Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maryland

They Sort of Did

Certainly it was not an entirely successful night for the “Yes, we can” forces, but with Missouri shifting to their column they have reason to be pleased. Yes, they lost California and New Jersey, but they won 13 states by my count. The arcane delegate allocation rules may give Obama more delegates for the night. It was not everything they hoped and the wave did not quite topple Clinton, but they probably have enough wins under their belts to keep their faithful together and march onto Virginia, Maryland and D.C. which may be fine delegate-hunting grounds for him.

Certainly it was not an entirely successful night for the “Yes, we can” forces, but with Missouri shifting to their column they have reason to be pleased. Yes, they lost California and New Jersey, but they won 13 states by my count. The arcane delegate allocation rules may give Obama more delegates for the night. It was not everything they hoped and the wave did not quite topple Clinton, but they probably have enough wins under their belts to keep their faithful together and march onto Virginia, Maryland and D.C. which may be fine delegate-hunting grounds for him.

Read Less

Looking Ahead To Tuesday And Beyond

As goes Nevada, so goes Maine. Yes, the delegates are non-binding, but it does show that Mitt Romney’s problem was not lack of organization, money or effort.

Elsewhere, there is good polling news for John McCain. A batch of Sunday McClatchy-MSNBC polls shows him ahead in California, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey by comfortable margins. He holds a 2 to 1 advantage over Romney in the latest national polls. He collected endorsements in Georgia and Massachusetts (a number of names were on Rudy’s list previously) on Saturday. Romney has been trying to suggest that the race will not end on Tuesday, but the delegate math and Romney’s chosen campaign locales may suggest otherwise.

If this plays out as expected on Tuesday, there will be plenty still for McCain to do. Fred Barnes ends his thoughtful column on what McCain might do after Tuesday by quoting Barry Goldwater’s advice (“Let’s grow up, conservatives”), but not everyone has finished with their temper tantrums. (Sometimes it is wise to put up one’s hand and, in effect, say “count me out” of the ranting.)

McCain took a nice step in the right direction this morning on Fox News Sunday with a sunny, poised performance. He evinced every intention of reaching out to conservatives and committed to vetoing any Democratic tax hike and to appointing judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, even though they might strike down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. (He had an amusing interchange with Hillary Clinton as well, as they both momentarily dispensed with their primary rivals and agreed they would have a spirited campaign. I’m sure Ann Coulter would be disappointed to see both agree what stark differences they would present.)

On the Democratic side, the proportional voting system in all states will lead to less decisive results on Tuesday. There are some signs that Barack Obama is making progress. He is within two points in California. He has narrowed the gap in national polls. Clinton, as the polls indicate, has an advantage in several states with large blocks of delegates. However, if Obama can win (or come close) in California and win in Illinois(where he leads comfortably), he will stay in the hunt and move on to friendlier territory in the following week’s contests in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

As goes Nevada, so goes Maine. Yes, the delegates are non-binding, but it does show that Mitt Romney’s problem was not lack of organization, money or effort.

Elsewhere, there is good polling news for John McCain. A batch of Sunday McClatchy-MSNBC polls shows him ahead in California, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey by comfortable margins. He holds a 2 to 1 advantage over Romney in the latest national polls. He collected endorsements in Georgia and Massachusetts (a number of names were on Rudy’s list previously) on Saturday. Romney has been trying to suggest that the race will not end on Tuesday, but the delegate math and Romney’s chosen campaign locales may suggest otherwise.

If this plays out as expected on Tuesday, there will be plenty still for McCain to do. Fred Barnes ends his thoughtful column on what McCain might do after Tuesday by quoting Barry Goldwater’s advice (“Let’s grow up, conservatives”), but not everyone has finished with their temper tantrums. (Sometimes it is wise to put up one’s hand and, in effect, say “count me out” of the ranting.)

McCain took a nice step in the right direction this morning on Fox News Sunday with a sunny, poised performance. He evinced every intention of reaching out to conservatives and committed to vetoing any Democratic tax hike and to appointing judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, even though they might strike down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. (He had an amusing interchange with Hillary Clinton as well, as they both momentarily dispensed with their primary rivals and agreed they would have a spirited campaign. I’m sure Ann Coulter would be disappointed to see both agree what stark differences they would present.)

On the Democratic side, the proportional voting system in all states will lead to less decisive results on Tuesday. There are some signs that Barack Obama is making progress. He is within two points in California. He has narrowed the gap in national polls. Clinton, as the polls indicate, has an advantage in several states with large blocks of delegates. However, if Obama can win (or come close) in California and win in Illinois(where he leads comfortably), he will stay in the hunt and move on to friendlier territory in the following week’s contests in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

Read Less

The Primary Follies

It’s too early to tell who either party’s nominee will be this year, but it’s not too early to say that the front-loading of the primary process has been a disaster for both parties—turning the primaries into a dizzying rollercoaster ride that has not helped the base or elites of either party much.

This year’s primaries not only started earlier than ever (in 2000, only Iowa voted on January 24th; this year six states had voted by that point), but were also pushed together far more tightly than in previous years. Most observers, and most of the party and state officials responsible for the change, expected the new calendar to shorten the process and hasten the selection of a nominee. “Cutting the length of the primary season by more than half by jamming the contests together raises the likelihood of a bandwagon developing for the candidate who wins the first few contests,” Karl Rove wrote in December, and “this would allow a candidate to sweep to victory in the subsequent contests that rapidly follow because all that voters will see is his (or her) face on the evening news and in the papers.” Expecting only the early states to matter, every state fought to stake out an early spot, which made the overcrowding all the worse.

But far from bringing about a quick decision, the process has left both parties contemplating the possibility of a brokered convention for the first time in many decades. The early states produced a surprising variety of winners—failing precisely to yield a bandwagon or momentum effect—and it is far from clear that the massive super-primary on February 5th will do much better. It increasingly looks like the later states, those that didn’t crowd the January calendar, and that therefore feared they would be left only to rubber stamp a settled matter, will turn out to play the truly pivotal role in both party’s contests. Virginia and Maryland suddenly look shrewd, if only by accident.

It is too soon to think about how to avoid such a fiasco in the future—we haven’t finished working through the fiasco just yet. But it’s not much too soon. In the Republican party, for instance, changing the primary process requires an arduous four-year rigmarole, which for the 2012 cycle would need to begin with this April’s meeting of the RNC’s rules committee. The Democrats are a little more flexible, but both parties would need the state legislatures to follow their lead, and that’s far from assured after this year’s apparent debacle.

All of which proves some old conservative maxims: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and if you try to fix it, don’t imagine you can predict how things will turn out.

It’s too early to tell who either party’s nominee will be this year, but it’s not too early to say that the front-loading of the primary process has been a disaster for both parties—turning the primaries into a dizzying rollercoaster ride that has not helped the base or elites of either party much.

This year’s primaries not only started earlier than ever (in 2000, only Iowa voted on January 24th; this year six states had voted by that point), but were also pushed together far more tightly than in previous years. Most observers, and most of the party and state officials responsible for the change, expected the new calendar to shorten the process and hasten the selection of a nominee. “Cutting the length of the primary season by more than half by jamming the contests together raises the likelihood of a bandwagon developing for the candidate who wins the first few contests,” Karl Rove wrote in December, and “this would allow a candidate to sweep to victory in the subsequent contests that rapidly follow because all that voters will see is his (or her) face on the evening news and in the papers.” Expecting only the early states to matter, every state fought to stake out an early spot, which made the overcrowding all the worse.

But far from bringing about a quick decision, the process has left both parties contemplating the possibility of a brokered convention for the first time in many decades. The early states produced a surprising variety of winners—failing precisely to yield a bandwagon or momentum effect—and it is far from clear that the massive super-primary on February 5th will do much better. It increasingly looks like the later states, those that didn’t crowd the January calendar, and that therefore feared they would be left only to rubber stamp a settled matter, will turn out to play the truly pivotal role in both party’s contests. Virginia and Maryland suddenly look shrewd, if only by accident.

It is too soon to think about how to avoid such a fiasco in the future—we haven’t finished working through the fiasco just yet. But it’s not much too soon. In the Republican party, for instance, changing the primary process requires an arduous four-year rigmarole, which for the 2012 cycle would need to begin with this April’s meeting of the RNC’s rules committee. The Democrats are a little more flexible, but both parties would need the state legislatures to follow their lead, and that’s far from assured after this year’s apparent debacle.

All of which proves some old conservative maxims: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and if you try to fix it, don’t imagine you can predict how things will turn out.

Read Less

Will The Other Kennedy Help?

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Does Senator Ted Kennedy’s Barack Obama endorsement matter? Well, unlike Maureen Dowd, I don’t think he needs the boost with upscale liberals pining for the second Camelot. However, to the extent organized labor, working-class voters more generally, and other prominent Democratic politicians take their cue from Kennedy, the impact could be significant. It would be a signal that even the stalwart establishment Democrats have had enough of the Bill/Hillary carnival and are ready to move on. Most important, Kennedy may be influential with those 796 super delegates, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic delegate total. That’s a lot of persuadable Democratic office holders and DNC officials.

Kennedy or no Kennedy, many have looked at the South Carolina totals and remarked, “Yeah, but he’s not going to win California.” That may be, and the demographics there likely favor Hillary. However, California, like all Democratic primaries, awards its delegates proportionally. So Obama still stands to gain a fair share of delegates. The same is true of Hillary-leaning states like New York and New Jersey. On February 5 Obama may be counting on Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and maybe even liberal Connecticut (all those Lamont voters).

Given all this, it would seem almost certain that the Democratic race will not be settled on February 5. We will then head on to states like Louisiana (February 9), Maryland and Virginia (February 12), Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Texas (March 4) ,and if the political junkies are lucky, maybe even Pennsylvania( April 22).

This may raise an interesting question for voters in my home state of Virginia, which does not require registration by party. As I and many others walk into the booth we will have a choice of which primary to vote in. It may be that the GOP race is far more settled than the Democratic race by then. Hmmm…

Read Less

UNhelpful in Annapolis

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

Read Less

ANNAPOLIS: Well, Knock Me Down With a Feather

From the New York Times, 1:07 pm:

A Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority police officers loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas fired their weapons to disperse protests against the Middle East peace gathering taking place in Annapolis, Md.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic group Hamas, huge crowds estimated at over 100,000 came out to protest the Annapolis meeting….A Hamas protester in Gaza, Asma Al-Fayoumi, 17, said: “There is a division among Palestinians. There are those after food, life, those that are materialistic, like Abbas, and there are those like us who are seeking life after death,” she said.

The large turnout in Gaza pleased her. “There are those who still enjoy good conscience,” she said.

From the New York Times, 1:07 pm:

A Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority police officers loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas fired their weapons to disperse protests against the Middle East peace gathering taking place in Annapolis, Md.

In Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamic group Hamas, huge crowds estimated at over 100,000 came out to protest the Annapolis meeting….A Hamas protester in Gaza, Asma Al-Fayoumi, 17, said: “There is a division among Palestinians. There are those after food, life, those that are materialistic, like Abbas, and there are those like us who are seeking life after death,” she said.

The large turnout in Gaza pleased her. “There are those who still enjoy good conscience,” she said.

Read Less

A Response to Andrew Sullivan

In my article “The Case for Bombing Iran” (COMMENTARY, June 2007), in my book World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, and in various public appearances (including a televised debate with Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek), I quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini as having said the following:

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

My source for this statement was Amir Taheri, the prolific Iranian-born journalist now living in London, who has also contributed a number of articles to COMMENTARY. Now, however, the Economist, relying on another Iranian-born writer, Shaul Bakhash of George Mason University, has alleged on its blog “Democracy in America” that Khomeini never said any such thing. “Someone,” says Mr. Bakhash, “should inform Mr. Podhoretz he is citing a non-existent statement.”

That “someone” has turned out to be Andrew Sullivan in his widely read blog, “The Daily Dish.” Linking to the Economist post, Sullivan accuses me of intellectual dishonesty for failing to admit that I have made an “error” in relying on a “bogus quotation” to bolster my argument that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it would not be deterred from using them by the fear of retaliation.

Read More

In my article “The Case for Bombing Iran” (COMMENTARY, June 2007), in my book World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, and in various public appearances (including a televised debate with Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek), I quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini as having said the following:

We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

My source for this statement was Amir Taheri, the prolific Iranian-born journalist now living in London, who has also contributed a number of articles to COMMENTARY. Now, however, the Economist, relying on another Iranian-born writer, Shaul Bakhash of George Mason University, has alleged on its blog “Democracy in America” that Khomeini never said any such thing. “Someone,” says Mr. Bakhash, “should inform Mr. Podhoretz he is citing a non-existent statement.”

That “someone” has turned out to be Andrew Sullivan in his widely read blog, “The Daily Dish.” Linking to the Economist post, Sullivan accuses me of intellectual dishonesty for failing to admit that I have made an “error” in relying on a “bogus quotation” to bolster my argument that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it would not be deterred from using them by the fear of retaliation.

I do not usually bother responding to Sullivan’s frequent attacks on me, which are fueled by the same shrill hysteria that, as has often been pointed out, deforms most of what he “dishes” out on a daily basis. But in this case I have decided to respond because, by linking to a sober source like the Economist, he may for a change seem credible.

The Economist concludes its piece by challenging Amir Taheri to produce “the original source for this quote.” In response to a query from me, Mr. Taheri has now met that challenge. He writes:

The quote can be found in several editions of Khomeini’s speeches and messages. Here is one edition:

Paymaha va Sokhanraniyha-yi Imam Khomeini (“Messages and Speeches of Imam Khomeini”) published by Nur Research and Publication Institute (Tehran, 1981).

The quote, along with many other passages, disappeared from several subsequent editions as the Islamic Republic tried to mobilize nationalistic feelings against Iraq, which had invaded Iran in 1980.

The practice of editing and even censoring Khomeini to suit the circumstances is widely known by Iranian scholars. This is how Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, the Director of the Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland and a specialist in Islamic censorship, states the problem: “Khumayni’s [sic] speeches are regularly published in fresh editions wherein new selections are made, certain references deleted, and various adjustments introduced depending on the state’s current preoccupation” (Persian Studies in North America, 1994).

In any case, Mr. Taheri continues in his letter to me:

Your real argument is that Khomeini is not an Iranian nationalist but a pan-Islamist and thus would not have been affected by ordinary nationalistic considerations, including the safety of any “motherland.” This is known to Iranians as a matter of fact. Khomeini opposed the use of the words mellat (“nation”) and melli (“national”), replacing them with Ummat (“the Islamic community”) and ummati (“pertaining to the Islamic community”).

Thus, Majlis Shuray e Melli (“The National Consultative Assembly”) was renamed by Khomeini as Majlis Shuray Islami (“Islamic Consultative Assembly”). He also replaced the Iranian national insignia of Lion and Sun with a stylized calligraphy of the word Allah.

Thus, too, when he returned to Tehran after sixteen years of exile, Khomeini was asked by a French journalist, who had accompanied him on the Air France plane from Paris, what he felt. “Nothing,” the ayatollah replied. He then rejected the suggestion by his welcoming committee to kiss the soil of Iran. That would have been sherk, which means associating something with Allah, the gravest of sins in Islam.

Finally, Mr. Taheri rightly observes:

What is at issue here is the exact nature of the Khomeinist regime. Is it a nationalistic power pursuing the usual goals of nations? Or is it a messianic power with an eschatological ideology and the pretension to conquer the world on behalf of “The One and Only True Faith”?

Khomeini built a good part of his case against the Shah by claiming that the latter was trying to force Iranians to worship Iran rather than Allah. The theme remains a leitmotif of Khomeinists even today. . . . Those who try to portray this regime as just another opportunistic power with a quixotic tendency do a grave disservice to a proper understanding of the challenge that the world faces.

But this is not new. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot also had their apologists who saw them as “nationalists” with “legitimate grievances.”

So much for the allegation that the Khomeini quotation is “non-existent.” But there is another quotation I have cited repeatedly in the course of showing why Iran would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation. This one is a statement by the supposedly moderate former President Rafsanjani:

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.

In chiding me for using this statement as well, all the Economist can come up with is the feeble objection that “some say Rafsanjani was misleadingly quoted.” Well, some also say that it is on the basis of a mistranslation that Ahmadinejad has been quoted as calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” It is true that Ahmadinejad’s declaration can be translated in other ways. Yet the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), in its own English edition, reported that “Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map.’”

Since the case I make both in my COMMENTARY article and in my book rests on much more than the two quotations from Khomeini and Rafsanjani, it would still stand even if those quotations were in fact “bogus” or “fabricated.” But the truth is that Khomeini and Rafsanjani did say what I said they said. Not that this will silence the growing number of foreign-policy establishmentarians who—having finally recognized that Iran’s nuclear program cannot be stopped by diplomacy and sanctions, but having ruled out military force even as a last resort—are now desperately trying to persuade us that “we can live” with an Iranian bomb. God help us all if the counsels of these apologists and appeasers disguised as “realists” should in the end prevail.

Read Less

Frank Rich’s Minstrels

In his most recent New York Times column excoriating Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Frank Rich wrote:

The “compassionate conservative” [President Bush] who turned the 2000 GOP convention into a minstrel show to prove his love of diversity will exit the political stage as the man who tilted American jurisprudence against Brown v. Board of Education. He leaves no black Republican behind him in either the House or Senate.

That there are so few black Republicans is hardly for President Bush’s—or the Republican Party’s—lack of trying. In 2006, the GOP ran several black candidates for major office. Former NFL star Lynn Swann ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania, and is now running for Congress. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, also ran for governor but lost (perhaps this is the reason why Rich only makes mention of the House and Senate, and not state-level offices). And in Maryland, former lieutenant governor Michael Steele ran for Senate and lost. At a 2002 gubernatorial debate, audience members allegedly rolled Oreo cookies on the floor to signify their disgust with a black man who would dare join the Republican Party. Granted, two of these three men ran for state, and not federal offices, but Rich’s point is to impute racism and “tokenism” onto Bush and the GOP.

To those who truly believe in the principles of the Civil Rights movement, the skin color of candidates should not matter. But this is something that obviously matters very much to Frank Rich—except, (or, perhaps, especially), when those black candidates are Republicans, and thus need to be defeated.

In his most recent New York Times column excoriating Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Frank Rich wrote:

The “compassionate conservative” [President Bush] who turned the 2000 GOP convention into a minstrel show to prove his love of diversity will exit the political stage as the man who tilted American jurisprudence against Brown v. Board of Education. He leaves no black Republican behind him in either the House or Senate.

That there are so few black Republicans is hardly for President Bush’s—or the Republican Party’s—lack of trying. In 2006, the GOP ran several black candidates for major office. Former NFL star Lynn Swann ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania, and is now running for Congress. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State, also ran for governor but lost (perhaps this is the reason why Rich only makes mention of the House and Senate, and not state-level offices). And in Maryland, former lieutenant governor Michael Steele ran for Senate and lost. At a 2002 gubernatorial debate, audience members allegedly rolled Oreo cookies on the floor to signify their disgust with a black man who would dare join the Republican Party. Granted, two of these three men ran for state, and not federal offices, but Rich’s point is to impute racism and “tokenism” onto Bush and the GOP.

To those who truly believe in the principles of the Civil Rights movement, the skin color of candidates should not matter. But this is something that obviously matters very much to Frank Rich—except, (or, perhaps, especially), when those black candidates are Republicans, and thus need to be defeated.

Read Less

The Peace Process World Tour

It is trite but necessary to note that if peace conferences led to peace, the Levant would be the most tranquil place on earth. There is a long list of cities and names associated with Arab-Israeli peace initiatives: the Rogers and Allon Plans after the Six Day war; the Geneva Conference in 1973; the Second Geneva Conference, which never ended up happening; the Madrid Conference in 1991; the Oslo Peace Process, inaugurated in 1993; the Hebron Agreement of 1997; the Wye River Memorandum in 1998; the Camp David Summit of 2000; the Taba Summit in 2001; the Beirut Summit in 2002; the formation of the Quartet and the issuance of the Road Map in 2003. Today, the next stop on the Peace process’s world tour has been announced: Annapolis, Maryland, sometime in November. The band is back together again.

The details on the Annapolis conference are sketchy, as there has been no confirmation of exactly when it is happening, who will be attending, what will be negotiated, or what is hoped to be accomplished. What has been announced is that Secretary Rice will emcee the event and President Bush will likely make an appearance; representatives from moderate Arab states will attend; and some kind of a joint statement of understanding between Israel and the Palestinians will be issued. Mahmoud Abbas told the Washington Post on Sunday that “I cannot really talk about the talks . . . because they are only a probing, not negotiations. We tackled all the sensitive issues like borders, refugees, settlements, Jerusalem and security . . . We have already established the teams that are drafting an agreement about these sensitive issues.” Abbas describes this agreement as “not a declaration of principles but a framework—a framework that deals with the principles of every element of the final-status issues.” (I have no idea what that means, either.)

Read More

It is trite but necessary to note that if peace conferences led to peace, the Levant would be the most tranquil place on earth. There is a long list of cities and names associated with Arab-Israeli peace initiatives: the Rogers and Allon Plans after the Six Day war; the Geneva Conference in 1973; the Second Geneva Conference, which never ended up happening; the Madrid Conference in 1991; the Oslo Peace Process, inaugurated in 1993; the Hebron Agreement of 1997; the Wye River Memorandum in 1998; the Camp David Summit of 2000; the Taba Summit in 2001; the Beirut Summit in 2002; the formation of the Quartet and the issuance of the Road Map in 2003. Today, the next stop on the Peace process’s world tour has been announced: Annapolis, Maryland, sometime in November. The band is back together again.

The details on the Annapolis conference are sketchy, as there has been no confirmation of exactly when it is happening, who will be attending, what will be negotiated, or what is hoped to be accomplished. What has been announced is that Secretary Rice will emcee the event and President Bush will likely make an appearance; representatives from moderate Arab states will attend; and some kind of a joint statement of understanding between Israel and the Palestinians will be issued. Mahmoud Abbas told the Washington Post on Sunday that “I cannot really talk about the talks . . . because they are only a probing, not negotiations. We tackled all the sensitive issues like borders, refugees, settlements, Jerusalem and security . . . We have already established the teams that are drafting an agreement about these sensitive issues.” Abbas describes this agreement as “not a declaration of principles but a framework—a framework that deals with the principles of every element of the final-status issues.” (I have no idea what that means, either.)

The conference is so wracked with internal contradictions that it will be a surprise to see it rise above the level of farce. No formal agreement is expected to be negotiated, yet Abbas has repeatedly said that he will bring whatever is decided to the Palestinian people for a referendum vote. Abbas says that under no circumstances will he form a unity government with Hamas, but that one of the basic Palestinian requirements is contiguity—he calls it “safe passage”—between the West Bank and Gaza. Rice concurs, saying that a Palestinian state must be inclusive of Gaza, ruled by the PA, and that Hamas will at some point have to choose if it is “prepared to be outside that consensus or not.” How does Rice propose ridding Gaza of Hamas? By holding another conference? Hamas remains violently intransigent on the matter of Israel’s right to exist, Fatah’s political legitimacy, and indeed on the fundamental question of Palestinian identity itself: jihad or coexistence. Hamas has never demonstrated an interest in or tolerance for the latter.

Meanwhile the Fatah security forces that the United States has invested itself so heavily in training have yet to demonstrate even the slightest competence in policing the West Bank. When was the last time anyone heard of a terror plot against Israel being disrupted by Fatah security services? I sympathize with the Bush administration’s desire to demonstrate leadership in the Middle East, but I’m afraid the upcoming conference will diminish, not enhance, the United States’ standing in the region.

Read Less

More on Moran

In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

Read More

In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

AIPAC, Moran said in his Tikkun interview, supports “domination, not healing. They feel that you acquire security through military force, through intimidation, even through occupation, when necessary, and that if you have people who are hostile toward you, it’s OK to kill them, rather than talk with them, negotiate with them, try to understand them, and ultimately try to love them.”

Where to begin? Perhaps with this point: the chief architects of the war to liberate Iraq— President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice—are not Jewish. They are not neoconservatives. And they are not and never have been under the power and sway of the “Jewish lobby.”

The reasons to go to war with Iraq were made clear publicly and repeatedly by the President and members of his administration. We believed, as did the rest of the world and every leading member of the Democratic Party, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD (it turns out he retained the capacity to build them once the sanctions regime fell apart). In addition, Saddam was the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East, having invaded two nations (Iran and Kuwait), incursions that were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people. He was among the most malevolent figures in modern times, having committed genocide against his own people. He defied sixteen U.N. resolutions over a dozen years. He was a supporter of terrorism. And he was a sworn enemy of America. Beyond all that, President Bush wanted to begin the difficult process of turning the Arab Middle East away from tyranny and toward liberty. If AIPAC never existed, the Iraq war would have commenced. Yet Mr. Moran insists that the role of a Jewish lobby played a decisive role in the United States’s going to war.

This assertion is not only risible, as anyone who worked in the Bush administration can tell you; it is also malicious. It perpetrates the anti-Semitic canard that “The Jews” and their lackeys are all-powerful, manipulative, and in the process of hijacking American foreign policy. Think dual loyalties and all that. (This calumny is now at a bookstore near you, in the form of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.)

I don’t know what lurks in the heart of James Moran. What I do know is that he seems quite eager to fan smoldering embers, with the purpose of igniting fires of division and hatred. It’s all very ugly stuff, and it ought to be condemned in the strongest terms.

Read Less

Looking for Linguists

Rowan Scarborough, formerly of the Washington Times, raises an important issue in the pages of his current employer, the Washington Examiner. It is the way that long-established security rules make it difficult for our intelligence agencies to hire analysts and operatives who know anything about important “target” countries.

He cites the example of Minoo Krauser, a native of Iran who now lives in Maryland, where she is married to a military officer. Although a U.S. citizen with fluency in Farsi—precisely what the intelligence community needs—she hasn’t heard anything back after applying to the FBI, CIA, and NSA. Those agencies, of course, get lots of applications and they don’t have to give any reason for turning prospective hires away.

But, whatever her individual merits, there is an overarching reason why someone like Krauser wouldn’t get a second look: She has ties to a hostile country. As Scarborough notes, “Intelligence experts say the fear is that an employee can be coerced into becoming a spy because of threats to family members abroad.” That’s a legitimate concern, but by being so worried about this type of potential security breach, we are setting ourselves up for a much more serious security crisis because we fail to understand the societies where terrorism breeds and weapons of mass destruction proliferate.

Hyphenated Americans are a great asset for our country. We should be doing much more to utilize Arab-Americans and Persian-Americans, in particular, to help us in the Global War on Terror. But in order to do that, someone will have to take the responsibility for modifying our onerous security clearance procedures, which virtually ensure that only those who know little about foreign countries are allowed to study them for the U.S. government.

Rowan Scarborough, formerly of the Washington Times, raises an important issue in the pages of his current employer, the Washington Examiner. It is the way that long-established security rules make it difficult for our intelligence agencies to hire analysts and operatives who know anything about important “target” countries.

He cites the example of Minoo Krauser, a native of Iran who now lives in Maryland, where she is married to a military officer. Although a U.S. citizen with fluency in Farsi—precisely what the intelligence community needs—she hasn’t heard anything back after applying to the FBI, CIA, and NSA. Those agencies, of course, get lots of applications and they don’t have to give any reason for turning prospective hires away.

But, whatever her individual merits, there is an overarching reason why someone like Krauser wouldn’t get a second look: She has ties to a hostile country. As Scarborough notes, “Intelligence experts say the fear is that an employee can be coerced into becoming a spy because of threats to family members abroad.” That’s a legitimate concern, but by being so worried about this type of potential security breach, we are setting ourselves up for a much more serious security crisis because we fail to understand the societies where terrorism breeds and weapons of mass destruction proliferate.

Hyphenated Americans are a great asset for our country. We should be doing much more to utilize Arab-Americans and Persian-Americans, in particular, to help us in the Global War on Terror. But in order to do that, someone will have to take the responsibility for modifying our onerous security clearance procedures, which virtually ensure that only those who know little about foreign countries are allowed to study them for the U.S. government.

Read Less

Do Most Muslims Support al Qaeda?

Do supporters of al Qaeda make up only a tiny fraction of the Muslim world? This is what we want to believe and what American leaders, from President Bush on down, have insisted since 9/11. So we have strained to ignore the Osama bin Laden T-shirts and other anecdotal evidence suggesting that the story might not be so simple. Now there are disquieting data from a survey released last month by the respected Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

The survey covered four Muslim countries—Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia—that are closely allied with the U.S. and that are, on average, slightly more liberal politically than the mean of Muslim countries. Many aspects of the poll’s findings are fascinating, starting with what it reveals about support for al Qaeda. (Please note, all numbers below are rounded.)

Respondents were given three choices by which to describe their feelings about al Qaeda. At one end they could say that they “oppose its attacks on Americans and do not share its attitudes toward the U.S.” At the opposite end they could say that they “support its attacks on Americans and share its attitudes toward the U.S.” Or they could chose a middle option, namely to say that they “oppose its attacks on Americans but share many of its attitudes toward the U.S.”

Read More

Do supporters of al Qaeda make up only a tiny fraction of the Muslim world? This is what we want to believe and what American leaders, from President Bush on down, have insisted since 9/11. So we have strained to ignore the Osama bin Laden T-shirts and other anecdotal evidence suggesting that the story might not be so simple. Now there are disquieting data from a survey released last month by the respected Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

The survey covered four Muslim countries—Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia—that are closely allied with the U.S. and that are, on average, slightly more liberal politically than the mean of Muslim countries. Many aspects of the poll’s findings are fascinating, starting with what it reveals about support for al Qaeda. (Please note, all numbers below are rounded.)

Respondents were given three choices by which to describe their feelings about al Qaeda. At one end they could say that they “oppose its attacks on Americans and do not share its attitudes toward the U.S.” At the opposite end they could say that they “support its attacks on Americans and share its attitudes toward the U.S.” Or they could chose a middle option, namely to say that they “oppose its attacks on Americans but share many of its attitudes toward the U.S.”

How did they respond? Twenty-six percent said they opposed al Qaeda’s attacks and its attitudes. Fifteen percent said they supported both the attacks and the attitudes behind them. Twenty-three percent said they opposed the attacks but tended to share the attitudes.

That 15 percent of the population of these U.S.-aligned countries supports al Qaeda’s deeds is disturbing, to say the least. Moreover, adding together those who support al Qaeda’s attacks and those who oppose the attacks but support its attitudes shows that, by a ratio of three to two, most respondents said they shared al Qaeda’s attitudes toward the U.S.

The arithmetically alert will have noticed that 26 plus 23 plus 15 does not add up to 100 percent. The explanation for this is that fully 37 percent of the polling sample did not respond to this question or said that they did not know what their opinion was. If we set aside this group entirely, then among the rest (that is, those who did respond one way or another) the proportion saying they supported al Qaeda’s deeds rises to 24 percent. And the combined proportion that supports al Qaeda’s attitudes toward the U.S. rises to 60 percent.

But other questions in the survey yielded contradictory information. When respondents were asked if they approve of attacks on civilians in the U.S., 78 percent disapproved, while only 5 percent approved and 8 percent said they had mixed feelings. As if this picture weren’t muddy enough, the highest rate of disapproval of such attacks—91 percent—was among Egyptians. But it was also Egyptians who registered the highest rates of sympathy for al Qaeda. Excluding those who didn’t answer, about 30 percent of Egyptians approved of al Qaeda’s “attacks on Americans” and about two-thirds said they shared many of its attitudes.

Steven Kull, the chief of the polling team, told me that he is striving to interpret these contradictory data through sophisticated statistical techniques and the observation of focus groups. Whatever the interpretation, it seems that attitudes in the Muslim world toward al Qaeda are more complicated than we would wish.

Read Less

Have We Become Complacent About Terrorism?

Now that Afghanistan is no longer a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, many Islamist attacks or attempted attacks have been mounted by individuals who have spent time in Pakistan. Here in the U.S. we have had a spate of recent cases.

On April 12, an Ohio man, Christopher Paul, was indicted on federal charges that he conspired to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. military bases overseas. According to prosecutors, he had been schooled in paramilitary techniques at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the 1990’s and later signed up with the terrorist group in Pakistan.

On April 2, a Maryland taxicab driver, Mahmud Faruq Brent al Mutazzim, pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist organization after admitting he attended training camps operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan in 2002 and was involved with that terrorist group from 2001 through 2005.

On January 8, Shahawar Matin Sira, a Pakistani immigrant living in New York, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in an unsuccessful plot to blow up a Manhattan subway station as revenge for alleged wartime abuses of Iraqis.

If we connect these three dots—and there are many more such dots overseas—we can see why Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, has been dickering with his British counterparts about curbing the travel of British citizens of Pakistani origin to the United States.

Read More

Now that Afghanistan is no longer a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, many Islamist attacks or attempted attacks have been mounted by individuals who have spent time in Pakistan. Here in the U.S. we have had a spate of recent cases.

On April 12, an Ohio man, Christopher Paul, was indicted on federal charges that he conspired to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. military bases overseas. According to prosecutors, he had been schooled in paramilitary techniques at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the 1990’s and later signed up with the terrorist group in Pakistan.

On April 2, a Maryland taxicab driver, Mahmud Faruq Brent al Mutazzim, pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist organization after admitting he attended training camps operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan in 2002 and was involved with that terrorist group from 2001 through 2005.

On January 8, Shahawar Matin Sira, a Pakistani immigrant living in New York, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in an unsuccessful plot to blow up a Manhattan subway station as revenge for alleged wartime abuses of Iraqis.

If we connect these three dots—and there are many more such dots overseas—we can see why Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, has been dickering with his British counterparts about curbing the travel of British citizens of Pakistani origin to the United States.

Today’s New York Times reports that all British citizens currently enjoy the right to enter the U.S. without a visa. There are approximately 800,000 Britons of Pakistani origin in the United Kingdom. Members of this subgroup have been disproportionately behind recent successful and thwarted terrorist plots in England.

But the effort to address the problems posed by a particular nationality raises delicate political issues. Thus, one proposal put forward by the U.S. would be “to single out Britons of Pakistani origin, requiring them to make visa applications for the United States.” The Times reports that, at the moment, “the British are resistant, fearing that restrictions on the group of Britons would incur a backlash from a population that has always sided with the Labor party.”

Will such political considerations trump the imperative of protecting our security? It is impossible to say. But strange things are taking place in American counterterrorism that raise all sorts of questions about whether, nearly six years after 9/11, we have become complacent.

In late April, the New York Times reported that under a system set up by the FBI in 2004, every time a terrorism suspect tries to buy a gun in the U.S., counterterrorism officials have three days to block the transaction. If the officials are successful in doing so, they can then find out what kind of gun was being sought and where exactly the transaction was to have taken place. But if they are unsuccessful, they are barred from gaining any further information.

To end this unsatisfactory state of affairs, the Justice Department has proposed legislation that would empower the attorney general to block gun purchases by buyers found “to be or [to] have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism.”

But what, one wonders, are these terrorism suspects doing roaming freely around? How many are there of them? Are they being monitored, or is it only when they try to buy a firearm that authorities even learn of their whereabouts?

That is not the end of it. In mid-March, the FBI issued a bulletin to local police departments noting that it was investigating foreigners, “some with ties to extremist groups,” who had been engaged in “recent suspicious activity” and been purchasing school buses and acquiring licenses to drive them. Facing public alarm as word of the advisory leaked out, the FBI issued a statement: “Parents and children have nothing to fear.”

Perhaps we do have nothing to fear. But I, for one, doubt that the FBI, an agency beset with profound internal problems, has a handle on counterterrorism. See my How Inept is the FBI? for a picture of some of their earlier failures.

As CNN’s Glenn Beck has put it, the FBI’s reassurances about the school buses are “kind of like saying, ‘Your drinking water is now laced with anthrax and Clorox, but don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’re going to be fine,’. . . [it] sounds a little like the Muslims who were taking flying lessons without learning how to land the plane. How can the FBI warn law enforcement about this and then tell us, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it,’”?

A very good question. Let’s hope that we do not have to wait for another September 11 for some answers.

Read Less

Law and Order

Did Scooter Libby write a letter to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in prison containing a coded hint that she should back up his story in court? So asks New York Times reporter Neil Lewis, referring to a curious passage in a missive Libby mailed to Miller in September 2005, ostensibly releasing her from her pledge not to reveal him as her source for the identity of CIA operative Valery Plame Wilson, but possibly suggesting something else entirely. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them,” Libby wrote.

Asks Lewis: “Was that phrase a simple attempt at a literary turn? Or was it a veiled plea for Ms. Miller to ‘turn’ with him and back up Mr. Libby’s account that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson’s identity to her?”

The trial of Scooter Libby on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, now entering its second week, may not clear up the mystery of the clustered Aspens, if it is a mystery at all. And it may not clear up the new mystery, raised yesterday by Libby’s crack defense team, of whether their client was being sacrificed by White House operatives to protect Karl Rove. But the investigation of Libby and the Plame leak has gone a considerable distance toward resolving another conundrum that has bedeviled our legal system for decades: namely, whether newsmen are above the law. When the Supreme Court refused to hear Judith Miller’s appeal of her imprisonment on contempt charges, it stood by its own precedent set in 1972 in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists, like all other citizens, are obliged to testify before grand juries regarding potentially criminal activities, including the criminal activities of their confidential sources. The “public . . . has a right to every man’s evidence,” ruled the Court.

A coalition of First Amendment activists and journalism associations is now lobbying Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision by passing legislation that would create a “reporter’s privilege.” With the Democrats in power in Congress, the prospects for success are now better than they have been for a generation. But at a moment when the country is facing mortal threats from Islamic fanatics and the press has been publishing counterterrorism secrets with reckless abandon, we need a reporter’s privilege as badly as the New York Times needs another Jayson Blair. As I argue in the February issue of COMMENTARY, such a law would manage to damage our national security and do violence to the First Amendment in a single swoop.

To help defray the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233

To help defray the even more considerable costs of prosecuting Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Did Scooter Libby write a letter to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in prison containing a coded hint that she should back up his story in court? So asks New York Times reporter Neil Lewis, referring to a curious passage in a missive Libby mailed to Miller in September 2005, ostensibly releasing her from her pledge not to reveal him as her source for the identity of CIA operative Valery Plame Wilson, but possibly suggesting something else entirely. “Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them,” Libby wrote.

Asks Lewis: “Was that phrase a simple attempt at a literary turn? Or was it a veiled plea for Ms. Miller to ‘turn’ with him and back up Mr. Libby’s account that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson’s identity to her?”

The trial of Scooter Libby on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, now entering its second week, may not clear up the mystery of the clustered Aspens, if it is a mystery at all. And it may not clear up the new mystery, raised yesterday by Libby’s crack defense team, of whether their client was being sacrificed by White House operatives to protect Karl Rove. But the investigation of Libby and the Plame leak has gone a considerable distance toward resolving another conundrum that has bedeviled our legal system for decades: namely, whether newsmen are above the law. When the Supreme Court refused to hear Judith Miller’s appeal of her imprisonment on contempt charges, it stood by its own precedent set in 1972 in Branzburg v. Hayes that journalists, like all other citizens, are obliged to testify before grand juries regarding potentially criminal activities, including the criminal activities of their confidential sources. The “public . . . has a right to every man’s evidence,” ruled the Court.

A coalition of First Amendment activists and journalism associations is now lobbying Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision by passing legislation that would create a “reporter’s privilege.” With the Democrats in power in Congress, the prospects for success are now better than they have been for a generation. But at a moment when the country is facing mortal threats from Islamic fanatics and the press has been publishing counterterrorism secrets with reckless abandon, we need a reporter’s privilege as badly as the New York Times needs another Jayson Blair. As I argue in the February issue of COMMENTARY, such a law would manage to damage our national security and do violence to the First Amendment in a single swoop.

To help defray the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233

To help defray the even more considerable costs of prosecuting Scooter Libby, send a check payable to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 6D37
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.