Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 12, 2012

Party of Reform and the Kick-the-Can Party

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.

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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.

The blind defense of the status quo that so characterizes the left these days (and, indeed, has since Lyndon Johnson left the White House more than 40 years ago) has led us to the edge of a fiscal crisis of almost unimaginable proportions. Our main entitlement programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, are all operating in deficit, and those deficits will only get worse as the baby boomers retire and live substantially longer than their parents did, requiring more Medicare and more Social Security. The national debt is higher than it has been, relative to GDP, since the end of World War II. We have already lost our AAA credit rating and there are ever-mounting deficits as far as the eye can see under Obama’s proposed budget (unanimously rejected by Congress).

The people seem to understand that we need to change our fiscal ways to avoid disaster and have rewarded those who have advocated it and brought it about (see the 2010 congressional elections, the Scott Walker recall election, the popularity of Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Chris Christie in deep-blue New Jersey, etc.).

Paul Ryan has produced a plan to change our fiscal course. It balances cuts in federal spending with reforms that will mitigate the pain of these reforms. It take spending only back to what it was in 2008, not 1928, as the Times essentially argues. Mitt Romney chose the author of the plan and the leading Republican voice for budgetary matters as his running mate. Thus the Republican Party is now, inescapably, the party of budgetary and entitlement reform. It will win or lose on that issue November 6.

What is the liberal plan to address the impending crisis? Well, there isn’t one. When George Bush put forth a plan to reform Social Security in 2005, the Democratic alternative consisted, in its entirety, of the word “No!” They managed to block it. Social Security was still running surpluses in 2005. It is not now.

The liberal alternative to the Ryan reform plan, to the extent that there is one, is to demagogue all reform proposals, kick the can down the road and hope, like Dickens’s classic deficit financier, Wilkins Micawber, that something will turn up.

It won’t, and the sooner we begin what will be, to be sure, a painful process, the less painful it will be. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I think the people are way ahead of the chattering classes on this.

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Will Yale Fire Fareed Zakaria?

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.

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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.

Whether Yale President Richard Levin will do the right thing, however, is another issue. While Levin has distinguished himself as a master fundraiser, he has also shown a disturbing willingness to undercut free speech (ironically, with Zakaria’s acquiescence), compromise academic integrity to foreign interests, and embrace fame over principle. Seldom is an issue as cut-and-dry as Zakaria’s plagiarism. Unless Yale seeks to demonstrate that cheating is acceptable and that there is no principle to which it will not turn a blind eye, then it really has no choice: It is time to give Zakaria the boot.

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Obama Must Act on New Iran Intelligence

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.

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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.

Back in 2007, American intelligence was still shell-shocked from its pre-Iraq War failures. If it had been too eager in 2003 to believe the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, in 2007 it went in the other direction and adopted a see no evil stance that denied what everyone else in the world knew in order to avoid being blamed for a new conflict. But the new NIE ought to change the conversation about Iran not only in diplomatic circles but also on the campaign trail.

This is important because just this past Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said American intelligence was “confident that we would be able to detect a break-out move by Iran towards the acquisition of a nuclear weapon” even while the Israelis were expressing concern the allies might not know and act in time. The point is, it is not enough to merely admit that Iran is working on military applications of nuclear power, if the West isn’t prepared to stop the threat before the ayatollahs can order the construction of a bomb. The Israelis believe Iran must be prevented from getting to that point, while the Obama administration thinks it can rely on a last-minute effort to hold off the peril.

It is that complacent attitude emanating from the White House that has encouraged the Iranians to believe they can outwait President Obama. The failure of the P5+1 negotiations have exposed the foolishness of the administration’s reliance on a diplomatic process that only serves to buy Tehran more time to work on a bomb. Similarly, the president’s claim that the sanctions he belatedly and only under great pressure adopted on Iran will convince the ayatollahs to give in is undermined by the waivers granted to the restrictions that have enabled the Iranian economy to keep functioning.

The new NIE finding makes it imperative that Washington start acting as if it is not merely trying to run out the clock on the issue until the president is re-elected. It should also make it clear that the discussion about Israel acting on its own is not “warmongering” on the part of Netanyahu but his recognition that an existential threat to his nation’s existence cannot be ignored. If President Obama is going to continue acting as if all he need do about Iran is to talk about it, the new NIE makes it clear he must be held accountable for this failure.

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More Turk Bias Against Greeks, Armenians

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.

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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.

The Turkish government explains its discrimination in reciprocity. That may be true when it comes to bans on North Koreans buying property, although North Koreans don’t exactly drive the beachfront property market with their disposable income. Rather, it seems that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s animus toward his Christian neighbors plays more of a role.  According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Citizens of Greece are banned from acquiring property in 28 coastal provinces, including Istanbul, as well as the province of Edirne, which borders Greece. There is no such limitation in place for Turks in the Greek region of western Thrace in Greece.

“Greek citizens were not allowed to purchase property in the coastal band around Turkey according to the previous regulation. And if a Greek inherited property in the coastal band, that person was asked to liquidate it within one month, as they are not eligible to own any property there,” Atilla Lök, an Istanbul-based lawyer with expertise in property cases told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Welcome to the new Turkey, same as the old.

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The Referendum Has Already Been Held

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.

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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.

Paul Ryan has long argued that the 2012 election needs to be about a “choice” — not to win it, but to make it worth winning. In his eloquent November 12, 2001 address to the Claremont Institute, entitled “Our Churchillian Moment,” he concluded as follows:

[N]othing is more predictable than the danger rushing upon us from the oncoming fiscal train wreck. There is still time to take the actions needed to reduce spending, reform our tax code, take control of the debt, restore economic growth, and repeal and replace the president’s health care law … The biggest problem is timidity, lack of political will, fear of losing the next election for speaking truth …

Look, Republicans didn’t always get it right as a party ourselves. But if there ever was a time to gather our political courage and reclaim our ideas, it is now. The country is facing a very precarious moment. Your leaders owe you a real choice … It is our moral obligation, as elected representatives, to give the American people this choice.

Unseating an incumbent president always involves both a referendum and a choice. The verdict on Jimmy Carter’s performance was clear in 1980, but voters still had to be convinced that Ronald Reagan (whom the Democrats had demonized as “extreme”) was the right alternative; the election was close until after the debates. In 2012, the verdict on Obama has long been clear; with his pick of Ryan, Romney has now brought a similar clarity to the choice the voters face.

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Brahimi Pick Shows UN Disdain for Syrians

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.

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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.

Western diplomats may celebrate Brahimi for his assistance patching together an Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall. Whatever success he can claim there, however, came because Afghanistan was distant enough from the failed ideologies of the Arab Middle East. Not so in Syria. Appointing Brahimi as mediator is akin to putting a fox in charge of the hen house. He promises not to bring peace, but to serve the whims of a dictator bent on repressing those seeking to unseat him.

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Will Ryan Help Obama Win Jewish Votes?

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.

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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.

Democratic plans to demonize Ryan will find a ready audience among liberal Jews. Obama’s questionable record on Israel was never going to affect the votes of a majority of Jews. The issue was not whether Obama could hold onto more than 50 percent of Jewish votes, but how much of the 78 percent he got in 2008 would he be able to retain. The most optimistic estimates of the Democrat vote will keep him in the mid-60s, with his share of Jewish ballots in Florida probably being even lower. But Democrats are hoping that some of those Jews defecting from their ranks will start to slink back to Obama due to fears over the future of Medicare. Just as a loss of 10 to 25 percent of the Jewish vote could make the difference in Florida and perhaps even affect the outcome in Pennsylvania or Ohio if the election is close, a backlash against Ryan could also be decisive.

But Democrats shouldn’t count on the Jews falling back into their column so easily.

First, those Jewish voters who are most vulnerable to Mediscare tactics were already going to vote for Obama. If you are the sort of person who truly believes the Republicans are going to throw Bubbe over the cliff, you probably were never sufficiently concerned about Obama’s pressure on Israel and unwillingness to confront Iran to cross over to the GOP. The minority of American Jews who consider Israel’s security to be a major influence on their votes are not going to be so easily bulldozed by the Mediscare routine. Voters who believe the president will sell out Israel are not the most receptive audience for a Democratic campaign based on the idea that Romney and Ryan will sell out the elderly.

Democrats also forget that Jews are just as capable of figuring out that the only way to save Medicare is to face the issue head on rather than pretend, as Democrats intend to do, to preserve the status quo. As much as the left will lap up the attacks on Ryan and his budget, the centrist voters who are in play this fall may not be as easily fooled as liberals think. And there is another possibility that nobody on the left is prepared to even consider: a lot of those Jewish grandmothers and grandfathers who care about Israel may just decide they like Ryan a lot more than Obama.

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Time to End the Atrocities Prevention Board

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.

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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.

A new interagency board will never be able to enact policies against the will of the White House, the State Department, or Congress. Syria is a case in point: Atrocities have only accelerated since the board’s inauguration, yet the White House remains uninterested in much more than symbolic action. Nothing is more corrosive to the credibility of the United States than the gap between rhetoric and action which now exists. Nor will the board ever inform Obama that his policies–for example, talking to the Taliban–will almost certainly lead to renewal of atrocities in Afghanistan.

Obama rewarded Samantha Power with the chairmanship of the Atrocities Prevention Board. Power, a Pulitzer prize winner who has focused on genocide since her days as a freelance reporter in Bosnia, provided the intellectual push for the board, and she has made a career out of the often mutually exclusive lament that the United States does too little to prevent genocide and that the United States should work more through the United Nations in resolving conflict.

By chairing such an impotent board, however, Power now has the ability to make real change, although not as she had initially planned. If she remains the head of a meaningless board powerless to prevent genocide, she effectively exposes herself as a partisan hack, willing to put her affinity for Obama and her love for the title above principle. However, if Power refuses the temptation to posture rather than prevent atrocity, she could show herself to be a woman of principle and, in so doing, stop giving cover to those who, against the backdrop of mass murder, would turn and look away.

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Paul Ryan at Full Volume

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.

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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.

Which is why the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate may make it more difficult—despite what liberals think—to tag Romney with Ryan’s budget as they seek to depict it. Joining the ticket means Ryan will be at full volume, speaking directly to the voters. A poll last week found popular support for Ryan’s budget after it was described in positive terms. If Ryan has the chance to frame the debate about his budget, Democrats may find the Obama campaign’s demagoguery less effective than they think.

Some on the left are sensing this already. Here’s William Saletan on the supposed poll-tested unpopularity of entitlement reform:

So what? Screw the polls. Republicans will be on the right side of the spending debate. They’ll be on the right side of the substance debate, too. Instead of bickering about Romney’s tax returns and repeating the obvious but unhelpful observation that the unemployment rate sucks, we’ll actually have to debate serious problems and solutions. That’s great for the country.

I’d adjust that second sentence slightly: Change the polls. That’s what Ryan will seek to do with the new platform Romney has given him. Ryan has already shown his effectiveness as a spokesman for serious reform. Now he’ll be at full volume.

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