Commentary Magazine


Topic: advocate

Amazing Hypocrisy Alert on the Upper West Side

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

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Martin Luther King Jr.

On this holiday honoring his birth, it is worth reminding ourselves why Martin Luther King Jr. deserves the place he holds in the American imagination.

Dr. King was — with Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln — our nation’s most effective advocate for the American ideal. How he became so is itself a fascinating story.

King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a degree in sociology. He was unhappy with his major, however, complaining about the “apathetic fallacy of statistics.” While at Morehouse, King decided to change his field of study. He entered Crozer Theological Seminary, where he absorbed the writings of political philosophers “from Plato and Aristotle,” King wrote, “down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, Mill and Locke.”

In a beautiful tribute to King, delivered at Spellman College in 1986, then secretary of education William Bennett explained why King turned to the liberal arts. In Bennett’s words:

Martin Luther King turned to the greatest philosophers because he needed to know the answers to certain questions. What is justice? What should be loved? What deserves to be defended? What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? What is man? These questions are not simply intellectual diversions, but have engaged thoughtful human beings in all places and in all ages. As a result of the ways in which these questions have been answered, civilizations have emerged, nations have developed, wars have been fought, and people have lived contentedly or miserably. And as a result of the way in which Martin Luther King eventually answered these questions, Jim Crow was destroyed and American history was transformed.

In combating segregation, King could easily have gone in a different direction than he did (nonviolent civil disobedience). There were, after all, many competing philosophies within the black community about which way to go: Booker T. Washington’s gradualism, Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Malcolm X’s appeal to black nationalism, A. Philip Randolph’s direct-action campaigns, the NAACP’s legal strategy, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Talented Tenth” approach among them.

Dr. King’s liberal-arts education helps explain why he chose the path he did. And so, too, did his Christian faith.

While Malcolm X declared that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool,” in a sermon in 1956, King argued the opposite:

Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Read More

On this holiday honoring his birth, it is worth reminding ourselves why Martin Luther King Jr. deserves the place he holds in the American imagination.

Dr. King was — with Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln — our nation’s most effective advocate for the American ideal. How he became so is itself a fascinating story.

King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a degree in sociology. He was unhappy with his major, however, complaining about the “apathetic fallacy of statistics.” While at Morehouse, King decided to change his field of study. He entered Crozer Theological Seminary, where he absorbed the writings of political philosophers “from Plato and Aristotle,” King wrote, “down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Bentham, Mill and Locke.”

In a beautiful tribute to King, delivered at Spellman College in 1986, then secretary of education William Bennett explained why King turned to the liberal arts. In Bennett’s words:

Martin Luther King turned to the greatest philosophers because he needed to know the answers to certain questions. What is justice? What should be loved? What deserves to be defended? What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? What is man? These questions are not simply intellectual diversions, but have engaged thoughtful human beings in all places and in all ages. As a result of the ways in which these questions have been answered, civilizations have emerged, nations have developed, wars have been fought, and people have lived contentedly or miserably. And as a result of the way in which Martin Luther King eventually answered these questions, Jim Crow was destroyed and American history was transformed.

In combating segregation, King could easily have gone in a different direction than he did (nonviolent civil disobedience). There were, after all, many competing philosophies within the black community about which way to go: Booker T. Washington’s gradualism, Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Malcolm X’s appeal to black nationalism, A. Philip Randolph’s direct-action campaigns, the NAACP’s legal strategy, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Talented Tenth” approach among them.

Dr. King’s liberal-arts education helps explain why he chose the path he did. And so, too, did his Christian faith.

While Malcolm X declared that nonviolence was the “philosophy of the fool,” in a sermon in 1956, King argued the opposite:

Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

King went on to say this:

In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself. Let him know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. With this attitude you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards.

King concluded his sermon this way:

I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.

I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. This has been one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.

One of the things we learn from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, then, is that he saw great injustice and sought to confront it within the American tradition and his Christian faith rather than outside them. In that sense, King was very much like Lincoln, who consistently urged Americans to return to the truths of the Declaration of Independence and “take courage to renew the battle which [the founding] fathers began, so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land.”

We celebrate Dr. King’s birth because he was among the greatest men America ever produced, his words among the most powerful and evocative ever written. They changed the trajectory of American history for the better, and only a handful of others can make the same claim.

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The Flat Tax

Both Jen and Rick noted Mike Pence’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club yesterday in which he called for, along with many other good ideas, a flat tax.

I’ve been an advocate for a flat tax since Steve Forbes first brought it to widespread attention in 1996, when his seemingly quixotic presidential campaign got surprising traction, thanks largely, I suspect, to the flat tax.

For liberals, of course, high marginal rates on the rich are part of their political religion and thus, like all religious beliefs, not always subject to ratiocination. But since politicians will always cater to the rich — for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: that’s where the money is — high marginal rates in a democratic society will always be offset by loopholes so that the rich don’t actually have to pay those high marginal rates. This has been, at the least, one of the main engines behind the ever-increasing complexity of the tax code since it was first enacted in 1913.

It is also why tax revenues don’t rise much above 19 percent of GDP, whatever the bomfog coming out of Washington. The marginal rate (the tax on the last dollar of income) has been as high as 91 percent and as low as 28 percent. But the effective tax rate (the percentage of total income taxed away) has not changed much over the years since World War II, thanks to the loopholes and their partial elimination when rates were lowered. Read More

Both Jen and Rick noted Mike Pence’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club yesterday in which he called for, along with many other good ideas, a flat tax.

I’ve been an advocate for a flat tax since Steve Forbes first brought it to widespread attention in 1996, when his seemingly quixotic presidential campaign got surprising traction, thanks largely, I suspect, to the flat tax.

For liberals, of course, high marginal rates on the rich are part of their political religion and thus, like all religious beliefs, not always subject to ratiocination. But since politicians will always cater to the rich — for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: that’s where the money is — high marginal rates in a democratic society will always be offset by loopholes so that the rich don’t actually have to pay those high marginal rates. This has been, at the least, one of the main engines behind the ever-increasing complexity of the tax code since it was first enacted in 1913.

It is also why tax revenues don’t rise much above 19 percent of GDP, whatever the bomfog coming out of Washington. The marginal rate (the tax on the last dollar of income) has been as high as 91 percent and as low as 28 percent. But the effective tax rate (the percentage of total income taxed away) has not changed much over the years since World War II, thanks to the loopholes and their partial elimination when rates were lowered.

If liberals would only abandon their fixation on marginal rates and look at the effective rate, they would love the flat tax. Because under a flat tax, the rich inescapably pay a higher effective rate. As Mike Pence pointed out, a flat tax consists of a generous personal exemption, no other deductions (and therefore no loopholes), and a flat marginal rate. To illustrate, say the personal exemption is $10,000 and the rate 20 percent. That would mean a family of four with an income of $40,000 would have an effective tax rate of zero percent ($40,000 minus exemptions totaling $40,000 times 20 percent equals zero). At an income of $50,000, the effective tax rate would be 4 percent, at $100,000, 12 percent. At $1 million, 19.6 percent. Liberals could still sock it to the rich by raising the personal exemption (thus eliminating any tax liability for many at the lower end of the income spectrum) and raising the flat rate. In a national emergency such as war, the personal exemption could be lowered and the flat rate raised, bringing a gusher of money into the Treasury (and damping down consumer demand at the same time).

Of course, along with loopholes, the flat tax would eliminate “tax expenditures,” by which politicians are able to hand out goodies while pretending to be deficit hawks. Under a flat tax, if the government wanted to, say, subsidize homeownership, it would have to send checks to homeowners instead of allowing them to deduct their mortgage-interest expense. The political class doesn’t like that idea one bit, evidence that liberalism in its latter days is really about furthering the interests of the political class, not the little guy.

The flat tax also has an enormous advantage over a frequently mentioned alternative — some form of national sales tax to replace the income tax. There is no way to easily transition from the current income-based tax system to a consumption-based tax system. Individual families, having made economic decisions (such as whether or not to buy a house) based on the current code, might be devastated by a sudden shift. Worse, there is no way to estimate even an approximation of what sales tax rate would be necessary to provide the same revenue as the current tax code provides. There are just too many variables, and human nature is too ineluctable. (How much of the economy would go underground, for instance, with barter replacing cash payments?) It would be a shot in the dark that might produce a very ugly surprise.

But with a flat tax, it would be easy. The revenues can be estimated with reasonable accuracy, and individual families could transition by being allowed to choose which system to file under. New tax filers would have to use the new system, however, and once a family filed under the new system, it could not return to the old. This has worked well in places like Hong Kong.

The flat tax has been on the political table now for 14 years. I can only hope that its time is coming soon. I can’t think of another reform that would be better for the American economy, or American politics, than the flat tax.

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Is ABC Becoming MSNBC?

This Week is a sort of media car wreck. It is invariably a display of terrible journalism — so much so that you can’t help but stop and gawk. On Sunday, Christiane Amanpour badgered Senator-elect Rand Paul on what cuts he would favor to address the debt. He repeatedly answered that he’d favor across-the-board cuts, including defense and entitlements. You might not agree, but it was his answer. The following ensued:

AMANPOUR: Give me one specific cut, Senator-elect.

PAUL: All across the board.

AMANPOUR: One significant one. No, but you can’t just keep saying all across the board.

PAUL: Well, no, I can, because I’m going to look at every program, every program. But I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I’d probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let’s get them more in line, and let’s find savings. Let’s hire no new federal workers.

AMANPOUR: Pay for soldiers? Would you cut that? Read More

This Week is a sort of media car wreck. It is invariably a display of terrible journalism — so much so that you can’t help but stop and gawk. On Sunday, Christiane Amanpour badgered Senator-elect Rand Paul on what cuts he would favor to address the debt. He repeatedly answered that he’d favor across-the-board cuts, including defense and entitlements. You might not agree, but it was his answer. The following ensued:

AMANPOUR: Give me one specific cut, Senator-elect.

PAUL: All across the board.

AMANPOUR: One significant one. No, but you can’t just keep saying all across the board.

PAUL: Well, no, I can, because I’m going to look at every program, every program. But I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I’d probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let’s get them more in line, and let’s find savings. Let’s hire no new federal workers.

AMANPOUR: Pay for soldiers? Would you cut that?

PAUL: Right. I think that soldiers have to be paid. Now, can we say that gradually we don’t need as large of an Army if we’re not in two wars? Yes, I think you can say that. You can save money there. You can bring some troops home or have Europe pay more for their defense and Japan pay more and Korea pay more for their defense or bring those troops home and have savings there. . .

AMANPOUR: So, again, to talk about the debt and to talk about taxes, there seems to be, again, just so much sort of generalities, for want of a better word.

PAUL: Right.

AMANPOUR: And, for instance, there are many people…

PAUL: Well, the thing is that you can call it a generality, but what if — what if I were president and I said to you, “Tomorrow, we’re going to have a 5 percent cut across the board in everything”? That’s not a generality, but there are thousands of programs. If you say, “Well, what are all the specifics?” There are books written on all the specifics.

Is she so wedded to her script that she’s not listening to the answers? Or is she simply there to argue with her conservative guests while lobbing softballs at those with whom she is in ideological agreement? She ends with an inappropriate snipe at her guest: “Well, we hope to have you back, and we’ll get more details from you next time.” I suspect he won’t be back anytime soon.

There are a couple of problems with her approach. For starters, it’s not very enlightening. Paul repeatedly answered Amanpour’s question, but we didn’t learn much beyond that. (Do other Republicans share his position? How do we cut defense while fighting a war?) She was so busy arguing with his answer that she never followed up on the answer he gave.

Second, she is so obviously playing the role of partisan advocate that her interviews take on a lopsided, cheerleading quality for her invariably liberal positions. In the interview with David Stockman and Mike Pence that followed, all her probing “You can’t really mean that?” questions were directed at Pence, while she all but applauded Stockman for his insistence that we needed to raise taxes.

The faux interview format in which hosts use guests not to elicit information but to push their own agenda works for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and Glenn Beck on Fox, but is that the approach ABC News, which hasn’t gone the partisan route, now wants to adopt? So far, Amanpour is a ratings loser and a journalistic embarrassment. The ABC execs will have to decide whether it’s worth risking their brand for no apparent financial gain.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

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Let’s Not Forget the Letter

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such “pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such “pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

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Weeding Out Extremism from the Tea Party

Matt Drudge links to a story in which, according to the Dallas Morning News, Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden, a first-time candidate who is supported by the Tea Party Express and is challenging Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’s 30th Congressional District, said he would not rule out a violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

According to the report, in an exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, was asked if violence would be an option in 2010, if the composition of the government remained unchanged by the elections. “The option is on the table,” Broden said. “I don’t think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms. However, it is not the first option.”

Now, like almost every other person in America, I have never before heard of Stephen Broden. But you can bet that MSNBC, other media outlets, and the Democratic Party are going to do everything they can to turn Mr. Broden into a household name, to make him a symbol of the Tea Party movement.

Jonathan Neerman, head of the Dallas County Republican Party, said he’s never heard Broden advocate violence against the government.

“It is a disappointing, isolated incident,” Neerman said. He said he plans to discuss the matter with Broden’s campaign. And Ken Emanuelson, a Broden supporter and leading Tea Party organizer in Dallas, said he did not disagree with the “philosophical point” that people had the right to resist a tyrannical government. But, he said, “Do I see our government today anywhere close to that point? No, I don’t.”

I have news for Messrs. Neerman and Emanuelson: what Broden said is far worse than “disappointing” — and in this context, conceding him a “philosophical point” is quite unwise.

To say that a violent uprising is “on the table” is reckless. These remarks deserve to be condemned on their own terms. And it’s also important not to play into the caricature of the Tea Party movement created by its opponents — that the movement, at its core, is fringy, irresponsible, and has some latent sympathy with calls to revolution and political violence.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Nevada’s GOP Senate candidate (and Tea Party choice) Sharron Angle has said this:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

The Tea Party movement is a powerful, energetic, spontaneous, and widespread civic response to Obamaism. It will be seen, I believe, as a positive force in American politics, one that can help to limit the size, scope, and reach of government in our lives – and, more specifically, one that can help us deal with our entitlement crisis. But movements like these almost inevitably draw in supporters and candidates who take a justifiable impulse and channel it in exactly the wrong direction. That can’t always be helped. But what leaders and allies of the Tea Party movement can do is make it clear that incendiary rhetoric and misplaced historical analogies don’t have a place or a part in a responsible political movement.

The ballot is stronger than the bullet, Lincoln said, and we may thank heaven that, for Americans, this choice has long since been made. Those who wish to revisit this choice are temerarious and possibly pernicious. Those who care for and about the Tea Party movement might consider saying so.

Matt Drudge links to a story in which, according to the Dallas Morning News, Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden, a first-time candidate who is supported by the Tea Party Express and is challenging Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’s 30th Congressional District, said he would not rule out a violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

According to the report, in an exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, was asked if violence would be an option in 2010, if the composition of the government remained unchanged by the elections. “The option is on the table,” Broden said. “I don’t think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms. However, it is not the first option.”

Now, like almost every other person in America, I have never before heard of Stephen Broden. But you can bet that MSNBC, other media outlets, and the Democratic Party are going to do everything they can to turn Mr. Broden into a household name, to make him a symbol of the Tea Party movement.

Jonathan Neerman, head of the Dallas County Republican Party, said he’s never heard Broden advocate violence against the government.

“It is a disappointing, isolated incident,” Neerman said. He said he plans to discuss the matter with Broden’s campaign. And Ken Emanuelson, a Broden supporter and leading Tea Party organizer in Dallas, said he did not disagree with the “philosophical point” that people had the right to resist a tyrannical government. But, he said, “Do I see our government today anywhere close to that point? No, I don’t.”

I have news for Messrs. Neerman and Emanuelson: what Broden said is far worse than “disappointing” — and in this context, conceding him a “philosophical point” is quite unwise.

To say that a violent uprising is “on the table” is reckless. These remarks deserve to be condemned on their own terms. And it’s also important not to play into the caricature of the Tea Party movement created by its opponents — that the movement, at its core, is fringy, irresponsible, and has some latent sympathy with calls to revolution and political violence.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Nevada’s GOP Senate candidate (and Tea Party choice) Sharron Angle has said this:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

The Tea Party movement is a powerful, energetic, spontaneous, and widespread civic response to Obamaism. It will be seen, I believe, as a positive force in American politics, one that can help to limit the size, scope, and reach of government in our lives – and, more specifically, one that can help us deal with our entitlement crisis. But movements like these almost inevitably draw in supporters and candidates who take a justifiable impulse and channel it in exactly the wrong direction. That can’t always be helped. But what leaders and allies of the Tea Party movement can do is make it clear that incendiary rhetoric and misplaced historical analogies don’t have a place or a part in a responsible political movement.

The ballot is stronger than the bullet, Lincoln said, and we may thank heaven that, for Americans, this choice has long since been made. Those who wish to revisit this choice are temerarious and possibly pernicious. Those who care for and about the Tea Party movement might consider saying so.

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Campaigning on Iran

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

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Sestak Praised CAIR in 2007

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

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Reporting on Flotilla Confirmed

Josh Rogin confirms much of the reporting and analysis on the flotilla investigation that has been percolating in the right-wing blogosphere for several days. As Bill Kristol reported on Friday, Rogin notes that the administration and, in particular, James Jones (who always seems to be front and center with the bully-boy scenarios — it was his leaking and meeting on an imposed peace plan that sent shivers up the spines of Israel supporters) were hard at work trying to internationalize the investigation:

The message Obama officials delivered was twofold. First, they wanted to make sure Israel appointed international members to the commission who were credible. William David Trimble from Northern Ireland and Ken Watkin, a former judge advocate general of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be on it. The other Obama message to the Israelis? Speed it up. They wanted Israel to get the commission members settled on and announced as much as a week before the Israelis were ready. The Israeli official said that the detailed and extensive consultations with the Obama people are why it took so long.

This, of course, merely reinforces the Obama line that Israel is incapable of investigating itself. The argument then boils down to which international overseers to impose on the Jewish state. (Turkey, of course, gets a free pass.)

Rogin also confirms the information I have received that Jewish groups were heavily involved and complicit in a result about which they were privately dismayed – specifically, the refusal to rule out a UN investigation:

That type of hedging is exactly what many Israel supporters, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are concerned about. “AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action — including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General — which would isolate Israel,” the group said in a statement. They also point to the White House’s statement Sunday on the commission, which they see as tepid because it included a terse warning to Israel along with word of support.

“While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community,” the statement said.

Yet AIPAC’s statement, to those not reading between the lines and with the benefit of brackets, sounded like no urgent note of alarm.

To sum it up, we have a White House unwilling to stand four-square with Israel, refusing to rebuff the efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to manage and review its own defensive measures, and uninterested in exploring the terrorist elements and their ties to Turkey, which were responsible for the violence. And there is no effective strategy in Congress or among Jewish groups to challenge these inclinations. Can you imagine what there is in store when Israel feels compelled to use military force against Iran?

Josh Rogin confirms much of the reporting and analysis on the flotilla investigation that has been percolating in the right-wing blogosphere for several days. As Bill Kristol reported on Friday, Rogin notes that the administration and, in particular, James Jones (who always seems to be front and center with the bully-boy scenarios — it was his leaking and meeting on an imposed peace plan that sent shivers up the spines of Israel supporters) were hard at work trying to internationalize the investigation:

The message Obama officials delivered was twofold. First, they wanted to make sure Israel appointed international members to the commission who were credible. William David Trimble from Northern Ireland and Ken Watkin, a former judge advocate general of the Canadian Armed Forces, will be on it. The other Obama message to the Israelis? Speed it up. They wanted Israel to get the commission members settled on and announced as much as a week before the Israelis were ready. The Israeli official said that the detailed and extensive consultations with the Obama people are why it took so long.

This, of course, merely reinforces the Obama line that Israel is incapable of investigating itself. The argument then boils down to which international overseers to impose on the Jewish state. (Turkey, of course, gets a free pass.)

Rogin also confirms the information I have received that Jewish groups were heavily involved and complicit in a result about which they were privately dismayed – specifically, the refusal to rule out a UN investigation:

That type of hedging is exactly what many Israel supporters, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are concerned about. “AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action — including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General — which would isolate Israel,” the group said in a statement. They also point to the White House’s statement Sunday on the commission, which they see as tepid because it included a terse warning to Israel along with word of support.

“While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community,” the statement said.

Yet AIPAC’s statement, to those not reading between the lines and with the benefit of brackets, sounded like no urgent note of alarm.

To sum it up, we have a White House unwilling to stand four-square with Israel, refusing to rebuff the efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to manage and review its own defensive measures, and uninterested in exploring the terrorist elements and their ties to Turkey, which were responsible for the violence. And there is no effective strategy in Congress or among Jewish groups to challenge these inclinations. Can you imagine what there is in store when Israel feels compelled to use military force against Iran?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.’”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.’”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

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Hey Peter, There’s a Reason Why “Free Gaza” Doesn’t Help Shalit

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

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The Underwelming Kagan

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

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RE: Kagan Nominated

Michael Gerson thinks Kagan’s harsh criticism of the military and decision to join the amicus brief seeking to allow law schools to ban recruiters will be a problem, positing that “many Americans will find her actions offensive — with far more intensity than the White House expects.” He explains:

Kagan not only took this controversial action, she publicly attacked the policy as “deeply wrong,” “unwise and unjust” and “a moral injustice of the first order.” It will be hard to downplay an issue that Kagan has a history of grandstanding. Standing in the way of military recruiters may seem normal in academic circles, but it will seem radical in much of the country — like banning the American flag from campus to protest some policy disagreement with the government. This controversy will add to a broader narrative that “Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side” is disconnected from the views and values of Middle America.

This may not be enough to derail the Kagan nomination, but it will complicate it.

It does work against the Obama team’s selling point that they went for someone with “real life” experience (for real life, don’t look in Ivy League law schools) who understands ordinary Americans. Hey, it’s not an argument I favor, because the law is the law, and one’s biography really shouldn’t factor in, but this is what the left keeps spinning. It is amusing, however, that the left considers “real life” what most Americans find radical. Was Sonia Sotomayor’s support of quotas and set-asides reflective of “real life,” or did it reflect a specific victimology that infects minority advocacy on the left? Was a pack of law school deans in touch with “real life” when they sought to defy a perfectly legitimate statute that required them to afford access to recruiters?

All this goes to a more fundamental concern about Kagan. Her entire career has been spent either as a law school administrator or as an advocate (e.g., in a political position in the Clinton administration or as solicitor general). The question she was used to asking herself was: what do I want the law to be? But the business of judging is determining what the law is. Liberals see no difference — the law is what five justices say it is. But most Americans and a majority of the Court think otherwise. So the questions for her now are: how does she decide what the law is, what method does she use for separating personal conviction and constitutional interpretation, and does she have a view of the Supreme Court that is something other than as an uber-legislature? We’ll find out this summer.

Michael Gerson thinks Kagan’s harsh criticism of the military and decision to join the amicus brief seeking to allow law schools to ban recruiters will be a problem, positing that “many Americans will find her actions offensive — with far more intensity than the White House expects.” He explains:

Kagan not only took this controversial action, she publicly attacked the policy as “deeply wrong,” “unwise and unjust” and “a moral injustice of the first order.” It will be hard to downplay an issue that Kagan has a history of grandstanding. Standing in the way of military recruiters may seem normal in academic circles, but it will seem radical in much of the country — like banning the American flag from campus to protest some policy disagreement with the government. This controversy will add to a broader narrative that “Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side” is disconnected from the views and values of Middle America.

This may not be enough to derail the Kagan nomination, but it will complicate it.

It does work against the Obama team’s selling point that they went for someone with “real life” experience (for real life, don’t look in Ivy League law schools) who understands ordinary Americans. Hey, it’s not an argument I favor, because the law is the law, and one’s biography really shouldn’t factor in, but this is what the left keeps spinning. It is amusing, however, that the left considers “real life” what most Americans find radical. Was Sonia Sotomayor’s support of quotas and set-asides reflective of “real life,” or did it reflect a specific victimology that infects minority advocacy on the left? Was a pack of law school deans in touch with “real life” when they sought to defy a perfectly legitimate statute that required them to afford access to recruiters?

All this goes to a more fundamental concern about Kagan. Her entire career has been spent either as a law school administrator or as an advocate (e.g., in a political position in the Clinton administration or as solicitor general). The question she was used to asking herself was: what do I want the law to be? But the business of judging is determining what the law is. Liberals see no difference — the law is what five justices say it is. But most Americans and a majority of the Court think otherwise. So the questions for her now are: how does she decide what the law is, what method does she use for separating personal conviction and constitutional interpretation, and does she have a view of the Supreme Court that is something other than as an uber-legislature? We’ll find out this summer.

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RE: Appalling Double Standards

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

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Reality to Be Avoided at All Costs

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes – Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal –  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes – Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal –  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

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Ridiculous Writings on Totalitarian Countries

I don’t know why, but I am still amazed by the credulity of some reporters. In researching my history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism (tentatively titled Invisible Armies), I have been running across some startling quotes from Western journalists who visited Communist-held areas of China in the 1930s and ‘40s. Sample:

The Chinese Communists are not Communists — not according to the Russian definition of the term. They do not, at the present time, either advocate or practice Communism…. Today the  Chinese Communists are no more Communistic than we Americans are.

That’s from the 1945 book, Report from Red China, written by the photojournalist Harrison Forman. He took seriously Mao Zedong’s statements to him that “we are not striving for the social and political Communism of Soviet Russia. Rather, we prefer to think of what we are doing as something that Lincoln fought for in your Civil War: the liberation of slaves. In China today, we have many millions of slaves, shackled by feudalism.” He also reported uncritically about Mao’s vow that the Communists would not establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and would instead set up a “democratic government” that would include “landlords, merchants, capitalists, and petit bourgeois as well as peasants and workers.” Apparently, Forman was unaware of the bloody campaigns the Communists had already carried out against “landlords” and “rich peasants.” Forman couldn’t understand why Mao didn’t change the party’s name to “Neo-Democracy” or “Democraticism” or “some such” name! (Mao’s canny non-reply: “If we were to change suddenly to some other name, there are those in China today — and abroad, too — who would make capital out of it, would accuse us of trying to cover up something.”)

And then, of course, there was the infamous Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China (1938) introduced Mao & Co. to much of the world — including to much of China.  Snow actually thought Mao, who would become arguably history’s worst mass-murder, was “a moderating influence in the Communist movement where life and death were concerned.”

This is hardly an isolated phenomenon, given how many boosters Stalin and Castro, Ho Chi Minh and even Pol Pot had among the Western press corps. The tradition continues today with some prominent writers (like Roger Cohen of the New York Times) offering apologetics on behalf of Iran, while his colleague, Tom Friedman, exalts China’s current lack of democracy. Someday, I trust their writings will be as ridiculed as Forman’s and Snow’s deserve to be.

I don’t know why, but I am still amazed by the credulity of some reporters. In researching my history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism (tentatively titled Invisible Armies), I have been running across some startling quotes from Western journalists who visited Communist-held areas of China in the 1930s and ‘40s. Sample:

The Chinese Communists are not Communists — not according to the Russian definition of the term. They do not, at the present time, either advocate or practice Communism…. Today the  Chinese Communists are no more Communistic than we Americans are.

That’s from the 1945 book, Report from Red China, written by the photojournalist Harrison Forman. He took seriously Mao Zedong’s statements to him that “we are not striving for the social and political Communism of Soviet Russia. Rather, we prefer to think of what we are doing as something that Lincoln fought for in your Civil War: the liberation of slaves. In China today, we have many millions of slaves, shackled by feudalism.” He also reported uncritically about Mao’s vow that the Communists would not establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and would instead set up a “democratic government” that would include “landlords, merchants, capitalists, and petit bourgeois as well as peasants and workers.” Apparently, Forman was unaware of the bloody campaigns the Communists had already carried out against “landlords” and “rich peasants.” Forman couldn’t understand why Mao didn’t change the party’s name to “Neo-Democracy” or “Democraticism” or “some such” name! (Mao’s canny non-reply: “If we were to change suddenly to some other name, there are those in China today — and abroad, too — who would make capital out of it, would accuse us of trying to cover up something.”)

And then, of course, there was the infamous Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China (1938) introduced Mao & Co. to much of the world — including to much of China.  Snow actually thought Mao, who would become arguably history’s worst mass-murder, was “a moderating influence in the Communist movement where life and death were concerned.”

This is hardly an isolated phenomenon, given how many boosters Stalin and Castro, Ho Chi Minh and even Pol Pot had among the Western press corps. The tradition continues today with some prominent writers (like Roger Cohen of the New York Times) offering apologetics on behalf of Iran, while his colleague, Tom Friedman, exalts China’s current lack of democracy. Someday, I trust their writings will be as ridiculed as Forman’s and Snow’s deserve to be.

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Not Quick Enough

Quicker than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would like, the truth is seeping out about his Medicare switch-and-bait scheme. Remove one version of a public option and slip in the ultimate public option — government-run Medicare. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain:

Mr. Reid’s buy-in simply cuts out the middle man. Why go to the trouble of creating a new plan like Medicare when Medicare itself is already handy? A buy-in is an old chestnut of single-payer advocate Pete Stark, and it’s the political strategy liberals have tried since the Great Society: Ratchet down the enrollment age for Medicare, boost the income limits to qualify for Medicaid, and soon health care for the entire middle class becomes a taxpayer commitment.

But of course Medicare is already going broke, and doctors are already shortchanged by chintzy reimbursement rates. This creaky ship is expected to take on millions of new patients, many of whom will be among the sickest, as those who don’t or can’t get insurance elsewhere seek refuge in Medicare.

This mad-cap dash for a plan, any plan, that can garner 60 votes depends on no one paying much attention or heed to what’s in it. Unfortunately for Reid, editorial pages, moderate senators, and the public are starting to wake up. (“The latest polls show public support for the Senate plan falling into the mid-30%-range. The remaining supporters must not be paying attention.”) It seems that Reid was not quite adept or fast enough to induce a lemming-like stampede to embrace what certainly is the lamest attempt at health-care “reform” yet. In a year in which we’ve seen some ill-conceived ideas, that’s saying something.

Quicker than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would like, the truth is seeping out about his Medicare switch-and-bait scheme. Remove one version of a public option and slip in the ultimate public option — government-run Medicare. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain:

Mr. Reid’s buy-in simply cuts out the middle man. Why go to the trouble of creating a new plan like Medicare when Medicare itself is already handy? A buy-in is an old chestnut of single-payer advocate Pete Stark, and it’s the political strategy liberals have tried since the Great Society: Ratchet down the enrollment age for Medicare, boost the income limits to qualify for Medicaid, and soon health care for the entire middle class becomes a taxpayer commitment.

But of course Medicare is already going broke, and doctors are already shortchanged by chintzy reimbursement rates. This creaky ship is expected to take on millions of new patients, many of whom will be among the sickest, as those who don’t or can’t get insurance elsewhere seek refuge in Medicare.

This mad-cap dash for a plan, any plan, that can garner 60 votes depends on no one paying much attention or heed to what’s in it. Unfortunately for Reid, editorial pages, moderate senators, and the public are starting to wake up. (“The latest polls show public support for the Senate plan falling into the mid-30%-range. The remaining supporters must not be paying attention.”) It seems that Reid was not quite adept or fast enough to induce a lemming-like stampede to embrace what certainly is the lamest attempt at health-care “reform” yet. In a year in which we’ve seen some ill-conceived ideas, that’s saying something.

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