The New York Times editorial that Jonathan referenced this morning is really quite an amazing document, a window into the utter policy bankruptcy of modern-day liberalism. It’s a classic example of the somebody-somewhere argument. Any change in entitlements or federal government largesse to states and cities, this argument holds, will mean that somebody somewhere will be hurt by the change and that therefore everything must stay the same, even though the world has not stayed the same.
To give just one example, the Times writes, “Mr. Ryan plans to take away their new sewage treatment plant, the asphalt for their streets, and the replacements for retiring police officers and firefighters.” Why any of that is a federal responsibility I know not, but anyway, do we need as many, say, firemen as we have had in the past? The number of house fires has fallen by half during the last 35 years, thanks to better building codes, smoke alarms, the decline of smoking, etc. Firemen these days spend much of their time responding not to fires but to accidents and medical emergencies to which the police and EMS also respond. That’s make-work. Firemen are heroes, for sure, but fire departments are not WPA projects. They exist to fight fires, not employ firemen. Budgetary discipline forces governments to look for ways to do the job at lower cost. Is there any fat in government? Is there any water in the Pacific Ocean? The federal government has 47 different job-training programs run by 9 different agencies. But the New York Times and the choir to which it preaches want none of it changed.
There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.
As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.
In 2007, a growing international consensus on the need to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons was hamstringed by a puzzling U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Tehran had abandoned its ambitions. Though the NIE was disputed by Israel as well as by other sources, this report became the bulwark of foreign policy realists determined to downplay or ignore the danger from Iran. But as Haaretz reports, a new NIE issued in the past month indicates not only is Iran working on such a program but they have made alarming progress on military applications of nuclear power.
The report, which was made known to the paper by both Western diplomats and Israeli officials, reportedly shows U.S. intelligence now concurs with their counterparts in the Jewish state that the Iranian peril is far greater than the Americans were previously willing to admit. This finding makes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public questions about the West’s willingness to wait for sanctions and diplomacy to work justified. More to the point, it calls into question the Obama administration’s strategy of kicking the can down the road this year until after the elections.
The White House continues to talk about Turkey not only as a regional ally but also as a model for reform in the Middle East. It has been several years, however, since Turkish reforms contributed to democracy.
The latest case in point is Turkish real estate reform. The Turkish government has announced new regulations. Here is the rub: While the government has removed onerous rules and regulations that made navigating Turkish real estate a nightmare, the government has in effect legislated its traditional hatreds.
Armenians, for example, need not apply. They are by law unable to own housing or businesses in Turkey. Greeks have it better. They are merely banned from purchasing houses or stores in Istanbul and coastal provinces. Such discrimination is rooted in Turkish historical animus. During World War I, Ottoman forces killed perhaps one million Armenians. Much of the world recognizes their death as a deliberate genocide, albeit one Turkish officials dispute to this day. Less well known was the ethnic cleansing of Greeks and Christians from Istanbul and the Aegean provinces of Turkey although, to be fair, the transfer of populations went both ways.
Democrats are supposedly happy about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan because it helps them transform the election from a referendum on the last four years (which Obama cannot win) into a choice about the next four (which Obama hopes to win by labeling Romney-Ryan “extreme” — the word used three times by David Axelrod in his mass email yesterday).
But the referendum on Obama has already been held. The 2010 election was a personal rebuke (Obama referred to it the next day as the “shellacking … I [took]”); two years later, the verdict on his performance is, if anything, worse: his approval rating among likely voters is at 45 percent, and 43 percent of them “strongly” disapprove – the same “strongly disapprove” percentage George W. Bush had in January 2009; likely voters want ObamaCare repealed by a lopsided majority (55-39); and Obama has been reduced to claiming he always said things would take much longer to get better, when he never said anything of the sort.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appears ready to appoint former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi to replace Kofi Annan as head of the joint U.N.-Arab League mission to Syria. Other than Kofi Annan, who failed to protect the vulnerable in both Rwanda and at Srebrenica, it would be hard to find a more insipid choice than Brahimi.
As Foreign Minister of Algeria, Brahimi distinguished himself as a fierce Nasserist, not as a man of peace. As undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Brahimi sat silent as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds and, in the wake of the failed uprising, killed as many if not more Iraqi Shi’ites. Visiting Baghdad in 1997, Brahimi added insult to injury, as Iraqi television showed him embracing Saddam’s Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a man now facing a death sentence for crimes against humanity. The love may have been genuine: As a special UN representative for Iraq in the wake of Saddam’s fall, Brahimi made rehabilitation of Baathist war criminals a central pillar of his mission.
One day after Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice president, the consensus among Democrats is all they have to do to win in November is to mention one word: Medicare. They are convinced Paul Ryan’s budget and his belief that entitlements must be reformed if they are to be preserved is easily demagogued. Mediscare tactics are at the heart of their belief that a critical mass of voters can be stampeded toward Obama and the Democrats by claiming Paul Ryan is the boogeyman who is going to push grandma over the cliff. There is good reason to believe that once Americans get a good look at Ryan and start listening to his ideas they’ll be convinced this liberal caricature is just the usual mainstream media sliming of conservatives, but if there is any group on which such fears might work, it is among American Jews. That will make the battle for the Jewish vote in Florida a key test of Democrat plans.
Though many in the Obama camp have been trying to pretend there is no problem for them among this staunchly partisan Democratic demographic, there’s little doubt that uneasiness about the president’s attitude toward Israel is going to cost him a lot of Jewish votes this November. The administration’s election year Jewish charm offensive confirmed the White House understands that three years of constant fights with Israel will have electoral consequences. But today, liberals are predicting Florida will be where they will best be able to stampede elderly Jews away from the Republicans, worries over Israel notwithstanding. That’s the conceit of the Forward’s first shot on the topic that claimed Ryan would be a “Four-Letter Word” among Jews. But liberal assumptions on this point may turn out to be more wishful thinking than anything else.
It has been less than four months since President Barack Obama announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, sometimes called the “Genocide Prevention Board.” Speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Obama announced:
Now we’re doing something more. We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities. So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task. It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.
The idea that it takes a new bureaucracy to identify genocide, as a White House fact sheet explained, was always silly; the private media does just fine reporting on atrocities. If anything, the creation of new government bodies at taxpayer expense simply suggests the inefficiency of previous government agencies, none of which ever seem to fade away.
One of the most entertaining scenes of the seemingly endless Republican primary debate season was Juan Williams’s “food stamp president” question to Newt Gingrich, which Gingrich handled as Manny Ramirez used to handle unprepared pitchers: bait them into throwing the pitch he wanted, hit it out of the park, and give the pitcher a good stare-down as he began to round the bases.
It typified the reason many conservatives wanted to take on President Obama with Gingrich—namely, his ability to effectively challenge the premise of a question and change the conversation. This is a useful skill because the mainstream political press will always seek to force conservatives to play by whatever rules are most advantageous to the liberal establishment, and Gingrich was able to set his own rules, to an extent. But people tend to forget the rules automatically change during a presidential general election: the exposure nominees get, through public appearances, speeches, rallies, and debates, gives candidates an ability to speak over the din of the media and directly to the American people. It raises the volume.