Commentary Magazine


Topic: Richard Cohen

Whose America Is It?

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.

Read Less

Incivility to Be Sure

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

Read Less

Stop Him Before He Speaks Again?

It’s not just conservative grouches who find Obama unimpressive and somewhat lost in the Oval office. Richard Cohen writes:

In last week’s prime-time address to the nation, the president sat behind a massive and capaciously empty desk, looking somehow smaller than he ever has — a man physically reduced by sinking polls, a lousy economy and the prospect that his party might lose control of Congress. Behold something we never thought we’d see with Obama: The Incredible Shrinking Presidency.

Part of the problem is that we have heard it all before — most especially, the feint toward a more robust foreign policy immediately undercut by deadlines. We’ve grown to expect that he will strain to push war off the agenda so he can get back to his spend-a-thon. Cohen is right that Obama has no business giving “an Oval Office address unless he has something worthy of the Oval Office to say,” but Cohen is hesitant to get to the heart of the matter.

He wants Obama “to fire some key people.” (I think John Boehner suggested this a week or so ago.) But ObamaCare is the president’s jewel, spending is his true love, and being commander in chief is not. It’s foolish to hope that new staff can stop Obama from doing what he wants to do or invest him with new executive expertise. Is new staff going to remake the president’s demeanor from snippy to gracious? Cohen wants Obama to stop being Obama. A fine idea, but improbable.

It’s not just conservative grouches who find Obama unimpressive and somewhat lost in the Oval office. Richard Cohen writes:

In last week’s prime-time address to the nation, the president sat behind a massive and capaciously empty desk, looking somehow smaller than he ever has — a man physically reduced by sinking polls, a lousy economy and the prospect that his party might lose control of Congress. Behold something we never thought we’d see with Obama: The Incredible Shrinking Presidency.

Part of the problem is that we have heard it all before — most especially, the feint toward a more robust foreign policy immediately undercut by deadlines. We’ve grown to expect that he will strain to push war off the agenda so he can get back to his spend-a-thon. Cohen is right that Obama has no business giving “an Oval Office address unless he has something worthy of the Oval Office to say,” but Cohen is hesitant to get to the heart of the matter.

He wants Obama “to fire some key people.” (I think John Boehner suggested this a week or so ago.) But ObamaCare is the president’s jewel, spending is his true love, and being commander in chief is not. It’s foolish to hope that new staff can stop Obama from doing what he wants to do or invest him with new executive expertise. Is new staff going to remake the president’s demeanor from snippy to gracious? Cohen wants Obama to stop being Obama. A fine idea, but improbable.

Read Less

Richard Cohen on the Ground Zero Mosque

Of late it has become something of a hobby of mine to point out how the left is becoming increasingly unhinged and alienated from America. The event that seems to have triggered the latest outpouring of rage is the debate about the proposal to build a mosque and community center, led by Imam Rauf, near Ground Zero. It’s not simply the debate itself that is causing the venom; it is that defenders of building the mosque are losing the argument. The public — including those in New York City, that well-known epicenter of conservatism — overwhelmingly sides with those who oppose building the mosque. This is causing some liberals to spin out of control.

The latest liberal to do so, as Jen noted earlier, is Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, who writes:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

It has become something of a cliche, I know, but no one ever put this sort of thing better than William Butler Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming.” “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Some passionate intensity from the best is past due.

Cohen is right about one thing; the Yeats quote is a cliché. But he’s wrong that those who are arguing for a compromise are bigots, demagogues, or merely uninformed. And his argument that what this debate is missing is “passionate intensity” is ludicrous. In fact, the debate has often been dominated by passion rather than by reason, as evidenced by the left’s eagerness to brand the mosque’s opponents as racists, bigots, and Islamophobes. (I have expressed concerns about what some on the right, such as Newt Gingrich, have said as well; see here and here.)

In addition, the deep, eternal meaning the left has tried to infuse this issue with — the effort to cast this debate as pitting the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness, between those who revere the Constitution and those who want to shred it — is both wrong and slightly amusing. One can imagine the lyrics of Peter, Paul, and Mary running through the minds of animated liberals everywhere. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. v. Bull Connor all over again.

This is not a debate about high constitutional principle; if it were, presumably President Obama — the icon of so many liberals and a former professor of constitutional law — would have taken a stand on where the mosque belongs. Instead, he has refused to say what he thinks. The debate is about whether it is prudent and wise for Imam Rauf to build the mosque and community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. And on this, reasonable people can disagree.

On this particular matter one other point needs to be repeated: If the point of this enterprise was to deepen interfaith dialogue and understanding, it has failed miserably. And if those insisting the mosque be built at the original location persist in their efforts — if they heed Cohen’s advice and jettison compromise as morally treasonous — things will get a good deal worse. Contrary to what some liberals are arguing, no great constitutional principle will have been ratified. Instead, a debate that is harmful to our country, including to Muslim Americans, will be intensified.

This is potentially dangerous stuff we’re dealing with — and I can’t understand why those who insist that they are pining for reconciliation and comity are pushing an idea that is doing the opposite.

Of late it has become something of a hobby of mine to point out how the left is becoming increasingly unhinged and alienated from America. The event that seems to have triggered the latest outpouring of rage is the debate about the proposal to build a mosque and community center, led by Imam Rauf, near Ground Zero. It’s not simply the debate itself that is causing the venom; it is that defenders of building the mosque are losing the argument. The public — including those in New York City, that well-known epicenter of conservatism — overwhelmingly sides with those who oppose building the mosque. This is causing some liberals to spin out of control.

The latest liberal to do so, as Jen noted earlier, is Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, who writes:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

It has become something of a cliche, I know, but no one ever put this sort of thing better than William Butler Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming.” “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Some passionate intensity from the best is past due.

Cohen is right about one thing; the Yeats quote is a cliché. But he’s wrong that those who are arguing for a compromise are bigots, demagogues, or merely uninformed. And his argument that what this debate is missing is “passionate intensity” is ludicrous. In fact, the debate has often been dominated by passion rather than by reason, as evidenced by the left’s eagerness to brand the mosque’s opponents as racists, bigots, and Islamophobes. (I have expressed concerns about what some on the right, such as Newt Gingrich, have said as well; see here and here.)

In addition, the deep, eternal meaning the left has tried to infuse this issue with — the effort to cast this debate as pitting the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness, between those who revere the Constitution and those who want to shred it — is both wrong and slightly amusing. One can imagine the lyrics of Peter, Paul, and Mary running through the minds of animated liberals everywhere. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. v. Bull Connor all over again.

This is not a debate about high constitutional principle; if it were, presumably President Obama — the icon of so many liberals and a former professor of constitutional law — would have taken a stand on where the mosque belongs. Instead, he has refused to say what he thinks. The debate is about whether it is prudent and wise for Imam Rauf to build the mosque and community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. And on this, reasonable people can disagree.

On this particular matter one other point needs to be repeated: If the point of this enterprise was to deepen interfaith dialogue and understanding, it has failed miserably. And if those insisting the mosque be built at the original location persist in their efforts — if they heed Cohen’s advice and jettison compromise as morally treasonous — things will get a good deal worse. Contrary to what some liberals are arguing, no great constitutional principle will have been ratified. Instead, a debate that is harmful to our country, including to Muslim Americans, will be intensified.

This is potentially dangerous stuff we’re dealing with — and I can’t understand why those who insist that they are pining for reconciliation and comity are pushing an idea that is doing the opposite.

Read Less

Reconciliation=Capitulation, It Seems

Richard Cohen’s column, I will choose to believe, was written before Imam Rauf’s distinctly un-moderate comments (“the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda,” he said, and the only solution to the Middle East, he opined, is a one-state solution) were revealed. Otherwise, Cohen’s entire column, like much of what has been written by the left, would be dishonest (in ignoring the views and intentions of the mosque builders) and ludicrous (by insisting that this is about reconciliation or religious freedom). But even on its own terms, Cohen’s column reinforces my own concern about the counterproductive nature (if not downright danger) of “Muslim Outreach.”

He chastises the Ground Zero mosque opponents for suggesting some compromise. No deal, says Cohen on behalf of the “9/11 is America’s fault” mosque builder. For Rauf and his ilk, there is no compromise, only capitulation, because we are not entitled to expect more of the mosque proponents:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

Well, you see my point about Muslim outreach. If the entire argument becomes “we don’t care about non-Muslim sentiments or concerns” and “we don’t have to give an inch” (or a few blocks), there is no reconciliation or healing in the offing. It is a farce, and a pretext to generate more animosity toward non-Muslims. Or, in the case of the left, it’s another excuse to defame Americans and demonstrate precisely why we would do better to have fewer Harvard law school professors in the White House. This is a prime example of why values and character rather than a resume are the most critical attributes of a successful president. There is no substitute for a president who understands his fellow citizens and is able to rally them in a battle for their civilization — against those who cannot accept compromise. They didn’t name that mosque Cordoba for nothing.

Richard Cohen’s column, I will choose to believe, was written before Imam Rauf’s distinctly un-moderate comments (“the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda,” he said, and the only solution to the Middle East, he opined, is a one-state solution) were revealed. Otherwise, Cohen’s entire column, like much of what has been written by the left, would be dishonest (in ignoring the views and intentions of the mosque builders) and ludicrous (by insisting that this is about reconciliation or religious freedom). But even on its own terms, Cohen’s column reinforces my own concern about the counterproductive nature (if not downright danger) of “Muslim Outreach.”

He chastises the Ground Zero mosque opponents for suggesting some compromise. No deal, says Cohen on behalf of the “9/11 is America’s fault” mosque builder. For Rauf and his ilk, there is no compromise, only capitulation, because we are not entitled to expect more of the mosque proponents:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” Daisy Khan, a founder of the mosque (and the wife of the imam), rejected any compromise. She was right to do so because to compromise is to accede, even a bit, to the arguments of bigots, demagogues or the merely uninformed. This is no longer her fight. The fight is now all of ours.

Well, you see my point about Muslim outreach. If the entire argument becomes “we don’t care about non-Muslim sentiments or concerns” and “we don’t have to give an inch” (or a few blocks), there is no reconciliation or healing in the offing. It is a farce, and a pretext to generate more animosity toward non-Muslims. Or, in the case of the left, it’s another excuse to defame Americans and demonstrate precisely why we would do better to have fewer Harvard law school professors in the White House. This is a prime example of why values and character rather than a resume are the most critical attributes of a successful president. There is no substitute for a president who understands his fellow citizens and is able to rally them in a battle for their civilization — against those who cannot accept compromise. They didn’t name that mosque Cordoba for nothing.

Read Less

Why Didn’t Obama Grasp What the Ground Zero Mosque Is All About?

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of ”religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not ”want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of ”religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not ”want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

Read Less

Richard Cohen: Obama Is No Reagan

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]“) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]“) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

Read Less

Cohen on Hamas: OK, They’re Islamic Fascists

Richard Cohen discovers Hamas really is a gang of Islamic fascists:

Gaza is a mean and brutal place with a totalitarian government steeped in a cult of violence and death. This hardly means that the government does not have a measure of popular support and did not, as some of the activists naively point out, come to power by democratic means. So did the Nazis.

Cohen reads up on the subject only to discover — why, yes! — these are Jew-haters:

The term “Islamic fascism” gets thrown around a lot. I initially recoiled from it because I prefer to reserve fascism for fascists. The term is too loosely employed — New York City cops were called fascists by Vietnam-era peace demonstrators — but Paul Berman, in his new book “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” makes a solid case that it can, with justice, be applied to Hamas. … Berman traces Hamas’s intellectual pedigree to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, greatly admired Hitler, and to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who spent much of World War II in Germany cozying up to Hitler, organizing a Muslim SS unit and, on occasion, remonstrating with the Nazis for not killing enough Jews. … The successor to both Banna and Husseini was Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), an Egyptian intellectual of uncontested importance whose influence can be found in the writing of the Hamas charter. Qutb was an indefatigable author (more than 20 books, some written while in an Egyptian prison where he was tortured), but the article that should interest the pro-Hamas activists the most is called “Our Struggle with the Jews.” It is a shocking and repellent work of anti-Semitism that, among other things, says the “Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction” of Islam. Qutb cites that hoary anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” for substantiation — suggesting that his status as an intellectual is somewhat due to heroic grade inflation.

Cohen adds that the flotilla’s “so-called” activists are “useful idiots” (actually, a significant share of them were with the Islamic fascists, but at least he is getting the gist). He sums up:

Now is the time, I suppose, to say that Israel is not exactly perfect either. It continues to overreact, uses too much force and has often trampled on the rights of Palestinians. Still, Israel is Thomas Jefferson’s idea of heaven compared with Gaza, which could serve as a seaside Club Med for Jew-haters. One country is consonant with the Enlightenment; the other is a dark place of religious intolerance where the firmest principles of anti-Semitism — not anti-Zionism or pro-Palestinianism — are embedded in the Hamas charter.

It’s mind-boggling that all this is apparently news to him, and to many on the left. But it does raise the question: other than by vanquishing Hamas and like-minded Islamic fascists (as the Allies defeated Hitler), how is there to be “peace”?

Richard Cohen discovers Hamas really is a gang of Islamic fascists:

Gaza is a mean and brutal place with a totalitarian government steeped in a cult of violence and death. This hardly means that the government does not have a measure of popular support and did not, as some of the activists naively point out, come to power by democratic means. So did the Nazis.

Cohen reads up on the subject only to discover — why, yes! — these are Jew-haters:

The term “Islamic fascism” gets thrown around a lot. I initially recoiled from it because I prefer to reserve fascism for fascists. The term is too loosely employed — New York City cops were called fascists by Vietnam-era peace demonstrators — but Paul Berman, in his new book “The Flight of the Intellectuals,” makes a solid case that it can, with justice, be applied to Hamas. … Berman traces Hamas’s intellectual pedigree to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, greatly admired Hitler, and to Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who spent much of World War II in Germany cozying up to Hitler, organizing a Muslim SS unit and, on occasion, remonstrating with the Nazis for not killing enough Jews. … The successor to both Banna and Husseini was Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), an Egyptian intellectual of uncontested importance whose influence can be found in the writing of the Hamas charter. Qutb was an indefatigable author (more than 20 books, some written while in an Egyptian prison where he was tortured), but the article that should interest the pro-Hamas activists the most is called “Our Struggle with the Jews.” It is a shocking and repellent work of anti-Semitism that, among other things, says the “Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction” of Islam. Qutb cites that hoary anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” for substantiation — suggesting that his status as an intellectual is somewhat due to heroic grade inflation.

Cohen adds that the flotilla’s “so-called” activists are “useful idiots” (actually, a significant share of them were with the Islamic fascists, but at least he is getting the gist). He sums up:

Now is the time, I suppose, to say that Israel is not exactly perfect either. It continues to overreact, uses too much force and has often trampled on the rights of Palestinians. Still, Israel is Thomas Jefferson’s idea of heaven compared with Gaza, which could serve as a seaside Club Med for Jew-haters. One country is consonant with the Enlightenment; the other is a dark place of religious intolerance where the firmest principles of anti-Semitism — not anti-Zionism or pro-Palestinianism — are embedded in the Hamas charter.

It’s mind-boggling that all this is apparently news to him, and to many on the left. But it does raise the question: other than by vanquishing Hamas and like-minded Islamic fascists (as the Allies defeated Hitler), how is there to be “peace”?

Read Less

Zuckerman vs. Cohen: What Does Obama Intend?

Even when critiquing, indeed indicting, Obama’s serial foreign-policy debacles, many critics feel compelled to attribute fine motives to the president. Mort Zuckerman recently wrote:

Obama clearly wishes to do good and means well. But he is one of those people who believe that the world was born with the word and exists by means of persuasion, such that there is no person or country that you cannot, by means of logical and moral argument, bring around to your side. He speaks as a teacher, as someone imparting values and generalities appropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, not as a tough-minded leader. He urges that things “must be done” and “should be done” and that “it is time” to do them. As the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, put it, there is “the impression that Obama might confuse speeches with policy.” Another journalist put it differently when he described Obama as an “NPR [National Public Radio] president who gives wonderful speeches.” In other words, he talks the talk but doesn’t know how to walk the walk. The Obama presidency has so far been characterized by a well-intentioned but excessive belief in the power of rhetoric with too little appreciation of reality and loyalty.

Perhaps he’s just being polite or trying to draw into the debate those who are disposed to like Obama. Perhaps it is wishful thinking – we’d certainly like to believe our president is pursuing good. But we’ve now reached a point where not only conservatives are suggesting that it may be unwarranted to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Richard Cohen, not exactly a fiery conservative, writes:

[I]t’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much. …

Foreign policy is the realm where a president comes closest to ruling by diktat. By command decision, the war in Afghanistan has been escalated, yet it seems to lack an urgent moral component. It has an apparent end date even though girls may not yet be able to attend school and the Taliban may rule again. In some respects, I agree — the earlier out of Afghanistan, the better — but if we are to stay even for a while, it has to be for reasons that have to do with principle. Somewhat the same thing applies to China. It’s okay to trade with China. It’s okay to hate it, too.

Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.

So for Cohen, at best the jury is out on Obama’s motives, and at worst the president seems to be hostile to human rights and democracy. Cohen has a lot of support for the latter assumption on the right, certainly.

As for Obama’s intentions, judging from his actions and public speeches, it certainly is more believable that he would prefer dealing with despots than messy popular uprisings, that he is not simpatico or even patient with Israel, and that he is more than willing to throw human rights and democracy under the bus for the sake of conflict avoidance. He intends, the evidence indicates, not to draw lines with Iran or Russia or the UN. He intends, from his public pronouncements we gather, not to risk war over a nuclear-armed Iran.

Is he then “well-intentioned”? It depends what ends you favor. At some point, one must conclude that it is not simply that Obama lacks the ability to express his passion for democracy, his fondness for the special relationship with the Brits, his devotion to human rights, and his commitment to a warm U.S.-Israel relationship; it is that these are not ends he intends to pursue. He intends to do other things — accommodate the UN, ingratiate himself with despotic Muslim rulers,  and appease Russia, to name a few. To many of us, that certainly doesn’t qualify as wishing to “do good” or “meaning well.”

Even when critiquing, indeed indicting, Obama’s serial foreign-policy debacles, many critics feel compelled to attribute fine motives to the president. Mort Zuckerman recently wrote:

Obama clearly wishes to do good and means well. But he is one of those people who believe that the world was born with the word and exists by means of persuasion, such that there is no person or country that you cannot, by means of logical and moral argument, bring around to your side. He speaks as a teacher, as someone imparting values and generalities appropriate for a Sunday morning sermon, not as a tough-minded leader. He urges that things “must be done” and “should be done” and that “it is time” to do them. As the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, put it, there is “the impression that Obama might confuse speeches with policy.” Another journalist put it differently when he described Obama as an “NPR [National Public Radio] president who gives wonderful speeches.” In other words, he talks the talk but doesn’t know how to walk the walk. The Obama presidency has so far been characterized by a well-intentioned but excessive belief in the power of rhetoric with too little appreciation of reality and loyalty.

Perhaps he’s just being polite or trying to draw into the debate those who are disposed to like Obama. Perhaps it is wishful thinking – we’d certainly like to believe our president is pursuing good. But we’ve now reached a point where not only conservatives are suggesting that it may be unwarranted to grant him the benefit of the doubt. Richard Cohen, not exactly a fiery conservative, writes:

[I]t’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. He treats the Israelis and their various enemies as pests of equal moral standing. The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much. …

Foreign policy is the realm where a president comes closest to ruling by diktat. By command decision, the war in Afghanistan has been escalated, yet it seems to lack an urgent moral component. It has an apparent end date even though girls may not yet be able to attend school and the Taliban may rule again. In some respects, I agree — the earlier out of Afghanistan, the better — but if we are to stay even for a while, it has to be for reasons that have to do with principle. Somewhat the same thing applies to China. It’s okay to trade with China. It’s okay to hate it, too.

Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.

So for Cohen, at best the jury is out on Obama’s motives, and at worst the president seems to be hostile to human rights and democracy. Cohen has a lot of support for the latter assumption on the right, certainly.

As for Obama’s intentions, judging from his actions and public speeches, it certainly is more believable that he would prefer dealing with despots than messy popular uprisings, that he is not simpatico or even patient with Israel, and that he is more than willing to throw human rights and democracy under the bus for the sake of conflict avoidance. He intends, the evidence indicates, not to draw lines with Iran or Russia or the UN. He intends, from his public pronouncements we gather, not to risk war over a nuclear-armed Iran.

Is he then “well-intentioned”? It depends what ends you favor. At some point, one must conclude that it is not simply that Obama lacks the ability to express his passion for democracy, his fondness for the special relationship with the Brits, his devotion to human rights, and his commitment to a warm U.S.-Israel relationship; it is that these are not ends he intends to pursue. He intends to do other things — accommodate the UN, ingratiate himself with despotic Muslim rulers,  and appease Russia, to name a few. To many of us, that certainly doesn’t qualify as wishing to “do good” or “meaning well.”

Read Less

The Jews Won’t Go Back Because They’re in Their Own Country

Despite Helen Thomas’s apology and resignation, the controversy over her call for Israel’s Jews to be thrown out of their country and “go back” to Germany and Poland isn’t quite over. Not to be outdone by the anti-Semitic octogenarian scribe, radio talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell defended or at the very least rationalized Thomas’s slur on her radio show, the audio of which can be heard on YouTube. The comedian and her “friends” on the show think Thomas’s remarks are merely “politically incorrect.” O’Donnell claims that in 2010, no one could possibly believe that Thomas thinks Jews should go back to Auschwitz (as one of the Gaza flotilla “humanitarians” allegedly told the Israeli navy) and that her main point was justified because “What she was saying was, the homeland was originally Palestinian and it’s now occupied by Israel.”

O’Donnell’s rants are not particularly significant, but her assertion about whose land the Israelis currently occupy is important because it represents a common misconception about the Middle East conflict that often goes without contradiction.

Indeed, even those pundits that reacted appropriately to Thomas’s remarks, such as the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, who wrote an admirable column about what happened when some Jews did, in fact, attempt to go back to Poland after the Holocaust, failed to point out that Jewish rights to historic Palestine predate the tragic events of the 1940s. Cohen described the Kielce massacre, in which Poles slaughtered returning Jews, as well as the hostility of even some Americans, such as General George Patton, toward displaced survivors. He rightly noted that the plight of these homeless Jews helped galvanize support for Zionism at that crucial moment in history in the years leading up to Israel’s independence.

But as with President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, which posed a false moral equivalence between the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust and the displacement of Palestinian Arab refugees, the idea that Jewish rights to the land are merely a matter of compensation for events in Europe is a pernicious myth that must be refuted at every opportunity. Jews need not be required to leave Israel for Europe not only because to do so would be insensitive but also because the place Arabs call Palestine is the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Despite the dispersion of the Jews, the Jewish presence in the land was never eradicated. For example, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority in the 1840s. Palestinian nationalism grew not as an attempt to reconstitute an ancient people or to solidify an existing political culture but strictly as a negative reaction to the return of the Jews and does not exist outside the context of trying to deny the country to the Zionists. That is why even moderate Palestinians find it impossible to sign a peace agreement legitimizing a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

The idea of Jews as colonists in the Middle East is a staple of anti-Zionist hatred, but it surfaces even in respectable forums and in the work of writers who are nominally sympathetic to Israel. Earlier this week, Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times comparing the State of Israel to the Christian Crusader kingdoms that sprouted in what is now Israel during the Middle Ages before being swept away by a Muslim tide. Douthat doesn’t seem to wish the same fate for the Jews and acknowledged that the analogy between the Crusaders and Israel is one invoked by Arabs who wish to wipe out the Jewish state. But his analogy between Israel’s demographic and strategic problems and that of the Crusaders is itself specious. Unlike the Christian noblemen who ruled the country and its mainly non-Christian inhabitants from castles that are now historic ruins, the Jews settled on the land en masse and developed it in an unprecedented manner. Contrary to his evaluation of Israel’s current position, its economy has flourished despite war; and though it has many problems (as do all countries), it is no danger of being swept away except by the sort of cataclysmic threat that a nuclear Iran poses. Moreover, and contrary to the land grab of European knights who massacred Jews in Europe on their way to further atrocities in the Holy Land, the Jews came back to their country as a matter of historic justice, as a people reclaiming what was rightly theirs.

Friends of Israel and those representing the Jewish state generally ignore the need to point out the myths about Zionism that have resulted in all too many people accepting the idea that the Jews are “occupiers” of an exclusively Arab land. They fear boring their listeners or seeming too strident. But the costs of this neglect are to be measured in the growing numbers of people in the West who accept the lies spread by Palestinian propagandists or who don’t know enough to challenge them.

Despite Helen Thomas’s apology and resignation, the controversy over her call for Israel’s Jews to be thrown out of their country and “go back” to Germany and Poland isn’t quite over. Not to be outdone by the anti-Semitic octogenarian scribe, radio talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell defended or at the very least rationalized Thomas’s slur on her radio show, the audio of which can be heard on YouTube. The comedian and her “friends” on the show think Thomas’s remarks are merely “politically incorrect.” O’Donnell claims that in 2010, no one could possibly believe that Thomas thinks Jews should go back to Auschwitz (as one of the Gaza flotilla “humanitarians” allegedly told the Israeli navy) and that her main point was justified because “What she was saying was, the homeland was originally Palestinian and it’s now occupied by Israel.”

O’Donnell’s rants are not particularly significant, but her assertion about whose land the Israelis currently occupy is important because it represents a common misconception about the Middle East conflict that often goes without contradiction.

Indeed, even those pundits that reacted appropriately to Thomas’s remarks, such as the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, who wrote an admirable column about what happened when some Jews did, in fact, attempt to go back to Poland after the Holocaust, failed to point out that Jewish rights to historic Palestine predate the tragic events of the 1940s. Cohen described the Kielce massacre, in which Poles slaughtered returning Jews, as well as the hostility of even some Americans, such as General George Patton, toward displaced survivors. He rightly noted that the plight of these homeless Jews helped galvanize support for Zionism at that crucial moment in history in the years leading up to Israel’s independence.

But as with President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, which posed a false moral equivalence between the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust and the displacement of Palestinian Arab refugees, the idea that Jewish rights to the land are merely a matter of compensation for events in Europe is a pernicious myth that must be refuted at every opportunity. Jews need not be required to leave Israel for Europe not only because to do so would be insensitive but also because the place Arabs call Palestine is the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Despite the dispersion of the Jews, the Jewish presence in the land was never eradicated. For example, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority in the 1840s. Palestinian nationalism grew not as an attempt to reconstitute an ancient people or to solidify an existing political culture but strictly as a negative reaction to the return of the Jews and does not exist outside the context of trying to deny the country to the Zionists. That is why even moderate Palestinians find it impossible to sign a peace agreement legitimizing a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

The idea of Jews as colonists in the Middle East is a staple of anti-Zionist hatred, but it surfaces even in respectable forums and in the work of writers who are nominally sympathetic to Israel. Earlier this week, Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times comparing the State of Israel to the Christian Crusader kingdoms that sprouted in what is now Israel during the Middle Ages before being swept away by a Muslim tide. Douthat doesn’t seem to wish the same fate for the Jews and acknowledged that the analogy between the Crusaders and Israel is one invoked by Arabs who wish to wipe out the Jewish state. But his analogy between Israel’s demographic and strategic problems and that of the Crusaders is itself specious. Unlike the Christian noblemen who ruled the country and its mainly non-Christian inhabitants from castles that are now historic ruins, the Jews settled on the land en masse and developed it in an unprecedented manner. Contrary to his evaluation of Israel’s current position, its economy has flourished despite war; and though it has many problems (as do all countries), it is no danger of being swept away except by the sort of cataclysmic threat that a nuclear Iran poses. Moreover, and contrary to the land grab of European knights who massacred Jews in Europe on their way to further atrocities in the Holy Land, the Jews came back to their country as a matter of historic justice, as a people reclaiming what was rightly theirs.

Friends of Israel and those representing the Jewish state generally ignore the need to point out the myths about Zionism that have resulted in all too many people accepting the idea that the Jews are “occupiers” of an exclusively Arab land. They fear boring their listeners or seeming too strident. But the costs of this neglect are to be measured in the growing numbers of people in the West who accept the lies spread by Palestinian propagandists or who don’t know enough to challenge them.

Read Less

Poverty Doesn’t Create Crime? Who Knew?

Richard Cohen has discovered that liberal dogma is all wet. Well, at least the dogma that says crime is caused by poverty and other societal failings. He writes that crime is down despite a painful recession:

Whatever the reasons, it now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims. …

The Watts survey [following the 1965 riots] tended to support liberal dogma that criminals were like everyone else, only more desperate. Probably the ultimate example of this was cited to me years ago by a woman who had her necklace yanked from her while walking in Manhattan. When I commiserated with her, she said of the crook — I am not making this up — “he probably needed it more than I did.” This is liberal guilt at its apogee.

Cohen acknowledges that a great deal of social policy was based on a false premise: “It made victims of criminals and criminals of victims (all wealth comes from theft, etc.) — and in so doing, insulted the law-abiding poor who somehow lacked the wit to appreciate their historic plight.”

Well, better late than never. This revelation might suggest that liberals re-examine other premises that have proved dangerous. Perhaps they can take a look at “The government can create wealth” or “The rich need to pay more taxes.” The possibilities in foreign policy are endless. (Let’s start with, “The problem with our policy toward Iran, China, Syria, etc. is that we haven’t tried to engage them.”) Liberals consider their opponents to be dunderheads and anti-intellectuals. It must be a shock to find out that the dunderheads were right about so much.

Richard Cohen has discovered that liberal dogma is all wet. Well, at least the dogma that says crime is caused by poverty and other societal failings. He writes that crime is down despite a painful recession:

Whatever the reasons, it now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims. …

The Watts survey [following the 1965 riots] tended to support liberal dogma that criminals were like everyone else, only more desperate. Probably the ultimate example of this was cited to me years ago by a woman who had her necklace yanked from her while walking in Manhattan. When I commiserated with her, she said of the crook — I am not making this up — “he probably needed it more than I did.” This is liberal guilt at its apogee.

Cohen acknowledges that a great deal of social policy was based on a false premise: “It made victims of criminals and criminals of victims (all wealth comes from theft, etc.) — and in so doing, insulted the law-abiding poor who somehow lacked the wit to appreciate their historic plight.”

Well, better late than never. This revelation might suggest that liberals re-examine other premises that have proved dangerous. Perhaps they can take a look at “The government can create wealth” or “The rich need to pay more taxes.” The possibilities in foreign policy are endless. (Let’s start with, “The problem with our policy toward Iran, China, Syria, etc. is that we haven’t tried to engage them.”) Liberals consider their opponents to be dunderheads and anti-intellectuals. It must be a shock to find out that the dunderheads were right about so much.

Read Less

Who’s Crazy?

I suppose we’ve reached a breakthrough on Iran when liberal pundits start invoking Richard Nixon — with fondness. Richard Cohen does so by way of considering whether Ahmadinejad is crazy/insane or crazy/dangerous, and whether it isn’t a good idea to upend the Iranian regime’s plans to acquire nuclear weapons. You know, maybe we should give the Iranians the idea that we might do something Nixonesque — like knock out some sites or embargo the country. He observes:

Israel, of all countries, has little faith in the rationality of mankind. It simply knows better. So the question of whether Ahmadinejad is playing the madman or really is a madman is not an academic exercise. It has a real and frightening immediacy that too often, in too many precincts, gets belittled as a form of paranoia. For instance, when Israeli leaders warn that they might take preemptive action against Iran — say, an attempt to bomb its nuclear facilities as they did in Iraq in 1981 — it is dismissed as irresponsible saber-rattling. Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski even suggested that if Israel tried such a thing, the United States might have to back it down with force. The Brzezinski Doctrine is refreshing in its perverse boldness: We shoot our friends to defend our enemies.

The Obami’s policy, insofar we know they have one, hasn’t gone that far, though they speak quite openly of the risks of an attack and seem quite focused on making sure the Israelis don’t do anything as rash as preemptively removing a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. But what is crazy, even to the likes of Cohen, is the notion that we can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran:

It would upend the balance of power throughout the Middle East and encourage radical/terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas to ratchet up their war against Israel. Other Middle East nations, not content to rely on an American nuclear umbrella, would seek their own bombs. An unstable region would go nuclear. (It speaks volumes about Middle Eastern reality and hypocrisy that Egypt serenely lives with an Israeli bomb but breaks out in diplomatic hives at the prospect of an Iranian one.)

And it is equally clear that, as Cohen acknowledges, the Obami have done nothing to dissuade the Iranian regime from pursuing its goal of joining the nuclear weapons club.
The Obama team likes to talk about creating consensus on Iran. Now everyone knows they’re bad guys, Hillary Clinton tells us – as if the  stolen election, the murders, the censorship, the brutality, the hidden nuclear sites, and the vows to exterminate Israel weren’t enough. But instead, the consensus has developed that Obama has behaved irresponsibly and in a very real sense irrationally. He expected a despotic regime to welcome cordial relations with the West, and he imagined that democracy protesters were an encumbrance rather than a remarkable opportunity for Iran and the West.

After a year, liberals and conservatives are reaching a consensus: Obama’s Iran policy is a dangerous flop. I suppose that’s an achievement of sorts.

I suppose we’ve reached a breakthrough on Iran when liberal pundits start invoking Richard Nixon — with fondness. Richard Cohen does so by way of considering whether Ahmadinejad is crazy/insane or crazy/dangerous, and whether it isn’t a good idea to upend the Iranian regime’s plans to acquire nuclear weapons. You know, maybe we should give the Iranians the idea that we might do something Nixonesque — like knock out some sites or embargo the country. He observes:

Israel, of all countries, has little faith in the rationality of mankind. It simply knows better. So the question of whether Ahmadinejad is playing the madman or really is a madman is not an academic exercise. It has a real and frightening immediacy that too often, in too many precincts, gets belittled as a form of paranoia. For instance, when Israeli leaders warn that they might take preemptive action against Iran — say, an attempt to bomb its nuclear facilities as they did in Iraq in 1981 — it is dismissed as irresponsible saber-rattling. Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski even suggested that if Israel tried such a thing, the United States might have to back it down with force. The Brzezinski Doctrine is refreshing in its perverse boldness: We shoot our friends to defend our enemies.

The Obami’s policy, insofar we know they have one, hasn’t gone that far, though they speak quite openly of the risks of an attack and seem quite focused on making sure the Israelis don’t do anything as rash as preemptively removing a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. But what is crazy, even to the likes of Cohen, is the notion that we can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran:

It would upend the balance of power throughout the Middle East and encourage radical/terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas to ratchet up their war against Israel. Other Middle East nations, not content to rely on an American nuclear umbrella, would seek their own bombs. An unstable region would go nuclear. (It speaks volumes about Middle Eastern reality and hypocrisy that Egypt serenely lives with an Israeli bomb but breaks out in diplomatic hives at the prospect of an Iranian one.)

And it is equally clear that, as Cohen acknowledges, the Obami have done nothing to dissuade the Iranian regime from pursuing its goal of joining the nuclear weapons club.
The Obama team likes to talk about creating consensus on Iran. Now everyone knows they’re bad guys, Hillary Clinton tells us – as if the  stolen election, the murders, the censorship, the brutality, the hidden nuclear sites, and the vows to exterminate Israel weren’t enough. But instead, the consensus has developed that Obama has behaved irresponsibly and in a very real sense irrationally. He expected a despotic regime to welcome cordial relations with the West, and he imagined that democracy protesters were an encumbrance rather than a remarkable opportunity for Iran and the West.

After a year, liberals and conservatives are reaching a consensus: Obama’s Iran policy is a dangerous flop. I suppose that’s an achievement of sorts.

Read Less

Cohen vs. Obama

When Richard Cohen sounds like Dick Cheney, the Obama administration is in a heap of trouble:

There is almost nothing the Obama administration does regarding terrorism that makes me feel safer. Whether it is guaranteeing captured terrorists that they will not be waterboarded, reciting terrorists their rights, or the legally meandering and confusing rule that some terrorists will be tried in military tribunals and some in civilian courts, what is missing is a firm recognition that what comes first is not the message sent to America’s critics but the message sent to Americans themselves.

Not even a generally sympathetic liberal columnist like Cohen buys the hooey that the administration didn’t “lose anything” when it Mirandized the Christmas Day bomber:

Administration officials defend what happened in Detroit and assert, against common sense and the holy truth itself, that they got valuable intelligence — and so what more would you want? But Abdulmutallab went silent before terrorism experts from Washington could get to him. It has been more than a month since he last opened his mouth, and even if he resumes cooperating — a deal may be in the works — he now knows just a bit more about the present-day location of various al-Qaeda operatives than does Regis Philbin.

It seems that there is now general agreement even from the liberal punditocracy that Obama got it very wrong. He and his minions in the Department of Justice forgot — or never understood – that, as Cohen puts it, ”the paramount civil liberty is a sense of security.” If not only the cabal of neocon critics but also card-carrying liberals agree that Obama has “shown poor judgment” and neglected citizens’ entirely justified concerns about their personal safety, then the president is in a perilous position indeed. He must scramble back from the limb he has crawled out on, reverse a host of policy choices, re-establish his bona fides as a resolute commander in chief, find personnel who can implement a not “Not Bush” policy, and devise new rhetoric to express appreciation for the security of those he swore an oath to defend.

That’s a tall order, certainly. But Obama can always tell us how “hard” these issues are, how long and intense was his rumination about them, and how none of this really vindicates his critics. Whatever rationalizations he needs, I’m sure he and his spinners can come up with them. But what is key is that he reverse his entire approach to terrorism — before he permanently loses the trust of not just pundits but the vast majority of voters, and more important, before we have not a close call but a disaster on his watch. If the unthinkable happens, there will be no one else to blame and, I suspect, no mercy shown by an electorate increasingly skeptical about Obama’s competence as the commander in chief in a war for the survival of our civilization.

When Richard Cohen sounds like Dick Cheney, the Obama administration is in a heap of trouble:

There is almost nothing the Obama administration does regarding terrorism that makes me feel safer. Whether it is guaranteeing captured terrorists that they will not be waterboarded, reciting terrorists their rights, or the legally meandering and confusing rule that some terrorists will be tried in military tribunals and some in civilian courts, what is missing is a firm recognition that what comes first is not the message sent to America’s critics but the message sent to Americans themselves.

Not even a generally sympathetic liberal columnist like Cohen buys the hooey that the administration didn’t “lose anything” when it Mirandized the Christmas Day bomber:

Administration officials defend what happened in Detroit and assert, against common sense and the holy truth itself, that they got valuable intelligence — and so what more would you want? But Abdulmutallab went silent before terrorism experts from Washington could get to him. It has been more than a month since he last opened his mouth, and even if he resumes cooperating — a deal may be in the works — he now knows just a bit more about the present-day location of various al-Qaeda operatives than does Regis Philbin.

It seems that there is now general agreement even from the liberal punditocracy that Obama got it very wrong. He and his minions in the Department of Justice forgot — or never understood – that, as Cohen puts it, ”the paramount civil liberty is a sense of security.” If not only the cabal of neocon critics but also card-carrying liberals agree that Obama has “shown poor judgment” and neglected citizens’ entirely justified concerns about their personal safety, then the president is in a perilous position indeed. He must scramble back from the limb he has crawled out on, reverse a host of policy choices, re-establish his bona fides as a resolute commander in chief, find personnel who can implement a not “Not Bush” policy, and devise new rhetoric to express appreciation for the security of those he swore an oath to defend.

That’s a tall order, certainly. But Obama can always tell us how “hard” these issues are, how long and intense was his rumination about them, and how none of this really vindicates his critics. Whatever rationalizations he needs, I’m sure he and his spinners can come up with them. But what is key is that he reverse his entire approach to terrorism — before he permanently loses the trust of not just pundits but the vast majority of voters, and more important, before we have not a close call but a disaster on his watch. If the unthinkable happens, there will be no one else to blame and, I suspect, no mercy shown by an electorate increasingly skeptical about Obama’s competence as the commander in chief in a war for the survival of our civilization.

Read Less

John Edwards Was Only the VP Nominee. Obama Is President

Richard Cohen’s weekly column spends seven paragraphs recitating the awfulness of John Edwards (I haven’t written about him because his loathsomeness has been aptly conveyed by others), the scariness of putting him on the 2004 presidential ticket, and the reaffirmation that liberals were right all along about Sarah Palin. (We know they were right because they obsessively keep telling us so: “I withdraw none of it; the better we got to know Palin, the more egregious a choice she became — astonishingly unprepared and unsuited for the presidency.” Never mind that she was on the money on health-care rationing, global-warming fakery, Guantanamo, and a great deal more. )

Then comes the kicker: Cohen suggests that Obama was as scary a choice and that we knew as little about him as we did about Edwards — or THAT woman:

The out-of-nowhere rise of Palin and Edwards in less than a decade is warning enough that something is wrong. I will also throw Barack Obama into the mix, not because I know something nefarious about him but because I realize more and more that I know so little about him.

When, for instance, the call goes out to let Obama be Obama, I’m not sure what that is. For the moment, it’s a tendentious populism, but the sound of it is tinny and inauthentic, a campaign tactic, nothing more. When, however, we were asked to “let Reagan be Reagan,” we could be certain it was a call for a hard-right turn. Ronald Reagan had devoted many years to the conservative cause. Obama, in contrast, was in the Illinois Senate just six years ago.

Well, it may not be nefarious — but we now know he’s rather ill-equipped to be president. (We hold out some hope that he might get up to speed.) And Cohen’s still not sure exactly what bill of goods we were sold by the Obama campaign. When Cohen complains that we “have substituted the camera — fame, celebrity — for both achievement and the studied judgment of colleagues,” he is not sparing this president, whose fame and celebrity were fanned by the not-very-studied judgment of media cheerleaders convinced there was something spectacular there.

There certainly is a spasm of honesty breaking out in the punditocracy. Perhaps there’s a trend to fess up. What did they know about Obama’s shortcomings and when did they know it? A support group (Regretful Flacks for Obama) might be formed. There they can confess the error of their ways. They mistook physical elegance and a nice speaking voice for profundity. They heard gibberish (“We are the change blah, blah …”) and spun it as pearls of wisdom. They saw a man of slight accomplishment and falsely inferred skills that weren’t there. They confused reserve and remoteness with calm under fire. They ignored signs that he had disdain for average Americans and their values. They ignored his associations and extremely liberal voting record while reciting his promises of “moderation.” And so on.

Ultimately, voters are grown-ups and responsible for their own choices. But if Cohen is upset with the rise of a synthetic, overhyped candidate who’s turning out to be at best a mediocre president, he should talk to his media colleagues. They certainly did their part.

Richard Cohen’s weekly column spends seven paragraphs recitating the awfulness of John Edwards (I haven’t written about him because his loathsomeness has been aptly conveyed by others), the scariness of putting him on the 2004 presidential ticket, and the reaffirmation that liberals were right all along about Sarah Palin. (We know they were right because they obsessively keep telling us so: “I withdraw none of it; the better we got to know Palin, the more egregious a choice she became — astonishingly unprepared and unsuited for the presidency.” Never mind that she was on the money on health-care rationing, global-warming fakery, Guantanamo, and a great deal more. )

Then comes the kicker: Cohen suggests that Obama was as scary a choice and that we knew as little about him as we did about Edwards — or THAT woman:

The out-of-nowhere rise of Palin and Edwards in less than a decade is warning enough that something is wrong. I will also throw Barack Obama into the mix, not because I know something nefarious about him but because I realize more and more that I know so little about him.

When, for instance, the call goes out to let Obama be Obama, I’m not sure what that is. For the moment, it’s a tendentious populism, but the sound of it is tinny and inauthentic, a campaign tactic, nothing more. When, however, we were asked to “let Reagan be Reagan,” we could be certain it was a call for a hard-right turn. Ronald Reagan had devoted many years to the conservative cause. Obama, in contrast, was in the Illinois Senate just six years ago.

Well, it may not be nefarious — but we now know he’s rather ill-equipped to be president. (We hold out some hope that he might get up to speed.) And Cohen’s still not sure exactly what bill of goods we were sold by the Obama campaign. When Cohen complains that we “have substituted the camera — fame, celebrity — for both achievement and the studied judgment of colleagues,” he is not sparing this president, whose fame and celebrity were fanned by the not-very-studied judgment of media cheerleaders convinced there was something spectacular there.

There certainly is a spasm of honesty breaking out in the punditocracy. Perhaps there’s a trend to fess up. What did they know about Obama’s shortcomings and when did they know it? A support group (Regretful Flacks for Obama) might be formed. There they can confess the error of their ways. They mistook physical elegance and a nice speaking voice for profundity. They heard gibberish (“We are the change blah, blah …”) and spun it as pearls of wisdom. They saw a man of slight accomplishment and falsely inferred skills that weren’t there. They confused reserve and remoteness with calm under fire. They ignored signs that he had disdain for average Americans and their values. They ignored his associations and extremely liberal voting record while reciting his promises of “moderation.” And so on.

Ultimately, voters are grown-ups and responsible for their own choices. But if Cohen is upset with the rise of a synthetic, overhyped candidate who’s turning out to be at best a mediocre president, he should talk to his media colleagues. They certainly did their part.

Read Less

Just a Notch on a Belt

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Read Less

Talking Nonsense

Having placed their faith in the civilian justice system, the president and Eric Holder have gone about assuring us that the conviction of KSM and his associates is a done deal. Except it’s not, and they do that very justice system (which was never intended for enemy combatants) no favors when they promise a conviction. Others have noticed as well:

Ben Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that Holder’s confidence is misleading. “Holder is clearly talking nonsense when he says failure is not an option,” Wittes said. “Adverse outcomes can happen, and I am certain that within the Justice Department, they don’t consider it a zero possibility that this case will get totally out of control.”

Wittes goes on to argue that there are “risks in a military commission” system. Well, yes, but KSM was last seen pleading guilty, so it would seem the “risks” are a bit theoretical. As for the civilian trials, it’s about time Holder did away with the “following the law” meme. It’s nonsense. (“The 9/11 trials would make history, however, because the five detainees would become the first enemy combatants captured overseas and brought to the United States for a federal trial.”) Following the law would have meant employing the military commissions and following more than 200 years of American jurisprudence, both of which would have avoided the spectacle of an attorney general and a president spinning easily debunked tales.

And the president’s duck-and-run routine has gotten under the skin of even generally sympathetic pundits like Richard Cohen, who can spot political cowardice when he sees it, chastising Obama, who “let his attorney general, Eric Holder, announce the new policy for trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Sept. 11 defendants in criminal court, as if this were a mere departmental issue and not one of momentous policy.” Cohen can also figure out the logical gulf in the argument for trying some but not all terrorists in civilian court: “What is the principle in that: What works, works? Try putting that one on the Liberty Bell.”

It seems that no one is buying the rationale for this decision. Perhaps the president should get in front of the press or, better yet, meet with all the 9/11 families and explain it himself.

Having placed their faith in the civilian justice system, the president and Eric Holder have gone about assuring us that the conviction of KSM and his associates is a done deal. Except it’s not, and they do that very justice system (which was never intended for enemy combatants) no favors when they promise a conviction. Others have noticed as well:

Ben Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that Holder’s confidence is misleading. “Holder is clearly talking nonsense when he says failure is not an option,” Wittes said. “Adverse outcomes can happen, and I am certain that within the Justice Department, they don’t consider it a zero possibility that this case will get totally out of control.”

Wittes goes on to argue that there are “risks in a military commission” system. Well, yes, but KSM was last seen pleading guilty, so it would seem the “risks” are a bit theoretical. As for the civilian trials, it’s about time Holder did away with the “following the law” meme. It’s nonsense. (“The 9/11 trials would make history, however, because the five detainees would become the first enemy combatants captured overseas and brought to the United States for a federal trial.”) Following the law would have meant employing the military commissions and following more than 200 years of American jurisprudence, both of which would have avoided the spectacle of an attorney general and a president spinning easily debunked tales.

And the president’s duck-and-run routine has gotten under the skin of even generally sympathetic pundits like Richard Cohen, who can spot political cowardice when he sees it, chastising Obama, who “let his attorney general, Eric Holder, announce the new policy for trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Sept. 11 defendants in criminal court, as if this were a mere departmental issue and not one of momentous policy.” Cohen can also figure out the logical gulf in the argument for trying some but not all terrorists in civilian court: “What is the principle in that: What works, works? Try putting that one on the Liberty Bell.”

It seems that no one is buying the rationale for this decision. Perhaps the president should get in front of the press or, better yet, meet with all the 9/11 families and explain it himself.

Read Less

Worth Studying

Richard Cohen in a bile-filled column asserts, “The Palin Movement is fueled by high-octane bile, and it is worth watching and studying for these reasons alone.” Uh, not exactly. It seems the bile is flowing from one side these days. Clue: it’s the crowd that refers to her as Eva Perón, Madonna, and “the empty vessel,” as Cohen does. (As opposed to Barack Obama, who was the blank slate upon whom voters could project their every desire.)

Cohen’s column uses the conceit that former President George W. Bush should be setting up an Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin. Well, let’s stipulate that something is worth studying here.

For starters, how does Palin induce Cohen and crew to adopt such loopy, self-defeating arguments? When Cohen howls at the prospect of her ”meeting with the Chinese or, for that matter, conducting a protracted policy review about Afghanistan,” he’s not helping his case. I am confident that months ago, she would have sized up Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation and given the go-ahead after observing that not a single military commander (domestic or allied) disagreed with McChrystal’s take and that “light footprint” alternatives had been tried and failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it’s safe to assume that she wouldn’t be in the unfortunate position of having snubbed the Dalai Lama before a China trip, thereby signaling our abject weakness.

Now in fairness to Cohen, he gets one thing right: he thinks the McCain camp, which picked her, is deserving of scorn for having imagined they’d bottle her up and then embarking on a campaign of character assassination. But the rest of Cohen’s tirade is something to behold. Her selection, he pronounces, was the “exact moment important Republicans gave up on democracy.” I bet that escaped your notice. (Or maybe you thought the moment some folks gave up on democracy might have been when a campaign adopted creepy iconography and devoted followers started referring to their leader as a deity, not a mortal running for a constitutionally circumscribed office.) Whatever causes Cohen to go around this bend is indeed worth a seminar or two.

Now here’s a killer argument: the fine folks who run the Weekly Standard and Wall Street Journal wouldn’t hire her as an editor but would want her as president, Cohen snorts. Yes, because we all know that what it takes to be a great president is exactly what it takes to put out a good magazine or newspaper. Really, if you can’t cut a 3,000-word column by a third, how are you going to balance the federal budget? (Cohen does know that politicians hire people to write things for them, right?) This is what happens when critics become irrational — they make arguments that confuse “editor” with “commander in chief.”

And then Cohen meanders over to the “death panels,” shouting “Demagogue!” Well, the provision for end-of-life-counseling panels was stripped from the bill once Palin issued her Facebook critique, and her argument on government-induced rationing was a prime mover in generating opposition to ObamaCare. But Cohen’s on the side of rationality, and Palin’s the demagogue, so let’s not let facts get in the way.

What’s important to keep in mind is that she’s a salesgirl, a celebrity starlet (“Like most celebrities, she is a vehicle for the sale of something: a book, a magazine, a TV program or a diet regime”). And this is why Cohen concludes that her popularity among Republicans is evidence of hatred: “What they mean is that she will act out their resentments — take an ax to the people and institutions they hate.”

Axes? Hate? My, it seems there is a group of the unhinged marauding around the political landscape. But it’s rather apparent that it isn’t the “Palin Movement.” (Does she have a movement all to herself?) Whatever you think of Palin, you do have to marvel at the frenzied antagonism she induces in her critics. And yes, that’s worth looking into as a political and social phenomenon — and, as people like Cohen’s colleague Kathleen Parker (another victim of Palin-induced rage) remind us, we really are short on civility these days.

Richard Cohen in a bile-filled column asserts, “The Palin Movement is fueled by high-octane bile, and it is worth watching and studying for these reasons alone.” Uh, not exactly. It seems the bile is flowing from one side these days. Clue: it’s the crowd that refers to her as Eva Perón, Madonna, and “the empty vessel,” as Cohen does. (As opposed to Barack Obama, who was the blank slate upon whom voters could project their every desire.)

Cohen’s column uses the conceit that former President George W. Bush should be setting up an Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin. Well, let’s stipulate that something is worth studying here.

For starters, how does Palin induce Cohen and crew to adopt such loopy, self-defeating arguments? When Cohen howls at the prospect of her ”meeting with the Chinese or, for that matter, conducting a protracted policy review about Afghanistan,” he’s not helping his case. I am confident that months ago, she would have sized up Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation and given the go-ahead after observing that not a single military commander (domestic or allied) disagreed with McChrystal’s take and that “light footprint” alternatives had been tried and failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it’s safe to assume that she wouldn’t be in the unfortunate position of having snubbed the Dalai Lama before a China trip, thereby signaling our abject weakness.

Now in fairness to Cohen, he gets one thing right: he thinks the McCain camp, which picked her, is deserving of scorn for having imagined they’d bottle her up and then embarking on a campaign of character assassination. But the rest of Cohen’s tirade is something to behold. Her selection, he pronounces, was the “exact moment important Republicans gave up on democracy.” I bet that escaped your notice. (Or maybe you thought the moment some folks gave up on democracy might have been when a campaign adopted creepy iconography and devoted followers started referring to their leader as a deity, not a mortal running for a constitutionally circumscribed office.) Whatever causes Cohen to go around this bend is indeed worth a seminar or two.

Now here’s a killer argument: the fine folks who run the Weekly Standard and Wall Street Journal wouldn’t hire her as an editor but would want her as president, Cohen snorts. Yes, because we all know that what it takes to be a great president is exactly what it takes to put out a good magazine or newspaper. Really, if you can’t cut a 3,000-word column by a third, how are you going to balance the federal budget? (Cohen does know that politicians hire people to write things for them, right?) This is what happens when critics become irrational — they make arguments that confuse “editor” with “commander in chief.”

And then Cohen meanders over to the “death panels,” shouting “Demagogue!” Well, the provision for end-of-life-counseling panels was stripped from the bill once Palin issued her Facebook critique, and her argument on government-induced rationing was a prime mover in generating opposition to ObamaCare. But Cohen’s on the side of rationality, and Palin’s the demagogue, so let’s not let facts get in the way.

What’s important to keep in mind is that she’s a salesgirl, a celebrity starlet (“Like most celebrities, she is a vehicle for the sale of something: a book, a magazine, a TV program or a diet regime”). And this is why Cohen concludes that her popularity among Republicans is evidence of hatred: “What they mean is that she will act out their resentments — take an ax to the people and institutions they hate.”

Axes? Hate? My, it seems there is a group of the unhinged marauding around the political landscape. But it’s rather apparent that it isn’t the “Palin Movement.” (Does she have a movement all to herself?) Whatever you think of Palin, you do have to marvel at the frenzied antagonism she induces in her critics. And yes, that’s worth looking into as a political and social phenomenon — and, as people like Cohen’s colleague Kathleen Parker (another victim of Palin-induced rage) remind us, we really are short on civility these days.

Read Less

The New Game

There is a new equivalence game afoot in the liberal punditocracy. Commentators, having discovered that their Barack Obama has made some alarming statements about direct negotiations with dictators, have begun claiming “Well, McCain doesn’t want to talk to anyone, which is worse.” This is factually wrong.

The latest example is Richard Cohen’s column in the Washington Post. He declares:

I attribute Obama’s predicament to inexperience and a certain worrisome naivete. When he said he would personally negotiate with Iran (if he were president), he might not have realized exactly what he was saying.

That alone would seem to be a conclusion which disqualifies Obama from the presidency. So what to do? Make up a position that is equally ludicrous and attribute it to McCain. That one, according to Cohen, is “John McCain will talk to no one.” But this, as I said, is false. McCain has previously said that not only would he conduct lower-level discussions and contacts with all sorts of regimes, but that he looks favorably at such discussions going on currently.

Cohen also repeats the Jamie Rubin canard that McCain was in favor of direct contact with Hamas after the 2006 elections. But more honestly than Rubin, he lets on that McCain acknowledged that these discussions would by dictated by, among other things, “how Hamas acts.” So McCain does favor talking to adversaries when the time is right? What’s the problem, then? Obama, it seems, has revealed himself even to liberal fans as a “naif.” (Or as hopelessly indecisive or inconsistent, as demonstrated by his dual intention both to talk unconditionally with Hugo Chavez and isolate him.) The only solution is to paint McCain, in Cohen’s words, as an “ostrich.” Too bad McCain’s own words and proposals don’t support that claim.

There is a new equivalence game afoot in the liberal punditocracy. Commentators, having discovered that their Barack Obama has made some alarming statements about direct negotiations with dictators, have begun claiming “Well, McCain doesn’t want to talk to anyone, which is worse.” This is factually wrong.

The latest example is Richard Cohen’s column in the Washington Post. He declares:

I attribute Obama’s predicament to inexperience and a certain worrisome naivete. When he said he would personally negotiate with Iran (if he were president), he might not have realized exactly what he was saying.

That alone would seem to be a conclusion which disqualifies Obama from the presidency. So what to do? Make up a position that is equally ludicrous and attribute it to McCain. That one, according to Cohen, is “John McCain will talk to no one.” But this, as I said, is false. McCain has previously said that not only would he conduct lower-level discussions and contacts with all sorts of regimes, but that he looks favorably at such discussions going on currently.

Cohen also repeats the Jamie Rubin canard that McCain was in favor of direct contact with Hamas after the 2006 elections. But more honestly than Rubin, he lets on that McCain acknowledged that these discussions would by dictated by, among other things, “how Hamas acts.” So McCain does favor talking to adversaries when the time is right? What’s the problem, then? Obama, it seems, has revealed himself even to liberal fans as a “naif.” (Or as hopelessly indecisive or inconsistent, as demonstrated by his dual intention both to talk unconditionally with Hugo Chavez and isolate him.) The only solution is to paint McCain, in Cohen’s words, as an “ostrich.” Too bad McCain’s own words and proposals don’t support that claim.

Read Less

Re: Obama’s Little Pin

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen must be devastated. A mere week after he wrote, “Sometimes I think the best thing about Barack Obama is that little empty space on his lapel,” Senator Obama (as Peter mentioned earlier) has gone and handicapped himself by re-accessorizing his person with an American flag pin.

In a May 6 op-ed, beautifully titled “Pins and Panders,” Cohen questions the automaton patriotism of flag-wearers and describes the pin as “a kitschy piece of empty symbolism.” Yet the man so disgusted with short-cuts to national pride is on board with the super-duper, turbo-charged, mother lode of bandwagon short-cut to national pride: the President as symbol. Cohen describes Obama as “a resplendent emblem of American possibilities.” Perhaps the true patriot wears Barack Obama’s image on his lapel . . .

Cohen writes:

Still, it is bracing to see a presidential candidate recoil, for the most part, from the orthodoxies of pandering. In this regard, the lack of a flag pin has become an important sign of Obama’s desire to think for himself. For all it says about Obama, I salute it.

Ah, but what will Obama fans salute now? Not, heaven forbid, the flag. And how will they square their belief in the rebel patriot anti-panderer with their candidate’s transparent pandering? Obama has not made it easy for his supporters. It’s hard to keep track of the alternating intelligibility of his gestures. Words were not “just words” until they were uttered by his ex-pastor: then they were “just words” again. He couldn’t denounce anti-American black liberation theology–until he could. He was post-racial until he was, first and foremost, racial. A lapel pin was a substitute for patriotism until it was patriotism itself.

There is one possibility that explains the reappearance of the flag pin as something other than pandering. Perhaps, like his wife Michelle, Obama is for the first time in his adult life, proud of his country. In making him the Democratic nominee, the U.S. has earned his patriotism at last. So the flag’s in place and he’s ready to roll. He shouldn’t push it, though. If his base catches him with his hand over his heart, he could lose it all.

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen must be devastated. A mere week after he wrote, “Sometimes I think the best thing about Barack Obama is that little empty space on his lapel,” Senator Obama (as Peter mentioned earlier) has gone and handicapped himself by re-accessorizing his person with an American flag pin.

In a May 6 op-ed, beautifully titled “Pins and Panders,” Cohen questions the automaton patriotism of flag-wearers and describes the pin as “a kitschy piece of empty symbolism.” Yet the man so disgusted with short-cuts to national pride is on board with the super-duper, turbo-charged, mother lode of bandwagon short-cut to national pride: the President as symbol. Cohen describes Obama as “a resplendent emblem of American possibilities.” Perhaps the true patriot wears Barack Obama’s image on his lapel . . .

Cohen writes:

Still, it is bracing to see a presidential candidate recoil, for the most part, from the orthodoxies of pandering. In this regard, the lack of a flag pin has become an important sign of Obama’s desire to think for himself. For all it says about Obama, I salute it.

Ah, but what will Obama fans salute now? Not, heaven forbid, the flag. And how will they square their belief in the rebel patriot anti-panderer with their candidate’s transparent pandering? Obama has not made it easy for his supporters. It’s hard to keep track of the alternating intelligibility of his gestures. Words were not “just words” until they were uttered by his ex-pastor: then they were “just words” again. He couldn’t denounce anti-American black liberation theology–until he could. He was post-racial until he was, first and foremost, racial. A lapel pin was a substitute for patriotism until it was patriotism itself.

There is one possibility that explains the reappearance of the flag pin as something other than pandering. Perhaps, like his wife Michelle, Obama is for the first time in his adult life, proud of his country. In making him the Democratic nominee, the U.S. has earned his patriotism at last. So the flag’s in place and he’s ready to roll. He shouldn’t push it, though. If his base catches him with his hand over his heart, he could lose it all.

Read Less