Commentary Magazine


Topic: DC

The Alternative to Obama’s Israel Stance

Michael Goodwin notes that there is an alternative to Obama’s assault on Israel:

As the White House continues to turn the screws on Israel, some in Congress finally are saying, “Stop!” Unfortunately, none is a Democrat. Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican, aims to put America squarely on the side of our beleaguered ally. That King sees the need to do it through binding legislation tells you how far President Obama has careened off course.

The America Stands with Israel Act is direct and, at five pages, refreshingly concise. Noting that Hamas is a terrorist organization that aims to destroy Israel, the bill would require the US to withdraw from the loony UN Council on Human Rights, which, predictably, condemned Israel after the Gaza flotilla incident. The bill also would prohibit the use of American funds to investigate Israel.

About 40 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, but not a single Democrat has. Given the stakes and clarity, it seems fair to conclude all Dems agree with Obama that Israel is the obstacle to peace, or they are guilty of putting party loyalty ahead of Israel’s survival.

King’s office has also sent out a press release:

On Monday, June 14th at 11:00am, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), together with U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Charles Rangel and Anthony Weiner, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a host of additional State and City public officials, will call on the U.S. State Department to investigate any and all passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other ships from Turkey’s IHH flotilla who apply for visas to enter the United States. A speaking tour has been announced for some of these passengers with a planned New York City event in the coming weeks. A petition calling for this investigation has already captured over 20,000 signatures and will be presented by JCRC-NY to Rep. Engel for delivery to the appropriate authorities in Washington, DC.

Perhaps some of those Democrats will sign on to King’s resolution, provided — of course — that the House leadership and the White House aren’t strong-arming them not to.

King, quoted by Goodwin, lays out the conceptual problem at the root of Obama’s stance toward Israel: “Barack Obama’s view of the world is that there is too much belligerency coming from the United States and Israel. … He looks at the plight of the Palestinians and blames Israel. Not Arafat, not Abbas and not the Arab countries that have let the Palestinians live in squalor for 60 years.” That is, of course, the worldview of the left — the U.S. and the West more generally are guilty of insufficient humility, Israel is an occupying force, Israel is not like any other democracy, and the “international community” composed of despots is entitled to sit in judgment of Israel (in part because nation-states have less moral standing than international bodies, many of whose members routinely brutalize their own people). No president to date has embraced this perspective.  But Obama is unlike any of his predecessors, and hence we have a foreign policy that is more Noam Chomsky than Ronald Reagan (or Bill Clinton, for that matter).

We are fortunate that King and others in Congress have figured this out. When will Democrats and American Jewry?

Michael Goodwin notes that there is an alternative to Obama’s assault on Israel:

As the White House continues to turn the screws on Israel, some in Congress finally are saying, “Stop!” Unfortunately, none is a Democrat. Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican, aims to put America squarely on the side of our beleaguered ally. That King sees the need to do it through binding legislation tells you how far President Obama has careened off course.

The America Stands with Israel Act is direct and, at five pages, refreshingly concise. Noting that Hamas is a terrorist organization that aims to destroy Israel, the bill would require the US to withdraw from the loony UN Council on Human Rights, which, predictably, condemned Israel after the Gaza flotilla incident. The bill also would prohibit the use of American funds to investigate Israel.

About 40 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, but not a single Democrat has. Given the stakes and clarity, it seems fair to conclude all Dems agree with Obama that Israel is the obstacle to peace, or they are guilty of putting party loyalty ahead of Israel’s survival.

King’s office has also sent out a press release:

On Monday, June 14th at 11:00am, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), together with U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Charles Rangel and Anthony Weiner, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a host of additional State and City public officials, will call on the U.S. State Department to investigate any and all passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other ships from Turkey’s IHH flotilla who apply for visas to enter the United States. A speaking tour has been announced for some of these passengers with a planned New York City event in the coming weeks. A petition calling for this investigation has already captured over 20,000 signatures and will be presented by JCRC-NY to Rep. Engel for delivery to the appropriate authorities in Washington, DC.

Perhaps some of those Democrats will sign on to King’s resolution, provided — of course — that the House leadership and the White House aren’t strong-arming them not to.

King, quoted by Goodwin, lays out the conceptual problem at the root of Obama’s stance toward Israel: “Barack Obama’s view of the world is that there is too much belligerency coming from the United States and Israel. … He looks at the plight of the Palestinians and blames Israel. Not Arafat, not Abbas and not the Arab countries that have let the Palestinians live in squalor for 60 years.” That is, of course, the worldview of the left — the U.S. and the West more generally are guilty of insufficient humility, Israel is an occupying force, Israel is not like any other democracy, and the “international community” composed of despots is entitled to sit in judgment of Israel (in part because nation-states have less moral standing than international bodies, many of whose members routinely brutalize their own people). No president to date has embraced this perspective.  But Obama is unlike any of his predecessors, and hence we have a foreign policy that is more Noam Chomsky than Ronald Reagan (or Bill Clinton, for that matter).

We are fortunate that King and others in Congress have figured this out. When will Democrats and American Jewry?

Read Less

Reid-McConnell Letter on Israel

Late on Friday the following letter signed by Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was circulated to all senators for signature. It reads:

President Barack Obama

The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations. The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy. Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region. That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran. Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.

We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense. In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza. Israel’s naval blockade, which is legal under international law, allows Israel to keep dangerous goods from entering Gaza by sea. The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation. Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockage. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.

We are deeply concerned about the IHH’s role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas. The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department.

We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community. We also deplore the actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council which, once again, singled out Israel. Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough  investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted. In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

Finally, we believe that this incident should not derail the current proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We hope that these talks will move quickly to direct negotiations and ultimately, to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The letter certainly sets forth stark differences with the administration (which has ignored the IHH, edged toward an international investigation, and failed to offer full support for Israel). It is a robust statement of support for Israel, its right of self-defense, and its right to maintain the blockade. It rebuffs the administration’s efforts to internationalize the investigation. And unlike the Obama team, the senators put the spotlight on Turkey and on the terrorists.

However, the letter is weaker than Rep. Peter King’s proposed resolution as well as the statements of Sen. John Cornyn. It does not call for withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. It does not specifically identify Iran as a sponsor of Hamas or mention the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Most troubling, it commends the administration for downgrading (but not vetoing) the original UN resolution. This was an unprecedented action by Obama, an accommodation to the Israel-haters in the UN. It was yet another dangerous sign that the administration, rather than giving unqualified support to Israel in international bodies, is seeking to straddle between Israel and its antagonists. It is not helpful to encourage such conduct.

As I wrote yesterday, when you desire for the broadest possible coalition and shrink from pointedly challenging the administration, you wind up praising fraudulent UN sanctions and giving the president a pat on the back for crossing a line that no administration has. AIPAC released the following statement:

Along with on the 103 statements from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate that we have seen in the just the last week, AIPAC strongly supports this letter from Senate Majority Leader Reid and GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell calling on the President to act in America’s national interest by standing with our ally Israel in international bodies and to firmly and publicly reiterate America’s unyielding support for Israel’s right to self-defense.  The letter also calls on the Treasury and State Departments to closely examine terrorist-linked (HAMAS, 2000 al-Qaeda attack on LAX, etc.) Turkish “charity” IHH, at the center of the Flotilla incident, and consider adding the HAMAS affiliated group to the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

Supporters of Israel should be concerned that sails were trimmed. There is much good in the letter, but it cut Obama a break at Israel’s expense. It is most troubling that it was apparently necessary needlessly to praise Obama’s UN equivocation.

We can only hope that even with a less-than-ideal letter and, more importantly, with the reaction set off by the revelation (and later the confirmation) that the administration is still pursuing an international element to the investigation, that the administration will stand down and fully embrace an Israel-only investigation. Then we can work on getting the U.S. off the Human Rights Council.

Late on Friday the following letter signed by Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was circulated to all senators for signature. It reads:

President Barack Obama

The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations. The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy. Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region. That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran. Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.

We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense. In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza. Israel’s naval blockade, which is legal under international law, allows Israel to keep dangerous goods from entering Gaza by sea. The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation. Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockage. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.

We are deeply concerned about the IHH’s role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas. The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department.

We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community. We also deplore the actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council which, once again, singled out Israel. Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough  investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted. In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

Finally, we believe that this incident should not derail the current proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We hope that these talks will move quickly to direct negotiations and ultimately, to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The letter certainly sets forth stark differences with the administration (which has ignored the IHH, edged toward an international investigation, and failed to offer full support for Israel). It is a robust statement of support for Israel, its right of self-defense, and its right to maintain the blockade. It rebuffs the administration’s efforts to internationalize the investigation. And unlike the Obama team, the senators put the spotlight on Turkey and on the terrorists.

However, the letter is weaker than Rep. Peter King’s proposed resolution as well as the statements of Sen. John Cornyn. It does not call for withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. It does not specifically identify Iran as a sponsor of Hamas or mention the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Most troubling, it commends the administration for downgrading (but not vetoing) the original UN resolution. This was an unprecedented action by Obama, an accommodation to the Israel-haters in the UN. It was yet another dangerous sign that the administration, rather than giving unqualified support to Israel in international bodies, is seeking to straddle between Israel and its antagonists. It is not helpful to encourage such conduct.

As I wrote yesterday, when you desire for the broadest possible coalition and shrink from pointedly challenging the administration, you wind up praising fraudulent UN sanctions and giving the president a pat on the back for crossing a line that no administration has. AIPAC released the following statement:

Along with on the 103 statements from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate that we have seen in the just the last week, AIPAC strongly supports this letter from Senate Majority Leader Reid and GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell calling on the President to act in America’s national interest by standing with our ally Israel in international bodies and to firmly and publicly reiterate America’s unyielding support for Israel’s right to self-defense.  The letter also calls on the Treasury and State Departments to closely examine terrorist-linked (HAMAS, 2000 al-Qaeda attack on LAX, etc.) Turkish “charity” IHH, at the center of the Flotilla incident, and consider adding the HAMAS affiliated group to the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

Supporters of Israel should be concerned that sails were trimmed. There is much good in the letter, but it cut Obama a break at Israel’s expense. It is most troubling that it was apparently necessary needlessly to praise Obama’s UN equivocation.

We can only hope that even with a less-than-ideal letter and, more importantly, with the reaction set off by the revelation (and later the confirmation) that the administration is still pursuing an international element to the investigation, that the administration will stand down and fully embrace an Israel-only investigation. Then we can work on getting the U.S. off the Human Rights Council.

Read Less

Is This Post-Traumatic Cooking Syndrome?

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

Read Less

Senators to Obama: Forget the KSM Trial

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

Read Less

How NIAC Lobbied Against Dennis Ross

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross's] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.
Read More

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross's] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mike Amitay [mailto:mamitay@osi-dc.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:35 PM
To: jparillo@psr.org; PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Ross has not worked extensively on Iran, though his most recent employer WINEP, is a “think-tank” created by AIPAC leadership in the 1980s. As Jill points out, a most troubling aspects of his limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran. (Holbrooke also serves on this body). UANI is a right-wing “pro-Israel” PR effort established to push a more militant US policy towards Iran. If in fact Ross appointment confirmed, I find this deeply troubling. One question to consider, however, is whether publicly objecting to Ross would damage our ability to work with him and others in USG in the future.

###########################################

Mike Amitay – Senior Policy Analyst
Middle East, North Africa and Central Eurasia
Open Society Institute / Open Society Policy Center
1120 19th Street, NW – 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
202-721-5625 (direct) 202-530-0138 (fax)
www.soros.org / www.opensocietypolicycenter.org

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Jill Parillo
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:03 PM
To: PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

On Ross, I sent an email earlier, but I would like to add:
Engagement with Iran is aimed at reducing tension in US-Iranian relations, to avoid war and build confidence, so to get to a point where together we can develop common policies that will US and Iranian concerns.

If someone is sent to the talks (like when Burns was) who could increase tension, the policy of engagement as a solution to the Iran challenge will not be a success.
We should talk to those that know Ross well and his policies, and ability to negotiate in a peaceful fair manner.

In spending time as part of the Department of Disarmament Affairs and at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, I sat through several high level negotiations where country Ambassadors walked out of the room because of Bush Administration officials being very rude. The right person and the right policy are important.

We need to also pay attention to who the envoy will report to, in this case it is Clinton, not Obama.
I have never met Ross in person, so I will not judge if he is a good or bad pick. However, I can say I have concerns, since he signed onto the attached paper which says, “WE BELIEVE A MILITARY STRIKE IS A FEASIBLE OPTION…..the United States will need to augment its military presence in the region. This should commence the first day the new President enters office.” I am taking this out of context, so please look at this section for yourself, but in any case, it is concerning.

Best,

Jill

PS. I am off to speak in Italy until Jan 19-Pugwash Conference, so I may not be available for much of the next 10 days. Thanks

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of pdisney@niacouncil.org
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:33 PM
To: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

All,

As the rumors appear to be more substantiated by the hour, I think we should start a conversation about what our response will be if Dennis Ross is named Iran envoy.

I should be clear–I think we can still influence the selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible. However, if it does prove to be Ross, we have to make a choice as to how to respond.

NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. We would make it clear that we prefer to work with Obama, and that Ross does not align with Obama’s plan to change America’s approach. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s to any strategy, but if it’s simply impossible for us to work with Ross, we should be in a position to say I told you so after he messes everything up. But I’d like to hear others’ thoughts.

Again, this is a brainstorm rather than a concrete plan. I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.
Thanks very much.
-p

January 7, 2009, 10:21 AM
Obama
Picks Foreign Envoys

Posted by Michelle

Levi

Transition officials confirm to CBS News’ Marc Ambinder that President-elect Obama has asked Dennis Ross, Richard Haas, and Richard Holbrooke, to serve as his chief emissaries to world hot spots. Ross and Holbrooke both served in senior Clinton administration roles. Haas had senior posts in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003 and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

It’s expected that Ross will be assigned the Iran portfolio, that Holbrooke, the hard-headed architect of the Dayton Peace Accords, will take the difficult Southwest Asia portfolio, including India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Haas will deal with the Middle East.

Each men’s turf is still in flux, so these early assignments are not firm.
Read More Posts In Transition

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

–~–~———~–~—-~————~——-~–~—-~
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee” group.
To post to this group, send email to new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee?hl=en
-~———-~—-~—-~—-~——~—-~——~–~—

Read Less

A Strike in the Dark?

A Strike in the Dark” is what Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker calls Israel’s September raid on a facility in Syria that may or may not have been nuclear in nature and may or may not have been in the process of being supplied with nuclear materials from North Korea.

Hersh is skeptical of the idea that there was anything untoward going on: “In three months of reporting for this article,” he writes, “I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria.”

He suggests that reports to the contrary were transmitted directly from Israeli intelligence to senior members of the Bush administration in a way that kept the CIA from vetting them. In other words, it was the same “process, known as ‘stovepiping,” [that] overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.”

In writing his piece, Hersh seems to have interviewed every source in the Washington DC telephone book, and also every source in Damascus, where he traveled to interview Syrian officials. I have no evidence that contradicts his impressive reporting. But I am still skeptical of his skepticism.

For one thing, Hersh is remarkably predictable. No matter what happens in the world, Israel and the United States (especially under the Bush administration) are always made by him to look trigger-happy and sinister. But could events consistently break in one way? Or is this an artifact of Hersh’s well-known biases? 

My biases tilt the other way. I haven’t interviewed 734 sources, some of whom may or not exist, or even if they do exist may not be telling the truth. But I recently re-read a 2005 statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that is quite relevant to Israeli fears about the Syrian facility:

We remain concerned about North Korea’s potential for exporting nuclear materials or technology. At the April 2003 trilateral talks in Beijing, North Korea privately threatened to export nuclear weapons. During the third round of Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue in June 2004, Pyongyang included a ban on nuclear transfers in its nuclear freeze proposal. In April 2005, North Korea told a US academic that it could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists if driven into a corner. IAEA inspectors in May 2004 recovered two tons of uranium hexafluoride from Libya that is belied to have originated in North Korea.

Perhaps Israel’s action was “a strike in the dark.” But so what? Even if the intelligence leading Israel to hit the Syrian facility was incomplete or wrong, this was one of those cases where it would not be wise to wait until the evidence comes in the form of a mushroom cloud.

A Strike in the Dark” is what Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker calls Israel’s September raid on a facility in Syria that may or may not have been nuclear in nature and may or may not have been in the process of being supplied with nuclear materials from North Korea.

Hersh is skeptical of the idea that there was anything untoward going on: “In three months of reporting for this article,” he writes, “I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria.”

He suggests that reports to the contrary were transmitted directly from Israeli intelligence to senior members of the Bush administration in a way that kept the CIA from vetting them. In other words, it was the same “process, known as ‘stovepiping,” [that] overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.”

In writing his piece, Hersh seems to have interviewed every source in the Washington DC telephone book, and also every source in Damascus, where he traveled to interview Syrian officials. I have no evidence that contradicts his impressive reporting. But I am still skeptical of his skepticism.

For one thing, Hersh is remarkably predictable. No matter what happens in the world, Israel and the United States (especially under the Bush administration) are always made by him to look trigger-happy and sinister. But could events consistently break in one way? Or is this an artifact of Hersh’s well-known biases? 

My biases tilt the other way. I haven’t interviewed 734 sources, some of whom may or not exist, or even if they do exist may not be telling the truth. But I recently re-read a 2005 statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that is quite relevant to Israeli fears about the Syrian facility:

We remain concerned about North Korea’s potential for exporting nuclear materials or technology. At the April 2003 trilateral talks in Beijing, North Korea privately threatened to export nuclear weapons. During the third round of Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue in June 2004, Pyongyang included a ban on nuclear transfers in its nuclear freeze proposal. In April 2005, North Korea told a US academic that it could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists if driven into a corner. IAEA inspectors in May 2004 recovered two tons of uranium hexafluoride from Libya that is belied to have originated in North Korea.

Perhaps Israel’s action was “a strike in the dark.” But so what? Even if the intelligence leading Israel to hit the Syrian facility was incomplete or wrong, this was one of those cases where it would not be wise to wait until the evidence comes in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Read Less

Lying Lies and the Liars Who Tell Them

Last week we noted that the Center for Public Integrity, a public-interest group in Washington DC, had created an online database of the 935 “false statements” uttered by ranking officials of the Bush administration to push the United States into war with Iraq. The New York Times, reporting on the new research resource, compared the scandal the center had documented to Watergate.

But if the Bush lies were bad, how about the lies told by Bill Clinton on the same score, or for that matter, the lies told in the editorials of the New York TimesConnecting the Dots has uncovered a couple of whoppers, which the Times, in its story on the matter did not — or affected not to –  notice.

Here is a New York Times editorial on February 13, 2003, on the eve of the second Gulf war:

The Europeans and the United Nations must recognize that Saddam Hussein does pose a clear and present danger to the peaceful international order that the United Nations purports to protect. The credibility of the United Nations is at issue — not because President Bush says so, but because Mr. Hussein is a serial violator of both international law and Security Council resolutions forbidding him to acquire terrible weapons of mass destruction, and because he is a serious threat to his neighbors.

It is easy to find many more such “lies” in the editorials of the Times. Here is another one from November 4, 1997.

Closing down Baghdad’s efforts to build weapons of mass destruction requires the continuing pressure of international sanctions until U.N. investigators are completely satisfied that Baghdad is no longer hiding anything from them. Iraq now demands that the Security Council set a timetable for lifting all sanctions in exchange for full Iraqi cooperation. The sanctions are indeed supposed to be lifted when Iraq has fully complied with U.N. requirements. But Baghdad has no right to negotiate over the degree of its cooperation with U.N. investigators. Iraq has been flagrantly misleading U.N. experts and obstructing inspectors’ efforts to examine suspected storage sites.

And here is President Clinton “lying” to the American people on December 16, 1998, as he justifies military action against Iraq:

Earlier today I ordered America’s Armed Forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States and, indeed, the interest of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.

Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there’s one big difference: He has used them, not once but repeatedly, unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war, not only against soldiers but against civilians; firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iran, not only against a foreign enemy but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in northern Iraq.

A question Connecting the Dots has asked before is: did the Bush administration lie when it relied on the CIA’s estimates of Iraq’s WMD program? Did the Clinton administration also lie? Are the Clinton administration’s lies included in the database of the Center for Public Integrity? Are the “lies” of the New York Times?

Or perhaps the Bush administration’s lies were not lies after all but something else. Or perhaps the George Soros-funded Center for Public Integrity lacks integrity, as does the New York Times.

Last week we noted that the Center for Public Integrity, a public-interest group in Washington DC, had created an online database of the 935 “false statements” uttered by ranking officials of the Bush administration to push the United States into war with Iraq. The New York Times, reporting on the new research resource, compared the scandal the center had documented to Watergate.

But if the Bush lies were bad, how about the lies told by Bill Clinton on the same score, or for that matter, the lies told in the editorials of the New York TimesConnecting the Dots has uncovered a couple of whoppers, which the Times, in its story on the matter did not — or affected not to –  notice.

Here is a New York Times editorial on February 13, 2003, on the eve of the second Gulf war:

The Europeans and the United Nations must recognize that Saddam Hussein does pose a clear and present danger to the peaceful international order that the United Nations purports to protect. The credibility of the United Nations is at issue — not because President Bush says so, but because Mr. Hussein is a serial violator of both international law and Security Council resolutions forbidding him to acquire terrible weapons of mass destruction, and because he is a serious threat to his neighbors.

It is easy to find many more such “lies” in the editorials of the Times. Here is another one from November 4, 1997.

Closing down Baghdad’s efforts to build weapons of mass destruction requires the continuing pressure of international sanctions until U.N. investigators are completely satisfied that Baghdad is no longer hiding anything from them. Iraq now demands that the Security Council set a timetable for lifting all sanctions in exchange for full Iraqi cooperation. The sanctions are indeed supposed to be lifted when Iraq has fully complied with U.N. requirements. But Baghdad has no right to negotiate over the degree of its cooperation with U.N. investigators. Iraq has been flagrantly misleading U.N. experts and obstructing inspectors’ efforts to examine suspected storage sites.

And here is President Clinton “lying” to the American people on December 16, 1998, as he justifies military action against Iraq:

Earlier today I ordered America’s Armed Forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.

Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States and, indeed, the interest of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.

Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there’s one big difference: He has used them, not once but repeatedly, unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war, not only against soldiers but against civilians; firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iran, not only against a foreign enemy but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in northern Iraq.

A question Connecting the Dots has asked before is: did the Bush administration lie when it relied on the CIA’s estimates of Iraq’s WMD program? Did the Clinton administration also lie? Are the Clinton administration’s lies included in the database of the Center for Public Integrity? Are the “lies” of the New York Times?

Or perhaps the Bush administration’s lies were not lies after all but something else. Or perhaps the George Soros-funded Center for Public Integrity lacks integrity, as does the New York Times.

Read Less

William Jennings Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Read More

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Pat Toomey argues that Huckabee’s record as governor (he oversaw an increase in taxes, including those on sales, gas, grocery, and nursing home beds, producing a 47 percent overall tax hike) should disqualify him from national consideration. John Fund, who knows Huckabee well, strikes a similar note, and adds that Huckabee, “who was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the SCHIP health-care program” has scant support from Republicans who served in the legislature when he was governor.

Rich Lowry, of National Review, has described Huckabee as a cross between the famous early 20th century preacher Billy Sunday and Ronald Reagan. But with Huckabee’s talk of applied Christianity, the early 20th century figure he most closely resembles is the great populist orator in the cause of Free Silver, William Jennings Bryan. Three times the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” with his blend of fervent but tolerant Christianity, his distrust of the banks, and his economic egalitarianism, was the hero of Great Plains and Southern Democrats.

The migration of liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans like Ned Lamont and Jay Rockefeller into the Democratic camp has made the modern Dems into the party of a noblesse oblige-accented gentry liberalism that repels upwardly mobile middle- and lower-middle-class whites. But while blue collar religious whites are an uncomfortable fit with the modern Democratic Party, the deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It’s not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.

Read Less

It’s a Lemann

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

Read Less

Law and Order

Did Scooter Libby write a letter to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in prison containing a coded hint that she should back up his story in court? So asks New York Times reporter Neil Lewis, referring to a curious passage in a missive Libby mailed to Miller in September 2005, ostensibly releasing her from her pledge not to reveal him as her source for the identity of CIA operative Valery Plame Wilson, but possibly suggesting something else entirely. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them,” Libby wrote.

Asks Lewis: “Was that phrase a simple attempt at a literary turn? Or was it a veiled plea for Ms. Miller to ‘turn’ with him and back up Mr. Libby’s account that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson’s identity to her?”

The trial of Scooter Libby on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, now entering its second week, may not clear up the mystery of the clustered Aspens, if it is a mystery at all. And it may not clear up the new mystery, raised yesterday by Libby’s crack defense team, of whether their client was being sacrificed by White House operatives to protect Karl Rove. But the investigation of Libby and the Plame leak has gone a considerable distance toward resolving another conundrum that has bedeviled our legal system for decades: namely, whether newsmen are above the law. When the Supreme Court refused to hear Judith Miller’s appeal of her imprisonment on contempt charges, it stood by its own precedent set in 1972 in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists, like all other citizens, are obliged to testify before grand juries regarding potentially criminal activities, including the criminal activities of their confidential sources. The “public . . . has a right to every man’s evidence,” ruled the Court.

A coalition of First Amendment activists and journalism associations is now lobbying Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision by passing legislation that would create a “reporter’s privilege.” With the Democrats in power in Congress, the prospects for success are now better than they have been for a generation. But at a moment when the country is facing mortal threats from Islamic fanatics and the press has been publishing counterterrorism secrets with reckless abandon, we need a reporter’s privilege as badly as the New York Times needs another Jayson Blair. As I argue in the February issue of COMMENTARY, such a law would manage to damage our national security and do violence to the First Amendment in a single swoop.

To help defray the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233

To help defray the even more considerable costs of prosecuting Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Did Scooter Libby write a letter to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in prison containing a coded hint that she should back up his story in court? So asks New York Times reporter Neil Lewis, referring to a curious passage in a missive Libby mailed to Miller in September 2005, ostensibly releasing her from her pledge not to reveal him as her source for the identity of CIA operative Valery Plame Wilson, but possibly suggesting something else entirely. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them,” Libby wrote.

Asks Lewis: “Was that phrase a simple attempt at a literary turn? Or was it a veiled plea for Ms. Miller to ‘turn’ with him and back up Mr. Libby’s account that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson’s identity to her?”

The trial of Scooter Libby on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, now entering its second week, may not clear up the mystery of the clustered Aspens, if it is a mystery at all. And it may not clear up the new mystery, raised yesterday by Libby’s crack defense team, of whether their client was being sacrificed by White House operatives to protect Karl Rove. But the investigation of Libby and the Plame leak has gone a considerable distance toward resolving another conundrum that has bedeviled our legal system for decades: namely, whether newsmen are above the law. When the Supreme Court refused to hear Judith Miller’s appeal of her imprisonment on contempt charges, it stood by its own precedent set in 1972 in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists, like all other citizens, are obliged to testify before grand juries regarding potentially criminal activities, including the criminal activities of their confidential sources. The “public . . . has a right to every man’s evidence,” ruled the Court.

A coalition of First Amendment activists and journalism associations is now lobbying Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision by passing legislation that would create a “reporter’s privilege.” With the Democrats in power in Congress, the prospects for success are now better than they have been for a generation. But at a moment when the country is facing mortal threats from Islamic fanatics and the press has been publishing counterterrorism secrets with reckless abandon, we need a reporter’s privilege as badly as the New York Times needs another Jayson Blair. As I argue in the February issue of COMMENTARY, such a law would manage to damage our national security and do violence to the First Amendment in a single swoop.

To help defray the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233

To help defray the even more considerable costs of prosecuting Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.