintillating field of possible rivals, the odds of his running next year for mayor — the post he has always coveted — are rising. But before we get all get sucked into the Weiner redemption play that is sure to precede a run for office, it’s important to remember that he was run out of office for lying, not for “sexting.”

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Perhaps it was always inevitable but ready or not, it appears that Anthony Weiner is trying to worm his way back into public life. Using his always-formidable powers of self-promotion, the disgraced former congressman has started an understated media campaign aimed at testing the waters to see if the world is ready for Weiner, part deux. A story in the New York Post last weekend about his potential run for either mayor or public advocate of New York City has spawned subsequent pieces in the New York Times and other venues, including a feature in Politico in which pollsters are queried about whether it’s too soon for him to risk the judgment of the voters.

The jury is still out as to whether enough time has passed since the scandal about his tweeting pictures of his private parts to women around the country blew up. But with a formidable campaign war chest of $4.5 million still in his possession and a less than scintillating field of possible rivals, the odds of his running next year for mayor — the post he has always coveted — are rising. But before we get all get sucked into the Weiner redemption play that is sure to precede a run for office, it’s important to remember that he was run out of office for lying, not for “sexting.”

Weiner’s apologists have always been quick to claim that hounding him out of office was unfair because his misbehavior was of the virtual variety. That’s true as far as it goes, as it appears that his hijinks were confined to salacious and bizarre activity on Twitter or email. But though most New Yorkers probably thought such behavior was not what they expected from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, let alone a newlywed with an accomplished wife, that isn’t what destroyed Weiner’s career.

It was, as it almost always is with such scandals, about his lying. Had he told the truth, it would have been thought odd but it would almost certainly not have been fatal to his career. But Weiner didn’t just fib about his inappropriate behavior. He hatched vicious conspiracy theories in which he accused the late Andrew Breitbart of manufacturing the offensive tweet with the picture of his genitals. He stood in the halls of Congress and publicly berated the press — including sympathetic reporters from CNN– for having the temerity to ask about the story. The initial substance of the scandal was nothing earth shaking, but by the time his lies about Breitbart and the rest of it were exposed — as such lies always must be — he had dug himself such a deep hole of opprobrium that there was no climbing out.

So as we watch and read about the inevitable tell-all interviews in which Weiner will bare his soul, beg for our forgiveness and speak hopefully of using his talents for the good of the nation, let’s recall that his odd proclivities merely served as a window into what his critics had already understood was a rotten political soul. Weiner’s lies about his tweeting were a product of the political vitriol he spewed on every topic during his mercifully truncated congressional career.

At the time of his resignation, it was widely observed that his arrogance and ruthless political tactics had left him without either friends or goodwill when he needed help. Weiner was a past master of hyper-partisan attacks on opponents. There was no limit to either his chutzpah or his willingness to besmirch anyone who got in his way. Even in a town like Washington and a cynical institution such as the Congress, he stood out as a rogue and was not missed when he left. The noises coming from Weiner’s camp which make it look as if they will try again to disgracefully blame his troubles on the late Breitbart tells us that while he may be chastened by his experience, he has not changed.

It may well be that Weiner’s money and a mayoral field with an opening for a white candidate from the boroughs (as opposed to Manhattan) will make the former congressman a serious contender for the Democratic nomination next year. But before the press gets sucked into further promoting his comeback, let’s remember it wasn’t the sexting or the pictures that sunk his career. It was the lying.

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Defense Cuts Would Spike Unemployment

There’s no question the automatic budget cuts set to take place next January will have major national security implications, but what about the economic fallout? Sequestration doesn’t just mean a reduction in military readiness, it also means reductions in defense and non-defense jobs. According to a new study by the Aerospace Industries Association, the unemployment rate would reach 9 percent or higher under these cuts (h/t Rob Bluey):

“The results are bleak but clear-cut,” said [Dr. Stephen S.] Fuller. “The unemployment rate will climb above 9 percent, pushing the economy toward recession and reducing projected growth in 2013 by two-thirds. An already weak economy will be undercut as the paychecks of thousands of workers across the economy will be affected from teachers, nurses, construction workers to key federal employees such as border patrol and FBI agents, food inspectors and others.”

The analysis concludes that the automatic spending cuts mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 affecting defense and non-defense discretionary spending in just the first year of implementation will reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion; decrease personal earnings of the workforce by $109.4 billion and cost the U.S. economy 2.14 million jobs.

This is about more than national security. A sudden reduction in defense-sector jobs could devastate whole communities, flooding the already-oversaturated job market with masses of newly unemployed. These aren’t unnecessary or obsolete jobs, they’re ones that are still critical for national defense.

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There’s no question the automatic budget cuts set to take place next January will have major national security implications, but what about the economic fallout? Sequestration doesn’t just mean a reduction in military readiness, it also means reductions in defense and non-defense jobs. According to a new study by the Aerospace Industries Association, the unemployment rate would reach 9 percent or higher under these cuts (h/t Rob Bluey):

“The results are bleak but clear-cut,” said [Dr. Stephen S.] Fuller. “The unemployment rate will climb above 9 percent, pushing the economy toward recession and reducing projected growth in 2013 by two-thirds. An already weak economy will be undercut as the paychecks of thousands of workers across the economy will be affected from teachers, nurses, construction workers to key federal employees such as border patrol and FBI agents, food inspectors and others.”

The analysis concludes that the automatic spending cuts mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 affecting defense and non-defense discretionary spending in just the first year of implementation will reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion; decrease personal earnings of the workforce by $109.4 billion and cost the U.S. economy 2.14 million jobs.

This is about more than national security. A sudden reduction in defense-sector jobs could devastate whole communities, flooding the already-oversaturated job market with masses of newly unemployed. These aren’t unnecessary or obsolete jobs, they’re ones that are still critical for national defense.

The Obama administration and Congress may not be able to avoid dealing with this issue for long. As Dov Zakheim wrote last month at Foreign Policy, employers will be required to inform their employees of the possible termination 60 days before the sequester goes into effect — which just so happens to be Nov. 2, 2012:

 In addition to its impact on the government’s budget, the sequester will also trigger the WARN Act, which requires employers to give a minimum of sixty days notice to private and public sector employees whose jobs are being targeted for possible termination. Those politicians seeking re-election to national office should take note that Nov. 2, 60 days before Jan. 2, when the sequester comes into force, is just four days before election day. They may find it very uncomfortable having to explain to potentially hundreds of thousands of people who have been given WARN Act pink slips why they deserve to be returned to office after they did nothing about the sequester.

Can you imagine massive layoff warnings a week before the election? How has the Obama administration failed to address this issue so far?

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Hillary Clinton’s Legacy

Bret Stephens has a devastating column in today’s Wall Street Journal questioning the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton has been a good secretary of state. He goes down a litany of trouble spots and shows that the strategic position of the United States has declined as a direct result of Clinton’s decisions, policy, and direction.

So what will Clinton’s legacy be? Early on in her term, when it appeared that President Obama was delegating primary responsibility for foreign policy crisis management to Vice President Biden and Senator John Kerry, press reports suggested Clinton was prioritizing women’s issues.

As Clinton’s term winds down, women will form the central pillar of her legacy. Alas, Clinton will be remembered not for women’s empowerment, but rather for their betrayal. In short remarks to a gathering of Egyptian women, Clinton said she told Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president and a longtime Muslim Brotherhood activist, that democracy has to be inclusive. In her press conference following her meeting, however, her talking points about inclusion seemed to be little more than throw away lines. The fact of the matter is that while feminists might be fighting for new rights, Egyptians feminists appear to now be fighting for rights that are being stripped away.

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Bret Stephens has a devastating column in today’s Wall Street Journal questioning the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton has been a good secretary of state. He goes down a litany of trouble spots and shows that the strategic position of the United States has declined as a direct result of Clinton’s decisions, policy, and direction.

So what will Clinton’s legacy be? Early on in her term, when it appeared that President Obama was delegating primary responsibility for foreign policy crisis management to Vice President Biden and Senator John Kerry, press reports suggested Clinton was prioritizing women’s issues.

As Clinton’s term winds down, women will form the central pillar of her legacy. Alas, Clinton will be remembered not for women’s empowerment, but rather for their betrayal. In short remarks to a gathering of Egyptian women, Clinton said she told Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president and a longtime Muslim Brotherhood activist, that democracy has to be inclusive. In her press conference following her meeting, however, her talking points about inclusion seemed to be little more than throw away lines. The fact of the matter is that while feminists might be fighting for new rights, Egyptians feminists appear to now be fighting for rights that are being stripped away.

Clinton’s actions regarding the rehabilitation of the Taliban are far more shameful. Clinton has made reconciliation of the Taliban a central pillar of her political strategy to end the Afghanistan war. Wars can end in either victory or defeat. Reinstalling the Taliban—who remain as ferociously opposed to women’s rights as ever—is nothing other than embracing defeat. The idea promoted by her diplomats in emails to Afghan officials that the Taliban simply reflect Pushtun culture is an argument less rooted in fact than in a desire to excuse the Taliban’s worst excesses by embracing cultural relativism.

President Obama has named Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as among his closest international friends. That’s all well and good. But it should be no reason to speak out against the purging of women from the civil society, or a murder rate of women that, according to Turkey’s own statistics, has increased more than 1,000 percent during Erdoğan’s rule.

Clinton may cloak herself in the feminist mantle, but her record is something else. Legacies rest more on fact than on handlers and sympathetic journalists. The simple fact is that under Clinton’s watch—and largely because of her policies and silence—women in the Islamic world have suffered their worst setbacks in generations.

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The Most Disgraceful Piece of Anti-Semitism Published in Years

I thought quite a while before deciding to write this item, because it deals with an online publication that is kind of a distant cousin to COMMENTARY. But after spending years calling out anti-Semitism committed primarily by paleoconservative publications and anti-Zionism on the part of liberal Jewish publications of a kind all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, I decided it would be improper for me to be silent on something published by Tablet. It is, without question, the most disgusting piece of anti-Semitism I think I’ve ever read outside of the arrant lunacy of schizophrenic letter writers, and the fact that it was written by a Jew trumpeting her connection to the Holocaust only makes it all the more repugnant.

You can find it here. I’m not going to quote from it, because to do so would be to provide a forum for words and sentences so noxious they hardly justify description. Suffice it to say that in an article taking off from the cable-TV series “Breaking Bad,” the contemptible author of this article denounces her Holocaust-survivor grandparents for fulfilling the Nazi perception of Jews, libels Elie Wiesel, and likens the survival of Jews in the camps to the behavior of a fictional gangster meth dealer.

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I thought quite a while before deciding to write this item, because it deals with an online publication that is kind of a distant cousin to COMMENTARY. But after spending years calling out anti-Semitism committed primarily by paleoconservative publications and anti-Zionism on the part of liberal Jewish publications of a kind all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, I decided it would be improper for me to be silent on something published by Tablet. It is, without question, the most disgusting piece of anti-Semitism I think I’ve ever read outside of the arrant lunacy of schizophrenic letter writers, and the fact that it was written by a Jew trumpeting her connection to the Holocaust only makes it all the more repugnant.

You can find it here. I’m not going to quote from it, because to do so would be to provide a forum for words and sentences so noxious they hardly justify description. Suffice it to say that in an article taking off from the cable-TV series “Breaking Bad,” the contemptible author of this article denounces her Holocaust-survivor grandparents for fulfilling the Nazi perception of Jews, libels Elie Wiesel, and likens the survival of Jews in the camps to the behavior of a fictional gangster meth dealer.

How anyone at Tablet responsible for the acceptance and publication of this piece of evil filth—no other term will do—can look at herself or himself in the mirror today is a mystery that surpasseth understanding.

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Mitt Romney, Take Notes

John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …

How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.

I think he believes America was on the right path until Reagan came along, and Reagan got us going in the wrong direction. And  he wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution. … I think he sees himself as bringing about this wave of progressivism, and the only thing stopping him are these meddling conservatives who believe in these founding principles so he has to caricature them in the ugliest light possible to win the argument.

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John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …

How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.

I think he believes America was on the right path until Reagan came along, and Reagan got us going in the wrong direction. And  he wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution. … I think he sees himself as bringing about this wave of progressivism, and the only thing stopping him are these meddling conservatives who believe in these founding principles so he has to caricature them in the ugliest light possible to win the argument.

Obama’s “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” comment was a serious, unforced blunder. Unlike Romney’s “I’m not worried about the very poor” gaffe, the context doesn’t change the meaning. Obama’s argument was identical to Warren’s (though to her credit she worded it a bit more delicately): the government, not the individual, deserves the bulk of the credit for successful private enterprise. Moreover, it implies that successful individuals aren’t already paying the lion’s share of the taxes.

As Ryan so eloquently points out, this is a fundamental distortion of the conservative argument. Which Republicans are advocating we get the government out of the road-building or firefighting business? Why does Obama equate opposition to massive federal intrusion in health care with opposition to government in general?

It’s because he doesn’t want to argue against his actual critics. He wants to argue against the unreasonable, easily-defeated critics he invents in his own speeches.

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Does the Levy Report Doom Israel?

As I wrote last week, the release of a report establishing the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank issued by a panel of Israeli experts chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy has been widely condemned. The attacks on Levy’s report have come from both those who support the Palestinians as well as Israelis and friends of Israel who oppose the settlement movement. Among the most prominent examples of the latter came in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu organized by the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal group that came into existence to support the Oslo peace process and which has been eclipsed in recent years by the failure of the polices they promoted. The IPF letter takes the position that, if adopted by the government, the Levy report dooms the two-state solution to the conflict and “will strengthen those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

While the concerns expressed in this letter are real, those who signed are mistaken not only about the impact of Levy’s report but also about how to build international support for Israel and the hope of peace. What the signers don’t understand is that it is the opposite tack — Israel’s abandonment of a position that would uphold its rights — that has done the most to convince the world the Jewish state is in the wrong and strengthened the resolve of the Palestinians to never accede to a compromise on territory and two states. While one document cannot undo the damage done by Oslo and 19 years of failed peace processing, the Levy report can at least begin to remind the world the Israeli-Arab conflict is not one of balancing Palestinian rights and Israeli security but the rights of two nations.

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As I wrote last week, the release of a report establishing the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank issued by a panel of Israeli experts chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy has been widely condemned. The attacks on Levy’s report have come from both those who support the Palestinians as well as Israelis and friends of Israel who oppose the settlement movement. Among the most prominent examples of the latter came in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu organized by the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal group that came into existence to support the Oslo peace process and which has been eclipsed in recent years by the failure of the polices they promoted. The IPF letter takes the position that, if adopted by the government, the Levy report dooms the two-state solution to the conflict and “will strengthen those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

While the concerns expressed in this letter are real, those who signed are mistaken not only about the impact of Levy’s report but also about how to build international support for Israel and the hope of peace. What the signers don’t understand is that it is the opposite tack — Israel’s abandonment of a position that would uphold its rights — that has done the most to convince the world the Jewish state is in the wrong and strengthened the resolve of the Palestinians to never accede to a compromise on territory and two states. While one document cannot undo the damage done by Oslo and 19 years of failed peace processing, the Levy report can at least begin to remind the world the Israeli-Arab conflict is not one of balancing Palestinian rights and Israeli security but the rights of two nations.

One of the letter’s most prominent signers, Shalem Center senior vice president (and COMMENTARY contributor) Rabbi Daniel Gordis, conceded in his op-ed published yesterday in Ha’aretz in which he explained his participation in the IPF letter, that its purpose was not to dispute Levy’s legal position. Indeed, it would have difficulty doing so from a Zionist frame of reference, as the rights of Jews to live and build in the West Bank was enshrined in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine which is the last internationally recognized sovereign in the area. Levy’s point is not that the West Bank only belongs to Israel, but that it is disputed territory to which both the Jewish state and the Palestinians may assert a claim. Those claims can only be resolved by negotiations that could end the conflict with a territorial compromise.

But Gordis and his colleagues believe the mere assertion of Jewish rights in the West Bank, even if it is accompanied as it has been by an offer to negotiate peace and territorial compromise, will never be understood by the world. They believe it will signal Israel’s unwillingness to ever make peace and doom the Jewish state not just to unending conflict but also to the problems that will arise from the presence of a large Arab population under its control. These worries are not without basis. Israel is assailed by the world for its perceived unwillingness to make peace, even though the history of the post-Oslo era has shown that the land for peace formula it embraced brought it neither peace nor security.

But what Gordis and the other 40 signers of the IPF letter miss is that by consciously downplaying its legal rights in the dispute, Israel has unwittingly strengthened the hand of those who oppose its existence, be it inside or outside the green line. By ceasing to speak of the justice of Israel’s case, the so-called “peace camp” played into the hands of those who think Jews have no more right to live in Tel Aviv than in Jerusalem or the most remote hilltop West Bank settlement.

Far from encouraging the Palestinians to abandon their dreams of a “right of return” and the eradication of Zionism, the more Israel and its friends treat the West Bank and even Jerusalem as stolen territory, the less likely it is that the Palestinians will ever accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders will be drawn.

Indeed, if the Levy report has any impact on the Palestinians, it is a reminder to them that their hopes of achieving the eviction of every Jew from the West Bank as well as from the portions of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 are dead. If they wish to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank — something they were offered by Israel but refused in 2000, 2001 and 2008 — they must return to negotiations instead of sitting back and waiting for the Obama administration or the Europeans to pressure Israel into a unilateral withdrawal such as the disastrous 2005 retreat from Gaza.

Even the Obama administration has conceded that Israel will retain many of the settlements in a theoretical peace deal that will include territorial swaps. How can Israel hope to bargain for such an outcome if it is unwilling to state that Jews have every right to live in these towns and villages as well as in Jerusalem?

The assertion of Jewish rights is not incompatible with peace talks or even the surrender of much of the West Bank as part of a genuine peace accord. It is hard to imagine such talks succeeding under any circumstances in the absence of a sea change in the political culture of the Palestinians that would enable them to live with a Jewish state. But they have no hope of succeeding so long as the Palestinians think Israel can be made to give up all of the land without peace. Nor will the international community ever support an Israel they believe has “stolen” Palestinian land.

A generation of abdication of Jewish rights to the West Bank has not softened the hearts of the world or the Palestinians. If Israel is ever to negotiate a peace that will bring security, it must start by saying that it comes to the table not as a thief but as a party whose legal rights must be respected.

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Clinton Unwittingly Makes Case Against Administration’s Mideast Policy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Israeli officials yesterday, and made a powerful case against a renewed push for the peace process. She didn’t mean to, of course; she was actually exhorting the Israeli leadership to do whatever they must to get Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. But she employed two arguments in support of her recommendation that in reality work against it. Haaretz reports:

According to an Israeli official who was briefed on the content of the meetings, Clinton told the different Israeli officials that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are the best partners the Israelis ever had, adding that “it is unclear who will come after them.”

If Abbas and Fayyad–who resolutely refuse to even meet with Israeli leaders face to face–are the best Palestinian “peace partners” Israel has ever had, it is clear the peace process has gone practically nowhere since it began. But the second comment is more important.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Israeli officials yesterday, and made a powerful case against a renewed push for the peace process. She didn’t mean to, of course; she was actually exhorting the Israeli leadership to do whatever they must to get Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. But she employed two arguments in support of her recommendation that in reality work against it. Haaretz reports:

According to an Israeli official who was briefed on the content of the meetings, Clinton told the different Israeli officials that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are the best partners the Israelis ever had, adding that “it is unclear who will come after them.”

If Abbas and Fayyad–who resolutely refuse to even meet with Israeli leaders face to face–are the best Palestinian “peace partners” Israel has ever had, it is clear the peace process has gone practically nowhere since it began. But the second comment is more important.

Clinton came to Israel directly from Egypt, where she met with new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi is there because the Egyptian people finally overthrew a widely hated autocrat who was viewed, in part, as too friendly to Israel and the West. Israel’s gas deal with Egypt seemed to go up in smoke–literally–and the vaunted peace agreement, in place for more than three decades now, was called into question. Egyptians first called for it to be torn up, then renegotiated, and now Morsi says he will uphold it, but he won’t return any of the Israeli government’s overtures to him.

It’s possible to see in the evolution of Cairo’s discussion of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty evidence that the deal is in no real trouble of being revoked (though it may be violated with far more regularity). But that misses a larger point. The Arab Spring, especially in the case of Egypt, taught us not to rely on seemingly stable dictators who don’t rule with popular consent. And it should be a dire warning against striking a deal with unpopular leaders who don’t represent public opinion and who are here today, but may very well be gone tomorrow.

Obviously, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are still far from a deal–possibly farther than they’ve ever been. But what if the Arab Spring rolls along into the West Bank? And even if it doesn’t, there is no reason to treat the current leadership crop as permanent. What happens if they fall? What guarantee is there that any deal would be worth the paper it was written on? The fact that Abbas and Fayyad are unpopular, ineffective, and could be replaced any day by Palestinians to whom the deal would mean nothing is an argument against making any sort of desperate push to get a deal signed. Clinton should be pressuring Abbas and Fayyad to reform their corrupt, autocratic ways if real peace and stability is the goal.

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Obama and J Street Together Again on Iran

The left-wing J Street lobby came into existence in order to support Obama administration pressure on Israel. But with the president shelving any talk about twisting Israel’s arm to make concessions to the Palestinians while he’s running for re-election, the group is instead doing its best to muster support for his weak position on Iran. As an article on the subject published in Foreign Policy by Dylan J. Williams (J Street’s government affairs director) shows, like the president, the group says it is against Iranian nukes, but their priority is opposing the idea of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Williams’ argument employs the sort of upside down logic that characterizes much of the group’s thinking about the Palestinians. He claims that although diplomacy has already been repeatedly tried and failed, the West should continue to talk with the Iranians despite all the evidence that points to the conclusion that Tehran has no intention of abandoning its nuclear goal. Most of all, he deprecates even the thought of using force, because he claims that strengthens the Islamist regime. In doing so, the group is setting the stage for what will likely be the focus of debate on the issue should the president be re-elected. With Obama’s belated policy of sanctions and diplomacy unlikely to resolve the situation, there will be little doubt that as time runs out until the Iranians get their nuke (the head of British intelligence said it would happen within two years), that defending Obama’s refusal to act to avert the threat may be the priority for his Jewish cheerleaders. But while this may bring them closer to the president after he abandoned their positions on the peace process, it will continue to place them outside of the pro-Israel mainstream.

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The left-wing J Street lobby came into existence in order to support Obama administration pressure on Israel. But with the president shelving any talk about twisting Israel’s arm to make concessions to the Palestinians while he’s running for re-election, the group is instead doing its best to muster support for his weak position on Iran. As an article on the subject published in Foreign Policy by Dylan J. Williams (J Street’s government affairs director) shows, like the president, the group says it is against Iranian nukes, but their priority is opposing the idea of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Williams’ argument employs the sort of upside down logic that characterizes much of the group’s thinking about the Palestinians. He claims that although diplomacy has already been repeatedly tried and failed, the West should continue to talk with the Iranians despite all the evidence that points to the conclusion that Tehran has no intention of abandoning its nuclear goal. Most of all, he deprecates even the thought of using force, because he claims that strengthens the Islamist regime. In doing so, the group is setting the stage for what will likely be the focus of debate on the issue should the president be re-elected. With Obama’s belated policy of sanctions and diplomacy unlikely to resolve the situation, there will be little doubt that as time runs out until the Iranians get their nuke (the head of British intelligence said it would happen within two years), that defending Obama’s refusal to act to avert the threat may be the priority for his Jewish cheerleaders. But while this may bring them closer to the president after he abandoned their positions on the peace process, it will continue to place them outside of the pro-Israel mainstream.

The romance between J Street and Obama has not been as smooth as the group’s leaders once thought. When the president took office, J Street thought its role as his Jewish surrogate would lead them to supplant AIPAC in influence. But after three years of loyally supporting the president’s desire to distance the United States from the Jewish state and to hammer its government on settlements, borders and the division of Jerusalem, they have been sidelined by the administration’s Jewish charm offensive in 2012. J Street commands little support and less respect among the majority of American Jews, and the president’s speech to the AIPAC conference (the group that J Street once hoped to supplant) this year abandoned the stands J Street applauded.

Despite its pretense to mainstream status, Iran is just another issue about which J Street has carved out a position with which they have demonstrated how out of touch they are with both Israeli and American Jewish opinion. For most of the last four years, J Street refused to support tough sanctions on Iran. But now that the administration belatedly embraced this tactic, J Street is a true believer in sanctions.

Williams accepts at face value the predictions that a strike on Iran would only delay rather than end the Iranian threat. Even if that were true, a delay would be to Israel and the West’s advantage, but it’s far more likely that an unpopular regime under economic pressure would not have the resources or the will to reconstruct its nuclear project.

Even more absurd is Williams’ argument that the threat of force will deepen the Iranians’ resolve to go nuclear. The problem with the diplomatic track is that the opposite is true. After years of Western “engagement” and feckless diplomatic entreaties (a policy that was, to be fair, begun under George W. Bush but enthusiastically continued by Obama), the Iranians think they have nothing to fear from Washington. Their model is that of North Korea, which defied the West and eventually went nuclear despite the diplomatic breakthroughs American administrations thought they had achieved.

All this sets the stage for the next real debate about Iran that will follow after the November election. Though the president has said all the right things about wanting to stop the Iranians, the failure of his initiatives will leave him with two choices: use force or pretend diplomacy is still an action and keep talking until Tehran gets its nukes. The second option is something Israel rightly fears, but that may be exactly what J Street wants a re-elected Obama to do. Like its foolish calls for pressure on Israel to make concessions to a Palestinian Authority that doesn’t want to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, such a stand is neither “pro-Israel,” nor “pro-peace.”

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Top Dem Leaves DISCLOSE Act Vigil

After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.

Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.

Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.

Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”

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After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.

Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.

Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.

Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”

“Apparently the only thing more important for Sheldon Whitehouse than his all-night debate on the evils of money in politics was a fundraiser,” a Senate Republican aide emails.

The health care reform group that held the fundraiser is a nonprofit, so it wouldn’t be targeted by the DISCLOSE Act legislation anyway. The bill mainly targets super PACs, which, not coincidentally, have been used effectively by conservatives in recent elections. Still, Whitehouse could have at least waited until the day after his midnight vigil against political spending to attend any Washington fundraisers — if only to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy.

Once again, it appears the DISCLOSE Act is about restricting First Amendment rights and undermining conservative groups rather than expanding “transparency.”

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Channel U.S. Aid to Civil Society in Pakistan

Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute makes an important point in the Wall Street Journal: that, while Pakistan is increasingly in the grip of anti-Western military men and Islamists, there are large sectors of society that are more open to a liberal, pro-Western agenda. These range from the English-speaking elites to ethnic and religious minorities such as the Shi’ites, who are increasingly victimized by Sunni radicals.

I have previously suggested we should eliminate most aid to the Pakistani military, an institution that is actively sponsoring attacks on U.S. troops and our allies in Afghanistan. But that does not mean we should abandon Pakistan. Instead, we should channel our aid to civil society in Pakistan to try to build up a counterweight to the military.

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Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute makes an important point in the Wall Street Journal: that, while Pakistan is increasingly in the grip of anti-Western military men and Islamists, there are large sectors of society that are more open to a liberal, pro-Western agenda. These range from the English-speaking elites to ethnic and religious minorities such as the Shi’ites, who are increasingly victimized by Sunni radicals.

I have previously suggested we should eliminate most aid to the Pakistani military, an institution that is actively sponsoring attacks on U.S. troops and our allies in Afghanistan. But that does not mean we should abandon Pakistan. Instead, we should channel our aid to civil society in Pakistan to try to build up a counterweight to the military.

The situation is far from hopeless. As Dhume notes, “President Asif Ali Zardari’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party broadly stands for religious tolerance and a peaceful South Asia.” The problem is that Zardari has been ineffectual; policy on major issues, especially national security issues, is set by the military, not by the civilians who ostensibly rule.

The U.S. needs to do what it can to change that rather than relying primarily on military-to-military links as we have done ever since 9/11.

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First They Came For the Baha’is….

There is a common misconception that Iran’s restrictions on the right to worship freely apply only to members of the Baha’i religion. But while the Islamic republic has reserved the most vicious forms of persecution for the adherents of this gentle faith — whose numbers, according to some estimates, have dwindled from around 500,000 at the time of the 1979 revolution to just 150,000 now — the situation of Iranian Christians is little better.

Through its treatment of its Christian and Jewish minorities, Iran’s policies underscore that mythology behind the oft-heard claim that the followers of the “Abrahamic” faiths are accorded dignity and respect. Just last week, Iran’s millenarian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told an Islamic conference in Tehran that Islam is the only true religion, denying at the same time the divine provenance of both Judaism and Christianity. “My dear ones!” Ahmadinejad declared munificently, “Islam is a world religion and God has only one religion, that of Islam, he did not send Judaism or Christianity; Abraham was a harbinger of Islam, as were Moses and Jesus!”

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There is a common misconception that Iran’s restrictions on the right to worship freely apply only to members of the Baha’i religion. But while the Islamic republic has reserved the most vicious forms of persecution for the adherents of this gentle faith — whose numbers, according to some estimates, have dwindled from around 500,000 at the time of the 1979 revolution to just 150,000 now — the situation of Iranian Christians is little better.

Through its treatment of its Christian and Jewish minorities, Iran’s policies underscore that mythology behind the oft-heard claim that the followers of the “Abrahamic” faiths are accorded dignity and respect. Just last week, Iran’s millenarian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told an Islamic conference in Tehran that Islam is the only true religion, denying at the same time the divine provenance of both Judaism and Christianity. “My dear ones!” Ahmadinejad declared munificently, “Islam is a world religion and God has only one religion, that of Islam, he did not send Judaism or Christianity; Abraham was a harbinger of Islam, as were Moses and Jesus!”

The majority of Iran’s 300,000 Christians belong to established churches like the Armenian and the Assyrian; for the time being, their fate is to walk on eggshells around the regime, which means they can’t say or do anything that the mullahs might interpret as proselytizing. By contrast, it is open season on the followers of the smaller, evangelical denominations, all of whom risk being charged with the crime of moharebeh, or apostasy.

Arguably the best known victim of this charge is the 35 year-old Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who marked his 1,000th day of incarceration In Iran’s Lakan prison earlier this month. Nadarkhani, a leader of the evangelical Church of Iran who embraced Christianity as a child, has been given a choice: recant and return to Islam, or face the death sentence. So far, Nadarkhani has held firm.

Nadarkhani’s plight reflects a long-established pattern of harassment. In 1990, Pastor Hussein Soodman, like Nadarkhani a convert from Islam to Christianity, was executed after he repeatedly defied the regime’s insistence that he recant. Soodman’s execution set the tone for Iran’s future dealings with converts to Christianity; in the last year, as well as Nadarkhani, several other pastors have been locked behind by bars, charged with offenses ranging from “crimes against national security” to the life-threatening accusation of moharebeh.

What applies to these church leaders applies increasingly to their flocks. According to a report from ANS, a news service that highlights Christian persecution, Iranian Revolutionary Guards have closed down the Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran, along with a campsite that holds Bible study schools and conferences. In tandem, the regime has imposed the sorts of restrictions that will be familiar to those who remember the persecution of Jews in the old Soviet Union: prohibiting the distribution of the Bible and associated Christian literature; allowing only small numbers of worshippers to attend services; checking IDs before worshippers enter services, which is a surefire way of depleting attendance through fear; and preventing the conduct of services in the Farsi language.

A recent report on the treatment of Christian converts in Iran related the remark of an Iranian intelligence agent to the mother of two converts who were hauled away from their Tehran apartment for questioning: “Tell Jesus to come and rescue them.” One will probably not find a better statement of the regime’s true intent.

The reaction of western church leaders to the brazen demonization of Christianity in Iran has been typically nervous. Nadarkhani has been the subject of several press releases asking for clemency, but there is a clear reluctance to identify Iran’s strategy for what it is: the first stage of a campaign to eradicate Christianity from the country.

The “message of solidarity” issued by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu last month illustrates this problem well enough. Tutu, who is best known in recent years for franchising the word “apartheid” to adversaries of the State of Israel, was at pains to point out that the torture and imprisonment which Iranian Christians face does “not reflect the Muslim faith.” Given that the vast bulk of the 100 million Christians around the world facing persecution reside in Muslim countries, it would seem that the archbishop is denying himself a much-needed reality check. Should the Iranian regime carry out its commitment to execute Pastor Nadarkhani, Iranian Christians will need much more than Tutuesque platitudes to soothe their wretched existence.

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Will Romney Name His VP This Week?

The Associated Press is reporting that “Romney could name his running mate by the end of the week,” but it sounds like there’s less to this story than meets the eye:

Outside a Louisiana fundraiser on Monday, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney hadn’t finalized his decision but that an announcement could come within days.

Asked specifically whether Romney could announce his vice presidential pick this week, Fehrnstrom said: “Technically it could, but the governor hasn’t made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision.”

Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.

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The Associated Press is reporting that “Romney could name his running mate by the end of the week,” but it sounds like there’s less to this story than meets the eye:

Outside a Louisiana fundraiser on Monday, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney hadn’t finalized his decision but that an announcement could come within days.

Asked specifically whether Romney could announce his vice presidential pick this week, Fehrnstrom said: “Technically it could, but the governor hasn’t made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision.”

Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.

Fehrnstrom’s comments flatly contradict the New York Times report yesterday that suggested Romney already made his decision. And his disclaimer that an announcement could “technically” come this week doesn’t exactly sound promising. Technically it could happen whenever Romney makes the choice, but why announce it so soon? The one benefit is that it could take some of the heat away from Obama’s Bain Capital attacks, but the tradeoff is that it could also mean a smaller post-convention bounce in August. The attacks on Bain will likely be blunted by the Olympic coverage later this month anyway. If history is any guide, this doesn’t seem likely to happen.

But because we’re all just speculating here, Jim Geraghty has some constructive advice: watch the campaign plane.

The Olympics’ opening ceremony is July 27, and London-related headlines are likely to dominate the following weeks. Mid-August is traditionally America’s vacation time. And then there’s the August 27 deadline. So there’s a short window to announce in the coming two weeks, or sometime after the Olympics end August 12.

My suggestion? Keep your eyes on Romney’s campaign plane at night.

As far as tea leaves go, that may be the best we’re going to get.

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Yale Gives Class in Hypocrisy

The one-sided moral outrage of the Ivy Leagues–and in particular of my alma mater, Yale, where I received an MA in history–is a sight to behold. For decades, Yale and the other Ivies refused to host ROTC on campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. That stance was only reversed last year after the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet now Yale is opening its first-ever foreign campus in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore. This, in a country with an authoritarian political system that not only criminalizes homosexuality but even political protests and political speech.

Singapore is not the People’s Republic of China but nor is it Taiwan; it is rated by Freedom House as being only “partly free.” Freedom House notes: “Academics engage in political debate, but their publications rarely deviate from the government line on matters related to Singapore. The Societies Act restricts freedom of association by requiring most organizations of more than 10 people to register with the government, and only registered parties and associations may engage in organized political activity. Political speeches are tightly regulated, and public assemblies must be approved by police.” In keeping with this policy the new Yale campus “won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.”

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The one-sided moral outrage of the Ivy Leagues–and in particular of my alma mater, Yale, where I received an MA in history–is a sight to behold. For decades, Yale and the other Ivies refused to host ROTC on campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. That stance was only reversed last year after the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet now Yale is opening its first-ever foreign campus in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore. This, in a country with an authoritarian political system that not only criminalizes homosexuality but even political protests and political speech.

Singapore is not the People’s Republic of China but nor is it Taiwan; it is rated by Freedom House as being only “partly free.” Freedom House notes: “Academics engage in political debate, but their publications rarely deviate from the government line on matters related to Singapore. The Societies Act restricts freedom of association by requiring most organizations of more than 10 people to register with the government, and only registered parties and associations may engage in organized political activity. Political speeches are tightly regulated, and public assemblies must be approved by police.” In keeping with this policy the new Yale campus “won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.”

Moreover, as  Wikipedia notes, the Singapore armed forces discriminate against gays, who are grouped in a legal category known as Category 302, which applies to “homosexuals, transvestites, paedophiles, etc.” and further classified into those “with effeminate behavior” and those “without effeminate behavior.” Gays are put through modified basic military training and after graduation have severe restrictions on their military occupations, which limits their access to sensitive information.

Little wonder that many Yale professors are protesting the new campus. But Yale’s management appears not to care that the university is giving a graduate-level class in hypocrisy.

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Who Should Fund U.S. Muslim Groups?

Last week, the Washington Post profiled Zainab al-Suwaij, the founder and director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). Because she grew up under dictatorship and repression in Iraq and so understands the values which make America great, Zainab has always been outspoken in favor of moderation, individual liberty, women’s empowerment, and against the extremism preached so often by Saudi Arabia and Iran. While almost anyone who meets Zainab, be they in Iraq, Egypt, and the United States, becomes an admirer, the Post found one naysayer. “If AIC is surviving on U.S. money, then they have no legitimacy, especially if they came to the fore in the [George W.] Bush era,” Muqtedar Khan, a professor at the University of Delaware, said.

Khan’s statement is curious: Why should it be wrong for the AIC to compete for and, on occasion, to win U.S. grants? It’s not like an organization called the American Islamic Congress hides the American component. Nor does Khan indicate why Muslim groups should shy away from accepting American money but have no hesitation accepting Saudi cash, like the more radical Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society for North America (ISNA) do.

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Last week, the Washington Post profiled Zainab al-Suwaij, the founder and director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). Because she grew up under dictatorship and repression in Iraq and so understands the values which make America great, Zainab has always been outspoken in favor of moderation, individual liberty, women’s empowerment, and against the extremism preached so often by Saudi Arabia and Iran. While almost anyone who meets Zainab, be they in Iraq, Egypt, and the United States, becomes an admirer, the Post found one naysayer. “If AIC is surviving on U.S. money, then they have no legitimacy, especially if they came to the fore in the [George W.] Bush era,” Muqtedar Khan, a professor at the University of Delaware, said.

Khan’s statement is curious: Why should it be wrong for the AIC to compete for and, on occasion, to win U.S. grants? It’s not like an organization called the American Islamic Congress hides the American component. Nor does Khan indicate why Muslim groups should shy away from accepting American money but have no hesitation accepting Saudi cash, like the more radical Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society for North America (ISNA) do.

The ultimate irony is that Khan’s home institution, University of Delaware, has also accepted State Department money to run Middle East programs. If Saudi Arabia is a cash cow for organizations like CAIR and ISNA that often apologize for terrorism, shouldn’t organizations that take a more moderate tack and seek to promote both empowerment and respect for American values also have access to resources?

Perhaps it is time for Islamic advocacy organizations and universities to first and foremost foreswear foreign money. It does say a great deal about Suwaij that she’d rather compete for American grant money and also a great deal about her critics that they see Saudi money as less tainted.

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The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012…

…is not Mitt Romney’s handling of Bain Capital, or anything Mitt Romney has done. The biggest mistake was the one made by Barack Obama on Friday, when what you might call his now-familiar “Declaration of Interdependence” went completely off the rails. Obama’s “we’re all in this together” bit has been a feature of his speeches during the past year, as he cites the government-led activities that have made this country better—land-grant colleges and infrastructure and the social safety net. It sounds kind of uplifting, which is why he likes to say it, and it fits his general message of a country in which government plays a central role for the good of all.

But when he extended it to personal and private endeavor, the president revealed the danger of this message—to him.  ”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t even remotely true—if you’re a taxpayer and government funds were used to “make something happen,” then by definition you paid for it—it was profoundly stupid politically. In 2007, the last year for which we have data, according to the Census Bureau, there were 21.7 million businesses in the United States with no employees—meaning they were sole proprietorships, or free-lance businesses employing only their owner. Of the six million remaining businesses in the U.S., more than 3 million had 1 to 4 employees, and 1 million had 5 to 9. So, all in all, small businesses run by one person employing fewer than ten numbered an astonishing 25 million.

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…is not Mitt Romney’s handling of Bain Capital, or anything Mitt Romney has done. The biggest mistake was the one made by Barack Obama on Friday, when what you might call his now-familiar “Declaration of Interdependence” went completely off the rails. Obama’s “we’re all in this together” bit has been a feature of his speeches during the past year, as he cites the government-led activities that have made this country better—land-grant colleges and infrastructure and the social safety net. It sounds kind of uplifting, which is why he likes to say it, and it fits his general message of a country in which government plays a central role for the good of all.

But when he extended it to personal and private endeavor, the president revealed the danger of this message—to him.  ”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t even remotely true—if you’re a taxpayer and government funds were used to “make something happen,” then by definition you paid for it—it was profoundly stupid politically. In 2007, the last year for which we have data, according to the Census Bureau, there were 21.7 million businesses in the United States with no employees—meaning they were sole proprietorships, or free-lance businesses employing only their owner. Of the six million remaining businesses in the U.S., more than 3 million had 1 to 4 employees, and 1 million had 5 to 9. So, all in all, small businesses run by one person employing fewer than ten numbered an astonishing 25 million.

This is probably the matter of greatest pride for each and every one of the people who runs that business. He or she views himself or herself as a hard-working, go-getting, scrappy individualist. And it’s likely that many of them—many, many of them—are independent voters. Certainly that was the case 20 years ago when Ross Perot scored 20 percent of the vote, overwhelmingly from small businessmen who were angered by George H.W. Bush and yet couldn’t pull the lever for Bill Clinton. America is different demographically, but the class of people to whom Perot appealed is far larger than it was then.

And a man running for national office just said of their own businesses that they “didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” This statement is a colossal opportunity for Mitt Romney and will prove a suppurating wound for the president, who revealed a degree not only of condescension but of contempt for the very people who are going to decide this election.

And if there’s one thing people recognize, it’s when they are being viewed with contempt.

 

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