Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic administration

Left Shamelessly Seeks to Exploit Arizona Tragedy

The shooting in Arizona is the sort of thing that obligates all sides in political debates to call a timeout. Right now our collective prayers are with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family as she struggles for life, as well as with the families of those who were murdered in this senseless evil attack. But acting in the spirit of Rahm Emanuel’s belief that a crisis shouldn’t go to waste, some on the left are determined to exploit this tragedy to advance their own partisan interests.

One example is a post by the New Yorker’s George Packer, who writes today that “It doesn’t matter why he did it.” The “he” is the alleged Arizona murderer Jared Loughner, a mentally unstable creature who thinks that the government is imposing “mind control” on the public via “grammar.”

Packer concedes that Loughner is not an advocate of any coherent ideology or movement that has any real link to anything that is part of contemporary political debates, including the Tea Party activists. But to him that is irrelevant, because conservative activists and pundits have spent the last two years criticizing President Obama and his policies, making violence inevitable.

It is true that a few people on the margins have indulged in rhetoric that can be termed attempts at the “delegitimization” of Obama, including those who have irrationally focused on myths about the president’s birthplace and religion. But on the left it has become a piece of conventional wisdom that all conservatives are somehow guilty of rhetoric that crosses the bounds of decency. Indeed, so sensitive are Packer and those who think like him that even the public reading of the Constitution this past week by members of Congress (an exercise that included Rep. Giffords, who proudly read the First Amendment) is “an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.”

Speaking in the same spirit, the National Jewish Democratic Council asserted: “It is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Both Packer’s post and the NJDC statement reflect the liberal talking point of the last two years that has sought to maintain the pretense that the Tea Party and other fervent critics of Obama were nothing more than hate-filled nut cases rather than merely citizens who were asserting their constitutional right of dissent. But as the election in November proved, the Tea Party turned out in many respects to be more representative of mainstream America than the media and other elites who branded them as extremists.

It is true that the political debate in this country over the last two years has been heated, with President Obama and congressional Democrats being subjected to some particularly tough rhetoric. But the level of nastiness directed at Obama was no greater than the vicious attacks that had been leveled at President Bush, who along with Dick Cheney and other administration figures was regularly vilified not only by demonstrators but also by mainstream liberal politicians. Indeed, Packer acts as though left-wing talk-show hosts like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, who repeatedly seek to delegitimize Republicans and conservatives, didn’t exist. And it is not as if Republicans receive no threats; some, like Rep. Eric Cantor, the new House majority leader, have also been subjected to this sort of indecent behavior.

Despite all this, Packer and the NJDC are determined to use the tragedy in Arizona to resurrect this failed effort to besmirch conservatives and other Obama critics as violent haters. There is, after all, a precedent for this sort of thing. In 1995, President Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing to strike back at his critics, including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, even though Limbaugh and others critical of Clinton had nothing to do with the lunatics who perpetrated that crime.

Calls for civil debate are always appropriate, but those who wish to use this terrible crime to attempt to silence their opponents or to stifle legitimate public debate or activism are the ones who are crossing the bounds of decency today.

The shooting in Arizona is the sort of thing that obligates all sides in political debates to call a timeout. Right now our collective prayers are with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family as she struggles for life, as well as with the families of those who were murdered in this senseless evil attack. But acting in the spirit of Rahm Emanuel’s belief that a crisis shouldn’t go to waste, some on the left are determined to exploit this tragedy to advance their own partisan interests.

One example is a post by the New Yorker’s George Packer, who writes today that “It doesn’t matter why he did it.” The “he” is the alleged Arizona murderer Jared Loughner, a mentally unstable creature who thinks that the government is imposing “mind control” on the public via “grammar.”

Packer concedes that Loughner is not an advocate of any coherent ideology or movement that has any real link to anything that is part of contemporary political debates, including the Tea Party activists. But to him that is irrelevant, because conservative activists and pundits have spent the last two years criticizing President Obama and his policies, making violence inevitable.

It is true that a few people on the margins have indulged in rhetoric that can be termed attempts at the “delegitimization” of Obama, including those who have irrationally focused on myths about the president’s birthplace and religion. But on the left it has become a piece of conventional wisdom that all conservatives are somehow guilty of rhetoric that crosses the bounds of decency. Indeed, so sensitive are Packer and those who think like him that even the public reading of the Constitution this past week by members of Congress (an exercise that included Rep. Giffords, who proudly read the First Amendment) is “an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.”

Speaking in the same spirit, the National Jewish Democratic Council asserted: “It is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Both Packer’s post and the NJDC statement reflect the liberal talking point of the last two years that has sought to maintain the pretense that the Tea Party and other fervent critics of Obama were nothing more than hate-filled nut cases rather than merely citizens who were asserting their constitutional right of dissent. But as the election in November proved, the Tea Party turned out in many respects to be more representative of mainstream America than the media and other elites who branded them as extremists.

It is true that the political debate in this country over the last two years has been heated, with President Obama and congressional Democrats being subjected to some particularly tough rhetoric. But the level of nastiness directed at Obama was no greater than the vicious attacks that had been leveled at President Bush, who along with Dick Cheney and other administration figures was regularly vilified not only by demonstrators but also by mainstream liberal politicians. Indeed, Packer acts as though left-wing talk-show hosts like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, who repeatedly seek to delegitimize Republicans and conservatives, didn’t exist. And it is not as if Republicans receive no threats; some, like Rep. Eric Cantor, the new House majority leader, have also been subjected to this sort of indecent behavior.

Despite all this, Packer and the NJDC are determined to use the tragedy in Arizona to resurrect this failed effort to besmirch conservatives and other Obama critics as violent haters. There is, after all, a precedent for this sort of thing. In 1995, President Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing to strike back at his critics, including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, even though Limbaugh and others critical of Clinton had nothing to do with the lunatics who perpetrated that crime.

Calls for civil debate are always appropriate, but those who wish to use this terrible crime to attempt to silence their opponents or to stifle legitimate public debate or activism are the ones who are crossing the bounds of decency today.

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Now Liberal Women Are Mad at Him Too

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

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Forget Obama: Israel Needs Congress — and American Jews

Jennifer rightly decries Barack Obama’s lack of leadership in stymieing a UN effort to set up an “international inquiry” into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. But Congress need not wait for him to act; it could pressure the UN to desist all by itself, via its power of the purse.

The salient precedent occurred in 1974, when “UNESCO voted to exclude Israel from one of its regional working groups because Israel supposedly altered ‘the historical features of Jerusalem’ during archeological excavations and ‘brainwashed’ Arabs in the occupied territories,” as Front Page magazine recalled in a 2003 essay. Congress retaliated by suspending funding for the organization. UNESCO eventually gave in and readmitted Israel.

The U.S. provides 22 percent of the UN’s budget, so Congress has plenty of leverage. Nor need it threaten to pull the plug on the entire UN: it could deprive some specific UN agency of that 22 percent, as it did with UNESCO in 1974. And because Congress is far more pro-Israel than Obama, trying to work through Congress makes sense.

Even Congress, however, wouldn’t take such a step without strong pressure from American Jews. Jennifer has repeatedly (and rightly) bemoaned this community’s unwillingness to confront Obama, but another issue is at play here, too: American Jews, being overwhelmingly liberal, are reluctant to support an Israeli government that many deem “right-wing” or “hard-line” (to quote the mainstream media’s favorite terms).

What they fail to realize, however, is that even Israel’s left considers a UN inquiry utterly unacceptable. Here, for instance, is what Ze’ev Segal, legal commentator for the far-left daily Haaretz, said on June 4: “Recent experience — both the Goldstone Committee’s report on last year’s war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation fence – shows that international probes related to Israel are irredeemably politically biased, due to the political composition of international bodies like the UN.” And again, two days later: “Israel cannot agree to an international investigation, which would be political and biased.”

Thus, by backing Israel on this issue, American Jews would be supporting not just the government they hate but also the left-wing opposition they adore.

And while American Jews sometimes wonder how much clout they really have under a Democratic administration, the consensus seems to be “plenty.” Consider, for instance, this New York Times piece on Turkey’s radicalization, which quoted unnamed “analysts” as saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior toward Israel “boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.”

Bizarrely, the Web version offers no explanation of this assertion. But in the print version of the Times’ overseas edition, the International Herald Tribune, the next paragraph does: “‘If Obama is faced with the choice of the American Jewish community or Turkey, he’s not going to choose Turkey,’ said a former American diplomat.”

The same would undoubtedly be true were Obama faced with a choice between American Jews and a UN flotilla inquiry. Unfortunately, American Jews have yet to present him with such a choice.

Jennifer rightly decries Barack Obama’s lack of leadership in stymieing a UN effort to set up an “international inquiry” into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. But Congress need not wait for him to act; it could pressure the UN to desist all by itself, via its power of the purse.

The salient precedent occurred in 1974, when “UNESCO voted to exclude Israel from one of its regional working groups because Israel supposedly altered ‘the historical features of Jerusalem’ during archeological excavations and ‘brainwashed’ Arabs in the occupied territories,” as Front Page magazine recalled in a 2003 essay. Congress retaliated by suspending funding for the organization. UNESCO eventually gave in and readmitted Israel.

The U.S. provides 22 percent of the UN’s budget, so Congress has plenty of leverage. Nor need it threaten to pull the plug on the entire UN: it could deprive some specific UN agency of that 22 percent, as it did with UNESCO in 1974. And because Congress is far more pro-Israel than Obama, trying to work through Congress makes sense.

Even Congress, however, wouldn’t take such a step without strong pressure from American Jews. Jennifer has repeatedly (and rightly) bemoaned this community’s unwillingness to confront Obama, but another issue is at play here, too: American Jews, being overwhelmingly liberal, are reluctant to support an Israeli government that many deem “right-wing” or “hard-line” (to quote the mainstream media’s favorite terms).

What they fail to realize, however, is that even Israel’s left considers a UN inquiry utterly unacceptable. Here, for instance, is what Ze’ev Segal, legal commentator for the far-left daily Haaretz, said on June 4: “Recent experience — both the Goldstone Committee’s report on last year’s war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation fence – shows that international probes related to Israel are irredeemably politically biased, due to the political composition of international bodies like the UN.” And again, two days later: “Israel cannot agree to an international investigation, which would be political and biased.”

Thus, by backing Israel on this issue, American Jews would be supporting not just the government they hate but also the left-wing opposition they adore.

And while American Jews sometimes wonder how much clout they really have under a Democratic administration, the consensus seems to be “plenty.” Consider, for instance, this New York Times piece on Turkey’s radicalization, which quoted unnamed “analysts” as saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior toward Israel “boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.”

Bizarrely, the Web version offers no explanation of this assertion. But in the print version of the Times’ overseas edition, the International Herald Tribune, the next paragraph does: “‘If Obama is faced with the choice of the American Jewish community or Turkey, he’s not going to choose Turkey,’ said a former American diplomat.”

The same would undoubtedly be true were Obama faced with a choice between American Jews and a UN flotilla inquiry. Unfortunately, American Jews have yet to present him with such a choice.

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Say It in Arabic

David wondered yesterday why revolutionary statements by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been largely ignored by the mainstream media, and suggested that perhaps it’s because “it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state.” But there could be a far less sinister reason: The smarter Middle East hands have figured out by now that what Arab leaders say in English to American audiences is meaningless; what matters is what they are willing to say in Arabic to their own people. And so far, Abbas shows no sign of being willing to say the same in Arabic.

Granted, the statements represent progress: Even in English, I can’t recall Abbas ever before so openly acknowledging Jewish historical ties to the Middle East or Israel’s claim to (part of) Jerusalem. But in Arabic, the standard narrative continues to be that Jews are colonial interlopers with no claim whatsoever to the land. And as Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center perceptively noted, until this changes, peace will be impossible: Palestinians will not make peace unless they believe they can do so honorably, and this “depends on whether the Jews are colonial thieves stealing land solely on the basis of force, or whether they are a people that also historically lived in the land.”

It would be nice to think that Abbas’s statements last week were a dry run for the more difficult job of telling his countrymen the same things in Arabic. Far more likely, however, is that his goal was simply to woo liberal American Jews, who are presumably close to the Democratic administration, in the hope that they will in turn use their influence with the administration to help him secure his real goal — which is not a deal with Israel, but a deal with Barack Obama.

And that is not mere cynical speculation. It is, almost word for word, what a close associate quoted Abbas as saying less than three weeks ago.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s invaluable Khaled Abu Toameh, Abbas Zaki, who sits on the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah party, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi paper in May that at a recent meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, “President Abbas told Mitchell that the Israelis are no longer peace partners as much as the Americans are,” and therefore urged the U.S. to present its own peace proposals instead of waiting for an Israeli proposal.

“The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Washington and not with Tel Aviv,” he added, lest anyone miss the message.

That interview, incidentally, occurred several days before Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. Numerous Western commentators have since blamed that raid for thwarting peace efforts. But as long as Abbas remains determined to negotiate with America rather than Israel, there can be no serious peace effort to thwart.

David wondered yesterday why revolutionary statements by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been largely ignored by the mainstream media, and suggested that perhaps it’s because “it doesn’t fit well with the current climate of radically de-legitimizing the Jewish state.” But there could be a far less sinister reason: The smarter Middle East hands have figured out by now that what Arab leaders say in English to American audiences is meaningless; what matters is what they are willing to say in Arabic to their own people. And so far, Abbas shows no sign of being willing to say the same in Arabic.

Granted, the statements represent progress: Even in English, I can’t recall Abbas ever before so openly acknowledging Jewish historical ties to the Middle East or Israel’s claim to (part of) Jerusalem. But in Arabic, the standard narrative continues to be that Jews are colonial interlopers with no claim whatsoever to the land. And as Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center perceptively noted, until this changes, peace will be impossible: Palestinians will not make peace unless they believe they can do so honorably, and this “depends on whether the Jews are colonial thieves stealing land solely on the basis of force, or whether they are a people that also historically lived in the land.”

It would be nice to think that Abbas’s statements last week were a dry run for the more difficult job of telling his countrymen the same things in Arabic. Far more likely, however, is that his goal was simply to woo liberal American Jews, who are presumably close to the Democratic administration, in the hope that they will in turn use their influence with the administration to help him secure his real goal — which is not a deal with Israel, but a deal with Barack Obama.

And that is not mere cynical speculation. It is, almost word for word, what a close associate quoted Abbas as saying less than three weeks ago.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s invaluable Khaled Abu Toameh, Abbas Zaki, who sits on the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah party, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi paper in May that at a recent meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, “President Abbas told Mitchell that the Israelis are no longer peace partners as much as the Americans are,” and therefore urged the U.S. to present its own peace proposals instead of waiting for an Israeli proposal.

“The Palestinian Authority is negotiating with Washington and not with Tel Aviv,” he added, lest anyone miss the message.

That interview, incidentally, occurred several days before Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. Numerous Western commentators have since blamed that raid for thwarting peace efforts. But as long as Abbas remains determined to negotiate with America rather than Israel, there can be no serious peace effort to thwart.

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Kagan’s Vulnerabilty

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

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People . . . People Who Like Cabinet Appointments

People magazine has an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, who say they aren’t going to endorse anyone and will be “saving their political capital for their own causes.” Hmm. Or making certain they remain players in a Democratic administration. John does a better job of concealing his preferences: loves the enthusiasm generated by Obama, but wants more substance; is impressed with Hillary Clinton’s grit, but doesn’t like all that old politics. Elizabeth is having none of that. She rolls her eyes about the impact of nominating the first African-American (“What about the great symbolic thing about a woman . . . “) and calls Obama’s health care plan and ads “misleading.”

So who carries more weight with Democratic voters? Elizabeth became the darling of the netroots for defending her husband against Ann Coulter and ferociously attacking George Bush, and Clinton could do worse than having Elizabeth touting her health care plan. But the real news will be if John and his 26 pledged delegates get off the fence. For now, the interview is a sign of how divided and indecisive the Democratic electorate as a whole appears to be (at least before the election returns tonight).

People magazine has an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, who say they aren’t going to endorse anyone and will be “saving their political capital for their own causes.” Hmm. Or making certain they remain players in a Democratic administration. John does a better job of concealing his preferences: loves the enthusiasm generated by Obama, but wants more substance; is impressed with Hillary Clinton’s grit, but doesn’t like all that old politics. Elizabeth is having none of that. She rolls her eyes about the impact of nominating the first African-American (“What about the great symbolic thing about a woman . . . “) and calls Obama’s health care plan and ads “misleading.”

So who carries more weight with Democratic voters? Elizabeth became the darling of the netroots for defending her husband against Ann Coulter and ferociously attacking George Bush, and Clinton could do worse than having Elizabeth touting her health care plan. But the real news will be if John and his 26 pledged delegates get off the fence. For now, the interview is a sign of how divided and indecisive the Democratic electorate as a whole appears to be (at least before the election returns tonight).

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Bringing People Together (Finally)

The New York Times opinion page is not kind to Barack Obama today. First, David Brooks reviews the carnage from the debate:

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.

Paul Krugman, from the other end of the political spectrum, sounds like Bill Clinton: rapping Obama for implying that the Clinton years were not good to working-class voters and advising him to “stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.” As for Snobgate, he agrees with other academics that Obama’s sociology is wrong:

[S]mall-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960′s.

Obama is finally bringing about some consensus, if only among the chattering class. (Though he may be the victim of the same “peculiar pathology” which has hobbled other Democrats in actually making it to the White House.)

The New York Times opinion page is not kind to Barack Obama today. First, David Brooks reviews the carnage from the debate:

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.

Paul Krugman, from the other end of the political spectrum, sounds like Bill Clinton: rapping Obama for implying that the Clinton years were not good to working-class voters and advising him to “stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.” As for Snobgate, he agrees with other academics that Obama’s sociology is wrong:

[S]mall-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960′s.

Obama is finally bringing about some consensus, if only among the chattering class. (Though he may be the victim of the same “peculiar pathology” which has hobbled other Democrats in actually making it to the White House.)

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The Liberal Moment?

Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he calls “The Liberal Moment.” With one eye on the polls—which show plunging support for Republicans among the young, Hispanics, and independent voters—Dionne writes that “American liberals and the Left now have their greatest political opening since the 1960’s and their greatest opportunity to alter the philosophical direction of the public debate since the 1930’s.” He’s right. But will liberals be able actually to seize the opening?

Dionne invokes the late social scientist Michael Harrington, arguing that the Left must embrace a program that “will radically improve the conditions of life of everyone in the society,” because “the politics of noblesse oblige simply will not mobilize a majority that includes a very large number of people who are not poor yet are still suffering from relative deprivation.” But the very mechanism by which the Left once was able to accomplish those goals—Keynesian pump-priming—has been obviated by the globalization of economies. And today the most frequent and vitriolic attacks on attempts by Democrats to use market mechanisms to advance liberal goals come from the Democrats: specifically, from the netroots activists. (The netroots, in other words, bring to the Democratic party the same blind and destructive partisanship Dionne rightly condemns in Karl Rove.)

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Washington Post columnist and Georgetown professor E. J. Dionne has written a thoughtful essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what he calls “The Liberal Moment.” With one eye on the polls—which show plunging support for Republicans among the young, Hispanics, and independent voters—Dionne writes that “American liberals and the Left now have their greatest political opening since the 1960’s and their greatest opportunity to alter the philosophical direction of the public debate since the 1930’s.” He’s right. But will liberals be able actually to seize the opening?

Dionne invokes the late social scientist Michael Harrington, arguing that the Left must embrace a program that “will radically improve the conditions of life of everyone in the society,” because “the politics of noblesse oblige simply will not mobilize a majority that includes a very large number of people who are not poor yet are still suffering from relative deprivation.” But the very mechanism by which the Left once was able to accomplish those goals—Keynesian pump-priming—has been obviated by the globalization of economies. And today the most frequent and vitriolic attacks on attempts by Democrats to use market mechanisms to advance liberal goals come from the Democrats: specifically, from the netroots activists. (The netroots, in other words, bring to the Democratic party the same blind and destructive partisanship Dionne rightly condemns in Karl Rove.)

And while the Bush administration, as Dionne rightly notes, suffered serious setbacks when it pushed for more market-oriented social programs (such as privatizing social security), liberals need to ask themselves why it is that in the very areas where their policies are most dominant (such as New York, or Boston, or Los Angeles), the social order is the least egalitarian. As a group, they won’t reconsider a social security program/tax that’s not only regressive and a job killer, but far more onerous for the lower-middle class than the income tax. They come up similarly empty-handed on education, where the powerful NEA is wedded to failure, and no amount of new spending seems to be able to improve the outcome. Nor, as a group, do liberals seem to be able to come to grips with the Jihadist thread within Islam. In short, the failings of the Republicans notwithstanding, it’s hard to discern the basis for a liberal revival.

Columbia sociologist Todd Gitlin, commenting on Dionne’s article, insists that liberals and Democrats represent the “party of reason.” (Was it reason, then, that motivated MoveOn.org to call General Petraeus “General Betray-us” in a full-page New York Times ad?) As long as the Left is still capable of rhetoric like this, there is not likely to be a “Liberal Moment” in the sense that Dionne means—just a political opportunity for the Democrats. And I’d say that, as was the case with Bill Clinton, the success of any future Democratic administration will depend on the degree to which it can break with liberal dogma.

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