Commentary Magazine


Topic: presidential candidate

Bring the Boys Home

All Americans, Right and Left, want America to exit from Iraq. No one wants to see another year of carnage, of American casualties, of mourning families. But when and how should we bring them back?

Last March, Barack Obama was roundly criticized, and compelled to apologize, for saying that “[w]e’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives, “over there” in Iraq. If Obama’s choice of words was poor, his point was sound — but only in an ironic sense. For if his own proposal for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq were ever implemented, the lives of our boys and girls would indeed have been wasted as Iraq disintegrated into chaos, becoming the kind of breeding ground for terrorists that would undoubtedly compel us one day to return.

Now another presidential candidate, John Edwards, has set forward his own proposal for wasting American lives. According to a story by Michael Gordon in today’s New York Times, Edwards says “that if elected president he would withdraw the American troops who are training the Iraqi army and police as part of a broader plan to remove virtually all American forces within 10 months.” This of course goes further than Hillary Clinton and Obama; both of them say they would keep American trainers and counterterrorism forces in Iraq for some unspecified period.

What would be the likely consequences of following Edwards’ — or for that matter, Hillary Clinton or Obama’s — advice? Gordon points out that a January 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq “warned that the withdrawal of American troops over the ensuing 12 to 18 months would probably lead to ‘massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement.’” True, some NIE’s lately have been very wide of the mark; but given the impressive but still precarious nature of the security improvements brought about by the surge, the January 2007 assessment remains pertinent.

But there are ways to bring some forces home now without wasting the precious lives of our soldiers. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports today that the Air Force’s usage of remotely piloted drones has significantly increased over the past year, and the total flight time has now reached 500,000 hours in the sky.

Air Force officials said Predator flights steadily increased last year, from about 2,000 hours in January to more than 4,300 in October. They are expected to continue to escalate when hours are calculated for November and December, because the number of combat air patrols increased from about 14 per day to 18.

“The demand far exceeds all of the Defense Department’s ability to provide [these] assets,” said Lt. Col. Larry Gurgainous, deputy director of the Air Force’s unmanned-aircraft task force. “And as we buy and field more systems, you will see it continue to go up.”

The pilots flying these craft, operating out of bases in less-than-dangerous locations like Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, are able to do some very dangerous things.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ7nw1v3LUc[/youtube]

If anything, the boys who can do such things stateside are the ones to bring home. But Connecting the Dots is still left with one question: is it really possible that next November American voters would go for a man with a plan to bring home even the U.S. trainers of the fledgling Iraqi army and police? Would that be an act of statesmanship, or of dishonor and even madness?

All Americans, Right and Left, want America to exit from Iraq. No one wants to see another year of carnage, of American casualties, of mourning families. But when and how should we bring them back?

Last March, Barack Obama was roundly criticized, and compelled to apologize, for saying that “[w]e’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives, “over there” in Iraq. If Obama’s choice of words was poor, his point was sound — but only in an ironic sense. For if his own proposal for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq were ever implemented, the lives of our boys and girls would indeed have been wasted as Iraq disintegrated into chaos, becoming the kind of breeding ground for terrorists that would undoubtedly compel us one day to return.

Now another presidential candidate, John Edwards, has set forward his own proposal for wasting American lives. According to a story by Michael Gordon in today’s New York Times, Edwards says “that if elected president he would withdraw the American troops who are training the Iraqi army and police as part of a broader plan to remove virtually all American forces within 10 months.” This of course goes further than Hillary Clinton and Obama; both of them say they would keep American trainers and counterterrorism forces in Iraq for some unspecified period.

What would be the likely consequences of following Edwards’ — or for that matter, Hillary Clinton or Obama’s — advice? Gordon points out that a January 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq “warned that the withdrawal of American troops over the ensuing 12 to 18 months would probably lead to ‘massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement.’” True, some NIE’s lately have been very wide of the mark; but given the impressive but still precarious nature of the security improvements brought about by the surge, the January 2007 assessment remains pertinent.

But there are ways to bring some forces home now without wasting the precious lives of our soldiers. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports today that the Air Force’s usage of remotely piloted drones has significantly increased over the past year, and the total flight time has now reached 500,000 hours in the sky.

Air Force officials said Predator flights steadily increased last year, from about 2,000 hours in January to more than 4,300 in October. They are expected to continue to escalate when hours are calculated for November and December, because the number of combat air patrols increased from about 14 per day to 18.

“The demand far exceeds all of the Defense Department’s ability to provide [these] assets,” said Lt. Col. Larry Gurgainous, deputy director of the Air Force’s unmanned-aircraft task force. “And as we buy and field more systems, you will see it continue to go up.”

The pilots flying these craft, operating out of bases in less-than-dangerous locations like Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, are able to do some very dangerous things.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ7nw1v3LUc[/youtube]

If anything, the boys who can do such things stateside are the ones to bring home. But Connecting the Dots is still left with one question: is it really possible that next November American voters would go for a man with a plan to bring home even the U.S. trainers of the fledgling Iraqi army and police? Would that be an act of statesmanship, or of dishonor and even madness?

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Huckabee’s “Bunker Mentality”?

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner has a good deconstruction of Mike Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article. I have little to add to Pete’s comments except to note the contradictory nature of Huck’s second paragraph. It runs as follows:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

It is telling that Huckabee seemingly cannot see the tension between the first three sentences of that paragraph, which contain standard liberal boilerplate denouncing the Bush administration’s alleged failure to “reach out” to the rest of the world, and the final line, which contains standard right-wing boilerplate denouncing the Law of the Sea Treaty, of all things.

It is odd even to mention the Law of the Sea Treaty so high up in an essay laying out foreign policy priorities. Although it has been denounced by some conservatives who claim the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty, whether you are for or against it, the treaty is a mere footnote in terms of American foreign policy priorities. It may or may not be a good idea—I’m agnostic—but it’s a stretch to claim that it “would endanger both our national security and our economic interests,” much less to suggest that it is the top threat to those interests.

But it is especially odd for Huckabee to trumpet his opposition to a treaty that has been embraced by most of the rest of the world and even by the Bush administration, while claiming that his administration will be more “open” than the current one to the rest of the world. Rejecting the Law of the Sea Treaty is exactly the kind of move—along the lines of the Bush administration’s rejection of treaties on global warming, landmines, and the International Criminal Court—that drives other countries, especially our European allies, batty. It is hardly the kind of gesture that the next president would pick to suggest that his administration is going to end an alleged “bunker mentality.”

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner has a good deconstruction of Mike Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article. I have little to add to Pete’s comments except to note the contradictory nature of Huck’s second paragraph. It runs as follows:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

It is telling that Huckabee seemingly cannot see the tension between the first three sentences of that paragraph, which contain standard liberal boilerplate denouncing the Bush administration’s alleged failure to “reach out” to the rest of the world, and the final line, which contains standard right-wing boilerplate denouncing the Law of the Sea Treaty, of all things.

It is odd even to mention the Law of the Sea Treaty so high up in an essay laying out foreign policy priorities. Although it has been denounced by some conservatives who claim the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty, whether you are for or against it, the treaty is a mere footnote in terms of American foreign policy priorities. It may or may not be a good idea—I’m agnostic—but it’s a stretch to claim that it “would endanger both our national security and our economic interests,” much less to suggest that it is the top threat to those interests.

But it is especially odd for Huckabee to trumpet his opposition to a treaty that has been embraced by most of the rest of the world and even by the Bush administration, while claiming that his administration will be more “open” than the current one to the rest of the world. Rejecting the Law of the Sea Treaty is exactly the kind of move—along the lines of the Bush administration’s rejection of treaties on global warming, landmines, and the International Criminal Court—that drives other countries, especially our European allies, batty. It is hardly the kind of gesture that the next president would pick to suggest that his administration is going to end an alleged “bunker mentality.”

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Korean Unity?

The hard-for-some-to-imagine prospect of a united Korea drew closer today with news that the first South Korean freight train had crossed the Demilitarized Zone and headed into North Korea. This regularly-scheduled freight service looks set to continue, not least for economic reasons, as a projected connection with the Trans-Siberian Railway will greatly reduce a variety of transport costs.

The establishment of this rail link is, of course, part of the somewhat erratic foreign policy of outgoing Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. In elections set for December 19, Roh’s party looks as though it will be defeated by Lee Myung Bak of the far more seasoned and conservative Grand National Party. Subsequently, as Japan’s Daily Yomiuri puts it in a headline, the “South Korea vote may cool ardor for North.” But pan-Korean ardor for unification, done realistically and right, will not cool. Korea is a country that was politically united under the same ruling house from the late 14th century until the 20th. Its present division is maintained only by the seeming impossibility of merging the cruel and unreconstructed North with the now free and blossoming South.

These difficulties are now gradually being removed. China has signaled intent to take over North Korea if things go badly there, so Pyongyang is looking for alternatives. In Seoul, even the conservative presidential candidate favors increasing cooperation with the North. The trend is clear—and to many, unwelcome, particularly owing to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. If the arms of the present two Koreas are amalgamated, the outcome is a military having nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, advanced jet fighters, and state of the art air-independent-propulsion stealthy submarines—all of which can be indigenously produced.

Such a prospect will elicit two quixotic instincts. One will be to try to keep the Koreas separate. The other will be to attempt to render Korea non-nuclear. Neither, I think is possible, and the first is not desirable. I believe we should explicitly support Korean unification. The first reason is that it is coming anyway. The second is that if we (and Japan) are involved we are more likely to see a liberal and open state emerge. It is in our and Japan’s interest to pull the new state away from China at least to neutrality, and perhaps in our direction. Admittedly, huge headaches will be involved. But better to be moving with inescapable change and attempting to steer it in a positive direction than to allow the new United Korea to align with Russia or China against us.

The hard-for-some-to-imagine prospect of a united Korea drew closer today with news that the first South Korean freight train had crossed the Demilitarized Zone and headed into North Korea. This regularly-scheduled freight service looks set to continue, not least for economic reasons, as a projected connection with the Trans-Siberian Railway will greatly reduce a variety of transport costs.

The establishment of this rail link is, of course, part of the somewhat erratic foreign policy of outgoing Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. In elections set for December 19, Roh’s party looks as though it will be defeated by Lee Myung Bak of the far more seasoned and conservative Grand National Party. Subsequently, as Japan’s Daily Yomiuri puts it in a headline, the “South Korea vote may cool ardor for North.” But pan-Korean ardor for unification, done realistically and right, will not cool. Korea is a country that was politically united under the same ruling house from the late 14th century until the 20th. Its present division is maintained only by the seeming impossibility of merging the cruel and unreconstructed North with the now free and blossoming South.

These difficulties are now gradually being removed. China has signaled intent to take over North Korea if things go badly there, so Pyongyang is looking for alternatives. In Seoul, even the conservative presidential candidate favors increasing cooperation with the North. The trend is clear—and to many, unwelcome, particularly owing to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. If the arms of the present two Koreas are amalgamated, the outcome is a military having nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, advanced jet fighters, and state of the art air-independent-propulsion stealthy submarines—all of which can be indigenously produced.

Such a prospect will elicit two quixotic instincts. One will be to try to keep the Koreas separate. The other will be to attempt to render Korea non-nuclear. Neither, I think is possible, and the first is not desirable. I believe we should explicitly support Korean unification. The first reason is that it is coming anyway. The second is that if we (and Japan) are involved we are more likely to see a liberal and open state emerge. It is in our and Japan’s interest to pull the new state away from China at least to neutrality, and perhaps in our direction. Admittedly, huge headaches will be involved. But better to be moving with inescapable change and attempting to steer it in a positive direction than to allow the new United Korea to align with Russia or China against us.

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The Downside of Authenticity

Mike Huckabee, at 52, and Barack Obama, at 46, are the youngsters in their respective primaries. Both present themselves as breaking with the conventional hyper-partisan politics that emerged from the 1960’s and has intensified in the last decade. But both also represent a return to one of its most politically debilitating themes—the cult of authenticity. The ideological hothouse of the Iowa caucuses have unintentionally, though not accidentally, recreated the fervor for authenticity that found its home in both the New Right and the New Left.

Who could be more authentically representative of Rove-era Republicanism than Mike Huckabee, a pioneer-stock evangelical Baptist who wants to reclaim Americans for Christ? In Huckabee’s words: “I didn’t get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.”

This clearly has a considerable appeal in the Iowa caucuses, where upwards of 40 percent of the participants are themselves Evangelicals. As of now Huckabee, whose affability and quick wit make him an appealing figure, has a two-to-one lead over his nearest rival, Mitt Romney. (Huckabee took a jab at Romney’s inauthenticity on cultural issues when he insisted that social conservatives need a candidate who speaks “the language of Zion as a mother tongue.”) But as the 2006 elections made clear, this is not the kind of platform likely to be able to create the broad coalition necessary to win a presidential majority.

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Mike Huckabee, at 52, and Barack Obama, at 46, are the youngsters in their respective primaries. Both present themselves as breaking with the conventional hyper-partisan politics that emerged from the 1960’s and has intensified in the last decade. But both also represent a return to one of its most politically debilitating themes—the cult of authenticity. The ideological hothouse of the Iowa caucuses have unintentionally, though not accidentally, recreated the fervor for authenticity that found its home in both the New Right and the New Left.

Who could be more authentically representative of Rove-era Republicanism than Mike Huckabee, a pioneer-stock evangelical Baptist who wants to reclaim Americans for Christ? In Huckabee’s words: “I didn’t get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.”

This clearly has a considerable appeal in the Iowa caucuses, where upwards of 40 percent of the participants are themselves Evangelicals. As of now Huckabee, whose affability and quick wit make him an appealing figure, has a two-to-one lead over his nearest rival, Mitt Romney. (Huckabee took a jab at Romney’s inauthenticity on cultural issues when he insisted that social conservatives need a candidate who speaks “the language of Zion as a mother tongue.”) But as the 2006 elections made clear, this is not the kind of platform likely to be able to create the broad coalition necessary to win a presidential majority.

On the Democratic side, all the complaints from the Jesse Jacksons of the world about the questions of whether Obama is “black enough” miss the source of Obama’s appeal to upper-middle-class, caucus-going liberals. When Hillary equivocated on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants she paid a heavy political price. When Obama muffed the same question in a subsequent debate, he paid no apparent penalty in a state whose capital, Des Moines, is trying to turn itself into a sanctuary city for illegals. Why?

Well, who could better represent liberalism’s authentic ideal vision of itself than an eloquent, Harvard Law-educated, multiracial candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the start, lived in the Third World, supports drivers licenses and perhaps amnesty for illegal immigrants, and promises to unify all Americans behind the liberal program. And, I might add, who arrives without any of Hillary Clinton’s baggage of pitched partisan battles.

But just as Democrats are salivating over the prospect of a Huckabee nomination, an Obama candidacy would almost certainly bolster the Republicans presidential possibilities. A new New York Times polls finds that only 14 percent of Democrats think that Obama (who has literally no record of political accomplishment) would be their strongest presidential candidate. That’s because what run-of-the-mill Democrats understand is that authenticity is antithetical to representation. Candidates who have the capacity to bring together a broad coalition are, of necessity, authentically insincere.

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Huckabee and Not-Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is the first serious Christian identity-politics presidential candidate. He is not running as the only hard-line pro-lifer, though he probably is the only one. He is not running as the most conservative candidate, which, at least on the issues of taxes and foreign policy, he certainly is not. He is running, most prominently, as an evangelical Christian and structuring his appeal to those who share his beliefs. His meta-message: I am one of you. The Mormon from Massachusetts is not. The New York Catholic with the messy private life is not. The sleepy television star is not. I am your brother.

The Christian base of the Republican party is unquestionably important. It may make up as much as 35 percent of the primary vote. If Huckabee wins a landslide majority of evangelical votes nationwide, say 65 percent, he will have in his pocket one-fifth of the Republicans participating in the primaries. That’s a very significant number in a populous and divided field.

But here’s the thing: It’s not enough. The Huckabee math leaves another 80 percent of Republican voters up for grabs to choose between Giuliani, Romney, Thompson and McCain. Assume that a huge defeat in Iowa for Thompson causes him to withdraw from the race, which is a safe assumption. That leaves three candidates contending for the non-Huckabee vote. If they were to divide that vote evenly (which won’t happen, but it’s worth thinking of it this way), they would each receive 26.5 percent of the overall vote, and would do so, moreover, in populous states where there are a lot more delegates to be had.

The problem Huckabee faces as he moves into the first tier is that, aside from his very pleasing demeanor, he is not giving any other kind of Republican — a national-security Republican, a small-government Republican, a low-taxes Republican — any reason whatever to vote for him. Everyone understands you can’t win without the base. But the obsession with winning the base can blind some people to this basic fact: A man cannot win by base alone.

Mike Huckabee is the first serious Christian identity-politics presidential candidate. He is not running as the only hard-line pro-lifer, though he probably is the only one. He is not running as the most conservative candidate, which, at least on the issues of taxes and foreign policy, he certainly is not. He is running, most prominently, as an evangelical Christian and structuring his appeal to those who share his beliefs. His meta-message: I am one of you. The Mormon from Massachusetts is not. The New York Catholic with the messy private life is not. The sleepy television star is not. I am your brother.

The Christian base of the Republican party is unquestionably important. It may make up as much as 35 percent of the primary vote. If Huckabee wins a landslide majority of evangelical votes nationwide, say 65 percent, he will have in his pocket one-fifth of the Republicans participating in the primaries. That’s a very significant number in a populous and divided field.

But here’s the thing: It’s not enough. The Huckabee math leaves another 80 percent of Republican voters up for grabs to choose between Giuliani, Romney, Thompson and McCain. Assume that a huge defeat in Iowa for Thompson causes him to withdraw from the race, which is a safe assumption. That leaves three candidates contending for the non-Huckabee vote. If they were to divide that vote evenly (which won’t happen, but it’s worth thinking of it this way), they would each receive 26.5 percent of the overall vote, and would do so, moreover, in populous states where there are a lot more delegates to be had.

The problem Huckabee faces as he moves into the first tier is that, aside from his very pleasing demeanor, he is not giving any other kind of Republican — a national-security Republican, a small-government Republican, a low-taxes Republican — any reason whatever to vote for him. Everyone understands you can’t win without the base. But the obsession with winning the base can blind some people to this basic fact: A man cannot win by base alone.

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Ron Paul and Anti-Semitism

John Derbyshire, outraged at a long piece in the American Thinker about the online enthusiasm expressed for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign by neo-Nazi websites and their commenters, asks: “Don’t the American Thinker folk understand how paranoid bullying like that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews?…For heaven’s sake: Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite?”

Well, we have two different questions here, don’t we?

Let’s take the second first — “Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite”? The obvious answer is: Yes, there are people who think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite.

They think this because of a few data points.

One is that a newsletter published in his name featured a bald sentence stating that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Now, while it is true that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, it is not always true, and more frequently than not it is not true — especially when you endorse the view that Jews comprise a powerful cabal seeking control of non-Jewish institutions. But as Paul told the Texas Monthly in 2001, he did not write that sentence or any sentences in that newsletter. A staffer, ghostwriting under his name, did.

The second is that he cast the sole Republican “No” vote on a House resolution last year reaffirming the nation’s “steadfast support for the nation of Israel” and specifically condemning Hezbollah and Hamas. In his floor statement, Paul explained that “I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts.” And a spokesman of his has said that in defense of this absolutist principle, Paul has voted in his career against resolutions in praise of, for example, the Pope and Mother Teresa.

I’m inclined to think that Paul, who is not the most careful and prudent of speakers, is not an anti-Semite — because in a public career dating back 30 years he would likely have said something more explicit and unambiguous. Nor do I think he should be held personally responsible for the fact that he might be attracting extremist support from the neo-Nazi Right. He has not expressed their views and he is not his brother’s keeper.

But politics ain’t beanbag, and if he is getting donations from neo-Nazis that he won’t return in full, he and his supporters have to expect they are going to take lumps. And they have to take their lumps as well for echoing shameful voices of the past. The history of right-wing isolationism is that it has been a hotbed of classic and unambiguous anti-Semitism throughout the 20th century, as represented by leading-edge spokesmen from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Gerald K. Smith to the America First Committee.

Non-interventionism was the term they preferred, and the fact that Paul echoes them is understandably unsettling to a lot of people.

Which leads me back to Point One — Derbyshire’s statement that the American Thinker piece is “paranoid bullying…that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews.” I would say only to my former colleague on The Corner that he has written here a sentence expressing a sentiment he really might wish to reconsider. There is nothing remotely paranoid or bullying about an investigation into the sentiments or ideas of a presidential candidate on any issue. Derbyshire, who prides himself on standing athwart political correctness, should appreciate this. Or is there a special exemption when it comes to candidates he likes and about issues that do not really interest him?

John Derbyshire, outraged at a long piece in the American Thinker about the online enthusiasm expressed for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign by neo-Nazi websites and their commenters, asks: “Don’t the American Thinker folk understand how paranoid bullying like that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews?…For heaven’s sake: Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite?”

Well, we have two different questions here, don’t we?

Let’s take the second first — “Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite”? The obvious answer is: Yes, there are people who think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite.

They think this because of a few data points.

One is that a newsletter published in his name featured a bald sentence stating that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Now, while it is true that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, it is not always true, and more frequently than not it is not true — especially when you endorse the view that Jews comprise a powerful cabal seeking control of non-Jewish institutions. But as Paul told the Texas Monthly in 2001, he did not write that sentence or any sentences in that newsletter. A staffer, ghostwriting under his name, did.

The second is that he cast the sole Republican “No” vote on a House resolution last year reaffirming the nation’s “steadfast support for the nation of Israel” and specifically condemning Hezbollah and Hamas. In his floor statement, Paul explained that “I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts.” And a spokesman of his has said that in defense of this absolutist principle, Paul has voted in his career against resolutions in praise of, for example, the Pope and Mother Teresa.

I’m inclined to think that Paul, who is not the most careful and prudent of speakers, is not an anti-Semite — because in a public career dating back 30 years he would likely have said something more explicit and unambiguous. Nor do I think he should be held personally responsible for the fact that he might be attracting extremist support from the neo-Nazi Right. He has not expressed their views and he is not his brother’s keeper.

But politics ain’t beanbag, and if he is getting donations from neo-Nazis that he won’t return in full, he and his supporters have to expect they are going to take lumps. And they have to take their lumps as well for echoing shameful voices of the past. The history of right-wing isolationism is that it has been a hotbed of classic and unambiguous anti-Semitism throughout the 20th century, as represented by leading-edge spokesmen from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Gerald K. Smith to the America First Committee.

Non-interventionism was the term they preferred, and the fact that Paul echoes them is understandably unsettling to a lot of people.

Which leads me back to Point One — Derbyshire’s statement that the American Thinker piece is “paranoid bullying…that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews.” I would say only to my former colleague on The Corner that he has written here a sentence expressing a sentiment he really might wish to reconsider. There is nothing remotely paranoid or bullying about an investigation into the sentiments or ideas of a presidential candidate on any issue. Derbyshire, who prides himself on standing athwart political correctness, should appreciate this. Or is there a special exemption when it comes to candidates he likes and about issues that do not really interest him?

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Name Game Endgame

The United States continues to position itself on the losing side in the increasingly heated Taiwan name game—which appears to be approaching a resolution that Washington and Beijing will dislike, but be at a loss to handle.

Reports by Agence France Presse indicate that the U.S.’s de facto Ambassador to Taipei, Stephen Young, has reiterated Washington’s opposition to the UN referendum to be held in March of next year. Although Washington is coy about its reasons for opposition, they rest on the long-standing assumption that whatever anyone else does, the Taiwan government will insist its island is part of China, by using the official name “Republic of China.” The referendum would call for the name “Taiwan” to be used in applying for UN membership, which suggests no connection to China. Therefore Washington is dead set against it—and, even as it encourages the island to improve its defenses, is withholding sales of necessary F-16’s in an attempt to exert pressure.

Washington has always relied on the (formerly dictatorial) party of Chiang Kai-shek, officially known as “The Chinese Kuomintang,” but now a democratic player in Taiwan politics, to hold the line on Taiwan’s Chineseness. But that party is now reconsidering its position, for the simple reason that to be pro-China in democratic Taiwan is electoral poison. Thus, the China Post, a pro-China paper, has just run an editorial suggesting that voters will ask Kuomintang candidates, “If you love Taiwan and are loyal to it, why do you have the name China in your party’s title?” Calling this an “Achilles’ heel,” the newspaper urges that presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou might do well to change that name to “Taiwan” Kuomintang before the elections (in November and March). Otherwise, they argue, the China issue could lead the party to yet another loss.

Sooner or later, we may be certain, the Kuomintang will heed that advice and remake itself as a purely Taiwanese party. When that happens, the basic plank of U.S. China policy will collapse. As was stated in the Shanghai Communique of February 28, 1972, published after Richard Nixon’s pathbreaking visit to China:

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This was clever wording at a time when the dictatorship in Taipei insisted that Taiwan was part of China. But under a less repressive regime Taiwanese are expressing their true feelings, and even the party that ran the dictatorship is on track to go Taiwanese. The United States will soon find no one on the Taiwan side of the strait to “maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” Washington and Beijing will have to adjust to this new situation. But neither has any idea how.

The United States continues to position itself on the losing side in the increasingly heated Taiwan name game—which appears to be approaching a resolution that Washington and Beijing will dislike, but be at a loss to handle.

Reports by Agence France Presse indicate that the U.S.’s de facto Ambassador to Taipei, Stephen Young, has reiterated Washington’s opposition to the UN referendum to be held in March of next year. Although Washington is coy about its reasons for opposition, they rest on the long-standing assumption that whatever anyone else does, the Taiwan government will insist its island is part of China, by using the official name “Republic of China.” The referendum would call for the name “Taiwan” to be used in applying for UN membership, which suggests no connection to China. Therefore Washington is dead set against it—and, even as it encourages the island to improve its defenses, is withholding sales of necessary F-16’s in an attempt to exert pressure.

Washington has always relied on the (formerly dictatorial) party of Chiang Kai-shek, officially known as “The Chinese Kuomintang,” but now a democratic player in Taiwan politics, to hold the line on Taiwan’s Chineseness. But that party is now reconsidering its position, for the simple reason that to be pro-China in democratic Taiwan is electoral poison. Thus, the China Post, a pro-China paper, has just run an editorial suggesting that voters will ask Kuomintang candidates, “If you love Taiwan and are loyal to it, why do you have the name China in your party’s title?” Calling this an “Achilles’ heel,” the newspaper urges that presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou might do well to change that name to “Taiwan” Kuomintang before the elections (in November and March). Otherwise, they argue, the China issue could lead the party to yet another loss.

Sooner or later, we may be certain, the Kuomintang will heed that advice and remake itself as a purely Taiwanese party. When that happens, the basic plank of U.S. China policy will collapse. As was stated in the Shanghai Communique of February 28, 1972, published after Richard Nixon’s pathbreaking visit to China:

The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.

This was clever wording at a time when the dictatorship in Taipei insisted that Taiwan was part of China. But under a less repressive regime Taiwanese are expressing their true feelings, and even the party that ran the dictatorship is on track to go Taiwanese. The United States will soon find no one on the Taiwan side of the strait to “maintain that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” Washington and Beijing will have to adjust to this new situation. But neither has any idea how.

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Giuliani’s Pseudo-Coup

Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president today. This is a coup, but not for any substantive reason. Taken strictly as an electoral matter, the Robertson imprimatur is almost certainly a wash — meaning that any votes it will generate will be offset by votes it will cost among those, even on the Republican side, who find Robertson a singularly unappetizing figure (including among Evangelical Christians, many of whom come from a different eschatalogical tradition from Robertson’s).

There are times when an endorsement really does mean something substantial — when, say, a governor with a powerful political machine at his disposal anoints a presidential candidate with the understanding that his machine will do whatever it can to get the candidate elected. This is not the case here, for the reasons I’ve outlined.

That Giuliani has managed to secure the endorsement of a formerly significant leader of the Religious Right was to be expected, if for no other reason that the endorser was bound to get a lot of attention from a hungry media that can’t get enough of this pre-primary season and the intriguing fact of a pro-choice candidate sitting atop the Republican leaderboard. That Giuliani’s endorser would be Robertson is also not surprising, because he has spent years trying to make up for his disgusting assent to the repugnant claims of the late Jerry Falwell that the American Civil Liberties Union and other secularist organizations bore some responsibility for the attacks of 9/11.

What we have here, then, is a Giuliani “pseudo-coup,” to adapt Daniel Boorstin’s great neologism about staged media events that have no intrinsic meaning. In 1961, Boorstin described a “pseudo-event” as a

happening that possesses the following characteristics:

(1) It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.
(2) It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported…

Endorsements these days are almost exclusively pseudo-events, and this one more than most. The reason it’s a pseudo-coup is that it’s become the story of the day. It will be discussed for the remainder of the week. It is an attention-generator, and a spotlight-stealer, since the news has drawn the media’s attention away from the endorsement of John McCain by Sen. Sam Brownback, who just dropped out of the presidential race.

Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president today. This is a coup, but not for any substantive reason. Taken strictly as an electoral matter, the Robertson imprimatur is almost certainly a wash — meaning that any votes it will generate will be offset by votes it will cost among those, even on the Republican side, who find Robertson a singularly unappetizing figure (including among Evangelical Christians, many of whom come from a different eschatalogical tradition from Robertson’s).

There are times when an endorsement really does mean something substantial — when, say, a governor with a powerful political machine at his disposal anoints a presidential candidate with the understanding that his machine will do whatever it can to get the candidate elected. This is not the case here, for the reasons I’ve outlined.

That Giuliani has managed to secure the endorsement of a formerly significant leader of the Religious Right was to be expected, if for no other reason that the endorser was bound to get a lot of attention from a hungry media that can’t get enough of this pre-primary season and the intriguing fact of a pro-choice candidate sitting atop the Republican leaderboard. That Giuliani’s endorser would be Robertson is also not surprising, because he has spent years trying to make up for his disgusting assent to the repugnant claims of the late Jerry Falwell that the American Civil Liberties Union and other secularist organizations bore some responsibility for the attacks of 9/11.

What we have here, then, is a Giuliani “pseudo-coup,” to adapt Daniel Boorstin’s great neologism about staged media events that have no intrinsic meaning. In 1961, Boorstin described a “pseudo-event” as a

happening that possesses the following characteristics:

(1) It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.
(2) It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported…

Endorsements these days are almost exclusively pseudo-events, and this one more than most. The reason it’s a pseudo-coup is that it’s become the story of the day. It will be discussed for the remainder of the week. It is an attention-generator, and a spotlight-stealer, since the news has drawn the media’s attention away from the endorsement of John McCain by Sen. Sam Brownback, who just dropped out of the presidential race.

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Obama’s Diplomacy Gap

Barack Obama claims to understand uniquely how the world’s perceptions of the United States have changed in recent years. For starters, Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of six to ten, making him the only presidential candidate to have spent any substantial period of time in the Muslim world. Moreover, as he’s eager to tell us, Obama is deeply connected with other cultures, with a grandmother living in Kenya, a half-Indonesian sister, and a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law. In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, James Traub explores how Obama’s biography has influenced his vision for American foreign policy:

[Obama] returns again and again to the question of what America means to the rest of the world…. Obama would like to restore the era when people in capitals all over the world could go to the local American cultural center to read books and magazines, the way he could in Jakarta—though now he would add English lessons and vocational training, and “stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country.”

Obama is correct that the United States should more aggressively reach out to Muslim publics. However, restoring America’s reputation will require more than emphasizing those values that Americans share with the Muslim world—which the presence of a strong, domestic Muslim-American community certainly symbolizes. Indeed, the true challenge of public diplomacy lies in frankly addressing those issues on which the United States and the Muslim world differ, including the war in Iraq, the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, support for Israel, and the drive to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.

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Barack Obama claims to understand uniquely how the world’s perceptions of the United States have changed in recent years. For starters, Obama lived in Indonesia from the ages of six to ten, making him the only presidential candidate to have spent any substantial period of time in the Muslim world. Moreover, as he’s eager to tell us, Obama is deeply connected with other cultures, with a grandmother living in Kenya, a half-Indonesian sister, and a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law. In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, James Traub explores how Obama’s biography has influenced his vision for American foreign policy:

[Obama] returns again and again to the question of what America means to the rest of the world…. Obama would like to restore the era when people in capitals all over the world could go to the local American cultural center to read books and magazines, the way he could in Jakarta—though now he would add English lessons and vocational training, and “stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country.”

Obama is correct that the United States should more aggressively reach out to Muslim publics. However, restoring America’s reputation will require more than emphasizing those values that Americans share with the Muslim world—which the presence of a strong, domestic Muslim-American community certainly symbolizes. Indeed, the true challenge of public diplomacy lies in frankly addressing those issues on which the United States and the Muslim world differ, including the war in Iraq, the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, support for Israel, and the drive to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.

In explaining the U.S.’s interest on these critical issues, Obama is ill-prepared. He prides himself on having opposed the Iraq war since 2002, and would likely reinforce the perception of many in the Muslim world that the war was the product of “exaggerated fears.”

Obama further appears unsuited to explaining the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he has supported publicly. He is advised by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis that this relationship is the product of Jewish pressure, not strategic interest—a theory that has contributed to the proliferation of popular anti-Semitism on the “Arab street.” Indeed, Brzezinski is a huge liability if Obama hopes to convince Americans of his ability to sell American foreign policy. Brzezinski recently signed a letter demanding dialogue with Hamas, a move that would turn our backs on the one Arab constituency still nominally receptive to American aims—liberal Arabs. Of course, this letter was consistent with Obama’s own belief that the U.S. should talk with Iran’s leaders—a move that similarly would alienate Iran’s younger generation, widely thought to be liberal and pro-American.

If Obama hopes to prove that his version of “soft power” is truly powerful, he must explain how he will broaden America’s appeal among opponents in the Middle East without alienating allies. Distributing State Department-approved copies of Muhammad Ali’s biography and providing free English lessons simply won’t cut it.

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First They Came for Hillary Clinton…

It is widely assumed, on both Left and Right, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign made a grave error by responding to the criticism of her performance in last Tuesday’s Democratic debate by complaining of a “pile-on.” Bill Kristol, for one, called it a “foolish overreaction.” I’m not so sure. Whether intentionally or not, Hillary managed to change the terms under which the debate has been discussed in the days since. In its immediate aftermath, the debate was seen as a referendum on her policy slipperiness, and one in which she did not come off well. Now, however, the discussion of the debate has become something quite different.

What we’re talking about now is the extent to which it is fair to criticize her. The New York Times has a front-page piece today entirely devoted to that question, which features a gobsmacking quote from 1984 vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro:

“John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours they way they attacked her,” said Geraldine A. Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential candidate who supports Mrs. Clinton. “It’s O.K. in this country to be sexist,” Ms. Ferraro said. “It’s certainly not O.K. to be racist. I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours — well, I don’t think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours.”

Lest one think Ferraro’s view is an outlier, note an even more ludicrously ominous version of it on The New Republic’s Open University blog by Linda Hirshman, a retired Brandeis professor of no reputation until she published a manifesto two years ago explaining that educated women should be attacked for staying home with their children because by leaving the workforce they are damaging the feminist cause. Angry with Barack Obama and John Edwards for ganging up on Hillary, she invokes, astoundingly, Pastor Niemoller: “Oh, and for you Obama and Edwards supporters, remember the story about the man who didn’t stand up to the Nazis when they came for his neighbors.”

The Ferraro-Hirshman school of thought — if thought is what you want to call it, is nothing but self-parodying feminism, so much so that it has earned scorn from other bloggers at the New Republic itself. Still, it has served a raw political purpose — pivoting the conversation to a topic more to Mrs. Clinton’s liking than her own failings in the eyes of Democratic primary voters.

It is widely assumed, on both Left and Right, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign made a grave error by responding to the criticism of her performance in last Tuesday’s Democratic debate by complaining of a “pile-on.” Bill Kristol, for one, called it a “foolish overreaction.” I’m not so sure. Whether intentionally or not, Hillary managed to change the terms under which the debate has been discussed in the days since. In its immediate aftermath, the debate was seen as a referendum on her policy slipperiness, and one in which she did not come off well. Now, however, the discussion of the debate has become something quite different.

What we’re talking about now is the extent to which it is fair to criticize her. The New York Times has a front-page piece today entirely devoted to that question, which features a gobsmacking quote from 1984 vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro:

“John Edwards, specifically, as well as the press, would never attack Barack Obama for two hours they way they attacked her,” said Geraldine A. Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential candidate who supports Mrs. Clinton. “It’s O.K. in this country to be sexist,” Ms. Ferraro said. “It’s certainly not O.K. to be racist. I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours — well, I don’t think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours.”

Lest one think Ferraro’s view is an outlier, note an even more ludicrously ominous version of it on The New Republic’s Open University blog by Linda Hirshman, a retired Brandeis professor of no reputation until she published a manifesto two years ago explaining that educated women should be attacked for staying home with their children because by leaving the workforce they are damaging the feminist cause. Angry with Barack Obama and John Edwards for ganging up on Hillary, she invokes, astoundingly, Pastor Niemoller: “Oh, and for you Obama and Edwards supporters, remember the story about the man who didn’t stand up to the Nazis when they came for his neighbors.”

The Ferraro-Hirshman school of thought — if thought is what you want to call it, is nothing but self-parodying feminism, so much so that it has earned scorn from other bloggers at the New Republic itself. Still, it has served a raw political purpose — pivoting the conversation to a topic more to Mrs. Clinton’s liking than her own failings in the eyes of Democratic primary voters.

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William Jennings Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Pat Toomey argues that Huckabee’s record as governor (he oversaw an increase in taxes, including those on sales, gas, grocery, and nursing home beds, producing a 47 percent overall tax hike) should disqualify him from national consideration. John Fund, who knows Huckabee well, strikes a similar note, and adds that Huckabee, “who was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the SCHIP health-care program” has scant support from Republicans who served in the legislature when he was governor.

Rich Lowry, of National Review, has described Huckabee as a cross between the famous early 20th century preacher Billy Sunday and Ronald Reagan. But with Huckabee’s talk of applied Christianity, the early 20th century figure he most closely resembles is the great populist orator in the cause of Free Silver, William Jennings Bryan. Three times the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” with his blend of fervent but tolerant Christianity, his distrust of the banks, and his economic egalitarianism, was the hero of Great Plains and Southern Democrats.

The migration of liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans like Ned Lamont and Jay Rockefeller into the Democratic camp has made the modern Dems into the party of a noblesse oblige-accented gentry liberalism that repels upwardly mobile middle- and lower-middle-class whites. But while blue collar religious whites are an uncomfortable fit with the modern Democratic Party, the deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It’s not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.

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Burma’s Blackout

The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

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The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

Some American businesses, like Google and Yahoo, have been scrutinized recently for placating Beijing by slipping things down the memory hole. A Google image search for Tiananmen Square in the United States results in the iconic photograph of a man standing before a column of tanks, while the same search in China yields smiling faces and touristy long shots of the square. In other regions of the world, as well, the Internet is a battleground emblematic of larger political struggles. Bloggers in Egypt and Iran have been targeted by their governments, while, since the liberation of Iraq, the Internet has exploded in that country as a viable and democratic source of news.

The freedom and availability of the Internet has become a leading index of political freedom. It would have been much more difficult for the thugs in Burma to hide their slaughter if they hadn’t been able to purge unflattering coverage from the world’s desktops. The protection and spread of Internet freedom—and the censure or punishment of American businesses that cooperate in Internet censorship—should feature seriously in any presidential candidate’s foreign policy platform. It is a simple, cost-effective, and bloodless way to let democracy seep into the oppressed regions of the world.

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The Democrats’ “Peace” Wing

Last week, I wrote about the Democratic presidential candidates’ difficulty in answering the simple question regarding Israel’s right to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if it felt its existence, never mind its “security,” were in danger. In his evasive reply, Senator Obama spoke of “carrots” and “sticks,” which seems to be an increasingly popular analogy for the Democrats.

Allegedly, Obama is now quite serious and specific about what he plans to do in order to stop the Iranian bomb dead in its tracks. In a speech Tuesday at DePaul University, Obama called for a “a world in which there are no nuclear weapons” (no word yet on whether Obama will provide unicorns and marshmallows to every American pre-schooler). Specifically, he announced a goal of reducing America’s stockpile, as this will somehow, according to the Times, “reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.”

But it is not America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons that poses a threat to American national security. Indeed, those weapons keep us—and the rest of the world—safe. Rather, it is nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union and Pakistan, were they to wind up in the hands of terrorists, that endanger international security. It is also the weapons programs of rogue states—like Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, mercifully overthrown by an international coalition—which threaten the free world. How Obama’s call for American disarmament will convince Kim Jong Il or the Iranian Mullahs to give up their own weapons (in the former case) or their nuclear weapon ambitions (in the latter’s case), the presidential candidate does not sufficiently explain. Well, he does say something. The Times reports:

In his speech, according to a campaign briefing paper, Mr. Obama also will call for using a combination of diplomacy and pressure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Aides did not say what Mr. Obama intended to do if diplomacy and sanctions failed.

In this short paragraph are revealed the disastrous effects of the hijacking of the Democratic Party by its peace wing.

Last week, I wrote about the Democratic presidential candidates’ difficulty in answering the simple question regarding Israel’s right to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if it felt its existence, never mind its “security,” were in danger. In his evasive reply, Senator Obama spoke of “carrots” and “sticks,” which seems to be an increasingly popular analogy for the Democrats.

Allegedly, Obama is now quite serious and specific about what he plans to do in order to stop the Iranian bomb dead in its tracks. In a speech Tuesday at DePaul University, Obama called for a “a world in which there are no nuclear weapons” (no word yet on whether Obama will provide unicorns and marshmallows to every American pre-schooler). Specifically, he announced a goal of reducing America’s stockpile, as this will somehow, according to the Times, “reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.”

But it is not America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons that poses a threat to American national security. Indeed, those weapons keep us—and the rest of the world—safe. Rather, it is nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union and Pakistan, were they to wind up in the hands of terrorists, that endanger international security. It is also the weapons programs of rogue states—like Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, mercifully overthrown by an international coalition—which threaten the free world. How Obama’s call for American disarmament will convince Kim Jong Il or the Iranian Mullahs to give up their own weapons (in the former case) or their nuclear weapon ambitions (in the latter’s case), the presidential candidate does not sufficiently explain. Well, he does say something. The Times reports:

In his speech, according to a campaign briefing paper, Mr. Obama also will call for using a combination of diplomacy and pressure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. Aides did not say what Mr. Obama intended to do if diplomacy and sanctions failed.

In this short paragraph are revealed the disastrous effects of the hijacking of the Democratic Party by its peace wing.

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The Evasive Democrats

At Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Tim Russert asked a very simple question of the major candidates, beginning first with Hillary Clinton:

Senator Clinton, in 1981, the Israelis took out a nuclear reactor in Iraq. On September 6, to the best of our information, Israel attacked Syria because there was suspicion that perhaps North Korea had put some nuclear materials in Syria. If Israel concluded that Iran’s nuclear capability threatened Israel’s security, would Israel be justified in launching an attack on Iran?

Any presidential candidate serious about the American-Israel relationship, who also understands the boon to humanity that was Israel’s 1981 Osirak attack, would answer in the affirmative, preferably just “yes.” A bit verbose, Mayor Giuliani’s answer is nonetheless a good example:

Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them, we will set them back eight to ten years. That is not said as a threat. That should be said as a promise.

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At Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Tim Russert asked a very simple question of the major candidates, beginning first with Hillary Clinton:

Senator Clinton, in 1981, the Israelis took out a nuclear reactor in Iraq. On September 6, to the best of our information, Israel attacked Syria because there was suspicion that perhaps North Korea had put some nuclear materials in Syria. If Israel concluded that Iran’s nuclear capability threatened Israel’s security, would Israel be justified in launching an attack on Iran?

Any presidential candidate serious about the American-Israel relationship, who also understands the boon to humanity that was Israel’s 1981 Osirak attack, would answer in the affirmative, preferably just “yes.” A bit verbose, Mayor Giuliani’s answer is nonetheless a good example:

Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them, we will set them back eight to ten years. That is not said as a threat. That should be said as a promise.

Meanwhile, here were Hillary’s responses:

CLINTON: Tim, I think that’s one of those hypotheticals, that is…

RUSSERT: It’s not a hypothetical, Senator.

CLINTON: …better not addressed at this time.

This back-and-forth went on for several minutes.

Russert then asked the same question of Barack Obama, who, after asking to “back up for a second,” replied:

I think what Mayor Giuliani said was irresponsible, because we have not yet come to that point. We have not tried the other approach.

Next, Russert asked Edwards, who, like Clinton and Obama, simply refused to answer a yes-or-no question with a “yes” or “no.” The essence of his response?

Carrots being, we will help you with your economy if, in fact, you give up your nuclear ambitions. The flip side being, there will be severe economic sanctions if you don’t.

Imposing “severe economic sanctions,” is what the Bush administration has been trying to do for years. This effort has been unsuccessful, of course, thanks to our friends the Chinese and the Russians. Senator Edwards has an excellent record of convincing juries in the South to award his clients millions of dollars; perhaps he’s counting on his effortless charm to work in Beijing and Moscow. Either way, it’s unsettling to witness the Democrats’ abject refusal to answer properly a question of critical importance to American security.

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The Conference on Democracy and Security

With the U.S. military effort in Iraq having bogged down, with Islamists winning elections in Egypt and the Palestinian territories, with the rebirth of democracy in Lebanon thwarted by Syrian and Iranian intervention, the momentum of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, which had flowed high in the “Arab spring” of 2005, has ebbed. The Conference on Democracy and Security, which met in Prague June 4-6, grew out of former Soviet dissident and leading Israeli intellectual Natan Sharansky’s sense of the need to reinvigorate the Bush administration’s flagging project of promoting democracy in the Middle East.

Sharansky found the ideal co-convener of the conference in Vaclav Havel. The former Czech president and the circle of one-time dissidents close to him (such as deputy prime minister Sacha Vondra and the Czech ambassador to Israel Michael Zantovsky) have demonstrated an unflagging and unparalleled dedication to the cause of freedom in the eighteen years since they won their own. They have, for example, set up a committee to monitor Beijing’s human-rights record during the 2008 Olympics and have had their diplomats succor dissidents in Cuba. In addition to their unusual dedication to principle, these Czech freedom-fighters keep a wary eye on Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s success in restoring dictatorship and a bullying foreign policy has put all of the former subject states of the Soviet empire on the qui vive.

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With the U.S. military effort in Iraq having bogged down, with Islamists winning elections in Egypt and the Palestinian territories, with the rebirth of democracy in Lebanon thwarted by Syrian and Iranian intervention, the momentum of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, which had flowed high in the “Arab spring” of 2005, has ebbed. The Conference on Democracy and Security, which met in Prague June 4-6, grew out of former Soviet dissident and leading Israeli intellectual Natan Sharansky’s sense of the need to reinvigorate the Bush administration’s flagging project of promoting democracy in the Middle East.

Sharansky found the ideal co-convener of the conference in Vaclav Havel. The former Czech president and the circle of one-time dissidents close to him (such as deputy prime minister Sacha Vondra and the Czech ambassador to Israel Michael Zantovsky) have demonstrated an unflagging and unparalleled dedication to the cause of freedom in the eighteen years since they won their own. They have, for example, set up a committee to monitor Beijing’s human-rights record during the 2008 Olympics and have had their diplomats succor dissidents in Cuba. In addition to their unusual dedication to principle, these Czech freedom-fighters keep a wary eye on Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s success in restoring dictatorship and a bullying foreign policy has put all of the former subject states of the Soviet empire on the qui vive.

Spain’s former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar joined as a third sponsor of the conclave. Aznar, who lost his post in 2004 when Spanish voters succumbed to al Qaeda’s intimidation, has remained a steadfast friend of the U.S. despite the strong European trend to the contrary. (Although this trend will now perhaps change, with the ascents of Merkel and Sarkozy.)

President Bush delivered an outstanding keynote speech, notable for several reasons:

1) It was as forceful a statement of commitment to the global democratic cause as one could imagine from an elected leader, dispelling any idea of second thoughts and signaling his determination to soldier on as long as he is in office. “The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs, it is the universal appeal of freedom,” Bush said. He then added a lovely line that may live on in the annals of presidential oratory: “Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every human soul.”

2) Bush’s delivery was smooth, well-paced, and confident, suggesting perhaps how comfortable he was with his audience and his subject. Not only did he avoid his trademark malapropisms, he even did a workmanlike job of pronouncing the names of Arab and eastern European dissidents.

3) In addition to its moving rhetoric, the speech contained a notable action point. The President said he had “asked Secretary Rice to send a directive to every U.S. ambassador in an unfree nation: seek out and meet with activists for democracy [and] those who demand human rights.”

4) In rattling off the names of five “dissidents who couldn’t join us because they are being unjustly imprisoned or held,” Bush mentioned figures in Belarus, Burma, Cuba, and Vietnam, all of which are easy to talk about. Then he named a tough one: Ayman Nour, the Egyptian presidential candidate currently languishing in jail. No country has been seen as more of a weather vane of U.S. determination about democracy promotion than Egypt, where Washington has so many other diplomatic interests. During Secretary Rice’s last visit to Egypt, her failure to mention Nour was widely read as a sign of American retreat. But if retreat it is, the Commander in Chief apparently hasn’t gotten the message.

Tomorrow, I’ll report on some of the other highlights of the conference.

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November Surprise

In spite of what the polls supposedly tell us, I strongly suspect that the Democrats may already have blown the 2008 election. Unlike the late Senator Aiken of Vermont, who proposed that we declare victory and get out of Vietnam, the Democrats want us to declare defeat and get out of Iraq. This, they imagine, is what the American people were demanding in the congressional election of 2006.

But it seems far more likely that the message of that election was not “Get out,” but rather “Win, or get out.” In any case, the position the Democrats are now taking can only have the effect of revivifying and reinforcing the sense of them as weak on national security. And this was the very factor that led to the ignominious defeat of their presidential candidate, George McGovern, in 1972, when they also misread the public temper by paying too much attention to the left wing of their party.

Furthermore, reading the first volume of Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope, I am reminded that the American distrust of defeatist political parties goes back beyond 1972—all the way back, in fact, to the War of 1812. Like Iraq, it was an unpopular war that its Federalist-party opponents called “Mr. Madison’s war,” just as the Democrats today call Iraq “Bush’s war.” In addition, just as the Democrats today keep threatening to cut off funds for Iraq, a number of state governments controlled by the Federalists “refused to supply militia troops for the war effort.” The end result, says Bennett, was that the Federalists would “never again seriously contend for the presidency.”

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In spite of what the polls supposedly tell us, I strongly suspect that the Democrats may already have blown the 2008 election. Unlike the late Senator Aiken of Vermont, who proposed that we declare victory and get out of Vietnam, the Democrats want us to declare defeat and get out of Iraq. This, they imagine, is what the American people were demanding in the congressional election of 2006.

But it seems far more likely that the message of that election was not “Get out,” but rather “Win, or get out.” In any case, the position the Democrats are now taking can only have the effect of revivifying and reinforcing the sense of them as weak on national security. And this was the very factor that led to the ignominious defeat of their presidential candidate, George McGovern, in 1972, when they also misread the public temper by paying too much attention to the left wing of their party.

Furthermore, reading the first volume of Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope, I am reminded that the American distrust of defeatist political parties goes back beyond 1972—all the way back, in fact, to the War of 1812. Like Iraq, it was an unpopular war that its Federalist-party opponents called “Mr. Madison’s war,” just as the Democrats today call Iraq “Bush’s war.” In addition, just as the Democrats today keep threatening to cut off funds for Iraq, a number of state governments controlled by the Federalists “refused to supply militia troops for the war effort.” The end result, says Bennett, was that the Federalists would “never again seriously contend for the presidency.”

Then, too, there was the Mexican war, into which a Democratic President (the “mendacious Polk,” as he was described by his Whig opponents) led the country in 1846. The Whigs, Bennett writes, were mindful of the damage done to the Federalists by their position on the War of 1812, and therefore they “made sure to vote to supply the troops.” Even so, the Whigs did themselves no political good by acting as though it was Polk’s war and not the nation’s. Although this was not the only or even the main reason they eventually followed the Federalists onto the ash heap of American political history, it surely played a part.

I am not predicting that the Democrats of today will suffer the same fate as the Federalists and the Whigs did. But I do think that they are in the process of ensuring their defeat in the next presidential election. In many respects, of course, the people of this country are very different from their forebears of 1812 and 1846. But I suspect that most of us are not all that different from them in how we view politicians who conspicuously fail to root for American troops fighting in the field, and who seem to think that they can get away with it by sticking the responsibility for the war on the sitting president of the other party. In 1972, this deeply ingrained American attitude still had enough life in it to give Richard Nixon, unpopular though he was, an overwhelming victory against George McGovern. Unless the American leopard has changed his spots since then, the Democrats are in for a very big surprise in November 2008.

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Learning To Love the Islamic Bomb

As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

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As I noted in my previous post, George Tenet: CIA or CYA?, much of what is contained in the former CIA director’s new memoir is a self-serving attempt to dodge responsibility for the monumental intelligence failures that occurred on his watch. But as a matter of formal logic, just because In the Center of the Storm contains false statements—see Andrew McCarthy’s analysis at NRO for chapter, verse, hook, line, and sinker—not every statement uttered by its author is always untrue.

Appearing on CBS’s Sixty Minutes to flog his book, Tenet noted that Osama bin Laden has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1993, and proceeded to raise the alarm: “Is it going to happen? Look, I don’t know, but I worry about it because I’ve seen enough to tell me there is intent and when there is intent the question is when does the capability show up?”

In the aftermath of September 11, whether Tenet’s worries are based upon slam-dunk intelligence is irrelevant. Even more so than was the case with Iraq, this is not a matter on which we can gamble. But how would Osama bin Laden go about obtaining a nuclear bomb?

Building one from scratch is out of the question; major states spend years and billions of dollars acquiring the expertise and the materials, especially the fissionable elements for its explosive core. Conducting such an enterprise on a shoestring budget while on the run from cave to cave is not a likely prospect.

Far more worrisome is that al Qaeda will seek out a bomb from Pakistan, which now has perhaps as many as 25 to 100 such devices in its arsenal. There would be two ways to lay one’s hands on such a heavily guarded apparatus.

The first would be to foment a revolution in unstable Pakistan that brings Islamists into power. Toward that end, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been waging a campaign of terror inside Pakistan designed to topple the government of General Pervez Musharraf. In the most recent attack this past Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in a failed attempt on the life of Pakistan’s interior minister.

A second approach would be to find a sympathizer inside Pakistan’s military or nuclear establishment. Given recent history, this might well be the easier route. After all, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb-making project, Abdul Q. Khan, now under house arrest in Islamabad, found it convenient and profitable to trade nuclear secrets and materials to a host of aggressive anti-American, terror-supporting states, including Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

How many others are there like Khan inside the Pakistani establishment, and can they be stopped? That is a question that every presidential candidate should be compelled to ponder, especially because a swelling chorus of voices in the liberal-Left foreign-policy establishment is now all of a sudden telling us that nuclear proliferation is not the fearful thing we have long believed.

The latest entry is a new book called the The Atomic Bazaar: The Rise of the Nuclear Poor, by William Langewiesche, a correspondent for Vanity Fair, whose considered opinion is that the “spread of nuclear weapons, even to such countries as North Korea and Iran, may not be as catastrophic as is generally believed,” and certainly not bad enough to justify “the pursuit of preemptive wars” of the kind we are now fighting in Iraq and contemplating against Iran.

On the contrary, suggests Langewiesche, we should recognize that we live in a “new reality in which limited nuclear wars are possible, and the use of a few devices, though locally devastating, will not necessarily blossom into a global exchange.” Overall, he concludes, since the end of the cold war, “the risk of an apocalypse may have been reduced.”

Perhaps Langewiesche is right. Or perhaps he is wrong. On the basis of his experience writing for Vanity Fair, should we just take his word for it? I prefer to side with the tainted Tenet in the view that we should do our utmost to stop such a thing from happening. And I find it fascinating, and profoundly disquieting, that a growing chorus of voices is telling us that we should not worry about something so worrisome, a case of defining deviancy down if there ever was one. 

A nuclear device supplied by a rogue element in Pakistan and detonated by al Qaeda at Four Times Square, where the offices of Vanity Fair are located, would almost certainly destroy the offices of COMMENTARY as well, even though we are located a few blocks north and across town. A global apocalypse during the cold war would no doubt have been awful. “Locally devastating” in the post-cold war would be bad enough.
 

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The Centrist and the Nationalist

On Sunday, France will hold its first round of balloting for a new president. This is the last in a series of three posts on the leading candidates by the French editor and journalist Michel Gurfinkiel. His longer and more in-depth look at the condition of present-day France will be coming out in the May issue of COMMENTARY, and is now available on our website.

François Bayrou—a devout Catholic, a horsebreeder, and the holder of advanced degrees in historyis a centrist. Politically, he belongs to a Christian-Democratic sub-current that was very powerful in the 1950’s before being crushed by the polarized Right-Left system forced upon the country by Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic. While many Christian Democrats joined the Gaullist Right, and others the socialists, a small group managed to survive under several successive names and acronyms. The UDF (Union for French Democracy), originally a conservative coalition supporting Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, is now Bayrou’s base. Having served as minister of education from 1993 to 1997, he represented the UDF in the 2002 presidential election and surprisingly gathered almost 7 percent of the vote: not bad for the “non-candidate” of a “non-party.”

Bayrou was convinced he stood a real chance for the presidency—provided he could distance the UDF and himself entirely from the traditional Right. This he proceeded to do, at some cost in supporters—but he didn’t care. Once a declared presidential candidate, he stubbornly railed against the disproportionate (in his opinion) media coverage of Sarkozy and Royal, finally winning his point and (according to some reports) garnering more coverage on radio and TV than any other candidate.

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On Sunday, France will hold its first round of balloting for a new president. This is the last in a series of three posts on the leading candidates by the French editor and journalist Michel Gurfinkiel. His longer and more in-depth look at the condition of present-day France will be coming out in the May issue of COMMENTARY, and is now available on our website.

François Bayrou—a devout Catholic, a horsebreeder, and the holder of advanced degrees in historyis a centrist. Politically, he belongs to a Christian-Democratic sub-current that was very powerful in the 1950’s before being crushed by the polarized Right-Left system forced upon the country by Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic. While many Christian Democrats joined the Gaullist Right, and others the socialists, a small group managed to survive under several successive names and acronyms. The UDF (Union for French Democracy), originally a conservative coalition supporting Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, is now Bayrou’s base. Having served as minister of education from 1993 to 1997, he represented the UDF in the 2002 presidential election and surprisingly gathered almost 7 percent of the vote: not bad for the “non-candidate” of a “non-party.”

Bayrou was convinced he stood a real chance for the presidency—provided he could distance the UDF and himself entirely from the traditional Right. This he proceeded to do, at some cost in supporters—but he didn’t care. Once a declared presidential candidate, he stubbornly railed against the disproportionate (in his opinion) media coverage of Sarkozy and Royal, finally winning his point and (according to some reports) garnering more coverage on radio and TV than any other candidate.

But the decisive factor for Bayrou was that Royal’s candidacy began to fall apart. As some socialists came to see the UDF as a lesser-of-two-evils alternative to Sarkozy, parts of the electorate switched to Bayrou’s side. By the beginning of March, he was at over 20 percent in the polls, and it began to seem possible that he might outstrip Royal on the first ballot, and then, as the only challenger to Sarkozy, begin to attract the centrist, the left-wing, and even the far-Right vote to beat the UMP candidate.

What would Bayrou’s politics be as president? He has contended that only a national-unity government—“like de Gaulle’s in 1944, which included the democratic Right as well as socialists and Communists”—will be able to deal with the French domestic crisis. In his belief, this national government should be balanced by stronger regional and local powers, their configurations based on history and culture as well geography. A supporter of a federal Europe, Bayrou nevertheless opposes the accession of Turkey to the EU. He has also expressed adamant support for Chirac’s anti-Iraq-war line, as do most French citizens. Regarding Israel, he has stated that “in the wake of the Shoah, all of mankind is a partner in the Jewish people’s decision to recover a land,” while adding that “We must . . . find some balance between the state established by yesterday’s humiliated Jews and the one that today’s humiliated Palestinians must establish.”

In February, alarmed by the prospect of Bayrou’s rise, Royal and Sarkozy resolved to bring in a fourth man whom they had hitherto kept at bay: Jean-Marie Le Pen.

It had seemed up to this point that Le Pen might not muster enough endorsements to qualify for the first ballot, but Bayrou’s surge prompted both camps to hint publicly that to deny Le Pen a chance to run would be bad for democracy. The needed signatures were finally gathered, and the National Front rose in the polls from 12 percent of the putative votes to 14 percent by the end of March. Some suspected that Le Pen’s real level of support was even higher, between 16 and 20 percent. (At that point, Bayrou’s numbers had stalled at about 20 percent, and both Sarkozy and Royal stood at 26 percent.)

There was, however, more to Le Pen’s resurrection than mere political jockeying. The old man had embarked on a drastic makeover: from a reactionary nativist whose main concern was to stop immigration and clear the reputation of the wartime Vichy regime to a Hugo Chavez-style populist promoting a Europe-third-world alliance against America. As long ago as 1999, Samuel Maréchal, one of Le Pen’s sons-in-law, had stated that one had to admit that France was becoming “a multiethnic and multireligious society,” and that “Islam was now France’s second religion.” This was greeted with an outcry of protest among the Front’s rank and file.

Seven years later, Jean-Claude Martinez, a National Front member of the European Parliament and Le Pen’s “strategic adviser,” reiterated Maréchal’s challenge, arguing that the National Front must adjust to globalization, forget about some of its founding myths, and welcome immigrant blacks and Arabs into the national fold. He even expressed enthusiasm for hip-hop, a form dominated in France by Arab and black performers, as long as the lyrics were sung in French. This time, there was no outcry. In the wake of the extended European crisis over the Danish “Muhammad” cartoons, the National Front sided with the Muslims, demanding that “religious sensibilities must be respected.”

Le Pen’s shift has led to breakaways from the National Front but also to new arrivals in the form of young men and women nurtured in France’s anti-American and anti-Zionist pop culture, Muslims who relished Le Pen’s anti-Semitic innuendos and his support for Saddam Hussein, and black-power militants. At the outset of the 2007 presidential campaign, the National Front went a step further, putting up large billboards featuring a sexy young girl of North African descent and a sharp anti-elitist caption: “They’re all wrong!” Chavez could not have put it better.

And so to Sunday’s balloting, from which two front-runners will emerge to battle it out in the second round of voting on May 6.

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Marketing Mitt Romney

People already depressed about the low quality of debate in presidential primaries ought to avoid reading the terrific scoop in yesterday’s Boston Globe about the Mitt Romney campaign plan. The Globe has come across a 77-page PowerPoint presentation that outlines the former governor’s plan to “define himself” in the Republican primaries and, ideally, in the national election.

Like all such documents—and every candidate relies on them—it is filled with the grating jargon of modern marketing and the faux science of opinion polling. It addresses such synthetic issues as “Brand Romney” and how to “own the future.” The “blueprint,” as the Globe calls it, states that Romney needs to position himself as a “turnaround CEO governor and strong leader from outside Washington,” a phrase that was no doubt carefully focus-grouped among suburban, female outlet shoppers in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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People already depressed about the low quality of debate in presidential primaries ought to avoid reading the terrific scoop in yesterday’s Boston Globe about the Mitt Romney campaign plan. The Globe has come across a 77-page PowerPoint presentation that outlines the former governor’s plan to “define himself” in the Republican primaries and, ideally, in the national election.

Like all such documents—and every candidate relies on them—it is filled with the grating jargon of modern marketing and the faux science of opinion polling. It addresses such synthetic issues as “Brand Romney” and how to “own the future.” The “blueprint,” as the Globe calls it, states that Romney needs to position himself as a “turnaround CEO governor and strong leader from outside Washington,” a phrase that was no doubt carefully focus-grouped among suburban, female outlet shoppers in Reading, Pennsylvania.

It is easy to make fun of such strategy plans, but it is simply a fact that the selling of a presidential candidate necessarily shares many of the features of launching a new product or marketing a new movie. The truly depressing part is the absence of any set of ideas that Romney will advocate. Yes, there is much buzz about “America’s strength,” “global challenges,” and how the U.S. must not be like Europe. But in this campaign strategy document, like so many before it, what is conspicuous by its omission is a list of three or four ideas that the candidate will actually pursue as President. Instead, the pollsters and media advisors set out “themes,” framing the campaign and giving it only the faintest appearance of substance.

Curiously, the memo suggests that Newt Gingrich, should he enter the race, would become a serious challenge to Romney’s ability to attract the party’s conservative base. Could that be because Gingrich, for all his flaws, has built his career around rattling off specific, provocative policy ideas—which is exactly what this sort of strategy memo fails to do?

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