Commentary Magazine


Topic: Conservative party

The Decline and Fall of David Cameron’s Tory Centrism

David Cameron is in trouble. His Tory party is fraying, with conservatives fleeing or threatening to flee to right-wing parties and non-conservatives distinctly unimpressed with his flailing dash to the center. He is unable to win over converts or keep his own party in line, and thus his career is fading along with his poll numbers. Last week the Washington Post reported on a Tory revolt in the House of Commons over Cameron’s stance on social issues. And today, the UK edition of GQ magazine hits newsstands and contains an interview with Cameron’s former spokesman which discusses the gains of the prime minister’s intraparty rival.

Though rumors have swirled for quite some time that Cameron was susceptible to a Tory leadership challenge from London Mayor Boris Johnson–who is not a member of the British parliament (though he served until 2008) and thus should not be nearly so close in Cameron’s rearview mirror–the idea that Johnson will replace him is now commonly discussed in terms of when, not if (though perhaps they should be discussing how). Cameron’s former flack, Andy Coulson, was asked by GQ about the Boris effect. The full interview seems to be behind a paywall, but the magazine has released snippets to non-subscribers. When asked for his take on Johnson, Coulson responded:

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David Cameron is in trouble. His Tory party is fraying, with conservatives fleeing or threatening to flee to right-wing parties and non-conservatives distinctly unimpressed with his flailing dash to the center. He is unable to win over converts or keep his own party in line, and thus his career is fading along with his poll numbers. Last week the Washington Post reported on a Tory revolt in the House of Commons over Cameron’s stance on social issues. And today, the UK edition of GQ magazine hits newsstands and contains an interview with Cameron’s former spokesman which discusses the gains of the prime minister’s intraparty rival.

Though rumors have swirled for quite some time that Cameron was susceptible to a Tory leadership challenge from London Mayor Boris Johnson–who is not a member of the British parliament (though he served until 2008) and thus should not be nearly so close in Cameron’s rearview mirror–the idea that Johnson will replace him is now commonly discussed in terms of when, not if (though perhaps they should be discussing how). Cameron’s former flack, Andy Coulson, was asked by GQ about the Boris effect. The full interview seems to be behind a paywall, but the magazine has released snippets to non-subscribers. When asked for his take on Johnson, Coulson responded:

Boris Johnson desperately wants to be prime minister and David has known that fact longer than most.  When Boris asked me to pass on the message that he was keen to stand as mayor of London, David responded, “Well, if he wins, he’ll want my job next.”  If proof were needed that our PM is a man untroubled by self doubt, it came in his next sentence, “So I think he’ll be a bloody brilliant candidate for us”…..Stabbing David, or anyone else for that matter, in the back would be distinctly off brand — just not very Boris.  He would much prefer to see David fail miserably in the election and ride in on his bike to save party and country.

Though it would likely be easy to find a seat in the Commons for Johnson, and though the premiership has evolved unofficially over time from more modest–and still unofficial, in a strict sense–beginnings, this would be a remarkable turn of events. Born in New York City with family roots scattered across Europe, Johnson is a colorful loose cannon able to appeal to working-class voters despite his classic Eton and Oxford education. That has been the right mix for Londoners, who have now twice elected him over Labour’s “Red” Ken Livingstone. Boris today has a 65 percent approval rating, with “charismatic” being the most popular one-term description of the mayor.

That poll is better for Boris than it looks. YouGov asked respondents which term applies to Johnson: charismatic; sticks to beliefs; natural leader; in touch with ordinary people; strong; decisive; good in a crisis; honest; none of these; don’t know. Almost 60 percent said charismatic, his highest among the choices. YouGov asked respondents the same question of Cameron, and the term chosen the most was: none of these, at 45 percent.

But the idea that Cameron is already a lame duck within his own party, and maybe even about to be replaced by the mayor of London, would mean Cameron has risen fast and fallen faster. How did that happen? It isn’t same-sex marriage, to be sure. Cameron’s vacillating on Britain’s membership in the European Union has been far more consequential an issue to his fellow Tories (and to the party scooping up Tory defectors, UKIP). The Washington Post story gets closer to the answer, when it gets a quote from Tory Lord David Howell:

“Old fossils like me always wondered about this great shift to the promised land of the center,” said Lord David Howell, who served in Thatcher’s conservative cabinet in the 1980s. “Is it really just a journey to a place where no one really likes you anymore?”

In Cameron’s case, the answer appears to be: yes. But it would be more accurate to say that Cameron’s popularity never really existed as prime minister in the first place, and that his steady shift to the center, on the EU and other matters, were the disease and not the cure–though Cameron confused each for its opposite.

Almost exactly one year before the May 2010 general election, Cameron’s Conservative Party polled at 43 percent, which gave them a 16 percent lead in first place. The lead fluctuated, but generally hovered around that mark until it began slipping in the fall and continued dropping into the new year. By mid-April, the lead had completely evaporated, with the Liberal Democrats posting a one-point lead and Labour only seven points behind. Cameron eventually recovered for a seven-point victory that forced a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

What happened? At the risk of oversimplifying, Cameron was beginning to waver on campaign promises months before he even won. Polls in September 2009 found majority support for a national referendum on EU membership. By early October, the Guardian was reporting that “David Cameron retreats on European referendum,” instead promising to “repatriate” some powers back to Britain in lieu of letting the people make the choice. That same article notes that a certain mayor of London publicly disagreed, saying he wanted a referendum “and a lot of people will agree with me.”

There is more to Cameron’s unpopularity than just the EU issue, but it’s indicative of his general governing style: desperately grasping for a centrist solution that will maximize support but which ends up minimizing support, in part because of poor policy ideas and in part because he gives off the impression of a politician in over his head. Once upon a time Cameron benefited from debates about whether Boris Johnson could do any better than he could. If they are now debating whether Boris could possibly do any worse, Cameron is on his way out.

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What Not to Learn in London

Mitt Romney is in London today showing his ability to act on the international stage as well as seeking to emphasize that he is prepared to embrace America’s traditional allies in Britain, Poland and Israel in contrast to President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from these nations. In London he will also get reacquainted with British Prime Minister David Cameron with whom he found himself in an unplanned and unnecessary spat about Olympic preparations. But rather than take lessons from him on how to get elected and to govern as a conservative, Cameron provides a sterling example of the bad choices that Romney should avoid during the campaign as well as once in office should he triumph in November.

It should be stipulated that the political cultures and circumstances of the two countries are vastly different. For all of their problems, Republicans are not in the position that Britain’s Conservative Party found itself prior to Cameron becoming PM in May 2010. The Tories needed a makeover after 13 years out of government while Tony Blair’s new Labor ruled. They got it with the handsome Cameron who sought to refashion the party’s image away from Margaret Thatcher’s “nasty party” to a new Conservative leadership that embraced environmentalism, gay rights and any other issue that would make them more popular. But while Cameron remains in residence at Number 10 Downing Street, the experiment of watering down conservative ideology has not been successful. The instinctively moderate Romney needs to take notice of Cameron’s failures. If he doesn’t, it will not only reduce his chances of victory over President Obama but impact his chances of making a difference even if he wins.

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Mitt Romney is in London today showing his ability to act on the international stage as well as seeking to emphasize that he is prepared to embrace America’s traditional allies in Britain, Poland and Israel in contrast to President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from these nations. In London he will also get reacquainted with British Prime Minister David Cameron with whom he found himself in an unplanned and unnecessary spat about Olympic preparations. But rather than take lessons from him on how to get elected and to govern as a conservative, Cameron provides a sterling example of the bad choices that Romney should avoid during the campaign as well as once in office should he triumph in November.

It should be stipulated that the political cultures and circumstances of the two countries are vastly different. For all of their problems, Republicans are not in the position that Britain’s Conservative Party found itself prior to Cameron becoming PM in May 2010. The Tories needed a makeover after 13 years out of government while Tony Blair’s new Labor ruled. They got it with the handsome Cameron who sought to refashion the party’s image away from Margaret Thatcher’s “nasty party” to a new Conservative leadership that embraced environmentalism, gay rights and any other issue that would make them more popular. But while Cameron remains in residence at Number 10 Downing Street, the experiment of watering down conservative ideology has not been successful. The instinctively moderate Romney needs to take notice of Cameron’s failures. If he doesn’t, it will not only reduce his chances of victory over President Obama but impact his chances of making a difference even if he wins.

Some would argue that Cameron had to take the Tories down a path in which traditional conservative positions were jettisoned. Britain had moved on from Thatcher’s era, and the move of Labor to the center under Blair stood to become permanent if the Tories did not accommodate themselves to the change in the climate. Cameron’s embrace of politically correct positions on social issues and the environment combined with fiscal conservatism seemed the perfect formula for victory. But in spite of Labor’s collapse under Blair’s successor Gordon Brown and the readiness of the voters for change, Cameron’s weak tea approach to policy did not bring the victory he expected. Instead of winning the election outright, he was forced to make a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to achieve his goal of becoming prime minister. But in order to do that, he had to further weaken his party’s base.

Two years later, Cameron is saddled with a disgruntled liberal coalition partner and a party base that not only despises him but which is, as Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail writes, literally disintegrating. Though Tories cannot count on the same large, religious and deeply politically conservative base that is the heart of the GOP, the party activists in the shires, without whom future victories are impossible, are abandoning Cameron in droves. He is getting all the blame for Britain’s austerity budget. but having failed to provide a clear ideological alternative to Labor (British writer Melanie Phillips aptly dubbed him “David Obameron” in response to his open affection for the American president), he is unable to frame the issue in a manner that will gain him credit for keeping the nation afloat.

While the dilemmas facing Republicans and Tories are starkly different, what Romney can learn from Cameron is that a politician who tries to be all things to all people can not only snatch near defeat from the jaws of victory as the PM did two years ago but is not likely to be able to govern effectively or retain the loyalty of his party. Standing up for conservative principles can be difficult in the face of the opprobrium that it will bring from the liberal mainstream media, but such brickbats are the price one must pay for principle. Cameron was unwilling to pay that price, and though he may have achieved his ambition to become prime minister, it has cost him the ability to govern effectively and may well lead to his eventual defeat.

Romney should enjoy his British visit, but if he wants a good British model he should look to Cameron’s Tory predecessors such as Thatcher and Winston Churchill (whose bust he has promised to return to the Oval Office after its removal by Obama). If he wants to win he should follow their examples rather than that of the feckless Obama-light Cameron.

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Churchill, Edward VIII, and ‘Arms and the Covenant’

Christopher Hitchens doesn’t like The King’s Speech. Not because of its cinematic qualities, which he appreciates, but because of its political ones. According to him, the movie is a “a gross falsification of history” because it shows Churchill as “generally in favor of a statesmanlike solution to the crisis of the abdication” and because it neglects to portray Edward VIII as “a firm admirer of the Third Reich” and George VI as an appeaser and anti-Churchill.

When I first read Hitchens’s piece, my mind flashed back to an article Hitchens contributed to the Atlantic in July/August 2002, an article that, as the subtitle puts it, “takes the Great Man down a peg or two.” It occasioned a characteristically understated and effective response from my adviser Paul Kennedy, who pointed out the “misinformation” that Hitchens appeared to be circulating. Not at all abashed, Hitchens continues to regret that “it seems we shall never reach a time when the Churchill cult is open for honest inspection.”

It’s curious that Hitchens both criticizes the “Churchill cult” for supporting the Great Man, and George VI for supposedly failing to do so. But Hitchens is shooting at several targets simultaneously: Churchill for being a monarchist, and the monarchy for existing. When coupled with his opposition to appeasement, the result is not always convincing.

Of Edward VIII, let us say little. Hitchens may be putting it too strongly when he characterizes him as firmly committed to the Third Reich — Edward was too self-centered and witless to be firmly committed to anything but his own desires, which was why he didn’t last long on the throne — but there’s no doubt he was an embarrassment and a liability. Fortunately, his ability to do mischief was seriously limited by the fact that he was a constitutional monarch. And, regrettably, his opinions were far from unique: in mid-1930s Britain, they were held by many people whose views mattered a good deal more than his.

George VI deserved better than he gets from Hitchens, who believes that the monarch’s supposedly shabby history “can easily be known by anybody willing to do some elementary research.” Yes, George supported Chamberlain and initially distrusted Churchill. In this, he was sadly far from unusual. What Hitchens doesn’t point out is that, once Churchill was in charge, George gave him — in the words of David Cannadine, a far from friendly historian — “loyal and increasingly admiring support throughout the war.” If Hitchens wants to call out the monarchy’s errors before May 1940, that’s fine; but there’s no “post-fabricated myth of its participation in ‘Britain’s finest hour.’” The participation was real, and if George had a bad peace, he had a good war. The same can be said of many others. Read More

Christopher Hitchens doesn’t like The King’s Speech. Not because of its cinematic qualities, which he appreciates, but because of its political ones. According to him, the movie is a “a gross falsification of history” because it shows Churchill as “generally in favor of a statesmanlike solution to the crisis of the abdication” and because it neglects to portray Edward VIII as “a firm admirer of the Third Reich” and George VI as an appeaser and anti-Churchill.

When I first read Hitchens’s piece, my mind flashed back to an article Hitchens contributed to the Atlantic in July/August 2002, an article that, as the subtitle puts it, “takes the Great Man down a peg or two.” It occasioned a characteristically understated and effective response from my adviser Paul Kennedy, who pointed out the “misinformation” that Hitchens appeared to be circulating. Not at all abashed, Hitchens continues to regret that “it seems we shall never reach a time when the Churchill cult is open for honest inspection.”

It’s curious that Hitchens both criticizes the “Churchill cult” for supporting the Great Man, and George VI for supposedly failing to do so. But Hitchens is shooting at several targets simultaneously: Churchill for being a monarchist, and the monarchy for existing. When coupled with his opposition to appeasement, the result is not always convincing.

Of Edward VIII, let us say little. Hitchens may be putting it too strongly when he characterizes him as firmly committed to the Third Reich — Edward was too self-centered and witless to be firmly committed to anything but his own desires, which was why he didn’t last long on the throne — but there’s no doubt he was an embarrassment and a liability. Fortunately, his ability to do mischief was seriously limited by the fact that he was a constitutional monarch. And, regrettably, his opinions were far from unique: in mid-1930s Britain, they were held by many people whose views mattered a good deal more than his.

George VI deserved better than he gets from Hitchens, who believes that the monarch’s supposedly shabby history “can easily be known by anybody willing to do some elementary research.” Yes, George supported Chamberlain and initially distrusted Churchill. In this, he was sadly far from unusual. What Hitchens doesn’t point out is that, once Churchill was in charge, George gave him — in the words of David Cannadine, a far from friendly historian — “loyal and increasingly admiring support throughout the war.” If Hitchens wants to call out the monarchy’s errors before May 1940, that’s fine; but there’s no “post-fabricated myth of its participation in ‘Britain’s finest hour.’” The participation was real, and if George had a bad peace, he had a good war. The same can be said of many others.

And then there’s Churchill. Hitchens’s main charge is that Churchill was unreasonably (even intoxicatedly) loyal to Edward, at the expense of the “Arms and the Covenant” lobby he was building “against Neville Chamberlain’s collusion with European fascism.” It’s a minor point, but at the time of the abdication crisis, Stanley Baldwin, not Neville Chamberlain, was prime minister. More important, Hitchens overrates “Arms and the Covenant” and (strangely for a man who detests the “Churchill cult”) relies on the almost hagiographic Churchill biographer William Manchester for his evidence.

But as Graham Stewart points out in his massive Burying Caesar: The Churchill-Chamberlain Rivalry, while the abdication crisis did hurt Churchill, the potential of “Arms and the Covenant” was limited. To succeed, it had to win substantial support among Tory MPs — and given the traditional loyalty of the Conservative Party to its leaders, and Churchill’s long battle against the Government of India Act, there was almost no chance of this. The left and right were soon divided by their reactions to the Spanish Civil War, and the entire movement faded when quiet seemed to return to most of the continent in early 1937. In short, there is not much reason to believe that Hitler would have been stopped in 1936-37 if only Churchill had dumped Edward.

And what of Churchill’s attitude toward Edward? He was, as Stewart puts it, “emotional and sentimental” about the monarchy. But Stewart also approvingly quotes the New Statesman’s assertion that Churchill’s advice to the king “will be found to have been impeccable from every constitutional point of view.” Churchill’s monarchism did not spring only from sentiment. It sprang also from his belief that constitutional monarchies were a force for stability and democracy. He regarded the end of the German monarchy with regret and argued that, if the German people had been allowed to keep a kaiser — not Wilhelm — as a focus for loyalty, Hitler might never have won power.

Such views are, of course, not subject to proof. But as Churchill said at the time, they are worthy of reflection. It may not be a coincidence that, in spite of the errors of those who occupied the throne, it was the British people who believed in their constitutional monarchy who stood up to Hitler, and the monarchist Churchill who led the fight. Hitchens likes the fight. What he doesn’t like is the stubborn traditionalism that made it possible.

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British Pol Echoes CAIR Talking Point About Islamists

Those wondering just how far gone Britain is on the question of the influence of Islamism got another shock this week when Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the co-chair of the Conservative Party and a minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, asserted that Islamophobia has gone mainstream there. But rather than merely issuing a call for more tolerance, Warsi’s speech last night at the University of Leicester sought to cast aspersions not only on those who espouse religious prejudice but also on those who have differentiated between moderate peaceful Muslims and radical Islamists.

The speech, which has caused quite a stir in the United Kingdom, contains this curious formulation: “The notion that all followers of Islam can be described either as ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’ can fuel misunderstanding and intolerance.” She goes on to complain that the designation of some Muslims as moderate is inherently invidious.

The admirable Melanie Phillips analyzes Warsi’s illogical thesis this way:

“When people fail explicitly to differentiate ‘moderate’ Muslims from ‘extremists’ they are tarred and feathered as ‘Islamophobic.’ But now Warsi says that to differentiate in this way is also ‘Islamophobic.’ Of course, that’s because what she means is that any mention of any Muslim being extreme is itself ‘Islamophobic.’ Now where have we heard that before? From just about every Muslim community spokesman every time there is an act of Islamic terrorism—two words which it is not permissible in such quarters to utter together. This tactic … is designed to intimidate people into not acknowledging reality and discussing the most pressing issue of our time — Islamic extremism and the war against the free world being waged in the name of Islam.”

It speaks volumes about the political realities of Britain that the person articulating this troubling formulation is not merely a member of the House of Lords but also a highly influential member of the country’s governing political party. While this is not the sort of thing you would expect to hear from the national co-chair of either the Republicans or the Democrats, Americans need to be on their guard against this sort of attitude seeping into own our government and political establishment. That’s because this attempt to demonize any effort to differentiate between Muslims who are loyal American citizens or British subjects and those who support the Islamists’ war on the West is the main talking point these days of groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the American Muslim Union. And that is why such groups, which exist to blur such important distinctions, ought not to be allowed to get away with pretending to be mainstream players rather than the extremists they actually are. Though these organizations masquerade as fighters against discrimination, they are, in fact, undermining the justified fight against religious bias just as much as they are trying to torpedo the war on terror.

Those wondering just how far gone Britain is on the question of the influence of Islamism got another shock this week when Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the co-chair of the Conservative Party and a minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, asserted that Islamophobia has gone mainstream there. But rather than merely issuing a call for more tolerance, Warsi’s speech last night at the University of Leicester sought to cast aspersions not only on those who espouse religious prejudice but also on those who have differentiated between moderate peaceful Muslims and radical Islamists.

The speech, which has caused quite a stir in the United Kingdom, contains this curious formulation: “The notion that all followers of Islam can be described either as ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’ can fuel misunderstanding and intolerance.” She goes on to complain that the designation of some Muslims as moderate is inherently invidious.

The admirable Melanie Phillips analyzes Warsi’s illogical thesis this way:

“When people fail explicitly to differentiate ‘moderate’ Muslims from ‘extremists’ they are tarred and feathered as ‘Islamophobic.’ But now Warsi says that to differentiate in this way is also ‘Islamophobic.’ Of course, that’s because what she means is that any mention of any Muslim being extreme is itself ‘Islamophobic.’ Now where have we heard that before? From just about every Muslim community spokesman every time there is an act of Islamic terrorism—two words which it is not permissible in such quarters to utter together. This tactic … is designed to intimidate people into not acknowledging reality and discussing the most pressing issue of our time — Islamic extremism and the war against the free world being waged in the name of Islam.”

It speaks volumes about the political realities of Britain that the person articulating this troubling formulation is not merely a member of the House of Lords but also a highly influential member of the country’s governing political party. While this is not the sort of thing you would expect to hear from the national co-chair of either the Republicans or the Democrats, Americans need to be on their guard against this sort of attitude seeping into own our government and political establishment. That’s because this attempt to demonize any effort to differentiate between Muslims who are loyal American citizens or British subjects and those who support the Islamists’ war on the West is the main talking point these days of groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the American Muslim Union. And that is why such groups, which exist to blur such important distinctions, ought not to be allowed to get away with pretending to be mainstream players rather than the extremists they actually are. Though these organizations masquerade as fighters against discrimination, they are, in fact, undermining the justified fight against religious bias just as much as they are trying to torpedo the war on terror.

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A Bad Christmas Card, and in Retrospect, Even Worse

I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out on British Liberal Democrat message boards. But a friend has pointed out a wonderful post — I hesitate to say it’s really in the spirit of the season, for reasons that will soon be obvious — by Stephen Tall on LibDemVoice, reproducing a Christmas card contained in the Conservative Party Archive and sent in 1938 by R.J. Rosie, a prominent physician, to Percy Cohen, a Jewish Conservative and then a member of the Conservative Research Department.

As Tall puts its:

The year is 1938, and you’re looking for a suitably seasonal picture for the front of your Christmas cards. A festive image which will convey seasonal goodwill to all humanity.  What could better symbolise those eternal truths than an international peace treaty signed by the two major European powers which had once been at war?

And so Rosie’s card for the year featured Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, complete with swastika armband, and included an insert with the infamous “peace in our time” pledge. Really not a good choice, and an object lesson in the dangers of making political points with Christmas cards. As an alternative, Tall links to one of Clementine and Winston Churchill’s Christmas cards that — though not very seasonal — does feature a beautiful summer-time view of the Weald of Kent from Chartwell, painted by Churchill himself.

I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out on British Liberal Democrat message boards. But a friend has pointed out a wonderful post — I hesitate to say it’s really in the spirit of the season, for reasons that will soon be obvious — by Stephen Tall on LibDemVoice, reproducing a Christmas card contained in the Conservative Party Archive and sent in 1938 by R.J. Rosie, a prominent physician, to Percy Cohen, a Jewish Conservative and then a member of the Conservative Research Department.

As Tall puts its:

The year is 1938, and you’re looking for a suitably seasonal picture for the front of your Christmas cards. A festive image which will convey seasonal goodwill to all humanity.  What could better symbolise those eternal truths than an international peace treaty signed by the two major European powers which had once been at war?

And so Rosie’s card for the year featured Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, complete with swastika armband, and included an insert with the infamous “peace in our time” pledge. Really not a good choice, and an object lesson in the dangers of making political points with Christmas cards. As an alternative, Tall links to one of Clementine and Winston Churchill’s Christmas cards that — though not very seasonal — does feature a beautiful summer-time view of the Weald of Kent from Chartwell, painted by Churchill himself.

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Surge for New York GOP Portends National Disaster for Dems

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

If there were any doubt that politics as usual is out the window this fall, it is confirmed by the latest polls from New York, one of the most reliable Democratic strongholds in the country. New York Democrats have fielded an attractive and popular candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the state’s Republicans, who are in complete disarray, have put up a wacky though wealthy gadfly to oppose him. And of the two incumbent Democratic senators up for re-election, the one who is most vulnerable to a challenge, Kirsten Gillibrand, has drawn a lackluster opponent. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Democrats’ November landslide. The polls are showing that the leads held by both Cuomo and Gillibrand are shrinking to the point where it is conceivable that both races could be competitive.

In the governor’s race, both Rasmussen and Quinnipiac show the gap between Cuomo and Carl Paladino to be narrowing. Quinnipiac showed Paladino trailing Cuomo by only six points among likely voters, while Rasmussen reported the Republican down by 16 points. In their previous polls tracking this matchup, the margins were respectively 30- and 29-point leads for Cuomo.

Over at the New York Times, analyst Nate Silver had claimed that these numbers were flawed because they didn’t add Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio to the mix. But even he admits that the Quinnipiac poll is causing him to reconsider his assumptions about this race. While a more accurate survey would have mentioned Lazio, Silver’s assumption that many New Yorkers would stick with the man who lost the Republican primary last week in a historic landslide despite the backing of almost the entire Republican state establishment is absurd. That the Conservatives, whose original purpose was to hold the state’s liberal Republican party establishment accountable for ignoring the wishes of rank-and-file Republicans, would choose to torpedo a Conservative insurgent like Paladino by sticking with the dead-in-the-water Lazio speaks volumes about their own irrelevance. Far from sabotaging Paladino, as Silver seems to think a Lazio candidacy would, all it might accomplish is to lose the Conservatives their place on the state ballot for the next four years, something that would happen if Lazio got fewer than 50,000 votes in November.

Meanwhile, just as astounding is the Rasmussen poll showing Republican Joseph DioGuardi trailing Gillibrand by only 10 points. Previous surveys had Gillibrand up by anywhere from 15 to 25 points. DioGuardi has little name recognition and even less money. But Gillibrand is so weak that even the former Westchester congressman now must be given a chance, albeit a slim one, to knock her off.

But though liberal writers like Silver are still trying to rationalize the tsunami of voter discontent that is giving a Tea Party favorite like Paladino and a fiscal conservative like DioGuardi a chance, what is happening can no longer be ignored. Both Cuomo and Gillibrand must still be considered strong favorites, but if Republicans are surging in a state like New York, this midterm election may turn out far worse than imagined for the Democrats and the liberal agenda pursued by President Obama. Demonizing the Tea Party and publicizing opposition research about a loose cannon like Paladino may seem like an effective way to stem the GOP tide, but Democrats must understand that the rules have changed. As the New York polls indicate, voter anger about spending, entitlements, and taxes have transformed 2010 from an ordinary midterm correction to what may turn out to be a Republican tidal wave.

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Response to Ramesh Ponnuru

Over at NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru (gently) takes me to task:

Peter Wehner writes, “So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an ‘establishment Republican’ and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.” I think Wehner would be better off challenging the notion that to be part of the Republican establishment is to be a traitor to the conservative cause. For if Rove isn’t part of the Republican establishment then the term has no meaning. The truth is that conservatism needs a political party to house it; parties need establishments; and establishments have characteristic vices. Conservatism should want an intelligent and conservative party establishment, not disestablishment.

Two points in response: Ramesh (whose work I generally admire and agree with) seems to have overlooked the crucial word “and” — as in, “’establishment Republican’ and traitor to the conservative cause.” What I wrote is true and the charges against Rove are risible.

Second, I placed quote marks around the phrase establishment Republican. I did so intentionally, since those words have a particular (negative) meaning to Rove’s critics; not to me. I thought that this was all clear enough, just as I thought it would be obvious that I believe that conservatism needs an intelligent and conservative party establishment. But if it wasn’t, let me state it now, for the record: I am not and never have been for a conservative party disestablishment.

Over at NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru (gently) takes me to task:

Peter Wehner writes, “So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an ‘establishment Republican’ and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.” I think Wehner would be better off challenging the notion that to be part of the Republican establishment is to be a traitor to the conservative cause. For if Rove isn’t part of the Republican establishment then the term has no meaning. The truth is that conservatism needs a political party to house it; parties need establishments; and establishments have characteristic vices. Conservatism should want an intelligent and conservative party establishment, not disestablishment.

Two points in response: Ramesh (whose work I generally admire and agree with) seems to have overlooked the crucial word “and” — as in, “’establishment Republican’ and traitor to the conservative cause.” What I wrote is true and the charges against Rove are risible.

Second, I placed quote marks around the phrase establishment Republican. I did so intentionally, since those words have a particular (negative) meaning to Rove’s critics; not to me. I thought that this was all clear enough, just as I thought it would be obvious that I believe that conservatism needs an intelligent and conservative party establishment. But if it wasn’t, let me state it now, for the record: I am not and never have been for a conservative party disestablishment.

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New York GOP Prefers Dem Victory to Insurgent Candidate

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

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The Left’s Canary Chokes in an Australian Mine

Australia faces its first federal hung parliament in 70 years — which is especially notable because, as the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Australia is now established as the political canary in the American electoral coal-mine.”

In Australia, the political composition will likely force the left to choose between painful compromise and inaction. The irony is that citizens refused to believe Labor politicians’ newly adopted centrism — which is actually real, albeit reluctant, because it derives from political necessity. Instead they voted for honestly presented conservatives. American Democrats may find themselves in the same predicament soon.

Already one Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has been impaled on a radical leftist agenda. Rudd finally resigned, and Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister, leading Labor in his place.

The American public may recognize the far-left mindset that drove Rudd’s shortsighted policy priorities. As yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out, “[Rudd’s Keynesian] spending boom turned an A$19.7 billion surplus in 2007-2008 into an A$32.1 billion deficit the following fiscal year.” Rudd also pushed hard for economically unsound policies like cap-and-trade and a “super-profits tax” on Australia’s profitable mining industry. The Australian public was vociferously dissatisfied, and Labor is struggling to recover.

In the context of Rudd’s shunting, Gillard tried to regain the public’s trust in Labor by rebranding as a moderate.

American Democrats may be interested to know that the public apparently didn’t buy that centrist repositioning. Saturday’s election withheld a governing majority from Labor. Led by opposition prodigy Tony Abbott, the Liberals — Australia’s conservative party — have gained substantial public support in recent months, even though they too were unable to secure a governing majority. Now both Liberals and Labor are courting Green and Independent parliamentarians in an effort to build a coalition.

Unpleasant compromises now seem unavoidable for Labor, which spent its time in power trying to ram its agenda down voters’ throats despite the collective gag reflex. So Tony Abbott’s words might soon hold true for American Democrats: “I say that a Government which found it very hard to govern effectively with a majority of 17 seats will never be able to govern effectively in a minority.”

Australia faces its first federal hung parliament in 70 years — which is especially notable because, as the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Australia is now established as the political canary in the American electoral coal-mine.”

In Australia, the political composition will likely force the left to choose between painful compromise and inaction. The irony is that citizens refused to believe Labor politicians’ newly adopted centrism — which is actually real, albeit reluctant, because it derives from political necessity. Instead they voted for honestly presented conservatives. American Democrats may find themselves in the same predicament soon.

Already one Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has been impaled on a radical leftist agenda. Rudd finally resigned, and Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister, leading Labor in his place.

The American public may recognize the far-left mindset that drove Rudd’s shortsighted policy priorities. As yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out, “[Rudd’s Keynesian] spending boom turned an A$19.7 billion surplus in 2007-2008 into an A$32.1 billion deficit the following fiscal year.” Rudd also pushed hard for economically unsound policies like cap-and-trade and a “super-profits tax” on Australia’s profitable mining industry. The Australian public was vociferously dissatisfied, and Labor is struggling to recover.

In the context of Rudd’s shunting, Gillard tried to regain the public’s trust in Labor by rebranding as a moderate.

American Democrats may be interested to know that the public apparently didn’t buy that centrist repositioning. Saturday’s election withheld a governing majority from Labor. Led by opposition prodigy Tony Abbott, the Liberals — Australia’s conservative party — have gained substantial public support in recent months, even though they too were unable to secure a governing majority. Now both Liberals and Labor are courting Green and Independent parliamentarians in an effort to build a coalition.

Unpleasant compromises now seem unavoidable for Labor, which spent its time in power trying to ram its agenda down voters’ throats despite the collective gag reflex. So Tony Abbott’s words might soon hold true for American Democrats: “I say that a Government which found it very hard to govern effectively with a majority of 17 seats will never be able to govern effectively in a minority.”

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Can Americans Count on the New Brit Coalition?

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

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Not Your Father’s Tories

In the British general election to be held on Thursday, the latest polls show the Conservative Party in the lead. Normally, that would gladden the hearts of American conservatives, who have long regarded the Tories as their closest compatriots overseas. But this is not your father’s Conservative Party. It has been remade as a “centrist” (i.e., liberal) party by David Cameron. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of defense. The Tories have been opportunistically attacking the Labor government for not doing enough for the troops. But what are the Tories going to do? If this Reuters report is to be believed, they will slash defense spending, which is already too low, to meet British commitments around the world:

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank in London has said the most optimistic scenario would mean the Ministry of Defense could face a cut in its budget of around 11 percent in real terms over the six years to 2016/17.

The Tories claim they can make such cuts while enhancing military capabilities by slashing wasteful spending. Count me as skeptical. The British defense budget has already been cut to the bone, with the Royal Navy down to its lowest size in centuries. There is a desperate need to spend more — not less. If the Conservatives carry out this catastrophic program, it will have serious repercussions for the U.S. because we will be able to count on even less support from our closest ally. That, in turn, will mean more unilateral operations in places like Afghanistan.

In the British general election to be held on Thursday, the latest polls show the Conservative Party in the lead. Normally, that would gladden the hearts of American conservatives, who have long regarded the Tories as their closest compatriots overseas. But this is not your father’s Conservative Party. It has been remade as a “centrist” (i.e., liberal) party by David Cameron. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of defense. The Tories have been opportunistically attacking the Labor government for not doing enough for the troops. But what are the Tories going to do? If this Reuters report is to be believed, they will slash defense spending, which is already too low, to meet British commitments around the world:

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank in London has said the most optimistic scenario would mean the Ministry of Defense could face a cut in its budget of around 11 percent in real terms over the six years to 2016/17.

The Tories claim they can make such cuts while enhancing military capabilities by slashing wasteful spending. Count me as skeptical. The British defense budget has already been cut to the bone, with the Royal Navy down to its lowest size in centuries. There is a desperate need to spend more — not less. If the Conservatives carry out this catastrophic program, it will have serious repercussions for the U.S. because we will be able to count on even less support from our closest ally. That, in turn, will mean more unilateral operations in places like Afghanistan.

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What Lesson Will David Cameron Teach Americans?

The prospect of Florida Governor Charlie Crist pulling out of the Florida Republican Senate primary will, no doubt, send into a tizzy those who want the GOP to move to the center and away from the dreaded Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin. While this is more a matter of a flabby, pointless Crist campaign being knocked out of the box by a hugely popular and principled opponent in Marco Rubio than of a “moderate” being driven from the party by so-called extremists, there’s no question that this race is an indication of where the Republicans are headed.

While an independent candidacy by Crist might pose a challenge to Rubio in November, those who have advocated for Republican to move closer to the Democrats on health care and a host of other issues must come to grips with the fact that all the energy and emotion in Florida has come from those who want the GOP to challenge the Obama administration, not to copy it. The point is, when Republicans lose touch with their base and find themselves bogged down in the mushy middle, they tend to lose and lose badly.

Florida’s politics couldn’t be much more different from those of Britain, but the way the general election in that country is going has to give pause to those who believe that a nonideological candidate and party of the Right is the only way to fight the Left. Conservative Party leader David Cameron thought he was coasting to inevitable victory after 13 years of Labor government. But Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global-warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, is further to the Left than Labor on many issues and has in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good-looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win. But, instead, it has given Clegg and the Lib Dems an opening to be the party of change in Britain. Thus, rather than a Tory cakewalk, the May 6 election looks increasingly like a dead heat that could leave Labor in power by itself or even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It could be that by discarding genuine Conservative ideology (this is the party of Margaret Thatcher, after all), Cameron may be pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. It may be too late for Cameron to tack to the Right and give voters a reason to vote for his party. As it is, a watered-down Conservative Party is rightly seen as no different from the incumbent Laborites to an electorate desperate for a real alternative.

Last November, David Frum wrote in COMMENTARY that Cameron’s tactics provided a good lesson for American conservatives as they sought to rebuild from their 2008 defeat. He believed that by tacking to the Left, Cameron had aligned his priorities with those of the country and had essentially volunteered to do what political necessity would have forced him to do anyway. As Frum put it, “the leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have.” Since “educated and professional voters, once the backbone of the Republican party,” had swung away from conservatism, Frum believed that Republicans must follow them as Cameron had done.

David Cameron’s fate is not yet decided. And we are months away from the proof of whether a candidate like Marco Rubio will lead Republicans to victory in a key state like Florida. But if in abandoning conservative principles Cameron has set the Tories up for a colossal reversal of fortune, it may be that the lesson the handsome Brit will teach his American brethren is how to lose an election that was considered in his pocket — not how to win one.

The prospect of Florida Governor Charlie Crist pulling out of the Florida Republican Senate primary will, no doubt, send into a tizzy those who want the GOP to move to the center and away from the dreaded Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin. While this is more a matter of a flabby, pointless Crist campaign being knocked out of the box by a hugely popular and principled opponent in Marco Rubio than of a “moderate” being driven from the party by so-called extremists, there’s no question that this race is an indication of where the Republicans are headed.

While an independent candidacy by Crist might pose a challenge to Rubio in November, those who have advocated for Republican to move closer to the Democrats on health care and a host of other issues must come to grips with the fact that all the energy and emotion in Florida has come from those who want the GOP to challenge the Obama administration, not to copy it. The point is, when Republicans lose touch with their base and find themselves bogged down in the mushy middle, they tend to lose and lose badly.

Florida’s politics couldn’t be much more different from those of Britain, but the way the general election in that country is going has to give pause to those who believe that a nonideological candidate and party of the Right is the only way to fight the Left. Conservative Party leader David Cameron thought he was coasting to inevitable victory after 13 years of Labor government. But Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global-warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, is further to the Left than Labor on many issues and has in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good-looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win. But, instead, it has given Clegg and the Lib Dems an opening to be the party of change in Britain. Thus, rather than a Tory cakewalk, the May 6 election looks increasingly like a dead heat that could leave Labor in power by itself or even in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It could be that by discarding genuine Conservative ideology (this is the party of Margaret Thatcher, after all), Cameron may be pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. It may be too late for Cameron to tack to the Right and give voters a reason to vote for his party. As it is, a watered-down Conservative Party is rightly seen as no different from the incumbent Laborites to an electorate desperate for a real alternative.

Last November, David Frum wrote in COMMENTARY that Cameron’s tactics provided a good lesson for American conservatives as they sought to rebuild from their 2008 defeat. He believed that by tacking to the Left, Cameron had aligned his priorities with those of the country and had essentially volunteered to do what political necessity would have forced him to do anyway. As Frum put it, “the leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have.” Since “educated and professional voters, once the backbone of the Republican party,” had swung away from conservatism, Frum believed that Republicans must follow them as Cameron had done.

David Cameron’s fate is not yet decided. And we are months away from the proof of whether a candidate like Marco Rubio will lead Republicans to victory in a key state like Florida. But if in abandoning conservative principles Cameron has set the Tories up for a colossal reversal of fortune, it may be that the lesson the handsome Brit will teach his American brethren is how to lose an election that was considered in his pocket — not how to win one.

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UK: Don’t Say Western Wall or Jerusalem is in Israel

In recent years, Israel-bashing has become one of the United Kingdom’s favorite sports. Academic and trade-union boycotts of the Jewish state have flourished while anti-Israeli plays such as “My Name is Rachel Corrie” have been hits on London’s West End stages. Ironically, the growth of anti-Zionist extremism there has made the British government’s increasing hostility toward Israel looked moderate by comparison. Indeed, in a country where Israel’s right to exist is denied by most of the intelligentsia, politicians such as Conservative Party leader David Cameron are seen as “pro-Israel” because they oppose the state’s destruction even while consistently opposing its right of self-defense as well as Jewish claims to Jerusalem.

But in a country where so much of the academic and artistic community as well as a large number of mainstream politicians are so fervently opposed to Israel’s existence, it’s not surprising when such attitudes leach into government proceedings. Thus, while outrageous, it can hardly be considered a great surprise that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad by the Israel Government’s Tourist Office depicting sites from Jerusalem’s Old City on the grounds that it is fraudulent since it claimed that viewers of the ad were likely to think the places featured in its pictures were actually in the State of Israel. Since Britain doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, let alone the Old City, the agency dubbed the ad misleading.

This is, of course, nonsense. The politics of the Middle East conflict notwithstanding, anyone who visits Israel will quickly learn that, contrary to the fiction maintained by London (and other Western governments), a united Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and visitors to the country have free and easy access to all the holy sites, including Christian and Muslim shrines. Even if future “peace” deals might attempt to divide the city and rebuild the walls that divided it between 1949 and 1967 (when Jordan illegally occupied those areas now misleadingly termed “East Jerusalem”), the Old City is now firmly under Israeli jurisdiction. Any ad that attempted to portray these places as currently being under the control of any country but Israel would be misleading, not the IGTO’s inoffensive appeal to tourists. What’s going on here is a blatant attempt to inject an anti-Zionist political agenda into the business of monitoring misleading advertising. As Israel’s Tourism Ministry said in its reply, “the ad provided basic, accurate information to a prospective UK traveler who wanted to know what to expect in Israel.”

Moreover, there is something profoundly offensive about a foreign government claiming that the most sacred shrine in Judaism — the Western Wall — is part of what the Guardian calls “the Palestinian occupied territories.”  Though this UK pronouncement will do little damage to Israel, it does represent the lengths to which Israel’s enemies will go in their efforts to delegitimize the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the entire country. If Britain thinks Jews have no right to call the Kotel their own, then what hope is there of convincing it that Jews have a right to live anywhere in their country?

In recent years, Israel-bashing has become one of the United Kingdom’s favorite sports. Academic and trade-union boycotts of the Jewish state have flourished while anti-Israeli plays such as “My Name is Rachel Corrie” have been hits on London’s West End stages. Ironically, the growth of anti-Zionist extremism there has made the British government’s increasing hostility toward Israel looked moderate by comparison. Indeed, in a country where Israel’s right to exist is denied by most of the intelligentsia, politicians such as Conservative Party leader David Cameron are seen as “pro-Israel” because they oppose the state’s destruction even while consistently opposing its right of self-defense as well as Jewish claims to Jerusalem.

But in a country where so much of the academic and artistic community as well as a large number of mainstream politicians are so fervently opposed to Israel’s existence, it’s not surprising when such attitudes leach into government proceedings. Thus, while outrageous, it can hardly be considered a great surprise that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned an ad by the Israel Government’s Tourist Office depicting sites from Jerusalem’s Old City on the grounds that it is fraudulent since it claimed that viewers of the ad were likely to think the places featured in its pictures were actually in the State of Israel. Since Britain doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, let alone the Old City, the agency dubbed the ad misleading.

This is, of course, nonsense. The politics of the Middle East conflict notwithstanding, anyone who visits Israel will quickly learn that, contrary to the fiction maintained by London (and other Western governments), a united Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and visitors to the country have free and easy access to all the holy sites, including Christian and Muslim shrines. Even if future “peace” deals might attempt to divide the city and rebuild the walls that divided it between 1949 and 1967 (when Jordan illegally occupied those areas now misleadingly termed “East Jerusalem”), the Old City is now firmly under Israeli jurisdiction. Any ad that attempted to portray these places as currently being under the control of any country but Israel would be misleading, not the IGTO’s inoffensive appeal to tourists. What’s going on here is a blatant attempt to inject an anti-Zionist political agenda into the business of monitoring misleading advertising. As Israel’s Tourism Ministry said in its reply, “the ad provided basic, accurate information to a prospective UK traveler who wanted to know what to expect in Israel.”

Moreover, there is something profoundly offensive about a foreign government claiming that the most sacred shrine in Judaism — the Western Wall — is part of what the Guardian calls “the Palestinian occupied territories.”  Though this UK pronouncement will do little damage to Israel, it does represent the lengths to which Israel’s enemies will go in their efforts to delegitimize the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the entire country. If Britain thinks Jews have no right to call the Kotel their own, then what hope is there of convincing it that Jews have a right to live anywhere in their country?

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Defense Spending and Defense Needs: Not in Sync

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

The Conservative party in Britain has pledged to adopt the American practice of carrying out a “strategic review” every four years. Based on the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, which came out today, I’m not sure why they would bother. The QDR is not terrible or wrong-headed; in fact, I think it’s fairly sensible on the whole. But it’s also not particularly interesting or surprising — which is pretty much what you would expect from a report produced by a large committee and overseen by the same defense secretary who has put into place many of the policies under review. I agree with Robert Haddick’s take in the Small Wars Journal:

Rather than reading a document about strategies for the future, I had the sense that I was reading a business corporation’s annual report covering the past fiscal year. I stopped counting how many times the QDR said, “the Department will continue to …” or something similar.

Haddick goes on to note that the QDR “hints at, but leaves unsaid, many necessary and sometimes painful changes the Pentagon will need to make. In this sense the QDR seems incomplete; it kicks several important cans down the road, leaving important decisions that should have been in the QDR for future reports.”

Some of the challenges left unaddressed by the QDR are spelled out in this study by Mackenzie Eaglen at the Heritage Foundation. She notes a number of disturbing long-term trends, including the fact that  “core” defense spending (excluding contingencies such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) is already just 3.9 percent of GDP and set to decline under the Obama blueprint. Defense spending, even with a current budget of $690 billion, is less than 18 percent of federal spending and has been rapidly declining as a share of the federal budget over time, while entitlement spending (currently 35 percent of the budget) continues to grow.

Within the defense budget, an ever-growing share of the spending is being consumed by personnel expenditures and current operations, which leaves not enough money to recapitalize aging equipment (the U.S. Air Force continues to operate transport aircraft and tankers that are over 40 years old) and an ever-shrinking storehouse of advanced weapons systems (the U.S. Navy has the smallest number of ships since 1916). She might have mentioned, but didn’t, that the U.S. doesn’t have enough soldiers to meet all its commitments. The Army was 710,000 strong at the end of the Cold War in 1991; today it’s down 553,000 personnel.

In other words, there is a fundamental mismatch between ends and means — between what we’re willing to spend on defense and what we need to meet our global commitments. And that’s not even taking into account all the new challenges laid out in the QDR relating to areas such as cyberspace and “anti-access” threats (e.g., long-range cruise missiles that can pick off our naval ships in the Persian Gulf or the Taiwan Strait). This QDR, like the preceding QDRs, is better at laying out the challenges than it is at suggesting realistic ways they can be met. It might at least have sounded a warning about some of these looming problems. Instead, it is largely a ratification of the status quo.

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The Conservative Party and British National Security

In a major speech on Friday at Chatham House, David Cameron set out how the Conservative party would approach the issue of national security should it win the forthcoming general election. His theme was the value of connection — both domestically, with an emphasis on what Britain has to gain from better joined-up government, and abroad, emphasizing Britain’s need to see conflicts as a whole, and to respond to threats before they become crises.

There’s nothing that can be said against the idea that government should be better coordinated, or more forward-looking. Of course, advancing this idea while out of power is simpler than achieving it while in power. The creation of a National Security Council is not likely to persuade the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defense, and all the other players in Whitehall to abandon their institutional interests, just as the American NSC has palpably failed to achieve this in Washington.

Aaron Friedberg’s short, superb study of the collapse of strategic planning in the U.S. is very relevant here. It argues that the task of the NSC is to be “an aid to the collective thinking of the highest echelons of the government … [not] a mechanism for the production of operational plans.” It may be that Cameron’s vision of the role of his NSC leans a little more toward the vision of NSC as planner in chief than Friedberg would wish.

On the other hand, Cameron is clearly right to argue that the existing system in Britain treats national security as, at best, a second-order concern; that it has allowed development aid and post-conflict planning to become disconnected from the national interest or to go AWOL entirely; and that, in an age of Islamist terror, security must begin at home. If a British NSC can assist Prime Minister Cameron and his cabinet in implementing policies based on these preferences — and especially on the last one — it will be a good deal more than a step in the right direction.

For my money, the most interesting parts of Cameron’s speech – and the accompanying Green Paper that the speech launched — were those that dealt not with machinery but with attitudes. It’s always easy for politicians — especially newly elected ones — to blame the system: President Obama has done a good deal of this, especially recently. But this is not helpful: systems are always less than optimal, and, especially in a war with a determined and intelligent enemy, they are always going to fail.

Systems, in the end, matter less than leadership that acknowledges when it’s in a war and demands that responsible people take decisions and accept responsibility for them. The problem is ultimately one of culture. That was exactly the note on which Cameron ended, and while, again, it is obviously more pleasant to call for responsibility when out of office than it is to accept responsibility once in it, Cameron’s speech was a refreshing change from Gordon Brown’s determination to evade responsibility for all the errors for which, as chancellor of the exchequer and then as prime minister, he bears a central responsibility.

In a major speech on Friday at Chatham House, David Cameron set out how the Conservative party would approach the issue of national security should it win the forthcoming general election. His theme was the value of connection — both domestically, with an emphasis on what Britain has to gain from better joined-up government, and abroad, emphasizing Britain’s need to see conflicts as a whole, and to respond to threats before they become crises.

There’s nothing that can be said against the idea that government should be better coordinated, or more forward-looking. Of course, advancing this idea while out of power is simpler than achieving it while in power. The creation of a National Security Council is not likely to persuade the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defense, and all the other players in Whitehall to abandon their institutional interests, just as the American NSC has palpably failed to achieve this in Washington.

Aaron Friedberg’s short, superb study of the collapse of strategic planning in the U.S. is very relevant here. It argues that the task of the NSC is to be “an aid to the collective thinking of the highest echelons of the government … [not] a mechanism for the production of operational plans.” It may be that Cameron’s vision of the role of his NSC leans a little more toward the vision of NSC as planner in chief than Friedberg would wish.

On the other hand, Cameron is clearly right to argue that the existing system in Britain treats national security as, at best, a second-order concern; that it has allowed development aid and post-conflict planning to become disconnected from the national interest or to go AWOL entirely; and that, in an age of Islamist terror, security must begin at home. If a British NSC can assist Prime Minister Cameron and his cabinet in implementing policies based on these preferences — and especially on the last one — it will be a good deal more than a step in the right direction.

For my money, the most interesting parts of Cameron’s speech – and the accompanying Green Paper that the speech launched — were those that dealt not with machinery but with attitudes. It’s always easy for politicians — especially newly elected ones — to blame the system: President Obama has done a good deal of this, especially recently. But this is not helpful: systems are always less than optimal, and, especially in a war with a determined and intelligent enemy, they are always going to fail.

Systems, in the end, matter less than leadership that acknowledges when it’s in a war and demands that responsible people take decisions and accept responsibility for them. The problem is ultimately one of culture. That was exactly the note on which Cameron ended, and while, again, it is obviously more pleasant to call for responsibility when out of office than it is to accept responsibility once in it, Cameron’s speech was a refreshing change from Gordon Brown’s determination to evade responsibility for all the errors for which, as chancellor of the exchequer and then as prime minister, he bears a central responsibility.

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Media Spin: GOP at War!

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

You have to hand it to the mainstream media. They are nothing if not consistent and dogged in their efforts to push the “Republicans are at each other’s throats” meme — at the very moment that Democrats are rushing for the retirement home and attacking one another over the pro-insurance-company health-care “reform” bill. Dan Balz of the Washington Post is a case in point. He writes this odd account under the subheading “The GOP’s Internal War”:

Were it not for the news of the Democratic retirements, Tuesday might have received more attention as a day when the GOP’s internal wars counted another victim, this time the party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer. Greer, an ally of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), got caught up in the nasty Senate primary contest between Crist and former state House speaker Marco Rubio, a darling of conservatives.

Florida’s GOP primary is, writ large, a replay of what happened in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in November, when Sarah Palin and other conservatives spurned the Republican nominee in a House special election and sided with the Conservative Party candidate. The upshot was that Democrats won a seat that the GOP had held for more than a century.

This is nonsense on multiple counts. First, the “internal war” appears to consist of the removal of an unpopular state party chairman and a primary race in one state. Is the Democratic party in an “internal war” because there’s a primary to fill Obama’s old seat or because Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak are facing off in Pennsylvania? Really, primaries are pretty much par for the course, the mechanism by which real voters pick strong candidates and eliminate weak ones. Second, none of this has much to do with the NY-23. There the GOP didn’t have a primary. And it turned into a giant mess with a weak, unpopular candidate who ultimately had to drop out.

For now, the GOP is enjoying an embarrassment of political riches — an energized base, plenty of candidates, and plenty of targets (e.g., ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi, the Cash for Cloture deal). If all the Democrats have is a false narrative spun by their media cheerleaders, it may be a very bad year for them indeed.

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Andrew Roberts: On Iran, Israel Must Emulate Nelson and Churchill

Over at Melanie Phillips’s Spectator blog, she reprints in its entirety the speech delivered by the great British historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to the Anglo-Israel Association earlier this week.

Roberts’s brilliant speech makes for important reading and not just for students of the often difficult relationship between Britain and Israel, which he reviews in some detail, from the hopeful beginning of the Balfour Declaration to the infamy of Britain’s 1939 White Paper, which locked the gates of Palestine just as Hitler’s death machine was warming up in Europe. Add to this Britain’s futile effort to prevent the Jewish state from being born after World War II and the consistent record of bias against Israel on the part of London’s Foreign Office since 1948. While Roberts notes that Margaret Thatcher was the most philo-Semitic prime minister since Winston Churchill, he acknowledges that even the Iron Lady was stymied by the Foreign Office in her efforts to promote a better relationship with Israel.

What is his explanation for this record? He puts it down, in part, to:

The FO assumption that Britain’s relations with Israel ought constantly to be subordinated to her relations with other Middle Eastern states, especially the oil-rich ones, however badly those states behave in terms of human rights abuses, the persecution of Christians, the oppression of women, medieval practices of punishment, and so on. It seems to me that there is an implicit racism going on here. Jews are expected to behave better, goes the FO thinking, because they are like us. Arabs must not be chastised because they are not. So in warfare, we constantly expect Israel to behave far better than her neighbours, and chastise her quite hypocritically when occasionally under the exigencies of national struggle, she cannot. The problem crosses political parties today, just as it always has. [Conservative Party foreign policy spokesman] William Hague called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2007, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists. In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans—twelve times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?

Roberts also notes that a prominent former British diplomat criticized the composition of the panel analyzing Britain’s entry into the Iraq war because two of its members, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, are both Jewish and known supporters of Zionism. As Roberts put it, “If that’s the way that FO Arabists are prepared to express themselves in public, can you imagine the way that they refer to such people as Professors Gilbert and Freedman in private?”

Speaking of the Jewish state’s dilemma in facing a nuclear Iran and expressing no confidence in America’s ability or desire to prevent Ahmadinejad from obtaining a Bomb, Roberts concludes by exhorting the Israelis to follow the example of two famous Britons who boldly acted to stop a threat to their country:

None of us can pretend to know what lies ahead for Israel, but if she decides pre-emptively to strike against such a threat—in the same way that Nelson pre-emptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill pre-emptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran—then she can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office. She should ignore such criticism, because for all the fine work done by this Association over the past six decades – work that’s clearly needed as much now as ever before – Britain has only ever really been at best a fairweather friend to Israel. Although History does not repeat itself, its cadences do occasionally rhyme, and if the witness of History is testament to anything it is testament to this: That in her hopes of averting the threat of a Second Holocaust, only Israel can be relied upon to act decisively in the best interests of the Jews.

Over at Melanie Phillips’s Spectator blog, she reprints in its entirety the speech delivered by the great British historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to the Anglo-Israel Association earlier this week.

Roberts’s brilliant speech makes for important reading and not just for students of the often difficult relationship between Britain and Israel, which he reviews in some detail, from the hopeful beginning of the Balfour Declaration to the infamy of Britain’s 1939 White Paper, which locked the gates of Palestine just as Hitler’s death machine was warming up in Europe. Add to this Britain’s futile effort to prevent the Jewish state from being born after World War II and the consistent record of bias against Israel on the part of London’s Foreign Office since 1948. While Roberts notes that Margaret Thatcher was the most philo-Semitic prime minister since Winston Churchill, he acknowledges that even the Iron Lady was stymied by the Foreign Office in her efforts to promote a better relationship with Israel.

What is his explanation for this record? He puts it down, in part, to:

The FO assumption that Britain’s relations with Israel ought constantly to be subordinated to her relations with other Middle Eastern states, especially the oil-rich ones, however badly those states behave in terms of human rights abuses, the persecution of Christians, the oppression of women, medieval practices of punishment, and so on. It seems to me that there is an implicit racism going on here. Jews are expected to behave better, goes the FO thinking, because they are like us. Arabs must not be chastised because they are not. So in warfare, we constantly expect Israel to behave far better than her neighbours, and chastise her quite hypocritically when occasionally under the exigencies of national struggle, she cannot. The problem crosses political parties today, just as it always has. [Conservative Party foreign policy spokesman] William Hague called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2007, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists. In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans—twelve times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?

Roberts also notes that a prominent former British diplomat criticized the composition of the panel analyzing Britain’s entry into the Iraq war because two of its members, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, are both Jewish and known supporters of Zionism. As Roberts put it, “If that’s the way that FO Arabists are prepared to express themselves in public, can you imagine the way that they refer to such people as Professors Gilbert and Freedman in private?”

Speaking of the Jewish state’s dilemma in facing a nuclear Iran and expressing no confidence in America’s ability or desire to prevent Ahmadinejad from obtaining a Bomb, Roberts concludes by exhorting the Israelis to follow the example of two famous Britons who boldly acted to stop a threat to their country:

None of us can pretend to know what lies ahead for Israel, but if she decides pre-emptively to strike against such a threat—in the same way that Nelson pre-emptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill pre-emptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran—then she can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office. She should ignore such criticism, because for all the fine work done by this Association over the past six decades – work that’s clearly needed as much now as ever before – Britain has only ever really been at best a fairweather friend to Israel. Although History does not repeat itself, its cadences do occasionally rhyme, and if the witness of History is testament to anything it is testament to this: That in her hopes of averting the threat of a Second Holocaust, only Israel can be relied upon to act decisively in the best interests of the Jews.

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New York Senate Race

You know things aren’t going well for Democrats when Blue States like New York, Illinois, and Connecticut become real pick-up opportunities for Republicans in 2010 Senate races. In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be in trouble, either from a Democratic primary challenger or a Republican opponent. The chairman of the state’s Conservative party remarks: “Clearly she is unknown, that’s No. 1. No. 2, she has flipped on every given issue so I think she’s weakened herself upstate where initially that was her strength.” But there is something else as well — that “trial of the century.”

After all, she hasn’t opposed the administration’s gambit to try terrorists in the U.S. She and her fellow Democrats had the chance to block funds for terrorist trials and again to cut off funds for refurbishing Supermax prisons to house them here. But instead, the Democratic Senate enabled the Obama administration’s decision, one that is overwhelmingly unpopular. In the general election, Gillibrand may face Rudy Giuliani, who would make this a top issue. But what about New Yorker Debra Burlingame? No sign that she is yet interested in running. But she and her grassroots organization may make Gillibrand’s campaign dicey. Why is it that Gillibrand didn’t do what she could to block KSM’s trial? Well, she’ll need to answer that — if she makes it to the general election.

You know things aren’t going well for Democrats when Blue States like New York, Illinois, and Connecticut become real pick-up opportunities for Republicans in 2010 Senate races. In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be in trouble, either from a Democratic primary challenger or a Republican opponent. The chairman of the state’s Conservative party remarks: “Clearly she is unknown, that’s No. 1. No. 2, she has flipped on every given issue so I think she’s weakened herself upstate where initially that was her strength.” But there is something else as well — that “trial of the century.”

After all, she hasn’t opposed the administration’s gambit to try terrorists in the U.S. She and her fellow Democrats had the chance to block funds for terrorist trials and again to cut off funds for refurbishing Supermax prisons to house them here. But instead, the Democratic Senate enabled the Obama administration’s decision, one that is overwhelmingly unpopular. In the general election, Gillibrand may face Rudy Giuliani, who would make this a top issue. But what about New Yorker Debra Burlingame? No sign that she is yet interested in running. But she and her grassroots organization may make Gillibrand’s campaign dicey. Why is it that Gillibrand didn’t do what she could to block KSM’s trial? Well, she’ll need to answer that — if she makes it to the general election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Won in the 23rd?

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

Read Less




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