Commentary Magazine


Topic: YouTube

Terrorism Against Feelings

The controversy over the anti-Islam YouTube film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” isn’t going away. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for mass demonstrations last week, and yesterday thousands of Muslims converged outside Google in London to demand the removal of the YouTube clip:

A protest by 10,000 Muslims outside the offices of Google in London today is just the first in an orchestrated attempt to force the company to remove an anti-Islamic film from website YouTube in Britain. …

Organiser Masoud Alam said: “Our next protest will be at the offices of Google and YouTube across the world. We are looking to ban this film.

“This is not freedom of expression, there is a limit for that. This insult of the Prophet will not be allowed. …

One of the speakers, Sheikh Faiz Al-Aqtab Siddiqui, told The Daily Telegraph: “Terrorism is not just people who kill human bodies, but who kill human feelings as well. The makers of this film have terrorised 1.6 billion people.

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The controversy over the anti-Islam YouTube film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” isn’t going away. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for mass demonstrations last week, and yesterday thousands of Muslims converged outside Google in London to demand the removal of the YouTube clip:

A protest by 10,000 Muslims outside the offices of Google in London today is just the first in an orchestrated attempt to force the company to remove an anti-Islamic film from website YouTube in Britain. …

Organiser Masoud Alam said: “Our next protest will be at the offices of Google and YouTube across the world. We are looking to ban this film.

“This is not freedom of expression, there is a limit for that. This insult of the Prophet will not be allowed. …

One of the speakers, Sheikh Faiz Al-Aqtab Siddiqui, told The Daily Telegraph: “Terrorism is not just people who kill human bodies, but who kill human feelings as well. The makers of this film have terrorised 1.6 billion people.

That’s an odd quote: “Terrorism is not just people who kill human bodies, but who kill human feelings as well.” On the surface, the speaker seems to be criticizing terrorism, when in fact he’s justifying it. If mocking a religious figure like Mohammed is considered “terrorism,” that would legitimize a violent response. He’s saying you can’t end terrorism against people unless you also end “terrorism against feelings.”

Another protester interviewed in the article said basically the same thing:

Self-employed businessman Ahmed Nasar said he was worried the video could lead to violence in Britain in the same way as it had abroad. “If you push people too far,” he said, “You will turn the peaceful elements into violence.”

Yet another attempt to blame the victims for Islamic terrorism instead of the perpetrators. And these aren’t isolated opinions. The Organization of Islamic Conference, a group that represents 56 Islamic states, called for a global ban on insulting Muhammad at the United Nations last month, claiming that offensive speech could “provoke people to violence.” Not that there’s any chance of a global speech ban actually happening, but it’s a campaign that many Muslim leaders — including ones considered “moderate” — are invested in.

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Re: WH Asks YouTube to Pull Anti-Islam Video

Alana’s right that the White House’s effort to encourage YouTube to take the video down is a “dangerous precedent.”  It’s also Sisyphean. YouTube is just the best known video hosting site: if they take the video down, it will show up elsewhere. Or for a nominal fee, its creators — or anyone else — could serve it from their own website. The whole approach is not only dangerous; it’s ridiculous. As the U.S. movie and music industries have found out, it’s impossible to win a war against the Internet if your only weapon is take-down notices.

The White House’s effort to play on YouTube’s terms of service could only have arisen in the context of an Administration that desperately wanted the video to go away, but recognized that mounting a legal challenge to it was a public opinion loser. I’d love to have been in the room when some bright young staffer said, “We can’t tell them to take it down.  We can’t even ask.  But what if we ask if it violates their terms of service?” I wonder if anyone in Silicon Valley is rethinking their support for Obama 2012 now.

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Alana’s right that the White House’s effort to encourage YouTube to take the video down is a “dangerous precedent.”  It’s also Sisyphean. YouTube is just the best known video hosting site: if they take the video down, it will show up elsewhere. Or for a nominal fee, its creators — or anyone else — could serve it from their own website. The whole approach is not only dangerous; it’s ridiculous. As the U.S. movie and music industries have found out, it’s impossible to win a war against the Internet if your only weapon is take-down notices.

The White House’s effort to play on YouTube’s terms of service could only have arisen in the context of an Administration that desperately wanted the video to go away, but recognized that mounting a legal challenge to it was a public opinion loser. I’d love to have been in the room when some bright young staffer said, “We can’t tell them to take it down.  We can’t even ask.  But what if we ask if it violates their terms of service?” I wonder if anyone in Silicon Valley is rethinking their support for Obama 2012 now.

But the White House’s effort to persuade YouTube to censor itself has a larger significance. Prof. Anthea Butler’s “Sam Bacile deserves arrest” op-ed in USA Today last week is already notorious. (From the balanced world of academia, where tenure is a license to pontificate and deadlines are overrated, I look forward to the publication of Prof. Butler’s The Gospel According to Sarah: How Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are Galvanizing the Religious Right, forthcoming — according to UPenn — from The New Press in Spring 2012.) But over on the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh points out that it’s not just professors of religious studies who are eager to start arresting people and banning speech.

On Opinio Juris, Prof. Peter Spiro of Temple, a leading scholar of international law, is making the argument that we need to get with the program and recognize that Europe is right: hate speech can and should be banned. True, in the U.S., that tiresome First Amendment would seem to prevent this, but Prof. Spiro, like Harold Koh, now the legal adviser to the State Department, has an answer: treaties — and, more broadly, recognition of an “international consensus” — will (and should) be used to create “an international norm against hate speech [that would] supply a basis for prohibiting it, the First Amendment notwithstanding. . .  Deploying international law as an interpretive tool reflects a defensive strategy, . . . [that] may mask what is, in fact, a partial displacement of constitutional hegemony.”

The problem with the White House’s efforts is not just that they are wrong in principle and feeble in practice. It’s not just that it has handed all the agenda-defining power to Islamist radicals, and refused to recognize that the video is an act of political judo against the U.S., and a pretext for violence, not its cause, in the Middle East. It’s not even just that it plays into the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s seemingly lost campaign for U.N. action against the “defamation of religion,” which the Obama administration rightly opposed.

The problem is that Prof. Spiro has generously spelled out the progressive game plan: use the international consensus, and the occasional foreign outrage, against the U.S.’s exceptional tradition of free speech (and other forms of U.S. exceptionalism, such as Second Amendment rights) to persuade U.S. authorities to define and use legal means to restrict those rights. And that is exactly what the White House is trying to do.

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WH Asks YouTube to Pull Anti-Islam Video

The White House will obviously argue that it’s not asking YouTube to censor the anti-Islam video per say, but simply asking it to review its policies and see if the video can be construed as a terms of use violation. But that’s a distinction without a difference. “Hey, can you remove this video?” is pretty much undistinguishable from “Hey, can you remove this video as a violation of your terms of services?” — after all, it’s not like the White House can force YouTube to pull the film, and whatever the website does is its own prerogative:

The White House has asked YouTube to review an anti-Muslim film posted to the site that has been blamed for igniting the violent protests this week in the Middle East.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House has “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”

WaPo reports that YouTube already said the video didn’t violate its terms of services on Wednesday, but it has restricted access to the film in Libya and Egypt.

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The White House will obviously argue that it’s not asking YouTube to censor the anti-Islam video per say, but simply asking it to review its policies and see if the video can be construed as a terms of use violation. But that’s a distinction without a difference. “Hey, can you remove this video?” is pretty much undistinguishable from “Hey, can you remove this video as a violation of your terms of services?” — after all, it’s not like the White House can force YouTube to pull the film, and whatever the website does is its own prerogative:

The White House has asked YouTube to review an anti-Muslim film posted to the site that has been blamed for igniting the violent protests this week in the Middle East.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House has “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”

WaPo reports that YouTube already said the video didn’t violate its terms of services on Wednesday, but it has restricted access to the film in Libya and Egypt.

The spokesperson added, however, that the site restricted access in Libya and Egypt because of the unrest. “We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier today, White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated that the administration found the video “offensive and reprehensible and disgusting,” but added, “we cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country.” When a reporter asked whether the White House ever asked YouTube to remove the video, he said that he wasn’t sure and punted on the question.

If the White House believes the video is “freedom of expression” that it “cannot and will not squelch,” then why is it asking YouTube to see if it can remove the film from its website?

This is a result of the dangerous precedent the Obama administration has set. Last year, administration officials personally petitioned a fringe pastor in Florida not to carry out a Koran burning they said would endanger our troops. There was a small public outcry, but not much — probably because many Americans are instinctively uncomfortable with book-burnings, even if they are protected expression.

But now the administration’s efforts to suppress free speech have spread to a YouTube video. A video that is admittedly moronic and offensive, but certainly no more so than thousands of other clips on the website.

Where does this lead? The list of things that offend radical Islamists is long. What happens next time fanatics riot and murder innocents over a film or a picture or a book? Is the White House going to make it a policy to condemn any mockery of Islam that radical clerics exploit to gin up outrage across the Muslim world?

By trying to get the video pulled, the White House isn’t just acknowledging that the film is offensive. It’s taking the posture that the film is illegitimate expression because it offends — and that violent rioting is a logical response to simply viewing the film. That U.S. policy has the potential to become a dangerous tool in the hands of Islamists.

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BREAKING: In Gaza, Sometimes People Surf a Lot

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

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Morning Commentary

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

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Memo to Liberals: Beware the Internet

Someone should tell liberals that the old days are over. Not so long ago, if you wanted to prove that a member of the chattering classes had flatly contradicted himself in order to advance a political agenda, you had to go to the library, get a roll of microfilm, insert it into a machine, and then search for the earlier statement. If your memory was faulty as to where or when the earlier statement had appeared, this process could take hours, even days. Often it wasn’t worth the bother.

Today you need only click the icons for Google and/or YouTube, push a few keys, and bam! — you have proof positive of the chatterers’ shameless hypocrisy. A few more clicks and their intellectual perfidy is all over the Internet.

The recent spate of liberals decrying the hostile rhetoric of the right following the tragedy in Tucson is a case in point. One would think that the incivility had started on January 20, 2009, and that political conversation of the previous eight years had been a modern-day Socratic dialogue. As Michelle Malkin demonstrates – in spades! — that is not exactly the case.

I don’t know how long it took Michelle to come up with her list, but I bet it was less time than she would have needed to take the bus to the library.

Someone should tell liberals that the old days are over. Not so long ago, if you wanted to prove that a member of the chattering classes had flatly contradicted himself in order to advance a political agenda, you had to go to the library, get a roll of microfilm, insert it into a machine, and then search for the earlier statement. If your memory was faulty as to where or when the earlier statement had appeared, this process could take hours, even days. Often it wasn’t worth the bother.

Today you need only click the icons for Google and/or YouTube, push a few keys, and bam! — you have proof positive of the chatterers’ shameless hypocrisy. A few more clicks and their intellectual perfidy is all over the Internet.

The recent spate of liberals decrying the hostile rhetoric of the right following the tragedy in Tucson is a case in point. One would think that the incivility had started on January 20, 2009, and that political conversation of the previous eight years had been a modern-day Socratic dialogue. As Michelle Malkin demonstrates – in spades! — that is not exactly the case.

I don’t know how long it took Michelle to come up with her list, but I bet it was less time than she would have needed to take the bus to the library.

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Loughner

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

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Pence Raises His Profile

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

We had the Mitch Daniels flutter. Then it was the John Thune ripple (if you missed it, don’t worry — most of the country did). Now we are seeing some signs that Mike Pence is seriously considering a 2102 presidential run — and that movement conservatives are seriously looking him over. In my e-mail in-box I have word that “U.S. Congressman Mike Pence will give a major economic speech to members of the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, November 29th.”

There is this profile:

Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

That will likely pass muster with the Tea Party crowd. And unlike Daniels, who has already alarmed social conservatives, value voters are rather comfortable with him:

“When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

The conventional wisdom is that a House member can’t win the presidency. I don’t buy that — the conventional wisdom also told us that Hillary Clinton would win and that a newly elected senator with no executive or foreign policy experience couldn’t be elected. As I’ve said several times, forget the election rulebook.

In a crowded field with no clear-cut front-runner, a candidate with a solid conservative record can, if he picks his spots, “break out” of the pack. A debate, a YouTube moment, or a face-off with the president can elevate a candidate like Pence. The greatest challenge he faces, I would argue, is to differentiate himself from the other, traditional Republicans (e.g., Mitt Romney, John Thune, Mitch Daniels). Why him and not one of them?

The challenge, I would argue, for the GOP is to find a Tea Party–friendly figure who is still capable of expanding the base and capturing key independent voters. There aren’t many contenders who fit that bill — Chris Christie and Paul Ryan may be the most widely discussed among GOP activists and serious conservative wonks. But Pence, if he runs a smart race and can break through the clutter, might make it into that category. We’ll find out in the next few months how serious — and effective — he is convincing both Tea Party activists and mainstream Republicans that he can fuse the two wings of the GOP.

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Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

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Violence and Anti-Semitism From the Left, Not the Right

The conventional wisdom of liberal America is that the Tea Party backlash against the Obama administration and its health-care law was fueled by racism, hate, and a veiled hint of violence. The idea that a grassroots movement of citizens appalled by the aggrandizement of the federal government and the administration’s overreach might rise up in protest is simply something that many, if not most, liberals can’t understand. Even the Anti-Defamation League tried to link the wackiest violent extremists and mainstream Republican critics of Obama in a controversial report.

And yet, for all the huffing and puffing about conservative hate, there was little or no evidence behind such accusations. Liberal politicians were often brusquely scolded about the Constitution at town-hall meetings by Tea Partiers — an indignity that some considered somehow non-democratic — but none were harmed.

Yet today comes a reminder that far from violence being the preserve of the right, the left is just as likely to be guilty of such incitement. As the New York Times reported on its political blog:

A Philadelphia man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, earlier this year. Prosecutors said that the man, Norman LeBoon, declared in a video put on YouTube that he would shoot Mr. Cantor in the head and called him and his children “Lucifer’s abominations.” … The video, prosecutors said, was put on YouTube in late March — around the time the health care overhaul became law and amid a spell of threats and acts of vandalism directed at lawmakers.

If anything, this case illustrates the not-so-tenuous connection between left-wing extremism and anti-Semitism; singling out Cantor— the only Jewish Republican in the House at the time — and referencing him in terms straight out of the traditional stereotypes of Jew-hatred is the sort of thing that ought to send alarm bells ringing among those who monitor such hatred.

The conventional wisdom of liberal America is that the Tea Party backlash against the Obama administration and its health-care law was fueled by racism, hate, and a veiled hint of violence. The idea that a grassroots movement of citizens appalled by the aggrandizement of the federal government and the administration’s overreach might rise up in protest is simply something that many, if not most, liberals can’t understand. Even the Anti-Defamation League tried to link the wackiest violent extremists and mainstream Republican critics of Obama in a controversial report.

And yet, for all the huffing and puffing about conservative hate, there was little or no evidence behind such accusations. Liberal politicians were often brusquely scolded about the Constitution at town-hall meetings by Tea Partiers — an indignity that some considered somehow non-democratic — but none were harmed.

Yet today comes a reminder that far from violence being the preserve of the right, the left is just as likely to be guilty of such incitement. As the New York Times reported on its political blog:

A Philadelphia man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, earlier this year. Prosecutors said that the man, Norman LeBoon, declared in a video put on YouTube that he would shoot Mr. Cantor in the head and called him and his children “Lucifer’s abominations.” … The video, prosecutors said, was put on YouTube in late March — around the time the health care overhaul became law and amid a spell of threats and acts of vandalism directed at lawmakers.

If anything, this case illustrates the not-so-tenuous connection between left-wing extremism and anti-Semitism; singling out Cantor— the only Jewish Republican in the House at the time — and referencing him in terms straight out of the traditional stereotypes of Jew-hatred is the sort of thing that ought to send alarm bells ringing among those who monitor such hatred.

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Dunking for Dollars

An enterprising journalism school might want to start offering a one-day seminar in the effective staging of videotaped waterboarding. Getting under a wet towel is a surefire way to put your name out there. It’s sort of like the reality TV of journalism. Get a cheap camera, do something unpleasant, and welcome your new audience.

Before today, I had never heard of the Sun’s Oliver Harvey. But now that he got wet and held his breath for 12 seconds while being videotaped he’s become the subject of this post. Harvey is the latest in a string of writers who’ve taken this shortcut to a larger readership. Of all the volunteer splashees, Christopher Hitchens got the most mileage when he submitted himself to the whims of fake interrogators in 2008. This produced an immediately forgettable Vanity Fair article and an immortal YouTube video.

Apparently it eludes these eager bathers that as more of them get dunked for dough, the case for the unspeakable inhumanity of waterboarding becomes increasingly weak.  In fact, there’s something wonderfully pro-American in all this. So evil are the wartime methods of the United States that they’ve inspired a succession of entrepreneurial self-administering copycats to capitalize on them in the free market. Tell me there’s no poetry in that. You don’t see the denizens of Fleet Street offering themselves up to the interrogation methods of the regimes they’re so eager to defend, do you? When you see an Iran apologist suffering the identical treatment of an Evin prison captive then we’ll talk.

An enterprising journalism school might want to start offering a one-day seminar in the effective staging of videotaped waterboarding. Getting under a wet towel is a surefire way to put your name out there. It’s sort of like the reality TV of journalism. Get a cheap camera, do something unpleasant, and welcome your new audience.

Before today, I had never heard of the Sun’s Oliver Harvey. But now that he got wet and held his breath for 12 seconds while being videotaped he’s become the subject of this post. Harvey is the latest in a string of writers who’ve taken this shortcut to a larger readership. Of all the volunteer splashees, Christopher Hitchens got the most mileage when he submitted himself to the whims of fake interrogators in 2008. This produced an immediately forgettable Vanity Fair article and an immortal YouTube video.

Apparently it eludes these eager bathers that as more of them get dunked for dough, the case for the unspeakable inhumanity of waterboarding becomes increasingly weak.  In fact, there’s something wonderfully pro-American in all this. So evil are the wartime methods of the United States that they’ve inspired a succession of entrepreneurial self-administering copycats to capitalize on them in the free market. Tell me there’s no poetry in that. You don’t see the denizens of Fleet Street offering themselves up to the interrogation methods of the regimes they’re so eager to defend, do you? When you see an Iran apologist suffering the identical treatment of an Evin prison captive then we’ll talk.

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A Good Word for — and from — the White House

Obama’s chief economic adviser inside the White House, Austan Goolsbee — formerly a professor at the University of Chicago — offers a terrific three-minute explanation of the president’s trip to Asia and its macroeconomic purpose distributed over YouTube. Goolsbee, who once hosted a TV show about the economy on the History Channel, provides here an almost perfect example of the way policymakers can use the multimedia possibilities of the Internet to explain what they are seeking to accomplish.

Obama’s chief economic adviser inside the White House, Austan Goolsbee — formerly a professor at the University of Chicago — offers a terrific three-minute explanation of the president’s trip to Asia and its macroeconomic purpose distributed over YouTube. Goolsbee, who once hosted a TV show about the economy on the History Channel, provides here an almost perfect example of the way policymakers can use the multimedia possibilities of the Internet to explain what they are seeking to accomplish.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities — also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Performance and Politics

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

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The YouTube Primary

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

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Pink Floyd Singer’s Attack on Israel Given an Assist by Its Defenders

The Anti-Defamation League may have unwittingly done pop-rock icon Roger Waters a favor when it came down on him recently like a ton of bricks and accused the Pink Floyd star of anti-Semitism. Unlike filmmaker Oliver Stone, who folded like a cheap suit when the group called out the conspiracy-monger for regurgitating the Walt-Mearsheimer party line about American Jews manipulating foreign policy, Waters is standing his ground and using the brouhaha to promote his leftist view of Israel and the world.

The ADL called Waters to account for the way the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” is performed on his current concert tour. As you can see on this version on YouTube, the playing of the song is accompanied by a video showing an animated B-52 bombing an unidentified landscape with the symbols of major religions. But right after Stars of David are released, they are followed by dollar signs and then the logos for Shell Oil and Mercedes. The ADL said they felt that by juxtaposing these symbols in that sequence, Waters was “dredging up the worst age-old anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and their supposed obsession with making money.” Foxman also stated that the whole thing was really about Waters’s dislike of Israel and its security fence, which protects its people against Palestinian suicide bombers.

Waters has now responded to the ADL’s remonstrance with a virulent attack on the organization and its leader, denying the charge of anti-Semitism and proclaiming himself a victim of the Israel lobby’s attempts to silence critics of Israel and American foreign policy. Waters says he is motivated to combat the “lies” of Republicans and says that “accusations of anti-Semitism are ‘a screen’ that the ADL hides behind. ‘I don’t think they should be taken seriously on that. You can attack Israeli policy without being anti-Jewish,’ Waters said. ‘It’s like saying if you criticize the US policy you are being anti-Christian. I’m critical of the Israeli policy of occupying Palestinian land and their policy of building settlements, which is entirely illegal under international law, and also of ghettoising the people whose land they are building on.’”

All of which makes it sound as if the ADL was pretty much on target. If the goal of the song and the video is to demonize Israel using Jewish religious symbols mixed in with dollar signs and to promote Palestinian propaganda about stolen land while ignoring the real context of the conflict and the purpose of the security fence, then there is little question of Waters’s ill intent.

But having watched the video of the performance myself, I have to confess that I doubt that too many viewers would have understood any of this — either the anti-Semitic inferences alleged by the ADL or the anti-Israel and anti-Republican intent that Waters says motivates the performance. Without already knowing that Waters is an Israel-basher, as Foxman (who is clearly better informed about the politics of aging rock stars than I would have thought) does, I think it is unlikely that anyone would conclude from the video alone that Israel or American foreign policy, let alone Republicans, was the point of the piece. Since a cross and a Muslim crescent precede the Star of David imagery, most viewers probably see it as an across-the-board slam of organized religion as well as the usual incoherent pop-art shot at capitalism.

So while Waters’s response certainly lent credence to the ADL’s original critique, one wonders if very many people would have ever understood that he viewed his tour as an attack on Israel without the organization publicizing it. By slamming Waters, the ADL may have unintentionally done him and those who applaud his misperceptions of Israel a favor.

The Anti-Defamation League may have unwittingly done pop-rock icon Roger Waters a favor when it came down on him recently like a ton of bricks and accused the Pink Floyd star of anti-Semitism. Unlike filmmaker Oliver Stone, who folded like a cheap suit when the group called out the conspiracy-monger for regurgitating the Walt-Mearsheimer party line about American Jews manipulating foreign policy, Waters is standing his ground and using the brouhaha to promote his leftist view of Israel and the world.

The ADL called Waters to account for the way the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” is performed on his current concert tour. As you can see on this version on YouTube, the playing of the song is accompanied by a video showing an animated B-52 bombing an unidentified landscape with the symbols of major religions. But right after Stars of David are released, they are followed by dollar signs and then the logos for Shell Oil and Mercedes. The ADL said they felt that by juxtaposing these symbols in that sequence, Waters was “dredging up the worst age-old anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and their supposed obsession with making money.” Foxman also stated that the whole thing was really about Waters’s dislike of Israel and its security fence, which protects its people against Palestinian suicide bombers.

Waters has now responded to the ADL’s remonstrance with a virulent attack on the organization and its leader, denying the charge of anti-Semitism and proclaiming himself a victim of the Israel lobby’s attempts to silence critics of Israel and American foreign policy. Waters says he is motivated to combat the “lies” of Republicans and says that “accusations of anti-Semitism are ‘a screen’ that the ADL hides behind. ‘I don’t think they should be taken seriously on that. You can attack Israeli policy without being anti-Jewish,’ Waters said. ‘It’s like saying if you criticize the US policy you are being anti-Christian. I’m critical of the Israeli policy of occupying Palestinian land and their policy of building settlements, which is entirely illegal under international law, and also of ghettoising the people whose land they are building on.’”

All of which makes it sound as if the ADL was pretty much on target. If the goal of the song and the video is to demonize Israel using Jewish religious symbols mixed in with dollar signs and to promote Palestinian propaganda about stolen land while ignoring the real context of the conflict and the purpose of the security fence, then there is little question of Waters’s ill intent.

But having watched the video of the performance myself, I have to confess that I doubt that too many viewers would have understood any of this — either the anti-Semitic inferences alleged by the ADL or the anti-Israel and anti-Republican intent that Waters says motivates the performance. Without already knowing that Waters is an Israel-basher, as Foxman (who is clearly better informed about the politics of aging rock stars than I would have thought) does, I think it is unlikely that anyone would conclude from the video alone that Israel or American foreign policy, let alone Republicans, was the point of the piece. Since a cross and a Muslim crescent precede the Star of David imagery, most viewers probably see it as an across-the-board slam of organized religion as well as the usual incoherent pop-art shot at capitalism.

So while Waters’s response certainly lent credence to the ADL’s original critique, one wonders if very many people would have ever understood that he viewed his tour as an attack on Israel without the organization publicizing it. By slamming Waters, the ADL may have unintentionally done him and those who applaud his misperceptions of Israel a favor.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: “They’re Doing the J Street Jive”

Given the recent revelations regarding the J Street/George Soros connection, Noah Pollak’s April 2009 COMMENTARY article, “They’re Doing the J Street Jive,” seems particularly apt and timely:

In December 2008, two weeks before Hamas abandoned the six-month lull in its rocket war against Israel, the founder and executive director of the new lobbying group J Street delivered a message via YouTube to potential supporters. Appearing in a crisply pressed pale blue button-down, Jeremy Ben-Ami offered a personalized explanation for why, eight months earlier, he had launched a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization that hoped to change the way the United States government dealt with Israel. In an earnest, confessional style, Ben-Ami explained that in past years,

I felt that I didn’t have a voice in American politics when it came to Israel and the Middle East. . . . When I came back [from living in Israel in the late 1990’s] and I told people that I favored a Palestinian state, that I was a supporter of peace, and in recent years when I’ve said that I don’t think it makes sense for us to militarily attack Iran, I was told that I was insufficiently pro-Israel. Well, I’ll tell you, I find that unacceptable. I don’t find it Jewish. I don’t find it American to not allow people to express alternative opinions, and I certainly don’t find it to be pro-Israel. . . . I’ve decided that I had to speak out.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Given the recent revelations regarding the J Street/George Soros connection, Noah Pollak’s April 2009 COMMENTARY article, “They’re Doing the J Street Jive,” seems particularly apt and timely:

In December 2008, two weeks before Hamas abandoned the six-month lull in its rocket war against Israel, the founder and executive director of the new lobbying group J Street delivered a message via YouTube to potential supporters. Appearing in a crisply pressed pale blue button-down, Jeremy Ben-Ami offered a personalized explanation for why, eight months earlier, he had launched a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization that hoped to change the way the United States government dealt with Israel. In an earnest, confessional style, Ben-Ami explained that in past years,

I felt that I didn’t have a voice in American politics when it came to Israel and the Middle East. . . . When I came back [from living in Israel in the late 1990’s] and I told people that I favored a Palestinian state, that I was a supporter of peace, and in recent years when I’ve said that I don’t think it makes sense for us to militarily attack Iran, I was told that I was insufficiently pro-Israel. Well, I’ll tell you, I find that unacceptable. I don’t find it Jewish. I don’t find it American to not allow people to express alternative opinions, and I certainly don’t find it to be pro-Israel. . . . I’ve decided that I had to speak out.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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Have You Heard the One About . . .

Polls are one way to see who’s ahead in the endless game of politics. Humor is another, for the guys on the losing side tend to be a bit grumpy.

FDR had a wonderful sense of humor. His remarks about his “little dog, Fala” are a classic. So is his “Martin, Barton, and Fish” line that became a staple of the 1940 reelection campaign. It was later echoed by Hubert Humphrey in his acceptance speech for the nomination for vice president at the 1964 Democratic convention, where he ended paragraph after paragraph with the line, “But not Senator Goldwater!” Ronald Reagan was forever telling funny stories and his deadpan masterpiece during a debate with Walter Mondale knocked the age issue out of the ballpark in 1984. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, wouldn’t get a joke if it hit him on the nose. He got the boot after one term.

So who has the lead in humor this election? It isn’t the liberals. They, in fact, have been noticeably grumpy since the days of Hubert Humphrey, who, like Al Smith before him, was known as the Happy Warrior after Wordsworth’s great poem. According to liberals, the Tea Party movement is a hotbed of racism and a white-only club. The Tea Party begs to differ and this YouTube clip pretty much demolishes the idea with humor.

We’ll see who gets the last laugh on November 2nd. I don’t think it will be liberals.

Polls are one way to see who’s ahead in the endless game of politics. Humor is another, for the guys on the losing side tend to be a bit grumpy.

FDR had a wonderful sense of humor. His remarks about his “little dog, Fala” are a classic. So is his “Martin, Barton, and Fish” line that became a staple of the 1940 reelection campaign. It was later echoed by Hubert Humphrey in his acceptance speech for the nomination for vice president at the 1964 Democratic convention, where he ended paragraph after paragraph with the line, “But not Senator Goldwater!” Ronald Reagan was forever telling funny stories and his deadpan masterpiece during a debate with Walter Mondale knocked the age issue out of the ballpark in 1984. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, wouldn’t get a joke if it hit him on the nose. He got the boot after one term.

So who has the lead in humor this election? It isn’t the liberals. They, in fact, have been noticeably grumpy since the days of Hubert Humphrey, who, like Al Smith before him, was known as the Happy Warrior after Wordsworth’s great poem. According to liberals, the Tea Party movement is a hotbed of racism and a white-only club. The Tea Party begs to differ and this YouTube clip pretty much demolishes the idea with humor.

We’ll see who gets the last laugh on November 2nd. I don’t think it will be liberals.

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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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Shut Up, the Networks Responded

Ben Smith has the remarkable scoop on this one:

CBS and NBC have refused to air a provocative ad from the confrontational, well-funded National Republican Trust PAC that calls on Americans to oppose the building of a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The ad — which has about 100,000 views on YouTube — intersperses some of the most horrifying images from the 9/11 attacks with the sounds of Muslim prayer and images of Muslim militants. It focuses on what’s become a divisive — and partisan — issue in New York State, the erection of a Muslim cultural center on Park Place, in the neighborhood near the fallen towers.

“On September 11, they declared war against us,” says the narrator. “And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”

The NBC spokesperson says the problem was “they” — she says it is “unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Grammatically she’s correct, but her red pencil is selective, as anyone who’s seen a left-wing ad on TV can attest. Smith reports:

A CBS official, Marty Daly, also rejected the ad, according to emails shared by NRT PAC executive director Scott Wheeler. “They have very selective standards — they’ll run anything MoveOn.org throws out there,” said Wheeler, also citing a controversial 2004 NAACP ad invoking the slain James Byrd.

NRT folks may have the last laugh, however. A whole lot of people will now hear about the effort to shut them up — and be inclined to go online to watch the ad.

Ben Smith has the remarkable scoop on this one:

CBS and NBC have refused to air a provocative ad from the confrontational, well-funded National Republican Trust PAC that calls on Americans to oppose the building of a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The ad — which has about 100,000 views on YouTube — intersperses some of the most horrifying images from the 9/11 attacks with the sounds of Muslim prayer and images of Muslim militants. It focuses on what’s become a divisive — and partisan — issue in New York State, the erection of a Muslim cultural center on Park Place, in the neighborhood near the fallen towers.

“On September 11, they declared war against us,” says the narrator. “And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”

The NBC spokesperson says the problem was “they” — she says it is “unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Grammatically she’s correct, but her red pencil is selective, as anyone who’s seen a left-wing ad on TV can attest. Smith reports:

A CBS official, Marty Daly, also rejected the ad, according to emails shared by NRT PAC executive director Scott Wheeler. “They have very selective standards — they’ll run anything MoveOn.org throws out there,” said Wheeler, also citing a controversial 2004 NAACP ad invoking the slain James Byrd.

NRT folks may have the last laugh, however. A whole lot of people will now hear about the effort to shut them up — and be inclined to go online to watch the ad.

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