Commentary Magazine


Topic: mayor

Democrats Fail to Notice the Latest Writing on the Wall

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

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Exporting the Imam’s Message

A sharp-eyed reader e-mails me, observing that, in a way, Obama has already “spoken” on the Ground Zero mosque. She writes that Obama’s “decision to send Imam Rauf on a mission to explain the U.S. to the world is Obama’s comment.” Indeed.

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, along similar lines, wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton this week, which reads, in part:

Unfortunately, Imam Feisal’s message, unless he has had a change of heart, is that the United States deserved what she got in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and was, in essence, “an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a 60 Minutes interview, when asked why he considered the United States an accessory, Imam Feisal replied, “Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.” If our State Department gives its imprimatur to this trip, it will also put its imprimatur on the message delivered.

Furthermore, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is currently in the center of a major controversy concerning the building of a mosque, the Cordoba Initiative, near Ground Zero, the World Trade Center site in New York City. Regardless of one’s opinion of Imam Feisal, or whether the opponents of a mosque near Ground Zero are right or wrong, Imam Feisal has become a symbol of the conflict between Islam and many Americans. Everywhere the imam goes, he will be the symbol of conflict and not of harmony. Even if Imam Feisal does not raise the issue of the Cordoba Mosque, his very presence will raise the issue. In other words, we will be responsible for having exported the debate to the Middle East and the messenger will be the message.

But it is that message which the screeching Ground Zero mosque promoters would rather conceal than illuminate. In a must read column, Cliff May explains that, from Mayor Bloomberg to Peter Beinart (whose intellect cannot bear to be exposed to contrary views, exploding in ad hominem attacks and demanding that his closed universe of semi-informed rhetoric be protected from May’s e-mails), the proponents of the project insist that we all shut up because they really don’t want to face the inconvenient truth of the the views of the imam they are defending:

Among Rauf’s Huffingtonian statements: that American policy was “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11, and that Osama bin Laden was “made in America.”

Rauf will not say whether he views Hamas — which intentionally slaughters civilians, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, and advocates the extermination of both Israelis and Jews — as a terrorist organization.

He explains his reticence by saying that “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” No, actually, it’s quite simple: Whatever your grievances, you do not express them by murdering other people’s children. Not accepting that proposition does not make you a terrorist. But it disqualifies you as an anti-terrorist and identifies you as an anti-anti-terrorist.

Hardly the messenger of “peace,” Rauf is precisely the wrong sort of messenger to send frolicking abroad:

Rauf also has ties to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), organizations created by the Muslim Brotherhood and named by the U.S. Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case.

A note on the Muslim Brotherhood: It is not a college fraternity. Its founder, Hasan al-Banna, famously said: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” In 1991, the Muslim Brotherhood’s American leadership prepared an internal memorandum describing its mission as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

May argues that what is at work here is the left’s familiar inability to make moral distinctions other than “reflexively regard[ing] those from the Third World as virtuous and those from the West as steeped in blame, shame, and guilt.” And that is very hard to do when you actually examine whether the objects of such affection are virtuous or, rather, are the face of evil in the modern world. No wonder Beinart wants to put his fingers in his ears and hum.

A sharp-eyed reader e-mails me, observing that, in a way, Obama has already “spoken” on the Ground Zero mosque. She writes that Obama’s “decision to send Imam Rauf on a mission to explain the U.S. to the world is Obama’s comment.” Indeed.

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, along similar lines, wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton this week, which reads, in part:

Unfortunately, Imam Feisal’s message, unless he has had a change of heart, is that the United States deserved what she got in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and was, in essence, “an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a 60 Minutes interview, when asked why he considered the United States an accessory, Imam Feisal replied, “Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.” If our State Department gives its imprimatur to this trip, it will also put its imprimatur on the message delivered.

Furthermore, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is currently in the center of a major controversy concerning the building of a mosque, the Cordoba Initiative, near Ground Zero, the World Trade Center site in New York City. Regardless of one’s opinion of Imam Feisal, or whether the opponents of a mosque near Ground Zero are right or wrong, Imam Feisal has become a symbol of the conflict between Islam and many Americans. Everywhere the imam goes, he will be the symbol of conflict and not of harmony. Even if Imam Feisal does not raise the issue of the Cordoba Mosque, his very presence will raise the issue. In other words, we will be responsible for having exported the debate to the Middle East and the messenger will be the message.

But it is that message which the screeching Ground Zero mosque promoters would rather conceal than illuminate. In a must read column, Cliff May explains that, from Mayor Bloomberg to Peter Beinart (whose intellect cannot bear to be exposed to contrary views, exploding in ad hominem attacks and demanding that his closed universe of semi-informed rhetoric be protected from May’s e-mails), the proponents of the project insist that we all shut up because they really don’t want to face the inconvenient truth of the the views of the imam they are defending:

Among Rauf’s Huffingtonian statements: that American policy was “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11, and that Osama bin Laden was “made in America.”

Rauf will not say whether he views Hamas — which intentionally slaughters civilians, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, and advocates the extermination of both Israelis and Jews — as a terrorist organization.

He explains his reticence by saying that “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” No, actually, it’s quite simple: Whatever your grievances, you do not express them by murdering other people’s children. Not accepting that proposition does not make you a terrorist. But it disqualifies you as an anti-terrorist and identifies you as an anti-anti-terrorist.

Hardly the messenger of “peace,” Rauf is precisely the wrong sort of messenger to send frolicking abroad:

Rauf also has ties to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), organizations created by the Muslim Brotherhood and named by the U.S. Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case.

A note on the Muslim Brotherhood: It is not a college fraternity. Its founder, Hasan al-Banna, famously said: “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” In 1991, the Muslim Brotherhood’s American leadership prepared an internal memorandum describing its mission as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

May argues that what is at work here is the left’s familiar inability to make moral distinctions other than “reflexively regard[ing] those from the Third World as virtuous and those from the West as steeped in blame, shame, and guilt.” And that is very hard to do when you actually examine whether the objects of such affection are virtuous or, rather, are the face of evil in the modern world. No wonder Beinart wants to put his fingers in his ears and hum.

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J Street Defends Ground Zero Mosque

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

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The Bad Old Days

Many people (and more than a few journalists) live in a continual present. The current recession or riot or oil spill or whatever is judged in a vacuum. So one of the most important functions of history is to give you a sense of perspective.

With Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel in very hot water, with an assortment of their former fellow members of Congress currently or recently in jail, it’s easy to think of the current era as peculiarly corrupt. An amusing article in today’s New York Times shows that it is not. Indeed, it’s not even close. When William Hale Thompson, mayor of Chicago during much of the Prohibition era, died in 1944, his safe-deposit boxes were found to contain no less than $1.5 million in cash (worth at least ten times that in today’s dollars). Convicted former Congressman William Jefferson’s $90,000 worth of cash in the freezer is chump change by comparison.

But even the Prohibition era pales by comparison with New York in the late 1860′s. All branches of government in both the city and the state were corrupt. An English magazine wrote in 1868 that “in New York there is a custom among litigants, as peculiar to that city, it is to be hoped, as it is supreme within it, of retaining a judge as well as a lawyer.” The great New York diarist (and lawyer) George Templeton Strong, wrote in his diary in 1870, “The Supreme Court [in New York state, the trial court, not the court of last appeal] is our Cloaca Maxima, with lawyers for its rats. But my simile does that rodent an injustice, for the rat is a remarkably clean animal.”

But it wasn’t just individuals who were corrupt at that time. New York government was institutionally corrupt. How bad was it? Consider this. In 1868, the New York State Legislature actually legalized bribery. Not in so many words, of course. Instead the law passed that year maintained that, “No conviction [for bribery] shall be had under this act on the testimony of the other party to the offense, unless such evidence is corroborated in its material parts by other evidence.” In that pre-electronic age, that meant that as long as the public official took the bribe in cash and in private, he was safe from prosecution. After the fall of the Tweed Ring, as honesty and probity swept — briefly — through New York’s halls of government like measles through the third grade, a stiff law against bribery was put into the state constitution where it remains, safe from legislators.

As long as people are human, there will be corruption where there are vast sums of money to tempt. But it was worse, far worse, in the not so distant past.

Many people (and more than a few journalists) live in a continual present. The current recession or riot or oil spill or whatever is judged in a vacuum. So one of the most important functions of history is to give you a sense of perspective.

With Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel in very hot water, with an assortment of their former fellow members of Congress currently or recently in jail, it’s easy to think of the current era as peculiarly corrupt. An amusing article in today’s New York Times shows that it is not. Indeed, it’s not even close. When William Hale Thompson, mayor of Chicago during much of the Prohibition era, died in 1944, his safe-deposit boxes were found to contain no less than $1.5 million in cash (worth at least ten times that in today’s dollars). Convicted former Congressman William Jefferson’s $90,000 worth of cash in the freezer is chump change by comparison.

But even the Prohibition era pales by comparison with New York in the late 1860′s. All branches of government in both the city and the state were corrupt. An English magazine wrote in 1868 that “in New York there is a custom among litigants, as peculiar to that city, it is to be hoped, as it is supreme within it, of retaining a judge as well as a lawyer.” The great New York diarist (and lawyer) George Templeton Strong, wrote in his diary in 1870, “The Supreme Court [in New York state, the trial court, not the court of last appeal] is our Cloaca Maxima, with lawyers for its rats. But my simile does that rodent an injustice, for the rat is a remarkably clean animal.”

But it wasn’t just individuals who were corrupt at that time. New York government was institutionally corrupt. How bad was it? Consider this. In 1868, the New York State Legislature actually legalized bribery. Not in so many words, of course. Instead the law passed that year maintained that, “No conviction [for bribery] shall be had under this act on the testimony of the other party to the offense, unless such evidence is corroborated in its material parts by other evidence.” In that pre-electronic age, that meant that as long as the public official took the bribe in cash and in private, he was safe from prosecution. After the fall of the Tweed Ring, as honesty and probity swept — briefly — through New York’s halls of government like measles through the third grade, a stiff law against bribery was put into the state constitution where it remains, safe from legislators.

As long as people are human, there will be corruption where there are vast sums of money to tempt. But it was worse, far worse, in the not so distant past.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

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Changing the Default Reaction to Obama

Paul Rubin (no relation) writes that, with regard to Katrina:

President George W. Bush and the federal government were limited in what they could do. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wanted to take command of disaster relief on the day before landfall, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused. Federal response was hindered because the law gave first authority to state and local authorities.

State and local efforts—particularly in New Orleans, and Louisiana more broadly—interfered with what actions the federal government could actually take. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was late in ordering an evacuation and did not allow the use of school buses for evacuation, which could have saved hundreds of lives.

In contrast, Rubin notes: “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on federal offshore territory. The federal government has primary responsibility for handling the situation, while state and local governments remain limited in what they can do.” He explains, however, that local authorities “believe that the federal government is undermining their efforts.” Obama and his team have refused to waive the Jones Act and has hassled Gov. Jindal about deploying barges to skim oil.

While the Obama team’s response has been arguably worse that the Bush response to Katrina, Rubin points out, the press criticism of Obama is only now intensifying:

Now Mr. Obama has much more power than did Mr. Bush, but the federal response is ineffective and often stands in the way of those in the best position to know what to do. It is only in the last week or two that the mainstream press has voiced any criticism of Mr. Obama.

This is because the media’s default position for Mr. Bush was “Bush is wrong,” and it sought stories aimed at justifying this belief. For Mr. Obama the media’s default is “Obama is right,” and it takes a powerful set of facts to move it away from this assumption.

The danger for Obama is that the default is changing. It may not be “Obama is wrong” quite yet. But it’s getting there. At the very least, it is “Obama is under siege because the public thinks he’s wrong.” That’s progress, considering the mainstream media’s investment in Obama’s success.

Paul Rubin (no relation) writes that, with regard to Katrina:

President George W. Bush and the federal government were limited in what they could do. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wanted to take command of disaster relief on the day before landfall, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused. Federal response was hindered because the law gave first authority to state and local authorities.

State and local efforts—particularly in New Orleans, and Louisiana more broadly—interfered with what actions the federal government could actually take. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was late in ordering an evacuation and did not allow the use of school buses for evacuation, which could have saved hundreds of lives.

In contrast, Rubin notes: “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on federal offshore territory. The federal government has primary responsibility for handling the situation, while state and local governments remain limited in what they can do.” He explains, however, that local authorities “believe that the federal government is undermining their efforts.” Obama and his team have refused to waive the Jones Act and has hassled Gov. Jindal about deploying barges to skim oil.

While the Obama team’s response has been arguably worse that the Bush response to Katrina, Rubin points out, the press criticism of Obama is only now intensifying:

Now Mr. Obama has much more power than did Mr. Bush, but the federal response is ineffective and often stands in the way of those in the best position to know what to do. It is only in the last week or two that the mainstream press has voiced any criticism of Mr. Obama.

This is because the media’s default position for Mr. Bush was “Bush is wrong,” and it sought stories aimed at justifying this belief. For Mr. Obama the media’s default is “Obama is right,” and it takes a powerful set of facts to move it away from this assumption.

The danger for Obama is that the default is changing. It may not be “Obama is wrong” quite yet. But it’s getting there. At the very least, it is “Obama is under siege because the public thinks he’s wrong.” That’s progress, considering the mainstream media’s investment in Obama’s success.

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Jerry Brown Shocked to Discover 24/7 News Environment

Jerry Brown made waves last week playing the Nazi card against Meg Whitman. (“It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”) It took a while, but he’s come up with his excuse:

You don’t think you’re at a press conference or that you’re publishing an official record. I got the message. I can’t really ever say anything just musing in my mind. But it really does mean that politicians are always very controlled and not very spontaneous in their communications.

OK, he was governor in the 1970s, but since then he’s been mayor and state attorney general. You’d think he’d be a bit more “with it” and not sound as put out as Obama did, who sounded Luddite-like when he groused, “With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Like so many politicians, Brown seems not at all sorry for what he said, only that he was caught by the 24/7 news environment. He can share his woes with Helen Thomas and Bob Etheridge.

Jerry Brown made waves last week playing the Nazi card against Meg Whitman. (“It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”) It took a while, but he’s come up with his excuse:

You don’t think you’re at a press conference or that you’re publishing an official record. I got the message. I can’t really ever say anything just musing in my mind. But it really does mean that politicians are always very controlled and not very spontaneous in their communications.

OK, he was governor in the 1970s, but since then he’s been mayor and state attorney general. You’d think he’d be a bit more “with it” and not sound as put out as Obama did, who sounded Luddite-like when he groused, “With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

Like so many politicians, Brown seems not at all sorry for what he said, only that he was caught by the 24/7 news environment. He can share his woes with Helen Thomas and Bob Etheridge.

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Obama’s Problem Isn’t Leadership — It’s Liberal Policy

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

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Colombia’s Presidential Election Is a U.S. Victory

As usually happens because of the global obsession with the actions of one tiny state in the Middle East, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has become so all-encompassing that it is obscuring other important bits of news. Like what just happened in Colombia — another important American ally that receives its share of opprobrium from the left (although, of course, nothing compared to the vilification of Israel).

Colombia just held a presidential election. Polls had shown a neck-and-neck race between former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and the loopy former Green Party mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus (who sports an Amish-style beard). It appeared that a big upset could be brewing with the defeat of President Alvaro Uribe’s handpicked successor — a man who was almost as closely associated as the outgoing president with the increasingly successful battle against Marxist rebels (the FARC) and narco-traffickers.

It turned out, however, that the outcome wasn’t that close. Santos got 46.5 percent of the vote, and Mockus, only 21.5 percent. Santos still fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off, but there seems little prospect of Mockus winning in the second round. This was undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping failures of preelection polling since a 1936 Literary Digest survey predicted that Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt with 57 percent of the vote. (FDR actually got won more than 60 percent.)

While pollsters sift their methodology or maybe simply go off to commit hara-kiri, let me just note that this is a big victory not only for the people of Colombia but also for the United States. We are now virtually assured of having a pro-American leader in Bogota, who will be interested in continuing to work closely with us to combat the baleful influence of the Hugo Chavez regime in neighboring Venezuela, which is in bed not only with FARC and the drug traffickers but also with Iran, Hezbollah, and other unsavory characters. It would be nice if Congress repaid the support of the Colombians by finally passing the long-delayed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord. But no doubt the labor unions (to which the Obama administration appears to be in thrall) will continue to cast aspersions on Colombia’s considerable democratic achievement in order to disguise their protectionist agenda.

As usually happens because of the global obsession with the actions of one tiny state in the Middle East, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has become so all-encompassing that it is obscuring other important bits of news. Like what just happened in Colombia — another important American ally that receives its share of opprobrium from the left (although, of course, nothing compared to the vilification of Israel).

Colombia just held a presidential election. Polls had shown a neck-and-neck race between former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and the loopy former Green Party mayor of Bogota, Antanas Mockus (who sports an Amish-style beard). It appeared that a big upset could be brewing with the defeat of President Alvaro Uribe’s handpicked successor — a man who was almost as closely associated as the outgoing president with the increasingly successful battle against Marxist rebels (the FARC) and narco-traffickers.

It turned out, however, that the outcome wasn’t that close. Santos got 46.5 percent of the vote, and Mockus, only 21.5 percent. Santos still fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off, but there seems little prospect of Mockus winning in the second round. This was undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping failures of preelection polling since a 1936 Literary Digest survey predicted that Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt with 57 percent of the vote. (FDR actually got won more than 60 percent.)

While pollsters sift their methodology or maybe simply go off to commit hara-kiri, let me just note that this is a big victory not only for the people of Colombia but also for the United States. We are now virtually assured of having a pro-American leader in Bogota, who will be interested in continuing to work closely with us to combat the baleful influence of the Hugo Chavez regime in neighboring Venezuela, which is in bed not only with FARC and the drug traffickers but also with Iran, Hezbollah, and other unsavory characters. It would be nice if Congress repaid the support of the Colombians by finally passing the long-delayed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Accord. But no doubt the labor unions (to which the Obama administration appears to be in thrall) will continue to cast aspersions on Colombia’s considerable democratic achievement in order to disguise their protectionist agenda.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.’”

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.’”

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RE: The Real Lindsay

Jason, your post brings to mind one of the most blistering paragraphs of William F. Buckley’s The Unmaking of a Mayor, his account of his failed 1965 mayoral bid against Lindsay (and Abe Beame).

A modern Justine could, in New York City, wake up in the morning in a room she shares with her unemployed husband and two children, crowd into a subway in which she is hardly able to breathe, disembark at Grand Central and take a crosstown bus which takes twenty minutes to go the ten blocks to her textile loft, work a full day and receive her paycheck from which a sizable deduction is withdrawn in taxes and union fees, return via the same ordeal, prepare supper for her family and tune up the radio to full blast to shield the children from the gamy denunciations her nextdoor neighbor is hurling at her husband, walk a few blocks past hideous buildings to the neighborhood park to breathe a little fresh air, and fall into a coughing fit as the sulphur dioxides excite her latent asthma, go home, and on the way, lose her handbag to a purse-snatcher, sit down to oversee her son’s homework only to trip over the fact that he doesn’t really know the alphabet even though he had his fourteenth birthday yesterday, which he spent in the company of a well-known pusher. She hauls off and smacks him, but he dodges and she bangs her head against the table. The ambulance is slow in coming and at the hospital there is no doctor in attendance. An intern finally materializes and sticks her with a shot of morphine, and she dozes off to sleep. And dreams of John Lindsay.

Jason, your post brings to mind one of the most blistering paragraphs of William F. Buckley’s The Unmaking of a Mayor, his account of his failed 1965 mayoral bid against Lindsay (and Abe Beame).

A modern Justine could, in New York City, wake up in the morning in a room she shares with her unemployed husband and two children, crowd into a subway in which she is hardly able to breathe, disembark at Grand Central and take a crosstown bus which takes twenty minutes to go the ten blocks to her textile loft, work a full day and receive her paycheck from which a sizable deduction is withdrawn in taxes and union fees, return via the same ordeal, prepare supper for her family and tune up the radio to full blast to shield the children from the gamy denunciations her nextdoor neighbor is hurling at her husband, walk a few blocks past hideous buildings to the neighborhood park to breathe a little fresh air, and fall into a coughing fit as the sulphur dioxides excite her latent asthma, go home, and on the way, lose her handbag to a purse-snatcher, sit down to oversee her son’s homework only to trip over the fact that he doesn’t really know the alphabet even though he had his fourteenth birthday yesterday, which he spent in the company of a well-known pusher. She hauls off and smacks him, but he dodges and she bangs her head against the table. The ambulance is slow in coming and at the hospital there is no doctor in attendance. An intern finally materializes and sticks her with a shot of morphine, and she dozes off to sleep. And dreams of John Lindsay.

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The Real Lindsay

A new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, a new book, and a new documentary (to air again on PBS May 12) comprise a joint project with the apparent aim of refurbishing the tarnished reputation of John Lindsay, who presided over the rapid decline of New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This attempted revisionism is reminiscent of the obituaries and press tributes that came Lindsay’s way on the occasion of his passing in December 2000, as the very media that created and nurtured Lindsay would, at the time of his death, seek to put the best possible face on a political career that ranged from the mediocre to the disastrous. How deep in the tank for Lindsay were the city’s leading media outlets? Ken Auletta, in The Streets Were Paved with Gold, his study of how New York nearly went bankrupt in the 1970s, wrote:

The paper that thinks of itself as the city’s conscience — The New York Times — abdicated. … The editorial page editors of both [the Times and the then-liberal New York Post] were too close to Lindsay, serving as advisers. They were not only politically but ideologically coopted. They supported the city’s tax and spending policies. Instead of viewing what the city was doing as harshly as they would Defense Department cost overruns, they permitted their liberal ideology to sway their judgment.

In a telling anecdote in Fit to Print, a biography of former Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, author Joseph Goulden quotes a reporter named Douglas Robinson who witnessed something extraordinary on election night 1965: Rosenthal and deputy metropolitan editor, Arthur Gelb, “were dancing up and down as the returns came in showing a victory for Lindsay. ‘We won! We won!’ they were shouting.”

Of course, there are limits to what even the most accomplished revisionist can do with a record like Lindsay’s, and the Times, straining to find praise in an editorial the week of Lindsay’s death, was forced to acknowledge the realities of life under Lindsay:

There was continuing labor unrest, fiscal problems, rising taxes and crime, a tripling of the welfare rolls. During his tenure … the white middle and working classes felt increasingly alienated, especially when the mayor tried to build housing for poor blacks in the mostly Jewish, middle-class section of Forest Hills. … He even gets much of the legitimate blame for the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. Quite the indictment, all around.

Lindsay was an especially unloved figure in the city’s Jewish community, reviled by outer-borough Jews who blamed him for the city’s skyrocketing crime rate and his administration’s pandering to militants in minority communities.

As noted by sociologist Jonathan Rieder in Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism, when Lindsay ran for re-election in 1969, his share of the Jewish vote totaled between 30 and 36 percent in Canarsie’s most liberal areas and considerably less in other parts of what at the time was a quintessentially lower-middle-class neighborhood.

One of Rieder’s interviewees summed up the feelings of his friends and neighbors: “It was under John Lindsay,” he said, “that the Jewish community in New York suffered its greatest decline.”

A new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, a new book, and a new documentary (to air again on PBS May 12) comprise a joint project with the apparent aim of refurbishing the tarnished reputation of John Lindsay, who presided over the rapid decline of New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This attempted revisionism is reminiscent of the obituaries and press tributes that came Lindsay’s way on the occasion of his passing in December 2000, as the very media that created and nurtured Lindsay would, at the time of his death, seek to put the best possible face on a political career that ranged from the mediocre to the disastrous. How deep in the tank for Lindsay were the city’s leading media outlets? Ken Auletta, in The Streets Were Paved with Gold, his study of how New York nearly went bankrupt in the 1970s, wrote:

The paper that thinks of itself as the city’s conscience — The New York Times — abdicated. … The editorial page editors of both [the Times and the then-liberal New York Post] were too close to Lindsay, serving as advisers. They were not only politically but ideologically coopted. They supported the city’s tax and spending policies. Instead of viewing what the city was doing as harshly as they would Defense Department cost overruns, they permitted their liberal ideology to sway their judgment.

In a telling anecdote in Fit to Print, a biography of former Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, author Joseph Goulden quotes a reporter named Douglas Robinson who witnessed something extraordinary on election night 1965: Rosenthal and deputy metropolitan editor, Arthur Gelb, “were dancing up and down as the returns came in showing a victory for Lindsay. ‘We won! We won!’ they were shouting.”

Of course, there are limits to what even the most accomplished revisionist can do with a record like Lindsay’s, and the Times, straining to find praise in an editorial the week of Lindsay’s death, was forced to acknowledge the realities of life under Lindsay:

There was continuing labor unrest, fiscal problems, rising taxes and crime, a tripling of the welfare rolls. During his tenure … the white middle and working classes felt increasingly alienated, especially when the mayor tried to build housing for poor blacks in the mostly Jewish, middle-class section of Forest Hills. … He even gets much of the legitimate blame for the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. Quite the indictment, all around.

Lindsay was an especially unloved figure in the city’s Jewish community, reviled by outer-borough Jews who blamed him for the city’s skyrocketing crime rate and his administration’s pandering to militants in minority communities.

As noted by sociologist Jonathan Rieder in Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism, when Lindsay ran for re-election in 1969, his share of the Jewish vote totaled between 30 and 36 percent in Canarsie’s most liberal areas and considerably less in other parts of what at the time was a quintessentially lower-middle-class neighborhood.

One of Rieder’s interviewees summed up the feelings of his friends and neighbors: “It was under John Lindsay,” he said, “that the Jewish community in New York suffered its greatest decline.”

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Anthony Julius’s Trials of the Diaspora

In the New York Times Book Review, Harold Bloom reviews Anthony Julius’s monumental new book, Trials of the Diaspora. It is a cover review — an indication of the book’s importance — and a uniformly favorable one: a “strong, somber book” reflecting “extraordinary moral strength.” But even those complimentary terms, from one of America’s leading literary critics, do not begin to convey the scope and magnitude of Julius’s achievement.

The book’s subtitle is A History of Anti-Semitism in England, which itself understates the significance of the book, since the book covers aspects of the psychology and sociology of anti-Semitism that extend far beyond a single country’s experience. Julius has provided probably the most in-depth discussion of the “blood libel” in any volume meant for general readers; and without understanding the blood libel it is impossible to understand the literary power of Shakespeare’s Shylock or Dickens’s Fagin — and without understanding the power of those literary portrayals, one cannot understand modern English anti-Semitism. The literary analysis of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this book is masterful, but even more significant is the connections Julius makes from literature to culture to politics.

Julius is one of England’s most prominent lawyers, best known in America for his representation of Deborah Lipstadt in the libel action that Holocaust denier David Irving brought against her. He also represented Ariel Sharon in connection with the Independent’s anti-Semitic cartoon of Sharon eating a Palestinian child (itself an allusion to the blood libel); he represented the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) against London’s then mayor, Ken Livingstone; both Haifa University and Hebrew University against the Association of University Teachers (AUT); and Israeli universities and Jewish academics against the National Association of Teachers, among other actions — all of which has given him a perhaps unique understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism in England. He is also a literary critic with a gift for a telling phrase, such as his description of certain Jewish ideologists as “proud to be ashamed they are Jews.”

Julius is particularly eloquent on two matters: first, the sheer surreality and incoherence of anti-Semitism:

The Holocaust should have altogether put paid to anti-Semitism. It should have rebutted once and for all the principal anti-Semitic fantasy of malign Jewish power; it should have satiated the appetite of the most murderous anti-Semites for Jewish death. And yet instead it precipitated new anti-Semitic versions or tropes: (a) Holocaust denial, (b) the characterizing of Zionism as an avatar of Nazism, and (c) the cluster of allegations that the Jews are exploiting the Holocaust in support of false compensation claims, the defense of Israeli policies, the defense of Zionism, etc. Many Arab and Muslim anti-Semites somewhat promiscuously embrace all three tropes – denying the Holocaust, praising Hitler, and representing Israel as the successor to the Nazi state.

And second: the enduring power throughout history and into the present of even a surreal and incoherent view of a small people.

Julius acknowledges the need for nuance and judgment in evaluating anti-Semitic sentiment at any particular historical point in time, and the unemotional discussion that characterizes his book makes his conclusion about the present particularly chilling:

Trials of the Diaspora has been written across a period of rising violence and abuse directed at English Jews. Of the present conjuncture, then, my provisional judgment is that it is quite bad, and might get worse. Certainly, it would seem that the closed season on Jews is over.

This is a very important book.

In the New York Times Book Review, Harold Bloom reviews Anthony Julius’s monumental new book, Trials of the Diaspora. It is a cover review — an indication of the book’s importance — and a uniformly favorable one: a “strong, somber book” reflecting “extraordinary moral strength.” But even those complimentary terms, from one of America’s leading literary critics, do not begin to convey the scope and magnitude of Julius’s achievement.

The book’s subtitle is A History of Anti-Semitism in England, which itself understates the significance of the book, since the book covers aspects of the psychology and sociology of anti-Semitism that extend far beyond a single country’s experience. Julius has provided probably the most in-depth discussion of the “blood libel” in any volume meant for general readers; and without understanding the blood libel it is impossible to understand the literary power of Shakespeare’s Shylock or Dickens’s Fagin — and without understanding the power of those literary portrayals, one cannot understand modern English anti-Semitism. The literary analysis of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this book is masterful, but even more significant is the connections Julius makes from literature to culture to politics.

Julius is one of England’s most prominent lawyers, best known in America for his representation of Deborah Lipstadt in the libel action that Holocaust denier David Irving brought against her. He also represented Ariel Sharon in connection with the Independent’s anti-Semitic cartoon of Sharon eating a Palestinian child (itself an allusion to the blood libel); he represented the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) against London’s then mayor, Ken Livingstone; both Haifa University and Hebrew University against the Association of University Teachers (AUT); and Israeli universities and Jewish academics against the National Association of Teachers, among other actions — all of which has given him a perhaps unique understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism in England. He is also a literary critic with a gift for a telling phrase, such as his description of certain Jewish ideologists as “proud to be ashamed they are Jews.”

Julius is particularly eloquent on two matters: first, the sheer surreality and incoherence of anti-Semitism:

The Holocaust should have altogether put paid to anti-Semitism. It should have rebutted once and for all the principal anti-Semitic fantasy of malign Jewish power; it should have satiated the appetite of the most murderous anti-Semites for Jewish death. And yet instead it precipitated new anti-Semitic versions or tropes: (a) Holocaust denial, (b) the characterizing of Zionism as an avatar of Nazism, and (c) the cluster of allegations that the Jews are exploiting the Holocaust in support of false compensation claims, the defense of Israeli policies, the defense of Zionism, etc. Many Arab and Muslim anti-Semites somewhat promiscuously embrace all three tropes – denying the Holocaust, praising Hitler, and representing Israel as the successor to the Nazi state.

And second: the enduring power throughout history and into the present of even a surreal and incoherent view of a small people.

Julius acknowledges the need for nuance and judgment in evaluating anti-Semitic sentiment at any particular historical point in time, and the unemotional discussion that characterizes his book makes his conclusion about the present particularly chilling:

Trials of the Diaspora has been written across a period of rising violence and abuse directed at English Jews. Of the present conjuncture, then, my provisional judgment is that it is quite bad, and might get worse. Certainly, it would seem that the closed season on Jews is over.

This is a very important book.

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It’s Not All Under Control

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

Over the weekend, faced with the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the terrorist incident in Times Square, government officials at all levels sought to reassure us. In the case of the SUV on 45th Street, we were almost instantly told it was amateurish, a one-off, a lone wolf, maybe someone angry about health-care reform. In the case of the oil spill, it was that, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, “Every possible resource was being lined up on shore.”

Of course it wasn’t a one-off lone wolf mad about health care. And it turned out that every possible resource wasn’t being lined up on shore — that the main system for dealing with oil spills to keep them from the shore line, the so-called “fire booms,” were nowhere near and that no one had properly marshaled resources to get them there.

We can discuss the reasons for the bizarre assertion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who should be lucky he will never run for office again, that the bomber was probably just a talk-radio listener driven to mass murder by the passage of Obama’s health-care measure. No matter that his own police department busted an Islamic terror ring aiming to strike the subway system just last summer. In some odd way, by pinning the possibility on, let’s face it, a white guy, Bloomberg was trying to stem panic. A lone attack by a lunatic has no larger meaning except the meaning it can be given by armchair sociologists and the politically expedient. A very nearly successful mass-murder plot arranged in Pakistan and carried out by an American citizen who bought a car for $1,200 cash off a website makes it clear just what kind of casual jeopardy we are in even now, nearly nine years after 9/11, and how fiendishly difficult it can be to prevent small-scale efforts that could bring about enormous pain and suffering and destruction.

Similarly, with the oil spill, though federal government officials say over and over again how dangerous and threatening the results are and may be, they are compulsively insistent that they are on the ball, they are competent, they are doing everything necessary — even though the fault and liability, as they make clear, is with BP, the owner of the rig. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over time, it’s that when one-of-a-kind crises occur, no one in the early stages knows what on earth he’s doing. Feds and state officials and local officials bump into one another; everybody thinks somebody else is in charge of some aspect of fixing the problem; fights break out; the media screams like banshees; and clarity is achieved only after the initial confusion can be resolved.

Instead of acknowledging this truth, government officials believe it is their role to provide reassurance even when they cannot do so. And they’re simply wrong about that. The American people are far more sophisticated about these things than those officials appear to believe, and they can be talked to like adults. That was the lesson, in part, of the immediate aftermath of September 11, when Rudy Giuliani simply said that the “number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.” He sugar-coated nothing. And that is the truth of crises and crisis management. When it is done well, there should be no sugar-coating. The impulse to sugar-coat is a mark of the conviction among politicians that they are in the same relation to the body politic as a parent is to a child. In our system, a politician is an employee, not a parent. For a rational employer, an employee who gives it to you straight will always be someone you take more seriously than an employee who pretends that everything is fine when everything isn’t.

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The Times Square Attack and the Effort to Redefine “Terrorism”

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino write: “No one yet knows for sure who is responsible for the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square last night. It could be al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group, or some other group, or an individual acting on his or her own. Initial reports are that it may have been a crude bomb and a relatively amateur attack.” But they warn this should serve as a reminder:

[I]t should remind us that the federal officials who continue to insist that New York City is the best place to try KSM and other 9/11 terrorists are, frankly, out of their minds. Attorney General Eric Holder remains delusional on this front, as he has continued to say that a civilian trial in New York remains on the table, despite the uniform protest of all major New York public officials from the mayor to the police chief to the governor.

New York is the world’s number-one terrorist target, and has been since at least he first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Those who claim, in spite of all logic and experience, that New York could be secured if KSM were brought there for trial are either being misleading or are plain old crazy.

It does suggest that those devising the administration’s approach to terrorism do so without consideration of or contact with the real world. It is the stuff of academic theory and law-school textbooks, not of the real world or the potential peril faced by ordinary Americans.

Moreover, the incident and the ensuing coverage have highlighted that there is a new definitional game afoot. The administration, in concert with the mainstream media, has begun to set up a false dichotomy: on the one hand, the perpetrators are amateurs, “lone wolves”; on the other, they are “real” Islamic terrorists. But this is folly. Was Major Hassan an “amateur” because he hadn’t perfected his terror skills in previous attacks? Was he a lone wolf because he merely e-mailed a radical imam and did not receive specific instructions from an al-Qaeda operative? When we are dealing with an enemy that does not observe the rules of war and does not conduct battle operations in uniform or within a defined chain of command, these distinctions make little sense.

What matters is that there are Islamic fundamentalists who seek to wage war on the West. (New York Police Chief Raymond Kelly supplied a moment of clarity when he explained, “A terrorist act doesn’t necessarily have to be conducted by an organization. An individual can do it on their own.”) So the notion that we should all breathe a sigh of relief if a particular jihadist is merely inspired by, but not directly linked to, an al-Qaeda operation seems designed only to inure ourselves to the dangers we face and to transform these incidents into “crimes” rather than acts of war.

As the New York Times noted, “Investigators were reviewing similarities between the incident in Times Square and coordinated attacks in the summer of 2007 at a Glasgow airport and a London neighborhood of nightclubs and theaters. Both attacks involved cars containing propane and gasoline that did not explode. Those attacks, the authorities believed, had their roots in Iraq.” We will learn more as the investigation proceeds about whether this was, in fact, a jihadist-motivated attack. But we should not fall into the trap of imagining that the number or organization structure of the attackers is what defines “terrorism.” That’s a recipe for ignoring the danger posed by stunts like affording KSM a public trial — where more “lone wolves” will hear the call to wage war on America.

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The League of Totalitarians

As a coda to my earlier post on the flocking together of the far left and the far right under the banner of the Palestinian Telegraph, you should read Nick Cohen’s superb piece in Standpoint magazine, which explores in painful detail the unwillingness of the BBC to tell the truth about recently deceased actor Corin Redgrave. The BBC memorialized him as a fighter against “all forms of injustice and oppression.”

Redgrave was actually a devotee of the Workers Revolutionary Party, a Trotskyist cult led by Gerry Healy, who reveled in what 26 of his female followers described as “cruel and systematic debauchery.”  Naturally, Healy, as a born totalitarian, took money from Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein, spied on Iraqi dissidents, and adopted the anti-Semitism of the far right as his own.  Redgrave — like another devotee, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone — stuck by Healy through it all.

The dangers and stupidities of this far-left/far-right alliance, centered on anti-Semitism and admiration for foreign tyrannies of all varieties, are what Oliver Kamm, among others, has been banging on about brilliantly for years. It is, of course, sinister enough on its own demerits. But it also has an amazing capacity to fool people, including quite a few who should know better.

For example, the day the Iraq war began, I was speaking at a private and very elite prep school in Connecticut. I was amazed to find the hallways festooned with signs from the ANSWER coalition. When I pointed out to my host that ANSWER was an outgrowth of the Workers World Party, the hardest of hard-line Communists who defended the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and today support North Korea, she was astonished. The word “peace” was all the proof she needed that it was on the side of human rights. The BBC’s memorial to Redgrave is the kind of journalism that makes that confidence trick work.

As a coda to my earlier post on the flocking together of the far left and the far right under the banner of the Palestinian Telegraph, you should read Nick Cohen’s superb piece in Standpoint magazine, which explores in painful detail the unwillingness of the BBC to tell the truth about recently deceased actor Corin Redgrave. The BBC memorialized him as a fighter against “all forms of injustice and oppression.”

Redgrave was actually a devotee of the Workers Revolutionary Party, a Trotskyist cult led by Gerry Healy, who reveled in what 26 of his female followers described as “cruel and systematic debauchery.”  Naturally, Healy, as a born totalitarian, took money from Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein, spied on Iraqi dissidents, and adopted the anti-Semitism of the far right as his own.  Redgrave — like another devotee, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone — stuck by Healy through it all.

The dangers and stupidities of this far-left/far-right alliance, centered on anti-Semitism and admiration for foreign tyrannies of all varieties, are what Oliver Kamm, among others, has been banging on about brilliantly for years. It is, of course, sinister enough on its own demerits. But it also has an amazing capacity to fool people, including quite a few who should know better.

For example, the day the Iraq war began, I was speaking at a private and very elite prep school in Connecticut. I was amazed to find the hallways festooned with signs from the ANSWER coalition. When I pointed out to my host that ANSWER was an outgrowth of the Workers World Party, the hardest of hard-line Communists who defended the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and today support North Korea, she was astonished. The word “peace” was all the proof she needed that it was on the side of human rights. The BBC’s memorial to Redgrave is the kind of journalism that makes that confidence trick work.

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Throwing Jerusalem’s Barkat Under the Bus

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is no extreme right-wing extremist. A generally non-ideological and secular Jew who served in the paratroopers, he was a successful high-tech venture capitalist before entering politics. Barkat’s career has, to date, been solely centered on the city of Jerusalem. He was elected mayor of the city only days after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in November 2008. The important fact about Barkat’s win was that he beat an ultra-Orthodox candidate, a symbolic as well as a tangible victory for those who hope to keep Israel’s capital from becoming a Haredi shtetl.

In his years on the city council and now as mayor, Barkat’s focus has been on development and improved services but he also understands that the city’s future depends on it remaining united. If it is once again divided, as it was during Jordan’s illegal occupation of half of it from 1948 to 1967, the city will be an embattled and ghetto-ized backwater with no hope of attracting investment. Thus, he is adamantly opposed to those who want to make Arab neighborhoods into a capital of a putative Palestinian state, despite the fact that even the “moderate” Palestinian leadership won’t sign a deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. Dividing the city is, he says, like putting a “Trojan Horse” within Israel. He is also appalled, as are most Israelis, at the idea of treating the post-67 Jewish neighborhoods, where over 200,000 Jews live, as illegal settlements by an Obama administration that is demanding a building freeze in Jerusalem. He rightly sees Israeli acquiescence to this unreasonable demand as a blow to Israel’s sovereignty over its capital as well as a threat to the Jews of Jerusalem.

These are points that Barkat has been making to the press and the public during a visit this week to Washington. The reaction from the Obama administration has been chilly but perhaps not as chilly as that of the Israeli Embassy. The New York Times, which contrasted the chummy reception that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak got here this week from the Obami with that given to Barkat, noted that a spokesman from the Israeli embassy was at pains to distance the embassy from Barkat.

“For us, it’s lousy timing,” said a spokesman for the embassy, Jonathan Peled. He tried to put things in perspective, comparing Mr. Barkat to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington. “He’s not going to be the one negotiating peace with the Palestinians, in the same way that Fenty is not going to be the one negotiating the Start agreement with Russia,” Mr. Peled said.”

It’s true that Barkat is not a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — or even of one of the parties that forms his coalition — and is not bound to follow its lead nor empowered to represent it. But neither is he an insignificant or powerless functionary who deserves to be ignored or mocked. Moreover, his position opposing both Jerusalem’s partition and a Jewish building freeze (while Arab building continues at a higher rate and without protest from anyone) happens to be identical to that of Netanyahu.

It’s easy to understand the embassy’s desire to downplay any differences between Israel and the administration during such a tense time. Moreover, if Netanyahu has actually caved in to Obama and promised to put in place some sort of unannounced freeze in Jerusalem, he’s got to be unhappy about Barkat either opposing such a change or making it clear that development in the city will continue regardless of what Obama wants.

But people who, like Peled, are tasked with the difficult job of selling Israel’s position on its capital to both the administration and to the American public, should be wary of making it appear as though they are throwing Barkat under the proverbial bus. Disavowing a respected mayor who is also an articulate advocate for the same position as the Netanyahu government on Jerusalem may make it a little easier to deal with the White House this week but in the long run it can have a deleterious effect on Israel’s efforts to defend its capital in Washington and at home.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is no extreme right-wing extremist. A generally non-ideological and secular Jew who served in the paratroopers, he was a successful high-tech venture capitalist before entering politics. Barkat’s career has, to date, been solely centered on the city of Jerusalem. He was elected mayor of the city only days after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in November 2008. The important fact about Barkat’s win was that he beat an ultra-Orthodox candidate, a symbolic as well as a tangible victory for those who hope to keep Israel’s capital from becoming a Haredi shtetl.

In his years on the city council and now as mayor, Barkat’s focus has been on development and improved services but he also understands that the city’s future depends on it remaining united. If it is once again divided, as it was during Jordan’s illegal occupation of half of it from 1948 to 1967, the city will be an embattled and ghetto-ized backwater with no hope of attracting investment. Thus, he is adamantly opposed to those who want to make Arab neighborhoods into a capital of a putative Palestinian state, despite the fact that even the “moderate” Palestinian leadership won’t sign a deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. Dividing the city is, he says, like putting a “Trojan Horse” within Israel. He is also appalled, as are most Israelis, at the idea of treating the post-67 Jewish neighborhoods, where over 200,000 Jews live, as illegal settlements by an Obama administration that is demanding a building freeze in Jerusalem. He rightly sees Israeli acquiescence to this unreasonable demand as a blow to Israel’s sovereignty over its capital as well as a threat to the Jews of Jerusalem.

These are points that Barkat has been making to the press and the public during a visit this week to Washington. The reaction from the Obama administration has been chilly but perhaps not as chilly as that of the Israeli Embassy. The New York Times, which contrasted the chummy reception that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak got here this week from the Obami with that given to Barkat, noted that a spokesman from the Israeli embassy was at pains to distance the embassy from Barkat.

“For us, it’s lousy timing,” said a spokesman for the embassy, Jonathan Peled. He tried to put things in perspective, comparing Mr. Barkat to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington. “He’s not going to be the one negotiating peace with the Palestinians, in the same way that Fenty is not going to be the one negotiating the Start agreement with Russia,” Mr. Peled said.”

It’s true that Barkat is not a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — or even of one of the parties that forms his coalition — and is not bound to follow its lead nor empowered to represent it. But neither is he an insignificant or powerless functionary who deserves to be ignored or mocked. Moreover, his position opposing both Jerusalem’s partition and a Jewish building freeze (while Arab building continues at a higher rate and without protest from anyone) happens to be identical to that of Netanyahu.

It’s easy to understand the embassy’s desire to downplay any differences between Israel and the administration during such a tense time. Moreover, if Netanyahu has actually caved in to Obama and promised to put in place some sort of unannounced freeze in Jerusalem, he’s got to be unhappy about Barkat either opposing such a change or making it clear that development in the city will continue regardless of what Obama wants.

But people who, like Peled, are tasked with the difficult job of selling Israel’s position on its capital to both the administration and to the American public, should be wary of making it appear as though they are throwing Barkat under the proverbial bus. Disavowing a respected mayor who is also an articulate advocate for the same position as the Netanyahu government on Jerusalem may make it a little easier to deal with the White House this week but in the long run it can have a deleterious effect on Israel’s efforts to defend its capital in Washington and at home.

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Is Obama Winning His War on Jerusalem?

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it tries holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it attempts holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

Obama’s war on Jerusalem has not brought peace closer. His pressure on Israel has helped to harden the Palestinians rejectionist position on Jerusalem as the call for a freeze in the city means the Palestinians are likely to demand an Israeli evacuation of the neighborhoods where U.S. officials treat Jewish housing starts as an “insult.” This has made the already dim prospects for peace even more unlikely. But one thing the administration has accomplished is to change the terms of argument about Jerusalem. The nerves of some Jewish Democrats may be calmed by the charm offensive that has led administration figures to fan out to Jewish groups and reassure them of the strength of the alliance with Israel in spite of the recent controversy. But by treating Jewish Jerusalem as just another illegal settlement, the president has done more in the last six weeks to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than a generation of Arab propaganda.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it tries holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it attempts holding out against the Obama administration’s demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government’s defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn’t clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu’s desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel’s War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal “settlements,” no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if “East Jerusalem” is truly disputed territory in America’s eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, “a slap in the face” to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama’s demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government’s refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli “foot-dragging” is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That’s the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians’ supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won’t even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

Obama’s war on Jerusalem has not brought peace closer. His pressure on Israel has helped to harden the Palestinians rejectionist position on Jerusalem as the call for a freeze in the city means the Palestinians are likely to demand an Israeli evacuation of the neighborhoods where U.S. officials treat Jewish housing starts as an “insult.” This has made the already dim prospects for peace even more unlikely. But one thing the administration has accomplished is to change the terms of argument about Jerusalem. The nerves of some Jewish Democrats may be calmed by the charm offensive that has led administration figures to fan out to Jewish groups and reassure them of the strength of the alliance with Israel in spite of the recent controversy. But by treating Jewish Jerusalem as just another illegal settlement, the president has done more in the last six weeks to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than a generation of Arab propaganda.

Read Less

Colombia Going Green?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

Read Less

Where Are the Jewish Tea Parties?

It seems that at least some Jews are so mad at Obama that they’ve taken to the streets. This WPIX report from New York explains:

Thousands of Jews gathered outside the Israeli Consulate Sunday to protest President Obama’s position towards Israel.

Organizers said the event supports “Israel’s right to build and live in its own country,” as well as its right to unite Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. They are also protesting the Obama Administrations’ alleged disregard of the democratic Jewish state.

“We are outraged that President Obama is scapegoating Israel and wants to expel Jews from their homes in Jerusalem. President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton show more anger about a Jewish family building a home in Jerusalem than Iran building a nuclear bomb,” states Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance. “Vast segments of the Jewish community will not tolerate the President’s continuing attacks on Israel. Grassroots Jewry will not be silent.”

Meanwhile, a taped statement by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has openly expressed his displeasure with Obama’s policies, played for attendees. He slammed the president for his treatment of Israel and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Over 20 organizations, Jewish and other, united to support the event.

This event is newsworthy, not least because it is unique. Where have the Jewish Tea Parties been? Why haven’t we seen more of this? It was over 20 years ago that 250,000 people amassed in Washington D.C. for the cause of Soviet Jewry (for those who don’t recall 20 years’ worth of large and public protests, a useful summary can be found here), but the Obami’s pummeling of the Jewish state and its lackadaisical attitude toward a nuclear-armed Iran has not yet fully mobilized the Jewish community. Polite letters, lots of private hand-wringing, and a few pointed newspaper ads are about all we’ve seen. The response of American Jewish organizations – meek and subdued — seems grossly disproportionate to the stakes and underwhelming by historic standards.

It’s not clear what action by American Jewry, if any, would be effective with this administration. But the absence of organized protest and the subdued reaction to events that frankly should set off alarm bells with pro-Israel supporters are reminiscent of another era — the 1930s — in which American Jewry was too demure for too long. That had tragic results. Today’s reticence may as well.

It seems that at least some Jews are so mad at Obama that they’ve taken to the streets. This WPIX report from New York explains:

Thousands of Jews gathered outside the Israeli Consulate Sunday to protest President Obama’s position towards Israel.

Organizers said the event supports “Israel’s right to build and live in its own country,” as well as its right to unite Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. They are also protesting the Obama Administrations’ alleged disregard of the democratic Jewish state.

“We are outraged that President Obama is scapegoating Israel and wants to expel Jews from their homes in Jerusalem. President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton show more anger about a Jewish family building a home in Jerusalem than Iran building a nuclear bomb,” states Beth Gilinsky of the Jewish Action Alliance. “Vast segments of the Jewish community will not tolerate the President’s continuing attacks on Israel. Grassroots Jewry will not be silent.”

Meanwhile, a taped statement by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has openly expressed his displeasure with Obama’s policies, played for attendees. He slammed the president for his treatment of Israel and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Over 20 organizations, Jewish and other, united to support the event.

This event is newsworthy, not least because it is unique. Where have the Jewish Tea Parties been? Why haven’t we seen more of this? It was over 20 years ago that 250,000 people amassed in Washington D.C. for the cause of Soviet Jewry (for those who don’t recall 20 years’ worth of large and public protests, a useful summary can be found here), but the Obami’s pummeling of the Jewish state and its lackadaisical attitude toward a nuclear-armed Iran has not yet fully mobilized the Jewish community. Polite letters, lots of private hand-wringing, and a few pointed newspaper ads are about all we’ve seen. The response of American Jewish organizations – meek and subdued — seems grossly disproportionate to the stakes and underwhelming by historic standards.

It’s not clear what action by American Jewry, if any, would be effective with this administration. But the absence of organized protest and the subdued reaction to events that frankly should set off alarm bells with pro-Israel supporters are reminiscent of another era — the 1930s — in which American Jewry was too demure for too long. That had tragic results. Today’s reticence may as well.

Read Less




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