Commentary Magazine


Topic: National Press Club

Re: Promises? What Promises?

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

The confab between Obama and Big Labor bosses didn’t exactly go swimmingly. It seems ObamaCare is not living up to Big Labor’s expectations:

The final bill will not include the House’s government-run insurance plan, or “public option”; it will probably include the Senate’s new tax on high-cost health plans that could affect many union members. …

Three hours earlier, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a hard-edged speech at the National Press Club that discontent with the final bill, when combined with a general perception that Obama and Congress have been insufficiently populist in responding to the recession and financial crisis, could demoralize his members. The risk, he said, was a replay of the Democratic blowout in the 1994 elections, when, after the passage of NAFTA and other disappointments to unions, “there was no way to persuade enough working Americans to go to the polls when they couldn’t tell the difference between the two parties.”

Big Labor’s distaste for the bill is not so strong as to warrant the union bosses’ outright opposition to the bill — though it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t oppose a measure that focuses  taxes on many union members without any obvious benefit. Nevertheless, the warning of unenthusiasm in 2010 is not an empty or insignificant threat. Considering the millions poured into Democratic coffers and the get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Obama and congressional candidates in 2008, it’s no small thing for Big Labor to threaten to sit on its collective hands. Democrats in virtually all polls show a lower level of enthusiasm than do Republicans, who are fired up and eager to throw the rascals out.

So once again we return to the colossal political inanity of ObamaCare. It’s the rare piece of legislation that has inflamed and energized the opposition, and depressed and divided its supporters. Republicans are fortunate indeed. Now we’ll see what, if anything, they can make of the opportunity presented by their opponents.

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Obama Acts Like Obama

True to form, Barack Obama’s explanation yesterday of his reasons for leaving Trinity Church are a model of double-talk. (And the remarkably passive media pack doesn’t make it very hard for him to avoid further scrutiny.) He has, he explained

“tremendous regard” for the church community, but said he could not live with a situation where everything said in the church, including comments by a guest pastor, “will be imputed to me, even if they conflict with my long-held, views, statements and principles.”

And he would have remained in a church for two decades where regularly people spoke out in ways which conflicted with his principles because . . . why, exactly? We don’t know. And no one in the press thought to ask.

But it gets worse. ABC reports:

He insisted that Trinity itself is not a church worth denouncing. “I’m not denouncing the church and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church, because it’s not a church worthy of denouncing, and so if they’ve seen caricatures of the church and except [sic] those caricatures despite my insistence that that’s not what the church is about, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

Yes, remember Obama does not do denouncing. There is nothing a Wright or Pfleger or Ayers can do which deserve condemnation. Unless, of course they visit the National Press Club and critique his sincerity.

And Obama concedes that:

[A]t the start of the campaign he never would have expected this much scrutiny to be put on his faith, “which we knew there was going to be some things that we didn’t see coming, this was one. You know I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny. Initially with emails suggesting that I was a Muslim, later with you know the controversy that Trinity generated.”

This one gets the trifecta for dishonesty, or perhaps cluelessness. First, it is, of course, not the case that his Christian faith is being questioned. I know of no commentator, critic, or political opponent who has done that. What is at issue is his propensity to hang out with hatemongers who suggest his current post-racial theme is a pose. Second, he apparently lacks any cultural or political compass if he really believed that Wright et al. would not become an issue. Was it self-delusion? Or is he so out of touch with average Americans that he was unable to predict what would be deeply offensive to millions of Americans? And finally, notice how he impugns the motives of those who raise concerns about his association with Trinity. They are on a footing, in his book, with those perpetrating the “He’s a Muslim” canard. But the former are not perpetrating a lie. They are discussing and probing the beliefs, sincerity, and character of the man who wants to be President.

The Trinity cast of characters and Obama’s reaction to them have been more revealing than more a dozen-plus debates, all the speeches, and just about anything that has happened in over a year of campaigning. It might be even more revealing if the media would take their role seriously and press Obama on some of these obvious points. But Obama, however inadvertently, has done a fairly good job of letting us know how he makes both political and moral judgments. And that is perhaps the most important thing to know about a potential President.

True to form, Barack Obama’s explanation yesterday of his reasons for leaving Trinity Church are a model of double-talk. (And the remarkably passive media pack doesn’t make it very hard for him to avoid further scrutiny.) He has, he explained

“tremendous regard” for the church community, but said he could not live with a situation where everything said in the church, including comments by a guest pastor, “will be imputed to me, even if they conflict with my long-held, views, statements and principles.”

And he would have remained in a church for two decades where regularly people spoke out in ways which conflicted with his principles because . . . why, exactly? We don’t know. And no one in the press thought to ask.

But it gets worse. ABC reports:

He insisted that Trinity itself is not a church worth denouncing. “I’m not denouncing the church and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church, because it’s not a church worthy of denouncing, and so if they’ve seen caricatures of the church and except [sic] those caricatures despite my insistence that that’s not what the church is about, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

Yes, remember Obama does not do denouncing. There is nothing a Wright or Pfleger or Ayers can do which deserve condemnation. Unless, of course they visit the National Press Club and critique his sincerity.

And Obama concedes that:

[A]t the start of the campaign he never would have expected this much scrutiny to be put on his faith, “which we knew there was going to be some things that we didn’t see coming, this was one. You know I did not anticipate my fairly conventional Christian faith being subject to such challenge and such scrutiny. Initially with emails suggesting that I was a Muslim, later with you know the controversy that Trinity generated.”

This one gets the trifecta for dishonesty, or perhaps cluelessness. First, it is, of course, not the case that his Christian faith is being questioned. I know of no commentator, critic, or political opponent who has done that. What is at issue is his propensity to hang out with hatemongers who suggest his current post-racial theme is a pose. Second, he apparently lacks any cultural or political compass if he really believed that Wright et al. would not become an issue. Was it self-delusion? Or is he so out of touch with average Americans that he was unable to predict what would be deeply offensive to millions of Americans? And finally, notice how he impugns the motives of those who raise concerns about his association with Trinity. They are on a footing, in his book, with those perpetrating the “He’s a Muslim” canard. But the former are not perpetrating a lie. They are discussing and probing the beliefs, sincerity, and character of the man who wants to be President.

The Trinity cast of characters and Obama’s reaction to them have been more revealing than more a dozen-plus debates, all the speeches, and just about anything that has happened in over a year of campaigning. It might be even more revealing if the media would take their role seriously and press Obama on some of these obvious points. But Obama, however inadvertently, has done a fairly good job of letting us know how he makes both political and moral judgments. And that is perhaps the most important thing to know about a potential President.

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Apology Time, Or Not

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

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Nothing Like A Kennedy to Add Some Class

Leave it to Ted Kennedy. It is one thing to say that Hillary Clinton might not be the best choice for VP or that Barack Obama should make his own choice. But that would have shown grace and restraint. This comes from an interview with Al Hunt:

Obama should choose a running mate who “is in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people,” Kennedy said. “If we had real leadership — as we do with Barack Obama — in the No. 2 spot as well, it’d be enormously helpful.”

Can you think of anything that would inflame Clinton’s supporters more or cause her and Bill to dig their heels in any deeper? If Obama were smart he’d publically distance himself from Kennedy’s remarks. But wait. He doesn’t rebuke mentors unless they speak at the National Press club.

Leave it to Ted Kennedy. It is one thing to say that Hillary Clinton might not be the best choice for VP or that Barack Obama should make his own choice. But that would have shown grace and restraint. This comes from an interview with Al Hunt:

Obama should choose a running mate who “is in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people,” Kennedy said. “If we had real leadership — as we do with Barack Obama — in the No. 2 spot as well, it’d be enormously helpful.”

Can you think of anything that would inflame Clinton’s supporters more or cause her and Bill to dig their heels in any deeper? If Obama were smart he’d publically distance himself from Kennedy’s remarks. But wait. He doesn’t rebuke mentors unless they speak at the National Press club.

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Hoyt Tries To Clean Up – Again

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

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Still Apologizing?

Barack Obama’s greatest cheerleader writes:

“Wright is doubtless a complex figure: you cannot deny his theological depth, his intellectual gifts, his service in the Marines, his contribution to his community. But he is also clearly an ego-maniac, as some preachers often are. And he has succumbed to bitterness, envy, paranoia and racial polarization.”

I beg to differ! I certainly can deny his theological depth and intellectual gifts. Even a cursory read through his sermons, his National Press Club tirade, and his NAACP speech should remove any doubt. Wright’s assertions that AIDS was created to destroy African-Americans, that Israel has created an ethnic bomb, that African-American brains are wired differently to be more musical, and that Israel is a “dirty word” show that he is not theologically deep but a crank. Even Obama now says:

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

So if Obama can now admit Wright is spouting “a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth,” isn’t it time for Obama apologists to stop making excuses? But that would be to admit that their candidate had been an atrocious judge of intellect and character.

Barack Obama’s greatest cheerleader writes:

“Wright is doubtless a complex figure: you cannot deny his theological depth, his intellectual gifts, his service in the Marines, his contribution to his community. But he is also clearly an ego-maniac, as some preachers often are. And he has succumbed to bitterness, envy, paranoia and racial polarization.”

I beg to differ! I certainly can deny his theological depth and intellectual gifts. Even a cursory read through his sermons, his National Press Club tirade, and his NAACP speech should remove any doubt. Wright’s assertions that AIDS was created to destroy African-Americans, that Israel has created an ethnic bomb, that African-American brains are wired differently to be more musical, and that Israel is a “dirty word” show that he is not theologically deep but a crank. Even Obama now says:

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

So if Obama can now admit Wright is spouting “a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth,” isn’t it time for Obama apologists to stop making excuses? But that would be to admit that their candidate had been an atrocious judge of intellect and character.

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Hoosier Momentum

Sometimes a chart says it all. Check out this one showing the recent polling data for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On average, according to RealClearPolitics, her lead is less than 5 points, but you have to go back to pre-Pennsylvania to find a result where Obama led outside the margin of error. And there isn’t any poll after the National Press Club disaster where Obama leads. This is problematic for a candidate who boasts a home field advantage (25% of Indiana is in the Chicago media market). He’s said that “People are a little more familiar with me in Indiana.” But it seems that as more and more Indiana voters focus on the race, his poll numbers go down. In the post-Wright-eruption atmosphere, the question remains whether this is as bad as it will get or whether things have yet to hit rock bottom.

And one final note. Should Clinton win, it will show that, for all the talk of her unpopularity with the Democratic establishment, three heavyweights (Strickland in Ohio, Rendell in Pennsylvania, and Bayh in Indiana) may have rescued her from oblivion.

Sometimes a chart says it all. Check out this one showing the recent polling data for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On average, according to RealClearPolitics, her lead is less than 5 points, but you have to go back to pre-Pennsylvania to find a result where Obama led outside the margin of error. And there isn’t any poll after the National Press Club disaster where Obama leads. This is problematic for a candidate who boasts a home field advantage (25% of Indiana is in the Chicago media market). He’s said that “People are a little more familiar with me in Indiana.” But it seems that as more and more Indiana voters focus on the race, his poll numbers go down. In the post-Wright-eruption atmosphere, the question remains whether this is as bad as it will get or whether things have yet to hit rock bottom.

And one final note. Should Clinton win, it will show that, for all the talk of her unpopularity with the Democratic establishment, three heavyweights (Strickland in Ohio, Rendell in Pennsylvania, and Bayh in Indiana) may have rescued her from oblivion.

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No Help At All

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

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The Friends of Jeremiah Wright

The Nation magazine claims 181,070 subscribers, a substantially high number for a political publication, a number that might actually make it the most popular publication of its kind in the United States. (National Review claims 166,000.) In comparison, the center-left New Republic (by which I am employed), has around 60,000 subscribers. Whatever its views, The Nation is not some obscure, fringe journal.

Why does this matter? Well, let’s take a look at the controversy surrounding Jeremiah Wright. By Monday afternoon, most liberal pundits and prominent Obama supporters who had yet to denounce Wright finally came out and did so, if not because they disagree vehemently with what he has to say, then at least because they understand the damage he could potentially inflict on their man’s chances of becoming president.

Most, but not all. John McCormack of The Weekly Standard was at the National Press Club Monday morning when Wright delivered the speech that history will judge to be the death knell of Barack Obama’s political fortunes. He reported the following tidbit, which I’m surprised hasn’t received more attention:

Again and again, Wright was not held to account for his own disputed claims, such as his contention that in his post 9/11 sermon he was merely quoting the ambassador from Iraq that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” To be fair, most of those in the press gallery didn’t openly applaud Wright during his speech–as did Christopher Hayes of the Nation and Nadia Charters of Al-Arabiya TV, who were both sitting (appropriately) to the left of me.

What did the Washington bureau chief of The Nation find in Wright’s tirade that merited applause? The spirited defense of Louis Farrakhan? The reiteration of the dangerous canard that the American government invented HIV to kill black people? Perhaps it was the selfish and historically illiterate conflation of the African-American religious tradition with paranoid and conspiratorial racism? Mr. Hayes is joined in his praise of Rev. Wright by his colleague John Nichols, who compares Wright to Thomas Jefferson.

With conventional wisdom now firmly in the anti-Wright camp, a charitable observer might acknowledge that The Nation’s enthusiasm for this paranoid hate-monger demonstrates a bit of political cojones. But that’s the most, I think, that can be said in its defense.

The Nation magazine claims 181,070 subscribers, a substantially high number for a political publication, a number that might actually make it the most popular publication of its kind in the United States. (National Review claims 166,000.) In comparison, the center-left New Republic (by which I am employed), has around 60,000 subscribers. Whatever its views, The Nation is not some obscure, fringe journal.

Why does this matter? Well, let’s take a look at the controversy surrounding Jeremiah Wright. By Monday afternoon, most liberal pundits and prominent Obama supporters who had yet to denounce Wright finally came out and did so, if not because they disagree vehemently with what he has to say, then at least because they understand the damage he could potentially inflict on their man’s chances of becoming president.

Most, but not all. John McCormack of The Weekly Standard was at the National Press Club Monday morning when Wright delivered the speech that history will judge to be the death knell of Barack Obama’s political fortunes. He reported the following tidbit, which I’m surprised hasn’t received more attention:

Again and again, Wright was not held to account for his own disputed claims, such as his contention that in his post 9/11 sermon he was merely quoting the ambassador from Iraq that “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” To be fair, most of those in the press gallery didn’t openly applaud Wright during his speech–as did Christopher Hayes of the Nation and Nadia Charters of Al-Arabiya TV, who were both sitting (appropriately) to the left of me.

What did the Washington bureau chief of The Nation find in Wright’s tirade that merited applause? The spirited defense of Louis Farrakhan? The reiteration of the dangerous canard that the American government invented HIV to kill black people? Perhaps it was the selfish and historically illiterate conflation of the African-American religious tradition with paranoid and conspiratorial racism? Mr. Hayes is joined in his praise of Rev. Wright by his colleague John Nichols, who compares Wright to Thomas Jefferson.

With conventional wisdom now firmly in the anti-Wright camp, a charitable observer might acknowledge that The Nation’s enthusiasm for this paranoid hate-monger demonstrates a bit of political cojones. But that’s the most, I think, that can be said in its defense.

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Obama Got His Dander Up When Wright Came After Him

I am not alone in recognizing that what seems to have gotten Barack Obama particularly peeved is that Reverand Wright made a spectacle of himself and questioned Obama’s sincerity as non-politician. Obama explained: “I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people.”

In response to a question Obama said:

And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I’m about knows that — that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the — the commonality in all people.

Again Obama made clear how personal this is, how much he feels slighted:

Well, the — I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. I don’t — more importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people and with the American people. . .But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough. That’s — that’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s a — it is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.

So what is “particularly” noteworthy is what got Obama angry: Wright’s lack of loyalty and concern for him. Now ,that’s natural, I suppose, but it also shows a strange ranking of priorities. Insulting his country, spouting bizarre conspiracy theories, voicing racism and much more — none of that is what “particularly” triggered a repudiation. That, as much as the intellectual inconsistency (“I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother”), should provoke concern among people looking for a selfless leader for the new era in American politics.

And one final note: Obama denied that Wright was his “spiritual mentor.” I have yet to find an instance in which that exact phrase came from Obama’s lips, but it has been use incessently by the media without a hint of objection by the Obama team. Obama came close to saying the same thing many times including in this interview in March:

You know, I guess — keep in mind that, just to provide more context, this is somebody who I had known for 20 years. Pastor Wright has been a pastor for 30 years. He’s an ex-Marine. He is somebody who is a biblical scholar, has spoken at theological seminaries all across the country, from the University of Chicago to Hampton. And so he is a well- regarded preacher. And somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel. . . . I mean, obviously, understand that — understand that, you know, this is somebody who is like an uncle. If you have — to me. He’s somebody who helped me find Christ. And somebody who always talked to me in very powerful ways about relationship to God and our obligations to the poor. If somebody makes a mistake, then obviously, you recognize — I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. If I thought that that was the repeated tenor of the church, then I wouldn’t feel comfortable there. But, frankly, that has not been my experience at Trinity United Church of Christ.

But that inconsistency seems to be the least of his worries. (Among his bigger concerns: the latest poll numbers. Yikes.)

I am not alone in recognizing that what seems to have gotten Barack Obama particularly peeved is that Reverand Wright made a spectacle of himself and questioned Obama’s sincerity as non-politician. Obama explained: “I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people.”

In response to a question Obama said:

And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I’m about knows that — that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the — the commonality in all people.

Again Obama made clear how personal this is, how much he feels slighted:

Well, the — I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. I don’t — more importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people and with the American people. . .But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough. That’s — that’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s a — it is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.

So what is “particularly” noteworthy is what got Obama angry: Wright’s lack of loyalty and concern for him. Now ,that’s natural, I suppose, but it also shows a strange ranking of priorities. Insulting his country, spouting bizarre conspiracy theories, voicing racism and much more — none of that is what “particularly” triggered a repudiation. That, as much as the intellectual inconsistency (“I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother”), should provoke concern among people looking for a selfless leader for the new era in American politics.

And one final note: Obama denied that Wright was his “spiritual mentor.” I have yet to find an instance in which that exact phrase came from Obama’s lips, but it has been use incessently by the media without a hint of objection by the Obama team. Obama came close to saying the same thing many times including in this interview in March:

You know, I guess — keep in mind that, just to provide more context, this is somebody who I had known for 20 years. Pastor Wright has been a pastor for 30 years. He’s an ex-Marine. He is somebody who is a biblical scholar, has spoken at theological seminaries all across the country, from the University of Chicago to Hampton. And so he is a well- regarded preacher. And somebody who is known for talking about the social gospel. . . . I mean, obviously, understand that — understand that, you know, this is somebody who is like an uncle. If you have — to me. He’s somebody who helped me find Christ. And somebody who always talked to me in very powerful ways about relationship to God and our obligations to the poor. If somebody makes a mistake, then obviously, you recognize — I make mistakes. We all make mistakes. If I thought that that was the repeated tenor of the church, then I wouldn’t feel comfortable there. But, frankly, that has not been my experience at Trinity United Church of Christ.

But that inconsistency seems to be the least of his worries. (Among his bigger concerns: the latest poll numbers. Yikes.)

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Puh-leez!

Barack Obama has finally, finally thrown Reverend Wright under the proverbial bus. How low did the poll numbers go? How many superdelegates had to warn him? What finally changed his mind? Because, as anyone following the story knows, Wright has been remarkably consistent. His sermons, his NAACP speech and his performance at the National Press Club are all of one piece: ranting, anti-white, anti-American. So we now have some questions to ponder.

Is Obama going to stick with the “I am the worst judge of character on the planet” excuse? After all, if millions of non-congregants could figure out Wright, why couldn’t he? And if the issue now is not “Does Obama believe all this loony Wright inspired stuff?” but “Has he been duplicitous?”, then what happens to his Agent of Change, post-racial-uniter routine? Will this be enough to push some Democrats (like the Edwards duo) over the edge and conclude: Enough? (Certainly many Democrats must be wondering what they would be in for in a general election contest with him.)

In the end, the chickens did come home to roost. Just not the ones Wright had in mind.

Barack Obama has finally, finally thrown Reverend Wright under the proverbial bus. How low did the poll numbers go? How many superdelegates had to warn him? What finally changed his mind? Because, as anyone following the story knows, Wright has been remarkably consistent. His sermons, his NAACP speech and his performance at the National Press Club are all of one piece: ranting, anti-white, anti-American. So we now have some questions to ponder.

Is Obama going to stick with the “I am the worst judge of character on the planet” excuse? After all, if millions of non-congregants could figure out Wright, why couldn’t he? And if the issue now is not “Does Obama believe all this loony Wright inspired stuff?” but “Has he been duplicitous?”, then what happens to his Agent of Change, post-racial-uniter routine? Will this be enough to push some Democrats (like the Edwards duo) over the edge and conclude: Enough? (Certainly many Democrats must be wondering what they would be in for in a general election contest with him.)

In the end, the chickens did come home to roost. Just not the ones Wright had in mind.

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Obama’s Interpersonal Diplomacy Crisis

You have to give Barack Obama credit for one thing. He practices what he preaches. He has said he wants America to engage in unqualified talks with her enemies. Can there now be any doubt that Jeremiah Wright, the man Barack Obama has been talking to for twenty years, is his enemy?

At yesterday’s National Press Club event, the spiritual mentor whom Obama refused to renounce unleashed a stream of ugly paranoia that could only do damage to Obama’s bid for the presidency. What we’re seeing play out are the disastrous results of Obama’s group-hug diplomacy when applied to the realm of the interpersonal.

In February, Obama said, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” But friendship is a privilege and does have to be earned. Obama’s very problem is that, because he’s extended his unqualified friendship to a vitriolic kook like Wright, people are finding it hard to see how he “stands above” his ex-pastor. If Obama is truly such a fan of equivalence, he should be thrilled to learn that he’s increasingly seen as being no better than Jeremiah Wright. Parity achieved!

A modern liberal can renounce no one, because everyone’s grievance deserves equal sympathy and every viewpoint is valid. If this is how it works out when Obama has to deal with the self-serving motives of one unhinged man, consider the implications when this policy is applied globally. Obama sits down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as he’s already said he hopes to do. He listens to the Iranian president’s “valid” points: Israel has the bomb, Iran just wants nuclear energy, the U.S. is killing Shiites in a neighboring country, etc. Obama flies back to the U.S. and makes a beautiful and exhaustive speech about the long and troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. He disagrees with many things the Iranian president has said, but he can no sooner sever ties with him than he could refuse to engage with the Israeli government that continues to allow the building of settlements in occupied Palestine.

The speech is an international hit, a landmark moment in geopolitical candor. Emboldened and under the protective umbrella of world sympathy, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs ratchet up the hegemonic machinery and the Armageddon talk. Within a year they brazenly test their first nuke. Obama makes a shorter, slightly less beautiful speech about the hurdles of diplomacy, Iran is off the hook, and the next proto-nuclear state gets to work.

In the Wright affair we see a microcosmic portrayal of America’s president in the role of world dupe. The most worrisome thing about the whole episode is not that Obama may share Wright’s bizarre convictions. It’s that the code of modern liberalism has allowed someone a calendar page away from being the Democratic presidential nominee to be thoroughly manipulated by a third-rate huckster.

You have to give Barack Obama credit for one thing. He practices what he preaches. He has said he wants America to engage in unqualified talks with her enemies. Can there now be any doubt that Jeremiah Wright, the man Barack Obama has been talking to for twenty years, is his enemy?

At yesterday’s National Press Club event, the spiritual mentor whom Obama refused to renounce unleashed a stream of ugly paranoia that could only do damage to Obama’s bid for the presidency. What we’re seeing play out are the disastrous results of Obama’s group-hug diplomacy when applied to the realm of the interpersonal.

In February, Obama said, “If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.” But friendship is a privilege and does have to be earned. Obama’s very problem is that, because he’s extended his unqualified friendship to a vitriolic kook like Wright, people are finding it hard to see how he “stands above” his ex-pastor. If Obama is truly such a fan of equivalence, he should be thrilled to learn that he’s increasingly seen as being no better than Jeremiah Wright. Parity achieved!

A modern liberal can renounce no one, because everyone’s grievance deserves equal sympathy and every viewpoint is valid. If this is how it works out when Obama has to deal with the self-serving motives of one unhinged man, consider the implications when this policy is applied globally. Obama sits down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as he’s already said he hopes to do. He listens to the Iranian president’s “valid” points: Israel has the bomb, Iran just wants nuclear energy, the U.S. is killing Shiites in a neighboring country, etc. Obama flies back to the U.S. and makes a beautiful and exhaustive speech about the long and troubled history of U.S.-Iran relations. He disagrees with many things the Iranian president has said, but he can no sooner sever ties with him than he could refuse to engage with the Israeli government that continues to allow the building of settlements in occupied Palestine.

The speech is an international hit, a landmark moment in geopolitical candor. Emboldened and under the protective umbrella of world sympathy, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs ratchet up the hegemonic machinery and the Armageddon talk. Within a year they brazenly test their first nuke. Obama makes a shorter, slightly less beautiful speech about the hurdles of diplomacy, Iran is off the hook, and the next proto-nuclear state gets to work.

In the Wright affair we see a microcosmic portrayal of America’s president in the role of world dupe. The most worrisome thing about the whole episode is not that Obama may share Wright’s bizarre convictions. It’s that the code of modern liberalism has allowed someone a calendar page away from being the Democratic presidential nominee to be thoroughly manipulated by a third-rate huckster.

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Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

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Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

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“Running out of People to Kill”

Today’s Washington Post reports this:

The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics. “People are starting to return to their homes,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. “There’s no question about it.”

If this report is in fact true—and the Post points out that the Iraqi Red Crescent says the number of internally displaced people has increased significantly in the last year—it would be another important step in the path toward the healing of Iraqi society.

The situation in Iraq remains enormously challenging—and even if things continue to go well, it will take a long time before Iraq becomes a functioning state. At the same time, this year we have witnessed several significant developments in Iraq: a sharp drop in violence across much of the nation, al Qaeda’s taking enormous punishment, steps toward “bottom up” reconciliation, and Sunnis turning against al Qaeda and its murderous ideology. If Iraqis are beginning to return to their homes, it means we are beginning to see the positive, radiating effects of better security.

This good news should be juxtaposed with the comments made earlier this week by Representative David Obey. According to the Hill:

If violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents “are running out of people to kill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Monday. “There are fewer targets of opportunity,” Obey said in a speech to the National Press Club. Obey was responding to a question about reports touted by Republicans that security is improving in Iraq and that President Bush’s “surge” strategy is working. He stressed that military success has not led to political reconciliation.

These kinds of comments, made by a senior Democratic lawmaker, are by now perfectly predictable—but that makes them no less irresponsible. It remains stunning that critics of the war continue to deny what is true, simply because what is true is encouraging. Mr. Obey’s words embody what many of his Democratic colleagues think—and help explain why approval ratings for this Congress have sunk to new lows. Their marks are richly deserved.

Today’s Washington Post reports this:

The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics. “People are starting to return to their homes,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. “There’s no question about it.”

If this report is in fact true—and the Post points out that the Iraqi Red Crescent says the number of internally displaced people has increased significantly in the last year—it would be another important step in the path toward the healing of Iraqi society.

The situation in Iraq remains enormously challenging—and even if things continue to go well, it will take a long time before Iraq becomes a functioning state. At the same time, this year we have witnessed several significant developments in Iraq: a sharp drop in violence across much of the nation, al Qaeda’s taking enormous punishment, steps toward “bottom up” reconciliation, and Sunnis turning against al Qaeda and its murderous ideology. If Iraqis are beginning to return to their homes, it means we are beginning to see the positive, radiating effects of better security.

This good news should be juxtaposed with the comments made earlier this week by Representative David Obey. According to the Hill:

If violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents “are running out of people to kill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Monday. “There are fewer targets of opportunity,” Obey said in a speech to the National Press Club. Obey was responding to a question about reports touted by Republicans that security is improving in Iraq and that President Bush’s “surge” strategy is working. He stressed that military success has not led to political reconciliation.

These kinds of comments, made by a senior Democratic lawmaker, are by now perfectly predictable—but that makes them no less irresponsible. It remains stunning that critics of the war continue to deny what is true, simply because what is true is encouraging. Mr. Obey’s words embody what many of his Democratic colleagues think—and help explain why approval ratings for this Congress have sunk to new lows. Their marks are richly deserved.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #10: The Cheese Danish Affair and Ron Paul

Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People – about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence – about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True – about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

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Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People – about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence – about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True – about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

Based upon a story in the Danish paper Politiken, I had raised questions about Scheuer’s role in igniting a political firestorm recently in Denmark by “disclosing” – my word – information about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Talat Fouad Qassem, an Egyptian extremist, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark, but was seized by the CIA while visiting Croatia, shipped to Egypt, and executed.

Among the questions I asked were whether the information involved was classified and, if it was classified, how such disclosures differed from leaks in the past by renegade CIA agent Philip Agee, and more recently, by Larry Franklin, who pleaded guilty to violations of statutes governing the improper disclosure of classified information.

On The Jingoist, our hero points out that the information in question was not classified; indeed, he shows that there had been a number of press reports detailing this episode in the past, one of them appearing in the Associated Press as far back as 1995.

Connecting the Dots, which seeks to construct as accurate as possible a picture of matters pertaining to intelligence (and other issues), will happily acknowledge that it was remiss in having raised a question about our hero to which the answer turned out to be readily available in the public domain.  Let us give Scheuer his due. He is right about this matter and Connecting the Dots was wrong in suggesting that he had done something wrong and/or illegal with regard to the Danish affair. 

But Connecting the Dots was not wrong in one thing: namely, predicting that no matter what the issue under discussion, be it Denmark or cheese Danish, our hero would inevitably bring it around to his true obsession, the state of Israel and American Jews who support the state of Israel.

On The Jingoist, he has done precisely that by arguing that I, along with “Goebbels-wannabes at the National Review, the American Thinker, and other organs of the Israel-first media” are guilty of promulgating a “Big Lie.” He goes on to explain:

Their tarting-up of the [Talat] rendition operation . . . is just part of their ongoing attempt to discredit the case and to try to convince Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are identical, and so spying on America for Israel – and suborning American citizens to commit treason – is really an okay and even admirable activity.

In response to my suggestion that he has a habit of casting aspersions on American Jews, Scheuer responds:

I do not cast aspersions, I forthrightly damn, and pray that God damns, any American – Jew, Catholic, Evangelical, Irish, German, Hindu, hermaphrodite, thespian, or otherwise – who flogs the insane idea that American and Israeli interests are one and the same.

Let us continue connecting the dots. A man who speaks in this language, and who does so on a flagrantly anti-Semitic crackpot website, was in charge of the CIA’s efforts to counter Osama bin Laden. More recently, Scheuer has been involved with the presidential campaign of maverick Republican Ron Paul. Back in May they appeared together at the podium of the National Press Club in an event billed as an opportunity to “educate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.”

Here are several more dots to connect:

1. What does Michael Scheuer’s posting on The Jingoist tell us about him? 

2. What does it tell us about the officials at the CIA who put him in charge of countering Osama bin Laden?

3. What does it tell us about the television networks that continue to employ him as an expert consultant?

4. Is Scheuer currently an official or unofficial adviser to Ron Paul?

5. If elected, would President Paul appoint Scheuer to run the CIA?

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here

 

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Katie’s World

At her National Press Club event yesterday, we heard this from CBS News anchor Katie Couric:

The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying “we” when referring to the United States and, even the “shock and awe” of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the “Today” show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, “Will anybody put the brakes on this?” And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.

There is a lot to unpack in these few sentences. For one thing, Couric’s aversion to using the word “we” when referring to her own country is both weird and revealing. After all, she is part of the United States, a citizen of America, and so she is part of “we.” Hers is an example of a certain journalistic sensibility that feels as if members of the media are compromising their objectivity by referring to their country as if they were a part of it. And I suppose in The World According To Katie, it would be a gross violation of journalistic ethics to hope for America to prevail in a war to depose Saddam Hussein and bring liberty to his broken land. Hence, I suppose, her discomfort with how well the initial stages of the Iraq war went.

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At her National Press Club event yesterday, we heard this from CBS News anchor Katie Couric:

The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying “we” when referring to the United States and, even the “shock and awe” of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the “Today” show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, “Will anybody put the brakes on this?” And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.

There is a lot to unpack in these few sentences. For one thing, Couric’s aversion to using the word “we” when referring to her own country is both weird and revealing. After all, she is part of the United States, a citizen of America, and so she is part of “we.” Hers is an example of a certain journalistic sensibility that feels as if members of the media are compromising their objectivity by referring to their country as if they were a part of it. And I suppose in The World According To Katie, it would be a gross violation of journalistic ethics to hope for America to prevail in a war to depose Saddam Hussein and bring liberty to his broken land. Hence, I suppose, her discomfort with how well the initial stages of the Iraq war went.

This point is worth pausing over. After all, during his reign, Saddam Hussein routinely executed political opponents and political prisoners. Children and young people were tortured to force their parents and relatives to confess to alleged political offenses. Schoolchildren were summarily shot in public—and families of executed children were made to pay for the bullets and coffins used. Human Rights Watch concluded that the Iraqi regime committed the crime of genocide against Iraqi Kurds—and estimates are that more than 300,000 Iraqis were executed during Saddam Hussein’s reign. He was also responsible for invading two nations at a cost of more than a million lives. Imagine hoping that the United States would defeat such a regime quickly, easily, and with a minimum loss of life and damage. The audacity!

As for the “inevitable” march toward war and her “kind of feeling like, ‘Will anybody put the brakes on this?’”: First, the “march” to war was not inevitable—one person on this planet could easily have put the brakes on it. His name was Saddam Hussein. He could have stopped the war at any time, if only he had met the commitments to which he had agreed. It was Saddam Hussein who was in material breach of Security Council Resolution 1441. It was he who had amassed a record of defiance for more than a decade. But for Katie Couric, the responsibility for war rests not with the former dictator of Iraq, but with the President of the United States.

And then there is tossing out the standard talking points that those who questioned the administration were “considered unpatriotic” and “it was a very difficult position to be in.” By whom, in Couric’s imaginary history, were critics of the administration considered “unpatriotic”? This notion is a flimsy urban legend—and yet Katie claims to have been put in a “very difficult position” based on a scenario that never even occurred. What a tower of strength she is.

The virtue of such statements, I suppose, is that it rips away the pretense of objectivity—as if that was even necessary at this stage. It appears as if Katie Couric is a worthy successor to Dan Rather—and her comments, in some ways so utterly typical, also remind us why CBS’s ratings are in the toilet, and deserve to be.

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