Commentary Magazine


Topic: New America Foundation

A Disingenuous Defense of Hate Speech

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the disturbing decision of the influential New America Foundation to host and promote Max Blumenthal’s new book calling for Israel’s destruction. As I wrote then, and in a previous post noting the civil war that has broken out on the left about it, any discussion of this piece of trash need not detain us long. It is an ignorant piece of agitprop the purpose of which is to depict the State of Israel as comparable to Nazi Germany. His goal is not to add to the debate about West Bank settlements or the critique of liberal foes of the Netanyahu government but also, as leftist writer Eric Alterman noted, to question the legitimacy of Zionism and the whole idea of Jewish sovereignty over a single inch of territory on either side of the 1967 lines. This is a theme Blumenthal has addressed with refreshing candor during some of his book tour appearances when he has pondered the question of whether Jews should be allowed to live in the territory of what is now Israel after his wishes are fulfilled. It is as devoid of any intellectual integrity as any screed produced by those who support Hamas and its vision of a new Middle East without Israel. However, the issue isn’t a book that engages in hate speech but what a respectable and well-connected think tank like the NAF was doing promoting it.

That issue has now been addressed by the group’s founding director James Fallows, who not only defended the book and its author but seemed to think my piece and another that inspired it by historian Ron Radosh was a campaign aimed at suppressing free speech. This is nonsense. As Radosh has noted in a response, no one is stopping Blumenthal from writing a book and speaking about it. But we do have a right to ask why the New America Foundation thinks it is worthy of being given their imprimatur. The problem with engaging Fallows’s argument is that he is being completely disingenuous. In order to defend Blumenthal and his book he has to completely misrepresent it and the discussion that he says is worth having about it.

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the disturbing decision of the influential New America Foundation to host and promote Max Blumenthal’s new book calling for Israel’s destruction. As I wrote then, and in a previous post noting the civil war that has broken out on the left about it, any discussion of this piece of trash need not detain us long. It is an ignorant piece of agitprop the purpose of which is to depict the State of Israel as comparable to Nazi Germany. His goal is not to add to the debate about West Bank settlements or the critique of liberal foes of the Netanyahu government but also, as leftist writer Eric Alterman noted, to question the legitimacy of Zionism and the whole idea of Jewish sovereignty over a single inch of territory on either side of the 1967 lines. This is a theme Blumenthal has addressed with refreshing candor during some of his book tour appearances when he has pondered the question of whether Jews should be allowed to live in the territory of what is now Israel after his wishes are fulfilled. It is as devoid of any intellectual integrity as any screed produced by those who support Hamas and its vision of a new Middle East without Israel. However, the issue isn’t a book that engages in hate speech but what a respectable and well-connected think tank like the NAF was doing promoting it.

That issue has now been addressed by the group’s founding director James Fallows, who not only defended the book and its author but seemed to think my piece and another that inspired it by historian Ron Radosh was a campaign aimed at suppressing free speech. This is nonsense. As Radosh has noted in a response, no one is stopping Blumenthal from writing a book and speaking about it. But we do have a right to ask why the New America Foundation thinks it is worthy of being given their imprimatur. The problem with engaging Fallows’s argument is that he is being completely disingenuous. In order to defend Blumenthal and his book he has to completely misrepresent it and the discussion that he says is worth having about it.

Fallows claims Blumenthal belongs to the tradition of muckraking advocacy and “is a particular kind of exposé-minded, documentary-broadside journalism whose place we generally recognize and respect.” He compares it The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath and claims it is no more anti-Israel than The Wire was anti-American. But in order to make this claim Fallows has to ignore not only the content of much of the book but Blumenthal’s open advocacy of the cause of dismantling Israel. The comparisons are ludicrous since neither Upton Sinclair nor John Steinbeck wrote books aimed at convincing people that the United States ought not to exist as an independent country. Criticisms of the book are not based on the notion that the isolated interviews he conducts with Israeli extremists are fabricated, but that Blumenthal thinks even Israeli liberals and bitter critics of Netanyahu like author David Grossman are just as illegitimate as the wingnuts of Israeli society. Grossman rejected Blumenthal because his purpose wasn’t to reform Israel but to end its existence as a Jewish state.

Fallows concludes by saying he isn’t sure whether Blumenthal is right or wrong, but, “he is documenting things that need attention … If he is wrong, his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration. If he’s right, we should absorb the implications.”

That is a position that makes sense when you are talking about those who critique Israel’s settlement movement or the wisdom of its positions on the peace talks. I may disagree with some of those who take that position, but these are debatable points. But when Fallows claims the same is true of Blumenthal’s screed, he is saying something very different. By claiming that this book requires our attention, he is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.

That Fallows won’t admit this forces us to ask whether his powers of reasoning and reading comprehension skills (assuming that he has actually read Blumenthal’s book) are really this feeble or whether he is just not telling the truth about it for some reason, such as solidarity with Blumenthal’s influential parents who are his friends or dislike of the pro-Israel critics of the book on both the right and the left. But either way, the issue here is not free speech but the disturbing willingness of supposedly respectable figures to be agnostic about Israel’s existence. Max Blumenthal is no more worthy of being given important soapboxes like the NAF than David Duke is. If Fallows disagrees, his judgment and integrity have been called into question, not those whom he wrongly smears as opponents of free speech.

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NAF Puts Anti-Zionism on the Table

The New America Foundation (NAF) is one of the most prosperous and influential think tanks in Barack Obama’s Washington. It’s run by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was director of policy planning in the Obama State Department from 2009 to 2011. Its executive board is chaired by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and is filled with luminaries of the world of finance like Steve Rattner (Obama’s “car czar”), media stars like Fareed Zakaria, public intellectuals like Francis Fukuyama and even a token centrist like Walter Russell Mead as well as the likes of George Soros’s son Jonathan. In other words, it’s about as connected to the pulse of the Obama-era capital as you can be outside of the West Wing. While the NAF’s positions are predictably liberal, it has tried to position itself as a new age, high-tech group that is in the business of selling the world post-partisan answers to the country’s problems that emphasize “big ideas, impartial analysis and pragmatic solutions.” That generally is translated into programs promoting liberal ideas about education, jobs, investment, and the future of Afghanistan, just to cherry-pick some of the topics explored at events sponsored by the group in November. But next month, the NAF will put something different on the agenda: anti-Zionism.

The occasion is a December 4 book event at the foundation headquarters featuring Max Blumenthal, author of a risible anti-Zionist rant titled Goliath that was brought to our attention by an excellent article by historian Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media. We need not waste much time rehashing the book’s complete lack of intellectual merit or integrity. Suffice it to say its purpose is to libel the State of Israel as not merely an apartheid state but as a successor to the Nazis. His goal is not to force its withdrawal from the West Bank or to reform it in any matter but to work for its abolishment and replacement with a new Arab state in which those of the six million Jews who care to say will be forced to assimilate into Arab society rather than maintain a separate national identity. As I wrote earlier this month, even a virulent left-wing critic of Israel as Eric Alterman dismissed it in the pages of the Nation as the “‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook” and speculated that it would make a worthy choice for publication by “the Hamas Book of the Month Club (if it existed),” though lamentably it was put in print by his own magazine’s publishing arm.

Fortunately, most serious reviewers of books, including those on the left, have ignored Blumenthal’s trash. That is as it should be, not because bad ideas should be suppressed but because hatred and bias such as that advocated by Blumenthal do not deserve to be treated as a serious intellectual proposition up for debate. Yet that is exactly what the NAF is doing by inviting Blumenthal with the sort of breathless prose that is in the announcement on their website, calling the book “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism.” That means the issue here isn’t whether Blumenthal is an Israel-hater but how it is that a well-heeled and highly influential organization like the NAF has decided that anti-Zionist screeds are what they want their members to discuss. The point is not that Blumenthal will, even with the NAF’s help, persuade Americans to support dismantling Israel, but what it says about liberal elites that they think this is the sort of thing that should be on their agenda.

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The New America Foundation (NAF) is one of the most prosperous and influential think tanks in Barack Obama’s Washington. It’s run by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was director of policy planning in the Obama State Department from 2009 to 2011. Its executive board is chaired by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and is filled with luminaries of the world of finance like Steve Rattner (Obama’s “car czar”), media stars like Fareed Zakaria, public intellectuals like Francis Fukuyama and even a token centrist like Walter Russell Mead as well as the likes of George Soros’s son Jonathan. In other words, it’s about as connected to the pulse of the Obama-era capital as you can be outside of the West Wing. While the NAF’s positions are predictably liberal, it has tried to position itself as a new age, high-tech group that is in the business of selling the world post-partisan answers to the country’s problems that emphasize “big ideas, impartial analysis and pragmatic solutions.” That generally is translated into programs promoting liberal ideas about education, jobs, investment, and the future of Afghanistan, just to cherry-pick some of the topics explored at events sponsored by the group in November. But next month, the NAF will put something different on the agenda: anti-Zionism.

The occasion is a December 4 book event at the foundation headquarters featuring Max Blumenthal, author of a risible anti-Zionist rant titled Goliath that was brought to our attention by an excellent article by historian Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media. We need not waste much time rehashing the book’s complete lack of intellectual merit or integrity. Suffice it to say its purpose is to libel the State of Israel as not merely an apartheid state but as a successor to the Nazis. His goal is not to force its withdrawal from the West Bank or to reform it in any matter but to work for its abolishment and replacement with a new Arab state in which those of the six million Jews who care to say will be forced to assimilate into Arab society rather than maintain a separate national identity. As I wrote earlier this month, even a virulent left-wing critic of Israel as Eric Alterman dismissed it in the pages of the Nation as the “‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook” and speculated that it would make a worthy choice for publication by “the Hamas Book of the Month Club (if it existed),” though lamentably it was put in print by his own magazine’s publishing arm.

Fortunately, most serious reviewers of books, including those on the left, have ignored Blumenthal’s trash. That is as it should be, not because bad ideas should be suppressed but because hatred and bias such as that advocated by Blumenthal do not deserve to be treated as a serious intellectual proposition up for debate. Yet that is exactly what the NAF is doing by inviting Blumenthal with the sort of breathless prose that is in the announcement on their website, calling the book “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism.” That means the issue here isn’t whether Blumenthal is an Israel-hater but how it is that a well-heeled and highly influential organization like the NAF has decided that anti-Zionist screeds are what they want their members to discuss. The point is not that Blumenthal will, even with the NAF’s help, persuade Americans to support dismantling Israel, but what it says about liberal elites that they think this is the sort of thing that should be on their agenda.

Let’s specify that NAF has not explicitly endorsed Blumenthal’s ideas. As Radosh notes, it’s doubtful that their board was consulted about the decision to host his book tour. But all the disclaimers in the world won’t change the fact that by choosing to associate their institution with a book that smears Israelis as Nazis and calls for its destruction, the NAF has crossed a line that no decent individual or group should even approach. Moreover, by doing so they are also sending a dangerous signal in the world of D.C. ideas that talk about doing away with Israel is no longer confined, as it should be, to the fever swamps of the far left or the far right. Instead, thanks to the Nation and its friends at the New America Foundation, open hatred against Israel and the campaign to delegitimize Zionism have now been given an undeserved veneer of respectability in Barack Obama’s Washington.

In one sense, it is hardly surprising that Slaughter’s group would embrace Blumenthal’s book at the same time that the current head of the State Department is counseling Congress to “ignore” Israeli concerns about Iran and betraying its democratic ally with deals that legitimize Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But policy disagreements are one thing; putting anti-Zionism on the agenda as a worthy discussion point is quite another. Just as it would be a scandal if some conservative think tank of comparable stature hosted an author of an openly racist book or one advocating the virtues of slavery, there is something shocking and fundamentally indecent about NAF’s decision to host a writer who is the moral equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke. It may be too much to hope that board members speak up and seek to cancel this event. But if they don’t, the NAF will lend its prestige to a disreputable author and cause and find itself tainted as an aider and abettor of anti-Israel hate.

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Decline in Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes

The major criticism of drone strikes–the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policy especially in Pakistan and Yemen–is that they cause too many civilian casualties, thereby creating more militants than they eliminate. A new study from the New America Foundation disputes that conclusion.

Authors Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland write: “The estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has declined dramatically since 2008, when it was at its peak of almost 50 percent. Today, for the first time, the estimated civilian death rate is at or close to zero.” Their finding is based on analyzing three years’ worth of data in news sources ranging from Reuters and the New York Times to the Express Tribune and Dawn in Pakistan.

Any compilation based on such open-source materials must necessarily be suspect. But then counting casualties from the drone strikes is necessarily an inexact science–Washington has an interest in minimizing the figures while jihadists have an interest in maximizing them. Perhaps there is a better count out there, but I’m not aware of it. If the New America Foundation’s conclusion is accurate, the reduction in collateral damage is a tribute to better technology (e.g., drones that can linger longer over their targets and use better sensors to identify them), better intelligence gathering, and better controls over these strikes.

This is yet another reason why the strikes cannot be stopped–they are the most effective tool to combat Islamist terrorism in areas such as Pakistan and Yemen where U.S. troops are not deployed en masse. Indeed, far from curtailing them, I believe it is imperative to extend the strikes to towns such as Chaman, located near the border with Afghanistan, which is a major staging point for the Taliban–but has been off bounds so far for the drone strikes because it is located outside the tribal areas of Pakistan. That needs to change if the U.S. is going to sufficiently degrade the insurgency to allow U.S. troop numbers to be reduced by 2014 without a catastrophic collapse in security.

The major criticism of drone strikes–the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policy especially in Pakistan and Yemen–is that they cause too many civilian casualties, thereby creating more militants than they eliminate. A new study from the New America Foundation disputes that conclusion.

Authors Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland write: “The estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has declined dramatically since 2008, when it was at its peak of almost 50 percent. Today, for the first time, the estimated civilian death rate is at or close to zero.” Their finding is based on analyzing three years’ worth of data in news sources ranging from Reuters and the New York Times to the Express Tribune and Dawn in Pakistan.

Any compilation based on such open-source materials must necessarily be suspect. But then counting casualties from the drone strikes is necessarily an inexact science–Washington has an interest in minimizing the figures while jihadists have an interest in maximizing them. Perhaps there is a better count out there, but I’m not aware of it. If the New America Foundation’s conclusion is accurate, the reduction in collateral damage is a tribute to better technology (e.g., drones that can linger longer over their targets and use better sensors to identify them), better intelligence gathering, and better controls over these strikes.

This is yet another reason why the strikes cannot be stopped–they are the most effective tool to combat Islamist terrorism in areas such as Pakistan and Yemen where U.S. troops are not deployed en masse. Indeed, far from curtailing them, I believe it is imperative to extend the strikes to towns such as Chaman, located near the border with Afghanistan, which is a major staging point for the Taliban–but has been off bounds so far for the drone strikes because it is located outside the tribal areas of Pakistan. That needs to change if the U.S. is going to sufficiently degrade the insurgency to allow U.S. troop numbers to be reduced by 2014 without a catastrophic collapse in security.

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Try Another Tack, Mr. Clemons

My former CONTENTIONS colleague Jennifer Rubin wrote a post referring to “the usual crowd of Israel bashers” who had sent the president a letter urging him to go along with a UN resolution condemning Israel for its settlements. The usual crowd included Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, who was quite agitated because he was included in that company.

“I would like to know from Jennifer Rubin and from her editor — and from the Chairman of the Board of the Washington Post — what I have ever said, what I have ever written, what I have ever organized that deserves the characterization I received from Jennifer Rubin today at the Washington Post,” Clemons asks. “What does she consider makes me an Israel-basher?”

Rubin answers him chapter-and-verse here. It is a withering takedown.

Accusing Rubin of engaging in what is essentially libel (an “insidious character attack” is how Clemons puts it) when she was simply expressing an opinion, backed up by ample evidence, is both regrettable and perfectly predictable. Clemons is reacting in an affected and aggrieved manner. It is an obvious attempt not to dispute the charge but to delegitimize the person making it. And by appealing to Rubin’s editors and the chairman of the board at the Washington Post (!), there is an implicit effort to intimidate Rubin into silence.

Having worked with Jen, I have some advice for Clemons: it won’t work, and it shouldn’t be tried. And if Mr. Clemons is so eager to extinguish libel in public discourse, he might turn more of his attention to the effort on the left to link conservatives to the Tucson massacres.

Just a suggestion.

My former CONTENTIONS colleague Jennifer Rubin wrote a post referring to “the usual crowd of Israel bashers” who had sent the president a letter urging him to go along with a UN resolution condemning Israel for its settlements. The usual crowd included Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, who was quite agitated because he was included in that company.

“I would like to know from Jennifer Rubin and from her editor — and from the Chairman of the Board of the Washington Post — what I have ever said, what I have ever written, what I have ever organized that deserves the characterization I received from Jennifer Rubin today at the Washington Post,” Clemons asks. “What does she consider makes me an Israel-basher?”

Rubin answers him chapter-and-verse here. It is a withering takedown.

Accusing Rubin of engaging in what is essentially libel (an “insidious character attack” is how Clemons puts it) when she was simply expressing an opinion, backed up by ample evidence, is both regrettable and perfectly predictable. Clemons is reacting in an affected and aggrieved manner. It is an obvious attempt not to dispute the charge but to delegitimize the person making it. And by appealing to Rubin’s editors and the chairman of the board at the Washington Post (!), there is an implicit effort to intimidate Rubin into silence.

Having worked with Jen, I have some advice for Clemons: it won’t work, and it shouldn’t be tried. And if Mr. Clemons is so eager to extinguish libel in public discourse, he might turn more of his attention to the effort on the left to link conservatives to the Tucson massacres.

Just a suggestion.

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‘Conversing’ About Afghanistan

I had not previously suspected that Grover Norquist has quite the sense of humor. I had thought of him as a dour ideologue, but he shows hidden strains of mirth in responding to my blog post expressing skepticism about his attempts to rally a “center-right” coalition against the Afghan war. The Daily Caller quotes him as follows:

Norquist said Boot’s comments underscore the need for a real debate on America’s strategy in the Af-Pak theatre. “OK, people for whom everything is World War II haven’t read much history. Because they have no other analogies other than things they have seen from World War II movies,” he told me. “There’s got to be a better case for what we’re doing in Afghanistan than Max Boot’s. Somewhere. ‘Shut up’, he argued. It’s, you know, it’s embarrassing.”

At the same time, Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet. “I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” he said. “There are guys who do this for a living, and they’re focused on it, who have strong criticisms of the status quo in different places. I’m very comfortable saying this is not for free and that the benefits are not clear to me. Could we have a conversation about the cost, and please make the benefits clear to me and others?”

“When somebody says ‘I don’t want to have a conversation about [what] this costs, I don’t want to have a conversation about what the benefits are, I surely don’t want to be asked what the point of this is’. … I think they have a weak case, because I do other things in life, right? But [proponents of the war] are focused on this all day. They think they have a weak case, and that’s scary, that’s frightening. I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

I will bypass his jape about not reading “much history,” which as it happens is what I do pretty much all day, every day — it’s necessary to read a lot of history to write your own works of history, which is what I spend most of my time doing.

I am more amused by his attempt to walk away from his viewpoint. As Alana pointed out earlier, he’s not really suggesting getting out of Afghanistan, he claims; he just wants to have a “conversation” about it. As if we had not debated it before, ad nauseum. Grover may not have noticed while he was doing “other things in life,” but this conversation has been going on for quite some time, both inside and outside the administration. I am hardly “embarrassed” to debate the merits of the war effort. If he is interested in my explanation of why we can win and why we must do so, he might start by reading two COMMENTARY articles I wrote — here and here.

I am hard put to see, however, why we must revive the debate now on Norquist’s say-so. President Obama — hardly a hawk — oversaw a fairly intensive debate within the administration in the fall of 2009. The surge strategy he approved then is only now being implemented. It makes sense to wait until we see how it plays out before starting a “conversation” about a pullout. Read More

I had not previously suspected that Grover Norquist has quite the sense of humor. I had thought of him as a dour ideologue, but he shows hidden strains of mirth in responding to my blog post expressing skepticism about his attempts to rally a “center-right” coalition against the Afghan war. The Daily Caller quotes him as follows:

Norquist said Boot’s comments underscore the need for a real debate on America’s strategy in the Af-Pak theatre. “OK, people for whom everything is World War II haven’t read much history. Because they have no other analogies other than things they have seen from World War II movies,” he told me. “There’s got to be a better case for what we’re doing in Afghanistan than Max Boot’s. Somewhere. ‘Shut up’, he argued. It’s, you know, it’s embarrassing.”

At the same time, Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet. “I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” he said. “There are guys who do this for a living, and they’re focused on it, who have strong criticisms of the status quo in different places. I’m very comfortable saying this is not for free and that the benefits are not clear to me. Could we have a conversation about the cost, and please make the benefits clear to me and others?”

“When somebody says ‘I don’t want to have a conversation about [what] this costs, I don’t want to have a conversation about what the benefits are, I surely don’t want to be asked what the point of this is’. … I think they have a weak case, because I do other things in life, right? But [proponents of the war] are focused on this all day. They think they have a weak case, and that’s scary, that’s frightening. I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

I will bypass his jape about not reading “much history,” which as it happens is what I do pretty much all day, every day — it’s necessary to read a lot of history to write your own works of history, which is what I spend most of my time doing.

I am more amused by his attempt to walk away from his viewpoint. As Alana pointed out earlier, he’s not really suggesting getting out of Afghanistan, he claims; he just wants to have a “conversation” about it. As if we had not debated it before, ad nauseum. Grover may not have noticed while he was doing “other things in life,” but this conversation has been going on for quite some time, both inside and outside the administration. I am hardly “embarrassed” to debate the merits of the war effort. If he is interested in my explanation of why we can win and why we must do so, he might start by reading two COMMENTARY articles I wrote — here and here.

I am hard put to see, however, why we must revive the debate now on Norquist’s say-so. President Obama — hardly a hawk — oversaw a fairly intensive debate within the administration in the fall of 2009. The surge strategy he approved then is only now being implemented. It makes sense to wait until we see how it plays out before starting a “conversation” about a pullout.

Or is the war of such urgent fiscal concern that we need to pull out tomorrow? Hardly. We are spending roughly $100 billion a year in Afghanistan. Our budget deficit last year was $1.29 trillion. So even if we suddenly stopped all spending on Afghanistan, that would reduce the deficit by less than 8 percent. But of course, not even most advocates of a troop drawdown suggest that we should abandon Afghanistan entirely. Most agree we need to keep Special Operations forces there, keep trainers there to help the Afghan Security Forces, etc. So our actual savings would be considerably less than that. There are many reasons for opposing the war effort, but Norquist’s chosen argument — calling for fiscal rectitude by withdrawing — is not terribly compelling.

Nor am I convinced by a poll sponsored by the liberal New America Foundation, with which Norquist has affiliated himself, claiming that most conservatives favor drawing down our troop numbers now. I suspect this is typical of the partisan “polls” that Washington operatives like Norquist put together to make their cause du jour appear more popular than it actually is. In reality, Republicans in Congress are solidly behind the war effort; I rather doubt they do so in the face of adamant opposition from their conservative constituents. In any case, I have not seen much sign of conservative opposition to the Afghan war effort — which is why Norquist is working with the New America Foundation, not, say, the Heritage Foundation.

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Norquist Dodging, Again, on Afghanistan

If Grover Norquist wants U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan right now, why doesn’t he just come out and say it?

Last week, at a dinner sponsored by the New America Foundation, Norquist tiptoed around the issue, but “stopped short of personally calling for a rapid withdrawal,” according to the Huffington Post.

Instead he called for a “conversation” on the war, saying that he was “confident about where that conversation would go” — i.e., in the direction of withdrawal.

And in an interview with the Daily Caller today, Norquist again avoided giving a direct answer. “Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet,” reported the Caller.

“I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” said Norquist, adding that “I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

Well, nobody is stopping him from having a conversation. In fact, the discussion has been going on for years inside the conservative movement. And, no, it hasn’t led to the conclusion that Norquist “confidently” alluded to but for some reason declined to say outright.

Could it be that Norquist isn’t yet ready to throw his lot in with those on the right who have openly supported withdrawal — Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Justin Raimondo, for example?

Whatever the reason, it’s a good move on his part. By framing this as a “conversation,” Norquist can shoot out anti-war talking points while refusing to commit himself to a solid position on the issue. After all, he’s just asking questions, right?

If Grover Norquist wants U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan right now, why doesn’t he just come out and say it?

Last week, at a dinner sponsored by the New America Foundation, Norquist tiptoed around the issue, but “stopped short of personally calling for a rapid withdrawal,” according to the Huffington Post.

Instead he called for a “conversation” on the war, saying that he was “confident about where that conversation would go” — i.e., in the direction of withdrawal.

And in an interview with the Daily Caller today, Norquist again avoided giving a direct answer. “Norquist insisted that he is not calling for America to pull out of the war — at least not yet,” reported the Caller.

“I see enough to say that I think about it, and that’s what I’ve tossed out there,” said Norquist, adding that “I just think we ought to have a conversation.”

Well, nobody is stopping him from having a conversation. In fact, the discussion has been going on for years inside the conservative movement. And, no, it hasn’t led to the conclusion that Norquist “confidently” alluded to but for some reason declined to say outright.

Could it be that Norquist isn’t yet ready to throw his lot in with those on the right who have openly supported withdrawal — Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Justin Raimondo, for example?

Whatever the reason, it’s a good move on his part. By framing this as a “conversation,” Norquist can shoot out anti-war talking points while refusing to commit himself to a solid position on the issue. After all, he’s just asking questions, right?

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RE: Fed’s Plan to Rev Up Printing Press Gets Thumbs Down

The overwhelmingly negative response to the Fed decision to print up $600B to buy bonds is intensifying as Russia and China joined European nations in slamming the move. This report explains:

Mr. Obama returned fire in the growing confrontation over trade and currencies Monday in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking the unusual step of publicly backing the Fed’s decision to buy $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—a move that has come under withering international criticism for weakening the U.S. dollar.

Gold topped $1,400 an ounce on fears of inflation as investors voted thumbs down on Ben Bernanke’s plan. And the number of critics is growing, leaving the U.S. isolated:

Germany’s criticism echoes that from other countries, including Brazil and Japan, which have complained about potential spillover from the Fed’s action. Printing more dollars, or cutting U.S. interest rates, tends to weaken the dollar and makes U.S. exports more attractive. The accompanying rise in the value of other countries’ currencies tends to damp their exports and can fuel inflation or asset bubbles, as emerging-market officials note. U.S. officials maintain the Fed’s action is about stimulating domestic demand, and that a weaker dollar is a consequence, not an objective.

On Monday, China’s Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said the U.S. isn’t living up to its responsibility as an issuer of a global reserve currency. …

The top economic aide to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will insist at the G-20 summit that the Fed consult with other countries ahead of major policy decisions.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is chairman of the euro-zone finance ministers, also weighed in on the Fed move, saying: “I don’t think it’s a good decision. You’re fighting debt with more debt.”

These concerns are entirely justified. Moreover, one can’t help but appreciate the irony: the “cowboy” George W. Bush was lambasted for “going it alone” and making the U.S. a pariah in the world. But worldwide resentment over the U.S. is surging as Obama is forced to lamely defend his moves as “pro-growth” (which speaks volumes about the administration’s economic illiteracy, for not even his defenders would claim that currency devaluation=growth). We hear that the “blunt criticism of U.S. policy is in large part payback for a longstanding stance by Washington policy makers that the American economy should serve as a model for others. The heated rhetoric also stems from fears that the U.S. may be looking for a back-door way to set exchange-rate policy in a way that favors the U.S.”

Combined with the incessant shin-kicking of our allies (e.g., Eastern Europe, Israel, Honduras, Britain), this latest move certainly strengthens Obama’s critics here and abroad. They contend that through a combination of ill-conceived policies and rank incompetence, Obama is rendering the U.S. less influential and less respected, which is increasing instability in the world. All and all, it is a textbook example of the perils of deploying liberal statism at home and shrinking America’s stature overseas. Unfortunately, this is not a graduate course at Harvard or a symposium at the New America Foundation. It is all too real, and unless we arrest the panoply of bad policies, America and its allies will be poorer and less safe. We already are.

The overwhelmingly negative response to the Fed decision to print up $600B to buy bonds is intensifying as Russia and China joined European nations in slamming the move. This report explains:

Mr. Obama returned fire in the growing confrontation over trade and currencies Monday in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking the unusual step of publicly backing the Fed’s decision to buy $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—a move that has come under withering international criticism for weakening the U.S. dollar.

Gold topped $1,400 an ounce on fears of inflation as investors voted thumbs down on Ben Bernanke’s plan. And the number of critics is growing, leaving the U.S. isolated:

Germany’s criticism echoes that from other countries, including Brazil and Japan, which have complained about potential spillover from the Fed’s action. Printing more dollars, or cutting U.S. interest rates, tends to weaken the dollar and makes U.S. exports more attractive. The accompanying rise in the value of other countries’ currencies tends to damp their exports and can fuel inflation or asset bubbles, as emerging-market officials note. U.S. officials maintain the Fed’s action is about stimulating domestic demand, and that a weaker dollar is a consequence, not an objective.

On Monday, China’s Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said the U.S. isn’t living up to its responsibility as an issuer of a global reserve currency. …

The top economic aide to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will insist at the G-20 summit that the Fed consult with other countries ahead of major policy decisions.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is chairman of the euro-zone finance ministers, also weighed in on the Fed move, saying: “I don’t think it’s a good decision. You’re fighting debt with more debt.”

These concerns are entirely justified. Moreover, one can’t help but appreciate the irony: the “cowboy” George W. Bush was lambasted for “going it alone” and making the U.S. a pariah in the world. But worldwide resentment over the U.S. is surging as Obama is forced to lamely defend his moves as “pro-growth” (which speaks volumes about the administration’s economic illiteracy, for not even his defenders would claim that currency devaluation=growth). We hear that the “blunt criticism of U.S. policy is in large part payback for a longstanding stance by Washington policy makers that the American economy should serve as a model for others. The heated rhetoric also stems from fears that the U.S. may be looking for a back-door way to set exchange-rate policy in a way that favors the U.S.”

Combined with the incessant shin-kicking of our allies (e.g., Eastern Europe, Israel, Honduras, Britain), this latest move certainly strengthens Obama’s critics here and abroad. They contend that through a combination of ill-conceived policies and rank incompetence, Obama is rendering the U.S. less influential and less respected, which is increasing instability in the world. All and all, it is a textbook example of the perils of deploying liberal statism at home and shrinking America’s stature overseas. Unfortunately, this is not a graduate course at Harvard or a symposium at the New America Foundation. It is all too real, and unless we arrest the panoply of bad policies, America and its allies will be poorer and less safe. We already are.

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You Can’t Get Much More Anti-Israel Than This

From the inception of J Street, I and other conservatives have argued that its “pro-Israel” label was false. Both in actions and in words it has revealed itself to be in league with Israel’s foes. It has fanned the flames of delegitimization efforts. It has incorporated Hamas’s talking points as its own. It has supported candidates most hostile to Israel and to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.

In case you had any doubt (but really, who but Ron Kampeas does?), this report should clear things up. “J Street co-founder, advisory board member, and international socialite Daniel Levy” helped escort Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill, and it was his ” New America Foundation that hosted a high-caliber lunch for Goldstone.”

According to the report, Levy was on an all-star panel of Israel-haters last May (“with Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surreal Hamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi”) when he shared this:

One can be a utilitarian two-stater, in other words think that the practical pragmatic way forward is two states. This is my understanding of the current Hamas position. One can be an ideological two-stater, someone who believes in exclusively the Palestinian self-determination and in Zionism; I don’t believe that it’s impossible to have a progressive Zionism. Or one can be a one-stater. But in either of those outcomes we’re going to live next door to each other or in a one state disposition. And that means wrapping one’s head around the humanity of both sides. I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused — for me, it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason — there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.

His remarks also apparently included the assertion that it was “‘natural’ for Gazans to want to attack Israelis.” I await the denial by Soros Street, the production of the complete transcript, and then the emergence of the pro-J Street spin squad to explain that Levy didn’t really mean what he said. Or J Street doesn’t believe this. Or whatever. But I think those who have given money to J Street or accepted endorsements or cash from it under the pretense that it was a pro-Israel group were defrauded. And I think J Street is kaput.

From the inception of J Street, I and other conservatives have argued that its “pro-Israel” label was false. Both in actions and in words it has revealed itself to be in league with Israel’s foes. It has fanned the flames of delegitimization efforts. It has incorporated Hamas’s talking points as its own. It has supported candidates most hostile to Israel and to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.

In case you had any doubt (but really, who but Ron Kampeas does?), this report should clear things up. “J Street co-founder, advisory board member, and international socialite Daniel Levy” helped escort Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill, and it was his ” New America Foundation that hosted a high-caliber lunch for Goldstone.”

According to the report, Levy was on an all-star panel of Israel-haters last May (“with Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surreal Hamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi”) when he shared this:

One can be a utilitarian two-stater, in other words think that the practical pragmatic way forward is two states. This is my understanding of the current Hamas position. One can be an ideological two-stater, someone who believes in exclusively the Palestinian self-determination and in Zionism; I don’t believe that it’s impossible to have a progressive Zionism. Or one can be a one-stater. But in either of those outcomes we’re going to live next door to each other or in a one state disposition. And that means wrapping one’s head around the humanity of both sides. I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused — for me, it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason — there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.

His remarks also apparently included the assertion that it was “‘natural’ for Gazans to want to attack Israelis.” I await the denial by Soros Street, the production of the complete transcript, and then the emergence of the pro-J Street spin squad to explain that Levy didn’t really mean what he said. Or J Street doesn’t believe this. Or whatever. But I think those who have given money to J Street or accepted endorsements or cash from it under the pretense that it was a pro-Israel group were defrauded. And I think J Street is kaput.

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Reaction to J Street

It’s interesting to watch the left cope with the realization that not only have the J Streeters copiously lied, but that they are in league with Richard Goldstone — shepherding him around Capitol Hill and writing his defense.

The left-leaning Haaretz sounds mournful, albeit realistic:

These days, J Street, the leftist pro-Israel lobby, is trying to appear business as usual. Following their ad campaign in the newspapers showcasing their support of the peace process and urging leaders to make history, J Street met this week with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and with various congressional representatives, in hopes of tightening connections ahead of the November midterm elections.

But ever since the Washington Times exposed the discreet donations made by billionaire George Soros to the organization, the scandal surrounding J Street is only magnifying.

The reporter accurately details the series of lies and concludes:

J Street needs to make a clear decision — if they want to be truly inclusive, as they claim to be — they shouldn’t be afraid to be so, despite the price they may have to pay. By continuing their current modus operandi — trying to dodge controversy — they are actually creating more controversies and might lose credibility even among their left-wing supporters. If they want to become a unique voice, they should say: “We do not agree, but we listen to all voices — and not under the table.”

Not an unreasonable suggestion.

Over at Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein goes on a rant against Eli Lake, who broke the story. But in the end, he too concedes:

All this goes to my main problem with J Street: they’re being too smart by half in trying to hide their true progressive views under a bushel.  If you want to be a Democratic version of Aipac as J Street has been over the past year, then do so and don’t take money from Soros or aid Goldstone.  Make Colette Avital happy, play in the sandbox with the moribund Labor Party, etc.  But if you want to be a truly independent progressive Jewish group why attempt to hide from anyone what you’ve done in taking Soros’ money or helping Goldstone?  Why make common cause with an unreliable figure like Avital?

The problem, might be, those bushel-hidden views are not palatable to the vast majority of American Jews.

Then there is Ron Kampeas’s column in the JTA. Kampeas has invested much credibility writing about and sourcing from the J Street crowd (and they, in spinning him); so I wasn’t all that surprised that he chose to go after the reporters who uncovered J Street’s lies. But his defense of J Street runs from odd to outrageous.

He’s not moved by the audiotape revealing Colette Avital’s false denial of her admission that Goldstone got the J Street tour around the Capitol. He acknowledges that Ben-Ami now concedes that “J Street had suggested contacts to the organizations that all sides agree did facilitate Goldstone’s Hill meetings, the Open Society Institute and the New America Foundation,” but seems not to grasp that this contradicted other Ben-Ami’s statements. He’s still giving Ben-Ami the benefit of the doubt. (“Now, it is true that Jeremy could be lying — he misled everyone about Soros’s involvement, after all, and his accounts of what was said to the Times and what was not have shifted slightly — but that doesn’t mean anything at this stage.” It doesn’t?) And on he goes, denying that there is anything here to see, nothing at all. (Even Jeffrey Goldberg figured out that this is curtains for the J Street gang.)

An official at a pro-Israel organization is aghast:

I guess it’s not enough for Ron Kampeas to be lied to, and lied to and lied to again. Maybe in that fairy land lies pass for truth, but in Washington and in the real world, lies are lies. And J Street has lied about taking money from George Soros, they lied about being an organization paid for by Americans. In fact, J Street is a sham astroturf collection of email addresses paid for by George Soros and a unknown person in Hong Kong named Connie Esdicul who covered half of their budget in the 2008-2009 year, when they were the “blocking back” for the White House policy beating up on Israel. I wonder what member of Congress will want to take their PAC money or keep signing their letters? Maybe only if Mort Halperin only if writes them, just like he did for Richard Goldstone when J Street called members of Congress to set up meetings for him so he could explain how Israel was guilty of war crimes.

And now they are lying again about their role in promoting the author of the Goldstone report — a anti-Israel document so vile that even the radical left group B’tselem condemned it. But J Street? No, they didn’t condemn it then, and they don’t now.

But here’s the outrageous part: Kampeas agrees with J Street that Goldstone got a raw deal. He’s incensed: “Why the hell shouldn’t Goldstone have met with the Congress members?” (Because he’s a vicious defamer of Israel and has presided over the multiple executions of blacks in South Africa?) He proclaims that “the original anti-Goldstone resolution that circulated was profoundly unfair to him.” Then the show stopper:

Here’s a postscript: I don’t think Goldstone is Uncle Evil any longer in Israel. His reputation morphed from Pompous Traitor to Wounded Grandpa after South African Zionists tried to muscle him out of his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

This is ludicrous. There is no significant segment of Israeli society and not a single prominent Israeli politician who thinks Goldstone is anything but evil. Well, at least we know why Kampeas is so sympathetic to J Street — they both have a soft spot for the man who has, through deliberate misrepresentation, done more than any living soul to aid Israel’s delegitimizers.

It’s interesting to watch the left cope with the realization that not only have the J Streeters copiously lied, but that they are in league with Richard Goldstone — shepherding him around Capitol Hill and writing his defense.

The left-leaning Haaretz sounds mournful, albeit realistic:

These days, J Street, the leftist pro-Israel lobby, is trying to appear business as usual. Following their ad campaign in the newspapers showcasing their support of the peace process and urging leaders to make history, J Street met this week with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and with various congressional representatives, in hopes of tightening connections ahead of the November midterm elections.

But ever since the Washington Times exposed the discreet donations made by billionaire George Soros to the organization, the scandal surrounding J Street is only magnifying.

The reporter accurately details the series of lies and concludes:

J Street needs to make a clear decision — if they want to be truly inclusive, as they claim to be — they shouldn’t be afraid to be so, despite the price they may have to pay. By continuing their current modus operandi — trying to dodge controversy — they are actually creating more controversies and might lose credibility even among their left-wing supporters. If they want to become a unique voice, they should say: “We do not agree, but we listen to all voices — and not under the table.”

Not an unreasonable suggestion.

Over at Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein goes on a rant against Eli Lake, who broke the story. But in the end, he too concedes:

All this goes to my main problem with J Street: they’re being too smart by half in trying to hide their true progressive views under a bushel.  If you want to be a Democratic version of Aipac as J Street has been over the past year, then do so and don’t take money from Soros or aid Goldstone.  Make Colette Avital happy, play in the sandbox with the moribund Labor Party, etc.  But if you want to be a truly independent progressive Jewish group why attempt to hide from anyone what you’ve done in taking Soros’ money or helping Goldstone?  Why make common cause with an unreliable figure like Avital?

The problem, might be, those bushel-hidden views are not palatable to the vast majority of American Jews.

Then there is Ron Kampeas’s column in the JTA. Kampeas has invested much credibility writing about and sourcing from the J Street crowd (and they, in spinning him); so I wasn’t all that surprised that he chose to go after the reporters who uncovered J Street’s lies. But his defense of J Street runs from odd to outrageous.

He’s not moved by the audiotape revealing Colette Avital’s false denial of her admission that Goldstone got the J Street tour around the Capitol. He acknowledges that Ben-Ami now concedes that “J Street had suggested contacts to the organizations that all sides agree did facilitate Goldstone’s Hill meetings, the Open Society Institute and the New America Foundation,” but seems not to grasp that this contradicted other Ben-Ami’s statements. He’s still giving Ben-Ami the benefit of the doubt. (“Now, it is true that Jeremy could be lying — he misled everyone about Soros’s involvement, after all, and his accounts of what was said to the Times and what was not have shifted slightly — but that doesn’t mean anything at this stage.” It doesn’t?) And on he goes, denying that there is anything here to see, nothing at all. (Even Jeffrey Goldberg figured out that this is curtains for the J Street gang.)

An official at a pro-Israel organization is aghast:

I guess it’s not enough for Ron Kampeas to be lied to, and lied to and lied to again. Maybe in that fairy land lies pass for truth, but in Washington and in the real world, lies are lies. And J Street has lied about taking money from George Soros, they lied about being an organization paid for by Americans. In fact, J Street is a sham astroturf collection of email addresses paid for by George Soros and a unknown person in Hong Kong named Connie Esdicul who covered half of their budget in the 2008-2009 year, when they were the “blocking back” for the White House policy beating up on Israel. I wonder what member of Congress will want to take their PAC money or keep signing their letters? Maybe only if Mort Halperin only if writes them, just like he did for Richard Goldstone when J Street called members of Congress to set up meetings for him so he could explain how Israel was guilty of war crimes.

And now they are lying again about their role in promoting the author of the Goldstone report — a anti-Israel document so vile that even the radical left group B’tselem condemned it. But J Street? No, they didn’t condemn it then, and they don’t now.

But here’s the outrageous part: Kampeas agrees with J Street that Goldstone got a raw deal. He’s incensed: “Why the hell shouldn’t Goldstone have met with the Congress members?” (Because he’s a vicious defamer of Israel and has presided over the multiple executions of blacks in South Africa?) He proclaims that “the original anti-Goldstone resolution that circulated was profoundly unfair to him.” Then the show stopper:

Here’s a postscript: I don’t think Goldstone is Uncle Evil any longer in Israel. His reputation morphed from Pompous Traitor to Wounded Grandpa after South African Zionists tried to muscle him out of his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

This is ludicrous. There is no significant segment of Israeli society and not a single prominent Israeli politician who thinks Goldstone is anything but evil. Well, at least we know why Kampeas is so sympathetic to J Street — they both have a soft spot for the man who has, through deliberate misrepresentation, done more than any living soul to aid Israel’s delegitimizers.

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Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

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When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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A Game of JournoList Chicken

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

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The Beinart Critique, Dismantled

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

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Why Are Americans Pro-Israel? They Hate Muslims

M.J. Rosenberg is a leading light in the “progressive” scene. He was formerly at the Israel Policy Forum and today posts embarrassing rants at the Talking Points Memo blog and is a “Senior Foreign Policy Fellow” at Media Matters. His new obsession is calling people racists. Here he is today saying in one short post that Jeffrey Goldberg, Lee Smith, and Rob Satloff are all racists (and Smith’s latest Tablet piece is “Islamophobic neocon claptrap,” an interesting charge coming from someone who has barely spent any time in the Islamic world against someone who has spent much of the past several years living in Cairo and Beirut).

A couple of weeks ago he appeared on a New America Foundation panel to discuss “American perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Here is Rosenberg’s analysis:

The whole south shifts to the Republican Party over one issue, they don’t like black people…so you have the racism thing, the fact that we’ve eradicated the separation of church and state essentially, which started I have to say when Jimmy Carter was first elected. As a Jew I noticed it — first president who talked about Jesus Christ, and that was sort of like, “whoa, presidents don’t talk about Christ!”…and now you have the modern Republican Party that has to cater to these racists and that gets me to my fundamental point, it is not that they are pro-Israel. They are anti-Muslim. They do not like Muslims. They are on the side of Israel because Israel is — they don’t like Jews that much to start out with, either — but compared to Muslims, they like Jews fine.

They’re infatuated with the Israeli army. Why? Because the Israeli army kills Muslims. I mean, this is what it’s all about….When you hear them talk to the, I don’t want to say the average American, but certainly the average American south of the Mason-Dixon line, “these Muslims” — well, someone said to me the other day, “how’s Keith Ellison doing?” Because he’s a Muslim member of congress, with all these crazy wackos wandering around, I said “how’s Keith Ellison doing?” and he said, “oh, they don’t bother with Keith Ellison, he’s just Al-Qaeda.” …

And that’s what we saw on Saturday, the sheer hatred that has infused our politics, and the strongest strain in it right now, and one you are allowed to get away with, is the anti-Muslim strain. So I just don’t buy into the pro-Israel thing so much as it’s anti-Muslim.

There you have it, folks. Watch it in all its glory below. He starts getting warmed up around the 23-minute mark.

M.J. Rosenberg is a leading light in the “progressive” scene. He was formerly at the Israel Policy Forum and today posts embarrassing rants at the Talking Points Memo blog and is a “Senior Foreign Policy Fellow” at Media Matters. His new obsession is calling people racists. Here he is today saying in one short post that Jeffrey Goldberg, Lee Smith, and Rob Satloff are all racists (and Smith’s latest Tablet piece is “Islamophobic neocon claptrap,” an interesting charge coming from someone who has barely spent any time in the Islamic world against someone who has spent much of the past several years living in Cairo and Beirut).

A couple of weeks ago he appeared on a New America Foundation panel to discuss “American perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Here is Rosenberg’s analysis:

The whole south shifts to the Republican Party over one issue, they don’t like black people…so you have the racism thing, the fact that we’ve eradicated the separation of church and state essentially, which started I have to say when Jimmy Carter was first elected. As a Jew I noticed it — first president who talked about Jesus Christ, and that was sort of like, “whoa, presidents don’t talk about Christ!”…and now you have the modern Republican Party that has to cater to these racists and that gets me to my fundamental point, it is not that they are pro-Israel. They are anti-Muslim. They do not like Muslims. They are on the side of Israel because Israel is — they don’t like Jews that much to start out with, either — but compared to Muslims, they like Jews fine.

They’re infatuated with the Israeli army. Why? Because the Israeli army kills Muslims. I mean, this is what it’s all about….When you hear them talk to the, I don’t want to say the average American, but certainly the average American south of the Mason-Dixon line, “these Muslims” — well, someone said to me the other day, “how’s Keith Ellison doing?” Because he’s a Muslim member of congress, with all these crazy wackos wandering around, I said “how’s Keith Ellison doing?” and he said, “oh, they don’t bother with Keith Ellison, he’s just Al-Qaeda.” …

And that’s what we saw on Saturday, the sheer hatred that has infused our politics, and the strongest strain in it right now, and one you are allowed to get away with, is the anti-Muslim strain. So I just don’t buy into the pro-Israel thing so much as it’s anti-Muslim.

There you have it, folks. Watch it in all its glory below. He starts getting warmed up around the 23-minute mark.

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What Is Irreversible and What Is Not

Ed Koch finds the Obami’s treatment of Israel “outrageous and a breach of trust” and concludes that the “relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.” Those Israel supporters who put their trust in Obama have a lot to answer for, but I do not believe that the rift between the countries is permanent or that the U.S.-Israel relationship is irretrievably damaged. Israel’s relationship with this administration may be marred, but Obama, as we have seen this week, is unique, even within his own party, in his fondness for Israel-bashing and disdain for the elected government of the Jewish state.

The overwhelming opposition of Republicans to the Obami Israel offensive suggests that its party nominee in 2012 will be genuinely and avowedly pro-Israel. An e-mail from Eric Cantor’s office this morning began — even though health care was seemingly at the top of the agenda — with this:

Yesterday, the Prime Minister from one of America’s closest and most strategic allies visited the White House. But did anyone know it? Nope. For the second time in a row, the White House apparently didn’t want the President to be seen with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Was he trying to avoid difficult questions from the press? Did he not want the photo to appear on newspapers across the world? Was he sending a message to our allies or our enemies? Surely the White House made the strategic decision to keep the meeting closed for a reason, but doesn’t feel it necessary to explain why. One thing is clear — President Obama missed an opportunity to show the world that the special relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong.

The flip side, however, is that we may regrettably be reaching the point at which there is a distinct partisan difference — despite American Jews’ unflinching loyalty to the Democratic party — on Israel policy. As the Washington Times reports, most Democrats remain obsessed with domestic issues. Daniel Levy of the leftist New America Foundation in essence concedes that Democrats really don’t care all that much about Israel: “The vast majority of American Jewish voters in November won’t be basing their vote on this spat. … A small minority [of] Jewish Democrats will raise it, and part of the Republican base will use it as one of many mobilizing vehicles, but those voters will be mobilized anyway — though, on margins, it could raise money for certain candidates.” Well, at least in 2012, voters will have a choice between Obama and a candidate sharply critical of and willing to reverse the administration’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, we should not be so pollyannaish to believe that much of what the Obami are up to won’t have long-lasting consequences, even if a more pro-Israel president enters the White House in two and a half years. The Obami are of course reinforcing the well-known predilection of Palestinian rejectionists to hold out for more unilateral concessions. The goal of a two-state solution is therefore being undermined by the administration, which is straining so hard to champion the peace process. Even more dangerous, the administration’s behavior signals to those whose aim it is to delegitimize Israel that the U.S. might not leap to Israel’s defense. If we’ve had a plethora of Israel-bashing from international institutions lately, be prepared for more. And then let’s not forget the most permanent damage that the Obami might leave behind: a revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. That truly is irreversible, and calamitous.

The bottom line then: the U.S.-Israel relationship may recover, but not before much harm is done to Israel and ultimately to our own security. That is the price for electing the most openly anti-Israel president in history.

Ed Koch finds the Obami’s treatment of Israel “outrageous and a breach of trust” and concludes that the “relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.” Those Israel supporters who put their trust in Obama have a lot to answer for, but I do not believe that the rift between the countries is permanent or that the U.S.-Israel relationship is irretrievably damaged. Israel’s relationship with this administration may be marred, but Obama, as we have seen this week, is unique, even within his own party, in his fondness for Israel-bashing and disdain for the elected government of the Jewish state.

The overwhelming opposition of Republicans to the Obami Israel offensive suggests that its party nominee in 2012 will be genuinely and avowedly pro-Israel. An e-mail from Eric Cantor’s office this morning began — even though health care was seemingly at the top of the agenda — with this:

Yesterday, the Prime Minister from one of America’s closest and most strategic allies visited the White House. But did anyone know it? Nope. For the second time in a row, the White House apparently didn’t want the President to be seen with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Was he trying to avoid difficult questions from the press? Did he not want the photo to appear on newspapers across the world? Was he sending a message to our allies or our enemies? Surely the White House made the strategic decision to keep the meeting closed for a reason, but doesn’t feel it necessary to explain why. One thing is clear — President Obama missed an opportunity to show the world that the special relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong.

The flip side, however, is that we may regrettably be reaching the point at which there is a distinct partisan difference — despite American Jews’ unflinching loyalty to the Democratic party — on Israel policy. As the Washington Times reports, most Democrats remain obsessed with domestic issues. Daniel Levy of the leftist New America Foundation in essence concedes that Democrats really don’t care all that much about Israel: “The vast majority of American Jewish voters in November won’t be basing their vote on this spat. … A small minority [of] Jewish Democrats will raise it, and part of the Republican base will use it as one of many mobilizing vehicles, but those voters will be mobilized anyway — though, on margins, it could raise money for certain candidates.” Well, at least in 2012, voters will have a choice between Obama and a candidate sharply critical of and willing to reverse the administration’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, we should not be so pollyannaish to believe that much of what the Obami are up to won’t have long-lasting consequences, even if a more pro-Israel president enters the White House in two and a half years. The Obami are of course reinforcing the well-known predilection of Palestinian rejectionists to hold out for more unilateral concessions. The goal of a two-state solution is therefore being undermined by the administration, which is straining so hard to champion the peace process. Even more dangerous, the administration’s behavior signals to those whose aim it is to delegitimize Israel that the U.S. might not leap to Israel’s defense. If we’ve had a plethora of Israel-bashing from international institutions lately, be prepared for more. And then let’s not forget the most permanent damage that the Obami might leave behind: a revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. That truly is irreversible, and calamitous.

The bottom line then: the U.S.-Israel relationship may recover, but not before much harm is done to Israel and ultimately to our own security. That is the price for electing the most openly anti-Israel president in history.

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Agenda Polling

So J Street’s pollster, Jim Gerstein (who was also a founding VP of J Street), has done a poll of Israelis for the New America Foundation. It is being billed as a repudiation of the famous Jerusalem Post poll conducted in June that found that only 6 percent of Israelis consider the Obama administration to be pro-Israel. The new Gerstein poll is advertised by NAF as proving that “Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama” than was the case in the previous poll.

I was always skeptical of the original poll. The numbers just seemed too low to be credible, and the poll was conducted right after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech, when passions were high. But the way to credibly disprove those numbers is to sample a similar group and ask the same questions. Unsurprisingly, that’s not what Gerstein did.

The JPost poll was conducted among Jewish Israelis. Gerstein, however, polled everyone, including Arabs, who comprised 16 percent of his sample (an under-sampling, actually — almost 20 percent of Israelis are Arab). More important, he did not ask the same, or even a similar, question. He asked a question that was sure to make Obama look better than the previous poll: not whether the respondent thought that the Obama administration was pro-Israel, but whether the respondent had warm feelings toward Barack Obama personally.

This is where the poll found a 41 percent “favorable rating” for Obama. But having warm feelings toward a politician is not the same thing as approving of his performance in office. The exact same phenomenon has been documented in numerous polls of Americans, who consistently give Barack Obama higher approval marks than his policies.

It looks to me like the poll itself was conducted responsibly, and it has many interesting findings, including that more than twice the number of Israelis identify with the Right than with the Left. But the PR effort being waged on its behalf, however, is not being conducted all that honestly. There was no effort in the Gerstein poll to replicate, even vaguely, the question that the Jerusalem Post poll asked: Do you believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel? Instead, Gerstein asked an Oprah Winfrey–style question about whether Barack Obama gives you warm fuzzies, and included the Israeli Arab population in his sample, which the JPost poll did not.

I have little doubt that another poll replicating the JPost‘s questions and sample demographic would find that far more than 6 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel. It’s too bad that the New America Foundation didn’t take the opportunity to find out. The full poll can be read here.

So J Street’s pollster, Jim Gerstein (who was also a founding VP of J Street), has done a poll of Israelis for the New America Foundation. It is being billed as a repudiation of the famous Jerusalem Post poll conducted in June that found that only 6 percent of Israelis consider the Obama administration to be pro-Israel. The new Gerstein poll is advertised by NAF as proving that “Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view of President Obama” than was the case in the previous poll.

I was always skeptical of the original poll. The numbers just seemed too low to be credible, and the poll was conducted right after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech, when passions were high. But the way to credibly disprove those numbers is to sample a similar group and ask the same questions. Unsurprisingly, that’s not what Gerstein did.

The JPost poll was conducted among Jewish Israelis. Gerstein, however, polled everyone, including Arabs, who comprised 16 percent of his sample (an under-sampling, actually — almost 20 percent of Israelis are Arab). More important, he did not ask the same, or even a similar, question. He asked a question that was sure to make Obama look better than the previous poll: not whether the respondent thought that the Obama administration was pro-Israel, but whether the respondent had warm feelings toward Barack Obama personally.

This is where the poll found a 41 percent “favorable rating” for Obama. But having warm feelings toward a politician is not the same thing as approving of his performance in office. The exact same phenomenon has been documented in numerous polls of Americans, who consistently give Barack Obama higher approval marks than his policies.

It looks to me like the poll itself was conducted responsibly, and it has many interesting findings, including that more than twice the number of Israelis identify with the Right than with the Left. But the PR effort being waged on its behalf, however, is not being conducted all that honestly. There was no effort in the Gerstein poll to replicate, even vaguely, the question that the Jerusalem Post poll asked: Do you believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel? Instead, Gerstein asked an Oprah Winfrey–style question about whether Barack Obama gives you warm fuzzies, and included the Israeli Arab population in his sample, which the JPost poll did not.

I have little doubt that another poll replicating the JPost‘s questions and sample demographic would find that far more than 6 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Obama administration is pro-Israel. It’s too bad that the New America Foundation didn’t take the opportunity to find out. The full poll can be read here.

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Iran and Its Friends

While the mullahs, apparently, have many friends in American universities and plenty of mileage to be gained out of NIAC, they also have the benefit of eager spinners who seem to be intent on creating a sort of Journo-list for the pro-Iranian-regime position. A series of e-mails has come my way that makes clear just how politically active some think-tank members are as they plot to “educate” American opinion makers: Read More

While the mullahs, apparently, have many friends in American universities and plenty of mileage to be gained out of NIAC, they also have the benefit of eager spinners who seem to be intent on creating a sort of Journo-list for the pro-Iranian-regime position. A series of e-mails has come my way that makes clear just how politically active some think-tank members are as they plot to “educate” American opinion makers:

—–Original Message—–
From: Trita Parsi

Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:45 PM
To: ‘Siamak Namazi’; ‘Hadi Semati’; ‘Karim Sadjadpour’;
Subject: RE: Our Group Meeting
Sounds good to me

—–Original Message—–
From: Siamak Namazi
Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:38 PM
To: Hadi Semati; tparsi XXXX; Karim Sadjadpour; molaviXXX;
sanamvakilXXX; rtakyeh XXX
Subject: Our Group Meeting
Lady and Gents,

If you all agree, let’s gear up for the second discussion session.
Hopefully this time Sanam and Afshin will also be able to attend. (Sanam
jan, my apologies on behalf of all of us for forgetting to ask you to
attend the first session.)

Trita is out to Mexico and Afshin is back in a few days. Perhaps we can
mark our calendars now for the second week in Dec.  How about Wed 14
December, 2:00-4:00 pm?  Venue: whatever works best for the group. I can
try to reserve a room at NED, if you like.

Topics for discussion in our signature informal, chaotic way:

1- Iran-US: what did Burns try to say with this speech?  After so much
anticipation, why was there nothing new?

2- Nukes: this is going to be staple diet for discussion for a while to
come, I suppose.

3- Latest on the domestic side: Maybe we can think about the politics of
selecting the oil minister and what it all means.

Of course, all the above is a suggestion.

Best,
Sia

—–Original Message—–
From: Siamak Namazi
Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2005 3:27 PM
To: Hadi Semati; tparsi XXX; ksadj XXX
Subject: tomorrow

Gentlemen,

So, here’s the plan for tomorrow.  We meet at 1:30 sharp (even for you Karim).  Regarding the venue, Trita and Karim to decide whether they prefer NED or Wilson Center, since Hadi and I would obviously prefer to stay put.  In general, Hadi’s office is bigger and the Wilson Center has nice couches where we can also sit and talk, if you prefer.  But, NED is closer to you two…

Format:  I suggest we discuss two issues tomorrow, each for roughly 30 minutes: (1) The nuclear file; (2) the domestic struggle for power – Is the system really worried about A-N?

After this discussion/update, we move to think through, collectively, what we think the US/EU should do in response to these issues?  Again, we might have disagreements, which is fine. But, if we can develop a list of 3 main points that we all believe in, it would be great; we can all make sure to make these points at various venues.

Hopefully, if this small study group continues, we could meet once a month to update one another on news of Iran and fine tune our policy recs.  The first meeting is a bit tricky since there are so many topics. In the future, perhaps we can come up with one single issue, and one person can assume the responsibility of giving a 10 min brief on it, then others enter the discussion by taking time.

Over all, I would think that these meetings have 3 main purposes:

1-       To get this group to bring to the table their various pieces of the puzzle so that we all see a clearer picture of what is happening in/about Iran;
2-       To develop a common list of policy recommendation to enhance our ability to influence decision-makers;
3-       To help “train” people like Haghighatjoo
who will get a lot of attention but don’t nec have a good understanding of how things work in the USA

With due respect to seniority, I hope Hadi accepts to Chair the session tomorrow and basically kick-start the discussions.

If you like, we can take 10 mins in the beginning to discuss the best format too.

So, Trita, Karim – please confirm the preferred venue.

Hadi – please see if Haghighatjoo is interested in joining in.

Cheers,
sia

Siamak Namazi
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

So here we have “experts” Karim Sadjadpour (of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) and Afshin Molavi (of the New America Foundation), who are treated as independent gurus by the likes of NPR and CNN, spending their time consulting and plotting with NIAC to spin American public opinion in the direction of the mullahs’ party line. Nor is the effort to hush up or “train” Fatemeh Haghighatjoo (a prominent reformist who resigned from the Iranian parliament in protest and who has spoken of the need for U.S. assistance to the democracy movement) anything new. But what is new, perhaps, is an increased appreciation for how much coordination is going on to project the spin of the Iranian regime.

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Who Has Beaten Whom?

Back in October a cover story by Peter Bergen, author and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, graced the cover of the New Republic. Titled “War of Error: How Osama bin Laden Beat George W. Bush,” Bergen wrote

America’s most formidable foe — once practically dead — is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling Al Qaeda. To understand the terror network’s resurgence — and its continued ability to harm us — we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it. . . . If, as the president explained in a speech [in 2006], the United States is today engaged “in the decisive ideological struggle of the twenty-first century,” right now we are on the losing side of the battle of ideas.

This week Bergen is back with another cover story (this time written with Paul Cruickshank) gracing the cover of the New Republic. But this time his take is very different. Titled, “The Unraveling: Al Qaeda’s revolt against bin Laden,” the essay examines the turn against al Qaeda by clerics and militants who were once considered their allies. According to Bergen and Cruickshank, “The repudiation of Al Qaeda’s leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement.” Al Qaeda’s new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, “have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda’s ideology.”

So it now looks as if al Qaeda is on the losing side of the battle of ideas. In fact, the tide was moving against al Qaeda even when Bergen wrote his original cover story in October 2007. As I wrote at the time

the most important ideological development in the last year is that the Sunni population in Iraq has turned against al Qaeda’s ideology and concomitant brutality. The “Anbar Awakening,” which is spreading to other regions in Iraq, is a sign of Muslims’ rejecting radical Islamist ideology. . . . This doesn’t mean we have decisively won the “war of ideas” in the Islamic world; that clash is still unfolding and will for some time to come. But Bergen’s claim that we are losing is belied by the most significant and encouraging ideological development we have seen in a great long while.

It turns out that on the cover of the current New Republic are excerpts of a letter chastising bin Laden, a letter written by Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential Saudi cleric whom bin Laden once lionized. That letter was written a month before Bergen’s cover story declaring that al Qaeda was winning the war of ideas against America and the West. Bergen did not mention that letter in his original essay, though he devotes several paragraphs to it in this week’s cover story.

In addition, the same month Bergen’s “War of Error” cover story appeared (October 2007) the Washington Post reported, “The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months . . .” It was clear, even seven months ago, that the tectonic plates were beginning to shift. And since then, things have gotten even worse for jihadists–as Bergen and Cruickshank admit:

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West’s, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda’s leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do.

That is, I think, correct, as far as it goes. I would add a point I made back in October: Those who believe winning the (figurative) war of ideas is paramount might consider doing all they can to help win the (literal) war in Iraq. After all, the best way to discredit militant Islam as an ideology is to defeat those who are taking up the sword in its name.

In any event , Bergen and Cruickshank, echoing Lawrence Wright in his recent essay in the New Yorker, are onto something significant: the tide within the Islamic world is beginning to run strongly against al Qaeda specifically and jihadism more broadly. This surely ranks as among the most important ideological developments in years.

Bergen and Cruickshank’s piece concludes:

Al Qaeda’s leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that “the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders . . . are not the intended targets.” Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the “nullifiers of Islam,” which is helping the “infidels against the Muslims.”

Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda’s days may be numbered: “No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals . . . you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise.”

It looks like Osama bin Laden might not have beaten George W. Bush after all.

Back in October a cover story by Peter Bergen, author and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, graced the cover of the New Republic. Titled “War of Error: How Osama bin Laden Beat George W. Bush,” Bergen wrote

America’s most formidable foe — once practically dead — is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling Al Qaeda. To understand the terror network’s resurgence — and its continued ability to harm us — we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it. . . . If, as the president explained in a speech [in 2006], the United States is today engaged “in the decisive ideological struggle of the twenty-first century,” right now we are on the losing side of the battle of ideas.

This week Bergen is back with another cover story (this time written with Paul Cruickshank) gracing the cover of the New Republic. But this time his take is very different. Titled, “The Unraveling: Al Qaeda’s revolt against bin Laden,” the essay examines the turn against al Qaeda by clerics and militants who were once considered their allies. According to Bergen and Cruickshank, “The repudiation of Al Qaeda’s leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement.” Al Qaeda’s new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, “have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda’s ideology.”

So it now looks as if al Qaeda is on the losing side of the battle of ideas. In fact, the tide was moving against al Qaeda even when Bergen wrote his original cover story in October 2007. As I wrote at the time

the most important ideological development in the last year is that the Sunni population in Iraq has turned against al Qaeda’s ideology and concomitant brutality. The “Anbar Awakening,” which is spreading to other regions in Iraq, is a sign of Muslims’ rejecting radical Islamist ideology. . . . This doesn’t mean we have decisively won the “war of ideas” in the Islamic world; that clash is still unfolding and will for some time to come. But Bergen’s claim that we are losing is belied by the most significant and encouraging ideological development we have seen in a great long while.

It turns out that on the cover of the current New Republic are excerpts of a letter chastising bin Laden, a letter written by Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential Saudi cleric whom bin Laden once lionized. That letter was written a month before Bergen’s cover story declaring that al Qaeda was winning the war of ideas against America and the West. Bergen did not mention that letter in his original essay, though he devotes several paragraphs to it in this week’s cover story.

In addition, the same month Bergen’s “War of Error” cover story appeared (October 2007) the Washington Post reported, “The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months . . .” It was clear, even seven months ago, that the tectonic plates were beginning to shift. And since then, things have gotten even worse for jihadists–as Bergen and Cruickshank admit:

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West’s, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda’s leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do.

That is, I think, correct, as far as it goes. I would add a point I made back in October: Those who believe winning the (figurative) war of ideas is paramount might consider doing all they can to help win the (literal) war in Iraq. After all, the best way to discredit militant Islam as an ideology is to defeat those who are taking up the sword in its name.

In any event , Bergen and Cruickshank, echoing Lawrence Wright in his recent essay in the New Yorker, are onto something significant: the tide within the Islamic world is beginning to run strongly against al Qaeda specifically and jihadism more broadly. This surely ranks as among the most important ideological developments in years.

Bergen and Cruickshank’s piece concludes:

Al Qaeda’s leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that “the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders . . . are not the intended targets.” Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the “nullifiers of Islam,” which is helping the “infidels against the Muslims.”

Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda’s days may be numbered: “No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals . . . you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise.”

It looks like Osama bin Laden might not have beaten George W. Bush after all.

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Talking to the Enemies?

In yesterday’s New York Times, Helene Cooper speculates that the tide is turning on the Bush administration’s “Don’t-Talk-To-Evil” policy. Her prediction: by the first two years of the next administration, the United States will be talking to, well, everybody—North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, and Venezuela. After all, she argues, the Bush administration’s recent overtures to Syria and low-level contacts with Iran regarding Iraq will likely intensify once Bush leave office, while relations with Cuba might be just a Castro heartbeat away.

But if an era of good feelings with Hugo Chavez seems just a bit far-fetched, Cooper outdoes herself, adding Hamas and Hizballah to the next administration’s buddy list. Under what circumstances might the U.S. deal with Hamas? Cooper writes:

If the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently a United States darling, kisses and makes up with Hamas and somehow gets the organization to agree to recognize Israel, there’s a chance.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Cooper that approximately 250,000 Hamas supporters marched in Gaza on Saturday to mark Hamas’s 20th anniversary, with trilingual banners declaring, “We Will Not Recognize Israel.” But who needs a reality check when think-tank star power can be summoned to predict the equally outlandish future U.S.-Hizballah relationship? Relying on New America Foundation stud Daniel Levy, who has become the go-to man for all sound bites in support of engaging terrorists, Cooper writes:

[Hizballah’s] case, while hard, may not be as tough a nut as Hamas, especially if the ongoing Syrian-American détente continues. “The Americans are already talking to Nabih Berri,” says a former Israeli peace negotiator, Daniel Levy, referring to a Shiite Muslim Lebanese politician who has close ties to Hizballah and Syria.

Of course, the U.S. primarily deals with Nabih Berri because, for all the duplicity that one finds in Lebanese politics, he still isn’t an actual member of Hizballah. But raising this objection completely misses the point. After all, in soliciting advice from Levy in an article packed with fact-free analysis, Cooper mistakenly engages an unreliable “expert” long before the U.S. forges any questionable alliances. It’s thus the Times’s journalism—and not U.S. foreign policy—that is showing the most profound signs of slippage.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Helene Cooper speculates that the tide is turning on the Bush administration’s “Don’t-Talk-To-Evil” policy. Her prediction: by the first two years of the next administration, the United States will be talking to, well, everybody—North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, and Venezuela. After all, she argues, the Bush administration’s recent overtures to Syria and low-level contacts with Iran regarding Iraq will likely intensify once Bush leave office, while relations with Cuba might be just a Castro heartbeat away.

But if an era of good feelings with Hugo Chavez seems just a bit far-fetched, Cooper outdoes herself, adding Hamas and Hizballah to the next administration’s buddy list. Under what circumstances might the U.S. deal with Hamas? Cooper writes:

If the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently a United States darling, kisses and makes up with Hamas and somehow gets the organization to agree to recognize Israel, there’s a chance.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Cooper that approximately 250,000 Hamas supporters marched in Gaza on Saturday to mark Hamas’s 20th anniversary, with trilingual banners declaring, “We Will Not Recognize Israel.” But who needs a reality check when think-tank star power can be summoned to predict the equally outlandish future U.S.-Hizballah relationship? Relying on New America Foundation stud Daniel Levy, who has become the go-to man for all sound bites in support of engaging terrorists, Cooper writes:

[Hizballah’s] case, while hard, may not be as tough a nut as Hamas, especially if the ongoing Syrian-American détente continues. “The Americans are already talking to Nabih Berri,” says a former Israeli peace negotiator, Daniel Levy, referring to a Shiite Muslim Lebanese politician who has close ties to Hizballah and Syria.

Of course, the U.S. primarily deals with Nabih Berri because, for all the duplicity that one finds in Lebanese politics, he still isn’t an actual member of Hizballah. But raising this objection completely misses the point. After all, in soliciting advice from Levy in an article packed with fact-free analysis, Cooper mistakenly engages an unreliable “expert” long before the U.S. forges any questionable alliances. It’s thus the Times’s journalism—and not U.S. foreign policy—that is showing the most profound signs of slippage.

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Right Back Atcha, James

I got a good chuckle this morning from this post on something called the Sovereignty Caucus blog attacking me as an out-of-touch Manhattanite because of my pro-immigration posting on contentions:

Get used to it America: your new servants—and your new masters—will be immigrants. So says Max Boot, who is a Fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. To such Manhattanites, zooming over the rest of us, lofted ever upward by a jet stream of tax-deductible foundation money, such humdrum issues as legality, and opportunity for home-grown Americans—well, such issues are too small to worry about, or even take seriously. Legal, schmegal—what’s the big whoop-dee-doo diff?

Who is the author of this populist outrage? In what farmhouse in which Midwestern state does he sit shuddering with rage at the bicoastal elites who are “zooming over” his head?

This item was penned by none other than James Pinkerton, a former aide in the White House of George Bush Sr., who was briefly famous for formulating something called the “New Paradigm,” the content of which has long been forgotten by all but the author.

And where does Pinkerton live? I believe in New York, where he is a columnist for Newsday and a contributor to the Fox News Channel. At least I’ve certainly run into him at parties over the years in fancy New York settings. (Perhaps he commutes to these gatherings from Dubuque?) He is also affiliated with think tanks such as the New America Foundation, which are presumably funded with “tax-deductible foundation money.”

Read More

I got a good chuckle this morning from this post on something called the Sovereignty Caucus blog attacking me as an out-of-touch Manhattanite because of my pro-immigration posting on contentions:

Get used to it America: your new servants—and your new masters—will be immigrants. So says Max Boot, who is a Fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. To such Manhattanites, zooming over the rest of us, lofted ever upward by a jet stream of tax-deductible foundation money, such humdrum issues as legality, and opportunity for home-grown Americans—well, such issues are too small to worry about, or even take seriously. Legal, schmegal—what’s the big whoop-dee-doo diff?

Who is the author of this populist outrage? In what farmhouse in which Midwestern state does he sit shuddering with rage at the bicoastal elites who are “zooming over” his head?

This item was penned by none other than James Pinkerton, a former aide in the White House of George Bush Sr., who was briefly famous for formulating something called the “New Paradigm,” the content of which has long been forgotten by all but the author.

And where does Pinkerton live? I believe in New York, where he is a columnist for Newsday and a contributor to the Fox News Channel. At least I’ve certainly run into him at parties over the years in fancy New York settings. (Perhaps he commutes to these gatherings from Dubuque?) He is also affiliated with think tanks such as the New America Foundation, which are presumably funded with “tax-deductible foundation money.”

But, like Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, and other talking heads, his own membership in the New York-based media elite doesn’t prevent Pinkerton from posturing as the tribune of the common man and castigating those with whom he disagrees as out-of-touch elitists.

More than that, he claims that those of us who oppose immigration-bashing are not true conservatives. He concludes:

Some might wonder: Isn’t Commentary supposed to be a conservative magazine? Maybe, but it’s got it share of globalist neoconservatives, who are anything but conservative.

Gasp! Who knew I wasn’t just a neocon but, even worse, a globalist neocon. (Whatever that is.) I find such arguments—you’re not a true conservative! You’re not a true liberal! You’re not a true whatever!—to be just as risible and tedious as his earlier claim that because I work in New York City I am somehow out of touch.

While being pro-immigration myself, and a conservative, I readily admit that this is one of many issues on which conservatives of good faith can disagree. It would be nice if those with differing views could stick to debating the merits of the case rather than trying to demean the other side with juvenile insults.

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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.

Read More

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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