Commentary Magazine


Topic: Harvard

There He Goes

A majority of the House would have voted to extend all the Bush tax cuts, but Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t allow a vote. The president’s class-warfare gambit went down the drain. And now he’s coming up with new excuses for why he’s championing a massive tax increase at a meeting of his economic advisory board:

Obama gave his most detailed response to date to [former budget director, Peter] Orszag’s attention-grabbing debut column in the New York Times in which the ex-OMB maven suggested the White House would be wise to accede to a deal in which the Bush-era income tax cuts were extended for two years for all income levels — and then allowed to expire.

Orszag’s fallback position was advanced by Harvard Economist Martin Feldstein and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson more enthusiastically than Orszag did. Obama said, in essence, that their stance was intellectually legit, but politically naive.

“The consequences of extending the upper-income tax cuts, based on what we’ve heard fairly explicitly in the political environment, is that you do that now you’re going to do it forever,” Obama said. “There’s not going to be necessarily a deal that says — as Martin, I think — an entirely respectable position is to say extend them all for two years and then they go away. I mean, that’s an intellectually consistent position. But that’s not really the position that is being promoted up on Capitol Hill.”

Actually, that is precisely the position being promoted — a two-year extension — by Democrats. He now seems to be contending – though his argument is less than crystal clear — that once you continue to uphold lower tax rates, people will want to keep them at that reduced rate. Forever!

No wonder his poll numbers and those of his party are sinking. More shocking than the president’s flimflammery is his ongoing disdain for the private sector:

“There’s this concern about the business community’s attitude about the administration. And it’s not just the business community, it’s high-income individuals, entrepreneurs and others. And so the increase in the tax on those individuals is a signal that the administration” — Feldstein said.

“They have to pay slightly higher taxes,” Obama interrupted.

“That they’re going to have to pay higher taxes, and it may be even more going forward,” Feldstein said.

There you have it. Even as his poll numbers continue to sink, the public becomes increasingly convinced that he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the economy, the recovery stalls, and a chunk of his party rises in revolt, Obama’s answer remains the same on tax hikes: the “rich” and businesses can handle it. Remarkable.

A majority of the House would have voted to extend all the Bush tax cuts, but Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t allow a vote. The president’s class-warfare gambit went down the drain. And now he’s coming up with new excuses for why he’s championing a massive tax increase at a meeting of his economic advisory board:

Obama gave his most detailed response to date to [former budget director, Peter] Orszag’s attention-grabbing debut column in the New York Times in which the ex-OMB maven suggested the White House would be wise to accede to a deal in which the Bush-era income tax cuts were extended for two years for all income levels — and then allowed to expire.

Orszag’s fallback position was advanced by Harvard Economist Martin Feldstein and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson more enthusiastically than Orszag did. Obama said, in essence, that their stance was intellectually legit, but politically naive.

“The consequences of extending the upper-income tax cuts, based on what we’ve heard fairly explicitly in the political environment, is that you do that now you’re going to do it forever,” Obama said. “There’s not going to be necessarily a deal that says — as Martin, I think — an entirely respectable position is to say extend them all for two years and then they go away. I mean, that’s an intellectually consistent position. But that’s not really the position that is being promoted up on Capitol Hill.”

Actually, that is precisely the position being promoted — a two-year extension — by Democrats. He now seems to be contending – though his argument is less than crystal clear — that once you continue to uphold lower tax rates, people will want to keep them at that reduced rate. Forever!

No wonder his poll numbers and those of his party are sinking. More shocking than the president’s flimflammery is his ongoing disdain for the private sector:

“There’s this concern about the business community’s attitude about the administration. And it’s not just the business community, it’s high-income individuals, entrepreneurs and others. And so the increase in the tax on those individuals is a signal that the administration” — Feldstein said.

“They have to pay slightly higher taxes,” Obama interrupted.

“That they’re going to have to pay higher taxes, and it may be even more going forward,” Feldstein said.

There you have it. Even as his poll numbers continue to sink, the public becomes increasingly convinced that he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the economy, the recovery stalls, and a chunk of his party rises in revolt, Obama’s answer remains the same on tax hikes: the “rich” and businesses can handle it. Remarkable.

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Immigration and the Golden State

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

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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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The Last Thing This Administration Needs

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

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RE: Why We Don’t Have Peace

I sure do miss the days when George W. Bush went to the UN, gritting his teeth and delivering speeches that appalled the representatives of despotic regimes. As one wit put it, he treated them as if they were mental patients or overly exuberant fans — keep your distance, get out quickly, and don’t take anything in writing from them. But alas, we have the president from Harvard by way of Hyde Park. The UN folks are his kind of people. He shares his bon mots with them. He shares his fondness for paper agreements and platitudes. Reality need play no role. He is in his element.

The Dodgers have long since departed Brooklyn, but the borough now is home to an even more entertaining figure. “Brooklyn Boy” observes of Obama’s nonsensical remarks (“If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence”):

Why is it that Israel will ‘never’ know security until there is an agreement? Why is it just assumed that Palestinians will always seek to murder Jews until one day they magically have a state for themselves? … What he is saying might be true—that the Palestinians today will always seek to harm Israelis—but he’s missing the corollary fact: that neither security nor certainty will come from a paper document, least of all one signed by people whose ravening hatred would have to be, in his theory, hemmed in by a signature on a dotted line.

With every riot and every murder of Jews, it becomes harder and harder to subscribe to the view that we should “give the peace process a chance.” Actually, not. It encourages violence and perpetuates the charade that if it weren’t for border squabbles, we’d have peace in our time. It also postpones the hard work Palestinians must undertake to obliterate that “ravening hatred.” I’d support the “peace process” if I thought it productive. I’d be out cheerleading for the two-state solution if I thought it would be a solution and not a rest-stop in the battle for a one-state solution. But outside Turtle Bay and the imagination of our president, there’s no sign that these thing are possible. And, to be blunt, it is going to be years before peace is obtainable. Maybe by the time Marco Rubio completes his second term in the White House. But not now.

I sure do miss the days when George W. Bush went to the UN, gritting his teeth and delivering speeches that appalled the representatives of despotic regimes. As one wit put it, he treated them as if they were mental patients or overly exuberant fans — keep your distance, get out quickly, and don’t take anything in writing from them. But alas, we have the president from Harvard by way of Hyde Park. The UN folks are his kind of people. He shares his bon mots with them. He shares his fondness for paper agreements and platitudes. Reality need play no role. He is in his element.

The Dodgers have long since departed Brooklyn, but the borough now is home to an even more entertaining figure. “Brooklyn Boy” observes of Obama’s nonsensical remarks (“If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence”):

Why is it that Israel will ‘never’ know security until there is an agreement? Why is it just assumed that Palestinians will always seek to murder Jews until one day they magically have a state for themselves? … What he is saying might be true—that the Palestinians today will always seek to harm Israelis—but he’s missing the corollary fact: that neither security nor certainty will come from a paper document, least of all one signed by people whose ravening hatred would have to be, in his theory, hemmed in by a signature on a dotted line.

With every riot and every murder of Jews, it becomes harder and harder to subscribe to the view that we should “give the peace process a chance.” Actually, not. It encourages violence and perpetuates the charade that if it weren’t for border squabbles, we’d have peace in our time. It also postpones the hard work Palestinians must undertake to obliterate that “ravening hatred.” I’d support the “peace process” if I thought it productive. I’d be out cheerleading for the two-state solution if I thought it would be a solution and not a rest-stop in the battle for a one-state solution. But outside Turtle Bay and the imagination of our president, there’s no sign that these thing are possible. And, to be blunt, it is going to be years before peace is obtainable. Maybe by the time Marco Rubio completes his second term in the White House. But not now.

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How About a Competent Replacement for Summers?

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

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Enough with the Czars

These days, Obama is politically toxic and stymied at every turn. His stimulus plan has been rebuffed by a large segment of his party. He’s not going to get any further pieces of major legislation through, and the Senate has had it with his extreme, wacky nominees. So once again, he placates his base and does an end-around the Senate confirmation process:

President Obama plans to tap Harvard law Professor Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory role so she can help stand up a new consumer financial protection bureau while avoiding a potentially vicious Senate confirmation fight, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision.

The appointment would place Warren in charge of the new watchdog agency she personally proposed three years ago to protect Americans against lending abuses.

Yes, it is brazen and outrageous — another unaccountable czar. The “vicious fight,” by the way, is code for “She is such an extremist, she couldn’t be confirmed.” The reaction is likely to be fierce:

In selecting Ms. Warren, the White House picks an outspoken, populist hero of liberal groups who emerged from the financial crisis as a top critic of Wall Street and banking industry practices. She has blasted the government’s response to the financial crisis and has a penchant for provocative statements. …

Senate Republicans will likely blast the White House’s move, seeing it is a backdoor way of putting Ms. Warren in charge of the agency. The head of the new agency “is unprecedented in the nature of its unfettered and unchecked authorities, which makes the confirmation process even more important to the interests of the American people,” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday, before news broke of her likely appointment.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) earlier this week said it would be a mistake for the White House to put her in an interim role without having her nominated for Senate scrutiny.

There is a solution to this, of course: it’s time for the Congress to reassert its legitimate role. How to do it? First, stop funding any agency or entity (start with the consumer protection agency, which should be defunded anyway) for which the Obami appoint a czar in lieu of a nominee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The power of the purse is Congress’s biggest stick, and it should start wielding it. And second, there are some positions — including those Cabinet ones likely to be vacated after the midterm election — that must be subject to confirmation. Put a halt to those unless and until the White House cuts this out and offloads some of the existing czars.

Extreme? Not really. What is extreme is an administration that treats its co-equal branches with such contempt. Congress has an institutional interest and responsibility to put an end to it.

These days, Obama is politically toxic and stymied at every turn. His stimulus plan has been rebuffed by a large segment of his party. He’s not going to get any further pieces of major legislation through, and the Senate has had it with his extreme, wacky nominees. So once again, he placates his base and does an end-around the Senate confirmation process:

President Obama plans to tap Harvard law Professor Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory role so she can help stand up a new consumer financial protection bureau while avoiding a potentially vicious Senate confirmation fight, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision.

The appointment would place Warren in charge of the new watchdog agency she personally proposed three years ago to protect Americans against lending abuses.

Yes, it is brazen and outrageous — another unaccountable czar. The “vicious fight,” by the way, is code for “She is such an extremist, she couldn’t be confirmed.” The reaction is likely to be fierce:

In selecting Ms. Warren, the White House picks an outspoken, populist hero of liberal groups who emerged from the financial crisis as a top critic of Wall Street and banking industry practices. She has blasted the government’s response to the financial crisis and has a penchant for provocative statements. …

Senate Republicans will likely blast the White House’s move, seeing it is a backdoor way of putting Ms. Warren in charge of the agency. The head of the new agency “is unprecedented in the nature of its unfettered and unchecked authorities, which makes the confirmation process even more important to the interests of the American people,” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday, before news broke of her likely appointment.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) earlier this week said it would be a mistake for the White House to put her in an interim role without having her nominated for Senate scrutiny.

There is a solution to this, of course: it’s time for the Congress to reassert its legitimate role. How to do it? First, stop funding any agency or entity (start with the consumer protection agency, which should be defunded anyway) for which the Obami appoint a czar in lieu of a nominee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The power of the purse is Congress’s biggest stick, and it should start wielding it. And second, there are some positions — including those Cabinet ones likely to be vacated after the midterm election — that must be subject to confirmation. Put a halt to those unless and until the White House cuts this out and offloads some of the existing czars.

Extreme? Not really. What is extreme is an administration that treats its co-equal branches with such contempt. Congress has an institutional interest and responsibility to put an end to it.

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The Afghan Study Group Opines

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

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Academic Freedom in Israel

This report, I will confess, warmed my heart:

Students at Haifa University reportedly prepared a list of “Pro-Palestinian” professors and a group of activists were preparing a boycott campaign targeting their classes and lectures.

Israel’s Hebrew Language daily newspaper Ma’ariv said a campaign began on Tuesday, targeting 20 lecturers from the sociology and political science departments who they said “participate in demonstrations against Israeli troops and the Israeli government” or who have publicly spoken out against them.

Ah, so Israeli students — at least some of them — are becoming more discerning, less likely to indulge professors who give rhetorical cover and sustenance to those whom they have met on the battlefield, and will likely once again.

“We won’t choose courses of these lecturers and we won’t attend their lectures. It is unthinkable that at a time when our friends are fighting or receiving blows from activists on a ship that calls itself a peace ship that these lecturers stand up and demonstrate and speak out against these soldiers,” one student was quoted as saying.”

Well, there’s a thoughtful young person.

You can imagine how the anti-Zionist left has wigged out:

“What is taking place here is fascism,” another student told the paper, “this is the beginning of a repulsive attempt to shut people up who think differently. If the lecturers make statements that try to make historic justice, they deserve praise.”

Um, no. Not fascism, dear. It’s intellectual freedom. A thinking, moral person in a democracy is entitled to make choices about what he wants to read, what culture he wants to support, and what political ideas he wants to lend credence to — or not. The university, unsurprisingly, is in a snit: “Haifa University takes a serious view of any attempt to carry out an academic boycott or an attempt to harm academic freedom.” So what do university officials propose: force university students (these are not 5th graders deciding mathematics is not for them) to sit through dirge after dirge impugning the Jewish state? I’m sure they would if they could.

And students have the right to leave this university entirely, of course. Let the marketplace prevail. Let educational institutions that parrot pro-Palestinian propaganda rot on the vine, and others to flourish. I bet they are biting their fingernails at Harvard and Darmouth. You know, what if this catches on?

This report, I will confess, warmed my heart:

Students at Haifa University reportedly prepared a list of “Pro-Palestinian” professors and a group of activists were preparing a boycott campaign targeting their classes and lectures.

Israel’s Hebrew Language daily newspaper Ma’ariv said a campaign began on Tuesday, targeting 20 lecturers from the sociology and political science departments who they said “participate in demonstrations against Israeli troops and the Israeli government” or who have publicly spoken out against them.

Ah, so Israeli students — at least some of them — are becoming more discerning, less likely to indulge professors who give rhetorical cover and sustenance to those whom they have met on the battlefield, and will likely once again.

“We won’t choose courses of these lecturers and we won’t attend their lectures. It is unthinkable that at a time when our friends are fighting or receiving blows from activists on a ship that calls itself a peace ship that these lecturers stand up and demonstrate and speak out against these soldiers,” one student was quoted as saying.”

Well, there’s a thoughtful young person.

You can imagine how the anti-Zionist left has wigged out:

“What is taking place here is fascism,” another student told the paper, “this is the beginning of a repulsive attempt to shut people up who think differently. If the lecturers make statements that try to make historic justice, they deserve praise.”

Um, no. Not fascism, dear. It’s intellectual freedom. A thinking, moral person in a democracy is entitled to make choices about what he wants to read, what culture he wants to support, and what political ideas he wants to lend credence to — or not. The university, unsurprisingly, is in a snit: “Haifa University takes a serious view of any attempt to carry out an academic boycott or an attempt to harm academic freedom.” So what do university officials propose: force university students (these are not 5th graders deciding mathematics is not for them) to sit through dirge after dirge impugning the Jewish state? I’m sure they would if they could.

And students have the right to leave this university entirely, of course. Let the marketplace prevail. Let educational institutions that parrot pro-Palestinian propaganda rot on the vine, and others to flourish. I bet they are biting their fingernails at Harvard and Darmouth. You know, what if this catches on?

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Reconciliation=Capitulation, It Seems

Richard Cohen’s column, I will choose to believe, was written before Imam Rauf’s distinctly un-moderate comments (“the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda,” he said, and the only solution to the Middle East, he opined, is a one-state solution) were revealed. Otherwise, Cohen’s entire column, like much of what has been written by the left, would be dishonest (in ignoring the views and intentions of the mosque builders) and ludicrous (by insisting that this is about reconciliation or religious freedom). But even on its own terms, Cohen’s column reinforces my own concern about the counterproductive nature (if not downright danger) of “Muslim Outreach.”

He chastises the Ground Zero mosque opponents for suggesting some compromise. No deal, says Cohen on behalf of the “9/11 is America’s fault” mosque builder. For Rauf and his ilk, there is no compromise, only capitulation, because we are not entitled to expect more of the mosque proponents:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

Well, you see my point about Muslim outreach. If the entire argument becomes “we don’t care about non-Muslim sentiments or concerns” and “we don’t have to give an inch” (or a few blocks), there is no reconciliation or healing in the offing. It is a farce, and a pretext to generate more animosity toward non-Muslims. Or, in the case of the left, it’s another excuse to defame Americans and demonstrate precisely why we would do better to have fewer Harvard law school professors in the White House. This is a prime example of why values and character rather than a resume are the most critical attributes of a successful president. There is no substitute for a president who understands his fellow citizens and is able to rally them in a battle for their civilization — against those who cannot accept compromise. They didn’t name that mosque Cordoba for nothing.

Richard Cohen’s column, I will choose to believe, was written before Imam Rauf’s distinctly un-moderate comments (“the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda,” he said, and the only solution to the Middle East, he opined, is a one-state solution) were revealed. Otherwise, Cohen’s entire column, like much of what has been written by the left, would be dishonest (in ignoring the views and intentions of the mosque builders) and ludicrous (by insisting that this is about reconciliation or religious freedom). But even on its own terms, Cohen’s column reinforces my own concern about the counterproductive nature (if not downright danger) of “Muslim Outreach.”

He chastises the Ground Zero mosque opponents for suggesting some compromise. No deal, says Cohen on behalf of the “9/11 is America’s fault” mosque builder. For Rauf and his ilk, there is no compromise, only capitulation, because we are not entitled to expect more of the mosque proponents:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

Well, you see my point about Muslim outreach. If the entire argument becomes “we don’t care about non-Muslim sentiments or concerns” and “we don’t have to give an inch” (or a few blocks), there is no reconciliation or healing in the offing. It is a farce, and a pretext to generate more animosity toward non-Muslims. Or, in the case of the left, it’s another excuse to defame Americans and demonstrate precisely why we would do better to have fewer Harvard law school professors in the White House. This is a prime example of why values and character rather than a resume are the most critical attributes of a successful president. There is no substitute for a president who understands his fellow citizens and is able to rally them in a battle for their civilization — against those who cannot accept compromise. They didn’t name that mosque Cordoba for nothing.

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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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Shirley Sherrod for White House Adviser

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

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Jim Mattis: New Head of Central Command

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

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Frank Luntz on Why American Jewish Students Won’t Defend Israel

PR guru Frank Luntz gave a lengthy interview last week to the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz. Much of it was what one might expect from a PR guru. But one incident he described was shocking: a session with 35 MIT and Harvard students, 20 non-Jews and 15 Jews:

“Within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with ‘the war crimes of Israel,’ with ‘the Jewish lobby,’ with ‘the Jews have a lot more power and influence’ – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.

And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.”

After three hours, Luntz dismissed the non-Jews and confronted the Jews, furious that “you all didn’t say sh*t.”

“And it all dawned on them: If they won’t say it to their classmates, whom they know, who will they stand up for Israel to? Two of the women in the group started to cry. … The guys are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t speak up, I can’t believe I let this happen.” And they’re all looking at each other with horrible embarrassment and guilt like you wouldn’t believe.”

But Luntz didn’t stop with illustrating this gaping hole in what American Jews are evidently teaching their children; he also explained it:

“The problem that I see is that so many parents in the Jewish community taught their kids not to judge. I’m going to say something that’s a little bit ideological, but I find that kids on the right are far more likely to stand up for Israel than kids on the left. Because kids on the right believe that there is an absolute right and wrong; this is how they’ve been raised.

Kids on the left have been taught not to judge. Therefore those on the left will not judge between Israel and the Palestinians; those on the right will.”

This is a travesty — because this particular right/left difference shouldn’t exist. First, it’s a travesty of everything the left once stood for — which was upholding a particular set of values, not refusing to judge between those values and others. Willingness to defend your own values shouldn’t be a trait limited to the right.

But it’s also a travesty because it shouldn’t be hard for any Jewish leftist to explain why Israel, for all its flaws, is still a far better example of the left’s one-time values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights, than any of its enemies. As Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, said in explaining why he chose to represent a country that allegedly oppresses his fellow Muslim Arabs, “We’re a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious country and I’m happy and proud to be part of it.”

Israel’s PR failings are innumerable. But if American Jews can’t get this particular message across to their children, the fault isn’t Israel’s; it’s their own. And only American Jews themselves can fix it.

PR guru Frank Luntz gave a lengthy interview last week to the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz. Much of it was what one might expect from a PR guru. But one incident he described was shocking: a session with 35 MIT and Harvard students, 20 non-Jews and 15 Jews:

“Within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with ‘the war crimes of Israel,’ with ‘the Jewish lobby,’ with ‘the Jews have a lot more power and influence’ – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.

And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.”

After three hours, Luntz dismissed the non-Jews and confronted the Jews, furious that “you all didn’t say sh*t.”

“And it all dawned on them: If they won’t say it to their classmates, whom they know, who will they stand up for Israel to? Two of the women in the group started to cry. … The guys are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t speak up, I can’t believe I let this happen.” And they’re all looking at each other with horrible embarrassment and guilt like you wouldn’t believe.”

But Luntz didn’t stop with illustrating this gaping hole in what American Jews are evidently teaching their children; he also explained it:

“The problem that I see is that so many parents in the Jewish community taught their kids not to judge. I’m going to say something that’s a little bit ideological, but I find that kids on the right are far more likely to stand up for Israel than kids on the left. Because kids on the right believe that there is an absolute right and wrong; this is how they’ve been raised.

Kids on the left have been taught not to judge. Therefore those on the left will not judge between Israel and the Palestinians; those on the right will.”

This is a travesty — because this particular right/left difference shouldn’t exist. First, it’s a travesty of everything the left once stood for — which was upholding a particular set of values, not refusing to judge between those values and others. Willingness to defend your own values shouldn’t be a trait limited to the right.

But it’s also a travesty because it shouldn’t be hard for any Jewish leftist to explain why Israel, for all its flaws, is still a far better example of the left’s one-time values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights, than any of its enemies. As Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, said in explaining why he chose to represent a country that allegedly oppresses his fellow Muslim Arabs, “We’re a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious country and I’m happy and proud to be part of it.”

Israel’s PR failings are innumerable. But if American Jews can’t get this particular message across to their children, the fault isn’t Israel’s; it’s their own. And only American Jews themselves can fix it.

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Will Obama’s Israel Policy Inflict Damage in the Midterms?

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

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The Humbling of an American President

My, how the mighty have fallen.

In a speech in Wisconsin yesterday, President Obama, promoting the “merits” of his stimulus bill, said this:

Now, every economist who’s looked at it said that the Recovery [Act] did its job. … The problem is, number one, it’s hard to argue sometimes, “Things would have been a lot worse.” Right? So people kind of say, “Yeah, but unemployment’s still at 9.6 percent.” Yes, but it’s not 12 or 13 or 15. People say, “Well, you know, the stock market didn’t fully recover.” Yeah, but it’s recovered more than people expected last year. So part of the challenge in delivering this message about all the Recovery Act accomplished is that things are still tough, they just aren’t as bad as they could have been. They could have been a catastrophe. In that sense [the stimulus] worked.

There is a lot to say in response, starting with the fact that some of these statements are flatly untrue. It is simply not correct that “every economist” who has looked at the stimulus bill says it did its job. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, for example — on the very day Obama claimed universal support among economists for his stimulus package — Allan Meltzer, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, began his op-ed this way: “The administration’ s stimulus program has failed.” There are even Keynesian economists, like Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs, who are critical of the Recovery Act [h/t: Ed Morrissey].

But the problem for Obama goes deeper than simply this false claim. The Obama administration itself said that if the Recovery Act passed, unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. In fact, unemployment has exceeded what the Obama administration said would happen were the stimulus bill not passed. President Obama is the one who set the standard — and he’s now rightfully being held to it.

Beyond even that, though, it is interesting to see how much reality has humbled this president. He came into office not only promising to create jobs, restore prosperity, open doors of opportunity, cut health-care costs, and reduce our “mounting debt” but also to end divisions in our politics, transcend partisanship, put an end to the blame game, provide unprecedented transparency, stop the rise of the oceans, and heal the planet. Those were his words, his claims, his commitments. And now he has been reduced to saying: “Things are still tough; they just aren’t as bad as they could have been.” His strongest case in his defense is that unemployment is almost 10 percent — but it’s not 12 or 13 or 15 percent.

Talk about defining success down.

It is a remarkable and, in some ways, poignant thing to witness. No candidate in our lifetime rode the wave of hope and change quite like Barack Obama did. His campaign was, at its core, less about ideas than about aesthetics, about a narrative, about capturing an American moment. “This is our moment. This is our time,” he would say again and again. He entered office with an enormous reservoir of good will — and with huge majorities in the House and Senate. So much seemed possible to his supporters. But bad policies, arrogance, and events have caused him to come crashing down to earth. The president’s popularity is sinking, the mood of the country is souring, and his party is heading for an epic mid-term election defeat. Obama looks inept and, at times, overwhelmed — at the mercy of events rather than in control of them. He doesn’t seem up to the challenge. He looks, in fact, very much like a community organizer who was thrust into the job of the presidency.

Back in February 2007, during his announcement speech — when hopes were so high and the sky seemed the limit — Barack Obama uttered words that would haunt him if he ever thought back on them:

I know there are those who don’t believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering ten-point plans and making grand speeches; all of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead the country. But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.

Today the election is over. The confetti has been swept away. The promises are fading from memory. And the people are turning away, too — more disappointed than before, once again left to struggle on their own.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

In a speech in Wisconsin yesterday, President Obama, promoting the “merits” of his stimulus bill, said this:

Now, every economist who’s looked at it said that the Recovery [Act] did its job. … The problem is, number one, it’s hard to argue sometimes, “Things would have been a lot worse.” Right? So people kind of say, “Yeah, but unemployment’s still at 9.6 percent.” Yes, but it’s not 12 or 13 or 15. People say, “Well, you know, the stock market didn’t fully recover.” Yeah, but it’s recovered more than people expected last year. So part of the challenge in delivering this message about all the Recovery Act accomplished is that things are still tough, they just aren’t as bad as they could have been. They could have been a catastrophe. In that sense [the stimulus] worked.

There is a lot to say in response, starting with the fact that some of these statements are flatly untrue. It is simply not correct that “every economist” who has looked at the stimulus bill says it did its job. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, for example — on the very day Obama claimed universal support among economists for his stimulus package — Allan Meltzer, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, began his op-ed this way: “The administration’ s stimulus program has failed.” There are even Keynesian economists, like Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs, who are critical of the Recovery Act [h/t: Ed Morrissey].

But the problem for Obama goes deeper than simply this false claim. The Obama administration itself said that if the Recovery Act passed, unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. In fact, unemployment has exceeded what the Obama administration said would happen were the stimulus bill not passed. President Obama is the one who set the standard — and he’s now rightfully being held to it.

Beyond even that, though, it is interesting to see how much reality has humbled this president. He came into office not only promising to create jobs, restore prosperity, open doors of opportunity, cut health-care costs, and reduce our “mounting debt” but also to end divisions in our politics, transcend partisanship, put an end to the blame game, provide unprecedented transparency, stop the rise of the oceans, and heal the planet. Those were his words, his claims, his commitments. And now he has been reduced to saying: “Things are still tough; they just aren’t as bad as they could have been.” His strongest case in his defense is that unemployment is almost 10 percent — but it’s not 12 or 13 or 15 percent.

Talk about defining success down.

It is a remarkable and, in some ways, poignant thing to witness. No candidate in our lifetime rode the wave of hope and change quite like Barack Obama did. His campaign was, at its core, less about ideas than about aesthetics, about a narrative, about capturing an American moment. “This is our moment. This is our time,” he would say again and again. He entered office with an enormous reservoir of good will — and with huge majorities in the House and Senate. So much seemed possible to his supporters. But bad policies, arrogance, and events have caused him to come crashing down to earth. The president’s popularity is sinking, the mood of the country is souring, and his party is heading for an epic mid-term election defeat. Obama looks inept and, at times, overwhelmed — at the mercy of events rather than in control of them. He doesn’t seem up to the challenge. He looks, in fact, very much like a community organizer who was thrust into the job of the presidency.

Back in February 2007, during his announcement speech — when hopes were so high and the sky seemed the limit — Barack Obama uttered words that would haunt him if he ever thought back on them:

I know there are those who don’t believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering ten-point plans and making grand speeches; all of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead the country. But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.

Today the election is over. The confetti has been swept away. The promises are fading from memory. And the people are turning away, too — more disappointed than before, once again left to struggle on their own.

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RE: Does Obama Know that Elena Kagan Is Pro-Israel?

Noah, she’s not remotely qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.  She played fast and loose with the partial-birth-abortion memo, and she hasn’t come clean on barring military recruiters from Harvard. I do, however, give her points for this:

Sen. Graham: Where were you on Christmas?

Elena Kagan: Like most Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.

That in a nutshell is how Kagan got to where she is — she’s a nice, funny lady with great people skills. But that isn’t — well, it shouldn’t be — the standard for a lifetime appointment.

Noah, she’s not remotely qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.  She played fast and loose with the partial-birth-abortion memo, and she hasn’t come clean on barring military recruiters from Harvard. I do, however, give her points for this:

Sen. Graham: Where were you on Christmas?

Elena Kagan: Like most Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.

That in a nutshell is how Kagan got to where she is — she’s a nice, funny lady with great people skills. But that isn’t — well, it shouldn’t be — the standard for a lifetime appointment.

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Kagan Clams Up

Shocking, I know, but Elena Kagan tells the Senate she’s not going to talk about any cases “that might come before the court in the future.” And she’s not going to talk about past cases. What then, will she talk about? The weather? So far she’s been asked about cases, and she’s explained the rulings, like a competent law student. (Professors actually critique cases in class.) So the hearings are largely a waste of time and, frankly, any senator who votes to confirm her at this point is throwing in the towel on a reasonable standard for vetting nominees. She says we should “look at her whole life” — but I don’t think a Clinton political operative’s record gives one confidence about her ability to judge cases. And if judges are to put aside personal and political feelings, not much of her life is relevant.

There was some noteworthy back-and-forth with Sen. Jeff Sessions. Kagan bizarrely denied that Harvard’s treatment of military recruiters was harmful to their efforts or that the law schools’ that denied access (but certainly didn’t relinquish federal funding) were in violation of the Solomon Act. This is simply wrong — on the facts and on the law.

Kagan expects to get by on her ability to recite Supreme Court precedent. But a justice makes precedent, and with no guide to how she would decide cases, I don’t see on what basis she can be confirmed.

Shocking, I know, but Elena Kagan tells the Senate she’s not going to talk about any cases “that might come before the court in the future.” And she’s not going to talk about past cases. What then, will she talk about? The weather? So far she’s been asked about cases, and she’s explained the rulings, like a competent law student. (Professors actually critique cases in class.) So the hearings are largely a waste of time and, frankly, any senator who votes to confirm her at this point is throwing in the towel on a reasonable standard for vetting nominees. She says we should “look at her whole life” — but I don’t think a Clinton political operative’s record gives one confidence about her ability to judge cases. And if judges are to put aside personal and political feelings, not much of her life is relevant.

There was some noteworthy back-and-forth with Sen. Jeff Sessions. Kagan bizarrely denied that Harvard’s treatment of military recruiters was harmful to their efforts or that the law schools’ that denied access (but certainly didn’t relinquish federal funding) were in violation of the Solomon Act. This is simply wrong — on the facts and on the law.

Kagan expects to get by on her ability to recite Supreme Court precedent. But a justice makes precedent, and with no guide to how she would decide cases, I don’t see on what basis she can be confirmed.

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Colombia: Another Obama Victim

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

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The Erratic President

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

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