Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 31, 2012

Registration, Not ID Laws is Vote Obstacle

As part of their effort to derail voter ID laws, liberals treat it as a given that there is no such thing as voter fraud in this country any more. Doing so requires a leap of faith that requires one to ignore American political history as well as human nature, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from waiving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow in order to convince the public and the courts that what voter ID advocates are doing is a new form of discrimination. The New York Times editorial page has been in the forefront of those taking this disingenuous line of argument, but Ethan Bronner, their former Israel bureau chief, has written an interesting piece for their news pages that places the controversy in a more coherent frame of reference.

While not taking sides in the ID debate, Bronner mentions what many of those who have been saying about the need for voting integrity laws. The debacle of Florida in 2000 shows neither party trusts the other, and the closer the election the more likely it is that “chicanery” will be employed by one or both sides. Some of the arguments put forward by opponents of voter ID laws about large numbers of voters being disenfranchised are closer to myths than truths. He also points out that there may be large numbers of people voting in more than one state, as many are registered in two places. Most important, he gets at something–that those crying wolf about discrimination are ignoring the real problem: the need to put more effort into registering voters as most of those who might theoretically be excluded by voter ID laws have filed to register in the first place.

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As part of their effort to derail voter ID laws, liberals treat it as a given that there is no such thing as voter fraud in this country any more. Doing so requires a leap of faith that requires one to ignore American political history as well as human nature, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from waiving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow in order to convince the public and the courts that what voter ID advocates are doing is a new form of discrimination. The New York Times editorial page has been in the forefront of those taking this disingenuous line of argument, but Ethan Bronner, their former Israel bureau chief, has written an interesting piece for their news pages that places the controversy in a more coherent frame of reference.

While not taking sides in the ID debate, Bronner mentions what many of those who have been saying about the need for voting integrity laws. The debacle of Florida in 2000 shows neither party trusts the other, and the closer the election the more likely it is that “chicanery” will be employed by one or both sides. Some of the arguments put forward by opponents of voter ID laws about large numbers of voters being disenfranchised are closer to myths than truths. He also points out that there may be large numbers of people voting in more than one state, as many are registered in two places. Most important, he gets at something–that those crying wolf about discrimination are ignoring the real problem: the need to put more effort into registering voters as most of those who might theoretically be excluded by voter ID laws have filed to register in the first place.

In 2005, a bipartisan panel found that 140,000 Florida voters were also registered in other states. Some 60,000 people are also registered in both North and South Carolina. Liberal absentee voting laws have made it possible for these people to vote twice in a national election with no way, not even photo ID, to stop them from doing so. The commission, which was led by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, recommended, among other things, a paper trial for electronic voting machines as well as uniform voter ID requirements. As the executive director of the Carter-Baker commission mentions in the article, only half of eligible voters in the country are registered, and few of them lack photo IDs. The obstacle to voter participation in this country is registration, not a GOP plot to suppress the minority vote.

Both parties ought to follow the Carter-Baker recommendations and work to increase voter registration while also ensuring the integrity of the vote. So long as Democrats keep pretending there is no such thing as fraud, Republican suspicions that urban political machines are manufacturing false totals (such as the infamous results in some Philadelphia precincts where vote totals have exceeded the number of registered voters) or allowing felons or non-citizens to vote will fester. Instead of trying to re-open the wounds of the civil rights era via the Jim Crow canard, Democrats should be putting their energy behind voter registration programs that can ensure no one is disenfranchised and cheating is kept to a minimum.

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Will Congress Avert Defense Cuts?

Both parties have good reason to avoid another government shutdown standoff this fall, as the fiscal year ends a little more than a month before the election. Any hint of Republican obstructionism in the House will be used in anti-Romney attacks, and Senate Democrats won’t want to rock the boat so soon before Election Day. Roll Call reports both sides are nearing a compromise on a continuing resolution to fund the government for another six months, which they’ll vote on before the Sept. 30 deadline:

The announcement of a House-Senate deal to fund the government for the six months after Sept. 30 appeared imminent this afternoon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that any spending agreement would have to be at the $1.047 trillion level established by last year’s debt limit law. Current funding runs out at the end of the government’s fiscal year Sept. 30, and without new appropriations or a stopgap continuing resolution, the government would shut down. …

The continuing resolution could not be considered by either chamber until after the August recess, sources said, because the Congressional Budget Office would need time to score the proposal. In addition, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will need to provide Appropriations Committee staffers with lists of changes from the current spending levels called “anomalies” for inclusion in the measure.

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Both parties have good reason to avoid another government shutdown standoff this fall, as the fiscal year ends a little more than a month before the election. Any hint of Republican obstructionism in the House will be used in anti-Romney attacks, and Senate Democrats won’t want to rock the boat so soon before Election Day. Roll Call reports both sides are nearing a compromise on a continuing resolution to fund the government for another six months, which they’ll vote on before the Sept. 30 deadline:

The announcement of a House-Senate deal to fund the government for the six months after Sept. 30 appeared imminent this afternoon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that any spending agreement would have to be at the $1.047 trillion level established by last year’s debt limit law. Current funding runs out at the end of the government’s fiscal year Sept. 30, and without new appropriations or a stopgap continuing resolution, the government would shut down. …

The continuing resolution could not be considered by either chamber until after the August recess, sources said, because the Congressional Budget Office would need time to score the proposal. In addition, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will need to provide Appropriations Committee staffers with lists of changes from the current spending levels called “anomalies” for inclusion in the measure.

It’s not exactly happy news that Washington is going to take up another short-term spending agreement, but there really isn’t an alternative. Congress can’t even agree on an actual budget during a non-election year, and there’s no way anything is going to be accomplished in the politically-charged two months leading up to the election.

But there is one important provision that Congress can add to the continuing resolution, which could avert the automatic defense cuts under sequestration. Defense News reported on the option during the weekend:

Increasingly concerned that time is running out for the U.S. Congress to avoid $500 billion in automatic defense cuts, the Pentagon is assessing all options, including the possible implications of a one-year, $100 billion government-wide, “mini-sequester” deficit-reduction deal, Defense Department and industry sources said. …

Congress inserts language into a continuing resolution that delays sequestration another year or two when there is a less-heated political environment, but the government implements the first and perhaps second year of cuts, which some refer to as the “mini-sequester.”

The $100 billion in government-wide cuts seem far preferable to $500 billion in defense cuts alone. The one- or two-year window would also give Congress more time and a less-politicized atmosphere to come up with a plan to replace the automatic cuts.

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Romney’s Choice: Be Reagan, Not Nixon

In the last week, the Romney campaign got a taste of some of the same treatment from the mainstream media that has afflicted Republicans for decades. The GOP candidate’s foreign trip was widely lampooned. The substantive issues he discussed in Israel and Poland were buried underneath a torrent of ridicule because of his Olympics gaffe as well as the media’s blind acceptance of the false idea he had misspoken about the Palestinians. Some of the frustration of the Romney camp became visible today in Warsaw, when a staffer blew up as reporters shouted questions at the candidate as he left a wreath at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The irony is, as Politico reports, members of the media had their own beef with Romney because he has largely stiffed them on the trip, affording them virtually no opportunities to ask questions or interact with the man they are covering. There are some lessons to be learned here for the Romney campaign, though those in his camp may be too mad about the poor treatment their guy has gotten to pay attention. Nevertheless, now would be a good time for them to remember that while they cannot undo liberal media bias, there are better ways to cope with it. Indeed, the choice for every Republican or conservative is pretty much the same as it has always been. Romney can try and be a Ronald Reagan, and he and his team can present a positive face to the country and the media no matter how badly he’s treated, or he can be another Richard Nixon and scowl and fight with the press.

I think we all know which of those two scenarios will work out better, so here are four easy rules for coping with the problem of media bias that Romney and every Republican ought to follow:

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In the last week, the Romney campaign got a taste of some of the same treatment from the mainstream media that has afflicted Republicans for decades. The GOP candidate’s foreign trip was widely lampooned. The substantive issues he discussed in Israel and Poland were buried underneath a torrent of ridicule because of his Olympics gaffe as well as the media’s blind acceptance of the false idea he had misspoken about the Palestinians. Some of the frustration of the Romney camp became visible today in Warsaw, when a staffer blew up as reporters shouted questions at the candidate as he left a wreath at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The irony is, as Politico reports, members of the media had their own beef with Romney because he has largely stiffed them on the trip, affording them virtually no opportunities to ask questions or interact with the man they are covering. There are some lessons to be learned here for the Romney campaign, though those in his camp may be too mad about the poor treatment their guy has gotten to pay attention. Nevertheless, now would be a good time for them to remember that while they cannot undo liberal media bias, there are better ways to cope with it. Indeed, the choice for every Republican or conservative is pretty much the same as it has always been. Romney can try and be a Ronald Reagan, and he and his team can present a positive face to the country and the media no matter how badly he’s treated, or he can be another Richard Nixon and scowl and fight with the press.

I think we all know which of those two scenarios will work out better, so here are four easy rules for coping with the problem of media bias that Romney and every Republican ought to follow:

1. Gaffes are nobody’s fault but your own. Liberal bias cannot be wished away, but you can control how you act and what you say. It does no good to complain about the media when your candidate hands them his head on a silver platter. What Romney said about the London Olympics was probably true, but he ought to know better than to say so out loud in public.

2. The press may be the enemy, but walling yourself off from them isn’t going to make things better. It’s true that no presidential candidate was more inaccessible than Barack Obama was in 2008, and his press conferences since then have been few and far between, but any Republican who expects to be treated fairly isn’t smart enough to be president. Conservatives may have snickered at John McCain’s openness with the press in 2000 and during the 2008 primaries, but it worked–at least for a while. It may not be possible to do that under Romney’s current circumstances, but he should be prepared to expose himself more often to tough, even adversarial questions. It won’t be any easier when he squares off with Barack Obama in the October debates.

3. Smile and stay on message. Romney has had his moments of public irritation during the campaign, but in general, he has avoided meltdowns. While affable, he lacks the common touch that great politicians instinctively possess. This is not a fatal flaw, but he needs to make a greater effort to tell us what kind of person he is. Modern campaigns think they can bypass a biased media and address the public without the filter of the press, but that doesn’t remove an obligation to try and do better. Even if you believe, as Rush Limbaugh does, that some in the media are trying to create gaffes as much as report them, Romney will do better to show some humility and laugh at himself more often. That’s a tactic that can disarm even the nastiest of critics. Like it or not, the media still has a large audience, so it is Romney’s obligation to show the press he is as good a guy as those who know him say he is. And his staff needs to follow the same pattern.

4. The message, not the media, is what counts most. Right now, the Romney camp is fuming about what they think is the media’s sabotaging of his foreign tour. But he needs to remember that he didn’t go to Britain, Israel and Poland to play media games but to put his foreign policy agenda on display. Romney may have undermined that effort in Britain, but his speech in Israel on the Iranian threat and his acknowledgement that Jerusalem was the country’s capital was exactly what he needed to do. The Polish visit and the endorsement of Lech Walesa did the same. Instead of worrying about what the press is saying, the Romney camp needs to be showing confidence.

The bottom line is that no matter how raw a deal you’ve received, whining about media bias does nothing but make a candidate look weak and stupid. Republicans can’t alter liberal media bias, but they can rise above it. The sooner Romney’s camp realizes this and starts reading from Reagan’s playbook, the better off they’ll be.

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DOL: Delay Layoffs Until After Election

I’ve written before about the potential for a “November surprise” if the sequestration threat doesn’t get resolved before the election. The automatic cuts to the defense budget are set to go into effect on January 2, 2013, and federal law under the WARN Act required employers to give workers a minimum of 60 days notice before potential mass layoffs. That means layoff warning notices could go out to hundreds of thousands of workers just days before the presidential election.

Naturally, this poses some problems for the Obama campaign. Enter the Department of Labor, which released new guidelines this week telling states that it would be “inappropriate” to give workers 60 days advance notice in this situation, and basically asking them to ignore the employee protection laws under the WARN Act:

Although it is currently known that sequestration may occur, it is also known that efforts are being made to avoid sequestration. Thus, even the occurrence of sequestration is not necessarily foreseeable. In addition, the sequester’s impact on particular accounts will depend at least in part on Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding that Congress has not yet enacted. Perhaps more importantly, Federal agencies also have some discretion in how to implement the required reductions if sequestration were to occur. …

For these reasons, in the context of prospective across-the-board budget cuts under the BBEDCA, as amended by the BCA, WARN Act notice to employees of Federal contractors, including in the defense industry, is not required 60 days in advance of January 2, 2013, and would be inappropriate, given the lack of certainty about how the budget cuts will be implemented and the possibility that the sequester will be avoided before January.

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I’ve written before about the potential for a “November surprise” if the sequestration threat doesn’t get resolved before the election. The automatic cuts to the defense budget are set to go into effect on January 2, 2013, and federal law under the WARN Act required employers to give workers a minimum of 60 days notice before potential mass layoffs. That means layoff warning notices could go out to hundreds of thousands of workers just days before the presidential election.

Naturally, this poses some problems for the Obama campaign. Enter the Department of Labor, which released new guidelines this week telling states that it would be “inappropriate” to give workers 60 days advance notice in this situation, and basically asking them to ignore the employee protection laws under the WARN Act:

Although it is currently known that sequestration may occur, it is also known that efforts are being made to avoid sequestration. Thus, even the occurrence of sequestration is not necessarily foreseeable. In addition, the sequester’s impact on particular accounts will depend at least in part on Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding that Congress has not yet enacted. Perhaps more importantly, Federal agencies also have some discretion in how to implement the required reductions if sequestration were to occur. …

For these reasons, in the context of prospective across-the-board budget cuts under the BBEDCA, as amended by the BCA, WARN Act notice to employees of Federal contractors, including in the defense industry, is not required 60 days in advance of January 2, 2013, and would be inappropriate, given the lack of certainty about how the budget cuts will be implemented and the possibility that the sequester will be avoided before January.

This is an interesting about-face from the Department of Labor. In a statement yesterday, Sen. John McCain noted that the DOL previously argued that it has “no administrative or enforcement responsibility under [the WARN Act]” and “cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.” Funny how a looming election crisis for the Obama campaign can change all that.

As McCain wrote in his statement, this advisory is a direct affront to American workers:

“At a time when our economy continues to suffer from staggeringly high unemployment, the Obama administration today took away an important planning tool for Americans who may lose their jobs as a result of the failure of Congress and the White House to address the looming and entirely predictable threat of budget sequestration. Sequestration is currently the law of the land, and our nation’s workers have a right to know how these sequestration cuts which begin in January may impact them.”

It would also make it less likely that sequestration will be dealt with before November, as there would be less urgency if the administration didn’t have to worry about mass layoff notices impacting Obama’s election chances.

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Report: Precious Little Religious Freedom

Here’s a pretty gruesome story from Pakistan that began circulating yesterday:

At least 11 nurses, including three Christians, were poisoned at Civil Hospital Karachi for eating during Ramadan. During their afternoon break yesterday, the 11 nurses went to the hostel cafeteria for some tea and food. Rita, a Catholic nurse, collapsed first after drinking her tea. Now all the nurses are in the hospital’s intensive care unit, some in very serious conditions.

It was an appropriate day, then, for the State Department to publish its 2011 report on religious freedom around the globe. And the bottom line is that, throughout the Islamic world, as well as in the unreconstructed communist and authoritarian states, there’s precious little of it.

What kind of ranking does religious freedom hold in the conduct of American foreign policy? As of this morning, the State Department’s website had on prominent display the following declaration from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “For the United States, religious freedom is a cherished constitutional value, a strategic national interest, and a foreign policy priority.” No room for misinterpretation there, then.

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Here’s a pretty gruesome story from Pakistan that began circulating yesterday:

At least 11 nurses, including three Christians, were poisoned at Civil Hospital Karachi for eating during Ramadan. During their afternoon break yesterday, the 11 nurses went to the hostel cafeteria for some tea and food. Rita, a Catholic nurse, collapsed first after drinking her tea. Now all the nurses are in the hospital’s intensive care unit, some in very serious conditions.

It was an appropriate day, then, for the State Department to publish its 2011 report on religious freedom around the globe. And the bottom line is that, throughout the Islamic world, as well as in the unreconstructed communist and authoritarian states, there’s precious little of it.

What kind of ranking does religious freedom hold in the conduct of American foreign policy? As of this morning, the State Department’s website had on prominent display the following declaration from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “For the United States, religious freedom is a cherished constitutional value, a strategic national interest, and a foreign policy priority.” No room for misinterpretation there, then.

The report does shine much needed light on the serial violators of religious freedom. Pakistan, for example, features prominently in the report’s executive summary, which notes the assassination of two politicians who criticized the country’s draconian blasphemy law – one of them, Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, was the only Christian in the cabinet – and the continuing imprisonment of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who is facing a death sentence for blasphemy. Other countries singled out in the executive summary include Iran, where the Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani still faces a death sentence arising from the charge of blasphemy, and where seven leaders of the embattled Baha’i minority remain incarcerated on trumped up accusations of spying for Israel; Indonesia, another state where Christians are being imprisoned under a blasphemy law; China, where Buddhists in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in the restive province of Xinjiang are subjected to all sorts of discrimination and harassment; and North Korea, where, the report states simply and accurately, “religious freedom does not exist in any form.”

The report also discusses what it terms “a rising tide of anti-Semitism.” In a welcome riposte to those who argue that anything short of an expletive-ridden denunciation of Jews isn’t really anti-Semitism, the report explains that in countries like Egypt and Iran, anti-Semitic agitation works hand-in-hand with opposition to Zionism and Israel. Instructively, the report mentions “Holocaust denial, glorification, and relativism” (my emphasis) as manifestations of anti-Semitism. This last word refers to the execrable habit of Arab propagandists and western leftists of comparing Israeli policies with the Nazi Holocaust.

Still, the report does pull its punches in certain key areas. Reading the section on Afghanistan, you would never know that American and allied troops have been present there for more than a decade, nor that President Obama has still to spell out what the “new chapter” in U.S.-Afghan relations which he promised in May will actually involve, especially once the U.S. withdraws in full by the end of 2014.

In its section on Nigeria, the report buries the enormous threat posed by Boko Haram, an Islamist terror group whose name is Hausa for “western education is a sin.” It asserts that “Boko Haram has likely killed more Muslims than Christians, since its primary bases of operation have existed in the predominately Muslim North.” That statement may be true, but it misses two important points:  firstly, that there is an established global pattern demonstrating that other Muslims are the main victims of Islamist terrorists, and secondly, that Boko Haram sets out to kill Christians along with other members of non-Muslim faiths. The most yawning gap of all concerns Boko Haram’s status here in the United States: the Obama administration is still refusing to designate the group as a terrorist organization, citing its apparent lack of homogeneity as the reason.

Turkey, too, is treated with kid gloves. The report praises the Islamist government of Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan for issuing “a decree facilitating the return of property confiscated from religious community foundations in the past.” However, according to Open Doors, an American organization that monitors the persecution of Christians worldwide, Turkey stands at number 31 on its watch list of 50 countries, hardly evidence of the “improvements” which the report claims have been implemented.

Further afield, the report notes that the “influential” Jewish community in Venezuela numbers 9,000, but fails to mention that its Jewish population has plummeted by 50 percent during the past decade, largely because of the anti-Semitism stoked by the regime of Hugo Chavez. Nor is there any investigation of the claim the Venezuelan authorities required the Jewish community to obtain special sanitary permits for the importation of matzo for the Passover holiday.

In its conclusion, the report says that the “United States was active around the world promoting religious freedom,” before citing a vague list of meetings, conferences, and small grants to local advocates of religious tolerance. None of this will exactly have the tyrants shaking in their boots. And one wonders what the report will have to say in 2013, when we will have a better chance to assess whether the policy of constructive engagement with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has paid off. Or not.

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Did Twitter Alert NBC to Critical Tweets?

The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent Guy Adams — an outspoken critic of NBC’s Olympic coverage — is claiming he was unfairly censored after he had his Twitter account shut down for tweeting an NBC executive’s corporate email address. The tweet allegedly violated Twitter’s rules, and Adams was suspended after NBC filed an official complaint.

But NBC’s communication shop is now telling the Telegraph that Twitter actually contacted NBC about Adams’ tweet, and guided them through the complaint process.

Why would this matter? Because Twitter and NBC inked a partnership over Olympic coverage that began just last week. And it has some wondering whether that relationship led Twitter to shut down Adams’ criticism of their Olympic coverage:

One of the tweets urged his followers to send their views to Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. Adams subsequently published Zenkel’s corporate email address and a complaint was filed by NBC.

But in an email to the Daily Telegraph, Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sport’s vice-president of communications, said Twitter had actually contacted the network’s social media department to alert them to Adams’ tweets.

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The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent Guy Adams — an outspoken critic of NBC’s Olympic coverage — is claiming he was unfairly censored after he had his Twitter account shut down for tweeting an NBC executive’s corporate email address. The tweet allegedly violated Twitter’s rules, and Adams was suspended after NBC filed an official complaint.

But NBC’s communication shop is now telling the Telegraph that Twitter actually contacted NBC about Adams’ tweet, and guided them through the complaint process.

Why would this matter? Because Twitter and NBC inked a partnership over Olympic coverage that began just last week. And it has some wondering whether that relationship led Twitter to shut down Adams’ criticism of their Olympic coverage:

One of the tweets urged his followers to send their views to Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. Adams subsequently published Zenkel’s corporate email address and a complaint was filed by NBC.

But in an email to the Daily Telegraph, Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sport’s vice-president of communications, said Twitter had actually contacted the network’s social media department to alert them to Adams’ tweets.

Some of are framing this as a free speech issue, but it’s really not. Twitter is run by a private company and has the right to suspend users from its platform. Adams, a newspaper correspondent, obviously has other outlets he can use to exercise his speech rights.

Of course, Twitter would also damage its own reputation if it decided not to reinstate Adams. Which is probably the most confusing part of this whole story. Guy Adams isn’t exactly a household name, and while his criticism of the Olympic coverage may have been an annoyance for NBC and Twitter, 99 percent of their audience probably never heard any of it. Would Twitter really risk its public image by shutting him down without cause? Or was this an honest concern about rules violations?

The company has said in the past that it “strive[s] not to remove tweets on the basis of their content.” Strives is the key word. Most Twitter users would probably be uneasy with the idea of Twitter targeting critics of its business interests, if it turns out that was what happened here. Either way, this is a reminder of what Twitter is and what it isn’t. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Twitter isn’t just a giant, unbridled chat room full of everyone you know; it’s a private company-run community with limits, and the rules may not always be enforced evenly across the board.

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The Dinkins Effect in the Presidential Race

Andrew Malcolm at Investors Business Daily has an interesting column on whether those who are telling pollsters they intend to vote for the president really are going to do so. The vast majority of them surely will, of course. But politics, like baseball, is a game of inches. If only two percent of those saying they will vote for Obama go into the voting booth and vote for Romney instead, that’s a four-percent shift, turning a comfortable 52-48 win into a 48-52 loss. If they simply stay home, that turns 52-48 into 50-50.

There are numerous signs the Obama campaign is very, very worried. His fundraising has not been the money machine it was in 2008, despite Obama’s burning out the engines of Air Force One going, hat in hand, from one group of fat cats to another. He is running through the money he does raise at a furious pace, mostly running negative ads in toss-up states. He is trying to shore up his base rather than reaching out to the center as he would if his base were secure. That doesn’t bear much resemblance to Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” campaign of 1984, does it? There are even those who say Wall Street’s recent climb, despite very gloomy economic news, is due to a growing conviction on the Street that Obama is toast.

And yet pollsters all have the race tight as a tick, as Karl Rove terms it. What’s going on?

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Andrew Malcolm at Investors Business Daily has an interesting column on whether those who are telling pollsters they intend to vote for the president really are going to do so. The vast majority of them surely will, of course. But politics, like baseball, is a game of inches. If only two percent of those saying they will vote for Obama go into the voting booth and vote for Romney instead, that’s a four-percent shift, turning a comfortable 52-48 win into a 48-52 loss. If they simply stay home, that turns 52-48 into 50-50.

There are numerous signs the Obama campaign is very, very worried. His fundraising has not been the money machine it was in 2008, despite Obama’s burning out the engines of Air Force One going, hat in hand, from one group of fat cats to another. He is running through the money he does raise at a furious pace, mostly running negative ads in toss-up states. He is trying to shore up his base rather than reaching out to the center as he would if his base were secure. That doesn’t bear much resemblance to Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” campaign of 1984, does it? There are even those who say Wall Street’s recent climb, despite very gloomy economic news, is due to a growing conviction on the Street that Obama is toast.

And yet pollsters all have the race tight as a tick, as Karl Rove terms it. What’s going on?

I think what I call the Dinkins effect is in operation. David Dinkins was the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York in 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the primary. His Republican opponent was Rudy Giuliani. The polls all showed Dinkins well ahead, but he won the race only narrowly. In 1993, there was the same match-up. The polls all showed Dinkins (who had a lousy record as mayor) as narrowly ahead. Giuliani won in a walk. The reason the polls were so wrong, I think, was because Dinkins is black and some people were simply unwilling to say, even to a pollster, they were voting against the black guy. Racism is nearly extinct in this country, but the fear of being thought racist is pervasive, and the willingness of some people on the left to play the race card apparent.

Could that be why President Obama has high ratings in polls asking about his “likeability”? My dislike of his politics probably clouds my judgment somewhat, but I don’t find him likeable at all. He’s arrogant, often mean-spirited, sometimes downright nasty. He avoids taking responsibility for failure but takes all the credit for success. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor that I can see. He’s, well, chilly. I don’t like Bill Clinton’s politics much either, but I’m sure I’d have a great time having dinner with him some night. He may be left-of-center and more than a bit of a scoundrel in his personal life, but likeable he most certainly is. Obama, simply, is not.

Also, of course, a lot of people might be unwilling to admit they think they were sold a bills of goods in 2008 by a political flim-flam man. No one likes to admit they were cheated. So they say they’re voting for Obama but then won’t.

I’d certainly advise the Romney campaign to ignore all this speculation. No one ever lost a political race because they assumed they were ten points behind and acted accordingly.

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Mitt Finds Solidarity in Poland

Polish Anti-Communist and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa embraced Mitt Romney’s candidacy during his visit to Poland this week, but later added that Romney has to work a bit on his charisma. Still, it’s a pretty good pickup for the Romney campaign:

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa said through a translator. “Gov. Romney, get your success. Be successful!”

The endorsement of a U.S. presidential challenger, unusual in its boldness, was particularly eyebrow-raising in light of Walesa’s refusal to meet with Obama on his visit to Poland one year ago.

Lech Walesa has had a fairly public feud with Obama, so this won’t come as a total surprise. Last month, the White House rejected requests from Polish officials that Walesa accept the President’s Medal of Freedom for the late Jan Karski, who was honored posthumously for his activism with the Polish Underground and testimony about the Holocaust. The reason? Walesa was apparently “too political,” according to the administration. The Nobel Peace recipient has also criticized Obama’s policies and declined to meet with the president during one of his visits to Poland.

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Polish Anti-Communist and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa embraced Mitt Romney’s candidacy during his visit to Poland this week, but later added that Romney has to work a bit on his charisma. Still, it’s a pretty good pickup for the Romney campaign:

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa said through a translator. “Gov. Romney, get your success. Be successful!”

The endorsement of a U.S. presidential challenger, unusual in its boldness, was particularly eyebrow-raising in light of Walesa’s refusal to meet with Obama on his visit to Poland one year ago.

Lech Walesa has had a fairly public feud with Obama, so this won’t come as a total surprise. Last month, the White House rejected requests from Polish officials that Walesa accept the President’s Medal of Freedom for the late Jan Karski, who was honored posthumously for his activism with the Polish Underground and testimony about the Holocaust. The reason? Walesa was apparently “too political,” according to the administration. The Nobel Peace recipient has also criticized Obama’s policies and declined to meet with the president during one of his visits to Poland.

But ABC wonders whether Walesa’s endorsement of Romney is also a reflection of Polish feelings toward Obama:

So what impact will Walesa’s embrace of Romney have on the 2012 presidential race? Little, experts say, although it does symbolize a real sense of discontentment among many Poles and Polish-Americans over Obama’s handling of the bilateral alliance during his term.

“This is a powerful statement on Polish relations with the U.S. right now,” Alex Storozynski, president of the Kosciuszko Foundation, a nonpartisan Polish educational and cultural group, said of the Walesa endorsement.  “Poles in Poland are frustrated with the Obama administration.”

They certainly have reason to be frustrated. Obama has reneged on missile defense, blindly pursued the Russian “reset,” and failed to honor a campaign promise to add Poland to a list of visa waiver countries. Some of this outrage boiled over recently after Obama’s “Polish death camp” remark. Walesa’s bold endorsement of Romney is only the latest indication of Obama’s declining popularity in Poland.

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WaPo Finds Israel, Reality “Puzzling”

The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson has published his account of Mitt Romney’s trip abroad, focusing on the GOP candidate’s time in Israel. It is an editorial disguised as a story–common for presidential campaigns–and includes snarky asides unworthy of lefty blog posts, let alone newspaper reporting. But the crux of the problem for Wilson is identified in the headline: he calls Romney’s comments about Palestinian culture “puzzling.” Because he does not quote anyone in the story calling those comments “puzzling,” it’s clear from the context that Wilson is the puzzled one.

So let’s help him out a bit. Of Romney’s comments on Palestinian culture as one factor in the lagging Palestinian economy, Wilson writes:

The assessment is one not widely shared within Israel, and suggested a lack of sustained study or nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Wilson does not provide any attribution to back that statement up, probably because it is demonstrably false. It is, in fact, quite easy to find those in Israel and their democratically-elected government officials expressing this idea. But perhaps we should ask the Palestinians what they think. In 1994, at the beginning of the Oslo process but decades after the Six-Day War created the current geopolitical setting, Eyad El-Sarraj, the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, wrote the following:

Palestinians have to address taboos and bring into the open ideological, cultural and political weaknesses which have infiltrated their national movement and seriously damaged their individual and collective awareness. They have to address their dependency on the outside world, their self-indulgent image of the victim, their own cycle of violence and oppression, their conflict between religious and secular identity, and the erosion of their national identity. Above all they have to confront the loss of the dream of liberating all of Palestine and the accompanying grief. They will have to exercise democratic debate and respect the right to oppose. Only then will a new style of political and community leadership evolve.

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The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson has published his account of Mitt Romney’s trip abroad, focusing on the GOP candidate’s time in Israel. It is an editorial disguised as a story–common for presidential campaigns–and includes snarky asides unworthy of lefty blog posts, let alone newspaper reporting. But the crux of the problem for Wilson is identified in the headline: he calls Romney’s comments about Palestinian culture “puzzling.” Because he does not quote anyone in the story calling those comments “puzzling,” it’s clear from the context that Wilson is the puzzled one.

So let’s help him out a bit. Of Romney’s comments on Palestinian culture as one factor in the lagging Palestinian economy, Wilson writes:

The assessment is one not widely shared within Israel, and suggested a lack of sustained study or nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Wilson does not provide any attribution to back that statement up, probably because it is demonstrably false. It is, in fact, quite easy to find those in Israel and their democratically-elected government officials expressing this idea. But perhaps we should ask the Palestinians what they think. In 1994, at the beginning of the Oslo process but decades after the Six-Day War created the current geopolitical setting, Eyad El-Sarraj, the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, wrote the following:

Palestinians have to address taboos and bring into the open ideological, cultural and political weaknesses which have infiltrated their national movement and seriously damaged their individual and collective awareness. They have to address their dependency on the outside world, their self-indulgent image of the victim, their own cycle of violence and oppression, their conflict between religious and secular identity, and the erosion of their national identity. Above all they have to confront the loss of the dream of liberating all of Palestine and the accompanying grief. They will have to exercise democratic debate and respect the right to oppose. Only then will a new style of political and community leadership evolve.

Last year, Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem were asked, in a final peace deal in which all Israeli control and stewardship over the West Bank would cease and the new Palestinian state called East Jerusalem its sovereign capital, would they rather be citizens of Israel or Palestine? Respondents were also asked if they would move elsewhere in Israel specifically to avoid having to live under Palestinian rule. A plurality responded in favor of Israeli citizenship, even if they had to move. Why?

When asked to provide the top reasons they chose one citizenship over the other, those who chose Israeli citizenship stressed freedom of movement in Israel, higher income, better job opportunities and Israeli health insurance.

So there would be much more economic opportunity in Israel, even once the Palestinians were freed from the “occupation.” We could go on, but you get the point. As I said: Wilson’s claim is demonstrably false, as Professor Google would have told him immediately. Does Wilson quote anyone at all in the story, you ask? Yes he does:

“This really is an election about the economy,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, a nonprofit organization that promotes a two-state solution to the conflict.

Now, Ibish is a prolific Mideast commentator and has every right to register his opinion with reporters. But perhaps Ibish could have been balanced with an additional quote from someone with a slightly different perspective on ethnic conflict. After all, this is what Ibish thinks of Israel:

The system of ethnic discrimination imposed by military force and Israel’s “civil administration” in the occupied territories is by far the most extreme form of discriminatory abuse anywhere in the world today.

And you thought Darfur was bad! In any case, Wilson doesn’t need to quote a lot of “experts,” because he just offers his opinions. Here is a paragraph that belongs in the Newseum:

Romney’s advisers have argued that Obama — who ended the Iraq war, ordered the operation that killed Osama bin Laden and emphasized alliances at a time of austerity at home — is vulnerable in the area of foreign policy. Recent polling disagrees.

Wilson does not put quotes around that paragraph nor attribute it to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Perhaps that will be added to an updated version of the story. Until then, we can only hope the Post finds the Middle East slightly less puzzling in the future.

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House GOP Releases First F&F Report

The House Oversight Committee is holding five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials responsible in the Fast and Furious operation failures, according to a draft report released last night:

The report determined that five officials in the ATF were responsible, ranging from a former low-ranking special agent to the former acting head of the agency. Congressional investigators called attention to the weak leadership at the ATF and pushed for the agency to be strengthened.

“Strong leadership is needed at ATF to overcome the deep scars left by Operation Fast and Furious,” the report states. “Greater accountability within ATF would underscore that ineffective supervision and recklessness both have consequences.”

Specifically, the report pins blame on former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

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The House Oversight Committee is holding five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials responsible in the Fast and Furious operation failures, according to a draft report released last night:

The report determined that five officials in the ATF were responsible, ranging from a former low-ranking special agent to the former acting head of the agency. Congressional investigators called attention to the weak leadership at the ATF and pushed for the agency to be strengthened.

“Strong leadership is needed at ATF to overcome the deep scars left by Operation Fast and Furious,” the report states. “Greater accountability within ATF would underscore that ineffective supervision and recklessness both have consequences.”

Specifically, the report pins blame on former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

The Hill reports that all five of these officials have been reassigned to other positions. But this oversight report is just the beginning. There are two more reports set to be released, which will both deal with the Department of Justice directly. According to The Hill, the next one will be focused on the deputy attorney general’s office, and the third one will address the failings at the top level of the attorney general’s office and AG Eric Holder. The point of the staggered release may be to give Obama time to back down on executive privilege, Allahpundit writes:

The point of this leak, I assume, is to give Obama one last chance to drop his executive privilege claim over the DOJ documents that [Rep. Darrell] Issa wants to see. (The LAT quotes the report as saying it’s based on “the best information available as of now.”) If he does that, then the report will be held back while GOP investigators go through the new evidence. If he doesn’t do it, then the GOP can argue that there must be nothing in those e-mails that exculpates any of the five guys they’ve named.

Anybody think there’s a chance of this happening? Me neither.

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The Nanny State vs. New Moms

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows what’s best for you. He knows how much salt and saturated fat you should cook with and eat, how much soda you should drink, and now, he can even dispense medical advice to nursing mothers! During the weekend, New York City announced that starting September 3rd, the city will enact the most restrictive and pro-breast feeding program in the country.

New mothers who want to feed their newborn babies formula in the hospital will now need to document a medical reason every single time they want their child fed. Newborns are fed about every two to three hours, which means every time a baby in a hospital needs a feeding, a doctor needs to be tracked down to give medical authorization to dispense something that can be bought over the counter anywhere in the world.

Everyone knows that “the breast is best” – the benefits of breast milk are well-documented and without a doubt the healthiest option for newborn babies. There are, however, many reasons why a new mother may choose to opt for formula. Mothers, and sometimes their doctors, make the decision that is best for all parties involved. There is no harm in providing a baby with formula, and given any number of possible medical issues, it is sometimes the only option. Doctors and their time, already in short supply, will now be stretched even more thin as they are forced to involve themselves in the private decisions of their patients every two-three hours when a newborn is fed.

Bloomberg has proven in his tenure as mayor that he doesn’t trust New Yorkers to make the right decision for themselves and their families. It seems “my body, my choice” only applies to women’s reproductive decisions while a baby is in utero. From the moment that child emerges from the birth canal, Nanny Bloomberg takes over.

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Poverty and Politics

According to a story in the Associated Press, “the ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century.” The story goes on to say that poverty, which is closely tied to joblessness, “is spreading at record levels across many groups.” (The most recent poverty rates are from 2010; Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall.)

According to demographers:

  • Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels — 15 percent to 16 percent — will last at least until 2014.
  • Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011.
  • Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15 percent poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high.
  • Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010.

As the election nears — it is now less than 100 days away — the issue of poverty in America will hopefully play a somewhat more central role. It’s perfectly appropriate for candidates of both parties, and at all levels, to focus on the plight of the middle class. But while the effects of the Great Recession, combined with the worst recovery on record, have taken their toll on every strata in American society, it is the poor who suffer disproportionately. (I understand that the definition of poor is subjective and that what qualifies as poor in America qualifies as extravagant wealth in, say, parts of Africa.)

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According to a story in the Associated Press, “the ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century.” The story goes on to say that poverty, which is closely tied to joblessness, “is spreading at record levels across many groups.” (The most recent poverty rates are from 2010; Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall.)

According to demographers:

  • Poverty will remain above the pre-recession level of 12.5 percent for many more years. Several predicted that peak poverty levels — 15 percent to 16 percent — will last at least until 2014.
  • Suburban poverty, already at a record level of 11.8 percent, will increase again in 2011.
  • Part-time or underemployed workers, who saw a record 15 percent poverty in 2010, will rise to a new high.
  • Child poverty will increase from its 22 percent level in 2010.

As the election nears — it is now less than 100 days away — the issue of poverty in America will hopefully play a somewhat more central role. It’s perfectly appropriate for candidates of both parties, and at all levels, to focus on the plight of the middle class. But while the effects of the Great Recession, combined with the worst recovery on record, have taken their toll on every strata in American society, it is the poor who suffer disproportionately. (I understand that the definition of poor is subjective and that what qualifies as poor in America qualifies as extravagant wealth in, say, parts of Africa.)

When he was the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, William Bennett — in pointing out that illegal drugs inflicted more harm on the underclass than any other group — used an earthquake that shook California in 1989 to make this point. Few people knew that the earthquake that hit the Bay area was more powerful than the one that hit Mexico City a few years earlier. Why? Because the casualties were much higher and the overall damage was much worse in Mexico City. The reason, Bennett said, is that when the earth shakes, the devastation often depends less on the magnitude of the quake than on the stability of the structure on which you stand.

As a general matter, the wealthy have more stable structures than the middle class, and the middle class have more stable structures than the poor. I’m not arguing that the poor ought to occupy all or even most of the attention of the political class. But those in the shadows of society should become an object of all of our attention.

A decent society, including its political leadership, should be judged in part on how well we treat the weak and the disadvantaged. That isn’t the only criterion that should be used, but it ought to matter. And so as the election draws near, the American people should judge those running for public office based in some measure on who has the best plan to assist the poor in terms of their material well-being and in helping equip them to lead lives of independence, achievement, and dignity. I’m one of those who believe that conservative policies – in economics, education, welfare, crime, and heath care, as well as in strengthening civil society and our mediating institutions — offer the greatest hope and opportunity to those who are most marginalized.

Here’s the thing, though: conservatives have to make that case. No one else will.

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Palestinians Choose Resistance Over Economic Improvement

Here is a follow-up to my item yesterday about Mitt Romney and his comments about Palestinian culture in order to clarify some of the debate swirling on Twitter and the Internet. I want to make a couple of things clear: I was in no way disparaging the entrepreneurial and educational achievements of the Palestinian people, whose record in building human capital is among the most impressive in the Arab world. Nor was I claiming that Israeli security restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip play no role whatsoever in retarding Palestinian economic development. Obviously, they do. But even here Palestinian culture (and institutions) are, I believe, ultimately to blame.

Israel is not restricting movement in and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip because it wants to play the role of colonial occupier or believes it has a duty to rule the benighted Palestinian people. The vast majority of Israelis are happy to give up any claims to rule in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and to acknowledge the Palestinians’ right to statehood. Indeed, in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to cede upwards of 95 percent of the West Bank, part of Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip to Palestinian rule. As we know, Yasir Arafat refused to take the deal.

Why? Much of the explanation may be found in Arafat’s character: shaped by a “resistance” struggle, he was unwilling to beat swords into ploughshares and become the president of a small, impoverished state with little claim on the world’s attention. But part of the explanation can also be found in the Palestinians’ dysfunctional political culture which they share in common with much of the Arab world–a culture that elevates grand gestures (such as “resistance”) over mundane realities such as improving economic life, and a culture that is so deeply impregnated with anti-Semitism it is simply unimaginable for most Palestinians to give up the “right of return” and truly accept they will never win back by force the land now occupied by the “Zionists.” Arafat was said to fear that if he actually gave up the struggle, he would not be long for this world, and he may have been right–look at the fate of Sadat.

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Here is a follow-up to my item yesterday about Mitt Romney and his comments about Palestinian culture in order to clarify some of the debate swirling on Twitter and the Internet. I want to make a couple of things clear: I was in no way disparaging the entrepreneurial and educational achievements of the Palestinian people, whose record in building human capital is among the most impressive in the Arab world. Nor was I claiming that Israeli security restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip play no role whatsoever in retarding Palestinian economic development. Obviously, they do. But even here Palestinian culture (and institutions) are, I believe, ultimately to blame.

Israel is not restricting movement in and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip because it wants to play the role of colonial occupier or believes it has a duty to rule the benighted Palestinian people. The vast majority of Israelis are happy to give up any claims to rule in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and to acknowledge the Palestinians’ right to statehood. Indeed, in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to cede upwards of 95 percent of the West Bank, part of Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip to Palestinian rule. As we know, Yasir Arafat refused to take the deal.

Why? Much of the explanation may be found in Arafat’s character: shaped by a “resistance” struggle, he was unwilling to beat swords into ploughshares and become the president of a small, impoverished state with little claim on the world’s attention. But part of the explanation can also be found in the Palestinians’ dysfunctional political culture which they share in common with much of the Arab world–a culture that elevates grand gestures (such as “resistance”) over mundane realities such as improving economic life, and a culture that is so deeply impregnated with anti-Semitism it is simply unimaginable for most Palestinians to give up the “right of return” and truly accept they will never win back by force the land now occupied by the “Zionists.” Arafat was said to fear that if he actually gave up the struggle, he would not be long for this world, and he may have been right–look at the fate of Sadat.

If Palestinian political institutions–which, as I noted, are dominated by corrupt opportunists and ideological fanatics–were to change and moderates such as Salam Fayyad were to be truly in charge (rather than to be unpopular and marginalized, as is presently the case), then any Israeli government, even one dominated by Likud, would be willing to do even more to lift the security restrictions which Palestinians claim impede their economic development. So at the end of the day, Palestinian culture really does account for their impoverishment in spite of the tremendous success enjoyed by many individual Palestinians, especially those who have emigrated to other countries, and in spite of the vast amounts of foreign aid which has poured in to help them.

So too, Israeli culture helps to explain its success in spite of facing unremitting hostility from all of its neighbors since the day of its birth (which has forced it to spend a far higher share of GDP on defense than the U.S. or other Western countries) and in spite of its almost total lack of mineral wealth. It is not so much Israeli economic culture that explains its enduring success because, until fairly recently, Israel has had a backward socialist economy. Nor is it even the Israelis’ willingness to work hard–Palestinians work hard, too.

What is more important, I believe, is a factor identified by Francis Fukuyama–the level of “trust” in a society. Israelis have been willing, when push comes to shove, to pull together for the common good in a way that Palestinians, who have always been riven by clan and political rivalries, have not. Israeli political culture has also been resolutely democratic, and this, I believe, is the ultimate secret of its success–it is inconceivable that the egalitarian Israelis would have tolerated the rule of a strutting authoritarian like Arafat. Israeli political culture demanded that “resistance” fighters like Begin and Shamir put down the gun and compete for votes like normal politicians. The Palestinians have never, even now, demanded this of their leaders–or at least not made the demand stick–and they will continue to pay a heavy price for elevating “resistance” over economic opportunity.

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Panetta’s Pathetic Plea for Inaction on Iran

The chattering classes are chortling today about the latest supposed mistake by Mitt Romney in which he is being condemned for telling the truth about the corrupt and violent political and economic culture of the Palestinians. Meanwhile in Tunisia, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta committed the real gaffe of the week when he told a credulous traveling press corps that the administration’s effort to get Iran to abandon its drive for nuclear weapons was working even if it didn’t look like it. As the New York Times reports:

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran.” He added that “while the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment,” the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they “continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution.”

Translation: We know Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is right when he says the sanctions aren’t doing a thing to make the Iranians change their minds and the Iranians know that we know. But as long as Tehran is willing to pretend to negotiate, we will pretend along with them because our main goal is to prevent Israel from trying to actually do something about this deadly threat. And if this makes it clear that all we are trying to do is to kick the can down the road until after the presidential election when we might have more “flexibility” to do a deal with the Iranians, then don’t believe your lying ears and eyes.

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The chattering classes are chortling today about the latest supposed mistake by Mitt Romney in which he is being condemned for telling the truth about the corrupt and violent political and economic culture of the Palestinians. Meanwhile in Tunisia, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta committed the real gaffe of the week when he told a credulous traveling press corps that the administration’s effort to get Iran to abandon its drive for nuclear weapons was working even if it didn’t look like it. As the New York Times reports:

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran.” He added that “while the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment,” the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they “continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution.”

Translation: We know Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is right when he says the sanctions aren’t doing a thing to make the Iranians change their minds and the Iranians know that we know. But as long as Tehran is willing to pretend to negotiate, we will pretend along with them because our main goal is to prevent Israel from trying to actually do something about this deadly threat. And if this makes it clear that all we are trying to do is to kick the can down the road until after the presidential election when we might have more “flexibility” to do a deal with the Iranians, then don’t believe your lying ears and eyes.

Congress is still arguing about trying to close up the gaping loopholes in the sanctions that have been exacerbated by the administration’s promiscuous granting of waivers that have served to sustain the Iranian economy. Under these circumstances and with Iran showing no signs of buckling, the notion that economic pressure will be enough to resolve the problem is without foundation. Of course, it is “not obvious at the moment” that sanctions are working because it is more than obvious they are not.

As for the Iranians’ willingness to negotiate, it is difficult to understand how even a veteran politician like Panetta can say this with a straight face. Of course, they are willing to keep talking with the West. Iran has been negotiating for years because they know that as long as they do so they can continue making progress toward their nuclear goal.

As the collapse of the P5+1 talks this summer proved, and as every previous attempt at diplomacy and engagement conducted by both the Bush and Obama administrations proved, the only ones to profit from the talking are the Iranians. They have used the time won by such prevarications well as their nuclear centrifuges keep spinning and their stockpile of refined uranium grows. The time frame of their program is unclear, but whether it is one or two years away from actually having a bomb or sooner, the moment is quickly approaching when their efforts will be so far advanced it will be too late for force to be employed to stop them.

At Panetta’s next stop in Israel, he will tell the Israelis to trust that President Obama will do the right thing on Iran even though “it may not seem obvious at the moment” that he has any attention of acting. But instead of laughing at Romney for asking a reasonable question about the London Olympics and for refusing to lie about the morally bankrupt culture of the Palestinians, those who follow foreign policy should be alarmed at Panetta’s pathetic attempt to keep engaging with Iran when doing so only serves the interests of the Islamist regime and its nuclear ambitions.

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Who’s Dependent? Israel or the Palestinians?

I have a piece in the New York Post today that suggests only a liar or an insane person would deny that Israel benefits from a political culture far healthier than the corrupted and diseased culture of the Palestinian polities. You can read it here. Mitt Romney pointed out the wild disparity in GDP in the areas controlled by the Palestinians and those under Israeli dominion. Someone on Twitter commented that Israel is a “welfare state” living off the U.S. and we should see what would happen if it were cut off.

Well, let’s see. U.S. aid to Israel has remained steady around $3 billion a year since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979. It was set that high in part because Israel surrendered functional oil fields to Egypt when it gave back the Sinai and lost a significant source of income. In 1980, that aid was enormously important to Israel’s general health. It constituted something like one-seventh of the nation’s overall GDP ($22.8 billion). Flash forward to 2011. Israel’s GDP was $245 billion. U.S. aid constituted 1/81st of Israel’s GDP.

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I have a piece in the New York Post today that suggests only a liar or an insane person would deny that Israel benefits from a political culture far healthier than the corrupted and diseased culture of the Palestinian polities. You can read it here. Mitt Romney pointed out the wild disparity in GDP in the areas controlled by the Palestinians and those under Israeli dominion. Someone on Twitter commented that Israel is a “welfare state” living off the U.S. and we should see what would happen if it were cut off.

Well, let’s see. U.S. aid to Israel has remained steady around $3 billion a year since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979. It was set that high in part because Israel surrendered functional oil fields to Egypt when it gave back the Sinai and lost a significant source of income. In 1980, that aid was enormously important to Israel’s general health. It constituted something like one-seventh of the nation’s overall GDP ($22.8 billion). Flash forward to 2011. Israel’s GDP was $245 billion. U.S. aid constituted 1/81st of Israel’s GDP.

What’s more, almost all that aid is in the form of military assistance, much of it in the form of support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense efforts, which have direct R&D implications for the United States. In other words, Israel is testing, under real-world conditions, equipment the U.S. may need to use later.

And the Palestinians? A 2012 report from the World Bank explains that its economic growth since 2006 is almost entirely in the form of money garnered from abroad, which goes to fund government activities. “most of the recent economic growth can be attributed to the large inflow of aid, which has funded government expenditures. This has skewed the economy towards the public sector and non-tradables. Public administration, defense and other mostly public services such as health, education, electricity and water grew from less than 20 percent of GDP in 1994 to more than 27 percent in 2010….The importance of aid cannot be overstated and by 2008 current transfers had risen to about US$3.4 billion, double what they were in 2006.”

The World Bank blames Israeli actions in the wake of the Second Intifada for this, but those Israeli actions came as the result of terrorist aggression and the need for self-defense against Yasser Arafat’s insane war and Hamas’s murderous rocketry attacks. Which only strengthens Romney’s point about culture mattering when it comes to understanding Israel’s success and the dire condition of the Palestinians. And that the line about Israel being a welfare dependent of the United States is about as current as an Atari game system.

 

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