Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 8, 2013

Reconciling the Past in the Iran Deal

There are many glaring omissions in the Iran deal currently being discussed. It is hard not to conclude that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry have simply thrown in the towel. One of the missing elements, however, involves not the present but the past. The sanctions on Iran did not appear overnight. They resulted from a multi-year process in which Iranian authorities were caught violating their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement. After years of stonewalling with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the Iranians refused to come clean on elements that inspections exposed or on issues about which the regime lied, the IAEA referred the Iranian case to the United Nations Security Council.

This initiated a new multi-year process that ultimately resulted in several unanimous or near-unanimous Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to cease enriching uranium. Never mind that Obama has shown himself to be the ultimate unilateralist, shredding 15 years of prior multilateral diplomatic agreements. Obama is so disinterested in national security and the issues which worry people with regard to Iran that he appears not to demand that Iran come clean about the past.

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There are many glaring omissions in the Iran deal currently being discussed. It is hard not to conclude that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry have simply thrown in the towel. One of the missing elements, however, involves not the present but the past. The sanctions on Iran did not appear overnight. They resulted from a multi-year process in which Iranian authorities were caught violating their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement. After years of stonewalling with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the Iranians refused to come clean on elements that inspections exposed or on issues about which the regime lied, the IAEA referred the Iranian case to the United Nations Security Council.

This initiated a new multi-year process that ultimately resulted in several unanimous or near-unanimous Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to cease enriching uranium. Never mind that Obama has shown himself to be the ultimate unilateralist, shredding 15 years of prior multilateral diplomatic agreements. Obama is so disinterested in national security and the issues which worry people with regard to Iran that he appears not to demand that Iran come clean about the past.

If Iran’s intentions are peaceful and if the West is willing to give Tehran a blank slate upon which to start anew, then the very least the Islamic Republic should do is come clean about its past work on nuclear-weapons triggers, its enrichment beyond 20 percent, its work with uranium metal, and what it is doing with plutonium at Arak. It should also come clean with regard to the origins of equipment not produced indigenously, as well as elaborate upon nuclear sites and laboratories which today remain undeclared and therefore outside the purview of the reported agreement. If there is any discrepancy between what Iran then declares and what the West knows through other sources, not only should Kerry’s deal be void, but Iran should come to understand what the meaning of crippling sanctions really is.

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What a German Trial Says About Iran’s Aims

Jonathan Tobin has already noted that President Obama is lying about Iran sanctions. Not only does it stop short of previous demands of Tehran and deals with Iran when it comes to uranium enrichment and the fate of uranium already enriched, but it also apparently sidesteps the issue of plutonium work at the Arak heavy-water reactor. When Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry seal the deal, they might as well announce it with a declaration, “I have in my hand a piece of paper, signed by Mohammad Javad Zarif.”

The problem is that it’s not only a White House that is willing to embrace the fiction of caring if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, but also Germany. Germany’s “Stop the Bomb” Campaign reports:

Unexpectedly lenient penalties were imposed today against four merchants and entrepreneurs by the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg in the Arak trial in Hamburg… The convicts had supplied components for the Iranian heavy water reactor in Arak and falsified documents in order to mislead the regulatory authorities. If the reactor in Arak goes on line as planned next year, plutonium for two nuclear bombs per year would be produced there… The trial also revealed a blatant failure of the German supervisory authorities, in particular the Federal Office of Export Control (BAFA). The special components for the nuclear weapons program were delivered to Iran despite repeated warnings and evidence from the U.S., but also from the German intelligence service. While the BAFA issued a so-called “zero notice” clearance certificate, the foreign ministry also restrained concerns about the exports. The judge spoke of “misconduct” by the authorities.

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Jonathan Tobin has already noted that President Obama is lying about Iran sanctions. Not only does it stop short of previous demands of Tehran and deals with Iran when it comes to uranium enrichment and the fate of uranium already enriched, but it also apparently sidesteps the issue of plutonium work at the Arak heavy-water reactor. When Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry seal the deal, they might as well announce it with a declaration, “I have in my hand a piece of paper, signed by Mohammad Javad Zarif.”

The problem is that it’s not only a White House that is willing to embrace the fiction of caring if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, but also Germany. Germany’s “Stop the Bomb” Campaign reports:

Unexpectedly lenient penalties were imposed today against four merchants and entrepreneurs by the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg in the Arak trial in Hamburg… The convicts had supplied components for the Iranian heavy water reactor in Arak and falsified documents in order to mislead the regulatory authorities. If the reactor in Arak goes on line as planned next year, plutonium for two nuclear bombs per year would be produced there… The trial also revealed a blatant failure of the German supervisory authorities, in particular the Federal Office of Export Control (BAFA). The special components for the nuclear weapons program were delivered to Iran despite repeated warnings and evidence from the U.S., but also from the German intelligence service. While the BAFA issued a so-called “zero notice” clearance certificate, the foreign ministry also restrained concerns about the exports. The judge spoke of “misconduct” by the authorities.

Perhaps because they are after a legacy and consider a bad deal better than no deal, or perhaps because the Iranians have won the battle of endurance, it looks like the White House is willing to give up on the effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program. It is, in effect, allowing Iran to have all the components necessary to complete a bomb when and if the Iranian government makes the decision to pursue that end. That the Iranians have been surreptitiously importing banned technology to process plutonium is simply the sad epitaph to any doubt about what Iran is after and the damage Obama and Kerry are prepared to do to U.S. national security and that of our allies throughout the Middle East.

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George W. Bush, Messianics, and the Left

In March of last year, I wrote about a minor kerfuffle involving Rick Santorum, who was then in the middle of a quixotic run for the presidency. The former senator who had come from out of nowhere to be the runner-up in the Republican presidential nomination race had apparently given a paid speech to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, a group whose adherents claim Jewish identity but also profess a belief in the divinity of Jesus. As I explained at the time, in doing so Santorum was picking at a sore wound for a Jewish community whose history rendered them especially sensitive to efforts aimed at converting Jews to Christianity, as the Messianics intend. While these people are as free to believe what they like as any other American, the overwhelming majority of Jews—regardless of denomination or political belief—reject their claim to being part of the Jewish people as well as take a dim view of their deceptive practices aimed at fostering conversion. I wrote that the candidate, who had a long history of friendship for the Jewish community and the State of Israel, needed to understand that involving himself with such a group compromised his standing with Jews. While this episode neither helped nor hurt Santorum’s long-shot presidential run, apparently the lesson was lost on a far more important member of the GOP who also has a sterling record of friendship for the Jews: former President George W. Bush.

As Mother Jones reports, Bush is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the Messianic Bible Institute on November 14 in Irving, Texas. The Institute trains people to try and convert Jews to Christianity and thereby hasten Jesus’s second coming. While the former president has done his best to avoid entangling himself in political controversies of any kind since he left the White House, by involving himself with this organization he has stepped into one with both feet. That is troubling not just for those of us who were grateful for his heartfelt support for Israel but also for those who care about fostering good relations between Jews and evangelical Christians, among whom Bush numbers as one of their most prominent adherents. But while I condemn Bush’s involvement with a group that seeks to target Jews for conversion, I am just as troubled by those on the left who would seek to use this unfortunate incident as a weapon to delegitimize all evangelical supporters of Israel and to disrupt the growing ties between Jews and their friends among the Christian right.

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In March of last year, I wrote about a minor kerfuffle involving Rick Santorum, who was then in the middle of a quixotic run for the presidency. The former senator who had come from out of nowhere to be the runner-up in the Republican presidential nomination race had apparently given a paid speech to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, a group whose adherents claim Jewish identity but also profess a belief in the divinity of Jesus. As I explained at the time, in doing so Santorum was picking at a sore wound for a Jewish community whose history rendered them especially sensitive to efforts aimed at converting Jews to Christianity, as the Messianics intend. While these people are as free to believe what they like as any other American, the overwhelming majority of Jews—regardless of denomination or political belief—reject their claim to being part of the Jewish people as well as take a dim view of their deceptive practices aimed at fostering conversion. I wrote that the candidate, who had a long history of friendship for the Jewish community and the State of Israel, needed to understand that involving himself with such a group compromised his standing with Jews. While this episode neither helped nor hurt Santorum’s long-shot presidential run, apparently the lesson was lost on a far more important member of the GOP who also has a sterling record of friendship for the Jews: former President George W. Bush.

As Mother Jones reports, Bush is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the Messianic Bible Institute on November 14 in Irving, Texas. The Institute trains people to try and convert Jews to Christianity and thereby hasten Jesus’s second coming. While the former president has done his best to avoid entangling himself in political controversies of any kind since he left the White House, by involving himself with this organization he has stepped into one with both feet. That is troubling not just for those of us who were grateful for his heartfelt support for Israel but also for those who care about fostering good relations between Jews and evangelical Christians, among whom Bush numbers as one of their most prominent adherents. But while I condemn Bush’s involvement with a group that seeks to target Jews for conversion, I am just as troubled by those on the left who would seek to use this unfortunate incident as a weapon to delegitimize all evangelical supporters of Israel and to disrupt the growing ties between Jews and their friends among the Christian right.

One such person is Jay Michaelson, who took to the pages of the Forward to not only make the hyperbolic claim that “George W. Bush wants to convert you and destroy the Jewish faith,” but to also assert that the former president’s presence at this dinner discredits all Christian Zionists and the entire notion of friendship between Jews and evangelicals.

In Michaelson’s worldview, evangelical supporters of Israel are not to be trusted because he thinks their only purpose is to hasten the rapture. Moreover, his animus for these Christians is so deep-seated that he includes Bush’s support for aid to faith-based organizations in his litany of the 43rdpresident’s sins. While the rest of the civilized world, including many of Bush’s fiercest critics, have conceded that his work to vastly increase the amount of U.S. aid to Africa and to prioritize the fight against AIDS there was among his most praiseworthy actions in the White House, Michaelson even condemns this because the money went in part to Christian groups. Apparently, the author, who is a prominent advocate of gay rights, is so afflicted with a classic case of Bush-derangement syndrome that even Bush’s work to combat the spread of AIDS is somehow suspect.

Whatever our feelings about Bush’s presence at this dinner, this argument holds no water. The overwhelming majority of evangelicals reject replacement theology in which Jews have no purpose but to serve as the spark for the second coming. The genuine devotion of American Christians for Israel’s well being is measured by their charitable giving to groups such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews as well as a stout support of Israel’s existence and right to defend itself that often outshines that of many, if not most, American Jews. As for Bush, whatever you may think of his politics, he is no enemy of the Jews, not while he was president and not today. His record on Israel, and indeed his friendship for the American Jewish community, is a matter of record.

As Michaelson’s hysterical piece demonstrates, many Jewish liberals are living in the past when it comes to Christians and imagine these good friends of the Jewish people are enemies. They are wrong. Whereas in the distant past, religious Christians might be assumed to harbor hostile intentions toward Jews, that is not the case in 21st century America. The good faith of Christian friends of Israel has been demonstrated time and again. Moreover, at a time when many liberal Protestant denominations have turned their backs on Israel and flirted with the BDS movement and its war on the Jewish state, the alliance between evangelicals and Jews is more important than ever.

As I wrote last year, all Christians need to steer clear of groups that aim at conversion of Jews if they wish to maintain good relations with the Jewish community. While there is nothing illegal about members of one faith seeking to win converts from another in a free country, after 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust, those who support conversion campaigns must realize that Jews regard them as offensive. Supporters of the Messianic Bible Institute may believe they have good intentions, but their efforts undermine those who labor to bridge the gap between conservative Christians and Jews.

That said, it should be remembered that if any Jew does leave the fold, the fault belongs to a Jewish community that has often failed to educate its children. As much as Jews have reason to be offended by groups like the Bible Institute, they are nothing more than an annoyance and are in no way a threat to Jewish life in this country or Israel. Those who worry about perils to the Jewish community’s future should concentrate on the recent Pew Study and the way it demonstrated how irreligion and assimilation are leading to a situation where the ranks of American Jewry are rapidly shrinking. If conversion to Christianity went largely unnoticed in the report, it is because it constitutes a threat that is so marginal as to be barely worthy of mention.

Nevertheless, President Bush needs to reconsider his presence at this dinner. If he does not, it will lend weight to destructive arguments such as those voiced by Michaelson and create obstacles to interfaith harmony that should be demolished rather than strengthened.

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Andrew Roberts: COMMENTARY Is a Strong Voice of Sanity and Courage

Just as one begins to despair of hearing the strong voice of sanity and courage, leavened with charm and good humor, in our modern polity, COMMENTARY arrives, and once a month one can be reminded that there are indeed some clear-sighted and articulate people who seem actively to enjoy the battle for truth.

Help support COMMENTARY. Please click here to donate.

Just as one begins to despair of hearing the strong voice of sanity and courage, leavened with charm and good humor, in our modern polity, COMMENTARY arrives, and once a month one can be reminded that there are indeed some clear-sighted and articulate people who seem actively to enjoy the battle for truth.

Help support COMMENTARY. Please click here to donate.

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His Excellency Regrets

There have been several pithy reactions to President Obama’s “apology” for having misled the American people on the basic promises of ObamaCare. But the one that gets closest, I think, to the public mood is Dennis Miller’s take: “Mr. President, if you liked your apology you can keep it.” In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout and the confirmation that Obama made false promises in order to pass legislation that would negatively impact millions, some liberals tried to argue that the promises don’t matter: the policy’s legacy will rest on whether it works. That’s true enough in the long term, though it’s worth pointing out that the policy “working” is actually quite harmful to a broad swath of the country, so defining its success won’t be so simple for the administration’s defenders.

In the near term, this defense misses the impact on Obama’s approval numbers and those of his party’s congressional delegation, and thus on his and their political capital. Americans have no good reason to trust what Obama says anymore, and I think that has some practical implications. But it’s true that in the long run the popularity of the policy will depend less on the arguments employed to enact it. And that is where Miller’s response comes in. The American people are due far more than an apology (though, as apologies go, this one was lawyered into the ground). They deserve a change in the policy. Will they get it? Perhaps we can look for clues as to whether the president intends on righting this wrong in his “apology” statement, in response to a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd:

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There have been several pithy reactions to President Obama’s “apology” for having misled the American people on the basic promises of ObamaCare. But the one that gets closest, I think, to the public mood is Dennis Miller’s take: “Mr. President, if you liked your apology you can keep it.” In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout and the confirmation that Obama made false promises in order to pass legislation that would negatively impact millions, some liberals tried to argue that the promises don’t matter: the policy’s legacy will rest on whether it works. That’s true enough in the long term, though it’s worth pointing out that the policy “working” is actually quite harmful to a broad swath of the country, so defining its success won’t be so simple for the administration’s defenders.

In the near term, this defense misses the impact on Obama’s approval numbers and those of his party’s congressional delegation, and thus on his and their political capital. Americans have no good reason to trust what Obama says anymore, and I think that has some practical implications. But it’s true that in the long run the popularity of the policy will depend less on the arguments employed to enact it. And that is where Miller’s response comes in. The American people are due far more than an apology (though, as apologies go, this one was lawyered into the ground). They deserve a change in the policy. Will they get it? Perhaps we can look for clues as to whether the president intends on righting this wrong in his “apology” statement, in response to a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd:

You know– I regret very much that– what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want ’em, as opposed to because they’re forced into it. That, you know, we weren’t as clear as we needed to be– in terms of the changes that were taking place. And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position– a better position than they were before this law happened.

Keep in mind that most of the folks who are going to– who got these c– cancellation letters, they’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper in these new marketplaces. Because they’ll have more choice. They’ll have more competition. They’re part of a bigger pool. Insurance companies are going to be hungry for their business.

So– the majority of folks will end up being better off, of course, because the website’s not working right. They don’t necessarily know it right. But it– even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they– you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that– they know– we hear ‘em and that we’re going to do everything we can– to deal with folks who find themselves– in a tough position as a consequence of this.

That’s not going to be very reassuring. Part of the problem with ObamaCare is that it’s quite difficult for the president to be truthful about any part of it, because he sold the (shoddy) reform on false premises. So Todd asks Obama if the people deserve an apology from him, and his response begins immediately with another baldly false claim. The intention, he says, was for people to be shifted onto different plans–an acknowledgement that he intended for people to lose their insurance from the beginning–by their own choice, not “because they’re forced into it.” This is, as we know, completely untrue. Between all the mandates and the new requirements, the entire structure of ObamaCare is built on coercion. You are “forced” by law to buy a policy whether you want to or not, and you are “forced” by law to abandon your old plan if Obama doesn’t like it.

But words can mean whatever Obama wants them to mean in the brave new world of the liberal welfare state. So it may seem like people are being “forced” into the uncharted waters of the health-insurance exchanges, but that’s because they don’t see it the way the president does. Obama says they’ll have more choice once they do what the government forces them to do against their will. True choice, to the statist, begins once the government has control.

And in the last part, just before his “apology,” the president dishonestly downplays the number of people who will be affected by this and then explains that the people who are upset–and he’s sorry they’re in this situation, which he painstakingly planned–just don’t know how much better off they’ll be when (if?) the website ever starts working. So we’re back to the argument that, according to Obama, it’s for their own good. It’s unclear whether, at this point, even the president believes that, but it’s doubtful ObamaCare’s victims do.

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Obama Is Lying About Iran Sanctions

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva today to personally take charge of the American delegation to the nuclear talks with Iran. This appearance is a clear signal that he thinks a deal is imminent since Kerry’s desire to take part in a celebratory photo op is well known. For Kerry and his boss President Obama, the agreement—which reportedly will involve an Iranian promise to freeze enrichment—is a triumph for their conception of diplomacy and relieves them of the obligation to go on working to tighten sanctions on Iran as well as taking the use of force off the table for the foreseeable future.

Yet what should most worry Americans about Kerry’s rush to appease the Iranians is not so much the awful terms which he is accepting as the clear determination of the administration to appease Iran that led to this moment. As the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports today, far from the Geneva deal being the start of a loosening of sanctions, President Obama appears to have presided over a policy shift since June in which the Treasury Department has slowed down the enforcement of the restrictions on doing business with Iran. The president told NBC News on Wednesday that the current negotiations “are not about easing sanctions.” But his administration, which fought the adoption of crippling sanctions in the first place, has apparently already been backing away from them for months. Like the president’s infamous promise about people keeping their health-care plans if they liked them, his assurances about keeping Iran sanctions in place seem to be just as trustworthy.

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Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva today to personally take charge of the American delegation to the nuclear talks with Iran. This appearance is a clear signal that he thinks a deal is imminent since Kerry’s desire to take part in a celebratory photo op is well known. For Kerry and his boss President Obama, the agreement—which reportedly will involve an Iranian promise to freeze enrichment—is a triumph for their conception of diplomacy and relieves them of the obligation to go on working to tighten sanctions on Iran as well as taking the use of force off the table for the foreseeable future.

Yet what should most worry Americans about Kerry’s rush to appease the Iranians is not so much the awful terms which he is accepting as the clear determination of the administration to appease Iran that led to this moment. As the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports today, far from the Geneva deal being the start of a loosening of sanctions, President Obama appears to have presided over a policy shift since June in which the Treasury Department has slowed down the enforcement of the restrictions on doing business with Iran. The president told NBC News on Wednesday that the current negotiations “are not about easing sanctions.” But his administration, which fought the adoption of crippling sanctions in the first place, has apparently already been backing away from them for months. Like the president’s infamous promise about people keeping their health-care plans if they liked them, his assurances about keeping Iran sanctions in place seem to be just as trustworthy.

What the West is getting in return for beginning the process of dismantling economic sanctions on the Islamist regime is unclear. The New York Times describes it as “a first step that would halt the progress in Iran’s nuclear program for perhaps six months to give negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive agreement.” While most observers are interpreting that to mean a freeze in the enrichment of uranium, given the fact that it will involve no dismantling of centrifuges or surrender of their existing nuclear stockpile, it’s clear that the big winner here is not Kerry, but an Iranian regime that has waited out its American foes. While Iran can renege on its pledge in an instant and may well cheat on it no matter what they say in public, once the complicated web of international sanctions is unraveled it’s doubtful that it can be revived, let alone strengthened in the future as the administration says it can. As a frustrated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rightly said yesterday, “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal.”

But as Lake writes, the Iranians may have already been reaping a bonanza from the president’s desperate rush to end the confrontation with the Islamist regime:

A review of Treasury Department notices reveals that the U.S. government has all but stopped the financial blacklisting of entities and people that help Iran evade international sanctions since the election of its president, Hassan Rouhani, in June. …

One way Obama has pressured Iran is through isolating the country’s banks from the global financial sector, the networks that make modern international commerce possible. This in turn has led Iran to seek out front companies and cutouts to conduct routine international business, such as selling its crude oil. In this cat and mouse game, the Treasury Department in recent years has routinely designated new entities as violators of sanctions, forcing Iran to adjust in turn. In the six weeks prior to the Iranian elections in June, the Treasury Department issued seven notices of designations of sanctions violators that included more than 100 new people, companies, aircraft, and sea vessels. Since June 14, however, when Rouhani was elected, the Treasury Department has only issued two designation notices that have identified six people and four companies as violating the Iran sanctions.

By acting in this manner, the U.S. was already telegraphing to the Iranians that they were in the process of backing away from a determination to press them hard in order to secure the end of Iran’s nuclear program, as the president pledged last year in the presidential debates. While the administration and its apologists will defend this as a necessary move in order to entice the Iranians to the table, what this does is make it clear to Rouhani’s boss, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that he has nothing to fear from the Americans. After more than a decade of diplomatic deception, the Iranians finally have what they wanted: an American president and secretary of state ready to recognize their “right” to enrich uranium and to hold on to to their nuclear fuel stockpile and to loosen sanctions in exchange for easily evaded promises. The next stop is not, as the administration may hope, a deal in six months to end the nuclear threat, but an Iran that knows that the sanctions have already begun to unravel emboldened to dig in its heels even further.

Like the clandestine manner with which the administration has already weakened the existing sanctions, this deal breaks a promise the president made to the American people as well as to our allies. All Americans as well as Israelis and moderate Arabs worried about the Iranian threat have to hold on to now are more of Obama’s promises. But with a presidential credibility gap that is currently as big as the Grand Canyon, anyone who takes him at his word without a look at the fine print is making a colossal error.

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The Jobs Report

The new jobs report showed much stronger than expected job growth in October, up 203,000 when the forecast had been 120,000. The job growth for September and August were also revised upwards, giving an average for the three months of over 200,000, which is the number economists think is needed to bring unemployment down in the long term (the drop in unemployment in recent months was mostly due to people dropping out of the job market).

The unemployment rate actually ticked up last month, however, to 7.3 percent, but that was due to counting temporarily laid-off federal workers because of the shutdown early in the month.

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The new jobs report showed much stronger than expected job growth in October, up 203,000 when the forecast had been 120,000. The job growth for September and August were also revised upwards, giving an average for the three months of over 200,000, which is the number economists think is needed to bring unemployment down in the long term (the drop in unemployment in recent months was mostly due to people dropping out of the job market).

The unemployment rate actually ticked up last month, however, to 7.3 percent, but that was due to counting temporarily laid-off federal workers because of the shutdown early in the month.

Markets immediately reflected the possibility that the Federal Reserve might now begin to scale back the stimulus. The yield on 10-year treasury bonds rose to 2.72 percent in early trading from last evening’s 2.60 percent. But it will take more than one month’s good news to induce the Fed to move more than slightly.

And the jobs report was by no means all good news. The participation rate (the percentage of working-age people in the labor force) continued to decline, now down to 62.8 percent from 63.2 last month. The unemployment rates for teenagers (22.2 percent) and blacks (13.1 percent) remain dismal. The rate for teenagers is likely to go up in the future, as several localities, such as the state of New Jersey, raised their minimum wages in the election on Tuesday. When the teenage (i.e. unskilled) unemployment rate is over 20 percent, increasing the price of unskilled labor is economic lunacy.

The broader measure of unemployment, which includes discouraged job seekers and those involuntarily working part time, increased last month from 13.6 percent to 13.8 percent. It is only when this rate begins to decline substantially month-over-month that we can say we are, finally, on the way up.

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Reimagining Free Speech at Brown University

On October 29, as you may have heard, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was shouted down and prevented from speaking at Brown University. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has written extensively on the event and the ensuing controversy. I wish to address the three arguments, all of them weak, that supporters of the protest have been making.

1. Shouting down a speaker is protected by the First Amendment. One Brown student and protest organizer crowed that the demonstration was “a powerful demonstration of free speech.” We have heard this argument before. In 2010, when former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak at UC-Irvine, audience members attempted to shout Oren down. Eleven of them were arrested. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Irvine’s School of Law and the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law responded, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, to the claim that the protester’s rights had been violated. His remarks are worth quoting at length:

Freedom of speech, on campuses and elsewhere, is rendered meaningless if speakers can be shouted down by those who disagree. The law is well established that the government can act to prevent a heckler’s veto—prevent the reaction of the audience from silencing the speaker. There is simply no 1st Amendment right to go into an auditorium and prevent a speaker from being heard, no matter who the speaker is or how strongly one disagrees with his or her message.

Chemerinsky, author of the Conservative Assault on the Constitution, has impeccable liberal credentials. He is also a critic of New York’s stop-and-frisk policing policy, opposition to which motivated the protesters. Nonetheless, he tells us that from a First Amendment perspective the “heckler’s veto” is “an easy case.”

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On October 29, as you may have heard, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was shouted down and prevented from speaking at Brown University. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has written extensively on the event and the ensuing controversy. I wish to address the three arguments, all of them weak, that supporters of the protest have been making.

1. Shouting down a speaker is protected by the First Amendment. One Brown student and protest organizer crowed that the demonstration was “a powerful demonstration of free speech.” We have heard this argument before. In 2010, when former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak at UC-Irvine, audience members attempted to shout Oren down. Eleven of them were arrested. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Irvine’s School of Law and the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law responded, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, to the claim that the protester’s rights had been violated. His remarks are worth quoting at length:

Freedom of speech, on campuses and elsewhere, is rendered meaningless if speakers can be shouted down by those who disagree. The law is well established that the government can act to prevent a heckler’s veto—prevent the reaction of the audience from silencing the speaker. There is simply no 1st Amendment right to go into an auditorium and prevent a speaker from being heard, no matter who the speaker is or how strongly one disagrees with his or her message.

Chemerinsky, author of the Conservative Assault on the Constitution, has impeccable liberal credentials. He is also a critic of New York’s stop-and-frisk policing policy, opposition to which motivated the protesters. Nonetheless, he tells us that from a First Amendment perspective the “heckler’s veto” is “an easy case.”

2. Raymond Kelly is so powerful that it is impossible to have an exchange with him. Naoko Shibusawa, a professor of history at Brown, applauds the protesters, observing that “‘Misbehavior’ is a tactic of the disempowered toward disrupting the status quo.” A Brown University senior makes a similar argument in the Guardian: “protest is discourse on the terms of the oppressed, and it takes a ‘disruption’ for marginalized communities to have their voices heard.”

Set aside that opponents of stop and frisk are not marginalized at Brown, where only 8 percent of students polled by the Brown Daily Herald support the tactic. More importantly, Bill de Blasio, who campaigned against stop and frisk, was just elected mayor of New York in a landslide, and Kelly is probably on his way out. De Blasio and his supporters evidently do not agree that, in the words of the same Brown senior, “the status quo does not abide nor will it even acknowledge critical analysis.”

3. It was an offense to blacks and Hispanics to invite Kelly, and no one who has not been stopped and frisked has a right to an opinion about it. As one student commented: “Ray Kelly is a terrorist, and he’s terrorizing our communities. Until you feel terrorism in your life, I don’t think you have the right to speak on this subject.” Marion Orr, a professor of political science and director of the center responsible for bringing Kelly to campus, evidently accepted at least part of that student’s premise when he apologized: “I sincerely apologize to my students,” he said. “Especially to my black students and Latino brothers and sisters — it wasn’t my intention to hurt you, and it hurts me to hear that my decision caused so much pain.”

Yet even after de Blasio’s campaign, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, 24 percent of black likely voters and 36 percent of Hispanic likely voters supported stop and frisk. In an August 2012 Quinippiac poll, a majority of Hispanic voters approved of stop and frisk, and while the great majority of black voters opposed it, a majority also approved of Kelly’s job performance. Whether stop and frisk is good policy or not, these data suggest that it is absurd to apologize to blacks and Latinos for the mere act of inviting Ray Kelly to campus. 

The good news is that these arguments are not accepted widely, even at Brown, where, according to the Brown Daily Herald poll, 73 percent of students disagree with the protesters’ decision to shout Ray Kelly down. Brown President Christina Paxson will form a committee to investigate the incident. In a letter to the Brown University community, President Paxson quotes the Code of Student Conduct, according to which “protest becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas. “These standards of conduct,” she adds, “will be upheld and enforced.” Let’s hope so.

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Dana Perino: COMMENTARY Is Measured, Substantive, Thoughtful

COMMENTARY has become my new go-to website for news analysis because it is measured, substantive, thoughtful, and written for news consumers of all shapes and sizes. When juggling all the issues of the day and thinking them through, I find myself going back to COMMENTARY again and again to see if there’s anything more that can help me add the ingredients needed to finalize an argument. I like the mix of foreign policy and national political news, as well as the discussions about America’s place in the world and what it should be. I’m a print subscriber and a frequent website visitor, and I follow all of the writers on Twitter. Thank you, COMMENTARY, for providing such consistently helpful content.

Help support COMMENTARY. Please click here to donate.

COMMENTARY has become my new go-to website for news analysis because it is measured, substantive, thoughtful, and written for news consumers of all shapes and sizes. When juggling all the issues of the day and thinking them through, I find myself going back to COMMENTARY again and again to see if there’s anything more that can help me add the ingredients needed to finalize an argument. I like the mix of foreign policy and national political news, as well as the discussions about America’s place in the world and what it should be. I’m a print subscriber and a frequent website visitor, and I follow all of the writers on Twitter. Thank you, COMMENTARY, for providing such consistently helpful content.

Help support COMMENTARY. Please click here to donate.

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What Christie Can Teach the Rest of the GOP

Governor Chris Christie’s landslide victory in New Jersey–in which he won by more than 20 percentage points in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 700,000; carried more than half of the Hispanic vote (51 percent) and 21 percent of the African-American vote; won 57 percent of the female vote and 63 percent of the male vote; won every education level and income group; and won nearly a third of the Democratic vote (32 percent) and more than 60 percent of independents (66 percent) and moderates (61 percent)–instantly makes him the early favorite for the 2016 Republican nomination.

With that in mind, it might be worth examining two aspects of his victory speech.

Right at the outset of his speech, Governor Christie framed things this way: “The people of New Jersey four years ago were downhearted and dispirited. They didn’t believe that government could work for them anymore.” 

He went on to say this:

In fact, what they thought was that government was just there to take from them but not to give to them, not to work with them, not to work for them. Well, four years later, we stand here tonight showing that it is possible to put doing your job first, to put working together first, to fight for what you believe in, yet still stand by your principles and get something done for the people who elected you.

The New Jersey governor’s message was not relentlessly anti-government; he is a man who speaks about limited and effective government. That’s an important distinction–and one more Republicans and conservatives need to make. Read More

Governor Chris Christie’s landslide victory in New Jersey–in which he won by more than 20 percentage points in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 700,000; carried more than half of the Hispanic vote (51 percent) and 21 percent of the African-American vote; won 57 percent of the female vote and 63 percent of the male vote; won every education level and income group; and won nearly a third of the Democratic vote (32 percent) and more than 60 percent of independents (66 percent) and moderates (61 percent)–instantly makes him the early favorite for the 2016 Republican nomination.

With that in mind, it might be worth examining two aspects of his victory speech.

Right at the outset of his speech, Governor Christie framed things this way: “The people of New Jersey four years ago were downhearted and dispirited. They didn’t believe that government could work for them anymore.” 

He went on to say this:

In fact, what they thought was that government was just there to take from them but not to give to them, not to work with them, not to work for them. Well, four years later, we stand here tonight showing that it is possible to put doing your job first, to put working together first, to fight for what you believe in, yet still stand by your principles and get something done for the people who elected you.

The New Jersey governor’s message was not relentlessly anti-government; he is a man who speaks about limited and effective government. That’s an important distinction–and one more Republicans and conservatives need to make.

Thirty years ago Irving Kristol wrote, “[The Republican Party] has failed to understand that the idea of limited government is not contradictory to the idea of energetic government or (what comes to the same thing) responsive government.” As it was then, so it remains today.

Governor Christie also spoke in Kempian terms about outreach to non-traditional voters:

And while we may not always agree, we show up everywhere. We just don’t show up in the places that vote for us a lot, we show up in the places that vote for us a little. We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places where we’re uncomfortable.

Because when you lead, you need to be there. You need to show up, you need to listen and then you need to act. And you don’t just show up six months before an election, you show up four years before one. And you just don’t take no for an answer the first time no has happened. You keep going back and trying more. Because when I was elected four years ago, I wasn’t elected just by the people who voted for me. I was the governor of all the people.

This is a useful corrective to those Republicans and conservatives who believe the success of the party lies in winning larger and larger percentages of a shrinking percentage of the electorate (white voters); who appear inclined to write off large swaths of voters; and who view more and more Americans as “takers,” as dependent on the welfare state and therefore permanently in the camp of the Democratic Party.

Governor Christie showed that the Republican/conservative message, when framed the right way and backed up with genuine achievements, can do pretty well–and in some instances extremely well–in non-traditional demographic groups.

I’m certainly not ready at this stage to say who I believe ought to be the GOP nominee. For one thing, there are plenty of talented and intelligent people who might run. For another, you never know in advance how well, or how poorly, a person will do when running for president. It’s a challenge unlike any other, and (as Rick Perry found out in 2012) being a successful governor doesn’t mean you’re suited to run for higher office.

That said, Governor Christie radiates confidence and competence. He is a commanding presence and possesses considerable skills, a record of achievement, and a smashing reelection victory (in a blue state) to his credit. Republicans would be fools not to look to him and learn from him, to take what worked for him in the Garden State and apply it elsewhere in America. 

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