Commentary Magazine


Topic: spokeswoman

Morning Commentary

As the GOP prepares to read the Constitution on the floor of the House this morning — in a nod to the new Tea Party members of Congress — Seth Lipsky discusses why the reading of the founding document irks the left so much.

Robert Gibbs seems pretty excited to leave the White House for the private sector: “‘The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,’ said Gibbs, who announced Wednesday that he would leave his press secretary job in early February. He will then hit the lucrative speaking circuit and become a paid consultant to the Obama reelection campaign.” And the search for Gibbs’s successor is on. The White House is reportedly looking past in-house candidates, like Joe Biden’s spokesman Bill Burton and Obama deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, and considering outsiders like former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.

Lee Smith explains the “condescending moral double standard” that allows Western intellectuals like Roger Cohen to call themselves “liberals” while ignoring, excusing, or praising the murderous actions of the Middle East’s most illiberal regimes: “[L]ike many other Western observers of the Middle East, [Cohen] uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence.”

David Ignatius is terribly, terribly concerned that the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Darrell Issa, may be the new Joe McCarthy: “It was scary, frankly, to hear Issa describe the executive branch under President Obama as ‘one of the most corrupt administrations.’…When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas.”

As the GOP prepares to read the Constitution on the floor of the House this morning — in a nod to the new Tea Party members of Congress — Seth Lipsky discusses why the reading of the founding document irks the left so much.

Robert Gibbs seems pretty excited to leave the White House for the private sector: “‘The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,’ said Gibbs, who announced Wednesday that he would leave his press secretary job in early February. He will then hit the lucrative speaking circuit and become a paid consultant to the Obama reelection campaign.” And the search for Gibbs’s successor is on. The White House is reportedly looking past in-house candidates, like Joe Biden’s spokesman Bill Burton and Obama deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, and considering outsiders like former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.

Lee Smith explains the “condescending moral double standard” that allows Western intellectuals like Roger Cohen to call themselves “liberals” while ignoring, excusing, or praising the murderous actions of the Middle East’s most illiberal regimes: “[L]ike many other Western observers of the Middle East, [Cohen] uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence.”

David Ignatius is terribly, terribly concerned that the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Darrell Issa, may be the new Joe McCarthy: “It was scary, frankly, to hear Issa describe the executive branch under President Obama as ‘one of the most corrupt administrations.’…When you see the righteous gleam in Issa’s eye, recall other zealous congressional investigators who claimed to be doing the public’s business but ended up pursuing vendettas.”

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Do Whatever They Want, but Not on Our Dime

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

NPR is quite properly on the receiving end of a jumbo backlash over the firing of Juan Williams. As this report details, the listeners’ complaints are pouring in. Moreover:

At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.

“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”

Republicans are threatening to cut off funding when Congress returns. NPR is nervous about the impact on the bottom line:

As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.

In a statement, Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said federal law gives public broadcasting stations “maximum freedom” from interference in their activities.

NPR’s [spokeswoman Dana Davis] Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”

She said that threats to cut off funding are “inappropriate” but that NPR takes them seriously and is talking with its member stations. “Stations as a whole are not happy this is happening at this time,” she said. “They’re in a difficult situation.”

How could 2 percent of its budget have such devastating impact? Well, those stations also receive money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But in any event, they’ve got lots of rich liberal donors.

And if it does cause hardship to the radio stations? I guess they’d have to put on programing that listeners actually like. It’s called the free market. With over 500 TV stations as well as satellite and over-the-air radio, why in the world do taxpayers need to pay for left-wing propaganda masquerading as news? Seriously, that’s what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Fox News’s cable competitors are there for.

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Scenes from a Political Meltdown

Astounding news, courtesy of the Daily Caller:

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is slated to testify at a congressional hearing Friday on immigration titled “Protecting America’s Harvest,” two sources have told The Daily Caller. One Republican source said Colbert will be testifying “in character,” the Bill O’Reilly-like muse Colbert uses for his show A Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, confirming Colbert would testify, said the hearing matter was a “serious issue . . . this is not a TV stunt.”

I kind of doubt this will actually end up happening, because this is, to put it mildly, not the best moment for the party in power to include a piece of self-consciously ludicrous performance art in the political process they are in charge of and garnering huge media attention for doing so. But it does make one wonder: Are Democrats on Capitol Hill having a collective nervous breakdown?

Astounding news, courtesy of the Daily Caller:

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is slated to testify at a congressional hearing Friday on immigration titled “Protecting America’s Harvest,” two sources have told The Daily Caller. One Republican source said Colbert will be testifying “in character,” the Bill O’Reilly-like muse Colbert uses for his show A Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, confirming Colbert would testify, said the hearing matter was a “serious issue . . . this is not a TV stunt.”

I kind of doubt this will actually end up happening, because this is, to put it mildly, not the best moment for the party in power to include a piece of self-consciously ludicrous performance art in the political process they are in charge of and garnering huge media attention for doing so. But it does make one wonder: Are Democrats on Capitol Hill having a collective nervous breakdown?

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What Obama’s Iran Policy Has Wrought

Obama’s gross miscalculation on Iran — that the mullahs could be cajoled out of their nuclear ambitions — and his failure to come up with a timely, viable plan for depriving the regime of nukes have had two tragic consequences. First, we are either on the brink of a nuclear-armed Revolutionary Islamic state or of war, carried out, most likely, by a tiny country (while the U.S. frets about “destabilizing” the region) to prevent the unimaginable from occurring. And second, we have, in a futile effort to ingratiate ourselves with a despotic reign of terror — as brutal as any on the planet — abandoned the people of Iran.

A heart-wrenching example of the latter is spelled out by Michael Weiss. He explains the fate of Shiva Nazar Ahari, an activist for democracy and human rights, who has been in and out of (mostly in) the Iranian hell-hole, Evin prison, since June of 2009. Looking at her lovely picture, one can’t help wondering what her present health and appearance must be. She has, as Weiss describes, endured the wrath of her jailers:

In 2006, after she became the spokeswoman for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was kicked out of university, whereupon her troubles really began.

She was re-arrested in June 2009 and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she spent 33 days in solitary confinement. The cells are so small that a short person can’t even stretch her arms or legs. One informed observer has described them to me as “human coffins.” Despite being verbally threatened by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s prosecutor general, who told her she’d be murdered if she didn’t stop working on human rights campaigns in Iran, Ahari persevered. She was released in September 2009 on $200,000 bail and promptly resumed her defense of political prisoners. …

In December of last year, Ahari was arrested yet again, along with two other activists, while en route to the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a man considered to be the clerical inspiration behind much of the Green Revolution. Ahari went on hunger strike for two days, then fell ill and was taken to Evin’s prison hospital.

And so it is for her and many other Iranians. She now stands accused of “anti-regime propaganda” and “acts against the state.” But that is not the worst of it: “the most serious charge against Ahari is ‘mohareb’ (rebellion against God), which carries with it the death penalty.”

Where is the Obama administration, for God’s sake? They have been mute. Averting their eyes. They long ago gave up on the Green Revolution and cast their lot with Ahari’s inquisitors, banking on our ability to do business with them. To make an issue out of Ahari, to label and ostracize the Iranian dictatorship in the international community as a genocidal regime and human-rights abuser, to be a clarion voice for freedom — these are not only beyond the ability of this president, but beyond his imagination.

Obama missed the window of time to both forestall a nuclear-armed, jihadist state and to help uproot an evil regime. The world and the Iranian people will pay a heavy price for it.

Obama’s gross miscalculation on Iran — that the mullahs could be cajoled out of their nuclear ambitions — and his failure to come up with a timely, viable plan for depriving the regime of nukes have had two tragic consequences. First, we are either on the brink of a nuclear-armed Revolutionary Islamic state or of war, carried out, most likely, by a tiny country (while the U.S. frets about “destabilizing” the region) to prevent the unimaginable from occurring. And second, we have, in a futile effort to ingratiate ourselves with a despotic reign of terror — as brutal as any on the planet — abandoned the people of Iran.

A heart-wrenching example of the latter is spelled out by Michael Weiss. He explains the fate of Shiva Nazar Ahari, an activist for democracy and human rights, who has been in and out of (mostly in) the Iranian hell-hole, Evin prison, since June of 2009. Looking at her lovely picture, one can’t help wondering what her present health and appearance must be. She has, as Weiss describes, endured the wrath of her jailers:

In 2006, after she became the spokeswoman for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was kicked out of university, whereupon her troubles really began.

She was re-arrested in June 2009 and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she spent 33 days in solitary confinement. The cells are so small that a short person can’t even stretch her arms or legs. One informed observer has described them to me as “human coffins.” Despite being verbally threatened by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s prosecutor general, who told her she’d be murdered if she didn’t stop working on human rights campaigns in Iran, Ahari persevered. She was released in September 2009 on $200,000 bail and promptly resumed her defense of political prisoners. …

In December of last year, Ahari was arrested yet again, along with two other activists, while en route to the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a man considered to be the clerical inspiration behind much of the Green Revolution. Ahari went on hunger strike for two days, then fell ill and was taken to Evin’s prison hospital.

And so it is for her and many other Iranians. She now stands accused of “anti-regime propaganda” and “acts against the state.” But that is not the worst of it: “the most serious charge against Ahari is ‘mohareb’ (rebellion against God), which carries with it the death penalty.”

Where is the Obama administration, for God’s sake? They have been mute. Averting their eyes. They long ago gave up on the Green Revolution and cast their lot with Ahari’s inquisitors, banking on our ability to do business with them. To make an issue out of Ahari, to label and ostracize the Iranian dictatorship in the international community as a genocidal regime and human-rights abuser, to be a clarion voice for freedom — these are not only beyond the ability of this president, but beyond his imagination.

Obama missed the window of time to both forestall a nuclear-armed, jihadist state and to help uproot an evil regime. The world and the Iranian people will pay a heavy price for it.

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RE: Why Are So Many Conservatives Backing a Radical Immigration Solution?

Not all of them are, at least not those who fancy themselves competitive in diverse states. Politico reports that California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t in favor of mucking around in the 14th Amendment in an effort to end birthright citizenship:

“Meg believes we have to address the first problem, which is securing the border, and opposes a change in the U.S. Constitution,” Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told POLITICO. Whitman is the GOP nominee for governor, while Fiorina is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. …

After a speech Thursday to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fiorina said calls to repeal the 14th Amendment are not “useful dialogue.” She echoed Whitman on prioritizing border security and stopping short of stripping citizenship.

“I don’t support changing the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I think what we need to do is have the federal government do its job and secure the border and have a temporary worker program that works. And all the rest of it is a distraction and, unfortunately, an emotional distraction.”

Maybe they and others are beginning to wake up to the words of caution coming from figures such as CONTENTIONS contributor Linda Chavez, who provided a helpful guide to the history of fights over birthright citizenship and the failures to repeal it. And she explained this past week:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics — the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American. …

Our history has been largely one of continuously expanding the community of people regarded as Americans, from native-born whites to freed slaves to Indians to naturalized citizens of all races and ethnicities. Since the abolition of slavery, we have never denied citizenship to any group of children born in the U.S. — even when we denied citizenship to their parents, as we did Asian immigrants from 1882 to 1943. This expansive view of who is an American has been critical to our successful assimilation of millions of newcomers.

It is rather stunning to see “conservatives” abandon the reasoned and careful approach to governance (i.e., enforce existing law, push policies that promote assimilation) in favor of what would be a white-knuckle ride through a process of major Constitutional revision.

But, heck, even John McCain, who made heads spin with his apparent embrace of revision to the 14th Amendment is having second thoughts. We will see if he sticks to his current aversion to amending the Constitution for more than a few days. (It does remind one of that roller coaster presidential candidacy, doesn’t it? The presidential debate is on — no, off — no, on. But I digress.)

Listen, Obama is being castigated for his stunt on immigration reform (i.e., pretending to get serious about comprehensive reform). Republicans would be wise to steer clear of their own stunts.

Not all of them are, at least not those who fancy themselves competitive in diverse states. Politico reports that California GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina aren’t in favor of mucking around in the 14th Amendment in an effort to end birthright citizenship:

“Meg believes we have to address the first problem, which is securing the border, and opposes a change in the U.S. Constitution,” Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei told POLITICO. Whitman is the GOP nominee for governor, while Fiorina is running for the Senate against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. …

After a speech Thursday to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fiorina said calls to repeal the 14th Amendment are not “useful dialogue.” She echoed Whitman on prioritizing border security and stopping short of stripping citizenship.

“I don’t support changing the 14th Amendment,” she said. “I think what we need to do is have the federal government do its job and secure the border and have a temporary worker program that works. And all the rest of it is a distraction and, unfortunately, an emotional distraction.”

Maybe they and others are beginning to wake up to the words of caution coming from figures such as CONTENTIONS contributor Linda Chavez, who provided a helpful guide to the history of fights over birthright citizenship and the failures to repeal it. And she explained this past week:

Repealing birthright citizenship is a terrible idea. It will unquestionably jeopardize the electoral future of the GOP by alienating Hispanics — the largest minority and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. More importantly, ending birthright citizenship would fundamentally change what it means to be an American. …

Our history has been largely one of continuously expanding the community of people regarded as Americans, from native-born whites to freed slaves to Indians to naturalized citizens of all races and ethnicities. Since the abolition of slavery, we have never denied citizenship to any group of children born in the U.S. — even when we denied citizenship to their parents, as we did Asian immigrants from 1882 to 1943. This expansive view of who is an American has been critical to our successful assimilation of millions of newcomers.

It is rather stunning to see “conservatives” abandon the reasoned and careful approach to governance (i.e., enforce existing law, push policies that promote assimilation) in favor of what would be a white-knuckle ride through a process of major Constitutional revision.

But, heck, even John McCain, who made heads spin with his apparent embrace of revision to the 14th Amendment is having second thoughts. We will see if he sticks to his current aversion to amending the Constitution for more than a few days. (It does remind one of that roller coaster presidential candidacy, doesn’t it? The presidential debate is on — no, off — no, on. But I digress.)

Listen, Obama is being castigated for his stunt on immigration reform (i.e., pretending to get serious about comprehensive reform). Republicans would be wise to steer clear of their own stunts.

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The Dumbest Campaign Strategy Ever?

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi – only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi – only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

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Sestak Can’t Shut Up Critics, Can’t Hide

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UAW Enriched, Now What About the Taxpayers?

You might recall that three years ago, GM negotiated wage cuts with the UAW. That was supposed to lower the rate for new hires, to $25.65 per hour, a significant reduction over current rates of approximately $60 per hour. But that was a charade, and GM has yet to cut a single employee’s rate. This report explains:

GM can’t add new workers at the lower wage yet. It still has 5,000 laid-off workers who, under their contract terms, have first crack at any union jobs that the company adds, and most would return to work at the higher pay level. …

“That’s probably one of the reasons the UAW agreed to [the lower wages]. They knew right off the bat there wouldn’t be a lot of leeway for the companies to hire new workers,” said David Whiston, an auto analyst at Morningstar Inc. “There will always be this fundamental difference—that the Detroit companies have union shops” and the U.S. plants of foreign makers don’t.

When might the new, lower wages kick in? Hard to say, GM declares: “As GM’s U.S. sales recover, the company is ramping up production by adding shifts and overtime at several factories. These moves will allow GM to bring back many laid-off workers, but GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said the company doesn’t know when hiring will begin for the lower-wage jobs.”

This is what the taxpayers have been subsidizing. And certainly the safety net supplied by the Obama administration for the benefit of its union patrons prevented any real cuts for UAW workers, which in a non-bailout situation or an ordinary bankruptcy would have been among the first steps GM would have been forced to take.

And now we hear that with GM’s improved fortunes, the administration is considering an IPO to unload the 61 percent of GM shares it holds. How about this? In appreciation for having propped up a losing firm and sustaining the exorbitant compensation of UAW workers, any funds obtained from an IPO should go back to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rebate. In fact, it sounds like just the sort of issue Republicans should present to the voters in November. One party wants government to keep the money; another wants to return it to the taxpayers. One party has used taxpayer funds to enrich Big Labor; the other wants to put money in everyone’s pocket. Sounds like a defining issue, and a stark reminder that the candidate who talked about fiscal responsibility and taming special interests has not practiced what he preached.

You might recall that three years ago, GM negotiated wage cuts with the UAW. That was supposed to lower the rate for new hires, to $25.65 per hour, a significant reduction over current rates of approximately $60 per hour. But that was a charade, and GM has yet to cut a single employee’s rate. This report explains:

GM can’t add new workers at the lower wage yet. It still has 5,000 laid-off workers who, under their contract terms, have first crack at any union jobs that the company adds, and most would return to work at the higher pay level. …

“That’s probably one of the reasons the UAW agreed to [the lower wages]. They knew right off the bat there wouldn’t be a lot of leeway for the companies to hire new workers,” said David Whiston, an auto analyst at Morningstar Inc. “There will always be this fundamental difference—that the Detroit companies have union shops” and the U.S. plants of foreign makers don’t.

When might the new, lower wages kick in? Hard to say, GM declares: “As GM’s U.S. sales recover, the company is ramping up production by adding shifts and overtime at several factories. These moves will allow GM to bring back many laid-off workers, but GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said the company doesn’t know when hiring will begin for the lower-wage jobs.”

This is what the taxpayers have been subsidizing. And certainly the safety net supplied by the Obama administration for the benefit of its union patrons prevented any real cuts for UAW workers, which in a non-bailout situation or an ordinary bankruptcy would have been among the first steps GM would have been forced to take.

And now we hear that with GM’s improved fortunes, the administration is considering an IPO to unload the 61 percent of GM shares it holds. How about this? In appreciation for having propped up a losing firm and sustaining the exorbitant compensation of UAW workers, any funds obtained from an IPO should go back to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rebate. In fact, it sounds like just the sort of issue Republicans should present to the voters in November. One party wants government to keep the money; another wants to return it to the taxpayers. One party has used taxpayer funds to enrich Big Labor; the other wants to put money in everyone’s pocket. Sounds like a defining issue, and a stark reminder that the candidate who talked about fiscal responsibility and taming special interests has not practiced what he preached.

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More Arrests, No Mirandizing in Times Square Bombing Investigation

Fox News reports that two Pakistani men in the Boston area have been arrested  in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt:

“These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States,” [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in the statement.

Specifically, one source said, the search warrants are the product of information obtained through interrogations of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect in the May 1 attempted Times Square bombing who has now been charged with five federal offenses, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

This raises a few questions. First, doesn’t the “immediate” give one pause? Were these individuals a threat — but not immediately? Recall that on this one, the Obama team lucked out. They Mirandized the original suspect, Shahzad, who decided to keep talking. Had he not, we presumably would not have found the not-so-immediate threats. Second, these two are not being Mirandized, we learn:

The two Pakistani men have been arrested on “administrative charges,” which means federal authorities will not read them Miranda rights during any immediate interrogation. … One of the men arrested Thursday has been charged with overstaying his visa, and the other has been charged with staying in the country despite an order of removal, according to one source.

So, is this part of a new Obama administration approach to terror suspects? After all, these people were apprehended on U.S. soil and apparently may have conspired to kill Americans. Yet the administration — finally is not rushing to Mirandize terror suspects, who may yield additional intelligence information. About time, isn’t it?

Fox News reports that two Pakistani men in the Boston area have been arrested  in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt:

“These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States,” [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in the statement.

Specifically, one source said, the search warrants are the product of information obtained through interrogations of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect in the May 1 attempted Times Square bombing who has now been charged with five federal offenses, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

This raises a few questions. First, doesn’t the “immediate” give one pause? Were these individuals a threat — but not immediately? Recall that on this one, the Obama team lucked out. They Mirandized the original suspect, Shahzad, who decided to keep talking. Had he not, we presumably would not have found the not-so-immediate threats. Second, these two are not being Mirandized, we learn:

The two Pakistani men have been arrested on “administrative charges,” which means federal authorities will not read them Miranda rights during any immediate interrogation. … One of the men arrested Thursday has been charged with overstaying his visa, and the other has been charged with staying in the country despite an order of removal, according to one source.

So, is this part of a new Obama administration approach to terror suspects? After all, these people were apprehended on U.S. soil and apparently may have conspired to kill Americans. Yet the administration — finally is not rushing to Mirandize terror suspects, who may yield additional intelligence information. About time, isn’t it?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.’”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.’”

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.’”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.’”

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Conspiracy Theorists Flocking Together

You may remember Baroness Jenny Tonge. Back in February, she was sacked as the Liberal Democratic spokeswoman on health in the House of Lords after she publicly called for an inquiry into allegations that the Israeli relief mission in Haiti was a front for organ-trafficking. It wasn’t the first time she’d been shown the door: in 2004 she was sacked as spokeswoman on children’s issues after she said she would consider becoming a suicide bomber if she lived in the Palestinian territories. The Lib Dems would appear to have a high tolerance for repeat offenders, at least as long as they’re anti-Israel.

The Haiti story derived from the Palestinian Telegraph, an online newspaper of which Baroness Tonge was then an official patron. The PT is a cesspool of anti-Semitism, relentlessly dedicated to the belief that all Western political parties are part of a vast Jewish conspiracy, directly funded by Jews, to which Baroness Tonge fell victim. Its response to Tonge’s February dismissal was — amid tears for “a highly moral and ethical lady and a true friend of Palestine” — the irrefutable and nonsensical “if you’re innocent, you’d welcome an inquiry” argument.

Well, the other shoe has now dropped. A couple of days ago, the PT pulled off its latest journalistic coup: a lengthy video by David Duke, in which the former KKK Grand Wizard rants about “Israeli terrorism against America.” If you’ve got a strong stomach, you can watch it on YouTube. In response, Tonge resigned from PT’s board of patrons. But not to worry: she was immediately replaced by George Galloway, MP, Saddam Hussein’s best friend in Britain. Standing alongside him are British journalist Lauren Booth and Italian Communist MEP Luisa Morgantini.

Belief in conspiracy theories is a sign of mental or ideological derangement, and the PT is the best proof of that. But it’s impossible not to be struck by the way birds that wouldn’t seem to be of a feather flock together around the questions of Israel and the Jews: David Duke on the extremist right, and Galloway, Morgantini, and Booth on the left. And then there’s Tonge, the twice-former Lib Dem spokeswoman. The best one can possibly say of her is that, in spite of her close association with the PT, it took Duke’s appearance to make it clear to her what kind of people she was working with. And that is a very charitable view indeed.

You may remember Baroness Jenny Tonge. Back in February, she was sacked as the Liberal Democratic spokeswoman on health in the House of Lords after she publicly called for an inquiry into allegations that the Israeli relief mission in Haiti was a front for organ-trafficking. It wasn’t the first time she’d been shown the door: in 2004 she was sacked as spokeswoman on children’s issues after she said she would consider becoming a suicide bomber if she lived in the Palestinian territories. The Lib Dems would appear to have a high tolerance for repeat offenders, at least as long as they’re anti-Israel.

The Haiti story derived from the Palestinian Telegraph, an online newspaper of which Baroness Tonge was then an official patron. The PT is a cesspool of anti-Semitism, relentlessly dedicated to the belief that all Western political parties are part of a vast Jewish conspiracy, directly funded by Jews, to which Baroness Tonge fell victim. Its response to Tonge’s February dismissal was — amid tears for “a highly moral and ethical lady and a true friend of Palestine” — the irrefutable and nonsensical “if you’re innocent, you’d welcome an inquiry” argument.

Well, the other shoe has now dropped. A couple of days ago, the PT pulled off its latest journalistic coup: a lengthy video by David Duke, in which the former KKK Grand Wizard rants about “Israeli terrorism against America.” If you’ve got a strong stomach, you can watch it on YouTube. In response, Tonge resigned from PT’s board of patrons. But not to worry: she was immediately replaced by George Galloway, MP, Saddam Hussein’s best friend in Britain. Standing alongside him are British journalist Lauren Booth and Italian Communist MEP Luisa Morgantini.

Belief in conspiracy theories is a sign of mental or ideological derangement, and the PT is the best proof of that. But it’s impossible not to be struck by the way birds that wouldn’t seem to be of a feather flock together around the questions of Israel and the Jews: David Duke on the extremist right, and Galloway, Morgantini, and Booth on the left. And then there’s Tonge, the twice-former Lib Dem spokeswoman. The best one can possibly say of her is that, in spite of her close association with the PT, it took Duke’s appearance to make it clear to her what kind of people she was working with. And that is a very charitable view indeed.

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Jackie Mason He’s Not

A “Taliban militant and Jewish merchant in the desert” joke is pretty much bound to be an accident waiting to happen. For one thing, you’d have to cut fingers off to count the number of Jewish merchants doing business in the Afghan desert. It’s taking the long way around the barn to put one in a Taliban joke: a red flag that the surreally out-of-place Jewish merchant is the real punch line.

But the sin against humor wouldn’t be so much of one against fellowship if the joke didn’t invoke a set of hackneyed, politically freighted stereotypes and then pick one of them as the laugh line. Seriously: a sneaky Jewish merchant withholding water from a desperate Muslim jihadist? What is this, a stand-up club in Ramallah?

It’s a rare joke that can survive being set up on the lines of an editorial posture. Ronald Reagan was a master of such humor, but one key to his success was staying a long way away from stereotypes about any ethnic group but his own. He disclosed as much in an informal moment on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988, when his staff set up an impromptu visit to a popular pub in Alexandria. “You have to understand that for a man in my position, I’m a little leery about ethnic jokes,” he told the pub crowd on that occasion. “The only ones I can tell are Irish.” Reportedly, he then proceeded to bring the house down with the Irish jokes — which, as someone of largely Irish heritage, I can affirm typically feature such topics as drunkenness, maudlin self-expression, indebtedness, and incarceration.

But you can tell jokes on yourself that come off as you-bashing when told by others. That’s a fact of life that is pointless for the amateur humorist to resist. It may be, moreover, that officials at all levels of authority in the U.S. should just steer clear of Taliban jokes anyway. The Jones joke reminded me immediately of another encounter between American officialdom and Taliban humor, back in 2002. The outcome of that one was a policy aboard Greyhound buses banning all Taliban jokes while a bus was in motion. As a Greyhound spokeswoman explained at the time, very possibly with a straight face:

There is a time and a place for everything, including Taliban jokes. However, the time for telling Taliban jokes is when the bus is safely parked at the station, not when it is full of passengers and rolling down the highway.

Words to live by.

A “Taliban militant and Jewish merchant in the desert” joke is pretty much bound to be an accident waiting to happen. For one thing, you’d have to cut fingers off to count the number of Jewish merchants doing business in the Afghan desert. It’s taking the long way around the barn to put one in a Taliban joke: a red flag that the surreally out-of-place Jewish merchant is the real punch line.

But the sin against humor wouldn’t be so much of one against fellowship if the joke didn’t invoke a set of hackneyed, politically freighted stereotypes and then pick one of them as the laugh line. Seriously: a sneaky Jewish merchant withholding water from a desperate Muslim jihadist? What is this, a stand-up club in Ramallah?

It’s a rare joke that can survive being set up on the lines of an editorial posture. Ronald Reagan was a master of such humor, but one key to his success was staying a long way away from stereotypes about any ethnic group but his own. He disclosed as much in an informal moment on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988, when his staff set up an impromptu visit to a popular pub in Alexandria. “You have to understand that for a man in my position, I’m a little leery about ethnic jokes,” he told the pub crowd on that occasion. “The only ones I can tell are Irish.” Reportedly, he then proceeded to bring the house down with the Irish jokes — which, as someone of largely Irish heritage, I can affirm typically feature such topics as drunkenness, maudlin self-expression, indebtedness, and incarceration.

But you can tell jokes on yourself that come off as you-bashing when told by others. That’s a fact of life that is pointless for the amateur humorist to resist. It may be, moreover, that officials at all levels of authority in the U.S. should just steer clear of Taliban jokes anyway. The Jones joke reminded me immediately of another encounter between American officialdom and Taliban humor, back in 2002. The outcome of that one was a policy aboard Greyhound buses banning all Taliban jokes while a bus was in motion. As a Greyhound spokeswoman explained at the time, very possibly with a straight face:

There is a time and a place for everything, including Taliban jokes. However, the time for telling Taliban jokes is when the bus is safely parked at the station, not when it is full of passengers and rolling down the highway.

Words to live by.

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Run Away! (Apologies to Monty Python)

Obama keeps telling his fellow Democrats that ObamaCare will cure what ails them. But the facts — polls and the behavior of candidates – tell us otherwise.  As this reports explains (h/t Mark Hemingway): “Representative John Boccieri, Democrat of Ohio, whose vote on major health care legislation could be crucial to the outcome, will not be attending President Obama’s health care rally on Monday in Strongsville, Ohio, not far from Mr. Boccieri’s own district, a spokeswoman said.” We’ve seen this before, as Democrats in swing states steer clear of Obama. And given the polling data in Ohio, it isn’t surprising that a Democrat would want to evade the president. A Quinnipiac poll recently reported:

President Obama’s negative 44-52 percent job approval is down slightly from 45-50 percent November 12, led by a big drop among independent voters, who approve 38-57 percent, down from 45-49 percent in November. Republicans are negative 11-87 percent, while Democrats approve 81-13 percent. Ohio voters give Obama a negative 39-57 percent approval for handling the economy, and a negative 34-58 on his handling of health care. Voters approve 55-39 percent of Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Voters mostly disapprove 56-33 percent of the current health care reform plan, but say 53-44 percent that Obama and Congress should keep trying to pass reform legislation. “Given that President Obama carried the state with more than 51 percent of the vote, these numbers mean many Ohioans who were in his corner have now deserted him,” said [polling director Peter] Brown.

Democrats can avoid Obama on the stump, but there will be no avoiding the consequences of their votes — no matter how disguised or fuzzed up. Democrats, as Obama told us, need to vote up or down and live with the aftermath. So far it seems like those most at risk have good reason to stay as far from the president’s agenda as they can.

Obama keeps telling his fellow Democrats that ObamaCare will cure what ails them. But the facts — polls and the behavior of candidates – tell us otherwise.  As this reports explains (h/t Mark Hemingway): “Representative John Boccieri, Democrat of Ohio, whose vote on major health care legislation could be crucial to the outcome, will not be attending President Obama’s health care rally on Monday in Strongsville, Ohio, not far from Mr. Boccieri’s own district, a spokeswoman said.” We’ve seen this before, as Democrats in swing states steer clear of Obama. And given the polling data in Ohio, it isn’t surprising that a Democrat would want to evade the president. A Quinnipiac poll recently reported:

President Obama’s negative 44-52 percent job approval is down slightly from 45-50 percent November 12, led by a big drop among independent voters, who approve 38-57 percent, down from 45-49 percent in November. Republicans are negative 11-87 percent, while Democrats approve 81-13 percent. Ohio voters give Obama a negative 39-57 percent approval for handling the economy, and a negative 34-58 on his handling of health care. Voters approve 55-39 percent of Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Voters mostly disapprove 56-33 percent of the current health care reform plan, but say 53-44 percent that Obama and Congress should keep trying to pass reform legislation. “Given that President Obama carried the state with more than 51 percent of the vote, these numbers mean many Ohioans who were in his corner have now deserted him,” said [polling director Peter] Brown.

Democrats can avoid Obama on the stump, but there will be no avoiding the consequences of their votes — no matter how disguised or fuzzed up. Democrats, as Obama told us, need to vote up or down and live with the aftermath. So far it seems like those most at risk have good reason to stay as far from the president’s agenda as they can.

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Zeno of Elea’s Triumph in Iran

In the age-old battle of the philosophical postures — “nothing can possibly happen” versus “everything is about to” — Zeno’s logical paradoxes seem to be winning out for control of the Western mindset on Iran. I’m reminded of Zeno’s paradox that “motion is impossible” every time I see another development that quite obviously means Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Zeno, you will remember from Logic 101, posited that motion is impossible because every distance to be moved can be split in half in an infinite regression, while the supposed mover can be in only one place at a given point in time.

Of course, for practical purposes, we accept the reality of motion and predicate much of our daily lives on it. Nevertheless, many Westerners are using Zeno’s approach to perpetually argue that no matter what we discover Iran has been up to, it doesn’t mean there are going to be nuclear weapons coming out of it any time soon.

The Zeno Refrain started almost immediately after Monday’s revelation by the Times of London of an Iranian document that showed that the country was pursuing a uranium deuteride (UD-3) initiator — something only a nuclear weapon can make use of — as late as 2007. Never mind that A.Q. Khan and the Chinese have worked with UD-3 initiators for nuclear warheads. Never mind that the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported back in 2005 that Iran was pursuing the UD-3 initiator. Never mind that some of the foremost think-tank experts on Iran’s nuclear program, at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirm that “although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, it has no civil application.”

None of this, according to the same ISIS experts, means that this revelation is a “smoking gun.” Instead:

The document could describe work to develop and maintain a capability rather than being part of a program authorized to build nuclear weapons.  The document does not mention nuclear weapons and we have seen no evidence of an Iranian decision to build them.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office did tell the Times that the document “raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.” But since that’s been said about every previous revelation, the real question is how many more of these “questions” need to be raised before we drop the Zeno approach — which is summed up perfectly in this reader comment from the always useful Arms Control Wonk website:

Research into the physics of nuclear explosions (i.e. obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability) is different from pursuing an active weapons program (i.e. diversion of material, of which there is no evidence).

The buried premise is that, for our policy purposes, merely “obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability” is a different issue from “pursuing an active weapons program.” But just as Zeno could be made to look irrelevant by an arrow hitting its target or by Achilles overtaking the tortoise, so the hair splitters on Iran’s nuclear program are, with increasing frequency, made to look irrelevant by the repeated emergence of new information on Tehran’s intentions and activities. Their central error is looking for a smoking gun in the first place. A smoking gun is only available after the trigger has been pulled. What we look for beforehand is the time-honored intelligence pairing of intention and capability — and if we saw the set of Iran-related indicators piling up for any other nation, from Anguilla to Vanuatu, we would say it’s a nuclear-weapons program, and we’d say the hell with it.

In the age-old battle of the philosophical postures — “nothing can possibly happen” versus “everything is about to” — Zeno’s logical paradoxes seem to be winning out for control of the Western mindset on Iran. I’m reminded of Zeno’s paradox that “motion is impossible” every time I see another development that quite obviously means Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons. Zeno, you will remember from Logic 101, posited that motion is impossible because every distance to be moved can be split in half in an infinite regression, while the supposed mover can be in only one place at a given point in time.

Of course, for practical purposes, we accept the reality of motion and predicate much of our daily lives on it. Nevertheless, many Westerners are using Zeno’s approach to perpetually argue that no matter what we discover Iran has been up to, it doesn’t mean there are going to be nuclear weapons coming out of it any time soon.

The Zeno Refrain started almost immediately after Monday’s revelation by the Times of London of an Iranian document that showed that the country was pursuing a uranium deuteride (UD-3) initiator — something only a nuclear weapon can make use of — as late as 2007. Never mind that A.Q. Khan and the Chinese have worked with UD-3 initiators for nuclear warheads. Never mind that the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported back in 2005 that Iran was pursuing the UD-3 initiator. Never mind that some of the foremost think-tank experts on Iran’s nuclear program, at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirm that “although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, it has no civil application.”

None of this, according to the same ISIS experts, means that this revelation is a “smoking gun.” Instead:

The document could describe work to develop and maintain a capability rather than being part of a program authorized to build nuclear weapons.  The document does not mention nuclear weapons and we have seen no evidence of an Iranian decision to build them.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office did tell the Times that the document “raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.” But since that’s been said about every previous revelation, the real question is how many more of these “questions” need to be raised before we drop the Zeno approach — which is summed up perfectly in this reader comment from the always useful Arms Control Wonk website:

Research into the physics of nuclear explosions (i.e. obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability) is different from pursuing an active weapons program (i.e. diversion of material, of which there is no evidence).

The buried premise is that, for our policy purposes, merely “obtaining the know-how to achieve a nuclear weapons capability” is a different issue from “pursuing an active weapons program.” But just as Zeno could be made to look irrelevant by an arrow hitting its target or by Achilles overtaking the tortoise, so the hair splitters on Iran’s nuclear program are, with increasing frequency, made to look irrelevant by the repeated emergence of new information on Tehran’s intentions and activities. Their central error is looking for a smoking gun in the first place. A smoking gun is only available after the trigger has been pulled. What we look for beforehand is the time-honored intelligence pairing of intention and capability — and if we saw the set of Iran-related indicators piling up for any other nation, from Anguilla to Vanuatu, we would say it’s a nuclear-weapons program, and we’d say the hell with it.

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They’ve Got a Friend

Josh Gerstein reports that NPR, the bastion of lefty radio where nary a conservative thought is heard that isn’t misrepresented or mocked, wanted its reporter Mara Liasson off Fox News. The reason? Well, get it out of your head that this had anything to do with the Obami’s crusade to delegitimize Fox. It was because those people at Fox are so darned biased that the mere appearance of their reporter on the Fox news shows might sully NPR’s reputation for journalistic purity. Hmm. But it seems the White House’s gripes did come up:

One source said the White House’s criticism of Fox was raised during the discussions with Liasson. However, an NPR spokeswoman told POLITICO that the Obama administration’s attempts to discourage other news outlets from treating Fox as a peer had no impact on any internal discussions at NPR.

Liasson defended her work for Fox by saying that she appears on two of the network’s news programs, not on commentary programs with conservative hosts, the source said. She has also told colleagues that she’s under contract to Fox, so it would be difficult for her to sever her ties with the network, which she has appeared on for more than a decade.

Apparently NPR has had a problem with Liasson and Juan Williams appearing on Fox for some time. For one thing, NPR’s liberal audience complains a lot. And for another, people might get the wrong idea, you see:

One complaint from NPR executives is that this very perception that Liasson and Williams serve as ideological counterweights reinforces feelings among some members of the public that NPR tilts to the left. “NPR has its own issues in trying to convince people that, ‘Look, we’re down the middle,’” the source said. “This is a public and institutional problem that has nothing to do with Mara. Obviously, you can’t give Mara a hard time for what’s coming out of her mouth. … She’s very careful. She isn’t trashing anybody.”

Well, I think it’s fair to say that NPR’s biases are well-known and that its liberal listeners object to their favorite NPR stars going into the “enemy camp.” But it’s also interesting that NPR’s newly heightened concern about Fox coincides so precisely with the White House’s media agenda. David Axelrod and Anita Dunn are no doubt delighted to have the helping hand from the eager beavers at NPR who are subsidized by your tax dollars.

Josh Gerstein reports that NPR, the bastion of lefty radio where nary a conservative thought is heard that isn’t misrepresented or mocked, wanted its reporter Mara Liasson off Fox News. The reason? Well, get it out of your head that this had anything to do with the Obami’s crusade to delegitimize Fox. It was because those people at Fox are so darned biased that the mere appearance of their reporter on the Fox news shows might sully NPR’s reputation for journalistic purity. Hmm. But it seems the White House’s gripes did come up:

One source said the White House’s criticism of Fox was raised during the discussions with Liasson. However, an NPR spokeswoman told POLITICO that the Obama administration’s attempts to discourage other news outlets from treating Fox as a peer had no impact on any internal discussions at NPR.

Liasson defended her work for Fox by saying that she appears on two of the network’s news programs, not on commentary programs with conservative hosts, the source said. She has also told colleagues that she’s under contract to Fox, so it would be difficult for her to sever her ties with the network, which she has appeared on for more than a decade.

Apparently NPR has had a problem with Liasson and Juan Williams appearing on Fox for some time. For one thing, NPR’s liberal audience complains a lot. And for another, people might get the wrong idea, you see:

One complaint from NPR executives is that this very perception that Liasson and Williams serve as ideological counterweights reinforces feelings among some members of the public that NPR tilts to the left. “NPR has its own issues in trying to convince people that, ‘Look, we’re down the middle,’” the source said. “This is a public and institutional problem that has nothing to do with Mara. Obviously, you can’t give Mara a hard time for what’s coming out of her mouth. … She’s very careful. She isn’t trashing anybody.”

Well, I think it’s fair to say that NPR’s biases are well-known and that its liberal listeners object to their favorite NPR stars going into the “enemy camp.” But it’s also interesting that NPR’s newly heightened concern about Fox coincides so precisely with the White House’s media agenda. David Axelrod and Anita Dunn are no doubt delighted to have the helping hand from the eager beavers at NPR who are subsidized by your tax dollars.

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Sudan?!

When last we left the UN clown show, Richard Goldstone’s report had been roundly applauded and approved, and Anne Bayefsky (who has spent a quarter century bird-dogging the UN, a task which few of us could endure for an afternoon, let alone an entire career) had been carted off and her credentials taken for speaking up with righteous indignation about the UN’s latest round of Israel-bashing. The kicker, as reported by Fox News:

Bayefsky is now waiting for the U.N. to return her credentials or to refer her case to the Committee on NGOs, which will meet during January and February and could decide whether to renew her NGO pass — a prospect that has her deeply worried.

“The chances of my getting through that committee are basically nil,” she said.

The nation that chairs the committee, Sudan, is currently engaged in a murderous war on its own citizens and expelled 13 major aid NGOs from the country in March — meaning that a human rights violator that rejects NGOs within its own borders will be overseeing the approval of NGOs at the U.N.

Asked about this apparent inconsistency, a spokeswoman for the U.N. body overseeing the NGO committee said in an e-mail that “the Departments concerned are investigating this matter on the basis of established practice, jurisprudence and thorough review of the facts.”

Well isn’t that par for the course. It’s all there: the high-minded double-talk (what “jurisprudence” justifies roughing up a critic and snatching her badge?) and the inmates running the asylum, and all of it in service of the UN’s one great and constant mission — vilifying Israel. The timing here is far from coincidental:

“The next three weeks are the heart of the entire year at the U.N. General Assembly. The frenzy of anti-Israel activity is going on right now,” she said. “There’s a reason they’re keeping me away — this is no accident.”

This  hypocrisy circus is the “international community” whose approbation Obama seeks. The Obami treat the UN with decorum and respect, as if it were a serious organization rather than a gang of thugs that devotes its time to silencing critics, providing cover to terrorists, and averting its gaze from its member states’ own appalling human-rights records. Obama tells us that the world community is one that enjoys shared values. Really. Which goals and values in particular do we share with this crowd?

Bayefsky may miss the “heart of the entire year,” but she’s gotten to the nub of the problem. Unfortunately, the Obami show no sign of taking this or any other incident to heart, nor of reconsidering their role in enabling the UN miscreants.

When last we left the UN clown show, Richard Goldstone’s report had been roundly applauded and approved, and Anne Bayefsky (who has spent a quarter century bird-dogging the UN, a task which few of us could endure for an afternoon, let alone an entire career) had been carted off and her credentials taken for speaking up with righteous indignation about the UN’s latest round of Israel-bashing. The kicker, as reported by Fox News:

Bayefsky is now waiting for the U.N. to return her credentials or to refer her case to the Committee on NGOs, which will meet during January and February and could decide whether to renew her NGO pass — a prospect that has her deeply worried.

“The chances of my getting through that committee are basically nil,” she said.

The nation that chairs the committee, Sudan, is currently engaged in a murderous war on its own citizens and expelled 13 major aid NGOs from the country in March — meaning that a human rights violator that rejects NGOs within its own borders will be overseeing the approval of NGOs at the U.N.

Asked about this apparent inconsistency, a spokeswoman for the U.N. body overseeing the NGO committee said in an e-mail that “the Departments concerned are investigating this matter on the basis of established practice, jurisprudence and thorough review of the facts.”

Well isn’t that par for the course. It’s all there: the high-minded double-talk (what “jurisprudence” justifies roughing up a critic and snatching her badge?) and the inmates running the asylum, and all of it in service of the UN’s one great and constant mission — vilifying Israel. The timing here is far from coincidental:

“The next three weeks are the heart of the entire year at the U.N. General Assembly. The frenzy of anti-Israel activity is going on right now,” she said. “There’s a reason they’re keeping me away — this is no accident.”

This  hypocrisy circus is the “international community” whose approbation Obama seeks. The Obami treat the UN with decorum and respect, as if it were a serious organization rather than a gang of thugs that devotes its time to silencing critics, providing cover to terrorists, and averting its gaze from its member states’ own appalling human-rights records. Obama tells us that the world community is one that enjoys shared values. Really. Which goals and values in particular do we share with this crowd?

Bayefsky may miss the “heart of the entire year,” but she’s gotten to the nub of the problem. Unfortunately, the Obami show no sign of taking this or any other incident to heart, nor of reconsidering their role in enabling the UN miscreants.

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A “Milestone” Agreement with Iran

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

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What Iran Truly Fears

Yesterday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the “criminal regime” of Israel “would not dare attack Iran.” Why? “It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response.” Ahmadinejad also says he is not worried about the United States. Hostile talk, the fiery leader noted, is just campaign rhetoric “aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections.”

Why are we hearing war talk from Tehran at this moment? After all, the United States is merely pursuing a peaceful course of action, pushing the Security Council to enact a third set of sanctions for Iran’s failure to stop the enrichment of uranium. Washington can count on Germany’s support, but it is meeting increasingly stiff resistance where it counts.

Russia, by giving the cold shoulder to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Moscow yesterday, signaled that it will not vote in favor of a new round of coercive measures. For its part, China hosted Americans and Iranians in Beijing in the last few days and ended up siding with the latter. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “We hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the deadlock for an early resumption of talks so that the issue will be solved in a comprehensive, lasting and proper manner.” Today, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was more direct. “On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and Iran have a similar stance,” he crowed after meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding members will meet in Berlin to discuss new sanctions, but there will be no satisfactory outcome, especially because Chinese and Russian diplomats are repeating their almost word-for-word calls for more useless talks. These cynical pleas for additional negotiations, which would give the mullahs more time to develop their weapons, show that the Iranians have now neutralized the United Nations. Even if the Security Council should come up with new sanctions in the months ahead, we can be sure that they will be totally ineffective.

So let’s start connecting the dots, if I may borrow a phrase from Gabriel Schoenfeld. The Iranians are not worried about Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. They must realize that the only thing that can stop their nuclear program at this moment is military action. That’s why Iranian fast boats challenged the U.S. Navy earlier this month in the Strait of Hormuz—to remind Washington and the international community of the price of war. And that’s why Ahmadinejad said that neither Israel nor the United States would attack. The Iranians, I believe, wish to prevent the one thing they cannot control and truly fear.

Yesterday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the “criminal regime” of Israel “would not dare attack Iran.” Why? “It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response.” Ahmadinejad also says he is not worried about the United States. Hostile talk, the fiery leader noted, is just campaign rhetoric “aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections.”

Why are we hearing war talk from Tehran at this moment? After all, the United States is merely pursuing a peaceful course of action, pushing the Security Council to enact a third set of sanctions for Iran’s failure to stop the enrichment of uranium. Washington can count on Germany’s support, but it is meeting increasingly stiff resistance where it counts.

Russia, by giving the cold shoulder to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Moscow yesterday, signaled that it will not vote in favor of a new round of coercive measures. For its part, China hosted Americans and Iranians in Beijing in the last few days and ended up siding with the latter. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “We hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the deadlock for an early resumption of talks so that the issue will be solved in a comprehensive, lasting and proper manner.” Today, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was more direct. “On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and Iran have a similar stance,” he crowed after meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding members will meet in Berlin to discuss new sanctions, but there will be no satisfactory outcome, especially because Chinese and Russian diplomats are repeating their almost word-for-word calls for more useless talks. These cynical pleas for additional negotiations, which would give the mullahs more time to develop their weapons, show that the Iranians have now neutralized the United Nations. Even if the Security Council should come up with new sanctions in the months ahead, we can be sure that they will be totally ineffective.

So let’s start connecting the dots, if I may borrow a phrase from Gabriel Schoenfeld. The Iranians are not worried about Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. They must realize that the only thing that can stop their nuclear program at this moment is military action. That’s why Iranian fast boats challenged the U.S. Navy earlier this month in the Strait of Hormuz—to remind Washington and the international community of the price of war. And that’s why Ahmadinejad said that neither Israel nor the United States would attack. The Iranians, I believe, wish to prevent the one thing they cannot control and truly fear.

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Postmarks for Freedom

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

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