Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 2013

Low Student Loan Rates Not the Point

Republicans, candidates and the party alike, have a serious problem with young voters. The national party has conducted extensive research into how to solve the problem and it has already taken some promising steps in the right direction on several fronts, including digital strategy. The latest messaging meant for young donors coming from the RNC and Republicans in congressional leadership positions on student loan rates, however, is not only antithetical to the principles of conservatism, but will also prove ineffective in appealing to young voters.

Senate Republicans are justifiably frustrated at their Democratic colleagues’ inability to come to an agreement on student loan rates, which are poised to double on July 1 if a deal isn’t reached. Inexplicably, Senate Democrats have even rejected a proposal that President Obama set forth in his budget earlier this year.

Today the RNC gathered a small well-dressed group of young people that consisted of what their own official Twitter account described as interns, with handmade signs that appeared made with the same posterboard and markers, to protest the likely scenario of student loan rates doubling this summer. The protest may have been designed to appear organic, but the picture that emerged instead came across as quite staged. It seems Republicans believe that messaging on this Democratic failure will somehow endear them to young voters struggling under the weight of ballooning student debt.

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Republicans, candidates and the party alike, have a serious problem with young voters. The national party has conducted extensive research into how to solve the problem and it has already taken some promising steps in the right direction on several fronts, including digital strategy. The latest messaging meant for young donors coming from the RNC and Republicans in congressional leadership positions on student loan rates, however, is not only antithetical to the principles of conservatism, but will also prove ineffective in appealing to young voters.

Senate Republicans are justifiably frustrated at their Democratic colleagues’ inability to come to an agreement on student loan rates, which are poised to double on July 1 if a deal isn’t reached. Inexplicably, Senate Democrats have even rejected a proposal that President Obama set forth in his budget earlier this year.

Today the RNC gathered a small well-dressed group of young people that consisted of what their own official Twitter account described as interns, with handmade signs that appeared made with the same posterboard and markers, to protest the likely scenario of student loan rates doubling this summer. The protest may have been designed to appear organic, but the picture that emerged instead came across as quite staged. It seems Republicans believe that messaging on this Democratic failure will somehow endear them to young voters struggling under the weight of ballooning student debt.

Unfortunately for both the RNC and students, stopping a raise in rates wouldn’t solve the problem for the majority of students struggling not with the interest payments on their loans, but the principal. The ease with which students have taken out more loans than they can conceivably pay back after graduation is at the heart of the crisis. Making more money available at less cost would actually make the crisis worse for students and for an already bankrupt federal government, which has no business in the student loan business in the first place. Today the Wall Street Journal explained

The skyrocketing cost of a college education is a classic unintended consequence of government intervention. Colleges have responded to the availability of easy federal money by doing what subsidized industries generally do: Raising prices to capture the subsidy. Sold as a tool to help students cope with rising college costs, student loans have instead been a major contributor to the problem

In truth, America’s student loan problem won’t be solved by low interest rates—for many students, the debt would be crippling even if the interest rate were zero.

If we want to solve the very real problem of excessive student-loan debt, college costs need to be brought under control. A 2010 study by the Goldwater Institute identified “administrative bloat” as a leading reason for higher costs. The study found that many American universities now have more salaried administrators than teaching faculty.

The RNC’s populist message, which would do nothing to solve the student loan crisis, is unlikely to even register with most young voters. Few are even aware of the rates on their student loans, both when they take them out and when they graduate. The information isn’t even that easy to obtain: I spent over half an hour myself today figuring out the rates on each of my four federal loans to see how they compared to the rates currently being discussed.

The Republican Party has the right idea in trying to craft a message that appeals to young voters. What would not only resonate more, but also actually help them would be a plan to bring down costs, much like what Texas Governor Rick Perry has proposed with a $10,000 degree. Innovative solutions to bring down costs like Perry’s, not partisan demagoguery, is the future of the GOP’s outreach to younger voters. 

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The Right Kind of Tax Reform

Count me among those who think one obvious response to the IRS scandal is tax reform. The IRS and its few defenders have, even if inadvertently, made the case for simplifying the tax code and scaling down the IRS’s reach and powers just as well as the agency’s critics have (though critics of the taxman, unsurprisingly, outnumber defenders).

The revelations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations specifically and groups that seemed to disagree with President Obama generally have been in the public square for the better part of two months now, and we have two explanations for the abuse of power. Either the influential higher-ups at the agency were deliberately seeking to silence conservatives, or the agency’s bungling bureaucrats were too confused and overwhelmed to do their jobs properly. In neither scenario does the agency justify retaining the power it currently wields.

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Count me among those who think one obvious response to the IRS scandal is tax reform. The IRS and its few defenders have, even if inadvertently, made the case for simplifying the tax code and scaling down the IRS’s reach and powers just as well as the agency’s critics have (though critics of the taxman, unsurprisingly, outnumber defenders).

The revelations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations specifically and groups that seemed to disagree with President Obama generally have been in the public square for the better part of two months now, and we have two explanations for the abuse of power. Either the influential higher-ups at the agency were deliberately seeking to silence conservatives, or the agency’s bungling bureaucrats were too confused and overwhelmed to do their jobs properly. In neither scenario does the agency justify retaining the power it currently wields.

Part of this is a problem with campaign finance reform efforts, which result in limiting political speech and in some cases tasking the IRS with those responsibilities. But the IRS is either corrupt or irredeemably incompetent. Surely this argument can be made about much of the federal government, though the IRS is in the news now and has a rare slice of the public’s attention. As such, this would be a good moment to push for tax reform. But this, which the AP reported yesterday, does not seem like the best way to go about it:

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate’s tax writing committee said Thursday they’re starting with a “blank slate” approach to tax reform that envisions stripping the code of every single tax break as a setup to a debate over which ones to add back in.

But wouldn’t that just lead to a massive lobbying frenzy which would eventually result in insignificant tax breaks disappearing but the bulk of them right back in the tax code? Indeed, as the Hill reports:

Senators only have until July 26 to get back to Baucus and Hatch, giving K Street shops little time to formulate their strategy for what one lobbyist dubbed the Full Employment for Tax Lobbyists Act of 2013.

A separate lobbyist said the wide-open debate could result in something resembling a food fight, as various groups sparred and jockeyed for position, hunting for lawmakers to make the case for them.

“You’re going up against the entire world,” the lobbyist said. “There will be a ton of money spent on this.”…

Backers of the most popular big-ticket tax breaks – like the mortgage interest deduction and the exclusion for employee-sponsored health insurance – could be on safer ground, according to some on K Street.

The Hill offers what is intended to be good news, sort of: some of the tax breaks will be in trouble because their supporters don’t want to go on record defending them. But isn’t that just another way of saying that the tax code is even more in need of reform than the public knows? Anything resembling a lobbyist bidding war on tax breaks won’t exactly inspire confidence among the public looking for a leaner and cleaner government.

Additionally, I don’t think anyone believes that the final version would stay that way–that exemptions of all sorts wouldn’t creep in again when no one is paying much attention. That is one of the major weaknesses of centering tax reform on the strength of lobbying. We’ll end up, most likely, with a very similar tax code to what we have now and set it on the road to eventually be identical to what we have now, the major difference being along the way we’ll have a period of adjustment and uncertainty that the IRS is manifestly unprepared to navigate.

But the fact that we’re even talking about major tax reform is at least a start. Government agencies that prove themselves too big to succeed should be scaled down, and tax agencies should not have the power to bar their critics from equal participation in the political process. Though those two points may seem obvious (or at least they should), the current size of the federal government and the scandals it’s experiencing prove commonsense governance cannot be taken for granted.

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History, Not Hispanics Will Judge GOP

The approval by the Senate yesterday of the immigration reform bill is, as most observers are rightly noting, less a victory for its advocates than a prelude to a defeat. After struggling mightily to garner 68 votes in the Senate, the gang of eight must come to grips with the fact that only 15 Republicans (including four of the original sponsors) voted for the bill. Though the yes votes, comprising more than two-thirds of the Senate, represented an impressive bipartisan coalition the prospects of passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are slim if not entirely non-existent. The ability of anti-reform forces to rally much of the GOP grass roots to oppose the reform proposal as “amnesty” or a fraudulent attempt to bolster border security has entirely intimidated the House leadership and much of the party. Though some supporters of the idea, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, are vowing to bring forward a version of reform that might conceivably be meshed with the Senate bill in a conference, passage of any compromise that might conceivably satisfy either party seems unlikely.

The defeat of immigration reform will, if it happens, set off a new round of public soul searching and blame-assigning on the part of Republicans and their critics. The end of this attempt, which many thought might address the GOP’s growing problems with the fastest growing sector of voters—Hispanics—will be seen by some as a dismal follow-up to last November’s electoral debacle. By contrast, some conservatives will act as if the entire problem is a figment of the imagination of the dreaded party establishment. But I think too much of the discussion about this issue has centered on the implications of whether it will help Republicans win elections and not enough effort has been made to place it in historical perspective. Though we have treated this debate as if it were an entirely new issue in American politics whose only antecedent is the 1986 bill that is widely regarded as a failure, arguments about immigration stretch back through American history. The problem for Republicans then is not so much what Hispanics (many of whom are not likely to embrace the GOP anytime soon no matter what it does) think of them as it is what history will say about their apparent decision to squander an opportunity to fix a problem in a way that might accrue to their advantage as well as to align themselves with anti-immigration sentiments that have not exactly aided those who espoused them in the past.

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The approval by the Senate yesterday of the immigration reform bill is, as most observers are rightly noting, less a victory for its advocates than a prelude to a defeat. After struggling mightily to garner 68 votes in the Senate, the gang of eight must come to grips with the fact that only 15 Republicans (including four of the original sponsors) voted for the bill. Though the yes votes, comprising more than two-thirds of the Senate, represented an impressive bipartisan coalition the prospects of passage in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are slim if not entirely non-existent. The ability of anti-reform forces to rally much of the GOP grass roots to oppose the reform proposal as “amnesty” or a fraudulent attempt to bolster border security has entirely intimidated the House leadership and much of the party. Though some supporters of the idea, such as Rep. Paul Ryan, are vowing to bring forward a version of reform that might conceivably be meshed with the Senate bill in a conference, passage of any compromise that might conceivably satisfy either party seems unlikely.

The defeat of immigration reform will, if it happens, set off a new round of public soul searching and blame-assigning on the part of Republicans and their critics. The end of this attempt, which many thought might address the GOP’s growing problems with the fastest growing sector of voters—Hispanics—will be seen by some as a dismal follow-up to last November’s electoral debacle. By contrast, some conservatives will act as if the entire problem is a figment of the imagination of the dreaded party establishment. But I think too much of the discussion about this issue has centered on the implications of whether it will help Republicans win elections and not enough effort has been made to place it in historical perspective. Though we have treated this debate as if it were an entirely new issue in American politics whose only antecedent is the 1986 bill that is widely regarded as a failure, arguments about immigration stretch back through American history. The problem for Republicans then is not so much what Hispanics (many of whom are not likely to embrace the GOP anytime soon no matter what it does) think of them as it is what history will say about their apparent decision to squander an opportunity to fix a problem in a way that might accrue to their advantage as well as to align themselves with anti-immigration sentiments that have not exactly aided those who espoused them in the past.

The prospect of consigning the gang of eight’s bill to the dustbin of history has led many on the right to use the occasion of the Senate vote to start crowing about their effective veto on any measure that might fix our broken immigration system. They are feeling cocky about the way they have buffaloed much of Congress into branding what was a reasonable compromise as being the embodiment of everything conservatives are supposed to hate. This is in spite of the fact that it combined the most serious attempt to deal with border security with a scheme that would have eventually brought 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows. I have yet to hear a coherent response to the question of what conservative principle was at stake in preventing either of these outcomes. But what I have heard from many opponents of the bill is something that is far more troubling than mere disagreement.

If Congress fails to deal with immigration reform in this session it may not, as some have said, necessarily doom the Republican Party to defeats in future elections. Nor need it end the presidential hopes of Senator Marco Rubio, who is being unfairly branded a RINO by the bill’s foes. As John Podhoretz wrote this morning, three years is a lifetime in politics and anything can happen that might boost Rubio to the GOP nomination or to sink the Democrats in 2016. But anyone who thinks the tenor of this debate has not materially affected the ability of the Republican Party to appeal to Hispanics simply hasn’t been paying attention. With so many on the right acting as if their goal was not so much to turn the border with Mexico into the Great Wall of China (something that the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the gang’s bill might well have come close to achieving) but to demonstrate their antipathy for legal immigration and to make sure that those who are here without permission are treated as pariahs rather than offered, as most Americans rightly support, a chance to have their status legalized.

This is a disaster not so much because it alienates Hispanics as because it consigns what appears to be the majority of the House GOP caucus to being remembered as the latest iteration of the Know Nothing tradition of American history. Opponents of the bill will claim this is a slander, but as Peter Wehner rightly noted yesterday, the change in Republican rhetoric about immigration from the open-minded and optimistic tone of Ronald Reagan to the sort of thing we are hearing from the netroots these days should discourage any thinking conservative.

There is still time for the GOP to think twice about killing reform. It is possible for Republicans to pass a bill that does all the things the Senate bill might achieve even if it reverses the order and prioritizes security. But having painted themselves into a rhetorical corner on the issue, it’s not clear that those who have demagogued the issue have the ability to do it. At this point, alienated Hispanics may not care much what Republicans do on the issue the rest of the year, but history will not ignore the opportunity wasted or the unnecessary enemies made by those who may bring about this result.

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Building in Jerusalem Won’t Prevent Peace

Secretary of State John Kerry is back in Israel today for another bout of what some wags are calling “couples therapy” for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. The chances of this push leading to fruitful negotiations, let alone a peace agreement, are slim. But what is most interesting about the chatter all this talking about talking is producing is the way the Palestinians and other critics of Israel are trying to raise the ante even before anyone sits down together. Thus, the willingness of PA negotiator Saeb Erekat to turn the announcement of building permits in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem into an excuse for not making peace tells us a lot more about the Palestinian mindset than it does about the Netanyahu government.

The permits for constructing 69 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood was treated as a big deal in today’s New York Times, which validated Erekat’s attempt to inflate the decision into a cause célèbre. The Times was also quick to compare it to the 2010 episode in which the Obama administration picked a fight with Netanyahu over a routine announcement about a housing start in a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. The administration claimed it was an “insult” to Vice President Joe Biden, who happened to be passing through the city at the time. Little good came of that for anyone, especially since the Palestinians failed to use the U.S. tilt in their direction by returning to peace talks. But it bears repeating that the Palestinian desire to claim that any building in parts of Jerusalem that were once illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 and during which Jews were banned from even worshiping at the Western Wall–let alone living in those parts of their ancient capital–is an obstacle to peace simply doesn’t make any sense.

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Secretary of State John Kerry is back in Israel today for another bout of what some wags are calling “couples therapy” for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. The chances of this push leading to fruitful negotiations, let alone a peace agreement, are slim. But what is most interesting about the chatter all this talking about talking is producing is the way the Palestinians and other critics of Israel are trying to raise the ante even before anyone sits down together. Thus, the willingness of PA negotiator Saeb Erekat to turn the announcement of building permits in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem into an excuse for not making peace tells us a lot more about the Palestinian mindset than it does about the Netanyahu government.

The permits for constructing 69 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood was treated as a big deal in today’s New York Times, which validated Erekat’s attempt to inflate the decision into a cause célèbre. The Times was also quick to compare it to the 2010 episode in which the Obama administration picked a fight with Netanyahu over a routine announcement about a housing start in a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. The administration claimed it was an “insult” to Vice President Joe Biden, who happened to be passing through the city at the time. Little good came of that for anyone, especially since the Palestinians failed to use the U.S. tilt in their direction by returning to peace talks. But it bears repeating that the Palestinian desire to claim that any building in parts of Jerusalem that were once illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 and during which Jews were banned from even worshiping at the Western Wall–let alone living in those parts of their ancient capital–is an obstacle to peace simply doesn’t make any sense.

Even under a peace plan, such as the one proposed by Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert, Israel would retain Har Homa and other Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem–though the former PM did concede sovereignty over the Old City (something few Israelis would accept). The point is, if the Palestinians really want a state in almost all the West Bank (something Netanyahu has signaled this week he can live with) and a share of Jerusalem, what does it matter to them how many Jews live in the parts they won’t get?

Palestinian objections about building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem are no more logical than Israeli complaints about Arabs building homes in the West Bank in parts of the country that would not remain under Israeli control. But Israel isn’t complaining about Arab building. They’re just asking the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions after boycotting talks for four and a half years.

But, of course, such Palestinian complaints do make sense, at least from the point of view of most Palestinians. Their goal isn’t a state alongside Israel or to share Jerusalem. They want Jews out of Har Homa for the same reason they want them out of most other parts of the country since what they desire is a Palestinian state free of Jews.

Attempts to depict the Jewish presence in Jerusalem as illegal is deeply offensive, but in line with PA propaganda that has consistently sought to deny Jewish ties to the city and Jewish history itself. While the PA cannot be under any illusion that the Netanyahu government—or any Israeli government for that matter, regardless of who is at its head—would consent to giving up Jerusalem, what they want is to brand every Jew there a “settler” who can be treated as an outlaw rather than a party to talks with rights. Treating building even in those areas that no one thinks would be handed over to the Palestinians under any circumstance as off limits is not about making peace. It’s about delegitimizing Israel.

So long as the Palestinians cling to the delusion that Israel will be shifted out of Jerusalem or back to the 1967 lines—something that President Obama has reinforced with his frequent support for using those lines as the starting point for talks, should they ever be resumed—the chances that a peace agreement will ever be signed is nonexistent. Peace is theoretically possible on terms that would call for the Palestinians to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The focus on opposing the Jewish presence in the city is a sign that we are a long way away from that happening.

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A Victory For Religious Freedom

The decision last year by the U.S. Supreme Court to deem ObamaCare constitutional was a blow to opponents of the president’s signature health care legislation, but it also added to the worries of those Americans who considered it a threat to their religious freedom. In particular, the decision by the Health and Human Services Department to demand that employers provide certain types of health services placed those religious believers who opposed the use of abortion-inducing drugs in a difficult position. They could go along with the HHS mandate and thus betray their consciences and beliefs, or resist the ruling and face complete financial ruin due to the draconian penalties imposed on businesses that do not comply with the government’s rulings.

But with the aid of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, sued to prevent the government from imposing the mandate on their business. Yesterday, the Greens won a key victory when the 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the district court and said Hobby Lobby should not have been denied an injunction that would have prevented the government from imposing millions in fines while the case was still pending. In doing so, the majority of the appellate court judges said the Greens had a good chance of prevailing on the merits of their case—Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius—which claims that the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act ought to prevent HHS from imposing practices on the business that effectively deny the religious freedom of its owners. While the Hobby Lobby case still has a long way to go, this is an important win that not only holds out the possibility of eventual triumph for the plaintiffs but also removes a key weapon from the government that might have made it impossible for the suit to go on.

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The decision last year by the U.S. Supreme Court to deem ObamaCare constitutional was a blow to opponents of the president’s signature health care legislation, but it also added to the worries of those Americans who considered it a threat to their religious freedom. In particular, the decision by the Health and Human Services Department to demand that employers provide certain types of health services placed those religious believers who opposed the use of abortion-inducing drugs in a difficult position. They could go along with the HHS mandate and thus betray their consciences and beliefs, or resist the ruling and face complete financial ruin due to the draconian penalties imposed on businesses that do not comply with the government’s rulings.

But with the aid of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, sued to prevent the government from imposing the mandate on their business. Yesterday, the Greens won a key victory when the 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the district court and said Hobby Lobby should not have been denied an injunction that would have prevented the government from imposing millions in fines while the case was still pending. In doing so, the majority of the appellate court judges said the Greens had a good chance of prevailing on the merits of their case—Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius—which claims that the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act ought to prevent HHS from imposing practices on the business that effectively deny the religious freedom of its owners. While the Hobby Lobby case still has a long way to go, this is an important win that not only holds out the possibility of eventual triumph for the plaintiffs but also removes a key weapon from the government that might have made it impossible for the suit to go on.

When the HHS mandate was first handed down, the key battle was fought over the government’s desire to impose the contraceptive mandate on the institutions of the Catholic Church. While the administration was able to manipulate the discussion of this direct attack on religious freedom into one about a so-called “war on women,” eventually a campaign of public pressure led the government to back down on their desire to enforce the mandate on both churches and then church institutions. But that still left individual business owners who had strong religious convictions in the cross-hairs of the HHS mandate. The administration calculated that if it removed the church from the fight on the mandate, it would be able to easily defeat the efforts of people like the owners of Hobby Lobby to resist.

They may eventually prevail, but the decision of the 10th circuit gives hope to those who believe the willingness of the government to intrude on individual consciences in this manner is outrageous.

It should be specified that the owners of Hobby Lobby are not attempting to prevent their employees from having access to contraception. But making religious Catholics pay for abortion drugs crosses the line between reasonable insurance regulations and a concerted attack on religious liberty.

Liberal defenders of the HHS mandate have characterized resistance to the mandate as an attack on women’s health while claiming the regulation does not deny the store owners’ right to worship or to personally refrain from any practice that offends their religion. But if the government eventually prevails, it would impose a cribbed version of religious liberty that would significantly impair the First Amendment rights of believers.

The government and its defenders seem to believe that religious freedom means only the right to believe something and to practice it in private. If the HHS mandate were upheld, it would signal to the country that faith is fine at home or in houses of worship but not in the public square. Religious believers would be told that if they wish to practice their faith they must refrain from commerce or any public activity. Forcing the Greens to pay for abortion drugs is no different from telling them they must keep their stores open on Sunday (they are closed on that day due to the owners’ religious beliefs) or to require a Jew to keep his business running on the Sabbath or that they must serve non-kosher food at kosher restaurants.

It may be that the Greens’ views on these drugs are not universally held and may, in fact, be unpopular. But one needn’t agree with them on contraception in order to realize that an attack on their religious freedom is a blow to the liberty of every American no matter what their faith, or even if they believe in no religion. This preliminary win for Hobby Lobby and the Becket Fund is a hopeful sign for the future of American liberty.

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Media Clings to Disproven Narrative; Hilarity Ensues

As elated as mainstream journalists were when Chief Justice John Roberts decided to cave to political pressure and uphold ObamaCare, it posed a challenge to the left. They had become so invested in their narrative of the illegitimacy of conservative constitutional jurisprudence, they may have even believed it. As the Supreme Court signaled it was considering striking down the constitutionally suspect ObamaCare, liberals ramped up the rhetoric.

But because of the vote-buying and procedural shenanigans used to pass the bill, and because of its extreme unpopularity and bipartisan opposition, supporters of ObamaCare actually needed the country to somehow accept the legitimacy of the court’s opinion, which they had spent months denigrating. Liberals couldn’t break the habit anyway, however. Though Roberts mistakenly thought he would win the court some legitimacy from the president and his palace guards in the press, the opposite happened: with the ObamaCare decision now in their pockets, they resumed trashing the Roberts court as far more “radical” than any of its predecessors.

Though it was sad to watch Roberts get played so easily by the administration and its allies, there was still something amusing about the left’s reaction. They had to engage in some pretty nifty intellectual gymnastics to argue that the court was not moving right despite its major liberal decisions but that the Roberts court’s major liberal decisions were part of its master plan to trick the public into complacency. And so it is with this week’s court rulings. The Roberts court made the right call in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, as we have argued in this magazine. But it was also a ruling the left celebrated not just from a legal standpoint but from a cultural one. So how to argue that the Roberts court is radical when it so clearly is not? The Times gives it a try today:

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As elated as mainstream journalists were when Chief Justice John Roberts decided to cave to political pressure and uphold ObamaCare, it posed a challenge to the left. They had become so invested in their narrative of the illegitimacy of conservative constitutional jurisprudence, they may have even believed it. As the Supreme Court signaled it was considering striking down the constitutionally suspect ObamaCare, liberals ramped up the rhetoric.

But because of the vote-buying and procedural shenanigans used to pass the bill, and because of its extreme unpopularity and bipartisan opposition, supporters of ObamaCare actually needed the country to somehow accept the legitimacy of the court’s opinion, which they had spent months denigrating. Liberals couldn’t break the habit anyway, however. Though Roberts mistakenly thought he would win the court some legitimacy from the president and his palace guards in the press, the opposite happened: with the ObamaCare decision now in their pockets, they resumed trashing the Roberts court as far more “radical” than any of its predecessors.

Though it was sad to watch Roberts get played so easily by the administration and its allies, there was still something amusing about the left’s reaction. They had to engage in some pretty nifty intellectual gymnastics to argue that the court was not moving right despite its major liberal decisions but that the Roberts court’s major liberal decisions were part of its master plan to trick the public into complacency. And so it is with this week’s court rulings. The Roberts court made the right call in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, as we have argued in this magazine. But it was also a ruling the left celebrated not just from a legal standpoint but from a cultural one. So how to argue that the Roberts court is radical when it so clearly is not? The Times gives it a try today:

Viewed in isolation, the Supreme Court term that just ended had elements of modesty. The court declined to do away with affirmative action, gave Congress another shot at salvaging the Voting Rights Act and refused to find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

But glancing at an end-of term snapshot can be misleading….

Chief Justice Roberts has proved adept at persuading the court’s more liberal justices to join compromise opinions, allowing him to cite their concessions years later as the basis for closely divided and deeply polarizing conservative victories.

His patient and methodical approach has allowed him to establish a robustly conservative record while ranking second only to Justice Anthony Kennedy as the justice most frequently in the majority.

This is a stunningly honest statement of the Times’s extremism on legal issues. Roberts has, the Times tells us, made major ruling after major ruling upholding liberal conventional wisdom on a host of cultural and political issues deemed essential to the liberal project, and he has often sought not to use the court majority to push through wholly conservative opinions but instead to engage with the liberal justices, find common ground, and forge compromises that meet in the middle.

That may sound like an eminently reasonable and, from a political standpoint, admirable record. But the Times strongly disapproves of such behavior, because it does not want the court to possess such legitimacy and it does not approve of compromise with conservatives it believes should only be the object of demonization.

The Times tells us that a larger-than-usual percent of the court’s decisions were unanimous this year. But that, too, is bad news, because the article also tells us that Obama’s solicitor general has had below-average success in front of the court defending administration preferences. To the Times, that means the liberal justices are complicit in a rightward shift. The reality, of course, is that President Obama, a supposed constitutional law expert, is uniquely poor at governing according to the Constitution.

The Washington Post also tries to fit this week’s court decisions into its larger narrative about the Roberts court, with similar results. It reviews the liberal decisions handed down by the judges recently and then quotes a former lawyer in the Obama White House: “If you weren’t paying close attention, you might say, ‘What a liberal Supreme Court we have.’ ”

That’s an interesting phrase, “if you weren’t paying close attention.” And it basically sums up the way the media, confronted with the essential and obvious fraudulence of its narrative about the Roberts court, has explained away its journalistic advocacy.

Don’t be fooled by the moderate and ideologically diverse record of the Roberts court, they say, and don’t be fooled by the lengths to which Roberts will go to compromise with liberal justices and craft decisions that all the judges can get behind. That may be the reality, but it conflicts with the press narrative and one of them must be wrong. It can’t be the press, can it?

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GOP’s Self-Defeating Immigration Rhetoric

Republicans seem to truly have a death wish. They know that they have lost the last two presidential elections in no small part because they are losing the support of an ever-growing number of immigrants–primarily Latinos but also Asians. They know that the current immigration system isn’t working–that it has led to the creation of an underclass of 11 million undocumented aliens. But they refuse to pursue any serious reform beyond a desire to erect a Berlin Wall along our Southern border.

The comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote will not solve all of the issues related to immigration, but it is a start toward seriously addressing them. This balanced legislation includes a provision to allow undocumented migrants who have stayed out of legal trouble to become legal residents; a provision to increase spending on border security; a provision to increase the number of H1-B visas issued to highly skilled workers; and a provision to increase the number of low-skilled guest workers who can arrive to work in our farm fields and other areas.

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Republicans seem to truly have a death wish. They know that they have lost the last two presidential elections in no small part because they are losing the support of an ever-growing number of immigrants–primarily Latinos but also Asians. They know that the current immigration system isn’t working–that it has led to the creation of an underclass of 11 million undocumented aliens. But they refuse to pursue any serious reform beyond a desire to erect a Berlin Wall along our Southern border.

The comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote will not solve all of the issues related to immigration, but it is a start toward seriously addressing them. This balanced legislation includes a provision to allow undocumented migrants who have stayed out of legal trouble to become legal residents; a provision to increase spending on border security; a provision to increase the number of H1-B visas issued to highly skilled workers; and a provision to increase the number of low-skilled guest workers who can arrive to work in our farm fields and other areas.

Personally, I think the move to send tens of thousands more Border Patrol agents to the southern border, at an estimated cost of $40 billion over 10 years, is a bit silly; even with those additional agents, it will never be possible to seal off such a long border, and the money would be better spent on our armed forces, which are going to be devastated by a trillion dollars in budget cuts over that time. But while there may be individual complaints about this or that section of the bill, it is remarkable that it managed to win the support of both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It will help both Silicon Valley and the Central Valley (where much of the nation’s produce comes from).

And now it will be killed in the House where short-sighted Republicans have nothing to offer but a punitive approach to immigration. Seal the border, they say, and send ‘em home. This is sloganeering, not serious policymaking. No one has any actual plan to deport 11 million illegals. As Sen. Marco Rubio has pointed out, we have granted de facto “amnesty” to illegal immigrants right now. That House Republicans are pledged to maintain this status quo can be explained for short-sighted political reasons, as John has noted, but it will ensure the national Republican Party suffers the same long-term fate as the California GOP.

After decades of ascendance, the California Republican Party went into terminal decline after Gov. Pete Wilson embraced an anti-immigrant message with his support of Proposition 187–a punitive measure designed to stop undocumented residents from using public schools, health care, and other essential social services–back in 1994. Other factors certainly contributed to the California party’s downfall, including its insistence on hewing to a hard-line position on social issues, but there is little doubt that its perceived opposition to the growing number of immigrants was a major factor in its growing irrelevancy.

Why House Republicans want to emulate this example I have no idea. But obviously they do.

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Arab Spring Prompts Arab-Israeli Christians to Reevaluate Israel

Today’s Israel Hayom has an important article about an Israeli Greek Orthodox priest that every Christian in the West should read. Father Gabriel Nadaf and his family are suffering harassment and even death threats from their fellow Arabs for arguing that Israeli Arab Christians should serve in the Israel Defense Forces. On Tuesday, he was even summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the local Greek Orthodox patriarch, Theophilus III, which ended with Theophilus keeping Nadaf in office but asking him to lower his profile. The account of the hearing given by one of Nadaf’s close associates, Shady Halul, is revealing:

“The patriarch told Father Nadaf that he is not an opponent of the state of Israel,” he said. “On the contrary, he is very appreciative of the security enjoyed by Christians in Israel. He did ask Nadaf to tone down his statements concerning his work with the forum so as to ensure the safety of Christians in the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states.”

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Today’s Israel Hayom has an important article about an Israeli Greek Orthodox priest that every Christian in the West should read. Father Gabriel Nadaf and his family are suffering harassment and even death threats from their fellow Arabs for arguing that Israeli Arab Christians should serve in the Israel Defense Forces. On Tuesday, he was even summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the local Greek Orthodox patriarch, Theophilus III, which ended with Theophilus keeping Nadaf in office but asking him to lower his profile. The account of the hearing given by one of Nadaf’s close associates, Shady Halul, is revealing:

“The patriarch told Father Nadaf that he is not an opponent of the state of Israel,” he said. “On the contrary, he is very appreciative of the security enjoyed by Christians in Israel. He did ask Nadaf to tone down his statements concerning his work with the forum so as to ensure the safety of Christians in the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states.”

It has become a truism among some Christian groups that Israel is primarily to blame for the suffering of Middle East Christians. In 2010, for instance, a synod of Catholic bishops from the Middle East blamed the Christian exodus from the region on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus it’s worth listening to what these Israeli Christians have to say: that Israel is actually the one place in the region where Arab Christians enjoy security; elsewhere, they are oppressed by their fellow Arab Muslims.

Even more noteworthy, however, is that since the Arab Spring erupted, the “forum” to which Halul referred in the above quote–the Forum for the Enlistment of the Christian Community, founded by a group of Christian IDF veterans–has seen a marked increase in the number of Christians seeking to enlist, though they still represent a minority of the Arab Christian community. Previously, many Arab Christians bought into pan-Arab ideology, and thus believed their interests lay with their fellow Arabs. But the Arab Spring shattered this ideology: In country after country, Arab Islamists have turned on fellow Arabs who fail to toe their religious line, and this, naturally, includes Christians. By comparison, Israel is a haven.

“We feel secure in the state of Israel,” Nadaf explained, “and we see ourselves as citizens of the state with all the attendant rights as well as obligations.”

Indeed, the shift is so marked that the forum even lobbied (successfully) to get Arab Christians integrated into Jewish units rather than into Bedouin units (Bedouin are the only Muslims who serve in the IDF in significant numbers), thereby opting to forgo the comfort of serving with other Arabic-speakers.

As I’ve written before, a similar sea change is occurring among the Druze of the Golan Heights: Since the Syrian civil war erupted, the number seeking Israeli citizenship has soared by hundreds of percent, after decades in which most preferred to retain Syrian citizenship. As one explained, “People see murdered children and refugees fleeing to Jordan and Turkey, lacking everything, and ask themselves: Where do I want to raise my children. The answer is clear–in Israel and not Syria.”

All this leaves only one question: When are those western Christian groups that reflexively view Israel as the root of all evil going to reach the same realization that Nadaf and his followers have?

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Immigration: Everybody Wins (on the Politics)

The Senate’s passage of the immigration-reform bill is a landmark moment … in the history of cynicism, I’m afraid. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where it will die, just as the immigration-reform bill of 2006 died there under eerily similar circumstances. The political world has been consumed with the spectacle of the immigration bill for months now, even though from the outset, it was a reasonable bet it would never pass the House and therefore would never become law. So what was the point of all this action, this coverage, this debate?

Truth is, it helps everyone involved that the bill did not pass. Consider, first, the Republican senators who advocated the bill—primarily Marco Rubio of Florida—did so not only because they believe in a more open immigration system but because they live in states where they are obliged as an electoral matter to take serious account of Hispanic populations or whose industries rely heavily on immigration (both legal and illegal). Senators represent the entirety of the states in which they live, and the swing-state-ier their state is, the more they need to be more supple politically than their colleagues from states that are more lopsided in partisan terms. Win or lose, these senators have established a marker of bona fides with the electorates of their states that will make their reelection bids easier—assuming they are not defeated in primaries, of course.

Now consider the Republicans in opposition, both in the House and Senate. This was a gimme to them also. The party’s grass roots went absolutely ballistic over the bill, and so they can show their fealty to the base with a vote against. As for those grass-roots groups, this has been a fundraising bonanza for them, and also a thrilling way to demonstrate their hold over the party. So they too benefit from the defeat of immigration reform.

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The Senate’s passage of the immigration-reform bill is a landmark moment … in the history of cynicism, I’m afraid. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where it will die, just as the immigration-reform bill of 2006 died there under eerily similar circumstances. The political world has been consumed with the spectacle of the immigration bill for months now, even though from the outset, it was a reasonable bet it would never pass the House and therefore would never become law. So what was the point of all this action, this coverage, this debate?

Truth is, it helps everyone involved that the bill did not pass. Consider, first, the Republican senators who advocated the bill—primarily Marco Rubio of Florida—did so not only because they believe in a more open immigration system but because they live in states where they are obliged as an electoral matter to take serious account of Hispanic populations or whose industries rely heavily on immigration (both legal and illegal). Senators represent the entirety of the states in which they live, and the swing-state-ier their state is, the more they need to be more supple politically than their colleagues from states that are more lopsided in partisan terms. Win or lose, these senators have established a marker of bona fides with the electorates of their states that will make their reelection bids easier—assuming they are not defeated in primaries, of course.

Now consider the Republicans in opposition, both in the House and Senate. This was a gimme to them also. The party’s grass roots went absolutely ballistic over the bill, and so they can show their fealty to the base with a vote against. As for those grass-roots groups, this has been a fundraising bonanza for them, and also a thrilling way to demonstrate their hold over the party. So they too benefit from the defeat of immigration reform.

And Democrats? They have the best of both worlds. If legislation were to be signed by the president, they were confident it would have benefited their party politically by eventually creating new voters who they think would be in their camp. Failure would mean a new line of attack against Republicans with Hispanics to keep them in line and convinced the GOP is their enemy.

The only person whose political future is muddied by this in big-picture terms is Marco Rubio, whose opponents in the grass roots seem to believe he has made his nomination for the presidency in 2016 impossible. True? Maybe. But probably not. The primaries don’t begin for another 30 months, which is practically an epoch in politics, and a great many things will happen between now and then that will give Rubio a chance to boost his standing with those who dislike him now and will do injury to others the grass roots now seem to love. (Two words: Iran nukes.)

And please recall that the steward of the 2006 plan was one John McCain—who went on to win the GOP nomination in 2008. 

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Guess Who’s Welcome in the White House?

In 2009, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center named Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. The cleric has also worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on what are said to be global health issues. So perhaps there is nothing wrong about him attending a meeting at the White House on June 13 to confer with Obama administration officials, including some of the members of the National Security Council. Or so the administration thought. As it turns out, Sheikh Bin Bayyah’s resume is a little longer than that short list of distinctions. As Steven Emerson and John Rossomando of The Investigative Project reported on Wednesday, as vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, he’s also a leading supporter of Hamas and endorsed Islamist terrorism against U.S. troops in Iraq. If that isn’t enough, he’s also a disciple of radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is banned from the U.S. as a result of his repeated calls for the murder of both Jews and Americans.

So what exactly was the Obama administration thinking when it not only granted him a visa to come to the United States but actually invited him to the White house to confer with administration officials to discuss what we are told are issues relating to poverty, global health and to encourage him to continue speaking ill of al-Qaeda? While that last point may make the decision to embrace Bin Bayyah seem defensible, how is it possible that a known supporter of a group the U.S. has itself labeled as a terrorist organization, and whose record includes a long list of statements about the need to oppose U.S. policies, would be considered a proper advisor to people at the highest level of the American security establishment?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions makes no more sense than administration replies to queries about why they have embraced the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt and why President Obama treats Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as if he’s his best friend.

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In 2009, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center named Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. The cleric has also worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on what are said to be global health issues. So perhaps there is nothing wrong about him attending a meeting at the White House on June 13 to confer with Obama administration officials, including some of the members of the National Security Council. Or so the administration thought. As it turns out, Sheikh Bin Bayyah’s resume is a little longer than that short list of distinctions. As Steven Emerson and John Rossomando of The Investigative Project reported on Wednesday, as vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, he’s also a leading supporter of Hamas and endorsed Islamist terrorism against U.S. troops in Iraq. If that isn’t enough, he’s also a disciple of radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is banned from the U.S. as a result of his repeated calls for the murder of both Jews and Americans.

So what exactly was the Obama administration thinking when it not only granted him a visa to come to the United States but actually invited him to the White house to confer with administration officials to discuss what we are told are issues relating to poverty, global health and to encourage him to continue speaking ill of al-Qaeda? While that last point may make the decision to embrace Bin Bayyah seem defensible, how is it possible that a known supporter of a group the U.S. has itself labeled as a terrorist organization, and whose record includes a long list of statements about the need to oppose U.S. policies, would be considered a proper advisor to people at the highest level of the American security establishment?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions makes no more sense than administration replies to queries about why they have embraced the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt and why President Obama treats Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as if he’s his best friend.

Lest there be any doubt about Bin Bayyah’s presence in the White House, a “senior Obama administration official confirmed to Fox News that the meeting took place. But the fact that Bin Bayyah had already posted a photo of the meeting on his Web site, there was no need for anybody to go digging through the log of visitors to the White House.

The Investigative Project details Bin Bayyah’s record at length, but suffice it to say that despite a recent willingness to oppose al-Qaeda, his record on terrorism and radical Islamism should have rendered him off limits for entry to the United States, let alone being allowed to waltz into the White House.

While the Obama administration has developed an altogether commendable record on killing terrorists in the field, its weakness for some radical clerics and Islamist political parties in the Middle East has compromised its ability to think clearly about Egypt and Turkey. If the likes of Bin Bayyah are welcome in the White House, it’s little wonder the president and his foreign policy team have been unable to put forward a coherent policy on dealing with the problems of the Middle East.

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Today’s Real Reaganites on Immigration

Earlier this month I posted a piece on why I thought long-time conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly was wrong to write off the Hispanic vote. Ms. Schlafly is back at it, this time saying, “They don’t have any Republican inclinations at all. They’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.” She went on to say this: 

They come from a country where they have no experience with limited government. And the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights, they don’t understand that at all, you can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.

Now take two and a half minutes to watch this clip from a 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush on illegal immigration, Mexico, and the policies they endorse. What you’ll see is that the approach and attitude of Bush and Reagan is profoundly different from what we’re hearing from many conservatives today on immigration. Set aside for a moment the differences in policy, which are significant. What I’m speaking to is a cast of mind, a temperament, a certain spirit of generosity that both Bush and Reagan (blessedly) had–and which has, for many on the right, virtually vanished. If these individuals don’t fully subscribe to the views of Schlafly and Patrick J. Buchanan, they are certainly sympathetic to them. If a Republican today used language remotely similar to what Bush and Reagan did, they would be hooted off many a conservative stage. What makes this even odder is that many of the people who employ the most off-putting rhetoric on immigration either worked in the Reagan administration or consider themselves Reaganites. But on this subject at least, they are more nearly the antithesis of Reagan.

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Earlier this month I posted a piece on why I thought long-time conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly was wrong to write off the Hispanic vote. Ms. Schlafly is back at it, this time saying, “They don’t have any Republican inclinations at all. They’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.” She went on to say this: 

They come from a country where they have no experience with limited government. And the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights, they don’t understand that at all, you can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.

Now take two and a half minutes to watch this clip from a 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush on illegal immigration, Mexico, and the policies they endorse. What you’ll see is that the approach and attitude of Bush and Reagan is profoundly different from what we’re hearing from many conservatives today on immigration. Set aside for a moment the differences in policy, which are significant. What I’m speaking to is a cast of mind, a temperament, a certain spirit of generosity that both Bush and Reagan (blessedly) had–and which has, for many on the right, virtually vanished. If these individuals don’t fully subscribe to the views of Schlafly and Patrick J. Buchanan, they are certainly sympathetic to them. If a Republican today used language remotely similar to what Bush and Reagan did, they would be hooted off many a conservative stage. What makes this even odder is that many of the people who employ the most off-putting rhetoric on immigration either worked in the Reagan administration or consider themselves Reaganites. But on this subject at least, they are more nearly the antithesis of Reagan.

Now I understand that circumstances have changed, and conservatives are perfectly within their right to say that their attitude toward illegal and legal immigrants today is right and Reagan and Bush’s were wrong. But those conservatives who believe that Reagan, if he were alive today, would be standing with them are massively distorting the Reagan record–both his words and his deeds. 

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, whose post alerted me to the Bush-Reagan debate, added this: 

As America has become much more sensitive about the way it speaks about racially charged subjects, the language used by Republican standard bearers on illegal immigration has grown much less sensitive — and that’s happened as the clout of Hispanic voters has risen significantly. That’s a huge problem for Republicans.

It is indeed. And today the real Reaganites on immigration are people like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush. The fact that they are targeted for such harsh criticism these days tells you a great deal about how much the GOP has moved on this issue; and how long the road back might be.   

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Obama’s Ominous Silence on Egypt Chaos

Egypt appears to be on the brink of chaos this week but the best advice America’s ambassador has for an embattled religious minority in the world’s most populous country is to stay home. The report about the visit of Ambassador Anne Patterson to Coptic Pope Tawadros II came from an Egyptian paper but is spreading rapidly around the Internet and being cited as an example of the tacit support the United States continues to show for the government of President Mohamed Morsi even as the country starts to fall apart. But with a mass protest scheduled for Sunday—the event Ambassador Patterson wanted Copts to stay away from—the president’s attitude toward the demonstrations that are shaking Morsi’s grip on power is more than a matter of curiosity.

This is, after all, an administration that did a lot to encourage the first round of Arab spring protests in Egypt that took down longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and ultimately replaced him with a Muslim Brotherhood government that may be far worse than the deposed authoritarian. But with Morsi’s calling on loyal army units to be reinforced and to be prepared for what may be an effort to suppress the protests, the White House has been remarkably quiet about what’s going on in Egypt.

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Egypt appears to be on the brink of chaos this week but the best advice America’s ambassador has for an embattled religious minority in the world’s most populous country is to stay home. The report about the visit of Ambassador Anne Patterson to Coptic Pope Tawadros II came from an Egyptian paper but is spreading rapidly around the Internet and being cited as an example of the tacit support the United States continues to show for the government of President Mohamed Morsi even as the country starts to fall apart. But with a mass protest scheduled for Sunday—the event Ambassador Patterson wanted Copts to stay away from—the president’s attitude toward the demonstrations that are shaking Morsi’s grip on power is more than a matter of curiosity.

This is, after all, an administration that did a lot to encourage the first round of Arab spring protests in Egypt that took down longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and ultimately replaced him with a Muslim Brotherhood government that may be far worse than the deposed authoritarian. But with Morsi’s calling on loyal army units to be reinforced and to be prepared for what may be an effort to suppress the protests, the White House has been remarkably quiet about what’s going on in Egypt.

The problem here is that as far as many Egyptians are concerned, they have merely swapped a secular tyrant for a theocratic one and now see that that placing the Brotherhood in power was a terrible mistake. The Brotherhood hasn’t shown much aptitude for government and its actions have given the lie to the promises its leaders made to naïve Western journalists about not wishing to impose their fanatical religious beliefs on the rest of the nation.

There was a moment when Obama could have used the limited leverage that the U.S. has over the situation due to the billions it gives Egypt every year to try and help the military keep the Islamists from taking power. But instead, Obama pressured the army to let the Brotherhood rule. Now, after having been placed under Morsi’s thumb as part of a number of measures undertaken to solidify his party’s grasp on every aspect of Egypt’s government, the Islamists are looking to the army to help keep them in control and the U.S. seems to have nothing more helpful to say about than to tell Christians to stay out of it.

As with the protests that have shaken the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—another Obama favorite—the U.S. has adopted a position of indifferent silence toward pro-democracy protesters in Cairo and other Egyptian sites where demonstrations have spread. This is very different from the outspoken position the administration took in 2010 when the Arab Spring protests spread across the region.

The question Americans ought to be asking about U.S. policy toward Egypt is why it was in the interests of the U.S. to support the Arab Spring in 2010 but not to support those Egyptians who wish to prevent their country from falling irrevocably into the hands of Islamists? The inability of the White House to provide a coherent answer to that query can be directly linked to the decline in U.S. influence in the region and the daunting prospects of even worse to come in the future.

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ObamaCare and Unintended Consequences

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, should be the feather in the cap of the Obama administration. Instead, two years after its passage, the Obama administration is begging professional sports leagues like the NFL and MLB to help promote a signature feature of the law: exchanges. The Health and Human Services Department is leading the outreach to the leagues in an effort to spread the word about how fans could sign up. The Washington Post explains why the demographic is so desirable for HHS: 

A partnership with well-known athletes and sports teams could provide a significant boost as officials ramp up efforts to encourage enrollment among a demographic crucial to the success of the health law — healthy young males.

Millions of people with health problems are expected to jump at the chance to sign up for coverage that will begin Jan. 1; insurers will no longer be allowed to reject them. To offset the cost of those potentially costly customers, officials say, millions of young and healthy people need to enroll in health plans.

Are young people really this gullible? Will they really sign up in droves to pay for the healthcare coverage of their fellow Americans with their own meager paychecks, already stretched thin by student loans and households disproportionately affected by the recession? The Wall Street Journal explains just how losing a proposition buying into healthcare exchanges would be for the average healthy young American:

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, should be the feather in the cap of the Obama administration. Instead, two years after its passage, the Obama administration is begging professional sports leagues like the NFL and MLB to help promote a signature feature of the law: exchanges. The Health and Human Services Department is leading the outreach to the leagues in an effort to spread the word about how fans could sign up. The Washington Post explains why the demographic is so desirable for HHS: 

A partnership with well-known athletes and sports teams could provide a significant boost as officials ramp up efforts to encourage enrollment among a demographic crucial to the success of the health law — healthy young males.

Millions of people with health problems are expected to jump at the chance to sign up for coverage that will begin Jan. 1; insurers will no longer be allowed to reject them. To offset the cost of those potentially costly customers, officials say, millions of young and healthy people need to enroll in health plans.

Are young people really this gullible? Will they really sign up in droves to pay for the healthcare coverage of their fellow Americans with their own meager paychecks, already stretched thin by student loans and households disproportionately affected by the recession? The Wall Street Journal explains just how losing a proposition buying into healthcare exchanges would be for the average healthy young American:

Mr. Alito pointed out that young, healthy adults today spend an average of $854 a year on health care. ObamaCare would require them to buy insurance policies expected to cost roughly $5,800. The law, then, isn’t just asking them to pay for “the services that they are going to consume,” he continued. “The mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies . . . to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.”

Since he puts it that way, why would they sign up for ObamaCare, especially since the alleged penalties will be negligible and likely unenforced?

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg explained why, as a demographic, young people were among the most obligated to follow through with the promise of ObamaCare: 

In two consecutive elections, you’ve carried Barack Obama to victory. When he said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he basically meant you. You voted for Obama by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent in 2008, and, despite a horrendous economy for people your age, by nearly that much again in 2012.  

Whenever curmudgeons like yours truly suggested that young people were getting caught up in a fad or that Obama was simply buying votes at the expense of taxpayers, you’d have a fit. You’d insist that millennials are not only informed, but eager to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Well, here’s your chance to prove it: Fork over whatever it costs to buy the best health insurance you can under Obamacare.

Given the average American’s cognitive dissonance when it comes to voting and politicians, it’s unlikely that any young Americans will make the connection between their voting behavior and their subsequent responsibility to their fellow Americans who, by growing margins, find themselves supporting a repeal of the law. Unfortunately for Obama, even with the positive publicity paid for by your tax dollars, it’s unlikely that the bill will become anything but less popular as more provisions slowly come into effect. Already Americans are increasingly worried that the quality of care that their families receive will be negatively impacted by the legislation. Soon, they can start adding another worry about the law and its impact on their family: shorter work hours as another provision of ObamaCare comes into effect. A local paper in Toledo, Ohio describes the impact for an ordinary Ohioan: 

We talked to the owner of the restaurant Shane Beukre.  He said any business with 50 or more employees will have to offer insurance to workers with 30 or more hours a week.  If he does not do that, he gets fined $2,000 per employee. 

Beukre told us he’s cutting some people down to under 30 hours to help with costs to his business and the workers. 

As it is explained in the new law, under ObamaCare, everyone must have insurance.  So, the next step for workers is to get a plan through expanded Medicaid or through state or federal exchanges that will give them options on plans.  If a plan is not offered through their employer, workers could get a subsidy to help with insurance costs. 

It might be cheaper for individual people to have hours cut and pay less for insurance, but [employee Jeff] Vernon said he’ll lose more than $400 a month with fewer hours and paying for health insurance.

“That leaves me $27.50 for two weeks to live off of,” said Vernon.

The story was the same in Indiana, with local congressmen explaining why they planned to support a bill that would raise the threshold for what constitutes a full-time employee from 30-hours to 40. Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon told a local paper:

“It’s a big problem,” Bucshon said. “I think ultimately you’ll see members of Congress like myself try to address things like the 30- hour definition of a work week.”

He believes it will be a bipartisan effort. “People recognize this is an impending storm,” Bucshon said.

Unless it’s addressed, “We’ll become a nation of part-time employees,” the congressman said. There are many other issues associated with the Affordable Care Act that need to be addressed.

Even long after the bill was passed, we’re still finding out “what is in it” (in the words of Nancy Pelosi). Congress doesn’t have the time to write, debate and pass a bill for every unintended consequence that befalls Americans due to the original 2,700 page law. The mess that is ObamaCare cannot be undone by piecemeal legislation like what Congressman Bucshon has proposed. The only solution is total repeal and a return to the drawing board, before the most damaging effects of ObamaCare become real for struggling Americans.

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The Czech Coup to the Berlin Airlift at 65

Andrei Cherny begins his history of the 1948 Berlin Airlift with the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Though the outpouring of support for America around the world was overwhelming, Cherny says the reaction in Berlin stood apart. Berliners instinctively started pouring into the street near the Brandenburg Gate, and soon there were 200,000 of them. One stooped, elderly woman was asked by onlookers why she was crying. “I love Americans,” she said, then stood straight and smiled. “You see, I was a girl during the Airlift….”

Yesterday was exactly sixty-five years since General Lucius Clay, the American military governor in Germany after World War II, told Colonel Frank Howley, the American military governor of Berlin, “Frank, I’m ordering some planes in,” beginning the Berlin Airlift. In the postwar division of Germany, although Berlin sat in the Soviet zone it was divided with the Western powers and ruled by a joint command. The Soviets grew increasingly suspicious of what they believed to be a Western intent to unify Germany by, among other tactics, outcompeting the Soviets in the capital. After the introduction of a Western currency in West Berlin, the Soviets withdrew from the joint command and cut off Western land access to the city.

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Andrei Cherny begins his history of the 1948 Berlin Airlift with the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Though the outpouring of support for America around the world was overwhelming, Cherny says the reaction in Berlin stood apart. Berliners instinctively started pouring into the street near the Brandenburg Gate, and soon there were 200,000 of them. One stooped, elderly woman was asked by onlookers why she was crying. “I love Americans,” she said, then stood straight and smiled. “You see, I was a girl during the Airlift….”

Yesterday was exactly sixty-five years since General Lucius Clay, the American military governor in Germany after World War II, told Colonel Frank Howley, the American military governor of Berlin, “Frank, I’m ordering some planes in,” beginning the Berlin Airlift. In the postwar division of Germany, although Berlin sat in the Soviet zone it was divided with the Western powers and ruled by a joint command. The Soviets grew increasingly suspicious of what they believed to be a Western intent to unify Germany by, among other tactics, outcompeting the Soviets in the capital. After the introduction of a Western currency in West Berlin, the Soviets withdrew from the joint command and cut off Western land access to the city.

The West, led by the United States, could not simply accede to this bullying and leave the Berliners in their care to the Soviets. “We shall stay, period,” said President Truman. The only way to get to their sector of Berlin, however, was now by air. And so American warplanes were loaded with food and coal and flown every day into the city for a year.

The Berlin Airlift sent the right message simultaneously to Germany, the free world, and the Stalin regime. And as much as it remains a splendid show of American resolve and ingenuity, it cannot be considered in a vacuum. The Berlin blockade was the result of Soviet fears of an encroaching Western-led economic recovery that would discredit the Soviet system lagging behind in adjacent sectors of postwar Europe. And that had much to do with the European Recovery Program, better known simply as the Marshall Plan, which was crafted and debated throughout the previous year but signed by Truman in April 1948.

The bitter winter of 1947 had made it clear that Europe had more to fear from a collapsed Germany than a resurgent one. Truman once and for all put an end to the Morgenthau Plan–agreed to by a fading FDR who later claimed to have no memory of signing onto the plan at a bilateral summit with Winston Churchill–to raze Germany and set the country back decades, if not centuries, on economic development and industrial capabilities. The Marshall Plan commenced the recovery of Europe, Germany included.

But the Marshall Plan (and the ongoing 1948 discussions that would result in the establishment of NATO the following year) must also be understood in the context that produced this sense of urgency that essentially created the postwar military order. And no one event did as much to shake the West out of its relative complacency than the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia barely a month before Truman signed the Marshall Plan.

The culmination of the coup, in February 1948, served as the wakeup call. The Czech government was made up of Communist and non-Communist ministers, and the Soviet loyalists had thoroughly infiltrated the country to the point where they were ready to force a confrontation. Scheduled elections were looming in a few months, but non-Communist ministers worried that by then the Communists would have the game rigged and there would be no way to hold free elections. So they forced a crisis by resigning from the government en masse, hoping to get more than half the ministers to resign, breaking the quorum. They failed to get enough ministers to step down, essentially leaving posts open for their enemies, and Communist control was further solidified.

That was the end of a coup three years in the making, however. Evelyn Gordon wrote earlier about the free world’s abandonment of Czechoslovakia before World War II, but they again abandoned it after the war. Dwight Eisenhower famously refused to race the Soviets to Berlin at the end of the war because he thought the German capital to be of mostly symbolic value, and the war in the Pacific wasn’t over. But he also believed that he had no business making “political” considerations when his job was to make military decisions. The postwar fate of a city was, in Eisenhower’s mind, strictly political.

He used that same justification not to press forward to liberate Prague. In 1945 the American troops arrived on the Czech border, where Eisenhower said they would stop. Marshall agreed. General Patton did not, and with the outbreak of fighting between Czech insurgents and German troops within the country Patton was able to get Eisenhower to press on. But Eisenhower halted the advance fifty miles from Prague when the Red Army was 200 miles away.

It was a terrible mistake. The Allies shared military occupation of Czechoslovakia, but the refusal to liberate Prague had both practical and symbolic consequences. Symbolically, “We sold the country down the river,” Igor Lukes quotes an American diplomatic official saying regretfully. “We could have liberated Prague. After the war we spent a lot of time trying to convince the Czechs that they weren’t part of the East Bloc. But no matter what we said the Soviets came to Prague first.”

The practical effects were worse. With the exiled Czech president out of the country during the war and Prague open for the taking, Communists and their sympathizers were able to get a major foothold in governance and security–which was exceptionally important, obviously, for the Soviet efforts at establishing the iron curtain and putting Czechoslovakia on their side of it.

There was blame enough to go around, including from Czech officials too willing to play ball in the early postwar days with Stalin. But those officials learned a lesson from Yalta: if the Western powers were willing to sell out the Polish government in exile after fighting a war ostensibly over the invasion of Poland, they would be willing to sell out the Czechs too. Of course, the Polish fate more or less awaited the Czechs anyway, because Western leaders were not the only ones naively putting their faith in Stalin’s word.

The refusal to liberate Prague ultimately consigned a generally pro-Western country to Soviet police-state terror. It taught the West the importance of geopolitical hinge states as well–a lesson Stalin didn’t need. And it stands as a reminder, sixty-five years later, of the moral incoherence and strategic folly of forgetting who our true allies are.

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9/10 Mentality: CIA Blasted for NYPD Help

The most recent installment in the New York Times’s effort to dial America’s security back to a September 10, 2001 mentality came today in the form of an article detailing the latest faux scandal the paper has tried to attach to the New York City Police Department. What did the NYPD do now? Apparently, in an unusual bout of federal-local cooperation, the Central Intelligence Agency allowed four of its staffers to help New York’s police deal with terror threats in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But rather than applaud this commendable instance of the national security establishment reaching out to reinforce the front lines of defense against terror, the piece was aimed at piling on the NYPD and showing that it had somehow lost its way during the course of a decade in which it managed to ensure that New York would not suffer a single terror death despite numerous plots launched by Islamists that sought to slaughter residents of the Big Apple just as they did on 9/11.

The source of the story was an internal CIA report that raised questions about the legality of having some employees of the spy agency taking part in domestic police work. But while there are obvious legal issues associated with any potential CIA spying on Americans, that doesn’t appear to have been the case here. Instead, the four who worked with the NYPD appear to have merely helped provide much needed background on foreign threats for a department tasked with coping with a myriad of possible threats from foreign and homegrown terrorists. Like the department’s sensible decision to try and get intelligence about key gathering places for Islamists that the Times has wrongly portrayed as a violation of civil rights, the CIA-NYPD relationship appears to be yet another instance in which local and national authorities are being bashed by the Times and other liberals for doing their jobs.

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The most recent installment in the New York Times’s effort to dial America’s security back to a September 10, 2001 mentality came today in the form of an article detailing the latest faux scandal the paper has tried to attach to the New York City Police Department. What did the NYPD do now? Apparently, in an unusual bout of federal-local cooperation, the Central Intelligence Agency allowed four of its staffers to help New York’s police deal with terror threats in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But rather than applaud this commendable instance of the national security establishment reaching out to reinforce the front lines of defense against terror, the piece was aimed at piling on the NYPD and showing that it had somehow lost its way during the course of a decade in which it managed to ensure that New York would not suffer a single terror death despite numerous plots launched by Islamists that sought to slaughter residents of the Big Apple just as they did on 9/11.

The source of the story was an internal CIA report that raised questions about the legality of having some employees of the spy agency taking part in domestic police work. But while there are obvious legal issues associated with any potential CIA spying on Americans, that doesn’t appear to have been the case here. Instead, the four who worked with the NYPD appear to have merely helped provide much needed background on foreign threats for a department tasked with coping with a myriad of possible threats from foreign and homegrown terrorists. Like the department’s sensible decision to try and get intelligence about key gathering places for Islamists that the Times has wrongly portrayed as a violation of civil rights, the CIA-NYPD relationship appears to be yet another instance in which local and national authorities are being bashed by the Times and other liberals for doing their jobs.

The CIA is prohibited from engaging in domestic surveillance. But nothing here remotely smacks of illegal behavior on the part of the agency or its employees. Of the four CIA personnel who were embedded with the NYPD, one was there on unpaid leave—and was paid by the police—and therefore exempt from any limits as to what he could see or do. Another was, according to the Times’s account, given the thankless and probably futile task of trying to better the always-fractious relationship between the FBI and the NYPD. Two others were analysts who may have seen some “unfiltered files” concerning local suspects but do not appear to have actually engaged in surveillance of any kind.

None of this seems particularly controversial, let alone illegal. But apparently some in the CIA, like the Times, were not comfortable with this much cooperation between anyone connected with the spooks in Langley, Virginia and New York cops. The author of the internal report (which was originally classified but was made available to the Times via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) was particularly unhappy about a CIA officer trying to broker peace between the NYPD and the FBI, since it had “placed the agency in the middle of a contentious relationship.” But the main “concern” of the CIA report critical of the cooperation with New York was that there were “risks” associated with helping the NYPD that were better not run. In other words, some in the spy agency considered themselves better off not doing all they could to prevent attacks on the homeland if it meant possible involvement in controversies.

In a sense, the Times article vindicates that view, since it lumps in the CIA’s help to New York with the paper’s attacks on the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques known to be Islamist hotbeds and other issues that supposedly demonstrate a police department that is out of control and oppressing local Muslims.

The CIA has long held itself aloof from any involvement in police actions and not only because of legal prohibitions. But what happened after 9/11 was a realization that one of the reasons the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon succeeded was the lack of cooperation between the various security agencies that seemed to view their domestic rivals as a greater threat than they did al-Qaeda. What happened on 9/11 was supposed to end that nonsense and it appears in this case, that is exactly what happened. The embedding of CIA analysts at New York’s One Police Plaza was exactly what was needed, and the sterling record the NYPD achieved on terror during the last decade is a tribute to the sort of thinking that would have been considered “outside the box” prior to 9/11.

But that is exactly what the Times and other liberal critics of the NYPD don’t want. As much as the paper pays lip service to the threat from Islamist terror, it seems to wish to demonize every effort made by the NYPD to save the lives of New Yorkers. If the NYPD, the CIA and other agencies are loathe to expose themselves to this sort of abuse in the future, we can look to the Times and other advocates of a 9/10 mentality to find the reason. We only hope New Yorkers and the rest of the nation don’t pay for this folly in blood.

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Why Won’t the Palestinians Accept a State?

Let’s assume for a moment that Secretary of State John Kerry actually succeeds in getting Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to sit down and talk with Israel for the first time since George W. Bush was president. As I wrote earlier this week, if that happens that will be the result of American promises to back the Palestinians on various issues and probably also a pledge to put a time limit on the negotiations in order to heighten the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even if all that happens, most of the international media and virtually everyone in the foreign policy establishment seems to take it as a given that the primary obstacle to a deal will be Israel’s recalcitrance in making concessions. But that Netanyahu isn’t willing to deal is a myth, which is why so many in his coalition have been speaking up to talk about their opposition to a two-state solution.

As Haaretz reports today, various high level sources including a senior Cabinet minister are saying that Netanyahu is ready to give up more than 90 percent of the West Bank and evacuate “more than a few settlements” if Abbas is serious about peace deal that will truly end the conflict and give assurances about security. So the operative question for the region, as Kerry tries to pressure the parties to sit down prior to September, is whether Abbas is ready to take yes for an answer in the way that he wasn’t in 2008 when he turned down an offer of a state from Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert.

Since few think Abbas will ever be able to sign off on any accord that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, it’s doubtful that Netanyahu will ever have to make good on these promises. But that hasn’t stopped right-wingers in his coalition from getting upset about the prospect of a pullback on the West Bank. But leaving aside the panic on the right, Netanyahu’s willingness to give up so much territory should focus the world on what it is exactly that the Palestinians want or are prepared to live with.

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Let’s assume for a moment that Secretary of State John Kerry actually succeeds in getting Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to sit down and talk with Israel for the first time since George W. Bush was president. As I wrote earlier this week, if that happens that will be the result of American promises to back the Palestinians on various issues and probably also a pledge to put a time limit on the negotiations in order to heighten the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even if all that happens, most of the international media and virtually everyone in the foreign policy establishment seems to take it as a given that the primary obstacle to a deal will be Israel’s recalcitrance in making concessions. But that Netanyahu isn’t willing to deal is a myth, which is why so many in his coalition have been speaking up to talk about their opposition to a two-state solution.

As Haaretz reports today, various high level sources including a senior Cabinet minister are saying that Netanyahu is ready to give up more than 90 percent of the West Bank and evacuate “more than a few settlements” if Abbas is serious about peace deal that will truly end the conflict and give assurances about security. So the operative question for the region, as Kerry tries to pressure the parties to sit down prior to September, is whether Abbas is ready to take yes for an answer in the way that he wasn’t in 2008 when he turned down an offer of a state from Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert.

Since few think Abbas will ever be able to sign off on any accord that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, it’s doubtful that Netanyahu will ever have to make good on these promises. But that hasn’t stopped right-wingers in his coalition from getting upset about the prospect of a pullback on the West Bank. But leaving aside the panic on the right, Netanyahu’s willingness to give up so much territory should focus the world on what it is exactly that the Palestinians want or are prepared to live with.

As with Netanyahu’s ground breaking 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University where he formally embraced a two-state solution, we can expect his critics to dismiss these latest signals that his government is willing to make sacrifices for peace. We will be told that there is no point offering the Palestinians a state on terms they can’t accept.

Palestinians say they have been waiting for several decades to get a state. They could have had one in 1947 when Palestinian Arabs and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world disdained a United Nations partition plan that called for a Jewish state and an Arab one to be created in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Three times since 2000 they have continued to say no to offers that would have again divided the land and given them a chance for independence.

But if Abbas is again going to treat an offer of statehood that would give him more than 90 percent of the West Bank as nothing or insists on accepting nothing less than a militarized Palestinian state (something that Israel is already experiencing on its southern border in Hamas-run Gaza, which is an independent state in all but name), then we are entitled to ask why.

In speaking of taking these kinds of risks for peace, Netanyahu is going far beyond what most of his supporters think is reasonable. Yet if after all this time, the Palestinians are not willing to talk or stay at the table for more than a few days or weeks simply because they cannot get all of the West Bank or Jerusalem or even to accept demilitarization, then the world should draw conclusions about their intentions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obstacle to peace in the Middle East isn’t Netanyahu or Israeli settlements. It’s the hate and intransigence that drives the Palestinian political culture that makes it impossible for Abbas to ever sign a deal. Though I don’t expect most in the foreign policy establishment to acknowledge this fact, what will happen in the next couple of months is likely to reaffirm this basic fact.

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Benny Morris’s Czechoslovakia Analogy

When an acclaimed historian says he sees a terrifying historical pattern repeating itself, he deserves to be taken seriously. And Benny Morris is assuredly one of Israel’s most famous historians. Unfortunately, his warning is unlikely to be seen by many, since it’s buried at the end of a somewhat tedious book review. And it’s liable to be ignored by those who need to hear it most.

Morris reviewed Patrick Tyler’s Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—and Why They Can’t Make Peace for the summer issue of the Jewish Review of Books. Most of the almost 5,000-word review was devoted to detailing Tyler’s numerous egregious errors and showing how they undermine his conclusions. But by itself, Morris wrote, Tyler’s spurious history would be insignificant. What makes it noteworthy is that it’s part of a much larger trend:

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When an acclaimed historian says he sees a terrifying historical pattern repeating itself, he deserves to be taken seriously. And Benny Morris is assuredly one of Israel’s most famous historians. Unfortunately, his warning is unlikely to be seen by many, since it’s buried at the end of a somewhat tedious book review. And it’s liable to be ignored by those who need to hear it most.

Morris reviewed Patrick Tyler’s Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—and Why They Can’t Make Peace for the summer issue of the Jewish Review of Books. Most of the almost 5,000-word review was devoted to detailing Tyler’s numerous egregious errors and showing how they undermine his conclusions. But by itself, Morris wrote, Tyler’s spurious history would be insignificant. What makes it noteworthy is that it’s part of a much larger trend:

Fortress Israel is just the latest in a spate of venomous perversions of the record that have appeared in the past few years in the United States and Britain, all clearly designed to subvert Israel’s standing in the world. Deliberately or not, such books and articles are paving the way for a future abandonment of the Jewish state.

I am reminded of the spate of books and articles that appeared in Western Europe in 1936 through 1938 repudiating the legitimacy of the newly formed Czechoslovakia before its sacrifice to the Nazi wolves. In 1934, the Conservative weekly Truth hailed Czechoslovakia as “the sole successful experiment in liberal democracy that has emerged from the post-War settlement.” By the end of 1936, The Observer was writing it off as “a diplomatic creation with no sufficient national basis either in geography or race.” By March 1938 The New Statesman, in the past a great friend to central Europe’s only democracy, was writing: “We should urge the Czechs to cede the German-speaking part of their territory to Hitler without more ado.” Of course, as all understood, this meant leaving Czechoslovakia defenseless. Hitler conquered the rump of the country a few months later without a shot. The appeasement of the Arab-Islamist world at Israel’s expense is in the air and Tyler is one of its (very, very) minor harbingers.

Reasonable people can disagree about how we should deal with this dangerous trend. But the first step is to recognize that it exists: that we’ve seen this historical pattern before, and it has deadly real-world consequences.

Unfortunately, Morris today is persona non grata with many of the people who most need to hear this warning. For years, he was a hero of the self-described “peace camp,” due both to his role as a leading “new historian” who challenged accepted Israeli historiography (he catapulted to fame in 1988 when he published The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949) and to his outspoken left-wing politics: He favored a Palestinian state before it was fashionable and was jailed for refusing to do military service in the territories.

But after the second intifada broke out, he became convinced that what the Palestinians wanted wasn’t peace, but “to extinguish the Jewish national project and to inherit all of Palestine.” That made him anathema to many well-meaning and genuinely pro-Israel people who can’t abide that conclusion–and they are also the people who find it hardest to accepting the delegitimizers as enemies who must be fought at all costs. Instead, they often favor “dialogue” and “an inclusive big tent.”

But Morris is a historian, not a politician, and his politics shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the validity of his historical analysis. The Czechoslovakian analogy he sees is frightening–and we ignore it at Israel’s peril.

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The Damage Snowden Has Done

With Edward Snowden still stuck in the purgatory of Moscow’s international airport, it is worth taking a moment to note some news reporting of recent days on the damage he has already done.

The Associated Press reports that “members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance.”

The Washington Post reports that intelligence analysts scouring NSA databases to figure out what Snowden stole believe there is a lot more information in his possession than has already come out: “They think he copied so much stuff — that almost everything that place does, he has,” said one former government official.

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With Edward Snowden still stuck in the purgatory of Moscow’s international airport, it is worth taking a moment to note some news reporting of recent days on the damage he has already done.

The Associated Press reports that “members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance.”

The Washington Post reports that intelligence analysts scouring NSA databases to figure out what Snowden stole believe there is a lot more information in his possession than has already come out: “They think he copied so much stuff — that almost everything that place does, he has,” said one former government official.

The Daily Beast reports that Snowden made encrypted digital copies of all of his files and sent them contacts around the world, with the proviso that if anything happens to him the recipients of his files will receive the passwords needed to unlock them.

It may be the case that whoever Snowden sent the files to can’t unlock them without a password, but there is little doubt that the intelligence services of major countries such as Russia and China can easily break through password protections.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the widespread assumption that Russian intelligence agents have already gotten access to “his treasure trove of U.S. intelligence data,” whether he wanted to give it to them or not: “Agents could copy Snowden’s confidential computer files without his cooperation, as he has been in their custody for days in a diplomatic no man’s land at Sheremetyevo airport.” It goes without saying that Chinese intelligence, which is at least as sophisticated as the Russian service, gained access to the same files while Snowden was on their home turf in Hong Kong.

Little wonder, then, that Gen. Keith Alexander, head of NSA, has said that Snowden “has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies.” Snowden may in fact prove to be one of the worst traitors in American history. The only puzzle is why he still has any defenders left.

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‘Economist’ Warns Iran Won’t Be Stopped

For years, we’ve been told that there’s plenty of time to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. The world laughed when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu drew a red line across a cartoon bomb at the United Nations last fall to demonstrate the need to act before it was too late. President Obama, who has vociferously pledged that Tehran will never gain such a weapon on his watch, tried engagement and then a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try and make good on his promise. He still insists that this policy will eventually work and with the election of a new supposedly more moderate Iranian president, virtually everyone in the chattering classes and the foreign policy establishment has seemed content to allow the administration to keep talking about talking with the Islamist regime even if there’s no sign that it will ever work. This complacence has been criticized by American conservatives and some Israelis to little effect, but now one of the most reliable indicators of establishment thinking in Europe with little sympathy for Israel is agreeing with those long deemed alarmists about Iran.

In an eye-opening article published this week, the Economist dismisses the notion that anything the United States and its allies has been trying will work:

British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and rather further from mastering the technologies to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. But David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, thinks that by mid-2014 Iran will have the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a single bomb in one or two weeks, should it choose to do so. It seems unlikely that Iran could be forced to change course on this matter by foreigners. The best that can be hoped for is that it decides that it does not want or need a nuclear weapon.

But given that, as the magazine stated in the opening sentence of the piece, “Iran is putting up with sanctions that damage its economy rather than accept a deal limiting its nuclear programme,” what possible reason is there to believe that the ayatollahs would simply give up what the regime has worked so long and hard to achieve? The obvious answer is none at all. Which means that the assurances we have been getting from Washington about having all the time in the world to let diplomacy work—in spite of repeated failures—was pure bunk. While I wouldn’t expect those who have been working diligently to switch American policy from one aimed at stopping Iran to one of containment (something Obama has disavowed) to draw any conclusions from this, it should be noted that this turn of events has led a leading columnist at Israel’s left-wing Haaretz newspaper to make a startling concession: Netanyahu was right all along.

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For years, we’ve been told that there’s plenty of time to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. The world laughed when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu drew a red line across a cartoon bomb at the United Nations last fall to demonstrate the need to act before it was too late. President Obama, who has vociferously pledged that Tehran will never gain such a weapon on his watch, tried engagement and then a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try and make good on his promise. He still insists that this policy will eventually work and with the election of a new supposedly more moderate Iranian president, virtually everyone in the chattering classes and the foreign policy establishment has seemed content to allow the administration to keep talking about talking with the Islamist regime even if there’s no sign that it will ever work. This complacence has been criticized by American conservatives and some Israelis to little effect, but now one of the most reliable indicators of establishment thinking in Europe with little sympathy for Israel is agreeing with those long deemed alarmists about Iran.

In an eye-opening article published this week, the Economist dismisses the notion that anything the United States and its allies has been trying will work:

British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and rather further from mastering the technologies to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. But David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, thinks that by mid-2014 Iran will have the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a single bomb in one or two weeks, should it choose to do so. It seems unlikely that Iran could be forced to change course on this matter by foreigners. The best that can be hoped for is that it decides that it does not want or need a nuclear weapon.

But given that, as the magazine stated in the opening sentence of the piece, “Iran is putting up with sanctions that damage its economy rather than accept a deal limiting its nuclear programme,” what possible reason is there to believe that the ayatollahs would simply give up what the regime has worked so long and hard to achieve? The obvious answer is none at all. Which means that the assurances we have been getting from Washington about having all the time in the world to let diplomacy work—in spite of repeated failures—was pure bunk. While I wouldn’t expect those who have been working diligently to switch American policy from one aimed at stopping Iran to one of containment (something Obama has disavowed) to draw any conclusions from this, it should be noted that this turn of events has led a leading columnist at Israel’s left-wing Haaretz newspaper to make a startling concession: Netanyahu was right all along.

As Ari Shavit notes in today’s Haaretz:

While Israel was busy with light entertainment in the form of political reality shows, The Economist informed it this week that a difficult strategic reality is taking shape around it. What the world promised would never happen is happening at this very moment. What the top ranks of Israel’s defense establishment promised would never happen is in fact happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel (which is sunk in summer daydreams) stands alone.

From 2009 to 2012, a vigorous debate over Iran took place here. On one side were the optimists: President Shimon Peres, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, then-Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the defense establishment, the media establishment and the refreshing spirit of hoping for the best. On the other side was a gloomy, besmirched pessimist: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The mention of Dagan and Diskin is important here. The former spooks were two of the stars of The Gatekeepers, a film in which former security chiefs flayed Netanyahu’s government for its policies and have been lionized in the West as the sane, smart Israelis who should be listened to instead of the dumbbells that were elected by the Israeli people. Yet, as one of their cheerleaders now attests, they were wrong about the most important defense issue faced by the country.

But as Shavit writes, it was the famous gatekeepers and other liberal Israelis who were listened to by the West:

America is there, said the optimists. No, it isn’t, said the pessimist. There’s a hidden hand, said the optimists. No, there isn’t, said the pessimist. There’s time, said the optimists. No, there isn’t, said the pessimist. Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped by the fall of 2012, the pessimist said. It’s not Iran’s nuclear program that’s the problem, but the prime minister, the optimists said.

For three and a half years, the optimists went from one journalist to another and from one American to another and said that the pessimist is a dangerous purveyor of doom and gloom who sees molehills as mountains and doesn’t understand that the world won’t let Iran go nuclear. For three and a half years, the optimists tied the pessimist’s hands on the basis of the threefold promise of America, the hidden hand and time.

Just as Israel’s left-wingers have done much to poison the minds of Western journalists and opinion-makers about the standoff with the Palestinians, the willingness of so many top Jerusalem figures to align themselves against Netanyahu on Iran had serious consequences. The optimists, as Shavit calls them, refused to help the prime minister to ratchet up the pressure on Obama to act before Iran had amassed the huge store of enriched uranium that it now possesses or it had stored much of its nuclear infrastructure in hardened, mountainside bunkers that would be difficult even for the United States to destroy. Instead, they helped hamstring the efforts of Netanyahu and former Minister of Defense Ehud Barak in their efforts to mobilize the West to act or to get a green light from Washington for Israel to strike on its own.

After repeatedly accusing Netanyahu of crying “wolf” about Iran, as Shavit puts it, Israel must now deal with the fact that “a strategic wolf with nuclear teeth is now at the gate.”

But, as he notes, as dangerous as the situation has become, it is not too late for it to be corrected. A decision by the West to enact a total economic blockade and boycott of Iran—with no exceptions for China to buy their oil—could bring an already shaky Iranian economy to its knees in a manner than even the ayatollahs would have to notice. A credible threat of force rather than the amorphous language used by a president who is clearly determined to do anything but use force to stop Iran might also get their attention.

But with the U.S. seemingly ready to waste another year on a diplomatic track that is designed merely to give Iran more time to develop their nukes, there seems little chance of either of those things happening.

The result is the situation the Economist describes in which Iran is certain to get a nuclear weapon sometime before the midterm elections next year. At that point, apologies to Netanyahu from his detractors in both the U.S. and Israel will be both too late and of no use to a Jewish state confronted by a nuclear Iran that wants to wipe it off the map.

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IG Confirms: IRS Didn’t Target Progressives

There was a moment this week when it appeared that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups was really part of a broader sweep aimed at liberal groups too. That moment turned out to be fleeting. On Monday, acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters that groups with certain liberal terms in their names were subjected to increased scrutiny as well. The press bought the story hook, line and sinker.

Werfel’s claims could not withstand scrutiny. As Eliana Johnson pointed out at National Review Online, Werfel’s account was misleading, conflated different categories of nonprofit groups, and contradicted the reality of the approval process and the involvement and oversight of higher-ups in Washington. But now the Treasury Department’s inspector general has cleared up any confusion: no, “progressive” groups were not targeted:

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There was a moment this week when it appeared that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups was really part of a broader sweep aimed at liberal groups too. That moment turned out to be fleeting. On Monday, acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters that groups with certain liberal terms in their names were subjected to increased scrutiny as well. The press bought the story hook, line and sinker.

Werfel’s claims could not withstand scrutiny. As Eliana Johnson pointed out at National Review Online, Werfel’s account was misleading, conflated different categories of nonprofit groups, and contradicted the reality of the approval process and the involvement and oversight of higher-ups in Washington. But now the Treasury Department’s inspector general has cleared up any confusion: no, “progressive” groups were not targeted:

“Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the ‘progressives’ identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012,” George wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

The inspector general also stressed that 100 percent of the groups with “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12” in their name were flagged for extra attention.

“While we have multiple sources of information corroborating the use of Tea Party and other related criteria we described in our report, including employee interviews, e-mails and other documents, we found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,” George wrote to Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Levin was flummoxed, but he wasn’t the only Democrat to try unsuccessfully to undermine conservatives’ claims with regard to the IRS. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, attempted earlier this month to simply will the story away. “Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved,” Cummings said. “And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on, to be frank with you.” Not only was the case clearly not “solved,” but another of the claims has since been debunked.

Cummings tried to use the testimony of one IRS staffer to imply that one group within the IRS was reviewing the Tea Party-related cases. But according to a lawsuit challenging the IRS’s abuse of power, twelve different IRS groups had participated in the targeting, as the Daily Caller notes:

Group 7821, Group 7822, Group 7823, Group 7824, Group 7827, Group 7828, Group 7829, Group 7830, Group 7838, EOG-7887, and EOG-7888, and the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division in Washington, D.C. all targeted conservative groups between 2010 and 2012, according to documentation compiled by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has filed a class-action suit against the IRS.

Cummings has been a man on a mission throughout this scandal. Though the IRS doesn’t have many defenders, and its actions in this case are indefensible anyway, Cummings has tried his best to run the investigation into the IRS off the rails. It’s unclear exactly why Cummings fears where the investigation will lead, but that actually underlines why Cummings is wrong in the first place to claim the investigation has run its course. We still don’t know which officials in Washington directed the targeting, or how exactly the campaign came together.

Additionally, the White House misled reporters on this time and again, revising its story each time it was contradicted by the record. The Obama administration’s behavior is not one of a disinterested party who was kept in the dark and now shares the public’s outrage at the IRS’s actions. The administration behaves as if it has something to hide, and has already been shown to present false statements about who in the White House knew about the targeting and when. That doesn’t mean the president himself was giving orders, but neither can the Oversight Committee ignore the wealth of unanswered questions that remain about the case.

Cummings has called the investigation a witch hunt and a conspiracy theory, but he seems to be the one who has the most doubts as to how high this case goes. If the administration’s congressional allies really believed that no one beyond some low-level staffers could be implicated by the investigation, they’d welcome it. After all, it would exonerate the administration and the directors in Washington.

Cummings’s decision to release a full transcript of one of the Oversight Committee’s interviews with an IRS staffer, over the objection of committee head Darrell Issa, is also telling. Issa wants to prevent the interview subjects from being able to coordinate their stories, and thus not release the bulk of the questions and answers from the interviews. Cummings was only too happy to take a step that helps the perpetrators of this corrupt scheme at the expense of the victims. For all the left’s criticism of Issa’s investigative zeal, Cummings seems to have the most profound doubts about his own party’s innocence.

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