Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2013

Portrait of Denial: ‘The Nation’ and Communist Spies

Revelations about the content of the former Soviet Union’s archives about spying in the United States ended some long-running intellectual arguments. After decades of denying that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg or Alger Hiss were guilty and pretending that the Communist Party of the United States was not a Soviet front, a lot of people on the left had to shut up. The anti-anti-Communist point of view about the Cold War was discredited, but for the publishers of The Nation, the impulse to wave the old red flag is still strong. That often leads them, as well as some other sectors of the left such as the New York Times, to pretend as if backing the totalitarian, genocidal, and anti-Semitic regime that ruled Moscow was an innocent romantic phase that all true liberals went through. But as bad as that deplorable tradition might be, the decision of The Nation to publish material about Communist espionage as if the Venona Files had never been published is nothing short of bizarre.

That’s the only way to regard their recent publication of a review of a history of the post-World War Two Bretton Woods economic conference that devotes a considerable amount of space to defending the lost honor of Harry Dexter White. White, the senior Treasury Department official who led the U.S. delegation to Bretton Woods, was exposed as a Soviet spy a long time ago. As John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, the pre-eminent academic experts on Communist spying and the Soviet archives, write on their Washington Decoded blog, James Boughton’s effort to vindicate White is embarrassingly short on evidence if not completely mendacious. There isn’t any reasonable doubt that White provided information to Soviet intelligence and did what in plain language amounts to spying for Stalin.

Which leads is to ask why The Nation even bothers engaging in this dead-end argument. The answer tells us something interesting about the role the past plays for the contemporary left.

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Revelations about the content of the former Soviet Union’s archives about spying in the United States ended some long-running intellectual arguments. After decades of denying that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg or Alger Hiss were guilty and pretending that the Communist Party of the United States was not a Soviet front, a lot of people on the left had to shut up. The anti-anti-Communist point of view about the Cold War was discredited, but for the publishers of The Nation, the impulse to wave the old red flag is still strong. That often leads them, as well as some other sectors of the left such as the New York Times, to pretend as if backing the totalitarian, genocidal, and anti-Semitic regime that ruled Moscow was an innocent romantic phase that all true liberals went through. But as bad as that deplorable tradition might be, the decision of The Nation to publish material about Communist espionage as if the Venona Files had never been published is nothing short of bizarre.

That’s the only way to regard their recent publication of a review of a history of the post-World War Two Bretton Woods economic conference that devotes a considerable amount of space to defending the lost honor of Harry Dexter White. White, the senior Treasury Department official who led the U.S. delegation to Bretton Woods, was exposed as a Soviet spy a long time ago. As John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, the pre-eminent academic experts on Communist spying and the Soviet archives, write on their Washington Decoded blog, James Boughton’s effort to vindicate White is embarrassingly short on evidence if not completely mendacious. There isn’t any reasonable doubt that White provided information to Soviet intelligence and did what in plain language amounts to spying for Stalin.

Which leads is to ask why The Nation even bothers engaging in this dead-end argument. The answer tells us something interesting about the role the past plays for the contemporary left.

You might think that having the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter would free The Nation from their commitment to keep fighting the old ideological battles. There are, after all, a host of contemporary arguments to engage in that, notwithstanding the weakness of the left-wing case, are not vulnerable to disproof by incontrovertible historical evidence as is the case with the delusional effort to defend White. Yet after so many years of pretending that Soviet infiltration of Washington in the 1930s and 1940s was a figment of the imagination of demagogic right-wing anti-Communists, keeping the flag of denial flying is their way of asserting that being left wing means never having to say you’re sorry.

Doing so can be dismissed as a mindless loyalty to their past as a publication, but one suspects there is also something else at work. Admitting the truth about Communist espionage doesn’t validate contemporary conservative critiques of other traditional left-wing positions on the economy like the minimum wage or the folly of socialized medicine and its forerunner, ObamaCare. But at The Nation, the notion that any cracks in what in another era would have been called party solidarity undermines all their beliefs still seems to prevail.

Why else would they bother beating the dead horse of espionage denial if not for the fact that doing so somehow bucks them up in the idea that the right is always wrong, even when it is obviously right.

Liberals often accuse conservatives of living in the past and acting as if the Cold War never ended. Sometimes they have a point on that score, but what this episode teaches us is that the left is far more addicted to their Cold War anti-anti-Communism than anyone on the right has ever been. Being honest about the past requires conservatives to admit that not everything done in the name of anti-Communism was correct or even honorable. At the very least, it should also require liberals to drop the pretense that American Communism was a benign faith that was untainted by its association with Stalinism. It’s too bad The Nation isn’t grown up enough to do even that much.

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The Downside to Giving Peace a Chance

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, is taking some heat from critics on the right for his defense of the Middle East peace process. Writing in the Huffington Post, Harris gives three reasons for optimism, if not about the outcome of negotiations, then for feeling good about the process that is about to unfold. I’m a lot more skeptical than he is about what is happening, but I don’t have a major problem with his main arguments.

I don’t think he’s right about the status quo being unsustainable, yet that’s a complicated point. But he’s right that if peace really were possible, it would be best for Israel to have it negotiated by a tough leader of the right like Netanyahu rather than the left since that will make it easier to support the outcome. Moreover, I believe Netanyahu has the guts to say no to the U.S. if it came down to being forced to accept a deal that would harm Israel’s rights and security. And third, I don’t disagree when he says the Obama administration means well by pushing the process, though I think that’s not particularly germane to the question of whether any good can come of it. The president has demonstrated he’s not quite the enemy of Israel that many people feared him to be, but that doesn’t mean his desire to push a resolution of the conflict when there is no reason to think it can happen won’t have serious negative consequences.

That leads me to my one fundamental point of disagreement with Harris. He writes:

If the Palestinians once again prove they are unwilling partners, as they did in 2000-1 and again in 2008, let the world see who torpedoed a potential deal.

Sure, there’s that enabling pro-Palestinian community — diplomats, journalists, “human rights” activists, entertainers — who are willfully blind, for whom the problem always has been and will be Israel, but others will figure it out.

Unfortunately, history shows us that Israel not only never gets credit for being reasonable and making concessions, it actually suffers from the process.

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David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, is taking some heat from critics on the right for his defense of the Middle East peace process. Writing in the Huffington Post, Harris gives three reasons for optimism, if not about the outcome of negotiations, then for feeling good about the process that is about to unfold. I’m a lot more skeptical than he is about what is happening, but I don’t have a major problem with his main arguments.

I don’t think he’s right about the status quo being unsustainable, yet that’s a complicated point. But he’s right that if peace really were possible, it would be best for Israel to have it negotiated by a tough leader of the right like Netanyahu rather than the left since that will make it easier to support the outcome. Moreover, I believe Netanyahu has the guts to say no to the U.S. if it came down to being forced to accept a deal that would harm Israel’s rights and security. And third, I don’t disagree when he says the Obama administration means well by pushing the process, though I think that’s not particularly germane to the question of whether any good can come of it. The president has demonstrated he’s not quite the enemy of Israel that many people feared him to be, but that doesn’t mean his desire to push a resolution of the conflict when there is no reason to think it can happen won’t have serious negative consequences.

That leads me to my one fundamental point of disagreement with Harris. He writes:

If the Palestinians once again prove they are unwilling partners, as they did in 2000-1 and again in 2008, let the world see who torpedoed a potential deal.

Sure, there’s that enabling pro-Palestinian community — diplomats, journalists, “human rights” activists, entertainers — who are willfully blind, for whom the problem always has been and will be Israel, but others will figure it out.

Unfortunately, history shows us that Israel not only never gets credit for being reasonable and making concessions, it actually suffers from the process.

If we look back honestly on the last 20 years since the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House Lawn, even the most ardent fans of the peace process must admit that Israel’s position in the world has suffered terribly. While there was no shortage of Israel haters in the international community, the United Nations, and Europe, there is simply no comparison between its position then and where things stand today. The level of vituperation against Zionism and virtually every Israeli measure of self-defense is far more extreme than it was in 1993. Far from Israel’s willingness to give up territory and empower the Palestinians leading to its critics viewing it in a better light, doing so has actually emboldened anti-Zionists to treat it as a thief that must be forced to surrender stolen property.

As Harris rightly notes, Israel has made the Palestinians three separate offers of statehood involving a massive withdrawal from the West Bank, the dismantlement of settlements, and even a share of Jerusalem. The Palestinians turned them all down. But not only did that not hurt their standing in the world, they are actually viewed more sympathetically today than they were before saying no.

Similarly, Israel’s retreat from Gaza in which it removed every single soldier, settler, and settlement did nothing to prove to the world either Israel’s good will or the bad will of Palestinians who converted that territory into a giant missile-launching site.

Back in 2000, only months after the Camp David fiasco at which Israel’s government had made its first statehood offer and just after Yasir Arafat replied by launching a terrorist war of attrition, I heard then Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami tell me and a group of reporters that the Palestinians’ actions had changed forever Israel’s foreign image. Never again, he said, could anyone be in doubt as to which side wanted peace and which side wanted war. Looking back on that prediction, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

The status quo in the Middle East isn’t good, but sustainable or not (and given that it has persisted for 46 years, waiting for the Palestinians culture of violence and hatred for Israel to change before embarking on another round of negotiations doesn’t seem an unreasonable proposal), the majority of Israelis may feel that it is better than repeating the mistake of Gaza in the far larger and more strategic West Bank. More to the point, they know, even if some in the United States don’t, that no matter how badly the Palestinians behave, Israel won’t get credit for trying to make peace. Indeed, the more it negotiates about giving up land, the more the world thinks it has no rights to bargain away. So when, as is likely, the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn leads to another outbreak of violence, it will be Israel that gets the blame.

Peace would be great for everyone. But giving this process “a chance” without any reason to believe it could succeed has costs that shouldn’t be ignored.

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Murderers’ Release Is Least of the Problems

The Wall Street Journal notes that “it says something about the current Palestinian leadership that it has made the release of killers a condition of peace talks,” and the Journal asks “why anyone should expect that a peace process that begins by setting murderers free is likely to result in peace.” The short answer is no one does–nor would anyone expect it even if the process were to begin with a handshake on the White House lawn rather than the release of murderers.

We’ve already seen this movie three times, as the Palestinians rejected three offers of a state in eight years, before ceasing to negotiate altogether in 2009 and have the Obama administration carry their water. What is new about the current process is the U.S. accepted the idea the Palestinians should be paid simply to show up, and then pressured Israel into paying the price. This is a more significant development than the particular price the Palestinians demanded, because the tactic is one that, once countenanced, can easily be repeated: expect to see the Palestinians, having been paid to show up, demand further payments simply to stay around, as the “negotiations” proceed. It is already happening, as the Palestinians now demand cessation of construction even in longstanding population centers “everyone knows” Israel will retain. 

What is also new, however, is an Israeli consensus about the current process.

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The Wall Street Journal notes that “it says something about the current Palestinian leadership that it has made the release of killers a condition of peace talks,” and the Journal asks “why anyone should expect that a peace process that begins by setting murderers free is likely to result in peace.” The short answer is no one does–nor would anyone expect it even if the process were to begin with a handshake on the White House lawn rather than the release of murderers.

We’ve already seen this movie three times, as the Palestinians rejected three offers of a state in eight years, before ceasing to negotiate altogether in 2009 and have the Obama administration carry their water. What is new about the current process is the U.S. accepted the idea the Palestinians should be paid simply to show up, and then pressured Israel into paying the price. This is a more significant development than the particular price the Palestinians demanded, because the tactic is one that, once countenanced, can easily be repeated: expect to see the Palestinians, having been paid to show up, demand further payments simply to stay around, as the “negotiations” proceed. It is already happening, as the Palestinians now demand cessation of construction even in longstanding population centers “everyone knows” Israel will retain. 

What is also new, however, is an Israeli consensus about the current process.

The recent Tel Aviv University/Israel Democracy Institute poll shows 62 percent of Israeli Jews favor a referendum on any agreement and 62 percent reject withdrawal to the 1967 lines with territorial swaps–even for (in the language of the polling question) a “permanent” peace agreement with a “demilitarized” Palestinian state, featuring “security arrangements,” “international guarantees” and a “conflict-ending declaration.” Israelis know “declarations” are only declarations, “guarantees” cannot be guaranteed, and “arrangements” can be re-arranged. The 1967 war itself occurred when peacekeeping forces–an international security arrangement guaranteeing peace–were withdrawn as Egypt positioned its military to attack Israel. The Second Lebanon War ended with a “binding” UN resolution establishing a peacekeeping force to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming, after which Hezbollah proceeded to rearm. A U.S. letter reiterating a “steadfast commitment” to  “defensible borders,” which the Obama administration proceeded to ignore, accompanied the Gaza withdrawal.

The new poll demonstrates Israelis are unwilling to trade land in the heart of Eretz Yisrael for the magic beans of an agreement that depends on reversible declarations, guarantees, and arrangements, signed with a Palestinian “leadership” that hasn’t stood for election since 2005 and can’t set foot in half the putative state, rather than on defensible borders, the parameters of which have long been known: retention of the high ground around Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, control over the strategically critical Jordan Valley, and retention of the major settlement blocs that are within such borders. Nothing less will provide Israel with security, and nothing less will likely pass an Israeli referendum.  

Standing next to the German foreign minister yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the EU’s new guidelines regarding Israeli population centers beyond the 1949 armistice lines “have actually undermined peace,” because: “They’ve hardened Palestinian positions, they seek an unrealistic end that everybody knows is not going to happen, and I think they stand in the way of reaching a solution.” When you accept the principle that Palestinians should be paid to attend negotiations; when you encourage them to make unrealistic demands; and when you ignore commitments to Israel for prior peace process concessions, the fact that the new process starts with the release of murderers is the least of the problems.

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What Hillary Learned in 2008: Lean Left

Few doubt that Hillary Clinton is already gearing up to run for president in 2016, but her speech yesterday at the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco made it clear that the former First Lady and secretary of state is not only preparing for that race but that she is thinking about the one she lost in 2008. While Clinton’s remarks attacking the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act was pure liberal boilerplate material, it is a sign she understands that the only possible danger to her candidacy is leaving too much room to her left, as she did five years ago.

Right now it appears as if Clinton will win the 2016 Democratic nomination by acclamation. After serving as President Obama’s loyal and largely ineffectual soldier at the State Department, there is a widespread expectation in her party that Clinton has earned the nomination. Moreover, Democrats also believe, not without reason, that Clinton could win the presidency largely on the strength of being the first woman to be elected to it. But unlike an incumbent like Barack Obama, Clinton is aware that some Democrat(s) will take a flier on opposing her and that while another upset like 2008 is utterly unlikely, there could be an opportunity to make a splash by running to her left as the true progressive in the race. As Richard Cohen pointed out today in the Washington Post, Clinton has always lacked an overriding message in her political career. The only point to it has been her ambition and sense of entitlement. That didn’t work in 2008, and if she has learned anything from that shocking defeat it will be that she must work harder at convincing her party’s base that she will please them.

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Few doubt that Hillary Clinton is already gearing up to run for president in 2016, but her speech yesterday at the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco made it clear that the former First Lady and secretary of state is not only preparing for that race but that she is thinking about the one she lost in 2008. While Clinton’s remarks attacking the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act was pure liberal boilerplate material, it is a sign she understands that the only possible danger to her candidacy is leaving too much room to her left, as she did five years ago.

Right now it appears as if Clinton will win the 2016 Democratic nomination by acclamation. After serving as President Obama’s loyal and largely ineffectual soldier at the State Department, there is a widespread expectation in her party that Clinton has earned the nomination. Moreover, Democrats also believe, not without reason, that Clinton could win the presidency largely on the strength of being the first woman to be elected to it. But unlike an incumbent like Barack Obama, Clinton is aware that some Democrat(s) will take a flier on opposing her and that while another upset like 2008 is utterly unlikely, there could be an opportunity to make a splash by running to her left as the true progressive in the race. As Richard Cohen pointed out today in the Washington Post, Clinton has always lacked an overriding message in her political career. The only point to it has been her ambition and sense of entitlement. That didn’t work in 2008, and if she has learned anything from that shocking defeat it will be that she must work harder at convincing her party’s base that she will please them.

That’s where her rhetoric about the Voting Rights Act comes in. Her arguments about it gutting the achievement of the civil-rights movement are as nonsensical as any others coming from the left. So, too, is her attempt to chime in with the racial huckster crowd by labeling voter integrity laws as racist. Most Americans, including most minorities, have no problems with voter ID procedures, including the comprehensive bill passed and signed recently in North Carolina. It’s not an issue that has much traction with the general public, but it plays well with Democratic primary voters and the African American community.

Securing her left flank is an important aspect of her presidential strategy because while it is difficult to envision a liberal insurgency stopping her from being the first female major-party presidential candidate, there is a clear opening for someone on the left to raise a ruckus by providing an alternative to Clinton in the primaries and the caucuses. That probably won’t be Vice President Joe Biden, even if he is sniffing around Iowa this week. But you can count on someone on the left being smart enough to know that being the Democratic gadfly in 2016 will be a good way to lay down the foundation for a future run for the presidency.

The problem for Hillary is that it won’t be enough for her to play the adult in the race, as she did in 2008 with her famous 3 a.m. phone call ad (a campaign theme that seems highly ironic given the fact that she was apparently MIA when the phone call came in from Benghazi last September). What Democratic primary voters want is left-wing red meat. Barack Obama gave it to them in 2008 by being the anti-war candidate and you can bet that there will be someone willing to hound Clinton from the left in 2016.

That’s why she has to work harder to pander to liberals and blacks now with misleading speeches about voting rights to ensure that the window on the left is sufficiently narrow to ensure that her opposition is a token liberal rather than someone with the ability to chip away at her. She wants to spend 2016 running for a general election win (as did Obama in 2012), not fending off ideological challengers from within her own party, as Mitt Romney had to do last year.

That’s why we can expect more of the same when she speaks next month in Philadelphia on national security issues and, in particular, the furor over the National Security Agency’s monitoring of communications. We should expect her to use that speech to tilt again to the left rather than to defend the policies of the administration she served. That will be irresponsible and illustrate the same lack of principle she has shown throughout her career. But Clinton remembers 2008, and if she fails next time it will not be because she was insufficiently liberal.

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Too Soon to Call Sequester a Success

From the standpoint of a budget hawk like Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the budget sequestration process may indeed look like a success. “After President Obama’s first two years in office, many in Washington expected that number to hit $4 trillion by 2014,” Moore writes. “Instead, spending fell to $3.537 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on pace to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of this fiscal year (Sept. 30). The $150 billion budget decline of 4% is the first time federal expenditures have fallen for two consecutive years since the end of the Korean War.”

That is certainly good news, given the long-term threat to our international standing posed by runaway spending, even if there is cause to doubt how lasting the success of sequestration will be. As R. Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane write in the New York Times, “The C.B.O. still anticipates a 2015 deficit of $378 billion. And Uncle Sam is heading — and this is the best-case scenario — toward nearly a trillion dollars of red ink every year after 2023.”

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From the standpoint of a budget hawk like Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the budget sequestration process may indeed look like a success. “After President Obama’s first two years in office, many in Washington expected that number to hit $4 trillion by 2014,” Moore writes. “Instead, spending fell to $3.537 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on pace to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of this fiscal year (Sept. 30). The $150 billion budget decline of 4% is the first time federal expenditures have fallen for two consecutive years since the end of the Korean War.”

That is certainly good news, given the long-term threat to our international standing posed by runaway spending, even if there is cause to doubt how lasting the success of sequestration will be. As R. Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane write in the New York Times, “The C.B.O. still anticipates a 2015 deficit of $378 billion. And Uncle Sam is heading — and this is the best-case scenario — toward nearly a trillion dollars of red ink every year after 2023.”

More immediately, the danger from a military standpoint is that we are purchasing deficit reduction at the cost of a catastrophic loss of military capability and readiness. As Moore himself notes, “The defense budget is on a pace to hit its lowest level (as a share of GDP) since the days of the post-Cold War ‘peace dividend’ during the Clinton years.” He concedes that “these deep cutbacks could be dangerous to national security,” but he argues that “as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were winding down, defense would have been cut under any scenario.” Perhaps so, but there was nothing inevitable to dictate that cuts would be so deep–amounting to some $1 trillion over the next decade–or that they would be enacted so indiscriminately across the board.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave an overview of the unpalatable choices facing the Defense Department when he unveiled the results of a strategic review of spending. Even assuming a 20-percent reduction in headquarters overhead and a $50 billion reduction in military compensation–by no means easy to pull off–the armed forces will still have to cut a lot of muscle to achieve their budget targets.

Option 1 would be to cut the size of the existing armed forces dramatically to preserve investment in cutting-edge technologies. This would mean: “The active Army would drop to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops [from a peak of 570,000]. The number of Navy carrier strike groups would be reduced from a target of 11 to eight or nine. The Marine Corps would be reduced from 182,000 troops to between 150,000 and 175,000. And the Pentagon would retire older Air Force bombers.”

Option 2 would be to preserve more forces in being while cutting investments in “the Air Force’s new bomber, submarine cruise missile upgrades, the F-35 Lightning II, cyber capabilities and special operations forces.”

Either way, the U.S. will suffer a dangerous loss of military capability and hence influence in the world at the same time that the long-term danger from China and the short-term dangers from Iran and al-Qaeda are only growing. Ultimately, history teaches that decline of international security and stability will have parlous consequences for the American economy (see, for worst-case scenarios, the 1930s and 1970s), which will ultimately necessitate a large military buildup and make projected budget savings illusory. It makes more sense to keep in existence the top-notch American armed forces as they have been developed at great cost and effort since the last period of major cuts in the 1970s. But that would require repealing sequestration, which appears increasingly unlikely.

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The NYC Mayoral Election and Public Safety

In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

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In one of its several reaction stories on yesterday’s irredeemably shoddy judicial ruling against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, the New York Times calls attention to the sudden relevance of the mayoral candidates to this court case. The administration of Michael Bloomberg is appealing the ruling, but the Times points out that it is likely Bloomberg’s term in office will end before the appeals process does. So the Times explains how various New York mayoral candidates would handle it.

The Republican candidates, Joseph Lhota and John Catsimatidis, both said they would continue Bloomberg’s fight to keep the city’s minority neighborhoods safe. That was in stark contrast to the Democratic candidates, who seemed to be in general agreement that confused judicial activists, instead of criminal justice experts or concerns for public safety, should drive police policy. They seem worried, in fact, that the city might win its appeal and thus rather than be advocates of the city and its residents, they want to stop the process in its tracks:

Four Democrats vying to succeed Mr. Bloomberg pledged on Monday to overhaul the stop-and-frisk tactic and end the city’s appeal of the decision if elected: Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; John C. Liu, the city comptroller; Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; and William C. Thompson Jr., a former city comptroller….

While many of the Democratic candidates have said they would work to decrease the frequency of stops, they have not said exactly how they would overhaul the stop-and-frisk practice.

The exception is Mr. Liu, who has called for banning the tactic entirely.

That follows the phenomenon I wrote about yesterday, in which liberal demagogues assail the police but admit to not having any constructive alternative ideas. It may sound dangerous to advocate for tearing down the system of public safety without so much as a backup plan for what replaces it, but all the Democratic candidates appear to believe the current weakness of the city’s Republican Party means that Democrats can make the breakdown of the social order their election platform and still win.

Heather Mac Donald writes today in the New York Post that the anti-NYPD campaign requires a denial of observable reality. As if on cue to confirm Mac Donald’s framing, the Times publishes a “news analysis” today as well, which seeks to connect the stop-and-frisk ruling and the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that federal prosecutors would not pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses:

Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago. Those policies have been denounced as discriminatory and responsible for explosive growth in the prison population.

But that is either completely wrong or a convenient sleight of hand to fool the reader into buying the fabricated connection. It’s true that mandatory minimums prevent the justice system from adapting to the times and from using discretion and judgment in the pursuit of criminals. There has been bipartisan support for reforming or suspending mandatory minimums, and the process certainly has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of minority males.

But stop-and-frisk does not belong in that category. The tactic seeks to prevent crimes and therefore to prevent incarceration. Not only are minorities in the city safer because of stop-and-frisk, but the proactive approach to crime prevention is a useful tool in seeking to reduce the prison population. Indeed, as I noted yesterday, Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ridiculous ruling was based in part on the fact that the police were arresting so few of the men subject to stops.

It was suspicious, Scheindlin claimed, that the police didn’t seem to be arresting anyone. That, of course, is the point: stop-and-frisk gets illegal guns off the street and suppresses criminal activity. If you can prevent violent crime, there is no need to arrest anyone for those nonexistent crimes. It is absurd, then, for the Times to pair Scheindlin’s ruling with mandatory minimums. Scheindlin’s ruling makes it far more likely that incarceration will increase.

Scheindlin’s idea of policing–shared, according to the Times, by the Democratic candidates–would take young males out of the local economy, break up families, and bring increases in crime. Any resulting middle-class flight would hurt the city’s tax base and thus the services that the city’s poor rely on, as well as drive up prices in the receiving neighborhoods, further pricing the non-wealthy out of the city. It’s a cycle New York, like the country’s other major cities, has experienced before. And it’s a cycle that liberal judicial activists and the city’s Democratic mayoral candidates are apparently ready to inflict on the city once again.

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President Obama, Meet Warren Harding

With Washington politics deep in the August doldrums, it’s a good time to review.

Victor Davis Hanson does exactly that regarding the scandals that have beset the Obama administration over the last year, and which the administration has dismissed as phony. As Hanson cogently shows, they are anything but. Briefly and clearly he spells out the vast number of unanswered questions on the IRS, NSA, Benghazi, and wiretapping of reporters scandals, as well as the lies (many of them under oath) that the administration has told to try to make these scandals go away.

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With Washington politics deep in the August doldrums, it’s a good time to review.

Victor Davis Hanson does exactly that regarding the scandals that have beset the Obama administration over the last year, and which the administration has dismissed as phony. As Hanson cogently shows, they are anything but. Briefly and clearly he spells out the vast number of unanswered questions on the IRS, NSA, Benghazi, and wiretapping of reporters scandals, as well as the lies (many of them under oath) that the administration has told to try to make these scandals go away.

In addition, there is the scandal of the president’s unconstitutional actions using executive power to waive inconvenient parts of laws he is sworn to faithfully execute. ObamaCare would have cut members of Congress off from lavish health care subsidies? Waived. Requiring companies with more than 50 employees to implement ObamaCare beginning this January? Waived. Congress wouldn’t pass the “Dream Act”? The Justice Department is ordered not to enforce those parts of current immigration law the Dream Act would have repealed, thus enacting the Dream Act unilaterally. There are lots more examples.

In sum, this is the most lawless administration since Warren Harding’s ninety years ago. Except those scandals came from below as Harding was, to put it mildly, a hands-off administrator, mostly interested in wine, women, and poker games. The Obama administration is very much a top-down administration. And the Harding scandals were mostly about money (Albert Fall, secretary of the interior, accepted bribes in the Teapot Dome scandal and became the first cabinet secretary to go to jail). The Obama scandals are all about political power, protecting it and increasing it.

The mainstream media, at the cost of whatever journalistic reputation it has left, will do its level best to guard this administration. But, inevitably, it will all come out eventually, either soon, through whistleblowers willing to risk their careers for the truth, or later, after Obama leaves office in 2017 (unless, of course, he decides to waive the 22nd Amendment) and no longer has the power to intimidate.

As I wrote in my previous post, history will not treat this man kindly. Just ask Warren Harding.

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A “Peace Process” Where One Side Does All the Giving

As Jonathan correctly noted yesterday, one of the many reasons why 84 percent of Israeli Jews oppose today’s planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners is that it will actually undermine prospects for peace. Watching the Palestinian government and public lionize these vicious killers of elderly Holocaust survivors, do-gooders seeking to promote Palestinian business development, old men on park benches and innocent bus passengers does nothing to persuade Israelis that Palestinians want peace; neither do the Palestinian Authority’s predictable complaints about the inadequacy of this concession, or its public assertion that these prisoners are all “political prisoners”–i.e., that deliberately murdering innocent civilians is a legitimate political tactic to which Israel has no right to object.

But while the prisoner release is uniquely counterproductive, the truth is that most Israeli Jews would have opposed any concession aimed merely at getting Palestinians to the table–fully 69 percent, according to one June poll. This fact reflects a much broader problem with the “peace process”: Israelis are tired of a process that consists solely of an endless stream of Israeli concessions, with Palestinians never being asked to give anything in exchange.

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As Jonathan correctly noted yesterday, one of the many reasons why 84 percent of Israeli Jews oppose today’s planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners is that it will actually undermine prospects for peace. Watching the Palestinian government and public lionize these vicious killers of elderly Holocaust survivors, do-gooders seeking to promote Palestinian business development, old men on park benches and innocent bus passengers does nothing to persuade Israelis that Palestinians want peace; neither do the Palestinian Authority’s predictable complaints about the inadequacy of this concession, or its public assertion that these prisoners are all “political prisoners”–i.e., that deliberately murdering innocent civilians is a legitimate political tactic to which Israel has no right to object.

But while the prisoner release is uniquely counterproductive, the truth is that most Israeli Jews would have opposed any concession aimed merely at getting Palestinians to the table–fully 69 percent, according to one June poll. This fact reflects a much broader problem with the “peace process”: Israelis are tired of a process that consists solely of an endless stream of Israeli concessions, with Palestinians never being asked to give anything in exchange.

The current talks are a case in point. To launch them, Israel agreed to release 104 vicious murderers in four stages–an incredibly painful concession. And what did the Palestinians give in exchange? They certainly haven’t ceased anti-Israel incitement, which leading human rights expert Prof. Irwin Cotler described just last week as “far worse than checkpoints”; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu detailed numerous recent examples of such incitement in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday. Nor did they agree to let Israel continue building in areas that every peace plan ever proposed has concluded will remain Israeli; they’re threatening to boycott tomorrow’s planned negotiating session over Israeli plans for 1,200 desperately needed new housing units in huge Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.

In fact, Palestinians made exactly one “concession” in exchange for the talks: They agreed to show up without an Israeli commitment to accept all their territorial demands before negotiations even began (though they claim the U.S. did promise to support those demands). In other words, their one “concession” was agreeing to negotiate at all. Given that Palestinians claim to want a state on lands only Israel can give them, it’s hard to understand why Israel should be expected to bribe them merely to embark on talks aimed at satisfying that desire. Yet that has been the norm ever since the “peace process” began in 1993.

Over the last 20 years, Israel has released thousands of Palestinian terrorists, withdrawn from all of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, dismantled dozens of settlements, and thrown thousands of Jewish families out of their homes. In exchange, it has gotten nonstop rocket fire from Gaza, vicious terrorism from the West Bank (the second intifada) that caused more Israeli casualties in four years than all the terrorism of the preceding 53 years combined, and an intensifying campaign of international delegitimization.

A process in which one side does all the giving and the other all the taking has little chance of ever producing peace. Israelis intuitively understand this, even if their leaders seem unable to resist international pressure to continue this travesty. The question is when the rest of the world will finally grasp this obvious truth.

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