Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria Gets a Pass on Plagiarism

Fareed Zakaria has often been criticized in this space for being an inveterate peddler of conventional wisdom about the Middle East and for his tone deaf and often highly inaccurate writings about Israel, the peace process, and the Iranian nuclear threat. But while we don’t expect that his employers at CNN and the Washington Post would hold him accountable for these failings, it remains puzzling as to how it is that even this quintessential foreign-policy insider isn’t being held accountable for sins that have nothing to do with his biases.

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Fareed Zakaria has often been criticized in this space for being an inveterate peddler of conventional wisdom about the Middle East and for his tone deaf and often highly inaccurate writings about Israel, the peace process, and the Iranian nuclear threat. But while we don’t expect that his employers at CNN and the Washington Post would hold him accountable for these failings, it remains puzzling as to how it is that even this quintessential foreign-policy insider isn’t being held accountable for sins that have nothing to do with his biases.

As Dylan Byers reports in Politico, charges of plagiarism are now mounting against the TV personality and columnist to the point where Newsweek, one of his former publishers has now chosen to add a disclaimer on its website archive noting the charges and soliciting readers to send in any evidence where articles he wrote “lacked proper attribution.”

Zakaria was disciplined back in 2012 for plagiarism that he claimed at the time to be an unintentional “mistake.” But since then he has continued to be dogged by accusations that he routinely steals the work of others in his books, articles, and TV. The Our Bad Media website claims this has happened more than three dozen times in recent years. As Byers has noted, more recently they have cited 24 such incidents of plagiarism on his Sunday morning CNN show. After consulting with journalism professors, the Politico writer says there is little doubt about the seriousness of the problem. Yet both the Post and CNN are not only failing to hold him accountable for any of this; they have gone so far as to dismiss the complaints entirely. Even CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter merely called the instances “attribution mistakes,” which is a nice way of saying he knows what happened is generally considered plagiarism but understands that Zakaria has become a sacred cow at the network who may not be attacked even when evidence of misconduct is incontrovertible.

As Byers noted, none of the instances of plagiarism are egregious but the accumulation of dozens of instances in which Zakaria lifts the words of others and then uses them as his own makes it clear there is a pattern of misconduct that would normally result in a firing. Byers is at a loss as to explain not only why Zakaria seems to be in no danger at either the Post or CNN but the absence of a genuine hubbub in the media over offenses that normally draw the scorn if not the anger of fellow journalists.

Allow me to offer a possible explanation.

Just as in the business world there are sometimes businesses that are considered too big to fail, so, too, in journalism there appear to be personal brands that have attained untouchable status. While Zakaria is a foreign-policy wonk and not a network anchor, his access to President Obama has given him a cachet that would otherwise be impossible for other journalists to attain. As a faithful supporter, if not unofficial courtier of the administration, Zakaria can always be relied upon to defend the president and his foreign-policy team no matter how many mistakes they make. In a media environment where foreign news is often marginalized even on the cable news channels, Zakaria has somehow risen to the point where he and perhaps his employers labor under the delusion that he is a latter-day Walter Lippmann, an essential commentator who helps create foreign-policy consensus rather than report or write about it.

Such a person is surely not invulnerable but is nevertheless sufficiently powerful to be able to ignore criticisms even of blatant ethics violations. Moreover, admitting the truth of Our Bad Media’s accusations would call into question not just the judgment and behavior of Zakaria but of his bosses. Instead of facing that storm, they appear to be hoping that they can brazen it out.

But if they think this is going away, they are profoundly mistaken. As Newsweek’s call for more information illustrates, Zakaria’s routine theft is a not a case of a few mistakes but of behavior that he may be incapable of halting.

The Washington Post and CNN may believe that being Fareed Zakaria means never having to say you’re sorry. But, as Politico and Newsweek have already discovered, this story isn’t going away.

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Drawing Conclusions From the Myth of Middle East Moderates

In today’s Washington Post, that inveterate peddler of foreign policy conventional wisdom Fareed Zakaria tells a great truth about the myth of Arab moderation. That he does so in order to cover up for the failures of President Obama and while also hedging his bets about the Palestinians does not detract from the general truth of his thesis.

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In today’s Washington Post, that inveterate peddler of foreign policy conventional wisdom Fareed Zakaria tells a great truth about the myth of Arab moderation. That he does so in order to cover up for the failures of President Obama and while also hedging his bets about the Palestinians does not detract from the general truth of his thesis.

Zakaria is merely stating what has long been obvious to critics of the political culture of the Arab and Muslim world. In that toxic environment, “moderation” is political poison and extremism, especially of the Islamist variety has become mainstream. As Zakaria rightly notes, the dynamic that has brought ISIS to the brink of overrunning Iraq has been manifested throughout the Middle East over the last generation as Islamists have become more powerful and their so-called moderate opponents have become less moderate as well as unpopular.

The purpose of this Obama cheerleader’s detour into reality is not, however, to debunk the fantasy that Israel must make concessions to the Palestinians in order to strengthen their moderates. Nor is he seeking to pour cold water on those promoting the delusion that Iran’s leaders are becoming more moderate and that justifies American appeasement of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Those are two fallacies that Zakaria is perfectly happy to continue promoting in his writing and on the bully pulpit he occupies on CNN.

No, the only reason that Zakaria is interesting in shooting down the idea of Arab moderation is because that is a convenient way to defend the Obama against the criticisms lodged against him by Hillary Clinton last week in her Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. Clinton rightly noted that an early and vigorous Western intervention in Syria would have probably toppled the brutal Assad regime. But even more importantly, the chaos that stemmed from the protracted civil war there led to the rise of ISIS, a vicious Islamist terror group that has overrun parts of Syria and much of Iraq.

But Zakaria is determined to absolve Obama and therefore declares that there were never any real moderates in Syria and that any Western intervention would have been in vain. Like the president, whose alibi for a record of almost unbroken foreign policy failure during his time in office is that the world is a complicated and confusing place he can’t be expected to do much about, let alone fix, Zakaria’s response to Syria is to throw up his hands and to say that nothing could be done.

To be fair, the Syrian opposition was never very impressive and is now totally overshadowed by the extremists in the field against Assad. But to assert that inaction was the only reasonable option in Syria is to promote a different kind of myth. History is fluid, not set in stone. As uncertain as the situation in Syria was three years ago, there’s little doubt that Assad was on the ropes and, like Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, would have fallen if Obama (who kept predicting the demise of that regime) had acted. While it is possible the country would have descended to chaos as was the case in Libya where the president’s lead from behind style led to disaster, could it have been worse than what is happening now, with the country divided between Iran’s ally Assad and Islamists who are also threatening to take over Iraq?

But even if we leave the Syria out of the discussion, what’s most disappointing about Zakaria’s truth-telling about the missing Muslim and Arab moderates is that even as he tries to debunks Clinton’s criticisms of Obama, he refuses to connect the dots between his thesis and the president’s Middle East policies that he has supported.

Zakaria insists that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is a genuine moderate. But, if he was being consistent or had a shred of intellectual integrity, he would note that the same dynamic that has driven other moderate regimes to extremism has applied to Abbas as well. Abbas talks like a moderate at times when speaking to Westerners or left-wing Israelis. But his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn or to denounce Palestinian Islamists gives the lie to the talk about his moderation, although even the Israeli government regards him as a necessary evil these days.

Zakaria also distorts the truth when he says the reason why there have been no Palestinian elections in recent years (Abbas is currently serving the 10th year of a four-year presidential term) is that the Israelis and the West have postponed them. That is nonsense even though he’s right when he says there is good reason to believe the Hamas terrorists might win. The autocratic and utterly corrupt Fatah run by Abbas needs no prompting from the Israelis or the Americans to act to protect themselves from the trappings of democracy.

But the main failing of Zakaria’s piece is that he refuses to draw the proper conclusion from his correct diagnosis about the failure of Arab moderation. If it is a fantasy to imagine that there are no moderates who can make peace with the Jewish state and live with the West without resorting to terror or nuclear blackmail, then it behooves the U.S. to stop trying to hammer the Israelis into making dangerous concessions that will only strengthen Hamas in Gaza. It would also be good reason for Obama to sober up about the prospects of détente with Iran and to realize that rather than loosening sanctions on Tehran, tougher ones along with a credible threat of force is the only way to avert the nuclear threat.

For Zakaria, Arab and Muslim moderation is a myth. But only a myth when it serves the purpose of absolving Obama from his responsibility to lead, not when it comes to pressuring Israel or appeasing Iran.

Update: This afternoon, The Washington Post responded to complaints such as the one I made about Zakaria’s wrongly blaming Israel for the failure to hold Palestinian elections. It reads as follows:

An earlier version of this column erred in stating, “the Israeli government and the West have happily postponed elections in the West Bank.” The elections have been postponed by the Palestinian Authority.

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No Accountability for Zakaria’s Fiction

Last summer television personality and columnist Fareed Zakaria was suspended by both TIME magazine and CNN for committing plagiarism in a piece he wrote for the Washington Post. Yet the ubiquitous voice of conventional wisdom about foreign policy was soon back in his familiar haunts undaunted by his humiliation and allowed to pretend as if nothing had happened. But the problem with Zakaria wasn’t his lack of acknowledgement of the work of others so much as it is his penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts when advocating the policies that he urges the country to adopt as if they were self-evident.

A particularly egregious example of this trait was made clear last month when Zakaria was writing about President Obama’s trip to Israel. Zakaria wrote a column that endorsed the president’s speech to Israeli youth to pressure their government to make peace with the Palestinians. While, as we pointed out at the time, this appeal was directed to the wrong side of the dispute, Zakaria was entitled to his opinion about Israelis ought to do. What he was not entitled to was his own facts about the situation.

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Last summer television personality and columnist Fareed Zakaria was suspended by both TIME magazine and CNN for committing plagiarism in a piece he wrote for the Washington Post. Yet the ubiquitous voice of conventional wisdom about foreign policy was soon back in his familiar haunts undaunted by his humiliation and allowed to pretend as if nothing had happened. But the problem with Zakaria wasn’t his lack of acknowledgement of the work of others so much as it is his penchant for ignoring inconvenient facts when advocating the policies that he urges the country to adopt as if they were self-evident.

A particularly egregious example of this trait was made clear last month when Zakaria was writing about President Obama’s trip to Israel. Zakaria wrote a column that endorsed the president’s speech to Israeli youth to pressure their government to make peace with the Palestinians. While, as we pointed out at the time, this appeal was directed to the wrong side of the dispute, Zakaria was entitled to his opinion about Israelis ought to do. What he was not entitled to was his own facts about the situation.

Zakaria wrote the following in support of his belief that the Israelis should go the extra mile and start making concessions:

After all, Israel has ruled millions of Palestinians without offering them citizenship or a state for 40 years.

As anyone who has paid even cursory attention to the conflict in the last generation, this is patently false.

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians statehood and independence in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem in July 2000 at Camp David. Yasir Arafat refused it to the chagrin of President Bill Clinton, who thought the offer would win him the Nobel Peace Prize he coveted. The Israelis repeated the offer the following January at Taba with advantages and got the same answer. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer of statehood that gave the putative state of Palestine even more territory. Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas fled the talks rather than be forced to give an answer.

One may argue that Israel’s offers were insufficient, even though doing so means taking a position that goes far beyond the parameters for peace that President Obama has endorsed and which would compromise Israeli security as well as its rights. Anti-Zionists can say that an offer of separate Palestinian statehood that requires them to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn is unreasonable. But you can’t claim that Israel hasn’t made any offers of statehood and retain credibility.

Unless, that is, your name is Fareed Zakaria.

When Israeli blogger Jeffrey Grossman pointed this blatant error out, Zakaria could have quickly and quietly corrected the record and moved on. He did not. And when Grossman wrote to Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, he received the following reply:

The history of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is contentious and, as I’m sure you know, subject to widely differing interpretation. Mr. Zakaria’s statement is within the bounds of acceptable interpretation for an opinion columnist.

The response of Hiatt, who has a well-earned reputation for fairness, is puzzling. After all, as Grossman has pointed out, not even the Palestinians claim they haven’t received an offer of statehood. They just say it wasn’t nearly good enough, especially since it didn’t include the poison pill they demand of every negotiation—a “right of return” for the descendants of the refugees of Israel’s War of Independence.

No one is saying that Zakaria isn’t within his rights to dismiss Israel’s offers, but he can’t ignore them and stay “within the bounds of acceptable interpretation.” His comments were not couched with language that gave him any wriggle room about the facts. If the Israelis have made offers—and they have—he’s made an error that requires a correction.

Of course, the reason why he won’t willingly make such a correction because reminding readers that Israel has tried and failed to entice the Palestinians to end the conflict by trading land for peace undermines the fallacious narrative of Zionist intransigence that he’s trying to promote. That’s a point that President Obama acknowledged in the very speech Zakaria was endorsing in his column.

Zakaria plays an authority about foreign policy on television but the closer you look at his views, the shakier his claim to expertise looks. Opinion columnists who need to doctor the facts in order to make their points aren’t merely wrong, they are charlatans of the sort that makes plagiarism look benign. The Post, which stood by Zakaria when he was embarrassed by his shoddy practices last year, needs to hold him accountable.

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The Middle East for Expert Dummies

Nothing seems to be able to displace Fareed Zakaria from his current perch in which he is treated as one of the country’s leading foreign policy experts. In August, he survived a brush with what should have been professional disgrace when both CNN and Time magazine reinstated him following his suspension for blatantly plagiarizing an article in The New Yorker. His employers decided the star’s misdeed was “unintentional” and an “isolated” incident. So Zakaria continues on his merry way, promoting conventional wisdom about the world and calling it insight. But his latest column for the Washington Post undermines what little is left of his credibility. In a piece titled “Israel Dominates the Middle East,” Zakaria demonstrates again that being labeled an “expert” by the mainstream media has little to do with actual expertise.

The conceit of Zakaria’s piece is that recent events demonstrate again that Israel is the superpower of the Middle East. From there he jumps to the conclusion that because Israel has a prosperous economy and is strong enough to defend itself from dangerous foes who wish to destroy it, it therefore follows that all that is necessary for there to be peace in the region is for Israel to wish for it. That such a prominent member of the foreign policy establishment should espouse such magical thinking says a lot about what passes for expertise these days. But more than that, it shows that being an expert doesn’t require one to have even given a passing glance to the events of the last 20 years in the region.

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Nothing seems to be able to displace Fareed Zakaria from his current perch in which he is treated as one of the country’s leading foreign policy experts. In August, he survived a brush with what should have been professional disgrace when both CNN and Time magazine reinstated him following his suspension for blatantly plagiarizing an article in The New Yorker. His employers decided the star’s misdeed was “unintentional” and an “isolated” incident. So Zakaria continues on his merry way, promoting conventional wisdom about the world and calling it insight. But his latest column for the Washington Post undermines what little is left of his credibility. In a piece titled “Israel Dominates the Middle East,” Zakaria demonstrates again that being labeled an “expert” by the mainstream media has little to do with actual expertise.

The conceit of Zakaria’s piece is that recent events demonstrate again that Israel is the superpower of the Middle East. From there he jumps to the conclusion that because Israel has a prosperous economy and is strong enough to defend itself from dangerous foes who wish to destroy it, it therefore follows that all that is necessary for there to be peace in the region is for Israel to wish for it. That such a prominent member of the foreign policy establishment should espouse such magical thinking says a lot about what passes for expertise these days. But more than that, it shows that being an expert doesn’t require one to have even given a passing glance to the events of the last 20 years in the region.

Zakaria is, of course, right that Israel is stronger than any of the surrounding states. Though the population of Egypt, the largest Arab state, is almost 12 times that of Israel, its military is no match for that of the Jewish state, leading even the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo to be wary of formally abrogating the peace treaty between the two nations. Israel’s economy, the product of the country’s democratic system of government, is also unmatched in the region.

That means that although enemies can terrorize its population — as Hamas did last week as it forced millions of Israelis into bomb shelters — and carry on a propaganda campaign aimed at denying its legitimacy, nothing short of an existential nuclear threat such as the one that is being built in Iran can threaten its existence. But it does not follow from there that Israel’s strength can create peace merely by the Israelis demanding it.

Zakaria writes:

Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will come only when Israel decides that it wants to make peace. Wise Israeli politicians, from Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert to Ehud Barak, have wanted to take risks to make that peace because they have worried about Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. This is what is in danger, not Israel’s existence.

The problem with that formulation begins with the characterization of Sharon, Olmert and Barak as “wise.” If there is anything the average Israeli has learned again in the last week, it is that those risk-takers have undermined their country’s security, not enhanced it.

As any political observer of the country knows, the overwhelming majority of Israelis would back any plan, including more territorial withdrawals, if they thought it would end the conflict. But every such initiative, beginning with the Oslo Accords and especially the withdrawal from Gaza that facilitated a Hamas takeover and the conversion of the area into a terrorist missile launching pad, has made peace less, not more, likely.

Parties that still back more concessions to the Palestinians have little support among Israelis not because they are right-wingers but because they have observed the events of the last two decades and understandably concluded that the other side doesn’t want peace. That’s why three Israeli offers of an independent state to the Palestinians in 2000, 2001 and 2008 were not accepted.

Israelis do want a two-state solution, but Palestinians have shown time and again that they are not willing to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. The rise of Hamas and its Islamist supporters in Egypt and Turkey make this trend even more obvious. And there is nothing that Israel’s economic or military might can do to persuade them otherwise. That leaves Israel and its backers with an intractable problem that can only be managed, not solved.

But Zakaria hasn’t noticed any of it. Instead, he and other liberal “experts” continue to blame Israel for the fact that the Palestinians can’t take yes for an answer. Part of the reason for this is the delusion that someday the West will hand Israel over to them on a silver platter. Rather than writing about the need for a sea change in Palestinian political culture that will make peace possible, Zakaria blames the Israelis for paying attention to the history of the last 20 years. Too bad such a basic skill isn’t required to make a person a mainstream media foreign policy expert.

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Will Yale Fire Fareed Zakaria?

There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

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There is now little question that Fareed Zakaria is guilty of plagiarism. He has admitted copying a portion of a New Yorker essay and apologized. Time, where Zakaria works as a columnist, has suspended Zakaria for a month, and CNN—owned by the same parent company—has suspended him pending an investigation. This represents a mere slap on the wrist for someone whose standard speaking fee is $75,000.

As Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper notes, however, Zakaria has a perch not only at CNN and Time, but also at Yale University, where he sits on the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board and policy-making body. There is no greater academic sin than plagiarism. Students can be expelled for plagiarizing papers, and professors can be fired. To let Zakaria off the hook on his own recognizance would be to eviscerate the principle of academic integrity for which Yale says it stands.

Whether Yale President Richard Levin will do the right thing, however, is another issue. While Levin has distinguished himself as a master fundraiser, he has also shown a disturbing willingness to undercut free speech (ironically, with Zakaria’s acquiescence), compromise academic integrity to foreign interests, and embrace fame over principle. Seldom is an issue as cut-and-dry as Zakaria’s plagiarism. Unless Yale seeks to demonstrate that cheating is acceptable and that there is no principle to which it will not turn a blind eye, then it really has no choice: It is time to give Zakaria the boot.

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Fareed Zakaria for Secretary of State?

Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon reports on speculation that the Obama administration might consider CNN talk show host Fareed Zakaria for a senior diplomatic post, perhaps even Secretary of State. Kredo raises concern regarding Zakaria’s naiveté regarding Iran, and to this one could add his pronounced lack of appreciation for fundamental tenets such as freedom and liberty.

What concerns me more about Zakaria, however, is his willing to compromise on basic American political freedoms. In his capacity as a trustee on the Yale Corporation, Yale University’s governing body, Zakaria counseled the university to embrace censorship ahead of its decision to interfere editorially in the nominally independent Yale University Press to censor an academic work on the Danish cartoon controversy. “You’re balancing issues of the First Amendment and academic freedom, but then you have this real question of what would be the consequences on human life,’’ he explained.

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Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon reports on speculation that the Obama administration might consider CNN talk show host Fareed Zakaria for a senior diplomatic post, perhaps even Secretary of State. Kredo raises concern regarding Zakaria’s naiveté regarding Iran, and to this one could add his pronounced lack of appreciation for fundamental tenets such as freedom and liberty.

What concerns me more about Zakaria, however, is his willing to compromise on basic American political freedoms. In his capacity as a trustee on the Yale Corporation, Yale University’s governing body, Zakaria counseled the university to embrace censorship ahead of its decision to interfere editorially in the nominally independent Yale University Press to censor an academic work on the Danish cartoon controversy. “You’re balancing issues of the First Amendment and academic freedom, but then you have this real question of what would be the consequences on human life,’’ he explained.

Now, Yale had received no threats whatsoever, so what Zakaria counseled was preemptive surrender. If the United States is to triumph over its enemies, ready abandonment of traditional American values is not a reflex the United States needs.

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Is There Really a Consensus Against Iran Containment?

If President Obama means what he says about stopping Iran from going nuclear, he has bi-partisan support for that stand. That’s the upshot of a Senate resolution introduced today with 32 co-sponsors that rejects the notion a nuclear Iran can be contained. Proponents of the resolution such as Senator Joseph Lieberman say Iran has only two choices: disarm or face the consequences.

The introduction of the measure prompted some of its Republican sponsors to point out that their position is identical with that of President Obama’s statements on the issue. As South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham noted, “All I can say is, we’ve found something we’re united about.”

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If President Obama means what he says about stopping Iran from going nuclear, he has bi-partisan support for that stand. That’s the upshot of a Senate resolution introduced today with 32 co-sponsors that rejects the notion a nuclear Iran can be contained. Proponents of the resolution such as Senator Joseph Lieberman say Iran has only two choices: disarm or face the consequences.

The introduction of the measure prompted some of its Republican sponsors to point out that their position is identical with that of President Obama’s statements on the issue. As South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham noted, “All I can say is, we’ve found something we’re united about.”

The question for the senators, as well as the nation, is whether the president is as serious about not considering a policy that would view “containment” of a nuclear Iran as a viable option. Though Obama has insisted he will not let Iran go nuclear, speculation continues that the administration’s reliance on sanctions to stop Tehran is, at best, overly optimistic. With Washington acting as if it is more worried about Israel acting on its own to eliminate an existential threat, the Senate resolution is a timely reminder to the president that he should not think he can get away with a policy that seeks to avoid confrontation until after the November election. With influential figures such as Obama sycophant Fareed Zakaria advocating containment in the Washington Post yesterday, Graham’s assumption is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are in agreement on Iran.

Zakaria, who has been a White House favorite in the last three years, has been a consistent opponent of confronting Iran. His latest piece attempted once again to make the case a nuclear Iran could be contained as easily as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. He claims the “lessons of history” show the attempt to stop Iran is a rerun of the rush to war in Europe in 1914. According to Zakaria, Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran are similar to those of the fools who launched the slaughter of World War One. That’s an unfair and distorted slap at a Jewish state that faces the possibility a tyrannical regime led by Islamist fanatics already pledged to their destruction might get hold of a genocidal weapon. Just as absurd are his comparisons between a nuclear Soviet Union and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The administration’s Iran strategy is dependent on cooperation from nations such as China that show little sign of being serious about helping. That means sooner or later, the president may be faced with actually having to resort to force if he wants to keep his promises. The worry here is that Zakaria’s sophistry about a potential catastrophe is a better reflection of Barack Obama’s thinking than his public statements. If push comes to shove, Israel as well as the Senate will have to hope Obama’s actual beliefs on the subject are closer to those of Lieberman and Graham than Zakaria.

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LIVE BLOG: Exceptionalism

I guess Obama sold his copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World to abebooks.com.

I guess Obama sold his copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World to abebooks.com.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

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A Political Crybaby

Sen. John Kerry told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this:

I think what’s happened is, Fareed, in the last six months I think there was an article even in the paper this week about people no longer blaming Bush. They’re beginning to target this White House. That’s a natural course of events as you go through any administration, but I don’t think it is fair to the President… I think that part of the problem is that a lot has been accomplished, but the story has not been sufficiently told, and we need to go out with some passion, and energy, and a little bit of anger even and make sure people understand how difficult this road has been against constant, non-stop Republican obstructionism.

Kerry’s short answer reveals a lot.

For one thing, it reminds people that Sen. Kerry, like others in his party, is a chronic political crybaby.

Whether the Massachusetts senior senator understands it or not, the public is right to hold the president of the United States responsible for his policies more than 18 months after he’s been in office. That is doubly true in the case of President Obama, whose administration made certain guarantees in advance about what its policies would produce. (For example, passing the stimulus package would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent; it topped 10 percent and is currently well above 9 percent.)

In addition, Kerry (like many other liberals) insists that the major difficulty facing the Obama administration is a “communication problem.” This is a risible explanation, given that Obama has at his disposal the largest bully pulpit in the world, to say nothing of Democratic control of both branches of Congress and a largely sympathetic media (at least compared to what a Republican president faces).

The problems facing Obama and the Democrats don’t have to do with a failure to communicate; they have to do with a failure to even begin to meet the expectations they set – from a flourishing economy to the dawning of a new age of effective diplomacy to the most ethical Congress ever, and much else.

The strategy Mr. Kerry is advocating is essentially this: Democrats should: (a) complain more than they are; (b) point fingers at Obama’s predecessor even beyond what they already have (which is very nearly impossible); and (c) become even angrier when making the case that they are overmatched by events.

That this counsel is the best that the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nominee has to offer underscores what a difficult bind Democrats find themselves in these days.

Sen. John Kerry told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this:

I think what’s happened is, Fareed, in the last six months I think there was an article even in the paper this week about people no longer blaming Bush. They’re beginning to target this White House. That’s a natural course of events as you go through any administration, but I don’t think it is fair to the President… I think that part of the problem is that a lot has been accomplished, but the story has not been sufficiently told, and we need to go out with some passion, and energy, and a little bit of anger even and make sure people understand how difficult this road has been against constant, non-stop Republican obstructionism.

Kerry’s short answer reveals a lot.

For one thing, it reminds people that Sen. Kerry, like others in his party, is a chronic political crybaby.

Whether the Massachusetts senior senator understands it or not, the public is right to hold the president of the United States responsible for his policies more than 18 months after he’s been in office. That is doubly true in the case of President Obama, whose administration made certain guarantees in advance about what its policies would produce. (For example, passing the stimulus package would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent; it topped 10 percent and is currently well above 9 percent.)

In addition, Kerry (like many other liberals) insists that the major difficulty facing the Obama administration is a “communication problem.” This is a risible explanation, given that Obama has at his disposal the largest bully pulpit in the world, to say nothing of Democratic control of both branches of Congress and a largely sympathetic media (at least compared to what a Republican president faces).

The problems facing Obama and the Democrats don’t have to do with a failure to communicate; they have to do with a failure to even begin to meet the expectations they set – from a flourishing economy to the dawning of a new age of effective diplomacy to the most ethical Congress ever, and much else.

The strategy Mr. Kerry is advocating is essentially this: Democrats should: (a) complain more than they are; (b) point fingers at Obama’s predecessor even beyond what they already have (which is very nearly impossible); and (c) become even angrier when making the case that they are overmatched by events.

That this counsel is the best that the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nominee has to offer underscores what a difficult bind Democrats find themselves in these days.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

Seriously? “Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘not nervous at all’ about the possibility that Democrats could lose their House majority after the November elections. She says she feels ‘very confident about where we are’ when it comes to the election. Still, the California Democrat says her party isn’t taking anything for granted.”

Seriously? Not even Chris Matthews thinks Pelosi is right.

Seriously? Eleanor Clift sounds like she’s thrown in the towel on Speaker Pelosi as well: “Two freshman Democrats from Virginia, Tom Perriello and Gerry Connolly, swept into office on the wave of enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama, are now struggling to stay afloat in a sea of discontent about the president. OK, that’s a bit melodramatic, but listening to these lawmakers and what they’re up against in defending their seats is to wonder where all the magic has gone, and what can be done to recapture enough stardust to hold on to the Democratic majorities that are the bulwark of the Obama presidency.”

Seriously? John Kerry wants “Obama to resume his efforts to start a dialogue with Iran. In an interview on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show Sunday, Kerry said a good place to begin with the Iranians would be discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan and that those talks could lead to discussions on other vital topics, such as Iran’s nuclear program. … There are reasons that [the Iranians] would want a stable government there. And I think that we should — you know, diplomacy is the art of playing to everybody’s interests. And everybody has some interests with respect to this outcome.”

Seriously? (snuggling up to Lindsey Graham): “Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, voiced support Sunday for hearings on whether to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.”

Seriously? Obama says he’s not getting enough credit for saving us from “the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” (Maybe that’s because it’s not the worst downturn since the Great Depression.)

Seriously? ABC headline: “Pelosi and Gates Differ on Expectations for July 2011 Troop Withdrawal.” Yeah, when the president isn’t definitive, everyone fills in the blanks for themselves. That worked to get Obama elected, but it makes for a poor commander in chief.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for honoring America’s commitments: “As Israel’s prime minister prepares for his fifth official meeting with President Obama this week, the White House has declined to publicly affirm commitments made by President Bush to Israel in 2004 on the final borders of the Jewish state.”

So much for walking back the Afghanistan troop-withdrawal deadline. Joe Biden says, “This is the policy.”

So much for the Democratic 2010 strategy. Chis Cillizza writes: “the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters. The DNC’s plan is ambitious, to say the least: In the space of a few months, the strategists hope to change the composition of a midterm electorate that, if history is any guide, tends to be older and whiter than in a presidential-election year. Put that way, it sounds crazy — and it has drawn considerable skepticism from independent observers.”

So much for Obama’s salesmanship: “Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide favor repeal of the recently passed health care law, including 49% who Strongly Favor repeal. … This is the 16th weekly poll conducted on repeal since the health care law was passed. A majority of voters has favored repeal each and every week. Support for repeal has ranged from a low of 52% to a high of 63%.”

So much for the “permanent” Democratic majority. Charlie Cook writes: “Among all voters, there has been a significant swing since 2008 when Democrats took their new majority won in 2006 to an even higher level. But when you home in on those people in this survey who are most likely to vote, the numbers are devastating. … Make no mistake about it: There is a wave out there, and for Democrats, the House is, at best, teetering on the edge. To be sure, things could change in the four months between now and November 2. … Still, the potential is here for a result that is proportional to some of the bigger postwar midterm wave elections.”

So much for Obama’s Syrian engagement. The headline reads, “Assad: US administration is weak.” Well, he’s a brutal despot, but he’s not a bad political analyst.

So much for Obamanomics: “Just when they might be needed the most, the rescue ropes that hauled the nation out of the Great Recession have become badly frayed. A much-feared ‘double dip’ economic downturn would find interest rates already slashed to near zero by the Federal Reserve and lawmakers leery of voting for billions of stimulus dollars as they face re-election.”

So much for the prospects of a two-state solution. Barry Rubin: “Why should Israel give up territory and security to the PA merely because it prosecutes corrupt leaders (don’t hold your breath) and is more prosperous? What it needs to know is that the conflict won’t continue, that there won’t be cross-border raids, that Hamas won’t take over and that Palestine won’t invite in Syrian or Iranian military forces, to cite some examples.” And other than the deluded Obami, who really thinks that is happening any time soon?

So much for the notion that Fareed Zakaria is to be taken seriously (even by the Obama administration): “Fareed Zakaria criticized the Afghanistan war in unusually harsh terms on his CNN program Sunday, saying that ‘the whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real problem.'”

So much for honoring America’s commitments: “As Israel’s prime minister prepares for his fifth official meeting with President Obama this week, the White House has declined to publicly affirm commitments made by President Bush to Israel in 2004 on the final borders of the Jewish state.”

So much for walking back the Afghanistan troop-withdrawal deadline. Joe Biden says, “This is the policy.”

So much for the Democratic 2010 strategy. Chis Cillizza writes: “the Democratic National Committee has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to re-create (or come somewhere near re-creating) the 2008 election model, in which Democrats relied heavily on higher-than-normal turnout from young people and strong support from African American and Hispanic voters. The DNC’s plan is ambitious, to say the least: In the space of a few months, the strategists hope to change the composition of a midterm electorate that, if history is any guide, tends to be older and whiter than in a presidential-election year. Put that way, it sounds crazy — and it has drawn considerable skepticism from independent observers.”

So much for Obama’s salesmanship: “Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide favor repeal of the recently passed health care law, including 49% who Strongly Favor repeal. … This is the 16th weekly poll conducted on repeal since the health care law was passed. A majority of voters has favored repeal each and every week. Support for repeal has ranged from a low of 52% to a high of 63%.”

So much for the “permanent” Democratic majority. Charlie Cook writes: “Among all voters, there has been a significant swing since 2008 when Democrats took their new majority won in 2006 to an even higher level. But when you home in on those people in this survey who are most likely to vote, the numbers are devastating. … Make no mistake about it: There is a wave out there, and for Democrats, the House is, at best, teetering on the edge. To be sure, things could change in the four months between now and November 2. … Still, the potential is here for a result that is proportional to some of the bigger postwar midterm wave elections.”

So much for Obama’s Syrian engagement. The headline reads, “Assad: US administration is weak.” Well, he’s a brutal despot, but he’s not a bad political analyst.

So much for Obamanomics: “Just when they might be needed the most, the rescue ropes that hauled the nation out of the Great Recession have become badly frayed. A much-feared ‘double dip’ economic downturn would find interest rates already slashed to near zero by the Federal Reserve and lawmakers leery of voting for billions of stimulus dollars as they face re-election.”

So much for the prospects of a two-state solution. Barry Rubin: “Why should Israel give up territory and security to the PA merely because it prosecutes corrupt leaders (don’t hold your breath) and is more prosperous? What it needs to know is that the conflict won’t continue, that there won’t be cross-border raids, that Hamas won’t take over and that Palestine won’t invite in Syrian or Iranian military forces, to cite some examples.” And other than the deluded Obami, who really thinks that is happening any time soon?

So much for the notion that Fareed Zakaria is to be taken seriously (even by the Obama administration): “Fareed Zakaria criticized the Afghanistan war in unusually harsh terms on his CNN program Sunday, saying that ‘the whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real problem.'”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.'” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.'” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

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Democrats Heap Scorn on Obama

Fareed Zakaria has become an all-purpose apologist for Obama. First it was on the flotilla.  A colleague passes on the latest one. It seems he’s now shilling for Obama on his response to the oil spill. Last time, Zakaria was dismantled by Elliott Abrams. This time it was James Carville:

Zakaria, a Newsweek editor but also host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, recently wrote a defense of Pres. Obama’s response (actually he criticized the President for his overreaction).  … King read from Zakaria’s recent column, which said “what worries me is that we have gotten to the point where we expect the president to somehow magically solve every problem in the world, appear to be doing it and to reflect our anger and emotion. This is a kind of bizarre trivializing of the presidency into some kind of national psychiatrist-in-chief.”

Carville, smiling – but only at first – responded strongly:

“Yes, he talked about an offensive linebacker. And when I read that I wanted to hit him with a football bat, okay? This guy, there’s some kind of a breakdown here, because this is a very smart man. And I don’t think that he understands exactly what is going on down here. I don’t think he understands that an entire culture is at risk, an entire way of life that there is an invasion going here and he is whining about the fact that the president had to cancel a trip to Indonesia to do something about what’s going on in Louisiana. . … If that thing was in the Long Island Sound, I guarantee you Fareed Zakaria and all his friends would be going nuts out there.”

This tells us a few things. First, we should be wary of “experts” who peddle their foreign-policy lines while reflexively defending the administration across the board. Second, Obama no longer can command respect or discretion, let alone affection, from Democrats. Granted this is Carville, whose Clinton loyalty is well known and who has likely not let bygones be bygones. But if you turn on MSNBC, you will hear plenty of Democrats heaping criticism on Obama.

Again, as I and many others have pointed out, accidents — including big and awful ones — are not necessarily the president’s fault. But neither was 9/11 Rudy Giuliani’s.  But he grabbed the crisis by the throat. He was candid, informed, and informative. He did not whine or complain. He did not treat it as a PR problem but as a civic emergency. It is the failure of leadership and of executive competence that has exposed Obama. The closet analogy is not Jimmy Carter but the emperor who had no clothes. And now everyone notices.

Fareed Zakaria has become an all-purpose apologist for Obama. First it was on the flotilla.  A colleague passes on the latest one. It seems he’s now shilling for Obama on his response to the oil spill. Last time, Zakaria was dismantled by Elliott Abrams. This time it was James Carville:

Zakaria, a Newsweek editor but also host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, recently wrote a defense of Pres. Obama’s response (actually he criticized the President for his overreaction).  … King read from Zakaria’s recent column, which said “what worries me is that we have gotten to the point where we expect the president to somehow magically solve every problem in the world, appear to be doing it and to reflect our anger and emotion. This is a kind of bizarre trivializing of the presidency into some kind of national psychiatrist-in-chief.”

Carville, smiling – but only at first – responded strongly:

“Yes, he talked about an offensive linebacker. And when I read that I wanted to hit him with a football bat, okay? This guy, there’s some kind of a breakdown here, because this is a very smart man. And I don’t think that he understands exactly what is going on down here. I don’t think he understands that an entire culture is at risk, an entire way of life that there is an invasion going here and he is whining about the fact that the president had to cancel a trip to Indonesia to do something about what’s going on in Louisiana. . … If that thing was in the Long Island Sound, I guarantee you Fareed Zakaria and all his friends would be going nuts out there.”

This tells us a few things. First, we should be wary of “experts” who peddle their foreign-policy lines while reflexively defending the administration across the board. Second, Obama no longer can command respect or discretion, let alone affection, from Democrats. Granted this is Carville, whose Clinton loyalty is well known and who has likely not let bygones be bygones. But if you turn on MSNBC, you will hear plenty of Democrats heaping criticism on Obama.

Again, as I and many others have pointed out, accidents — including big and awful ones — are not necessarily the president’s fault. But neither was 9/11 Rudy Giuliani’s.  But he grabbed the crisis by the throat. He was candid, informed, and informative. He did not whine or complain. He did not treat it as a PR problem but as a civic emergency. It is the failure of leadership and of executive competence that has exposed Obama. The closet analogy is not Jimmy Carter but the emperor who had no clothes. And now everyone notices.

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Who Would Bid on a Flop?

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

Howard Kurtz looks at the bidders for Newsweek:

One is Newsmax, a conservative Web site and monthly favored by Sarah Palin and founded by Christopher Ruddy, who once investigated conspiracy theories that Clinton administration officials Vince Foster and Ron Brown were murdered. Another is Thane Ritchie, an Illinois hedge-fund manager and Ross Perot fan who is angling to start a new political party. The third is OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that two years ago bought TV Guide for $1. It’s hard to imagine any of them supporting Newsweek as a vibrant weekly that could compete with Time.

Ummm, it’s really not vibrant, and it apparently isn’t competitive with Time now, so what could these or any new owner do? But Newsweek says it has lots of other bidders. Tons, I am sure. Nevertheless, it seems there is anger among the staffers, who are aggrieved that “Editor Jon Meacham erred badly by transforming the newsweekly into an upscale, left-leaning opinion magazine.” But Meacham kept telling us it was news! Oh my, quite startling to learn this was all a flim-flam, and a grossly unsuccessful one at that.

Kurtz then opines:

On one level, the situation is a paradox. Here you have a magazine loaded with talent — from the Pulitzer-winning Meacham (who is pursuing his own bid to buy the magazine) to such media stars as Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, Mike Isikoff, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Samuelson — and few seem willing to bet on its financial future. That amounts to a no-confidence vote not just on the category of newsweeklies, which have long been squeezed between daily papers and in-depth monthlies, but on print journalism itself. The lucrative properties these days are digital, and Newsweek’s Web site has long been a flop, both creatively and commercially.

Oh, puleez. With the exception of Samuelson, these are predictable liberals parroting the anti-Israel, pro-Obama, anti-conservative line. It isn’t a vote of no confidence in the concept of a weekly — it’s a vote of no confidence in this product and those people. Whoever buys it, if anyone does, would do well to scrap the dreary liberal perspective, fire most of the current crew, and figure out something a lot of people actually want to read. I can tell you it’s not “a sort of a God” Thomas or Zakaria’s noxious views on Israel.

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The World Inverted?

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

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The World’s Largest Trope

Fareed Zakaria has stimulated an amusing discussion on the subject of whether America has lost its world supremacy because it no longer strives to build the biggest things on earth. Zakaria’s List of Giant Things Built Elsewhere

The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood…. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year….The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American….[O]nly ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

–so displeased the businessman-blogger Jim Manzi that he went to Wikipedia to prove Zakaria was talking out of his hat, and, I fear, he succeeded:

Iran already had the world’s largest oil refinery by 1980. Russia had already built the world’s tallest Ferris wheel in 1995, topped by Japan in 1997. Canada had already built the world’s largest mall by 1986. Malaysia had already built the world’s tallest building in 1998. I couldn’t find any data on Bollywood in 1998. Using this data for 2001 and estimating back three years, it looks like Bollywood was already larger than Hollywood in 1998 in terms of films produced and total number of tickets sold.

Fareed’s larger point is that the rest of the world is on the rise, and that we are entering a “post-American world.” Like all superficially convincing Grand Theories of Everything, this one seems inarguably true for about three minutes. Then you spend a few seconds thinking deeply about it, as Manzi did, only to come up with a dozen ways in which it is false.

Still, Fareed has hit on something very interesting in this ill-conceived list of ways in which America is now #2, but it has nothing to do with the other nations and everything to do with America. What does it mean that this country evidently cares less and less about building capitalist monuments?

It may mean nothing more than we don’t have to — that the country itself is the capitalist monument par excellence, with a GDP that is almost triple what it was 25 years ago and a per capita income of nearly $46,000. When America began its frenzy of construction, it was trying to prove something; now it needs to prove nothing.  And Americans have gotten wise to the ambiguous nature of capitalist monument-building, since inevitably such things happen only with a considerable amount of taxpayer expenditure with no hope of return except to the private developer who takes on little risk and gets most of the reward.

Nonetheless, this does suggest America has lost some of its striver’s hunger. In New York City, for example, no major project can get off the ground, not even construction at Ground Zero. But this too is a double-edged sword. Most respectable opinion in the city supported a mammoth project in downtown Brooklyn to build a Frank Gehry stadium with 16 apartment buildings around it on the grounds that the stadium would sit on a platform above a rail yard in a mostly blighted neighborhood. Some people living an entire neighborhood away began to protest wildly and irrationally.

But in the five years since it was first proposed, the Brooklyn project has made less and less sense. The neighborhood, like the borough, has improved so radically that it really does seem as though the state’s power of eminent domain is being used to remove a perfectly functional middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood for the benefit of a private contractor (in this case, a developer named Bruce Ratner). And with the credit crunch now underway, it appears the project may die on the vine anyway.

On the one hand, the inability of very liberal New Yorkers to tolerate economic development offers a small-scale portrait of some of what ails this country. On the other hand, the notion that state power shouldn’t be used in this way and that private citizens can band together to prevent it is part of what makes this country such a remarkable world-historical experiment.

Fareed Zakaria has stimulated an amusing discussion on the subject of whether America has lost its world supremacy because it no longer strives to build the biggest things on earth. Zakaria’s List of Giant Things Built Elsewhere

The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood…. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year….The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American….[O]nly ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

–so displeased the businessman-blogger Jim Manzi that he went to Wikipedia to prove Zakaria was talking out of his hat, and, I fear, he succeeded:

Iran already had the world’s largest oil refinery by 1980. Russia had already built the world’s tallest Ferris wheel in 1995, topped by Japan in 1997. Canada had already built the world’s largest mall by 1986. Malaysia had already built the world’s tallest building in 1998. I couldn’t find any data on Bollywood in 1998. Using this data for 2001 and estimating back three years, it looks like Bollywood was already larger than Hollywood in 1998 in terms of films produced and total number of tickets sold.

Fareed’s larger point is that the rest of the world is on the rise, and that we are entering a “post-American world.” Like all superficially convincing Grand Theories of Everything, this one seems inarguably true for about three minutes. Then you spend a few seconds thinking deeply about it, as Manzi did, only to come up with a dozen ways in which it is false.

Still, Fareed has hit on something very interesting in this ill-conceived list of ways in which America is now #2, but it has nothing to do with the other nations and everything to do with America. What does it mean that this country evidently cares less and less about building capitalist monuments?

It may mean nothing more than we don’t have to — that the country itself is the capitalist monument par excellence, with a GDP that is almost triple what it was 25 years ago and a per capita income of nearly $46,000. When America began its frenzy of construction, it was trying to prove something; now it needs to prove nothing.  And Americans have gotten wise to the ambiguous nature of capitalist monument-building, since inevitably such things happen only with a considerable amount of taxpayer expenditure with no hope of return except to the private developer who takes on little risk and gets most of the reward.

Nonetheless, this does suggest America has lost some of its striver’s hunger. In New York City, for example, no major project can get off the ground, not even construction at Ground Zero. But this too is a double-edged sword. Most respectable opinion in the city supported a mammoth project in downtown Brooklyn to build a Frank Gehry stadium with 16 apartment buildings around it on the grounds that the stadium would sit on a platform above a rail yard in a mostly blighted neighborhood. Some people living an entire neighborhood away began to protest wildly and irrationally.

But in the five years since it was first proposed, the Brooklyn project has made less and less sense. The neighborhood, like the borough, has improved so radically that it really does seem as though the state’s power of eminent domain is being used to remove a perfectly functional middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood for the benefit of a private contractor (in this case, a developer named Bruce Ratner). And with the credit crunch now underway, it appears the project may die on the vine anyway.

On the one hand, the inability of very liberal New Yorkers to tolerate economic development offers a small-scale portrait of some of what ails this country. On the other hand, the notion that state power shouldn’t be used in this way and that private citizens can band together to prevent it is part of what makes this country such a remarkable world-historical experiment.

Read Less

Are Michiko Kakutani and Michael Scheuer An Item?

In today’s New York Times, Michiko Kakutani gives a mixed review to Fareed Zakaria’s latest book, The Post-American World.  She faults it for, among others things, some “curious gaps and questionable assertions.”

One of those is Zakaria’s “dubious” contention that  “over the last six years, support for bin Laden and his goals has fallen steadily throughout the Muslim world.” Taking issue with this, Kakutani complains that Zakaria ignores the contrary views of “Qaeda expert” Michael Scheuer.

Interestingly, back in April, reviewing Martin Amis’s The Second Plane, Kakutani chastised Amis for “completely ignoring . . . experts like Michael Scheuer.”

Reviewing Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV back in October, she scored him, too, for guess what:  “he ignores experts like Michael Scheuer.”

And reviewing Dinesh D’Souza last February, she complained that “He ignores the host of experts like the former C.I.A. officer Michael Scheuer.”

Listening to this broken record makes me all the more curious about Kakutani’s review of Scheuer’s most recent book, The Road to Hell. She called it “wildly uneven,” “intemperate,” “shrill,” and a “messy agglomeration” “seeded” with “alarming rants.”

These appropriate judgments leave me wondering why, in repeatedly enlisting the crackpot Scheuer to chastise various authors, Michiko Kakutani completely ignores — of all people — Michiko Kakutani.

In today’s New York Times, Michiko Kakutani gives a mixed review to Fareed Zakaria’s latest book, The Post-American World.  She faults it for, among others things, some “curious gaps and questionable assertions.”

One of those is Zakaria’s “dubious” contention that  “over the last six years, support for bin Laden and his goals has fallen steadily throughout the Muslim world.” Taking issue with this, Kakutani complains that Zakaria ignores the contrary views of “Qaeda expert” Michael Scheuer.

Interestingly, back in April, reviewing Martin Amis’s The Second Plane, Kakutani chastised Amis for “completely ignoring . . . experts like Michael Scheuer.”

Reviewing Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV back in October, she scored him, too, for guess what:  “he ignores experts like Michael Scheuer.”

And reviewing Dinesh D’Souza last February, she complained that “He ignores the host of experts like the former C.I.A. officer Michael Scheuer.”

Listening to this broken record makes me all the more curious about Kakutani’s review of Scheuer’s most recent book, The Road to Hell. She called it “wildly uneven,” “intemperate,” “shrill,” and a “messy agglomeration” “seeded” with “alarming rants.”

These appropriate judgments leave me wondering why, in repeatedly enlisting the crackpot Scheuer to chastise various authors, Michiko Kakutani completely ignores — of all people — Michiko Kakutani.

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Belgium and Baghdad

This Fareed Zakaria column complaining about the slowness of political progress in Iraq put me to mind of this article I read last week about Belgium.

What’s the connection between a small, stable democracy in Europe and a big, unstable proto-democracy in the Middle East? It may not be obvious at first glance. But it seems that not so far beneath Belgium’s placid surface lurks some major discord. In fact, it has taken Belgian politicians nine months since the last general election to finally settle on a new prime minister. That is largely due to frictions between the Francophone majority and the Fleming minority.

As the Financial Times reports:

These frictions between the country’s regions were at the heart of an embarrassing 192-day political impasse after the election. At the height of the post-poll deadlock, the longest in the country’s history, there were fears that Belgium might even split in two.

If even boring old Belgium finds it hard to reach an amicable accord between differing ethnic groups, imagine how much harder the task is in Iraq, where it’s literally a matter of life or death. Zakaria is right that ethno-sectarian tensions remain a major problem in Iraq, though I think he is wrong to say that the situation has “not improved much.” While he can quibble about the details, there is no doubt that the Iraqi parliament has passed some important reconciliation laws. Even without the passage of a hydrocarbon law, moreover, the central government still manages to share oil revenues with the provinces (though it’s true that government at all levels has problems actually spending its money).

And then there is undeniable fact that some 90,000 men, mainly Sunnis, have joined the Concerned Local Citizens groups to protect their neighborhoods against terrorists. There is no question that tensions linger between these groups and the Shiite-dominated central government. But the situation is still much better than it was a year or two ago when many of the CLC members were actively fighting against the government and its American protectors.

Zakaria is undoubtedly right that even in a best-case scenario, Iraq will require a long-term presence of Americans “in the loop” in order to safeguard the very tenuous progress being made toward a modus vivendi among the competing factions. But that beats the alternative, which is an all-out civil war. The experience of Belgium should make us realize how much patience is required when dealing with deep-rooted tensions and how agonizingly slow political progress can be. That is not, however, an argument for throwing up our hands in despair, as the Democratic presidential candidates seem to be doing.

This Fareed Zakaria column complaining about the slowness of political progress in Iraq put me to mind of this article I read last week about Belgium.

What’s the connection between a small, stable democracy in Europe and a big, unstable proto-democracy in the Middle East? It may not be obvious at first glance. But it seems that not so far beneath Belgium’s placid surface lurks some major discord. In fact, it has taken Belgian politicians nine months since the last general election to finally settle on a new prime minister. That is largely due to frictions between the Francophone majority and the Fleming minority.

As the Financial Times reports:

These frictions between the country’s regions were at the heart of an embarrassing 192-day political impasse after the election. At the height of the post-poll deadlock, the longest in the country’s history, there were fears that Belgium might even split in two.

If even boring old Belgium finds it hard to reach an amicable accord between differing ethnic groups, imagine how much harder the task is in Iraq, where it’s literally a matter of life or death. Zakaria is right that ethno-sectarian tensions remain a major problem in Iraq, though I think he is wrong to say that the situation has “not improved much.” While he can quibble about the details, there is no doubt that the Iraqi parliament has passed some important reconciliation laws. Even without the passage of a hydrocarbon law, moreover, the central government still manages to share oil revenues with the provinces (though it’s true that government at all levels has problems actually spending its money).

And then there is undeniable fact that some 90,000 men, mainly Sunnis, have joined the Concerned Local Citizens groups to protect their neighborhoods against terrorists. There is no question that tensions linger between these groups and the Shiite-dominated central government. But the situation is still much better than it was a year or two ago when many of the CLC members were actively fighting against the government and its American protectors.

Zakaria is undoubtedly right that even in a best-case scenario, Iraq will require a long-term presence of Americans “in the loop” in order to safeguard the very tenuous progress being made toward a modus vivendi among the competing factions. But that beats the alternative, which is an all-out civil war. The experience of Belgium should make us realize how much patience is required when dealing with deep-rooted tensions and how agonizingly slow political progress can be. That is not, however, an argument for throwing up our hands in despair, as the Democratic presidential candidates seem to be doing.

Read Less




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