Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pat Buchanan

“Vulture Capitalism” Attack Ripped from Pat Buchanan’s ’92 Playbook

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are continuing to slam Mitt Romney for “vulture capitalism,” a phrase that NBC reports was “newly-minted” by Perry. Actually, it turns out that the phrase isn’t really that new – and this isn’t even the first time a GOP candidate has used it to attack a primary rival.

In 1992, Pat Buchanan seized on the term in a fit of desperation, and used it to bludgeon frontrunner President George H.W. Bush in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary. The Boston Globe reported on February 11, 1992:

Patrick Buchanan accused the Bush administration yesterday of promoting “vulture capitalism,” and called for a more compassionate conservatism that would consider human needs.

With time running out to make his case to New Hampshire voters before next Tuesday’s primary, Buchanan is pressing to personalize his appeal in new television ads that show him talking directly into the camera about his views and with campaign stops like the former residence of a supporter, Steve Embry, a victim of the recession.

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Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are continuing to slam Mitt Romney for “vulture capitalism,” a phrase that NBC reports was “newly-minted” by Perry. Actually, it turns out that the phrase isn’t really that new – and this isn’t even the first time a GOP candidate has used it to attack a primary rival.

In 1992, Pat Buchanan seized on the term in a fit of desperation, and used it to bludgeon frontrunner President George H.W. Bush in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary. The Boston Globe reported on February 11, 1992:

Patrick Buchanan accused the Bush administration yesterday of promoting “vulture capitalism,” and called for a more compassionate conservatism that would consider human needs.

With time running out to make his case to New Hampshire voters before next Tuesday’s primary, Buchanan is pressing to personalize his appeal in new television ads that show him talking directly into the camera about his views and with campaign stops like the former residence of a supporter, Steve Embry, a victim of the recession.

Buchanan’s popularity hit its peak during the New Hampshire primary. On February 16, 1992, The New York Times editorial page applauded his critique of capitalism, and argued that it led to his surge in the state:

He started his New Hampshire primary campaign intending to push President Bush back to old-time Republican religion. Then he came to New Hampshire, where businesses have failed in record numbers, unemployment in some towns has exceeded 20 percent and welfare rolls have swollen. Meet the new Patrick Buchanan.

Now the archconservative journalist campaigns by assailing “vulture capitalism.” Now the thundering apostle of free-market economics proclaims that “conservatism is about more than the constitutional right of big fishes to eat little fishes.” …

His conversion to this new-time religion may or may not be sincere. But it is paying dividends. Barely three weeks ago, President Bush seemed destined to bury Mr. Buchanan, who had never been elected to anything. Now with the election two days away, the President is scrambling to preserve a convincing margin of victory.

Unsurprisingly, conservatives dissented. On March 1, 1992, Charles Krauthammer wrote, in a masterful takedown of Buchanan, that the anti-capitalist sentiment was just one of the many symptoms of the candidate’s fascistic ideology:

Buchanan has converted to protectionism, i.e., government shutting markets in the name of the nation. And now the pretender to the throne of Ronald Reagan has gone beyond mere autarky to public denunciations of “vulture capitalism.”

This is Reaganism? Sounds more like Peronism. After a lifetime denouncing the left for letting government regulate the economy, Buchanan is a born-again economic populist, championing the shirtless ones against rapacious capitalism.

While Buchanan’s attacks on Bush aren’t identical to the current attacks on Romney, his dark portrayal of free market activity and use of left-wing rhetoric is remarkably similar. But Buchanan’s modest success didn’t continue on past the New Hampshire primary. And the current anti-capitalist rhetoric from some Republican candidates isn’t likely to get them very far either.

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Will Buchanan Be Called to Account?

For decades, Pat Buchanan has maintained his perch as a mainstream political commentator, first on CNN and later on MSNBC. But according to the Washington Post, Buchanan may not return to the left-leaning cable network after his book tour ends. Though some on the right will blame his departure on the network’s decision to try to become the liberal answer to Fox News, it’s far more likely that what some see as the racist tone of his latest tome has finally brought Buchanan the comeuppance he has long deserved.

Though Buchanan engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric more than 20 years ago during the first Gulf War and has promoted revisionist views of World War Two in which he trashed Winston Churchill and questioned America’s decision to fight the Nazis, defended Holocaust war criminals and favored appeasing Islamists, none of that was enough to drive him to the margins of American punditry, where he belongs. But after claiming blacks may be less intelligent than whites in his latest book Suicide of a Superpower, Buchanan may have committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of his employers.

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For decades, Pat Buchanan has maintained his perch as a mainstream political commentator, first on CNN and later on MSNBC. But according to the Washington Post, Buchanan may not return to the left-leaning cable network after his book tour ends. Though some on the right will blame his departure on the network’s decision to try to become the liberal answer to Fox News, it’s far more likely that what some see as the racist tone of his latest tome has finally brought Buchanan the comeuppance he has long deserved.

Though Buchanan engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric more than 20 years ago during the first Gulf War and has promoted revisionist views of World War Two in which he trashed Winston Churchill and questioned America’s decision to fight the Nazis, defended Holocaust war criminals and favored appeasing Islamists, none of that was enough to drive him to the margins of American punditry, where he belongs. But after claiming blacks may be less intelligent than whites in his latest book Suicide of a Superpower, Buchanan may have committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of his employers.

The new book, which includes chapters titled “The End of White America” and “The Death of Christian America,” is apparently an extended lament for the America of his youth, during which he listened approvingly to Father Charles Coughlin’s racist and anti-Semitic rants on the radio. Buchanan represents the worst of paleo-conservativism, a creed that in his version combines traditional xenophobia at home with isolationism abroad. It’s a free country, and he has every right to expound upon his views and to publish his beliefs wherever he can. But it’s always struck me, and no doubt others, as curious that his personal popularity in elite media and political circles was enough to enable him to retain his position in the mainstream broadcast media while others with similarly extremist and hateful views could not.

Some on the right maintain a certain affection for Buchanan for his willingness to skewer the left and because of his old associations with Ronald Reagan. But he left the Republican Party and, indeed, the mainstream conservative movement long ago as he drifted to the extremes of American political comment. If he is fired by MSNBC–whatever their reasons might now be–he won’t be missed.

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About Those ‘Likudniks’

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

The theory that a powerful cabal of Jewish intellectuals pressured President Bush into launching wars on behalf of Israel is one that’s become associated with the anti-Semitic political fringe. But it wasn’t long ago that this idea was being promoted in mainstream publications — for example, the 2003 Washington Post cover story entitled “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

The article was about a so-called group of “Likudniks” — loyalists to the right-wing Israeli government — who allegedly pulled the foreign-policy strings in the Bush administration. According to the report, the faction included Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams.

“Some Middle East hands who disagree with these supporters of Israel refer to them as ‘a cabal,’ in the words of one former official,” reported the Post. “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.”

“The Likudniks are really in charge now,” the story quoted an anonymous senior U.S. official as saying.

In certain circles, the term Likudnik has been used interchangeably with neoconservative, and both have carried allegations of dual loyalty to Israel.

“What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel,” wrote Pat Buchanan in the American Conservative. “They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.”

Obviously, these charges were nonsense. And this is illustrated, once again, by the very different positions the Israeli government and neoconservatives have taken on the crisis in Egypt.

As Max has pointed out, Israel has come out in support of the Mubarak regime:

The newspaper said Israel’s foreign ministry told its diplomats to stress that it is in “the interest of the West” and of “the entire Middle East to maintain the stability of the regime in Egypt.”

“We must therefore curb public criticism against President Hosni Mubarak,” the message sent at the end of last week said, according to Haaretz.

The newspaper said the message was sent to Israeli diplomats in at least a dozen embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries.

And yet the alleged “Likudniks” from the Bush administration haven’t been out disseminating pro-Mubarak propaganda of some sort on Fox News.

Instead, Abrams has come out strongly in support of the Egyptian people. As have Wolfowitz and Feith. In fact, neoconservatives are overwhelmingly in favor of democratic reform in Egypt, just as they were under Bush. And that makes the old allegations of dual loyalty look even more shameless.

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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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The Obama Primary Challenger Issue and Why It’s Misunderstood

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it. Read More

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it.

First, presume that, if the status quo remains largely unchanged, Obama’s support will decline somewhat among Democrats and liberals. They won’t like the state of things; he’ll start to smell like a loser and people tend to desert losers; and many will be genuinely angry that his ideological concessions on taxes and war have not improved matters from their perspective. Someone would do it at that point because (and this sounds sentimental, but isn’t) he actually does hear the leftist body politic crying out for someone to represent its views. Protest candidacies are not about victory, which is why Hillary Clinton won’t stage one; they’re about protest.

Also remember that the cost of entry for a protest candidate is far lower than people realize. One would get in to make a showing in New Hampshire, which is not expensive to run in — and a protest candidacy that gets any kind of purchase will, in any case, be able to raise money very fast. (If Christine O’Donnell can raise a few million dollars in three days, so can Russ Feingold under the right circumstances, like the Huffington Post’s pushing his campaign.) The question then would be what kind of showing such a person could make in that one state. As it happens, it might well be built to help a leftist protest candidate.

For one thing, African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the population of New Hampshire. (Remember: Hillary Clinton won here in 2008.) For another, independents can vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, which could allow some genuinely angry people to cast protest votes just to send Obama a message, even though such people would probably end up voting Republican in November 2012.

I have no idea whether there will be such a candidate, because I have no idea what things will look like next fall. I do know that if a candidate turns out to be less like Ashbrook and more like Buchanan, Obama will be in serious trouble. (Read my piece to find out more.) Right now, it is as foolish to presume there won’t be one, or to argue that such a candidate would be unable to make a bid damaging to Obama, as it would be to presume one will definitely rise up to challenge him.

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RE: Peter Beinart’s Lamentation

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others — are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others — are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

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Sestak Defends the Gaza 54 Letter and His Keynote for CAIR

Joe Sestak made a trip to Morning Joe to discuss his Senate race. And, sure enough, the ECI ad was played again. (I imagine that the Toomey camp was pretty pleased about that.) He was with quite a sympathetic panel as the likes of Pat Buchanan (really), Bill Press (really), Mike Barnicle (really), and Norah O’Donnell tripped over each other as they rushed to assure Sestak that they too thought the ad was a “cheap shot” or really not important (although important enough to air twice on the show and get Sestak in to defend himself) because the race is all about domestic policy. The panel was so agreeable (or unprepared) that it didn’t challenge Sestak when he tried to explain the Gaza 54 letter (my comments in brackets):

Scarborough: The center of this attack ad says you signed a letter, very I thought good, dramatic lighting on the Sestak signature [but you couldn’t see those of the other 53, all Democrats who are among the worst Israel-bashers], asking for an end of the Gaza blockade, saying Israel was out of line [“collective punishment” was the operative phrase], and that the Gaza blockade needed to be ended.

Sestak: I signed a letter that said we have to ensure that Israel has $10 billion every — every year for its military assistance. [Not responsive.] I also signed a letter that said that as I went about the world, we have vital interests. Israel is one. We have important interests. We also have humane interests [which apparently don’t include the interest in seeing Israeli children aren’t subjected to rockets]. We said in a letter, I said Ms. Clinton, could you see, while not impacting Israel’s security, are we able to get cleaner water to the children there? [Has he seen the photos of the markets and the new Gaza mall?]

Scarborough: And do you support the end of the blockade?

Sestak: No. I think it’s a legal — yes, I’d like to see it end [Tricky when you are trying to recall the varied positions you have taken, isn’t it?] but not until we can ensure that there is a two-state solution. [He didn’t say that in the Gaza 54 letter — why?] I think Israel has the right to have a blockade so that arms aren’t flowing into those really causing harm in Gaza, which is Hamas.

You’re not convinced? No, I don’t suppose so.

He also talked about his CAIR appearance. No apology, no regrets. His excuse: Gov. Ed Rendell told him to go and went with him. And it’s important to talk to people with whom you disagree. But then why didn’t he enumerate the areas of disagreement instead of showering CAIR with praise when he spoke at the admission-charging event? Would he have gone to speak to an overtly anti-black or anti-Hispanic group? How about the Muslim Brotherhood?

The remainder of the interview was just plain odd. He declared his support for small business (so no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would hit small businesses that file under the individual tax rates?) and said he was going to Washington to stop all the fighting. But he was there. He voted for the Obama agenda, 97.8 percent of the time. I suppose he thinks voters won’t notice.

I suspect there are a lot of Democrats scratching their heads and biting their nails. In this year, the Democrats have to run very smart races to survive the GOP wave. So far, Sestak isn’t.

Joe Sestak made a trip to Morning Joe to discuss his Senate race. And, sure enough, the ECI ad was played again. (I imagine that the Toomey camp was pretty pleased about that.) He was with quite a sympathetic panel as the likes of Pat Buchanan (really), Bill Press (really), Mike Barnicle (really), and Norah O’Donnell tripped over each other as they rushed to assure Sestak that they too thought the ad was a “cheap shot” or really not important (although important enough to air twice on the show and get Sestak in to defend himself) because the race is all about domestic policy. The panel was so agreeable (or unprepared) that it didn’t challenge Sestak when he tried to explain the Gaza 54 letter (my comments in brackets):

Scarborough: The center of this attack ad says you signed a letter, very I thought good, dramatic lighting on the Sestak signature [but you couldn’t see those of the other 53, all Democrats who are among the worst Israel-bashers], asking for an end of the Gaza blockade, saying Israel was out of line [“collective punishment” was the operative phrase], and that the Gaza blockade needed to be ended.

Sestak: I signed a letter that said we have to ensure that Israel has $10 billion every — every year for its military assistance. [Not responsive.] I also signed a letter that said that as I went about the world, we have vital interests. Israel is one. We have important interests. We also have humane interests [which apparently don’t include the interest in seeing Israeli children aren’t subjected to rockets]. We said in a letter, I said Ms. Clinton, could you see, while not impacting Israel’s security, are we able to get cleaner water to the children there? [Has he seen the photos of the markets and the new Gaza mall?]

Scarborough: And do you support the end of the blockade?

Sestak: No. I think it’s a legal — yes, I’d like to see it end [Tricky when you are trying to recall the varied positions you have taken, isn’t it?] but not until we can ensure that there is a two-state solution. [He didn’t say that in the Gaza 54 letter — why?] I think Israel has the right to have a blockade so that arms aren’t flowing into those really causing harm in Gaza, which is Hamas.

You’re not convinced? No, I don’t suppose so.

He also talked about his CAIR appearance. No apology, no regrets. His excuse: Gov. Ed Rendell told him to go and went with him. And it’s important to talk to people with whom you disagree. But then why didn’t he enumerate the areas of disagreement instead of showering CAIR with praise when he spoke at the admission-charging event? Would he have gone to speak to an overtly anti-black or anti-Hispanic group? How about the Muslim Brotherhood?

The remainder of the interview was just plain odd. He declared his support for small business (so no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would hit small businesses that file under the individual tax rates?) and said he was going to Washington to stop all the fighting. But he was there. He voted for the Obama agenda, 97.8 percent of the time. I suppose he thinks voters won’t notice.

I suspect there are a lot of Democrats scratching their heads and biting their nails. In this year, the Democrats have to run very smart races to survive the GOP wave. So far, Sestak isn’t.

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Bemoaning the Bigot’s Retirement

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  — e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  — e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

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A Response to Elvis Costello

As I noted last week, Elvis Costello, with great fanfare and sanctimony, decided to boycott Israel. A response was penned by Assaf Wohl, for whom I think some sort of award should be named that celebrates those who debunk and undo Israel-bashers. (Alan Dershowitz, Elliott Abrams, and Sen. Joe Lieberman have lifetime-achievement awards and so won’t eligible.) Wohl wrote a “Dear Costello” letter that must be read in full. Here’s a sample:

I attempted to understand the reasons you referred to in your cancellation notice. You addressed the “humiliation of Palestinians civilians in the name of national security,” and I wonder what you meant. Perhaps you’re referring to the roadblocks and fence we built in order to prevent suicide bombers from exploding in our buses and coffee shops. The dramatic decline in Palestinian massacres, from an average of one a day to almost nil may indeed be humiliating for them, as you noted.

Or maybe you referred to Operation Cast Lead. If that’s the case, you are in fact condemning us for deciding to put an end to eight years of rocket attacks targeting our kindergartens. If you think this is demagoguery, please go ahead and check the timers which the “humiliated” terrorists set for the rockets. They were aiming for the hours where our children head to kindergarten and to school.

And on the democracy front Wohl, explained:

You refer to human rights, Costello, while ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy. You should look into the State of Israel’s attitude to minorities, compared to our neighbors whose side you took. Let’s see how long it will take before you’re decapitated, should you aim to lead a Gay Pride Parade in Gaza or Hebron. Are you aware of the state of Christians in the Gaza Strip, or the state of women’s rights there? Your silence on these matters attests to the honesty of your claims. You should also ask yourself why all these “humiliated” people would love to get an Israeli ID card. If we’re so bad to them, why are they infiltrating Israel in every possible way?

This deliciously exacting letter is precisely what defenders of Israel need to do on a consistent basis. Whether the gibberish is coming from the White House, from J Street, from feeble-minded “artists,” or from the legions of Israel-haters on the left or right (who are sounding remarkably similar — is Andrew Sullivan saying anything that Pat Buchanan doesn’t?), Israel’s defenders need to consistently and robustly respond. The war to delegitimize and slander the Jewish state succeeds when the accusations are not rebutted.

So yasher ko’ah, Assaf Wohl. And I welcome future nominees.

As I noted last week, Elvis Costello, with great fanfare and sanctimony, decided to boycott Israel. A response was penned by Assaf Wohl, for whom I think some sort of award should be named that celebrates those who debunk and undo Israel-bashers. (Alan Dershowitz, Elliott Abrams, and Sen. Joe Lieberman have lifetime-achievement awards and so won’t eligible.) Wohl wrote a “Dear Costello” letter that must be read in full. Here’s a sample:

I attempted to understand the reasons you referred to in your cancellation notice. You addressed the “humiliation of Palestinians civilians in the name of national security,” and I wonder what you meant. Perhaps you’re referring to the roadblocks and fence we built in order to prevent suicide bombers from exploding in our buses and coffee shops. The dramatic decline in Palestinian massacres, from an average of one a day to almost nil may indeed be humiliating for them, as you noted.

Or maybe you referred to Operation Cast Lead. If that’s the case, you are in fact condemning us for deciding to put an end to eight years of rocket attacks targeting our kindergartens. If you think this is demagoguery, please go ahead and check the timers which the “humiliated” terrorists set for the rockets. They were aiming for the hours where our children head to kindergarten and to school.

And on the democracy front Wohl, explained:

You refer to human rights, Costello, while ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy. You should look into the State of Israel’s attitude to minorities, compared to our neighbors whose side you took. Let’s see how long it will take before you’re decapitated, should you aim to lead a Gay Pride Parade in Gaza or Hebron. Are you aware of the state of Christians in the Gaza Strip, or the state of women’s rights there? Your silence on these matters attests to the honesty of your claims. You should also ask yourself why all these “humiliated” people would love to get an Israeli ID card. If we’re so bad to them, why are they infiltrating Israel in every possible way?

This deliciously exacting letter is precisely what defenders of Israel need to do on a consistent basis. Whether the gibberish is coming from the White House, from J Street, from feeble-minded “artists,” or from the legions of Israel-haters on the left or right (who are sounding remarkably similar — is Andrew Sullivan saying anything that Pat Buchanan doesn’t?), Israel’s defenders need to consistently and robustly respond. The war to delegitimize and slander the Jewish state succeeds when the accusations are not rebutted.

So yasher ko’ah, Assaf Wohl. And I welcome future nominees.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Pat Buchanan or Joe Klein? “Each new report of settlement expansion … each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Hard to tell these days.

Here’s someone who’s not confused about the meaning of Passover: “‘Next year in Jerusalem’ will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders. … It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.”

The Obami’s not-at-all smart diplomacy: “Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, described Washington’s scrutiny on Jerusalem as departing from previous U.S. administrations’ view that the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. ‘It’s bothersome, and certainly worrying,’ Begin told Israel Radio. ‘This change will definitely bring about the opposite to the declared objective. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority.'”

Sound familiar? “A consummate and genteel academic who holds degrees from two of the nation’s top universities.” The Los Angeles Times praises Tom Campbell. But maybe a Republican version of Obama (especially one so comfortable with Obama’s assault on Israel) isn’t going to win over Republican voters.

Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac poll on the public reaction to ObamaCare: “The Democrats said the American people will grow to love this. We’ll find out. At this point, they’re not exactly jumping up and down.” It sure isn’t helping Democrats in Missouri: “Missouri voters continue to be unhappy with Barack Obama and his health care plan and that’s helped Roy Blunt to take the lead in the US Senate race. Blunt is up 45-41 on Robin Carnahan, but that result probably has more to do with how the state feels about Barack Obama than it does about the candidates themselves.”

But it solved the enthusiasm gap, right? Uh, no. “Fully 55% of voters registered as GOPers describe themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ enthusiastic about voting for Congress, while just 36% of Dems describe themselves the same way.”

Actually, the majority of the electorate is jumping up and down to repeal it: “One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.”

That may include younger voters: “Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they’re required to buy insurance four years from now.”

Who knew, right? “Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats. Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation’s health care system overall. … The risk for them is that continued opposition will fuel calls for repeal and dog Democrats in November’s congressional elections.”

CNN’s a ratings flop, explains the New York Times. But you have to read to the 14th and last graph to learn: “At the same time, Fox News, which had its biggest year in 2009, continues to add viewers.”

Pat Buchanan or Joe Klein? “Each new report of settlement expansion … each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Hard to tell these days.

Here’s someone who’s not confused about the meaning of Passover: “‘Next year in Jerusalem’ will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders. … It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.”

The Obami’s not-at-all smart diplomacy: “Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, described Washington’s scrutiny on Jerusalem as departing from previous U.S. administrations’ view that the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. ‘It’s bothersome, and certainly worrying,’ Begin told Israel Radio. ‘This change will definitely bring about the opposite to the declared objective. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority.'”

Sound familiar? “A consummate and genteel academic who holds degrees from two of the nation’s top universities.” The Los Angeles Times praises Tom Campbell. But maybe a Republican version of Obama (especially one so comfortable with Obama’s assault on Israel) isn’t going to win over Republican voters.

Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac poll on the public reaction to ObamaCare: “The Democrats said the American people will grow to love this. We’ll find out. At this point, they’re not exactly jumping up and down.” It sure isn’t helping Democrats in Missouri: “Missouri voters continue to be unhappy with Barack Obama and his health care plan and that’s helped Roy Blunt to take the lead in the US Senate race. Blunt is up 45-41 on Robin Carnahan, but that result probably has more to do with how the state feels about Barack Obama than it does about the candidates themselves.”

But it solved the enthusiasm gap, right? Uh, no. “Fully 55% of voters registered as GOPers describe themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ enthusiastic about voting for Congress, while just 36% of Dems describe themselves the same way.”

Actually, the majority of the electorate is jumping up and down to repeal it: “One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.”

That may include younger voters: “Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they’re required to buy insurance four years from now.”

Who knew, right? “Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats. Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation’s health care system overall. … The risk for them is that continued opposition will fuel calls for repeal and dog Democrats in November’s congressional elections.”

CNN’s a ratings flop, explains the New York Times. But you have to read to the 14th and last graph to learn: “At the same time, Fox News, which had its biggest year in 2009, continues to add viewers.”

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Rare Praise for Andrew Sullivan

I don’t often give props these days to Andrew Sullivan, but give credit where it’s due: Andrew is willing to (tacitly) concede error. After accusing me of “glossing over” General Petraeus’s supposed criticisms of Israel, he now links to my Commentary item and to an item I had linked to by Philip Klein of the American Spectator explicating Petraeus’s actual, even-handed position — in the general’s own words. Andrew quotes another commentator acknowledging, “There really does seem to be not very much to the story about Petraeus,” and says the point is well taken.

True, Andrew does make a weak attempt to salvage something out of a story that has not gone his way:

Nonetheless, the paper Petraeus presented made a clear distinction between American interests and Israeli interests in the wider war on Jihadist terrorism. Until recently, Washington polite opinion could not publicly concede that. Now it’s taken for granted.

Whatever. I don’t think even the most rabid pro-Israel partisan would argue that American and Israeli interests are 100 percent the same. For instance, the U.S. had a major interest in toppling Saddam Hussein, whereas most Israelis didn’t care much whether he stayed in power or not. (Putting the lie, incidentally, to the risible Walt-Mearsheimer claims that the Zionist Lobby was behind the Iraq War.)

But in the present instance, Andrew is a model of intellectual honesty compared to Diana West and her acolytes on the extreme Right who continue to fulminate against Petraeus (and me) — see, e.g., this and this – posts that display, as usual with this crowd, an utter disregard for basic facts and the conventions of rational debate. Ironically, after suggesting that Petraeus is an “Islamic tool” and that General Stanley McChrystal is “a zealot” and “a high priest of the multicultural orthodoxy,” La West accuses me of engaging in “ad hominem attacks.” Pot, kettle.

I’ve probably given West and her ilk more attention than they deserve because their work is so utterly inconsequential and uninfluential. But I do believe there is a duty to police one’s own ideological precincts, and because West & Co. claim to be conservatives, I think it is important for conservatives to condemn their extremist rhetoric — as has previously happened with Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, and other right-wing embarrassments.

I don’t often give props these days to Andrew Sullivan, but give credit where it’s due: Andrew is willing to (tacitly) concede error. After accusing me of “glossing over” General Petraeus’s supposed criticisms of Israel, he now links to my Commentary item and to an item I had linked to by Philip Klein of the American Spectator explicating Petraeus’s actual, even-handed position — in the general’s own words. Andrew quotes another commentator acknowledging, “There really does seem to be not very much to the story about Petraeus,” and says the point is well taken.

True, Andrew does make a weak attempt to salvage something out of a story that has not gone his way:

Nonetheless, the paper Petraeus presented made a clear distinction between American interests and Israeli interests in the wider war on Jihadist terrorism. Until recently, Washington polite opinion could not publicly concede that. Now it’s taken for granted.

Whatever. I don’t think even the most rabid pro-Israel partisan would argue that American and Israeli interests are 100 percent the same. For instance, the U.S. had a major interest in toppling Saddam Hussein, whereas most Israelis didn’t care much whether he stayed in power or not. (Putting the lie, incidentally, to the risible Walt-Mearsheimer claims that the Zionist Lobby was behind the Iraq War.)

But in the present instance, Andrew is a model of intellectual honesty compared to Diana West and her acolytes on the extreme Right who continue to fulminate against Petraeus (and me) — see, e.g., this and this – posts that display, as usual with this crowd, an utter disregard for basic facts and the conventions of rational debate. Ironically, after suggesting that Petraeus is an “Islamic tool” and that General Stanley McChrystal is “a zealot” and “a high priest of the multicultural orthodoxy,” La West accuses me of engaging in “ad hominem attacks.” Pot, kettle.

I’ve probably given West and her ilk more attention than they deserve because their work is so utterly inconsequential and uninfluential. But I do believe there is a duty to police one’s own ideological precincts, and because West & Co. claim to be conservatives, I think it is important for conservatives to condemn their extremist rhetoric — as has previously happened with Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, and other right-wing embarrassments.

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RE: Tom Campbell and Israel

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

Tom Campbell in an interview with the New Ledger discusses some of the issues that both Phil Klein of American Spectator and I have brought to light over the past week. In response, Phil points out that in the interview, Campbell misrepresents his acceptance of campaign money from Sami Al-Arian. As I did, Phil checked the FEC records but went one step further and got a comment from Campbell’s own campaign, which does not dispute the donation. In response to the point I raised concerning Campbell’s boosterism of Alison Weir, known Israel-defamer, Campbell only weakly argued out that there was no specific statement that he endorsed. Phil responds: “But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities.” And so it goes — Campbell denies that he criticized Bill Clinton as too pro-Israel, but Phil provides the quote.

One additional, if not unimportant, point: Alison Weir appears as a commenter on Phil’s article from yesterday. She helpfully adds to the conversation, confirming that she, in fact, advocates this drivel:

I have written a great many articles about Israel-Palestine; two of them are detailed, footnoted investigations of Israeli organ harvesting and theft, a reality that the Israeli media have covered in considerable depth — in fact, most of my information comes from published Israeli articles.

Following the publication of my articles, Israel’s chief pathologist (still among Israel’s highest paid public officials) admitted that for years he had been taking Palestinian body parts. People may wish to read my articles on this topic, and others, for themselves.

Now what says David Frum, Campbell’s staunchest ally on this (I think the only noteworthy public one), whose name Campbell invoked repeatedly in the New Ledger interview? To be fair, Frum’s post seems to have “crossed” with Phil’s response and therefore did not have the benefit of Phil’s dissection.

Regarding Weir, Frum is curiously mute. He simply repeats Campbell’s defense that there was not a particular statement of hers that he took issue with. I wonder if Campbell had  vouched for Pat Buchanan or other well known Israel-haters whether Frum would have considered that acceptable. Well why isn’t this further evidence of Campbell’s strange affinity with those who hate Israel? Frum doesn’t say. (By way of excuse, as discussed below, Frum tries to put Weir in the larger context of Campbell’s misguided folly in the 1990s.)

Frum then states: “On the issues, Tom Campbell has always supported Israel in every important way.” This simply isn’t so. Campbell’s record speaks for itself, and in fact Frum later acknowledges that Campbell simply got it wrong in the 1990s:

In the late 1990s, Campbell joined the so-called Muslim outreach strategy then being pushed hard by important party leaders. It was this strategy that led him to speak to the Council for American Islamic Relations – that entangled him in the al-Arian case – and that (I would guess) prompted his artfully hedged compliments to Alison Weir a decade ago.

The strategy failed, and Campbell was badly burned by it. The groups that offered their support to the GOP in the late 1990s did not in fact represent the sensible majority of American Muslims. They belonged to the radical fringe. Far from strengthening the GOP, they exploited the credulity of the GOP to enhance their own prestige.

Frum then goes on to list some dumb things that George W. Bush did in his outreach to Muslims. Let me simply say that Tom Campbell is no George W. Bush when it comes to his Israel record; but, in any case, Bush isn’t running for the Senate.

Unlike Frum, however, Campbell admits that there is no error in his record and continues to perpetuate the notion that he has always been a stalwart defender of Israel. Voters concerned about a fulsome relationship with and defense of the Jewish state will decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record is one that indicates good judgment and affinity for Israel. And they will also decide whether his lack of candor is one they find troubling.

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Needed: Wartime Commander in Chief

If nothing else, the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should remind us that the “war on terror” (oh, that now banished phrase!) was not dreamed up by some neocon conspiracy bent on curtailing Americans’ civil liberties and on colonizing poor defenseless countries. It is nothing but a simple, accurate description of the threat we face from Islamist extremists bent on mass murder to advance their deranged worldview.

It is not only luck that has kept us (relatively) safe since 9/11, aside from a few random nuts like the Beltway sniper (John Allen Muhammad) and the Fort Hood shooter (Major Malik Nadal Hasan). There has been no lack of larger plots against American targets here and abroad. A few, such as the attempted bombings by Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, have been foiled by a combination of bad planning on the part of the terrorists and active resistance by airline passengers. Many more plots, such as the attempt to blow up airliners flying across the Atlantic by using liquid explosives, have been defeated by active intelligence and law enforcement work. A vital contribution to that work has been made by the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 changes, which have made it easier to wiretap suspects, share intelligence, and (don’t forget) aggressively interrogate captured terrorists and keep them in custody even if they cannot be convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt in a civil court.

Unfortunately all too many people have drawn the wrong lesson from these post-9/11 successes, concluding that we are so safe that we can go back to the pre-9/11 status quo, back when we treated terrorism as a law-enforcement problem and nothing more. This has become the conventional wisdom of the mainstream, left-wing of the Democratic Party and a tiny, right-wing fringe of the Republican Party (Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan), which see the U.S. government as the biggest threat we face—not al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers.

It would be unfair to say that President Obama has bought into this worldview. To his credit, he has continued an active program of using drones and Special Forces to assassinate terrorist kingpins from Pakistan to Somalia; has ramped up our military efforts in Afghanistan; and has continued an active program of intelligence and military cooperation designed to allow states such as Yemen and the Philippines to fight their own wars on terror. Moreover, he has signed off on wider wiretapping and intelligence-gathering authority than the ACLU is comfortable with. But there are certainly some worrisome trends evident from this administration, which insists on trying Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court, which has banned the use of all stress techniques in interrogation, and which continues releasing detainees from Guantanamo, many of whom go right back to the sorts of activities that got them interred in the first place. And let us not forget the president’s unwillingness to get tough with Iran, whose nuclear-weapons program could before long radically increase the chances of our allies’ suffering a nuclear terrorist attack.

Obama has actually been a little tougher on terrorism (and Iraq and Afghanistan) than his record as an ultra-liberal senator would have led us to expect; certainly a lot tougher than Michael Moore or his ilk would like him to be. But not perhaps as tough as the situation demands. If there is any good that comes out of the attempted bombing of the Detroit flight, or the Iranians’ rejections of his naive overtures, it is that he may finally shed some of his remaining illusions about the world and start acting more as a wartime commander in chief should.

If nothing else, the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should remind us that the “war on terror” (oh, that now banished phrase!) was not dreamed up by some neocon conspiracy bent on curtailing Americans’ civil liberties and on colonizing poor defenseless countries. It is nothing but a simple, accurate description of the threat we face from Islamist extremists bent on mass murder to advance their deranged worldview.

It is not only luck that has kept us (relatively) safe since 9/11, aside from a few random nuts like the Beltway sniper (John Allen Muhammad) and the Fort Hood shooter (Major Malik Nadal Hasan). There has been no lack of larger plots against American targets here and abroad. A few, such as the attempted bombings by Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, have been foiled by a combination of bad planning on the part of the terrorists and active resistance by airline passengers. Many more plots, such as the attempt to blow up airliners flying across the Atlantic by using liquid explosives, have been defeated by active intelligence and law enforcement work. A vital contribution to that work has been made by the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 changes, which have made it easier to wiretap suspects, share intelligence, and (don’t forget) aggressively interrogate captured terrorists and keep them in custody even if they cannot be convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt in a civil court.

Unfortunately all too many people have drawn the wrong lesson from these post-9/11 successes, concluding that we are so safe that we can go back to the pre-9/11 status quo, back when we treated terrorism as a law-enforcement problem and nothing more. This has become the conventional wisdom of the mainstream, left-wing of the Democratic Party and a tiny, right-wing fringe of the Republican Party (Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan), which see the U.S. government as the biggest threat we face—not al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers.

It would be unfair to say that President Obama has bought into this worldview. To his credit, he has continued an active program of using drones and Special Forces to assassinate terrorist kingpins from Pakistan to Somalia; has ramped up our military efforts in Afghanistan; and has continued an active program of intelligence and military cooperation designed to allow states such as Yemen and the Philippines to fight their own wars on terror. Moreover, he has signed off on wider wiretapping and intelligence-gathering authority than the ACLU is comfortable with. But there are certainly some worrisome trends evident from this administration, which insists on trying Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court, which has banned the use of all stress techniques in interrogation, and which continues releasing detainees from Guantanamo, many of whom go right back to the sorts of activities that got them interred in the first place. And let us not forget the president’s unwillingness to get tough with Iran, whose nuclear-weapons program could before long radically increase the chances of our allies’ suffering a nuclear terrorist attack.

Obama has actually been a little tougher on terrorism (and Iraq and Afghanistan) than his record as an ultra-liberal senator would have led us to expect; certainly a lot tougher than Michael Moore or his ilk would like him to be. But not perhaps as tough as the situation demands. If there is any good that comes out of the attempted bombing of the Detroit flight, or the Iranians’ rejections of his naive overtures, it is that he may finally shed some of his remaining illusions about the world and start acting more as a wartime commander in chief should.

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Buchanan’s Iran Pretzel

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

Today in World Net Daily, Pat Buchanan ties himself into a knot about the prospects of a war with Iran. He begins, “The neocons may yet get their war on Iran,” and then runs through the signs of impending military action:

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. . . . That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a convincing case that Iran has already started a war with the U.S. Next, Buchanan takes some shots at the Iraq War and declares “Iran has nothing to gain by war.” He concludes:

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.

So, in Buchanan’s vision, the ill-conceived Iraq War has enabled the Iranians to engage in an undeclared war with the U.S. But the Iranians also, somehow, don’t want war with us. He may be right about the increasing likelihood of U.S. military action against Iran: the case against it has never looked so topsy-turvy.

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The Secret History of Neoconservatism

The furor over the supposedly perfidious influence of “neocons” in the making of Bush foreign policy seems to have died down a bit. But it will nevertheless remain part of the lasting legend about this administration. Bob Kagan, one of our foremost foreign policy sages, has a must-read article on the subject in the latest issue of Lawrence Kaplan’s new foreign policy quarterly, World Affairs.

Kagan makes many valuable points, but in essence his argument is that there is absolutely nothing new or foreign about the “neocon” vision—combining power with idealism to make the defense of democracy a central tenet of American policy. The more fevered critics of the neocons insist on explaining their world view with reference to Leon Trotsky, Leo Strauss, and other philosophers of marginal influence in modern America. (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally have never read a single book by either Trotsky or Strauss.) They would be better advised, Kagan notes, to look to figures as varied as Alexander Hamilton, William Seward, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dean Acheson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom advocated an expansive vision of America’s role in the world.

The opposing viewpoint—which denounces American “imperialism” and abjures the defense of liberty abroad—has an equally long history.  It lists among its proponents not only modern-day neocon-bashers such as Michael Moore and Pat Buchanan, but also such illustrious predecessors as the “progressive” historians Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams and realpolitik thinkers like Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lippmann.

Nor is this the first time that the more fevered critics of the war effort have wound up charging that the country was “lied” into war by nefarious conspirators. Today it’s neocons. In the past it was banana companies, “merchants of death,” and international bankers. Such assertions have been heard about the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. (In other words, after every conflict that has turned out to be tougher than anticipated.) Even when it came to World War II, some die-hard isolationists accused FDR of somehow forcing Japan to fight us and of deliberately not warning Pearl Harbor in advance of the attack.

Kagan does not deny that folly and miscalculation played a large role in planning the Iraq War. But, as he notes, there is nothing unique about America being overweening or imprudent in the pursuit of its ideals. The only way to avoid such setbacks is to pursue an isolationist or narrowly realpolitik agenda—which would wind up causing us far greater problems in the long run.

The furor over the supposedly perfidious influence of “neocons” in the making of Bush foreign policy seems to have died down a bit. But it will nevertheless remain part of the lasting legend about this administration. Bob Kagan, one of our foremost foreign policy sages, has a must-read article on the subject in the latest issue of Lawrence Kaplan’s new foreign policy quarterly, World Affairs.

Kagan makes many valuable points, but in essence his argument is that there is absolutely nothing new or foreign about the “neocon” vision—combining power with idealism to make the defense of democracy a central tenet of American policy. The more fevered critics of the neocons insist on explaining their world view with reference to Leon Trotsky, Leo Strauss, and other philosophers of marginal influence in modern America. (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally have never read a single book by either Trotsky or Strauss.) They would be better advised, Kagan notes, to look to figures as varied as Alexander Hamilton, William Seward, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dean Acheson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom advocated an expansive vision of America’s role in the world.

The opposing viewpoint—which denounces American “imperialism” and abjures the defense of liberty abroad—has an equally long history.  It lists among its proponents not only modern-day neocon-bashers such as Michael Moore and Pat Buchanan, but also such illustrious predecessors as the “progressive” historians Charles Beard and William Appleman Williams and realpolitik thinkers like Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lippmann.

Nor is this the first time that the more fevered critics of the war effort have wound up charging that the country was “lied” into war by nefarious conspirators. Today it’s neocons. In the past it was banana companies, “merchants of death,” and international bankers. Such assertions have been heard about the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. (In other words, after every conflict that has turned out to be tougher than anticipated.) Even when it came to World War II, some die-hard isolationists accused FDR of somehow forcing Japan to fight us and of deliberately not warning Pearl Harbor in advance of the attack.

Kagan does not deny that folly and miscalculation played a large role in planning the Iraq War. But, as he notes, there is nothing unique about America being overweening or imprudent in the pursuit of its ideals. The only way to avoid such setbacks is to pursue an isolationist or narrowly realpolitik agenda—which would wind up causing us far greater problems in the long run.

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On McCain’s Sleeve

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

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Ron Paul’s Real Politics: The Case of Daniel Larison

One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

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One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

Larison was stirred to write about his membership in the League after reading Commentary and contentions contributor Max Boot’s review of the pro-Confederate Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, the book Ron Paul recently blurbed. Larison challenges, shockingly, both Boot’s citizenship bona fides and his loyalty, writing of “the first-generation American (and I apply the term here very loosely) Boot.” Such charges of disloyalty, particularly against Jews (I have no idea if Max is Jewish, though he is a neoconservative, and there exists no such distinction for paleocons) is a common trope in paleoconservative polemics and Larison’s is no exception.

Larison’s open nostalgia for the Confederacy is a marvel to behold. While deriding the “freethinking, Yankee spirit and empire that has gone on to devastate so many other societies” he reveres “the humane and decent civilisation of the South that took root in the Southland.” As with most teary-eyed Confederate apologists, he makes no mention whatsoever of that “humane” civilization’s most inhumane practice, referring obliquely only to the fact that the Confederate-era South “was never without flaws.” And it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army who fought to restore America to its founding principles, but those who joined the internal rebellion against the United States, men “who rose to defend, first by the pen and oration and then by the sword, the true political inheritance of the Republic” (emphasis added).

If you can stomach it, read his last paragraph:

The defeat of the Confederacy, though the Confederate political experiment does not exhaust the richness of Southern culture and identity, was a defining moment when the United States took its steps towards the abyss of the monstrous centralised state, rootless society and decadent culture that we have today. In sum, the Confederacy represented much of the Old America that was swept away, and with it went everything meaningful about the constitutional republican system, and the degeneration of that system in the next hundred years was the logical and ultimately unstoppable result of Lincoln’s victory. All of this is in recognition that we are beholden to our ancestors for who we are, and we honour and remember their struggles and accomplishments not only because they can be established as reasonable, good and true but because they are the struggles and accomplishments of our people, who have made this land ours and sanctified it with their blood in defense against the wanton aggression of a barbarous tyranny.

A 1988 edition of the Ron Paul Political Report put this idea much more succinctly:

Beginning with the Civil War and continuing to the present day, advocates of big government have sought to transfer the American people’s loyalty away from Constitutional liberty and to the government.

Larison’s neoconfederate sympathies form a crucial component of the “Old Right” tradition from which Ron Paul emerges. Indeed, the notion that this man is a “libertarian” is laughable; he is an equal mix of the paranoid nativism of Ross Perot, the conspiracy theorizing of Lyndon LaRouche, and the crude populism of Pat Buchanan.

Readers may recall that during the 2000 presidential election, John McCain got himself into serious trouble for far more tenuous ties to neo-Confederates, ties that were also exposed thanks to an article in The New Republic. It’s not my intention to play Kosher Cop (apologies to Larison for using such an un-American word, but my paymasters in Tel Aviv enforce a very strict quota) for the conservative movement. And of course, diversity of political opinion — Larison provides immoderate commentary in spades — is vital in any democracy. But it is inexplicable to me how respectable conservatives make room for views as repellent and noxious as these.

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Down the Memory Hole in New Hampshire

“Have you ever seen crowds like this in New Hampshire? Ever?” Joe Scarborough of MSNBC asked a representative of the Obama campaign, who, unsuprisingly, answered that Gee, no, he never ever had seen crowds like these, ever. Strange. I seem to remember in 2000 that there were crowds like these in New Hampshire for John McCain, who walked on water in exactly the same fashion Obama is walking on water these days. He had young people all excited, independents loved him, he offered a message of reform (the 2000 version of “change”), blah blah blah. McCain won 49 percent of the vote to George W. Bush’s 30 percent. It will be interesting to see if Obama’s expected victory matches McCain’s 19-point triumph, which clearly did not guarantee McCain the nomination he did not ultimately win. (I do think, for the record, that a huge Obama victory here is far more devastating to Clinton’s ambitions than the McCain victory was to George W. Bush’s, for Bush had at least won Iowa.) Oh, and in 1992 we heard a lot of the same blather about Pat Buchanan’s challenge to the sitting President Bush, when he got a stunning 38 percent of the vote against an incumbent in the White House. And yet, every single time, the media fall for the spin. And why not? They invent it anew for themselves every four or eight years.

“Have you ever seen crowds like this in New Hampshire? Ever?” Joe Scarborough of MSNBC asked a representative of the Obama campaign, who, unsuprisingly, answered that Gee, no, he never ever had seen crowds like these, ever. Strange. I seem to remember in 2000 that there were crowds like these in New Hampshire for John McCain, who walked on water in exactly the same fashion Obama is walking on water these days. He had young people all excited, independents loved him, he offered a message of reform (the 2000 version of “change”), blah blah blah. McCain won 49 percent of the vote to George W. Bush’s 30 percent. It will be interesting to see if Obama’s expected victory matches McCain’s 19-point triumph, which clearly did not guarantee McCain the nomination he did not ultimately win. (I do think, for the record, that a huge Obama victory here is far more devastating to Clinton’s ambitions than the McCain victory was to George W. Bush’s, for Bush had at least won Iowa.) Oh, and in 1992 we heard a lot of the same blather about Pat Buchanan’s challenge to the sitting President Bush, when he got a stunning 38 percent of the vote against an incumbent in the White House. And yet, every single time, the media fall for the spin. And why not? They invent it anew for themselves every four or eight years.

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Hillary: Not Dead Yet

While I share Pete Wehner’s enthusiasm for the possible demise of the Clinton era, I think dancing on Hillary Clinton’s political grave is premature. Yes, the latest USA Today survey has Obama up by a remarkable 13 points. But she is not dead yet. New Hampshire has a long history of embarrassing frontrunners (Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in 1984, Pat Buchanan over Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain over George W. Bush in 2000). Clinton also retains 20-point-plus leads in California, New York, and Florida. Like her once commanding New Hampshire lead, these could evaporate on Wednesday. But don’t forget that she still has more money than anyone in the campaign and deep, embedded support in key states. If, after Tuesday, the race comes down to just Obama and Clinton, we might see a real contest of “new versus experience.” More fascinating will be Democratic organizers scrambling to split their base: Obama’s team driving African American voters, Hillary calling on unmarried women. Judging by the last week alone, it is remarkable that Clinton, with her mix of self-righteousness and unpleasantness ever managed to be the dominant candidate. Yet it also clear from her performance this weekend that she is not giving up quietly. An Obama win on Tuesday may give him strength in Michigan and South Carolina, but the battles in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California could be mean, epic Democratic warfare, where Hillary’s experience really does matter.

While I share Pete Wehner’s enthusiasm for the possible demise of the Clinton era, I think dancing on Hillary Clinton’s political grave is premature. Yes, the latest USA Today survey has Obama up by a remarkable 13 points. But she is not dead yet. New Hampshire has a long history of embarrassing frontrunners (Gary Hart over Walter Mondale in 1984, Pat Buchanan over Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain over George W. Bush in 2000). Clinton also retains 20-point-plus leads in California, New York, and Florida. Like her once commanding New Hampshire lead, these could evaporate on Wednesday. But don’t forget that she still has more money than anyone in the campaign and deep, embedded support in key states. If, after Tuesday, the race comes down to just Obama and Clinton, we might see a real contest of “new versus experience.” More fascinating will be Democratic organizers scrambling to split their base: Obama’s team driving African American voters, Hillary calling on unmarried women. Judging by the last week alone, it is remarkable that Clinton, with her mix of self-righteousness and unpleasantness ever managed to be the dominant candidate. Yet it also clear from her performance this weekend that she is not giving up quietly. An Obama win on Tuesday may give him strength in Michigan and South Carolina, but the battles in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California could be mean, epic Democratic warfare, where Hillary’s experience really does matter.

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