Commentary Magazine


Topic: Professor

Honorary Sovereignty and International De-recognition

In his recent piece in the New York Times, “To Save Africa, Reject Its Nations,” Pierre Englebert, professor of African politics at Pomona College, advances an important — fundamental, even — idea: i.e., that sovereignty, understood as a privilege accorded to a state by virtue of international recognition, is based on the satisfactory performance by that state of certain basic duties.

First among those duties is respecting and reflecting the will of the governed.  Thus, precisely because sovereignty belongs ultimately to the people, it cannot be separated from the sovereignty that pertains to the state in the international system.  If the first is not respected, the second should not exist.

Prof. Engelbert believes this is a “radical” idea, though he means that in an approving sense. But it is not radical at all. It is an old-fashioned idea, and I mean that in an approving sense. The classical literature on sovereignty teems with requirements that an entity must fulfill if it is to be described as a state and therefore accorded the privilege of sovereignty. It must control its territory. Its armed forces must obey the laws of war and be under a recognized chain of command. It must not allow its subjects to engage in freelance violence against other states. It must have a regular system of justice. By the late 19th century, it could not practice slavery. And, by the 20th century, it had to allow its citizens — the shift from ‘subject’ to ‘citizen’ is vital — some voice in shaping their own government.

If there is anything radical in Prof. Engelbert’s thought, it is that we should seek again to apply these classical standards in a world that, for most of the past hundred years, has paid them progressively little mind. The descent has been slow but steady — first, the admission of the USSR into the ranks of the recognized states, then the reluctance to kick Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany out of those ranks, and then, finally, the step that most worries Prof. Engelbert: the fact that during decolonization, the “gift of sovereignty was granted from outside rather than earned from within.” I describe this as ‘honorary sovereignty’: sovereignty that is given but is not merited.

What really pleases me is that Prof. Engelbert goes on to draw the logical conclusion from this concept: the advance of honorary sovereignty has been bad for the peoples of the world (especially those who are victimized by the resulting mis-governance), and that one remedy is “international de-recognition” of abusive states. I would add something that Prof. Engelbert does not: since today’s international institutions are premised on the idea of universal membership (a premise entirely contradicted by their claim that they stand for certain non-negotiable freedoms), a world of de-recognition must also be a world with new international institutions, ones that have distinct standards for membership. But Prof. Engelbert is right to begin mapping out, even in the context of the existing institutions, what de-recognition might mean. The logic is simple: If sovereignty gives privileges to a state, then the failure to live up to the requirements of sovereignty means that those privileges should disappear.

For my part — and I believe for Prof. Engelbert — those requirements are relatively limited. Setting the bar too high would delegitimize virtually every existing state, which would be nonsensical. As Prof. Engelbert puts it, the standard is “a minimum of safety and basic rights.” In other words, a return to the traditional requirements of sovereignty, supplemented by the most vital modern addition: the voice of the people must be heard and respected. Of course, while the existence of honorary sovereignty is most glaringly obvious in Africa, it is not limited to that continent. And as Prof. Engelbert’s example of Taiwan suggests, we need to concern ourselves not just with kicking the non-sovereign states out: we also need to let the genuinely sovereign states in.

At bottom, what Prof. Engelbert rejects is the belief that a legitimate state can exist apart from its people. That confusion is illustrated by the headline writer for the Times, who – predictably — got it just about exactly wrong. We do not need to reject the nations of Africa (or others that fail to live up to those basic standards): we need to reject their states. Bravo to Prof. Engelbert for making the case.

In his recent piece in the New York Times, “To Save Africa, Reject Its Nations,” Pierre Englebert, professor of African politics at Pomona College, advances an important — fundamental, even — idea: i.e., that sovereignty, understood as a privilege accorded to a state by virtue of international recognition, is based on the satisfactory performance by that state of certain basic duties.

First among those duties is respecting and reflecting the will of the governed.  Thus, precisely because sovereignty belongs ultimately to the people, it cannot be separated from the sovereignty that pertains to the state in the international system.  If the first is not respected, the second should not exist.

Prof. Engelbert believes this is a “radical” idea, though he means that in an approving sense. But it is not radical at all. It is an old-fashioned idea, and I mean that in an approving sense. The classical literature on sovereignty teems with requirements that an entity must fulfill if it is to be described as a state and therefore accorded the privilege of sovereignty. It must control its territory. Its armed forces must obey the laws of war and be under a recognized chain of command. It must not allow its subjects to engage in freelance violence against other states. It must have a regular system of justice. By the late 19th century, it could not practice slavery. And, by the 20th century, it had to allow its citizens — the shift from ‘subject’ to ‘citizen’ is vital — some voice in shaping their own government.

If there is anything radical in Prof. Engelbert’s thought, it is that we should seek again to apply these classical standards in a world that, for most of the past hundred years, has paid them progressively little mind. The descent has been slow but steady — first, the admission of the USSR into the ranks of the recognized states, then the reluctance to kick Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany out of those ranks, and then, finally, the step that most worries Prof. Engelbert: the fact that during decolonization, the “gift of sovereignty was granted from outside rather than earned from within.” I describe this as ‘honorary sovereignty’: sovereignty that is given but is not merited.

What really pleases me is that Prof. Engelbert goes on to draw the logical conclusion from this concept: the advance of honorary sovereignty has been bad for the peoples of the world (especially those who are victimized by the resulting mis-governance), and that one remedy is “international de-recognition” of abusive states. I would add something that Prof. Engelbert does not: since today’s international institutions are premised on the idea of universal membership (a premise entirely contradicted by their claim that they stand for certain non-negotiable freedoms), a world of de-recognition must also be a world with new international institutions, ones that have distinct standards for membership. But Prof. Engelbert is right to begin mapping out, even in the context of the existing institutions, what de-recognition might mean. The logic is simple: If sovereignty gives privileges to a state, then the failure to live up to the requirements of sovereignty means that those privileges should disappear.

For my part — and I believe for Prof. Engelbert — those requirements are relatively limited. Setting the bar too high would delegitimize virtually every existing state, which would be nonsensical. As Prof. Engelbert puts it, the standard is “a minimum of safety and basic rights.” In other words, a return to the traditional requirements of sovereignty, supplemented by the most vital modern addition: the voice of the people must be heard and respected. Of course, while the existence of honorary sovereignty is most glaringly obvious in Africa, it is not limited to that continent. And as Prof. Engelbert’s example of Taiwan suggests, we need to concern ourselves not just with kicking the non-sovereign states out: we also need to let the genuinely sovereign states in.

At bottom, what Prof. Engelbert rejects is the belief that a legitimate state can exist apart from its people. That confusion is illustrated by the headline writer for the Times, who – predictably — got it just about exactly wrong. We do not need to reject the nations of Africa (or others that fail to live up to those basic standards): we need to reject their states. Bravo to Prof. Engelbert for making the case.

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The Israeli Investigation

It’s remarkable that the Obama administration’s reaction to the Israeli investigation of the flotilla was so critical. As this report makes clear, it’s an all-star lineup:

The Prime Minister’s Office published, on Sunday evening, the names of those who will serve on the panel headed by retired Supreme Court justice Ya’akov Tuerkel, which will investigate Israel’s interception of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31st. International-law Professor Shabtai Rosen is an Israel Prize winner and winner of the Hague Prize for International Law.  Former Technion president Amos Chorev serves as a general in the reserves.

There will be two international observers: Lord William David Trimble [of Northern Ireland], winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and international lawyer Ken Watkin, Canada’s Judge Advocate General of Canada’s forces.

The two international observers are respected authorities and men of integrity that will add creditability to the findings of the investigation. Unfortunately, their presence and involvement are necessary because the conclusions of the respected Israelis on this panel would be dismissed out of hand by much of the international community.

The Obama administration responded to this Israeli panel with tempered support and a dictate to work quickly. It still remains to be seen if the Administration will support a United Nations based panel that will convict Israel before gathering any evidence.

Considering the panel’s composition, why didn’t Obama declare this fully sufficient and rule out an inquest by the UN or another outside entity? Those working behind the scenes to head off an international inquest were certainly hoping he would do so. Instead, Obama maintained his “above-the-fray” tone of condescension and let Israel know he stands with the “international community,” not with Israel. And where is Turkey’s board of inquest? Obama has made clear: that won’t be necessary.

It’s remarkable that the Obama administration’s reaction to the Israeli investigation of the flotilla was so critical. As this report makes clear, it’s an all-star lineup:

The Prime Minister’s Office published, on Sunday evening, the names of those who will serve on the panel headed by retired Supreme Court justice Ya’akov Tuerkel, which will investigate Israel’s interception of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31st. International-law Professor Shabtai Rosen is an Israel Prize winner and winner of the Hague Prize for International Law.  Former Technion president Amos Chorev serves as a general in the reserves.

There will be two international observers: Lord William David Trimble [of Northern Ireland], winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and international lawyer Ken Watkin, Canada’s Judge Advocate General of Canada’s forces.

The two international observers are respected authorities and men of integrity that will add creditability to the findings of the investigation. Unfortunately, their presence and involvement are necessary because the conclusions of the respected Israelis on this panel would be dismissed out of hand by much of the international community.

The Obama administration responded to this Israeli panel with tempered support and a dictate to work quickly. It still remains to be seen if the Administration will support a United Nations based panel that will convict Israel before gathering any evidence.

Considering the panel’s composition, why didn’t Obama declare this fully sufficient and rule out an inquest by the UN or another outside entity? Those working behind the scenes to head off an international inquest were certainly hoping he would do so. Instead, Obama maintained his “above-the-fray” tone of condescension and let Israel know he stands with the “international community,” not with Israel. And where is Turkey’s board of inquest? Obama has made clear: that won’t be necessary.

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Not Remotely a B+

Charlie Gasparino gets to the nub of Obama’s failure on spurring an economic recovery:

Obama is making a bad situation a hell of a lot worse—and that’s a far bigger scandal than offering Sestak a job to go away. …

His stimulus package was supposed to produce shovel-ready jobs that would repair our infrastructure much like the various public-works programs instituted by Hoover and Roosevelt. But instead of spending the money on building roads and bridges, states have hoarded much of the stimulus cash to keep their own workforces fat and happy. While the construction industry suffers 20 percent unemployment, state and local governments are keeping employment at the DMV just humming along.

It should come as no surprise that unemployment is alarmingly high just about everywhere—except in government and on Wall Street, the recipient of government bailouts, which is yet another reason why investors are getting antsy and stocks are starting to slide.

The former law professor and community organizer, as Gasparino points out, knows precious little about the free market. Raising taxes in a recession? Silly. Increasing the burdens on small business? Ridiculous. It must come as a shock to those in what passes as elite company in the media and academia that their icon is rather economically illiterate. Nor has that icon a very good grasp of history. (“He promised hope and change, but brought 1930s economic remedies that are producing similar results.”)

To recap, Obama’s not good at crises. He doesn’t excel in economics or history. Our foreign policy is in a shambles as foes run amok and allies realize they have an unreliable partner in the White House. Oh, and he’s driven his party’s electoral prospects into the ground. Most conservatives never imagined it would be this bad — and on so many fronts.

Charlie Gasparino gets to the nub of Obama’s failure on spurring an economic recovery:

Obama is making a bad situation a hell of a lot worse—and that’s a far bigger scandal than offering Sestak a job to go away. …

His stimulus package was supposed to produce shovel-ready jobs that would repair our infrastructure much like the various public-works programs instituted by Hoover and Roosevelt. But instead of spending the money on building roads and bridges, states have hoarded much of the stimulus cash to keep their own workforces fat and happy. While the construction industry suffers 20 percent unemployment, state and local governments are keeping employment at the DMV just humming along.

It should come as no surprise that unemployment is alarmingly high just about everywhere—except in government and on Wall Street, the recipient of government bailouts, which is yet another reason why investors are getting antsy and stocks are starting to slide.

The former law professor and community organizer, as Gasparino points out, knows precious little about the free market. Raising taxes in a recession? Silly. Increasing the burdens on small business? Ridiculous. It must come as a shock to those in what passes as elite company in the media and academia that their icon is rather economically illiterate. Nor has that icon a very good grasp of history. (“He promised hope and change, but brought 1930s economic remedies that are producing similar results.”)

To recap, Obama’s not good at crises. He doesn’t excel in economics or history. Our foreign policy is in a shambles as foes run amok and allies realize they have an unreliable partner in the White House. Oh, and he’s driven his party’s electoral prospects into the ground. Most conservatives never imagined it would be this bad — and on so many fronts.

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RE: RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

Let me second Ted Bromund’s praise for Noah Pollak’s extraordinary essay on the liberal desertion of Israel — and offer a comment on Ted’s suggestion that the retreat dates from the 1967 war rather than the failure of the 1993 Oslo peace process.

In 1992, Ruth Wisse published a landmark book, entitled If I Am Not for Myself … The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, in which she argued that the attempt by Jews to prove themselves moral behind the banner of liberalism could not succeed but that liberalism itself would “assuredly be judged by whether it can protect the Jews.” A year later, the peace process began with the famous White House handshake between Israel’s prime minister and the head of a terrorist group.

It was a liberal dream come true – the “peace of the brave,” as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasir Arafat would repeatedly call it, requiring only sufficient courage by Israel to take the risks necessary to produce it. To those skeptical about turning over land to an organization devoted to Israel’s destruction, Amos Oz observed that one made peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends. It was considered a brilliant response.

Seven years later, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned it down in favor of a new terror war. Reflecting later on the Oslo accords, Professor Wisse observed that they had “made Israel the first sovereign nation in memory to arm its declared enemy with the expectation of gaining security.” Five years later, Israel would do it all over again, turning over Gaza to its enemies after removing every settler and soldier, in the expectation of gaining (in Ehud Olmert’s words) “more security … [and] a new pattern of relations.” The result was a new rocket war.

The fundamental liberal premise — that human beings are essentially all alike, wanting simply to (as the slogan of the peace process continually put it) “live side by side in peace and security” — had produced not peace but successive wars. As Israel became reluctant to take any further disaster-producing risks, or suffer rockets without a response, an increasing number of liberals believed themselves forced to choose between Israel and liberalism, and an increasing number chose the latter. Peter Beinart is only the latest to do so, trying to jump on an already-crowded train.

Liberals tend to stand by Israel as long as it adheres to the Torah of Liberalism, but they are less supportive when Israel takes seriously some of the promises in that other Torah, which is not a book about human beings perfectible by reason. The issues involved in Noah’s essay are part of a story that goes back much further than 1993 or 1967; it would take a book to explain it.

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Dark Days for Dems

William Galston, an intellectually honest Democrat, writes this:

Conventional wisdom: it is a fickle, fickle thing. The latest example of the incredible lightness of opinion in today’s media and political climate is the reaction to the results of the race in Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. Politicians and pundits, right—as well as left-leaning, are taking it as evidence that Republican hopes of retaking the House this November are too optimistic. That may turn out to be the case, but PA-12 is hardly enough evidence to warrant the conclusion.

After citing the different reasons why, Professor Galston concludes this way:

Connect the dots and we have the portrait of an electorate that’s highly dissatisfied with the status quo and that seems poised to give more votes in the aggregate to Republican than to Democratic candidates this fall. I don’t know how many House seats that translates into, but I’d be surprised if the number didn’t start with a “3” (at least). As far as I can see, only a big change in the economy—a significant increase in the rate of GDP growth leading to a noticeable reduction in top-line unemployment numbers and a bump up in real disposable income for those who have jobs—would be enough to change the overall outlook for November.

I tend to agree with Galston’s last observation — and we are now close to the point where the narrative for November is baked in the cake. Precisely how many Democratic losses that translates into is hard to know — but I’d wager a small bet that the number will start with a figure higher than three.

William Galston, an intellectually honest Democrat, writes this:

Conventional wisdom: it is a fickle, fickle thing. The latest example of the incredible lightness of opinion in today’s media and political climate is the reaction to the results of the race in Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. Politicians and pundits, right—as well as left-leaning, are taking it as evidence that Republican hopes of retaking the House this November are too optimistic. That may turn out to be the case, but PA-12 is hardly enough evidence to warrant the conclusion.

After citing the different reasons why, Professor Galston concludes this way:

Connect the dots and we have the portrait of an electorate that’s highly dissatisfied with the status quo and that seems poised to give more votes in the aggregate to Republican than to Democratic candidates this fall. I don’t know how many House seats that translates into, but I’d be surprised if the number didn’t start with a “3” (at least). As far as I can see, only a big change in the economy—a significant increase in the rate of GDP growth leading to a noticeable reduction in top-line unemployment numbers and a bump up in real disposable income for those who have jobs—would be enough to change the overall outlook for November.

I tend to agree with Galston’s last observation — and we are now close to the point where the narrative for November is baked in the cake. Precisely how many Democratic losses that translates into is hard to know — but I’d wager a small bet that the number will start with a figure higher than three.

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Psst: You Were Had!

Democrats made quite a show of being interested in faith and religious voters during the 2008 election. Now religious activists are shocked, shocked, to find out they apparently didn’t mean it:

“It’s a mystery to everyone what happened to Democratic faith outreach in the last year,” said Rebecca Sager, a Loyola Marymount University professor who writes and teaches about the religious progressive movement. “There is sort of this, ‘We worked so hard and made so much progress, and 2008 seemed like this great year, and then what happened?’”

Uh, Obama got elected and Democrats got control of the House. Not everyone was duped; some activists and certainly Republicans saw the Democrats’ outreach as “little more than window dressing.”

Moreover, Obama has been indifferent if not hostile to the promotion of religious freedom. Those taken in by Obama’s appeal to religious voters can join the fiscal conservatives and pro-Israel advocates who were similarly snowed.

Democrats made quite a show of being interested in faith and religious voters during the 2008 election. Now religious activists are shocked, shocked, to find out they apparently didn’t mean it:

“It’s a mystery to everyone what happened to Democratic faith outreach in the last year,” said Rebecca Sager, a Loyola Marymount University professor who writes and teaches about the religious progressive movement. “There is sort of this, ‘We worked so hard and made so much progress, and 2008 seemed like this great year, and then what happened?’”

Uh, Obama got elected and Democrats got control of the House. Not everyone was duped; some activists and certainly Republicans saw the Democrats’ outreach as “little more than window dressing.”

Moreover, Obama has been indifferent if not hostile to the promotion of religious freedom. Those taken in by Obama’s appeal to religious voters can join the fiscal conservatives and pro-Israel advocates who were similarly snowed.

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RE: Obama Won’t Say Who Killed Daniel Pearl

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: “Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: “Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

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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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Unheeded Advice from William Galston

William Galston, a top aide of President Clinton, writes that while that public is concerned about the economy and jobs, “the [Democratic] leadership is moving toward, or backing into, months dominated by some combination of immigration and climate change — and of course there will also be a Supreme Court confirmation battle to fight. It is hard to believe that the people will respond favorably.” Galston goes on to write:

My skepticism about the Democrats’ emerging strategy has nothing to do with the substance of these issues…  I disagree, rather, with the political calculation that seems to be driving this strategy. Here’s why: 90 percent of the electorate is not Hispanic, and 85 percent is not young. Relatively modest shifts in voter sentiment outside these two groups could easily swamp increased turnout within them and turn all-but-certain Democratic losses into a rout of historic proportions. While the temptation to adopt a strategy of targeted micro-politics is understandable, Democrats should instead espouse a strategy of macro-politics focused on broad-based public concerns. If that means that Senate Democrats will have to choose a new majority leader next January, so be it. At least they’ll still have a majority.

When responsible Democrats like Professor Galston are concerned about a “rout of historic proportions,” you know how ominous things are becoming for Democrats. President Obama and the Democratic leadership would have been wise to follow Galston’s advice from the outset of the presidency (he warned a against a massive expansion of the federal government in a period when trust in the federal government was low). I rather doubt they will listen to him now. And they will pay quite a high price, perhaps historically high, for their extraordinary missteps.

William Galston, a top aide of President Clinton, writes that while that public is concerned about the economy and jobs, “the [Democratic] leadership is moving toward, or backing into, months dominated by some combination of immigration and climate change — and of course there will also be a Supreme Court confirmation battle to fight. It is hard to believe that the people will respond favorably.” Galston goes on to write:

My skepticism about the Democrats’ emerging strategy has nothing to do with the substance of these issues…  I disagree, rather, with the political calculation that seems to be driving this strategy. Here’s why: 90 percent of the electorate is not Hispanic, and 85 percent is not young. Relatively modest shifts in voter sentiment outside these two groups could easily swamp increased turnout within them and turn all-but-certain Democratic losses into a rout of historic proportions. While the temptation to adopt a strategy of targeted micro-politics is understandable, Democrats should instead espouse a strategy of macro-politics focused on broad-based public concerns. If that means that Senate Democrats will have to choose a new majority leader next January, so be it. At least they’ll still have a majority.

When responsible Democrats like Professor Galston are concerned about a “rout of historic proportions,” you know how ominous things are becoming for Democrats. President Obama and the Democratic leadership would have been wise to follow Galston’s advice from the outset of the presidency (he warned a against a massive expansion of the federal government in a period when trust in the federal government was low). I rather doubt they will listen to him now. And they will pay quite a high price, perhaps historically high, for their extraordinary missteps.

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Colombia Going Green?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

The Wall Street Journal has a piece from the weekend pointing out the poll surge of the Colombian Green Party’s presidential candidate, Antanas Mockus. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a former university professor, was mayor of Bogota for two non-consecutive terms. He gained fame in that office for walking around Bogota in a caped superhero costume, discouraging traffic violations by stationing mimes on street corners to embarrass drivers, and showering for a TV commercial to encourage water conservation.

Until early April, pundits had addressed the Mockus candidacy with the stock phrase “has trouble gaining voter interest outside of Bogota.” His Green Party run against Alvaro Uribe in 2006 netted him less than 5 percent of the national vote. But his surge with voters this month now has a poll showing that he would narrowly defeat Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, in a runoff between the two.

As this article indicates, the demographics of Mockus’s support are strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. He galvanizes youth voters, independents, and the very wealthy. On the superficial trappings of the Green appeal, he is flawlessly Euro-Green: sunflower symbol, studied informality in attire and grooming, demure fist-pumping. The WSJ analysis that many Colombians are looking for something new is probably quite accurate; as Uribe’s tenure comes to an end, Colombians feel safer and less worried about internal security. Santos, in contrast to Mockus, is the scion of one of Colombia’s oldest and most entrenched political dynasties. For many voters, he reeks of a stuffy, irrelevant past.

How irrelevant that past truly is remains a question, however. The issue on which the Mockus candidacy still founders with many voters is his posture on “democratic security,” the Uribe-era policy expression for a tough stance on internal security and drug-fueled insurgencies like FARC. Mockus enthusiasts frame the dramatic improvement in internal security under Uribe in a somewhat disingenuous fashion, as if the situation simply changed on its own while Uribe was off menacing civil rights. But there is no question that Uribe’s policies and actions are what have wrought the transformation.

In addressing the particulars of democratic security policy, Mockus is alternately categorical and temporizing — in exactly the wrong places. His Green Party platform affirms without caveat, for example, that he would never pursue Colombian insurgents across the border as Uribe’s forces did in 2008. This would naturally be a green light for FARC to consolidate cross-border bases, something Hugo Chavez has been very accommodating about in neighboring Venezuela. On the question of holding a dialogue with FARC, however, Mockus deems it merely “unlikely” unless the guerrillas change their language and cease being “slaves to kidnapping.”

It’s not that Mockus appears to have any connection with Chavez or Castro, like such entrenched or aspiring presidents-for-life as Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Manuel Zelaya, lately ousted from Honduras. But policies like those embraced by Mockus quickly become prostrate and ineffective in the face of guerrilla aggression. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez has ramped up a war of words against Juan Manuel Santos over the past week, calling him a “threat to the region” and predicting war if he wins the election. There’s no doubt whose policies Chavez expects to dislike. When Colombians go to the polls on May 30, we can hope they will remember what it has taken to transform their domestic-security environment — and why they now have the sense of political leisure to take flyers on theatrical boutique candidates.

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The Left Is Grouchy

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo – are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo – are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

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Obama’s Moral-Inversion Problem

Jen, your posting about President Obama’s discussion with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is spot on. It tells us a great deal about Obama’s approach to international affairs generally and human rights specifically, and all of it is disquieting. It is also of a piece with Obama’s unprecedented criticisms of America since he took office.

Our president simply doesn’t hold this nation in very high esteem.

It made me wonder, though: what does it tell us about Obama that he would go so easy on a nation like Kazakhstan, whose human rights record is troubling (as Josh Rogin points out in his post over at Foreign Policy), having created an atmosphere of “quiet repression,” while being so eager to hammer a nation like Israel, which is not only a strong American ally but a moral beacon in so many ways? (Israel is not the only ally that has been berated or bullied or disrespected by Obama; the list grows seemingly every week.)

The type of approach Obama is embracing is actually worse than moral equivalency (for the record and for what it’s worth, the Obama administration insists there was no equivalence meant whatsoever between America and Kazakhstan); it is an inversion of morality. Perhaps it is Professor Obama’s effort at the transvaluation of values, of creating a world in which the role of the president is to criticize America and pound her best allies while turning a mostly blind eye to those who routinely violate human rights, from Kazakhstan to Venezuela to Iran. Whatever it is that explains Obama’s behavior, it is all rather dispiriting and a matter of real concern.

Barack Obama is a groundbreaking president, that is for sure.

Jen, your posting about President Obama’s discussion with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is spot on. It tells us a great deal about Obama’s approach to international affairs generally and human rights specifically, and all of it is disquieting. It is also of a piece with Obama’s unprecedented criticisms of America since he took office.

Our president simply doesn’t hold this nation in very high esteem.

It made me wonder, though: what does it tell us about Obama that he would go so easy on a nation like Kazakhstan, whose human rights record is troubling (as Josh Rogin points out in his post over at Foreign Policy), having created an atmosphere of “quiet repression,” while being so eager to hammer a nation like Israel, which is not only a strong American ally but a moral beacon in so many ways? (Israel is not the only ally that has been berated or bullied or disrespected by Obama; the list grows seemingly every week.)

The type of approach Obama is embracing is actually worse than moral equivalency (for the record and for what it’s worth, the Obama administration insists there was no equivalence meant whatsoever between America and Kazakhstan); it is an inversion of morality. Perhaps it is Professor Obama’s effort at the transvaluation of values, of creating a world in which the role of the president is to criticize America and pound her best allies while turning a mostly blind eye to those who routinely violate human rights, from Kazakhstan to Venezuela to Iran. Whatever it is that explains Obama’s behavior, it is all rather dispiriting and a matter of real concern.

Barack Obama is a groundbreaking president, that is for sure.

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How Bad Can It Get?

The Obama administration has embarked on an assault on our ally Israel that can no longer be chalked up to a minor gaffe or a misunderstanding. The Obami have been unrelenting and consistently hostile toward the Jewish state. The Obama administration started off by ignoring the Bush administration’s agreements on settlements and making a settlement freeze the cornerstone of its Israel policy. That managed to alienate both sides. Last month, the temper tantrum over a routine housing permit was followed by Hillary Clinton’s 43-minute lecture to the prime minister. This was followed by the abusive and inexcusable treatment of Israel’s prime minister at the White House. That, in turn, was followed by leaks of the potential for an imposed settlement plan. No administration has ever treated Israel in this fashion. None.

Now we get this report, as yet unconfirmed from the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, that the Obama administration is denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists at the Dimona nuclear-research facility. In addition, the paper reports that the U.S. is imposing a defacto embargo blocking the purchase of component parts. This all marks a dramatic change from past U.S. policy:

The Americans are toughening their behavior toward the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. Workers at the center say that while the Americans are behaving in a conciliatory and non-aggressive way regarding the Iranian nuclear program, President Obama’s people have chosen to behave in a humiliating manner toward a country that is friendly toward them.

Officials of the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona said yesterday that Obama’s government has imposed restrictions and toughened its behavior toward them, as has never happened before in relations between the two countries. For decades, employees of the Nuclear Research Center have traveled to universities in the United States for advanced professional training in physics, chemistry and nuclear engineering. In order to study at those universities, the researchers from the Nuclear Research Center had to request entry visas for the United States, as any Israeli citizen must. Yet recently, several of them encountered humiliating treatment and been refused visas, while their only crime has been that they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center. According to security officials, the people in question are researchers with clean records who have never been in any trouble with the law either in Israel or in the United States, so the new manner in which they are being treated constitutes a severe offense against them and their families.

But the treatment of the employees themselves is not the only thing that has changed. According to officials who are familiar with the details, attempts to purchase certain components from the Americans have also encountered difficulties, with some of the items under a de facto embargo. To put it mildly, officials at the nuclear center are not pleased with the tougher treatment, which did not take place during President Bush’s term. The Americans have asked for a detailed report on the purpose of some of the items that they wish to buy from the United States…

Professor Zeev Alfasi, the director of the nuclear engineering department at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, who is familiar with the circumstances, describes the toughening of the Americans’ relations with the Nuclear Research Center. “Some of the people did not receive visas to the United States because they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center,” he explained. “The United States is not selling anything nuclear to the Nuclear Research Center, and that includes everything. For example, radiation detectors for nuclear research are purchased in France because the Americans do not sell to people of the Nuclear Research Center.

Not too long ago, a report like this would have been greeted with great skepticism. Now? It seems pretty much par for the course. It would be nice to think the U.S. is Israel’s “only reliable friend.” But for now, it’s not. The U.S. is, by each and every action, communicating to Israel that it should fend for itself. And it will have to for now.

The Obama administration has embarked on an assault on our ally Israel that can no longer be chalked up to a minor gaffe or a misunderstanding. The Obami have been unrelenting and consistently hostile toward the Jewish state. The Obama administration started off by ignoring the Bush administration’s agreements on settlements and making a settlement freeze the cornerstone of its Israel policy. That managed to alienate both sides. Last month, the temper tantrum over a routine housing permit was followed by Hillary Clinton’s 43-minute lecture to the prime minister. This was followed by the abusive and inexcusable treatment of Israel’s prime minister at the White House. That, in turn, was followed by leaks of the potential for an imposed settlement plan. No administration has ever treated Israel in this fashion. None.

Now we get this report, as yet unconfirmed from the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, that the Obama administration is denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists at the Dimona nuclear-research facility. In addition, the paper reports that the U.S. is imposing a defacto embargo blocking the purchase of component parts. This all marks a dramatic change from past U.S. policy:

The Americans are toughening their behavior toward the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. Workers at the center say that while the Americans are behaving in a conciliatory and non-aggressive way regarding the Iranian nuclear program, President Obama’s people have chosen to behave in a humiliating manner toward a country that is friendly toward them.

Officials of the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona said yesterday that Obama’s government has imposed restrictions and toughened its behavior toward them, as has never happened before in relations between the two countries. For decades, employees of the Nuclear Research Center have traveled to universities in the United States for advanced professional training in physics, chemistry and nuclear engineering. In order to study at those universities, the researchers from the Nuclear Research Center had to request entry visas for the United States, as any Israeli citizen must. Yet recently, several of them encountered humiliating treatment and been refused visas, while their only crime has been that they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center. According to security officials, the people in question are researchers with clean records who have never been in any trouble with the law either in Israel or in the United States, so the new manner in which they are being treated constitutes a severe offense against them and their families.

But the treatment of the employees themselves is not the only thing that has changed. According to officials who are familiar with the details, attempts to purchase certain components from the Americans have also encountered difficulties, with some of the items under a de facto embargo. To put it mildly, officials at the nuclear center are not pleased with the tougher treatment, which did not take place during President Bush’s term. The Americans have asked for a detailed report on the purpose of some of the items that they wish to buy from the United States…

Professor Zeev Alfasi, the director of the nuclear engineering department at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, who is familiar with the circumstances, describes the toughening of the Americans’ relations with the Nuclear Research Center. “Some of the people did not receive visas to the United States because they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center,” he explained. “The United States is not selling anything nuclear to the Nuclear Research Center, and that includes everything. For example, radiation detectors for nuclear research are purchased in France because the Americans do not sell to people of the Nuclear Research Center.

Not too long ago, a report like this would have been greeted with great skepticism. Now? It seems pretty much par for the course. It would be nice to think the U.S. is Israel’s “only reliable friend.” But for now, it’s not. The U.S. is, by each and every action, communicating to Israel that it should fend for itself. And it will have to for now.

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Waiting for “Isratine”

In Monday’s Washington Post, Jackson Diehl reminds us of what the true stumbling block is on the road to peace. Referring to Condoleezza Rice’s peace efforts during George W. Bush’s second term, he has this to say:

Eventually, Olmert presented Abbas with a detailed plan for a final settlement — one that, in its concessions to Palestinian demands, went beyond anything either Israel or the United States had ever put forward. Among other things it mandated a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem and would have allowed 10,000 refugees to return to Israel. That’s when Rice learned another lesson the new administration seems not to have picked up: This Palestinian leadership has trouble saying “yes.” Confronted with a draft deal that would have been cheered by most of the world, Abbas balked. He refused to sign on; he refused to present a counteroffer. Rice and Bush implored him to join Olmert at the White House for a summit. Olmert would present his plan to Bush, and Abbas would say only that he found it worth discussing. The Palestinian president refused.

Three times in the past 10 years, the Palestinians were presented with comprehensive peace proposals that would establish a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza, would put its internationally recognized capital in Arab Jerusalem, would offer a solidly funded, reasonable and dignified solution to the refugee issue, and would put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once and for all. First, it was Ehud Barak’s Camp David proposal. Then it was the Clinton Parameters. Then it was Olmert’s peace plan. Each time, confronted with an Israeli prime minister who was ready, pen in hand, to put his name on the dotted line and face the fury and discontent of part of his political constituency to take a risky peace gamble, Palestine’s acclaimed peace seekers — Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — walked away.

This history alone should encourage U.S. and European leaders to recognize that the burden of proof, when it comes to peace credentials and readiness for compromise, is on the Palestinian side, not the Israeli one. But history lessons and Aristotelian logic do not always intersect.

For one thing, the Palestinians have learned that every time they say no, sooner or later pressure will be brought to bear on Israel, and a new offer — better than the previous one — will be coming their way. Meanwhile, their tireless efforts to undermine, isolate, delegitimize, and demonize Israel in the international arena strengthen their bargaining position over time and enable them to expect more for less.

This, incidentally, offers at least a partial answer to David Hazony’s post from the other day, when my colleague was understandably puzzled about a growing support for a one-state solution among Palestinians. Why would a national movement give up its dream and settle for such a solution? After all, the Palestinians never seriously entertained this notion when a handful of Jewish intellectuals were toying with the idea in the 1930s and early 1940s. Brith Shalom and Ihud, the two small organizations that counted Yehuda Magnes and Martin Buber in their ranks, after all, not only could not get traction within the Yishuv — they never even got a single Arab leader interested in discussing their vision of a bi-national state for the Palestine Mandate, where Jews would forever be relegated to the role of a minority.

Clearly, the difference is that, back then, the Zionist movement was weak, its staying power in Palestine was questionable, its backing from Britain was waning, and its reservoir of support in Europe’s Jewish Diaspora under mortal threat of annihilation. Why would the Palestinians concede little when they believed — as they certainly did then — that they could have it all?

History offers some reckoning and what looked like a flight of fancy in the mid-1930s is more attractive today. A bi-national state is actually more promising than a nation-state, at least for Palestinian intellectuals, not so much because it would force them to renounce their aspirations but because it would keep their nationalist dream alive — a dream whereby, as Professor Fouad Ajami once so artfully put it, “there still lurks in the Palestinian and Arab imagination a view, depicted by the Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui, that “on a certain day, everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled.” Arafat knew the power of this redemptive idea. He must have reasoned that it is safer to ride that idea, and that there will always be another day and another offer.”

Little by little, the sands are shifting in the Middle East — or rather, in the perception of the Middle East as seen from Western capitals. Why sign on the dotted line when more pressure will be brought to bear on Israel? Why agree to end the conflict when Israel’s legitimacy is eroded day by day, with its traditional allies ready to do less and less to support the Jewish state? Why not embrace the rhetoric of a bi-national state — in the silly spirit of our irresponsible age — where you can plan the destruction of your adversary and make it look like a human-rights crusade?

A bi-national state is just a stage to redress the balance of power between the two conflicting national claims. It would not be the end of the story though but the beginning of another chapter where the Zionist movement would be stripped of its national symbols, its power to control immigration, and its ability to define national security exclusively in the name of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, the keys to the Middle East’s most prosperous economy and most powerful army would have to be handed over to the Palestinians for power-sharing. It would be a stage on the way to fulfilling the dream of obliterating the consequences of the last century of Middle East history.

Fanciful? Maybe, but if you take the long view of history, and the mismatch between the reality of a small shoe-box-size Palestinian state and the dream of a whole “Isratine” is unbearable, it makes perfect sense.

In Monday’s Washington Post, Jackson Diehl reminds us of what the true stumbling block is on the road to peace. Referring to Condoleezza Rice’s peace efforts during George W. Bush’s second term, he has this to say:

Eventually, Olmert presented Abbas with a detailed plan for a final settlement — one that, in its concessions to Palestinian demands, went beyond anything either Israel or the United States had ever put forward. Among other things it mandated a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem and would have allowed 10,000 refugees to return to Israel. That’s when Rice learned another lesson the new administration seems not to have picked up: This Palestinian leadership has trouble saying “yes.” Confronted with a draft deal that would have been cheered by most of the world, Abbas balked. He refused to sign on; he refused to present a counteroffer. Rice and Bush implored him to join Olmert at the White House for a summit. Olmert would present his plan to Bush, and Abbas would say only that he found it worth discussing. The Palestinian president refused.

Three times in the past 10 years, the Palestinians were presented with comprehensive peace proposals that would establish a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza, would put its internationally recognized capital in Arab Jerusalem, would offer a solidly funded, reasonable and dignified solution to the refugee issue, and would put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once and for all. First, it was Ehud Barak’s Camp David proposal. Then it was the Clinton Parameters. Then it was Olmert’s peace plan. Each time, confronted with an Israeli prime minister who was ready, pen in hand, to put his name on the dotted line and face the fury and discontent of part of his political constituency to take a risky peace gamble, Palestine’s acclaimed peace seekers — Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — walked away.

This history alone should encourage U.S. and European leaders to recognize that the burden of proof, when it comes to peace credentials and readiness for compromise, is on the Palestinian side, not the Israeli one. But history lessons and Aristotelian logic do not always intersect.

For one thing, the Palestinians have learned that every time they say no, sooner or later pressure will be brought to bear on Israel, and a new offer — better than the previous one — will be coming their way. Meanwhile, their tireless efforts to undermine, isolate, delegitimize, and demonize Israel in the international arena strengthen their bargaining position over time and enable them to expect more for less.

This, incidentally, offers at least a partial answer to David Hazony’s post from the other day, when my colleague was understandably puzzled about a growing support for a one-state solution among Palestinians. Why would a national movement give up its dream and settle for such a solution? After all, the Palestinians never seriously entertained this notion when a handful of Jewish intellectuals were toying with the idea in the 1930s and early 1940s. Brith Shalom and Ihud, the two small organizations that counted Yehuda Magnes and Martin Buber in their ranks, after all, not only could not get traction within the Yishuv — they never even got a single Arab leader interested in discussing their vision of a bi-national state for the Palestine Mandate, where Jews would forever be relegated to the role of a minority.

Clearly, the difference is that, back then, the Zionist movement was weak, its staying power in Palestine was questionable, its backing from Britain was waning, and its reservoir of support in Europe’s Jewish Diaspora under mortal threat of annihilation. Why would the Palestinians concede little when they believed — as they certainly did then — that they could have it all?

History offers some reckoning and what looked like a flight of fancy in the mid-1930s is more attractive today. A bi-national state is actually more promising than a nation-state, at least for Palestinian intellectuals, not so much because it would force them to renounce their aspirations but because it would keep their nationalist dream alive — a dream whereby, as Professor Fouad Ajami once so artfully put it, “there still lurks in the Palestinian and Arab imagination a view, depicted by the Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui, that “on a certain day, everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled.” Arafat knew the power of this redemptive idea. He must have reasoned that it is safer to ride that idea, and that there will always be another day and another offer.”

Little by little, the sands are shifting in the Middle East — or rather, in the perception of the Middle East as seen from Western capitals. Why sign on the dotted line when more pressure will be brought to bear on Israel? Why agree to end the conflict when Israel’s legitimacy is eroded day by day, with its traditional allies ready to do less and less to support the Jewish state? Why not embrace the rhetoric of a bi-national state — in the silly spirit of our irresponsible age — where you can plan the destruction of your adversary and make it look like a human-rights crusade?

A bi-national state is just a stage to redress the balance of power between the two conflicting national claims. It would not be the end of the story though but the beginning of another chapter where the Zionist movement would be stripped of its national symbols, its power to control immigration, and its ability to define national security exclusively in the name of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, the keys to the Middle East’s most prosperous economy and most powerful army would have to be handed over to the Palestinians for power-sharing. It would be a stage on the way to fulfilling the dream of obliterating the consequences of the last century of Middle East history.

Fanciful? Maybe, but if you take the long view of history, and the mismatch between the reality of a small shoe-box-size Palestinian state and the dream of a whole “Isratine” is unbearable, it makes perfect sense.

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Feisty Dershowitz Attacks the Wrong Target

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

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Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

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Lost Shakespeare Found, Mistaken for Real Final Episode of “Seinfeld”

In our March issue, John Gross examines the phenomenon of “Denying Shakespeare,” a condition in which the afflicted insist that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare but that, in fact, only Shakespeare was.

Everybody got that?

Now we find that Shakespeare (no not himhim!) may have written a play heretofore lost to civilization but recently found. It’s called Double Falsehood, or the Distressed Lovers and sounds awful. (But then again, I once said, “Who wants to watch some stupid musical based on ABBA songs?”)

The play was first staged in London in 1727 — more than 100 years after Shakespeare’s death — by the scholar Lewis Theobald. Theobald claimed that he wrote the play, basing it on a long-lost work by Shakespeare. Few of his contemporaries believed him.

The theater establishment “rubbished it, discredited it, poured scorn on it,” according to Brean Hammond, an English professor at University of Nottingham. “People tended to regard it as a hoax or a forgery.”

But Professor Hammond has spent ten years researching “Double Falsehood” and found evidence linking it to “Cardenio,” a lost play that scholars know the Bard wrote in collaboration with a colleague, John Fletcher, though no one has ever seen a copy of it.

A play that no one had ever seen staged a hundred years after the putative playwright’s death and supposedly based on another play also lost to the world.

An airtight case if ever there was one.

In any event, I’m sure we’re all eager to watch a production at the Public here in New York or on PBS or in 3D with everyone all blued-up. You know, for the kids…

In our March issue, John Gross examines the phenomenon of “Denying Shakespeare,” a condition in which the afflicted insist that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare but that, in fact, only Shakespeare was.

Everybody got that?

Now we find that Shakespeare (no not himhim!) may have written a play heretofore lost to civilization but recently found. It’s called Double Falsehood, or the Distressed Lovers and sounds awful. (But then again, I once said, “Who wants to watch some stupid musical based on ABBA songs?”)

The play was first staged in London in 1727 — more than 100 years after Shakespeare’s death — by the scholar Lewis Theobald. Theobald claimed that he wrote the play, basing it on a long-lost work by Shakespeare. Few of his contemporaries believed him.

The theater establishment “rubbished it, discredited it, poured scorn on it,” according to Brean Hammond, an English professor at University of Nottingham. “People tended to regard it as a hoax or a forgery.”

But Professor Hammond has spent ten years researching “Double Falsehood” and found evidence linking it to “Cardenio,” a lost play that scholars know the Bard wrote in collaboration with a colleague, John Fletcher, though no one has ever seen a copy of it.

A play that no one had ever seen staged a hundred years after the putative playwright’s death and supposedly based on another play also lost to the world.

An airtight case if ever there was one.

In any event, I’m sure we’re all eager to watch a production at the Public here in New York or on PBS or in 3D with everyone all blued-up. You know, for the kids…

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

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Too Deep a Hole for Tom Campbell?

The California media have certainly latched on to the controversy over Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian connection. The question they’re now raising is whether the self-inflicted wound is fatal. First, it was the Los Angeles Times. Now the San Jose Mercury News focuses on Campbell’s letter written on behalf of the terrorist, as well as Campbell’s inability to get his story straight:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell is facing a potentially crippling controversy over his past defense of a fired Florida professor with ties to terrorists and his inconsistent statements regarding what he knew and when about the man’s actions.

Dogged for weeks by criticism over his defense of Sami Al-Arian, who later pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists, Campbell has denied knowing about the man’s incendiary past, which included nods to Islamic jihad and calls for “death to Israel.” He also said that his dealings with Al-Arian occurred before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

But Campbell, who was then a Stanford law professor, wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf months after the Sept. 11 attacks that casts doubt on his claims of ignorance about Al-Arian’s radicalism.

“His inconsistent statements are particularly damaging because it creates a credibility problem,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

It’s hard to square his recent campaign defense, offered up in last Friday’s debate, and the written evidence:

Campbell has deflected campaign attacks by saying he did not know about the O’Reilly interview at the time and that he wrote the letter before the Sept. 11 attacks. But it turns out neither is true.

Campbell stated in his letter that he “read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn” but said in a separate passage that he never heard Al-Arian “say anything anti-Semitic, or racist, or religionist, against any group.”

As he did with the Los Angeles Times, Campbell tries some damage control:

Asked to clarify the discrepancy, Campbell said in an interview Tuesday that he could not recall whether all or part of the O’Reilly interview had been read to him or whether he had seen a copy before penning the letter. Whatever the case, though, he insisted that he did not see or hear the “death to Israel” passage.

“I did not hear, I did not read, I was not aware of statements Sami Al-Arian had made relative to Israel,” Campbell said in the interview. “And I would not have written the letter had I known about those. … To say ‘Death to Israel’ is abhorrent, it’s horrible.” He repeated that he erred in not researching Al-Arian more thoroughly before coming to his defense. … “I hope that the fact I did not remember precisely because of the passage of years is understood.”

Well, suffice it to say, it’s not understood. Was he lying about the letter or inexcusably careless? Either way, he now has a burgeoning controversy that is not likely to abate. His opponents are certainly going in for the kill. Chuck DeVore’s communications director, Joshua Trevino, says to me of the latest: “Tom Campbell’s credibility is eroded when his statements about his past with Islamic radicals are proven false. But what really erodes his credibility is the plain existence of a past with Islamic radicals. Campbell’s inconsistencies are a handy news hook — but the underlying problem is his lack of judgment in ever having affiliated with anti-American, pro-terror Islamists.”

There are moments in a campaign when a tipping point is reached — can the candidate extract himself from the crisis or has he, by his own words, dug himself a hole too deep? Right now, it seems, Campbell’s explanations aren’t helping his cause, and the media smell blood in the water. We’ll see how voters react.

The California media have certainly latched on to the controversy over Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian connection. The question they’re now raising is whether the self-inflicted wound is fatal. First, it was the Los Angeles Times. Now the San Jose Mercury News focuses on Campbell’s letter written on behalf of the terrorist, as well as Campbell’s inability to get his story straight:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell is facing a potentially crippling controversy over his past defense of a fired Florida professor with ties to terrorists and his inconsistent statements regarding what he knew and when about the man’s actions.

Dogged for weeks by criticism over his defense of Sami Al-Arian, who later pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists, Campbell has denied knowing about the man’s incendiary past, which included nods to Islamic jihad and calls for “death to Israel.” He also said that his dealings with Al-Arian occurred before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

But Campbell, who was then a Stanford law professor, wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf months after the Sept. 11 attacks that casts doubt on his claims of ignorance about Al-Arian’s radicalism.

“His inconsistent statements are particularly damaging because it creates a credibility problem,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

It’s hard to square his recent campaign defense, offered up in last Friday’s debate, and the written evidence:

Campbell has deflected campaign attacks by saying he did not know about the O’Reilly interview at the time and that he wrote the letter before the Sept. 11 attacks. But it turns out neither is true.

Campbell stated in his letter that he “read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn” but said in a separate passage that he never heard Al-Arian “say anything anti-Semitic, or racist, or religionist, against any group.”

As he did with the Los Angeles Times, Campbell tries some damage control:

Asked to clarify the discrepancy, Campbell said in an interview Tuesday that he could not recall whether all or part of the O’Reilly interview had been read to him or whether he had seen a copy before penning the letter. Whatever the case, though, he insisted that he did not see or hear the “death to Israel” passage.

“I did not hear, I did not read, I was not aware of statements Sami Al-Arian had made relative to Israel,” Campbell said in the interview. “And I would not have written the letter had I known about those. … To say ‘Death to Israel’ is abhorrent, it’s horrible.” He repeated that he erred in not researching Al-Arian more thoroughly before coming to his defense. … “I hope that the fact I did not remember precisely because of the passage of years is understood.”

Well, suffice it to say, it’s not understood. Was he lying about the letter or inexcusably careless? Either way, he now has a burgeoning controversy that is not likely to abate. His opponents are certainly going in for the kill. Chuck DeVore’s communications director, Joshua Trevino, says to me of the latest: “Tom Campbell’s credibility is eroded when his statements about his past with Islamic radicals are proven false. But what really erodes his credibility is the plain existence of a past with Islamic radicals. Campbell’s inconsistencies are a handy news hook — but the underlying problem is his lack of judgment in ever having affiliated with anti-American, pro-terror Islamists.”

There are moments in a campaign when a tipping point is reached — can the candidate extract himself from the crisis or has he, by his own words, dug himself a hole too deep? Right now, it seems, Campbell’s explanations aren’t helping his cause, and the media smell blood in the water. We’ll see how voters react.

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The Los Angeles Times on the Case

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. I read a transcript of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. I read a transcript of the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

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