Commentary Magazine


Topic: Princeton University

Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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The BDS Movement’s War on Hummus

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

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Is President Obama the New Woodrow Wilson?

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama may not be good for America, but he’s been a gold mine for conservative humor.

You will keep your insurance and your doctor! Remember that promise from Obama? Apparently, he was just kidding: “As the Obama administration begins to enact the new national health care law, the country’s biggest insurers are promoting affordable plans with reduced premiums that require participants to use a narrower selection of doctors or hospitals.” We did try this before back in the “H.M.O. days,” but “[t]he concept was largely abandoned after the consumer backlash persuaded both employers and health plans that Americans were simply not willing to sacrifice choice.” I’m sure it’ll be totally different this time.

I don’t think Dan Balz meant to be funny. But this certainly is: “White House and House officials see a path for holding the House, unless the wave of reaction against the president’s policies and unrest over the economy swamps even the smartest and best prepared of embattled incumbents — which is what happened in 1994.” Yeah, like what are the chances of that?

No joke — for a mere $30,400, you can attend a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee fundraising retreat. Do you think they throw in free breakfasts? But Obama assures us that the Republicans are the party of the rich.

Many Virginians are giddy over the prospect of privatizing state liquor stores: “For the drinking-age public, a privatized system could mean many more liquor stores, a much wider variety of libations and lower prices. Like beer and wine, liquor could be sold in grocery stores, big-box stores such as Wal-Mart or anywhere else a licensed dealer chooses to locate. … For the state’s ailing transportation network, it would mean a jolt of fresh cash that [Gov. Bob] McDonnell (R) urgently needs as part of his plan to fix roads. … And for McDonnell, who opposes government-run liquor stores on free-market principles, bringing Democrats and Republicans together on a major issue would show that he can deliver on his promises and be the kind of bipartisan leader he has pledged to be.” Naturally, many Democrats oppose the plan.

This is no laughing matter: “Canadians may have achieved what Americans still long for, a turn up in the national mood, and a job machine that hums. In fact, Canada’s job creation engine is on a tear, last month producing 10,000 more jobs than the U.S. This despite having a population and stimulus program roughly one-tenth the size of the U.S. … ‘Canada is coming back better than the U.S.,’ says labor economist Alan Blinder of Princeton University. ‘I’m losing a bit of the confidence I previously had.'” In the Obama era, it doesn’t pay to be a starry-eyed optimist.

This advice from Matthew Dowd probably sounds silly to the Obami: “[T]he administration should get off the partisan campaign trail (when your job-approval rating is in the 40s, being there isn’t helping anyone anyway), focus on what the president can do to change the tone in Washington and begin to speak to his own mistakes in adding to the political fighting.” Right advice, wrong president.

Hysterical: From one of the Beagle Blogger’s minions: “Can anyone think of other times of where one side of a debate projects their own preferences upon their opponents?” I would think reading his own blog would be part of the job.

Obama may not be good for America, but he’s been a gold mine for conservative humor.

You will keep your insurance and your doctor! Remember that promise from Obama? Apparently, he was just kidding: “As the Obama administration begins to enact the new national health care law, the country’s biggest insurers are promoting affordable plans with reduced premiums that require participants to use a narrower selection of doctors or hospitals.” We did try this before back in the “H.M.O. days,” but “[t]he concept was largely abandoned after the consumer backlash persuaded both employers and health plans that Americans were simply not willing to sacrifice choice.” I’m sure it’ll be totally different this time.

I don’t think Dan Balz meant to be funny. But this certainly is: “White House and House officials see a path for holding the House, unless the wave of reaction against the president’s policies and unrest over the economy swamps even the smartest and best prepared of embattled incumbents — which is what happened in 1994.” Yeah, like what are the chances of that?

No joke — for a mere $30,400, you can attend a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee fundraising retreat. Do you think they throw in free breakfasts? But Obama assures us that the Republicans are the party of the rich.

Many Virginians are giddy over the prospect of privatizing state liquor stores: “For the drinking-age public, a privatized system could mean many more liquor stores, a much wider variety of libations and lower prices. Like beer and wine, liquor could be sold in grocery stores, big-box stores such as Wal-Mart or anywhere else a licensed dealer chooses to locate. … For the state’s ailing transportation network, it would mean a jolt of fresh cash that [Gov. Bob] McDonnell (R) urgently needs as part of his plan to fix roads. … And for McDonnell, who opposes government-run liquor stores on free-market principles, bringing Democrats and Republicans together on a major issue would show that he can deliver on his promises and be the kind of bipartisan leader he has pledged to be.” Naturally, many Democrats oppose the plan.

This is no laughing matter: “Canadians may have achieved what Americans still long for, a turn up in the national mood, and a job machine that hums. In fact, Canada’s job creation engine is on a tear, last month producing 10,000 more jobs than the U.S. This despite having a population and stimulus program roughly one-tenth the size of the U.S. … ‘Canada is coming back better than the U.S.,’ says labor economist Alan Blinder of Princeton University. ‘I’m losing a bit of the confidence I previously had.'” In the Obama era, it doesn’t pay to be a starry-eyed optimist.

This advice from Matthew Dowd probably sounds silly to the Obami: “[T]he administration should get off the partisan campaign trail (when your job-approval rating is in the 40s, being there isn’t helping anyone anyway), focus on what the president can do to change the tone in Washington and begin to speak to his own mistakes in adding to the political fighting.” Right advice, wrong president.

Hysterical: From one of the Beagle Blogger’s minions: “Can anyone think of other times of where one side of a debate projects their own preferences upon their opponents?” I would think reading his own blog would be part of the job.

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Obama Highlights What Kagan Is Not

One had the impression listening to Obama’s introduction of Elena Kagan yesterday that the White House spinners had made a list of her shortcomings and then concocted a narrative featuring an un-Kagan who had none of those shortcomings and, indeed, an overabundance of the very qualities honest observers would concede she lacks.

As Ben Smith writes:

President Barack Obama introduced Elena Kagan on Monday in the terms that have come to define his approach to the Supreme Court: She understands the law “as it affects the lives of ordinary people,” he said, adding that her presence will make the court “more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”

Obama promised judges with at least a passing knowledge of the “real world,” but Kagan’s experience draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans: Manhattan’s Upper West side, Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the upper reaches of the Democratic legal establishment.

Obama also pronounced, “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” This is preposterous. She’s written little, and what she has written is banal and unexceptional. Her speeches as dean are not analytical or historical discourse but pep talks and generic spiels on ethics and the wonders of Harvard Law School’s reputation.

So she brings neither an abundance of non-elite experience nor an intellectual record of achievement. That doesn’t mean she isn’t qualified or won’t make a capable justice, but it does serve to emphasize — once again — the president’s penchant for exaggeration if not fabrication.

His remarks also suggest what he really was looking for in a justice, and regrettably reveal that he (but we hope not his nominee) is confused about what the Court should be doing. He praised her work as solicitor general in “defend[ing] the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.” Is that what she argued: corporation = bad and micromanaging speech = good? Is that what the Court does — find the Democratic cause and construct a legal argument to support it? Even the Washington Post‘s editors spotted the problem with the president’s demagoguery, reminding the former law professor that justices “should decide each case on its merits.”

So she’s not very real world, and she isn’t a renowned scholar, but she sure understands the president’s liberal agenda. Obama is nothing if not totally predictable in his nominations — construct a narrative, appoint a dependable liberal. Kagan, I suspect, won’t disappoint him.

One had the impression listening to Obama’s introduction of Elena Kagan yesterday that the White House spinners had made a list of her shortcomings and then concocted a narrative featuring an un-Kagan who had none of those shortcomings and, indeed, an overabundance of the very qualities honest observers would concede she lacks.

As Ben Smith writes:

President Barack Obama introduced Elena Kagan on Monday in the terms that have come to define his approach to the Supreme Court: She understands the law “as it affects the lives of ordinary people,” he said, adding that her presence will make the court “more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”

Obama promised judges with at least a passing knowledge of the “real world,” but Kagan’s experience draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans: Manhattan’s Upper West side, Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the upper reaches of the Democratic legal establishment.

Obama also pronounced, “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” This is preposterous. She’s written little, and what she has written is banal and unexceptional. Her speeches as dean are not analytical or historical discourse but pep talks and generic spiels on ethics and the wonders of Harvard Law School’s reputation.

So she brings neither an abundance of non-elite experience nor an intellectual record of achievement. That doesn’t mean she isn’t qualified or won’t make a capable justice, but it does serve to emphasize — once again — the president’s penchant for exaggeration if not fabrication.

His remarks also suggest what he really was looking for in a justice, and regrettably reveal that he (but we hope not his nominee) is confused about what the Court should be doing. He praised her work as solicitor general in “defend[ing] the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.” Is that what she argued: corporation = bad and micromanaging speech = good? Is that what the Court does — find the Democratic cause and construct a legal argument to support it? Even the Washington Post‘s editors spotted the problem with the president’s demagoguery, reminding the former law professor that justices “should decide each case on its merits.”

So she’s not very real world, and she isn’t a renowned scholar, but she sure understands the president’s liberal agenda. Obama is nothing if not totally predictable in his nominations — construct a narrative, appoint a dependable liberal. Kagan, I suspect, won’t disappoint him.

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Everything You Need to Know About Jewish-Arab Dialogue in America

It is a staple of well-meaning community-relations work as well as journalism: the tale of two people from clashing groups who are rising above their differences to forge a friendship on behalf of a common goal. The New York Times provides a classic example in today’s sports section, which tells the story of two members of Princeton University’s women’s basketball team: “Princeton Duo, Palestinian-American and Jewish, Puts Aside Politics.” It’s a feel-good feature about Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Polansky, who are close friends and teammates on a good Tiger hoops squad.

But while the friendship seems genuine, the premise of the piece, that the two have “put aside politics,” isn’t even close to being true. While Rasheed is a fervent supporter of Palestinian nationalism and a critic of the “Israeli government,” Polansky has no such commitment to the other side of that argument. She is merely the daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. She was, we are told, “raised Jewish.” But whatever that means, it didn’t include any strong feelings about the State of Israel or Zionism. “None of that political stuff that is going on the other side of the world is that important to me,” Polansky says. That’s all well and good. Rasheed has the right to enthusiastically support her relatives’ political cause; and Lauren Polansky has the right not to give a hoot about the right of the Jewish people to their own state in their historic homeland or their right of self-defense against Palestinians who wish to destroy that state for the sake of their own conception of a just solution to the conflict.  Just don’t tell us this is a tale of two people who have risen above a conflict to make friends — because there is clearly no conflict between the two on this issue. Rasheed cares about her cause, and Polansky is indifferent to it.  The piece is clearly imbalanced — the Palestinian mother is allowed to pose as tolerant because she claims to “love” Polansky despite the fact that she is Jewish — but that is almost unimportant, as there is really no dialogue about the conflict going on here to rise above.

This is, of course, all too familiar to observers of more formal attempts at Jewish-Arab dialogue in this country. Inevitably, they consist of Arabs who are passionately opposed to Israel alongside Jews who either completely agree with the Arabs or, as is the case with Lauren Polansky, have no strong convictions about the issues. Such exchanges do nothing to enhance the cause of community relations or peace because they merely reinforce the Arabs’ conviction that they are in the right without causing them to question any of their own premises. That so many American Jews play this game to enhance their own sense of themselves as broad-minded and pro-peace is absurd and another testament to the truth of Edward Alexander’s dictum that “universalism is the parochialism of the Jews.”

A better example of a story of Jews and Arabs rising above their differences was printed in the Times last week. In it, Times Israel correspondent Ethan Bronner wrote about two families whose children were wounded in the fighting around Gaza who have bonded while spending time alongside each other in the hospital. Its virtue lies not only in its recounting of two tragedies — a little Israeli boy critically wounded by a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza and a Palestinian girl paralyzed by a missile fired at the Hamas terrorists — but also in that it mercifully eschews the sort of political cant and smarmy writing that was on display in the story about the Princeton students.

It is a staple of well-meaning community-relations work as well as journalism: the tale of two people from clashing groups who are rising above their differences to forge a friendship on behalf of a common goal. The New York Times provides a classic example in today’s sports section, which tells the story of two members of Princeton University’s women’s basketball team: “Princeton Duo, Palestinian-American and Jewish, Puts Aside Politics.” It’s a feel-good feature about Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Polansky, who are close friends and teammates on a good Tiger hoops squad.

But while the friendship seems genuine, the premise of the piece, that the two have “put aside politics,” isn’t even close to being true. While Rasheed is a fervent supporter of Palestinian nationalism and a critic of the “Israeli government,” Polansky has no such commitment to the other side of that argument. She is merely the daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. She was, we are told, “raised Jewish.” But whatever that means, it didn’t include any strong feelings about the State of Israel or Zionism. “None of that political stuff that is going on the other side of the world is that important to me,” Polansky says. That’s all well and good. Rasheed has the right to enthusiastically support her relatives’ political cause; and Lauren Polansky has the right not to give a hoot about the right of the Jewish people to their own state in their historic homeland or their right of self-defense against Palestinians who wish to destroy that state for the sake of their own conception of a just solution to the conflict.  Just don’t tell us this is a tale of two people who have risen above a conflict to make friends — because there is clearly no conflict between the two on this issue. Rasheed cares about her cause, and Polansky is indifferent to it.  The piece is clearly imbalanced — the Palestinian mother is allowed to pose as tolerant because she claims to “love” Polansky despite the fact that she is Jewish — but that is almost unimportant, as there is really no dialogue about the conflict going on here to rise above.

This is, of course, all too familiar to observers of more formal attempts at Jewish-Arab dialogue in this country. Inevitably, they consist of Arabs who are passionately opposed to Israel alongside Jews who either completely agree with the Arabs or, as is the case with Lauren Polansky, have no strong convictions about the issues. Such exchanges do nothing to enhance the cause of community relations or peace because they merely reinforce the Arabs’ conviction that they are in the right without causing them to question any of their own premises. That so many American Jews play this game to enhance their own sense of themselves as broad-minded and pro-peace is absurd and another testament to the truth of Edward Alexander’s dictum that “universalism is the parochialism of the Jews.”

A better example of a story of Jews and Arabs rising above their differences was printed in the Times last week. In it, Times Israel correspondent Ethan Bronner wrote about two families whose children were wounded in the fighting around Gaza who have bonded while spending time alongside each other in the hospital. Its virtue lies not only in its recounting of two tragedies — a little Israeli boy critically wounded by a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza and a Palestinian girl paralyzed by a missile fired at the Hamas terrorists — but also in that it mercifully eschews the sort of political cant and smarmy writing that was on display in the story about the Princeton students.

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News from the Continent: False Prophets

The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.

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The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.


First, the oft-repeated claim (framed in identical terms by both IJV and New York University professor and leading anti-Zionist Tony Judt) that the views of anti-Zionists are being censored is risible. Jaqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion was published by Princeton University Press, not by the Jewish underground in Warsaw circa 1943. Judt’s tirades against Israel feature in the New York Review of Books (and Haaretz, no less). The price that Jimmy Carter has paid for his book is, aside from exactly the robust debate he wished to trigger, a hefty financial gain from over a half million copies sold. Not exactly, in other words, the fate of beleaguered dissenters.

As for IJV, the percentage of professors in its membership suggests that establishment figures with access to mainstream publishing options predominate over the disenfranchised and voiceless. Antony Lerman, for example, is the director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, a once-serious Jewish think tank based in London, and a frequent guest at the court of London’s radical mayor, Ken Livingstone. IJV’s initiator, Brian Klug, and his colleague Avi Shlaim are both Oxford dons. Shlaim routinely publishes in the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune, and the London Review of Books (the same journal that published John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby”). It is hard to pretend, with such credentials, that IJV does not enjoy all the privileges of membership in Britain’s intellectual establishment. How can these people claim that their views are suppressed? What they really object to, it seems, is the fact that their views are challenged.

The claim that these anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals are dissidents whose daring words against Israel are an act of courage is absurd. By posing as victims, these quintessential establishment figures wish to hide their intolerance for opponents. Demonizing their opponents as the enemies of free speech and human rights serves, as University of London professor David Hirsh remarked in the IJV debate, one purpose only: to create a self-mythologizing narrative of resistance, through which liberals can reclaim their role as the enlightened but stifled vanguard.

Through their self-nomination as the true heirs of the biblical prophets, Lerman, Klug, and company demonstrate a complete ignorance of what the prophets actually stood for. They claim that the essence of Judaism lies in fighting for social justice, human rights, and pacifism. Yet the prophets they invoke—as even a cursory reading of scripture will demonstrate—were neither pacifists nor champions of human rights, but rather advocates of absolute rule by the divine, a system hardly palatable to the modern Left.

Such a clumsy effort at biblical interpretation reveals more than ignorance of Jewish thought. It shows that, for this class of liberal Jewish intellectuals, being Jewish is equivalent to being progressive. And if this is the case, then the converse must also be true: to be a progressive is to be Jewish. These days, most self-respecting progressive thinkers view Israel, the nation-state of the Jews, as nothing other than an embarrassment and “an anachronism,” as Judt wrote. Small wonder, then, that Jewish intellectuals avid of membership in the liberal elite must denounce Israel.

But surely the real question is not whether pro-Israel views are mainstream in the Jewish world; nor is it fruitful to debate who censors whom in the Jewish battle of ideas over Jewish identity and the place Israel occupies in that battle. The real question is whether liberal Jewish intellectuals, by speaking against Israel, merely exercise their freedom of speech, or whether by doing so they offer succor to Israel’s enemies.

The answer to this question is, sadly, the latter. The most extreme views of Israel, including distortions, fabrications, and double standards aimed at demonizing the Jewish state and providing a mandate for its destruction, become legitimate once Jews endorse them. This alibi—i.e., that Jews themselves level these criticisms—becomes a vital tool for those who harbor the oldest hatred but cannot freely express it. The cover offered by liberal Jews enables the anti-Semites, under the pretext of anti-Zionism, to attack all other Jews who fail to comply with the political orthodoxy of the age.

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