Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 21, 2012

Long-Awaited Progress in Myanmar

It’s great to see the government of Myanmar lifting restrictions on the press. Having just spent a week traveling around this distant country, I was struck, as many visitors have been, by the friendliness and hospitality of its inhabitants, by the haunting beauty of its jungle-and-mountain landscape, by the impressive number of spellbinding Buddhas, pagodas, and temples scattered everywhere–and of course by the terrible poverty of what is one of the world’s poorest countries.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has some first-rate hotels, but not much infrastructure beyond that–in Yangon, the capital, ordinary people travel in overpacked pickup trucks that double as buses. Throughout the country most people lack electricity, running water and other essentials. Per capita income is just $1,300 a year, an incomprehensibly low sum by American standards. Myanmar does not have the worst poverty I have ever seen because so much of the country is rural; urban shantytowns in Africa or Latin America appear, at least from this outsider’s perspective, to be far worse living places because they lack the social and familial support structure that exists in Myanmar’s villages. But Myanmar is bad enough–the poorest country in Southeast Asia. And that is the case despite its rich natural resources and its great potential for tourism.

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It’s great to see the government of Myanmar lifting restrictions on the press. Having just spent a week traveling around this distant country, I was struck, as many visitors have been, by the friendliness and hospitality of its inhabitants, by the haunting beauty of its jungle-and-mountain landscape, by the impressive number of spellbinding Buddhas, pagodas, and temples scattered everywhere–and of course by the terrible poverty of what is one of the world’s poorest countries.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has some first-rate hotels, but not much infrastructure beyond that–in Yangon, the capital, ordinary people travel in overpacked pickup trucks that double as buses. Throughout the country most people lack electricity, running water and other essentials. Per capita income is just $1,300 a year, an incomprehensibly low sum by American standards. Myanmar does not have the worst poverty I have ever seen because so much of the country is rural; urban shantytowns in Africa or Latin America appear, at least from this outsider’s perspective, to be far worse living places because they lack the social and familial support structure that exists in Myanmar’s villages. But Myanmar is bad enough–the poorest country in Southeast Asia. And that is the case despite its rich natural resources and its great potential for tourism.

The blame for that state of affairs lies squarely with the military junta that has mismanaged the country for decades, lining their own pockets while impoverishing the population. That parlous state of affairs has changed in the past couple of years under the leadership of former general Thein Sein, who has emerged as a Burmese Gorbachev, dismantling from within the system that put him into power. His most important symbolic move has been to free the brave dissident leader (and Nobel laureate ) Aung San Suu Kyi, known to Burmese simply as “The Lady,” from house arrest. Her party has been allowed to contest parliamentary elections, winning 43 of 45 open seats in April. (I visited their Yangon headquarters in a modest storefront stuffed with literature being distributed by volunteers and T-shirts and umbrellas depicting their hero being sold to passers-by.) Other political prisoners have also been sprung from prison although some remain behind bars.

It is not yet clear what is next for Myanmar; the political opening remains fragile and incomplete. But if the trajectory of the past couple of years continues, it will become a liberal democracy. Greater prosperity is sure to follow once all international sanctions are lifted. The repeal of censorship on the press is another small but important step down that road.

There is not a better feel-good story in the world right now. The Obama administration is certainly not driving these reforms; no outsider is. But President Obama and Secretary Clinton deserve credit for the skill with which they have managed the opening. They have struck just the right balance between rewarding Myanmar for its reforms while pushing for more.

I couldn’t be happier for this land which has been victimized for so long by brutal oppressors. I can’t help thinking of all the wonderful Burmese I met–all of them working for paltry wages–who are both bewildered and overjoyed by their good fortune. They deserve a better future after so many years of suffering.

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Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long and I…

….talk for a long time on this Ricochet podcast about Tina Brown and Niall Ferguson and Todd Akin and focus groups and the professional composition of Congress, not to mention Game of Thrones, demographics, and all manner of other nonsense. Plus a preview of the next “Enter Laughing” in the September issue. Jonah and Rob are both COMMENTARY contributors whose work I have edited, but judging from how I go on here, I’m the one in need of editing—verbal editing. Even so, perhaps you will enjoy it. This is scheduled to be a monthly endeavor, and the podcast needs a name, so feel free to suggest one in the Comments. If you win, you will find yourself garlanded on the next podcast.

….talk for a long time on this Ricochet podcast about Tina Brown and Niall Ferguson and Todd Akin and focus groups and the professional composition of Congress, not to mention Game of Thrones, demographics, and all manner of other nonsense. Plus a preview of the next “Enter Laughing” in the September issue. Jonah and Rob are both COMMENTARY contributors whose work I have edited, but judging from how I go on here, I’m the one in need of editing—verbal editing. Even so, perhaps you will enjoy it. This is scheduled to be a monthly endeavor, and the podcast needs a name, so feel free to suggest one in the Comments. If you win, you will find yourself garlanded on the next podcast.

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Iran Isolated? Tell it to the UN

The Obama administration is still asserting that diplomacy and sanctions will halt Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons without the need for either Israel or the United States to resort to force. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the effort to squeeze Tehran led by Secretary of State Clinton has been largely successful with tough sanctions strangling Iran’s economy. But no one in Washington really believes that the P5+1 talks will ever be successfully revived and the methods by which the Iranians are getting around the loosely enforced sanctions are making a joke out of Clinton’s boast that her efforts would be “crippling.”

Far from being isolated, the Iranians are still enjoying the support of much of the world, something that will be made all too clear next week when the so-called Non-Aligned Movement convenes its annual meeting in Tehran. It’s bad enough that 120-member states of the group will send representatives to the gathering that will undermine any thought that the Islamist regime has no friends. But if United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon goes to the meeting too it will put a fork in the notion that the Iranians have much to worry about. That worries left-wing columnist Chemi Shalev, who writes in Haaretz that the symbolism of the UN chief arriving in the Iranian capital will be used by both Israeli and American critics of Obama’s feckless policy. He’s right.

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The Obama administration is still asserting that diplomacy and sanctions will halt Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons without the need for either Israel or the United States to resort to force. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the effort to squeeze Tehran led by Secretary of State Clinton has been largely successful with tough sanctions strangling Iran’s economy. But no one in Washington really believes that the P5+1 talks will ever be successfully revived and the methods by which the Iranians are getting around the loosely enforced sanctions are making a joke out of Clinton’s boast that her efforts would be “crippling.”

Far from being isolated, the Iranians are still enjoying the support of much of the world, something that will be made all too clear next week when the so-called Non-Aligned Movement convenes its annual meeting in Tehran. It’s bad enough that 120-member states of the group will send representatives to the gathering that will undermine any thought that the Islamist regime has no friends. But if United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon goes to the meeting too it will put a fork in the notion that the Iranians have much to worry about. That worries left-wing columnist Chemi Shalev, who writes in Haaretz that the symbolism of the UN chief arriving in the Iranian capital will be used by both Israeli and American critics of Obama’s feckless policy. He’s right.

Shalev ruefully notes that even if Ban listens to his critics and avoids the Tehran conference, the Non-Aligned Movement event will mark a watershed in the failing effort to bring the ayatollahs to heel. It will not only embarrass President Obama but also make it all too clear that those who believe the bulk of the world is against Israel are right. Since he is opposed to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, that appalls him.

Shalev would much prefer that Ban and the rest of the world’s leaders start acting as if a regime that spouts anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and pledges to eliminate a member state of the UN — Israel — should be isolated, not honored. So would those who disagree with his views about both Iran and the peace process. But the fact remains that it is democratic Israel that is isolated. Not Iran.

This meeting will occur only a week after Iran held its annual Israel hate fest where the country’s governmental, religious and military leaders vied with each other for the honor of saying the most extreme things about the Jewish state and their ideas about wiping it off the map. That Ban would choose this particularly sensitive time to go to Tehran is a terrible miscalculation even if the non-aligned nations make up the bulk of the UN’s membership.

But whether he goes or not the non-aligned circus will just be one more piece of evidence showing the wisdom of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s belief that further reliance on diplomacy with Iran is futile. Ban’s presence will make it clear that the institution that President Obama values so highly is on record showing that his Iran policy has collapsed.

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Adding Fuel to the Akin Controversy

Republicans understandably want to move past the Todd Akin debacle as quickly as possible, but it’s not going to be easy. The Obama campaign is going to try to keep this issue alive as long as possible, if only to avoid a substantive debate on the economy and the deficit, and many in the media seem happy to help.

That means that any comment from social conservatives that relates to abortion is going to be scrutinized under a magnifying glass. Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Kirk Cameron and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have all unfortunately added fuel to the controversy:

Rep. Steve King, one of the most staunchly conservative members of the House, was one of the few Republicans who did not strongly condemn Rep. Todd Akin Monday for his remarks regarding pregnancy and rape. King also signaled why — he might agree with parts of Akin’s assertion.

King told an Iowa reporter he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” King told KMEG-TV Monday, “and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

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Republicans understandably want to move past the Todd Akin debacle as quickly as possible, but it’s not going to be easy. The Obama campaign is going to try to keep this issue alive as long as possible, if only to avoid a substantive debate on the economy and the deficit, and many in the media seem happy to help.

That means that any comment from social conservatives that relates to abortion is going to be scrutinized under a magnifying glass. Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Kirk Cameron and Rep. Steve King from Iowa have all unfortunately added fuel to the controversy:

Rep. Steve King, one of the most staunchly conservative members of the House, was one of the few Republicans who did not strongly condemn Rep. Todd Akin Monday for his remarks regarding pregnancy and rape. King also signaled why — he might agree with parts of Akin’s assertion.

King told an Iowa reporter he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.

“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” King told KMEG-TV Monday, “and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

King’s comments probably wouldn’t have received much attention under normal circumstances, but we’re still in the midst of the Akin media circus. So unless Republicans want to spend weeks debating the intricacies of rape exceptions for abortion instead of talking about the economy, social conservative leaders might want to be more careful about how they phrase their arguments in the media.

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Karl Marx Makes a Strange Appearance

In November 2010, the New York Times published a puff piece on the Brecht Forum, a club in New York where, to hear the Times tell it, cuddly Marxists hang out and play. “In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place,” the reporter wrote. The piece came in for a fair amount of ridicule. “Try to imagine,” Newsbusters dryly noted, “the Times getting so cozy among a group of mainstream Republicans, much less Tea Party supporters.”

I thought of that story when I was perusing the Times’s “Caucus” blog today and saw the following teaser to a Times Magazine piece on Paul Ryan and Austrian economics:

In a column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson writes, will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?

Ahem. First of all, the magazine piece, which is already online, does not ask that question at all. Karl Marx isn’t mentioned in the article—so this isn’t the fault of Adam Davidson, who wrote a pretty fair snapshot of Hayek and the right. Since the blog item was just a teaser to another story, it had no author listed. So I will just ask a few questions here.

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In November 2010, the New York Times published a puff piece on the Brecht Forum, a club in New York where, to hear the Times tell it, cuddly Marxists hang out and play. “In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place,” the reporter wrote. The piece came in for a fair amount of ridicule. “Try to imagine,” Newsbusters dryly noted, “the Times getting so cozy among a group of mainstream Republicans, much less Tea Party supporters.”

I thought of that story when I was perusing the Times’s “Caucus” blog today and saw the following teaser to a Times Magazine piece on Paul Ryan and Austrian economics:

In a column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson writes, will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?

Ahem. First of all, the magazine piece, which is already online, does not ask that question at all. Karl Marx isn’t mentioned in the article—so this isn’t the fault of Adam Davidson, who wrote a pretty fair snapshot of Hayek and the right. Since the blog item was just a teaser to another story, it had no author listed. So I will just ask a few questions here.

First: Is the Caucus blog, or the person responsible for it, admitting that Marx was a dangerous man with dangerous ideas that inspired the murder of millions of innocent people in the name of leftist utopianism, and thus is trying to scare readers about Ryan and Hayek? If so, it’s nice to see the newspaper acknowledge that Marxists aren’t so sweet and cuddly. However, does that mean he or she is also accusing Hayek’s followers of being right-wing versions of Lenin, Stalin, or Mao? Because it doesn’t get a whole lot more offensive than that.

Second: Is the Caucus editor passing Marx off as a quirky economist, and nothing more? Because that would be a Herculean whitewashing task—and also, by the way, offensive to the many victims of Marxist violence.

Third: Is the Caucus editor suggesting that the Democratic Party’s left wing is heavily influenced by Marxism? Because that would be quite the admission.

The author of that teaser doesn’t seem to know much about the subject, but he or she has certainly done a disservice to Davidson, who would no doubt recoil at the comparison with which his article has been burdened.

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Why Akin Didn’t and Won’t Drop Out

Today on the Mike Huckabee show (and again immediately following on Dana Loesch’s program), Rep. Todd Akin told Americans that he has no intention of dropping out of his Senate race. Akin caused a firestorm earlier this week after remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy. Despite calls from every corner of the GOP establishment and Tea Party for Akin to step aside before the 5 p.m. central time deadline, Akin has refused.

Judging from Akin’s interview with Huckabee today, it doesn’t appear he fully comprehends why the level of outrage is where it is, nor does he grasp just how much anger he has instigated from across the political spectrum. Akin told Huckabee: “It does seem to be a little bit of an overreaction.” He explained that he misspoke “one word in one sentence in one day.”

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Today on the Mike Huckabee show (and again immediately following on Dana Loesch’s program), Rep. Todd Akin told Americans that he has no intention of dropping out of his Senate race. Akin caused a firestorm earlier this week after remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy. Despite calls from every corner of the GOP establishment and Tea Party for Akin to step aside before the 5 p.m. central time deadline, Akin has refused.

Judging from Akin’s interview with Huckabee today, it doesn’t appear he fully comprehends why the level of outrage is where it is, nor does he grasp just how much anger he has instigated from across the political spectrum. Akin told Huckabee: “It does seem to be a little bit of an overreaction.” He explained that he misspoke “one word in one sentence in one day.”

How could Akin get the public sentiment so wrong with a bipartisan chorus as loud as the one is calling for him to step down? One likely explanation is who comprises his inner circle. In early January, Akin fired most of his senior staff (his campaign manager, finance director and a general consultant) and installed his son, Perry, as campaign manager. His wife also has “been a regular presence on the campaign trail since he was first elected to the Missouri State House in 1988″ (this quote unfortunately comes from a disgusting hit piece from the Daily Beast on Mrs. Akin). Those surrounding Akin on his campaign have a personal, vested interest in his remaining in the race, and are less able to see his remarks as objectively as a campaign strategist might if they were not directly related to the candidate.

While one withdrawal deadline is apparently 5 p.m. central today, Akin has as late as September 25 to remove himself from the ballot. Politico explains,

Republicans in Washington were watching nervously ahead of a 6 p.m. EDT deadline for Akin to leave the race so Missouri Republican leaders could easily pick a replacement. The process for dropping out after Tuesday evening becomes far more cumbersome: Akin would have to petition a court to get out of the race before Sept. 25.

It’s unlikely that Akin will suddenly come to his senses before that deadline either, perhaps barring a total financial collapse of his campaign, which is a distinct possibility. “About a dozen GOP senators were scheduled to co-host a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Sept. 19, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and tea party favorite Mike Lee of Utah. All have since backed out of the event, a Republican source told POLITICO.”

It became apparent yesterday, however, just how much of an uphill financial battle Akin would face and when Huckabee asked about the financial difficulties his campaign would face, Akin seemed to hold out hope for a large contingent of dedicated small donors to carry his campaign through to November. It would take an ad-buy with a budget the size of most small countries to undo the damage that Akin has done, and without any major financial backing, that looks to be an almost impossible battle. With Akin’s decision today to remain in the race, it appears Republicans may have lost hope for a majority in the Senate, and as Jonathan pointed out, a chance at defeating ObamaCare.

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Romney Needs to Sister Souljah Akin

Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.

All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.

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Despite pleas from leading Republicans, Rep. Todd Akin announced today that he would not step down as Republican Senate nominee in Missouri. The statement, which came on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, is very bad news for the Republican Party. As I noted earlier today, Akin’s staying in the race not only turns a likely GOP Senate pickup into a likely Democratic hold, it also places in jeopardy any chance Republicans might have of repealing ObamaCare next January. It will provide ready ammunition to the Democrats’ disingenuous attempt to convince the country that the GOP is waging a war on women.

All of which makes it imperative that Mitt Romney speak out personally on the matter. If there was ever a time for a Romney Sister Souljah moment, this is it. The Romney campaign has issued a statement disagreeing with Akin and reportedly vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who serves with the Missourian in the House called him yesterday urging him to quit. But that is no longer enough. Romney has to come out in front of the cameras and the press and declare in no uncertain terms that Akin should end his Senate run and that he and all Republicans repudiate his views. An he must do it immediately in order to lessen the impact of the deluge of negative ads stemming from this fiasco that the Obama campaign will soon be issuing.

Romney doesn’t have the power to make Akin end his now quixotic quest for a Senate seat that seems destined to ensure that a faltering Claire McCaskill will be re-elected even though most of her state wants her out. But Romney does have the standing to put the congressman in rhetorical Coventry by declaring that he personally as well as the rest of the party believe Akin has forfeited his place in national politics.

It is true that the Democrats were going to keep playing the war on women card even if Akin had never said rape victims could not get pregnant. But by saying it, Akin not only fulfilled McCaskill’s hopes that he would self-destruct. He also became the living embodiment of the cartoon version of the GOP that the Obama campaign is selling the public. Nothing short of an outright condemnation and demand that Akin step down from Romney can ameliorate the damage that is about to be done to the GOP.

Republicans are worried that a hurricane might disrupt their Tampa convention next week. But though the weather there next week is worrisome, it’s a minor consideration when compared to the disaster that is unfolding in Missouri.

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Obama Allows NGOs to Send Cash to Iran

The earthquake that killed more than 300 in northern Iran earlier this month was a tragedy that was only compounded by the Iranian government’s refusal to accept aid from the U.S. government. In response, the Obama administration decided today to grant a general waiver allowing any U.S.-based NGOs to donate up to $300,000 in cash to the earthquake victims — a move that may be well-intentioned, but could actually end up benefiting the Iranian government instead of the people.

Too often, oppressive regimes like the one in Iran end up appropriating financial aid that’s meant for the public. When the U.S. government provides official support, it can be tracked by aid workers to help ensure it’s going to the actual victims. But the Iranian government has rejected U.S. aid offers, insisting that we lift sanctions instead.

In other words, Iran has been holding the earthquake victims hostage — apparently to some success. The Obama administration’s waiver allows any U.S.-based non-profit group to collect and transfer money to Iran for the next 45 days — up to $300,000 per group. The Treasury Department says the funds must be delivered to “an entity in Iran engaged in humanitarian relief and reconstruction activities.” And where will it go from there? We can only guess.

The earthquake that killed more than 300 in northern Iran earlier this month was a tragedy that was only compounded by the Iranian government’s refusal to accept aid from the U.S. government. In response, the Obama administration decided today to grant a general waiver allowing any U.S.-based NGOs to donate up to $300,000 in cash to the earthquake victims — a move that may be well-intentioned, but could actually end up benefiting the Iranian government instead of the people.

Too often, oppressive regimes like the one in Iran end up appropriating financial aid that’s meant for the public. When the U.S. government provides official support, it can be tracked by aid workers to help ensure it’s going to the actual victims. But the Iranian government has rejected U.S. aid offers, insisting that we lift sanctions instead.

In other words, Iran has been holding the earthquake victims hostage — apparently to some success. The Obama administration’s waiver allows any U.S.-based non-profit group to collect and transfer money to Iran for the next 45 days — up to $300,000 per group. The Treasury Department says the funds must be delivered to “an entity in Iran engaged in humanitarian relief and reconstruction activities.” And where will it go from there? We can only guess.

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German Circumcision Ban Bags First Victim

After a Cologne court ruled that circumcision was illegal, there were those who argued that the decision would not impact Jewish life in Germany. We were cautioned not to jump to conclusions since it was just one court, whose jurisdiction was limited. The reaction of Germany’s political leadership, particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, was exemplary as the parliament voted to take up a bill legalizing the ritual in the fall. But, as today’s news reveals, the optimists did not count on the willingness of many Germans to support the court.

As the Times of Israel reports, criminal charges have been filed against a rabbi in Northern Bavaria for performing circumcisions. According to the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish weekly, the state prosecutor of Hof confirmed that charges had been filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, who serves the community of Upper Franconia for “harming” infants by performing the rite of brit milah, the covenantal ritual at the heart of Judaism. A Hessian doctor that cited the Cologne court’s ruling brought the charges against the rabbi. While the rabbi has not yet been tried, let alone convicted, the spectacle of German courts prosecuting a Jew for practicing Judaism doesn’t just awaken echoes of the Holocaust. It also sounds a warning that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Western Europe is not a passing phase.

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After a Cologne court ruled that circumcision was illegal, there were those who argued that the decision would not impact Jewish life in Germany. We were cautioned not to jump to conclusions since it was just one court, whose jurisdiction was limited. The reaction of Germany’s political leadership, particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, was exemplary as the parliament voted to take up a bill legalizing the ritual in the fall. But, as today’s news reveals, the optimists did not count on the willingness of many Germans to support the court.

As the Times of Israel reports, criminal charges have been filed against a rabbi in Northern Bavaria for performing circumcisions. According to the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish weekly, the state prosecutor of Hof confirmed that charges had been filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, who serves the community of Upper Franconia for “harming” infants by performing the rite of brit milah, the covenantal ritual at the heart of Judaism. A Hessian doctor that cited the Cologne court’s ruling brought the charges against the rabbi. While the rabbi has not yet been tried, let alone convicted, the spectacle of German courts prosecuting a Jew for practicing Judaism doesn’t just awaken echoes of the Holocaust. It also sounds a warning that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Western Europe is not a passing phase.

In recent decades, Jewish life in Germany has thrived as immigrants in the prosperous nation have revived communities that were long dormant. But this episode unfolding in the one country where awareness of the consequences of anti-Semitism are so well known should send chills down the spine of Jews around the world.

Circumcision opponents may claim they are not anti-Semitic, especially since their campaign also targets Muslims. But there is little doubt that the driving force behind this movement is resentment toward Jews and a willingness to go public with sentiments that long simmered beneath the surface in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Just last week, French scholar Michel Gurfinkiel wrote on his blog that anti-Semitism has increased in France since the Toulouse massacre in March. Since then violence has grown, fed by what he calls a rejection of Jews and Judaism. In France, these sentiments are fed by the Jew hatred openly expressed by the expanding Muslim population. Throughout Europe, the demonization of Israel hasn’t just increased hostility to the Jewish state; it has served as an excuse for anti-Semitism to go mainstream for the first time since World War Two. Just as some claim circumcision critics aren’t intrinsically anti-Semitic, there are those who blame anti-Semitism on Israeli policies. But when you add all these factors together what you get is an undeniable upsurge in Jew-hatred.

While we trust that Chancellor Merkel and the Berlin government will find a way to quash this latest disgraceful attack on Judaism, we need to realize that this won’t be the last such episode. The strength of Europe’s traditional pastime of Jew-hatred should never be underestimated.

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Akin’s Problematic Poll Numbers

There are two polls out today, both with similar findings: Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment has already done severe damage to his chances in the Missouri Senate race. According to Survey USA, 54 percent of statewide respondents say Akin should drop out of the race; 55 percent don’t buy his excuse that he “misspoke”; and 76 percent disagree with his comment.

Meanwhile, a Public Policy Polling flash survey last night found that Akin was still leading Claire McCaskill by 1 point in the state, which seems to be more of a reflection of McCaskill’s weakness as a candidate than a display of public support for Akin. A Survey USA poll from earlier this month showed Akin with an 11-point lead over McCaskill, so this appears to be a pretty significant drop.

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There are two polls out today, both with similar findings: Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment has already done severe damage to his chances in the Missouri Senate race. According to Survey USA, 54 percent of statewide respondents say Akin should drop out of the race; 55 percent don’t buy his excuse that he “misspoke”; and 76 percent disagree with his comment.

Meanwhile, a Public Policy Polling flash survey last night found that Akin was still leading Claire McCaskill by 1 point in the state, which seems to be more of a reflection of McCaskill’s weakness as a candidate than a display of public support for Akin. A Survey USA poll from earlier this month showed Akin with an 11-point lead over McCaskill, so this appears to be a pretty significant drop.

Ed Morrissey also points out a problem with the PPP survey’s sample:

There’s another problem with this poll for Akin, one we don’t usually see from PPP — they significantly oversampled Republicans.  The D/R/I on this survey is R+9 at 30/39/32, but even the GOP-sweep 2010 election had exit polls for Missouri showing an R+3 advantage, 34/37/28. I’m not sure I’d trust that one-point margin lead in this poll.

So it looks like this poll is actually skewed in favor of Akin — interesting, since PPP is a Democratic polling firm. Though not entirely surprising, considering Democrats have a huge interest in keeping a sure loser like Akin in the race. McCaskill and supporting super PACs did reportedly spend around $1.5 million helping Akin secure the nomination, and I imagine they want to get their money’s worth.

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An Apology for Fiction

“The novel lies, in saying that something happened that did not,” Elizabeth Bowen famously said two-thirds of a century ago. “It must, therefore, contain uncontradictable truth, to warrant the original lie.” This is as good an apology for fiction as I’ve ever come across, although J. V. Cunningham adds some distinctions that complicate things enormously:

Fiction is fiction: its one theme
Is its allegiance to its scheme.
Memoir is memoir: there your heart
Awaits the judgment of your art.
But memoir in fictitious guise
Is telling truth by telling lies.

Maybe lies is not the best word for what fiction does, then. It’s not possible, after all, to tell the truth by telling a lie. Maybe it would be better to say that fiction makes believe something happened that did not. As the philosopher Kendall Walton pointed out in his treatise Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990), this small change would place fiction in the company of children’s games — “playing house and school, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians . . . fantasies built around dolls, teddy bears, and toy trucks.” Fiction would then be seen as merely a sustained and self-consistent game of pretending. Some grown-ups involve themselves in role-playing games; some, in fiction.

The comparison remains apt, though. As Walton observes, there is a huge difference between make-believe and private fantasies or daydreams, even when they are deliberate. Make-believe has three special advantages: objectivity, control, and joint participation.

A make-believe world is objective in containing pain and suffering, and in permitting its visitors to be afflicted by them without actually being hurt by them. “We realize some of the benefits of hard experience without having to undergo it,” Walton says. In make-believe, the players actively control the direction and progress of the game. “Brother, save me,” my son Dov calls to his twin; “I’m falling off a cliff.” “I’ve just discovered that I can fly!” his brother Saul calls back. “Here I come to save you.” By contrast, daydreams are passive: they happen to the daydreamer, who floats along or is drenched by them. And finally, as the example of my sons’ play suggests, make-believe entails the possibility of joint participation among the players.

These, then, are the three values of fiction. They give objective reality to mere imaginings; they can be controlled and thus explored, asked about, or rearranged to test a different outcome; they require more than one person, demanding cooperation and shared responsibility.

But what about Bowen’s “uncontradictable truth,” which fiction must contain to warrant, if not the lie, then at least the time passed in making believe? Within the world of make-believe, statements are true if and only if they are true about the make-believe world. It doesn’t follow, however, that because they are true about a make-believe world, they are false statements about our own actual world. Perhaps there is much overlap between the two worlds; perhaps the statement is true about both. Which means that fiction is not merely a way of making worlds, but also a way of making communities in which fiction’s claims are either accepted and become the occasion for further exploration and inquiry into the truths of different worlds or rejected in the wild arrogance that this world alone is sufficient for probing the truth of every possible human utterance.

“The novel lies, in saying that something happened that did not,” Elizabeth Bowen famously said two-thirds of a century ago. “It must, therefore, contain uncontradictable truth, to warrant the original lie.” This is as good an apology for fiction as I’ve ever come across, although J. V. Cunningham adds some distinctions that complicate things enormously:

Fiction is fiction: its one theme
Is its allegiance to its scheme.
Memoir is memoir: there your heart
Awaits the judgment of your art.
But memoir in fictitious guise
Is telling truth by telling lies.

Maybe lies is not the best word for what fiction does, then. It’s not possible, after all, to tell the truth by telling a lie. Maybe it would be better to say that fiction makes believe something happened that did not. As the philosopher Kendall Walton pointed out in his treatise Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990), this small change would place fiction in the company of children’s games — “playing house and school, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians . . . fantasies built around dolls, teddy bears, and toy trucks.” Fiction would then be seen as merely a sustained and self-consistent game of pretending. Some grown-ups involve themselves in role-playing games; some, in fiction.

The comparison remains apt, though. As Walton observes, there is a huge difference between make-believe and private fantasies or daydreams, even when they are deliberate. Make-believe has three special advantages: objectivity, control, and joint participation.

A make-believe world is objective in containing pain and suffering, and in permitting its visitors to be afflicted by them without actually being hurt by them. “We realize some of the benefits of hard experience without having to undergo it,” Walton says. In make-believe, the players actively control the direction and progress of the game. “Brother, save me,” my son Dov calls to his twin; “I’m falling off a cliff.” “I’ve just discovered that I can fly!” his brother Saul calls back. “Here I come to save you.” By contrast, daydreams are passive: they happen to the daydreamer, who floats along or is drenched by them. And finally, as the example of my sons’ play suggests, make-believe entails the possibility of joint participation among the players.

These, then, are the three values of fiction. They give objective reality to mere imaginings; they can be controlled and thus explored, asked about, or rearranged to test a different outcome; they require more than one person, demanding cooperation and shared responsibility.

But what about Bowen’s “uncontradictable truth,” which fiction must contain to warrant, if not the lie, then at least the time passed in making believe? Within the world of make-believe, statements are true if and only if they are true about the make-believe world. It doesn’t follow, however, that because they are true about a make-believe world, they are false statements about our own actual world. Perhaps there is much overlap between the two worlds; perhaps the statement is true about both. Which means that fiction is not merely a way of making worlds, but also a way of making communities in which fiction’s claims are either accepted and become the occasion for further exploration and inquiry into the truths of different worlds or rejected in the wild arrogance that this world alone is sufficient for probing the truth of every possible human utterance.

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Why Obama Still Won’t Go to Israel

The disagreement between Israel and the Obama administration over whether it’s time to acknowledge that diplomacy has failed to stop Iran’s nuclear program is starting to make a lot of people nervous. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seem to be interpreting the administration’s staunch refusal to abandon a diplomatic track that has already clearly failed as meaning that the president won’t make good on his promise to stop Iran from going nuclear. That has led to talk that Israel will strike Iran without U.S. assistance or permission and that it may do so even before the November presidential election.

The Americans are doing everything they can to persuade the Israelis to stand down but in the absence of trust in the president, mere words may not be enough. That’s why one of Obama’s leading Jewish supporters, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, believes it’s time for some symbolism. Goldberg writes today in Bloomberg that a long sought presidential visit to Israel before the election would do the trick. He’s right. If President Obama were to take time out from the campaign for a stop in Israel some time in the next few weeks, Netanyahu would have no choice but to postpone any attack plans. Though it is possible that Obama will listen to Goldberg, such a visit with less than 90 days before the election is a long shot. It is far more likely that the president will rely on his usual mode of communication with the Israelis: pressure and threats. But since that has never worked in the past, Obama’s supporters ought to be asking themselves what’s behind the president’s reluctance to act in a manner that might convince both Israelis and their Iranian foes that he isn’t fibbing about being prepared to act on the issue during his second term.

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The disagreement between Israel and the Obama administration over whether it’s time to acknowledge that diplomacy has failed to stop Iran’s nuclear program is starting to make a lot of people nervous. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seem to be interpreting the administration’s staunch refusal to abandon a diplomatic track that has already clearly failed as meaning that the president won’t make good on his promise to stop Iran from going nuclear. That has led to talk that Israel will strike Iran without U.S. assistance or permission and that it may do so even before the November presidential election.

The Americans are doing everything they can to persuade the Israelis to stand down but in the absence of trust in the president, mere words may not be enough. That’s why one of Obama’s leading Jewish supporters, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, believes it’s time for some symbolism. Goldberg writes today in Bloomberg that a long sought presidential visit to Israel before the election would do the trick. He’s right. If President Obama were to take time out from the campaign for a stop in Israel some time in the next few weeks, Netanyahu would have no choice but to postpone any attack plans. Though it is possible that Obama will listen to Goldberg, such a visit with less than 90 days before the election is a long shot. It is far more likely that the president will rely on his usual mode of communication with the Israelis: pressure and threats. But since that has never worked in the past, Obama’s supporters ought to be asking themselves what’s behind the president’s reluctance to act in a manner that might convince both Israelis and their Iranian foes that he isn’t fibbing about being prepared to act on the issue during his second term.

Though the Democrat’s campaign staff may think any time not spent in a swing state is a bad idea, an Obama visit to Israel now would be a coup for the president. It would monopolize media attention during the trip and thus hurt Mitt Romney. It would also bolster the president’s sagging Jewish support.

Even more important, such a dramatic gesture accompanied by a presidential speech in which he warned Iran that they must halt their nuclear program or face the consequences would convince the Israeli public that he could be relied upon to keep the promise he first made about stopping Tehran during the 2008 campaign. Under those circumstances, there would be no possibility of a unilateral Israeli attack since Netanyahu could not then justify such a move by pointing to distrust of Washington.

It would all be so easy but the question to ask about this scenario is why the president has always been so reluctant to show the Israelis some love when it would cost him so little and bring such a great reward?

The only possible answer is the one we always are forced to return to when discussing the problematic relationship between the Obama administration and Israel: the president’s equivocal feelings about the Jewish state. As veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it a few weeks ago, Barack Obama is the first president in a generation “not in love with the idea of Israel.” That’s compounded by his open and very public dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu.

While Obama’s defenders are right to note that there’s nothing all that unusual about the lack of a visit to Israel during a first term, this is a president who has gone out of his way to pick fights with Jerusalem and to avoid the country during trips to the region. It appears that if Obama is to go to Israel, as his campaign hinted earlier during this summer, it would only be as a re-elected president with the whip hand over Netanyahu and not as a candidate who has to show some deference to his ally.

One imagines that Obama is recoiling at the very idea of being forced to pretend to be friendly with Netanyahu even if it meant avoiding an attack on Iran that he opposes or helping his re-election. Given the stakes involved, his refusal to take some good advice from a supporter tells us all we need to know about the president’s attitude toward Israel.

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Could Ryan Hurt Obama’s Fundraising?

Here’s an interesting catch from CNN. Obama campaign co-chair and top bundler Marc Benioff has raised over $500,000 for Obama’s reelection, but apparently he also donated $10,000 to Paul Ryan’s PAC just two months ago (h/t Dan Halper):

Benioff has helped raise more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election effort, and even hosted a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser featuring Stevie Wonder and hip-hop artist Will.i.am. …

But the tech executive is also a fan of Ryan — Mitt Romney’s running mate and a rising Republican star. In June, Benioff donated $10,000 to Ryan’s political action committee after meeting with the candidate, who at the time had not been named to the GOP ticket and was running for re-election in the House. …

What’s so attractive about Ryan, Benioff said, is his focus on deficit and budget issues. The nation’s fiscal difficulties must be addressed, the CEO said, and Ryan’s ideas offer “a lot of the right long-term thinking for the country.”

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Here’s an interesting catch from CNN. Obama campaign co-chair and top bundler Marc Benioff has raised over $500,000 for Obama’s reelection, but apparently he also donated $10,000 to Paul Ryan’s PAC just two months ago (h/t Dan Halper):

Benioff has helped raise more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election effort, and even hosted a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser featuring Stevie Wonder and hip-hop artist Will.i.am. …

But the tech executive is also a fan of Ryan — Mitt Romney’s running mate and a rising Republican star. In June, Benioff donated $10,000 to Ryan’s political action committee after meeting with the candidate, who at the time had not been named to the GOP ticket and was running for re-election in the House. …

What’s so attractive about Ryan, Benioff said, is his focus on deficit and budget issues. The nation’s fiscal difficulties must be addressed, the CEO said, and Ryan’s ideas offer “a lot of the right long-term thinking for the country.”

Benioff also contributed $2,300 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2007. He has a history of contributing to both Republicans and Democrats, though his support for Obama has far outweighed his support for any other candidate from either party.

But this does seem to show the crossover appeal Romney and Ryan have with donors in the business world who supported Obama in 2008 but aren’t particularly partisan. If someone like Benioff, who currently has an official role with the Obama campaign, is open to Ryan’s ideas, then what about the donors who played a smaller part in ’08? This has been a problem for Obama since he began running for reelection, and the addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket could make things worse.

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NYPD Responds to the Times’s False Attacks

Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

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Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg often appears to be leading the charge on some of modern liberalism’s pet governing projects, there is a line that he will absolutely not cross: the sentiment, expressed often by the New York Times, that the city should reverse its successful policing tactics. The most recent controversy centers on the New York Police Department’s so-called “stop and frisk,” in which police step up their search for weapons in high-crime neighborhoods by checking the persons of some residents of these neighborhoods when following leads.

The Times has declared war on the NYPD’s effective policies, but even a May editorial, in which the Times suggested New York follow Philadelphia’s lead, was too much for Bloomberg:

“Why would any rational person want to trade what we have here for situation in Philadelphia?” Bloomberg told NY 1. “More murders, higher crime. Is that what the Times wants?”

The controversy was back in the news yesterday. The Times has written a series of stories accusing the NYPD of racism because they stop minorities so often, and yesterday published the results of the paper’s own poll showing that respondents think the NYPD favors whites. But even within this poll, in which the Times seeks to make and shape news rather than just report it, there is some inconvenient information for opponents of effective policing and lower crime:

But Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, received high marks on the crime issue: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way the mayor was dealing with crime, and 61 percent said they approved of the way the commissioner was handling his job. Even 50 percent of the respondents who said they had been the target of a racially motivated police stop approved of Mr. Kelly’s management.

“I live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island, and everybody has guns; 3-year-old kids have guns! It’s outrageous,” said Johnny Rivera, 52, a former foreman at an aluminum company. As for the stop-and-frisk practice, he said, “the worst thing they could do is stop it.”

The NYPD has had enough of the ignorant abuse from the Times, and responded on its Facebook page to the charge: “During the first 10 years of the Bloomberg Administration there were 5,430 murders compared to 11,058 in the 10 years prior, a reduction of 51% or 5,628 lives saved. If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color.”

Indeed, history is just such a guide. As Steven Malanga noted in City Journal in 2007, Rudy Giuliani, whose mayoralty led the policing revolution that eventually made New York one of the safest cities in the country, was also accused of such bias. But contrary to those accusations, under Giuliani the NYPD reduced crime while also reducing shootings by police and claims of excessive force dramatically. And guess who benefited the most:

Moreover, Giuliani’s policing success was a boon to minority neighborhoods. For instance, in the city’s 34th Precinct, covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan, murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins’s last year, to only seven by Giuliani’s last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Far from being the racist that activists claimed, Giuliani had delivered to the city’s minority neighborhoods a true form of equal protection under the law.

The NYPD goes where the danger is. For that, they should be praised—and usually are. The New York Times editorialists have been railing against policing that has saved thousands of lives in New York’s minority neighborhoods. The paper’s reporting has been so inaccurate and agenda-driven it has led Michael Bloomberg to wonder aloud if what the Times wants is more murder in the city. That may sound harsh, but the great breakthrough of Giuliani’s time in office was his realization that you cannot govern effectively unless you ignore the New York Times. Nowhere is that more important, or with higher stakes, than the effort to keep New Yorkers safe.

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Romney’s Fundraising Advantage Widens

The New York Times reports that Romney now has a $62 million cash-on-hand advantage over Obama, which isn’t as significant as it sounds considering Obama has outraised and outspent his opponent since the beginning of his campaign.

But check out the cash-on-hand advantage the Romney-supporting American Crossroads has over the Obama-supporting Priorities USA:

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Mr. Obama, raised $4.8 million and ended July with $4.2 million in cash on hand.

American Crossroads, the major super PAC backing Mr. Romney and the Senate Republicans, raised $7.7 million in July and spent $9.1 million, ending the month with $29.5 million in cash.

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The New York Times reports that Romney now has a $62 million cash-on-hand advantage over Obama, which isn’t as significant as it sounds considering Obama has outraised and outspent his opponent since the beginning of his campaign.

But check out the cash-on-hand advantage the Romney-supporting American Crossroads has over the Obama-supporting Priorities USA:

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Mr. Obama, raised $4.8 million and ended July with $4.2 million in cash on hand.

American Crossroads, the major super PAC backing Mr. Romney and the Senate Republicans, raised $7.7 million in July and spent $9.1 million, ending the month with $29.5 million in cash.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for other top Obama-supporting super PACs like American Bridge 21st Century, and the support from the labor movement. But it still doesn’t look good for them. According to the Huffington Post, most of Priorities USA’s July fundraising came from just eight individuals (plus a handful of law firms and unions):

The super PAC, run by former White House aide Bill Burton, raised most of its July money from eight individuals, two unions and seven law firms. The biggest single contribution came from the real estate investor and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender activist Mel Heifetz.

Clearly Obama’s side is somewhat worried about fundraising, or we wouldn’t be deluged with stories about it every other day. The Republican side certainly seems to have the capacity to outraise its opponents between now and the election; but it’s hard to tell whether the constant stories about Obama and Co.’s poor fundraising numbers indicate an actual problem for them, or whether it’s just another way for them to put pressure on donors.

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Akin’s Crime Against Pro-Lifers

So Todd Akin, the senatorial candidate in Missouri, has made a commercial apologizing for his remarks on rape and pregnancy on Sunday. “Rape is an evil act,” he says. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

One has reason to think this apology is disingenuous. For one thing, it’s doubtful he would have issued it had the video of him discoursing on “legitimate rape” and the mystical ability of a woman’s body to repel a rapist’s seed not become a subject of controversy. For another, as always with politicians, what tells is the phrasing. “The mistake was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold” places the blame for his error on “the words,” as though the words were somehow separate from him. Whereas “the heart I hold” is intrinsic to him, and therefore to be taken more seriously  (and by the way, who exactly “holds” a heart?).

What strikes me, though, is the offense Todd Akin has given—not just to victims of rape, but to his fellow pro-lifers. The most difficult moral issue when it comes to abortion comes with cases of pregnancy due to rape and incest. (These are, relative to all live births, extraordinarily small in number.) The pregnancy in such circumstances is not only unwanted but the result of a barbaric and traumatic criminal attack. And yet consistent pro-lifers argue such pregnancies should not be ended by abortion. This is usually held up as an example of their fanaticism, or their cruelty, or their desire to punish women, or some other charge.

In fact, though, it is precisely when it comes to these most difficult cases that the underlying philosophy of the pro-life movement finds its moral strength. They argue that the unborn possess an independent right to life, that one would and should not do to them in the womb what would never be done to them one second after they were born alive. Wanted or unwanted, conceived in love or in violence, they are ensouled and they are people.

This is not a conviction I share, but it is a conviction for which I have enormous respect. Now comes along Todd Akin, and he has good news! No need to worry about those pesky hard cases, that pregnancy-by-rape stuff! Don’t bother yourself over that! He talked to a doctor, and the doctor said when a woman is legitimately raped, her body will act in ways to prevent that pregnancy from happening! So if there’s a pregnancy by rape, you can be pretty sure it’s not really rape, but something less…legitimate.

In one offhand stroke, then, Todd Akin not only offended all thinking people with his nonsense bilge—he was also selling snake oil to his own comrades in the pro-life battle. For that they should despise him.

So Todd Akin, the senatorial candidate in Missouri, has made a commercial apologizing for his remarks on rape and pregnancy on Sunday. “Rape is an evil act,” he says. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

One has reason to think this apology is disingenuous. For one thing, it’s doubtful he would have issued it had the video of him discoursing on “legitimate rape” and the mystical ability of a woman’s body to repel a rapist’s seed not become a subject of controversy. For another, as always with politicians, what tells is the phrasing. “The mistake was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold” places the blame for his error on “the words,” as though the words were somehow separate from him. Whereas “the heart I hold” is intrinsic to him, and therefore to be taken more seriously  (and by the way, who exactly “holds” a heart?).

What strikes me, though, is the offense Todd Akin has given—not just to victims of rape, but to his fellow pro-lifers. The most difficult moral issue when it comes to abortion comes with cases of pregnancy due to rape and incest. (These are, relative to all live births, extraordinarily small in number.) The pregnancy in such circumstances is not only unwanted but the result of a barbaric and traumatic criminal attack. And yet consistent pro-lifers argue such pregnancies should not be ended by abortion. This is usually held up as an example of their fanaticism, or their cruelty, or their desire to punish women, or some other charge.

In fact, though, it is precisely when it comes to these most difficult cases that the underlying philosophy of the pro-life movement finds its moral strength. They argue that the unborn possess an independent right to life, that one would and should not do to them in the womb what would never be done to them one second after they were born alive. Wanted or unwanted, conceived in love or in violence, they are ensouled and they are people.

This is not a conviction I share, but it is a conviction for which I have enormous respect. Now comes along Todd Akin, and he has good news! No need to worry about those pesky hard cases, that pregnancy-by-rape stuff! Don’t bother yourself over that! He talked to a doctor, and the doctor said when a woman is legitimately raped, her body will act in ways to prevent that pregnancy from happening! So if there’s a pregnancy by rape, you can be pretty sure it’s not really rape, but something less…legitimate.

In one offhand stroke, then, Todd Akin not only offended all thinking people with his nonsense bilge—he was also selling snake oil to his own comrades in the pro-life battle. For that they should despise him.

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Akin “Forgiveness” Means ObamaCare Wins

The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.

The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.

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The campaign of embattled Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin has responded to the furor created by his idiotic comments about rape with an ad asking voters to forgive him. In it a penitent-looking and sounding Akin apologizes for saying that women cannot be made pregnant when raped. Though a day late, it’s full-blown apology in which he walks back his offensive statement and seeks a fresh start from voters. That’s appropriate but it also misses the point. If Akin is still expecting conservatives to rally around him and claim he is a victim of media bias and double standards that allow liberals a pass on gaffes while conservatives are crucified, he’s mistaken. The stakes involved in this election are simply too high to allow right-wingers the luxury of sticking with the Missouri congressman.

The ad seems to signal that Akin is determined to stay in the Missouri Senate race. If so, that will set off a day of furious activity intended to convince him that he must pull out before the 6 p.m. (EST) deadline today that would allow Akin to be replaced on the ballot. The consensus on the right that Akin must go is based not just on revulsion against his stupid and insensitive crack. Conservatives understand that his determination to stay could allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate this fall. Lest anyone forget, a Republican majority in the Senate next January is necessary if there is to be any chance that ObamaCare can be repealed before it goes into effect. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and the GOP holds onto the House of Representatives, if Harry Reid is the majority leader when Congress reconvenes in 2013, ObamaCare will survive.

The math is that simple. The current RealClearPolitics map for the Senate shows 47 likely Democrat seats heading into the election and 44 for the Republicans with nine seats up for grabs rated as tossups. While theoretically the GOP can win a majority without Missouri, that is one seat they were already counting on to offset possible losses elsewhere. If McCaskill is left to run against the candidate of her choice, the chances of a Republican majority next year are dramatically reduced.

Just as important is the fact that if Akin hangs on, he will give Democrats a poster child for their effort to portray their opponents as waging a faux “war on women.” While they will do so whether Akin stays in or not, his withdrawal would be a strong statement of Republican intent and reduce the effectiveness of the effort to depict all members of the GOP as hostile to women. At this point, Akin’s resignation will mean as much to Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president, as it will to Mitch McConnell’s hope to replace Reid as Majority Leader.

Akin may reason that if he hangs on his party will have no choice but to backtrack on their vows to starve him of funds especially if the race in Missouri stays close. But that would be colossal mistake for the party. No matter what he says, Akin’s candidacy is a lost cause and if they fail to isolate him, the taint of his stupidity will attach itself to every Republican in the country, including Romney.

Anybody can make a mistake but Akin’s belief that if he is sincere in his apologies, Missourians will forgive him and get back to focusing on McCaskill’s faults is wrong. Whether he knows it or not, he’s already lost his chance to sit in the Senate. The only question now is whether he is man enough to realize this in time and give some other Republican a chance. Republicans have only a few hours to remind Akin that this election is about more than his political future. If they can’t bring him to his senses, it will be bad news for Mitt Romney and those who understand that only a Republican sweep of the White House and both Houses of Congress can stop ObamaCare from becoming a permanent feature of American society.

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Akin and the Difference Between the Parties

This month two prominent politicians have said remarkably stupid things: Vice President Joe Biden warned that Republicans were going to put a largely black crowd “back into chains” and the Republican running for the Missouri Senate said that women who experienced “legitimate rape” could naturally prevent pregnancy. Both statements were incredibly stupid, even for politicians, and were the definition of offensive; but the responses of each party highlights their differences quite clearly.

After Vice President Joe Biden’s warning to a largely black audience about being put “back in chains” the liberal elite in the media called his remarks a “gaffe.” While there were questions put to the White House about his remaining on the ticket, there were no serious demands for his ouster. One would think the threat of slavery for voting the “wrong way” would have been accompanied with demands for his resignation. But there were none–not from the media and not from fellow Democrats. The White House and its surrogates defended and pushed aside Biden’s remarks, as they consistently have, no matter how offensive the statement. Biden himself refused to apologize, instead first trying to downplay it, and then disappearing to an undisclosed location somewhere far away from cameras and microphones.

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This month two prominent politicians have said remarkably stupid things: Vice President Joe Biden warned that Republicans were going to put a largely black crowd “back into chains” and the Republican running for the Missouri Senate said that women who experienced “legitimate rape” could naturally prevent pregnancy. Both statements were incredibly stupid, even for politicians, and were the definition of offensive; but the responses of each party highlights their differences quite clearly.

After Vice President Joe Biden’s warning to a largely black audience about being put “back in chains” the liberal elite in the media called his remarks a “gaffe.” While there were questions put to the White House about his remaining on the ticket, there were no serious demands for his ouster. One would think the threat of slavery for voting the “wrong way” would have been accompanied with demands for his resignation. But there were none–not from the media and not from fellow Democrats. The White House and its surrogates defended and pushed aside Biden’s remarks, as they consistently have, no matter how offensive the statement. Biden himself refused to apologize, instead first trying to downplay it, and then disappearing to an undisclosed location somewhere far away from cameras and microphones.

Contrast this with Republicans’ response to the remarks on “legitimate rape” made by Rep. Todd Akin, running for the Missouri Senate seat currently held by Democrat Claire McCaskill. Immediately, highly regarded conservatives like our John PodhoretzMichelle MalkinS.E. CuppPhilip KleinRick Wilson, and the editorial board of National Review have all called for Akin to step aside. It appears that if Akin decides to run, he will now be doing so without the financial backing of Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS or the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), headed by Senator John Cornyn. During an interview on New Hampshire radio it appears that Romney echoed Cornyn’s pressure for Akin to step aside while the Missouri Republican party still has time to replace him. Prominent Congressional Republicans like Senators Scott Brown and Ron Johnson have called for Akin to drop out, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was severe in his criticism, and many others have harshly rebuked his comments.

While the comments made by Rep. Akin have jeopardized Republican chances at a majority in the U.S. Senate, many in the “establishment” and Tea Party are not allowing his remarks to pass. The outrage is equally felt across the aisle, despite what Democrats are fundraising on, and it appears Republicans are doing all they can to remove Akin from his race before the deadline. If he refuses to step down, it appears he will not receive any backing from the party, financial or otherwise. Despite the importance of the seat, Republicans refuse to help Akin win it.

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