Commentary Magazine


Topic: the New York Post

Is This the End of Land-for-Peace?

Some have noted that the situation in Egypt may mark the demise of Israel’s land-for-peace strategy. At the New York Post, Abby Wisse Schachter makes this point well, as she looks into Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt (h/t Israel Matzav):

Consider how the agreement with Egypt worked out. Because of its military success in 1967 and 1973, Israel actually had the entire Sinai Peninsula with which to bargain and that piece of land represented a massive physical buffer between the two countries. Then, after having relinquished the territory and removed hundreds of Israelis from their homes in Yamit (no they were not crazy religious “settlers”), the Israelis got a cold, even belligerent, peace with Egypt that never prevented Egypt from remaining the greatest producer of anti-semitic literature in the world. … And finally, 30 years later, the agreement still rests in the hands of one man, the dictator of Egypt. If Mubarak had been assassinated as his predecessor Sadat was, the accord might have been cancelled years ago.

It’s still far from clear how a new Egyptian government would impact the peace treaty, but, according to the Jerusalem Post, protesters in Egypt have been calling for the peace treaty to be revised by the leadership that succeeds Mubarak:

[Egyptian protester Hazan] Ahmed said he didn’t want Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel completely demolished, but for it to undergo a serious change.

“It should be remodeled. With Mubarak leaving, we know that whoever comes next will remodel the agreement.”

And, of course, any land-for-peace deal with the increasingly unstable PA would be an even bigger strategic blunder if the West Bank government ends up collapsing. Israel undoubtedly has taken note of this, and it’s sure to be factored into the negotiations with the Palestinians.

Some have noted that the situation in Egypt may mark the demise of Israel’s land-for-peace strategy. At the New York Post, Abby Wisse Schachter makes this point well, as she looks into Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt (h/t Israel Matzav):

Consider how the agreement with Egypt worked out. Because of its military success in 1967 and 1973, Israel actually had the entire Sinai Peninsula with which to bargain and that piece of land represented a massive physical buffer between the two countries. Then, after having relinquished the territory and removed hundreds of Israelis from their homes in Yamit (no they were not crazy religious “settlers”), the Israelis got a cold, even belligerent, peace with Egypt that never prevented Egypt from remaining the greatest producer of anti-semitic literature in the world. … And finally, 30 years later, the agreement still rests in the hands of one man, the dictator of Egypt. If Mubarak had been assassinated as his predecessor Sadat was, the accord might have been cancelled years ago.

It’s still far from clear how a new Egyptian government would impact the peace treaty, but, according to the Jerusalem Post, protesters in Egypt have been calling for the peace treaty to be revised by the leadership that succeeds Mubarak:

[Egyptian protester Hazan] Ahmed said he didn’t want Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel completely demolished, but for it to undergo a serious change.

“It should be remodeled. With Mubarak leaving, we know that whoever comes next will remodel the agreement.”

And, of course, any land-for-peace deal with the increasingly unstable PA would be an even bigger strategic blunder if the West Bank government ends up collapsing. Israel undoubtedly has taken note of this, and it’s sure to be factored into the negotiations with the Palestinians.

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What Now for Keith Olbermann?

Since Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC on Friday, there’s been a lot of speculation about where the liberal commentator will go next.

Though it seems clear that Olbermann had been anxious to leave the network for a while — the New York Post reported that he’s wanted out for at least a year — it also sounds like the breakup was mutual, and may have even preempted a firing. Olbermann was notoriously tough to deal with, and with the rise of other liberal stars on the network and a pending change in ownership, it wasn’t much of a loss for MSNBC to let him out of his contract.

Of course, the question is, Where will he go now? As far as liberal-commentary careers go, hosting a nightly show on MSNBC is the peak. You don’t really go up from there.

So far, there have been some interesting predictions. The New York Daily News wonders whether he’ll go back into sports commentary (based on one of his Twitter updates). The Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly predict that he may change career direction and star in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series Network.

And the Wrap reports that Olbermann is planning to stake out on his own and build a media outlet similar to the Huffington Post — which sounds far more likely:

With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.

Olbermann already has a high-profile brand as a liberal opinionater, and he might as well take advantage of it. The move also wouldn’t be without precedent. Former and current cable news hosts Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson have both launched pretty successful media outlets.

Since Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC on Friday, there’s been a lot of speculation about where the liberal commentator will go next.

Though it seems clear that Olbermann had been anxious to leave the network for a while — the New York Post reported that he’s wanted out for at least a year — it also sounds like the breakup was mutual, and may have even preempted a firing. Olbermann was notoriously tough to deal with, and with the rise of other liberal stars on the network and a pending change in ownership, it wasn’t much of a loss for MSNBC to let him out of his contract.

Of course, the question is, Where will he go now? As far as liberal-commentary careers go, hosting a nightly show on MSNBC is the peak. You don’t really go up from there.

So far, there have been some interesting predictions. The New York Daily News wonders whether he’ll go back into sports commentary (based on one of his Twitter updates). The Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly predict that he may change career direction and star in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series Network.

And the Wrap reports that Olbermann is planning to stake out on his own and build a media outlet similar to the Huffington Post — which sounds far more likely:

With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post, according to the individual. That way, Olbermann would control his own brand and, in his view, potentially earn far more as an owner.

Olbermann already has a high-profile brand as a liberal opinionater, and he might as well take advantage of it. The move also wouldn’t be without precedent. Former and current cable news hosts Glenn Beck and Tucker Carlson have both launched pretty successful media outlets.

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The President, the Speech, and the Crowd

The president was pitch-perfect, but the raucous and inappropriate setting and surroundings brought the evening down:

Never before in the annals of national moments of mourning have the words spoken been so wildly mismatched by the spirit in which they were received. The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama’s speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn’t quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.

You can read the rest of my take here in the New York Post.

The president was pitch-perfect, but the raucous and inappropriate setting and surroundings brought the evening down:

Never before in the annals of national moments of mourning have the words spoken been so wildly mismatched by the spirit in which they were received. The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama’s speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn’t quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.

You can read the rest of my take here in the New York Post.

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Yes, Rudy Is Considering Another Presidential Run

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

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Evening Commentary

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

Libertarians often look to the Founding Fathers as political role models, but would the Founders have actually fit the modern definition of a libertarian? David Frum argues no — and writes that those who attribute this ideology to the Founders are simply ignoring history: “[I]f the libertarian impulse summons us to take action to contain and constrain that government, very well let us take up the task. But we can do that task without duping ourselves with a false history that denies the reality of the past and — ironically — belittles the Founders’ actual achievements by measuring them against standards they would surely have rejected, if they had ever understood them.”

A church in Egypt was bombed during New Year’s Mass, killing 21 and injuring dozens more. Authorities believe the attack was carried out by extremist Muslims who were inspired by al-Qaeda but not necessarily associated with the terror group.

Good news: A new “groundbreaking” research project has found that conservative brains are structured to be “fearful” and “reflexive,” while liberal brains are structured to be “courageous” and “optimistic.” Over at the New York Post, Kyle Smith discovers that this important study has cleared up some confusing discrepancies in his own life: “[Professor] Rees has the answer to why, in my Army career, I kept running into so many conceptual performance artists from San Francisco and Chelsea. Seldom did I do a push-up or clean my M16 without finding myself amid heated debate from the officer class about whether Walter Mondale or Eugene McCarthy was the most inspiring American political leader of our era.”

Government spending can actually help stimulate economic growth, argues George Will. But in order for progress to occur, this spending needs to fund the projects of society’s top scientific innovators and pioneers. “With populism rampant, this is not a propitious moment to defend elites, even scientific ones. Nevertheless, the nation depends on nourishing them and the institutions that sustain them,” writes Will.

Well, this was bound to happen eventually. Leftists at the Guardian are now openly opposing human rights: “[Human-rights groups] promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call ‘universal.’ In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.” Yeah, who are we to oppress the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran with our imperialist idea that women shouldn’t be stoned for adultery?

Five members of Hamas have been charged in a plot to bomb a major Israeli stadium during a soccer game. Authorities say that the attack was meant to be in retaliation for Operation Cast Lead in 2008: “According to a statement from Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, the two main suspects were identified as Mussa Hamada of East Jerusalem, and Bassem Omri, an Israeli citizen living in Beit Tzafafa. Both are members of Hamas and the ‘Muslim Brothers’ movement in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet said.”

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Morning Commentary

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

The Iraqi parliament finally approves a diverse new unity government, ending nine months of political stalemate and concern for the fledgling democracy: “Although Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were represented in the previous government, this is the first time that all the major factions have been included, lending hope that Iraq can put behind it the bitter sectarian struggles and divisive politics of the past five years.”

More than nine Senate Republicans are expected to support New START when it’s brought up for ratification today, which is enough to approve the treaty. So what’s the GOP getting in return for its support? According to the Washington Times, Sen. Jon Kyl’s negotiations with President Obama have secured $85 billion to modernize and maintain our nuclear arsenal, as well as a commitment to build robust missile defenses.

In the New York Post, Jonah Goldberg analyzes the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

In USA Today, Sarah Palin discusses the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran: “Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force ‘if necessary’ if that is the only alternative.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering a presidential run? Her $31,000 in contributions to Iowa candidates over the past year has some bloggers asking that question. Iowa’s campaign-finance report shows that Sarah Palin gave only $15,000 during the same time period.

Has it really come to this? Robert Gibbs is now seeking political help from Jon Stewart.

Ron Radosh sees similarities between Hugo Chavez’s recent power grab and the rise of Nazi power: “By passing the Enabling Act — the same term used by Chavez today — Hitler sought to abolish democracy by formally democratic means. … By banning opposition Communist delegates who had all been arrested, and preventing Social-Democrats from taking seats to which they were elected after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis now had the necessary votes to pass the Act. Clearly, Hugo Chavez must have studied Hitler’s tactics before commencing upon a similar road.”

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“I’m Going to Take Off”

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

That’s what Barack Obama said on Friday when he ceded the podium in the White House briefing room to Bill Clinton. In the New York Post today, I analyze this rather singular moment:

The event gobsmacked the political class. On Twitter, ABC News political director Amy E. Walter wrote, “Obama just ceded the podium to Clinton. This. Is. Awesome.” Christina Bellantoni of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call used the same punctuation trope: “This is Un. Real.”

Washington froze in wonder at this momentary trip into the past. The sheer strangeness of the sight of Clinton alone at that podium crystallized the sense that the American political system (or more specifically, the Democratic party) had spun out of control over the course of the week.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Morning Commentary

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

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TSA Scanners vs. Profiling Redux

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Never-Ending Worst Week Ever

Barack Obama is on an open-ended run of “worsts.” The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin opened his November 7 column thus: “He took a ‘shellacking,’ a 2012 poll shows him trailing two Republicans, and losing candidates in his own party are griping about his ‘tone deaf’ leadership. And the Mad Hatter, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to exit quietly. Welcome to Barack Obama’s worst week in the Oval Office.”

Days later, on November 12, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio told the Daily News: “This certainly was the worst 10 days of [Obama’s] political life.” Commenting on the president’s failed Asia trip, Muzzio noted, “He came back with bupkis,” and said, “Given that he’s not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House … if he doesn’t do it in foreign policy that’s a big problem for him.”

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Barack Obama is on an open-ended run of “worsts.” The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin opened his November 7 column thus: “He took a ‘shellacking,’ a 2012 poll shows him trailing two Republicans, and losing candidates in his own party are griping about his ‘tone deaf’ leadership. And the Mad Hatter, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to exit quietly. Welcome to Barack Obama’s worst week in the Oval Office.”

Days later, on November 12, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio told the Daily News: “This certainly was the worst 10 days of [Obama’s] political life.” Commenting on the president’s failed Asia trip, Muzzio noted, “He came back with bupkis,” and said, “Given that he’s not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House … if he doesn’t do it in foreign policy that’s a big problem for him.”

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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City Journal at 20

City Journal, perhaps the country’s best and most interesting public-policy quarterly, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Today in the New York Post, I examine its role in the most heartening development in American governance of our time, the rebirth of New York City:

Changing New York’s trajectory required a new way of thinking about how to manage, govern and live in a gigantic, complex, aging city. That new way of thinking had to look back to the past — to what a functional New York was like and how to recapture that. It also had to look to the future, to ways in which the city could be more hospitable to new kinds of employers.

More than any other enterprise in New York, City Journal was the vehicle for this new way of thinking…What made City Journal revolutionary was the deep understanding informing every beautifully laid-out page of every quarterly issue (now edited by the estimable Brian Anderson) that the key problem was not political, not economic, but spiritual.

Happy birthday, City Journal.

City Journal, perhaps the country’s best and most interesting public-policy quarterly, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Today in the New York Post, I examine its role in the most heartening development in American governance of our time, the rebirth of New York City:

Changing New York’s trajectory required a new way of thinking about how to manage, govern and live in a gigantic, complex, aging city. That new way of thinking had to look back to the past — to what a functional New York was like and how to recapture that. It also had to look to the future, to ways in which the city could be more hospitable to new kinds of employers.

More than any other enterprise in New York, City Journal was the vehicle for this new way of thinking…What made City Journal revolutionary was the deep understanding informing every beautifully laid-out page of every quarterly issue (now edited by the estimable Brian Anderson) that the key problem was not political, not economic, but spiritual.

Happy birthday, City Journal.

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Survey Says: Obama Is Responsible for the Election Tsunami

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Verging on Irrelevancy

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

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Voters to Obama: Stop Already. No Fast Choo-Choos.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

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New York State of Mind?

New York State may be the only — the only — bright spot for Democrats in the United States today, as I say today in the New York Post:

As the great political analyst Jay-Z has observed, New York is “a concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” Perhaps the logic of that lyric eludes you. It shouldn’t, especially if you’re a Democrat. For today, this concrete jungle is the only place in America where a Democratic dream might be made of.

Prefer your wisdom from Billy Joel? Here it is: If all but one of the major national pollsters are right and there is a GOP blowout today that will make its 1994 blowout seem modest by comparison, Democrats will have to console themselves by placing themselves in a New York State of Mind.

There’s more, plus a few more song lyrics.

New York State may be the only — the only — bright spot for Democrats in the United States today, as I say today in the New York Post:

As the great political analyst Jay-Z has observed, New York is “a concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” Perhaps the logic of that lyric eludes you. It shouldn’t, especially if you’re a Democrat. For today, this concrete jungle is the only place in America where a Democratic dream might be made of.

Prefer your wisdom from Billy Joel? Here it is: If all but one of the major national pollsters are right and there is a GOP blowout today that will make its 1994 blowout seem modest by comparison, Democrats will have to console themselves by placing themselves in a New York State of Mind.

There’s more, plus a few more song lyrics.

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More Than a Thumpin’

My column today in the New York Post says what happens on November 2 on a national scale is already baked in the cake; nothing that happens in the last week is going to make much of a difference (barring a huge event):

We’ve had 18 months of data points from many different sources that all tell the same story: Americans who vote have radically changed direction when it comes to which party they prefer. In both 2006 and 2008, voters said they preferred Democrats by margins of 8 to 12 points, and on Election Day handed Democrats landslide victories. But Republicans have led in the so-called “generic polls” since March 2009 without letup — and the gap between the two parties has remained stable at a level comparable to the previous Democratic advantage.

This means that, probably at minimum, 16 percent of the electorate has shifted from voting Democrat to declaring its intention to vote Republican. That is an astonishing degree of change, and it’s why you’ve heard so much talk about this being an unprecedented election.

Remember that the 1994 election, when Republicans seized control of Congress in the biggest midterm victory of the modern age, came after a presidential year in which the Democrat had gotten only 43 percent of the vote. The two non-Democrats combined for 57 percent in 1992. In hindsight, the prospect for a gigantic GOP victory in 1994 was evident.

But this midterm is coming after a Democrat won 53 percent of the vote in 2008. The buyer’s remorse on the part of those independents and Republicans who thought they’d give Barack Obama a shot is something entirely new.

And that buyer’s remorse is not momentary or sudden. The shift began 18 months ago. The trend line has been stable and long-lasting. Nothing from spring 2009 to autumn 2010 has come along to alter the trajectory. It is almost impossible that something will do so in the next seven days.

You can read the whole thing here.

My column today in the New York Post says what happens on November 2 on a national scale is already baked in the cake; nothing that happens in the last week is going to make much of a difference (barring a huge event):

We’ve had 18 months of data points from many different sources that all tell the same story: Americans who vote have radically changed direction when it comes to which party they prefer. In both 2006 and 2008, voters said they preferred Democrats by margins of 8 to 12 points, and on Election Day handed Democrats landslide victories. But Republicans have led in the so-called “generic polls” since March 2009 without letup — and the gap between the two parties has remained stable at a level comparable to the previous Democratic advantage.

This means that, probably at minimum, 16 percent of the electorate has shifted from voting Democrat to declaring its intention to vote Republican. That is an astonishing degree of change, and it’s why you’ve heard so much talk about this being an unprecedented election.

Remember that the 1994 election, when Republicans seized control of Congress in the biggest midterm victory of the modern age, came after a presidential year in which the Democrat had gotten only 43 percent of the vote. The two non-Democrats combined for 57 percent in 1992. In hindsight, the prospect for a gigantic GOP victory in 1994 was evident.

But this midterm is coming after a Democrat won 53 percent of the vote in 2008. The buyer’s remorse on the part of those independents and Republicans who thought they’d give Barack Obama a shot is something entirely new.

And that buyer’s remorse is not momentary or sudden. The shift began 18 months ago. The trend line has been stable and long-lasting. Nothing from spring 2009 to autumn 2010 has come along to alter the trajectory. It is almost impossible that something will do so in the next seven days.

You can read the whole thing here.

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More on Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

I wrote about the new Nobel Literature laureate here yesterday, and add more today in the New York Post. And with thanks for the archival help provided by the library at the Washington Times, here’s a chunk of a profile I wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990:

The losing candidate in Peru’s last presidential election – the one who advocated free markets and an end to socialism – found himself on Rockville Pike in Borders Book Shop on a Wednesday evening in October. But he wasn’t out there among the Burger Kings and the K marts and the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurts to discuss his political career in Latin America. No, Mario Vargas Llosa had come to read aloud from the brand-new English translation of his shocking and highly experimental novel about the sexual liaison between a 40-year-old woman and her pre-adolescent stepson.

One of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers, peddling an erotic novel called “In Praise of the Stepmother” in a Rockville bookstore? The same day he appeared on the “Today” show in New York with Bryant Gumbel? It’s all too strange for words: Mario Vargas< Llosa, sandwiched between Willard Scott’s weather and the results of Deborah Norville’s latest sonogram.
“Well, you know, those interviews are so short that you can’t really express yourself,” he says with a touch of impatience when asked about the “Today” show in his suite at the Sheraton-Carlton. But, as if fearful to give offense, he adds, “I suppose it’s important for a book to be mentioned on a much-watched program, no?”

Here’s another irony: Mr. Vargas Llosa probably only got booked on the “Today” show because his publishers have linked “In Praise of the Stepmother” and its disturbing subject matter to Sexy Topic No. 1 in the arts this year: Censorship. “I’ve been asked about this since I arrived,” the startlingly good-looking and surprisingly slight 53- year-old writer says in his lilting, hesitant English. “It has been a surprise for me because, on the one hand, the United States seems so free. . . . On the other hand, I can’t understand that in a country so open and so free, these old and obsolete issues of censorship can still become a national issue. But I suppose it is inevitable.”

It was certainly inevitable that “In Praise of the Stepmother” would discomfit people, because it is a genuinely discomfiting book. This is no funny and playful erotic romp, like the novel that made him famous in the United States, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.” No, the sex in “Stepmother” is powerful, primal and frightening. It is, well, dirty. “I wouldn’t say ‘dirty,’ ” Mr. Vargas Llosa corrects. “I disagree. I don’t think sex is dirty. It may be dirty, but I don’t think it’s dirty in the story I tell. Threatening, yes.” The novel has four characters – an angel-faced boy named Fonchito, his passionate and beautiful stepmother, his blissfully happy father and the inevitable chambermaid. The stepmother is slowly and unwillingly seduced by her seemingly innocent stepson…

Writing the book may have had catastrophic consequences for its author. It was published in the midst of his two-year campaign for the presidency of Peru, which ended in June when Alberto Fujimori defeated Mr. Vargas Llosa in a surprise upset. “It was used against me by my adversary in the campaign,” he recalls. “I don’t know if that had any effect, but, oh, yes, it was read on the national television, as if to say, “Look at the kind of man that is this candidate!’ ” He laughs….

Mr. Vargas Llosa is thrilled that Mexican poet Octavio Paz recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature because, he says, “they are giving the prize to someone who has been fighting for democracy.”

“Things have changed so much in the world that even the Swedish Academy is accepting that there can be a very good Latin American writer who is not a communist, not a socialist.”

He pleases himself with this crack and explodes in machine-gun laughter…

I had forgotten that Vargas Llosa had discussed Octavio Paz and his Nobel; interesting, given that Vargas Llosa is the first Latin American since Paz to win the prize.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The trauma — and hilarity — of voting Republican in Brooklyn.

Pennsylvania voters have warmed to Pat Toomey. “Republican Pat Toomey inches closer to the 50% mark this month in his best showing yet in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania, with leaners included, shows Toomey earning 49% support, while Democratic hopeful Joe Sestak picks up 41% of the vote.” Well, the GOP blew Delaware, but the Dems blew it with Sestak.

Look at who voted, says Bill Kristol: “Voters flocked to participate in GOP primaries. National Republican turnout in 2010 has comfortably exceeded Democratic primary turnout. This is as good an indicator as the generic congressional ballot polls as to where the voters are going: They’re going to vote for Republicans this November.”

Only 1,667 votes were the difference between Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne. “Not only did national Republicans recruit Ayotte to get into the race, but public polls show she is in for a competitive contest against the Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes, who was uncontested in his primary last night.” Alas, as goes New Hampshire does not go Delaware.

In the “chalk one up for the Tea Party” category, voters in Florida are flocking to Marco Rubio: “Six weeks ahead of November 2 congressional elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent among likely voters, the poll found. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 21 percent.”

The voters of New York canned a crook. The New York Post crows: “Pedro Espada is a goner. Finally. Maybe the most egregious member of the most egregious legislative body in the land was called to account by his constituents last night — Espada was ousted by Gustavo Rivera in The Bronx. And we helped.”

Voters are dolts, apparently, in the eyes of Democrats, who think a new logo that looks like a target will improve their fortunes.

The trauma — and hilarity — of voting Republican in Brooklyn.

Pennsylvania voters have warmed to Pat Toomey. “Republican Pat Toomey inches closer to the 50% mark this month in his best showing yet in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania, with leaners included, shows Toomey earning 49% support, while Democratic hopeful Joe Sestak picks up 41% of the vote.” Well, the GOP blew Delaware, but the Dems blew it with Sestak.

Look at who voted, says Bill Kristol: “Voters flocked to participate in GOP primaries. National Republican turnout in 2010 has comfortably exceeded Democratic primary turnout. This is as good an indicator as the generic congressional ballot polls as to where the voters are going: They’re going to vote for Republicans this November.”

Only 1,667 votes were the difference between Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne. “Not only did national Republicans recruit Ayotte to get into the race, but public polls show she is in for a competitive contest against the Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes, who was uncontested in his primary last night.” Alas, as goes New Hampshire does not go Delaware.

In the “chalk one up for the Tea Party” category, voters in Florida are flocking to Marco Rubio: “Six weeks ahead of November 2 congressional elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent among likely voters, the poll found. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 21 percent.”

The voters of New York canned a crook. The New York Post crows: “Pedro Espada is a goner. Finally. Maybe the most egregious member of the most egregious legislative body in the land was called to account by his constituents last night — Espada was ousted by Gustavo Rivera in The Bronx. And we helped.”

Voters are dolts, apparently, in the eyes of Democrats, who think a new logo that looks like a target will improve their fortunes.

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Keep Our Eye on the Ball — Iran

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

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Did I ‘Define Neoconservatism Down’?

Rich Lowry has a provocative and well-argued post about my claim in both the New York Post this morning and on CONTENTIONS that the president last night delivered a “neoconservative” speech. “I’ve never known a neo-con to brag about how rapidly he’s drawn down U.S. troops in an ongoing conflict, unnecessarily putting at risk hard-won gains on the ground,” Rich points out, going on to say that “Obama went on to use the troops and their sacrifice as a reason that we should unite around his effort to spend us into the ground here at home. Unless you’re grading on a very sharp curve, this is shabby stuff.”

I was grading on a curve. I think that’s what you do when you respond to presidential addresses. What’s interesting about them is what’s new in them; that was always understood when I was writing speeches in the White House 22 years ago. Even in Oval Office addresses, half of what is said is there because it’s intended to suggest continuities with previous statements and offer reassurance to already existing constituencies. Thus, it’s entirely to be expected and entirely without interest that he said it is time to turn the page in Iraq so we can focus on problems at home — and spend the money we spent in Iraq on domestic programs.

It’s when speeches change things up, go in unexpected directions, that they make news and are interesting. In that respect, the neocon-like rhetoric used by Obama was entirely new, especially for him, and therefore very interesting. For Obama to claim, as he did, that our perseverance in Iraq offers us hope that we can turn around our domestic woes was a startling thing. He probably didn’t mean it, and in many ways he’s the polar opposite of a neocon. But he said it. What’s more telling, he said it because he thought it would be of value to him to say it.

And by saying it, he was indicating something even more interesting — again, without knowing it. And that is this: the core “neoconservative” position is that America is a force for good in the world and that when America acts, it benefits both the world and its own national soul. The fact that Obama has moved toward this view rhetorically indicates the degree to which it reflects a common and long-standing American consensus toward which even Obama, the first post-American president, finds himself moving by default.

Rich Lowry has a provocative and well-argued post about my claim in both the New York Post this morning and on CONTENTIONS that the president last night delivered a “neoconservative” speech. “I’ve never known a neo-con to brag about how rapidly he’s drawn down U.S. troops in an ongoing conflict, unnecessarily putting at risk hard-won gains on the ground,” Rich points out, going on to say that “Obama went on to use the troops and their sacrifice as a reason that we should unite around his effort to spend us into the ground here at home. Unless you’re grading on a very sharp curve, this is shabby stuff.”

I was grading on a curve. I think that’s what you do when you respond to presidential addresses. What’s interesting about them is what’s new in them; that was always understood when I was writing speeches in the White House 22 years ago. Even in Oval Office addresses, half of what is said is there because it’s intended to suggest continuities with previous statements and offer reassurance to already existing constituencies. Thus, it’s entirely to be expected and entirely without interest that he said it is time to turn the page in Iraq so we can focus on problems at home — and spend the money we spent in Iraq on domestic programs.

It’s when speeches change things up, go in unexpected directions, that they make news and are interesting. In that respect, the neocon-like rhetoric used by Obama was entirely new, especially for him, and therefore very interesting. For Obama to claim, as he did, that our perseverance in Iraq offers us hope that we can turn around our domestic woes was a startling thing. He probably didn’t mean it, and in many ways he’s the polar opposite of a neocon. But he said it. What’s more telling, he said it because he thought it would be of value to him to say it.

And by saying it, he was indicating something even more interesting — again, without knowing it. And that is this: the core “neoconservative” position is that America is a force for good in the world and that when America acts, it benefits both the world and its own national soul. The fact that Obama has moved toward this view rhetorically indicates the degree to which it reflects a common and long-standing American consensus toward which even Obama, the first post-American president, finds himself moving by default.

Read Less




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