Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rahm Emanuel

Detroit, Chicago, and Public Debt

When the city of Detroit finally imploded last month, liberal pundits and politicians told us that it was an anomaly. Rather than address an approach to governance in which overspending driven by liberal ideology and powerful municipal unions created an unsustainable equation, they urged us to put aside the notion that what happened there would be repeated elsewhere. They said the specific conditions that led to the Motor City’s bankruptcy were more a function of the decline of the auto industry and the peculiar dysfunction of local politics.

But while Detroit’s problems were undoubtedly exacerbated by those circumstances, the same math that sunk that city is at work throughout the country as similar municipal financial obligations are piling up in spite of the dwindling resources available to meet them. As today’s front-page story in the New York Times makes clear, even prosperous cities that have little in common with the devastated urban wasteland that Detroit has become may soon face the same dilemma. If a booming metropolis like Chicago is sinking under the weight of underfunded public worker pensions, how could we possibly expect Detroit or hundreds of other municipalities to survive?

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year.

It is true that Chicago’s fiscal woes are at present nowhere near the catastrophic level of those of Detroit. But what the Times (whose editorial page has been a consistent advocate of the “what me, worry?” liberal school of fiscal irresponsibility) rightly terms the “overwhelming pension liabilities” of cities like prosperous towns like Chicago, San Jose, and even a reviving Philadelphia are putting their futures at risk. The question is, are local politicians prepared to bite the bullet and face down their erstwhile union allies and deal with the source of the problem?

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When the city of Detroit finally imploded last month, liberal pundits and politicians told us that it was an anomaly. Rather than address an approach to governance in which overspending driven by liberal ideology and powerful municipal unions created an unsustainable equation, they urged us to put aside the notion that what happened there would be repeated elsewhere. They said the specific conditions that led to the Motor City’s bankruptcy were more a function of the decline of the auto industry and the peculiar dysfunction of local politics.

But while Detroit’s problems were undoubtedly exacerbated by those circumstances, the same math that sunk that city is at work throughout the country as similar municipal financial obligations are piling up in spite of the dwindling resources available to meet them. As today’s front-page story in the New York Times makes clear, even prosperous cities that have little in common with the devastated urban wasteland that Detroit has become may soon face the same dilemma. If a booming metropolis like Chicago is sinking under the weight of underfunded public worker pensions, how could we possibly expect Detroit or hundreds of other municipalities to survive?

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year.

It is true that Chicago’s fiscal woes are at present nowhere near the catastrophic level of those of Detroit. But what the Times (whose editorial page has been a consistent advocate of the “what me, worry?” liberal school of fiscal irresponsibility) rightly terms the “overwhelming pension liabilities” of cities like prosperous towns like Chicago, San Jose, and even a reviving Philadelphia are putting their futures at risk. The question is, are local politicians prepared to bite the bullet and face down their erstwhile union allies and deal with the source of the problem?

Some three years ago, Jeff Jacoby presciently wrote in COMMENTARY about the looming meltdown that threatened the nation. In his “What Public-Sector Unions Have Wrought,” Jacoby rightly pinned the problem on the unprecedented growth of government workers throughout the 20th century and their ability to force states, cities, and other local authorities to grant them generous benefits and pensions via collective bargaining negotiations in which the unions held all the cards. Their ability to blackmail governments via strikes that effectively shut down vital services combined with the political and financial clout they exercised to, in effect, elect their own bosses, the unions were able to rig the game “in favor of a privileged government elite and against the private taxpayers who pay its bills.” The result was the creation of a “multi-trillion dollar avalanche” of debt that no city, no matter how well off it might be, could possibly afford.

The only answer to this problem is to reform the collective bargaining process and to institute a series of changes that will end the guarantee of a lavish pension to current and future public workers. As Jacoby wrote:

Without depriving employees of any benefits they have earned to date, governments have to be able to amend the terms on which future benefits are earned. Tens of millions of Americans working in the private sector—including many belonging to labor unions—know from first-hand experience that the terms and conditions of future employment can be changed. That is how real life works, and a government job should not confer immunity from real life.

That still makes sense, but instead of confronting the reality of the meltdown, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did with his controversial reforms that led to a union mob storming the state capitol in Madison and an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to force him from office, most states and cities are just looking for more ways to raise money from already overburdened average taxpayers who aren’t likely to be able to enjoy the same kind of benefits from their own jobs. To his credit, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has confronted this issue and enraged unions that think they should get their benefits even if no one can pay for them.

But what must be understood is that this drama isn’t limited to Detroit or Chicago. Liberals have spent the last century believing that paying for government spending is an insignificant detail. That has created a debt crisis that will soon have to be faced virtually everywhere in the country. It’s high time for liberals to face up to this fact and admit that the era of unfunded big government spending and public-sector union power must end now.

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Policing Succeeds Where Gun Control Fails

When it comes to preventing gun violence, there are two avenues to pursue: target legal gun owners or the criminals those gun owners are trying to protect their families from. In January, NPR ran a program segment that perfectly captured this dichotomy, titled “Chicago’s Gun Ban Fails To Prevent Murders,” about the Windy City’s skyrocketing violence. In its description of the segment, NPR included this: “We discussed police focus on ‘hot spots,’ and the dissolution of gangs. But listeners asked: What about gun bans?”

The title of the program gives it away, but restrictions on gun ownership–of which Chicago had some of the toughest–failed utterly to stop the bleeding. But what about the other side of that coin? What if, in other words, rather than targeting legal gun owners interested in protecting themselves, the city attempted to fulfill its responsibility to protect them? What if, instead of succumbing to the inevitability of murder in certain city neighborhoods and thus following the inexcusable liberal tendency to concretize urban inequality, the city aimed to restore the dignity of American life to every street corner of Chicago?

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When it comes to preventing gun violence, there are two avenues to pursue: target legal gun owners or the criminals those gun owners are trying to protect their families from. In January, NPR ran a program segment that perfectly captured this dichotomy, titled “Chicago’s Gun Ban Fails To Prevent Murders,” about the Windy City’s skyrocketing violence. In its description of the segment, NPR included this: “We discussed police focus on ‘hot spots,’ and the dissolution of gangs. But listeners asked: What about gun bans?”

The title of the program gives it away, but restrictions on gun ownership–of which Chicago had some of the toughest–failed utterly to stop the bleeding. But what about the other side of that coin? What if, in other words, rather than targeting legal gun owners interested in protecting themselves, the city attempted to fulfill its responsibility to protect them? What if, instead of succumbing to the inevitability of murder in certain city neighborhoods and thus following the inexcusable liberal tendency to concretize urban inequality, the city aimed to restore the dignity of American life to every street corner of Chicago?

“I said the most fundamental of civil rights is the guarantee that government can give you a reasonable degree of safety,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani once said in a speech looking back on the police reform he instituted that saved a city. “The fact is that all the civil rights that we posses–the right to travel, interstate commerce, the right to a public education–all of those rights are essentially meaningless if you are afraid to exercise those rights.”

That gives you an idea of what it has been like in some parts of Chicago, where parents are afraid to let their children go outside to play or are concerned there is literally no safe route for their children to take to get to school. Wealthier neighborhoods don’t have the same worries, so Chicago is effectively two cities: one to which the city is able to provide the dignity of life in the free world, and one in which that city provision is an absent luxury. It should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t: legal handguns are not the cause of this.

What Giuliani did was to revamp the city’s police force through the use of the data-driven CompStat system and by reorienting itself toward preventing, instead of simply solving, violent crimes. Giuliani gave poorer neighborhoods back their dignity, and now, reports the New York Times, that attitude is being imported with success to Chicago by a desperate Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

So far in 2013, Chicago homicides, which outnumbered slayings in the larger cities of New York and Los Angeles last year, are down 34 percent from the same period in 2012. As of Sunday night, 146 people had been killed in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city — 76 fewer than in the same stretch in 2012 and 16 fewer than in 2011, a year that was among the lowest for homicides during the same period in 50 years.

In recent months, as many as 400 officers a day, working overtime, have been dispatched to just 20 small zones deemed the city’s most dangerous. The police say they are tamping down retaliatory shootings between gang factions by using a comprehensive analysis of the city’s tens of thousands of suspected gang members, the turf they claim and their rivalries. The police also are focusing on more than 400 people they have identified as having associations that make them the most likely to be involved in a murder, as a victim or an offender.

And where did this policing transformation come from? As Time magazine noted in its cover story on Emanuel’s mayoralty:

On taking office, Emanuel moved quickly to hire a new superintendent of police. He picked Newark, N.J., police commissioner Garry McCarthy, a Bronx-born veteran of the New York City police and a disciple of the law-enforcement guru William Bratton. As the officer in charge of New York’s CompStat system of data-driven policing for seven years, McCarthy was revolutionary to the core, but with the streetwise demeanor of a beat cop.

Emanuel imported the training, strategy, and even attitude that worked to such effect in New York. Emanuel doesn’t like to highlight the fact that what works contradicts his typically obnoxious grandstanding on gun bans and his support for the very gun restrictions that failed so miserably in his own city. But it’s a start.

It’s also important to note that the jury is still out on whether Chicago can maintain these positive trends. The increased police patrols are expensive–the Times says the city is already closing in on its annual budget outlays for police overtime. Some worry that the bad weather has kept people off the streets and that upon their return crime will join them. Others object that last year’s crime numbers were too high to use as a fair baseline for comparison.

Additionally, the city still needs expanded emergency medical care facilities in areas close enough to violent neighborhoods to save lives. But the numbers don’t lie: there is a notable improvement that can’t be explained away by the weather. (It rained last year too.) And the fact that the program is still in its early stages is reason to be optimistic about further improvement. And there’s another metric: Emanuel was approached by a mother who said she was beginning to feel comfortable letting her child walk to school. Emanuel told the Times: “That to me is the biggest, most important, most significant measure — that a mother feels comfortable and confident enough where she didn’t in past years to have her child walk to school.”

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Mitt Romney Sides With Rahm Emanuel

A week after Rahm Emanuel decided to extend his services to his former boss, President Barack Obama, in order to do some fundraising, this was probably the last headline he expected to read. At midnight Monday the Chicago Teachers Union announced that it would begin an indefinite strike, which would only end when their contract dispute with the city of Chicago is settled.

Despite an offer for a 16-percent pay raise in addition to an average annual salary of $71,000 the teachers already receive, the union refuses to budge, embarking on the city’s first teachers’ strike in twenty-five years. The pay raises offered would be mandatory and could not be rescinded for a lack of funds. The raises, insisted upon by a teachers’ union which claims to represent people who have the best interests of children at heart, could bankrupt the already failing school system. Bankrupting the schools where Chicago’s children already receive a below-average education is apparently not enough for the unions paid to represent the city’s teachers. The teachers’ union demands more concessions before agreeing to sign.

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A week after Rahm Emanuel decided to extend his services to his former boss, President Barack Obama, in order to do some fundraising, this was probably the last headline he expected to read. At midnight Monday the Chicago Teachers Union announced that it would begin an indefinite strike, which would only end when their contract dispute with the city of Chicago is settled.

Despite an offer for a 16-percent pay raise in addition to an average annual salary of $71,000 the teachers already receive, the union refuses to budge, embarking on the city’s first teachers’ strike in twenty-five years. The pay raises offered would be mandatory and could not be rescinded for a lack of funds. The raises, insisted upon by a teachers’ union which claims to represent people who have the best interests of children at heart, could bankrupt the already failing school system. Bankrupting the schools where Chicago’s children already receive a below-average education is apparently not enough for the unions paid to represent the city’s teachers. The teachers’ union demands more concessions before agreeing to sign.

Despite being placated on the wage demands, the union demands a degree of job security that is unparalleled in the rest of the economy, especially in its current state. If a teacher’s school closes, their union wants a guaranteed future job elsewhere else in the system. The union seems to be unaware that schools aren’t closed on a whim. They are closed because students are performing so poorly that the district decides that they would be better served elsewhere. Why would the district then move those teachers to another school, where the same students would then be instructed by the same teachers, but in another building? Do teachers really think that their students’ failures are due to the room they’re in or the blackboard they’re using?

Another aspect of job security, the scope of teacher evaluations and the possibility of dismissals based on job performance, is also a sticking point for the Chicago Teachers Union. Apparently being measured on one’s ability to teach is too much to ask of grown adults given the task of teaching the next generation not only math and science, but also responsibility and maturity.

Some of the union’s demands are actually reasonable. The Sun Times reports,

The union also has pushed for improved working conditions, such as smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioned schools, and more social workers and counselors to address the increasing needs of students surrounded by violence — all big-ticket items.

Does the Chicago Teachers Union think that the city is in possession of a money tree? With a $1 billion deficit at the end of the year, how could the union expect that the city could possibly afford guaranteed pay raises, these “big-ticket” items, and paychecks for teachers whose schools have performed so badly? In a choice between the increased wages and the “big-ticket” items, one has to wonder what would be a greater priority for the union.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has refused to capitulate to these demands, stating “This is totally unnecessary. It’s avoidable and our kids don’t deserve this. … This is a strike of choice.” All strikes are strikes of choice, but what Emanuel seems to be implying is that the Chicago Teachers Union has no business striking based on their stated demands nor on the small differences of position between the city and the union — on almost every issue the two parties have worked to meet more or less in the middle.

In a surprising turn of events, Emanuel received support from the Romney campaign. The surprise is not that Romney has sided with the children of Chicago over their teachers’ union; he issued a statement today which read, ”Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.” What is surprising is the total lack of support the Obama administration has offered to their fundraising surrogate and former coworker. Today White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “We hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly in the best interests of Chicago’s students. Beyond that, I haven’t got a specific reaction from the president.”

In the choice between students and greed, teachers’ unions have chosen greed. In the choice between unions and students, President Obama is yet again voting present.

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Chicago in Meltdown As Rahm Fundraises

The city of Chicago, the third largest in America, is crumbling into anarchy. The murder rate is so out of control that federal authorities have agreed to assist the Chicago Police Department in their efforts to curb soaring violence. The city has seen over a thirty-percent rise in its murder rate this year and in the last eight days of August, 82 people were killed or wounded by gun violence. With his city in a violent downward spiral, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been focusing on what’s important: banning Chik-fil-A from Chicago.

On Wednesday, during Bill Clinton’s address to the DNC in Charlotte, cameras panned to Emanuel, laughing in the audience. While he was enjoying his stay in Charlotte at least three people were murdered back home in Chicago just that night. What could be more important than taking charge of one of the most violent cities in America? Apparently, for Emanuel, it’s fundraising for his old boss President Barack Obama.

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The city of Chicago, the third largest in America, is crumbling into anarchy. The murder rate is so out of control that federal authorities have agreed to assist the Chicago Police Department in their efforts to curb soaring violence. The city has seen over a thirty-percent rise in its murder rate this year and in the last eight days of August, 82 people were killed or wounded by gun violence. With his city in a violent downward spiral, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been focusing on what’s important: banning Chik-fil-A from Chicago.

On Wednesday, during Bill Clinton’s address to the DNC in Charlotte, cameras panned to Emanuel, laughing in the audience. While he was enjoying his stay in Charlotte at least three people were murdered back home in Chicago just that night. What could be more important than taking charge of one of the most violent cities in America? Apparently, for Emanuel, it’s fundraising for his old boss President Barack Obama.

Where could he have learned that this behavior is acceptable for a leader? During the Colorado wildfires President Obama went fifteen days without speaking with Gov. John Hickenlooper about the situation. The Washington Examiner reported at the time,

Obama called Hickenlooper about the fires on June 12. Obama has held 21 campaign events — including 18 fundraisers — since making that phone call, based on The Washington Examiner‘s survey of pool reports, the White House schedule, and WhiteHouseDossier.com. He made the call while heading to Baltimore for the first of six fundraisers that day (three of the fundraisers were in Philadelphia). He held four more fundraisers by the end of the week.  He attended one fundraiser last week. He held another seven fundraisers this week, before calling Hickenlooper again today after the briefing.

Apparently in Obamaland, and therefore in Rahm’s World, fundraising for the president’s reelection is the most important task at hand, more important than actually doing the job Obama’s been fundraising to retain. Since announcing his reelection campaign, President Obama has attended 205 fundraisers, a record for a sitting president–and it’s barely September.

The Kebbeh family of Gambia came to America and settled in Chicago in search of a better life for their children. The Chicago Sun Times reports, “They are considering going back to Africa after [their son Muhammed] became the city’s 370th murder victim this year and second of his six siblings to be gunned down on the South Side in the last six months.” Rahm Emanuel may feel he owes it to his former boss to go on the fundraising trail, but his obligations to him ceased the day he was elected mayor of Chicago. His bosses are now families like the Kebbehs, who feel there is no reason left to remain in the United States.

The Sun Times asked Mayor Emanuel about the city’s record-setting murder rate in the same story, to which he responded “We’re containing it.” If going out on the trail after the deadliest month in Chicago’s history is “containing it” one has to wonder what it would take for Emanuel to recognize that his city is self-destructing.

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Did Turf War End Daley’s WH Job Early?

There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

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There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

He scrapped Emanuel’s open door to the chief of staff and canceled an early-morning meeting that gave mid-level staffers an opportunity to air their opinions…. He also angered [Harry] Reid and other Hill leaders by delegating subordinates to field their calls.

Thrush says that these might have been pardonable sins but for Daley’s “biggest misstep”: alienating Valerie Jarrett and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s scheduler. He also cut the well-liked Jen Psaki out of the loop and in response, Psaki left the White House (though she serves as a press secretary with the president’s re-election campaign). Getting on Jarrett’s bad side seems to have been the last mistake Daley was permitted to make, and Obama’s inner circle, feeling frozen out by Daley, returned the favor.

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Emanuel Has No Problem With Farrakhan

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may, as Bethany wrote yesterday, have a problem with Chick-fil-A but apparently he has far more tolerance for anti-Semitic lunatics than for gay marriage opponents. Chick-fil-A might be getting blocked from the city, but Emanuel warmly applauded Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam for patrolling the city streets yesterday, with no mention of Farrakhan’s long-held anti-Semitism:

Ignoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday welcomed the army of men dispatched to the streets by Farrakhan to stop the violence in Chicago neighborhoods. …

“The police have a role to play. Tearing down abandoned buildings has a role to play. Shutting liquor stores that are a cancer in the community have a role to play. Community leaders have a role to play. Pastors have a role to play. Principals have a role to play. And most importantly, parents have roles to play. They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may, as Bethany wrote yesterday, have a problem with Chick-fil-A but apparently he has far more tolerance for anti-Semitic lunatics than for gay marriage opponents. Chick-fil-A might be getting blocked from the city, but Emanuel warmly applauded Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam for patrolling the city streets yesterday, with no mention of Farrakhan’s long-held anti-Semitism:

Ignoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday welcomed the army of men dispatched to the streets by Farrakhan to stop the violence in Chicago neighborhoods. …

“The police have a role to play. Tearing down abandoned buildings has a role to play. Shutting liquor stores that are a cancer in the community have a role to play. Community leaders have a role to play. Pastors have a role to play. Principals have a role to play. And most importantly, parents have roles to play. They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”

Farrakhan has been deploying groups of his followers to crime-ridden city neighborhoods on Mondays, to act as a “human wall of protection” in case gunfire suddenly breaks out and stray bullets start flying. That seems like a flawless plan, so you can see why Emanuel would find Farrakhan incredibly important to the crime-fighting efforts.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from a speech Farrakhan gave earlier this month, transcribed by the ADL:

Farrakhan: How many of you are lawyers? Only have one in the house? No wonder we go to jail so much, brother! But at the top of the law profession, who are the top in law?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Sorry I didn’t hear you.

Audience: Jews!

Farrakhan: Any doctors in the house? Ain’t got no doctors? Oh there’s one way in the back. At the top of the medical profession, the top in that are members of the Jewish community. Anybody in media? Who’s the top in that field?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Anybody a rapper in the house? There’s rappers. You can rap, ain’t nothing wrong with that, but at the top of that are those that control the industry. Any of you have Hollywood ambitions, Broadway ambitions? Who’s the top of that?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Same people! They’re masters in business. Well I’m not a businessman I’m a banker. Well who’s the master of the bankers?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: TALK TO ME!

Audience: Jews!

Farrakhan: You don’t discredit them because they’re masters, you discredit them by the way they use their mastery.

Audience: [applause]

Farrakhan: Now, I close

Good thing Emanuel is taking a stand against those bigoted Chick-fil-A franchises, am I right?

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Chicago and Boston Chose Liberalism Over First Amendment

Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

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Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

Not to be outdone, Chicago’s Mayor (and Barack Obama’s former chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel announced support of a Chicago alderman’s refusal to approve a building permit for Chick-fil-A in one of Chicago’s wards. The Volokh Conspiracy explains just how unconstitutional this move is:

But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.

Of course, if Chick-fil-A actually discriminated in their serving or hiring decisions in Chicago in a way forbidden by Chicago or Illinois law, they could be punished for this violation, and possibly even denied future permits based on such illegal behavior. But the stories give no evidence of any such actions, and suggest that the city officials’ statements are based on the Chick-fil-A president’s speech, not any illegal conduct on the company’s part. Finally, note that the government may generally insist that, when it hires people to communicate a government message, those people use that government money only for the government-selected speech (see Rust v. Sullivan (1991)); but that power of the government to control its own speech is far removed from the government’s attempt in this case to retaliate against businesses for their owners’ speech.

Imagine, for a moment, if Governors Rick Perry or Chris Christie banned the sale of Ben & Jerry’s from their states because of that company’s support of same-sex marriage. What if, as his first act as president, Mitt Romney banned the Muppets from government-funded PBS after the Jim Henson company expressed their opposition to Chick-fil-A? You can just hear the wails of the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, the anchors of every major news station (including Fox) crying “FASCISM!” They would be absolutely correct in their charge. Using the government’s power to restrict commerce based on a personal vendetta is a chilling next step in a culture war that has turned business owners, job creators and people of faith into public enemies.

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Cubs May Pay the Price for Ricketts’ Attack

Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

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Democrats have made it very clear that they will get their revenge on anyone who dares to attack President Obama, but it turns out the main victims of their payback may be Chicago’s lovable Cubbies. Since TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts has been labeled as the man who commissioned a proposal for an ad campaign that sought to publicize the link between President Obama and his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the baseball team purchased by his children in 2009 may be the object of a vendetta on the part of the president’s loyalists in Chicagoland.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is “livid” about Joe Ricketts having the chutzpah to attack his old boss. The Post reports that an Emanuel aide repeated the liberal talking point about the mention of Wright being a sign of implicit racism and said the mayor was indefinitely cutting off communications with the owners of the Cubs, including Laura Ricketts, who happens to be a bundler for the president. This is not a minor issue for the family as they are trying to get the city to help them fund a renovation of the nearly century-old Wrigley Field–the hallowed home of the north side’s favorite baseball team. This may mean the effort to get Emanuel to throw in $100 million in tax incentives in the deal to spruce up Wrigley may be on hold. So while the notion that a notorious political gutter fighter like Emanuel was offended by the Ricketts is a joke, he is right about one thing: the Ricketts are “hypocrites.”

Their hypocrisy doesn’t stem from the family patriarch’s subsidy for what would have been a foolish attack on the president. Contrary to the liberal orthodoxy on this point, one can oppose the president and even mention Rev. Wright while still espousing racial harmony and running a baseball team whose players and supporters come from across the racial and national spectrum.

The Ricketts’ hypocrisy comes from their desire for public subsidies for their baseball operation while opposing the president’s support for high taxes and unlimited government spending. The sorry truth is that almost all of the millionaires and billionaires who own sports teams in this country are ardent capitalists when it comes to taxing their incomes but devout socialists when it comes to getting government to subsidize their business. As far as I am concerned, baseball is a sacred institution and renovating Wrigley is a great idea. I wish the Ricketts luck with the project, but have no sympathy for the widespread policy of team owners picking the pockets of the taxpayers in order to make their operations even more profitable.

Emanuel and every other mayor and governor in the country should never take the phone calls of team owners — no matter who they are supporting in the presidential election — so long as their purpose is to raid the public treasury for their own profit.

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Politico Swallows New White House Spin on Israel

It’s a new year and a somewhat new crew running things at the White House, what with Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod gone, so it’s to be expected that we’re now getting a new spin about the Middle East from their successors. That’s the only way to interpret Ben Smith’s somewhat puzzling article in Politico today.

In the wake of the collapse of the administration’s last incompetent effort to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, there’s little question about the piece’s conclusion that the peace process is dead in the water. No one should be surprised that the president’s spin masters are attempting to absolve the president and his foreign-policy team of all blame for the Middle East failures that have marked their two years in office. But it is astonishing that Smith, who has been covering them during this period, has swallowed whole their absurd rewriting of the history of this period.

The main point of the piece seems to be that the White House is fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Smith, after two years of trying to “give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt as a prospective peace partner,” they’ve had it with him. Netanyahu’s “intransigence,” Smith writes, is chiefly responsible for the collapse of American diplomacy, though he — and his highly placed sources — concedes that the feckless Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is no better. The conclusion is that Obama is giving up on the whole thing, since the chances “of a personal alliance growing between the Israeli leader and President Barack Obama to be just about zero.”

This makes for a neat narrative designed to make Obama look good, but only rings true if you haven’t been paying the slightest attention to U.S.-Israel relations since January 2009.

Contrary to Smith, if there has been one consistent point about the administration’s attitude toward Israel during this period, it has been its hostility to Netanyahu. From the start, Obama, who prior to his election claimed to be all right with Israel but not with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, showed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Israeli vote in February 2009. Rather than seek a common strategy to revive a peace process that had crashed in 2008, when Abbas refused Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state, Obama was determined to create some distance between the United States and Israel. Though the Palestinians had already conceded that most Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would stay under Israeli control even as they rejected Israel’s offer of peace, Obama drew a new line in the sand. The president demanded that Israel freeze all building, even in areas — like Jerusalem — where everyone knew that Israel would not retreat even in the event of peace. Finding themselves outflanked, the Palestinians had to similarly dig in their heels, and the last two years of failed attempts to get them back to the negotiating table were the inevitable result. Read More

It’s a new year and a somewhat new crew running things at the White House, what with Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod gone, so it’s to be expected that we’re now getting a new spin about the Middle East from their successors. That’s the only way to interpret Ben Smith’s somewhat puzzling article in Politico today.

In the wake of the collapse of the administration’s last incompetent effort to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, there’s little question about the piece’s conclusion that the peace process is dead in the water. No one should be surprised that the president’s spin masters are attempting to absolve the president and his foreign-policy team of all blame for the Middle East failures that have marked their two years in office. But it is astonishing that Smith, who has been covering them during this period, has swallowed whole their absurd rewriting of the history of this period.

The main point of the piece seems to be that the White House is fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Smith, after two years of trying to “give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt as a prospective peace partner,” they’ve had it with him. Netanyahu’s “intransigence,” Smith writes, is chiefly responsible for the collapse of American diplomacy, though he — and his highly placed sources — concedes that the feckless Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is no better. The conclusion is that Obama is giving up on the whole thing, since the chances “of a personal alliance growing between the Israeli leader and President Barack Obama to be just about zero.”

This makes for a neat narrative designed to make Obama look good, but only rings true if you haven’t been paying the slightest attention to U.S.-Israel relations since January 2009.

Contrary to Smith, if there has been one consistent point about the administration’s attitude toward Israel during this period, it has been its hostility to Netanyahu. From the start, Obama, who prior to his election claimed to be all right with Israel but not with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, showed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Israeli vote in February 2009. Rather than seek a common strategy to revive a peace process that had crashed in 2008, when Abbas refused Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state, Obama was determined to create some distance between the United States and Israel. Though the Palestinians had already conceded that most Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would stay under Israeli control even as they rejected Israel’s offer of peace, Obama drew a new line in the sand. The president demanded that Israel freeze all building, even in areas — like Jerusalem — where everyone knew that Israel would not retreat even in the event of peace. Finding themselves outflanked, the Palestinians had to similarly dig in their heels, and the last two years of failed attempts to get them back to the negotiating table were the inevitable result.

Obama’s first attempts to outmaneuver Netanyahu seemed to be based on a foolish hope that the prime minister would be forced into a coalition with the American favorite Tzipi Livni or out of office altogether. Rather than being weakened by this, Netanyahu gained strength. In the spring of 2010, Obama tried again when he deliberately picked a fight with Israel over the construction of new homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The White House and the State Department subjected Netanyahu to an unprecedented campaign of abuse, but the result was no different than their previous efforts. Soon Obama was forced to back down and resort to a charm offensive aimed at damping down criticism from American Jews.

Rather than take responsibility for their own mistakes and the president’s relentless hostility to Netanyahu — whose grip on his parliamentary majority is stronger than ever — all we’re getting from the White House is more negative spin about Israel. But in order to believe a word of it, you’ve got to be afflicted with the sort of short-term memory loss that is the premise of Ben Smith’s article.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

More European nations in trouble. “The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.”

More evidence that the IRS is targeting the hawkish pro-Israel group Z Street. Wouldn’t it be front-page news if J Street were asked if it supported Iran sanctions?

More reason to doubt that the Obami have a clue about what to do about North Korea. The State Department’s PJ Crowley tweets “SecClinton talked with Chinese FM Yang today and encouraged Beijing to make clear that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable.” Is “unacceptable” really the strongest they can do? Or is “unacceptable” (as in “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable”) just diplomat-speak for “We’re sorry to see X happen.”

More criticism of Obama’s approach to Egypt. “The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak’s domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.”

More defensiveness from Sarah Palin. Not helpful for a presidential contender. Dead-on for a conservative community organizer.

More nonsense from Tom Friedman. No, Tom, too much texting by American kids is not a bigger problem than North Korean nukes. Another example of not-very-smart liberal punditry.

More problems for Rahm Emanuel. “Through an odd chain of events, Mr. Halpin, a 59-year-old industrial real-estate developer here, has become the face of a movement to force Mr. Emanuel out of the race to become Chicago’s next mayor. A lawsuit filed with the Chicago Board of Election Commissions Friday by a Chicago attorney on behalf of two city residents charges that Mr. Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is ineligible to run because he lost his Chicago residency when he rented his home to Mr. Halpin in 2009.” Really, wasn’t the entire race an excuse to get off the sinking White House ship?

More evidence that the GM bailout was no success for the taxpayers. The union? Well, that’s another story. “General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union. Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

More European nations in trouble. “The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.”

More evidence that the IRS is targeting the hawkish pro-Israel group Z Street. Wouldn’t it be front-page news if J Street were asked if it supported Iran sanctions?

More reason to doubt that the Obami have a clue about what to do about North Korea. The State Department’s PJ Crowley tweets “SecClinton talked with Chinese FM Yang today and encouraged Beijing to make clear that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable.” Is “unacceptable” really the strongest they can do? Or is “unacceptable” (as in “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable”) just diplomat-speak for “We’re sorry to see X happen.”

More criticism of Obama’s approach to Egypt. “The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak’s domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.”

More defensiveness from Sarah Palin. Not helpful for a presidential contender. Dead-on for a conservative community organizer.

More nonsense from Tom Friedman. No, Tom, too much texting by American kids is not a bigger problem than North Korean nukes. Another example of not-very-smart liberal punditry.

More problems for Rahm Emanuel. “Through an odd chain of events, Mr. Halpin, a 59-year-old industrial real-estate developer here, has become the face of a movement to force Mr. Emanuel out of the race to become Chicago’s next mayor. A lawsuit filed with the Chicago Board of Election Commissions Friday by a Chicago attorney on behalf of two city residents charges that Mr. Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is ineligible to run because he lost his Chicago residency when he rented his home to Mr. Halpin in 2009.” Really, wasn’t the entire race an excuse to get off the sinking White House ship?

More evidence that the GM bailout was no success for the taxpayers. The union? Well, that’s another story. “General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union. Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

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The Least-Smart Diplomat of Them All

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

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Don’t Let the Door Hit You, Rahm

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel's] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him – to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

Rahm Emanuel is leaving, and American Jewish leaders couldn’t care less. In this regard, they have figured out who is running the U.S.-Israel policy (and hence, where the problem is):

“A lot of people like to think this Israeli-Palestinian policy has been Rahm Emanuel’s and it’s not. It’s Barack Obama’s,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton administration aide. …

Noted William Daroff, the Jewish Federations of North America’s vice president for public policy and director of its Washington Office: “The buck stops at the desk of the president of the United States, so any staff change shouldn’t impact the relationship [Obama] has with the state of Israel or the Jewish community.”

The savviest remark comes from a “Jewish community professional” who observes:

“In some ways,” that professional added, Emanuel’s belief that he could effortlessly handle the Jewish community due to his deep connections has “been a detriment to the White House [because Emanuel's] saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got that,’ but then he doesn’t.”

Well, he didn’t. And there’s a smidgen of candor — well, what passes for candor in Washington (a blind quote, in other words):

“That hasn’t always been of a great benefit to Israel,” noted one of the Jewish leaders previously quoted on background. “In an American government, a friend of Israel is more important a factor than whether they’re Jewish.”

Emanuel’s religion, in fact, already seems to be having a negative net impact on his bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some politically conservative Jews tend to blame Emanuel, the son of an Israeli doctor, for some of the Obama administration’s tensions with Israel, while Orthodox Jews quibbled with his decision to announce his resignation on Friday of last week, Simchat Torah.

Alas, that’s Rahm’s problem now. As for American Jewish leaders and pro-Israel pundits, it’s about time they wised up. They have learned the hard way that the president’s naming a Jew as chief of staff doesn’t mean that his heart is in the right place on Israel. The departure of one adviser out of many selected by a president convinced of his own wisdom on the Middle East is virtually meaningless. What matters is that a president was elected who lacks empathy toward and understanding of the nature of the Zionist enterprise, who imagines kicking a democratic ally will impress its despotic foes, who is convinced he can engage the mullahs and then contain them after they rebuff his entreaties, and who fails to grasp that serial weakness by the U.S. places both the U.S. and Israel at risk.

That such an overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders cheered, vouched and raised money for candidate Obama explains, in large part, their reluctance to come to terms with what a disaster he has been for U.S.-Israel relations and for the West’s security in the face of an Islamic revolutionary state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Let’s see if they can now work strenuously — as strenuously as they did to elect him – to limit the damage their chosen candidate will inflict on both American and Israeli security, which the president seems not to fully comprehend are inextricably linked. And then the real test will come in 2012, when they will have the opportunity to shed their “sick addiction” to the president and his party. Or will “a woman’s right to choose,” government-run health care, and the supposed scourge of global warming once more take precedence over the fate of the Jewish state?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not going to happen: “Specifically, the smartest thing Obama could do in replacing outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would be to pick an outsider who can address some of the obvious weaknesses his administration has. … It is critically important that Emanuel’s replacement have strong ties to the business community, a history of good relations with both parties in Congress, and the independence and integrity to be able to tell the president ‘no’ when he is wrong.”

Not going to be a good Election Day for Virginia Democrats. Three of the  four at-risk House Democrats trail GOP challengers, two by double digits. The fourth Republican trails narrowly.

Not close: “Republican Marco Rubio continues to hold an 11-point lead over independent candidate Charlie Crist in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Florida finds Rubio with 41% support, while Crist, the state’s current governor, picks up 30% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek comes in third with 21%.”

Not even handpicked audiences like him. In Iowa: “Holding the latest in a series of backyard meetings with middle-class voters, Obama heard one small businessman’s fears that his tax plans could ‘strangle’ job creation. The president also fielded concerns about high unemployment and the impact of his healthcare overhaul. It was a marked contrast to the enthusiastic university crowd that greeted Obama on Tuesday in Wisconsin when he sought to fire up his youthful base of support, and showed the obstacles his Democratic Party faces in the Nov. 2 elections.”

Not only Sen. Joe Lieberman is calling for Obama to get tough on Iran: “Barack Obama’s policy to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is under pressure from members of Congress, who argue that Washington should make clear it will consider military action unless sanctions yield swift results. … Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said recently the administration had ‘months, not years’ to make sanctions work. He added that military action was preferable to accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.”

Not encouraging: “One of the most remarkable aspects of Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s Wars,’ is its portrait of a White House that has all but resigned itself to failure in Afghanistan.” In fact, it is reprehensible for the commander in chief to order young Americans into war without confidence and commitment in their mission.

Not a fan. David Brooks on Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I can’t imagine what Murkowski is thinking. The lady must have too many admiring conversations with the mirrors in her house.” Ouch.

Not a vote of confidence from one of Soros Street’s more sympathetic observers: “Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days, now that it is enveloped in a scandal (more of a cover-up than a crime, in the traditional Washington style)?”

Not going to happen: “Specifically, the smartest thing Obama could do in replacing outgoing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would be to pick an outsider who can address some of the obvious weaknesses his administration has. … It is critically important that Emanuel’s replacement have strong ties to the business community, a history of good relations with both parties in Congress, and the independence and integrity to be able to tell the president ‘no’ when he is wrong.”

Not going to be a good Election Day for Virginia Democrats. Three of the  four at-risk House Democrats trail GOP challengers, two by double digits. The fourth Republican trails narrowly.

Not close: “Republican Marco Rubio continues to hold an 11-point lead over independent candidate Charlie Crist in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Florida finds Rubio with 41% support, while Crist, the state’s current governor, picks up 30% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek comes in third with 21%.”

Not even handpicked audiences like him. In Iowa: “Holding the latest in a series of backyard meetings with middle-class voters, Obama heard one small businessman’s fears that his tax plans could ‘strangle’ job creation. The president also fielded concerns about high unemployment and the impact of his healthcare overhaul. It was a marked contrast to the enthusiastic university crowd that greeted Obama on Tuesday in Wisconsin when he sought to fire up his youthful base of support, and showed the obstacles his Democratic Party faces in the Nov. 2 elections.”

Not only Sen. Joe Lieberman is calling for Obama to get tough on Iran: “Barack Obama’s policy to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is under pressure from members of Congress, who argue that Washington should make clear it will consider military action unless sanctions yield swift results. … Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said recently the administration had ‘months, not years’ to make sanctions work. He added that military action was preferable to accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.”

Not encouraging: “One of the most remarkable aspects of Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s Wars,’ is its portrait of a White House that has all but resigned itself to failure in Afghanistan.” In fact, it is reprehensible for the commander in chief to order young Americans into war without confidence and commitment in their mission.

Not a fan. David Brooks on Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “I can’t imagine what Murkowski is thinking. The lady must have too many admiring conversations with the mirrors in her house.” Ouch.

Not a vote of confidence from one of Soros Street’s more sympathetic observers: “Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days, now that it is enveloped in a scandal (more of a cover-up than a crime, in the traditional Washington style)?”

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If Rolling Stone Sank McChrystal, What Will Woodward Do to the Obami?

The New York Times’s Michael Shear makes an excellent point about the Bob Woodward book and the various recriminations from administration sources that it airs: “Stanley A. McChrystal got fired for less.” While the dirt dished by the general’s aides in the Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal was considered a hanging offense, what will the president do about the far worse gossip that is reported by Woodward? As Shear points out, “If anything, the recriminations in Bob Woodward’s new book, “Obama’s Wars,” are more numerous, more substantive and more personal than the ones in the Rolling Stones article about General McChrystal. Rather than a few off-color comments from military subordinates, the Woodward book details personal animosities among the president’s most senior advisers.”

Shear thinks a big part of the reason there will be no repercussions about the Woodward book is that some of the top players in the Obama White House have at least one foot out the door. In addition to the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who everyone seems to think will run for mayor of Chicago, Woodward mentions National Security Adviser Jim Jones as another staffer planning to flee.

More to the point is the fact that Obama had given his advisers permission to be candid with Woodward. Having done so it would be hypocritical for the president to then punish those whose candor included a healthy dose of dissension and backbiting.

This Woodward book, like all the others he has written in the past 30 years in which he has demonstrated an ability to get inside (and almost always unsourced) dope about every administration, is merely a Washington cause célèbre that will soon be largely forgotten. But while it may not amount to much in the long run, it is an interesting snapshot of an administration in disarray, divided on policy and sinking in the polls. While Stanley McChrystal may have paid with his career for the offhand (and generally truthful) remarks made about some of his colleagues, the Obami will, as always, forgive themselves for the same sort of behavior.

The New York Times’s Michael Shear makes an excellent point about the Bob Woodward book and the various recriminations from administration sources that it airs: “Stanley A. McChrystal got fired for less.” While the dirt dished by the general’s aides in the Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal was considered a hanging offense, what will the president do about the far worse gossip that is reported by Woodward? As Shear points out, “If anything, the recriminations in Bob Woodward’s new book, “Obama’s Wars,” are more numerous, more substantive and more personal than the ones in the Rolling Stones article about General McChrystal. Rather than a few off-color comments from military subordinates, the Woodward book details personal animosities among the president’s most senior advisers.”

Shear thinks a big part of the reason there will be no repercussions about the Woodward book is that some of the top players in the Obama White House have at least one foot out the door. In addition to the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who everyone seems to think will run for mayor of Chicago, Woodward mentions National Security Adviser Jim Jones as another staffer planning to flee.

More to the point is the fact that Obama had given his advisers permission to be candid with Woodward. Having done so it would be hypocritical for the president to then punish those whose candor included a healthy dose of dissension and backbiting.

This Woodward book, like all the others he has written in the past 30 years in which he has demonstrated an ability to get inside (and almost always unsourced) dope about every administration, is merely a Washington cause célèbre that will soon be largely forgotten. But while it may not amount to much in the long run, it is an interesting snapshot of an administration in disarray, divided on policy and sinking in the polls. While Stanley McChrystal may have paid with his career for the offhand (and generally truthful) remarks made about some of his colleagues, the Obami will, as always, forgive themselves for the same sort of behavior.

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Our Petulant President

I wanted to pick up on a point you made, Jen, about the latest example of petulance by our commander in chief. In Politico we read:

Obama chastised what he dubbed a current “obsession” over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. “My focus right now is how do we make sure what we’re doing there is successful,” he said. “By next year we will begin a transition.”

Perhaps the “obsession” is based on the fact that (a) Obama included a deadline for beginning troop withdrawals in his December 2009 West Point speech; (b) Vice President Biden has said that in “July of 2011 you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it. Bet. On. It”; and (c) as recently as a week ago yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that July 2011 is a “firm date. … The July 2011 date, as stated by the president, that’s not moving. That’s not changing.”

It’s clear that the government and people in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban (among others), are “obsessed” about Obama’s timeline and take it seriously. Silly them.

If the president recognizes the errors of his ways and deems the deadline inoperative, terrific. And if he has to pretend that his shift is not really a shift, okay. But we could all do with a little less lecturing and self-righteousness from Captain Kick-A**.

As is usually the case with Obama, the weaker his arguments are, the more peevish and mocking of his critics he becomes. When he can’t refute criticisms with facts, he resorts to ridicule. It’s an old game — and when it comes to our president, an increasingly wearying one. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that as Obama’s failures mount, his ill-temper and irritation increase. Which means that Obama, and the country, have an increasingly dyspeptic few years ahead of us.

I wanted to pick up on a point you made, Jen, about the latest example of petulance by our commander in chief. In Politico we read:

Obama chastised what he dubbed a current “obsession” over a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. “My focus right now is how do we make sure what we’re doing there is successful,” he said. “By next year we will begin a transition.”

Perhaps the “obsession” is based on the fact that (a) Obama included a deadline for beginning troop withdrawals in his December 2009 West Point speech; (b) Vice President Biden has said that in “July of 2011 you’re going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it. Bet. On. It”; and (c) as recently as a week ago yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that July 2011 is a “firm date. … The July 2011 date, as stated by the president, that’s not moving. That’s not changing.”

It’s clear that the government and people in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban (among others), are “obsessed” about Obama’s timeline and take it seriously. Silly them.

If the president recognizes the errors of his ways and deems the deadline inoperative, terrific. And if he has to pretend that his shift is not really a shift, okay. But we could all do with a little less lecturing and self-righteousness from Captain Kick-A**.

As is usually the case with Obama, the weaker his arguments are, the more peevish and mocking of his critics he becomes. When he can’t refute criticisms with facts, he resorts to ridicule. It’s an old game — and when it comes to our president, an increasingly wearying one. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that as Obama’s failures mount, his ill-temper and irritation increase. Which means that Obama, and the country, have an increasingly dyspeptic few years ahead of us.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.’”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: ”The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.’”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: ”The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

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Do They Want to Win?

At times you wonder if Obama and his minions want to win the war in Afghanistan. Oh, horror — can you say such things? Accuse them of less-than-steely determination to pursue victory? Well, to be blunt, it’s becoming hard to think of explanations for the Obama team’s insistence, childlike and illogical as it is, for defending what even sympathetic observers regard as the heart of our difficulty in our Afghanistan effort – the president’s timeline for a troop pullout. There was this exchange yesterday on This Week between Jake Tapper and Rahm Emanuel:

TAPPER: So what exactly does the July 2011 deadline mean? Is it going to be a whole lot of people moving out, definitely, as Vice President Biden says? Or could it be more nuanced, as General Petraeus says, maybe just a couple of people leaving one province?

EMANUEL: Well, no, everybody knows there’s a firm date. And that firm date is a date — deals with the troops that are part of the surge, the additional 30,000. What will be determined at that date or going into that date will be the scale and scope of that reduction.

But there will be no doubt that that’s going to happen. And I know actually — I look at both of those, and they’re not inconsistent. But remember where we were on Afghanistan policy, that war had waxed and waned. And there really hadn’t been a focus on how to bring that war to — and the effort (INAUDIBLE), even with al Qaeda and Taliban, to a point given what was going on in Iraq.

When pressed further, Emanuel praised the utility of the timeline:

TAPPER: But it could be any number of people.

EMANUEL: That’s what you’ll evaluate based on the conditions on the ground. That is — but what had to happen prior to that was having a date that gave everybody, the NATO, international forces, as well as Afghanistan, that sense of urgency to move.

We can speculate that Obama doesn’t want to admit his error. Or we can assume that Emanuel is panicked about the turnout of the administration’s liberal base in November. (The DNC is apparently so desperate that they are spending millions to get college kids and other first-time 2008 voters to turn out in a midterm election.) But whatever the explanation, they are doing the opposite of what the military and bipartisan supporters of the war tell us must be done: dispel the image that we are getting ready to cut and run.

Some still insist that Obama fully understands the responsibilities of commander in chief and is dedicated to avoiding a hugely damaging defeat in a war he deemed critical. At this point, those people have the burden of proof. By Obama’s actions and words, the evidence is mounting that neither is true.

At times you wonder if Obama and his minions want to win the war in Afghanistan. Oh, horror — can you say such things? Accuse them of less-than-steely determination to pursue victory? Well, to be blunt, it’s becoming hard to think of explanations for the Obama team’s insistence, childlike and illogical as it is, for defending what even sympathetic observers regard as the heart of our difficulty in our Afghanistan effort – the president’s timeline for a troop pullout. There was this exchange yesterday on This Week between Jake Tapper and Rahm Emanuel:

TAPPER: So what exactly does the July 2011 deadline mean? Is it going to be a whole lot of people moving out, definitely, as Vice President Biden says? Or could it be more nuanced, as General Petraeus says, maybe just a couple of people leaving one province?

EMANUEL: Well, no, everybody knows there’s a firm date. And that firm date is a date — deals with the troops that are part of the surge, the additional 30,000. What will be determined at that date or going into that date will be the scale and scope of that reduction.

But there will be no doubt that that’s going to happen. And I know actually — I look at both of those, and they’re not inconsistent. But remember where we were on Afghanistan policy, that war had waxed and waned. And there really hadn’t been a focus on how to bring that war to — and the effort (INAUDIBLE), even with al Qaeda and Taliban, to a point given what was going on in Iraq.

When pressed further, Emanuel praised the utility of the timeline:

TAPPER: But it could be any number of people.

EMANUEL: That’s what you’ll evaluate based on the conditions on the ground. That is — but what had to happen prior to that was having a date that gave everybody, the NATO, international forces, as well as Afghanistan, that sense of urgency to move.

We can speculate that Obama doesn’t want to admit his error. Or we can assume that Emanuel is panicked about the turnout of the administration’s liberal base in November. (The DNC is apparently so desperate that they are spending millions to get college kids and other first-time 2008 voters to turn out in a midterm election.) But whatever the explanation, they are doing the opposite of what the military and bipartisan supporters of the war tell us must be done: dispel the image that we are getting ready to cut and run.

Some still insist that Obama fully understands the responsibilities of commander in chief and is dedicated to avoiding a hugely damaging defeat in a war he deemed critical. At this point, those people have the burden of proof. By Obama’s actions and words, the evidence is mounting that neither is true.

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We’ll Learn His Feelings in Time

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

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RE: Obama’s Immigration Gambit Unmasked

More evidence surfaces each day that the immigration push by Obama is a feint designed for political posturing but not intended to produce actual legislation. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff and longtime party strategist, has argued privately that it’s a bad time for Democrats to push an immigration bill, a potential land mine in the midst of a crucial midterm election year. … He has warned that pressing ahead with an immigration bill could jeopardize the chances of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates in the run-up to the midterms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Immigration activists know all this. They are also aware that as a recruiter for Democratic congressional candidates and while in the Clinton administration, Emanuel was a naysayer on immigration reform. They want him off the issue (but he’s chief of staff, fellas) and grouse that nothing is going to happen on the immigration front so long as he is around. But is it fair to lay the blame solely on Emanuel? Neither the Congress nor the president is moving with alacrity:

With time running out, the chances of an immigration overhaul this year are receding. No bill has yet been introduced in the Senate. Come June, the Senate will be enmeshed in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Certainly, Obama has shown he is in no rush. At a Mexican heritage event earlier this month, Obama said he wanted to “begin work” on the issue this year — not complete a bill in that time frame. Yet, as a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to address immigration in his first year in office.

It seems then that Emanuel is not the stumbling block here — it’s the Democratic congressional leadership and Obama. They never intended to move forward on a bill; the grand speeches and noble-sounding promises were, like so much of what Obama does, entirely disingenuous. They all want an issue, not a solution.

You can see why state officials get fed up and resort to their own immigration legislation. Obama and the Democrats could make a real effort to pass a comprehensive bill that would, among other things, explicitly preempt the Arizona bill they like to rail against. But they won’t, because that would imperil their House and Senate members — well, imperil them more than they already are. It will be interesting to see how Obama explains in 2012 why he did absolutely nothing on an issue he supposedly cares so dearly about.

More evidence surfaces each day that the immigration push by Obama is a feint designed for political posturing but not intended to produce actual legislation. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff and longtime party strategist, has argued privately that it’s a bad time for Democrats to push an immigration bill, a potential land mine in the midst of a crucial midterm election year. … He has warned that pressing ahead with an immigration bill could jeopardize the chances of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates in the run-up to the midterms, according to people familiar with the matter.

Immigration activists know all this. They are also aware that as a recruiter for Democratic congressional candidates and while in the Clinton administration, Emanuel was a naysayer on immigration reform. They want him off the issue (but he’s chief of staff, fellas) and grouse that nothing is going to happen on the immigration front so long as he is around. But is it fair to lay the blame solely on Emanuel? Neither the Congress nor the president is moving with alacrity:

With time running out, the chances of an immigration overhaul this year are receding. No bill has yet been introduced in the Senate. Come June, the Senate will be enmeshed in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Certainly, Obama has shown he is in no rush. At a Mexican heritage event earlier this month, Obama said he wanted to “begin work” on the issue this year — not complete a bill in that time frame. Yet, as a candidate in 2008, Obama promised to address immigration in his first year in office.

It seems then that Emanuel is not the stumbling block here — it’s the Democratic congressional leadership and Obama. They never intended to move forward on a bill; the grand speeches and noble-sounding promises were, like so much of what Obama does, entirely disingenuous. They all want an issue, not a solution.

You can see why state officials get fed up and resort to their own immigration legislation. Obama and the Democrats could make a real effort to pass a comprehensive bill that would, among other things, explicitly preempt the Arizona bill they like to rail against. But they won’t, because that would imperil their House and Senate members — well, imperil them more than they already are. It will be interesting to see how Obama explains in 2012 why he did absolutely nothing on an issue he supposedly cares so dearly about.

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Obama Should Go to Israel!

During a meeting with Jewish Democrats it was suggested — by which participant(s) we don’t know — that Obama should visit Israel. I mused about such a trip earlier this month. Yes, let’s see Obama interact with the Israeli people and go to the Knesset. Let him give interviews to Israeli media. Let him conduct a press conference in Jerusalem.

I suspect that Obama won’t go anytime soon because of the prospect of such events and because of the White House’s inability to stave off protests, catcalls, and boos in a country where citizens are not shy about expressing their political sentiments. The fact that an American president might very well be booed in the Jewish state is indicative of the pathetic status of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Now, if you think I am exaggerating the prospect of an unfriendly welcome, consider that two “right-wing activists” (funny how the media never calls J Streeters “left-wing activists”) are threatening to disrupt the bar mitzvah of Rahm Emanuel’s son at the Western Wall “with catcalls and disgust.” (No, I don’t approve — the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on his son.) That’s the child of his chief of staff — so imagine if Obama himself went. And then there is this to consider:

Another possible problem with Emanuel’s plan may be that the site sits beyond the historic Green Line, which used to separate Israel from Jordanian-controlled territory until the Six Day War of 1967. Since then, Israel has controlled all of the Old City of Jerusalem and its religious sites, but U.S. policy still classifies the area as “occupied territory” and officials are discouraged from spending time there other than for diplomatic duty and work assignments.

Recall that when Obama was in suck-up mode with American Jews (who gave him a pass for 20 years of listening to the anti-Semitic ravings of Rev. Wright) during the campaign, he went to the Wall, in which he touchingly placed a note. No, he didn’t at the time mention that he wanted to carve up Jerusalem. But now that it’s out in the open, wouldn’t it seem extraordinarily hypocritical (even for him) to go there? Yes, we’ve come to the point where a trip to the Wall by an American president becomes an act of gross hypocrisy. Tragic, really.

During a meeting with Jewish Democrats it was suggested — by which participant(s) we don’t know — that Obama should visit Israel. I mused about such a trip earlier this month. Yes, let’s see Obama interact with the Israeli people and go to the Knesset. Let him give interviews to Israeli media. Let him conduct a press conference in Jerusalem.

I suspect that Obama won’t go anytime soon because of the prospect of such events and because of the White House’s inability to stave off protests, catcalls, and boos in a country where citizens are not shy about expressing their political sentiments. The fact that an American president might very well be booed in the Jewish state is indicative of the pathetic status of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Now, if you think I am exaggerating the prospect of an unfriendly welcome, consider that two “right-wing activists” (funny how the media never calls J Streeters “left-wing activists”) are threatening to disrupt the bar mitzvah of Rahm Emanuel’s son at the Western Wall “with catcalls and disgust.” (No, I don’t approve — the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on his son.) That’s the child of his chief of staff — so imagine if Obama himself went. And then there is this to consider:

Another possible problem with Emanuel’s plan may be that the site sits beyond the historic Green Line, which used to separate Israel from Jordanian-controlled territory until the Six Day War of 1967. Since then, Israel has controlled all of the Old City of Jerusalem and its religious sites, but U.S. policy still classifies the area as “occupied territory” and officials are discouraged from spending time there other than for diplomatic duty and work assignments.

Recall that when Obama was in suck-up mode with American Jews (who gave him a pass for 20 years of listening to the anti-Semitic ravings of Rev. Wright) during the campaign, he went to the Wall, in which he touchingly placed a note. No, he didn’t at the time mention that he wanted to carve up Jerusalem. But now that it’s out in the open, wouldn’t it seem extraordinarily hypocritical (even for him) to go there? Yes, we’ve come to the point where a trip to the Wall by an American president becomes an act of gross hypocrisy. Tragic, really.

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