Commentary Magazine


Topic: journalist

A Challenge for Smart Power

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has posted the witness statements from its January 25 hearing regarding the United Nations. During the hearing (the video is here), there was an interesting colloquy regarding the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) between Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the new chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, and journalist Claudia Rosett.

Chabot noted that UNRWA refuses to vet its staff for ties to Hamas and “engages in anti-Israel and pro-Hamas propaganda and banks with Syrian institutions designated under the USA Patriot Act for terror financing and money laundering.” Then he posed a series of questions:

REP. CHABOT: Why is the U.S. still UNRWA’s largest single donor? Why have we given them about a half a billion dollars in the last two years alone? Why hasn’t the U.S. publicly criticized UNRWA for these problems and withheld funding until it reforms? Given that Hamas controls security in Gaza and that Hamas has confiscated UNRWA aid packages in the past, how can we possibly guarantee that U.S. contributions to UNRWA will not end up in Hamas’ hands?

MS. ROSETT: You can’t guarantee it. In fact, it does. … UNRWA is headquartered in Gaza and basically provides support services for what has become a terrorist enclave. … I asked how do you vet your staff to make sure that they are not terrorist members of Hamas? The answer I was given was we check them against the U.N. 1267 list. That sounds very impressive unless you happen to know that the 1267 list is al-Qaeda, which is maybe a problem in Gaza, but it’s not the main problem. The problem is Hamas.

So a temporary UN agency, formed 62 years ago for the relief of Arab and Jewish refugees from the 1948 war, is now a support group for a terrorist enclave — a quasi-permanent agency financed in large part by the United States, with contributions that — unlike UN dues — are voluntary.

Surely smart power is smart enough to find a tool to deal with this problem.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has posted the witness statements from its January 25 hearing regarding the United Nations. During the hearing (the video is here), there was an interesting colloquy regarding the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) between Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the new chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, and journalist Claudia Rosett.

Chabot noted that UNRWA refuses to vet its staff for ties to Hamas and “engages in anti-Israel and pro-Hamas propaganda and banks with Syrian institutions designated under the USA Patriot Act for terror financing and money laundering.” Then he posed a series of questions:

REP. CHABOT: Why is the U.S. still UNRWA’s largest single donor? Why have we given them about a half a billion dollars in the last two years alone? Why hasn’t the U.S. publicly criticized UNRWA for these problems and withheld funding until it reforms? Given that Hamas controls security in Gaza and that Hamas has confiscated UNRWA aid packages in the past, how can we possibly guarantee that U.S. contributions to UNRWA will not end up in Hamas’ hands?

MS. ROSETT: You can’t guarantee it. In fact, it does. … UNRWA is headquartered in Gaza and basically provides support services for what has become a terrorist enclave. … I asked how do you vet your staff to make sure that they are not terrorist members of Hamas? The answer I was given was we check them against the U.N. 1267 list. That sounds very impressive unless you happen to know that the 1267 list is al-Qaeda, which is maybe a problem in Gaza, but it’s not the main problem. The problem is Hamas.

So a temporary UN agency, formed 62 years ago for the relief of Arab and Jewish refugees from the 1948 war, is now a support group for a terrorist enclave — a quasi-permanent agency financed in large part by the United States, with contributions that — unlike UN dues — are voluntary.

Surely smart power is smart enough to find a tool to deal with this problem.

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Was Tim Russert Olbermann’s ‘Greatest Protector’?

The divorce between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC is no surprise. Mr. Olbermann is a notoriously difficult personality; he left on bad terms with ESPN, FOX sports, and now, for a second time, MSNBC.

Olbermann proved to be a ratings draw for MSNBC and helped it secure a solid second place among cable news networks — far behind FOX but still ahead of CNN. Yet higher ratings came at a high cost. Olbermann’s presence stained the journalistic reputation of not only MSNBC but also NBC News. After all, it was the home for, and gave a platform to, an individual who embodied liberalism at its most enraged, most extreme, and most irresponsible. Moreover, for a time Olbermann was not simply a commentator for MSNBC; he was also (with Chris Matthews) an anchor for its political coverage. Having Olbermann as one of the stars in NBC’s journalistic galaxy revealed its biases and also made them more pronounced.

One other thing is worth calling attention to — Olbermann’s statement, in his final broadcast, that Tim Russert was Olbermann’s “greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader.”

Since Tim died in 2008, it’s impossible to know whether he would agree with Olbermann’s characterization. But count me a skeptic.

We know Russert was himself an outstanding journalist, a man of impressive fairness who cared deeply about NBC’s reputation. It has also been widely reported that one of Russert’s best friends, Tom Brokaw, felt that Olbermann was doing significant damage to MSNBC. (“After Russert died and Brokaw appointed himself the custodian of the Russert legend, he began beating on Steve Capus and Jeff Zucker and Jeff Immelt that MSNBC was an embarrassment,” one source familiar with the inner workings of the newsroom has said.)

Is it possible that Russert saw in Olbermann what no other serious person did? Could Russert have actually considered Olbermann a jewel in the NBC News crown? Perhaps. But it would take a lot more for me to believe Russert was an “indefatigable cheerleader” for Olbermann than simply Olbermann’s claim that this was the case. After all, Olbermann fashioned himself as not simply a journalist but a modern-day Edward R. Murrow, which tells you everything you need to know about the scale of his self-deception and conceit.

The divorce between Keith Olbermann and MSNBC is no surprise. Mr. Olbermann is a notoriously difficult personality; he left on bad terms with ESPN, FOX sports, and now, for a second time, MSNBC.

Olbermann proved to be a ratings draw for MSNBC and helped it secure a solid second place among cable news networks — far behind FOX but still ahead of CNN. Yet higher ratings came at a high cost. Olbermann’s presence stained the journalistic reputation of not only MSNBC but also NBC News. After all, it was the home for, and gave a platform to, an individual who embodied liberalism at its most enraged, most extreme, and most irresponsible. Moreover, for a time Olbermann was not simply a commentator for MSNBC; he was also (with Chris Matthews) an anchor for its political coverage. Having Olbermann as one of the stars in NBC’s journalistic galaxy revealed its biases and also made them more pronounced.

One other thing is worth calling attention to — Olbermann’s statement, in his final broadcast, that Tim Russert was Olbermann’s “greatest protector and most indefatigable cheerleader.”

Since Tim died in 2008, it’s impossible to know whether he would agree with Olbermann’s characterization. But count me a skeptic.

We know Russert was himself an outstanding journalist, a man of impressive fairness who cared deeply about NBC’s reputation. It has also been widely reported that one of Russert’s best friends, Tom Brokaw, felt that Olbermann was doing significant damage to MSNBC. (“After Russert died and Brokaw appointed himself the custodian of the Russert legend, he began beating on Steve Capus and Jeff Zucker and Jeff Immelt that MSNBC was an embarrassment,” one source familiar with the inner workings of the newsroom has said.)

Is it possible that Russert saw in Olbermann what no other serious person did? Could Russert have actually considered Olbermann a jewel in the NBC News crown? Perhaps. But it would take a lot more for me to believe Russert was an “indefatigable cheerleader” for Olbermann than simply Olbermann’s claim that this was the case. After all, Olbermann fashioned himself as not simply a journalist but a modern-day Edward R. Murrow, which tells you everything you need to know about the scale of his self-deception and conceit.

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‘Loved and Were Loved, and Now We Lie’

Yesterday I quoted a line from a journalist who, in thoroughly politicizing the tragedy of this weekend’s shooting in Tucson, wrote that the “massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.”

The families and friends of the murdered victims might take exception with what “the important point” of the Tucson massacre is. For them, it’s not about manipulating the death of their loved ones to advance a political agenda; for them, it is about honoring the lives of the dead and the overwhelming grief that is now engulfing them.

If you want to see an absolutely heartbreaking interview that reminds us of the human cost of murderous rampages, watch this interview with John Green, the inconsolable father of the 9-year-old victim, Christina, who was gunned down in Tucson. It is an extraordinary and deeply affecting moment; Mr. Green showed tremendous grace in honoring the memory of his beloved daughter. He cried through parts of the interview, and so will you.

On Saturday night, while watching news stories about the shooting, I kept thinking about the victim’s families and the suddenness of the tragedy; of how they began their Saturday like any other Saturday until, because of the actions of a madman, their world came crashing down around them. The poet John McCrae wrote (in a very different context) words that stayed with me that night and since: “Short days ago; We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie.”

Christina Green, like the other victims, loved and was loved; and she is still loved. We may enter part of the Green’s world for a time and grieve with them — but soon, for us, life will go on. For them it will, too; but life will never, ever be the same. Their world has fractured and will never be fully repaired. For those who believe in prayer, this is one family (and not the only one) that deserves it.

(h/t: HotAir’s Ed Morrissey)

Yesterday I quoted a line from a journalist who, in thoroughly politicizing the tragedy of this weekend’s shooting in Tucson, wrote that the “massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.”

The families and friends of the murdered victims might take exception with what “the important point” of the Tucson massacre is. For them, it’s not about manipulating the death of their loved ones to advance a political agenda; for them, it is about honoring the lives of the dead and the overwhelming grief that is now engulfing them.

If you want to see an absolutely heartbreaking interview that reminds us of the human cost of murderous rampages, watch this interview with John Green, the inconsolable father of the 9-year-old victim, Christina, who was gunned down in Tucson. It is an extraordinary and deeply affecting moment; Mr. Green showed tremendous grace in honoring the memory of his beloved daughter. He cried through parts of the interview, and so will you.

On Saturday night, while watching news stories about the shooting, I kept thinking about the victim’s families and the suddenness of the tragedy; of how they began their Saturday like any other Saturday until, because of the actions of a madman, their world came crashing down around them. The poet John McCrae wrote (in a very different context) words that stayed with me that night and since: “Short days ago; We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie.”

Christina Green, like the other victims, loved and was loved; and she is still loved. We may enter part of the Green’s world for a time and grieve with them — but soon, for us, life will go on. For them it will, too; but life will never, ever be the same. Their world has fractured and will never be fully repaired. For those who believe in prayer, this is one family (and not the only one) that deserves it.

(h/t: HotAir’s Ed Morrissey)

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Morning Commentary

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

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Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

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Missed Opportunity in Assange Bail Request

As London’s Independent reports, Julian Assange was refused bail, despite this offer by some devoted fans:

Jemima Khan, the sister of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger all offered to stand as surety for Assange.

We understand the judge’s concerns that if Assange were released on bail, he might disappear again. Still, the risk was far outweighed by the benefit of having Khan, Loach, and Pilger behind bars.

Clearly, a missed opportunity!

As London’s Independent reports, Julian Assange was refused bail, despite this offer by some devoted fans:

Jemima Khan, the sister of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger all offered to stand as surety for Assange.

We understand the judge’s concerns that if Assange were released on bail, he might disappear again. Still, the risk was far outweighed by the benefit of having Khan, Loach, and Pilger behind bars.

Clearly, a missed opportunity!

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To Jennifer Rubin, The Fondest of Farewells

For the past three years, Jennifer Rubin has set this blog and this website afire with her breadth of knowledge, her love of the intricacies of politics, her passion for ideas and policy, and her commitment to principle. The living embodiment of the word “indefatigable,” Jen has labored daily from her home in suburban Virginia, writing early in the morning and late at night, on computer and Blackberry, all the while getting her two boys to school and back, and to Hebrew school and back, never missing a news story, never missing an op-ed column, reading everything and digesting everything and commenting on everything. She is a phenomenon, especially considering that for the first two decades of her working life, she was not a writer or a journalist but a lawyer specializing in labor issues who worked for Hollywood studios primarily.

On December 1, Jen will be leaving COMMENTARY, where she has also served as our contributing editor for the past year, to take up blogger’s residence at the Washington Post. It is a brilliant hire for them and a terrific loss for us. A noteworthy fact about Jen’s versatility is that, even considering the thousands of blog items (literally) she has written for us over the past three years, the best-read of all her COMMENTARY contributions was her recent long article, “California, There It Went,” a unique and powerful combination of memoir and elegy for the state she left to take up residence in her new East Coast home and begin her second career as a writer.

We’ll miss her, but we’ll keep reading her, as I expect you will too.

For the past three years, Jennifer Rubin has set this blog and this website afire with her breadth of knowledge, her love of the intricacies of politics, her passion for ideas and policy, and her commitment to principle. The living embodiment of the word “indefatigable,” Jen has labored daily from her home in suburban Virginia, writing early in the morning and late at night, on computer and Blackberry, all the while getting her two boys to school and back, and to Hebrew school and back, never missing a news story, never missing an op-ed column, reading everything and digesting everything and commenting on everything. She is a phenomenon, especially considering that for the first two decades of her working life, she was not a writer or a journalist but a lawyer specializing in labor issues who worked for Hollywood studios primarily.

On December 1, Jen will be leaving COMMENTARY, where she has also served as our contributing editor for the past year, to take up blogger’s residence at the Washington Post. It is a brilliant hire for them and a terrific loss for us. A noteworthy fact about Jen’s versatility is that, even considering the thousands of blog items (literally) she has written for us over the past three years, the best-read of all her COMMENTARY contributions was her recent long article, “California, There It Went,” a unique and powerful combination of memoir and elegy for the state she left to take up residence in her new East Coast home and begin her second career as a writer.

We’ll miss her, but we’ll keep reading her, as I expect you will too.

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Couric Too Tough for Palin?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

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Scooter Libby Has His Say

Quin Hillyer of the Washington Times provides essential reading: an interview with Scooter Libby — the first time Libby has gone on the record to discuss his conviction and President Bush’s refusal to grant him a complete pardon. It should be read in full to appreciate how ludicrous was the decision to prosecute and how shaky was the evidence that Libby intentionally lied about hearing Valerie Plame’s name from Tim Russert. The key graph:

Never mind that Mr. Russert’s own memory had proved flagrantly untrustworthy in a previous instance. Never mind that equally famous journalist Bob Woodward testified that his own notes of a near-simultaneous conversation with Mr. Libby indicated that Mr. Woodward might have said to Mr. Libby what Mr. Libby remembered being told by Mr. Russert — in other words, that the conversations easily and innocently could have become conflated in Mr. Libby’s mind. And never mind that Mr. Libby was never shown to have a motive for lying about his conversation with Mr. Russert.

When considered with another solidly reported piece on the topic, one is left mystified as to how he could have been convicted, let alone denied a pardon. In his masterful analysis, Stan Crock explains:

Even at the end of the long ordeal, poor memory — and irony — continued to played a role. Libby called White House counsel Fred Fielding as the clock was winding down on Bush’s term to ask if he could meet with the president to make his case for a pardon. Fielding mentioned he had received a call from a senator who had defended Libby. That surprised Libby, who knew the senator but had not considered him an ardent supporter. And Libby suggested it might have been another senator who Libby knew had spoken to Fielding.

Libby, who answered questions for this article, asked Fielding three times if he was sure it was the senator Fielding mentioned, and Fielding insisted that it was. But a little later, Fielding realized that he had made a mistake and that the senator Libby had mentioned was the one who had called. “Fred,” Libby said wryly, “you could be indicted.” The incident evidently didn’t convince Fielding that Libby may have made a similar memory error. Fielding didn’t return calls seeking comment.

After reading through these and contemporaneous accounts of the trial and investigation (and when we consider Patrick Fitzgerald’s overzealousness, revealed in his most recent trial flop), one cannot but agree that something went terribly wrong. Or, put more bluntly: “And to Fred Fielding, wherever you are: Shame, shame, shame!”

Quin Hillyer of the Washington Times provides essential reading: an interview with Scooter Libby — the first time Libby has gone on the record to discuss his conviction and President Bush’s refusal to grant him a complete pardon. It should be read in full to appreciate how ludicrous was the decision to prosecute and how shaky was the evidence that Libby intentionally lied about hearing Valerie Plame’s name from Tim Russert. The key graph:

Never mind that Mr. Russert’s own memory had proved flagrantly untrustworthy in a previous instance. Never mind that equally famous journalist Bob Woodward testified that his own notes of a near-simultaneous conversation with Mr. Libby indicated that Mr. Woodward might have said to Mr. Libby what Mr. Libby remembered being told by Mr. Russert — in other words, that the conversations easily and innocently could have become conflated in Mr. Libby’s mind. And never mind that Mr. Libby was never shown to have a motive for lying about his conversation with Mr. Russert.

When considered with another solidly reported piece on the topic, one is left mystified as to how he could have been convicted, let alone denied a pardon. In his masterful analysis, Stan Crock explains:

Even at the end of the long ordeal, poor memory — and irony — continued to played a role. Libby called White House counsel Fred Fielding as the clock was winding down on Bush’s term to ask if he could meet with the president to make his case for a pardon. Fielding mentioned he had received a call from a senator who had defended Libby. That surprised Libby, who knew the senator but had not considered him an ardent supporter. And Libby suggested it might have been another senator who Libby knew had spoken to Fielding.

Libby, who answered questions for this article, asked Fielding three times if he was sure it was the senator Fielding mentioned, and Fielding insisted that it was. But a little later, Fielding realized that he had made a mistake and that the senator Libby had mentioned was the one who had called. “Fred,” Libby said wryly, “you could be indicted.” The incident evidently didn’t convince Fielding that Libby may have made a similar memory error. Fielding didn’t return calls seeking comment.

After reading through these and contemporaneous accounts of the trial and investigation (and when we consider Patrick Fitzgerald’s overzealousness, revealed in his most recent trial flop), one cannot but agree that something went terribly wrong. Or, put more bluntly: “And to Fred Fielding, wherever you are: Shame, shame, shame!”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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The Times‘s Great War Correspondents

I often take issue with articles and columns in the New York Times, but it remains a great newspaper with many first-rate, fearless news-gatherers. One of them was severely wounded Saturday while accompanying U.S. troops in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar. Photographer Joao Silva stepped on a mine while on patrol. Thankfully, he survived. Medics administered immediate assistance, and he was evacuated by helicopter. Typical of his professionalism and dedication, he continued snapping pictures even after being hit. He will undergo his long-term recovery at Walter Reed hospital in Washington. (The story is here.)

Silva is hardly the only Times journalist who has placed himself in harm’s way in search of a story. Reporter Stephen Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban last year and freed in a raid which killed his interpreter. Farrell only had to spend four days with his captors; his colleague David Rohde spent seven months in Taliban captivity before escaping.

Their self-sacrifice has not been in vain. For all the many problems of the Times, its war reporting has been outstanding, thanks to the efforts not only of the individuals mentioned above but also many others such as Michael Gordon, Dexter Filkins, C.J. Chivers, John Burns, Alissa Rubin, and Carlotta Gall. They have been fearless truth-gatherers and have generally described the wars they have covered fairly and accurately. Certainly in Iraq, they provided a better picture of what was happening than the hopelessly rosy-eyed descriptions generated by U.S. military commanders from 2003 to 2006. In Afghanistan, I have also found their reporting generally to be on the money.

I wish Silva a speedy recovery and hope his colleagues remain safe when they are on the front lines — as they often are.

I often take issue with articles and columns in the New York Times, but it remains a great newspaper with many first-rate, fearless news-gatherers. One of them was severely wounded Saturday while accompanying U.S. troops in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar. Photographer Joao Silva stepped on a mine while on patrol. Thankfully, he survived. Medics administered immediate assistance, and he was evacuated by helicopter. Typical of his professionalism and dedication, he continued snapping pictures even after being hit. He will undergo his long-term recovery at Walter Reed hospital in Washington. (The story is here.)

Silva is hardly the only Times journalist who has placed himself in harm’s way in search of a story. Reporter Stephen Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban last year and freed in a raid which killed his interpreter. Farrell only had to spend four days with his captors; his colleague David Rohde spent seven months in Taliban captivity before escaping.

Their self-sacrifice has not been in vain. For all the many problems of the Times, its war reporting has been outstanding, thanks to the efforts not only of the individuals mentioned above but also many others such as Michael Gordon, Dexter Filkins, C.J. Chivers, John Burns, Alissa Rubin, and Carlotta Gall. They have been fearless truth-gatherers and have generally described the wars they have covered fairly and accurately. Certainly in Iraq, they provided a better picture of what was happening than the hopelessly rosy-eyed descriptions generated by U.S. military commanders from 2003 to 2006. In Afghanistan, I have also found their reporting generally to be on the money.

I wish Silva a speedy recovery and hope his colleagues remain safe when they are on the front lines — as they often are.

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‘Why Saigon Fell and Jerusalem Hasn’t’

In yesterday’s post, I described how newly declassified documents from the Vietnam War reveal the enormous strategic impact that America’s perceived credibility as an ally (or lack thereof) has on the Middle East. But the documents also teach another important lesson about the modern Middle East — the importance of Congress.

In 1973, the Yom Kippur War erupted even as the Vietnam War still raged. Thus Israel and South Vietnam wound up submitting very similar requests for military aid to Washington. As then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer noted in one internal discussion, “Many of the things [South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu] wants, Israel wants too. We have to make some decisions.”

Ultimately, those decisions heavily favored Israel: Jerusalem got most of what it wanted; Saigon did not. But that was not because either the Nixon administration or the subsequent Ford administration preferred Israel to South Vietnam. It was because Congress did.

In 1974, then-president Gerald Ford explained this bluntly to South Vietnam’s foreign minister, Vuong Van Bac. After pledging the administration’s full support, he qualified, “Our problem is not us, but on the Hill.”

Then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger echoed this in an internal discussion in 1975. Congress, he complained, had told him:

“You’ve got to give aid to Israel because they win their wars, but we can’t give aid to other countries that are losing their wars.” Well, on that goddamn theory it’s a wonder that the Soviets are not in Bonn already. On that theory the Nazis would have taken over the world.

Haaretz journalist Amir Oren summed the lesson up nicely:

Fortunately for Israel, Washington does not only consist of the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, but also Congress. Thanks to Israel’s power in Congress, it has fared better than other, smaller allies, like South Vietnam. In the absence of congressional support, they did not win the administration’s affection; this is why Saigon fell and Jerusalem hasn’t.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson few Israeli prime ministers seem to have learned. Because Israel’s Knesset has virtually no power over foreign affairs, Israeli leaders often fail to understand the crucial role that congressional support, or opposition, plays in American foreign affairs. They therefore focus exclusively on good relations with the administration, while ignoring Congress entirely.

That would be a bad mistake for any country. But it’s a particularly egregious mistake for a country that has traditionally enjoyed far more support in Congress than it has from even the friendliest administration.

Yet it isn’t only Israeli leaders who could benefit from studying this lesson: the newly released documents also provide a crucial reminder for American voters. Americans, of course, do understand the role of Congress. Nevertheless, there is sometimes a tendency to think that since foreign policy is primarily in the president’s domain, congressional votes should focus on domestic concerns.

But, in fact, as these documents show, Congress plays a vital role in foreign policy as well. The lesson is clear: if voters want a pro-Israel foreign policy, they must keep electing pro-Israel congressmen.

In yesterday’s post, I described how newly declassified documents from the Vietnam War reveal the enormous strategic impact that America’s perceived credibility as an ally (or lack thereof) has on the Middle East. But the documents also teach another important lesson about the modern Middle East — the importance of Congress.

In 1973, the Yom Kippur War erupted even as the Vietnam War still raged. Thus Israel and South Vietnam wound up submitting very similar requests for military aid to Washington. As then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer noted in one internal discussion, “Many of the things [South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu] wants, Israel wants too. We have to make some decisions.”

Ultimately, those decisions heavily favored Israel: Jerusalem got most of what it wanted; Saigon did not. But that was not because either the Nixon administration or the subsequent Ford administration preferred Israel to South Vietnam. It was because Congress did.

In 1974, then-president Gerald Ford explained this bluntly to South Vietnam’s foreign minister, Vuong Van Bac. After pledging the administration’s full support, he qualified, “Our problem is not us, but on the Hill.”

Then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger echoed this in an internal discussion in 1975. Congress, he complained, had told him:

“You’ve got to give aid to Israel because they win their wars, but we can’t give aid to other countries that are losing their wars.” Well, on that goddamn theory it’s a wonder that the Soviets are not in Bonn already. On that theory the Nazis would have taken over the world.

Haaretz journalist Amir Oren summed the lesson up nicely:

Fortunately for Israel, Washington does not only consist of the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, but also Congress. Thanks to Israel’s power in Congress, it has fared better than other, smaller allies, like South Vietnam. In the absence of congressional support, they did not win the administration’s affection; this is why Saigon fell and Jerusalem hasn’t.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson few Israeli prime ministers seem to have learned. Because Israel’s Knesset has virtually no power over foreign affairs, Israeli leaders often fail to understand the crucial role that congressional support, or opposition, plays in American foreign affairs. They therefore focus exclusively on good relations with the administration, while ignoring Congress entirely.

That would be a bad mistake for any country. But it’s a particularly egregious mistake for a country that has traditionally enjoyed far more support in Congress than it has from even the friendliest administration.

Yet it isn’t only Israeli leaders who could benefit from studying this lesson: the newly released documents also provide a crucial reminder for American voters. Americans, of course, do understand the role of Congress. Nevertheless, there is sometimes a tendency to think that since foreign policy is primarily in the president’s domain, congressional votes should focus on domestic concerns.

But, in fact, as these documents show, Congress plays a vital role in foreign policy as well. The lesson is clear: if voters want a pro-Israel foreign policy, they must keep electing pro-Israel congressmen.

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He’s Against the Special Interests

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

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RE: Shut Up, the Islamists Explained

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline “Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline “Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

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Why Mahmoud Abbas Cannot Make Peace

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

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RE: True Friends of Israel

Jeffrey Goldberg attended the Friends of Israel Initiative dinner. Good for him. However, his comments at the dinner and his posting afterward leave something to be desired.

First, he writes:

In my brief remarks at the dinner, I mentioned a prime strategy of the Israel-denial movement, which is to convince self-defined liberals and leftists that Zionism is incompatible with their understanding of the world. I hope Aznar’s group does a more vigorous job of recruiting pro-Israel leftists to its ranks (one of the organization’s high muckety-mucks jokingly suggested Fidel Castro as a board member), because this is a prime worry of mine, that the most liberal country in the Middle East is being abandoned by people who should be its natural allies.

Well I’m glad he’s come clean that the problem is on the left, but let’s be clear: the Israel-denial movement isn’t out to convince leftists — they are leftists. European socialists, the J Street gang, the signers of the Gaza 54 letter, the anti-Semites on U.S. campuses — the list goes on, and they all reside on the left. So let’s give up the fiction that the left is composed of innocents seduced by some shady delegitimizers. They are the delegitimizers.

Goldberg observes that Israel “is the safest and best place in the Middle East to be, among other things, a woman, a gay person, a journalist, and a dissident.” Yet he doesn’t quite get to the nub of the matter: the left’s usual sympathy for all these sorts of people suddenly and uniquely is muted when the Jewish state is involved. That’s more than anti-Israel sentiment; it’s anti-Semitism. Israel’s good deeds are unworthy of respect because, well, it’s the Jewish state. It is painfully obvious that Goldberg, as he is wont to do, pulls his punches with those on the left. For to go down that road would place him alongside the dreaded neocons, whom he routinely scorns.

Second, if the aim here is to rebuff the left, which routinely denies Israel the right to defend and investigate itself and cheers international bodies (like the UN) that excoriate the Jewish state, then why is Goldberg so enamored of J Street? It can’t have escaped his notice that the J Street gang was instrumental in drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense or that they cheer our participation in the UNHRC. Goldberg could certainly do something constructive by delivering the same speech he gave to the Friends of Israel to J Streeters.

Listen, any support for the Friends of Israel Initiative should be applauded. But if well-meaning liberals really want to help, they will clean their own house and stop soft-peddling criticism of the very people who scorn the diluted support afforded to the Jewish state by groups like this one.

Jeffrey Goldberg attended the Friends of Israel Initiative dinner. Good for him. However, his comments at the dinner and his posting afterward leave something to be desired.

First, he writes:

In my brief remarks at the dinner, I mentioned a prime strategy of the Israel-denial movement, which is to convince self-defined liberals and leftists that Zionism is incompatible with their understanding of the world. I hope Aznar’s group does a more vigorous job of recruiting pro-Israel leftists to its ranks (one of the organization’s high muckety-mucks jokingly suggested Fidel Castro as a board member), because this is a prime worry of mine, that the most liberal country in the Middle East is being abandoned by people who should be its natural allies.

Well I’m glad he’s come clean that the problem is on the left, but let’s be clear: the Israel-denial movement isn’t out to convince leftists — they are leftists. European socialists, the J Street gang, the signers of the Gaza 54 letter, the anti-Semites on U.S. campuses — the list goes on, and they all reside on the left. So let’s give up the fiction that the left is composed of innocents seduced by some shady delegitimizers. They are the delegitimizers.

Goldberg observes that Israel “is the safest and best place in the Middle East to be, among other things, a woman, a gay person, a journalist, and a dissident.” Yet he doesn’t quite get to the nub of the matter: the left’s usual sympathy for all these sorts of people suddenly and uniquely is muted when the Jewish state is involved. That’s more than anti-Israel sentiment; it’s anti-Semitism. Israel’s good deeds are unworthy of respect because, well, it’s the Jewish state. It is painfully obvious that Goldberg, as he is wont to do, pulls his punches with those on the left. For to go down that road would place him alongside the dreaded neocons, whom he routinely scorns.

Second, if the aim here is to rebuff the left, which routinely denies Israel the right to defend and investigate itself and cheers international bodies (like the UN) that excoriate the Jewish state, then why is Goldberg so enamored of J Street? It can’t have escaped his notice that the J Street gang was instrumental in drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense or that they cheer our participation in the UNHRC. Goldberg could certainly do something constructive by delivering the same speech he gave to the Friends of Israel to J Streeters.

Listen, any support for the Friends of Israel Initiative should be applauded. But if well-meaning liberals really want to help, they will clean their own house and stop soft-peddling criticism of the very people who scorn the diluted support afforded to the Jewish state by groups like this one.

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Sri Lanka’s Troubled Democracy

Sri Lanka has chosen a funny way to protest against claims that its democracy is waning.

Officials have impounded an issue of the Economist that features an editorial against Sri Lanka’s latest constitutional amendments. The editorial claims that the abolition of presidential term limits signals the Sri Lankan president is planning for a long stay in office and that another amendment expands the president’s powers and removes checks on the executive branch.

This apparent censorship is especially unfortunate given the magnitude of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s past accomplishments. In 2009, his government oversaw the end of a 26-year-old civil war. His steadfast refusal to negotiate with Tamil Tiger terrorists set an example for counterinsurgency success.

Mr. Rajapaksa lost some credibility earlier this year after he won the election but then court-martialed his opponent, former army chief Sarath Fonseka. This was especially damaging because the close election had forced candidates to appeal to the Tamil minority – a welcome development in repairing Sri Lankan unity.

Impounding the Economist isn’t the only instance where press freedom has been threatened in Sri Lanka. Among other encroachments on liberty in the last year: Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist critical of the government, disappeared and has yet to be found; the oppositional Lanka News Web has been blocked for more than a year by the country’s primary Internet provider; three other publications were blocked before the election; and the Sri Lankan government has turned to Chinese IT experts to learn how to block “offensive” websites. That efforts to stifle free speech have extended beyond domestic publications to the international media suggests growing impunity.

Already, Reporters Without Borders has listed Sri Lanka among its countries under surveillance, and Freedom House reports that since 2009, “official rhetoric toward critical journalists and outlets has grown more hostile, often equating any form of criticism with treason.”

Sri Lanka’s democracy was able to withstand a bloody civil war lasting more than a quarter century. It would be a tragic irony if it couldn’t survive peacetime.

Sri Lanka has chosen a funny way to protest against claims that its democracy is waning.

Officials have impounded an issue of the Economist that features an editorial against Sri Lanka’s latest constitutional amendments. The editorial claims that the abolition of presidential term limits signals the Sri Lankan president is planning for a long stay in office and that another amendment expands the president’s powers and removes checks on the executive branch.

This apparent censorship is especially unfortunate given the magnitude of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s past accomplishments. In 2009, his government oversaw the end of a 26-year-old civil war. His steadfast refusal to negotiate with Tamil Tiger terrorists set an example for counterinsurgency success.

Mr. Rajapaksa lost some credibility earlier this year after he won the election but then court-martialed his opponent, former army chief Sarath Fonseka. This was especially damaging because the close election had forced candidates to appeal to the Tamil minority – a welcome development in repairing Sri Lankan unity.

Impounding the Economist isn’t the only instance where press freedom has been threatened in Sri Lanka. Among other encroachments on liberty in the last year: Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist critical of the government, disappeared and has yet to be found; the oppositional Lanka News Web has been blocked for more than a year by the country’s primary Internet provider; three other publications were blocked before the election; and the Sri Lankan government has turned to Chinese IT experts to learn how to block “offensive” websites. That efforts to stifle free speech have extended beyond domestic publications to the international media suggests growing impunity.

Already, Reporters Without Borders has listed Sri Lanka among its countries under surveillance, and Freedom House reports that since 2009, “official rhetoric toward critical journalists and outlets has grown more hostile, often equating any form of criticism with treason.”

Sri Lanka’s democracy was able to withstand a bloody civil war lasting more than a quarter century. It would be a tragic irony if it couldn’t survive peacetime.

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Hezbollah’s “Soviet” Southern Lebanon

Michael J. Totten hits one out of the park today with his account of an interview with Jonathan Spyer, a journalist and research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya. Spyer, who fought with the IDF in Lebanon in 2006, is publishing a book on his recent visits to southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah enclave he describes to Totten as “a fanatical Iranian province.”

It’s a wide-ranging interview, but its core theme is the palpable totalitarianism of the civic atmosphere in southern Lebanon. The links to Iran are visible everywhere. Says Spyer:

You have to experience it to understand just how strange and extreme the situation actually is. Between Beirut and Tel Aviv there is this enclave of Iran, this strange dark kingdom. And I found it fascinating.

At the entrance to one of these towns, there’s an old piece of the South Lebanon Army’s armor, a T-55 tank I think. And Hezbollah put up this huge cardboard statue of Ayatollah Khomeini…

I also saw Iranian flags down there. That’s how blatant and obvious it all is.

Totten: You don’t see the Lebanese flag in the south.

Spyer: Right. Only the Hezbollah flag, the Amal flag, and the Iranian flag. It was a real eye-opener. I knew this already, but it’s something else to see it in person.

Spyer analogizes the feel of civil life across Lebanon’s political divide – the divide between the official government in Beirut and the Hezbollah enclave in the south – to the conditions in the former Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. He captures vividly and convincingly how the people look over their shoulders and fear the unseen hand in their daily lives. And he acknowledges that Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is more effectively totalitarian than the Iranian regime itself is today. (It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Hezbollah has achieved this while operating cheek-by-jowl with UNIFIL.)

The interview is an excellent read, and not just because I agree with Spyer’s assessments of Iranian intentions, the ethnic tensions of the Middle East, and the Oslo process. Totten, for his part, has done a superb job of juxtaposing illustrative photos with the text. As Spyer suggests, we may know many of these things already, but it’s something else to “see” them in person, through the eyes of a first-hand witness. Spyer is one I want to hear more from.

Michael J. Totten hits one out of the park today with his account of an interview with Jonathan Spyer, a journalist and research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya. Spyer, who fought with the IDF in Lebanon in 2006, is publishing a book on his recent visits to southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah enclave he describes to Totten as “a fanatical Iranian province.”

It’s a wide-ranging interview, but its core theme is the palpable totalitarianism of the civic atmosphere in southern Lebanon. The links to Iran are visible everywhere. Says Spyer:

You have to experience it to understand just how strange and extreme the situation actually is. Between Beirut and Tel Aviv there is this enclave of Iran, this strange dark kingdom. And I found it fascinating.

At the entrance to one of these towns, there’s an old piece of the South Lebanon Army’s armor, a T-55 tank I think. And Hezbollah put up this huge cardboard statue of Ayatollah Khomeini…

I also saw Iranian flags down there. That’s how blatant and obvious it all is.

Totten: You don’t see the Lebanese flag in the south.

Spyer: Right. Only the Hezbollah flag, the Amal flag, and the Iranian flag. It was a real eye-opener. I knew this already, but it’s something else to see it in person.

Spyer analogizes the feel of civil life across Lebanon’s political divide – the divide between the official government in Beirut and the Hezbollah enclave in the south – to the conditions in the former Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. He captures vividly and convincingly how the people look over their shoulders and fear the unseen hand in their daily lives. And he acknowledges that Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is more effectively totalitarian than the Iranian regime itself is today. (It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Hezbollah has achieved this while operating cheek-by-jowl with UNIFIL.)

The interview is an excellent read, and not just because I agree with Spyer’s assessments of Iranian intentions, the ethnic tensions of the Middle East, and the Oslo process. Totten, for his part, has done a superb job of juxtaposing illustrative photos with the text. As Spyer suggests, we may know many of these things already, but it’s something else to “see” them in person, through the eyes of a first-hand witness. Spyer is one I want to hear more from.

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Western Media Take a Pass on Palestinian Repression

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

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