Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill McGurn

Without Standards, It’s Hard to Tell Who Is a ‘Moderate’ Muslim

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking ”sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking ”sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

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The Left Defends Ground Zero Mosque

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Or is it just the Muslim element that has so paralyzed the liberal intelligentsia? After all, as Bill McGurn reminds us, everyone cheered when Pope John Paul II told the Carmelite nuns to pick a spot other than Auschwitz to pray for the conversion of the Jews. Maybe the left is simply being oppositional — i.e., whatever the right believes is wrong. But if not, it is, quite vividly, advertising its own intellectual crack-up and unfitness to govern.

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Or is it just the Muslim element that has so paralyzed the liberal intelligentsia? After all, as Bill McGurn reminds us, everyone cheered when Pope John Paul II told the Carmelite nuns to pick a spot other than Auschwitz to pray for the conversion of the Jews. Maybe the left is simply being oppositional — i.e., whatever the right believes is wrong. But if not, it is, quite vividly, advertising its own intellectual crack-up and unfitness to govern.

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What Would Bill Clinton Say?

Bill McGurn looks back on Bill Clinton’s presidency (as many of us have done of late) with some enhanced appreciation:

Yet for all his undeniable weaknesses, Mr. Clinton does seem to understand something that eludes Mr. Obama: In a center-right nation, a liberal doesn’t want to get too far ahead of the voters. At times (and HillaryCare was one) Mr. Clinton got himself too far out in front—but when he had, he’d generally been careful to respond by scurrying back to the center and appropriating his opponents’ most appealing messages.

As McGurn notes, Clinton showed some contrition in his State of the Union address following his party’s 1994 midterm election wipeout and began his migration to the center of the political spectrum. Alas, Obama is no Bill Clinton. McGurn observes that Obama, unlike Clinton, seems unaware of the country’s Center-Right orientation and so far evidences none of Clinton’s wily ability to adjust to new political circumstances. Moreover, Obama’s arrogance in the wake of defeat is increasingly off-putting:

His team argues, apparently oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance. It’s all just a big misunderstanding, says the White House. We just need to explain it better—like recasting a second stimulus as a “jobs bill,” selling health-care reform as “deficit reduction,” and throwing in a lot of speech references to the “middle class.”

It’s foreign territory for Obama, to be sure. He’s never experienced real political defeat or a personal rebuke of this magnitude. He’s lived a charmed political life by dint of his rhetoric and persona, neither of which is wearing well. He’s never much deviated from statist, liberal ideology and now seems frustrated that the voters don’t appreciate all that the Obama administration is trying to do for them. You can see why he’s testy, defensive, and mulling over whether one term might be enough.

He’s also increasingly isolated. The Left is fed up. After all, he’s delivered none of the items on their wish list — nationalized health care, repeal of don’t-ask-don’t tell, closing of Guantanamo, withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and cap-and-trade. His Supreme Court pick was neither wise nor has proved to be of any use in the essential task of luring Justice Kennedy to their side (at least not yet). While the Left might have nowhere to go in a presidential election, they may well stay home in 2010, adding to Democrats’ woes. (“The unrest among liberals comes at a perilous political time. Party strategists worry that anger on the left could depress turnout in this year’s midterm elections and cost the party congressional seats and state governorships. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found 55% of Republicans ‘very interested’ in the November elections, compared with 38% of Democrats.”)

The Right, of course, has him on the run and sees him as a less-than-competent, rigid ideologue. Meanwhile, Independents are running at breakneck speed away from the Democratic camp. Again, it’s hard to know where he should start in rebuilding a base of support.

As we have come to expect, Obama now seems inclined to offer more spin than substance. On tap is some fake populist rhetoric mixed in with a spending “freeze” on a sliver of the federal budget, which reportedly excludes “the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs … [and] big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.” He’ll claim he’s not giving up on ObamaCare and let Reid and Pelosi worry about the details later. (He always lets them worry about the details later, which is part of the problem, of course.) But the fundamental issues remain: unemployment is high, the economy is fragile, he’s worn out his welcome, he lacks any significant first-year legislative accomplishment, his approach to national security is proving to be a flop, and he’s revealed himself to be an ultra-leftist who lacks the common touch.

Still, he’s president for the next three years, and he might as well make something of it. Some humility, a robust defense of America’s role in the world, and some pro-growth initiatives (why not a moratorium on tax hikes?) would be a start. It would be Clinton-esque if he could pull it off.

Bill McGurn looks back on Bill Clinton’s presidency (as many of us have done of late) with some enhanced appreciation:

Yet for all his undeniable weaknesses, Mr. Clinton does seem to understand something that eludes Mr. Obama: In a center-right nation, a liberal doesn’t want to get too far ahead of the voters. At times (and HillaryCare was one) Mr. Clinton got himself too far out in front—but when he had, he’d generally been careful to respond by scurrying back to the center and appropriating his opponents’ most appealing messages.

As McGurn notes, Clinton showed some contrition in his State of the Union address following his party’s 1994 midterm election wipeout and began his migration to the center of the political spectrum. Alas, Obama is no Bill Clinton. McGurn observes that Obama, unlike Clinton, seems unaware of the country’s Center-Right orientation and so far evidences none of Clinton’s wily ability to adjust to new political circumstances. Moreover, Obama’s arrogance in the wake of defeat is increasingly off-putting:

His team argues, apparently oblivious to the inherent condescension, that no intelligent American could possibly oppose his health-care agenda on substance. It’s all just a big misunderstanding, says the White House. We just need to explain it better—like recasting a second stimulus as a “jobs bill,” selling health-care reform as “deficit reduction,” and throwing in a lot of speech references to the “middle class.”

It’s foreign territory for Obama, to be sure. He’s never experienced real political defeat or a personal rebuke of this magnitude. He’s lived a charmed political life by dint of his rhetoric and persona, neither of which is wearing well. He’s never much deviated from statist, liberal ideology and now seems frustrated that the voters don’t appreciate all that the Obama administration is trying to do for them. You can see why he’s testy, defensive, and mulling over whether one term might be enough.

He’s also increasingly isolated. The Left is fed up. After all, he’s delivered none of the items on their wish list — nationalized health care, repeal of don’t-ask-don’t tell, closing of Guantanamo, withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and cap-and-trade. His Supreme Court pick was neither wise nor has proved to be of any use in the essential task of luring Justice Kennedy to their side (at least not yet). While the Left might have nowhere to go in a presidential election, they may well stay home in 2010, adding to Democrats’ woes. (“The unrest among liberals comes at a perilous political time. Party strategists worry that anger on the left could depress turnout in this year’s midterm elections and cost the party congressional seats and state governorships. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found 55% of Republicans ‘very interested’ in the November elections, compared with 38% of Democrats.”)

The Right, of course, has him on the run and sees him as a less-than-competent, rigid ideologue. Meanwhile, Independents are running at breakneck speed away from the Democratic camp. Again, it’s hard to know where he should start in rebuilding a base of support.

As we have come to expect, Obama now seems inclined to offer more spin than substance. On tap is some fake populist rhetoric mixed in with a spending “freeze” on a sliver of the federal budget, which reportedly excludes “the military, veterans, homeland security and international affairs … [and] big entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.” He’ll claim he’s not giving up on ObamaCare and let Reid and Pelosi worry about the details later. (He always lets them worry about the details later, which is part of the problem, of course.) But the fundamental issues remain: unemployment is high, the economy is fragile, he’s worn out his welcome, he lacks any significant first-year legislative accomplishment, his approach to national security is proving to be a flop, and he’s revealed himself to be an ultra-leftist who lacks the common touch.

Still, he’s president for the next three years, and he might as well make something of it. Some humility, a robust defense of America’s role in the world, and some pro-growth initiatives (why not a moratorium on tax hikes?) would be a start. It would be Clinton-esque if he could pull it off.

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More Than Words?

Bill McGurn writes:

For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?

McGurn argues that Obama would do well to take a break from his “not George W. Bush” approach to everything and back up his new rhetoric with some minimal action. He might, for example, actually meet with some dissidents as Bush did:

George W. Bush also made it a point to meet with dissidents and signal which side America was on. He met with a defector who spent 10 years in the North Korean gulag. He met with persecuted Chinese Christians, marked the 20th anniversary of a famous pro-democracy uprising in Burma by meeting with Burmese dissidents in Thailand, and awarded the Medal of Freedom to a jailed Cuban political prisoner. In 2007, he even spoke to a whole conference of dissidents in Prague organized by another alumnus of the Soviet prison system: Natan Sharansky.

Obama also might fund the Iranian dissidents, sign onto legislation to help the democracy advocates evade censorship, get working on those “crippling” sanctions, and make clear we’re done engaging a regime that lacks the support of its people. But it is far from clear that Obama means to do more than sprinkle in some complimentary words for those whom he has done nothing to aid and much to undercut since the June 12 election. Absent some concrete actions, those words lack meaning and sincerity.

Bill McGurn writes:

For a man whose whole appeal has been wrapped in powerful imagery, President Obama appears strikingly obtuse about the symbolism of his own actions: e.g., squeezing in a condemnation of Iran before a round of golf. With every statement not backed up by action, with every refusal to meet a leader such as the Dalai Lama, with every handshake for a Chavez, Mr. Obama is defining himself to foreign leaders who are sizing him up and have only one question in mind: How much can we get away with?

McGurn argues that Obama would do well to take a break from his “not George W. Bush” approach to everything and back up his new rhetoric with some minimal action. He might, for example, actually meet with some dissidents as Bush did:

George W. Bush also made it a point to meet with dissidents and signal which side America was on. He met with a defector who spent 10 years in the North Korean gulag. He met with persecuted Chinese Christians, marked the 20th anniversary of a famous pro-democracy uprising in Burma by meeting with Burmese dissidents in Thailand, and awarded the Medal of Freedom to a jailed Cuban political prisoner. In 2007, he even spoke to a whole conference of dissidents in Prague organized by another alumnus of the Soviet prison system: Natan Sharansky.

Obama also might fund the Iranian dissidents, sign onto legislation to help the democracy advocates evade censorship, get working on those “crippling” sanctions, and make clear we’re done engaging a regime that lacks the support of its people. But it is far from clear that Obama means to do more than sprinkle in some complimentary words for those whom he has done nothing to aid and much to undercut since the June 12 election. Absent some concrete actions, those words lack meaning and sincerity.

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Incentives for Terrorists

Reader Ben Orlanski weighed in yesterday with a key point on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. His e-mail to Max Boot and me reads, in part:

The principal danger is further undermining the Geneva Conventions. These were, as you two know better than anyone, conventions to protect innocents by incentivizing decent behavior in war. Hence, protections are granted to those who fight decently, and are denied to those who don’t. The great danger here is that, by treating the indecent with decency, we undermine the very distinction the Geneva Conventions were designed to uphold, which, therefore, makes indecency (i.e., terrorism) more attractive, because it has more benefits and fewer disadvantages. … Obama’s plans to move terrorists to the US mainland is just another step in the same direction that has us trying KSM in civilian court.

Ben notes that some of the blurring of distinctions has already occurred thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court but argues it would be a mistake to compound the error. He directs our attention to a recent column by Bill McGurn, who detailed this argument in connection with the KSM trial:

We don’t often speak of incentives in war. That’s a loss, because the whole idea of, say, Geneva rights is based on the idea of providing combatants with incentives to do things that help limit the bloodiness of battle. These include wearing a uniform, carrying arms openly, not targeting civilians, and so on. Terrorists recognize none of these things. …

Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.

And the argument, as Ben points out, is equally applicable to the planned closing of Guantanamo and the relocation of its detainees to U.S. prisons. Indeed, it seems to be the Obama team’s motive to eradicate the distinction between common criminals and the terrorists/detainees, not to mention the distinction (now partially eradicated) between terrorists and those who historically have been afforded protection under the Geneva Convention. The Obami intend to give the terrorists civilian trials, place them within the geographic jurisdiction of federal courts, house them in American prisons, and, as we saw with Richard Reid, afford them all the rights and privileges of ordinary criminals should they complain about their treatment.

In doing so, the administration not only provides perverse incentives to terrorists. It also conveys to them that, while they see this as a war, we do not. And that is the worst message we can possibly send.

Reader Ben Orlanski weighed in yesterday with a key point on the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. His e-mail to Max Boot and me reads, in part:

The principal danger is further undermining the Geneva Conventions. These were, as you two know better than anyone, conventions to protect innocents by incentivizing decent behavior in war. Hence, protections are granted to those who fight decently, and are denied to those who don’t. The great danger here is that, by treating the indecent with decency, we undermine the very distinction the Geneva Conventions were designed to uphold, which, therefore, makes indecency (i.e., terrorism) more attractive, because it has more benefits and fewer disadvantages. … Obama’s plans to move terrorists to the US mainland is just another step in the same direction that has us trying KSM in civilian court.

Ben notes that some of the blurring of distinctions has already occurred thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court but argues it would be a mistake to compound the error. He directs our attention to a recent column by Bill McGurn, who detailed this argument in connection with the KSM trial:

We don’t often speak of incentives in war. That’s a loss, because the whole idea of, say, Geneva rights is based on the idea of providing combatants with incentives to do things that help limit the bloodiness of battle. These include wearing a uniform, carrying arms openly, not targeting civilians, and so on. Terrorists recognize none of these things. …

Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.

And the argument, as Ben points out, is equally applicable to the planned closing of Guantanamo and the relocation of its detainees to U.S. prisons. Indeed, it seems to be the Obama team’s motive to eradicate the distinction between common criminals and the terrorists/detainees, not to mention the distinction (now partially eradicated) between terrorists and those who historically have been afforded protection under the Geneva Convention. The Obami intend to give the terrorists civilian trials, place them within the geographic jurisdiction of federal courts, house them in American prisons, and, as we saw with Richard Reid, afford them all the rights and privileges of ordinary criminals should they complain about their treatment.

In doing so, the administration not only provides perverse incentives to terrorists. It also conveys to them that, while they see this as a war, we do not. And that is the worst message we can possibly send.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.’”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

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