Commentary Magazine


Topic: media coverage

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

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Planting the Flag: Starting Gun in the Race to Jerusalem

If you need proof that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to plant the Revolutionary Iranian flag in Jerusalem, consider this. A replica of the Al-Aqsa mosque is being constructed by Iran in southern Lebanon as a prop for Ahmadinejad’s visit next week. The Iranian president will officially open the mosque for business and be photographed in front of it throwing stones toward Israel. And the mosque, according to Israeli reports, has the flag of Iran flying over it.

Hezbollah has flown Iranian flags in southern Lebanon for some time. The terrorists operate an Iran-sponsored fiefdom there; UNIFIL has been unable for months to conduct patrols in towns denied to it by Hezbollah, a pattern repeated this past weekend when the UN force sought to investigate a Hezbollah weapons cache in its patrol zone.

But Iran and Hezbollah have chosen to take advantage until now of the minimal independent news coverage in southern Lebanon. Little gets into the Western press about the situation there, and when it does, it doesn’t come from Hezbollah or Iran. What Ahmadinejad plans to do next week, with media coverage and pointed images, marks a major “informational” break. It’s a plan to draw back the veil and clarify Hezbollah’s loyalties and Iran’s involvement. And the central theme is the Iranian flag symbolically aloft over Jerusalem.

This blatant signal is something Ahmadinejad should be prevented from sending. It will be as much a shot across Saudi Arabia’s bow as across Israel’s: a symbolic announcement that the “race to Jerusalem” is on. As discussed here, the Saudis — default leaders of the Arab world — already show signs of preparing to compete in that race.

Unfortunately, the fecklessness of the UN extends beyond an impotent UNIFIL. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, British diplomat Michael Williams, met with an Iranian envoy last week to discuss the visit by Ahmadinejad and approved it as a “significant event.” He went on to hail “Tehran’s balanced approach and inclusive relations with all political and religious parties in [Lebanon].” The UN will not be a source of responsible diplomacy; neither will Russia, which is positioning itself to back the winner of the race to Jerusalem. The EU remains mired in domestic constituency tending, and therefore focused on the legal status of Gaza flotillas and the arguing of anti-Israel resolutions in Brussels.

Among the Middle East Quartet, only the U.S. retains such a posture as would make it possible to take action against the beginning of a “race to Jerusalem.” The pressure point is the government in Beirut, which, if it accepts Ahmadinejad’s visit, must exercise its formal sovereignty over the southern territory and ensure that no Iranian flags are flown over anything but Ahmadinejad’s official convoy. Israel is pressing the Lebanese to cancel the visit; if the U.S. cannot bring itself to do that, our diplomats should at least embolden the Lebanese to get the Iranian flags out of there. This is not meaningless symbolism. The fact that it’s Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah who feel emboldened at present is the most meaningful one of all.

If you need proof that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to plant the Revolutionary Iranian flag in Jerusalem, consider this. A replica of the Al-Aqsa mosque is being constructed by Iran in southern Lebanon as a prop for Ahmadinejad’s visit next week. The Iranian president will officially open the mosque for business and be photographed in front of it throwing stones toward Israel. And the mosque, according to Israeli reports, has the flag of Iran flying over it.

Hezbollah has flown Iranian flags in southern Lebanon for some time. The terrorists operate an Iran-sponsored fiefdom there; UNIFIL has been unable for months to conduct patrols in towns denied to it by Hezbollah, a pattern repeated this past weekend when the UN force sought to investigate a Hezbollah weapons cache in its patrol zone.

But Iran and Hezbollah have chosen to take advantage until now of the minimal independent news coverage in southern Lebanon. Little gets into the Western press about the situation there, and when it does, it doesn’t come from Hezbollah or Iran. What Ahmadinejad plans to do next week, with media coverage and pointed images, marks a major “informational” break. It’s a plan to draw back the veil and clarify Hezbollah’s loyalties and Iran’s involvement. And the central theme is the Iranian flag symbolically aloft over Jerusalem.

This blatant signal is something Ahmadinejad should be prevented from sending. It will be as much a shot across Saudi Arabia’s bow as across Israel’s: a symbolic announcement that the “race to Jerusalem” is on. As discussed here, the Saudis — default leaders of the Arab world — already show signs of preparing to compete in that race.

Unfortunately, the fecklessness of the UN extends beyond an impotent UNIFIL. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, British diplomat Michael Williams, met with an Iranian envoy last week to discuss the visit by Ahmadinejad and approved it as a “significant event.” He went on to hail “Tehran’s balanced approach and inclusive relations with all political and religious parties in [Lebanon].” The UN will not be a source of responsible diplomacy; neither will Russia, which is positioning itself to back the winner of the race to Jerusalem. The EU remains mired in domestic constituency tending, and therefore focused on the legal status of Gaza flotillas and the arguing of anti-Israel resolutions in Brussels.

Among the Middle East Quartet, only the U.S. retains such a posture as would make it possible to take action against the beginning of a “race to Jerusalem.” The pressure point is the government in Beirut, which, if it accepts Ahmadinejad’s visit, must exercise its formal sovereignty over the southern territory and ensure that no Iranian flags are flown over anything but Ahmadinejad’s official convoy. Israel is pressing the Lebanese to cancel the visit; if the U.S. cannot bring itself to do that, our diplomats should at least embolden the Lebanese to get the Iranian flags out of there. This is not meaningless symbolism. The fact that it’s Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah who feel emboldened at present is the most meaningful one of all.

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How Bad?

How bad is the Ground Zero mosque story for the White House? Bad enough that Obama advisers are pointing fingers at the president and trying to absolve themselves of the fiasco. Politico reports:

Prior to the decision, [Rahm] Emanuel and Obama’s communications staff vividly — and presciently — predicted that Obama would be handing Republicans a weapon to batter Democrats as weak-kneed on terrorism three months before the midterms, according to several people familiar with the situation.

In other words, not our fault! Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, the president’s most devoted cheerleaders for the most extreme liberal positions, were all for it, you see. But not Emanuel and the communications team because they are smart enough — they remind us — to tell Obama what a harebrained idea this was. But it wouldn’t look good, especially for Emanuel, who had his own bout of “not my fault” media coverage early in the year, to look so blatantly disloyal. So he throws in an e-mail:

“Give me a break,” Emanuel e-mailed POLITICO when asked about a press report that he had opposed the move. “We all stand behind and support the president’s decision.”

But on background, you guys should know: “not my fault!” What is clear is that Axelrod and Jarrett, arguably the most powerful of Obama’s team, also possess the worst instincts:

No one supported Obama more forcefully than Jarrett, Obama’s close friend and the administration’s liaison to the civil rights community, who told people she thought the mosque issue was a matter of core Democratic principle, according to several sources familiar with her actions.

And Axelrod, a canny tactician with a keen sensitivity to political danger, didn’t dissuade his boss from jumping in, citing his own parents’ experiences with religious persecution as Jews in Europe.

Well, I guess his sensitivity to political danger was on the fritz. And his disgusting  invocation of the Nazi analogy — make no mistake, the American people get the role of the Nazis in this one, and the Muslims are awarded the status of potential Holocaust victims — suggests his undiluted leftism has rendered him tone deaf and a severe liability for a president who needs his worst instinct to be curbed, not accentuated.

But this is a reminder that the one responsible for the White House’s egregious political malpractice and who is hermetically sealed from the concerns and values of the American people is the president. He is the only one who matters — and it is his flawed judgment and estrangement from ordinary Americans that have landed him in a ditch.

How bad is the Ground Zero mosque story for the White House? Bad enough that Obama advisers are pointing fingers at the president and trying to absolve themselves of the fiasco. Politico reports:

Prior to the decision, [Rahm] Emanuel and Obama’s communications staff vividly — and presciently — predicted that Obama would be handing Republicans a weapon to batter Democrats as weak-kneed on terrorism three months before the midterms, according to several people familiar with the situation.

In other words, not our fault! Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, the president’s most devoted cheerleaders for the most extreme liberal positions, were all for it, you see. But not Emanuel and the communications team because they are smart enough — they remind us — to tell Obama what a harebrained idea this was. But it wouldn’t look good, especially for Emanuel, who had his own bout of “not my fault” media coverage early in the year, to look so blatantly disloyal. So he throws in an e-mail:

“Give me a break,” Emanuel e-mailed POLITICO when asked about a press report that he had opposed the move. “We all stand behind and support the president’s decision.”

But on background, you guys should know: “not my fault!” What is clear is that Axelrod and Jarrett, arguably the most powerful of Obama’s team, also possess the worst instincts:

No one supported Obama more forcefully than Jarrett, Obama’s close friend and the administration’s liaison to the civil rights community, who told people she thought the mosque issue was a matter of core Democratic principle, according to several sources familiar with her actions.

And Axelrod, a canny tactician with a keen sensitivity to political danger, didn’t dissuade his boss from jumping in, citing his own parents’ experiences with religious persecution as Jews in Europe.

Well, I guess his sensitivity to political danger was on the fritz. And his disgusting  invocation of the Nazi analogy — make no mistake, the American people get the role of the Nazis in this one, and the Muslims are awarded the status of potential Holocaust victims — suggests his undiluted leftism has rendered him tone deaf and a severe liability for a president who needs his worst instinct to be curbed, not accentuated.

But this is a reminder that the one responsible for the White House’s egregious political malpractice and who is hermetically sealed from the concerns and values of the American people is the president. He is the only one who matters — and it is his flawed judgment and estrangement from ordinary Americans that have landed him in a ditch.

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Sestak Did It for Israel

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

The Pennsylvania media is on to Joe Sestak’s strategic gaffe:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak frequently tells supporters at campaign events that he would rather risk his job than shirk a principle. The Delaware County Democrat says it is for that reason that his campaign has been demanding that television stations across the state, and Comcast here in Philadelphia, pull ads created and funded by private groups attacking his run for the U.S. Senate.

But by attacking his attackers, does Sestak help draw attention to their claims?

That seemed to be the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is running an ad on 21 TV stations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton and Johnstown that says that Sestak voted 100 percent of the time with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “job-killing” legislation on health care and energy.

Two stations in Pittsburgh pulled the ad for one day, but the resulting media coverage only helped spread the message.

The report points out that the same is true of his unsuccessful effort to stifle the Emergency Committee for Israel. And what does Sestak say, now that it’s apparent his “shut-up” strategy is a bust?

That ad claims that Sestak “raised money for an anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front group for Hamas,” the Palestinian group that funds terrorist attacks on Israel.

Sestak said his campaign asked Comcast to pull the ad because it is “harming Israel’s security.”

“This was not any kind of political calculation,” Sestak said. “For me, this was purely based on how I look at Israel, which is always about security and not politics.”

Groan. He tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of his opponents for Israel’s sake? Good grief. Shouldn’t he then have tried to take down J Street’s ad? I mean apparently debating Israel policy is somehow a threat to the Jewish state. But no, it’s actually a threat to Sestak, one so severe he’s tried to squash the entire discussion.

But if we want to talk about what is good for Israel, let’s ask Israelis. Only about 10 percent of them approve of Obama’s policy, which J Street tells us (most recently in its ad that features Obama quite prominently) is exactly what Sestak is supporting. Oh, Israelis don’t get to decide what is in their security interests, at least according to J Street.

One thing is certain: Sestak and the Democrats are petrified of making Israel a campaign issue. They simply want critics of their approach to pipe down and voters to accept on faith that their self-descriptions as pro-Israel are unassailable. If we weren’t a democracy where all issues of public policy are open to debate and where elected leaders must be accountable for their actions, it would make perfect sense.

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Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

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Turning the Tables on the Turks

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

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Media Attack on Israel

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

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Another Senate Candidate in Trouble

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul (with Blanche Lincoln and perhaps Joe Sestak close behind) have gotten most of the attention in the “embattled Senate candidates” media coverage, but let’s not forget the Mob’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias:

His family’s business, Broadway Bank, was seized by regulators last month. He’s had trouble getting robust support from a White House that originally preferred another candidate. And political writer Stu Rothenberg devoted a column last week to asking “Is it time for Democrats to shove Giannoulias out?”

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election.

And he might not be the only one: Bobby Rush is down on Rezko’s banker as well. (He told the Hill “in December 2009 that he was ‘afraid’ of a Giannoulias-Kirk matchup. ‘The messenger has to stand before the message. And if the messenger is weak, then the message is weak,’ he told the paper.”)

The rumblings have started about how to shove Giannoulias out of the way. But, as Rothenberg explained, it won’t be easy to dump him:

Democrats who worry about Giannoulias’ viability in the fall have a problem, though. Since the nominee isn’t running far behind Kirk in trial heats, it won’t be easy to persuade him to leave quietly. And if there is something Democratic insiders don’t need, it’s a messy food fight with a nominee they are trying to dump (especially after Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania went public that White House insiders had offered him a job to get him to pass up a primary challenge to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter).

Yes, one candidate’s scandal makes it harder to toss another scandal-plagued candidate overboard.

Republicans should take note for 2010 and 2012. The reason the Democrats are in disarray and the race is competitive is not merely because the Democratic nominee has a load of problems; it is because the Republicans were wise enough to select a top-notch candidate well-suited to the state. (Politico notes: “Kirk already is popular in the politically competitive Chicago suburbs he represents and has a strong relationship with the state’s pro-Israel voters and donors.”) It’s really not enough in a deep Blue State to luck into a flawed Democratic candidate. For Republicans to win, they need smart candidates well-attuned to the electorate. Otherwise, golden opportunities will slip through their fingers.

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Media Clueless on the Tea Parties — Still

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

Noemie Emery traces the media coverage of the tea parties:

First, they were described as an ignorant rabble, much as the Washington Post had once pegged evangelicals. Then polls showed that they were a rabble that was better off and better informed than the public in general, and they became a selfish and privileged rabble: a privileged rabble parading as populists.

“An aggrieved elite,” Dana Milbank sniffed. “Race is part of the picture,” E.J. Dionne noted. “The Tea Partiers aren’t standing up for the little guy; they’re standing up TO the little guy,” Peter Beinart complained. “The Tea Partiers favor the economically and racially privileged. … What the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama’s economic policies is that they don’t do enough for the rich.”

One sometimes gets the sense that you are watching Margaret Mead reporting on the newest tribe to appear in the wilderness. They seem to have primitive communication! One wonders what the emblems on their native garb are for! The media, of course, have no problem instantaneously recognizing liberal grassroots movements as the authentic voice of the people, but somehow they can’t quite comprehend an ideas-based, fiscally conservative popular movement. (As Emery notes: “The Tea Party is a popular, not a populist, movement, a grass-roots uprising against the cost and expansion of government power. It fears that the debt has become unsustainable.”) It’s not as if their philosophy is a secret; the media mavens, of course, could ask them what they think. But that would simply be written off, I suppose. False consciousness and all that.

Granted, the tea party movement is an oddity, sort of what CATO would be, with clever signs — a mix of popular political color and small (or smaller) government conservatism, based on a healthy skepticism about the reach and power of the federal government. These are foreign concepts to most in the liberal media so they continue to search for other explanations, each less credible than the last, for what can only be described as a great, popular revolt against Obamaism.

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Why Does the New York Times Only Cover Some Kinds of Anti-Semitism?

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: What the Obama Presidency Stands for Now

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Some thoughts on the meaning of the passage of yesterday’s health-care bill.

1. It is without question a landmark bill, among the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation in our history. For President Obama to be able to have resurrected it in the midst of enormous public opposition and deep concerns among Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate race in late January, is politically quite impressive. When he was being told to pare down his plan, Obama instead doubled down and, in terms of winning passage of his signature domestic initiative, he won. As a result, the media coverage will be overwhelmingly favorable to Obama and Democrats. Among the political class, he instantaneously goes from being seen as a weak president to being seen as a strong president, from inept to imposing. Barack Obama has certainly left his stamp on history.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Mideast Peace Gap: A Tale of Two Murderers

The dustup over the badly timed announcement of the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem this week has rightly provoked comment about the competence of the Netanyahu government. But for all the talk about the Palestinians’ being so offended by the idea of Jews living in East Jerusalem that they wouldn’t talk peace, it bears repeating that there is no indication that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority it controls are willing to actually sign a peace agreement with Israel no matter what the terms of such a deal might be. Palestinian political culture remains anchored in an extremist interpretation of their national identity, which views the Jewish state as inherently illegitimate and all violence against it and its citizens as laudatory.

This was graphically illustrated yesterday in Ramallah, when Fatah’s youth division gathered to dedicate a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah operative that led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 37 Israelis and one American. As David noted earlier this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority was postponing the event that was timed to honor the 30th anniversary of this case of mass murder for “technical reasons” that may have more to do with a desire to put it off until media coverage abates (i.e., after Vice President Biden has left the country). Yet the New York Times account published today makes it clear that followers and officials of Abbas’s Fatah were by no means embarrassed by their connection with the most notorious terrorist attack in Israel’s history.

The story was in the best tradition of the fallacy about one man’s terrorist being another’s “freedom fighter.” The Times headline reflected this moral ambivalence: “Palestinians Honor Figure Reviled in Israel as a Terrorist.” For Palestinians quoted in the piece, including Fatah officials, Mughrabi was a heroine who was “every Palestinian girl,” rather than a heartless killer who helped mow down 38 human beings, including 13 children, before being killed herself by Israeli forces. As for this being an isolated incident, as Palestinian Media Watch has reported, the drumbeat of incitement against Israel and the glorification of violence against Jews is unceasing. Indeed, as even the Times notes, “the Palestinians also named two girls’ high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps for Ms. Mughrabi in the last two years.”

But those seeking moral equivalence between the two sides are largely undaunted. At the Times news blog, the Lede, Robert Mackey, who on Wednesday erroneously referred to East Jerusalem as “traditionally Arab,” wrote on Thursday that there are Jews who are extremists as well. He posted a video on the Times site purporting to be a Purim celebration by a few Jews living in a house in East Jerusalem. The “boisterous celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim by Israelis living in a home in East Jerusalem … appeared to be a calculated affront to their new Arab neighbors.”

That leads us to ask the Lede blogger whether he would sympathize with complaints by Jews should they witness “a boisterous celebration” of a Muslim holiday anywhere in Israel, where Arabs and Christians, as well as Jews, are free to practice their religions.

It is true that the video did include a bit where one man sang a song in praise of Baruch Goldstein, the mad Israeli who murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron on Purim in 1994. That is offensive. But for those who see this as the equivalent of Arab incitement, it is worth pointing out that this is just one Jewish extremist. No one could credibly assert that the Israeli government or the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people share his views. In fact, such despicable beliefs are completely marginal in Israel. But while Baruch Goldstein is a hero only to a tiny fragment of a percentage of Israelis, Dalal Mughrabi is a heroine to virtually all Palestinians. Rather than an illustration of how both sides are mired in mutual hate, the reaction of the Israeli and Palestinian publics to these two names actually shows how different the two cultures are at this point in time.

Indeed, true peace will only be possible when Palestinians think of Mughrabi the same way most Israelis view Goldstein.

The dustup over the badly timed announcement of the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem this week has rightly provoked comment about the competence of the Netanyahu government. But for all the talk about the Palestinians’ being so offended by the idea of Jews living in East Jerusalem that they wouldn’t talk peace, it bears repeating that there is no indication that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority it controls are willing to actually sign a peace agreement with Israel no matter what the terms of such a deal might be. Palestinian political culture remains anchored in an extremist interpretation of their national identity, which views the Jewish state as inherently illegitimate and all violence against it and its citizens as laudatory.

This was graphically illustrated yesterday in Ramallah, when Fatah’s youth division gathered to dedicate a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah operative that led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 37 Israelis and one American. As David noted earlier this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority was postponing the event that was timed to honor the 30th anniversary of this case of mass murder for “technical reasons” that may have more to do with a desire to put it off until media coverage abates (i.e., after Vice President Biden has left the country). Yet the New York Times account published today makes it clear that followers and officials of Abbas’s Fatah were by no means embarrassed by their connection with the most notorious terrorist attack in Israel’s history.

The story was in the best tradition of the fallacy about one man’s terrorist being another’s “freedom fighter.” The Times headline reflected this moral ambivalence: “Palestinians Honor Figure Reviled in Israel as a Terrorist.” For Palestinians quoted in the piece, including Fatah officials, Mughrabi was a heroine who was “every Palestinian girl,” rather than a heartless killer who helped mow down 38 human beings, including 13 children, before being killed herself by Israeli forces. As for this being an isolated incident, as Palestinian Media Watch has reported, the drumbeat of incitement against Israel and the glorification of violence against Jews is unceasing. Indeed, as even the Times notes, “the Palestinians also named two girls’ high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps for Ms. Mughrabi in the last two years.”

But those seeking moral equivalence between the two sides are largely undaunted. At the Times news blog, the Lede, Robert Mackey, who on Wednesday erroneously referred to East Jerusalem as “traditionally Arab,” wrote on Thursday that there are Jews who are extremists as well. He posted a video on the Times site purporting to be a Purim celebration by a few Jews living in a house in East Jerusalem. The “boisterous celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim by Israelis living in a home in East Jerusalem … appeared to be a calculated affront to their new Arab neighbors.”

That leads us to ask the Lede blogger whether he would sympathize with complaints by Jews should they witness “a boisterous celebration” of a Muslim holiday anywhere in Israel, where Arabs and Christians, as well as Jews, are free to practice their religions.

It is true that the video did include a bit where one man sang a song in praise of Baruch Goldstein, the mad Israeli who murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron on Purim in 1994. That is offensive. But for those who see this as the equivalent of Arab incitement, it is worth pointing out that this is just one Jewish extremist. No one could credibly assert that the Israeli government or the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people share his views. In fact, such despicable beliefs are completely marginal in Israel. But while Baruch Goldstein is a hero only to a tiny fragment of a percentage of Israelis, Dalal Mughrabi is a heroine to virtually all Palestinians. Rather than an illustration of how both sides are mired in mutual hate, the reaction of the Israeli and Palestinian publics to these two names actually shows how different the two cultures are at this point in time.

Indeed, true peace will only be possible when Palestinians think of Mughrabi the same way most Israelis view Goldstein.

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Obama’s Whining About the Media Continues

Don Surber (h/t John Stossel) writes of Obama’s perpetual whining about the media:

How un-Bushlike. For most of his 8 years, President Bush 43 took a drubbing in the press. Honeymoon? Every story about him seemed to carry an obligatory Florida paragraph up until 9/11. I don’t recall Bush complaining. At least publicly.

Whining about bad press has been unpresidential since John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Act.

Adams did not get a second term.

So our president told Senate Democrats: “If we could just — excuse the press — turn off the cameras. Turn off your CNN, your Fox, your MSNBC, your blogs, turn off this echo chamber … where the topic is politics. … We’ve got to get out of the echo chamber. That was a mistake I made last year — not getting out of here.”

And don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.

It is predictable that the president once virtually carried on the shoulders of the cheering media throughout his candidacy should be peeved when even a tad of objectivity creeps into the coverage. But at times, it seems just the fact of the media annoys Obama. He frequently grouses about the 24/7 news cycle. He was obviously annoyed that media focus on the Christmas Day bomber forced him out of his vacation routine. For a guy who insists on appearing on five talk shows a day, the Super Bowl and World Series, and every magazine cover, he really doesn’t have much patience for the news-gathering process. He is content only when the media simply relates the administration’s spin of the day or hands the microphone to him at a preset time.

After all the softball interviews and the leg-tingling commentary received during the campaign, the Obami may have a skewed notion of what the media does. They have, after all, overinterpreted Obama’s election as not only a broad ideological mandate but also an excuse to ignore the minority party. (“We won,” summed up the president.) Obama and the Democrats seem to treat whatever minimal media scrutiny as illegitimate, a violation of the we-won edict, which assumes that because of their election victory, their decisions and decision-making are not open to examination.

When CNBC anchors criticize the bailout plans, they are “uninformed.” When pollsters bear bad news, they are “children” or shills for conservatives. When Fox carries stories unfavorable to the administration and ignored by the rest of the media, Fox is not a “real news network.”  In all these cases, the recalcitrant entities upset the normal state of affairs — “normal” being the 2007-2008 coverage of Obama the candidate who could do no wrong and who received kid-glove treatment.

But even the media moves on. And the president should, too. His petulant attitude toward media coverage is one of his least attractive habits and least effective tactics. It’s time he bucked up like his predecessor and remembered that media criticism not only comes with the territory but is also an essential check on the power and the hubris of the president.

Don Surber (h/t John Stossel) writes of Obama’s perpetual whining about the media:

How un-Bushlike. For most of his 8 years, President Bush 43 took a drubbing in the press. Honeymoon? Every story about him seemed to carry an obligatory Florida paragraph up until 9/11. I don’t recall Bush complaining. At least publicly.

Whining about bad press has been unpresidential since John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Act.

Adams did not get a second term.

So our president told Senate Democrats: “If we could just — excuse the press — turn off the cameras. Turn off your CNN, your Fox, your MSNBC, your blogs, turn off this echo chamber … where the topic is politics. … We’ve got to get out of the echo chamber. That was a mistake I made last year — not getting out of here.”

And don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.

It is predictable that the president once virtually carried on the shoulders of the cheering media throughout his candidacy should be peeved when even a tad of objectivity creeps into the coverage. But at times, it seems just the fact of the media annoys Obama. He frequently grouses about the 24/7 news cycle. He was obviously annoyed that media focus on the Christmas Day bomber forced him out of his vacation routine. For a guy who insists on appearing on five talk shows a day, the Super Bowl and World Series, and every magazine cover, he really doesn’t have much patience for the news-gathering process. He is content only when the media simply relates the administration’s spin of the day or hands the microphone to him at a preset time.

After all the softball interviews and the leg-tingling commentary received during the campaign, the Obami may have a skewed notion of what the media does. They have, after all, overinterpreted Obama’s election as not only a broad ideological mandate but also an excuse to ignore the minority party. (“We won,” summed up the president.) Obama and the Democrats seem to treat whatever minimal media scrutiny as illegitimate, a violation of the we-won edict, which assumes that because of their election victory, their decisions and decision-making are not open to examination.

When CNBC anchors criticize the bailout plans, they are “uninformed.” When pollsters bear bad news, they are “children” or shills for conservatives. When Fox carries stories unfavorable to the administration and ignored by the rest of the media, Fox is not a “real news network.”  In all these cases, the recalcitrant entities upset the normal state of affairs — “normal” being the 2007-2008 coverage of Obama the candidate who could do no wrong and who received kid-glove treatment.

But even the media moves on. And the president should, too. His petulant attitude toward media coverage is one of his least attractive habits and least effective tactics. It’s time he bucked up like his predecessor and remembered that media criticism not only comes with the territory but is also an essential check on the power and the hubris of the president.

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The Middle East Needs Dubai

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

There is a large element of Schadenfreude in the media coverage of Dubai’s financial mess. The Gulf emirate has suspended payment on the debt of its flagship holding company, Dubai World, causing financial jitters around the world and raising suspicions that its balance sheet is a lot worse than it has been letting on. For years Dubai has been on a spending binge, which includes building the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands in “an artificial archipelago that would reconfigure the Persian Gulf coast into a thicket of trees, a map of the world, a whirling galaxy, a scythe and a sun that looks like a spider.”

It is easy to look down one’s nose at the excesses of this global parvenu, which is trying to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, thereby usurping Beirut’s traditional position as the place where Arabs unwind. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago with a group of foreign-policy analysts, we were all amazed by the frenetic pace of construction. A sizable proportion of the world’s building cranes had been arrayed in this city-state and they were putting up too many skyscrapers to count. It was pretty obvious that the good times wouldn’t last forever, and they haven’t. The result of a building boom, we all know, is a glut of new structures, a lack of tenants, and a crash. That’s what has happened in the U.S. with residential homes in the past few years and now it appears to be happening with commercial real estate in Dubai.

So much, so familiar. But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point. No doubt some of Dubai’s competitors, the likes of Doha and Kuwait City and its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, are licking their chops at the prospect of benefitting from Dubai’s downturn but they will be hard put to it to match its dynamism because they remain much more in thrall to traditional Arab/Muslim pieties: a combination of religious and tribal traditions that have made the Middle East a laggard in many dimensions of development. Dubai has been a leader in the Arab world with respect to embracing modernity — which has repercussions both good and bad but in general is a force for positive change. We should all hope that it will get on its feet again soon. The Middle East needs Dubai.

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Poll Numbers Crash

Here is some more sobering poll news for Obama:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. This is the lowest Approval Index rating yet measured for President Obama. … Among those not affiliated with either major political party, just 16% Strongly Approve and 51% Strongly Disapprove. … Overall, 45% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance.

And even the New York Times concedes that something is afoot, although the Gray Lady helpfully spins that this is all “unsurprising.” The Times’s analysis is not unlike that of many Republicans, however:

Mr. Obama’s decline a year into his term comes as he struggles through a decidedly sour climate. The unemployment rate has jumped above 10 percent and shows no sign of abating. At this point, even if Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for causing the economic decline, Americans are growing impatient with him to fix it.

His main legislative initiative — the health care bill — is the subject of a messy fight in Congress, displaying Washington in the very bitter partisan light that Mr. Obama promised to end. It has provided Republicans with a platform to stir concerns that Mr. Obama is using the health care overhaul to expand the role of government beyond the comfort level of many Americans; polls suggest that these arguments have helped sow significant doubts.

You might have to strain to get the point, but the Times is explaining that the health-care debate is making things worse because it’s proving conservatives’ point about Obama’s statist tendencies. It’s also significant that Obama did not get a bump, in fact got a slide, out of his overseas trip, which reminded Americans of their president’s cringey incompetence. (The Times, again, spins this: “The media coverage of Mr. Obama’s visit to China was critical of the way he dealt with Chinese leaders.”)

Well, rational people would look at this and reassess, see what has gone wrong, fire those whose judgment was flawed, and try to get the presidency back on track. This crowd? A combination of true believers and purveyors of “damn the consequences for the moderates,” I suspect, will prevent much if any alteration in the course of this administration. Only elections, I suspect, will have much impact.

Here is some more sobering poll news for Obama:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. This is the lowest Approval Index rating yet measured for President Obama. … Among those not affiliated with either major political party, just 16% Strongly Approve and 51% Strongly Disapprove. … Overall, 45% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance.

And even the New York Times concedes that something is afoot, although the Gray Lady helpfully spins that this is all “unsurprising.” The Times’s analysis is not unlike that of many Republicans, however:

Mr. Obama’s decline a year into his term comes as he struggles through a decidedly sour climate. The unemployment rate has jumped above 10 percent and shows no sign of abating. At this point, even if Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for causing the economic decline, Americans are growing impatient with him to fix it.

His main legislative initiative — the health care bill — is the subject of a messy fight in Congress, displaying Washington in the very bitter partisan light that Mr. Obama promised to end. It has provided Republicans with a platform to stir concerns that Mr. Obama is using the health care overhaul to expand the role of government beyond the comfort level of many Americans; polls suggest that these arguments have helped sow significant doubts.

You might have to strain to get the point, but the Times is explaining that the health-care debate is making things worse because it’s proving conservatives’ point about Obama’s statist tendencies. It’s also significant that Obama did not get a bump, in fact got a slide, out of his overseas trip, which reminded Americans of their president’s cringey incompetence. (The Times, again, spins this: “The media coverage of Mr. Obama’s visit to China was critical of the way he dealt with Chinese leaders.”)

Well, rational people would look at this and reassess, see what has gone wrong, fire those whose judgment was flawed, and try to get the presidency back on track. This crowd? A combination of true believers and purveyors of “damn the consequences for the moderates,” I suspect, will prevent much if any alteration in the course of this administration. Only elections, I suspect, will have much impact.

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Remember Iraq?

In today’s New York Times, David Carr has a piece about the dwindling media coverage of the Iraq War. Carr begins writing about war fatigue and soon descends into a lament about Pentagon restrictions on media and, of course, the human toll of the war. When a media expert cites the success of the troop surge as a possible cause for decreased coverage, Carr is quick to minimize the point:

“Ironically, the success of the surge and a reduction in violence has led to a reduction in coverage,” said Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “There is evidence that people have made up their minds about this war, and other stories – like the economy and the election – have come along and sucked up all the oxygen.”

But the tactical success of the surge should not be misconstrued as making Iraq a safer place for American soldiers.

(Anyone interested in “misconstruing” the definition of success to actually mean success, should go check out this Los Angeles Times article about the four-year-low in Iraq violence.)

The MSM has reasons beyond widespread anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment to keep post-surge good news out of the headlines. H. Fred Garcia, media consultant at Logos Consulting Group, cites the five C’s that make a story newsworthy: Conflict, Contradiction, Controversy, Cast of Characters and Colorful Language. With the progress made in the last year, the Iraq War has disappointed in delivering the five C’s to outlets like the New York Times. Let’s consider them one-by-one:

Conflict: A more stable Iraq means, by definition, less conflict. Where there was once talk of civil war, there is now talk of reconciliation. Stories about parliamentary sessions don’t contain body counts, and pictures of bill-signings don’t make it to the front page as frequently as battle scenes.

Contradiction: General David Petraeus is in the honorable habit of telling it like it is. Whereas jettisoned personalities like Donald Rumsfeld could be relied upon to observe setbacks and brag of successes, Gen. Petraeus is circumspect when testifying about hard-won progress. How can the media trip up a man who readily concedes that the success he’s seeing is “fragile and reversible”? Furthermore there’s greater public agreement coming out of the Pentagon and the State Department than there was in the early days of the war. The Petraeus plan has been settled upon and there’s very little in-fighting to leak out.

Controversy: If you go to google.com/news and type in “Iraq scandal”, you’ll get hits for Abu Ghraib, Guantanemo Bay, Walter Reed, insufficient body armor, and Blackwater. These are all years-old stories of varying merit. Try as they might, the MSM has been unable to make any fresh controversy stick to the coalition’s effort in Iraq.

Cast of Characters: Iraq isn’t a soap opera anymore. The days of Donald Rumsfeld and Baghdad Bob are over. There is no more hubristic overstatement, wise-cracking insouciance, or delusional ranting. On the American side Gen. Petraeus and Ryan Crocker don’t project primetime appeal. They appear before cameras to make their case and then go back to work. On the Iraqi side, there’s no more Saddam Hussein or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The classic villains have been slain. (The aged and puny Tariq Aziz is currently standing trial for war crimes and no one even notices.) The MSM salivates over Moqtada al-Sadr’s every bark and growl, but as he continues to be marginalized the effort to turn him into a larger-than-life personage grows evermore challenging. As Prime Minister al-Maliki goes about the unglamorous business of Iraqi statehood, he fails to cut the dashing image of, say, (one-time prime minister hopeful) Ahmed Chalibi.

Colorful language: The lexicon of battle is far more lurid than the lexicon of reconciliation. We’ve gone from the pyrotechnics of “Shock and Awe” and the exotic horror of exploding golden domes to the legalese of parliamentary decisions. The most hysterical effort at maintaining the electrified language of war can be found in the lede of a July 27 New York Times story about ice in Bagdhad: “Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad’s underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.” Blood can bake only so many times as violence decreases.

So: We’re left with the humdrum narrative of slow and steady progress. Happiness, they say, writes white. While no one would characterize Iraq as happy, there’s been more boring good news coming from Mesopotamia in the past year than the MSM knows what to do with.

In today’s New York Times, David Carr has a piece about the dwindling media coverage of the Iraq War. Carr begins writing about war fatigue and soon descends into a lament about Pentagon restrictions on media and, of course, the human toll of the war. When a media expert cites the success of the troop surge as a possible cause for decreased coverage, Carr is quick to minimize the point:

“Ironically, the success of the surge and a reduction in violence has led to a reduction in coverage,” said Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “There is evidence that people have made up their minds about this war, and other stories – like the economy and the election – have come along and sucked up all the oxygen.”

But the tactical success of the surge should not be misconstrued as making Iraq a safer place for American soldiers.

(Anyone interested in “misconstruing” the definition of success to actually mean success, should go check out this Los Angeles Times article about the four-year-low in Iraq violence.)

The MSM has reasons beyond widespread anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment to keep post-surge good news out of the headlines. H. Fred Garcia, media consultant at Logos Consulting Group, cites the five C’s that make a story newsworthy: Conflict, Contradiction, Controversy, Cast of Characters and Colorful Language. With the progress made in the last year, the Iraq War has disappointed in delivering the five C’s to outlets like the New York Times. Let’s consider them one-by-one:

Conflict: A more stable Iraq means, by definition, less conflict. Where there was once talk of civil war, there is now talk of reconciliation. Stories about parliamentary sessions don’t contain body counts, and pictures of bill-signings don’t make it to the front page as frequently as battle scenes.

Contradiction: General David Petraeus is in the honorable habit of telling it like it is. Whereas jettisoned personalities like Donald Rumsfeld could be relied upon to observe setbacks and brag of successes, Gen. Petraeus is circumspect when testifying about hard-won progress. How can the media trip up a man who readily concedes that the success he’s seeing is “fragile and reversible”? Furthermore there’s greater public agreement coming out of the Pentagon and the State Department than there was in the early days of the war. The Petraeus plan has been settled upon and there’s very little in-fighting to leak out.

Controversy: If you go to google.com/news and type in “Iraq scandal”, you’ll get hits for Abu Ghraib, Guantanemo Bay, Walter Reed, insufficient body armor, and Blackwater. These are all years-old stories of varying merit. Try as they might, the MSM has been unable to make any fresh controversy stick to the coalition’s effort in Iraq.

Cast of Characters: Iraq isn’t a soap opera anymore. The days of Donald Rumsfeld and Baghdad Bob are over. There is no more hubristic overstatement, wise-cracking insouciance, or delusional ranting. On the American side Gen. Petraeus and Ryan Crocker don’t project primetime appeal. They appear before cameras to make their case and then go back to work. On the Iraqi side, there’s no more Saddam Hussein or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The classic villains have been slain. (The aged and puny Tariq Aziz is currently standing trial for war crimes and no one even notices.) The MSM salivates over Moqtada al-Sadr’s every bark and growl, but as he continues to be marginalized the effort to turn him into a larger-than-life personage grows evermore challenging. As Prime Minister al-Maliki goes about the unglamorous business of Iraqi statehood, he fails to cut the dashing image of, say, (one-time prime minister hopeful) Ahmed Chalibi.

Colorful language: The lexicon of battle is far more lurid than the lexicon of reconciliation. We’ve gone from the pyrotechnics of “Shock and Awe” and the exotic horror of exploding golden domes to the legalese of parliamentary decisions. The most hysterical effort at maintaining the electrified language of war can be found in the lede of a July 27 New York Times story about ice in Bagdhad: “Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad’s underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.” Blood can bake only so many times as violence decreases.

So: We’re left with the humdrum narrative of slow and steady progress. Happiness, they say, writes white. While no one would characterize Iraq as happy, there’s been more boring good news coming from Mesopotamia in the past year than the MSM knows what to do with.

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Independents

John McCain has been focusing on independent voters of late with his global warming message and attempts to highlight differences with George W. Bush on the economy (by backing a home mortgage bailout) and foreign policy (by stressing multilateralism). Both he and Barack Obama will have their challenges in making the case with independents.

I am as skeptical as the next person when it comes to focus groups (they are self-selecting and sound suspiciously too informed and too sound-bite savvy). But the one described here sounds reasonable. Obama’s biggest problem: convincing them he’s not a wacky Left wing elitist. McCain’s: convincing them he’s not another George W. Bush.

So what does Obama do? He starts wearing that flag lapel pin and throws in a lot of patriotic talk. And if he’s smart he’ll steer clear of Clinton as a VP. According to this focus group, she’s ballot box poison with independents, even if she might calm frayed nerves in the Democratic Party.

And what’s McCain’s best tactic? Lots of YouTube moments of bipartisan praise, stressing his record of making deals with Democrats, some full-out attacks on Bush’s mismanagement of the Iraq war and Katrina, and plenty of appeals on conservative cultural issues.

All this raises a question: What’s the silliest thing each could do?

There has been some buzz that Obama will go after Republican women by using the abortion issue. That, for a candidate who has high negatives among social conservatives and who can easily be painted as an extremist on the issue (e.g. he was quite vocal in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ruling, for example), could cause more problems than it solves.

For McCain, it would be relying on his biography to the exclusion of issues (voters do care about their own pocket-book concerns), and allowing his team’s new-found fixation on whining about media coverage to go unchecked (voters don’t care about the media, and working-class independent voters don’t like complainers).

John McCain has been focusing on independent voters of late with his global warming message and attempts to highlight differences with George W. Bush on the economy (by backing a home mortgage bailout) and foreign policy (by stressing multilateralism). Both he and Barack Obama will have their challenges in making the case with independents.

I am as skeptical as the next person when it comes to focus groups (they are self-selecting and sound suspiciously too informed and too sound-bite savvy). But the one described here sounds reasonable. Obama’s biggest problem: convincing them he’s not a wacky Left wing elitist. McCain’s: convincing them he’s not another George W. Bush.

So what does Obama do? He starts wearing that flag lapel pin and throws in a lot of patriotic talk. And if he’s smart he’ll steer clear of Clinton as a VP. According to this focus group, she’s ballot box poison with independents, even if she might calm frayed nerves in the Democratic Party.

And what’s McCain’s best tactic? Lots of YouTube moments of bipartisan praise, stressing his record of making deals with Democrats, some full-out attacks on Bush’s mismanagement of the Iraq war and Katrina, and plenty of appeals on conservative cultural issues.

All this raises a question: What’s the silliest thing each could do?

There has been some buzz that Obama will go after Republican women by using the abortion issue. That, for a candidate who has high negatives among social conservatives and who can easily be painted as an extremist on the issue (e.g. he was quite vocal in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ruling, for example), could cause more problems than it solves.

For McCain, it would be relying on his biography to the exclusion of issues (voters do care about their own pocket-book concerns), and allowing his team’s new-found fixation on whining about media coverage to go unchecked (voters don’t care about the media, and working-class independent voters don’t like complainers).

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Tour Mania

John McCain does a lot of “tours.” There was the Bio Tour, the tour to forgotten places (where Republicans rarely win), and the health care tour. This week is the tour for the GOP base. He’s giving them a week of talks on judges, abortion, pornography, and other topics which many social conservatives contend McCain has essentially ignored. This may help him. But the McCain team seems to be missing some more fundamental concerns of conservatives, social and otherwise.

Some are tactical. Why is McCain spending so much time crabbing about media coverage? This simply reinforces the sense among conservative establishment figures that McCain is too thin-skinned. They do have a point: it seems a bizarre waste of energy to grouse when mainstream media coverage of him, as in the “100 day” fight, generally has been quite fair. And if he and his team expect perfect accuracy from the New York Times, they are living in a political fantasyland.

Also high on the list of conservative grievances is McCain’s criticism of conservatives. His slamming of the North Carolina state GOP for its ad tying Democratic gubernatorial candidates to Barack Obama is a case in point. This perpetuates the nagging feeling among many movement Conservatives that McCain would rather jab his allies than attack his real foes.

On a broader level, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, McCain is still lacking an overarching theme or message for his domestic policy. So finding and articulating a consistent message might be a better strategy than three or four days of speeches on a select list of issues.

Now, it’s true that the vast majority of the Republican base (according to polls) has “come home” and is satisfied with McCain as the nominee. And it is likewise true that the election will be decided primarily by independents and those famous Reagan Democrats. Nevertheless, it would certainly help McCain to make sure he has his base secured–but to do it in a way that is meaningful and constructive. It’s not clear that he’s figured out yet how to do that.

John McCain does a lot of “tours.” There was the Bio Tour, the tour to forgotten places (where Republicans rarely win), and the health care tour. This week is the tour for the GOP base. He’s giving them a week of talks on judges, abortion, pornography, and other topics which many social conservatives contend McCain has essentially ignored. This may help him. But the McCain team seems to be missing some more fundamental concerns of conservatives, social and otherwise.

Some are tactical. Why is McCain spending so much time crabbing about media coverage? This simply reinforces the sense among conservative establishment figures that McCain is too thin-skinned. They do have a point: it seems a bizarre waste of energy to grouse when mainstream media coverage of him, as in the “100 day” fight, generally has been quite fair. And if he and his team expect perfect accuracy from the New York Times, they are living in a political fantasyland.

Also high on the list of conservative grievances is McCain’s criticism of conservatives. His slamming of the North Carolina state GOP for its ad tying Democratic gubernatorial candidates to Barack Obama is a case in point. This perpetuates the nagging feeling among many movement Conservatives that McCain would rather jab his allies than attack his real foes.

On a broader level, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, McCain is still lacking an overarching theme or message for his domestic policy. So finding and articulating a consistent message might be a better strategy than three or four days of speeches on a select list of issues.

Now, it’s true that the vast majority of the Republican base (according to polls) has “come home” and is satisfied with McCain as the nominee. And it is likewise true that the election will be decided primarily by independents and those famous Reagan Democrats. Nevertheless, it would certainly help McCain to make sure he has his base secured–but to do it in a way that is meaningful and constructive. It’s not clear that he’s figured out yet how to do that.

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Fuel Wars and Media Wars

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.

Check out Khaled Abu Toameh’s report in today’s Jerusalem Post if you had any doubts. Hamas is now fanatically trying to cause fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, so that a litany of horrors can be blamed on Israel — hospital closures, blackouts, sewage overflows, pestilence, boils, locusts, everything.

Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.

They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.

“Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces,” the eyewitnesses said. “Because of Hamas’s actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators.”

PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas’s measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.

“As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip,” the officials said. “But Hamas’s measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies.”

Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.

Over the winter, Hamas rode high on a crescendo of international sympathy for Gaza and outrage at Israel when it convinced the world that Israel had caused a blackout of the Strip. Its conduits for doing so were the international press corps and international human rights and aid organizations, all of which (to varying degrees) are deeply invested in advancing the narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli cruelty.

Is there any doubt today that the most important battlefield in this conflict is not in Gaza or Sderot, but in newspaper articles and television broadcasts?

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McCain’s Base

The media coverage is catching up with reality, at least on John McCain’s acceptance by the conservative base. Gone are the “James Dobson is not pleased” and “Conservatives aren’t happy” stories. Now, grudging “Conservatives respect McCain but they aren’t enthusiastic” reporting dominates the scene.

Conservative support (as reflected in polling) hasn’t changed much. The coverage has. Why? Partially because conservatives may be willing to speak up on McCain’s behalf in the wake of the negative coverage of Barack Obama. Partially because of a fear that Obama will bring a grab-bag of 1960’s counterculture characters to the White House. Certainly conservative talk show hosts have a plethora of targets (e.g. Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers) far juicier than McCain’s past violations of conservative orthodoxy. (Even Rick Santorum offers McCain grudging support because, after all, “He’s not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.”) At some point, also, it becomes silly to trot out more “conservatives aren’t happy” tale. The real story in base defection and fragmentation is, of course, on the Democratic side, where more and more incidents reflect the looming challenge in healing the wounds left by an increasingly vitriolic primary race. Even commentators on the left have begun to recognize this.

The media coverage is catching up with reality, at least on John McCain’s acceptance by the conservative base. Gone are the “James Dobson is not pleased” and “Conservatives aren’t happy” stories. Now, grudging “Conservatives respect McCain but they aren’t enthusiastic” reporting dominates the scene.

Conservative support (as reflected in polling) hasn’t changed much. The coverage has. Why? Partially because conservatives may be willing to speak up on McCain’s behalf in the wake of the negative coverage of Barack Obama. Partially because of a fear that Obama will bring a grab-bag of 1960’s counterculture characters to the White House. Certainly conservative talk show hosts have a plethora of targets (e.g. Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers) far juicier than McCain’s past violations of conservative orthodoxy. (Even Rick Santorum offers McCain grudging support because, after all, “He’s not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.”) At some point, also, it becomes silly to trot out more “conservatives aren’t happy” tale. The real story in base defection and fragmentation is, of course, on the Democratic side, where more and more incidents reflect the looming challenge in healing the wounds left by an increasingly vitriolic primary race. Even commentators on the left have begun to recognize this.

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