Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pew Research Center

Loving Us to Death: How America’s Embrace is Imperiling American Jewry

In the first half of the 20th century, the political and social perspective of the American Jewish community was defined by its collective experience of anti-Semitism—both in the countries from which Jews had emigrated and, in far more muted form, inside the United States. Four percent of Americans were estimated to be Jewish at mid-century, twice as many as at present. But the Jews of that time were insecure about their place in American society and often unwilling to make a show of their background and faith. They felt themselves a people apart, and they were. It was difficult if not completely impossible for them to live as American Jews entirely on their own terms.

Now the situation is reversed. As an explosive new survey of 3,400 American Jews reveals, 94 percent say they are proud of being Jewish. That data point dovetails neatly with the current place of Jews in American society—a society in which they make up 2 percent of the population but in which there are virtually no barriers to full Jewish participation. American Jews can live entirely on their own terms, and they do. But the stunning finding of Pew’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans—the most comprehensive portrait of the community in 20 years and, in the richness of its detail, perhaps of all time—is the degree to which American Jews are now choosing not to live as Jews in any real sense. Secularism has always been a potent tradition in American Jewry, but the study’s analysis of what being Jewish means to its respondents reveals just how much irreligion has taken center stage in American Jewish life.

To read the rest of the cover story of the November 2013 issue of COMMENTARY, “Loving Us to Death: How America’s Embrace is Imperiling American Jewry,” click on this link.

In the first half of the 20th century, the political and social perspective of the American Jewish community was defined by its collective experience of anti-Semitism—both in the countries from which Jews had emigrated and, in far more muted form, inside the United States. Four percent of Americans were estimated to be Jewish at mid-century, twice as many as at present. But the Jews of that time were insecure about their place in American society and often unwilling to make a show of their background and faith. They felt themselves a people apart, and they were. It was difficult if not completely impossible for them to live as American Jews entirely on their own terms.

Now the situation is reversed. As an explosive new survey of 3,400 American Jews reveals, 94 percent say they are proud of being Jewish. That data point dovetails neatly with the current place of Jews in American society—a society in which they make up 2 percent of the population but in which there are virtually no barriers to full Jewish participation. American Jews can live entirely on their own terms, and they do. But the stunning finding of Pew’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans—the most comprehensive portrait of the community in 20 years and, in the richness of its detail, perhaps of all time—is the degree to which American Jews are now choosing not to live as Jews in any real sense. Secularism has always been a potent tradition in American Jewry, but the study’s analysis of what being Jewish means to its respondents reveals just how much irreligion has taken center stage in American Jewish life.

To read the rest of the cover story of the November 2013 issue of COMMENTARY, “Loving Us to Death: How America’s Embrace is Imperiling American Jewry,” click on this link.

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Comeback Fever

The Wall Street Journal has some important news about that Obama comeback:

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows 46% of Americans approve of the job he’s doing, a two-point drop from a similar poll taken last June, while 44% disapprove. The numbers are similarly static when it comes to his handling of specific issues, from health care to Iraq to the budget deficit.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed a slightly bigger bounce in his approval ratings, with 48% of those polls approving of the job he’s doing, up from 44%. But the trend was still relatively flat from polls taken in the months heading up to the election.

The much-heralded lame-duck comeback was most notable for how low it set the bar for comebacks. Legislation passed. Period. Not overwhelmingly liberal legislation, mind you — just legislation. The repeal of DADT was an 80/20 issue with plenty of hawkish conservatives supporting it. Many conservatives were indifferent about New START, and those who fought against its immediate ratification were effective in getting important missile-defense and nuclear-modernization changes added before it was voted on. Extending the Bush tax cuts was among the highest priorities for conservatives. That it happened and was even defended by the administration as sound economics can hardly be counted as a liberal achievement. A real comeback will take more than a week of properly functioning government.

The Wall Street Journal has some important news about that Obama comeback:

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows 46% of Americans approve of the job he’s doing, a two-point drop from a similar poll taken last June, while 44% disapprove. The numbers are similarly static when it comes to his handling of specific issues, from health care to Iraq to the budget deficit.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed a slightly bigger bounce in his approval ratings, with 48% of those polls approving of the job he’s doing, up from 44%. But the trend was still relatively flat from polls taken in the months heading up to the election.

The much-heralded lame-duck comeback was most notable for how low it set the bar for comebacks. Legislation passed. Period. Not overwhelmingly liberal legislation, mind you — just legislation. The repeal of DADT was an 80/20 issue with plenty of hawkish conservatives supporting it. Many conservatives were indifferent about New START, and those who fought against its immediate ratification were effective in getting important missile-defense and nuclear-modernization changes added before it was voted on. Extending the Bush tax cuts was among the highest priorities for conservatives. That it happened and was even defended by the administration as sound economics can hardly be counted as a liberal achievement. A real comeback will take more than a week of properly functioning government.

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As 2010 Closes, Americans in Pessimistic Mood

In assessing the frame of mind of the public at the close of the year, the Pew Research Center found that

Consistent with the mood of the nation all year, 2010 is closing on a down note. Fully 72% are dissatisfied with national conditions, 89% rate national economic conditions as only fair or poor, and majorities or pluralities think the country is losing ground on nine of 12 major issues.

Those figures aren’t surprising — but for President Obama and his political team, they must be quite worrisome. Right now the American people, by large margins, believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. And to borrow a favorite Obama metaphor, the president is the person with the keys to the car and his hand on the wheel.

Unless Mr. Obama is able to shift this trajectory by this time next year, his chances for re-election will be long.

In assessing the frame of mind of the public at the close of the year, the Pew Research Center found that

Consistent with the mood of the nation all year, 2010 is closing on a down note. Fully 72% are dissatisfied with national conditions, 89% rate national economic conditions as only fair or poor, and majorities or pluralities think the country is losing ground on nine of 12 major issues.

Those figures aren’t surprising — but for President Obama and his political team, they must be quite worrisome. Right now the American people, by large margins, believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. And to borrow a favorite Obama metaphor, the president is the person with the keys to the car and his hand on the wheel.

Unless Mr. Obama is able to shift this trajectory by this time next year, his chances for re-election will be long.

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Support for Terrorism Falls…but More Slowly Than During the Bush Years

In his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Joshua Muravchik points out that public support for terrorism is still dropping in Islamic countries, but more slowly than it did during the Bush years.

Using the results from the most recent Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Muravchik focuses on attitudes toward terrorism in several Muslim countries. The results are mildly encouraging for America, he writes, but not necessarily for Mr. Obama and his outreach efforts.

In summarizing the data, Muravchik writes:

The survey gauges attitudes toward three crucial terrorism-related subjects: al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings. The good news is that the proportion of pro-terror opinion continues to decline. The bad news is that the minority holding such views remains considerable.

For example, 20% of Egyptians, 23% of Indonesians and 34% of Jordanians say they hold favorable views of al Qaeda. Asked whether they have confidence that bin Laden will “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 19% of Egyptians, 25% of Indonesians and 14% of Jordanians responded positively. On the question of suicide bombing, 20% of Egyptians, 20% of Jordanians and 15% of Indonesians said it is “often” or “sometimes” justified (as opposed to “rarely” or “never”).

These results seem to reflect well on Mr. Obama’s engagement project, according to Muravchik, since a few years ago, these measures of support for terrorism were much higher. But he adds that the Pew report also offers a time-sequence chart, dating back to 2003, of answers to the question about bin Laden. And it shows

an encouraging decrease in support for terrorism—but the largest drop came when George W. Bush was president. The sharpest decrease in terror support in Indonesia, Turkey and Lebanon came between 2003 and 2005; in Jordan, between 2005 and 2006; and in Nigeria and Egypt between 2006 and 2007.

Only in Pakistan was the largest drop between 2008 and 2009—but the poll was taken in April 2009, so Mr. Bush was in office more than Mr. Obama during that one-year interval. From 2009 to 2010, the one full-year interval of Mr. Obama’s presidency for which Pew offers data, the decline was negligible everywhere except in Jordan, where the drop-off was smaller than it was from 2005 to 2006. [emphasis added]

In exploring the reasons for this, Muravchik concludes that “the data are too slender to sustain the claim that Mr. Bush’s policies succeeded in turning much of the Muslim world against terrorism. But they are substantial enough to inform our understanding that Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved little in this regard.”

My own hunch is, as Muravchik suggests, that the actions of al-Qaeda may be the crucial variable. As its savagery became more and more apparent in Iraq and elsewhere, large portions of the Islamic world turned against it and militant Islam more broadly.

But of course, Mr. Obama’s promise to transform the attitudes of the world didn’t take any of this into account. Through the force of his personality and charm, the wisdom of his policies, and his worldwide apology tours, Obama was going to win over the Muslim world in a way that was inescapable and unprecedented. The president’s speech in Cairo, you may recall, was going to be a tipping point in how the Muslim world viewed us and terrorism.

But like so many other hopes and dreams set forth by Mr. Obama, it hasn’t turned out that way. Not by a long shot.

In his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Joshua Muravchik points out that public support for terrorism is still dropping in Islamic countries, but more slowly than it did during the Bush years.

Using the results from the most recent Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Muravchik focuses on attitudes toward terrorism in several Muslim countries. The results are mildly encouraging for America, he writes, but not necessarily for Mr. Obama and his outreach efforts.

In summarizing the data, Muravchik writes:

The survey gauges attitudes toward three crucial terrorism-related subjects: al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings. The good news is that the proportion of pro-terror opinion continues to decline. The bad news is that the minority holding such views remains considerable.

For example, 20% of Egyptians, 23% of Indonesians and 34% of Jordanians say they hold favorable views of al Qaeda. Asked whether they have confidence that bin Laden will “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 19% of Egyptians, 25% of Indonesians and 14% of Jordanians responded positively. On the question of suicide bombing, 20% of Egyptians, 20% of Jordanians and 15% of Indonesians said it is “often” or “sometimes” justified (as opposed to “rarely” or “never”).

These results seem to reflect well on Mr. Obama’s engagement project, according to Muravchik, since a few years ago, these measures of support for terrorism were much higher. But he adds that the Pew report also offers a time-sequence chart, dating back to 2003, of answers to the question about bin Laden. And it shows

an encouraging decrease in support for terrorism—but the largest drop came when George W. Bush was president. The sharpest decrease in terror support in Indonesia, Turkey and Lebanon came between 2003 and 2005; in Jordan, between 2005 and 2006; and in Nigeria and Egypt between 2006 and 2007.

Only in Pakistan was the largest drop between 2008 and 2009—but the poll was taken in April 2009, so Mr. Bush was in office more than Mr. Obama during that one-year interval. From 2009 to 2010, the one full-year interval of Mr. Obama’s presidency for which Pew offers data, the decline was negligible everywhere except in Jordan, where the drop-off was smaller than it was from 2005 to 2006. [emphasis added]

In exploring the reasons for this, Muravchik concludes that “the data are too slender to sustain the claim that Mr. Bush’s policies succeeded in turning much of the Muslim world against terrorism. But they are substantial enough to inform our understanding that Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved little in this regard.”

My own hunch is, as Muravchik suggests, that the actions of al-Qaeda may be the crucial variable. As its savagery became more and more apparent in Iraq and elsewhere, large portions of the Islamic world turned against it and militant Islam more broadly.

But of course, Mr. Obama’s promise to transform the attitudes of the world didn’t take any of this into account. Through the force of his personality and charm, the wisdom of his policies, and his worldwide apology tours, Obama was going to win over the Muslim world in a way that was inescapable and unprecedented. The president’s speech in Cairo, you may recall, was going to be a tipping point in how the Muslim world viewed us and terrorism.

But like so many other hopes and dreams set forth by Mr. Obama, it hasn’t turned out that way. Not by a long shot.

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Faith in Government Erodes

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

AEI’s “Political Report” is devoted to attitudes about the federal government. According to the December 2010 issue, five pollsters conducted significant surveys on the role of government this year. Among the conclusions:

[C]ontemporary criticisms of the federal government are broad and deep. Today three in ten have no confidence that when Washington tackles a problem it will be solved. That is the highest response on the question since it was first asked in 1991. Nearly three in ten say the federal government does a poor job running its programs and another 46 percent says it does an “only fair” job. A majority say it needs “very major” reform. Only 3 percent say it doesn’t need much change at all. More than twice as many say its performance is getting worse than getting better. The top criticism of government is that it is wasteful and inefficient. [emphasis added]

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

There is one other conclusion worth noting:

The public is deeply skeptical of big powerful institutions with substantial reach and diffuse missions. Big government, big labor, big business, and big media fall into this category, and public criticism of all is significant.

These results track with what others show. According to a survey done earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, for example, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”

There are a number of explanations for this, including our poor-performing economy (when economic times are bad, anger at government rises). In any event, the irony can’t be lost on anyone: the president with the greatest faith in big government since Lyndon Johnson is overseeing a collapse in support for it. More than any single individual, Barack Obama — the avatar of modern liberalism — is responsible for the ascendancy of conservatism in our time.

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The Pension Tsunami

Well, it’s now official. The New York Times has a story this morning, front page, above the fold, entitled “Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes.” So the bloated wages and benefits of public employees are now a certified political issue for the 2010 election. If they’re smart, Republicans will grab it and run with it for all they’re worth.

The Times story details some anecdotal doozies, such as the Yonkers policeman whose base pay in his final year was about $74,000. He retired at age 44 and now, at the ripe old age of 47, is collecting a pension of $101,333 a year. Just to add insult to injury, his pension is exempt from state and local income taxes. The retired head of the New York State teachers’ pension fund has a pension of his own of $261,037 from that state job. He collects it even though he now has another state job as president of the State University of New York at Albany, earning $280,000.

But beyond the isolated horror stories, the problem is systemic and not just for pensions, as the Times makes it clear:

By tradition, public employees have said they accepted lower salaries in exchange for better benefits, but the Census data show this has not been true for a number of years. In 2008 the median pay for a worker in the private sector was $39,877, compared with $45,124 for a state or local employee.

Mortimer Zuckerman, of U.S. News and World Report, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal explaining the basic cause of this gathering financial tsunami and why it is a golden opportunity for the Republicans, who owe the public-employees’ unions no favors:

Public unions organize voting campaigns for politicians who, on election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector, irrespective of whether they are sustainable. And what is happening in California is happening in slower motion in the rest of the country. It’s no doubt one of the reasons the Pew Research Center this year reported that support for labor unions generally has plummeted “amid growing public skepticism about unions’ power and purpose.”

Well, it’s now official. The New York Times has a story this morning, front page, above the fold, entitled “Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes.” So the bloated wages and benefits of public employees are now a certified political issue for the 2010 election. If they’re smart, Republicans will grab it and run with it for all they’re worth.

The Times story details some anecdotal doozies, such as the Yonkers policeman whose base pay in his final year was about $74,000. He retired at age 44 and now, at the ripe old age of 47, is collecting a pension of $101,333 a year. Just to add insult to injury, his pension is exempt from state and local income taxes. The retired head of the New York State teachers’ pension fund has a pension of his own of $261,037 from that state job. He collects it even though he now has another state job as president of the State University of New York at Albany, earning $280,000.

But beyond the isolated horror stories, the problem is systemic and not just for pensions, as the Times makes it clear:

By tradition, public employees have said they accepted lower salaries in exchange for better benefits, but the Census data show this has not been true for a number of years. In 2008 the median pay for a worker in the private sector was $39,877, compared with $45,124 for a state or local employee.

Mortimer Zuckerman, of U.S. News and World Report, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal explaining the basic cause of this gathering financial tsunami and why it is a golden opportunity for the Republicans, who owe the public-employees’ unions no favors:

Public unions organize voting campaigns for politicians who, on election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector, irrespective of whether they are sustainable. And what is happening in California is happening in slower motion in the rest of the country. It’s no doubt one of the reasons the Pew Research Center this year reported that support for labor unions generally has plummeted “amid growing public skepticism about unions’ power and purpose.”

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Champions of Leviathan

I wanted to pick up on the Wall Street Journal op-ed you flagged, Jen, written by Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. According to Kohut, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of their government these days. There is a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government — a dismal economy, an unhappy public, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.”

The Pew study is important and, for Democrats, alarming. Right now the pieces are in place for a massive, perhaps historic, Democratic loss in November. Beyond the mid-term elections, though, it’s worth noting just how badly liberalism itself is faring in the Age of Obama.

Mr. Obama’s election was supposed to usher in the greatest progressive period since FDR; it marked, we were told, a dramatic shift away from conservatism, which dominated national politics, more or less, for a quarter century (1980-2005). Sophisticated liberals like Sam Tanenhaus assured us that we were witnessing the “death of conservatism.” Others said we had entered a period of liberal dominance that would last for decades.

In fact, Democrats and liberals invested far too much ideological meaning in the 2008 election. This led them to overreach with their agenda, particularly (but not exclusively) on the fiscal side of things. Rather than take incremental steps to build up confidence in the government, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid pushed proposals that dramatically expanded the size, reach, and power of the state, especially on health care. The results have been the repudiation and discrediting of their agenda and of the liberal project more broadly.

So here is where things stand: At a time when confidence in government is at low ebb, the Democratic Party and modern liberalism have made themselves the proud champions of Leviathan. It will turn out, I think, to be a politically lethal mistake. And that, in turn, has presented the GOP as a party, and conservatism as a movement, with a tremendous opening. Depending on what they do with it, the New Progressive Era may end up lasting all of a year or so.

Call it one of the ironies of American history.

I wanted to pick up on the Wall Street Journal op-ed you flagged, Jen, written by Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. According to Kohut, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of their government these days. There is a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government — a dismal economy, an unhappy public, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.”

The Pew study is important and, for Democrats, alarming. Right now the pieces are in place for a massive, perhaps historic, Democratic loss in November. Beyond the mid-term elections, though, it’s worth noting just how badly liberalism itself is faring in the Age of Obama.

Mr. Obama’s election was supposed to usher in the greatest progressive period since FDR; it marked, we were told, a dramatic shift away from conservatism, which dominated national politics, more or less, for a quarter century (1980-2005). Sophisticated liberals like Sam Tanenhaus assured us that we were witnessing the “death of conservatism.” Others said we had entered a period of liberal dominance that would last for decades.

In fact, Democrats and liberals invested far too much ideological meaning in the 2008 election. This led them to overreach with their agenda, particularly (but not exclusively) on the fiscal side of things. Rather than take incremental steps to build up confidence in the government, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid pushed proposals that dramatically expanded the size, reach, and power of the state, especially on health care. The results have been the repudiation and discrediting of their agenda and of the liberal project more broadly.

So here is where things stand: At a time when confidence in government is at low ebb, the Democratic Party and modern liberalism have made themselves the proud champions of Leviathan. It will turn out, I think, to be a politically lethal mistake. And that, in turn, has presented the GOP as a party, and conservatism as a movement, with a tremendous opening. Depending on what they do with it, the New Progressive Era may end up lasting all of a year or so.

Call it one of the ironies of American history.

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Polling Iraq and Terrorism

Something curious keeps coming up in all the primary polling. According to the Pew Research Center, the war in Iraq is the number one issue for Republican primary voters, while “terrorism/security” comes in at number two. Among Democrats the war is also number one, but terrorism/security is number eight. The strangest thing about the poll isn’t the comparative results, but the delineation of the categories.

After September 11, 2001, most Americans understood that the war to eradicate the menace that killed 3000 of our civilians would last many years and involve numerous battles. Less than seven years later, the second of those battles has been wholly extracted from the larger cause and showcased as a Bush administration nuisance for which the candidate with the quickest fix wins a prize.

While the Left’s relentless harangue about administration lies hasn’t managed to end the war, it has removed the fight from its rightful context—that of an ongoing existential struggle with a peripatetic enemy. With the war separated from terrorism, the latter has quietly slipped back into the domain of criminal concerns. The notion that Iraq is part of the war on terror is now such a dead letter that even the pollsters treat them as distinct.

Never mind the fact that Ba’athists had trained thousands of foreign jihadists before the U.S. arrived, or the fact that Saddam was funding terrorists from the Palestinian territories to the Phillippines; if the left were simply to take their own charges seriously they’d have to concede that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror. For years they’ve said that the fighters in Iraq are foreign terrorists, not Iraqis.

At least Republican voters think Iraq and terrorism rub up against each other. The seven-place gap in the Democratic agenda is a dangerous indication of how a President Clinton or Obama may react to Iran and threats beyond.

Something curious keeps coming up in all the primary polling. According to the Pew Research Center, the war in Iraq is the number one issue for Republican primary voters, while “terrorism/security” comes in at number two. Among Democrats the war is also number one, but terrorism/security is number eight. The strangest thing about the poll isn’t the comparative results, but the delineation of the categories.

After September 11, 2001, most Americans understood that the war to eradicate the menace that killed 3000 of our civilians would last many years and involve numerous battles. Less than seven years later, the second of those battles has been wholly extracted from the larger cause and showcased as a Bush administration nuisance for which the candidate with the quickest fix wins a prize.

While the Left’s relentless harangue about administration lies hasn’t managed to end the war, it has removed the fight from its rightful context—that of an ongoing existential struggle with a peripatetic enemy. With the war separated from terrorism, the latter has quietly slipped back into the domain of criminal concerns. The notion that Iraq is part of the war on terror is now such a dead letter that even the pollsters treat them as distinct.

Never mind the fact that Ba’athists had trained thousands of foreign jihadists before the U.S. arrived, or the fact that Saddam was funding terrorists from the Palestinian territories to the Phillippines; if the left were simply to take their own charges seriously they’d have to concede that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror. For years they’ve said that the fighters in Iraq are foreign terrorists, not Iraqis.

At least Republican voters think Iraq and terrorism rub up against each other. The seven-place gap in the Democratic agenda is a dangerous indication of how a President Clinton or Obama may react to Iran and threats beyond.

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Competitive Victimization

The Hillary/Obama race vs. gender dustup has just given the country a taste of why the Democratic Party spent so many years in the wilderness. The game of competitive victimization reminds swing voters in general and white men in particular why the Democrats can be problematic.

The night of her unexpected New Hampshire victory on the basis of a strong turnout from blue collar female voters, the press began to explain away the polls that had pointed to an Obama landslide by referring to “the Bradley effect.” That refers to the experience in Los Angeles where Tom Bradley, L.A.’s first African-American mayor, who did far better in public opinion polls than at the ballot box where he failed to win the governorship in 1982. The thesis was that white voters, not wanting to appear racist are reluctant to tell pollster about how they truly feel about black candidates. The implication–laid out without clear evidence by Andrew Kohut, a pollster for the Pew Research Center and picked up by the likes of Maureen Dowd–was that Clinton won on the basis of the racism of lower-middle-class whites.

This is something the many Obama admirers in the press picked up and ran with. The problem, as John Judis shows in a detailed New Republic piece, is that “Obama’s support among New Hampshire Democrats without college degrees slightly increased from the pre-election poll to the exit poll.” Clinton’s late gains, Judis notes came from well educated women who might well have been responding to the now famous incident in a dinner where the former First Lady seemed to tear up under the weight on being doubled teamed by Obama and Edwards.

And that’s when matters began to heat up. People around the Obama campaign, though not the candidate himself, suggested that Clinton had played on her supposed victimization as a woman, to win an election driven by economic anxieties. Obama in this view had been victimized by both his race and his gender. As for race; the supposed “Bradley effect” as well as statements by Bill and Hillary which may or may not have had double meanings regarding Lyndon Johnson’s role in achievements of the Civil Rights Era and the constancy of Obama position on Iraq have led to implausible accusations of racial insensitivity on the part of the Clintons.

In the short run, this is good news for the Obama campaign which has done its best to keep its fingerprints off the matches being lit by the press but stands to benefit greatly in the upcoming South Carolina primary if the accusation shift African-American voters away from Hillary Clinton.

On one level none of this hair-trigger “sensitivity” should be taken too seriously. All the parties involved are marvels at playing double games. A practical effect of the race versus gender game may be increased pressure on Hillary Clinton to choose Obama as her running mate should she win the nomination. But it raises the issue of whether Americans who are neither black nor female will be allowed to ask serious question about the two leading Democratic candidates without potential accusation of bias of one sort or another.

The Hillary/Obama race vs. gender dustup has just given the country a taste of why the Democratic Party spent so many years in the wilderness. The game of competitive victimization reminds swing voters in general and white men in particular why the Democrats can be problematic.

The night of her unexpected New Hampshire victory on the basis of a strong turnout from blue collar female voters, the press began to explain away the polls that had pointed to an Obama landslide by referring to “the Bradley effect.” That refers to the experience in Los Angeles where Tom Bradley, L.A.’s first African-American mayor, who did far better in public opinion polls than at the ballot box where he failed to win the governorship in 1982. The thesis was that white voters, not wanting to appear racist are reluctant to tell pollster about how they truly feel about black candidates. The implication–laid out without clear evidence by Andrew Kohut, a pollster for the Pew Research Center and picked up by the likes of Maureen Dowd–was that Clinton won on the basis of the racism of lower-middle-class whites.

This is something the many Obama admirers in the press picked up and ran with. The problem, as John Judis shows in a detailed New Republic piece, is that “Obama’s support among New Hampshire Democrats without college degrees slightly increased from the pre-election poll to the exit poll.” Clinton’s late gains, Judis notes came from well educated women who might well have been responding to the now famous incident in a dinner where the former First Lady seemed to tear up under the weight on being doubled teamed by Obama and Edwards.

And that’s when matters began to heat up. People around the Obama campaign, though not the candidate himself, suggested that Clinton had played on her supposed victimization as a woman, to win an election driven by economic anxieties. Obama in this view had been victimized by both his race and his gender. As for race; the supposed “Bradley effect” as well as statements by Bill and Hillary which may or may not have had double meanings regarding Lyndon Johnson’s role in achievements of the Civil Rights Era and the constancy of Obama position on Iraq have led to implausible accusations of racial insensitivity on the part of the Clintons.

In the short run, this is good news for the Obama campaign which has done its best to keep its fingerprints off the matches being lit by the press but stands to benefit greatly in the upcoming South Carolina primary if the accusation shift African-American voters away from Hillary Clinton.

On one level none of this hair-trigger “sensitivity” should be taken too seriously. All the parties involved are marvels at playing double games. A practical effect of the race versus gender game may be increased pressure on Hillary Clinton to choose Obama as her running mate should she win the nomination. But it raises the issue of whether Americans who are neither black nor female will be allowed to ask serious question about the two leading Democratic candidates without potential accusation of bias of one sort or another.

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Against the Boycott

The presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Brown, conspicuously absent from the original list of signatories, have since posted assurances that they join the almost 300 American college and university presidents who signed a statement earlier this month protesting the vote of Britain’s University and College Union to impose a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!” read the American counter-declaration, composed by Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger. “[We] do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

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The presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Brown, conspicuously absent from the original list of signatories, have since posted assurances that they join the almost 300 American college and university presidents who signed a statement earlier this month protesting the vote of Britain’s University and College Union to impose a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!” read the American counter-declaration, composed by Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger. “[We] do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

It is heartening to see such unanimity among academic leaders who normally shun group protests or statements; still, it is less heartening when one considers that these leaders may have found it easier to denounce an outrage overseas than to tackle prejudice in their own institutions. President Bollinger and his colleagues know that anti-Israel venom is widespread on American campuses. The real test of their resolve to preserve academic integrity will occur here, at home.

Anti-Israel sentiment penetrates American campuses at both the student and professorial levels. Every year the average campus welcomes Arab and Muslim students for whom Israel’s illegitimacy is a matter of faith, conjoined in most instances with plain anti-Semitism. The Pew Research Center finds that Muslims hold unfavorable views of Jews at astonishing levels: Jordan, 100 percent; Lebanon, 99 percent; Morocco, 88 percent. Arab and Muslim students inculcated with these prejudices from birth see no harm in promoting them. To the contrary, since they regard Israel as the root of evil, agitation against it is for them often a matter of cultural self-expression. Dissenters from this norm are often afraid of being ostracized—or, worse, of not being able to return to their native communities should they stray from an ideology that unites the Arab world.

The campus ethos of all-embracing multiculturalism aggravates the problem by refraining from distinguishing between a culture of aggression and a culture of accommodation—two opposites trapped in a philosophy of equivalence. Ignored are the radically divergent histories of Arabs and Jews that produced today’s preposterous global imbalance between 1 billion-plus Muslims on the one hand, and 13 million Jews (4 million fewer than in 1939) on the other. Historically, Jews have been the no-fail target of innumerable aggressors; since the 1870′s they have been the ideological butt of anti-liberal movements everywhere.

Indeed, Middle East-style anti-Semitism plays a larger role in the international arena today than its European-style equivalent did a century ago. But our universities provide almost no academic or extra-curricular opportunities to discuss the issue. If anything, as the scholar Martin Kramer has shown, the hate-ridden attitudes within the Arab world find a natural reflection in the highly prejudicial bias of the academic discipline known as Middle East Studies. The current director of the Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard, as well as a number of others who teach in the field, were among the signatories of a Harvard-MIT petition urging divestment from Israel—a petition meant to echo and give a highbrow patina to the currently fashionable calumny of the Jewish state as an “apartheid” regime. Sami al-Arian may be the only U.S. professor convicted of conspiracy to help Islamic Jihad, but others support Arab antagonism in their own ways.

The protest against the British academic boycott published in the New York Times was framed strictly as a defense of academic freedom and solidarity with Israeli colleagues. It avoided any mention of the ideology of hate that fuels this boycott. One might as well condemn cancer without investigating its cause or doing what one can to prevent its spread. Having once joined in symbolic action, these presidents of American colleges and universities would do well to appoint a committee from within their midst to investigate the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel prejudices on their own campuses and within their own curricula, where it does the most damage. As in medicine, prevention is the best cure.

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Polling American Muslims

Those wondering why we haven’t seen any domestic incidents of terrorism since 9/11 might turn for some answers to the new Pew Research Center survey of 55,000 Muslims in America. Compared to Muslims in Europe, the survey found, American Muslims are less numerous, wealthier, better educated, more assimilated, and more mainstream in their political and religious views.

Two statistics jumped out at me. First, the Pew center found that there are only 1.4 million Muslims aged 18 or older in the U.S. (there are another 850,000 under 18), or about 0.6 percent of the population. (Other studies have suggested the figure is as high as 6-7 million.) That compares to 10 percent or more in some European countries. Second, only 2 percent of them are low-income, compared to 22 percent in Britain, 18 percent in France and Germany, and 23 percent in Spain. There is simply not a large, alienated Muslim underclass in this country as there is in so many European states.

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Those wondering why we haven’t seen any domestic incidents of terrorism since 9/11 might turn for some answers to the new Pew Research Center survey of 55,000 Muslims in America. Compared to Muslims in Europe, the survey found, American Muslims are less numerous, wealthier, better educated, more assimilated, and more mainstream in their political and religious views.

Two statistics jumped out at me. First, the Pew center found that there are only 1.4 million Muslims aged 18 or older in the U.S. (there are another 850,000 under 18), or about 0.6 percent of the population. (Other studies have suggested the figure is as high as 6-7 million.) That compares to 10 percent or more in some European countries. Second, only 2 percent of them are low-income, compared to 22 percent in Britain, 18 percent in France and Germany, and 23 percent in Spain. There is simply not a large, alienated Muslim underclass in this country as there is in so many European states.

That forms the backdrop to Pew’s findings about the American Muslims’ outlook on the world:

As many Muslim Americans as members of the general public express satisfaction with the state of the nation. Moreover, 71 percent of Muslim Americans agree that most people who want to get ahead in the U.S. can make it if they are willing to work hard. The poll reveals that Muslims in the United States reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries, when compared with results from a 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey. . .

On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63 percent-32 percent) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.

We can also cheer this finding:

Very few Muslim Americans—just 1 percent—say that suicide bombings against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam; an additional 7 percent say suicide bombings are sometimes justified in these circumstances. In Western Europe, higher percentages of Muslims in Great Britain, France, and Spain said that suicide bombings in the defense of Islam are often or sometimes justified.

That’s the good news. But if you read the report carefully you will find some worrisome nuggets amid the generally glad tidings. For instance:

Consistent with the views of Muslims in other countries, fewer than half of Muslim Americans—regardless of their age—accept the fact that groups of Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. Just four-in-10 say that groups of Arabs engineered the attacks. Roughly a third (32 percent) expresses no opinion as to who was behind the attacks, while 28 percent flatly disbelieve that Arabs conducted the attacks.

Of even greater concern is that the most radical part of the Muslim-American population tends to be younger people (18-to-29 year-olds, who form a third of the total Muslim population here), suggesting that some of the positive trends noted above may disappear over time. Pew finds that

Younger Muslim Americans report attending services at a mosque more frequently than do older Muslims. And a greater percentage of younger Muslims in the U.S. think of themselves first as Muslims, rather than primarily as Americans (60 percent vs. 41 percent among Muslim Americans ages 30 and older). Moreover, more than twice as many Muslim Americans under age 30 as older Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be often or sometimes justified in the defense of Islam (15 percent vs. 6 percent).

Native-born African-American Muslims are another area of concern:

More generally, native-born African American Muslims are the most disillusioned segment of the U.S. Muslim population. When compared with other Muslims in the U.S., they are more skeptical of the view that hard work pays off, and more of them believe that Muslim immigrants in the U.S. should try to remain distinct from society. They also are far less satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. Just 13 percent of African American Muslims express satisfaction with national conditions, compared with 29 percent of other native-born Muslims, and 45 percent of Muslim immigrants.

Bottom line: The U.S. has done a much better job of assimilating Muslims than has Europe, and this means that we have a much lesser risk of homegrown terrorism. But lesser doesn’t mean zero, and, as we’ve seen in Iraq, it doesn’t take many fanatics to cause great damage. Moreover, as on 9/11, foreign groups can always smuggle in their operatives from abroad. So we shouldn’t get complacent. But we can take pride in America’s continuing accomplishments in assimilation, notwithstanding the fears of the nativist right.

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