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Topic: CEO

Increasing Arabs’ Clout in Congress: The NH-1 GOP Primary

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.'”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

In the New Hampshire 1st congressional district, there is a spirited, multi-candidate Republican primary race to face off against Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. The most viable Republicans are Sean Mahoney, Frank Guinta, Bob Bestani, and Rich Ashooh. (Polls suggest that Shea-Porter is in trouble, and the Cook Report pegs the seat as a “toss up.”) One of the candidates, Ashooh, is being bankrolled by a curious character. Nijad Fares and his wife, who reside in Houston, donated $2,400 to Ashooh and raised thousands more for him, likely making Ashooh the GOP candidate in the race with the most donors from  Houston. (Weird, huh?)

Now, who is Fares? He’s a self-proclaimed advocate for increasing Arab clout in Congress. This report relates:

Nijad Fares bluntly laid out his strategy for increasing the clout of Arab-Americans in an opinion piece he authored that appeared in the Detroit News on Dec. 16, 1996.

“Arab-Americans must substantially increase contributions to political candidates,” he wrote. “Even modest contributions help ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs take phone calls and are more responsive to requests. Furthermore, the contributor must make explicit an interest in Middle East-related issues.”

He and his father, Issam (“known to be close to the powerful chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kenaan”), have been implicated in some funny business with regard to campaign donations:

After the Wall Street Journal reported the inaugural donation last month, the inaugural committee said the donation listed from Issam Fares came from the Link Group, LLC, a company headed by Nijad Fares and that the son had attempted to give credit for the donation to his father.

Both father and son have a long history of intimate political connections with U.S. politicians and have been major supporters of groups promoting Lebanon’s interests. The family’s main U.S. business holding, a Houston-based firm called the Wedge Group, is a major player in the oil services industry and is headed by William White, the former number two official at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration.

So what sorts of views does Nijad Fares hope will gain traction through fundraising like that done for Ashooh? We have some clues. It seems that Nijad Fares has a track record of giving to congressional candidates, having given handsomely to Rep. Joe Knollenberg and his state legislator son. Knollenberg “put ‘Seeds of Peace’ — a summer camp founded by Yasser Arafat’s fave biographer — on the federal budget.” He also “doled out at least $86 million of our tax money [in USAID funding to southern Lebanon] … allowing Hezbollah to rebuild its strongholds in Southern Lebanon and expand.” That, it seems, is what “increasing Arabs’ clout” is all about. (Fares also gave to Obama and to the only Republican to co-host J Street’s confab, Charles Boustany. Fares is nothing if not consistent in his choice of recipients.)

And then there is this: when the fundraising brouhaha surfaced, Issam was quick to blame the Jews. Caught in a media firestorm for paying a large sum to Colin Powell for a speech five days before the 2000 election, he immediately “accused the ‘Zionist lobby’ of spreading ‘distortion and lies.'”

And the family seems to have an unusual take on Hezbollah, as well. Issam offered this:

“It is a mistake to make a comparison between the [Al Qaeda] network … which Lebanon has condemned, and Hezbollah, which Lebanon considers a resistance party fighting the Israeli occupation,” Fares told Agence France-Presse. He claimed the group has never targeted Americans, a position disputed by U.S. officials as well as Fares’s own Wedge Group CEO.

An Ashooh spokesman had this comment when I asked about the Fares fundraising:

What I can tell you is this: People donate to the Ashooh campaign based on Rich’s positions on the issues. As a candidate, he cannot possibly know or share all of the individual positions his donors may or may not have. At this time, Rich is focused on running a very positive campaign based on fiscal responsibility and bringing conservative, New Hampshire values back to Washington.

So are Ashooh’s positions the same as those of the Fares family, and is he someone ready and willing to increase the clout of Arabs? The campaign did not respond to my direct queries on these points or whether he will return the funds. If it does, I will be sure to pass it on.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.'”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.'”

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.'”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.'”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

Is the NSA helping Google fix its cyberhole? “After Chinese hackers tore Google a new cyberhole in December, the tech titan reportedly looked to an unlikely source for help: the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, better known for tapping phones than patching security holes for private companies. The connection has raised the antennae of Internet privacy experts, who now are warning of the possible risks posed by the close and as-yet undefined ties between the world’s top cybersurveillance agency and a corporate behemoth that has amassed more sensitive data about its users than most personal diaries.” If this were the Bush administration, the ACLU would be going nuts, not just writing letters to Google’s CEO.

Democrats are waking up to just how economically destructive the Obami’s gambit on CO2 is: “Eight Democratic Senators from coal states are mounting a serious challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark ruling that CO2 is a pollutant and demanding a delay in enforcing anti-global warming regulations against polluters.” Hey, they could introduce a bill, get lots of GOP support, and put an end to this.

Independents in Iowa are waking up, too: “A sharp drop in approval for President Barack Obama from Iowa’s political independents has pushed the Democrat’s approval further below 50 percent in the state and below the national average, according to the latest Iowa Poll. Approval among Iowa independents has dropped 10 percentage points since November, to 38 percent. Independents in Iowa helped Obama win the leadoff nominating caucuses in 2008 and later carry the state in the general election.”

In other words, the Left is deluded: “With Obama’s top agenda item, health care legislation, near ruins and congressional Democrats on the defensive heading into this year’s midterm elections, much of the sweeping liberal agenda some of Obama’s supporters hoped for and his enemies feared has been deferred. … And yet in a surreal twilight, issues live on, fed by a kind of mutual dependency between the liberal interest groups that exist to advance them and the conservatives for whom opposing them is a potent rallying force. There is, say liberal leaders who suffered through the drought of the Bush years, no point in giving up.”

When Republican candidates in state Senate races run against Nancy Pelosi, it’s not a good sign for the Democrats: “[Jim] Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 ratio, is glad she’s so unpopular. … Expect the GOP to replicate the strategy in political races around the country this year.”

Bill Bennett explains what was wrong with Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech. A sample: “The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.” Worth reading in full.

Whatever Obama is doing doesn’t seem to be working: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office.”

Sen. Ben Nelson declares, “I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for health care.” Two-thirds of the country would be happy, but Nelson and the voters (especially in his state) don’t see eye-to-eye on health-care reform. It may well be that Nelson blew up his career for nothing.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

Howard Fineman gives credit where credit is due: “In a city obsessed with visibility and celebrity, it largely goes overlooked that the plodding, unglamorous [Mitch] McConnell is Obama’s most powerful foe—the man he must outmaneuver, or at least neutralize, if he wants to reach the sunny uplands of (bipartisan) legislative accomplishment, not to mention a second term in 2012. It will not be easy.”

CONTENTIONS’s Pete Wehner writes: “Republican officeholders and candidates need to make specific, detailed criticisms of Obama’s agenda without being personally nasty toward or disrespectful of Obama himself. … To the GOP’s credit, much of this is already going on. We’ve seen it in the campaigns run by Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, which will be models for others to follow; in the governing record of Indiana’s Mitch Daniels; and in the health care and budget plans put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.” The Left keeps rooting for that GOP “civil war” to break out, but so far no luck.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon on J Street: “The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” Actually, even the J Street gang is nervous about the “pro-Israeli” label.

CNN’s latest: “According to the poll, 44 percent of registered voters say Obama deserves re-election, with 52 percent saying the president does not deserve a second term in office. The survey also indicates that 49 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing as president, with half of the public disapproving of his job in the White House.” Congress does worse: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in the survey say that most Democrats in Congress do not deserve to be re-elected. An equal amount also say that most congressional Republicans don’t deserve re-election.” Republicans lead in the generic polling in this survey, 47 to 45 percent, an eight-point swing their way since November.

More bad polling news the Obami will no doubt ignore: “In a brutal assessment of the Democratically authored healthcare reform bills pending in Congress and the party’s approach to healthcare, more than half of the respondents to a new Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center poll said that lawmakers should start from scratch.”

A fine idea that conservatives should embrace: “The Obama administration, advancing nuclear power use to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Tuesday an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to help Southern Co. build two reactors, a government official told Reuters.” Now if we can agree on domestic oil and gas development, there could be a real bipartisan energy policy.

Even California is less Blue than it used to be: “Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman now runs dead even with likely Democratic nominee Jerry Brown in California’s gubernatorial contest.”

Hispanics aren’t thrilled with the Democrats either. Almost like there’s a wave building.

Not even Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal wants Obama’s help — in Connecticut. Well, if he doesn’t help in Massachusetts, you can understand.

James Taranto relays that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, “admits that the periods 1860-80 and 1910-40 saw global warming on a similar scale to the 1975-98 period, that there has been no significant warming since 1995, and that the so-called Medieval Warm Period calls into question whether the currently observed warming is unprecedented. … So ‘the vast majority of climate scientists’ don’t think the debate is over? Someone had better tell the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee and most of our colleagues in the media, who have long been insisting otherwise–and indeed, who continue to do so.”

Read Less

Why the Truth Constitutes “Incitement”

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

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Re: Surprises

Last night a reader and I tried to recall if another president had lashed out at the Supreme Court in the way Obama went after the Court for its defense of the First Amendment in striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold statute. Obama suggested that the Court was somehow running to the aid of nefarious “foreign entities” and ignored entirely what was at issue in the case — the protection of core political speech. He proclaimed:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

Apparently, Obama is just wrong. The Court’s ruling didn’t impact the section of the statute that prohibits foreign corporations from making campaign donations or expenditures. (And the ban on direct corporate contributions remains in effect.) No wonder Justice Alito mouthed “not true.” (Even the New York Times’s notoriously liberal-leaning former court reporter Linda Greenhouse says Obama botched the case description.)

But aside from that, there’s the unseemly sight of the president berating the Court in this manner. Constitutional scholar Randy Barnett was thinking about the president’s attack too. He writes:

In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.

This conduct is even more repellent given that Obama waves around his law school credentials and constitutional-law teaching background when it’s convenient to impress voters with his command of the fine points of our legal system, yet resorts to know-nothing political posturing on the judiciary when it serves his purposes. And what makes this particularly disingenuous is that the president said a great deal about tone and political posturing last night. He lectured us:

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions — our corporations, our media, and yes, our government — still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

One of those institutions filled with honorable men and women doing important work is the Supreme Court. Obama proceeded to minimize a serious debate over the centrality of the First Amendment to the robust operation of our political system by resorting to a silly argument, from which serious citizens should surely turn away. He conveys not merely a lack of respect for a co-equal branch of government (and ignorance about the ruling he was vilifying) but for the Constitution itself, which he is sworn to uphold. For a lawyer, his conduct is embarrassing; for a president, it is inexcusable.

Last night a reader and I tried to recall if another president had lashed out at the Supreme Court in the way Obama went after the Court for its defense of the First Amendment in striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold statute. Obama suggested that the Court was somehow running to the aid of nefarious “foreign entities” and ignored entirely what was at issue in the case — the protection of core political speech. He proclaimed:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

Apparently, Obama is just wrong. The Court’s ruling didn’t impact the section of the statute that prohibits foreign corporations from making campaign donations or expenditures. (And the ban on direct corporate contributions remains in effect.) No wonder Justice Alito mouthed “not true.” (Even the New York Times’s notoriously liberal-leaning former court reporter Linda Greenhouse says Obama botched the case description.)

But aside from that, there’s the unseemly sight of the president berating the Court in this manner. Constitutional scholar Randy Barnett was thinking about the president’s attack too. He writes:

In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.

This conduct is even more repellent given that Obama waves around his law school credentials and constitutional-law teaching background when it’s convenient to impress voters with his command of the fine points of our legal system, yet resorts to know-nothing political posturing on the judiciary when it serves his purposes. And what makes this particularly disingenuous is that the president said a great deal about tone and political posturing last night. He lectured us:

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions — our corporations, our media, and yes, our government — still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

One of those institutions filled with honorable men and women doing important work is the Supreme Court. Obama proceeded to minimize a serious debate over the centrality of the First Amendment to the robust operation of our political system by resorting to a silly argument, from which serious citizens should surely turn away. He conveys not merely a lack of respect for a co-equal branch of government (and ignorance about the ruling he was vilifying) but for the Constitution itself, which he is sworn to uphold. For a lawyer, his conduct is embarrassing; for a president, it is inexcusable.

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LIVE BLOG: ‘We Don’t Quit. I Don’t Quit’

His concluding peroration was pretty dazzling:

In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America – values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still.  Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers.  Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country.  They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit.  These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values they’re living by; business values or labor values.  They are American values.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions – our corporations, our media, and yes, our government – still reflect these same values.  Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.  But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow.  Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith.  The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That’s just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths.  We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

But I also know this:  if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight.  The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.  But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.  And what keeps me going – what keeps me fighting – is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism – that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people – lives on.

That’s good speechifying.

His concluding peroration was pretty dazzling:

In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America – values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still.  Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers.  Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country.  They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit.  These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values they’re living by; business values or labor values.  They are American values.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions – our corporations, our media, and yes, our government – still reflect these same values.  Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.  But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow.  Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith.  The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That’s just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths.  We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

But I also know this:  if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight.  The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.  But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.  And what keeps me going – what keeps me fighting – is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism – that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people – lives on.

That’s good speechifying.

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Even Boxer and Feinstein Get It

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

Even Boxer and Feinstein get it. Well, sort of. They get the prospect of electoral vulnerability, at least. In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, the Los Angeles Times’ California Politics column quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer today acknowledging that “every state is now in play, absolutely.”

Boxer, who got 57 percent of the vote in her 2004 reelection campaign, faces California voters this fall. Republicans are encouraged that she showed poorly – for her – in a January Rasmussen poll against the GOP contenders, who include former tech-industry CEO Carly Fiorina. Boxer’s best margin was a 46-40 showing against state legislator Chuck DeVore, but his is the interesting figure: with his name recognition lower than Fiorina’s, the historical pattern would have been for him to get a number no better than the low 30s. DeVore’s 40 signifies that voters are likely turning away from Boxer.

It’s not a given that the California GOP gets it, of course. Republican Tom Campbell, who switched from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race after Scott Brown surged in the Massachusetts polls last week, has probably thrown up a fresh obstacle to party unity in November. Some shaking out of cobwebs will be inevitable this year in a state party that has been remarkably unsuccessful for at least two decades.

But President Obama’s support is slipping significantly among Californians, and their dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and the nation is growing. What Republicans need to learn from Scott Brown’s success is that voters respond to forceful, specific, and positive messages. Jennifer captures this in her comments on the Brown victory speech. GOP candidates probably will not have the looming threat of ObamaCare to run against this fall; the Democrats look likely to back off and postpone that reckoning. Without that crystallizing threat in voters’ minds, the candidates’ positive messages will have to do the heavy lifting.

The 2010 opportunity is unique, however. Dianne Feinstein is California’s other occupant of one of the safest Senate seats in the country, and she demonstrated, in just a few words quoted today by the LA Times, that she misreads what voters want to hear:

People are very unsettled. They are very worried. There is anger. There is angst. … You see high unemployment. …You see anger. … The administration has to see it, and we have to see it. And therefore, everything is jobs and the economy and education.

Contrast that with the passage Jennifer cites from Brown’s speech last night:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the agenda of a new establishment in Washington.

In this aspect of the 2010 political environment, it’s Scott Brown who gets it. The American people aren’t writhing in anger and angst, confusedly demanding that government do something about “jobs, economy, and education.” They know exactly what they think is wrong today, and the problem, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is government. Scott Brown’s unvarnished directness has been respectful of voters as thinking citizens. If Republicans take that to heart, they will have an inherent advantage over many long-entrenched Democrats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

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How Obama Can Win in Copenhagen

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

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Australians: Climate Change vs. Economics

Today the Australian Parliament blocked a cap-and-trade bill, which has been one of the pet legislative projects of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is a good example of the choice lawmakers across the world are facing — whether to favor strong economic policy or strong climate-change policy. And at least in Australia, the majority of policymakers have sided with business. Leaders across the world would do well to take note of Australia’s domestic climate-change debate as they pack their bags for Copenhagen.

“The right time for an emissions trading scheme is when the rest of the world is signed up for one and that way all the economies will labor under the same emissions constraints,” said Tony Abbott, whose skepticism on climate change helped him displace opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. He also said, “I am very happy to see the Australian Prime Minister cut a big figure on the world stage, but we aren’t going to damage the Australian economy to serve Kevin Rudd’s ego.”

Abbott is right, and the climate-change-policy advocates face one key impediment: while economic realities are undeniable, climate-change concerns remain nebulous (especially given this week’s Climategate). Nations can hardly be expected to charitably submit to a big economic disadvantage. So countries and politicians can’t be blamed for addressing their more certain interests first. Read More

Today the Australian Parliament blocked a cap-and-trade bill, which has been one of the pet legislative projects of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is a good example of the choice lawmakers across the world are facing — whether to favor strong economic policy or strong climate-change policy. And at least in Australia, the majority of policymakers have sided with business. Leaders across the world would do well to take note of Australia’s domestic climate-change debate as they pack their bags for Copenhagen.

“The right time for an emissions trading scheme is when the rest of the world is signed up for one and that way all the economies will labor under the same emissions constraints,” said Tony Abbott, whose skepticism on climate change helped him displace opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. He also said, “I am very happy to see the Australian Prime Minister cut a big figure on the world stage, but we aren’t going to damage the Australian economy to serve Kevin Rudd’s ego.”

Abbott is right, and the climate-change-policy advocates face one key impediment: while economic realities are undeniable, climate-change concerns remain nebulous (especially given this week’s Climategate). Nations can hardly be expected to charitably submit to a big economic disadvantage. So countries and politicians can’t be blamed for addressing their more certain interests first.

Since last year, Australian business has called the cap-and-trade bill “a company killer.” The Business Council of Australia examined 14 companies and determined that at least three would close altogether if the cap-and-trade bill passed, and two more might soon follow. It also cited research claiming that companies’ pre-tax earnings would suffer by 22 percent on average. The Australian populace seems to be listening; according to a recent Lowy Institute poll, climate change has fallen to their seventh foreign-policy priority.

But the climate-change lobbyists have done an especially laughable job of addressing economic concerns, especially after the defeat of the cap-and-trade bill in Australia.

Tim Hanlin, chief executive of Australian Climate Exchange, frets that businesses are “now back in the dark” and will struggle to make investment decisions “with no certainty about the carbon price.” But Mr. Hanlin misses the point that the very policy he endorses is the problem, not the solution. Australian businesses aren’t timid about investment itself; they’re justifiably hesitant to invest when they face crippling taxes and restrictive government policy.

Likewise, John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said: “The defeat of [the Australian cap-and-trade bill] is a not only a stumble for Australia doing its bit on climate change, it is an economic stumble, and a competitiveness stumble for Australia. The low-carbon train is leaving the station around the world and Australia is haemorrhaging investments in clean energy industries and technology to competitors in developed and developing countries.” Connor should consider: if low-carbon industry is really as significant an economic boon as he believes, if it really is so surprisingly efficient, if it will really save money and create jobs — shouldn’t it be able to compete even if government doesn’t cripple its rivals?

The climate-change lobby will have to do a better job of defending their position than they’ve done today. At least in Australia, those most ardent about climate change are not enough of a majority to ram bills through the Parliament. They need the support of the moderates and the conservatives — the very groups Rudd and his followers have alienated with their polarizing language. So these same climate-change-policy advocates must now turn to persuasion and honest debate. That promises to be difficult. The urgency of the climate-change message has, thus far, been more easily paired with emotion than rationality.

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We’re the Real Enemy

Last year, barely a month after the UN Security Council had approved Res. 1747, instituting new sanctions against Iran, Austrian energy giant, OMV, signed the biggest energy deal to date ($22 billion) with the Islamic Republic.

The deal was the focus of attention at yesterday’s OMV annual shareholders’ meeting. Questioned about the soundness–moral and otherwise–of his company’s natural gas deal with Iran, OMV CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer replied that “The details are to be negotiated” and there is “no foreseeable result” regarding the implementation of the deal, according to a Jerusalem Post article. OMV potentially faces obstacles and pressures from the UN and the U.S.

However, added Ruttenstorfer, things might change. According to the Post, Ruttenstorfer thinks “time is an ally.” Not, as you might hope, because he believes that with time a new, non-oppressive regime might rise in Tehran. No, the kind of political change OMV hopes for is in the U.S., so that OMV can proceed unhindered in its lucrative deal–even if such a deal will strengthen an oppressive regime with hazardous nuclear ambitions.

The Austrian government owns 31.5 percent of OMV. It’s regrettable that a nominal U.S. ally did not oppose OMV’s deal with Iran. For some in Europe, evidently, the real threat to European interests is not Iran but America.

Last year, barely a month after the UN Security Council had approved Res. 1747, instituting new sanctions against Iran, Austrian energy giant, OMV, signed the biggest energy deal to date ($22 billion) with the Islamic Republic.

The deal was the focus of attention at yesterday’s OMV annual shareholders’ meeting. Questioned about the soundness–moral and otherwise–of his company’s natural gas deal with Iran, OMV CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer replied that “The details are to be negotiated” and there is “no foreseeable result” regarding the implementation of the deal, according to a Jerusalem Post article. OMV potentially faces obstacles and pressures from the UN and the U.S.

However, added Ruttenstorfer, things might change. According to the Post, Ruttenstorfer thinks “time is an ally.” Not, as you might hope, because he believes that with time a new, non-oppressive regime might rise in Tehran. No, the kind of political change OMV hopes for is in the U.S., so that OMV can proceed unhindered in its lucrative deal–even if such a deal will strengthen an oppressive regime with hazardous nuclear ambitions.

The Austrian government owns 31.5 percent of OMV. It’s regrettable that a nominal U.S. ally did not oppose OMV’s deal with Iran. For some in Europe, evidently, the real threat to European interests is not Iran but America.

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McCain Health Care Conference Call

Doug Holtz-Eakin, senior policy advisor, and Carly Fiorina, RNC Victory 2008 Chair and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, held a conference call today as part of John McCain’s healthcare rollout.

There’s good in the McCain plan. Both advisors stressed that McCain’s plan puts “patients in charge,” and they both emphasized that under the McCain plan drug importation would be permitted. McCain has broken with many Republicans and drug industry interests in pushing to allow drug imports from places like Canada.

But there are real problems with the plan as well. Skeptical questioners on the call asked how McCain is going to compete with Democratic plans that guarantee health insurance universally. This is an intractable problem. McCain will need to convince people that the Democratic plan is either unrealistic (see the Massachusetts example), too expensive, or will impair the good things in the American health care system (e.g. doctor choice innovation). And we have yet to see McCain get fired up on a domestic issue to the extent he can sell something like this, which is not at first glance better than what the Democrats are offering.

There is also a fair amount of fudging going on. Where are all the cost savings going to come from? In large part, says the McCain team, from innovation. But, as they revealed in response to a question, these are things that private companies (e.g. insurers or employers) do. So where is government going to get money to cover or subsidize all those hard-to-insure people in the GAP plan? Not clear.

And isn’t GAP really another entitlement? The McCain campaign said in response to my follow-up question after the call that the GAP plan is “an effort to work with states to develop approaches to establishing a market to assure coverage for higher-risk folks who find it hard to get insurance.” That is thin gruel for those advocating universal coverage, and ominous for fiscal conservatives concerned this will be a drain on taxpayers. So the McCain team has its work cut out for it. But it is best to start practicing healthcare salesmanship now, on a day when the media is consumed with Obama-Wright coverage.

Doug Holtz-Eakin, senior policy advisor, and Carly Fiorina, RNC Victory 2008 Chair and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, held a conference call today as part of John McCain’s healthcare rollout.

There’s good in the McCain plan. Both advisors stressed that McCain’s plan puts “patients in charge,” and they both emphasized that under the McCain plan drug importation would be permitted. McCain has broken with many Republicans and drug industry interests in pushing to allow drug imports from places like Canada.

But there are real problems with the plan as well. Skeptical questioners on the call asked how McCain is going to compete with Democratic plans that guarantee health insurance universally. This is an intractable problem. McCain will need to convince people that the Democratic plan is either unrealistic (see the Massachusetts example), too expensive, or will impair the good things in the American health care system (e.g. doctor choice innovation). And we have yet to see McCain get fired up on a domestic issue to the extent he can sell something like this, which is not at first glance better than what the Democrats are offering.

There is also a fair amount of fudging going on. Where are all the cost savings going to come from? In large part, says the McCain team, from innovation. But, as they revealed in response to a question, these are things that private companies (e.g. insurers or employers) do. So where is government going to get money to cover or subsidize all those hard-to-insure people in the GAP plan? Not clear.

And isn’t GAP really another entitlement? The McCain campaign said in response to my follow-up question after the call that the GAP plan is “an effort to work with states to develop approaches to establishing a market to assure coverage for higher-risk folks who find it hard to get insurance.” That is thin gruel for those advocating universal coverage, and ominous for fiscal conservatives concerned this will be a drain on taxpayers. So the McCain team has its work cut out for it. But it is best to start practicing healthcare salesmanship now, on a day when the media is consumed with Obama-Wright coverage.

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When al Qaeda Could Cool Off

Egyptian al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef was an effective CEO. When he caught one of his men being wasteful and insubordinate, he fired off a memo that would make Jack Welch blush with envy. This excerpt is from that newly released memo, written sometime before 2001:

I was very upset by what you did. I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family’s trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. . . . Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit . . . furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. . . . I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.

It seems doubtful that Osama bin Laden is today cooling himself before GE’s latest cave unit. Bureaucratic nitpicking is a sign of petty fractures, sure. But it’s also a luxury, a sign of strength and organizational viability: a ragtag group of wayward fighters doesn’t waste time issuing reprimands over the mishandling of vouchers.

A popular line of argument maintains that al Qaeda, prior to the War on Terror, was less a reified entity and more a collective state of mind. According to this argument, our concerted military effort against al Qaeda helped the group coalesce and gain strength. That is, the War on Terror turned a manageable phenomenon of scattered troublemakers into a formidable enemy.

Pre-War on Terror documents like the one above provide an eloquent refutation of that claim. In 2001 al Qaeda was well-funded, well-organized, and virtually care-free. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine today’s al Qaeda (which has been broken and scattered) reprimanding foot soldiers about losing track of receipts—let alone air conditioners. The only communiqués that show up these days bemoan plummeting morale and increasing troop losses.

Egyptian al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef was an effective CEO. When he caught one of his men being wasteful and insubordinate, he fired off a memo that would make Jack Welch blush with envy. This excerpt is from that newly released memo, written sometime before 2001:

I was very upset by what you did. I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family’s trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. . . . Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit . . . furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. . . . I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.

It seems doubtful that Osama bin Laden is today cooling himself before GE’s latest cave unit. Bureaucratic nitpicking is a sign of petty fractures, sure. But it’s also a luxury, a sign of strength and organizational viability: a ragtag group of wayward fighters doesn’t waste time issuing reprimands over the mishandling of vouchers.

A popular line of argument maintains that al Qaeda, prior to the War on Terror, was less a reified entity and more a collective state of mind. According to this argument, our concerted military effort against al Qaeda helped the group coalesce and gain strength. That is, the War on Terror turned a manageable phenomenon of scattered troublemakers into a formidable enemy.

Pre-War on Terror documents like the one above provide an eloquent refutation of that claim. In 2001 al Qaeda was well-funded, well-organized, and virtually care-free. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine today’s al Qaeda (which has been broken and scattered) reprimanding foot soldiers about losing track of receipts—let alone air conditioners. The only communiqués that show up these days bemoan plummeting morale and increasing troop losses.

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Flogging on the Quads

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

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His Own Economic Niche

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

Today John McCain delivered his most comprehensive economic address to date. It was a clear-cut effort to distinguish himself from both his opponents and to escape being tagged Bush’s twin. The latter will be the ongoing theme, I anticipate, of nearly every policy address. The McCain team believes this is a necessity–a reasonable assessment given Bush’s political standing.

McCain railed against “extravagant salaries and severance deals for CEO’s.” Fiscal conservatives are going to want to know at some point whether this is jawboning or whether he actually intends to get into the business of regulating the private sector’s personnel decisions.

He also said he intends to oppose the repeal of the bevy of tax cuts due to expire in 2010, and drove home the message of fiscal conservatism. But he’s beginning to pepper his fiscal discipline talk with some distinctly populist notions: he promises to turn away “subsidies for special pleaders . . . no more corporate welfare . . . no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas.” On taxes he spoke of corporate rate reduction and a doubling of the exemption for dependents. On healthcare, he offered reform but also promised to charge the wealthy more for Medicare Part D.

On the home mortgage crisis fiscal conservatives will grimace: he essentially joined the stampede for direct government intervention. One wonders what all the responsible home owners will think of their new obligation to in effect co-sign loans for those already proven to be financially irresponsible.

In short: McCain is looking to mollify fiscal conservatives by hewing to free market principles–with the exception of his plans to address the home mortgage crisis. (Club for Growth gives him credit for the tax and spend proposals but raps him for leaving taxpayers “on the hook” for bad loans and getting government into the business of re-writing home loan agreements.)

For independents there is an effort to sound notes not typical of a cookie-cutter, pro-business Republican. This ad makes an even more overt play for independents. The speech, in other words, is an opening salvo in the fight against the Democrats for the all-important independent voters.

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On The Same Team

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

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Gates vs. Grove

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

Last week, the two most significant figures to emerge from the technology industry, Bill Gates and Andy Grove, offered views about how capitalism can solve complex social problems. Their thinking could not be more different, and the differences are instructive — and not favorable to Gates.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was at Davos, where he delivered a much-publicized speech advocating “creative capitalism.” The phrase has a nice ring, and Davos major domo Kurt Schwab endorsed it as an “enlightened” view of capitalism. In fact, it was remarkably unimaginative. Gates argued that business needs to “stretch the reach of market forces,” because there are so many places in the world where capitalism has not yet worked. He said that technology and micro financing can provide solutions for business, health, and social problems in the developing world.

All this is unobjectionable. Indeed, it is precisely what all smart companies have been doing since globalization became a reality. Everyone from soap makers to vaccine manufacturers has been figuring out how to create very inexpensive versions of much-needed products. This is how capitalism adapts to new situations, although not every business learns. Where capitalism is failing in the developing world, it is more often due to the absence of political freedom – a subject apparently too sensitive for the international harmony at Davos.

If you want to take a deeper look at creative capitalism, read the current Forbes article on Andy Grove’s efforts to advance research on Parkinson’s Disease. Grove, the co-founder and former CEO of Intel, has consistently proven to be a much deeper thinker than Gates on social and public issues. When he examined how the National Institutes of Health and leading pharmaceutical companies were dealing with Parkinson’s (he was diagnosed with the disease in 2000), he realized that not enough people were asking why there had been so much failure and why so few new treatments had emerged.

The Forbes article provides an entirely different view of how private wealth can bring fresh thinking to the work of government and corporations. The amount Grove is spending is a fraction of what the Gates Foundation has, but you do get the sense that his “creative capitalism” is far more rigorous than what Gates has in mind. For Grove, the problem isn’t the nature of capitalism, it is the lack of contrarian second-guessing within business and governments that is the real enemy of innovation. This doesn’t go down as well as talking about the limits of capitalism. But it strikes me as a much smarter critique of market failures.

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Europe, Iran, and Energy

On the heels of the NIE release in December, European energy giants are flocking back to Tehran to sign lucrative deals. On December 22, Italian energy company ENI was reported to be ready to sign an important gas deal with National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC), as its CEO, Nosratollah Seifi told the Farsi News Agency. Whatever the time frame of this deal, the signal is clear: CEO’s feel there is no war on the horizon and it is safe to invest in Iran. Nor is the road to EU sanctions open: many member states are against sanctions, fearful of losing important market shares to China and Russia, after it took European companies so many years and so much effort and capital to penetrate Iran’s markets.

Europeans make a reasonable case against sanctions, especially in the energy sector, citing the need for diversification of energy sources, calling engagement—both economic and political—a means to leverage on Tehran that Washington lacks, and claiming that a European withdrawal from Iran’s markets would only pave the way for Chinese, Russian and Indian competition to move in—with little impact on Iran’s economy. But the truth is that Europeans sell technology which few non-Western companies can currently match in quality and precision. Whether it’s building dams or tunnels, liquid natural gas (LNG) technology or fuel refinement, and with the Americans out of the game, European technology is hard to beat. This makes Iran vulnerable to European pressure.

Take gas, Iran’s biggest natural resource after oil. Though Iran sits on the largest single natural gas field in the world, most phases of production (both the ones that are operational and the ones being developed) rely on the know-how of European and other Western companies. With the partial exception of Phase 2 and 3—operated by TotalElfFina on behalf of the Russian Gazprom and the Malaysian Petronas—all other companies are either European or South Korean. If they were to withdraw, deny spare parts supply, stop importing extraction technology and refuse to build liquefaction facilities, Iran would be sitting on its gas forever, because it would take years before the Russians, the Chinese, and the Indians could replace European and other Western companies.

Europeans should look at Iran past their fantasies of a stable and powerful regime backed by a proud and patriotic nation: the Iranian state is 50 percent non-Persian, and the specter of revolt in the provinces is always around the corner. Pressure can be mounted to make this regime feel more vulnerable, knowing that, aside from being a powerful political signal, the withdrawal from Iran’s energy sector of Europe’s energy giants might have in the short terms momentous repercussions on Iran’s economy and the stability of its regime.

On the heels of the NIE release in December, European energy giants are flocking back to Tehran to sign lucrative deals. On December 22, Italian energy company ENI was reported to be ready to sign an important gas deal with National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC), as its CEO, Nosratollah Seifi told the Farsi News Agency. Whatever the time frame of this deal, the signal is clear: CEO’s feel there is no war on the horizon and it is safe to invest in Iran. Nor is the road to EU sanctions open: many member states are against sanctions, fearful of losing important market shares to China and Russia, after it took European companies so many years and so much effort and capital to penetrate Iran’s markets.

Europeans make a reasonable case against sanctions, especially in the energy sector, citing the need for diversification of energy sources, calling engagement—both economic and political—a means to leverage on Tehran that Washington lacks, and claiming that a European withdrawal from Iran’s markets would only pave the way for Chinese, Russian and Indian competition to move in—with little impact on Iran’s economy. But the truth is that Europeans sell technology which few non-Western companies can currently match in quality and precision. Whether it’s building dams or tunnels, liquid natural gas (LNG) technology or fuel refinement, and with the Americans out of the game, European technology is hard to beat. This makes Iran vulnerable to European pressure.

Take gas, Iran’s biggest natural resource after oil. Though Iran sits on the largest single natural gas field in the world, most phases of production (both the ones that are operational and the ones being developed) rely on the know-how of European and other Western companies. With the partial exception of Phase 2 and 3—operated by TotalElfFina on behalf of the Russian Gazprom and the Malaysian Petronas—all other companies are either European or South Korean. If they were to withdraw, deny spare parts supply, stop importing extraction technology and refuse to build liquefaction facilities, Iran would be sitting on its gas forever, because it would take years before the Russians, the Chinese, and the Indians could replace European and other Western companies.

Europeans should look at Iran past their fantasies of a stable and powerful regime backed by a proud and patriotic nation: the Iranian state is 50 percent non-Persian, and the specter of revolt in the provinces is always around the corner. Pressure can be mounted to make this regime feel more vulnerable, knowing that, aside from being a powerful political signal, the withdrawal from Iran’s energy sector of Europe’s energy giants might have in the short terms momentous repercussions on Iran’s economy and the stability of its regime.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: Hillary Against Lobbyists for Drug Companies?

Clinton likes to accuse her opponents of having staff members who are “lobbyists for the drug companies.” It’s a specious, meaningless charge. But shouldn’t someone point out that Mark Penn, chief Hillary strategist, is also CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the PR firm for Wyeth, Pfizer, Amgen and hundreds of other corporations? I don’t see anything wrong with Mark Penn’s career, but the depth of her phoniness is breathtaking.

Clinton likes to accuse her opponents of having staff members who are “lobbyists for the drug companies.” It’s a specious, meaningless charge. But shouldn’t someone point out that Mark Penn, chief Hillary strategist, is also CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the PR firm for Wyeth, Pfizer, Amgen and hundreds of other corporations? I don’t see anything wrong with Mark Penn’s career, but the depth of her phoniness is breathtaking.

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