Commentary Magazine


Topic: keynote speaker

70 Years Ago Today

On August 3, 1940, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky — one of the towering figures in the history of Zionism — died in New York of a heart attack at age 59.

He had been in New York since March, pushing his plan for a Jewish army to fight Hitler, giving speeches that drew huge crowds at the Manhattan Center. On June 20 — under the headline “Jabotinsky Asks Jews for Army of 100,000 – Zionist Leader Calls for Men to Fight as a Unit — 4,000 Hear Plea” — the New York Times reported his words from the prior evening:

I challenge the Jews, wherever they are still free, to demand the right of fighting the giant rattlesnake, not just under British or French or Polish labels, but as a Jewish Army. Some shout that we only want others to fight, some whisper that a Jew only makes a good soldier when squeezed in between Gentile comrades. I challenge the Jewish youth to give them the lie.

The day before his death, he had contracted to publish his book on the Jews and the war. On August 3, he collapsed at an upstate New York training camp for the Zionist youth movement he created. His last words, reported in Shmuel Katz’s monumental biography, were “I am so tired.” Katz believed the real cause of death was “stress and overwork.”

More than 12,000 people stood on Second Avenue three days later outside his funeral services — conducted by three rabbis, with 200 cantors chanting and 750 people in attendance, including British, Polish, Czech, and other diplomats. As he had requested, there were no eulogies or speeches. The New York Times reported the next day that:

At the end of the chapel service, the coffin, draped with a Zionist flag, was carried from the funeral home, surrounded by an honor guard of 50 boys and girls. … Many men and women wept … a throng of 25,000 followed the cortege or lined the route. …

A motorcade of fifty cars and eight buses left for the New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I., where a military service was held.

Jabotinsky’s 1935 will stipulated that he should be buried “wherever death finds me and my remains may not be brought to Palestine except by the order of that country’s eventual Jewish Government” — reflecting his faith in the eventual re-creation of the Jewish state. But it was not until 1964 that his body was transferred to Mount Herzl for burial.

It was a hero’s homecoming. In New York, the casket was carried through Manhattan to Kennedy airport in a hearse drawn by four white horses, with Times Square renamed “Jabotinsky Square” for the day; in Paris, the French government and Jewish community held a ceremony as the plane landed there on its way to Israel. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recalled the reception in Israel:

I clearly remember the immense funeral procession in the streets of Tel Aviv, which was unparalleled; I remember the tremendous emotion, sometimes tearful, of students and admirers, headed by the Chairman of the Herut Movement, Menachem Begin, who accompanied the coffin. A huge audience … came to pay their respects to the great Zionist leader; a bit late but wholeheartedly.

In a 2009 Knesset speech, Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 1964 homecoming, which “made a tremendous impact on me.” On this day, we too should remember: read Midge Decter’s 1996 article (“one of those remarkable Eastern European Jews on whose like the world will never look again”); Hillel Halkin’s 2005 review (“one of the most intelligent, talented, honest, and likeable of all twentieth-century politicians”); Anne Lieberman’s extraordinary 2009 essay (which virtually channels Jabotinsky); and the resources at Jewish Ideas Daily.

On August 18, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., Americans for a Safe Israel will hold a special memorial at Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street, with Douglas Feith as the keynote speaker.

On August 3, 1940, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky — one of the towering figures in the history of Zionism — died in New York of a heart attack at age 59.

He had been in New York since March, pushing his plan for a Jewish army to fight Hitler, giving speeches that drew huge crowds at the Manhattan Center. On June 20 — under the headline “Jabotinsky Asks Jews for Army of 100,000 – Zionist Leader Calls for Men to Fight as a Unit — 4,000 Hear Plea” — the New York Times reported his words from the prior evening:

I challenge the Jews, wherever they are still free, to demand the right of fighting the giant rattlesnake, not just under British or French or Polish labels, but as a Jewish Army. Some shout that we only want others to fight, some whisper that a Jew only makes a good soldier when squeezed in between Gentile comrades. I challenge the Jewish youth to give them the lie.

The day before his death, he had contracted to publish his book on the Jews and the war. On August 3, he collapsed at an upstate New York training camp for the Zionist youth movement he created. His last words, reported in Shmuel Katz’s monumental biography, were “I am so tired.” Katz believed the real cause of death was “stress and overwork.”

More than 12,000 people stood on Second Avenue three days later outside his funeral services — conducted by three rabbis, with 200 cantors chanting and 750 people in attendance, including British, Polish, Czech, and other diplomats. As he had requested, there were no eulogies or speeches. The New York Times reported the next day that:

At the end of the chapel service, the coffin, draped with a Zionist flag, was carried from the funeral home, surrounded by an honor guard of 50 boys and girls. … Many men and women wept … a throng of 25,000 followed the cortege or lined the route. …

A motorcade of fifty cars and eight buses left for the New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, L.I., where a military service was held.

Jabotinsky’s 1935 will stipulated that he should be buried “wherever death finds me and my remains may not be brought to Palestine except by the order of that country’s eventual Jewish Government” — reflecting his faith in the eventual re-creation of the Jewish state. But it was not until 1964 that his body was transferred to Mount Herzl for burial.

It was a hero’s homecoming. In New York, the casket was carried through Manhattan to Kennedy airport in a hearse drawn by four white horses, with Times Square renamed “Jabotinsky Square” for the day; in Paris, the French government and Jewish community held a ceremony as the plane landed there on its way to Israel. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recalled the reception in Israel:

I clearly remember the immense funeral procession in the streets of Tel Aviv, which was unparalleled; I remember the tremendous emotion, sometimes tearful, of students and admirers, headed by the Chairman of the Herut Movement, Menachem Begin, who accompanied the coffin. A huge audience … came to pay their respects to the great Zionist leader; a bit late but wholeheartedly.

In a 2009 Knesset speech, Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 1964 homecoming, which “made a tremendous impact on me.” On this day, we too should remember: read Midge Decter’s 1996 article (“one of those remarkable Eastern European Jews on whose like the world will never look again”); Hillel Halkin’s 2005 review (“one of the most intelligent, talented, honest, and likeable of all twentieth-century politicians”); Anne Lieberman’s extraordinary 2009 essay (which virtually channels Jabotinsky); and the resources at Jewish Ideas Daily.

On August 18, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., Americans for a Safe Israel will hold a special memorial at Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street, with Douglas Feith as the keynote speaker.

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Does Sestak Agree with His J Street Backers?

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) — and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.'”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) — and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.'”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

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Will J Street Protest Anti-Zionists at the Nation and on the Streets of New York?

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

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Jimmy Carter: Man of the People

It’s no small feat for a regular Joe to gain access to Yasser Arafat’s tomb, located as it is in the West Bank. Yet private U.S. citizen Jimmy Carter was last seen silently laying a wreath of red roses on the terrorist’s grave. Carter’s trip director told reporters: “He and Mrs. Carter and his son Jeff wanted to pay their respects to President Arafat.” Mission accomplished! Even Barack Obama’s call for dialogue with our enemies was confined to the living.

Citizen Carter has more ambitious plans still. “I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet,” he said. This guy thinks big. I’m not even sure that an American President could “find a way to circumvent” the laws of the sovereign nation of which he’s a guest. But this Carter fellow, who insists he’s there as a plain old American citizen, just like you and me? He’s looking for an angle. If this guy had only been in a position to solve the Middle East crisis, I bet things would be much different today.

But who am I kidding? He’s just Joe Sixpack on vacation. It’s not as if he’ll be a keynote speaker at the 2008 Democratic convention or anything. If he was, he could work wonders. Not only does his family respect Arafat—Carter says they like Obama, too. A regular guy who’s able to do so much could really sway people with an endorsement like that.

It’s no small feat for a regular Joe to gain access to Yasser Arafat’s tomb, located as it is in the West Bank. Yet private U.S. citizen Jimmy Carter was last seen silently laying a wreath of red roses on the terrorist’s grave. Carter’s trip director told reporters: “He and Mrs. Carter and his son Jeff wanted to pay their respects to President Arafat.” Mission accomplished! Even Barack Obama’s call for dialogue with our enemies was confined to the living.

Citizen Carter has more ambitious plans still. “I haven’t been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that. I don’t know yet,” he said. This guy thinks big. I’m not even sure that an American President could “find a way to circumvent” the laws of the sovereign nation of which he’s a guest. But this Carter fellow, who insists he’s there as a plain old American citizen, just like you and me? He’s looking for an angle. If this guy had only been in a position to solve the Middle East crisis, I bet things would be much different today.

But who am I kidding? He’s just Joe Sixpack on vacation. It’s not as if he’ll be a keynote speaker at the 2008 Democratic convention or anything. If he was, he could work wonders. Not only does his family respect Arafat—Carter says they like Obama, too. A regular guy who’s able to do so much could really sway people with an endorsement like that.

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Roger Clemens

Among the many baseball players named in last month’s Mitchell Report as steroid users, one name stood out in particular: Roger Clemens. According to the report, sports trainer Brian McNamee first injected Clemens with Winstrol in 1998, and later injected him with testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), and either Sustanon or Deca-Durabolin in 2000 and 2001. In Clemens’ career, these seasons stand out statistically. After the alleged 1998 injections, Clemens won his next fourteen decisions, blossoming from a middling 6-6 record to a 20-6 Cy Young Award-winning finish. Meanwhile, during the 2001 season, Clemens won 20 of his first 21 decisions, becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to do so and locking up another Cy Young Award at the ripe-for-professional-sports age of 39.

Following the release of the Mitchell Report, Clemens played the denial game on multiple fronts, releasing statements through his lawyer and on YouTube; sitting for an interview with 60 Minutes; and holding a special press conference in Texas this afternoon. In a country that prizes an innocent-until-proven-guilty mentality, these unremarkable denials were sufficient for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, which moved to retain Clemens as the keynote speaker for its upcoming convention; Clemens will discuss—of all topics—physical fitness. “Unless there is some concrete evidence he is guilty or if the media circus would keep him from coming . . . it would be unfair of us not to let him come,” said Association President Jim Long.

Short of a leaking syringe, it’s hard to imagine any evidence against Clemens being more “concrete” that the details contained in the Mitchell Report; these include the type of steroids Clemens used, the time frame in which they were used, the means through which they were acquired, and the means through which they were injected. Moreover, Clemens’ alibi reeks: Clemens claims that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and painkillers, not steroids—an assertion that sounds awfully similar to Barry Bonds’ claim that his own trainer gave him flaxseed oil, not “the cream.” Finally, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte—Clemens’ workout buddy whom McNamee also named in the Mitchell Report—conceded that McNamee injected him with HGH, thus boosting McNamee’s credibility.

The true urgency of the steroids issue in baseball arises from youngsters’ propensity to idolize star athletes by wearing their heroes’ uniform numbers, mimicking their pitching motions, and aspiring to their physiques. For this reason, it is unconscionable that Texas’ high school baseball coaches would continue heralding Roger Clemens in light of the Mitchell Report’s findings. Perhaps recognizing the dangerous message this sends to young baseball players, Congress’ House Oversight Committee wisely intervened on Friday, inviting Clemens, Pettitte, and McNamee to testify under oath on January 16th. Before Texas coaches relay Clemens’ keynote address on fitness to their players, let’s hope they gather their team to watch Clemens squirm on C-Span. When he sits before Congress, Clemens’ status as a baseball god will likely die. These coaches must ensure that Clemens’ rapid fall from grace is purposeful.

Among the many baseball players named in last month’s Mitchell Report as steroid users, one name stood out in particular: Roger Clemens. According to the report, sports trainer Brian McNamee first injected Clemens with Winstrol in 1998, and later injected him with testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), and either Sustanon or Deca-Durabolin in 2000 and 2001. In Clemens’ career, these seasons stand out statistically. After the alleged 1998 injections, Clemens won his next fourteen decisions, blossoming from a middling 6-6 record to a 20-6 Cy Young Award-winning finish. Meanwhile, during the 2001 season, Clemens won 20 of his first 21 decisions, becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to do so and locking up another Cy Young Award at the ripe-for-professional-sports age of 39.

Following the release of the Mitchell Report, Clemens played the denial game on multiple fronts, releasing statements through his lawyer and on YouTube; sitting for an interview with 60 Minutes; and holding a special press conference in Texas this afternoon. In a country that prizes an innocent-until-proven-guilty mentality, these unremarkable denials were sufficient for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, which moved to retain Clemens as the keynote speaker for its upcoming convention; Clemens will discuss—of all topics—physical fitness. “Unless there is some concrete evidence he is guilty or if the media circus would keep him from coming . . . it would be unfair of us not to let him come,” said Association President Jim Long.

Short of a leaking syringe, it’s hard to imagine any evidence against Clemens being more “concrete” that the details contained in the Mitchell Report; these include the type of steroids Clemens used, the time frame in which they were used, the means through which they were acquired, and the means through which they were injected. Moreover, Clemens’ alibi reeks: Clemens claims that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and painkillers, not steroids—an assertion that sounds awfully similar to Barry Bonds’ claim that his own trainer gave him flaxseed oil, not “the cream.” Finally, Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte—Clemens’ workout buddy whom McNamee also named in the Mitchell Report—conceded that McNamee injected him with HGH, thus boosting McNamee’s credibility.

The true urgency of the steroids issue in baseball arises from youngsters’ propensity to idolize star athletes by wearing their heroes’ uniform numbers, mimicking their pitching motions, and aspiring to their physiques. For this reason, it is unconscionable that Texas’ high school baseball coaches would continue heralding Roger Clemens in light of the Mitchell Report’s findings. Perhaps recognizing the dangerous message this sends to young baseball players, Congress’ House Oversight Committee wisely intervened on Friday, inviting Clemens, Pettitte, and McNamee to testify under oath on January 16th. Before Texas coaches relay Clemens’ keynote address on fitness to their players, let’s hope they gather their team to watch Clemens squirm on C-Span. When he sits before Congress, Clemens’ status as a baseball god will likely die. These coaches must ensure that Clemens’ rapid fall from grace is purposeful.

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Pipes v. Gershman

My idea of uncomfortable is having one of my heroes attack another. That is how I felt when I read Daniel Pipes’s charge that Carl Gershman was among “government figures [who] wrong-headedly insist on consorting with the enemy.” Pipes is a prolific Middle East expert and indefatigable opponent of jihadism (as well as a longtime contributor to COMMENTARY) from whose writings I have profited greatly. Gershman is the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (and another valued contributor).

Pipes’s case against Gershman is that the NED supports the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and that Gershman himself spoke at its 2004 annual conference.

For all my admiration of Pipes, I think his attack on Gershman is off-base. For starters, Gershman is not a “government figure.” The NED is funded by Congress, but it is privately incorporated, and Gershman is chosen by its board of mostly private citizens, not by any branch of the government. This is not a nit, because the NED’s effectiveness depends on this modest margin of separation from the government.

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My idea of uncomfortable is having one of my heroes attack another. That is how I felt when I read Daniel Pipes’s charge that Carl Gershman was among “government figures [who] wrong-headedly insist on consorting with the enemy.” Pipes is a prolific Middle East expert and indefatigable opponent of jihadism (as well as a longtime contributor to COMMENTARY) from whose writings I have profited greatly. Gershman is the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (and another valued contributor).

Pipes’s case against Gershman is that the NED supports the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and that Gershman himself spoke at its 2004 annual conference.

For all my admiration of Pipes, I think his attack on Gershman is off-base. For starters, Gershman is not a “government figure.” The NED is funded by Congress, but it is privately incorporated, and Gershman is chosen by its board of mostly private citizens, not by any branch of the government. This is not a nit, because the NED’s effectiveness depends on this modest margin of separation from the government.

More importantly, I don’t buy Pipes’s take on the CSID or his criticism of Gershman for involvement with it. I myself am a member of CSID and spoke at its 2006 conference. In addition to speaking, I attended the entire weekend. I found it an interesting mix. It included Islamists or Islamist-sympathizers who called themselves democrats. It also included liberals whose democratic credentials were not in question.

Its keynote speaker was Laith Kubha of Gershman’s NED (the same man who was for a time spokesman for the Iraqi government). His speech was remarkable. Its main theme? How Iraqis, instead of focusing on what America did wrong in Iraq, should confront what they themselves did wrong. It was certainly not what one would expect to hear at a jihadist gathering, and it went over well. I share Pipes’s suspicion of Islamists who profess democracy. But I don’t expect genuine Muslim democrats to blackball Islamists who call themselves democrats. I expect them to argue with them. Which is exactly what was going on at the CSID conference. (Not to mention that the CSID puts the likes of me on its programs.)

Pipes has argued cogently that the solution to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. (I don’t like the term “moderate Islam,” but that is for another occasion.) The CSID looked to me precisely like an arena in which “moderates” were confronting Islamists. What sense does it make to anathematize that as “consorting with the enemy?”

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