Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Frum

Of Loughner and Philip K. Dick and Me

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

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Evening Commentary

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

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Palestinian Authority: 10 EU States to Approve Palestinian Embassies

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed yesterday that 10 European Union states have decided to upgrade their PLO missions to embassy status. He didn’t specify which countries had allegedly agreed to this (though some foreign publications have recently tossed out the names France, Spain, Greece, and Portugal as possibilities):

Around 10 EU countries are set to upgrade the status of Palestinian representative offices in their capitals in the near future, chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat declared on Sunday.

This would mean that Palestinian missions would move a step closer toward becoming embassies whose officials enjoy full diplomatic immunity. … A PA official told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state was designed to shift the conflict from one over ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ to one over an “occupied state with defined borders.”

There’s an air of believability to Erekat’s claim in light of Norway’s recent approval of a Palestinian embassy, but I have to admit I’m still a bit skeptical, especially since the names of the countries aren’t mentioned. For one thing, unlike the EU states, Norway isn’t a member of the Quartet that brokers peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Would EU members really want to risk the semblance of neutrality by taking steps toward the unilateral validation of Palestinian statehood? And less than a week after the EU definitively rejected Erekat’s call to recognize Palestine as a country?

Supposing Erekat’s assertion is accurate, this move seems to be more symbolic than practical: for the EU member states, it’s a way to show solidarity with the Palestinians, while delivering a public jab at Israel over settlement construction. For the Palestinian Authority, it’s pretty much a PR move, designed to build momentum for a possible UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood, as well as an easy way to get the words “Israeli occupation” peppered into the news cycle.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have some problematic consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As David Frum pointed out yesterday, this type of unilateral approach to Palestinian statehood serves only to delay the peace process:

From the beginning of the Obama administration, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate directly with Israel. Indirect discussions have stumbled along without result. Abbas has insisted he cannot talk without a settlement freeze. Then when he gets his settlement freeze, he explains he still cannot talk.

The beauty of the UN approach is that it provides a perfect excuse never to talk to Israel again.

The UN approach may never achieve anything. It may leave the Palestinian people stuck in a frustrating status quo. But anything is better than a deal that would require a Palestinian leader to acknowledge the permanence of Israel. Back in 2000, Yasser Arafat told Bill Clinton that signing a treaty with Israel would cost Arafat his life. Abbas seems to have reached the same conclusion.

Of course, obstructing the peace process with Israel may be exactly what Erekat is hoping for. The PA official recently wrote a column in the Guardian calling for Israel to recognize the Palestinian “right of return,” so, clearly, a two-state solution isn’t even on his radar.

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed yesterday that 10 European Union states have decided to upgrade their PLO missions to embassy status. He didn’t specify which countries had allegedly agreed to this (though some foreign publications have recently tossed out the names France, Spain, Greece, and Portugal as possibilities):

Around 10 EU countries are set to upgrade the status of Palestinian representative offices in their capitals in the near future, chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat declared on Sunday.

This would mean that Palestinian missions would move a step closer toward becoming embassies whose officials enjoy full diplomatic immunity. … A PA official told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state was designed to shift the conflict from one over ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ to one over an “occupied state with defined borders.”

There’s an air of believability to Erekat’s claim in light of Norway’s recent approval of a Palestinian embassy, but I have to admit I’m still a bit skeptical, especially since the names of the countries aren’t mentioned. For one thing, unlike the EU states, Norway isn’t a member of the Quartet that brokers peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Would EU members really want to risk the semblance of neutrality by taking steps toward the unilateral validation of Palestinian statehood? And less than a week after the EU definitively rejected Erekat’s call to recognize Palestine as a country?

Supposing Erekat’s assertion is accurate, this move seems to be more symbolic than practical: for the EU member states, it’s a way to show solidarity with the Palestinians, while delivering a public jab at Israel over settlement construction. For the Palestinian Authority, it’s pretty much a PR move, designed to build momentum for a possible UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood, as well as an easy way to get the words “Israeli occupation” peppered into the news cycle.

But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have some problematic consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. As David Frum pointed out yesterday, this type of unilateral approach to Palestinian statehood serves only to delay the peace process:

From the beginning of the Obama administration, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate directly with Israel. Indirect discussions have stumbled along without result. Abbas has insisted he cannot talk without a settlement freeze. Then when he gets his settlement freeze, he explains he still cannot talk.

The beauty of the UN approach is that it provides a perfect excuse never to talk to Israel again.

The UN approach may never achieve anything. It may leave the Palestinian people stuck in a frustrating status quo. But anything is better than a deal that would require a Palestinian leader to acknowledge the permanence of Israel. Back in 2000, Yasser Arafat told Bill Clinton that signing a treaty with Israel would cost Arafat his life. Abbas seems to have reached the same conclusion.

Of course, obstructing the peace process with Israel may be exactly what Erekat is hoping for. The PA official recently wrote a column in the Guardian calling for Israel to recognize the Palestinian “right of return,” so, clearly, a two-state solution isn’t even on his radar.

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“No Labels” Is Also a Label

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

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Time for Conservatives to Get Serious About Fiscal Responsibility

Tomorrow Prime Minister David Cameron, who heads a coalition government, is expected to announce the results of a Comprehensive Spending Review of all government expenditures — a review that will result in unprecedented cuts. The goal is to slash the budget deficit from over 10 percent of GDP to almost zero in five years — and in the process to (a) reduce the “crowding out” effect of big government, (b) restore market confidence in government finances, and (c) encourage private business to invest and hire people, which will in turn fuel economic growth.

The cuts in public spending will probably exceed anything either Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or President Reagan ever attempted.

In the past, David Cameron was chided by some American conservatives for being a faux conservative because of his stands on the environment, the National Health Service, and social issues like gay rights (see David Frum’s fine commentary here). But facing the preeminent domestic threat to the West these days — unsustainable budget deficits and the amassing debt – Cameron is wielding a budget axe. Unlike, say, David Stockman, it’s not something Cameron seemed terribly eager to do; he envisioned himself in a different role. But to Cameron’s credit, he is facing reality in a far more responsible manner than the president of the United States, who has made things considerably worse with his spending agenda (President Obama has added $3 trillion to the debt in his first two years in office).

In the end, the truest measure of how serious American conservatives are about governing will be how they address the entitlement crisis. Will they follow the path charted by David Cameron (with the caveat that the UK’s fiscal problems are somewhat different in scope and nature from ours)? Or will they wilt when it comes to reforming entitlement programs by raising the retirement age (for people under 55), tying benefits to prices rather than to wages, means-testing Social Security and Medicare, and turning Medicare into a defined contribution (instead of a defined benefit) program (see here).

Having served in three different administrations, I realize that dealing with entitlements is not an easy task. Republicans need to put forward plans that are gradual, responsible, and prudent. Impaling itself on entitlement reform is not a reasonable demand to make of a political party. Nevertheless, there needs to be a governing strategy that gets America from where we are (an unsustainable fiscal path) to where we need to be (reconfiguring entitlements).

That will need to be done incrementally rather than all at once. But what the Republican Party cannot do is to speak endlessly about the virtues of limited government and the need to cut spending in the abstract — but avoid the hard choices in the particulars. Sooner rather than later, the GOP is going to have to address head on this issue of entitlements (as Representative Paul Ryan has done). Failing to do so would damage its credibility, its cause (conservatism), and its claim that it is serious about fiscal responsibility.

Tomorrow Prime Minister David Cameron, who heads a coalition government, is expected to announce the results of a Comprehensive Spending Review of all government expenditures — a review that will result in unprecedented cuts. The goal is to slash the budget deficit from over 10 percent of GDP to almost zero in five years — and in the process to (a) reduce the “crowding out” effect of big government, (b) restore market confidence in government finances, and (c) encourage private business to invest and hire people, which will in turn fuel economic growth.

The cuts in public spending will probably exceed anything either Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or President Reagan ever attempted.

In the past, David Cameron was chided by some American conservatives for being a faux conservative because of his stands on the environment, the National Health Service, and social issues like gay rights (see David Frum’s fine commentary here). But facing the preeminent domestic threat to the West these days — unsustainable budget deficits and the amassing debt – Cameron is wielding a budget axe. Unlike, say, David Stockman, it’s not something Cameron seemed terribly eager to do; he envisioned himself in a different role. But to Cameron’s credit, he is facing reality in a far more responsible manner than the president of the United States, who has made things considerably worse with his spending agenda (President Obama has added $3 trillion to the debt in his first two years in office).

In the end, the truest measure of how serious American conservatives are about governing will be how they address the entitlement crisis. Will they follow the path charted by David Cameron (with the caveat that the UK’s fiscal problems are somewhat different in scope and nature from ours)? Or will they wilt when it comes to reforming entitlement programs by raising the retirement age (for people under 55), tying benefits to prices rather than to wages, means-testing Social Security and Medicare, and turning Medicare into a defined contribution (instead of a defined benefit) program (see here).

Having served in three different administrations, I realize that dealing with entitlements is not an easy task. Republicans need to put forward plans that are gradual, responsible, and prudent. Impaling itself on entitlement reform is not a reasonable demand to make of a political party. Nevertheless, there needs to be a governing strategy that gets America from where we are (an unsustainable fiscal path) to where we need to be (reconfiguring entitlements).

That will need to be done incrementally rather than all at once. But what the Republican Party cannot do is to speak endlessly about the virtues of limited government and the need to cut spending in the abstract — but avoid the hard choices in the particulars. Sooner rather than later, the GOP is going to have to address head on this issue of entitlements (as Representative Paul Ryan has done). Failing to do so would damage its credibility, its cause (conservatism), and its claim that it is serious about fiscal responsibility.

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Five Greatest Conservative Books

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

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Jews and Iran and Israel and Obama and America and Pipes and Frum and Medved and I

If you have an hour and a half, you can watch me, Daniel Pipes, David Frum, and Michael Medved at a Jewish Policy Center event in Dallas. I haven’t watched it. The audience seemed to like it. Maybe you will too. Who knows? It’s hot. You’re inside. What are you going to do instead, watch “Dancing with the Stars”? Give it a shot.

If you have an hour and a half, you can watch me, Daniel Pipes, David Frum, and Michael Medved at a Jewish Policy Center event in Dallas. I haven’t watched it. The audience seemed to like it. Maybe you will too. Who knows? It’s hot. You’re inside. What are you going to do instead, watch “Dancing with the Stars”? Give it a shot.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.'” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

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Palin and the Media

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

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What Lesson Will David Cameron Teach Americans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RE: Tom Campbell and Israel

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

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Tom Campbell and Israel (Updated)

Philip Klein’s must-read post details more Tom Campbell comments concerning Israel. There was his remark that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it’s wrong to say it can’t also be the capital of Palestine.”  And there was his comment to Yasser Arafat, following a minor mishap in the West Bank, that “this makes me the first American to have shed blood in your country.” In isolation, this or that comment might not seem extraordinary. But, in addition to his record of anti-Israel votes, Campbell tosses about praise and encouragement to some extreme figures who are hostile to Israel.

A case in point is his praise for Israel-hater and conspiracy-monger Alison Weir. Others have noted that Weir runs an outfit, If Americans Only Knew, that is replete with her calls to cut aid to Israel and her vile anti-Israel bashing, which includes her fanning of the organ-harvesting libel. This escaped the attention of David Frum, who recently rose in support of Tom Campbell. It was just last week that Frum wrote movingly about a Swedish newspaper that saw fit to give space to a freelance journalist, Donald Bostrom, “to charge that the Israeli army regularly harvested organs from the bodies of slain Palestinians.” Frum explained:

After briefly acknowledging that the vast majority of the world’s illegally harvested organs come from China, Pakistan, and the Philippines, Bostrom then hurled this astounding charge: “Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions that young men have been seized, and made to serve as organ reserve, just as in China and Pakistan, before being killed.”

Jewish vampirism is an ancient fantasy, dating back to the Middle Ages. Yet it remains current in the contemporary Middle East. A Syrian film company created a multipart TV drama out of the story in 2003. The drama was broadcast worldwide on Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite network. Iranian state TV broadcast a drama in 2004 in which the plot turns on an Israeli plan to steal Palestinian children’s eyes.

It’s a winding road from medieval folktales to Hezbollah TV to the New Jersey mob to a Swedish daily to the British House of Lords.

But it’s a road traveled by more and more people. On February 11, Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute presented a paper to the Israeli cabinet warning of “delegitimization” aimed at the Jewish state. As reported by Ha’aretz, the paper warns:

“The ‘delegitimizers’ cooperate with organizations engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories such as Amnesty [International] and Human Rights Watch, blurring the line between legitimate censure and delegitimization. … The network’s activists are not mostly Palestinian, Arab or Muslim. Many of them are European and North American left-wing activists,” who portray Israel as a pariah state and deny its right to exist.

It is that very Swedish newspaper report, among many, that Weir touts on her website. Well, I’m sure then Frum would be appalled to learn that Campbell fancies Weir as “an intelligent, careful, and critical” scholar and urges that “American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses.”

Frum also quoted from a recent interview given by Campbell, in which Campbell professes support for Israel. Frum perhaps did not have access to (and hence did not include) the two final questions and responses, which were not included in the web article he cites. However, these have now circulated in the California Jewish community, a copy of which I obtained:

What is Campbellʼs position on his 1990 Jerusalem vote [ opposing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital]

When George Bush, Sr., was President, then Secretary of State James Baker announced that Israel was not serious about stopping settlements in East Jerusalem, and that when they were serious, they could call the White House. As a rebuke to Secretary Baker, a resolution was introduced by a prominent Democrat in the House recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided, permanent, and not-to-be-shared capital of Israel. The resolution was intended to undermine the position Secretary Baker was attempting to maintain, and which is still official American policy, that the status of Jerusalem is a matter to be resolved between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Declaring all of Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, not to be shared, was equivalent to an endorsement of putting more settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Bush Administration opposed the resolution, and I voted against it.

What is Campbellʼs position regarding his vote in 1999 against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state?

Regarding the resolution disapproving a unilateral declaration of the statehood of Palestine, this was one of those occasions where having taught international law, and studied this particular issue, probably hurt me more than helped me. I know “Wikipedia” is not necessarily the most authoritative source, but look at the selection below dealing with the various legal scholars’ opinions regarding Palestinian statehood. It lays out the complexity of the issue. The international law sources cited support the case that a State of Palestine was already twice declared by the international community, in the Treaty of Lausanne, and then by the UN at the termination of the British Palestinian mandate. Suffice it to say that I could not vote for the proposed resolution, which took absolutely no account of this international history or international law. As things have subsequently worked out, I believe Israel’s official position now is in favor of a State of Palestine.

As to the last answer, I have no idea what Campbell is talking about and how he thinks his opposition to a unilateral declaration of statehood matches Israel’s current position. (Hint: Israel demands the Palestinians actually recognize the Jewish state’s existence and renounce terrorism.)  As one informed staffer and expert on Israel issues put it, “Tom Campbell has the questionable distinction as being the only politician ever to cite the Treaty of Lausanne in order to justify an anti-Israel vote.” And as to his invocation of James “F*** the Jews” Baker and the curious reference to stopping “settlements in East Jerusalem” (What “settlements” is he talking about?), one can only say, as an official of a prominent Jewish organization put it with understated disdain, it suggests “someone with a pronounced anti-Israel perspective.”  (The vote on the measure was not, as Campbell argued, a partisan affair. It passed with 378 votes; Campbell was one of only 34 opposed.) A Jewish official who works on Capitol Hill sums it up:

“I am hard pressed to remember any member of Congress who targeted Israel’s aid to cut, voted the wrong way in an overwhelming bipartisan vote on Jerusalem, supported Hamas terrorist Sami Al-Aryian and others convicted of supporting Islamic Jihad terrorists – even appearing at rallies with Al-Aryian and others as the spewed their anti-Israel bile, took campaign cash from them, wrote letters on Al Ariyan’s behalf, spoke at CAIR events – a group notoriously hostile to Israel and which is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts in America, and publicly supports Alison Weir – lately a purveyor of the organ harvesting blood libel against Israel.  That is quite a public record.  Now maybe Tom Campbell has become more pro-Israel than the Chief Rabbi on Minsk, but that would truly be the world’s most miraculous conversion.  The facts are the facts.  Mr. Campbell’s record speaks for itself and no amount of lipstik can pretty up this pig.”

The voters of California concerned about the candidates’ position on Israel will need to decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record and judgment justify their support. Frankly, he’s got some explaining to do.

UPDATE: Bruce Kesler, who identifies himself as the author of the Tom Campbell  Q&A that David Frum cited, denies that the final two questions and answers I referenced above were part of his interview with Campbell. A document containing those two questions and answers as well as the other questions and answers Kesler did report on his website was circulated in California in the Jewish community by a representative of the Campbell campaign with the purpose of bolstering Campbell’s position on these issues. Campbell’s answers and other materials accompanying the Q&A match other materials that have been sent by the Campbell campaign.

Philip Klein’s must-read post details more Tom Campbell comments concerning Israel. There was his remark that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it’s wrong to say it can’t also be the capital of Palestine.”  And there was his comment to Yasser Arafat, following a minor mishap in the West Bank, that “this makes me the first American to have shed blood in your country.” In isolation, this or that comment might not seem extraordinary. But, in addition to his record of anti-Israel votes, Campbell tosses about praise and encouragement to some extreme figures who are hostile to Israel.

A case in point is his praise for Israel-hater and conspiracy-monger Alison Weir. Others have noted that Weir runs an outfit, If Americans Only Knew, that is replete with her calls to cut aid to Israel and her vile anti-Israel bashing, which includes her fanning of the organ-harvesting libel. This escaped the attention of David Frum, who recently rose in support of Tom Campbell. It was just last week that Frum wrote movingly about a Swedish newspaper that saw fit to give space to a freelance journalist, Donald Bostrom, “to charge that the Israeli army regularly harvested organs from the bodies of slain Palestinians.” Frum explained:

After briefly acknowledging that the vast majority of the world’s illegally harvested organs come from China, Pakistan, and the Philippines, Bostrom then hurled this astounding charge: “Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions that young men have been seized, and made to serve as organ reserve, just as in China and Pakistan, before being killed.”

Jewish vampirism is an ancient fantasy, dating back to the Middle Ages. Yet it remains current in the contemporary Middle East. A Syrian film company created a multipart TV drama out of the story in 2003. The drama was broadcast worldwide on Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite network. Iranian state TV broadcast a drama in 2004 in which the plot turns on an Israeli plan to steal Palestinian children’s eyes.

It’s a winding road from medieval folktales to Hezbollah TV to the New Jersey mob to a Swedish daily to the British House of Lords.

But it’s a road traveled by more and more people. On February 11, Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute presented a paper to the Israeli cabinet warning of “delegitimization” aimed at the Jewish state. As reported by Ha’aretz, the paper warns:

“The ‘delegitimizers’ cooperate with organizations engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories such as Amnesty [International] and Human Rights Watch, blurring the line between legitimate censure and delegitimization. … The network’s activists are not mostly Palestinian, Arab or Muslim. Many of them are European and North American left-wing activists,” who portray Israel as a pariah state and deny its right to exist.

It is that very Swedish newspaper report, among many, that Weir touts on her website. Well, I’m sure then Frum would be appalled to learn that Campbell fancies Weir as “an intelligent, careful, and critical” scholar and urges that “American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses.”

Frum also quoted from a recent interview given by Campbell, in which Campbell professes support for Israel. Frum perhaps did not have access to (and hence did not include) the two final questions and responses, which were not included in the web article he cites. However, these have now circulated in the California Jewish community, a copy of which I obtained:

What is Campbellʼs position on his 1990 Jerusalem vote [ opposing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital]

When George Bush, Sr., was President, then Secretary of State James Baker announced that Israel was not serious about stopping settlements in East Jerusalem, and that when they were serious, they could call the White House. As a rebuke to Secretary Baker, a resolution was introduced by a prominent Democrat in the House recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided, permanent, and not-to-be-shared capital of Israel. The resolution was intended to undermine the position Secretary Baker was attempting to maintain, and which is still official American policy, that the status of Jerusalem is a matter to be resolved between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Declaring all of Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, not to be shared, was equivalent to an endorsement of putting more settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Bush Administration opposed the resolution, and I voted against it.

What is Campbellʼs position regarding his vote in 1999 against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state?

Regarding the resolution disapproving a unilateral declaration of the statehood of Palestine, this was one of those occasions where having taught international law, and studied this particular issue, probably hurt me more than helped me. I know “Wikipedia” is not necessarily the most authoritative source, but look at the selection below dealing with the various legal scholars’ opinions regarding Palestinian statehood. It lays out the complexity of the issue. The international law sources cited support the case that a State of Palestine was already twice declared by the international community, in the Treaty of Lausanne, and then by the UN at the termination of the British Palestinian mandate. Suffice it to say that I could not vote for the proposed resolution, which took absolutely no account of this international history or international law. As things have subsequently worked out, I believe Israel’s official position now is in favor of a State of Palestine.

As to the last answer, I have no idea what Campbell is talking about and how he thinks his opposition to a unilateral declaration of statehood matches Israel’s current position. (Hint: Israel demands the Palestinians actually recognize the Jewish state’s existence and renounce terrorism.)  As one informed staffer and expert on Israel issues put it, “Tom Campbell has the questionable distinction as being the only politician ever to cite the Treaty of Lausanne in order to justify an anti-Israel vote.” And as to his invocation of James “F*** the Jews” Baker and the curious reference to stopping “settlements in East Jerusalem” (What “settlements” is he talking about?), one can only say, as an official of a prominent Jewish organization put it with understated disdain, it suggests “someone with a pronounced anti-Israel perspective.”  (The vote on the measure was not, as Campbell argued, a partisan affair. It passed with 378 votes; Campbell was one of only 34 opposed.) A Jewish official who works on Capitol Hill sums it up:

“I am hard pressed to remember any member of Congress who targeted Israel’s aid to cut, voted the wrong way in an overwhelming bipartisan vote on Jerusalem, supported Hamas terrorist Sami Al-Aryian and others convicted of supporting Islamic Jihad terrorists – even appearing at rallies with Al-Aryian and others as the spewed their anti-Israel bile, took campaign cash from them, wrote letters on Al Ariyan’s behalf, spoke at CAIR events – a group notoriously hostile to Israel and which is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts in America, and publicly supports Alison Weir – lately a purveyor of the organ harvesting blood libel against Israel.  That is quite a public record.  Now maybe Tom Campbell has become more pro-Israel than the Chief Rabbi on Minsk, but that would truly be the world’s most miraculous conversion.  The facts are the facts.  Mr. Campbell’s record speaks for itself and no amount of lipstik can pretty up this pig.”

The voters of California concerned about the candidates’ position on Israel will need to decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record and judgment justify their support. Frankly, he’s got some explaining to do.

UPDATE: Bruce Kesler, who identifies himself as the author of the Tom Campbell  Q&A that David Frum cited, denies that the final two questions and answers I referenced above were part of his interview with Campbell. A document containing those two questions and answers as well as the other questions and answers Kesler did report on his website was circulated in California in the Jewish community by a representative of the Campbell campaign with the purpose of bolstering Campbell’s position on these issues. Campbell’s answers and other materials accompanying the Q&A match other materials that have been sent by the Campbell campaign.

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Re: Eurabia Debunked

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

Mark Steyn and Tony Blankley, both commentators for whom I have considerable respect, have responded to my “Eurabia Debunked” and a few other articles taking exception to their warnings about the Muslimization of Europe.

Mark cherry-picks data showing Muslims are supposedly 10 percent of the population in France, that one-fifth of British university students are Muslim, that Brussels’ governing socialist caucus is majority Muslim, etc. Actually, there is considerable uncertainty about these numbers because there is no definitive accounting of Muslims in Europe (or anywhere else). Consider this Pew study, which finds Muslims are only 6 percent of the French population, 5 perccent in Germany, and 2.7 percent in the United Kingdom. Overall, Europe has about 38 million Muslims, or 5 percent of the population, but most of them are concentrated in Russia, Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

If there is uncertainty about how many Muslims are in Europe today, there is even greater cloudiness about how many there will be in the future. As this Newsweek article notes, the case made by Mark and other alarmists is based on the worst-case reading of long-term population projections, which are notoriously unreliable. As William Underhill writes in Newsweek:

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Blankley is right to note the “powerful impact of even very small numbers of determined people in a host country riddled with guilt and political correctness.” David Frum makes a powerful point about how Britain has become a center of Muslim radicalization. That obviously is of great concern to us because of the easy access that British subject have to the U.S.

I agree with Steyn, Blankley, et al. that radical Muslims will continue to be a major problem in Europe. I just don’t think they will take over and turn the continent into “Eurabia.” In fact, there are already many signs of a backlash building — for instance, the Swiss banning the construction of new minarets, the French banning the veil in school and now proposing to ban burkas in public, and the British banning the radical group Islam4UK. I still see considerable resiliency in European civilization and great latent power that can and will be deployed against Muslim radicals who seriously threaten internal order.

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From Exporting Democracy to Exporting Terrorism

David Frum and Michael Weiss have important pieces on the decline — really, the suicide — of Great Britain.

David Frum and Michael Weiss have important pieces on the decline — really, the suicide — of Great Britain.

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The Real Lessons

David Frum posits, correctly I think, that the real lesson of Scott McClellan is that Presidents shouldn’t surround themselves with incompetent lackeys and foster a sense of blind personal loyalty. That’s something upon which both conservatives and liberals can agree. But of course, we didn’t need McClellan to write about that–he was that. (And if you entirely change your book pitch from “Bush was a pretty ok guy” to “They were all liars” to please your left-wing book publisher, you deserve to have bipartisan contempt hurled your way.)

While we are learning (or re-learning) lessons about the Bush administration, I think refusing to listen to military experts, adjusting to new facts, and acknowledging reality should rank fairly high. Given the current status of Iraq and Al Qaeda, maybe Barack Obama shouldn’t be tossing around phrases like: “We don’t need more leaders who can’t admit they made a mistake.” That seems destined to wind up in a John McCain campaign ad. For now the McCain camp responds that:

Barack Obama has never once said that neglecting to meet one on one with General David Petraeus or that neglecting to visit Iraq in 874 days was a mistake. The issue is: Barack Obama’s inaction appears to be a refusal to see or even consider the reported successes with the ‘Surge’ in Iraq – and that is a major mistake he should admit to.

And from a less biased source: the Washington Post, after pointing to the substantial gains in Iraq, suggests that the new facts “ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the ‘this-war-is-lost” caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama.” After all, we know the perils of a President who is slow to recognize new facts and adjust accordingly.

David Frum posits, correctly I think, that the real lesson of Scott McClellan is that Presidents shouldn’t surround themselves with incompetent lackeys and foster a sense of blind personal loyalty. That’s something upon which both conservatives and liberals can agree. But of course, we didn’t need McClellan to write about that–he was that. (And if you entirely change your book pitch from “Bush was a pretty ok guy” to “They were all liars” to please your left-wing book publisher, you deserve to have bipartisan contempt hurled your way.)

While we are learning (or re-learning) lessons about the Bush administration, I think refusing to listen to military experts, adjusting to new facts, and acknowledging reality should rank fairly high. Given the current status of Iraq and Al Qaeda, maybe Barack Obama shouldn’t be tossing around phrases like: “We don’t need more leaders who can’t admit they made a mistake.” That seems destined to wind up in a John McCain campaign ad. For now the McCain camp responds that:

Barack Obama has never once said that neglecting to meet one on one with General David Petraeus or that neglecting to visit Iraq in 874 days was a mistake. The issue is: Barack Obama’s inaction appears to be a refusal to see or even consider the reported successes with the ‘Surge’ in Iraq – and that is a major mistake he should admit to.

And from a less biased source: the Washington Post, after pointing to the substantial gains in Iraq, suggests that the new facts “ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the ‘this-war-is-lost” caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama.” After all, we know the perils of a President who is slow to recognize new facts and adjust accordingly.

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“I Would Take Stronger Medication”

If you ever find yourself confronting 9-11 Truthers, it’s best to emulate David Frum. One should also be immediately wary of people from groups with titles like “Jewish Voices of Conscience for Truth, Justice and Peace.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99QopsseBM4[/youtube]

If you ever find yourself confronting 9-11 Truthers, it’s best to emulate David Frum. One should also be immediately wary of people from groups with titles like “Jewish Voices of Conscience for Truth, Justice and Peace.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99QopsseBM4[/youtube]

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REPUBLICAN DEBATE: The Reagan Legacy

John, Fred Thompson is tonight, as you suggest, giving one of the strongest performances of his campaign. Quite consciously, he is arguing to be Reagan’s heir. In debates, that is a winning issue. But I think any honest assessment of Republican challenges requires an admission that the
Republican party needs to go beyond the core Reagan messages (which, to be clear, I embraced with enthusiasm). David Frum’s new book, Comeback, makes a similar argument. At a certain point, these candidates have to set an agenda for the future, creating conservative responses to terrorism, health care, immigration, global competition. Reagan nostalgia is insufficient as an
agenda.

John, Fred Thompson is tonight, as you suggest, giving one of the strongest performances of his campaign. Quite consciously, he is arguing to be Reagan’s heir. In debates, that is a winning issue. But I think any honest assessment of Republican challenges requires an admission that the
Republican party needs to go beyond the core Reagan messages (which, to be clear, I embraced with enthusiasm). David Frum’s new book, Comeback, makes a similar argument. At a certain point, these candidates have to set an agenda for the future, creating conservative responses to terrorism, health care, immigration, global competition. Reagan nostalgia is insufficient as an
agenda.

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Mitt Romney’s Boilerplate Mistake

So Mitt Romney, facing the rise of Mike Huckabee’s Christian-centric campaign in Iowa and judging that the Huckabee surge is related to discomfort with Romney’s Mormonism, gave his much-anticipated speech on faith this morning. It’s perfectly fine Republican boilerplate — faith must inform our views but it does not guide them, the public square should not be naked, our Founders believed in religion and yet even they had to deal with intolerance toward minority faiths, Martin Luther King was really very good, etc. etc. Many commentators on the Right are praising the speech, but I fear they’re grading on a curve; strictly as a matter of rhetoric, it tended toward the bland. The only genuinely novel aspect of it was the addition of the Mormon trail to a brief account of the history of religious intolerance in America (“Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths…”).

The key passage is this:

I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin….

If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field. (The only response so far comparable to mine is David Frum’s, though his typically trenchant criticism has more to do with the underlying meaning of the speech.)

So Mitt Romney, facing the rise of Mike Huckabee’s Christian-centric campaign in Iowa and judging that the Huckabee surge is related to discomfort with Romney’s Mormonism, gave his much-anticipated speech on faith this morning. It’s perfectly fine Republican boilerplate — faith must inform our views but it does not guide them, the public square should not be naked, our Founders believed in religion and yet even they had to deal with intolerance toward minority faiths, Martin Luther King was really very good, etc. etc. Many commentators on the Right are praising the speech, but I fear they’re grading on a curve; strictly as a matter of rhetoric, it tended toward the bland. The only genuinely novel aspect of it was the addition of the Mormon trail to a brief account of the history of religious intolerance in America (“Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths…”).

The key passage is this:

I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin….

If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now. For the next two or three days, it’s all anybody will know about him. Chances are it is the word that people will most associate with him from here on out. I don’t think that’s a good direction for a campaign that finds itself in the fight of its life in Iowa against the most explicitly Christian candidate in the field. (The only response so far comparable to mine is David Frum’s, though his typically trenchant criticism has more to do with the underlying meaning of the speech.)

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Re: the meaning of Annapolis

John, those are good points, and I’m largely in agreement with you on the interplay among Israel, America, and the Palestinians. It’s true—there’s going to be a time when the rubber meets the road, when all of the Annapolis rhetoric is tested against the situation on the ground. The same dynamic has controlled the entirety of the post-Gulf war history of peace processing—the ideas are old, the speeches are hackneyed plagiarisms of themselves, the strategies have always failed, the Arabs still refuse to accept Israel, administration after administration. One of the most common comments I’ve heard journalists make here today is the remark that they’ve all been there, done that when it comes to peace conferences. (Some of these guys are at the half-dozen mark.)

I think that the real significance of the conference, though, has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The significance of Annapolis is in what it has revealed about the thinking of the Bush administration, and how it sees itself in the region today. This observation is borne out, I think, in the fact that so much of the criticism of Annapolis, especially from conservatives, has involved an airing of the feeling that the Bush administration has grotesquely betrayed the basic principles to which it committed itself in the war on terror—viz the writings of Andy McCarthy, Bret Stephens, Ralph Peters, David Frum, some guy named John Podhoretz, etc.

Annapolis is really about the Bush administration, not the peace process. It has been Condi’s pet project; she has shuttled to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a monthly basis for almost a year; she has been permitted by President Bush to prioritize a quixotic diplomatic endeavor over and above other crises that by any sensible measure are of far greater concern for the United States—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria and Hizballah, and Pakistan, to name a few. If Condi’s pursuit of the peace process is due to a belief that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible and will unlock the forces of moderation and conviviality in the Middle East, then, well, she is simply a fool. If it is because she wishes to add this most elusive accomplishment to her legacy, then she is a narcissist. There is a more legitimate question about the extent to which American leadership in the peace process will earn us favorable treatment from European and Arab states in dealing with Iran, but I am skeptical of that line of thinking—a matter for another post.

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John, those are good points, and I’m largely in agreement with you on the interplay among Israel, America, and the Palestinians. It’s true—there’s going to be a time when the rubber meets the road, when all of the Annapolis rhetoric is tested against the situation on the ground. The same dynamic has controlled the entirety of the post-Gulf war history of peace processing—the ideas are old, the speeches are hackneyed plagiarisms of themselves, the strategies have always failed, the Arabs still refuse to accept Israel, administration after administration. One of the most common comments I’ve heard journalists make here today is the remark that they’ve all been there, done that when it comes to peace conferences. (Some of these guys are at the half-dozen mark.)

I think that the real significance of the conference, though, has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The significance of Annapolis is in what it has revealed about the thinking of the Bush administration, and how it sees itself in the region today. This observation is borne out, I think, in the fact that so much of the criticism of Annapolis, especially from conservatives, has involved an airing of the feeling that the Bush administration has grotesquely betrayed the basic principles to which it committed itself in the war on terror—viz the writings of Andy McCarthy, Bret Stephens, Ralph Peters, David Frum, some guy named John Podhoretz, etc.

Annapolis is really about the Bush administration, not the peace process. It has been Condi’s pet project; she has shuttled to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a monthly basis for almost a year; she has been permitted by President Bush to prioritize a quixotic diplomatic endeavor over and above other crises that by any sensible measure are of far greater concern for the United States—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria and Hizballah, and Pakistan, to name a few. If Condi’s pursuit of the peace process is due to a belief that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible and will unlock the forces of moderation and conviviality in the Middle East, then, well, she is simply a fool. If it is because she wishes to add this most elusive accomplishment to her legacy, then she is a narcissist. There is a more legitimate question about the extent to which American leadership in the peace process will earn us favorable treatment from European and Arab states in dealing with Iran, but I am skeptical of that line of thinking—a matter for another post.

There is an overall sense that with Annapolis, the administration is conceding the range of false premises on both the region and the conflict, premises that in earlier years the administration itself rejected—the myth of the conflict’s centrality to the Middle East; the myth of linkage, in which peripheral Arab grievances are tethered to Palestinian grievances (hence the invitation to Syria); the push to “engage” with the region’s worst offenders, so long as they are part of the grievance-with-Israel coalition; and overall the assent to the idea that the Arab states are interested in supporting a resolution to the conflict that does not involve Israel’s destruction, or at least its grave enfeeblement. The administration prostrated itself to the Saudis to win their attendance, and the Saudis repaid the favor, in the days before the conference, by releasing 1,500 al Qaeda prisoners and publicly putting the entire onus for resolving the conflict on Israel, and on rigidly Saudi terms. Bush, Rice, and their people have either genuinely bought into all of this rubbish, or they don’t mind appearing as if they have done so, thinking that such a public abnegation will put them in the good graces of Europe and the Arab world.

Either way, I think it’s been a far worse day for America than it has been for Israel.

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Ignatius in Israel

David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist, is in Israel, and I think it’s fair to say that his time in the region is not doing a whole lot to imbue his opinions with much in the way of perspective or wisdom. His column on Sunday presented a fawning portrait of Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who has of late been tarnishing his legacy by arguing to anyone who will listen that the real threat to Israel is not from the regimes who implacably seek the country’s destruction, but from Israeli leaders who do not sufficiently accommodate, rhetorically and strategically, the leaders of Hamas, Syria, and Iran. (A sample bit of his wisdom on Iran: “We have to find creative ways to help them escape from their rhetoric.”) The only place Halevy has been taken seriously in recent memory is in David Ignatius’s column—I wonder if Ignatius himself knows this?

Anyway, Ignatius has followed up Sunday’s column with a piece today that meditates on the need, in order to advance the peace process, for the development of Palestinian security forces capable of arresting terrorists and imposing law and order in the Palestinian territories—obviously, an altogether important matter. Ignatius writes that “The Palestinian Authority simply doesn’t have the people, the training, or the equipment to maintain order in the territories. Why is this so? The answer, in part, is that the Palestinians haven’t built up their security forces because the Israelis haven’t permitted them to do so.”

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David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist, is in Israel, and I think it’s fair to say that his time in the region is not doing a whole lot to imbue his opinions with much in the way of perspective or wisdom. His column on Sunday presented a fawning portrait of Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who has of late been tarnishing his legacy by arguing to anyone who will listen that the real threat to Israel is not from the regimes who implacably seek the country’s destruction, but from Israeli leaders who do not sufficiently accommodate, rhetorically and strategically, the leaders of Hamas, Syria, and Iran. (A sample bit of his wisdom on Iran: “We have to find creative ways to help them escape from their rhetoric.”) The only place Halevy has been taken seriously in recent memory is in David Ignatius’s column—I wonder if Ignatius himself knows this?

Anyway, Ignatius has followed up Sunday’s column with a piece today that meditates on the need, in order to advance the peace process, for the development of Palestinian security forces capable of arresting terrorists and imposing law and order in the Palestinian territories—obviously, an altogether important matter. Ignatius writes that “The Palestinian Authority simply doesn’t have the people, the training, or the equipment to maintain order in the territories. Why is this so? The answer, in part, is that the Palestinians haven’t built up their security forces because the Israelis haven’t permitted them to do so.”

This is absurd. For starters, the last time Israel gave the Palestinians a free hand in developing their security forces, Yasir Arafat flagrantly violated every restriction the Oslo rules had put on the Palestinian security services, and then used the services to launch a terror war against Israel. Even Ignatius must admit that the Israelis have a right to be a bit skeptical of going down that road again. Here is how my friend Daniel Polisar, president of the Shalem Center, described that state of affairs:

Arafat guaranteed the loyalty of his troops, and especially the highest-ranking officers, by establishing the kind of command and control structure that had characterized his previous 25 years of rule, and which for good reason is preferred by military dictators anxious to prevent the rise of competitors. Though the Gaza-Jericho agreement limited the Palestinian police to four branches, coordinated in each district by a single command, Arafat set up multiple forces that competed with one another: By the summer of 1995, there were nine intelligence services operating in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as additional units with various responsibilities. There was no authority coordinating these forces on a regional basis, nor was there a clear hierarchy within each branch: The only thing that was unambiguous was that all top officers reported directly to Arafat, who was commander in chief of the PA police—and who continued wearing his trademark uniform to symbolize his authority as a military ruler. The multiplicity of units created endless turf wars, leading the various organizations to keep tabs on one another and to pass this information on to Arafat. Moreover, this Byzantine system made it possible for Arafat to order attacks against political opponents while publicly denying any involvement.

Today, if there is one thing in which the PA is still awash, it is manpower (a massive percentage of Palestinian men are employed in various PA security sinecures), security expertise, and weaponry. Not to mention money, as more foreign aid is lavished per capita on the Palestinians than on any group of people anywhere in the world—and by a huge margin. But none of the problems that Ignatius cites have much relation to the real Palestinian internal security problem.

Arafat’s goons did not work toward establishing a Palestinian state. They didn’t serve the Palestinian people or attempt to impose law and order. These men worked for Yasir Arafat, and only for Arafat, in order that he could more thoroughly solidify his corrupt autocracy. The things Ignatius mentions—Israeli security concessions, or the latest package of aid money, or American support—have all been tweaked and modified and adjusted countless times. A competent security service, be it police or military, must be possessed of a unity of purpose and must show dedication to a mission. It is precisely these cultural components that have been so elusive when it has come to the role that Palestinian security services have played in the many abortive attempts at creating a Palestinian state. The only Arab security forces in recent history that have displayed any such qualities are those of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah.

On this matter David Frum should have the last word:

Hey, here’s a wild suggestion: What if we tried the other way around? What if we said to the Palestinians—OK, you want the benefits of peace? A state, a well-paid civil service supported by lavish foreign aid, jobs at the United Nations for the nephews of your president for life? Great. Make peace. Your soldiers want to be trusted? Great. First let them show themselves trustworthy.

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