Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michael Goldfarb

J Street Unmasked

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

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RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

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It Is Certainly an Emergency

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

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The Clown Show

The least controversial and most widely accepted comment in the Rolling Stone piece is this:

One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985.”

This is the worst-kept secret in Washington. For some time now, we’ve been getting hints that Jones is less than effective. More than a year ago, Michael Goldfarb reviewed news reports that Jones was keeping bankers’ hours. (“It seems like Jones’s primary goal as National Security Adviser is to get home for dinner. He doesn’t want to ‘sacrifice his life for his career.’ Is this really the best and the brightest?) In TV interviews, he has not inspired confidence. He was downright incoherent in discussing Iran with Candy Crowley earlier this year.

Moreover, Jones is often front and center in the anti-Israel onslaughts. It was Jones who went to speak to J Street last fall. Again, it was Jones who assembled the “Why not an imposed peace plan on Israel?” confab, and then leaked it to the media.

If the Obama foreign policy team has failed to come up with an effective plan to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a good share of the blame is Jones’s. If we had a prolonged and agonized decision-making proces on Afghanistan war strategy, Jones again bears some of the responsibility. You say that the problem is with Obama? Well, certainly, but only the voters can do something about that. As for Jones, it is no laughing matter to have a national-security adviser who is widely perceived as being so ineffective — if not downright counterproductive to the formulation of “smart” national-security policy.

If Obama decides to follow John McCain’s advice and use the McChrystal gaffe as a housecleaning opportunity, he should include Jones. That move is long overdue. No joke.

The least controversial and most widely accepted comment in the Rolling Stone piece is this:

One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985.”

This is the worst-kept secret in Washington. For some time now, we’ve been getting hints that Jones is less than effective. More than a year ago, Michael Goldfarb reviewed news reports that Jones was keeping bankers’ hours. (“It seems like Jones’s primary goal as National Security Adviser is to get home for dinner. He doesn’t want to ‘sacrifice his life for his career.’ Is this really the best and the brightest?) In TV interviews, he has not inspired confidence. He was downright incoherent in discussing Iran with Candy Crowley earlier this year.

Moreover, Jones is often front and center in the anti-Israel onslaughts. It was Jones who went to speak to J Street last fall. Again, it was Jones who assembled the “Why not an imposed peace plan on Israel?” confab, and then leaked it to the media.

If the Obama foreign policy team has failed to come up with an effective plan to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a good share of the blame is Jones’s. If we had a prolonged and agonized decision-making proces on Afghanistan war strategy, Jones again bears some of the responsibility. You say that the problem is with Obama? Well, certainly, but only the voters can do something about that. As for Jones, it is no laughing matter to have a national-security adviser who is widely perceived as being so ineffective — if not downright counterproductive to the formulation of “smart” national-security policy.

If Obama decides to follow John McCain’s advice and use the McChrystal gaffe as a housecleaning opportunity, he should include Jones. That move is long overdue. No joke.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

More doctors say “no” to Obamacare: “A coalition representing 240,000 physician specialists, like the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, said it ‘must oppose the bill as currently written.’” I wonder how many doctors are going to leave the AMA over its “expressed support for the legislation’s central elements.”

There is at least one major impediment to a health-care bill: “After months of trying to craft a 60-vote coalition based on the finer points of health care policy, Senate Democrats are growing increasingly worried that abortion will upend what had become a clear path to approving the overhaul bill.”

Uh oh: “Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana. According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009.”

Mona Charen: “Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush — not even when recounting the nation’s ‘unified’ response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.”

It seems as though the envoy-itis hasn’t worked out so well for the Obami foreign policy. But this bit of super spin about George Mitchell is quite amusing: “throughout a year of exhausting shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East and European capitals, he has not been able to achieve the major task Obama assigned him: getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table.” Er, that’s one way of describing the most counterproductive year in Middle East diplomacy in decades, or maybe in history.

Meanwhile, Michael Goldfarb goes after the mealy-mouthed envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. But the president is what matters here: “He pledged to put an end to the genocide there, and in early 2007 Biden even went so far as to call for deploying American troops to the country. As Obama’s first year comes to a close, his administration is indulging an envoy whose approach is defined by his desire to engage the war criminals who rule Sudan. Gration is Obama’s guy, and ultimately, he is implementing Obama’s policy.”

Obama drops seven points in a month in the CNN/Opinion Research poll; down to a 48-to-50% approval/disapproval rating. And that is among “American adults,” not all of whom are registered voters.

Charles Krauthammer on the “executive privilege” objection to the Obami’s social secretary’s testifying before Congress: “What is comical about this is it’s being invoked for a social secretary in a circumstance where, in the original Supreme Court rulings, it was intended for high officials with important state secrets. What was the state secret here — the nature of the flower arrangements at the head table? You know, it is as if somebody is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a dispute over a parking ticket.”

Roger Pilon of CATO explains the environmentalists’ dilemma: “At bottom, the greens face three basic problems. First, by no means is the science of global warming ‘settled’ — if anything, the fraud Climategate surfaced has settled that question. Second, even if global warming were a settled science, the contribution of human activity is anything but certain. And finally, most important, even if the answers to those two questions were clear, the costs — or benefits — of global warming are unknown, but the costs of the proposals promoted by the greens are astronomical.”

More doctors say “no” to Obamacare: “A coalition representing 240,000 physician specialists, like the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, said it ‘must oppose the bill as currently written.’” I wonder how many doctors are going to leave the AMA over its “expressed support for the legislation’s central elements.”

There is at least one major impediment to a health-care bill: “After months of trying to craft a 60-vote coalition based on the finer points of health care policy, Senate Democrats are growing increasingly worried that abortion will upend what had become a clear path to approving the overhaul bill.”

Uh oh: “Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana. According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009.”

Mona Charen: “Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush — not even when recounting the nation’s ‘unified’ response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.”

It seems as though the envoy-itis hasn’t worked out so well for the Obami foreign policy. But this bit of super spin about George Mitchell is quite amusing: “throughout a year of exhausting shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East and European capitals, he has not been able to achieve the major task Obama assigned him: getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table.” Er, that’s one way of describing the most counterproductive year in Middle East diplomacy in decades, or maybe in history.

Meanwhile, Michael Goldfarb goes after the mealy-mouthed envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. But the president is what matters here: “He pledged to put an end to the genocide there, and in early 2007 Biden even went so far as to call for deploying American troops to the country. As Obama’s first year comes to a close, his administration is indulging an envoy whose approach is defined by his desire to engage the war criminals who rule Sudan. Gration is Obama’s guy, and ultimately, he is implementing Obama’s policy.”

Obama drops seven points in a month in the CNN/Opinion Research poll; down to a 48-to-50% approval/disapproval rating. And that is among “American adults,” not all of whom are registered voters.

Charles Krauthammer on the “executive privilege” objection to the Obami’s social secretary’s testifying before Congress: “What is comical about this is it’s being invoked for a social secretary in a circumstance where, in the original Supreme Court rulings, it was intended for high officials with important state secrets. What was the state secret here — the nature of the flower arrangements at the head table? You know, it is as if somebody is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a dispute over a parking ticket.”

Roger Pilon of CATO explains the environmentalists’ dilemma: “At bottom, the greens face three basic problems. First, by no means is the science of global warming ‘settled’ — if anything, the fraud Climategate surfaced has settled that question. Second, even if global warming were a settled science, the contribution of human activity is anything but certain. And finally, most important, even if the answers to those two questions were clear, the costs — or benefits — of global warming are unknown, but the costs of the proposals promoted by the greens are astronomical.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Marco Rubio is closing in on Charlie Crist in the Republican Florida Senate primary.

Two Republican congressmen have a theory as to why the recovery is tepid: “The source appears to be a growing fear that the federal government is retreating from the free-market economic principles of the last half-century, and in particular the strong growth policies that began under Ronald Reagan.” One big factor, they say, is tax policy: “Marginal income tax rates, capital gains rates, dividend rates and death-tax rates will increase — significantly. Hardest hit by these increases will be small businesses that file under the individual income tax code as sub-chapter S corporations, partnerships and proprietorships. Yet these are the very people whose investment and hiring decisions either drive or starve recoveries.”

Michael Goldfarb closes in on NIAC’s lobbying and efforts to silence journalists: “Keep in mind, this is an organization that claims on its tax forms that it DOES NOT engage in lobbying. Moreover, all of the group’s efforts seems focused on preventing additional sanctions, eliminating U.S. democracy funding initiatives, and destroying the Voice of America’s Radio Farda service. The regime couldn’t come up with a better set of priorities for NIAC, which may explain why so many people are wondering on behalf of whom NIAC is working.”

More bad polling for Obama in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll: 46 percent approve and an equal percentage disapprove of his performance. Independents disapprove by a stunning 51 to 34 percent margin. By a 42 to 39 percent margin, respondents want to vote Republican in congressional races “to provide a check on Obama’s power.”

And from Quinnipiac: “Three-quarters of American voters — 74 percent — like President Barack Obama as a person, but only 47 percent like most of his policies, and voters disapprove 51-35 percent of the health care overhaul passed by the House of Representatives which he has endorsed, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters disapprove 53-41 percent of President Obama’s handling of health care. Obama’s endorsement of the House of Representatives–passed health care plan makes no difference to 44 percent of American voters, while 24 percent say it makes them view him more favorably; 30 percent less favorably.”

Meanwhile, the status quo has never looked so good: “As Congress debates a possible major expansion of health insurance in the United States, Gallup finds 38% of Americans rating healthcare coverage in this country as excellent or good, the highest (by eight percentage points) in the nine-year history of this question, and 12 points above last year’s level.”

Another weekend rush: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the first key test vote on his $848 billion health care bill will be taken Saturday, but he declined to say whether he has 60 senators lined up to vote yes. ‘We will find out when the votes are taken,’ he told reporters at a midday event. Reid also said he would not use a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation to pass the bill — a shift from previous statements when he would say all options are on the table.” And that’s 8 p.m. on Saturday for the vote. Get the sense they don’t want too much attention?

Meanwhile: “Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Thursday that he would prevent health reform from moving to final passage if restrictions on federal funding for abortion weren’t tightened during the amendment process. But, he added, ‘there are a lot of other things that could keep me from supporting it in the end as well.’”

Governors speak up: “Republican governors, meeting outside of Austin, sharply criticized the bill and a companion measure that has passed the House, claiming Thursday that they do nothing to contain rising medical costs and would shift significant costs to already fiscally strapped states.”

Wait, we were told to forget the tax problems because he was a genius: “Snowballing frustration about the economy burst into a political fracas Thursday, with several lawmakers calling on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign over angst about unemployment and Wall Street bailouts. The criticism came largely from House Republicans, who have long been critics of the Treasury secretary. Mr. Geithner’s job status doesn’t appear to be in serious jeopardy and several Democrats at a congressional hearing leapt to his defense. But joining the anti-Geithner chorus in increasing numbers are more liberal Democrats who say the White House’s economic policies haven’t done enough to boost job growth.”

Marco Rubio is closing in on Charlie Crist in the Republican Florida Senate primary.

Two Republican congressmen have a theory as to why the recovery is tepid: “The source appears to be a growing fear that the federal government is retreating from the free-market economic principles of the last half-century, and in particular the strong growth policies that began under Ronald Reagan.” One big factor, they say, is tax policy: “Marginal income tax rates, capital gains rates, dividend rates and death-tax rates will increase — significantly. Hardest hit by these increases will be small businesses that file under the individual income tax code as sub-chapter S corporations, partnerships and proprietorships. Yet these are the very people whose investment and hiring decisions either drive or starve recoveries.”

Michael Goldfarb closes in on NIAC’s lobbying and efforts to silence journalists: “Keep in mind, this is an organization that claims on its tax forms that it DOES NOT engage in lobbying. Moreover, all of the group’s efforts seems focused on preventing additional sanctions, eliminating U.S. democracy funding initiatives, and destroying the Voice of America’s Radio Farda service. The regime couldn’t come up with a better set of priorities for NIAC, which may explain why so many people are wondering on behalf of whom NIAC is working.”

More bad polling for Obama in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll: 46 percent approve and an equal percentage disapprove of his performance. Independents disapprove by a stunning 51 to 34 percent margin. By a 42 to 39 percent margin, respondents want to vote Republican in congressional races “to provide a check on Obama’s power.”

And from Quinnipiac: “Three-quarters of American voters — 74 percent — like President Barack Obama as a person, but only 47 percent like most of his policies, and voters disapprove 51-35 percent of the health care overhaul passed by the House of Representatives which he has endorsed, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters disapprove 53-41 percent of President Obama’s handling of health care. Obama’s endorsement of the House of Representatives–passed health care plan makes no difference to 44 percent of American voters, while 24 percent say it makes them view him more favorably; 30 percent less favorably.”

Meanwhile, the status quo has never looked so good: “As Congress debates a possible major expansion of health insurance in the United States, Gallup finds 38% of Americans rating healthcare coverage in this country as excellent or good, the highest (by eight percentage points) in the nine-year history of this question, and 12 points above last year’s level.”

Another weekend rush: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the first key test vote on his $848 billion health care bill will be taken Saturday, but he declined to say whether he has 60 senators lined up to vote yes. ‘We will find out when the votes are taken,’ he told reporters at a midday event. Reid also said he would not use a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation to pass the bill — a shift from previous statements when he would say all options are on the table.” And that’s 8 p.m. on Saturday for the vote. Get the sense they don’t want too much attention?

Meanwhile: “Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Thursday that he would prevent health reform from moving to final passage if restrictions on federal funding for abortion weren’t tightened during the amendment process. But, he added, ‘there are a lot of other things that could keep me from supporting it in the end as well.’”

Governors speak up: “Republican governors, meeting outside of Austin, sharply criticized the bill and a companion measure that has passed the House, claiming Thursday that they do nothing to contain rising medical costs and would shift significant costs to already fiscally strapped states.”

Wait, we were told to forget the tax problems because he was a genius: “Snowballing frustration about the economy burst into a political fracas Thursday, with several lawmakers calling on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to resign over angst about unemployment and Wall Street bailouts. The criticism came largely from House Republicans, who have long been critics of the Treasury secretary. Mr. Geithner’s job status doesn’t appear to be in serious jeopardy and several Democrats at a congressional hearing leapt to his defense. But joining the anti-Geithner chorus in increasing numbers are more liberal Democrats who say the White House’s economic policies haven’t done enough to boost job growth.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

Conn Carroll at Heritage reminds us of Obama’s promises that his health care would “‘provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare.’ Quite a bold statement if true. But a report released Friday by the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, blows the lid off of every one of Obama’s claims.”

It is one thing to make up stimulus jobs, but the Obami are not beyond making up a congressional district.

It’s not over till it’s over: “Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has ‘unconceded’ in New York’s special House election after reports that the vote margin between him and Rep. Bill Owens (D) has narrowed. Hoffman conceded the race on Election Night after learning he trailed Owens by 5,335 votes. But the Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that the margin had shrunk to 3,026 votes after recanvassing.”

It seems that Obama was denied much access to the Chinese people by his hosts: “The net effect is that the trip, which isn’t expected to yield major substantive agreements, also isn’t likely to give Mr. Obama much of a symbolic victory either. Longtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors.” How could it be that he’s less effective than his predecessors? The smart diplomacy flops once again.

The Washington Post’s editors think Obama shouldn’t be “welcoming” cooperation with undemocratic China: “The United States has no choice but to recognize China’s rise as a great power, and Mr. Obama may be right that a policy of containment would be counterproductive. But ‘welcome’ a dictatorship to global influence? It’s hard to see why that is a necessary or sensible stance for the U.S. president.”

Bret Stephens reminds us of the track record of terrorist trials: “The Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that ‘you’re allowed to lie for jihad.’ Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance. … The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.”

Democrats aren’t doing so well in Iowa: “A new Des Moines Register poll is great news for Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, as well as GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. It is very bad news for Iowa’s current Governor. The poll clearly shows Iowans are fed up with the inept management of Democrat Chet Culver. His overall approval rating sits at just 40 percent.”

Bill McGurn explains the unintended consequence of the decision to try KSM in a civilian court: “Why fight the Marines and risk getting killed yourself or locked up in Bagram forever when you can blow up American citizens on their own streets and gain the legal protections that give you a chance to go free? With this one step, Mr. Holder is giving al Qaeda a ghastly incentive: to focus more of their attacks on American civilians on American home soil.”

Michael Goldfarb on the NIAC scandal and those whose first instinct is to run to the defense of the mullahs’ front man.

David Brody takes issue with the new Newsweek cover photo of Sarah Palin: “Where’s the sexy photo of Mitt Romney? Why not a picture of Tim Pawlenty with an unbuttoned shirt relaxing on a couch in the Twin Cities?” I suspect Romney and Pawlenty are wondering the same thing.

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What Would He Talk To Them About?

John McCain just completed a blogger conference call. He began by referring to his speech this morning and by emphasizing that he sees that by 2013 we will have won in Iraq, meaning the government and military would be functioning and violence would be “sporadic.”

I asked McCain about President Bush’s comments in Israel and why the Democratic establishment and media had gone crazy over Bush’s warnings about the dangers of appeasement. McCain said that he took Bush at his word when he said that he wasn’t talking about Barack Obama specifically. He then explained that he suspected that the reaction was so “vociferous” because of concern about defending a policy that evidences the “highest degree of naivitee and inexperience” in pledging to sit down with the President of Iraq who calls Israel a “stinking corpse,” vows to wipe Israel off the map and supplies explosives which kill America’s military personnel in Iraq.

I also asked him about Lebanon and whether Obama’s plan to meet directly with Iran will improve the situation. He said that there is essentially a “proxy war” with Syria and Iran supporting Hezbollah and that the U.N. has done nothing to enforce its resolution calling for Hezbollah’s disarmament. Again, he took issue with the notion that we should hold presidential talks with Iran: ” What is it that he wants to talk about?” He queried whether it would be Iran’s belief that Israel is a stinking corpse or its commitment to destroy Israel. He summed up, saying he concluded from this that Obama lacked the “knowledge, experience or background” to defend our national security interests.

In response to the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb’s question as to what preconditions would be needed before he would talk to Iran’s leadership, McCain listed renunciation of its stated position to wipe out Israel, abandonment of its pursuit of nuclear weapons, a cessation of exporting of explosive devices which are killing Americans and a halt to sponsorship of terrorist organizations. He also noted that talks including Ambassador Crocker’s discussion with the Iranian Ambassador in Iraq have given us no reason to believe that Iran is interested in any of these items.

And what about the Obama campaign’s spin that Obama isn’t really promising unconditional talks? McCain was having none of it. He pointed to other flip flops by Obama on NAFTA and concluded that on this one (Iran) more recent comments suggesting that Obama really isn’t after all interested in direct talks without preconditons show a “very clear inconsistency” and a “contradiction” with his prior position.

In short, McCain made clear he believes meeting at the presidential level with Iran would merely “enhance their prestige” and that this policy position by Obama is a useful one in McCain’s own efforts to paint Obama as a dangerous novice in foreign affairs. It seems clear this will be a major point of debate in the general election.

John McCain just completed a blogger conference call. He began by referring to his speech this morning and by emphasizing that he sees that by 2013 we will have won in Iraq, meaning the government and military would be functioning and violence would be “sporadic.”

I asked McCain about President Bush’s comments in Israel and why the Democratic establishment and media had gone crazy over Bush’s warnings about the dangers of appeasement. McCain said that he took Bush at his word when he said that he wasn’t talking about Barack Obama specifically. He then explained that he suspected that the reaction was so “vociferous” because of concern about defending a policy that evidences the “highest degree of naivitee and inexperience” in pledging to sit down with the President of Iraq who calls Israel a “stinking corpse,” vows to wipe Israel off the map and supplies explosives which kill America’s military personnel in Iraq.

I also asked him about Lebanon and whether Obama’s plan to meet directly with Iran will improve the situation. He said that there is essentially a “proxy war” with Syria and Iran supporting Hezbollah and that the U.N. has done nothing to enforce its resolution calling for Hezbollah’s disarmament. Again, he took issue with the notion that we should hold presidential talks with Iran: ” What is it that he wants to talk about?” He queried whether it would be Iran’s belief that Israel is a stinking corpse or its commitment to destroy Israel. He summed up, saying he concluded from this that Obama lacked the “knowledge, experience or background” to defend our national security interests.

In response to the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb’s question as to what preconditions would be needed before he would talk to Iran’s leadership, McCain listed renunciation of its stated position to wipe out Israel, abandonment of its pursuit of nuclear weapons, a cessation of exporting of explosive devices which are killing Americans and a halt to sponsorship of terrorist organizations. He also noted that talks including Ambassador Crocker’s discussion with the Iranian Ambassador in Iraq have given us no reason to believe that Iran is interested in any of these items.

And what about the Obama campaign’s spin that Obama isn’t really promising unconditional talks? McCain was having none of it. He pointed to other flip flops by Obama on NAFTA and concluded that on this one (Iran) more recent comments suggesting that Obama really isn’t after all interested in direct talks without preconditons show a “very clear inconsistency” and a “contradiction” with his prior position.

In short, McCain made clear he believes meeting at the presidential level with Iran would merely “enhance their prestige” and that this policy position by Obama is a useful one in McCain’s own efforts to paint Obama as a dangerous novice in foreign affairs. It seems clear this will be a major point of debate in the general election.

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The McCain Kickoff Tour

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

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This Is Good Blogging

Herewith the full text of an item today by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard called “Quote of the Day”:

Josh Patashnik writes at TNR:

 

Marty Lederman is right that it would be nice if McCain would spell out which techniques he thinks are appropriate for the CIA to use–because his anti-torture credibility is sinking pretty rapidly.

 

And thus a 23 year-old reporter-researcher at the New Republic questions the “anti-torture credibility” of John McCain.

Ouch.

 

Herewith the full text of an item today by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard called “Quote of the Day”:

Josh Patashnik writes at TNR:

 

Marty Lederman is right that it would be nice if McCain would spell out which techniques he thinks are appropriate for the CIA to use–because his anti-torture credibility is sinking pretty rapidly.

 

And thus a 23 year-old reporter-researcher at the New Republic questions the “anti-torture credibility” of John McCain.

Ouch.

 

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McCain Conservatism

I just got off a conference a call with a feisty John McCain in South Carolina. The big news in his campaign is today’s endorsement by Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn’s sterling conservative credentials may help McCain get some votes among the fiscal and social conservatives who’ve had their doubts. (The ones who call for his head are another story.) It will certainly enhance McCain’s ability to further blur his version of conservatism with that of the staunch ideologues in his party.

In reviewing Romney’s Michigan win, he cited the hometown angle and the fact that he refused to promise people the return of their old jobs. Here one sees, as John Podhoretz put it in contentions last night, McCain’s “political rigidity based on a sense of his own personal rectitude.”

A questioner challenged the Senator on his 2006 recommendation of James Baker as Middle East peace envoy. McCain took the question as a cheap shot on his support for Israel. The Senator briskly stated that he respects Baker while disagreeing with him on various points, and that he stands on his own decades-long record as a friend of Israel.

Things turned a bit revelatory when the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb asked McCain about his environmental stand. The Senator offered the boilerplate “most scientists etc. . .” but I was surprised and relieved to hear that he considers the question of climate-change severity an open one. I’m eager to see John McCain’s self-confessed truth addiction keep him on point when this comes up in the public arena. He could use some distance between himself and the global warming alarmists on the Left. Things got combative when Goldfarb questioned McCain’s support for a cap-and-trade emissions approach as opposed to a carbon tax. The Senator launched into a hearty defense of cap-and-trade as the obvious free market conservative’s choice. What’s interesting about Senator McCain among all the frontrunners is his detractors have meticulously highlighted his weak spots for him. With targets painted, it’s now a race to cover up before the shots ring out.

I just got off a conference a call with a feisty John McCain in South Carolina. The big news in his campaign is today’s endorsement by Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn’s sterling conservative credentials may help McCain get some votes among the fiscal and social conservatives who’ve had their doubts. (The ones who call for his head are another story.) It will certainly enhance McCain’s ability to further blur his version of conservatism with that of the staunch ideologues in his party.

In reviewing Romney’s Michigan win, he cited the hometown angle and the fact that he refused to promise people the return of their old jobs. Here one sees, as John Podhoretz put it in contentions last night, McCain’s “political rigidity based on a sense of his own personal rectitude.”

A questioner challenged the Senator on his 2006 recommendation of James Baker as Middle East peace envoy. McCain took the question as a cheap shot on his support for Israel. The Senator briskly stated that he respects Baker while disagreeing with him on various points, and that he stands on his own decades-long record as a friend of Israel.

Things turned a bit revelatory when the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb asked McCain about his environmental stand. The Senator offered the boilerplate “most scientists etc. . .” but I was surprised and relieved to hear that he considers the question of climate-change severity an open one. I’m eager to see John McCain’s self-confessed truth addiction keep him on point when this comes up in the public arena. He could use some distance between himself and the global warming alarmists on the Left. Things got combative when Goldfarb questioned McCain’s support for a cap-and-trade emissions approach as opposed to a carbon tax. The Senator launched into a hearty defense of cap-and-trade as the obvious free market conservative’s choice. What’s interesting about Senator McCain among all the frontrunners is his detractors have meticulously highlighted his weak spots for him. With targets painted, it’s now a race to cover up before the shots ring out.

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The Fall of Antioch

Why did Antioch College fail? The announcement that the celebrated college in Yellow Springs, Ohio would be closing its doors in July 2008 sent a collective shudder through the academic establishment. Corporations go bankrupt, automobile manufacturers and commercial airlines go bankrupt, but not prominent colleges—and certainly not one founded by Horace Mann (1796-1859), the “Father of American Education.” In all the speculation about what went wrong at Antioch runs a distinct current of apprehension: it can’t happen again—or can it?

A consensus has already emerged that Antioch was the victim of its own progressive agenda. And indeed, from its inception in 1852, Antioch has been assertively progressive, accepting female students and—after 1863—black ones as well. During the 1920’s it established an innovative cooperative education program, giving students practical work experience. Later it was one of the first schools to abolish traditional letter grades in favor of “narrative evaluations.” It was this varied and intense liberal-arts education that produced such alumni as Coretta Scott King, Rod Serling, and Stephen Jay Gould.

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Why did Antioch College fail? The announcement that the celebrated college in Yellow Springs, Ohio would be closing its doors in July 2008 sent a collective shudder through the academic establishment. Corporations go bankrupt, automobile manufacturers and commercial airlines go bankrupt, but not prominent colleges—and certainly not one founded by Horace Mann (1796-1859), the “Father of American Education.” In all the speculation about what went wrong at Antioch runs a distinct current of apprehension: it can’t happen again—or can it?

A consensus has already emerged that Antioch was the victim of its own progressive agenda. And indeed, from its inception in 1852, Antioch has been assertively progressive, accepting female students and—after 1863—black ones as well. During the 1920’s it established an innovative cooperative education program, giving students practical work experience. Later it was one of the first schools to abolish traditional letter grades in favor of “narrative evaluations.” It was this varied and intense liberal-arts education that produced such alumni as Coretta Scott King, Rod Serling, and Stephen Jay Gould.

Over the past decade, however, Antioch’s progressive politics became something of a national laughingstock. Accounts of its closing invariably cite its notorious rules for sexual conduct, which mandated verbal consent at each stage of escalating intimacy (helpfully explaining that “A person can not give consent while sleeping”). Less amusing was the commencement speaker chosen by Antioch’s class of 2000, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was sentenced to death for murdering a Philadelphia policeman and who delivered his commencement address from his cell on death row. National outrage over this event clearly contributed to plummeting enrollments. Only 125 students were accepted this year out of an expected class of 309. These declining numbers, and its relatively small endowment of $36 million, spelled the end of Antioch.

Of course, Antioch is hardly the only school to launch a sexual inquisition or to open its doors to embarrassing speakers: liberal-arts colleges such as Oberlin and Swarthmore similarly pride themselves on their progressive politics and activism. Nor is it the only school to teeter along on a woefully inadequate endowment (one thinks of perennially troubled Bennington). But somewhere along the line Antioch crossed a threshold, its radical aura drawing an ever more radical student body, which radicalized it still further, until the process became a death spiral.

A poignant op-ed in the New York Times by Michael Goldfarb, a student at Antioch from 1968 to 1971, illuminates the beginning of that process. “[O]ut there in the middle of the cornfields,” Goldfarb writes, “the only ‘bourgeois’ thing to fight was Antioch College itself,” and a devastating student strike in the early 1970′s “trashed the campus.” A year later, enrollments had fallen by half. Those who remained became increasingly conformist and homogeneous:

In two decades students went from being practitioners of free love to prisoners of gender. Antioch became like one of those Essene communities in the Judean desert in the first century after Christ that, convinced of their own purity, died out while waiting for a golden age that never came.

Perhaps that Essene sense of purity was there from the beginning. In a perceptive essay, Peter Wood of the Manhattan Institute calls attention to Horace Mann’s own verdict on the good inhabitants of Yellow Springs: “souls so small that a million sprinkled on a diamond would not make it dusty.”

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