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Posts For: February 5, 2014

Sochi’s a Disaster. Does It Matter?

In Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, Russia clocks in at number 127: tied with Pakistan but more corrupt than Egypt and Belarus. It comes in at 148 on Reporters Without Borders’s press freedom rankings. The decision, then, to hold the Winter Olympics in Russia was always going to be something of a gamble, making the question as to whether the site would be ready on time anyone’s guess.

Because of the secrecy, there was no telling what athletes, reporters, and guests would find when they finally arrived in Sochi for the games, which begin this weekend. But it’s doubtful they expected the disaster Sochi has become. Every day brings new stories, some bizarre and some quite serious, all of them likely to give Vladimir Putin and the heads of the International Olympic Committee indigestion.

Incidentally, they can try to calm that indigestion with yogurt, but Russia is currently banning the popular Chobani Greek yogurt from the games, prompting the intervention of Senator Chuck Schumer, who had to appeal to Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, declaring, “There is simply no time to waste in getting our Olympic athletes a nutritious and delicious food.”

None of this, amazingly enough, is a joke. And neither are the reports of wild dogs greeting hotel guests or of reporters being told not to ingest the toxic (and almost fluorescent) tap water. Concerns and complaints about one of the event’s courses caused American snowboarding star Shaun White to withdraw from one of the events. Reading that story on CBS News’s website, I couldn’t help noticing another nearby headline from its Sochi coverage: “Sochi Olympics: Ground zero for avalanches?”

No speculation, apparently, is beyond the realm of possibility: let your imagination roam free like the hotel dogs. In Sochi, anything can happen. The question looming over all this is: does it matter that the Sochi Olympics have been a comedy of errors thus far?

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In Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, Russia clocks in at number 127: tied with Pakistan but more corrupt than Egypt and Belarus. It comes in at 148 on Reporters Without Borders’s press freedom rankings. The decision, then, to hold the Winter Olympics in Russia was always going to be something of a gamble, making the question as to whether the site would be ready on time anyone’s guess.

Because of the secrecy, there was no telling what athletes, reporters, and guests would find when they finally arrived in Sochi for the games, which begin this weekend. But it’s doubtful they expected the disaster Sochi has become. Every day brings new stories, some bizarre and some quite serious, all of them likely to give Vladimir Putin and the heads of the International Olympic Committee indigestion.

Incidentally, they can try to calm that indigestion with yogurt, but Russia is currently banning the popular Chobani Greek yogurt from the games, prompting the intervention of Senator Chuck Schumer, who had to appeal to Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, declaring, “There is simply no time to waste in getting our Olympic athletes a nutritious and delicious food.”

None of this, amazingly enough, is a joke. And neither are the reports of wild dogs greeting hotel guests or of reporters being told not to ingest the toxic (and almost fluorescent) tap water. Concerns and complaints about one of the event’s courses caused American snowboarding star Shaun White to withdraw from one of the events. Reading that story on CBS News’s website, I couldn’t help noticing another nearby headline from its Sochi coverage: “Sochi Olympics: Ground zero for avalanches?”

No speculation, apparently, is beyond the realm of possibility: let your imagination roam free like the hotel dogs. In Sochi, anything can happen. The question looming over all this is: does it matter that the Sochi Olympics have been a comedy of errors thus far?

The answer has to do with one aspect of the games, and it’s not yogurt. At one point late this afternoon the top two headlines in the New York Times’s World section were “An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone” and, next to it, “Terrorism and Tension for Sochi, Not Sports and Joy.”

And here we get to the serious part. The latter story, by Juliet Macur, was particularly bleak. After asking whether one of the tense issues related to the games had reached its boiling point, Macur wrote:

We’ll find out soon. At the same time, athletes will be winning medals. But will anyone notice?

Never before has the pre-Olympic chatter been less about the athletes or the sports. And never before has the conversation leading to the Games been so grim: suicide bombers have struck Volgograd, about 400 miles north of Sochi, three times since the fall — including strikes in December that killed at least 34 people.

Global security experts have called this the most dangerous Games ever, based on the location of the competitions, the seriousness of the threats (including one from the head of a terrorist organization who last summer lifted a moratorium on civilian targets), and the capability of terrorist groups to carry out their plans (several in that region already have).

Macur followed that with the kind of rebuke to the IOC that other authoritarian-hosted Olympics don’t usually earn:

“It was a very, very risky decision for the Olympic committee” to hold the Olympics in Sochi, said Andrew C. Kuchins, the director and senior fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a security think tank in Washington. He basically said what is on the minds of many people headed to the Games, and the many people — including athletes’ families and friends — who were too scared to attend.

What was the International Olympic Committee thinking?

In the end, few will remember whether the yogurt got to American athletes in time (though I’m sure Chuck Schumer will remind us), and most of the tap water does not, in fact, glow in the dark. As embarrassing as those are, they won’t be the metric by which these games will be judged, because the larger worry is whether the Russians can keep the athletes and spectators safe.

On CNN this evening, Wolf Blitzer asked Mitt Romney about granting the Olympics to Sochi: “Was that a mistake that the International Olympic Committee made?” It’s both too late and too early to answer that question. But the frequency with which it’s being asked on the eve of the games is an indication that a great many in the international community already think the answer is yes.

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Postscript to the Coca-Cola Ad

Yesterday I criticized Fox News’s Eric Bolling and talk show host Glenn Beck for their condemnation of the Coca-Cola ad that featured America the Beautiful being sung in seven languages.

One of the things that made the critical response to the ad so odd is that those who were featured in the ad weren’t illegal immigrants; they were legal immigrants. And still some on the right couldn’t contain their unhappiness. What many of us consider one of America’s great strengths, its immigrant population and ethnic and cultural diversity, makes some conservatives palpably uncomfortable. No wonder the Republican nominee in 2012 lost the non-white vote by 63 points. Maybe the goal is to get it to a 70-point margin. 

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Yesterday I criticized Fox News’s Eric Bolling and talk show host Glenn Beck for their condemnation of the Coca-Cola ad that featured America the Beautiful being sung in seven languages.

One of the things that made the critical response to the ad so odd is that those who were featured in the ad weren’t illegal immigrants; they were legal immigrants. And still some on the right couldn’t contain their unhappiness. What many of us consider one of America’s great strengths, its immigrant population and ethnic and cultural diversity, makes some conservatives palpably uncomfortable. No wonder the Republican nominee in 2012 lost the non-white vote by 63 points. Maybe the goal is to get it to a 70-point margin. 

It is worth pointing out that Mr. Bolling’s The Five colleague Dana Perino made this nice observation: “I would be very happy if every language in the world was singing America the Beautiful, because that means we have people focused on the best country on earth in history.” Greg Gutfeld added that he interpreted the ad “as a compliment to the United States. People know that we’re the best country in the world, which is why people want to come here.”

Which means that at least three of The Five (Bob Beckel being the other) disagreed with Bolling. Call it a welcome sign.

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The Tragedy of the Times Editorial Page

The New York Observer ran an article yesterday not only on how awful the New York Times editorial pages have become (hardly a stop-the-presses news item), but how fed up and in “semi-open revolt” the news side of the Times is about the editorial side. Referring to Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’s editorial page editor, one Times reporter said, “Andy’s got 14 or 15 people plus a whole bevy of assistants working on these three unsigned editorials every day. They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual. I mean, just try and remember the last time that anybody was talking about one of those editorials.”

For obvious reasons, the reporter was speaking not for attribution. The article is not-to-be-missed reading, as Times reporters eviscerate the likes of Tom Friedman (“an embarrassment”) and Maureen Dowd, (“[she’s] been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president”).

Today, the Times’s lead editorial demonstrated just what the news-side guys are talking about. Entitled “Freeing Workers From the Insurance Trap,” it is nothing more than a slight restatement of what Jay Carney peddled yesterday at the White House news briefing. Had it been issued as a White House press release (and maybe it was, just sent only to Andrew Rosenthal), I doubt anyone would have doubted its authenticity.

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The New York Observer ran an article yesterday not only on how awful the New York Times editorial pages have become (hardly a stop-the-presses news item), but how fed up and in “semi-open revolt” the news side of the Times is about the editorial side. Referring to Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’s editorial page editor, one Times reporter said, “Andy’s got 14 or 15 people plus a whole bevy of assistants working on these three unsigned editorials every day. They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual. I mean, just try and remember the last time that anybody was talking about one of those editorials.”

For obvious reasons, the reporter was speaking not for attribution. The article is not-to-be-missed reading, as Times reporters eviscerate the likes of Tom Friedman (“an embarrassment”) and Maureen Dowd, (“[she’s] been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president”).

Today, the Times’s lead editorial demonstrated just what the news-side guys are talking about. Entitled “Freeing Workers From the Insurance Trap,” it is nothing more than a slight restatement of what Jay Carney peddled yesterday at the White House news briefing. Had it been issued as a White House press release (and maybe it was, just sent only to Andrew Rosenthal), I doubt anyone would have doubted its authenticity.

It argues, like Carney, that the destruction of 2.5 million jobs over the next ten years, as predicted by the non-partisan (but liberal-leaning) Congressional Budget Office, is wonderful news because it will mean that 2.5 million wage slaves have decided, thanks to ObamaCare, to opt for a life of elegant leisure instead of working. How that squares with the universally held opinion that robust job growth, not shrinkage, is the key to a robust recovery, or the fact that 7.8 million Americans are working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, is blithely ignored.

Virtually no one agrees with the White House or the Times on this, of course. The Wall Street Journal writes that, “now we learn that the law is a job destroyer that is removing rungs from the ladder of upward economic mobility.” As Peter Wehner noted, John Podhoretz thinks the CBO report is a “death blow” to ObamaCare. Even Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, not exactly a right-wing zealot, writes that “This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans’ charges is much easier than refuting the federal government’s official scorekeepers.”

The descent of what was once by far the world’s most influential editorial page into banal irrelevance and party-line predictability is a journalistic tragedy. It reminds me a bit of King Lear.

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Do We Want to Free Americans from Work?

The response from the White House and liberal outlets to yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report that predicted a loss of a staggering 2.3 million full-time jobs as a result of the implementation of ObamaCare was every bit as astonishing as the report itself. Rather than facing up to the sobering news and acknowledging that the job loss was a disastrous, if unintended consequence of the misnamed Affordable Care Act, liberals cheered. Or at least pretended to cheer.

We were told the loss of all these jobs is good because it means Americans who maintained full-time employment in order to keep their health insurance no longer need be “tied” to their jobs. ObamaCare now gives them the “freedom” to work less, pursue their dreams, or just kick back and enjoy life without the drudgery involved in productive employment thanks to the president’s signature health-care legislation. Viewed this way, it’s not job loss but a glorious liberation from the burdens of “job lock.”

A White House economic adviser put it this way: 

It reflects the fact that workers have a new set of options and are making the best choices that they can choose to make for themselves given those options.

More articulate, if no less problematic, was this explanation from the New York Times editorial page:

The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

This transparent partisan spin is unconvincing, not only because it is rooted in a reality that has less to do with the plight of most working people than of elites who look forward to prosperous retirements once their company goes public. The true disaster here is the reality of another massive government program that not only burdens employers and makes them less inclined to offer benefits but has also created a widespread disincentive for people to work. The CBO numbers illustrate once again that ObamaCare is primarily a redistributionist program that helps a small group of people but penalizes an equal or greater number while placing an intolerable burden on the economy.

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The response from the White House and liberal outlets to yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report that predicted a loss of a staggering 2.3 million full-time jobs as a result of the implementation of ObamaCare was every bit as astonishing as the report itself. Rather than facing up to the sobering news and acknowledging that the job loss was a disastrous, if unintended consequence of the misnamed Affordable Care Act, liberals cheered. Or at least pretended to cheer.

We were told the loss of all these jobs is good because it means Americans who maintained full-time employment in order to keep their health insurance no longer need be “tied” to their jobs. ObamaCare now gives them the “freedom” to work less, pursue their dreams, or just kick back and enjoy life without the drudgery involved in productive employment thanks to the president’s signature health-care legislation. Viewed this way, it’s not job loss but a glorious liberation from the burdens of “job lock.”

A White House economic adviser put it this way: 

It reflects the fact that workers have a new set of options and are making the best choices that they can choose to make for themselves given those options.

More articulate, if no less problematic, was this explanation from the New York Times editorial page:

The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

This transparent partisan spin is unconvincing, not only because it is rooted in a reality that has less to do with the plight of most working people than of elites who look forward to prosperous retirements once their company goes public. The true disaster here is the reality of another massive government program that not only burdens employers and makes them less inclined to offer benefits but has also created a widespread disincentive for people to work. The CBO numbers illustrate once again that ObamaCare is primarily a redistributionist program that helps a small group of people but penalizes an equal or greater number while placing an intolerable burden on the economy.

As our John Podhoretz said in a column published today in the New York Post, the impact of ObamaCare on work choices is no different from any other “government handout” in that it can give people a good reason not to work since doing so would actually result in a loss of income rather than a net gain. But since this financial assistance is underwritten by higher taxes as well as increased health-care costs for those not receiving the subsidy, the result also discourages productive economic activity at the other end of the spectrum.

One of the president’s evergreen themes is that the goal of his health-care legislation and his entire economic program is to help hard-working Americans. But, as the CBO demonstrates, ObamaCare’s impact on the economy reveals is that it will punish those who work and encourages some to stop. This will, as Ross Douthat argues elsewhere in today’s Times, hurt far more than it helps:

Given the current economic landscape, especially — in which persistently high unemployment coexists with a growing population of workers too discouraged to even look for work — the size and scope of a work-discouraging effect matters a great deal: The bigger the effect, the more likely that the people dropping out aren’t just, say, parents cutting hours to spend more time at home while the other spouse works full time, but people we should want to be attached to the workforce, for their own long term good and the good of the economy as well.

While liberals are lauding an economic disincentive to work, for weeks they have also been arguing that precisely this outcome is inapplicable when discussing legislation to indefinitely extend unemployment benefits indefinitely. When conservatives pointed to economic studies that proved that creating a system under which benefits were transformed from a temporary measure to a permanent subsidy would mean that the long-term unemployed would be less likely to search for work, liberals dismissed this as a slander against the unemployed. But economic facts are not as pliable as liberal talking points would have them. One cannot simultaneously explain ObamaCare job losses as a beneficial result of a disincentive to work while simultaneously insisting that there is no such effect when discussing the unemployed.

As the CBO made clear, we are just now starting to comprehend how disastrous the unintended consequences of ObamaCare will be. The job loss numbers paint a picture of a country where work will be discouraged and productivity penalized. A proper understanding of the long-term problems this will create for the nation goes beyond the political impact of ObamaCare. Americans don’t need to be freed from work. A government that sees this as a beneficial development is one that has not merely lost touch with the basic middle class values it claims to champion but is also one that feels no compunction at putting the nation on a path to certain economic ruin.

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Conservatives and Culture

Patrick Ruffini, long one of the conservative movement’s brightest minds on tech strategy in politics, has been working (with some success) to shake the right out of its ossified technological stasis. Part of Ruffini’s insight stems from his bias toward creativity and against institutional inertia: an entrenched institution isn’t by definition counterproductive, but neither should its persistence be taken for granted.

This week, Ruffini took to Twitter to broaden his critique to the conservative movement’s attitude toward institutions in general, both its own and those of the left. This Storify page captures the relevant tweets. Ruffini undoubtedly makes good points, and has some worthwhile advice for the right. But I think the limitation he runs into here is not really about cultural institutions per se but the culture that leads to the formation of those institutions. Ruffini writes:

Where is our Harvard, our New York Times, our Hollywood, our Silicon Valley? Owning the commanding heights of culture, it matters.

It’s true that culture matters, and later on Ruffini seems to acknowledge that a conservative version of the New York Times is not the best way de-marginalize conservative cultural perspectives when he writes:

This is why I’m encouraged to see guys like Robert Costa go to WaPo. Hard news reporting that started on the right.

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Patrick Ruffini, long one of the conservative movement’s brightest minds on tech strategy in politics, has been working (with some success) to shake the right out of its ossified technological stasis. Part of Ruffini’s insight stems from his bias toward creativity and against institutional inertia: an entrenched institution isn’t by definition counterproductive, but neither should its persistence be taken for granted.

This week, Ruffini took to Twitter to broaden his critique to the conservative movement’s attitude toward institutions in general, both its own and those of the left. This Storify page captures the relevant tweets. Ruffini undoubtedly makes good points, and has some worthwhile advice for the right. But I think the limitation he runs into here is not really about cultural institutions per se but the culture that leads to the formation of those institutions. Ruffini writes:

Where is our Harvard, our New York Times, our Hollywood, our Silicon Valley? Owning the commanding heights of culture, it matters.

It’s true that culture matters, and later on Ruffini seems to acknowledge that a conservative version of the New York Times is not the best way de-marginalize conservative cultural perspectives when he writes:

This is why I’m encouraged to see guys like Robert Costa go to WaPo. Hard news reporting that started on the right.

Indeed, as everyone knows, the most glaring lack of diversity in liberal media and cultural institutions is lack of intellectual and ideological diversity. The right produces plenty of talent, but the left’s rigid orthodoxy and enforced groupthink too rarely take the risk of exposing their audience to a dissenting view.

But the larger obstacle to the construction of conservative cultural institutions is that conservatives are so often by nature averse to the infusion of partisan politics into every facet of private life that would be required. Take each of the institutions Ruffini mentions.

Harvard: this is a stand-in for liberal academia overall, but it’s a good example since it retains its high status even as it basically gives its students A’s just for showing up. How does a place like Harvard become what it is today, when it once had such prestige and promise? Easy: the politicization of education by liberals who don’t want their students to be challenged. Do conservatives even want their own version of that? Should they? I don’t think they should, and I don’t they really do either. I think they yearn for the influence such institutions have, but greatly—and appropriately—disapprove of what it takes to get there.

New York Times: this is a stand-in for the liberal mainstream media, especially since the Times itself is going through such a crisis of credibility right now. But Ruffini already answered this one when he spoke of National Review’s ace political reporter Robert Costa going to the Washington Post. Conservative alternatives are too easily defined as such. More importantly, the Times mostly bellows groupthink and has allowed its bias not only to seep into its news reporting, but to become its news reporting. Why would conservatives want to foist another such institution on the country?

Hollywood: Here again we recently got a good look at how this operates. Actress Maria Conchita Alonso lost work because she supported a Republican. This new Hollywood blacklist is seemingly getting government sanction by federal authorities targeting any other nonconformists.

Blacklists, propaganda, the politicization of education—this is what it took for liberals to succeed in dominating cultural institutions. Which brings me to the last example: Silicon Valley. Ruffini answers this question with a sharp observation later in his discussion, when he writes:

If there are = numbers of smart righties as smart lefties, where do they go. On the right, they go into business. On the left, into politics

And thank goodness for that! Of course we want smart conservatives going into politics, and there are plenty. But it’s the sign of a healthy outlook when Americans are driven to the private sector instead of lusting after power. We are a nation with a government, as the saying goes, not the other way around.

It may be politically marginalizing to the right that conservatives believe in the need for a society outside the suffocating bureaucracy of the federal government, while leftists don’t. But the fact that conservatives believe in a life outside of partisan politics is healthy both for the conservative movement and the country on the whole. It’s a worthy, if frustratingly disempowering, sacrifice.

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The GOP’s Opening

I’m slightly less hopeful than John that the new Congressional Budget Report has dealt a death blow to the Affordable Care Act–but I certainly agree with him that the CBO report is “devastating” when it comes to the “inefficiencies, ineffectualities and problematic social costs of ObamaCare.” And John’s crisp analysis of just how far short the ACA has fallen from the claims made by the president–including CBO’s projection that in 10 years about the same number of people will lack insurance as before–underscores what an epic failure Mr. Obama’s signature achievement is turning out to be.

The CBO report affords another chance, then, to point out that the ACA isn’t just an indictment of the Obama presidency; it is an indictment against reactionary liberalism. ObamaCare was the capstone of a half-century effort by progressives to remake the American health-care system. Now they have, and the results range from awful to catastrophic.

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I’m slightly less hopeful than John that the new Congressional Budget Report has dealt a death blow to the Affordable Care Act–but I certainly agree with him that the CBO report is “devastating” when it comes to the “inefficiencies, ineffectualities and problematic social costs of ObamaCare.” And John’s crisp analysis of just how far short the ACA has fallen from the claims made by the president–including CBO’s projection that in 10 years about the same number of people will lack insurance as before–underscores what an epic failure Mr. Obama’s signature achievement is turning out to be.

The CBO report affords another chance, then, to point out that the ACA isn’t just an indictment of the Obama presidency; it is an indictment against reactionary liberalism. ObamaCare was the capstone of a half-century effort by progressives to remake the American health-care system. Now they have, and the results range from awful to catastrophic.

This doesn’t ensure Republicans a sail on a summer sea. There are still significant problems facing the GOP, demographic and otherwise, when it comes to presidential elections–problems I’ll focus on in a later post. For now, though, it’s enough to say that thanks to the combination of Mr. Obama’s staggering incompetence and flawed ideology, and the resultant harm to the America people, voters will give the Republican Party another look. It’s an open question as to whether the party will take the necessary steps–in tone, countenance, and substance–to take advantage of it. We’ll know more during the next year–and a lot more once the GOP has a nominee.

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Defending Kerry While Blaming Israel

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice has hit back at Israel for criticism from government ministers concerning recent comments by Secretary of State John Kerry. In a succession of tweets sent last night, Rice was at pains to defend Kerry’s record, yet she also didn’t hold back when it came to putting Kerry’s Israeli critics in their place. In one tweet she asserted, “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable.” It might be tempting to read these statements as an attempt to manufacture another minor spat between the two countries–to put some daylight between the U.S. government and Israel, as some have argued was the strategy in the past. Yet, whether this is being done consciously or not, it creates a public perception so that, if and when negotiations fail, the Israeli government will be less able to direct the blame toward the Palestinians.

The alleged “personal attacks” in question focused on widespread criticism, certainly not restricted to the Israeli press or politicians, that came in response to the implicit threats that Kerry has voiced about anti-Israel boycotts. Speaking over the weekend, he had raised the possibility of an advancing boycott campaign against Israel in the event that the two sides fail to reach an agreement. In November of last year Kerry had made an even more extreme version of this implicit threat; talking about the prospect of talks failing, Kerry asked, “does Israel want a third intifada?”

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White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice has hit back at Israel for criticism from government ministers concerning recent comments by Secretary of State John Kerry. In a succession of tweets sent last night, Rice was at pains to defend Kerry’s record, yet she also didn’t hold back when it came to putting Kerry’s Israeli critics in their place. In one tweet she asserted, “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable.” It might be tempting to read these statements as an attempt to manufacture another minor spat between the two countries–to put some daylight between the U.S. government and Israel, as some have argued was the strategy in the past. Yet, whether this is being done consciously or not, it creates a public perception so that, if and when negotiations fail, the Israeli government will be less able to direct the blame toward the Palestinians.

The alleged “personal attacks” in question focused on widespread criticism, certainly not restricted to the Israeli press or politicians, that came in response to the implicit threats that Kerry has voiced about anti-Israel boycotts. Speaking over the weekend, he had raised the possibility of an advancing boycott campaign against Israel in the event that the two sides fail to reach an agreement. In November of last year Kerry had made an even more extreme version of this implicit threat; talking about the prospect of talks failing, Kerry asked, “does Israel want a third intifada?”

If anything is “unacceptable” then it might be argued that it’s Kerry’s comments, not the backlash to them. In making these kind of remarks, Secretary Kerry may not be endorsing these moves against Israel, but he serves to legitimize them by suggesting that they are the natural response, only to be expected, if Israel won’t find a way to make a deal with the Palestinians. Indeed, one has to ask: if Kerry is serious about presenting the two sides with a fair offer then why the need for all these thinly veiled threats? If the deal genuinely offers Israel peace and security, we can be confident Israelis will jump at it. These threats would suggest Kerry knows he won’t be able to get the Palestinians to give the Israelis a fair deal, so with no carrot, it’s going to have to be all stick from here on in.

But Rice’s reaction is both suspect and telling. She has slammed the Israeli criticism that Kerry has received, but where is her response to the criticism Kerry receives from Palestinians? It’s not as if there isn’t enough of it. Senior Palestinian Authority officials regularly accuse Kerry of having a pro-Israel bias and Kerry’s visits to Ramallah are routinely met by public protests, although admittedly nothing on the scale of the Palestinian protests that greeted Obama when demonstrators trampled on pictures of the president, festooning with swastikas the billboards bearing his image. If Susan Rice was looking for a Twitter slanging match then that was quite the opportunity.

In making these comments, administration officials contribute to an atmosphere that will ultimately put Israel in the dock for the failure of the negotiation process. Talks appear to be stalling over the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state. In every previous round of negotiations they have ended with the Palestinians walking and thus taking much of the blame for the failures of peace efforts. The administration has long been signaling that Israel better find a way to make sure the Palestinians don’t walk this time around, otherwise, this time it can expect to take the blame. By causing a stir over the backlash to Kerry’s comments, or by hyping-up their reaction to Israeli Defense Minister Yaalon’s criticism of Kerry’s strategy, the administration lays the groundwork for ensuring that Israel will be perceived internationally as the party that lacked good faith and ultimately undermined the peace process.    

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