Commentary Magazine


Topic: National Public Radio

Another NPR Hit Piece on Israel

Never mind Juan Williams: What really gets me about National Public Radio is the way it manages to cover Israel in a manner more reminiscent of Tishreen‘s or Al Jazeera’s style than that of an American news outlet. The latest egregious example is a piece from NPR’s Morning Edition that runs on the NPR website — and this morning was the lead story on the NPR home page —  under the headline “In Israel, No Welcome Mat for African Migrants.” The article accuses Israel of being inhospitable to refugees. There’s no mention whatsoever of Israel’s welcoming 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union or tens of thousands of Jews and others from Ethiopia, which, last I checked, was in Africa. Nor is there any mention of whether any other countries are laying out welcome mats for refugees. It’s hard to think of a country other than America that has been more welcoming to refugees than Israel has, so it seems likely that the NPR piece is afflicted by a certain confusion between a “refugee” and an “illegal immigrant.”

One could argue that holding Israel to a higher standard of behavior represents a certain sort of philo-Semitism, but from National Public Radio — or National Palestinian Radio, as I call it (“Please turn down the National Palestinian Radio, dear”) — I’d settle for mere accuracy.

The NPR quotes one illegal African immigrant it states has been in Israel for 16 years as saying that Israel “ends up not a place for people who are different. It’s a place where people should be, look, all the same.” Again, there’s no reminder or reality check from the NPR correspondent to the effect that Israelis, who may be Ethiopian immigrants, black-hat Orthodox, secular supermodels, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, you name it, hardly “look all the same.”

NPR has responded to complaints about its Israel coverage by commissioning an independent review every three months of its coverage of “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But this isn’t even coverage of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”; it’s just a hit piece on Israel.

Never mind Juan Williams: What really gets me about National Public Radio is the way it manages to cover Israel in a manner more reminiscent of Tishreen‘s or Al Jazeera’s style than that of an American news outlet. The latest egregious example is a piece from NPR’s Morning Edition that runs on the NPR website — and this morning was the lead story on the NPR home page —  under the headline “In Israel, No Welcome Mat for African Migrants.” The article accuses Israel of being inhospitable to refugees. There’s no mention whatsoever of Israel’s welcoming 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union or tens of thousands of Jews and others from Ethiopia, which, last I checked, was in Africa. Nor is there any mention of whether any other countries are laying out welcome mats for refugees. It’s hard to think of a country other than America that has been more welcoming to refugees than Israel has, so it seems likely that the NPR piece is afflicted by a certain confusion between a “refugee” and an “illegal immigrant.”

One could argue that holding Israel to a higher standard of behavior represents a certain sort of philo-Semitism, but from National Public Radio — or National Palestinian Radio, as I call it (“Please turn down the National Palestinian Radio, dear”) — I’d settle for mere accuracy.

The NPR quotes one illegal African immigrant it states has been in Israel for 16 years as saying that Israel “ends up not a place for people who are different. It’s a place where people should be, look, all the same.” Again, there’s no reminder or reality check from the NPR correspondent to the effect that Israelis, who may be Ethiopian immigrants, black-hat Orthodox, secular supermodels, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, you name it, hardly “look all the same.”

NPR has responded to complaints about its Israel coverage by commissioning an independent review every three months of its coverage of “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But this isn’t even coverage of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”; it’s just a hit piece on Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council’s Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.'”

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council’s Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.'”

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The Unmasking of NPR

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

On the matter of the firing of Juan Williams by NPR, I wanted to add a few thoughts to what has already been said and written. The first is that this incident will not soon fade from memory; rather, it will be seen, over time, as an important moment that further discredited liberal media institutions. It took well-known but fairly abstract truths — NPR is taxpayer supported and dominated by a liberal political culture — and gave it a name, a context, and a human face. The fact that NPR’s Vivian Schiller turned out to be monumentally inept and mean-spirited may have been known to a few others before NPR cashiered Williams; now that fact is known by millions of others. Consequently, NPR will suffer a serious blow to its reputation and pay a considerable price (hopefully) in terms of funding.

Second, what was unmasked during the last week was the extent to which modern liberalism (at least as embodied by NPR) is antithetical to classical liberalism, which celebrated open-mindedness, a diversity of thought and opinion, and the spirited exchange of ideas. The depth of intolerance at National Public Radio is so deep that even a liberal like Juan Williams was thrown to the curb. His sin is not only that he didn’t parrot the Party Line closely enough; it was also that he didn’t parrot the Party Line at the appropriate Party Outlets.

Which leads to observation number three: the degree to which Fox News not only obsesses liberals but also blows their circuits.

The genius of Roger Ailes wasn’t simply to build the most successful cable news network in history; it’s that in the process, he has caused liberals from President Obama and his top aides to NPR to make stupid errors — errors rooted in their intense hatred for Fox News. They cannot stand the fact that Fox shattered the liberal media monopoly in television journalism. But what truly drives the left around the twist is that Fox News is thriving — and with each attempt to discredit it, the network grows more popular, more powerful, and more dominant.

Out of this most recent controversy, Juan Williams will come out just fine. NPR, on the other hand, has emerged disgraced. All in all, not a bad outcome.

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Zuckerman vs. Cohen: What Does Obama Intend?

Even when critiquing, indeed indicting, Obama’s serial foreign-policy debacles, many critics feel compelled to attribute fine motives to the president. Mort Zuckerman recently wrote:

Obama clearly wishes to do good and means well. But he is one of those people who believe that the world was born with the word and exists by means of persuasion, such that there is no person or country that you cannot, by means of logical and moral argument, bring around to your side. He speaks as a teacher, as someone imparting values and generalities appropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, not as a tough-minded leader. He urges that things “must be done” and “should be done” and that “it is time” to do them. As the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, put it, there is “the impression that Obama might confuse speeches with policy.” Another journalist put it differently when he described Obama as an “NPR [National Public Radio] president who gives wonderful speeches.” In other words, he talks the talk but doesn’t know how to walk the walk. The Obama presidency has so far been characterized by a well-intentioned but excessive belief in the power of rhetoric with too little appreciation of reality and loyalty.

Perhaps he’s just being polite or trying to draw into the debate those who are disposed to like Obama. Perhaps it is wishful thinking — we’d certainly like to believe our president is pursuing good. But we’ve now reached a point where not only conservatives are suggesting that it may be unwarranted to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Richard Cohen, not exactly a fiery conservative, writes:

[I]t’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much. …

Foreign policy is the realm where a president comes closest to ruling by diktat. By command decision, the war in Afghanistan has been escalated, yet it seems to lack an urgent moral component. It has an apparent end date even though girls may not yet be able to attend school and the Taliban may rule again. In some respects, I agree — the earlier out of Afghanistan, the better — but if we are to stay even for a while, it has to be for reasons that have to do with principle. Somewhat the same thing applies to China. It’s okay to trade with China. It’s okay to hate it, too.

Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.

So for Cohen, at best the jury is out on Obama’s motives, and at worst the president seems to be hostile to human rights and democracy. Cohen has a lot of support for the latter assumption on the right, certainly.

As for Obama’s intentions, judging from his actions and public speeches, it certainly is more believable that he would prefer dealing with despots than messy popular uprisings, that he is not simpatico or even patient with Israel, and that he is more than willing to throw human rights and democracy under the bus for the sake of conflict avoidance. He intends, the evidence indicates, not to draw lines with Iran or Russia or the UN. He intends, from his public pronouncements we gather, not to risk war over a nuclear-armed Iran.

Is he then “well-intentioned”? It depends what ends you favor. At some point, one must conclude that it is not simply that Obama lacks the ability to express his passion for democracy, his fondness for the special relationship with the Brits, his devotion to human rights, and his commitment to a warm U.S.-Israel relationship; it is that these are not ends he intends to pursue. He intends to do other things — accommodate the UN, ingratiate himself with despotic Muslim rulers,  and appease Russia, to name a few. To many of us, that certainly doesn’t qualify as wishing to “do good” or “meaning well.”

Even when critiquing, indeed indicting, Obama’s serial foreign-policy debacles, many critics feel compelled to attribute fine motives to the president. Mort Zuckerman recently wrote:

Obama clearly wishes to do good and means well. But he is one of those people who believe that the world was born with the word and exists by means of persuasion, such that there is no person or country that you cannot, by means of logical and moral argument, bring around to your side. He speaks as a teacher, as someone imparting values and generalities appropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, not as a tough-minded leader. He urges that things “must be done” and “should be done” and that “it is time” to do them. As the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, put it, there is “the impression that Obama might confuse speeches with policy.” Another journalist put it differently when he described Obama as an “NPR [National Public Radio] president who gives wonderful speeches.” In other words, he talks the talk but doesn’t know how to walk the walk. The Obama presidency has so far been characterized by a well-intentioned but excessive belief in the power of rhetoric with too little appreciation of reality and loyalty.

Perhaps he’s just being polite or trying to draw into the debate those who are disposed to like Obama. Perhaps it is wishful thinking — we’d certainly like to believe our president is pursuing good. But we’ve now reached a point where not only conservatives are suggesting that it may be unwarranted to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Richard Cohen, not exactly a fiery conservative, writes:

[I]t’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much. …

Foreign policy is the realm where a president comes closest to ruling by diktat. By command decision, the war in Afghanistan has been escalated, yet it seems to lack an urgent moral component. It has an apparent end date even though girls may not yet be able to attend school and the Taliban may rule again. In some respects, I agree — the earlier out of Afghanistan, the better — but if we are to stay even for a while, it has to be for reasons that have to do with principle. Somewhat the same thing applies to China. It’s okay to trade with China. It’s okay to hate it, too.

Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.

So for Cohen, at best the jury is out on Obama’s motives, and at worst the president seems to be hostile to human rights and democracy. Cohen has a lot of support for the latter assumption on the right, certainly.

As for Obama’s intentions, judging from his actions and public speeches, it certainly is more believable that he would prefer dealing with despots than messy popular uprisings, that he is not simpatico or even patient with Israel, and that he is more than willing to throw human rights and democracy under the bus for the sake of conflict avoidance. He intends, the evidence indicates, not to draw lines with Iran or Russia or the UN. He intends, from his public pronouncements we gather, not to risk war over a nuclear-armed Iran.

Is he then “well-intentioned”? It depends what ends you favor. At some point, one must conclude that it is not simply that Obama lacks the ability to express his passion for democracy, his fondness for the special relationship with the Brits, his devotion to human rights, and his commitment to a warm U.S.-Israel relationship; it is that these are not ends he intends to pursue. He intends to do other things — accommodate the UN, ingratiate himself with despotic Muslim rulers,  and appease Russia, to name a few. To many of us, that certainly doesn’t qualify as wishing to “do good” or “meaning well.”

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There Will Be Blood

The latest poll by National Public Radio is filled with very bleak news for Democrats.

NPR polled people who live in the 70 most competitive races in the House this year, 10 of which are Republican seats and 60 of which are Democratic seats. Overall, Republicans lead the generic ballot by eight points (49 v. 41) in these 70 districts. In the Democratic districts, Republicans lead by five points (47 v. 42). And in GOP districts Republicans lead by 16 points (53 v. 37). Those are awful numbers for Democrats — but they get worse.

While Republicans lead on the generic ballot 47 percent v. 42 percent in the 60 Democratic districts, among voters who rate their interest in the election as 8 or higher on a 10-point scale, the data shows a 14-point advantage for Republicans (53 percent v. 39 percent). Among independent voters in Democratic districts, the GOP has a lead of 21 points (50 v. 29). And nearly half of those in Democratic tiers self-identify as conservatives (see the full data set here).

It is hard to imagine the data being much worse for the Democrats at this stage. It is now to the point where even some of Obama’s courtiers in the press recognize that, “Yup, November Will Be a Bloodbath.”

Yup, it will.

The latest poll by National Public Radio is filled with very bleak news for Democrats.

NPR polled people who live in the 70 most competitive races in the House this year, 10 of which are Republican seats and 60 of which are Democratic seats. Overall, Republicans lead the generic ballot by eight points (49 v. 41) in these 70 districts. In the Democratic districts, Republicans lead by five points (47 v. 42). And in GOP districts Republicans lead by 16 points (53 v. 37). Those are awful numbers for Democrats — but they get worse.

While Republicans lead on the generic ballot 47 percent v. 42 percent in the 60 Democratic districts, among voters who rate their interest in the election as 8 or higher on a 10-point scale, the data shows a 14-point advantage for Republicans (53 percent v. 39 percent). Among independent voters in Democratic districts, the GOP has a lead of 21 points (50 v. 29). And nearly half of those in Democratic tiers self-identify as conservatives (see the full data set here).

It is hard to imagine the data being much worse for the Democrats at this stage. It is now to the point where even some of Obama’s courtiers in the press recognize that, “Yup, November Will Be a Bloodbath.”

Yup, it will.

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IQ2

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

Political and policy debates in America are too often conducted either with soundbites or speeches. There is not much tradition in this country of Oxford-style debates in which two teams of debaters try to win over the audience with a combination of facts and clever rhetoric. Even on the floor of Congress, lawmakers tend to talk past one another. And on TV the “Firing Line” debates expired almost a decade ago.

That’s a shortfall that Robert Rosenkranz, a New York financier and philanthropist, decided to remedy. In September 2006 he created an American analog to the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate series which has been a long-running hit in London. The U.S. version of IQ2 has been equally successfully, playing to sold-out audiences at the Asia Society in New York and to a much larger audience via National Public Radio.

I’ve been a member of the IQ2US advisory board from the start but hadn’t participated in a debate until now. On Wednesday I was part of a team of three, along with Johns Hopkins scholar Michael Mandelbaum and British think tanker Douglas Murray, speaking in favor of the motion, “Resolved, America should be the world’s policeman.” Our adversaries were Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry Stimson Center in Washington; Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group (a consulting firm); and Matthew Parris, a columnist for the Times of London.

Notwithstanding a snowstorm raging outside, the turnout was good and the debate was lively. Parris went a bit too far in mocking the members of our team, but other than that the debate was conducted on the merits. (For a transcript, see here; it will be aired on NPR stations starting next week.) Various arguments and counterarguments were aired and audience members drew their conclusions. At the end, I was amazed to find that the debate had actually swayed many of those in the room.

At the beginning of the night, 24% of the audience voted in favor of the motion that “America should be the world’s policeman,” while 44% were against and 32% undecided. At the end, 47% voted for the motion, 48% against, and only 5% were still undecided. Although we lost by one point, I think that counts as a moral victory for our side. It’s nice to know that even in a liberal bastion like New York there are still a lot of people who understand the good that America does by policing the globe. Just as importantly, it’s good to see the spirit of reasoned debate alive at a time when snarling talking heads appear to reign supreme.

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The Democrats’ Confused Diplomacy Vision

If you’re the kind of person who watches the Democratic debates for the quick camera shots of Dennis Kucinich’s wife, yesterday you were out of luck. When National Public Radio hosted a Democratic debate on Tuesday, it obstructed from view the best case for Kucinich’s sanity. Yet for everything the debate lacked in attractive political spouses, it more than compensated for with ineffectual approaches to confronting America’s public diplomacy challenge in the Muslim world.

The extent to which the Democratic candidates simply have no vision for improving America’s standing is astounding. The most bizarre public diplomacy program came from John Edwards, who seemed confused by the distinction between appealing to voters in Concord and people in Cairo. His plan for resuscitating our image abroad? Fighting poverty:

Now, as to the Muslim community, I think that the most important thing for America to do is to demonstrate that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to humanity, and to help make education available to fight global poverty. We need to take serious steps to demonstrate that America’s actually worthy of leadership.

Barack Obama similarly spoke in terms that might sell liberal voters in Iowa Falls, but alienate liberals in Isfahan. His strategy for courting moderate Muslims? Dialogue with their least moderate leaders:

… the reason for [advocating dialogue with Iran’s leaders] was not necessarily because we’re going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind. It’s because we’re going to change the minds of people inside Iran, moderate forces inside Iran, as well as our Muslim allies around the region, that we are willing to listen to them and try to engage in finding ways to resolve conflicts cooperatively.

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If you’re the kind of person who watches the Democratic debates for the quick camera shots of Dennis Kucinich’s wife, yesterday you were out of luck. When National Public Radio hosted a Democratic debate on Tuesday, it obstructed from view the best case for Kucinich’s sanity. Yet for everything the debate lacked in attractive political spouses, it more than compensated for with ineffectual approaches to confronting America’s public diplomacy challenge in the Muslim world.

The extent to which the Democratic candidates simply have no vision for improving America’s standing is astounding. The most bizarre public diplomacy program came from John Edwards, who seemed confused by the distinction between appealing to voters in Concord and people in Cairo. His plan for resuscitating our image abroad? Fighting poverty:

Now, as to the Muslim community, I think that the most important thing for America to do is to demonstrate that we have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to humanity, and to help make education available to fight global poverty. We need to take serious steps to demonstrate that America’s actually worthy of leadership.

Barack Obama similarly spoke in terms that might sell liberal voters in Iowa Falls, but alienate liberals in Isfahan. His strategy for courting moderate Muslims? Dialogue with their least moderate leaders:

… the reason for [advocating dialogue with Iran’s leaders] was not necessarily because we’re going to change Ahmadinejad’s mind. It’s because we’re going to change the minds of people inside Iran, moderate forces inside Iran, as well as our Muslim allies around the region, that we are willing to listen to them and try to engage in finding ways to resolve conflicts cooperatively.

And then there was Kucinich. Prepare yourself for a non sequitur. What’s his strategy for appealing to Muslim publics? He voted against the Iraq war:

… As the one up here who not only voted against, but voted 100 percent of the time against funding the war in Iraq, the war in Iraq was used to create a wedge between the United States and Islam.

Perhaps the most disappointing public diplomacy outlook, however, came from self-anointed Foreign Policy Maven Joe Biden, who seemed to think that public diplomacy meant changing our strategic objectives, rather than better explaining those objectives. Biden’s strategy? Only pursuing those wars that are broadly agreeable within the Muslim world:

…When we went into Afghanistan, the word was, the Arab street would rise up. We did it the right way. The Arab street knew that Arabs, the Muslims in al Qaeda were bad guys. They supported us. When we do things that don’t sound rational to them, it undercuts our legitimacy. We have no legitimacy.

In this line of argument, Biden seems to have his campaign strategy entirely backwards. Apparently, he hopes that what is agreeable in Sana’a will sway voters in Cedar Rapids.

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