Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jeremiah Wright

Obama’s Jewish Friends in Chicago

John has already responded to President Obama’s absurd claim about being a Judaism genius. But that may not even be the most offensive argument Obama made at yesterday’s meeting with Conservative Jewish rabbis, according to the Haaretz report. When asked about his personal views on Israel — the kishkes question again — Obama reportedly went for the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jews defense:

There were some questions directed at the president concerning his thoughts on the role of religious leaders in a more civil political dialogue, which then lead to the inevitable question – how does he feel about Israel? Obama joked that [Chief of Staff Jack] Lew always warns him it will get to “the kishkes question.”

“Rather than describe how deeply I care about Israel, I want to be blunt about how we got here,” Obama said, reminding his guests that he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of  being a puppet of the Israel lobby.

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John has already responded to President Obama’s absurd claim about being a Judaism genius. But that may not even be the most offensive argument Obama made at yesterday’s meeting with Conservative Jewish rabbis, according to the Haaretz report. When asked about his personal views on Israel — the kishkes question again — Obama reportedly went for the some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jews defense:

There were some questions directed at the president concerning his thoughts on the role of religious leaders in a more civil political dialogue, which then lead to the inevitable question – how does he feel about Israel? Obama joked that [Chief of Staff Jack] Lew always warns him it will get to “the kishkes question.”

“Rather than describe how deeply I care about Israel, I want to be blunt about how we got here,” Obama said, reminding his guests that he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of  being a puppet of the Israel lobby.

Ignore the overwhelming ignorance and offensiveness of that argument for a second. The one person I can recall who has actually accused Obama of being an AIPAC puppet is Rev. Wright — though his theory was that Obama didn’t turn into a lapdog for the Jews until he started running for president. I don’t doubt the president hung out with plenty of Jews in Chicago, but considering that some of the most vile Israel bashers out there are Jewish, that says absolutely nothing about his own views on Israel. Plus, if we’re now supposed to judge Obama’s support for Israel based on his Chicago friendships, that’s not exactly comforting. Two of his close friends in the city were an anti-Semitic pastor and a famed anti-Israel academic — oh, and there was also his domestic terrorist buddy who participates in anti-Israel activism on the side. What are we supposed to glean from that?

These friendships were one of the reasons why the pro-Israel community was initially unsure about Obama’s true personal feelings on Israel during his 2008 campaign. Since then, those early concerns have been substantiated again and again by Obama’s own public actions and statements on Israel. The American public still supports the Jewish state, which means Obama grudgingly supports it when necessary, but it’s clear his heart isn’t there. His lame response when questioned on his true feelings — citing knowledge of Judaism and friendship with Jews — is just the latest example of that disconnect.

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Obama’s Absurd Claim About Judaism

Apparently, Barack Obama told a visiting contingent of Conservative Jewish rabbis that he probably knows more about Judaism than any other president—on the same day that he referred to “Polish death camps.” For that last remark he apologized, but the one about Judaism is far more telling. In the first place, the claim is transparently absurd. We can quickly pass over the fact that John Adams and James Madison, among the most educated men in the world at the time, knew Hebrew as well as Latin and Greek and just say that the president is, to put it mildly, punching above his weight here. So let’s move on to the fact that every president until the modern era knew more about Judaism than Barack Obama because the Bible was the one book every literate person knew, and the Bible includes the books Christians call the “Old Testament,” and a working knowledge of the Old Testament certainly is the best introduction to “Judaism” there is.

Earlier presidents did not learn the Talmud, of course, but if Barack Obama ever has, that would come as news to me. There is no indication from Obama’s own writing that he is especially Bible-literate, and we can presume that his notorious pastor of 20 years used the Bible primarily as flavoring for his political duck soup. I have no doubt that, among presidents closer to our time, Jimmy Carter was far more conversant in the lore of Biblical Judaism, for all the good it did his corrupted soul when it comes to the Jewish state.

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Apparently, Barack Obama told a visiting contingent of Conservative Jewish rabbis that he probably knows more about Judaism than any other president—on the same day that he referred to “Polish death camps.” For that last remark he apologized, but the one about Judaism is far more telling. In the first place, the claim is transparently absurd. We can quickly pass over the fact that John Adams and James Madison, among the most educated men in the world at the time, knew Hebrew as well as Latin and Greek and just say that the president is, to put it mildly, punching above his weight here. So let’s move on to the fact that every president until the modern era knew more about Judaism than Barack Obama because the Bible was the one book every literate person knew, and the Bible includes the books Christians call the “Old Testament,” and a working knowledge of the Old Testament certainly is the best introduction to “Judaism” there is.

Earlier presidents did not learn the Talmud, of course, but if Barack Obama ever has, that would come as news to me. There is no indication from Obama’s own writing that he is especially Bible-literate, and we can presume that his notorious pastor of 20 years used the Bible primarily as flavoring for his political duck soup. I have no doubt that, among presidents closer to our time, Jimmy Carter was far more conversant in the lore of Biblical Judaism, for all the good it did his corrupted soul when it comes to the Jewish state.

Perhaps what the president meant is that he’s known more Jews than other presidents. This too is an absurdity, as Ronald Reagan spent 30 years in Hollywood and had Jews coming out his ears. In fact, chances are Barack Obama knows less about Judaism than most presidents, except that he knows a lot of liberal Jews.

What the president does, without question, know a great deal about is the act of preening.

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Bill Keller, Political Hypocrite

How difficult it must be to be a liberal who has double standards to explain and hypocrisies to defend. Take Bill Keller of the New York Times. Last August the former executive editor of the Times wrote a piece in which he prodded his colleagues in journalism to ask candidates “tougher questions about faith.” If the Republican candidates didn’t answer Keller’s questions, “let’s keep on asking,” Keller said. “Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”

Of course, there was the inconvenient fact that the Times showed a notable lack of interest when it came to Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright, a minister whose views are racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. And for those Times readers who might have forgotten – and given the paucity of coverage by the Times, who could blame them? — the Reverend Wright was referred to by Obama as his “spiritual mentor,” Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s first autobiography.

Yet in 2008, the Times found all of this singularly uninteresting. It looked the other way. Read More

How difficult it must be to be a liberal who has double standards to explain and hypocrisies to defend. Take Bill Keller of the New York Times. Last August the former executive editor of the Times wrote a piece in which he prodded his colleagues in journalism to ask candidates “tougher questions about faith.” If the Republican candidates didn’t answer Keller’s questions, “let’s keep on asking,” Keller said. “Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”

Of course, there was the inconvenient fact that the Times showed a notable lack of interest when it came to Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright, a minister whose views are racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. And for those Times readers who might have forgotten – and given the paucity of coverage by the Times, who could blame them? — the Reverend Wright was referred to by Obama as his “spiritual mentor,” Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s first autobiography.

Yet in 2008, the Times found all of this singularly uninteresting. It looked the other way.

When this was pointed out to Keller in the aftermath of his newfound interest in asking tough question about the faith of GOP candidates, Keller (via Twitter) admitted, “Yes, Dems should be asked about their faith (and influences) too. We were late to Rev. Wright in ’08, but we got there, and did it well.”

How convenient to admit this three years after the election. And in fact, the Times got there much later than they would have if John McCain had been a member of a church whose pastor was spouting white supremacist views from the pulpit – and once its reporters eventually got there, they actually didn’t do it so well.

In any event, Jeremiah Wright is once again in the news – this time because of a Times story that was clearly designed to keep a super PAC from injecting Wright into the 2012 race. (The detailed advertising plan that was obtained by the Times came through a person not connected to the proposal but “who was alarmed by its tone.”) I guess we’re back into the “asking tough questions about a political candidate’s faith is wrong and inappropriate” mode.

Once again, the New York Times is using its influence to discourage a close examination of the Obama-Wright relationship. And just to be sure the point wasn’t lost on us, a Times editorial, with the subtle title “Racial Politics, 2012-Style,” praises John McCain for refusing “to make this divisive tactic part of his campaign against Mr. Obama.” But, we’re told, “in a more coarsened political atmosphere, the rise of unlimited money has made it possible for a wealthy person to broadcast any attack while keeping a distance from it.” This is all part of a general effort by those on the right to “pollute the campaign.” And so forth and so on.

I can hardly wait for Bill Keller to show his objectivity and independent judgment by writing another long article on why it’s absolutely essential for journalists to ask tough questions about faith. And this time we can look forward to him and the Times exploring — with newly discovered depth, intensity, and a commitment to “afflict the powerful” – Barack Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright, the essential elements of black liberation theology, and a plausible explanation for how Obama could have spent 20 years in Wright’s church and held him up as a “spiritual mentor” without sharing, or at least being comfortable with, Wright’s noxious views and hate-filled sentiments. Because if such an article doesn’t appear, many of us will be tempted to draw the conclusion that Bill Keller is not much more than a political hypocrite dressed up as a Serious Journalist.

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Cubs May Pay the Price for Ricketts’ Attack

Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

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Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

Their hypocrisy doesn’t stem from the family patriarch’s subsidy for what would have been a foolish attack on the president. Contrary to the liberal orthodoxy on this point, one can oppose the president and even mention Rev. Wright while still espousing racial harmony and running a baseball team whose players and supporters come from across the racial and national spectrum.

The Ricketts’ hypocrisy comes from their desire for public subsidies for their baseball operation while opposing the president’s support for high taxes and unlimited government spending. The sorry truth is that almost all of the millionaires and billionaires who own sports teams in this country are ardent capitalists when it comes to taxing their incomes but devout socialists when it comes to getting government to subsidize their business. As far as I am concerned, baseball is a sacred institution and renovating Wrigley is a great idea. I wish the Ricketts luck with the project, but have no sympathy for the widespread policy of team owners picking the pockets of the taxpayers in order to make their operations even more profitable.

Emanuel and every other mayor and governor in the country should never take the phone calls of team owners — no matter who they are supporting in the presidential election — so long as their purpose is to raid the public treasury for their own profit.

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Obama Backers Must Embrace Race Issue

The almost hysterical reaction in the mainstream press to the revelation that one super PAC was planning to run ads about President Obama’s former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was highly instructive. For two days, liberal newspapers like the New York Times and much of the rest of the chattering classes have been hyperventilating about something that not only had no connection to the campaign of Mitt Romney but which was specifically condemned by the candidate. And yet somehow we are told that this non-event changed the political narrative of the week and distracted Americans from thinking about the failing economy that is causing the president’s poll numbers to head south.

The alacrity with which the Obama campaign and their liberal cheerleaders seized on the Wright issue spoke volumes about the Democrats’ current weakness. The president’s chief problems revolve around the fact that the economy is so poor and his signature legislative accomplishment — ObamaCare — is deeply unpopular. Because he cannot run on his record, his path to victory in November must therefore involve a careful combination of calumnies against his opponent and attempts to change the subject from the nation’s fiscal health to the one that helped elect him in 2008: race. That is the only way to explain his campaign’s desperate attempt to leverage a marginal story into a major campaign issue.

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The almost hysterical reaction in the mainstream press to the revelation that one super PAC was planning to run ads about President Obama’s former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was highly instructive. For two days, liberal newspapers like the New York Times and much of the rest of the chattering classes have been hyperventilating about something that not only had no connection to the campaign of Mitt Romney but which was specifically condemned by the candidate. And yet somehow we are told that this non-event changed the political narrative of the week and distracted Americans from thinking about the failing economy that is causing the president’s poll numbers to head south.

The alacrity with which the Obama campaign and their liberal cheerleaders seized on the Wright issue spoke volumes about the Democrats’ current weakness. The president’s chief problems revolve around the fact that the economy is so poor and his signature legislative accomplishment — ObamaCare — is deeply unpopular. Because he cannot run on his record, his path to victory in November must therefore involve a careful combination of calumnies against his opponent and attempts to change the subject from the nation’s fiscal health to the one that helped elect him in 2008: race. That is the only way to explain his campaign’s desperate attempt to leverage a marginal story into a major campaign issue.

As we wrote yesterday, the argument that any mention of Wright is a sign of racism is absurd. Four years after his election, any time spent discussing the influences on Obama’s character is pointless. But because Wright is a part of his biography that can not be denied, reminding the public of his longstanding ties to a scoundrel is neither a sign of extremism nor racism. Any candidate who spent that much time in the church of such a person — be they black or white — would have much to explain.

The main point to take away from this story isn’t about whether the GOP is right to talk about Wright. Rather, it is the way it has illustrated that the main, if not the sole justification for the president’s re-election is still the issue of race. Four years ago, the president was careful to distance himself from Wright and successfully persuaded the media that this issue was not worth pursuing. But in a stroke of irony, today his campaign embraces the Wright issue — though not the man himself — because they think it is an effective way to remind voters of the historic nature of the Obama presidency.

The fulminations about the supposed ugliness of any mention of Wright in the campaign demonstrate that without race the Obama re-election effort has no convincing rationale other than the tired themes about the perfidy of the Bush administration and class warfare demagoguery that is more intended for the Democratic base than independent or swing voters.

Americans felt good about electing the first African-American to the presidency in 2008, but a big part of that was the notion that Barack Obama was not only a post-partisan politician but also a post-racial figure. The events of the last three and a half years have given the lie to Obama’s pose about partisanship. The Wright kerfuffle illustrates that he needs again to rely upon the sympathy of those who wish to right historic wrongs in order to win in November. But that is a political card that is much harder to play twice. As much as a focus on race is a powerful fact that works to his advantage, the lack of a more positive underlying principle could be fatal to his hopes. Though we should expect the liberal media to hold on to the race theme for all it is worth in the next few months, this is a dubious strategy that will be difficult to sustain in the absence of a genuine economic recovery.

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Re: Fake Outrage About Obama Smears

I agree with both Jonathan and Alana that an ad campaign this year based on Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be a tactical error for the Romney forces and that the outrage on the left is totally synthetic. President Obama was a member of that church for purely local political reasons. As we have seen since he’s been president, he rarely attends church and, anyway, he needs a mirror to see what he truly worships.

But I can’t help but take note of one of the great for-want-of-a-nail moments in American political history. What would have happened had Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team in the 2008 primary campaign found those tapes of Jeremiah Wright before the Iowa caucuses? Had the Clinton campaign simply handed them off to a friendly TV journalist, I’m confident they would have sowed enough doubt about Obama that he would not have finished first in the Iowa caucuses. (The results were Obama 38 percent, John Edwards—whatever happened to him?—30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent, Joe Biden 1 percent.) Without the wind in his sails from his Iowa victory, Obama wouldn’t have fared so well in subsequent primaries, and the Romney campaign today would be trying to figure out how to defeat President Hillary Clinton’s re-election bid.

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I agree with both Jonathan and Alana that an ad campaign this year based on Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be a tactical error for the Romney forces and that the outrage on the left is totally synthetic. President Obama was a member of that church for purely local political reasons. As we have seen since he’s been president, he rarely attends church and, anyway, he needs a mirror to see what he truly worships.

But I can’t help but take note of one of the great for-want-of-a-nail moments in American political history. What would have happened had Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team in the 2008 primary campaign found those tapes of Jeremiah Wright before the Iowa caucuses? Had the Clinton campaign simply handed them off to a friendly TV journalist, I’m confident they would have sowed enough doubt about Obama that he would not have finished first in the Iowa caucuses. (The results were Obama 38 percent, John Edwards—whatever happened to him?—30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent, Joe Biden 1 percent.) Without the wind in his sails from his Iowa victory, Obama wouldn’t have fared so well in subsequent primaries, and the Romney campaign today would be trying to figure out how to defeat President Hillary Clinton’s re-election bid.

The 2008 Clinton campaign should certainly have found the tapes. After all, they were uncovered by a reporter who simply walked into the church store and purchased the DVDs. But they surfaced only in April 2008. By that time Obama had a big lead, plenty of momentum, and the mainstream media in his pocket. Still, he fared much worse in the late primaries than he had in the early ones and only stumbled across the finish line first. I think the Wright tapes were a factor in his late fade.

We’ll never know for sure, of course, but a less ideological, more centrist, more competent President Clinton would probably have done far less damage to the country and would be a lot harder to defeat this year.

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The Resurfacing of Jeremiah Wright

As Alana noted, this morning the New York Times reported a super PAC was weighing a “hard-line attack” against President Obama by “linking him to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.” The Romney campaign, and then Governor Romney himself, immediately repudiated the effort.

I should say that I’ve never felt raising the issue of Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright was somehow illegitimate. The relationship was obviously a long and important one to Obama. The Reverend Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, and was the inspirational force behind Obama’s first autobiography. That relationship was unquestionably a significant one and was probably quite useful in terms of understanding Obama. If a conservative had a similarly close relationship with a comparable figure on the right, especially a comparable hate-figure on the right, journalists would have focused on it far more than the press focused on Obama and Wright in 2008. There was an obvious double standard being applied.

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As Alana noted, this morning the New York Times reported a super PAC was weighing a “hard-line attack” against President Obama by “linking him to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.” The Romney campaign, and then Governor Romney himself, immediately repudiated the effort.

I should say that I’ve never felt raising the issue of Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright was somehow illegitimate. The relationship was obviously a long and important one to Obama. The Reverend Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, and was the inspirational force behind Obama’s first autobiography. That relationship was unquestionably a significant one and was probably quite useful in terms of understanding Obama. If a conservative had a similarly close relationship with a comparable figure on the right, especially a comparable hate-figure on the right, journalists would have focused on it far more than the press focused on Obama and Wright in 2008. There was an obvious double standard being applied.

Speaking of which, isn’t it interesting (as Ed Morrissey and Jennifer Rubin have pointed out) how media inquiries into Romney’s Mormon faith is deemed as not only legitimate but necessary, whereas inquiries into the Obama-Wright relationship was (and is) considered insignificant, unrevealing, and even unseemly? There’s a deep theological reason that explains this difference in approach: Romney is a Republican, while Obama is a (liberal) Democrat.

With all that said, Romney is wise not to pursue the issue of Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright, for two reasons. The first is that it’s precisely the kind of sideshow Obama wants this campaign to revolve around. Romney needs to focus like a laser beam on the economy — and Jeremiah Wright’s past sermons, for all their offensiveness, are of very little interest to Americans, particularly in a struggling economy. In addition, Obama is more or less a known quantity at this stage. People’s judgment about his past are basically locked in. There’s no particular upside to Romney in focusing attention on Wright.

Oh, and one other thing: The fact that Governor Romney and his campaign responded so quickly and emphatically to the possibility that an anti-Obama super PAC might resurrect the Obama-Wright relationship is a sign they are firing on all cylinders.

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Desperation in Obama’s Super PAC Attack

Contrary to what some credulous news reports have indicated, the Obama campaign does not seem tremendously confident about beating Mitt Romney next fall. Case in point: a relaxed and confident campaign doesn’t attack its opponent for an ad proposal – one that never even went beyond the consideration phase – cooked up by an unrelated outside group. Or at least if it does, it uses surrogates and outsiders to make the point.

But the Obama campaign has been scraping bottom to find angles to attack Mitt Romney on. So it’s not a surprise that campaign manager Jim Messina blasted Romney today for responding too “tepidly” to reports that a conservative super PAC was considering an ad blitz targeting Jeremiah Wright:

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina doesn’t seem to think the Romney’s camp’s reaction is strong enough.

“The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself. It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics,” Messina responded. “Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”

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Contrary to what some credulous news reports have indicated, the Obama campaign does not seem tremendously confident about beating Mitt Romney next fall. Case in point: a relaxed and confident campaign doesn’t attack its opponent for an ad proposal – one that never even went beyond the consideration phase – cooked up by an unrelated outside group. Or at least if it does, it uses surrogates and outsiders to make the point.

But the Obama campaign has been scraping bottom to find angles to attack Mitt Romney on. So it’s not a surprise that campaign manager Jim Messina blasted Romney today for responding too “tepidly” to reports that a conservative super PAC was considering an ad blitz targeting Jeremiah Wright:

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina doesn’t seem to think the Romney’s camp’s reaction is strong enough.

“The blueprint for a hate-filled, divisive campaign of character assassination speaks for itself. It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics,” Messina responded. “Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”

For the record, here’s Romney’s “tepid” response to Guy Benson, which sounds pretty unambiguous to me:

“I repudiate the effort by that PAC to promote an ad strategy of the nature they’ve described. I would like to see this campaign focus on the economy, on getting people back to work, on seeing rising incomes and growing prosperity — particularly for those in the middle class of America.  And I think what we’ve seen so far from the Obama campaign is a campaign of character assassination. I hope that isn’t the course of this campaign. So in regards to that PAC, I repudiate what they’re thinking about … It’s interesting that we’re talking about some Republican PAC that wants to go after the president [on Wright]; I hope people also are looking at what he’s doing, and saying ‘why is he running an attack campaign? Why isn’t he talking about his record?’”

Romney is right. Republicans are far better off targeting Obama’s record, rather than his 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright. As toxic and offensive as Wright’s sermons and political commentary are, if that line of attack was ineffective in 2008, it’s not going to be effective four years later.

That said, it’s amazing that the story of Obama’s vehemently anti-American, anti-Israel pastor is now so off-limits that a conservative super PAC can’t even consider broaching it without sending the media into a frenzy.

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He’s Perfect — Why Change?

Jonathan Last’s must-read piece on Obama eschews exotic or fanciful explanations for the president’s mindset and precipitous fall to earth. It’s not anti-colonialism that motivates him, or imitation of his absent father that propelled him to the White House. He’s not a secret Muslim. He is, rather, an egomaniac, Last posits. He’s got a ton of evidence for this, mostly in the form of cringe-inducing statements from Obama’s own lips.

This raises a few critical issues. First, the vanity explanation accounts for his super-sensitivity to criticism. Nothing provokes Obama like doubts about his sincerity (the trigger for his belated outburst against Rev. Jeremiah Wright) or his wisdom. He has so many “enemies,” as he referred to Republicans — Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, Rush Limbaugh, the news cycle, etc. — because he was so unaccustomed to criticism and so removed from rational evaluation of his abilities and positions. No wonder he is so angry at, and disdainful of, the American people. They are, unlike the sycophants who helped manufacture The Ego, no longer enamored of him. Nor is this president given to self-deprecating humor, for not even self-criticism in jest is tolerable.

Second, the colossal failure of his international endeavors, specifically his Muslim Outreach, is traceable to the faulty notion that one can construct a nation’s foreign policy based on the persona of its president. It sounds daft — why would the Israelis and Palestinian simply reach a deal because Obama has arrived on the scene? Why would the mullahs be enticed to curb their nuclear and hegemonic ambitions because he allegedly ”understands” the Muslim World? The Ego has made hash out of foreign policy because he believes, as the saying goes, that the world revolves around him. He can’t imagine that rivals, foes, and allies are immune to his charms.

Most important, the vanity surplus would be less of a hindrance if he were an innovative policy wonk or a savvy analyst of the American electorate. This was the Bill Clinton model — an outsized ego and an utter lack of self-discipline, but an inventive mind able to zig-zag his way through choppy political waters. His intuitive understanding of his fellow citizens allowed him to maintain a bond with the American people. If Obama were as intellectually nimble as Clinton or as simpatico with the American people as Ronald Reagan or as steeped in common sense as Harry Truman, he wouldn’t be in such dire straits. It’s not merely the vanity that’s the problem. His undoing has been vanity that is divorced from his abilities and unaccompanied by executive skills or a well-developed knowledge of economics and international relations.

If Obama is ungracious (toward his predecessor), oblivious (to the desires of the voters), and frustrated (by the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ refusal to make a deal under his auspices), it is because he is unable to grasp that it’s not all about him. But the good news is that, as he reportedly did in the Senate, he may conclude that being president is really ”so boring.” (He certainly doesn’t seem to be having fun, does he?) In that case, he might not really care all that much about trying to ingratiate himself with the voters. It very well might not be “worth it” in his mind to temper his views in order to get a second term. Freed from the burdens of the presidency he then might do what he loves best — write books and give speeches about himself. Or maybe he can give speeches about writing books about himself.

Jonathan Last’s must-read piece on Obama eschews exotic or fanciful explanations for the president’s mindset and precipitous fall to earth. It’s not anti-colonialism that motivates him, or imitation of his absent father that propelled him to the White House. He’s not a secret Muslim. He is, rather, an egomaniac, Last posits. He’s got a ton of evidence for this, mostly in the form of cringe-inducing statements from Obama’s own lips.

This raises a few critical issues. First, the vanity explanation accounts for his super-sensitivity to criticism. Nothing provokes Obama like doubts about his sincerity (the trigger for his belated outburst against Rev. Jeremiah Wright) or his wisdom. He has so many “enemies,” as he referred to Republicans — Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, Rush Limbaugh, the news cycle, etc. — because he was so unaccustomed to criticism and so removed from rational evaluation of his abilities and positions. No wonder he is so angry at, and disdainful of, the American people. They are, unlike the sycophants who helped manufacture The Ego, no longer enamored of him. Nor is this president given to self-deprecating humor, for not even self-criticism in jest is tolerable.

Second, the colossal failure of his international endeavors, specifically his Muslim Outreach, is traceable to the faulty notion that one can construct a nation’s foreign policy based on the persona of its president. It sounds daft — why would the Israelis and Palestinian simply reach a deal because Obama has arrived on the scene? Why would the mullahs be enticed to curb their nuclear and hegemonic ambitions because he allegedly ”understands” the Muslim World? The Ego has made hash out of foreign policy because he believes, as the saying goes, that the world revolves around him. He can’t imagine that rivals, foes, and allies are immune to his charms.

Most important, the vanity surplus would be less of a hindrance if he were an innovative policy wonk or a savvy analyst of the American electorate. This was the Bill Clinton model — an outsized ego and an utter lack of self-discipline, but an inventive mind able to zig-zag his way through choppy political waters. His intuitive understanding of his fellow citizens allowed him to maintain a bond with the American people. If Obama were as intellectually nimble as Clinton or as simpatico with the American people as Ronald Reagan or as steeped in common sense as Harry Truman, he wouldn’t be in such dire straits. It’s not merely the vanity that’s the problem. His undoing has been vanity that is divorced from his abilities and unaccompanied by executive skills or a well-developed knowledge of economics and international relations.

If Obama is ungracious (toward his predecessor), oblivious (to the desires of the voters), and frustrated (by the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ refusal to make a deal under his auspices), it is because he is unable to grasp that it’s not all about him. But the good news is that, as he reportedly did in the Senate, he may conclude that being president is really ”so boring.” (He certainly doesn’t seem to be having fun, does he?) In that case, he might not really care all that much about trying to ingratiate himself with the voters. It very well might not be “worth it” in his mind to temper his views in order to get a second term. Freed from the burdens of the presidency he then might do what he loves best — write books and give speeches about himself. Or maybe he can give speeches about writing books about himself.

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A Possible Obama Primary Challenge

Last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann interviewed the filmmaker Michael Moore. Both of them are disgusted with the Democratic Party and its leadership. Now Olbermann and Moore inhabit a fantasy world in which Democrats are failing not because they passed ObamaCare but because they don’t have the courage to trumpet their support for it. Democrats, you see, are too spineless and too passive, not willing to thump their chests to celebrate their role in passing incredibly unpopular legislation.

This is what happens to dogmatic people when their grand ideological ambitions fail. It cannot be because of any defects in their ideology; the problem must rest with weak-willed politicians who aren’t aggressive enough to fight on behalf of their ideology. They don’t have the courage of their convictions.

This critique is of course ludicrous. But for President Obama, it highlights a serious threat: in the aftermath of the forthcoming midterm elections, where Democrats are going to suffer enormous losses, liberals will grow more angry, more disillusioned, and more disgusted with Obama and the Democratic Party establishment. They will blame the election losses on them, not on liberalism; and quicker than you can imagine, the defections will begin. And if Obama doesn’t begin to turn things around in 2011, he may well face a challenge from within his own party.

That might seem unthinkable now — but let’s see where things stand on November 3, when the recriminations get really ugly.

Failed presidencies elicit primary challenges. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

We’re clearly not at this point yet, of course, and a challenge to Obama is still more unlikely than not. And we haven’t seen a sitting president dislodged since LBJ. (Eugene McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in the New Hampshire primary; Johnson withdrew shortly after that, and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination.) But you can count on this: to protect liberalism, the left will jettison even Obama if it deems it necessary for The Cause. If Obama remains or becomes increasingly radioactive in 2011, liberals will seek to separate their movement from a deeply unpopular president. And the man who in the past has been so quick to throw others (like Jeremiah Wright) under the bus may find himself suffering a similar fate. The cruelest cut of all, of course, would be for this act to come courtesy of those who were once Obama’s more worshipful supporters.

That is part of the danger of having built a campaign on a cult of personality.

Last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann interviewed the filmmaker Michael Moore. Both of them are disgusted with the Democratic Party and its leadership. Now Olbermann and Moore inhabit a fantasy world in which Democrats are failing not because they passed ObamaCare but because they don’t have the courage to trumpet their support for it. Democrats, you see, are too spineless and too passive, not willing to thump their chests to celebrate their role in passing incredibly unpopular legislation.

This is what happens to dogmatic people when their grand ideological ambitions fail. It cannot be because of any defects in their ideology; the problem must rest with weak-willed politicians who aren’t aggressive enough to fight on behalf of their ideology. They don’t have the courage of their convictions.

This critique is of course ludicrous. But for President Obama, it highlights a serious threat: in the aftermath of the forthcoming midterm elections, where Democrats are going to suffer enormous losses, liberals will grow more angry, more disillusioned, and more disgusted with Obama and the Democratic Party establishment. They will blame the election losses on them, not on liberalism; and quicker than you can imagine, the defections will begin. And if Obama doesn’t begin to turn things around in 2011, he may well face a challenge from within his own party.

That might seem unthinkable now — but let’s see where things stand on November 3, when the recriminations get really ugly.

Failed presidencies elicit primary challenges. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

We’re clearly not at this point yet, of course, and a challenge to Obama is still more unlikely than not. And we haven’t seen a sitting president dislodged since LBJ. (Eugene McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in the New Hampshire primary; Johnson withdrew shortly after that, and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination.) But you can count on this: to protect liberalism, the left will jettison even Obama if it deems it necessary for The Cause. If Obama remains or becomes increasingly radioactive in 2011, liberals will seek to separate their movement from a deeply unpopular president. And the man who in the past has been so quick to throw others (like Jeremiah Wright) under the bus may find himself suffering a similar fate. The cruelest cut of all, of course, would be for this act to come courtesy of those who were once Obama’s more worshipful supporters.

That is part of the danger of having built a campaign on a cult of personality.

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Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

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When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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How the JournoList Influenced Journalists

The mainstream media’s uneasiness with covering the extent of Barack Obama’s relationship to the noxious Jeremiah Wright (and others) can be explained in part as a result of the ideas expressed on the now-disbanded leftist e-mail train JournoList. There’s nothing illegitimate about the efforts of the JournoListers; trying to influence the wider world of writers and opinion leaders is what ideologically driven people do. But the effort by JournoListers to pretend they don’t possess that influence over their mainstream colleagues — and that the right has a greater influence than they have — is both false and astonishingly disingenuous.

My take in the New York Post.

The mainstream media’s uneasiness with covering the extent of Barack Obama’s relationship to the noxious Jeremiah Wright (and others) can be explained in part as a result of the ideas expressed on the now-disbanded leftist e-mail train JournoList. There’s nothing illegitimate about the efforts of the JournoListers; trying to influence the wider world of writers and opinion leaders is what ideologically driven people do. But the effort by JournoListers to pretend they don’t possess that influence over their mainstream colleagues — and that the right has a greater influence than they have — is both false and astonishingly disingenuous.

My take in the New York Post.

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Will a Pro-Israel Record Save Specter, Sink Sestak?

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

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RE: RE: No Denying White House Animus Toward Israel

Here is evidence that Obama has gone a bit too far for some prominent Jewish activists. Writing in the Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove interviews a major political donor, James S. Tisch, chief executive of Loews Corp.:

“I don’t think he’s pro-Israel,” Tisch says, voicing the suspicions of many. “I think the president comes to this from Jeremiah Wright’s church, and there’s no doubt in my mind that in Jeremiah Wright’s church, the Palestinians were portrayed as freedom fighters and not as terrorists.”

Tisch adds the flap is bound to influence the traditionally Democratic Jewish electorate, nearly 80 percent of which voted for Obama in 2008. “Now for the first time, there are a significant number of people in the organized Jewish community that feel that the president has gone too far,” Tisch says. It will be interesting to watch “what happens to the president’s approval rating among Jewish voters. I think this could really be an important point of demarcation for Jewish public opinion of the president.”

Grove says Tisch is not alone:

“Obama has done zero favors for the Democratic candidates in 2010,” says a prominent Democratic fundraiser who, like most of Jewish activists who spoke for this story, was unwilling to go on the record. “I know a lot of historical Democrats who are big check-writers and even bundlers, who have told me that until things settle down they have no interest in helping any Democrats.”

Grove, not surprisingly, finds a number of prominent Jewish Democrats unwilling to criticize Obama, let alone stop funding him. So the question remains, do most liberal Jews continue to suppress or ignore whatever misgivings they have about Obama and keep on enabling the most aggressive anti-Israel president? Or do they consider Abe Foxman’s counsel: “The issue here, for 78 percent of the Jews who voted for Obama, is you condemn your ally and your friend. … But when Syria spits in the president’s face by continuing to back Hezbollah, we don’t say anything? I think it’s nuts.”

Well, nuts would be expressing shock and disdain for the president’s Israel policies but nevertheless writing a check “with shaking fingers.” After all, the check still cashes.

Here is evidence that Obama has gone a bit too far for some prominent Jewish activists. Writing in the Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove interviews a major political donor, James S. Tisch, chief executive of Loews Corp.:

“I don’t think he’s pro-Israel,” Tisch says, voicing the suspicions of many. “I think the president comes to this from Jeremiah Wright’s church, and there’s no doubt in my mind that in Jeremiah Wright’s church, the Palestinians were portrayed as freedom fighters and not as terrorists.”

Tisch adds the flap is bound to influence the traditionally Democratic Jewish electorate, nearly 80 percent of which voted for Obama in 2008. “Now for the first time, there are a significant number of people in the organized Jewish community that feel that the president has gone too far,” Tisch says. It will be interesting to watch “what happens to the president’s approval rating among Jewish voters. I think this could really be an important point of demarcation for Jewish public opinion of the president.”

Grove says Tisch is not alone:

“Obama has done zero favors for the Democratic candidates in 2010,” says a prominent Democratic fundraiser who, like most of Jewish activists who spoke for this story, was unwilling to go on the record. “I know a lot of historical Democrats who are big check-writers and even bundlers, who have told me that until things settle down they have no interest in helping any Democrats.”

Grove, not surprisingly, finds a number of prominent Jewish Democrats unwilling to criticize Obama, let alone stop funding him. So the question remains, do most liberal Jews continue to suppress or ignore whatever misgivings they have about Obama and keep on enabling the most aggressive anti-Israel president? Or do they consider Abe Foxman’s counsel: “The issue here, for 78 percent of the Jews who voted for Obama, is you condemn your ally and your friend. … But when Syria spits in the president’s face by continuing to back Hezbollah, we don’t say anything? I think it’s nuts.”

Well, nuts would be expressing shock and disdain for the president’s Israel policies but nevertheless writing a check “with shaking fingers.” After all, the check still cashes.

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A Libel

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

A Canadian journalist named Jeet Heer has called out our Jennifer Rubin out today over an item she wrote yesterday quoting an elderly attendee at AIPAC who said she heard echoes in the present moment of the nightmarish Jewish past:

An elderly couple from Florida were agitated by recent events. The wife explained she that had fled Nazi Germany as a child for Shanghai. “There are parallels,” she said. “This is depressing. It’s scary.” She said that she had argued with her liberal friends during the campaign about Obama’s associations with anti-Israel figures. “My mother always said where there is smoke, there is fire,” she explained, then added wearily, “They didn’t listen.”

Heer’s accusation is that Obama is here being compared to Hitler, that the idea being expressed is that “there are ‘parallels’ between the Führer and Obama.” That characterization of Jennifer Rubin’s item is preposterous, offensive, and a patently deliberate misreading. The fear being expressed these days is toward Iran as the potential second coming of Jewish genocide, not toward Obama. The parallel being drawn here is to the Western powers at Munich and their refusal to look clearly at the evidence of Hitler’s intentions, not to Hitler. Obama’s past association with anti-Israel figures like Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright heralded the lack of sympathy toward Israel that he has shown as president, and the way his lack of sympathy provides him with a convenient emotional way of refusing to confront the Iranian nuclear threat as it should be confronted — just as the Western powers seemed in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War to have a deficit of concern about the increasingly perilous position in which the Jews of Germany and Austria were finding themselves.

It is especially galling to see Jeet Heer, a foul anti-Israel polemicist of uncommonly repellent vintage, going on about this when, in his own writings, time and again, he expresses the sorts of thoughts designed to fog the minds of policymakers who should be grappling every moment with the overwhelming nature of the existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people, not to mention to the wider Middle East and the planet as a whole.

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Is There Worse to Come?

The breaking news is that tonight (Saturday night), Barack Obama will announce he has resigned his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — the former pulpit of Jeremiah Wright from which the Catholic priest Michael Pfleger made his incendiary remarks about Hillary Clinton. This is of course the same church that Obama said contained within it every aspect of the black community (which raises the question of whether he is, by the same logic, resigning from the black community).  There’s something about this decision that raises more questions than it answers. Is Obama doing this now because he is on the verge of securing the nomination and no longer needs to worry so much about disappointing his base? Or is he worried there is more to come on YouTube from the Trinity United stage and he wants to have dissociated himself from it all beforehand? Is he going to have to give another major speech on race to revise and amend his previous speech on race?

The breaking news is that tonight (Saturday night), Barack Obama will announce he has resigned his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — the former pulpit of Jeremiah Wright from which the Catholic priest Michael Pfleger made his incendiary remarks about Hillary Clinton. This is of course the same church that Obama said contained within it every aspect of the black community (which raises the question of whether he is, by the same logic, resigning from the black community).  There’s something about this decision that raises more questions than it answers. Is Obama doing this now because he is on the verge of securing the nomination and no longer needs to worry so much about disappointing his base? Or is he worried there is more to come on YouTube from the Trinity United stage and he wants to have dissociated himself from it all beforehand? Is he going to have to give another major speech on race to revise and amend his previous speech on race?

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Hillary’s RFK Remark

When politicians err, really err, it’s often because they recite the stage directions — the part of the script that directs an actor but is supposed to be unknown to the audience. The Elder George Bush once famously read his stage directions off a card in New Hampshire in 1991. “Message: I care,” he said, forgetting for the moment that he was supposed to do something to deliver the message, not speak his handlers’ words aloud.

Hillary Clinton yesterday made the mistake that will almost surely enter her name in the annals of campaign infamy. Asked why she was staying in the race, she essentially pointed out that, hey, you never know what’s going to happen, so why not stick around? People say June is so late, but RFK was assassinated in June 1968, so….uh oh….

What came out of her mouth was something discussed in late-night sessions at her campaign headquarters, or in tete-a-tetes with Bill — even if the race appears to be sewn up, how can you know something really bad isn’t going to happen to Obama? His crony Rezko could get convicted and agree to sell him out for a lesser sentence. Video could surface of Obama ranting like Jeremiah Wright. Bob Torricelli got indicted. Spitzer got caught with a hooker. McGreevey was outed by a gay lover. Or something really bad could happen. An assassination or something.

When one speaks as frequently as Hillary Clinton, speeches all day, local interviews all night, it would almost be impossible for gaffes not to emerge from her lips. (Obama, at a shul on Thursday, referred to himself as “one who is blessed,” which was unfortunate too, even though he was only translating his first name; another example of this, though far more anodyne, obviously.) But in her position, there is no margin for error, and certainly not in even making a sideways reference to an assassination when there is a black man running for president who might be the target of some psychotic’s murderous fascination.

The reaction is overwrought, and the whole business has been skilfully manipulated by the Obama campaign to deliver a TKO of its already wounded rival. But that’s politics. No one made her open a mouth.

When politicians err, really err, it’s often because they recite the stage directions — the part of the script that directs an actor but is supposed to be unknown to the audience. The Elder George Bush once famously read his stage directions off a card in New Hampshire in 1991. “Message: I care,” he said, forgetting for the moment that he was supposed to do something to deliver the message, not speak his handlers’ words aloud.

Hillary Clinton yesterday made the mistake that will almost surely enter her name in the annals of campaign infamy. Asked why she was staying in the race, she essentially pointed out that, hey, you never know what’s going to happen, so why not stick around? People say June is so late, but RFK was assassinated in June 1968, so….uh oh….

What came out of her mouth was something discussed in late-night sessions at her campaign headquarters, or in tete-a-tetes with Bill — even if the race appears to be sewn up, how can you know something really bad isn’t going to happen to Obama? His crony Rezko could get convicted and agree to sell him out for a lesser sentence. Video could surface of Obama ranting like Jeremiah Wright. Bob Torricelli got indicted. Spitzer got caught with a hooker. McGreevey was outed by a gay lover. Or something really bad could happen. An assassination or something.

When one speaks as frequently as Hillary Clinton, speeches all day, local interviews all night, it would almost be impossible for gaffes not to emerge from her lips. (Obama, at a shul on Thursday, referred to himself as “one who is blessed,” which was unfortunate too, even though he was only translating his first name; another example of this, though far more anodyne, obviously.) But in her position, there is no margin for error, and certainly not in even making a sideways reference to an assassination when there is a black man running for president who might be the target of some psychotic’s murderous fascination.

The reaction is overwrought, and the whole business has been skilfully manipulated by the Obama campaign to deliver a TKO of its already wounded rival. But that’s politics. No one made her open a mouth.

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Linda Chavez on Obama and Race

Here at COMMENTARY, we’ve made available to all readers the important lead article of our June 2008 issue. It is called “Let Us by All Means Have an Honest Conversation About Race.” Its author, Linda Chavez, explains how the triumphant rise of Barack Obama demonstrates just how thoroughgoing is the sea-change in the United States on matters of race — and why, therefore, the fact of Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his insistence that Wright “contains within him the contradictions—the good and the bad—of the community that he has served diligently for so many years” is so troubling. Chavez’s brave and groundbreaking piece can be read here.

Here at COMMENTARY, we’ve made available to all readers the important lead article of our June 2008 issue. It is called “Let Us by All Means Have an Honest Conversation About Race.” Its author, Linda Chavez, explains how the triumphant rise of Barack Obama demonstrates just how thoroughgoing is the sea-change in the United States on matters of race — and why, therefore, the fact of Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his insistence that Wright “contains within him the contradictions—the good and the bad—of the community that he has served diligently for so many years” is so troubling. Chavez’s brave and groundbreaking piece can be read here.

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Kentucky Fried Obama

Barack Obama is almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee, but what has been obscured by the media frenzy over him is that he is a vastly weaker candidate than he once appeared to be. After two weeks of media insistence that Hillary is done and he is the Chosen One, he appears to have lost Kentucky by a margin of 2-to-1. That is simply bizarre. The one indisputable thing we know about the psychology of elections is that people like to vote for the candidate they think is going to be the winner. It doesn’t mean anything that he lost Kentucky; it means something that he didn’t lose it by five points, or by ten, but rather by 20 or more. Race may play a role here, but it doesn’t play a 30-point role; and it’s worth noting that one reason given in exit polls for white resistance to Obama is his connection to black racist Jeremiah Wright, a connection that is no one’s fault but Obama’s own.

Barack Obama is almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee, but what has been obscured by the media frenzy over him is that he is a vastly weaker candidate than he once appeared to be. After two weeks of media insistence that Hillary is done and he is the Chosen One, he appears to have lost Kentucky by a margin of 2-to-1. That is simply bizarre. The one indisputable thing we know about the psychology of elections is that people like to vote for the candidate they think is going to be the winner. It doesn’t mean anything that he lost Kentucky; it means something that he didn’t lose it by five points, or by ten, but rather by 20 or more. Race may play a role here, but it doesn’t play a 30-point role; and it’s worth noting that one reason given in exit polls for white resistance to Obama is his connection to black racist Jeremiah Wright, a connection that is no one’s fault but Obama’s own.

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The New Arrogance

Back in October, when Barack Obama told a crowd of 2,000 supporters, “We’ve had enough arrogance in this White House . . . We need something new!” did he mean we need the kind of humility that allows one to interpret a general statement about terrorism and appeasement, uttered in a foreign hall of government, as a direct attack on oneself?

When he wrote in his memoir, “[my mother] taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad,” perhaps he meant such ignorance and arrogance are more acceptable when broadcast straight from U.S. soil?

In taking the preposterous leap that President Bush’s remarks in Israel were a veiled attack on his campaign, Barack Obama has demonstrated an arrogance of striking proportions. Supplanting national arrogance with a more concentrated personal variety is hardly a step towards global cordiality. But it does gel perfectly with the mindset of the post-Boomers who make up Obama’s base. (Pride in one’s country is so pre-Iraq.) Obama understands that it’s personal pride that counts.

He also has a way of contradicting his abstract pronouncements on utopian ideals with specific acts of uninspired selfishness. His grand gesture of embracing Jeremiah Wright fizzled when Wright proved a true liability. His claims to humility vanish when he thinks he hears his name whispered in the wind. Moreover, Obama’s supporters have a way of hanging in there with him, riding out the poetic wave until it’s a prosaic ripple. As has been noted in posts below, the New York Times and the Democratic Party wasted no time in seconding Obama’s indignation over the President’s remarks. And with that kind of unquestioning devotion, why wouldn’t he think everything uttered by every leader everywhere is about little old him.

Back in October, when Barack Obama told a crowd of 2,000 supporters, “We’ve had enough arrogance in this White House . . . We need something new!” did he mean we need the kind of humility that allows one to interpret a general statement about terrorism and appeasement, uttered in a foreign hall of government, as a direct attack on oneself?

When he wrote in his memoir, “[my mother] taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad,” perhaps he meant such ignorance and arrogance are more acceptable when broadcast straight from U.S. soil?

In taking the preposterous leap that President Bush’s remarks in Israel were a veiled attack on his campaign, Barack Obama has demonstrated an arrogance of striking proportions. Supplanting national arrogance with a more concentrated personal variety is hardly a step towards global cordiality. But it does gel perfectly with the mindset of the post-Boomers who make up Obama’s base. (Pride in one’s country is so pre-Iraq.) Obama understands that it’s personal pride that counts.

He also has a way of contradicting his abstract pronouncements on utopian ideals with specific acts of uninspired selfishness. His grand gesture of embracing Jeremiah Wright fizzled when Wright proved a true liability. His claims to humility vanish when he thinks he hears his name whispered in the wind. Moreover, Obama’s supporters have a way of hanging in there with him, riding out the poetic wave until it’s a prosaic ripple. As has been noted in posts below, the New York Times and the Democratic Party wasted no time in seconding Obama’s indignation over the President’s remarks. And with that kind of unquestioning devotion, why wouldn’t he think everything uttered by every leader everywhere is about little old him.

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