Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dan Senor

Liberal Smear: Romney’s War for the Jews

After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

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After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

Dowd doubled down on Eric Lewis’ point that it is “outrageous” for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to demand that the president state some red lines about Iran. But all Netanyahu is doing is asking the president to show us that he has some intention of doing something about Iran other than talking about the threat. The pushback from the pro-Obama camp against the suggestion that the administration stop pretending that failed diplomacy and unenforced sanctions will persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition reinforces the suspicion that once he is re-elected, the president will have the “flexibility” to choose to “contain” rather than stop Iran. That is a position that would endanger both the U.S. and Israel.

Dowd’s biggest target is Dan Senor, an author and former Bush administration staffer who is one of Romney and Ryan’s top advisors. But neither Senor nor Romney nor any American supporter of Israel needs to apologize to the likes of Dowd for their belief that the U.S. should keep its word to stop Iran. Though those who write about “neocons slithering” are clearly intending to stoke prejudice, even Obama has paid lip service to the fact that a nuclear Iran is a deadly threat to the entire Middle East as well as to the interests of the United States. Though Romney is not always the most consistent or coherent of thinkers about foreign policy, he does seem to understand this dilemma a lot better than Obama and his hateful press hit squad.

President Obama came into office determined to try to distance the United States from Israel and to appease the Muslim world. He accomplished the former but failed miserably with the latter as the spectacle of besieged U.S. embassies in the Middle East this week has shown. Throughout the last year, Obama’s critics have noted that he seemed more interested in stopping Israel from defending itself than in halting Iran’s nuclear program. Now his supporters seek to suppress any pressure for action on Iran by branding it the work of neocon conspirators.

The bottom line here is the same despicable “Israel Lobby” smear that seeks to silence friends of Israel through the use of traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times. This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.

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The Next Campus Israel Advocacy

Last week, student leaders at Harvard, drawn from the undergraduate college, the Kennedy school, the business school, and the law school, held a conference about Israel. While the conference has attracted outside attention mostly as a result of another student-led conference at Harvard earlier this year that advocated the elimination of the Jewish state, campus supporters of Israel would do well to take note of the more recent event for another and better reason: its demonstration of an effective way to talk about Israel to campus audiences.

Drawing big names like Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and Dan Senor, probably best known for co-authoring the 2009 book Start-Up Nation, most of the content of the conference focused on Israel’s economic successes, particularly in high-tech and innovation. Senor’s book is itself responsible to a large degree for a widening appreciation in the United States for Israel’s extraordinary economic record during the past 15 or so years, popularizing eye-popping statistics like the number of Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock index or that Israel’s less than 8 million people drew more venture capital in 2008 than the 145 million citizens of France and Germany combined.

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Last week, student leaders at Harvard, drawn from the undergraduate college, the Kennedy school, the business school, and the law school, held a conference about Israel. While the conference has attracted outside attention mostly as a result of another student-led conference at Harvard earlier this year that advocated the elimination of the Jewish state, campus supporters of Israel would do well to take note of the more recent event for another and better reason: its demonstration of an effective way to talk about Israel to campus audiences.

Drawing big names like Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and Dan Senor, probably best known for co-authoring the 2009 book Start-Up Nation, most of the content of the conference focused on Israel’s economic successes, particularly in high-tech and innovation. Senor’s book is itself responsible to a large degree for a widening appreciation in the United States for Israel’s extraordinary economic record during the past 15 or so years, popularizing eye-popping statistics like the number of Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock index or that Israel’s less than 8 million people drew more venture capital in 2008 than the 145 million citizens of France and Germany combined.

Fischer has won well-deserved credit for stewarding Israel through the worldwide economic collapses of the last few years largely unscathed. (Israel’s current unemployment rate, for example, stands at 5.4 percent while its economy grew in the fourth quarter of last year at a rate of 3.4 percent, both statistics the United States and just about every other Western country would look to with envy.)

Even an essay competition and accompanying session about the conflict were framed in terms of “innovating peace.”

The best thing of course about focusing discussions about Israel on its extraordinary record of innovation is that it’s all true. Rather than leading with political issues that are seen as controversial and over which Israel’s cause is not likely to be viewed with broad sympathy on most campuses, opening a discussion of Israel along economic lines also gives the country a much better chance to be favorably received.

While some publications associated with the kind of thinking responsible for so much of the unwarranted criticism the Jewish state faces on campus may see growing partnerships between business and universities as suspicious, students, administrators, and many professors largely don’t see things that way. Business is by far the most popular undergraduate major, chosen by nearly a quarter of all students. Engineering and hard sciences are seeing similar growth, while humanities departments – the worst sources of campus anti-Israelism – face steady declines of potentially catastrophic proportions.

Harvard’s conference is one of a growing number of examples of the effectiveness of this kind of advocacy. Berkeley’s law and business schools jointly hosted a conference on “Israel Through the High-Tech Lens” in February. TAMID, a growing student investment focused on Israel founded by students at Michigan, will be hosting its first national conference in Boston this summer, the same time as the second cohort of the very popular Birthright Israel Excel Fellowship will be in Israel.

None of this is to say that effective campus Israel advocacy can hope to entirely avoid politics. The most contentious issues, especially Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, must be addressed.

But a campus can be a hard place to speak out on Israel’s behalf. We shouldn’t turn away from any trends that favor in improvement in campus discourse about the Jewish state. For the short-term, at least, Israel’s economic successes are a powerful opportunity to generate positive advocacy.

 

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Ed Koch Fingers a Congressman Hostile to Israel

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

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Immigration and the Golden State

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

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What’s Wrong with Obama’s Muslim Outreach

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

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RE: The Left Defends Ground Zero Mosque

I wanted to add to your post, Jen, that mentions Dan Senor’s thoughtful, measured, and quite powerful open letter to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the driving force behind the plan to build a mosque and Muslim community center — the Cordoba House — at Ground Zero. Senor is an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a resident of lower Manhattan. As he puts it:

Our deeper concern is what effect Cordoba House would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, New Yorkers in general, and all Americans. As you have seen in the public reaction to the Cordoba House, 9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there … the exact street address of your cultural center cannot matter to the performance of its mission—but it very much does matter to the perceptions of your fellow Americans. We urge you to reconsider.

Imam Rauf certainly should — but probably will need some convincing. That’s why it would be mighty helpful if President Obama added his voice to the arguments laid out by Mr. Senor. It’s an issue Obama shouldn’t be allowed to vote “present” on.

I wanted to add to your post, Jen, that mentions Dan Senor’s thoughtful, measured, and quite powerful open letter to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the driving force behind the plan to build a mosque and Muslim community center — the Cordoba House — at Ground Zero. Senor is an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a resident of lower Manhattan. As he puts it:

Our deeper concern is what effect Cordoba House would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, New Yorkers in general, and all Americans. As you have seen in the public reaction to the Cordoba House, 9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there … the exact street address of your cultural center cannot matter to the performance of its mission—but it very much does matter to the perceptions of your fellow Americans. We urge you to reconsider.

Imam Rauf certainly should — but probably will need some convincing. That’s why it would be mighty helpful if President Obama added his voice to the arguments laid out by Mr. Senor. It’s an issue Obama shouldn’t be allowed to vote “present” on.

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The Left Defends Ground Zero Mosque

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Was Sestak Thinking When He Wrote to UN Human Rights Council?

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

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Obama Can Set a Course Correction with Israel Today

Dan Senor, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has a noteworthy piece in the Daily Beast on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the White House today.

Senor dilates on the convergence of four issues — relations with the Palestinians, Iran’s progress in gaining nuclear weapons, the UN, and Israeli politics — to underscore what a crucial moment this is for Israel as well as for Israeli-U.S. relations. In Senor’s (wise) words:

If Obama wants to head off what could be a September train wreck for Middle East diplomacy, he must first cement his partnership with Netanyahu today, and explain it in no uncertain terms to Israel’s friends and adversaries around the world.

This should be both unnecessary and self-evident — but given how badly the Obama administration has handled our relationship with Israel, to the point of causing a near-rupture, nothing should be assumed. The Obama administration has set back relationships with many allies around the world, but he has handled none worse that our relationship with Israel. It has been, on every level, a debacle. Let’s hope Obama begins to correct things soon. Today he can start.

Dan Senor, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has a noteworthy piece in the Daily Beast on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the White House today.

Senor dilates on the convergence of four issues — relations with the Palestinians, Iran’s progress in gaining nuclear weapons, the UN, and Israeli politics — to underscore what a crucial moment this is for Israel as well as for Israeli-U.S. relations. In Senor’s (wise) words:

If Obama wants to head off what could be a September train wreck for Middle East diplomacy, he must first cement his partnership with Netanyahu today, and explain it in no uncertain terms to Israel’s friends and adversaries around the world.

This should be both unnecessary and self-evident — but given how badly the Obama administration has handled our relationship with Israel, to the point of causing a near-rupture, nothing should be assumed. The Obama administration has set back relationships with many allies around the world, but he has handled none worse that our relationship with Israel. It has been, on every level, a debacle. Let’s hope Obama begins to correct things soon. Today he can start.

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The Breaking Point for Steele

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

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Hillary Clinton at AIPAC — Then and Now

When Hillary Clinton appeared at AIPAC in 2008, she told the conference that one of her guiding principles was a “simple one; no nuclear weapons for Iran.”

Iran simply cannot be allowed to continue its current behavior and I wish to underscore, I believe that we are further behind in constraining Iran today because of the failed policies of President Bush than we would have been had we taken a much more aggressive engagement course earlier. That is why it is imperative that we get both tough and smart about dealing with Iran before it is too late.

The Obama administration has now spent 15 months allowing Iran to continue its “current behavior.” The “tough and smart” engagement has consisted of an endlessly outstretched hand, combined with self-congratulatory statements about how “isolated” the failed engagement has made Iran. Sanctions that no one expects to be “crippling” are months off, and it is not clear what happens after that.

In his own 2008 AIPAC address, Barack Obama said that we had “no time to waste” and promised to use “all elements of American power to pressure Iran.” The key sentence in his prepared text was “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – a sentence that generated a standing ovation because, in the speech as delivered, Obama repeated the word “everything” three times:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weaponeverything. [emphasis added]

Secretary of State Clinton’s speech this morning included a statement that the U.S. is “determined” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but as Jen notes, the speech included no reference to “all options” remaining on the table, much less the promise that Obama previously made, which was that every option will be used if necessary.

At yesterday’s Roundtable on Foreign Policy, there was the following exchange between moderator Dan Senor, Dr. Robert Kagan, and Senator Evan Bayh:

Dan Senor: Rob, there has been an attempt at engagement for — with Iran now for a year. The results speak for themselves. What are President Obama’s policy options for Iran?

Dr. Robert Kagan: Dan, the president came to office, in my estimation, believing that the key problem with Iran was Iran’s isolation, and you solve the isolation problem through engagement. Well, we figured out pretty early on that that was a mis-analysis, that the key problem was that Iran really wants to have a nuclear bomb. And if that’s the problem, then you need a different strategy, and there are three necessary elements to that strategy. One is diplomacy, second is economic sanctions, and third is a credible threat of force that’s — hovers in the background to compel the Iranians to take seriously the sanctions and the diplomacy. (Applause.)

Now — now, to — to the credit of the president, he has moved from a reliance solely on engagement to endorsing significant, although not yet crippling, sanctions. We’re slow. It’s taking too long. They won’t be comprehensive enough, but most importantly, they’re unlikely to be effective without the third part. ….

Dan Senor: Senator Bayh, is — is that credible threat of force there? The — at — at least the — the projection of it.

Sen. Evan Bayh: I’m not sure it’s there in the minds of the Iranians right now, but it needs to be there. …

So I — I agree entirely with what Rob said, and if you want to just be clear-eyed and realistic about this, we need to go with aggressive sanctions that are likely to hurt the regime, particularly the revolutionary guards. But you — you want to be honest about it, that’s unlikely to work.

The absence in Secretary Clinton’s speech of any sense of urgency, or of a possible Plan C, will be noted by those looking for something more significant than a rhetorical expression of “determination.”

When Hillary Clinton appeared at AIPAC in 2008, she told the conference that one of her guiding principles was a “simple one; no nuclear weapons for Iran.”

Iran simply cannot be allowed to continue its current behavior and I wish to underscore, I believe that we are further behind in constraining Iran today because of the failed policies of President Bush than we would have been had we taken a much more aggressive engagement course earlier. That is why it is imperative that we get both tough and smart about dealing with Iran before it is too late.

The Obama administration has now spent 15 months allowing Iran to continue its “current behavior.” The “tough and smart” engagement has consisted of an endlessly outstretched hand, combined with self-congratulatory statements about how “isolated” the failed engagement has made Iran. Sanctions that no one expects to be “crippling” are months off, and it is not clear what happens after that.

In his own 2008 AIPAC address, Barack Obama said that we had “no time to waste” and promised to use “all elements of American power to pressure Iran.” The key sentence in his prepared text was “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – a sentence that generated a standing ovation because, in the speech as delivered, Obama repeated the word “everything” three times:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weaponeverything. [emphasis added]

Secretary of State Clinton’s speech this morning included a statement that the U.S. is “determined” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but as Jen notes, the speech included no reference to “all options” remaining on the table, much less the promise that Obama previously made, which was that every option will be used if necessary.

At yesterday’s Roundtable on Foreign Policy, there was the following exchange between moderator Dan Senor, Dr. Robert Kagan, and Senator Evan Bayh:

Dan Senor: Rob, there has been an attempt at engagement for — with Iran now for a year. The results speak for themselves. What are President Obama’s policy options for Iran?

Dr. Robert Kagan: Dan, the president came to office, in my estimation, believing that the key problem with Iran was Iran’s isolation, and you solve the isolation problem through engagement. Well, we figured out pretty early on that that was a mis-analysis, that the key problem was that Iran really wants to have a nuclear bomb. And if that’s the problem, then you need a different strategy, and there are three necessary elements to that strategy. One is diplomacy, second is economic sanctions, and third is a credible threat of force that’s — hovers in the background to compel the Iranians to take seriously the sanctions and the diplomacy. (Applause.)

Now — now, to — to the credit of the president, he has moved from a reliance solely on engagement to endorsing significant, although not yet crippling, sanctions. We’re slow. It’s taking too long. They won’t be comprehensive enough, but most importantly, they’re unlikely to be effective without the third part. ….

Dan Senor: Senator Bayh, is — is that credible threat of force there? The — at — at least the — the projection of it.

Sen. Evan Bayh: I’m not sure it’s there in the minds of the Iranians right now, but it needs to be there. …

So I — I agree entirely with what Rob said, and if you want to just be clear-eyed and realistic about this, we need to go with aggressive sanctions that are likely to hurt the regime, particularly the revolutionary guards. But you — you want to be honest about it, that’s unlikely to work.

The absence in Secretary Clinton’s speech of any sense of urgency, or of a possible Plan C, will be noted by those looking for something more significant than a rhetorical expression of “determination.”

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Weathering the Storm

As we dig deeper into the flap over Jerusalem housing activity, it is worth revisiting a central question: who blindsided whom here?

Hillel Halkin argues that four months ago, the U.S. and Israel had a deal: “Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel’s refusal to do the same in Jerusalem. … On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it, despite the anger this caused on the pro-settlement Israeli Right from which many of Mr. Netanyahu’s voters come. Now, America has reneged on its word. Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in ‘Arab’ Jerusalem.”

Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush, concurs:

The United States and Israel have long had different views of the settlements, but the issue has been managed without a crisis for decades. In the Bush administration, a deal was struck whereby the United States would not protest construction inside existing settlements so long as they did not expand outward. The current crisis, ostensibly about construction in Jerusalem, was manufactured by the Obama administration–and as it is about Jerusalem, isn’t even about activity in the settlements.

Every Israeli government since 1967, of left or right, has asserted that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has allowed Israeli Jews to build there. … To escalate that announcement into a crisis in bilateral relations and “condemn” it–using a verb we apply to acts of murder and terror, not acts of housing construction–was a decision by the U.S. government, not a natural or inevitable occurrence.

And Dan Senor adds this:

[T]he Obama administration’s decision to “condemn” this mistake was a much larger blunder. The problem is not this particular flap, which will pass, but the underlying misunderstanding that our government’s outburst reflects. Vice President Biden himself said in Israel that the peace process is best served when there is no “daylight” between the United States and Israel. He was right, but he broke his own rule. The word “condemn”–which has only been used by the United States against Iran, North Korea, and egregious human rights violations–created precisely such daylight. The result was predictable: The Arab League immediately announced that it was reconsidering its support for Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.

So to return to the query: was it the administration that was blindsided — insulted, even! — by a midlevel bureaucratic snafu, or was the Israeli government blindsided by the screeching from the administration, which had no basis to believe there had been any commitment to halt housing development in Jerusalem?  It seems the latter is more likely.

And then there remains the issue of “perspective” — which the nervy Obami implored us all to find as their handiwork was met with a firestorm of protest. We should consider perspective in two ways: how big a deal the housing announcement is and what the incident tells us about the Obami’s own perspective on the Middle East. As for the former, the Obami’s indignation was grossly disproportionate to the matter at hand and was trumpeted most likely for the express purpose of ingratiating Obama with the Palestinians and “preserving” the “peace process.” (Didn’t work out that way, as Senor pointed out.) But the Obami’s perspective — and lack of foresight — is the more troubling of the two sorts of perspective. It should tell Israel and its supporters precisely the challenge they face: how can the U.S.-Israeli relationship weather the Obama administration? We can only hope that the justified outrage that members of Congress and the American Jewish community demonstrated — waking from its slumber — will serve to temper the Obami’s conduct, and in turn help preserve the U.S.-Israeli relationship until cooler heads and warmer hearts occupy the White House.

As we dig deeper into the flap over Jerusalem housing activity, it is worth revisiting a central question: who blindsided whom here?

Hillel Halkin argues that four months ago, the U.S. and Israel had a deal: “Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel’s refusal to do the same in Jerusalem. … On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it, despite the anger this caused on the pro-settlement Israeli Right from which many of Mr. Netanyahu’s voters come. Now, America has reneged on its word. Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in ‘Arab’ Jerusalem.”

Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush, concurs:

The United States and Israel have long had different views of the settlements, but the issue has been managed without a crisis for decades. In the Bush administration, a deal was struck whereby the United States would not protest construction inside existing settlements so long as they did not expand outward. The current crisis, ostensibly about construction in Jerusalem, was manufactured by the Obama administration–and as it is about Jerusalem, isn’t even about activity in the settlements.

Every Israeli government since 1967, of left or right, has asserted that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has allowed Israeli Jews to build there. … To escalate that announcement into a crisis in bilateral relations and “condemn” it–using a verb we apply to acts of murder and terror, not acts of housing construction–was a decision by the U.S. government, not a natural or inevitable occurrence.

And Dan Senor adds this:

[T]he Obama administration’s decision to “condemn” this mistake was a much larger blunder. The problem is not this particular flap, which will pass, but the underlying misunderstanding that our government’s outburst reflects. Vice President Biden himself said in Israel that the peace process is best served when there is no “daylight” between the United States and Israel. He was right, but he broke his own rule. The word “condemn”–which has only been used by the United States against Iran, North Korea, and egregious human rights violations–created precisely such daylight. The result was predictable: The Arab League immediately announced that it was reconsidering its support for Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.

So to return to the query: was it the administration that was blindsided — insulted, even! — by a midlevel bureaucratic snafu, or was the Israeli government blindsided by the screeching from the administration, which had no basis to believe there had been any commitment to halt housing development in Jerusalem?  It seems the latter is more likely.

And then there remains the issue of “perspective” — which the nervy Obami implored us all to find as their handiwork was met with a firestorm of protest. We should consider perspective in two ways: how big a deal the housing announcement is and what the incident tells us about the Obami’s own perspective on the Middle East. As for the former, the Obami’s indignation was grossly disproportionate to the matter at hand and was trumpeted most likely for the express purpose of ingratiating Obama with the Palestinians and “preserving” the “peace process.” (Didn’t work out that way, as Senor pointed out.) But the Obami’s perspective — and lack of foresight — is the more troubling of the two sorts of perspective. It should tell Israel and its supporters precisely the challenge they face: how can the U.S.-Israeli relationship weather the Obama administration? We can only hope that the justified outrage that members of Congress and the American Jewish community demonstrated — waking from its slumber — will serve to temper the Obami’s conduct, and in turn help preserve the U.S.-Israeli relationship until cooler heads and warmer hearts occupy the White House.

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Where’s the Support for U.S. Civilians in Iraq?

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

In recent years there has been a welcome outpouring of love and admiration for American troops. It has been common to hear, “I may not support the war, but I support the troops.” A commendable sentiment, but why doesn’t it extend to civilians who have risked their necks in war zones?

I was struck by Jim Dwyer’s snarky New York Times column about my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Dan Senor, who is contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in New York. There are plenty of reasons for a liberal columnist to disagree with the conservative Senor on matters of policy, but Dwyer chooses instead to launch a very personal attack on Senor’s service in Iraq as chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during 15 tumultuous months from the spring of 2003 to the summer of 2004. Dwyer sneers: “As Iraq was entering its bloodiest days, Mr. Senor was a prophet and cheerleader for the Bush administration, his daily messages seemingly disconnected from the country that was imploding outside the American headquarters in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.”

Echoing Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he goes on to describe the Green Zone “as heavily populated by Republican loyalists” — like Senor — “who brought little experience to the towering task of restoring Iraq to any semblance of normalcy after the invasion.”

Granted, Ambassador L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer and his senior aides, including Dan Senor, were not well-prepared for the task of governing Iraq. Nor did they have adequate resources for the task. But that was hardly their fault. Blame lay in the senior levels of the administration and the military, where there was an appalling lack of planning for the post-invasion phase of the Iraq operation. Troop numbers remained grossly inadequate despite Bremer’s pleas for more help.

Bremer & Co. made mistakes of their own (who wouldn’t?), but they were not wrong about everything or even most things. Some of their projects — a new Iraqi constitution, for example — have been standing the test of time. Some of the worst decisions — disbanding the Iraqi army and purging too many Baathists — seem to have been dictated from Washington. Whatever the details, there can be no doubt that Ambassador Bremer and his aides did the best they could in an extremely challenging, dangerous, chaotic environment.

Did Dan Senor put a positive gloss on events? Of course. That was his job. He was the official spokesman. Maybe Jim Dwyer would have preferred that he join the press corps in daily bemoaning Iraq’s woes, but that wasn’t what he was paid to do. His job was to give the official CPA line, and in the process try to calm and improve the situation rather than simply pointing out the numerous deficiencies that were being (for the most part accurately) exposed by the news media.

To read Dwyer and others, you would think that being sent to Iraq was akin to an all-expenses paid holiday in the Bahamas. In fact, it was a dangerous assignment that was, with some heroic exceptions, for the most part avoided by experienced Foreign Service officers who generally opposed the decision to go to war. The largest group of people volunteering to go, aside from those in uniform, were a bunch of young conservative idealists like Senor. Their dedication and idealism reminds me of young liberals who were inspired by JFK to join the Peace Corps in the early 1960s.

Scott Erwin, a former Council colleague, was one of them. A onetime White House intern, he postponed his senior year in college to work for CPA — an assignment that ended on June 2, 2004, when he was shot four times in an ambush that killed two Iraqis who were in the same car. He survived but others didn’t. Even the Green Zone, while safer than the surrounding areas, was hardly a pocket of tranquility. It was a constant magnet for rocket and mortar attacks that frequently landed in the embassy parking lot and killed a number of employees over the years. It was generally safer to be on one of the giant Forward Operating Bases, where most Americans in Iraq, troops and contractors alike, were garrisoned.

We should be celebrating those who volunteered to serve in the Iraq war, whether they wore a uniform or not — not demeaning their service to score political points.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

Democrats  get fingered, again, as much less supportive of Israel than Republicans and Independents. Thankfully, however, overall support for Israel is up, “Which should be a comfort to supporters of the Jewish State, who have felt an icy breeze wafting from the White House over the past year.” Still it does reraise the question, given Jews’ overwhelming identification as Democrats: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

The Climategate participants get fingered, again, for playing fast and loose with the facts. “The scientist who has been put in charge of the Commerce Department’s new climate change office is coming under attack from both sides of the global warming debate over his handling of what they say is contradictory scientific data related to the subject. … [A] climatologist affiliated with the University of Colorado who has crossed horns with [newly appointed Thomas] Karl in the past, says his appointment was a mistake. He accused Karl of suppressing data he submitted for the [UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] most recent report on climate change and having a very narrow view of its causes.”

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett get fingered, again, as flacks for the Iranian regime. (“The Leveretts’ sensitivity to suggestions they are in touch with Revolutionary Guards representatives is especially curious given that that Flynt Leverett has in the past boasted of his contacts with the Guards.”) And Lee Smith smartly concludes that “Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran has gone nowhere, and true believers are dropping by the wayside. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is calling for regime change, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reviving a promise from her own presidential campaign to extend a nuclear umbrella to protect Washington’s allies in the Persian Gulf. … The United States must stop the Iranians by any means necessary, and it must do so now.”

Barack Obama gets fingered, again, as a hypocrite. In 2005, he said: “You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

Sen. Arlen Specter  gets fingered, again, in a poll for defeat. Pat Toomey leads by 10 points in a potential general-election match-up.

Eric Holder gets fingered, again, by Andy McCarthy: “Their typical scandal pattern is: (a) make bold pronouncements about unprecedented transparency, (b) show a little leg, and then (c) stonewall, after which (d) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel assures some friendly journalist that everything would have been different if only they’d have listened to him. The result is the trifecta: the administration ends up looking hypocritical, sinister and incompetent.”

Nancy Pelosi gets fingered, again, for lacking the votes for ObamaCare II: “There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday. Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill. … In an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused [Eric] Cantor of ‘playing games’ but did not say whether House Democrats have the votes to pass the president’s fixes.”

Kirsten Gillibrand gets fingered, again, as a vulnerable Democrat. The newest potential challenger is Dan Senor, foreign-policy guru and co-author of  Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

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The Hasbara Test

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

Read Less




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