Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gandhi

Not Everything Is Cool at the End of the Day

According to the Associated Press, Arizona State junior quarterback Samson Szakacsy is “unusually introspective” and “a deeply spiritual person.” He counts among his heroes Jesus, Gandhi, and Buddha. An athlete, musician, and religious-studies major, Szakacsy is, we’re told in a glowing profile,

a philosopher who says the true way to convey wisdom is to bring all of yourself into every situation and to see yourself in everyone. Mr. Szakacsy is, as the title of his new CD suggests, someone who has spent his life “chasing truth.”

“I’m just really interested in everything,” he said. “You can find God in everything, truth in everything, so everything is cool at the end of the day. I try to just really see myself in everything. It’s all connected in some way.”

I don’t want to be overly harsh toward a junior in college, but since his arguments were made publicly, perhaps it’s worth publicly responding to them as well. So let’s begin with the basics.

Some of us don’t really think that the “true way to convey wisdom” is to see ourselves in everyone — because, you see, “everyone” includes (for starters) Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson.

And some of us don’t actually find God and truth in “everything” — because, you see, “everything” includes mass genocide and gas chambers, child abuse and infanticide, flying airplanes into the World Trade Center, bombing pizzerias in downtown Jerusalem and Christian churches in Egypt, and cutting off the ears and noses of women in Afghanistan. And so not everything is cool at the end of the day. Some things, in fact, are evil rather than cool. Some actions clash rather than connect. And to pretend they aren’t and to pretend they don’t — to embrace a trendy, shallow, easygoing relativism — is at best unserious and at worst self-destructive.

That isn’t to say that good can’t ever emerge from an evil act. But that isn’t what our Arizona State philosopher is saying. He is arguing that truth is like a Chinese menu, where you take equal samples from column A and column B and sit back and enjoy the meal.

It doesn’t quite work like that in real life, though.

The modern/postmodern sensibility is forever attracted to, and even making CDs about, “chasing truth.” But eventually one has to give up the chase and actually settle on some basic truths, such as honesty is better than lying, compassion is preferable to savagery, fidelity is better than betrayal, liberty is superior to tyranny, and courage is preferable to cowardice. A fulfilled and noble life is impossible without making moral judgments — meaning, judging some things to be right and others to be wrong. “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid” is how G.K. Chesterton put it. One day soon, we can hope, Samson Szakacsy (and the Associated Press) will discover that wisdom as well.

According to the Associated Press, Arizona State junior quarterback Samson Szakacsy is “unusually introspective” and “a deeply spiritual person.” He counts among his heroes Jesus, Gandhi, and Buddha. An athlete, musician, and religious-studies major, Szakacsy is, we’re told in a glowing profile,

a philosopher who says the true way to convey wisdom is to bring all of yourself into every situation and to see yourself in everyone. Mr. Szakacsy is, as the title of his new CD suggests, someone who has spent his life “chasing truth.”

“I’m just really interested in everything,” he said. “You can find God in everything, truth in everything, so everything is cool at the end of the day. I try to just really see myself in everything. It’s all connected in some way.”

I don’t want to be overly harsh toward a junior in college, but since his arguments were made publicly, perhaps it’s worth publicly responding to them as well. So let’s begin with the basics.

Some of us don’t really think that the “true way to convey wisdom” is to see ourselves in everyone — because, you see, “everyone” includes (for starters) Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson.

And some of us don’t actually find God and truth in “everything” — because, you see, “everything” includes mass genocide and gas chambers, child abuse and infanticide, flying airplanes into the World Trade Center, bombing pizzerias in downtown Jerusalem and Christian churches in Egypt, and cutting off the ears and noses of women in Afghanistan. And so not everything is cool at the end of the day. Some things, in fact, are evil rather than cool. Some actions clash rather than connect. And to pretend they aren’t and to pretend they don’t — to embrace a trendy, shallow, easygoing relativism — is at best unserious and at worst self-destructive.

That isn’t to say that good can’t ever emerge from an evil act. But that isn’t what our Arizona State philosopher is saying. He is arguing that truth is like a Chinese menu, where you take equal samples from column A and column B and sit back and enjoy the meal.

It doesn’t quite work like that in real life, though.

The modern/postmodern sensibility is forever attracted to, and even making CDs about, “chasing truth.” But eventually one has to give up the chase and actually settle on some basic truths, such as honesty is better than lying, compassion is preferable to savagery, fidelity is better than betrayal, liberty is superior to tyranny, and courage is preferable to cowardice. A fulfilled and noble life is impossible without making moral judgments — meaning, judging some things to be right and others to be wrong. “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid” is how G.K. Chesterton put it. One day soon, we can hope, Samson Szakacsy (and the Associated Press) will discover that wisdom as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.'”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

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The Peace Process Lacks Palestinian Peacemakers

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

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The Dark Side of Peace Fantasies

Why do so many American liberals prefer to think ill of Israel and accept libelous accusations such as Time magazine’s infamous August cover story that proclaimed “Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace”? The answer is that, unlike the majority of Israelis, they’ve decided to ignore the results of nearly two decades of failed peace-processing. A prime example of this foolishness is provided today by the New York Times, where online columnist Robert Wright urges Palestinians to give Israelis who are indifferent to peace a good scare. What would scare them? His answer is a Palestinian peace movement based on civil disobedience that would advocate for votes in a binational state where a presumed Arab majority would soon take over the country.

Wright’s determination to divide Israelis between indifferent moderates and bad settlers whose political strength exercises a veto over peace is absurd. Israeli moderates aren’t indifferent to peace; they just understand that concessions that created the Palestinian Authority and a Hamas state in Gaza brought more terror, not peace. That’s why the Israeli left has more or less disintegrated as a political force. But should the Palestinians ever accept one of Israel’s peace offers, the right would be powerless to stop such a deal from being signed.

As for the Palestinians, there’s a good reason why they’ve never taken the advice of foreign well-wishers and gone Gandhi on the Israelis. The Palestinian national movement has always been based on violence. The credibility of Palestinian political parties stems from their involvement in terror, not nation-building, which is why Hamas has a mass following and pragmatic Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is virtually a man without a party. Palestinians don’t have to be persuaded to embrace a “one-state” solution, because they have never supported one that would envision two states for two peoples, since acceptance of a Jewish state is still anathema to Palestinian nationalism.

Indeed, far from Israelis needing to be convinced of the utility of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians who must be persuaded to do so. They turned such a deal down in 2000, when Yasir Arafat said no to one at Camp David and again at Taba the next year. Current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did the same in 2008. But all this is of no interest to authors such as Wright who still prefer to blame the continued standoff on the Israelis.

But the most compelling passage in Wright’s article is when he claims that a nonviolent Palestinian movement would enable American Israel-haters to create successful campaigns to isolate Israel without fear of being called anti-Semites, as was the fate of Harvard students who advocated for disinvestment in 2002.

The determination of Wright and his fellow left-wingers to ignore the same recent history that has caused so many Israeli leftists to abandon their cause is curious. It is hard to avoid wondering whether Wright’s longing for a more presentable Palestinian movement has more to do with his hope that it would make the work of American anti-Zionists easier than any chances that it would actually lead to peace. Perhaps without intending to do so, what Wright has done in this piece is to give us a look at the dark side of left-wing fantasies about the Middle East in which advocacy for an end to the Jewish state will be granted a legitimacy that it has hitherto lacked.

Why do so many American liberals prefer to think ill of Israel and accept libelous accusations such as Time magazine’s infamous August cover story that proclaimed “Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace”? The answer is that, unlike the majority of Israelis, they’ve decided to ignore the results of nearly two decades of failed peace-processing. A prime example of this foolishness is provided today by the New York Times, where online columnist Robert Wright urges Palestinians to give Israelis who are indifferent to peace a good scare. What would scare them? His answer is a Palestinian peace movement based on civil disobedience that would advocate for votes in a binational state where a presumed Arab majority would soon take over the country.

Wright’s determination to divide Israelis between indifferent moderates and bad settlers whose political strength exercises a veto over peace is absurd. Israeli moderates aren’t indifferent to peace; they just understand that concessions that created the Palestinian Authority and a Hamas state in Gaza brought more terror, not peace. That’s why the Israeli left has more or less disintegrated as a political force. But should the Palestinians ever accept one of Israel’s peace offers, the right would be powerless to stop such a deal from being signed.

As for the Palestinians, there’s a good reason why they’ve never taken the advice of foreign well-wishers and gone Gandhi on the Israelis. The Palestinian national movement has always been based on violence. The credibility of Palestinian political parties stems from their involvement in terror, not nation-building, which is why Hamas has a mass following and pragmatic Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is virtually a man without a party. Palestinians don’t have to be persuaded to embrace a “one-state” solution, because they have never supported one that would envision two states for two peoples, since acceptance of a Jewish state is still anathema to Palestinian nationalism.

Indeed, far from Israelis needing to be convinced of the utility of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians who must be persuaded to do so. They turned such a deal down in 2000, when Yasir Arafat said no to one at Camp David and again at Taba the next year. Current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did the same in 2008. But all this is of no interest to authors such as Wright who still prefer to blame the continued standoff on the Israelis.

But the most compelling passage in Wright’s article is when he claims that a nonviolent Palestinian movement would enable American Israel-haters to create successful campaigns to isolate Israel without fear of being called anti-Semites, as was the fate of Harvard students who advocated for disinvestment in 2002.

The determination of Wright and his fellow left-wingers to ignore the same recent history that has caused so many Israeli leftists to abandon their cause is curious. It is hard to avoid wondering whether Wright’s longing for a more presentable Palestinian movement has more to do with his hope that it would make the work of American anti-Zionists easier than any chances that it would actually lead to peace. Perhaps without intending to do so, what Wright has done in this piece is to give us a look at the dark side of left-wing fantasies about the Middle East in which advocacy for an end to the Jewish state will be granted a legitimacy that it has hitherto lacked.

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Winston Churchill in Perspective

In his own day, Winston Churchill was an intensely controversial figure, one who would never have become prime minister were it not for Britain’s desperate straits in May 1940. Yet for decades after the war his heroic leadership made him almost universally acclaimed for saving Western civilization.

The halo began to wear thin in the 1990s when the British historian John Charmley began attacking Churchill for not having tried to strike a deal with Nazi Germany, which would supposedly have preserved the British Empire. Charmley, a right-winger, seemed to think that the empire was worth saving even at the cost of leaving Hitler in power.

Now comes Richard Toye, a left-wing British historian, to attack Churchill for having shown too much devotion to the empire. I confess to not having read his book, Churchill’s Empire, but the glowing review in the New York Times from ultra-left-wing British columnist Johann Hari makes it sound like a standard-issue anti-imperial screed from today’s academy. Hari recites Churchill’s record in defense of the empire, from his early days as a young army officer on the Northwest Frontier, the Sudan, and South Africa, up to his time as a minister who sent the Black and Tans to Ireland, repressed an Iraqi revolt, and tried to stymie Indian independence. Much of Hari’s approach (and Toye’s?) consists of quoting out of context Churchill’s colorful rhetoric. For example:

When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

Apparently, Hari is not familiar with the technique of using rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Undoubtedly, Churchill was opposed to Gandhi’s independence crusade, but, as far as I know, he made no attempt to actually have Gandhi trampled by an elephant. Gandhi was detained under house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace (not exactly Devil’s Island) for two years during World War II but that’s because he was trying to undermine the British war effort against Germany and Japan. If he had succeeded and India had fallen under the sway of Japanese militarists, he and other anti-British activists would soon have found out what real repression feels like.

In trying to paint Churchill as “cruel and cramped,” Hari also dredges up the Harvard historian Caroline Elkins’s allegations that British prison camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s amounted to a “British gulag” — a charge that has been rejected by pretty much all serious historians of the period. There is no doubt that British authorities locked up large numbers of Mau Mau suspects but the conditions under which they were held bore no resemblance to those experienced by Solzhenitsyn and other inmates of the real gulag.

There are indications of a remarkable lack of perspective in Hari’s (and Toyes’s) indictment, which misses two larger points about imperialism. First, for most of his life Churchill championed the empire at a time when imperialism was considered the norm. Empires have existed since ancient Mesopotamia and much of the world was ruled by them until the late 1940s. Hari is right that even in Churchill’s day not everyone favored imperialism but most did — including many Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt. By the standards of its day, the British Empire was, with the possible exception of the American Empire, the most liberal and enlightened in the world — certainly far more humane than the empires carved out by the Belgians and Germans in Africa. It is absurd to second-guess Churchill’s pro-imperial views from the vantage point of 21st century political correctness, which extols nationalism (perhaps wrongly) as the epitome of human development.

This bring us to the second point that Hari and his ilk overlook — namely the alternatives to British imperialism. Not only the alternative of other European empires, most of them far more brutal; but also the alternative of other indigenous regimes, most of which were even worse. Empire was not just a European phenomenon, after all; many of the native powers that British soldiers fought, whether the Zulus or the Moghuls, were imperialists in their own right. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why Britain was able to win and police its empire at such low cost — many of its subject peoples considered British rule preferable to that of local dynasties.

Once the British empire and other Western regimes passed from the scene, what replaced them? In India there was civil strife that killed over a million people. At least India managed to establish a more or less democratic government, thanks to the legacy of British rule. That’s more than can be said for most countries where the British did not stay as long. Many places once ruled by British, French, or other European bureaucrats fell under the sway of native tyrants, whose rule turned out to be far less competent and far more bloody. Idi Amin, who took over the former British colony of Uganda, comes to mind. Given the historical record of much of the post-independence world, it is by no means so obvious that Churchill’s preferred alternative — British rule — was not, in the end, superior.

In his own day, Winston Churchill was an intensely controversial figure, one who would never have become prime minister were it not for Britain’s desperate straits in May 1940. Yet for decades after the war his heroic leadership made him almost universally acclaimed for saving Western civilization.

The halo began to wear thin in the 1990s when the British historian John Charmley began attacking Churchill for not having tried to strike a deal with Nazi Germany, which would supposedly have preserved the British Empire. Charmley, a right-winger, seemed to think that the empire was worth saving even at the cost of leaving Hitler in power.

Now comes Richard Toye, a left-wing British historian, to attack Churchill for having shown too much devotion to the empire. I confess to not having read his book, Churchill’s Empire, but the glowing review in the New York Times from ultra-left-wing British columnist Johann Hari makes it sound like a standard-issue anti-imperial screed from today’s academy. Hari recites Churchill’s record in defense of the empire, from his early days as a young army officer on the Northwest Frontier, the Sudan, and South Africa, up to his time as a minister who sent the Black and Tans to Ireland, repressed an Iraqi revolt, and tried to stymie Indian independence. Much of Hari’s approach (and Toye’s?) consists of quoting out of context Churchill’s colorful rhetoric. For example:

When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

Apparently, Hari is not familiar with the technique of using rhetorical exaggeration to make a point. Undoubtedly, Churchill was opposed to Gandhi’s independence crusade, but, as far as I know, he made no attempt to actually have Gandhi trampled by an elephant. Gandhi was detained under house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace (not exactly Devil’s Island) for two years during World War II but that’s because he was trying to undermine the British war effort against Germany and Japan. If he had succeeded and India had fallen under the sway of Japanese militarists, he and other anti-British activists would soon have found out what real repression feels like.

In trying to paint Churchill as “cruel and cramped,” Hari also dredges up the Harvard historian Caroline Elkins’s allegations that British prison camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s amounted to a “British gulag” — a charge that has been rejected by pretty much all serious historians of the period. There is no doubt that British authorities locked up large numbers of Mau Mau suspects but the conditions under which they were held bore no resemblance to those experienced by Solzhenitsyn and other inmates of the real gulag.

There are indications of a remarkable lack of perspective in Hari’s (and Toyes’s) indictment, which misses two larger points about imperialism. First, for most of his life Churchill championed the empire at a time when imperialism was considered the norm. Empires have existed since ancient Mesopotamia and much of the world was ruled by them until the late 1940s. Hari is right that even in Churchill’s day not everyone favored imperialism but most did — including many Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt. By the standards of its day, the British Empire was, with the possible exception of the American Empire, the most liberal and enlightened in the world — certainly far more humane than the empires carved out by the Belgians and Germans in Africa. It is absurd to second-guess Churchill’s pro-imperial views from the vantage point of 21st century political correctness, which extols nationalism (perhaps wrongly) as the epitome of human development.

This bring us to the second point that Hari and his ilk overlook — namely the alternatives to British imperialism. Not only the alternative of other European empires, most of them far more brutal; but also the alternative of other indigenous regimes, most of which were even worse. Empire was not just a European phenomenon, after all; many of the native powers that British soldiers fought, whether the Zulus or the Moghuls, were imperialists in their own right. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why Britain was able to win and police its empire at such low cost — many of its subject peoples considered British rule preferable to that of local dynasties.

Once the British empire and other Western regimes passed from the scene, what replaced them? In India there was civil strife that killed over a million people. At least India managed to establish a more or less democratic government, thanks to the legacy of British rule. That’s more than can be said for most countries where the British did not stay as long. Many places once ruled by British, French, or other European bureaucrats fell under the sway of native tyrants, whose rule turned out to be far less competent and far more bloody. Idi Amin, who took over the former British colony of Uganda, comes to mind. Given the historical record of much of the post-independence world, it is by no means so obvious that Churchill’s preferred alternative — British rule — was not, in the end, superior.

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What If Palestinians Were Jeffersonian Democrats?

As Nicholas Kristof’s Israel venom and infatuation with the Palestinian-victimhood narrative have increased, his columns have become other-worldly. His most recent contribution is a plea for a Palestinian women’s movement of Gandhi-like proportions on the West Bank:

But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.

“This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

No, I think Israelis are most afraid of having their children blown to smithereens by terrorists. Or incinerated in a nuclear attack. Or killed by rockets launched from behind the skirts of Palestinian women.

But let’s get back to Kristof. What if Palestinian women didn’t delight in their children’s martyrdom? Yes, what if they didn’t send their offspring to Hamas summer camps? What if Palestinian women in ever-increasing numbers didn’t themselves resort to suicide-bombing? Yes, then it would just be a question of convincing the Palestinian men not to slaughter Israelis. But in the real world, far too many Palestinian women are either victims or enablers of the cult of death (and sometimes both).

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kristof stubbornly clings to the notion that Israel is engaged in violence for violence’s sake against innocents. When he asks, “What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown?” you wonder if he’s serious. I mean, obviously, there wouldn’t be a need for tear gas if the rock-throwing stopped — and no need for checkpoints and fences if the terrorists stopped killing Jews. But let’s not let logic or reality mess up another ode to the nobility of the Palestinian cause.

Nevertheless, maybe Kristof is on to something. So let’s play along. What if Palestinian leaders had spent the past 60 years building civil institutions, training scientists and architects rather than terrorists, naming squares after artists rather than murderers, instituting the rule of law, stamping out terrorism, spending billions in aid for the welfare of their people rather than squirreling it away for themselves, and reading Gandhi rather than Nazi tracts? Not only would Palestinians have had their own state but we would also have been spared years of Kristof’s drivel.

As Nicholas Kristof’s Israel venom and infatuation with the Palestinian-victimhood narrative have increased, his columns have become other-worldly. His most recent contribution is a plea for a Palestinian women’s movement of Gandhi-like proportions on the West Bank:

But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.

“This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

No, I think Israelis are most afraid of having their children blown to smithereens by terrorists. Or incinerated in a nuclear attack. Or killed by rockets launched from behind the skirts of Palestinian women.

But let’s get back to Kristof. What if Palestinian women didn’t delight in their children’s martyrdom? Yes, what if they didn’t send their offspring to Hamas summer camps? What if Palestinian women in ever-increasing numbers didn’t themselves resort to suicide-bombing? Yes, then it would just be a question of convincing the Palestinian men not to slaughter Israelis. But in the real world, far too many Palestinian women are either victims or enablers of the cult of death (and sometimes both).

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kristof stubbornly clings to the notion that Israel is engaged in violence for violence’s sake against innocents. When he asks, “What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown?” you wonder if he’s serious. I mean, obviously, there wouldn’t be a need for tear gas if the rock-throwing stopped — and no need for checkpoints and fences if the terrorists stopped killing Jews. But let’s not let logic or reality mess up another ode to the nobility of the Palestinian cause.

Nevertheless, maybe Kristof is on to something. So let’s play along. What if Palestinian leaders had spent the past 60 years building civil institutions, training scientists and architects rather than terrorists, naming squares after artists rather than murderers, instituting the rule of law, stamping out terrorism, spending billions in aid for the welfare of their people rather than squirreling it away for themselves, and reading Gandhi rather than Nazi tracts? Not only would Palestinians have had their own state but we would also have been spared years of Kristof’s drivel.

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George Mitchell: “Fatah Believes in Nonviolence”

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

One more item from Obama Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s appearance on the Charlie Rose show (transcript here). Mitchell said:

Well, that’s the principal difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian authority which is basically the Fatah party, believes in nonviolence and negotiation.

This is silly stuff. Fatah, of course, proudly maintains terrorist groups, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades and the Tanzim militia, within the party structure. The gunmen who murdered an Israeli rabbi two weeks ago were not just members of Fatah but also on the Fatah payroll. Just last week, the heroically moderate president and prime minister of the PA could be seen publicly celebrating Fatah terrorists and acts of terrorism.

At the opening of the Fatah party conference in Bethlehem last summer, “Fatah leaders responded with loud applause when two terrorists who committed the worst terror attack in Israel’s history were referred to as ‘heroic Martyrs’ by former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa.” Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the party, declared that “resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle.”

And so on. Mitchell surely knows that the Fatah party has not adopted a strategy of “nonviolence,” as if Mahmoud Abbas has transformed himself into Martin Luther King or Gandhi. The sad thing is that claims such at Mitchell’s only hurt peace efforts. They incentivize Palestinian terrorism by making it clear that the Fatah leadership will not only suffer no consequences for encouraging terror but will even be portrayed by the U.S. Middle East envoy as exemplars of nonviolence.

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Bromide Obama’s Greatest Speech

David Brooks asserted yesterday in “Obama’s Christian Realism” that Barack Obama’s Oslo speech was “the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.”

Since Obama’s presidency is only 11 months old, and the Obama oeuvre is not large, this is actually faint praise. We all remember the great “Let Me Be Clear” speech at AIPAC, the emphatic “I Can No More Disown” Reverend Wright speech, the humble “Citizens of the World” address in Berlin, the stately “Greek Column” oration in Denver, the compelling “Unclench Your Fist” Inaugural, and the “Just Till July 2011” clarion call at West Point. There are really only about 10 lifetime speeches to be evaluated in terms of comparative profundity.

Brooks concludes that Obama’s Oslo speech is making his “doctrine” clear: a theological commitment to combat evil while avoiding righteousness. He quotes Obama’s 2007 remark on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s impact: “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction.”

Brooks originally reported that remark in a 2007 column entitled “Obama, Gospel and Verse,” in which he questioned whether Obama had “thought through a practical foreign policy doctrine of his own – a way to apply his Niebuhrian instincts.” Back then, Brooks was not certain he had:

When you ask about ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he talks grandly about marshaling a global alliance. But when you ask specifically if an Iranian bomb would be deterrable, he’s says yes: ”I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change.”

In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan.

It’s nice that in his Oslo speech, Obama confirmed that evil “does exist in the world” and that he “cannot be guided by [Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Gandhi’s] examples alone.” It is good that he insists that Iran and North Korea not “game the system” and that sanctions must “exact a real price.”

But the real question about Obama’s “doctrine” is whether — after Iran declines to unclench its fist and sanctions fail (they have yet to succeed with Cuba or North Korea, and Saddam Hussein turned a profit from the “crippling” ones on him) — his Niebuhrian instincts call for any other option. Iran is likely to react to diplomacy in one fashion if it thinks the answer is yes, and another if it thinks the answer is no.

So far, Iran is acting as if it has read Brooks’s 2007 column and knows the answer. It appears untroubled by the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

David Brooks asserted yesterday in “Obama’s Christian Realism” that Barack Obama’s Oslo speech was “the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.”

Since Obama’s presidency is only 11 months old, and the Obama oeuvre is not large, this is actually faint praise. We all remember the great “Let Me Be Clear” speech at AIPAC, the emphatic “I Can No More Disown” Reverend Wright speech, the humble “Citizens of the World” address in Berlin, the stately “Greek Column” oration in Denver, the compelling “Unclench Your Fist” Inaugural, and the “Just Till July 2011” clarion call at West Point. There are really only about 10 lifetime speeches to be evaluated in terms of comparative profundity.

Brooks concludes that Obama’s Oslo speech is making his “doctrine” clear: a theological commitment to combat evil while avoiding righteousness. He quotes Obama’s 2007 remark on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s impact: “I take away the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction.”

Brooks originally reported that remark in a 2007 column entitled “Obama, Gospel and Verse,” in which he questioned whether Obama had “thought through a practical foreign policy doctrine of his own – a way to apply his Niebuhrian instincts.” Back then, Brooks was not certain he had:

When you ask about ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he talks grandly about marshaling a global alliance. But when you ask specifically if an Iranian bomb would be deterrable, he’s says yes: ”I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change.”

In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan.

It’s nice that in his Oslo speech, Obama confirmed that evil “does exist in the world” and that he “cannot be guided by [Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Gandhi’s] examples alone.” It is good that he insists that Iran and North Korea not “game the system” and that sanctions must “exact a real price.”

But the real question about Obama’s “doctrine” is whether — after Iran declines to unclench its fist and sanctions fail (they have yet to succeed with Cuba or North Korea, and Saddam Hussein turned a profit from the “crippling” ones on him) — his Niebuhrian instincts call for any other option. Iran is likely to react to diplomacy in one fashion if it thinks the answer is yes, and another if it thinks the answer is no.

So far, Iran is acting as if it has read Brooks’s 2007 column and knows the answer. It appears untroubled by the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

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Nobel Speech

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech could have been a whole lot worse. In fact, there is much for conservatives to crow about and much to drive the antiwar(s) Left up the wall. He did acknowledge the obvious:

And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight.

But more important, the president gives perhaps his most robust defense yet of America’s role in the world and of his responsibilities as a wartime commander in chief. Moreover, he uses the E world — yes, evil. He explains:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

This will stick in the craw of the Left, which found George Bush hopelessly daft and downright dangerous for identifying “evildoers” and an “axis of evil” and which vilified (and still does) the vast neocon conspiracy (or Manichean conspiracy, as Peter Beinart recently sneered) — namely, those who have made the case for robust wars against the forces of evil that threaten America and the West.

Now before we get too carried away, the speech is not without much unnecessary liberal angst and considerable evidence of Obama’s infatuation with multilateralism. (“But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan.” We can’t act alone? What if others won’t act?) He insists on braying about his ill-conceived positions on the war on terror, and suggests that before his arrival, “torture” was permissible. (“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”)

He again gives a ludicrously limp warning to Iran and North Korea (“it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system”). And his paean to human rights reveals that there are no limits to the Obami’s hypocrisy. “We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran.” Bearing witness apparently does not involve doing anything other than taking notes.

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

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Compassion for $500B

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will participate in a “Compassion Forum.” I am reasonably certain this is for real and not a Saturday Night Live gag. John Edwards will grade each participant’s answers on a scale of Scrooge to Gandhi. (Okay, that part I made up.) The topics for the compassion fest will include poverty, global AIDS, climate change, and human rights. (No word on if Obama will be quizzed as to whether he agrees with Rev. Wright about the origins of AIDS.)

Why do I sneer? These are, after all, terribly serious and pressing issues. But the premise of the forum, and others like it, is ridiculously condescending. We are led to believe that the reason these problems exist is because we are insufficiently compassionate. What we need is to increase our collective “compassion footprint.” That would solve all these knotty problems. Compassion, of course, invariably means dollars and dollars means government dollars. And so the conversation dissolves into an auction with taxpayers money. (“Hillary pledges $300B for poverty!” “Obama says he’s in for $450B on global AIDS!”)

Not only does this simplify to the point of absurdity the critical issues we face, it distracts from very real solutions that would make a difference. Will one of the participants tell the crowd that surest way to avoid poverty in the U.S. is for young people to stay in school and off drugs, avoid law-breaking, and hold down a job? Probably not. Rarely in these settings does compassion entail taking a tough line with our adversaries. Will someone ask if we show compassion to Cuban political prisoners by meeting with their jailer? Probably not.

“Compassion” in a forum like this is a very special kind of compassion. It, of course, does not extend to Iraqi civilians or any discussion of the moral obligations we may have incurred there. And don’t dare bring up compassion for the struggling democracies around the world that would be helped by something as mutually beneficial as free trade. (Think trade with the U.S. might help alleviate poverty in the Third World? You must be crazy.) That would be off topic, you see. We’re talking about the kind of compassion that complacent liberals can get excited about.

Aside from all that, it’s worth asking whether, on a political level, this even helps voters decide between the two Democratic contenders. Given that both are utterly expert at pandering, especially when it involves spending taxpayer money, I would think not. But I bet they both mention John Edwards more than once (not in a hedge fund-McMansion way but in the little-girl-with-no-coat sense) in one last push to snare his endorsement. That, at least, would be productive.

On Sunday, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will participate in a “Compassion Forum.” I am reasonably certain this is for real and not a Saturday Night Live gag. John Edwards will grade each participant’s answers on a scale of Scrooge to Gandhi. (Okay, that part I made up.) The topics for the compassion fest will include poverty, global AIDS, climate change, and human rights. (No word on if Obama will be quizzed as to whether he agrees with Rev. Wright about the origins of AIDS.)

Why do I sneer? These are, after all, terribly serious and pressing issues. But the premise of the forum, and others like it, is ridiculously condescending. We are led to believe that the reason these problems exist is because we are insufficiently compassionate. What we need is to increase our collective “compassion footprint.” That would solve all these knotty problems. Compassion, of course, invariably means dollars and dollars means government dollars. And so the conversation dissolves into an auction with taxpayers money. (“Hillary pledges $300B for poverty!” “Obama says he’s in for $450B on global AIDS!”)

Not only does this simplify to the point of absurdity the critical issues we face, it distracts from very real solutions that would make a difference. Will one of the participants tell the crowd that surest way to avoid poverty in the U.S. is for young people to stay in school and off drugs, avoid law-breaking, and hold down a job? Probably not. Rarely in these settings does compassion entail taking a tough line with our adversaries. Will someone ask if we show compassion to Cuban political prisoners by meeting with their jailer? Probably not.

“Compassion” in a forum like this is a very special kind of compassion. It, of course, does not extend to Iraqi civilians or any discussion of the moral obligations we may have incurred there. And don’t dare bring up compassion for the struggling democracies around the world that would be helped by something as mutually beneficial as free trade. (Think trade with the U.S. might help alleviate poverty in the Third World? You must be crazy.) That would be off topic, you see. We’re talking about the kind of compassion that complacent liberals can get excited about.

Aside from all that, it’s worth asking whether, on a political level, this even helps voters decide between the two Democratic contenders. Given that both are utterly expert at pandering, especially when it involves spending taxpayer money, I would think not. But I bet they both mention John Edwards more than once (not in a hedge fund-McMansion way but in the little-girl-with-no-coat sense) in one last push to snare his endorsement. That, at least, would be productive.

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