Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 30, 2013

Why Did Apple Hire Lisa Jackson?

After the 2008 presidential election, when Barack Obama began putting his team together, he sent the clearest message on what to expect from his administration with one nomination in particular. No, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton at State and the rather silly “team of rivals” message he tried to send by hiring fellow Democrats. It wasn’t his decision to keep Robert Gates as defense secretary, since it was still unclear what national security policy Gates would be presiding over.

The clearest message he sent was in choosing Lisa Jackson to lead the Environmental Protection Agency–a foreshadowing of suffocating regulation and government control, unaccountable bureaucracy, and a defiant secrecy that would make a mockery of the rule of law and standards of transparency. Jackson–who has just been hired by Apple as an environmental advisor–may have shamelessly pursued unconstitutional power grabs and earned a congressional investigation for using an alias email address in her dog’s name while at EPA, but none of that would have been a surprise to those in Jackson’s previous jurisdiction: New Jersey.

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After the 2008 presidential election, when Barack Obama began putting his team together, he sent the clearest message on what to expect from his administration with one nomination in particular. No, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton at State and the rather silly “team of rivals” message he tried to send by hiring fellow Democrats. It wasn’t his decision to keep Robert Gates as defense secretary, since it was still unclear what national security policy Gates would be presiding over.

The clearest message he sent was in choosing Lisa Jackson to lead the Environmental Protection Agency–a foreshadowing of suffocating regulation and government control, unaccountable bureaucracy, and a defiant secrecy that would make a mockery of the rule of law and standards of transparency. Jackson–who has just been hired by Apple as an environmental advisor–may have shamelessly pursued unconstitutional power grabs and earned a congressional investigation for using an alias email address in her dog’s name while at EPA, but none of that would have been a surprise to those in Jackson’s previous jurisdiction: New Jersey.

Before coming back to the federal EPA, Jackson ran the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection during the Corzine administration (before becoming Corzine’s chief of staff). Though Jackson seems to have steered clear of the corruption around her, the state’s environmental apparatus has played an important role in Jersey’s corrupt state Democratic machine, which went something like this: miles of red tape were backed up by the use of obscure and blatantly irrelevant laws to make building a structure–home or commercial–in many cases close to impossible. That enabled politicians and bureaucrats at various state agencies to go looking for bribes and kickbacks to cut through that tape or to change zoning laws to increase favored property values.

The regulations won bureaucrats high marks from environmental lobbies, but they didn’t actually make anybody safer because they were bypassed by greasing the wheels. When such corruption schemes were busted, as one high-profile one was in 2009, suddenly thousands of residents all over the state had no idea if their buildings were safe, because the building inspectors were also bribed. And then on top of that, the corrupt politicians routinely win the endorsements of the environmental groups that push for the rules that don’t get enforced, encourage corruption, and reduce everyone’s safety.

Welcome to New Jersey.

None of this is to suggest that Jackson has ever done anything illegal, only that her penchant for regulation doesn’t accomplish its goals but does enable corruption and makes life more difficult for honest folks. A good example of the latter is this Star-Ledger column from 2008 by Paul Mulshine, explaining what happened to Hunterdon County homeowner Nick Scamuffa. He spent $12,000 and got all the necessary permits to install a wood-burning heating system at his home. Soon county officials egged on by Jackson’s DEP showed up unannounced and demanded he shut the heating system down without explaining to him what laws he’d crossed.

He wasn’t the only one, and soon hundreds of residents with such heating systems–all perfectly legal–were demanding answers. These homeowners soon found out that they were being hassled under a 1977 law regulating commercial wood-burning heating systems that “specifically excludes one- and two-family dwellings.” But the NJ DEP decided that since the wood-burning furnaces sit outside the main structure, they could pretend they were commercial and harass Scamuffa’s 80-year-old mother (and hundreds like her) into deactivating her home heating system.

When Mulshine got an air-quality official at the DEP on the phone to explain, he said there are newer furnaces that burn cleaner than the old ones. Mulshine scoffed:

That’s great. And if the DEP wants to push for a law requiring that new technology in new construction, that would be a valid issue for the Legislature to consider. But this heavy-handed enforcement occurred on Jackson’s watch at DEP, which she headed until this month. And if this is typical of the approach she plans to take as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, then everybody in America is going to get a chance to see what it’s like to live in New Jersey.

I don’t think they’re going to like it quite as much as we do.

That’s about right. The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Rago sums up Jackson’s tenure this way in a reaction to the news of her new job at Apple: “At the EPA Ms. Jackson proved to be an especially abusive and willful regulator, even for the Obama administration, and her epic rule-making bender continues to drag on economic growth. But nothing about her career suggests any expertise in technology; prior to her EPA posting Ms. Jackson was a political functionary in New Jersey and New York.”

So why would Apple hire her? Rago suggests that Apple executives, who are being dragged in front of congressional committees for obeying tax laws and making money, might think bringing Jackson on board would insulate them from the political attacks. At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney asks: “Will Jackson’s job be about chasing subsidies for the renewable investments Apple is already making?” Whatever the reason, if her past experience is any indication, even with the best of intentions it will be counterproductive and costly.

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Excusing Eric Holder’s Deceptions

The way the press has united to protest the Justice Department’s attempts to spy on journalists has been remarkable. Though a few outlier contrarians are claiming the Associated Press or James Rosen of Fox News were in the wrong and deserved to be snooped on, from right to left the press has largely joined together to protest this unprecedented encroachment on the constitutional rights of journalists. Even most liberal members of the media understand that the attempt to brand Rosen’s activity as a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act is nothing less than an attempt to criminalize reporting about the government.

However, there are clear limits to the sense of outrage about government’s war on journalists. What we have witnessed in the last month is what Jonah Goldberg wittily referred to as an Arab Spring in the media as some Obama apologists have allowed the leak prosecutions, as well as questions about Benghazi and the IRS, to cause them to do some unusually critical reporting about the administration. But when it comes to connecting the dots between their justified outrage and Attorney General Eric Holder’s conduct, the old partisan divide appears to be reappearing. Though Holder appears to have either perjured himself when he appeared before a House committee on May 15 when testifying about prosecutions of journalists or else lied on the documents he sent to federal judges to get them to authorize the snooping on James Rosen, many in the press have reverted to form and are giving him a pass.

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The way the press has united to protest the Justice Department’s attempts to spy on journalists has been remarkable. Though a few outlier contrarians are claiming the Associated Press or James Rosen of Fox News were in the wrong and deserved to be snooped on, from right to left the press has largely joined together to protest this unprecedented encroachment on the constitutional rights of journalists. Even most liberal members of the media understand that the attempt to brand Rosen’s activity as a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act is nothing less than an attempt to criminalize reporting about the government.

However, there are clear limits to the sense of outrage about government’s war on journalists. What we have witnessed in the last month is what Jonah Goldberg wittily referred to as an Arab Spring in the media as some Obama apologists have allowed the leak prosecutions, as well as questions about Benghazi and the IRS, to cause them to do some unusually critical reporting about the administration. But when it comes to connecting the dots between their justified outrage and Attorney General Eric Holder’s conduct, the old partisan divide appears to be reappearing. Though Holder appears to have either perjured himself when he appeared before a House committee on May 15 when testifying about prosecutions of journalists or else lied on the documents he sent to federal judges to get them to authorize the snooping on James Rosen, many in the press have reverted to form and are giving him a pass.

That’s the only way to explain the decision of many liberal pundits to accept the notion that Holder wasn’t lying to the House. To refresh our memories, here is what Holder said on May 15 when specifically questioned by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) about the possibility of journalists being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for reporting information that the government labeled as classified:

With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy. In fact, my view is quite the opposite.

Yet we know that early in Obama’s first term, Holder had personally signed off on requests for judicial permission to read James Rosen’s emails and seize his phone records by labeling him as a “co-conspirator” and someone who “aided and abetted” a crime by seeking to get a source to give him information.

Holder’s liberal defenders as well as the White House are parsing his statement as being about actual ongoing attempts to prosecute and since Rosen hadn’t actually been charged, what the attorney general said could be interpreted as being literally true. But Holder referred to “potential prosecution of the press,” not cases already on the dock. That means that the most generous way to evaluate his statement is to say that it was an attempt to deceive. In plain English, he perjured himself and there’s little doubt that’s exactly what liberal pundits would be saying if any of George W. Bush’s attorney generals had spoken in this manner to Congress.

An alternative interpretation is that Holder’s statement was true because the DOJ’s request for the right to spy on Rosen was where the lying occurred. It is entirely possible that the document with Holder’s signature that spoke of Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a crime was blatantly disingenuous. While this administration has prosecuted more leakers (though not any of the anonymous White House officials who gave friendly media outlets flattering information about President Obama and his policies) than all of its predecessors combined, perhaps Holder wasn’t so stupid as to think he could actually get away with criminalizing journalism. Instead, he just brazenly lied to the judges in order to con them into authorizing federal snooping.

A third theory gets Holder off the hook for lying to Congress or the judiciary but is an indictment of his leadership. That one holds that Holder didn’t know what was being done in his name (even on documents he signed) and therefore simply came up blank when asked about the Espionage Act. This fits in with the “we’re not criminal, just incompetent” excuse the administration has been using on the IRS and Benghazi. But it also treats Holder as a cipher rather than the experienced and powerful figure that he actually is.

But no matter which of these three options you want to pick, Holder has clearly exhibited behavior that is not only not up to the high standards the president supposedly holds for his government but is a disgrace by any standard. It’s time for liberals to stop trying to excuse his mendacious behavior. Holder may still have the affection of his friend in the Oval Office, but its time for his defenders in the press to cut him loose.

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Jake Tapper, Journalist

I’ve had some critical things to say about the elite media, particularly for their soft–and sometimes outright worshipful–coverage of Barack Obama. But there are impressive exceptions, one of whom is Jake Tapper of CNN.

Anyone who followed his work at ABC News, where he was its White House correspondent, and now at CNN, where he hosts his own show, cannot help but be impressed by his professional integrity. Mr. Tapper is tough-minded but not mean-spirited toward those in power, regardless of their party affiliation. And he actually uses his platform to inform viewers.

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I’ve had some critical things to say about the elite media, particularly for their soft–and sometimes outright worshipful–coverage of Barack Obama. But there are impressive exceptions, one of whom is Jake Tapper of CNN.

Anyone who followed his work at ABC News, where he was its White House correspondent, and now at CNN, where he hosts his own show, cannot help but be impressed by his professional integrity. Mr. Tapper is tough-minded but not mean-spirited toward those in power, regardless of their party affiliation. And he actually uses his platform to inform viewers.

One example is the timeline of the Department of Justice’s investigation of Fox News’s James Rosen that Tapper discussed with Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, which you can watch here. It’s not earth shattering and it’s not advocacy journalism. It is instead straightforward, factual, and helpful, putting an important story in context. Which these days means it’s rare and welcome.

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Assad’s Foolish Boast

Bashar Assad has long had a reputation for not being the smartest strongman in the Middle East; in fact he would never have become Syria’s president if his older brother Bassel, who was being groomed to succeed their father Hafez, hadn’t died in a car accident in 1994. It is a safe bet that his ruthless father would not have allowed protests against him to spin out of control, as Bashar has done. One reckons that old man Assad also would have been bright enough to avoid doing what Bashar just did—which is to say, bragging in a television interview that Russia has delivered the advanced S-300 air-defense system to him.

The time to brag about the S-300 is once it goes operational; bragging about it before it’s actually online is simply an invitation to Israel to launch a preemptive strike, something that will almost surely happen whenever Israeli intelligence assesses that there is a good opportunity and pressing need to do so. As it happens, Israeli government sources are suggesting that Russia has only delivered some components and that the entire system is far from being ready to use. No doubt Assad hopes to rally Syrian and Lebanese supporters by building up an image of strength. But what he is doing is like waving a red cape at a bull—and if Israel takes out his vaunted S-300 system, as it should, it will undermine rather than enhance his aura of authority.

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Bashar Assad has long had a reputation for not being the smartest strongman in the Middle East; in fact he would never have become Syria’s president if his older brother Bassel, who was being groomed to succeed their father Hafez, hadn’t died in a car accident in 1994. It is a safe bet that his ruthless father would not have allowed protests against him to spin out of control, as Bashar has done. One reckons that old man Assad also would have been bright enough to avoid doing what Bashar just did—which is to say, bragging in a television interview that Russia has delivered the advanced S-300 air-defense system to him.

The time to brag about the S-300 is once it goes operational; bragging about it before it’s actually online is simply an invitation to Israel to launch a preemptive strike, something that will almost surely happen whenever Israeli intelligence assesses that there is a good opportunity and pressing need to do so. As it happens, Israeli government sources are suggesting that Russia has only delivered some components and that the entire system is far from being ready to use. No doubt Assad hopes to rally Syrian and Lebanese supporters by building up an image of strength. But what he is doing is like waving a red cape at a bull—and if Israel takes out his vaunted S-300 system, as it should, it will undermine rather than enhance his aura of authority.

But even if Assad’s boasts are premature and ill-advised, they do highlight the deeply malicious, indeed repugnant, role that Russia continues to play in Syria where it has emerged as the No. 2 foreign backer—behind Iran—of a regime that has slaughtered its own people en masse, including through the use of chemical weapons. This brutally exposes just how farcical the Obama foreign policy team is if it thinks that Vladimir Putin is going to cooperate in any way in ending the Syrian civil war. Why would Putin want to lose such a good customer for Russian arms?

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The Decline and Fall of David Cameron’s Tory Centrism

David Cameron is in trouble. His Tory party is fraying, with conservatives fleeing or threatening to flee to right-wing parties and non-conservatives distinctly unimpressed with his flailing dash to the center. He is unable to win over converts or keep his own party in line, and thus his career is fading along with his poll numbers. Last week the Washington Post reported on a Tory revolt in the House of Commons over Cameron’s stance on social issues. And today, the UK edition of GQ magazine hits newsstands and contains an interview with Cameron’s former spokesman which discusses the gains of the prime minister’s intraparty rival.

Though rumors have swirled for quite some time that Cameron was susceptible to a Tory leadership challenge from London Mayor Boris Johnson–who is not a member of the British parliament (though he served until 2008) and thus should not be nearly so close in Cameron’s rearview mirror–the idea that Johnson will replace him is now commonly discussed in terms of when, not if (though perhaps they should be discussing how). Cameron’s former flack, Andy Coulson, was asked by GQ about the Boris effect. The full interview seems to be behind a paywall, but the magazine has released snippets to non-subscribers. When asked for his take on Johnson, Coulson responded:

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David Cameron is in trouble. His Tory party is fraying, with conservatives fleeing or threatening to flee to right-wing parties and non-conservatives distinctly unimpressed with his flailing dash to the center. He is unable to win over converts or keep his own party in line, and thus his career is fading along with his poll numbers. Last week the Washington Post reported on a Tory revolt in the House of Commons over Cameron’s stance on social issues. And today, the UK edition of GQ magazine hits newsstands and contains an interview with Cameron’s former spokesman which discusses the gains of the prime minister’s intraparty rival.

Though rumors have swirled for quite some time that Cameron was susceptible to a Tory leadership challenge from London Mayor Boris Johnson–who is not a member of the British parliament (though he served until 2008) and thus should not be nearly so close in Cameron’s rearview mirror–the idea that Johnson will replace him is now commonly discussed in terms of when, not if (though perhaps they should be discussing how). Cameron’s former flack, Andy Coulson, was asked by GQ about the Boris effect. The full interview seems to be behind a paywall, but the magazine has released snippets to non-subscribers. When asked for his take on Johnson, Coulson responded:

Boris Johnson desperately wants to be prime minister and David has known that fact longer than most.  When Boris asked me to pass on the message that he was keen to stand as mayor of London, David responded, “Well, if he wins, he’ll want my job next.”  If proof were needed that our PM is a man untroubled by self doubt, it came in his next sentence, “So I think he’ll be a bloody brilliant candidate for us”…..Stabbing David, or anyone else for that matter, in the back would be distinctly off brand — just not very Boris.  He would much prefer to see David fail miserably in the election and ride in on his bike to save party and country.

Though it would likely be easy to find a seat in the Commons for Johnson, and though the premiership has evolved unofficially over time from more modest–and still unofficial, in a strict sense–beginnings, this would be a remarkable turn of events. Born in New York City with family roots scattered across Europe, Johnson is a colorful loose cannon able to appeal to working-class voters despite his classic Eton and Oxford education. That has been the right mix for Londoners, who have now twice elected him over Labour’s “Red” Ken Livingstone. Boris today has a 65 percent approval rating, with “charismatic” being the most popular one-term description of the mayor.

That poll is better for Boris than it looks. YouGov asked respondents which term applies to Johnson: charismatic; sticks to beliefs; natural leader; in touch with ordinary people; strong; decisive; good in a crisis; honest; none of these; don’t know. Almost 60 percent said charismatic, his highest among the choices. YouGov asked respondents the same question of Cameron, and the term chosen the most was: none of these, at 45 percent.

But the idea that Cameron is already a lame duck within his own party, and maybe even about to be replaced by the mayor of London, would mean Cameron has risen fast and fallen faster. How did that happen? It isn’t same-sex marriage, to be sure. Cameron’s vacillating on Britain’s membership in the European Union has been far more consequential an issue to his fellow Tories (and to the party scooping up Tory defectors, UKIP). The Washington Post story gets closer to the answer, when it gets a quote from Tory Lord David Howell:

“Old fossils like me always wondered about this great shift to the promised land of the center,” said Lord David Howell, who served in Thatcher’s conservative cabinet in the 1980s. “Is it really just a journey to a place where no one really likes you anymore?”

In Cameron’s case, the answer appears to be: yes. But it would be more accurate to say that Cameron’s popularity never really existed as prime minister in the first place, and that his steady shift to the center, on the EU and other matters, were the disease and not the cure–though Cameron confused each for its opposite.

Almost exactly one year before the May 2010 general election, Cameron’s Conservative Party polled at 43 percent, which gave them a 16 percent lead in first place. The lead fluctuated, but generally hovered around that mark until it began slipping in the fall and continued dropping into the new year. By mid-April, the lead had completely evaporated, with the Liberal Democrats posting a one-point lead and Labour only seven points behind. Cameron eventually recovered for a seven-point victory that forced a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

What happened? At the risk of oversimplifying, Cameron was beginning to waver on campaign promises months before he even won. Polls in September 2009 found majority support for a national referendum on EU membership. By early October, the Guardian was reporting that “David Cameron retreats on European referendum,” instead promising to “repatriate” some powers back to Britain in lieu of letting the people make the choice. That same article notes that a certain mayor of London publicly disagreed, saying he wanted a referendum “and a lot of people will agree with me.”

There is more to Cameron’s unpopularity than just the EU issue, but it’s indicative of his general governing style: desperately grasping for a centrist solution that will maximize support but which ends up minimizing support, in part because of poor policy ideas and in part because he gives off the impression of a politician in over his head. Once upon a time Cameron benefited from debates about whether Boris Johnson could do any better than he could. If they are now debating whether Boris could possibly do any worse, Cameron is on his way out.

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The Palestinian Excuse Machine

Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to revive the Middle East peace process hasn’t accomplished much so far and isn’t likely to do better in the future. But it has posed an interesting challenge to the Palestinians. Given that they don’t wish to further offend the United States or disrupt the flow of Western aid that keeps the corrupt Palestinian Authority afloat, and also don’t wish to return to negotiating with Israel under virtually any circumstances, how do they justify continuing their four-and-half-year-old boycott of peace talks? Their answer to that dilemma is clear: continue to pile on the calumnies against the Jewish state and hope that it will be seen to justify their ongoing refusal to even talk with Israel.

Their reasoning for sticking to this tried and true formula for avoiding peace talks is sound. Given that both Washington and much of the Western media has always been ready to buy into their abuse of Israel and to stick to the idea that the Palestinians are innocent victims rather than the principle authors of their own misery, why shouldn’t they continue to pretend that Israeli building in Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace that prevents them from returning to the table?

But anyone who is familiar with the parameters of past peace talks that they claim to wish to build on understands that their complaints about Jews in Jerusalem or canards about ethnic cleansing are not only false but simply excuses manufactured to justify their unwillingness to play ball with Kerry.

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Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to revive the Middle East peace process hasn’t accomplished much so far and isn’t likely to do better in the future. But it has posed an interesting challenge to the Palestinians. Given that they don’t wish to further offend the United States or disrupt the flow of Western aid that keeps the corrupt Palestinian Authority afloat, and also don’t wish to return to negotiating with Israel under virtually any circumstances, how do they justify continuing their four-and-half-year-old boycott of peace talks? Their answer to that dilemma is clear: continue to pile on the calumnies against the Jewish state and hope that it will be seen to justify their ongoing refusal to even talk with Israel.

Their reasoning for sticking to this tried and true formula for avoiding peace talks is sound. Given that both Washington and much of the Western media has always been ready to buy into their abuse of Israel and to stick to the idea that the Palestinians are innocent victims rather than the principle authors of their own misery, why shouldn’t they continue to pretend that Israeli building in Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace that prevents them from returning to the table?

But anyone who is familiar with the parameters of past peace talks that they claim to wish to build on understands that their complaints about Jews in Jerusalem or canards about ethnic cleansing are not only false but simply excuses manufactured to justify their unwillingness to play ball with Kerry.

The Palestinian complaints about Israeli building in East Jerusalem dooming peace talks are patently absurd. The plans, which consist of tenders for the construction of 300 apartments in the Ramot neighborhood and 800 in the Gilo area, would in no way affect the Palestinian position or their hopes for an independent state that might include part of the city.

Ramot and Gilo are located in parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 and thus are over the “green line” that once divided the city. But these are 40-year-old neighborhoods that are long established, not some remote hilltop settlements in parts of the West Bank that are assumed to be part of a future Palestinian state.

In every peace plan put forward by peace groups as well as the Israeli government’s offers of statehood to the Palestinians, the Jewish areas of East Jerusalem remain part of Israel. The Palestinians know that even in the most generous distribution of territory—including the one put forward by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 that called for the abandonment of the Old City by Israel—Ramot and Gilo and other such neighborhoods are not going to be handed over to them and emptied of their Jewish inhabitants. In other words, if the Palestinian goal is truly to have a state alongside Israel that includes the Arab sections of East Jerusalem, it doesn’t matter how many Jews are in Ramot and Gilo.

But, of course, the PA isn’t really interested in a partition of Jerusalem or the 1967 lines as it is in finding a reason to avoid talking to Israel. That’s why they are forced to try to blow up the issue of Jews in East Jerusalem as a provocation that prevents them from negotiating.

To be fair to the Palestinians, they are in some ways merely following the lead of the Obama administration that has made an issue of building in Jerusalem during the president’s first term. But, fortunately, Obama and Kerry have seen sense and abandoned past attempts to get Israel to agree to a building freeze in its own capital and instead urged the Palestinians to negotiate without preconditions.

But that is something that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas knows he cannot do. Abbas fled from Olmert’s offer that would have given him virtually everything he says he wants because he knows that he could not survive after signing a deal that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.

Despite Kerry’s naïve optimism that he can succeed where all his predecessors have failed, the intervening years have not altered Abbas’s position. With his Hamas rivals ensconced in Gaza and his own political position still precarious as he serves the ninth year of his four-year term as president, Abbas has no leeway to agree to a peace that would conclude the conflict. Palestinian politics remains mired in the rejectionism that has characterized its relationship toward Zionism since its inception. Nor is Abbas strong enough to resist the demands of the descendants of the 1948 refugees for Israel’s destruction even if he really were willing to make peace.

But faced with Kerry’s pleas for talks, all Abbas can do is to stall and pretend that Jews building in areas that the Palestinians will never get even in a division of Jerusalem is reason to avoid talking. Both Washington and the Western press shouldn’t fall for the latest version of the PA’s excuses.

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Phyllis Schlafly and the Road to GOP Ruin

In a radio interview, longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly said, “The Hispanics who come in like this are going to vote Democrat. And there is not the slightest bit of evidence that they are going to vote Republican.”

She added, “The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes — the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election. And there are millions of them. And I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole, and McCain, and Romney and they give us people who don’t connect with the grassroots.”

Let’s deal with first things first: The notion that there’s “not the slightest bit of evidence” that Hispanics are going to vote Republican is quite wrong. George W. Bush won roughly 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. As for the “series of losers” the “establishment-run nomination system” produced: Perhaps Schlafly believes the path to a GOP victory in 2012 would have been paved by GOP presidential nominee Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann. If so, she’s living on another planet. Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination because he won more Republican voters in more primary states than any of his competitors did.

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In a radio interview, longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly said, “The Hispanics who come in like this are going to vote Democrat. And there is not the slightest bit of evidence that they are going to vote Republican.”

She added, “The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes — the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election. And there are millions of them. And I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole, and McCain, and Romney and they give us people who don’t connect with the grassroots.”

Let’s deal with first things first: The notion that there’s “not the slightest bit of evidence” that Hispanics are going to vote Republican is quite wrong. George W. Bush won roughly 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. As for the “series of losers” the “establishment-run nomination system” produced: Perhaps Schlafly believes the path to a GOP victory in 2012 would have been paved by GOP presidential nominee Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann. If so, she’s living on another planet. Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination because he won more Republican voters in more primary states than any of his competitors did.

But Ms. Schlafly’s comments provide a good opportunity to call attention to recent remarks by Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute. Among the points made by Olsen:

  • The election was clearly decided by the non-white vote for the first time in American history. Seventy-two percent of the electorate in the 2012 election was white, according to the exit poll. That bloc includes people of many different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. But while there’s no monolithic white vote any more than there is a monolithic non-white vote, the racial differences are still stark.
  • Mitt Romney carried the white vote 59 percent to 39 percent, a 20 point lead. No candidate in American history had ever carried 59 percent of the white vote and lost the presidency. Governor Romney lost, by four points. He lost by four points because he lost the non-white vote by 63 points. (Among Hispanics, Romney lost 71 percent v. 27 percent.)
  • In every election since the 1996 election, like clockwork, the share of the non-white vote has gone up as a share of the total voters by 2 percent and the share of the white vote has gone down by 2 percent, much of that stemming from Hispanic population increases.
  • In 2016, if there is not a dramatic shrinkage in the African-American vote, a Republican candidate will need to get 60 percent of the white vote, plus a record high among African-Americans, plus a record high among Asians, plus a record high among Hispanics, plus a record high among those people who don’t classify themselves in any of those categories, or are American-Indian or Hawaiian or Aleut, to win a bare 50.1 percent of the vote.

Now these data points by themselves don’t mean Republicans should support the immigration reform legislation that is being crafted in the Senate. That legislation needs to be judged on its substantive merits. It’s also true that Mitt Romney did not appeal to white working class and blue-collar voters in anything like the numbers he needed to in order to win. But of course one can do both: appeal to rising immigrant groups and white working class voters. It’s not an either/or proposition.

In addition, the data points cited by Olsen do indicate that the strategy Ms. Schlafly is recommending–which is that Republicans should give up on Hispanic voters, who will never vote for Republicans anyway, and simply reach out to white voters–is a path to permanent political minority status. Republican presidential candidates are already doing fantastically well with white voters. The problem for the GOP is that they are a shrinking percentage of the electorate (from 89 percent of the electorate in 1976 to 72 percent in 2012).

As for the Schlafly mindset, Michael Gerson and I addressed it in our recent essay in COMMENTARY, when we wrote this:

Conservative critics of such [immigration] reforms sometimes express the conviction that Hispanic voters are inherently favorable to bigger government and thus more or less permanently immune to Republican appeals. It is a view that combines an off-putting sense of ideological superiority—apparently “those people” are not persuadable—with a pessimism about the drawing power of conservative ideals. Such attitudes are the prerogative of a sectarian faction. They are not an option for a political party, which cannot afford to lose the ambition to convince.

Phyllis Schlafly has lost the ambition to convince, which is just one reason why her counsel should be ignored. 

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Weiner’s Non-Redemption Campaign

The Anthony Weiner comeback is a godsend for journalists as well as a source of worry for his rivals in the race to be the next mayor of New York. It’s not just that Weiner is a fascinating character whose ambition, ego and single-minded drive for political power makes for a compelling story. Anyone who has followed his career has to admit that he has natural political talent and the ability to make people notice and even follow him, traits that have always stood him in good stead as he rose up the political ladder. But if he is to be successful in his attempt to revive his career after the bizarre scandal and the lies that forced him to resign from Congress in 2011, shouldn’t the Weiner reboot be predicated at least in part on the idea that he is a changed man from the guy who popularized the word “sexting” and whose brazen denials and false accusations of a hoax on the part of his critics outraged the nation?

As Maggie Haberman reveals in a must-read story in Politico today, the answer to that question is no. Weiner is not entirely unrepentant in that he’s sorry he got caught and for the humiliation he caused his wife. But there’s no pretense that he has undergone any real introspection about the character traits and problems that sent him off the rails. Indeed, as he tells Haberman in an interview, he seems to think New Yorkers want him to be the exactly same obnoxious guy whose aberrant behavior made him one of the most notorious figures in our recent political history.

Weiner is within his rights to act in this way, and if a majority of New Yorkers agrees that he is still the best man to lead their city government, he’s going to wind up the next mayor. But both he and his backers are taking a huge gamble. Without any sense that he understands what drove him to bad behavior or any real commitment to change, what guarantee does anyone have that he won’t slip back to it or do something else that is just as weird, or even worse, in the future?

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The Anthony Weiner comeback is a godsend for journalists as well as a source of worry for his rivals in the race to be the next mayor of New York. It’s not just that Weiner is a fascinating character whose ambition, ego and single-minded drive for political power makes for a compelling story. Anyone who has followed his career has to admit that he has natural political talent and the ability to make people notice and even follow him, traits that have always stood him in good stead as he rose up the political ladder. But if he is to be successful in his attempt to revive his career after the bizarre scandal and the lies that forced him to resign from Congress in 2011, shouldn’t the Weiner reboot be predicated at least in part on the idea that he is a changed man from the guy who popularized the word “sexting” and whose brazen denials and false accusations of a hoax on the part of his critics outraged the nation?

As Maggie Haberman reveals in a must-read story in Politico today, the answer to that question is no. Weiner is not entirely unrepentant in that he’s sorry he got caught and for the humiliation he caused his wife. But there’s no pretense that he has undergone any real introspection about the character traits and problems that sent him off the rails. Indeed, as he tells Haberman in an interview, he seems to think New Yorkers want him to be the exactly same obnoxious guy whose aberrant behavior made him one of the most notorious figures in our recent political history.

Weiner is within his rights to act in this way, and if a majority of New Yorkers agrees that he is still the best man to lead their city government, he’s going to wind up the next mayor. But both he and his backers are taking a huge gamble. Without any sense that he understands what drove him to bad behavior or any real commitment to change, what guarantee does anyone have that he won’t slip back to it or do something else that is just as weird, or even worse, in the future?

Weiner resists being “put on the couch” by reporters who want to know what’s going on inside his head and insists that the election should be about the issues, not his personality traits. Fair enough. He claimed in his roll-out video that he “made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down. But I’ve also learned some tough lessons.” But if so, what possible lessons could he have learned if he’s convinced that it’s OK to be the exactly same person who made the mistakes?

One needn’t be an advocate for the culture of therapy that pervades so much of contemporary American life to understand that when you break down, you’ve got to come to terms with what brought you to that point and caused the behavior that caused the problem. Weiner appears completely without interest in doing so and not just because he’s said that—contrary to what his aides promised when he resigned from Congress—he didn’t undergo therapy or rehab. Redemption is, as Haberman notes, always a popular theme with voters. But if Weiner’s mea culpas are this perfunctory and he thinks people want him to be the same person he was, that sounds like a formula for future trouble.

As much as Weiner wants the race to be about issues, any election to an executive post eventually comes down to personalities and trust. Despite New Yorkers liking politicians with combative styles—Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch being just two of the most recent outstanding examples—it’s an open question as to whether they are willing to buy into the idea that Weiner’s hyper-aggressive personality is so attractive as to overwhelm concerns about what brought him down in the first place. As Politico makes clear today, Weiner thinks the answer to that question is yes.

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More on That Frequent White House Visitor

As I blogged the other day, Douglas Shulman, the commissioner of Internal Revenue, has been a frequent visitor to the White House, unlike any of his predecessors in that job.

Now the Daily Caller has been doing a little journalism. It reports this morning that Shulman visited the White House a stunning total of 157 times during the Obama administration. How does that compare with other high-ranking officials? Eric Holder, holding the far more important job of attorney general and the president’s close friend, shows up in the White House visitors’ log less than half as often as Shulman. The Daily Caller writes:

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As I blogged the other day, Douglas Shulman, the commissioner of Internal Revenue, has been a frequent visitor to the White House, unlike any of his predecessors in that job.

Now the Daily Caller has been doing a little journalism. It reports this morning that Shulman visited the White House a stunning total of 157 times during the Obama administration. How does that compare with other high-ranking officials? Eric Holder, holding the far more important job of attorney general and the president’s close friend, shows up in the White House visitors’ log less than half as often as Shulman. The Daily Caller writes:

Shulman has more recorded visits to the White House than HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (48), DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano (34), Education Secretary Arne Duncan (31), former Energy Secretary Steven Chu (22) and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (17) combined.

To be sure, as the Daily Caller points out, some people are pre-cleared and don’t have to sign in and so may not always show up in the logs. (Perhaps, for the sake of history, not to mention journalism, that practice should end and everybody be required to sign in, with a classified log for highly sensitive visits by ambassadors, etc.)

Asked by a congressman at the recent hearings why he had visited so often, Shulman replied with a smirk that showed a contempt for Congress, if not contempt of Congress, that perhaps the Easter egg roll with his kids was one reason. But as Brit Hume tweeted regarding my original post, “Sooner or later this question will have to be answered: What was the ex-IRS chief doing at the White House all those times?”

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Michele Bachmann Is No Margaret Thatcher

Mark Steyn is someone whom I enjoy reading and listening to. He’s informed, intelligent, and has a wonderful (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. But once in a while his analysis is, in my estimation, a bit wide of the mark. Take his comments about Michele Bachmann, who yesterday announced she will not seek reelection. In paying tribute to her, Steyn said she could have been “America’s Thatcher.”

No she couldn’t. Margaret Thatcher was a once-in-a-generation leader. She changed the trajectory of history, bending it toward liberty. She was a woman who possessed a powerful intellect. Her speeches were thoughtful and historically literate, she always did her homework, and she was a first-rate debater. Margaret Thatcher’s achievements were staggeringly impressive. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, was a member of the House of Representatives who had some strengths but also some real weaknesses and limitations. 

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Mark Steyn is someone whom I enjoy reading and listening to. He’s informed, intelligent, and has a wonderful (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. But once in a while his analysis is, in my estimation, a bit wide of the mark. Take his comments about Michele Bachmann, who yesterday announced she will not seek reelection. In paying tribute to her, Steyn said she could have been “America’s Thatcher.”

No she couldn’t. Margaret Thatcher was a once-in-a-generation leader. She changed the trajectory of history, bending it toward liberty. She was a woman who possessed a powerful intellect. Her speeches were thoughtful and historically literate, she always did her homework, and she was a first-rate debater. Margaret Thatcher’s achievements were staggeringly impressive. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, was a member of the House of Representatives who had some strengths but also some real weaknesses and limitations. 

When someone we like retires we’re inclined to shower more praise on them than they deserve. I get that. But saying that Michele Bachmann could have been “America’s Thatcher” is (to be generous) hyperbole. And my guess is that Steyn himself, on reflection, would agree.

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Could Weiner Win on Education? Maybe if He Tried.

With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

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With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

During the debate Weiner took what would be considered a somewhat conservative approach to education by promising to take on local teachers’ unions in order to reward top performing teachers. Weiner blasted high-stakes testing originating in Albany but did not join his fellow Democratic candidates in criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s focus on the expansion of charter schools. Many of these education stances have support from middle-class parents who are increasingly overwhelmed by struggling schools and admissions processes that rival that of most Ivy League universities. Recently, the city’s parents have become obsessed by two scandals involving testing for students wishing to enter the coveted gifted and talented program. Access to quality and affordable education is an important issue to parents and students across the country, but for those in New York City, it is one fraught with an incredible amount of confusion, anxiety and cost.

If Weiner had come off during the debate as well-informed and passionate about the issue, it could have been a game changing debate for his young and highly mocked campaign. However, according to the New York Times roundup of the debate, Weiner came off incredibly flippant and ill-informed on a crucial issue to a constituency his campaign has hinged its success on. Late in the debate, the candidates were all asked about an influential founder of a charter-school network in the city and whether she received special treatment from city hall, as her detractors allege, and Weiner didn’t seem to have any idea who she was. There are few issues more important to middle-class voters in New York City right now than education. Weiner’s disregard for voters and their concerns doesn’t bode well for his chances. 

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