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Twice yearly we come to you for support for COMMENTARY’s signature purposes—promoting the truth about Western greatness and American goodness, bearing witness to the evil of anti-Semitism, and speaking out for the national aspirations of the Jewish people. Today, we are needed more than ever, with ISIS on the march in Iraq and Iran on the verge of an Obama-guaranteed right to nuclearize, with the anti-Israel movement on campuses tipping directly into pure Jew-hatred, and American liberals tipping into old-fashioned anti-Americanism yet again. We rely not only on subscribers but on the generosity of our visionary donors to get the word out. That is why I am asking for your help. You can make your tax-deductible donation by clicking here.

Twice yearly we come to you for support for COMMENTARY’s signature purposes—promoting the truth about Western greatness and American goodness, bearing witness to the evil of anti-Semitism, and speaking out for the national aspirations of the Jewish people. Today, we are needed more than ever, with ISIS on the march in Iraq and Iran on the verge of an Obama-guaranteed right to nuclearize, with the anti-Israel movement on campuses tipping directly into pure Jew-hatred, and American liberals tipping into old-fashioned anti-Americanism yet again. We rely not only on subscribers but on the generosity of our visionary donors to get the word out. That is why I am asking for your help. You can make your tax-deductible donation by clicking here.

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Getting Away With Amnesty Not as Easy as Obama Thought

When President Obama issued his executive orders implementing amnesty for up to five million illegal immigrants after the midterm elections, the assumption among most of his supporters and the bulk of his opponents was that there was very little anyone could do to stop him. But due to a successful legal counterattack the plan has yet to be implanted. The latest setback to the administration came in the 5th Circuit court of Appeals where a 2-1 majority voted to deny a stay of an injunction that a lower court put on the amnesty project. That means the president now has the choice of either waiting for a different panel of that circuit to rule on the merits of Texas v. United States in which the state seeks to demonstrate that amnesty will hurt its citizens or wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the stay. Either way, the case drags on. While the odds are still with the administration on the Texas case, which hinges on a technicality rather than whether the president has the power to act to change immigration policy without Congress, these setbacks leave open the possibility that the unthinkable may happen and the entire idea could actually be struck down.

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When President Obama issued his executive orders implementing amnesty for up to five million illegal immigrants after the midterm elections, the assumption among most of his supporters and the bulk of his opponents was that there was very little anyone could do to stop him. But due to a successful legal counterattack the plan has yet to be implanted. The latest setback to the administration came in the 5th Circuit court of Appeals where a 2-1 majority voted to deny a stay of an injunction that a lower court put on the amnesty project. That means the president now has the choice of either waiting for a different panel of that circuit to rule on the merits of Texas v. United States in which the state seeks to demonstrate that amnesty will hurt its citizens or wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the stay. Either way, the case drags on. While the odds are still with the administration on the Texas case, which hinges on a technicality rather than whether the president has the power to act to change immigration policy without Congress, these setbacks leave open the possibility that the unthinkable may happen and the entire idea could actually be struck down.

The executive orders are, almost by definition, extra-legal because the president spent his first six years in office explaining his refusal to act in this matter by saying that he lacked the legal authority to amend a law on his own rather than waiting for Congress to do so. But most observers saw the executive orders as being largely impervious to protests since the president’s power to implement rules challenges or merely to order authorities not to enforce the law gave him free rein to do as he liked.

But the efforts of one activist conservative judge in Texas have thrown a monkey wrench into the president’s plans. Judge Andrew Hanen’s finding that the president had broken the law came days after the president issued the orders, and the business has been stuck there since then. Though Hanen’s injunction was widely derided at the time as a case of conservative legal guerilla warfare, the appeals ruling grants his decision a touch of legitimacy that most observers denied it at the time. If indeed, the courts rule that Obama had the obligation to go through the normal rules-making procedures that the president ignored when he issued his orders.

Moreover it also opens up the possibility that the state of Texas may have a legal leg to stand on when it claims that amnesty puts its citizens on the hook for the costs associated with amnesty that would be granted to more than half a million people in the Lone Star State alone. Can this opinion prevail on the merits all the way through the judicial system. The answer is probably not since states could sue the federal government for a host of unfunded mandates on many issues. As the dissenting judge in the appeals ruling observed, this case is blatantly political. A total of 26 states support Texas in the lawsuit.

But that’s what happens when a president attempts to rule on his own. Even if you agree with the president that a solution must be found for the illegals, that doesn’t involve deportation. The longer this drags on, the clearer it is that the proper venue for changing the immigration laws isn’t in the courts but in Congress, to which the Constitution has given the power to legislate. While the president does have the right to decide who should be deported, by effectively annulling the laws of the land without benefit of Congress or any sort of legal process undermines the rule of law. No matter who eventually prevails in this case, the attempt to make an end run around the Constitution, and have the president decide such issues on his own because he is tired of watching Congress fail to obey his orders, has done real damage to respect for the law.

Just as important, he has made it even more difficult for Congress to ever consider liberalizing the laws since arguments for reform have been hurt by the president’s refusal to abide by legal norms. The president may wind up getting away with executive amnesty, but it isn’t as easy or as clean as he thought it would be. And the close we get to 2016, the more likely it will be that immigration reform is not only finished until the next Congress but perhaps also for the foreseeable future.

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Where They Burn People

Where they burn books, the maxim goes, they will ultimately burn people. This prescient quotation predated the rise of the German National Socialists by over a century, but Heinrich Heine did not need a Nazi foil to identify where the authoritarian mindset that outright prohibits objectionable thought ultimately leads. Today, the international community’s cowed reaction to Russian aggression both on the foreign and domestic fronts seems to have reduced the axiomatic admonition “never again” to “well, maybe once in a while.” One of history’s greatest insanities threatens to repeat itself, and we dare not address the warning signs in the stark terms they deserve lest we acknowledge the gravity of the threat to our comfortable existences.

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Where they burn books, the maxim goes, they will ultimately burn people. This prescient quotation predated the rise of the German National Socialists by over a century, but Heinrich Heine did not need a Nazi foil to identify where the authoritarian mindset that outright prohibits objectionable thought ultimately leads. Today, the international community’s cowed reaction to Russian aggression both on the foreign and domestic fronts seems to have reduced the axiomatic admonition “never again” to “well, maybe once in a while.” One of history’s greatest insanities threatens to repeat itself, and we dare not address the warning signs in the stark terms they deserve lest we acknowledge the gravity of the threat to our comfortable existences.

The government of the Russian Federation long ago committed to a policy that embraced the revisionist reconstruction of recent history and the remaking of Russian culture in the mold of an idealized past. For years, it was understood that journalists critical of the conduct of the Russian government were gambling with their lives. It seems likely that the next target of the Kremlin’s campaign to dismantle the reforms of the Gorbachev era will be the nation’s artists and visionaries.

The Russian government has already gone about the process of reintroducing Soviet-style bans on undesirable artistic content. For filmmakers, novelists, bloggers, and playwrights, to write provocative content with explicit language is to risk being charged a substantial fine. Moscow has also begun to censor evocative imagery. The graphic novelist Art Spiegelman was dismayed to discover last month that the Russian Federation has banned his Pulitzer Prize-winning series of books about the Holocaust, Maus, which ran afoul of the nation’s ban on the publication of the Swastika.

Calling it a “harbinger of a dangerous thing,” Spiegelman warned that Russia is attempting to sanitize the horrors of that period. At least, those that do not relate to the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazi menace. “We don’t want cultures to erase memory,” he added.

The Russian government’s crackdown on dissent has been so thorough that few dare to challenge it. “[A]lmost a quarter-century on, only remnants are left of that golden media era, and the few outlets still publishing bold, independent work are under constant threat,” The Committee to Protect Journalist’s Ann Cooper wrote of the demise of the Glasnost reforms. “Vladimir Putin, now in his 15th year as Russian leader, has systematically dismantled independent media and rolled up press freedoms within his own country.”

Having figuratively burned books, the Russian Federation now literally burns bodies.

To hide the evidence of the illegal war Russia is waging and supporting in neighboring Ukraine following the invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, American lawmakers are allege that Moscow is using mobile crematoriums to destroy the evidence of their involvement in the fighting.

“The Russians are trying to hide their casualties by taking mobile crematoriums with them,” Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin. “They are trying to hide not only from the world but from the Russian people their involvement.”

The U.S. and NATO have long maintained that thousands of Russian troops are fighting alongside separatists inside eastern Ukraine, and that the Russian government is obscuring not only the presence but also the deaths of its soldiers there. In March, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told a conference, “Russian leaders are less and less able to conceal the fact that Russian soldiers are fighting — and dying — in large numbers in eastern Ukraine.”

Thornberry said he had seen evidence of the crematoriums from both U.S. and Ukrainian sources. He said he could not disclose details of classified information, but insisted that he believed the reports. “What we have heard from the Ukrainians, they are largely supported by U.S. intelligence and others,” he said.

This is not the only grotesquely familiar anecdote to emerge from the devolving Russian Federation within the last 24 hours. According to reports, the Kremlin is seriously investigating the use of prison labor to help prepare the nation for its showpiece World Cup games.  Though that labor would not be entirely uncompensated, the use of prisoners to construct the facilities that will house members of the international soccer community is eerily reminiscent.

If this sounds alarmist, it should. There is no shortage of observers who will scoff at those who warn that Russia is going down a very dark road and opening a Pandora’s Box in the process. There is not much risk and even less virtue by adopting this outlook in regards to a still nascent crisis. And while the 21st Century’s scolds jealously preserve and enjoy the benefits of their pleasant and secure lives, the echoes of the 20th Century reverberate relentlessly, growing louder by the day.  We dismiss them at our peril.

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David Brooks: COMMENTARY Is an Unmissable Intellectual Landmark

COMMENTARY has long been an unmissable landmark on the American intellectual landscape. These days it shapes debate, propels argument, and explains society with renewed vigor and force. It is one of the small group of essential reads for anybody engaged in politics, Judaism, foreign policy, national manners, and morals. Please click below to give.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

COMMENTARY has long been an unmissable landmark on the American intellectual landscape. These days it shapes debate, propels argument, and explains society with renewed vigor and force. It is one of the small group of essential reads for anybody engaged in politics, Judaism, foreign policy, national manners, and morals. Please click below to give.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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On NIAC’s (and Christiane Amanpour’s) Selective Outrage

On May 22, Sen. Lindsay Graham apparently spoke disparagingly about Iranians and truthfulness. While Graham was criticizing the Iranian negotiating record—and the Islamic Republic’s decided lack of truthfulness—he phrased himself poorly and appeared to castigate all Iranians. Culture matters, but racism is wrong. If Graham meant to suggest that all Iranians are liars, then he should be condemned. What is ironic, however, is that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobby group which tends to promote the foreign policy platform of the Islamic Republic and vehemently oppose sanctions on the Iranian regime, has demanded an apology:

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On May 22, Sen. Lindsay Graham apparently spoke disparagingly about Iranians and truthfulness. While Graham was criticizing the Iranian negotiating record—and the Islamic Republic’s decided lack of truthfulness—he phrased himself poorly and appeared to castigate all Iranians. Culture matters, but racism is wrong. If Graham meant to suggest that all Iranians are liars, then he should be condemned. What is ironic, however, is that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a lobby group which tends to promote the foreign policy platform of the Islamic Republic and vehemently oppose sanctions on the Iranian regime, has demanded an apology:

“The Senator’s repulsive remarks are racist, period,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said. “This type of discourse should have no place in American politics.”

This is ironic, as Parsi and NIAC often engage in far worse discourse including crudely anti-Semitic generalizations and insinuations of Jewish dual loyalty. Back in January, for example, they suggested that Congress was following Israel’s orders rather than acting as the representatives of the United States. Indeed, they targeted Graham in their solicitation by taking out-of-context a statement alleging that he told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that “We will follow your lead.” That was a slander which NIAC adopted after notorious racist David Duke and the Ron Paul Institute picked it up, stripped away context, and suggested dual loyalty.

Here is the actual Lindsay Graham quote with its full context:

I would love nothing better than a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear ambitions. I support the Administration’s effort to try to bring this to a peaceful conclusion. But you, above all others, have said that sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with. I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead. In January of next year, there will be a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan sanction legislation that says, if Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed. It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.

Then again, such willingness to push conspiracy and quote selectively should not surprise.

That CNN anchorwoman Christiane Amanpour tweeted the NIAC press release, however, does raise eyebrows, first because most CNN anchors would probably want to avoid endorsing partisan lobbies on issues they cover, and second because of the juxtaposition with her silence regarding NIAC’s repeated promulgation of the dual loyalty calumny. Then again, perhaps Amanpour’s hypocrisy should not surprise after all.

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On ObamaCare, Stupid Defense May Not Work for Administration or the GOP

We are only weeks away from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that will decide the fate of ObamaCare. If the high court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could bring down the entire edifice constructed by the architects of the Affordable Care Act. The case of King v. Burwell hinges on the fact that the law enacted by Congress says that federal subsidies for consumers could only be available where exchanges were “established by the state.” Since only 16 states and the District of Columbia have such exchanges, the money spent by the government to subsidize ObamaCare insurance elsewhere is technically in violation of the 900-page law. That has left Democrats crying foul over the fact that a mere technicality or as a front-page feature in the New York Times has it, “four words” could toss the president’s domestic legacy into history’s dust pile. Their excuse is that it was all a big mistake, but while it’s possible that Chief Justice John Roberts will find a reason to save the law again, the stupid defense doesn’t usually work in court. But while the prospect of winning the case excites Republicans, they need to remember that the same principle sometimes applies in politics. If ObamaCare comes crashing down, the same sort of stupid defense won’t help them if they aren’t ready with an alternative to deal with those who will be hurt by the chaos caused by the law’s demise.

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We are only weeks away from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that will decide the fate of ObamaCare. If the high court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could bring down the entire edifice constructed by the architects of the Affordable Care Act. The case of King v. Burwell hinges on the fact that the law enacted by Congress says that federal subsidies for consumers could only be available where exchanges were “established by the state.” Since only 16 states and the District of Columbia have such exchanges, the money spent by the government to subsidize ObamaCare insurance elsewhere is technically in violation of the 900-page law. That has left Democrats crying foul over the fact that a mere technicality or as a front-page feature in the New York Times has it, “four words” could toss the president’s domestic legacy into history’s dust pile. Their excuse is that it was all a big mistake, but while it’s possible that Chief Justice John Roberts will find a reason to save the law again, the stupid defense doesn’t usually work in court. But while the prospect of winning the case excites Republicans, they need to remember that the same principle sometimes applies in politics. If ObamaCare comes crashing down, the same sort of stupid defense won’t help them if they aren’t ready with an alternative to deal with those who will be hurt by the chaos caused by the law’s demise.

The Times’ deep dive into the legislative history of the ACA is a fascinating study in minutiae that largely misses the point. We all know that the people who wanted the federal government to largely take over the portion of the American economy intended it to do so throughout the country, so identifying which staffers screwed up is interesting but not particularly significant. Since, as a general rule, courts enforce laws as they are written rather than as some people want them to be read, it doesn’t matter who made the typo. The only thing that matters is that it was made and never corrected. More important than which staffers drafted the bad language is the fact that Democrats passed the bill in this incoherent form because Scott Brown’s election in 2010 deprived them of their cloture-proof 60-seat majority. That meant they would, in then Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s memorable phrase, “have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

Nor are Democrats in a position to complain about losing ObamaCare on a technicality since it got Constitutional approval from this same court on just as hazy a point when Chief Justice Roberts ruled it a tax despite the government’s insistence that it was not.

Yet if Roberts decides that, as he did in 2012, he didn’t want the responsibility for toppling the president’s signature health care legislation even if it was blatantly unconstitutional, he may decide the stupid excuse is enough to give the law a pass even if its text clearly forbids the government from subsidizing insurance in states where there is no exchange.

But the same stupid label will apply to Republicans if they are not prepared if Roberts decides this time to decide a case on law rather than politics. As Politico notes, there are a number of GOP plans circulating for how to deal with the aftermath of King v. Burwell if the plaintiffs prevail.

Some Republicans, especially many in the House, believe that any stopgap measure passed to ease the pain of those who would lose their federal insurance subsidies would be a mistake. Their argument is that no matter how it is done, such an effort would more or less leave ObamaCare in place and make it much harder to repeal even if a Republican is elected president in 2016 and comes into office with a GOP Congress pledged to do that.

They’re right about that. But the problem is that a collapse of the law will result in many millions of Americans being deprived of health insurance and hand the Democrats an effective cudgel with which they can beat the GOP in 2016. Just as the existence of millions of Americans who are net losers because of the law’s passage has fueled its persistent unpopularity, the law’s chaotic collapse will make those who have helped destroy it look not only heartless but also stupid.

That’s why the party needs to get behind one of the major proposals being floated in Congress for picking up the pieces after King v. Burwell. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has a compromise measure that would restore the subsidies but only at the cost of the president agreeing to the end of the individual and employer mandates which make it so oppressive. That’s much too moderate for many House Republicans. Ways and Means Chair Rep. Paul Ryan and some of his colleagues who have came up with a well considered “exit ramp” for the law for states that would minimize problems for consumers while ending this ruinous experiment in national health care.

That might also be too much for those who simply want to repeal the mess Pelosi passed. But the GOP needs to get its act together, and soon, and attempt to pass one of these proposals even if President Obama isn’t likely to buy into even the most generous of compromises.

It’s true that ultimate responsibility for the collapse of ObamaCare belongs to the president and the idiots who passed a badly drafted bill without understanding its implications. But if Republicans don’t prepare an alternative soon, they will also be judged as having failed the stupid test with consequences that will be felt in November 2016.

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The Predictably Shoddy Results of America’s Halfhearted War Against ISIS

When I heard over the weekend that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had said that there was “no will to fight” ISIS, I was ready to applaud him for speaking an unfashionable truth, as his predecessor Bob Gates had done. But it seems that Carter was not indicting the Obama administration’s lack of will—he was talking about the Iraqis.

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When I heard over the weekend that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had said that there was “no will to fight” ISIS, I was ready to applaud him for speaking an unfashionable truth, as his predecessor Bob Gates had done. But it seems that Carter was not indicting the Obama administration’s lack of will—he was talking about the Iraqis.

If Carter were intent on being honest—rather than attempting to blame the administration’s shortcomings on our allies—he would talk about the lack of will exposed in the administration’s inadequate response to the growing threat of ISIS. As the New York Times today notes: “The air campaign has averaged a combined total of about 15 strikes a day in Iraq and Syria. In contrast, the NATO air war against Libya in 2011 carried out about 50 strikes a day in its first two months. The campaign in Afghanistan in 2001 averaged 85 daily airstrikes, and the Iraq War in 2003 about 800 a day.”

The Times article also includes amazing quotes from an A-10 pilot who complains: “In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a U.A.V., over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage. It’s not uncommon to wait several hours overhead a suspected target for someone to make a decision to engage or not.”

Senior military leaders justify such tight restrictions on the grounds that they want to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. That is a real concern, but US aircraft would be able to drop a lot more bombs with a lot more precision if American forward-air-controllers were allowed to embed with Iraqi units on the front lines. That, however, is forbidden by this administration which has sent just 3,000 advisers to Iraq and imposed such tight restrictions on them that they are functionally forbidden from leaving their bases. Amazingly Canadian special operations forces operate with more freedom in Iraq than their American counterparts.

The administration’s commitment or lack thereof sends a loud and clear signal to Iraqis: the US has little willingness to fight ISIS. And that message in turn undermines the fighting spirit of the Iraqis.

Recall that the 2007 Anbar Awakening only happened once Iraqis saw that President Bush wasn’t going to cut and run; his surge catalyzed the Sunnis’ turn away from al-Qaeda in Iraq, predecessor of ISIS. As one tribal sheikh told the author Bing West, the Sunnis were willing to fight with the Americans once they concluded the Marines were the “strongest tribe.”

No one looking at Iraq today would conclude the Americans are the strongest force on the ground. Our commitment is dwarfed by that of ISIS and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias. Not surprisingly, then, Sunnis are not willing to stick their necks out to fight against ISIS when they know Americans don’t have their back and they are afraid that by vanquishing ISIS they will only subjugate themselves to sectarian Shiite domination.

The Shite militias, directed and armed by Iran, have, to be sure, shown more fighting spirit—but that is largely to keep ISIS and other Sunni groups out of the Shiite heartland. They have little desire to waste their resources conquering the Sunni heartland. In fact Iran is largely satisfied with ISIS continuing to hold domain over large parts of Iraq and Syria—this provides a convenient excuse for the Iranians to exert their domination over the Shiite/Alawite parts of those countries.

Most Iraqis, like most Middle Easterners (indeed most people around the world), will make an accommodation with whichever force appears to be strongest in their neighborhood rather than fight to the death against hopeless odds. Only if the US helps to tilt the odds against ISIS—and gives Sunnis a reasonable assurance that they will be able to defeat ISIS if they rise up, rather than be slaughtered as has happened so often in the past—will we see Iraqis showing more will to fight. But to achieve that will require President Obama to show a lot more will to fight than he has so far exhibited.

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Carly Fiorina’s Choice

Carly Fiorina is about to become the Democratic Party’s favorite Republican.

The honor of being the Republican held in high regard by the left is reserved primarily for the members of that political party who have either lost a high-profile race, died, or both. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard might, however, earn Democratic esteem by virtue of being excluded from the group of top-tier GOP debate participants when the 2016 presidential primary race begins in earnest.

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Carly Fiorina is about to become the Democratic Party’s favorite Republican.

The honor of being the Republican held in high regard by the left is reserved primarily for the members of that political party who have either lost a high-profile race, died, or both. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard might, however, earn Democratic esteem by virtue of being excluded from the group of top-tier GOP debate participants when the 2016 presidential primary race begins in earnest.

Jonathan Tobin noted how Fox News Channel and CNN’s plans to either cut underperforming candidates off or to establish a two-tiered system in which floundering candidates will compete in their own separate but equal debate will make for a long, hot summer for the GOP. No fewer than five prospective Republican presidential candidates are polling so poorly that they may not meet the required threshold of support in the average of recent surveys to join the top tier candidates on the debate stage. Only one of those candidates, however, has captured the media’s attention, and it is no secret as to why.

If the debates were held tomorrow, a variety of qualified candidates would be excluded or relegated to the also-ran stage. Many are perfectly well qualified, and their exclusion should inspire some introspection among Republicans. Likely candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the chief executive of a must-win state in which the party will hold its nominating convention. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry governed one of the largest states in the Union, a border state and one in which the most influential mass of GOP voters reside, for three terms. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was the last candidate standing in 2012 before Mitt Romney secured the delegates required to win the nomination, and he only conceded his loss after carrying 11 states. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is the youngest Republican candidate in the field, the Indian-American son of immigrant parents, and the candidate perhaps best positioned to represent the GOP’s evangelical base. But only Fiorina’s exclusion will inspire hand-wringing thought pieces and fiery cable news panel segments, and that has everything to do with Hillary Clinton’s gender-centric presidential campaign.

It is not preordained that Fiorina will be unable to generate enough support in the coming months to secure a coveted spot on the GOP debate stage. The former candidate for U.S. Senate in California is a skilled communicator, a deft campaigner, has been positioning herself as uniquely able to neutralize Clinton’s advantages, and has chosen to fundraise rather than whine in the face of the adversity presented by her modest support in the polls. If, however, the debates were held tomorrow, Fiorina would be relegated to the kids’ table.

Predictably, the left and their allies in the press will frame this as a snub. Both the Republican Party brass and the base of GOP primary voters have rejected their only female candidate, they’ll note. By inference, the media will imply that Republican voters’ rejection of Fiorina is as unthinking as will be their rejection of Clinton in November, 2016. With varying degrees of subtlety, the implication will be made that the obstacles Fiorina’s campaign encountered are due to the brutish bias of those to whom she was attempting to appeal.

When Fox News revealed that its criteria would exclude some highly qualified candidates from the debates, a series of headlines made note of the suboptimal optics associated with the likely exclusion the GOP field’s only female candidate. It is perhaps unsurprising that this instinct merely reflected the thinking inside Democratic circles. “At this point the Republican clown car isn’t big enough for the only girl clown, and that shows you why Hillary Clinton will be the next president,” an unnamed Democratic operative told the Daily Mail.

If Fiorina fails to make the cut ahead of the Fox and CNN debates, the former CEO will find herself at the center of a media melee. It will certainly be tempting for the unloved presidential candidate to bask in the newfound attention, generate some publicity and much-needed name recognition ahead of the primaries, and perhaps entertain the notion that her inability to appeal to the Republican voting base has its roots in something other than reason. If she took this approach, Fiorina would do her candidacy, her party, and her country a great disservice. Fiorina is, however, likely to take a much more productive approach to contending with this hardship.

In the media, Fiorina’s attacks on Clinton’s qualifications for the presidency have apparently grown quite irksome. Former GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace recently advised Fiorina to back off what she saw as increasingly “personal” attacks on the former secretary of state. Yahoo’s Katie Couric, too, questioned whether Fiorina’s “unkind words” for Clinton, including critiquing her accomplishments, was ill advised. Fiorina smartly replied that her qualifications for the presidency are based in merit rather than her title or her gender. If she is excluded from the debate stage, Fiorina should maintain that this is the result of a meritocratic process based on objective polling data.

If Fiorina declines to wallow in self-pity amid inevitable prodding of reporters in that direction, she will sacrifice her position as media darling and the spike in name recognition that accompanies this condition. To do so would, however, be the nobler course of action. It would also demonstrate why Fiorina deserved to be on that stage in the first place.

Carly Fiorina may soon have to make that choice, and it won’t be an easy one. But if her past actions are any indication of future performance, she can be expected to make the right call.

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Charles Krauthammer: COMMENTARY Is “Fearless, Informative, Indispensable”

For decades, COMMENTARY has opened its pages to the most serious uncompromising defense of the American creed–exemplar of ordered liberty at home, pillar of the free world abroad–in an era when it has been most under attack. From the exceptionally influential manifestoes of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick to today’s counterattack against the empowered advocates of the entitlement state and of American decline, COMMENTARY remains what it has been for more than a generation: fearless, informative, indispensable.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

For decades, COMMENTARY has opened its pages to the most serious uncompromising defense of the American creed–exemplar of ordered liberty at home, pillar of the free world abroad–in an era when it has been most under attack. From the exceptionally influential manifestoes of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick to today’s counterattack against the empowered advocates of the entitlement state and of American decline, COMMENTARY remains what it has been for more than a generation: fearless, informative, indispensable.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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Obama’s UN Favor for Israel All About a Selling a Bad Iran Deal

After giving the Israelis a scare, the Obama administration stepped in at the last moment last week and spiked a proposal for a United Nations conference on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The conference would have targeted the Jewish state for its nuclear program and weapons and the Netanyahu government was quick to express gratitude to the administration for at least this one instance, having, as it keeps saying it does, Israel’s back. But contrary to the spin about this coming out of the administration that was reported by the Wall Street Journal, the move tells us nothing about whether President Obama will keep other commitments to Israel or, if necessary, “walk away from a bad deal” with Iran. To the contrary, as welcome as the U.S. stand on this conference was, it was all about keeping Israel and its friends quiet about an impending nuclear deal with Iran that is likely to be terrible.

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After giving the Israelis a scare, the Obama administration stepped in at the last moment last week and spiked a proposal for a United Nations conference on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The conference would have targeted the Jewish state for its nuclear program and weapons and the Netanyahu government was quick to express gratitude to the administration for at least this one instance, having, as it keeps saying it does, Israel’s back. But contrary to the spin about this coming out of the administration that was reported by the Wall Street Journal, the move tells us nothing about whether President Obama will keep other commitments to Israel or, if necessary, “walk away from a bad deal” with Iran. To the contrary, as welcome as the U.S. stand on this conference was, it was all about keeping Israel and its friends quiet about an impending nuclear deal with Iran that is likely to be terrible.

There’s no question that Israel is greatly relieved about the U.S. keeping its word and heading off what would have been yet another UN-sponsored Israel-bashing festival. With so many senior administration officials issuing thinly-veiled threats about abandoning Israel at the UN out of pique at the re-election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S. decision to stick to its longstanding policy of backing Israel’s public ambiguity about its nuclear arsenal was a pleasant surprise. But any predictions about this being an indications that relations between Israel and the United States will start to warm up in the last 20 months of the Obama presidency are likely to prove misleading.

This gesture and other moves, such as the president’s speech at a Washington, D.C. synagogue last Friday, are clearly aimed at walking back previous administration efforts to distance the U.S. from Israel and specifically to antagonize and treat Netanyahu as a pariah. But the purpose of this new Jewish charm offensive is tactical, not strategic. As negotiations with Iran head into the homestretch in the coming weeks, the administration is characteristically focused more on the politics of an agreement than on the policy implications of their effort to craft an entente with the Islamist regime.

Though the president reiterated last week that he is prepared to walk away from the talks if they prove unsatisfactory, no one, least of all his Iranian negotiating partners, thinks he will abandon a deal that is the cornerstone of his Middle East policy. After having given in to Iran on virtually every U.S. demand over the course of the last two years of negotiations, Tehran expects him to do so again, even on key issues such as inspections and snapping back sanctions. With Iran’s leaders making it clear it will never allow rigorous inspections or for sanctions to be easily re-imposed, what emerges from the final weeks of negotiations is likely to be a final document that contains many compromises that mark the deal as a Western seal of approval on the regime’s nuclear program and not one that forecloses a path to a bomb.

But even as America’s goal of stopping Iran appears to have been sacrificed in order to achieve what the president hopes will be a new détente with the Islamist regime, the administration is all over the politics of preventing Congress from interfering with such an arrangement. All the president will need is enough votes to sustain a veto of a Congressional vote against the deal (one more than one-third of either the House and the Senate). In order to get those votes, he needs to keep wavering pro-Israel Democrats in line. Given the terms of what looks to be a deal that will sound more like appeasement than restraint of Iran, the president knows he needs to convince those Democrats that the pro-Israel community is not united in opposition to his efforts. And in order to accomplish that, he needs to undo some of the damage that his open hostility toward Netanyahu in the last year has done.

This is, after all, an administration that unfairly blamed Israel for the collapse of the Middle East peace talks even though it was the Palestinian Authority that blew them up with their unity pact with Hamas and by conducting an end run around the talks by going to the United Nations for recognition. And it was only a few months ago that top administration officials were calling Netanyahu a “chickensh*t,” and then treated his speech to Congress about the Iran deal as an insult to Obama. Nor should it be forgotten that Obama halted an arms resupply to Israel during the war with Hamas last summer and subjected it to bitter and unfair criticism during that conflict in order to show the Israelis that they could not count on the alliance.

Those actions as well as the previous fights Obama picked with Israel have raised serious questions about his attitude to the alliance with Israel especially as he warms up to an Iran that still is spouting language about wanting to eliminate the Jewish state. But Obama knows that selling a weak Iran deal to a Congress that is still dominated by friends of Israel won’t be easy. Hence the abrupt shift of atmospherics toward Israel from intense hostility and threats to the sort of friendly gestures and language that we have seen in the last few weeks.

But as welcome as that change may be, no one should be under the impression that this is the last shift in administration policy toward Israel. Once the Iran deal is signed and Congressional interference is headed off, the Israelis should expect the pressure to be back on them. Another push for Israeli concessions to restart the peace process should be expected in spite of the lack of interest on the part of the Palestinians in ever recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. And in a region where Iran has become bolder and U.S. influence weaker, another round of violence with Hamas or Hezbollah is not out of the question.

Like the last Jewish charm offensive from Obama during his successful re-election campaign, no one should expect this one to last. Moreover, those Democrats who are the targets of this effort should remember how a key element of the last effort to convince them of the president’s intentions — a pledge to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program — has now morphed into something very different and dangerous both for Israel and U.S. security.

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Iran’s Third Path to a Bomb

The emerging agreement with Iran that President Obama sees as his legacy will give Iran three paths to a bomb: it can break out, wait out, or sneak out of the agreement. Iran will pocket its huge signing bonus; take reversible steps toward “compliance”; then either break out (perhaps after a dispute about implementation, or while the U.S. is involved in some other crisis), or wait out (after which, President Obama concedes, Iran will face no further barrier to a bomb), or sneak out (using secret sites and undetectable methods). In an important new paper entitled “Deterring an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes that “the most likely scenario” is “an Iranian breakout using undeclared facilities” (emphasis in original). Congress should read the paper carefully before it signs onto ObamaPeace in our time.

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The emerging agreement with Iran that President Obama sees as his legacy will give Iran three paths to a bomb: it can break out, wait out, or sneak out of the agreement. Iran will pocket its huge signing bonus; take reversible steps toward “compliance”; then either break out (perhaps after a dispute about implementation, or while the U.S. is involved in some other crisis), or wait out (after which, President Obama concedes, Iran will face no further barrier to a bomb), or sneak out (using secret sites and undetectable methods). In an important new paper entitled “Deterring an Iranian Nuclear Breakout,” Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes that “the most likely scenario” is “an Iranian breakout using undeclared facilities” (emphasis in original). Congress should read the paper carefully before it signs onto ObamaPeace in our time.

Eisenstadt cites the November 2014 testimony of former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in which he said that “[a]bsent an invasive inspection regime, with freedom to visit all sites on short notice, American intelligence cannot provide adequate warning of Iranian nuclear developments.” Eisenstadt notes that Iran’s fact sheet on the “framework” says its implementation of the IAEA Additional Protocol will be “voluntary” and “temporary,” and he describes the U.S. “fact sheet” as “too good to be true”:

Iran has already stated that enriched uranium will not be sent out of the country, that IAEA inspectors will not have access to military facilities, and that all sanctions should be lifted immediately upon conclusion of the agreement. The stockpiling of enriched uranium – even in dilute form – would vitiate much of the purpose the accord. Denial of access to military facilities could create no-go zones in which Iran could engage in undeclared activities and build clandestine facilities. And the immediate lifting of sanctions would instantly reduce the international community’s leverage over Iran …

And not only that: an “even greater monitoring challenge” will be presented by the transfer of nuclear fissile material or a weapon from North Korea, which will “likely remain a critical weakness of any monitoring effort in Iran.”

Knowing what we know now, the total American withdrawal from Iraq, the abysmal failure to enforce the presidentially-declared “red line” in Syria, the absence of any response against any group for the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the failure to stand by allies such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, all sent a signal to Iran that is about to culminate in a negotiated disaster, precisely the separate peace that Benjamin Netanyahu warned against in his speech to Congress. All that stands against it is a Congressional vote that requires a two-thirds bipartisan majority to succeed. But members of Congress who read the Eisenstadt report are unlikely to vote for ObamaPeace — unless they want to join a legacy of shame.

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America Looked the Other Way While Iran Started a War in Yemen

When critics of President Barack Obama’s administration allege that his White House is directly responsible for the spiraling instability overtaking the Middle East, they do not merely cite the president’s policy of malignant neglect as the likely cause of this condition. Many would contend that the administration has been actively restructuring America’s regional framework of alliances in order to meet present challenges and pursue domestic policy goals like the extrication of Washington from Middle Eastern security affairs. Perhaps the most glaring example of the undue deference Washington yielded to irresponsible actors like Iran is how the United States turned a blind eye toward Tehran while it sparked a bloody regional proxy war in Yemen.

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When critics of President Barack Obama’s administration allege that his White House is directly responsible for the spiraling instability overtaking the Middle East, they do not merely cite the president’s policy of malignant neglect as the likely cause of this condition. Many would contend that the administration has been actively restructuring America’s regional framework of alliances in order to meet present challenges and pursue domestic policy goals like the extrication of Washington from Middle Eastern security affairs. Perhaps the most glaring example of the undue deference Washington yielded to irresponsible actors like Iran is how the United States turned a blind eye toward Tehran while it sparked a bloody regional proxy war in Yemen.

The Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen were suspected of having military and diplomatic links to Iran long before they captured the capital of Sana’a last year, but that alliance did not give Washington pause before it offered to help the “virulently anti-American” Houthi forces come to power. On January 29, the Wall Street Journal revealed that administration officials had approached Houthi commanders and offered to speed the group’s transition to power in Yemen following the ouster of pro-Western President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The strategic implications of this tectonic shift in Washington’s approach to regional security matters were immediately apparent. “The shift also could place it on the same side as Iran in the Yemen conflict,” the Journal reported. “U.S. officials said they also are seeking to harness the Houthis’ concurrent war on AQAP to weaken the terrorist organization’s grip on havens in Yemen’s west and south.”

For the Middle East’s Sunni powers, Washington’s overture to the Houthis reflected Obama’s belief that non-state Sunni militia groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State rather than state actors like Iran posed the gravest threat to U.S. interests in the region. In Riyadh, Manama, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi, it was obvious that Iran was behind the effort to upend the status quo in Yemen. What’s more, they knew that Washington had deliberately turned a blind eye to Iran’s efforts to destabilize their backyards.

The Financial Times reported last week that, right around the time that Washington was making overtures to the Tehran-backed Shiite militia in command of the Yemeni capital and preparing to expand its influence South toward Aden and the Red Sea’s key Bab-el-Mandeb strait, Iran was covertly supporting the militia with massive aid shipments.

“Maritime data obtained by the Financial Times show that at least four large cargo ships, with a combined capacity of more than 15,000 tonnes, made a series of highly unusual and undeclared trips between Iran and Yemeni ports controlled by the Houthis in the first few months of this year,” read the FT dispatch.

All four undertook voyages to transport cargo from the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran to Yemen’s Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida — a route none had plied before — after the Houthi capture of Sana’a in January. The ships changed their ensigns, turned off their tracking devices at key points during their voyages, registered false information in international shipping logs and met unidentified craft mid-ocean.

Details of their activity were provided to the FT by Windward, a maritime intelligence service set up by two former Israeli naval officers. The data comprise information from dozens of non-public and proprietary shipping registers as well as public information and satellite and radio tracking logs that [the maritime intelligence service] Windward has compiled. Where possible the information has been independently corroborated by the FT.

“If you look at any one piece of these ships’ activities by itself it might seem legitimate, but if you look at all of it together, there’s no way it can be,” said Ami Daniel, Windward’s chief executive. “This behavior is neither logical or economical – it indicates that there is a sovereign, not a commercial interest at stake.”

Indeed, there is no alternative explanation for these ships’ behavior. This revelation comes just one month after a standoff between U.S. and Iranian naval forces after a convoy of Iranian warships believed to be overtly delivering weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen was intercepted by American naval forces. That convoy was forced to return home, but this event has been followed by weeks of maritime tensions characterized by the harassment and commandeering of internationally flagged cargo vessels by Iranian naval forces when those ships stray too near the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters while traversing the Strait of Hormuz.

Hanlon’s Razor dictates that the White House believed that its obstinate refusal to address Iranian provocations was the only way to keep Iran at the negotiating table and mitigate the serious threat to international security posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon. But this approach also sent the unmistakable message to the Sunni Gulf Arab states that the United States would no longer defer to their concerns. These nations heard that message loud and clear. Washington’s inaction resulted in airstrikes on Libyan positions conducted by Egyptian and UAE air forces and a creation 10-member Arab military coalition that continues to execute sustained combat operations in Yemen.

The United Nations estimates that at least 1,037 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the end of March, including 130 women and 234 children. Another 2,453 civilians have been injured in the fighting. All this sacrifice has been made in service to the administration’s goal of extricating the United States from Middle Eastern affairs and rehabilitating Iran. If the Iraq War was a careless pursuit, at least George W. Bush could gauge and control America’s involvement in that conflict. The forces Barack Obama has unleashed in the Middle East are, by design, beyond his ability to restrain.

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Counting Up Obama’s Cataclysmic Foreign Policy Failures

With the Islamic State expanding its reach after two key victories in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, and Palmyra, a strategically important city in Syria, it might a good time to ask: What are the worst foreign policy failures of Barack Obama’s presidency? The list is long; here are several to choose from.

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With the Islamic State expanding its reach after two key victories in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, and Palmyra, a strategically important city in Syria, it might a good time to ask: What are the worst foreign policy failures of Barack Obama’s presidency? The list is long; here are several to choose from.

1. The Rise of ISIS. President Obama failed to anticipate the rise of ISIS, which he ridiculed as a “jayvee team” as recently as last year, and he has since failed to do anything effective to impede it. ISIS had established territory in large parts of Syria and Iraq; it now “controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations.” Under Mr. Obama’s watch, a jihadist caliphate has been established in the heart of the Middle East — and the president has no strategy to deal with it.

2. Losing the War in Iraq. President Obama’s predecessor handed to him a war that had been won. Don’t take my word for it; take the word of Mr. Obama and his vice president. On December 14, 2011, in welcoming troops home at Ft. Bragg as he was ending the American presence in Iraq, the president declared “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” It was, the commander-in-chief said, a “moment of success.” A year earlier Vice President Joe Biden put it this way: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think it’s going to be one of the great achievements of this administration.” All our hard-earned achievements were undone by the president’s determined commitment to withdraw all American troops from Iraq during his presidency. He did what he was determined to do and, as a result, Iraq is collapsing and Iran is rushing in, increasing its influence to an unprecedented degree.

3. Failing to Aid Iran’s Green Revolution.  In the summer of 2009, a revolution in Iran threatened to topple the mullahs. Leaders of the so-called “Green Revolution” pleaded for support. They got none. President Obama, in saying he “want[ed] to avoid the United States being the issue inside Iran”, did nothing to aid the pro-democracy elements that were seeking to overthrow the Islamic theocracy.  Whether our assistance would have altered the course of events is impossible to know — but the president, in essentially casting his lot with the Iranian regime during its most vulnerable period since the 1979 revolution, ensured the democratic uprising would fail. And with it, our best chance of the Middle East cleansing itself of the most malignant and dangerous regime on earth.

4. Triggering a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has long advocated a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. But President Obama’s determined effort to strike a deal with Iran, in which all the important concessions are made by us and none by the Iranians, has petrified our traditional Sunni allies in the region. Fearful of Iran, nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and others are now considering and/or preparing to acquire nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al Faisal, declared in March that whatever Iran gets in its nuclear deal with the United States, “we will want the same.” Ibrahim al-Marie, a retired Saudi colonel and a security analyst in Riyadh, put it this way: “Our leaders will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon while we don’t. If Iran declares a nuclear weapon, we can’t afford to wait 30 years more for our own—we should be able to declare ours within a week.” The president’s effort to strike a deal with Iran, then, is triggering a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region, with the risks of nuclear war increased by the threat of terrorist groups acquiring radioactive material.

5. Erasing the “Red Line” in Syria. In 2012, President Obama said Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad — who the previous year was referred to as a “reformer” by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — should step down and that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against rebel forces would constitute crossing a “red line.” Mr. Assad crossed the red line, and President Obama did nothing. The brutal Syrian leader is still in power, Syria is being torn apart by a civil war in which around a quarter of a million people have died, around four million have fled as refugees, and around eight million have been internally displaced. Syria’s neighbors are being destabilized. And an unmistakable message of weakness was sent by Mr. Obama and received by every adversary and ally of the United States: Mr. Obama’s words and threats are worthless.

6. The Failure to Arm Syrian Rebels. As Syria began to unravel, in 2012 then-CIA director David Petraeus and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton developed a plan to vet Syrian rebels and train a cadre of fighters who would be supplied with weapons. The plan was supported at the time by Leon Panetta, who was defense secretary, and Martin Dempsey, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But it was ultimately vetoed by President Obama, according to Mr. Panetta. The president was worried about becoming more deeply involved in Syria. That hasn’t worked out very well, though. America is not only involved in Syria; we have launched military airstrikes against it and Mr. Obama has proposed a major program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels, though it’s likely too late to influence events on the ground. It’s impossible to know if the Petraeus plan would have succeeded when it was proposed three years ago. But what we do know is that today, with America taking a hands-off approach, (a) Syria has become a humanitarian and geopolitical catastrophe and (b) we have been drawn into the conflict.

7. Libya Collapses and Becomes a Terrorist Safe Haven. On March 19, 2011, President Obama unilaterally authorized the U.S. military to begin “a limited military action in Libya” to protect Libyan civilians. He said by intervening in Libya’s civil war, he was acting “in the interests of the United States and the world.” Six months later, during a September 21, 2011 speech to the United Nations, President Obama declared, “Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi — today, Libya is free… Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli. This is how the international community is supposed to work — nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights.” Since then — and in good part because of the lack of American follow through and engagement — we have closed our embassy. Syria has been declared a terrorist safe haven by the State Department. No central authority exists. The Libyan state has collapsed and is being torn asunder by civil war. According to the New York Times, “the violence threatens to turn Libya into a pocket of chaos destabilizing North Africa for years to come.” An intervention Mr. Obama once hailed as a model now lies in ruins.

8. Russian Aggression in Crimea and Ukraine. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the “Russian reset.” It was said to be a “win-win” situation for both sides. It hasn’t worked out quite that way. The United States scrapped a missile-defense system the Poles and the Czech Republic had agreed to house despite Russian threats, as a way to pacify Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In return, Russia has reasserted its presence in the Middle East in ways unseen since the 1970s, propped up the Assad regime in Syria, supported Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its repression at home, invaded Crimea, militarily intervened in Ukraine, and given safe haven to Edward Snowden. During Mr. Obama’s watch, Putin has “position[ed] contemporary Russia as the heir to the Russian Empire as it was constituted under the czars,” according to the Russian American journalist and author Masha Gessen. That is what the “Russian reset” looks like in real life.

A few summary thoughts on all this: There are limits to America’s capacity to influence world events. It’s difficult for even the best presidents to deal with an untidy and sometimes uncooperative world. And in some of the examples I’ve cited, President Obama is more responsible for the failures that have occurred than in others. But in each of these instances Mr. Obama has made things worse, and in most cases he has made things markedly worse. The cumulative and convulsive effects of his failures are extraordinarily damaging to America and the world.

President Obama, in describing his foreign policy doctrine in private conversations to reporters, said, “We don’t do stupid sh*t.” He actually does, quite a lot, and in ways that may be unmatched by any president in our history. Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama has implemented the policy he’s wanted. As a result, in several nations and in some regions, he has helped open the gates of hell.

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The Price of Liberty

I recall the events of 9/11 as an earlier generation recalled the death of President Kennedy. The difference being that this was not a tragedy I saw on television. Having worked downtown at the time, I was on my way to my office when the two hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers and I arrived in time to see one of the towers fall. The grey clouds of ash still float across my memory, interspersed with mental snapshots of people falling to their deaths.

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I recall the events of 9/11 as an earlier generation recalled the death of President Kennedy. The difference being that this was not a tragedy I saw on television. Having worked downtown at the time, I was on my way to my office when the two hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers and I arrived in time to see one of the towers fall. The grey clouds of ash still float across my memory, interspersed with mental snapshots of people falling to their deaths.

I could never imagine, at the time, that there would be a 9/11 museum. Not only because the events of that day seemed too horrific and surreal to fully digest, much less to recall with the luxury of time and distance, but also because I never expected that those events would be as unique as they have remained. Seeing America under attack on 9/11, I had little doubt that we would witness attacks of equal if not greater magnitude in the years ahead. For weeks afterward I half cringed every time I walked through a crowded public place in Manhattan, knowing that so many people clustered together could be an irresistible target for a suicide bomber.

Mercifully, my worst fears have not come true. To be sure, there have been terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11–attacks such as those on the Boston marathon and at Fort Hood. There have been even more foiled plots such as the one at the Mohammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. But neither Al Qaeda nor any other group has succeeded in pulling off an attack of 9/11-scale.

I thought about that as I walked Sunday through the 9/11 Museum in downtown New York across the street from where I used to work. It was a haunting and moving experience–especially seeing the pictures of all the victims and hearing the recordings of passengers on the doomed airplanes calling their loved ones, telling them not to worry, something has gone slightly wrong but everything will be ok. It was nearly unbearable.

It caused me to reflect that we were monumentally unlucky on 9/11 and we have been monumentally lucky ever since.

But that doesn’t mean we can or should expect our luck to continue indefinitely, especially not if we dismantle the defenses that have kept us safe. That seems to be what a left-right coalition of House and Senate members is trying to achieve by making it harder for the National Security Agency to search telephone records for links between terrorists. The Patriot Act, the cornerstone of homeland security since 9/11, is due to expire on May 31 and these lawmakers are holding its renewal hostage until they get what they want–which is weaken our defenses against terrorism.

Their rationale is that the current system, as exposed by Edward Snowden, trespasses on our liberties even though there is no evidence of the NSA abusing its authority in any way. Contrary to what the fear-mongers would have you believe, the metadata collection does not allow government gumshoes to listen in to your calls to your Aunt Sally; that still requires a court order.

I couldn’t help wishing, as I toured the 9/11 Museum and ground zero, that all of the lawmakers who are blocking passage of the Patriot Act should be required to take the same tour–to remember what it was really like on 9/11 and how easily the deadliest attack ever on American soil could have been prevented if there had been better intelligence collection and law enforcement work beforehand. The post-9/11 reforms have corrected many of the problems that used to exist, but we have become so complacent in the years since that it is all too easy to forget the kind of threat that we faced then–and still face.

The core of Al Qaeda may have been greatly weakened by American actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan but the jihadist threat has since metastasized and in many ways it’s gotten worse than it was on 9/11. Osama bin Laden may be resting in his watery grave but groups from ISIS to Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula have proven themselves to be every bit as fanatical, if not more so, and in many ways they are also proving even more successful and resourceful.

On 9/11 Sunni jihadists controlled most of Afghanistan. They no longer control Afghanistan but they do control a vast caliphate encompassing half of Syria and a third of Iraq. They also control substantial areas of Pakistan and Yemen. Meanwhile their opposite numbers among Shiite jihadists are taking control of much of the rest of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Now is no time to let down our guard. Rather it is time to remember the horrors of 9/11 and to vow that we shall do whatever it takes to avoid another such calamity. And if that means a slight and inconsequential infringement on civil liberties, so be it.

The next time we won’t have the luxury of saying we could not anticipate what was to come. If you want to experience the shadow that looms over our future as well as our past, all you have to do is visit the 9/11 Museum.

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Warren Buffett and the Minimum Wage

In August, 2011, Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times, calling for higher tax rates on the rich that was a veritable symphony of statistical sleight-of-hand. I wrote about it here.

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In August, 2011, Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times, calling for higher tax rates on the rich that was a veritable symphony of statistical sleight-of-hand. I wrote about it here.

But in today’s Wall Street Journal, he redeems himself with an excellent article on the minimum wage. Buffett points out that in our ever-increasingly technical economy, those without high-order skills are being left further and further behind. Just look at any checkout section of a supermarket. Ten years ago, all the lines were manned by clerks. Today about half are manned by computers. In ten years, nearly all will be computerized.

The answer to this problem for economically illiterate liberals (pardon the redundancy) is to jack up the minimum wage. But that will only accelerate the rate at which computers and robots replace human beings. The minimum wage is price fixing plain and simple and price fixing is always economically pernicious because it prevents market forces from working, producing shortages or surpluses of the commodity whose price is fixed. Teenage unemployment right now is over 17 percent. As Buffett explains,

In my mind, the country’s economic policies should have two main objectives. First, we should wish, in our rich society, for every person who is willing to work to receive income that will provide him or her a decent lifestyle. Second, any plan to do that should not distort our market system, the key element required for growth and prosperity.

That second goal crumbles in the face of any plan to sizably increase the minimum wage. I may wish to have all jobs pay at least $15 an hour. But that minimum would almost certainly reduce employment in a major way, crushing many workers possessing only basic skills. Smaller increases, though obviously welcome, will still leave many hardworking Americans mired in poverty.

Buffett would prefer, and I concur wholeheartedly, the use of the earned income tax credit:

The better answer is a major and carefully crafted expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which currently goes to millions of low-income workers. Payments to eligible workers diminish as their earnings increase. But there is no disincentive effect: A gain in wages always produces a gain in overall income. The process is simple: You file a tax return, and the government sends you a check.

Buffett says, correctly, that the EITC needs reform (it’s rife with fraud now, and it should be paid out monthly rather than annually, reducing the need for short-term, high-interest loans), but it is a much fairer and better targeted system than the minimum wage. For one thing, it goes to heads of households. Most minimum wage workers are teenagers still living at home and college students. As Buffett writes, “In essence, the EITC rewards work and provides an incentive for workers to improve their skills. Equally important, it does not distort market forces, thereby maximizing employment.”

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How to Defend Israel? Talk About Rights. Not Just Security

Israel diplomats were reportedly shocked this week when their country’s new deputy foreign minister asked them to speak up about Israel’s rights in the conflict with the Palestinians rather than just its security needs. As the Times of Israel reports, Tzipi Hotovely raised more than a few eyebrows when she told a gathering of the country’s diplomatic personnel that it was a mistake to downplay the country’s own territorial claims when seeking to counter complaints about Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The very idea of quoting the Torah when speaking of ties to the biblical heartland of the Jewish homeland seemed to strike them and left-wing commentators who howled about it later as absurd. Indeed, as the left-wing Haaretz put it, the world may find the minister “hard to swallow.” But while the Likud Knesset member is swimming against the tide of international opinion as well as the culture of the ministry she’s running, she is right. Though many in an international community increasingly influenced by anti-Semitism and misinformation about Israel will never accept such arguments, as the Palestinians have demonstrated over the last generation, talk of rights always trumps security.

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Israel diplomats were reportedly shocked this week when their country’s new deputy foreign minister asked them to speak up about Israel’s rights in the conflict with the Palestinians rather than just its security needs. As the Times of Israel reports, Tzipi Hotovely raised more than a few eyebrows when she told a gathering of the country’s diplomatic personnel that it was a mistake to downplay the country’s own territorial claims when seeking to counter complaints about Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The very idea of quoting the Torah when speaking of ties to the biblical heartland of the Jewish homeland seemed to strike them and left-wing commentators who howled about it later as absurd. Indeed, as the left-wing Haaretz put it, the world may find the minister “hard to swallow.” But while the Likud Knesset member is swimming against the tide of international opinion as well as the culture of the ministry she’s running, she is right. Though many in an international community increasingly influenced by anti-Semitism and misinformation about Israel will never accept such arguments, as the Palestinians have demonstrated over the last generation, talk of rights always trumps security.

Hotovely, whose importance will be heightened by current the lack of a foreign minister (Prime Minister Netanyahu is reserving the post for himself while hoping to give it opposition leader Isaac Herzog should he join the government), is being dismissed as a right-wing extremists for even mentioning Jewish rights, but her critics would do well to heed her advice.

For the last 20 years, Israel’s diplomatic posture about the territories has concentrated on its willingness to make peace. Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its desire to negotiate with the Palestinians and give them a state if they are willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state next to them. But the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to do that. But they are not generally held accountable for this unreasonable stand because their position is basically that negotiations are unnecessary because Israel has not right to be in any of the lands that it took in the 1967 Six Day War. If the West Bank and Jerusalem are, as the Palestinians claim, stolen property, then they have a point.

But these lands are disputed territory to which both sides can make a legitimate claim. As I wrote in 2012, a report on the legality of Israel’s presence in the territories makes a definitive case that Jews have every right to be there. Asserting that right does not preclude surrendering some or even all of this land in exchange for genuine peace. But as long as the world accepts the fallacious notion that Israel is only there because of fears for its security, few will back it and that assumption undermines Israel’s negotiating position even as it seeks compromise rather than surrender.

Such a stand discomfits most Israeli foreign ministry employees and always has. Standing up for Jewish rights would make them even more unpopular in many of the countries where they serve than they already are. But they should be willing to brave the brickbats that will be thrown at them.

Israel’s case for its presence in the West Bank is based on historical, legal and spiritual factors that cannot be negated by revisionist Arab history of the region or the hate that the Jewish state inspires in its foes. It’s time for all of its representatives to stop trying to avoid the core issues of the conflict and to realize that no one will back Israel because its scientists are brilliant, its high-tech industry is innovative or its beaches are beautiful. The only answer to the apartheid state lies is a counter-argument that is rooted in the same sense of justice that motivates those who sympathize with the Palestinians. Saying Jews have a right to be in the West Bank doesn’t preclude a two-state solution. Not saying so ensures that the world will never seek to force the Palestinians to compromise and make peace.

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While Hillary Slept

Only the most conspiratorial among us suspected that the State Department’s decision to release a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s private emails on the Friday before a long holiday weekend just might be an effort to bury the revelations. Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

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Only the most conspiratorial among us suspected that the State Department’s decision to release a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s private emails on the Friday before a long holiday weekend just might be an effort to bury the revelations. Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

The journalists who combed through the emails learned, among other things, that State officials spent quite a bit of their time investigating leads sent to Clinton via her longtime associate Sidney Blumenthal. Though Barack Obama’s White House blocked Clinton’s request to add Blumenthal to her staff at State as a speechwriter, it seems that the Clinton confidant served as a key outside advisor to the former secretary of state.

But some of the most compelling details in those emails regarding Clinton’s conduct were in regards to the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. The emails reveal that the White House regarded Clinton as the “public face of the U.S. effort in Libya” in 2012. “She was instrumental in security the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.” The White House noted that Clinton had been a “critical voice on Libya,” working closely with the president, NATO, and a number of contact groups both during the coalition intervention and in its aftermath. And when officials received a presidential briefing three days after the September 11, 2012 attack that took the life of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Hillary Clinton was asleep.

“I just woke up,” Clinton wrote in an email sent at 10:43 a.m. ET on the morning of Saturday September 15, 2012. Surely, those Republicans tasked with crafting political advertisements in 2016 will not fail to contrast this revelation with Clinton’s famous 2008 spot in which she suggested that she would be a better candidate to take the crisis call that comes in at 3 a.m. When the crisis arrived, Hillary was literally napping.

When Clinton’s first private email account was exposed earlier this year, she belatedly took to a podium at the United Nations to control the spiraling damage that the scandalous revelation was doing to her political prospects. Clinton was asked if she was ever “specifically briefed on the security implications” of using a private email to conduct State affairs. To this inquiry, Clinton launched into a response that centered on the fact that she had never sent classified information over the one “homebrew” server of which the public was aware.

“I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” Clinton insisted. “There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”  Once again, America, whether Clinton engaged in any impropriety depends on what the definition of “is” is.

No one asked Clinton about classified information, per se. And it was revealed this week that Clinton had, in fact, received sensitive/unclassified materials via her email account. One of the emails released by the State Department on Friday indicated that the former secretary of state had receive electronic correspondences that included a classified document, but that document was only officially awarded classified status on the same day those emails were released – more than 32 months after the Benghazi attack. Curious.

As The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay observed, Clinton wrote in her 2014 autobiography Hard Choices that her first thoughts after she learned of the attack were with the late U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. In an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley, an exchange apparently so fawning that Clinton’s aides exchanged a series of emails mocking the reporter’s obsequiousness and repeated invasions of Clinton’s personal space, the secretary made it clear how hard she had taken his loss.

“I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi at the height of the Libyan conflict [during the Arab Spring],” Clinton told Langley. “He was eager to go and was very effective. I recommended him as ambassador.” Except that Clinton was apparently not even fully aware of Stevens’ name. In an email sent to her confidants at state on the evening of the attack, Clinton referred to him as Chris Smith, noted that she had received informal confirmation of his death, and asked when that news should be disclosed.

Finally, Clinton seemed to be acutely aware of the political damage that might have been done by the administration’s ill-considered efforts to blame the attacks on a spontaneous demonstration related to a YouTube video. In a September 30 email to her aides at State, Clinton asked if she had ever described the conditions prior to the assault on the Benghazi outpost as a “spontaneous” demonstration. Her aides relieved her of any stress when they noted that she had been appropriately cautious with her words.

Indeed, even Reuters noted that the frequency with which Clinton and her cadre of aides prioritized protecting Clinton’s image in the wake of the deadly attack was conspicuous.

“The emails from Clinton’s personal email account made public by the State Department do not appear to contain any revelations that could badly damage her bid for the presidency in 2016 or provide fodder for Republicans who accuse her of being negligent before the Benghazi attacks,” the Reuters dispatch read. “But they offer a glimpse into how Clinton’s team was concerned about her image immediately afterward.”

There is nothing like a little beauty rest to help image maintenance. These emails are only a fraction of those released to the State Department for review, and those are just the emails that Clinton’s team did not summarily delete. Surely, these are not the only embarrassing revelations about Clinton’s behavior at State that will be disclosed in coming days.

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Obama on Israel: A Judgmental Friend and Its Open Enemies

President Obama’s sales pitch for his still unfinished nuclear deal with Iran went to the next level today as he spoke at a Washington, D.C. synagogue to commemorate Jewish Heritage Month. As he always does when speaking before friendly liberal Jewish audiences, the president knows just what buttons to push to win the hearts of his listeners. Flattery about the place of Jews in American history? Check. Appeals to common liberal values and Jewish participation in the civil rights movement? Of course. Support for Israel? I’ve got your back. Opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb? I’ll never let it happen. Outrage about anti-Semitism? You got it. The result is always the same. Liberal Jews reconfirm their love affair with the president and file away any doubts they have about his predilection for picking fights with the Jewish state and for his pursuit of détente with one of the most anti-Semitic governments in the world. But Barack Obama’s troubling ideas about friendship with Israel should give even his most ardent Jewish fans pause. The problem with Obama is not that he’s an avowed enemy of Israel but that he’s the sort of judgmental friend whose positions are often indistinguishable from those of its foes.

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President Obama’s sales pitch for his still unfinished nuclear deal with Iran went to the next level today as he spoke at a Washington, D.C. synagogue to commemorate Jewish Heritage Month. As he always does when speaking before friendly liberal Jewish audiences, the president knows just what buttons to push to win the hearts of his listeners. Flattery about the place of Jews in American history? Check. Appeals to common liberal values and Jewish participation in the civil rights movement? Of course. Support for Israel? I’ve got your back. Opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb? I’ll never let it happen. Outrage about anti-Semitism? You got it. The result is always the same. Liberal Jews reconfirm their love affair with the president and file away any doubts they have about his predilection for picking fights with the Jewish state and for his pursuit of détente with one of the most anti-Semitic governments in the world. But Barack Obama’s troubling ideas about friendship with Israel should give even his most ardent Jewish fans pause. The problem with Obama is not that he’s an avowed enemy of Israel but that he’s the sort of judgmental friend whose positions are often indistinguishable from those of its foes.

Obama’s purpose was twofold.

One is to rally liberal Jews behind the Iran nuclear deal despite its many shortcomings. The president doesn’t need to win the votes of the majority of the House or the Senate, just one third plus one, the amount to sustain a veto of what might be a strong “no” vote in both bodies. Getting 34 members of the Senate to back a terrible deal whose final form may wind up even weaker than we thought it would be won’t be easy. But so long as a critical mass of liberal Jews are willing to stick with him, it will be easier.

The other is to soften up domestic opposition to a policy shift on Israel in which the president will effectively abandon Israel at the United Nations. Obama’s antipathy for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has only increased in the last few months. Netanyahu’s campaign against the Iran deal and his re-election that led to the creation on an even more right-wing government has deepened the president’s resolve to increase pressure on the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians. That leaves open the possibility that the administration will stop vetoing Palestinian efforts to gain recognition for their independence at the UN without first having to make peace with Israel.

But the president’s message to the Jews today was that they shouldn’t regard any of this as a sign of his lack of regard for them or Israel.

The argument for accepting this point of view was rehearsed often enough during the 2012 presidential election. We were told then, as we were today, that Obama likes Israel and won’t let anything bad happen to it. But what was different about today’s speech is that the Iran deal and the open scorn that administration officials have directed at Israel in the last year (chickensh*t) while wrongly blaming Netanyahu for the latest collapse of the peace process gives the lie to many of his re-election promises. Nor is it easy to sell a liberal Jewry that was promised in 2012 that Obama would insist that any Iran deal made them give up their nuclear program on the idea that an agreement that treats allows them to keep that program is kosher.

So to justify this open hostility and policies that seem clearly aimed at downgrading the alliance as he embraces Iran, the president was forced to explain his ideas about the nature of friendship with Israel. Obama sees himself as a critical friend who prefers the Israel of the early years of the country when it was widely lauded as an example of how ideas of social justice could blend with nationalism to the complex reality of the current day:

I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war.  The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world.  Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive.  And those values in many ways came to be my own values.  They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.

That is the sort of sentiment that many liberal Jews would echo. They liked the Israel that was run by the Labor Party of previous generations because it didn’t seem too right-wing or religious and acted as if peace were always just around the corner. A lot of Israelis may share that idea but the problem here is that the real life Israel of 2015 is different. More to the point, Israel changed for a reason. If support there for the peace process collapsed, it was because the Palestinians never accepted Israel’s peace offers and responded instead with terrorism.

Obama’s says he is as judgmental of Israel as he is of the United States, and perhaps that is true. But that judgmental attitude is rooted in the notion that he knows better than both Israel’s government and its people what is good for its security or its survival. And he thinks it’s good for the relationship for these differences to be fully aired.

But if there is anything we have learned in the last six-plus years, it is that the daylight between Washington and Jerusalem that Obama came into office seeking has not advanced the cause of peace one bit. To the contrary, his open arguments with Israel’s government have only made it even less likely that the Palestinians will ever accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. That has enhanced the chances of violence and conflict in a region where Islamist terror has grown on Obama’s watch. His embrace of an entente with an Iran is just as dangerous.

The point here is not just that his Iran deal is a sham or that his refusal to hold the Palestinians accountable for their refusal to make peace is wrongheaded. It is that Obama’s conception of the relationship with Israel is such that he thinks it empowers him to pressure it to adopt policies that are clearly detrimental to its security despite all the lip service for that concept. He not only thinks Netanyahu is wrong, he thinks his delusional nostalgia for the Israel of the past gives him the right to be a scourge to the Israel of the present; even if that means cutting off arms supplies during war (as he did last summer during the conflict with Hamas), isolating it at the UN or allowing Iran to become, at the very least, a threshold nuclear power.

That’s the sort of friendship that is insufferable to a country that is still beset by enemies that are fueled by the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world that Obama acknowledged. But in its willingness to excuse or reward the behavior of Israel’s open foes, it downgrades the alliance to a conditional relationship rather than a genuine alliance.

Like any democracy, Israel isn’t perfect, but its government and people need no lessons from Barack Obama about values or which policies best serve its long-term interests. Israel doesn’t need to be saved from itself, and anyone who thinks it should be has no respect for the Israeli people. American Jews who warmly applauded Obama’s speech need to understand that friendship on those terms is not only not much of a friendship but also, if he follows through on his threats, tiptoes perilously toward open hostility.

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Rand’s Sad Tale of Two Filibusters

It’s hard to recapture the magic the second time around. As Senator Rand Paul is realizing this week, that’s cliché applies as much to politics as it does for romance. As James Kirchick explains in a major piece for the magazine called “The Dangerous Unseriousness of Rand Paul,” a 2013 filibuster about drone policy transformed the Kentucky libertarian from cranky extremist Ron Paul’s son to a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. But with his candidacy failing to get much of a boost from his formal announcement and finding himself stuck in the middle of the pack in the large GOP field, Paul tried the filibuster trick again. It was, just like the first one, an impressive performance. But it’s unlikely to have the same effect. In 2013, even Republicans like Marco Rubio who basically disagreed with him on the policy question felt compelled to offer him some support. This time his biggest cheerleader was the editorial page of the New York Times. That not only demonstrated Paul’s basic affinity with the left on foreign policy but also showed that his moment had passed. Where his first filibuster showed he had transcended his father’s base, this one illustrated the fact that he has been forced to fall back on it in order to revive his flagging candidacy.

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It’s hard to recapture the magic the second time around. As Senator Rand Paul is realizing this week, that’s cliché applies as much to politics as it does for romance. As James Kirchick explains in a major piece for the magazine called “The Dangerous Unseriousness of Rand Paul,” a 2013 filibuster about drone policy transformed the Kentucky libertarian from cranky extremist Ron Paul’s son to a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. But with his candidacy failing to get much of a boost from his formal announcement and finding himself stuck in the middle of the pack in the large GOP field, Paul tried the filibuster trick again. It was, just like the first one, an impressive performance. But it’s unlikely to have the same effect. In 2013, even Republicans like Marco Rubio who basically disagreed with him on the policy question felt compelled to offer him some support. This time his biggest cheerleader was the editorial page of the New York Times. That not only demonstrated Paul’s basic affinity with the left on foreign policy but also showed that his moment had passed. Where his first filibuster showed he had transcended his father’s base, this one illustrated the fact that he has been forced to fall back on it in order to revive his flagging candidacy.

Let’s give due credit to Paul for a bravura performance on the floor of the Senate as he sought to rally opposition to renewal of the Patriot Act. Just as he was in his first filibuster, he was articulate, passionate and principled. So why can’t it rally conservatives to his side the same way they did before?

The first and most obvious reason is that this is a different moment in time. In 2013, even many on the right though President Obama was right when he spoke of al-Qaeda and Islamist terror as having been licked. Today, Americans know that not only are the Islamists as dangerous as ever, but ISIS now controls much of Iraq and Syria and is expanding elsewhere. The idea that the terror threat is overstated or doesn’t require the country to empower its security apparatus some leeway for spying doesn’t have the same appeal today as it did two years ago.

It is true that many on the right are cynical about government, and it’s hard to disagree with Paul when he says that if you give it power, abuse is sure to follow. That’s an argument that is easy to make with a president who is prepared to act outside the law on so many issues as Barack Obama has done. But if you’re seeking the nomination of a party whose core foreign policy beliefs are rooted in intense Ronald Reagan-style patriotism and belief in a strong defense, ranting against the National Security Agency isn’t necessarily the formula for success. That is especially true at a time when the terrorists they are tasked with fighting are burning and beheading people and taking over countries.

This is not just because his attacks on the NSA and the Patriot Act are wrongheaded. The NSA has not acted improperly nor is the Act unconstitutional. But it goes deeper than that.

Rand’s problem is that the libertarian surge of 2013 has ebbed. That’s not because conservatives no longer care about personal liberty or think the government can always be trusted. But it hasn’t been lost on most Republicans that his stands on foreign policy are much closer to those of Bernie Sanders and the left wing of the Democratic Party than they are to those of the rest of his party. Like the left, his basic instincts are to suspect American power rather than to think of it as a force for good. Like the left, he believes the U.S. should shy away from confronting forces of evil rather than standing up to them.

Yet the most discouraging thing about the filibuster for Paul’s supporters is that it showed that he has failed to meet the basic assumption that most of us had about him two years ago. Back then, even those of us who were critical about him assumed that he was about to break through to mainstream support and expand beyond the libertarian base he inherited from his father. But as the polls show, it hasn’t happened. Indeed, given the stiff competition for Tea Party and even libertarian-oriented voters, he can’t even count on doing as well as Ron Paul did in 2012. Just as ominous for his chances is the fact that many of those Paulbots are unhappy with Rand’s attempt to shift to the center away from hardcore libertarian positions on foreign policy issues as he maneuvered for the presidential race. The filibuster was an attempt to rally that base.

That may well work, and if it does it might give him a fighting chance in a crowded field where none of the contenders can claim to have more than a fraction of the GOP electorate. But even if it does, it still leaves him far short of the support he needs to ultimately win the nomination. Rather than recapturing the magic, the filibuster confirmed it is gone. If he were really on track to be a potential nominee he would have transcended stunts like filibusters. All it proved was that Paul is still only a factional leader rather than someone with the potential to unite his party, let alone lead it to victory against the Democrats.

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The Press Leaps to Protect Obama, Hillary From Abusive Anonymous Twitter Users

A strikingly candid New York Times dispatch published on Friday has apparently spooked Hillary Clinton’s cadre of supine acolytes. The arch-conservatives at the Times noted accurately that Clinton only reluctantly broke her 28-day streak of ignoring inquiries from the press after Fox News Channel White House correspondent Ed Henry aggressively prodded her. The Times dispatch from journalist Jason Horowitz observed truthfully that the media has only barely been able to conceal their “annoyance” with the former first lady’s stonewalling.

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A strikingly candid New York Times dispatch published on Friday has apparently spooked Hillary Clinton’s cadre of supine acolytes. The arch-conservatives at the Times noted accurately that Clinton only reluctantly broke her 28-day streak of ignoring inquiries from the press after Fox News Channel White House correspondent Ed Henry aggressively prodded her. The Times dispatch from journalist Jason Horowitz observed truthfully that the media has only barely been able to conceal their “annoyance” with the former first lady’s stonewalling.

“In Iowa, Queen Hillary and the Everyday Americans of the Round Table distribute alms to the clamoring press,” Horowitz later tweeted. This editorializing inspired a backlash from the coterie of palace guards at Media Matters for America, but it was also perfectly justified. If you haven’t had the opportunity to review Clinton’s response to Henry’s question, and I highly recommend you do, her unconcealed disdain for the Fox reporter’s impertinence is best described as similar to that of a sovereign.

“Maybe when I finish talking to the people here,” Clinton said response to Henry’s query. Adopting a wry smile while surrounded by a group of Iowans handpicked by her campaign to represent a random sample, the likely Democratic presidential nominee added, “How’s that?”

“You’ll come over?” Henry probed.

“I might,” Clinton replied, chin pointed toward the heavens. “I have to ponder it, but I will put it on my list for due consideration.”

All that was missing was a reference to herself in the first person plural.

Clinton earned and received some due mockery for this display of airs both within and outside the journalistic establishment. But that is itself a problem for some in the world of political reporting. Some in the media have begun to concern themselves with the problematic nature of those insolent Americans who have the temerity to mock and even insult both the president and his heir apparent.

It seems that both the Times and Politico discovered this week the existence of the microblogging site Twitter, and the fact that anonymous users on that site can be, gasp, mean to public figures in positions of authority.

This week, Politico published a bizarre dispatch focused entirely on the “trolls,” or social media users who behave in an intentionally provocative fashion, that hound Clinton’s online presence.

“Some call her names like ‘witch,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘monster,’ and even ‘Hitlary,’” the report read, “all reminders of how polarizing Clinton can be — a feminist hero and glass-ceiling cracker to supporters; an untrustworthy, pandering operative to the haters.”

Politico noted that Clinton’s Twitter presence is followed by more people than the entire Republican 2016 field combined, “But that formidable footprint comes with a price.”

[S]he also trumps her opponents in terms of her legions of trolls, who sometimes overwhelm the conversations she generates, picking at the scabs and scars Clinton has accumulated over nearly four decades in public life.

When Clinton recently tweeted “Healthy women ? healthy communities. Sign up if you agree with Hillary,” one quick response to that relatively anodyne message was, “On average how much does Bill spend on hookers each week?”

Indeed, even Clinton’s “physical appearance is not considered out of bounds” for those anonymous cads who dare speak above their station. Apparently, one unnamed micro-blogger who saw the former secretary of state walking down a street near her Brooklyn headquarters as “a human pear.” How vulgar.

The Times, too, lashed out on Friday at the uncivilized elements on social media who hurl slurs at their betters. In a 1,113-word dispatch, the Times noted that Twitter is full of coarse barbarians who have a penchant for slinging repulsively racist insults at the president.

This week, President Barack Obama revealed that he would use Twitter when he leaves office and unveiled the account handle from which he will send out 140 character messages. This revelation yielded a slew of racially insensitive comments that would surely sap anyone’s faith in their fellow man.

“The posts reflected the racial hostility toward the nation’s first black president that has long been expressed in stark terms on the Internet, where conspiracy theories thrive and prejudices find ready outlets,” the Times reported. “But the racist Twitter posts are different because now that Mr. Obama has his own account, the slurs are addressed directly to him, for all to see.”

But there was one measure of a specific slur. According to analytics compiled by Topsy, a research company that collects and analyzes what is shared on Twitter, the number of postings that included Mr. Obama’s name and one particular racial epithet jumped substantially on Monday, the day of the president’s first posting, to 150.

One Twitter user who did not use that specific racial slur responded to the president with just two words: “Black monkey,” a comparison that was not uncommon. “Get back in your cage monkey,” another person wrote.

This is repulsive, unalloyed racism, and it should not be excused. Indeed, no one of merit is excusing it. But only the anonymous or those utterly unconcerned with their livelihoods would dare issue such slurs in a public forum. It’s not much of a secret that the Internet is populated with jerks. Hopefully, the New York Times is fully stocked up on smelling salts in the event the Gray Lady’s editors ever discover YouTube’s comments sections.

A White House reporter even determined that the abuse the president suffered on social media was a worthy line of inquiry during the daily press briefing. Press Sec. Josh Earnest had the unfortunate duty of disabusing this reporter of the rosy notion that the web is a safe space when he noted that uncivil discourse is “all too common on the Internet.”

Those media outlets feigning shock over the abuse dealt out to public figures are being more than a little dishonest. Reporters should not be surprised to learn that George W. Bush was not spared the belligerence of anonymous commenters over the course of his presidency. Though they did not have Twitter to vent their rage, it was not difficult to find anti-Bush “trolls” who did not shy away from attacking the former president’s character, his relations, and his heritage. This condition did not result in handwringing pieces in the Times about the left’s incivility or the nation’s lingering antipathy toward representatives of Southern states.

People are mean on the Internet, but that is not a story. In order to scold a nation that includes citizens who are rude to Clinton and Obama on the web, these outlets had to pretend as though this was a unique and new phenomenon. While the worst of the comments that the president and the former secretary of state have had to endure are certainly condemnable, it’s perhaps as offensive that these journalistic institutions leapt at the chance to morally preen and posture in order to deflect criticism, however unhinged, from these leading Democrats.

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