Commentary Magazine


Pledge-Drive

Please Help COMMENTARY and Help the Causes We Cherish

The only way to defeat bad ideas and bad policies is with better ideas for better policies. This is the philosophy that has animated COMMENTARY for 70 years. And not for decades have we Americans, we Westerners, and we Jews been threatened by ideas as dangerous and policies as misguided as the ones being pursued by the White House.

That is why, this month, I am asking for your help. If you believe that COMMENTARY’s ideas need to prevail so that we can stop the continued meltdown of American influence and the rising influence of an Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon our own president’s policies may be hastening, please give.

If you believe that the rising tide of anti-Semitism abroad and at home (in the form of the evil BDS movement) must be challenged with the best arguments and the most persuasive rhetoric, please give.

If you believe that America remains the greatest nation on earth and is not a cesspool of racism and white privilege and is not the home of a growing “rape culture,” please give so that we will have the resources to fight against these lies. Please, please support COMMENTARY, a 501(c)(3) non-profit (that is genuinely a 501(c)(3) non profit and not a multi-million-dollar political racket) with a tax-deductible donation. You can do so by clicking on the link below. Thank you.

Click here to donate.

The only way to defeat bad ideas and bad policies is with better ideas for better policies. This is the philosophy that has animated COMMENTARY for 70 years. And not for decades have we Americans, we Westerners, and we Jews been threatened by ideas as dangerous and policies as misguided as the ones being pursued by the White House.

That is why, this month, I am asking for your help. If you believe that COMMENTARY’s ideas need to prevail so that we can stop the continued meltdown of American influence and the rising influence of an Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon our own president’s policies may be hastening, please give.

If you believe that the rising tide of anti-Semitism abroad and at home (in the form of the evil BDS movement) must be challenged with the best arguments and the most persuasive rhetoric, please give.

If you believe that America remains the greatest nation on earth and is not a cesspool of racism and white privilege and is not the home of a growing “rape culture,” please give so that we will have the resources to fight against these lies. Please, please support COMMENTARY, a 501(c)(3) non-profit (that is genuinely a 501(c)(3) non profit and not a multi-million-dollar political racket) with a tax-deductible donation. You can do so by clicking on the link below. Thank you.

Click here to donate.

Read Less

Here’s Why Vigilant Policing Is Necessary

Brian Moore, a 25 year old New York City police officer is in a medically induced coma in Jamaica Hospital. He was  allegedly shot in the head by Demetrius Blackwell in Queens on Saturday night. What spurred the shooting? Here’s the New York Post: “Blackwell had been fiddling with his waistband, a source said. The officers [Moore and his partner] pulled up behind him, and Blackwell realized they were cops.” In other words, the cops were so good at their job that their suspicions were raised by the sight of a man adjusting his pants in a particular way that indicated he might have had a gun—and he did.

Read More

Brian Moore, a 25 year old New York City police officer is in a medically induced coma in Jamaica Hospital. He was  allegedly shot in the head by Demetrius Blackwell in Queens on Saturday night. What spurred the shooting? Here’s the New York Post: “Blackwell had been fiddling with his waistband, a source said. The officers [Moore and his partner] pulled up behind him, and Blackwell realized they were cops.” In other words, the cops were so good at their job that their suspicions were raised by the sight of a man adjusting his pants in a particular way that indicated he might have had a gun—and he did.

That’s what good vigilant police work is. It’s picking out what’s subtly wrong on the street and getting to the bottom of it. It’s also what, under other circumstances, would wrongly be called racist harassment. Blackwell is black, and if it turned out he didn’t have a gun and if the situation escalated in such a way that that he ended up in critical condition, we can well imagine the outrage that would follow: First black people are told to pull up their pants. Then, when they do, they get shot. The point is the overwhelming majority of cops—good, smart, brave cops—don’t harass black people for sport. They don’t harass, period. They act on hunches and experience and put their lives on the line over the slightest irregularity to prevent civilian deaths, both black and white. In this case, one shooter is now off the streets; Blackwell is in custody. But one cop is in a coma. He saw a thug adjust his pants and understood that his vow to protect the community overrides any fear of being called a racist. It’s the very definition of both physical and moral bravery. Pray for Brian Moore.

Read Less

When Students Vote on Israel’s Demise

William Jacobson reports that Bowdoin College’s undergraduates are in the midst of voting to support a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Voting closes on Wednesday. Bowdoin, located in Maine, is among the nation’s most prestigious small colleges.

Read More

William Jacobson reports that Bowdoin College’s undergraduates are in the midst of voting to support a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Voting closes on Wednesday. Bowdoin, located in Maine, is among the nation’s most prestigious small colleges.

As Jacobson points out, the resolution under consideration goes well beyond the more tepid, though still troubling divestment resolutions that have been considered at many colleges and universities over the past few years. The divestment resolutions target companies alleged to benefit from the suffering of Palestinians. This resolution directly targets Israeli academic and cultural institutions. And tellingly, the resolution adopts the strategically ambiguous language of the BDS movement. The boycott will continue until Israel “ends its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands.” This language enables the movement to take in those who think that Israel should not exist at all—“Palestinian lands” includes the whole of Israel—and those “moderates” who merely think that Israel should immediately withdraw from the West Bank, so that the West Bank can become another Gaza, then dismantle the wall that protects Israel’s civilians from people who have made no secret of their intention to kill them.

Supporters of BDS often speak as if they hope to ignite a conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This claim has always been disingenuous because such a conversation—if you consider persistent, obsessive, and often deeply misleading criticism of Israel to be a conversation—has been taking place on college campuses for a long time. In addition, the “anti-normalization” strategy that the BDS movement has adopted, considers calls for dialogue to be a mask for preserving the status quo.

But the way Bowdoin’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine is attempting to ram through this referendum, near the end of the academic year, when students are least likely to be paying close attention, shows as well as these other observations, that the movement is really about scoring a series of cheap propaganda victories to produce a phony impression of momentum and widespread support. Their undertaking is the very opposite of the Socratic spirit that ought to animate our colleges and universities: they want people who don’t know to claim that they do. To those who pretend to work toward discussion of Israel but in fact seek to manipulate students who know next to nothing about it, we can reply as Socrates did to one of his own prosecutors: they [jest] in a serious matter, easily bringing human beings to trial, pretending to be serious and concerned about things for which [they] never cared at all.”

As in the case of Socrates’s prosecutors, the claim that academic supporters of the boycott are joking is counterintuitive. They certainly seem angry, just as Socrates’s prosecutors did, and they talk about doing justice and serving humanity. But doing the just and humane thing requires an understanding and capacity for self-criticism that our zealots conspicuously lack. It is in this way that their earnest talk about justice, coupled with their blatant disregard for giving Israel and its people a fair hearing, appears ridiculous when viewed from afar.

Of course, from those who cannot look from afar, whose vocations are tied to colleges and universities understood as havens for serious inquiry, the handing over of college and university life to zealots is not altogether a laughing matter. They are making a joke out of something we hold dear.

Read Less

Baltimore’s Indictments and How Not to Fix America’s Cities

Baltimore got the celebration this afternoon that many in Ferguson, Missouri longed for last summer and fall. The decision of Baltimore’s State’s Attorney to indict all the police officers connected with the death of Freddie Gray while in their custody turned demonstrations about the case into street parties today. The announcement that the cops had been charged with the most serious charges possible and faced decades in prison was exactly what the city needed to restore the peace that was disrupted by violent riots earlier in the week. But even as the nation sighs in relief at the prospect of calm in Baltimore, the upcoming trial and the ongoing debate about the significance of the case may raise more questions than can be answered by the indictment of six officers. If, as may happen, the officers are not convicted, the prospect of violence will be great. Nor is it likely that much light will be shed in the debate about the future of troubled urban areas like Baltimore or law enforcement in the rush to jail the cops in the case that has given new life to a largely misleading narrative of racism.

Read More

Baltimore got the celebration this afternoon that many in Ferguson, Missouri longed for last summer and fall. The decision of Baltimore’s State’s Attorney to indict all the police officers connected with the death of Freddie Gray while in their custody turned demonstrations about the case into street parties today. The announcement that the cops had been charged with the most serious charges possible and faced decades in prison was exactly what the city needed to restore the peace that was disrupted by violent riots earlier in the week. But even as the nation sighs in relief at the prospect of calm in Baltimore, the upcoming trial and the ongoing debate about the significance of the case may raise more questions than can be answered by the indictment of six officers. If, as may happen, the officers are not convicted, the prospect of violence will be great. Nor is it likely that much light will be shed in the debate about the future of troubled urban areas like Baltimore or law enforcement in the rush to jail the cops in the case that has given new life to a largely misleading narrative of racism.

Unlike in Ferguson, protesters need no longer demand that police accused of a role in the death of a young black man be arrested and indicted. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby immediately became a media heroine when she gave demonstrators and pundits calling for quick justice what they wanted during the course of a lengthy address that blasted the accused for their conduct.

Mosby handled her press conference ably. But the haste with which the state’s attorney charged the officers and her choice to avoid using going through the grand jury process, leaves open the possibility that her decision had more to do with politics and the need to keep the peace than justice. The multiplicity of charges as well as the second-degree murder count also makes it likely that she is hoping to offer a plea to some of the officers in order to convict others. The guilty should be punished severely. Yet it remains to be seen whether she has overcharged the police. But just as the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence, so, too, must the country hope that the evidence exists to support the accusations of murder. If not, then Mosby is earning temporary applause that will eventually blow up in her face as well as that of the rest of the city.

Looking beyond the fate of these individual officers, the danger here is that the case of Freddie Gray will, regardless of the evidence, become a rallying cry against police around the country as well as feeding often false charges of racism.

This week’s riot has set off an ocean of commentary about the fate of the inner cities and renewed the debate about the extent to which government can solve the problems of cities like Baltimore. Some of these exchanges have been thoughtful. But many have been absurd. The idea that calling rioters “thugs” is evidence of racism shows how far the discussion of race has been debased by a debilitating political correctness. Al Sharpton’s call for the nationalization of police, Michael Moore’s demand that they be disarmed can be dismissed as fodder for the MSNBC crowd and not much more. N.D.B. Connolly’s New York Times op-ed in which he raised the specter of slavery to depict Baltimore — a city with a black mayor and state’s attorney and an integrated police force — to be a bastion of racism highlighted the way the left hopes to parlay this tragedy and any others it can rope into the conversation into political capital.

It goes without saying that the plight of those trapped in inner cities with failing schools and dysfunctional economies are right to want change. But no matter how Freddie Gray was killed, nothing in this case changes the fact that cities like Baltimore have been governed by the political left and often by minority politicians for decades. Racism is part of the reality of American history. But the collapse of these cities is the fruit of a failed liberal government project. Liberals and Democrats point to the Baltimore riots as the justification for a renewal of the same big spending policies that have already repeatedly failed. Nor will an attempt to shoehorn isolated incidents of police misbehavior into a general narrative of racism that makes it hard for law enforcement to work bring peace to neighborhoods. That’s especially true of those that badly need police to defend the safety and property of citizens beset more by crime than a notional oppression that has little connection to their lives.

The danger here is not just that justice is always sacrificed when mobs exercise influence over politicians who fear to anger them (such as Baltimore’s mayor who called earlier this week for giving thugs “space to destroy). It’s that a productive dialogue about how to expand economic opportunity and improve education — the only factors that can heal broken cities — is being drowned in a sea of misleading rhetoric about race and police violence.

Read Less

Dennis Prager: COMMENTARY’s Courage

I have been a reader of COMMENTARY since I was in college and graduate school in the late 1960s-early ’70s. Twenty years later I wrote that COMMENTARY is the most important magazine in the English language. I believe that it still is. Why? Because it discusses the most important questions in life–including those of religion generally and Judaism specifically; American and international politics; and all the great moral questions. And because it has the rarest of all the positive human traits–courage. Click below to give.

Pledge-Drive

I have been a reader of COMMENTARY since I was in college and graduate school in the late 1960s-early ’70s. Twenty years later I wrote that COMMENTARY is the most important magazine in the English language. I believe that it still is. Why? Because it discusses the most important questions in life–including those of religion generally and Judaism specifically; American and international politics; and all the great moral questions. And because it has the rarest of all the positive human traits–courage. Click below to give.

Pledge-Drive

Read Less

The Problem with New U.S. Defense Pacts: Talk Is Cheap

The Obama administration appears to have woken up, somewhat belatedly, to the damage that it has been doing to America’s traditional alliances in the Middle East by its flirtation with Iran. No, the White House hasn’t decided to bury the hatchet with Benjamin Netanyahu; he remains on their enemies list. But the administration appears to be cogitating about how it can allay concerns among the Gulf Arab states now that the U.S. is preparing to lift sanctions on Iran and legitimate its nuclear program. At a recent dinner Defense Secretary Ash Carter wanted to know: “How do you make clear to the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] that America isn’t going to hand the house keys of the Persian Gulf over to Iran and then pivot to Asia?”

Read More

The Obama administration appears to have woken up, somewhat belatedly, to the damage that it has been doing to America’s traditional alliances in the Middle East by its flirtation with Iran. No, the White House hasn’t decided to bury the hatchet with Benjamin Netanyahu; he remains on their enemies list. But the administration appears to be cogitating about how it can allay concerns among the Gulf Arab states now that the U.S. is preparing to lift sanctions on Iran and legitimate its nuclear program. At a recent dinner Defense Secretary Ash Carter wanted to know: “How do you make clear to the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] that America isn’t going to hand the house keys of the Persian Gulf over to Iran and then pivot to Asia?”

As usual in Washington, the administration’s internal brainstorming is playing out in a top-secret forum called the New York Times, which reported Carter’s question. The Paper of Record further reports: “Officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have been meeting to discuss everything from joint training missions for American and Arab militaries (more likely) to additional weapons sales to a loose defense pact that could signal that the United States would back those allies if they come under attack from Iran.”

There is talk of signing bilateral defense agreements with the likes of UAE and Saudi Arabia and even of selling them top-of-the-line F-35s. Neither option appears feasible because of congressional opposition, although I would think that lawmakers would be more likely to oppose the sale of the F-35 (which Israel needs to keep its qualitative edge) than they would a defense pact along the lines of the U.S.-Japan alliance. In any case F-35s are not much use against the kind of subversion by proxy that the Iranians practice in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s advanced aircraft have not, for example, dislodged the Houthis from power in Yemen and American aircraft are not dislodging ISIS from its domains in Iraq and Syria.

The larger problem is that neither weapons sales nor formal alliances are an adequate substitute for American credibility and deterrence, both of which are in short supply at the moment. Why should the Gulf states believe America’s assurances of support when the U.S. has allowed Bashar Assad to stay in power and to use chemical weapons in violation of President Obama’s red lines? Or when the U.S. has allowed Russia to dismember Ukraine in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which the U.S., Britain, and Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for giving up its nuclear arsenal? Or when Obama pulls U.S. troops out of Iraq and now threatens to do the same in Afghanistan? Or when the U.S. allows Iran to seize a cargo ship flagged to the Marshall Islands, whose security the U.S. is already pledged to defend, with nary a protest? It will also not have escaped attention in the region how Obama dropped Hosni Mubarak, a longtime American ally, after the start of the Arab Spring (a decision that is more defensible than the other ones).

Talk is cheap, especially in this White House, with a president who talked his way into a Nobel Peace Prize. But our allies can see that this administration does not back up its rhetoric. If the White House really wanted to reassure them, it would rethink its misbegotten enthusiasm for lifting sanctions on Iran (and thus delivering hundreds of billions of dollars in lucre to a state that they view as a mortal threat) in return for promises to hold off a few years in weaponizing its nuclear program. But that’s not going to happen because Obama views a treaty with Iran as his signature achievement and he will not let the qualms of allies, or for that matter Congress, get in his way.

Read Less

A Note to Readers, and a Thank You

Earlier in my career I took over as the editor of a Jewish newspaper, and among the changes I’d made were moving the editorial page to the right politically and expanding the paper’s coverage of national-security issues and the arts. I was asked, at one point, how to describe the paper’s new approach; my response was something along the lines of: COMMENTARY, but as a weekly newspaper. Which should tell you how thrilled I was, a few years later, to come to work for the real deal, and how bittersweet it is to leave COMMENTARY four years after arriving.

Read More

Earlier in my career I took over as the editor of a Jewish newspaper, and among the changes I’d made were moving the editorial page to the right politically and expanding the paper’s coverage of national-security issues and the arts. I was asked, at one point, how to describe the paper’s new approach; my response was something along the lines of: COMMENTARY, but as a weekly newspaper. Which should tell you how thrilled I was, a few years later, to come to work for the real deal, and how bittersweet it is to leave COMMENTARY four years after arriving.

Coming to work for COMMENTARY was a homecoming, both literally and figuratively. Literally, because I had been living in Washington D.C. and returned to my old uptown Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights (and then to New Jersey, where I grew up). Figuratively, because for a Jewish conservative COMMENTARY was the matzah ball soup of your intellectual diet. To feel ideologically and religiously at home is a great gift, and one I hope I never took for granted over the past four years.

To say that a workplace environment is like a family has become a cliché, but in this case it’s true: my wife Bethany and I were hired by COMMENTARY together. But that aside, the point remains true, and that is a testament to the honor and the privilege of working for John Podhoretz. The good news for me is that I will be taking over as the opinion page editor of the New York Post, which means I’ll still be working with John.

Probably the most common question I get about working at COMMENTARY is: How does Jonathan Tobin write so much, and so well, and so often, every day? To work with Jonathan every day on the COMMENTARY blog has been immensely educational, though I remain no less in awe of his output for having worked alongside him.

And I can only hope that now that I won’t be able to stroll down the hall to Abe Greenwald’s office to get his take on events, he’ll write even more than he already does. I remain a fan of everyone here, and all our COMMENTARY contributors as well, and I’m thankful to all our readers for keeping our mission going.

I’m grateful to COMMENTARY, and I’m excited to be joining the Post, another storied institution of the media landscape in the very best city in America.

Read Less

On Iran, Biden’s Charm Offensive Falls Flat

The Obama administration has its work cut out for it justifying a weak nuclear deal with Iran to Congress. After months of bashing critics of his appeasement of Tehran, and in particular Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president has realized that selling the country on a new Iran-centric policy in the Middle East is going to require something a bit more nuanced. Thus, he has turned back to the same tactic he used while seeking reelection, a Jewish charm offensive designed to at one and the same time disarm his critics and to position his defenders as part of the pro-Israel consensus rather than among those trying to destroy it. The person tasked with this tough brief is Vice President Joe Biden who spoke last night to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His message was to both reassure friends of Israel that Obama has their back and to defend the Iran deal as a good idea. It remains to be seen how much credibility Biden has left as someone who claims “to love Israel.” But Biden’s main argument in favor of the Iran deal makes the administration look even weaker and more negligent than even some of its harshest critics have alleged. And it’s one that makes the bipartisan compromise about congressional ratification of the deal seem even less of a genuine check on the administration. Read More

The Obama administration has its work cut out for it justifying a weak nuclear deal with Iran to Congress. After months of bashing critics of his appeasement of Tehran, and in particular Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president has realized that selling the country on a new Iran-centric policy in the Middle East is going to require something a bit more nuanced. Thus, he has turned back to the same tactic he used while seeking reelection, a Jewish charm offensive designed to at one and the same time disarm his critics and to position his defenders as part of the pro-Israel consensus rather than among those trying to destroy it. The person tasked with this tough brief is Vice President Joe Biden who spoke last night to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His message was to both reassure friends of Israel that Obama has their back and to defend the Iran deal as a good idea. It remains to be seen how much credibility Biden has left as someone who claims “to love Israel.” But Biden’s main argument in favor of the Iran deal makes the administration look even weaker and more negligent than even some of its harshest critics have alleged. And it’s one that makes the bipartisan compromise about congressional ratification of the deal seem even less of a genuine check on the administration.The last time the administration tried a charm offensive with the pro-Israel community, it worked. In 2012 all President Obama needed to do was to cease picking fights (at least for a while) with Netanyahu, ramp up security cooperation with Israel, and toughen his rhetoric against Iran. But playing the same trick while senior officials continue to threaten to isolate Israel at the United Nations and defending a deal that, at the very least, makes Iran a threshold nuclear power isn’t going to be quite so easy.

But Biden isn’t afraid to try, so in his remarks last night he claimed that there was nothing wrong with Israel being worried about the threat from Iran. Indeed, he even hinted that the administration was prepared to contemplate war with Iran should it try to “race to a bomb.”

While those words may have comforted some Jewish Democrats desperate for reassurance, they are utterly disingenuous. The Obama foreign-policy team has spent the last two years telling the Israelis and those Americans who are worried about the drift toward appeasement of Iran to shut up. Biden’s anodyne statements about Israel’s right to wring its hands as the United States cozies up to a vicious and aggressive terrorist-supporting Islamist state are meaningless. So, too, is any talk about the U.S. ever contemplating the use of force against Iran. The administration has already discarded all of its economic and political leverage over Tehran in its reckless pursuit of a nuclear deal at virtually any price. The notion that Washington would be willing to discard the fruits of its diplomatic surrenders just because Iran was cheating on the nuclear deal or getting closer to a bomb is absurd and flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about Obama’s attitude toward the issue.

But that worthless pep talk aside, the real news coming out of Biden’s speech was the justification he gave for the nuclear deal. Aside from the requisite denunciation of its critics as “not getting it” (and by that he meant Netanyahu as well as those in Congress who are equally concerned about what the pact portends), Biden went further in delineating the danger from Iran should the agreement fall through.

Instead of claiming, as the president and other defenders have done, that Iran is nowhere close to a weapon and that the deal will ensure that the U.S. will have time to stop them if they attempt to “break out” to a bomb, Biden took a different tack. In the course of knocking down the detailed criticisms of the deal, he said this:

Some have said that because some of the constraints in this deal expire over time, this deal “paves” Iran’s path to a bomb. Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other. They already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material. Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.

Biden says the deal increases that breakout time to a year. But let’s remember that Obama and Biden have been in power for over six years. It has primarily been on their watch that Iran has made so much progress on their nuclear project.

Nor do Biden’s claims that Iran has abided by the 2013 interim deal have much credibility. As our Seth Mandel noted yesterday, contrary to Biden’s assertions about holding Tehran accountable, it’s already clear that Iran is continuing its illicit nuclear work in contravention to their promises. The argument used by both Obama and Biden that Israeli predictions about the interim agreement were wrong is misleading. Given the bad intelligence the U.S. has on Iran and the lack of rigorous inspections (something that will continue even after the deal is signed according to Iran’s supreme leader), the administration has no idea how much cheating is going on. Moreover, if the Israelis would prefer the interim deal to stay in place rather than the proposed final pact, that is only a measure of how weak the new deal Obama has struck with Iran truly is.

Biden’s talk of war should also be understood as a not-so-subtle reminder of the straw man argument the administration has been using to defend its disastrous policy. The alternative to appeasement remains strengthened sanctions and tough diplomacy. War is only an option if, thanks to Obama’s drive for détente with Iran, it has gotten so close to a bomb that nothing short of air strikes will slow them down.

These not-so-reassuring reassurances should figure into the thinking of Congress as it prepares to pass a bill requiring a vote on a final Iran deal under terms that provide little accountability and allow it to pass with only 34 votes rather than the two-thirds that would normally be required for a treaty. The administration has put the West in a weak position and now claims that accepting that weakness is the alternative to war. That is not a recipe for Western security or that of an Israel that remains in the cross hairs of an Iranian regime that Obama and Biden think wants to “get right with the world.”

Read Less

Jonah Goldberg: COMMENTARY’s Serious, Considered, Compelling Work

There’s an enormous amount of shouting in the wild west of conservative media. That has its place, and is often a sign of the energy on the right. But amidst the cacophony there’s a special need for serious, considered, and compelling argument, presented in the hope of persuading, not just punishing. This is where COMMENTARY has always shined, perhaps more now than ever before. It aims to tackle the best arguments of its intellectual opponents, not just the easiest targets. It’s a journal I’ve read for nearly 30 years and I can’t think of a time when I’ve valued it more. Click below to give.

Pledge-Drive

There’s an enormous amount of shouting in the wild west of conservative media. That has its place, and is often a sign of the energy on the right. But amidst the cacophony there’s a special need for serious, considered, and compelling argument, presented in the hope of persuading, not just punishing. This is where COMMENTARY has always shined, perhaps more now than ever before. It aims to tackle the best arguments of its intellectual opponents, not just the easiest targets. It’s a journal I’ve read for nearly 30 years and I can’t think of a time when I’ve valued it more. Click below to give.

Pledge-Drive

Read Less

The Right Israeli Response to Young Arabs Loving Israel on Facebook

Responding to last week’s post about a poll showing that young Arabs no longer see Israel as the Mideast’s biggest problem, a reader pointed out that this doesn’t mean they’ve stopped hating Israel or wanting it to disappear. That’s unarguable; recognizing that Israel isn’t the source of all the region’s ills is merely the first step on a long road toward accepting its existence. But as one of the most remarkable stories I’ve read in years makes clear, it’s a very significant step. And how Israel responds to it will matter greatly.

Read More

Responding to last week’s post about a poll showing that young Arabs no longer see Israel as the Mideast’s biggest problem, a reader pointed out that this doesn’t mean they’ve stopped hating Israel or wanting it to disappear. That’s unarguable; recognizing that Israel isn’t the source of all the region’s ills is merely the first step on a long road toward accepting its existence. But as one of the most remarkable stories I’ve read in years makes clear, it’s a very significant step. And how Israel responds to it will matter greatly.

The story, reported by Shlomi Eldar in Al-Monitor, began with a Muslim Arab veteran of the Israel Defense Forces–a rarity in itself, since few Israeli Arabs enlist. Outraged at hearing his own community’s leaders vilifying the IDF, M. made a Facebook page aimed at convincing other Israeli Arabs that the IDF isn’t evil and more of them should enlist.

What he got instead was an outpouring of love for Israel from across the Arab world. A young Saudi woman, for instance, posted a video clip saying, “I’d like to send a message of peace and love to Israel and its dear citizens … I hope the Arabs will be sensible like me and recognize the fact that Israel also has rights to the lands of Palestine.” A young Iraqi man posted a clip saying, “I want to send a message of peace and love to the dear Israeli people … I believe that the number of people who support Israel here will grow consistently.”

Stunned by these messages–and there were “lots of them,” Eldar reported–M. began asking their authors what prompted them to support Israel. Some had personal reasons, like a Jordanian lesbian envious of Israel’s gay rights. But others cited the crucial realization of that poll data.

“There are a lot of young people here who think like me,” the Iraqi man said. “Everything that is happening to us here in Iraq — the killings, the terrorism, the veritable bloodbath — showed us that Israel has nothing to do with it.” In other words, his recognition that Israel wasn’t the cause of the Arab world’s problems is what enabled him to start seeing it as it actually is.

Or take the Egyptian police officer who wrote, “We love, love, love Israel and its army,” even adding a heart with a Star of David inside. Four years ago, that would have been unthinkable. But today, Egyptian policemen are on the front lines against the brutal terrorism of homegrown Islamic extremists, and the IDF is one of Egypt’s closest allies in this fight. So instead of seeing Israel as the problem, some Egyptians now see it as part of the solution.

None of this means a New Middle East will break out tomorrow; these young Arabs remain a minority. Moreover, the ones who still hate Israel passionately are often the ones with the guns and bombs and missiles, which means they’re the ones who will take over any territory up for grabs.

Hence the last conclusion to draw from this is the one leftists routinely do: that Israel should attempt to accelerate this budding rapprochement by making territorial concessions. That would actually be counterproductive: It would further empower the extremists against the moderates by giving them more territory to control, endanger Israel by giving the extremists new bases from which to attack it, and thereby ensure more Israeli-Arab bloodshed.

Instead, Israel should recognize that since this new openness stems entirely from internal changes in the Arab world; the Palestinian issue is largely irrelevant to it. As evidence, consider that repeated Israeli pullouts, from Sinai, Lebanon, and Gaza, produced no such upsurge in Arab affection, whereas the past four years did, despite two wars in Gaza, zero pullouts, and zero progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks.

That doesn’t mean Israel can do nothing; it can and should try to help Arabs improve their own lives. And in fact, it’s already doing that in numerous ways, from counterterrorism assistance to Egypt through economic aid to Jordan to medical care for wounded Syrians. But it shouldn’t forget that this change in Arab attitudes is merely the start of a long process of baby steps. Any attempt at a “great leap forward” is liable to end in a painful fall.

Read Less

Is the Clinton Cash Gravy Train Ride Over?

After what is now becoming a steady drip, drip, drip of revelations from the Clinton Cash story, the wealthy donors to the former first family’s foundation may be having second thoughts. As Politico reports, some of those who have already handed over huge amounts to the Clinton Foundation are now worried about whether doing so again would be more trouble than it is worth. They have good reason to think so. After years of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the rich, big businesses, as well as foreign entities and governments, the price of a donation to the Clintons just went up. Instead of getting positive press attention for being philanthropic and the added bonus of access to the former president and the ex-secretary of state who hopes to be the next president, foundation donors are now getting the kind of intense scrutiny from the press they could live without. The foundation’s resources are so enormous that it could withstand a downturn in giving even beyond the planned slowdown of activity as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started up. But it’s worth asking how an institution whose existence is predicated on donors’ expectations of burnishing their images as do-gooders and possible influence on the world’s ultimate power couple can survive if the Clintons are forced to end the pay-for-play aspect of their charity.

Read More

After what is now becoming a steady drip, drip, drip of revelations from the Clinton Cash story, the wealthy donors to the former first family’s foundation may be having second thoughts. As Politico reports, some of those who have already handed over huge amounts to the Clinton Foundation are now worried about whether doing so again would be more trouble than it is worth. They have good reason to think so. After years of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the rich, big businesses, as well as foreign entities and governments, the price of a donation to the Clintons just went up. Instead of getting positive press attention for being philanthropic and the added bonus of access to the former president and the ex-secretary of state who hopes to be the next president, foundation donors are now getting the kind of intense scrutiny from the press they could live without. The foundation’s resources are so enormous that it could withstand a downturn in giving even beyond the planned slowdown of activity as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started up. But it’s worth asking how an institution whose existence is predicated on donors’ expectations of burnishing their images as do-gooders and possible influence on the world’s ultimate power couple can survive if the Clintons are forced to end the pay-for-play aspect of their charity.

One anonymous donor that spoke to Politico admitted that they had already had questions about how the vast sums donated to the foundation were being spent. As we noted yesterday, the foundation’s tax filings show that it spends as little as ten percent of their resources on actual charity work as opposed to the enormous amounts spent on the Clintons comings and goings, travel, staff, and boosting the Clinton Presidential Library and the annual Clinton Global Initiative paparazzi-fest.

But if the next CGI jamboree in New York in September is more of a press stakeout than a photo-op, the incentive to participate will not be so great. Donors need to realize that this time, rather than the feel-good story it has always been, the media focus will be to keep tabs on the big givers and what they expect to get for the money.

Beyond the new perils of attending the Clintons’ annual event, giving to the foundation has just become hazardous. After Peter Schweizer’s book opened up the topic, credible mainstream media outlets, including reliably liberal ones such as the New York Times, are devoting serious resources to tracking down Clinton donors and attempting to connect the dots between their gifts and what it is they want to get for their contributions.

The problem with the foundation is that it is awash in money and has relatively little, other than the impression of do-gooding, to show for it. Politico notes that the Clintons expected that the last months before the annual CGI bash were going to be a “victory lap” of publicity and fundraising that would allow the foundation to survive what was expected to be a relatively fallow period that would coincide with the heating up of the 2016 presidential campaign. But instead of that, any foundation activities will be subjected to the sort of attention that will feel more like a perp walk than an ego boost for those involved.

The Clintons have already raised enough money to create a $250 million endowment that would enable the foundation to continue to thrive once Bill Clinton as well as Hillary stops raising money during the campaign. It is probably correct to assume that the Clintons can continue to get away with anything from perjury to the sort of blatant conflict of interest that has gotten lesser mortals such as Senator Robert Menendez indicted for corruption. But what is going to be tested in the coming year is whether the opprobrium that is now being attached to giving to the Clinton Foundation will make it impossible for them to be able to go on riding an unprecedented charitable juggernaut. The ability to use the foundation to cash in on their name and their past and perhaps future positions has made the Clintons immensely wealthy and turned a post-presidency vanity project into one of the wealthiest of nonprofits.

If more of the donations they’ve already received come to be seen as questionable if not corrupt, it’s hard to see how they continue successfully shaking down celebrities and executives for the same kind of cash they’re used to getting. Even more to the point, if the foundation is to really free itself of an addiction to money given by foreign governments and those connected to them, the foundation may not be able to continue as a charitable version of “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Even worse, if Hillary’s presidential hopes eventually falter under the weight of Clinton Cash allegations if not her own lackluster political skills, it’s also difficult to see a lucrative future of a foundation whose marquee names will no longer include a possible future president. If so, then rather than merely a blip on the radar for the once and perhaps future first couple, the Clinton Cash revelations may mark the beginning of the end for the Clinton gravy train.

Read Less

Two Demonstrations and the Problem with Two States

Yesterday, a small left-wing fringe group organized demonstrations in three Israeli cities to protest the ongoing blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. In Jerusalem, the protest brought out a few dozen persons in front of the prime minister’s residence where they freely paraded with signs and apparently held forth in front of a rapt press corps eager, as always, to find Jews willing to criticize their country’s government. No one interfered with them and when they were done spouting off about the supposed injustices being done to a terrorist government that had rained down thousands of missiles on Israeli cities and used tunnels to try and conduct murder raids on civilians, they went home having encountered no interference from Israeli authorities. But a group in Gaza that tried to hold a protest earlier that day about the Hamas regime’s lack of interest in rebuilding the strip after the war they launched last summer wasn’t so lucky. And therein hangs a tale of why the push for a two-state solution that remains a priority of the Obama administration is based more on fantasy than reality.

Read More

Yesterday, a small left-wing fringe group organized demonstrations in three Israeli cities to protest the ongoing blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. In Jerusalem, the protest brought out a few dozen persons in front of the prime minister’s residence where they freely paraded with signs and apparently held forth in front of a rapt press corps eager, as always, to find Jews willing to criticize their country’s government. No one interfered with them and when they were done spouting off about the supposed injustices being done to a terrorist government that had rained down thousands of missiles on Israeli cities and used tunnels to try and conduct murder raids on civilians, they went home having encountered no interference from Israeli authorities. But a group in Gaza that tried to hold a protest earlier that day about the Hamas regime’s lack of interest in rebuilding the strip after the war they launched last summer wasn’t so lucky. And therein hangs a tale of why the push for a two-state solution that remains a priority of the Obama administration is based more on fantasy than reality.

The Gaza demonstration involved 400 persons and took place in a neighborhood that was destroyed in last summer’s fighting. Its purpose appeared to be to promote more reconstruction of homes in the strip as well as to call for the ever-elusive Palestinian unity at a time when Gaza is ruled by Hamas while the West Bank remains under the thumb of Fatah. It also must be understood in the context of what’s been going on in Gaza as Hamas has been reportedly rapidly rebuilding their terror tunnel infrastructure on the border with Israel while also replenishing their rocket arsenal. Both of these endeavors are being conducted with the material and financial help of Iran and are clearly the priority of the Gaza government over the rebuilding of homes wrecked in Hamas’s unnecessary war.

But rather than merely let the 400 demonstrators have their say, Hamas acted in characteristic fashion for a tyrannical terrorist regime and brutally suppressed the protest. Hamas police entered the crowd and severely beat several demonstrators while arresting others in the guise of keeping the peace.

What have these two events to do with the two-state solution, support for which U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said today was the measure of the next Israeli government? Everything.

The point isn’t just that Israel is a working democracy where the views of even a splinter group that seemed to sympathize with a terrorist government in Gaza was allowed to protest in front of the prime minister’s house while Hamas runs a police state. It’s that the government in Gaza is for all intents and purposes the independent Palestinian state that President Obama and his administration continue to advocate as necessary to peace. But far from being a force for peace, the Iran-funded Hamasistan in Gaza was and remains a permanent threat to peace. More than that, and just like the actions of the supposedly more moderate Fatah in Gaza, the Hamas government is an undemocratic and brutal regime determined not only to suppress dissidents but to treat the welfare of ordinary Palestinians as being less important than their mission of fomenting an endless war against Israel. Nor should it be forgotten that the purpose of that war isn’t to speed an Israeli retreat from the West Bank but to “liberate” all of “occupied Palestine,” a term by which they mean pre-1967 Israel as well as the disputed territories beyond the “green line.”

Additionally, this Hamas-run Palestinian state was created by Israel taking a risk for peace when it removed every single soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005. But rather than this becoming a step toward peace, what Israelis soon learned was that former Prime Minister Sharon had traded land for terror, not peace.

These parallel demonstrations are a reminder of the contrast between the conduct of a free society, even though it remains under siege from foreign foes, and a terrorist state. But they also illustrate the absurdity of a call to repeat the Gaza experiment in the West Bank. A two state solution might be ideal but not under the current circumstances. That Obama continues to expect Israel to do such a mad thing speaks volumes about his lack of concern for the Jewish state’s security as well as of his poor grasp of the realities of the Middle East even after more than six years in the White House.

Read Less

Opening Game in Zion

It’s baseball season (with or without fans in the seats), which can mean only one thing: a Throwback Thursday post featuring an April 1949 COMMENTARY article by William Schack on the very first display of America’s national pastime in Zion. Pulled from the archives for your enjoyment, here’s “Opening Game in Zion”:

Read More

It’s baseball season (with or without fans in the seats), which can mean only one thing: a Throwback Thursday post featuring an April 1949 COMMENTARY article by William Schack on the very first display of America’s national pastime in Zion. Pulled from the archives for your enjoyment, here’s “Opening Game in Zion”:

One June day in 1927 the Americans in Jerusalem, hitherto outwardly respectable, were seen making their way to the open spaces of the city wearing common caps, old pants, and abraded shoes. People heard settlers and tourists from the United States, who had only casually greeted each before, jabbering together with lodgebrother intimacy about something which a good polyglot Palestinian, who averaged a sort-of-command of seven languages, including English, could not follow for a single sentence.

The meaning of all this unusual activity became clear when the Palestine Bulletin announced that, in honor of the Fourth of July, the American community was going to stage an exhibition of their national pastime—the first ever to be held in the country. The place, the Maccabee football field; the time, four o’clock; everybody welcome, admission free. Even the Hebrew press carried an announcement, though it could find no better equivalent for “umpire” in the ancient tongue than the watered-down shofet—judge.

Click here to read it all.

Read Less

The Left Frets: What If the Supreme Court Recognizes the Dignity of Christians?

A nagging question I’ve had while watching local businesses sued into oblivion for the Christian thoughtcrimes of their proprietors is: What will it take for liberals to finally have second thoughts about the way in which gay marriage is being legalized? Few dispute that it will be fully legalized, and probably soon, and probably by the Supreme Court. But would liberals, once assured of total victory, have any pangs of conscience about salting the earth behind them? No, it turns out–but we have finally discovered something that makes them nervous about the recognition of a right to same-sex marriage: the possibility that conservatives, especially Christians, might somehow benefit as well.

Read More

A nagging question I’ve had while watching local businesses sued into oblivion for the Christian thoughtcrimes of their proprietors is: What will it take for liberals to finally have second thoughts about the way in which gay marriage is being legalized? Few dispute that it will be fully legalized, and probably soon, and probably by the Supreme Court. But would liberals, once assured of total victory, have any pangs of conscience about salting the earth behind them? No, it turns out–but we have finally discovered something that makes them nervous about the recognition of a right to same-sex marriage: the possibility that conservatives, especially Christians, might somehow benefit as well.

Along those lines, there is something deeply disturbing about Jeffrey Rosen’s otherwise insightful piece in the Atlantic on how the justices during oral arguments this week seemed supportive of the idea of there being a right to dignity, and that this dignity is being withheld from gay couples seeking to marry. It’s a smart essay in many ways, since Rosen picks up on something not many supporters of same-sex marriage pay attention to: the importance of the method and the reasoning by which gay marriage is ultimately recognized by the state.

Most supporters of gay marriage have held to an any-means-necessary outlook. Rather than trying to convince the rest of the public to catch up to the sudden majority in favor of gay marriage, they have been using mob McCarthyism to ruin the lives of those with whom they disagree, while also pressing the courts for a gay-marriage version of Roe v. Wade; that is, a court decision that would hand the left a victory but guarantee the issue would be polarizing and its adoption nondemocratic.

Gay marriage itself is on course for overwhelming acceptance. The only question is whether its legal establishment will be the beginning or the end of it as a contentious political issue. Liberals prefer it to be the beginning of a long fight.

That might not seem to matter all that much, but in fact it matters a great deal to the minority who oppose gay marriage. Were liberals to pursue the establishment of gay marriage in such a way as to prevent a Roe situation and thus end an acrimonious process, they would be incentivizing opponents to cooperate in their own ideological or religious defeat. But if religious Americans are made to understand that this is only the beginning of the fight, then they would be hugely mistaken to acquiesce. The message from the left is that once their premise is accepted, dissenting voices will be rooted out ruthlessly and with the full force of the state behind the witch hunt.

Which brings us to what is finally making the left nervous: any ruling that would legalize gay marriage but would also curb their ability to carry out those witch hunts. Rosen discusses potential swing justice Anthony Kennedy’s attachment to the dignity of the those before the court:

Justice Kennedy invoked the word “dignity” five times in the oral arguments; and other lawyers invoked it 16 times. It was central to the opening statements of Solicitor General Don Verrilli. “The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity,” he began. “Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples.” It was also one of the first words uttered by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mary L. Bonuato. “If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class,” she said, “the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity.”

Rosen gives us some jurisprudential and historical context on dignity, and concedes “the indignity and stigma that bans on same sex marriage impose on the right of LGBT citizens to define their own identities and to claim the benefits of equal citizenship.” But, he cautions, “constitutionalizing that injury with broad abstractions like dignity may lead to results in the future that liberals come to regret.”

Why might that be the case? Because of the dystopian future this could create: what if the courts decide that–gasp–conservatives also have dignity? Imagine the terrifying world in which conservatives are treated with dignity:

If dignity is defined so elastically, then conservatives (sic) judges might invoke it to strike down not only gun-control laws, but also other progressive legislation. Libertarian groups invoked the “sweet-mystery-of-life” my (sic) language in Casey to argue that the Obamacare healthcare mandate unconstitutionally violated the dignity and autonomy of Americans by forcing them to buy health insurance. In the future, cigarette smokers might argue that anti-smoking bans violate their ability to create an individual identity. And conservative Christian wedding photographers could claim that anti-discrimination laws compelling them to photograph gay weddings violate their dignity and ability to define themselves as conservative Christians.

And there it is. If the court recognizes a right to dignity, liberals will be forced to reckon with a situation in which conservative Christians are equal under the law. And that means they have dignity too.

To judge by the reaction, this might be a step too far for the left. But it’s instructive nonetheless because Rosen’s piece grapples with what happens when the winning team sets precedent: with great power comes great responsibility. Liberals may want to argue that people have a right to be treated with dignity by the state, and therefore gay couples’ right to marry should be anchored in constitutional law. But how comfortable are they with the idea that Christians are people too?

Read Less

Iran Bill Amendments About More than 2016 Grandstanding

Senator Bob Corker wouldn’t play ball. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Republican derailed a compromise on a bipartisan budget bill that would allow the Congress to actually spend more rather than less, as it is supposedly intended to do. He’s largely right about that but Senate leaders weren’t happy about the way a budget hawk was willing to stand on his principles rather than go along with something that allows Congress the pretense of a move toward a balanced budget instead of its reality. Yet if Corker understands the difference between reality and congressional fakery when it comes to budgets, the same principle seems to be lost on him in his capacity as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. The bill requiring a congressional vote on any nuclear deal reached with Iran that he has co-sponsored is unfortunately eerily similar to the budget accord he spurned this week. Corker says that bill is as good as it gets and that the Senate must accept it. Even worse, many in the press are labeling those Republicans who have tried to strengthen it as merely grandstanding for 2016. Whatever the motivations of those involved, Corker’s Iran bill will be even more likely to facilitate a bad Iran deal than the budget deal will encourage spending.

Read More

Senator Bob Corker wouldn’t play ball. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Republican derailed a compromise on a bipartisan budget bill that would allow the Congress to actually spend more rather than less, as it is supposedly intended to do. He’s largely right about that but Senate leaders weren’t happy about the way a budget hawk was willing to stand on his principles rather than go along with something that allows Congress the pretense of a move toward a balanced budget instead of its reality. Yet if Corker understands the difference between reality and congressional fakery when it comes to budgets, the same principle seems to be lost on him in his capacity as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. The bill requiring a congressional vote on any nuclear deal reached with Iran that he has co-sponsored is unfortunately eerily similar to the budget accord he spurned this week. Corker says that bill is as good as it gets and that the Senate must accept it. Even worse, many in the press are labeling those Republicans who have tried to strengthen it as merely grandstanding for 2016. Whatever the motivations of those involved, Corker’s Iran bill will be even more likely to facilitate a bad Iran deal than the budget deal will encourage spending.

The willingness of several Republican senators to offer amendments to the Iran bill has infuriated Corker, Ben Cardin, his Democratic ranking member of the Foreign Affaris Committee, as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whose decision to end Harry Reid’s Senate tyranny and allow members the freedom to propose amendments is being tested.

They say that all the amendments put forward by the bill’s Republican critics, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are poison pills designed to destroy the compromise Corker struck with Democrats in order to get enough of them to back the proposal. In its current form, President Obama says he can sign rather than veto the bill. That will, at a minimum, give both houses of Congress the ability to vote on any deal that the president signs with Iran. Given that the administration had hoped to push through the most important pact with a foreign government in a generation without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, this is considered an achievement by Corker and other senators who say it is better than nothing.

By that they are conceding, as perhaps they must, that any bill that requires real accountability on the part of the administration with respect to Iran will never get a veto-proof majority. If the bill requires such a deal to be considered a treaty (and thus require a two-thirds vote) or force Iran to foreswear support for international terrorism or its vow to destroy Israel, the president will veto it and he’s sure of getting enough Democrats to vote against an override.

Thus, as far as Corker and critics of the GOP rebels on this issue are concerned, all Cruz, Rubio, and Co. are doing is destroying the one chance Congress has to have any say about the Iran deal.

But even if we were willing to accept that these amendments were poison pills, what their sponsors are pointing out is that without these measures, the Corker bill is nothing but a charade. If it’s passed, it will allow Congress a vote. But its lack of accountability and the fact that it reverses the approval process guarantees that Obama will be able to get any Iran deal, no matter how much it compromises the security of the United States or Israel, passed with 34 Democratic votes rather than the 67 needed for a treaty.

It’s easy to understand the frustration of the Republican leadership and Senate Democrats at the idea of having to vote on Rubio’s measure, which would force them to vote against a measure requiring Iran to recognize Israel. The same applies to Cruz’s proposal that would mandate that ratification of an Iran deal would require a majority rather than having it rest on merely a vote to lift sanctions.

They may be right that Rubio, Cruz, and other GOP senators such as Tom Cotton and Ron Johnson, who have joined them in the exercise, are grandstanding. But Corker and the Democrats are being just as disingenuous.

All the Corker bill provides is a thin veneer of accountability for Obama’s negotiations with Iran that is unlikely to have an impact on the outcome of the negotiations or the approval process. If it passes, Congress will be able to claim it will vote on the Iran deal but since the bar for ultimate approval of the deal is set so low with Obama having the ability to veto a negative vote (which he would not have with an actual treaty), that it may actually be far worse than nothing. A bad Iran deal that slips through Congress with support from only a third of Democratic loyalists will nonetheless have the imprimatur of the legislative branch. It would be far better and much easier to reverse if such appeasement were to be merely the act of a president seeking to ignore the Constitution.

Somehow Corker understands the difference between fake legislation and a bill that would actually accomplish its stated purpose with it comes to spending. Yet somehow that notion doesn’t seem to impress him when it comes to the life-or-death issue of an Iranian nuclear program. Under the circumstances it’s hard to blame Rubio or Cruz from trying to teach him that lesson.

Read Less

If Young Voters Are Up for Grabs, Dems Are in Trouble

Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democrats remain convinced that their victory is already baked into the electoral cake. The last two presidential votes have seen them rack up enormous majorities among minorities, women, and young voters. With immigration reform stymied, they think the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are firmly in their pockets. And they are sure that Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of their ticket will ensure a clear advantage among women. They’re also sure that young voters will be as liberal next year as they were in 2008 and 2012 when they turned out in record numbers to back Barack Obama. But what if their assumptions about the nation’s youth are wrong? That’s the question Democrats need to ask themselves today after the publication of a new poll from Harvard University’s Institute on Politics. According to the poll, voters aged 18-29 are now far less likely to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 than they were in the last two such elections. That sets up a race that resembles 2004 more than 2008, which is a possible recipe for a Republican victory.

Read More

Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democrats remain convinced that their victory is already baked into the electoral cake. The last two presidential votes have seen them rack up enormous majorities among minorities, women, and young voters. With immigration reform stymied, they think the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are firmly in their pockets. And they are sure that Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of their ticket will ensure a clear advantage among women. They’re also sure that young voters will be as liberal next year as they were in 2008 and 2012 when they turned out in record numbers to back Barack Obama. But what if their assumptions about the nation’s youth are wrong? That’s the question Democrats need to ask themselves today after the publication of a new poll from Harvard University’s Institute on Politics. According to the poll, voters aged 18-29 are now far less likely to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 than they were in the last two such elections. That sets up a race that resembles 2004 more than 2008, which is a possible recipe for a Republican victory.

Most pundits assumed that the Republicans’ stronger showing among young voters in the 2014 midterms was a statistical glitch produced by the lower turnout in that election than in a presidential year. But the type of advantage that Democrats enjoyed when Barack Obama was their candidate may vanish when he retires.

The Harvard poll shows that a generic Democratic candidate will still win the 18-29 year old vote in 2016 by a 55-40 percent margin. That’s a clear edge, but it is nowhere near as decisive as President Obama’s 66-32 percent win among young voters in 2008 or his 60-37 victory in that demographic in 2012. In fact that 55-40 result bears a startling resemblance to the 54-45 margin among 18-29 year olds that John Kerry won over President Bush in 2004.

What possible reason could there be for such a swing among voters assumed to be so liberal on social issues that they’d never consider voting for the GOP?

One is obvious. Barack Obama’s historic importance as our first African-American president as well as his personal appeal made him a unique political figure. No other Democrat, not even the person trying to be the first female president, can match his hold on the electorate, especially young people who were particularly vulnerable to Obama’s “hope and change” mantra. As much as many Democrats would prefer to think the gains they made in 2008 and 2012 are now part of the permanent infrastructure of American politics, they may be ephemeral.

The second is that the changing economic environment for young people entering the work force may be leading them to think more about fiscal issues than social ones like gay marriage and abortion that work to the advantage of liberals. Moreover, the anti-Iraq war sentiments that dominated the 2008 election may have gradually moderated to the point where a lot of young people are worrying as much if not more about the threat of terrorism.

The caveat here is that elections are not fought and won by generic candidates. If Republicans nominate someone who turns off young voters or who emphasizes social issues that hurt the GOP then they may slip back. By the same token, one who can run as a representative of a new generation seeking to challenge a tired and possibly corrupt retread such as Hillary Clinton stands a chance of exceeding the 2004 totals. Also troubling for Democrats is the real possibility that Clinton fatigue, accentuated by the Clinton Cash charges that continue to drip, drip, drip out, will further depress the Democrats’ brand.

But the main conclusion to draw from these figures is that no one in either party should make any assumptions about the 2016 electorate from 2008 or 2012. Change is the one constant in politics as well as life and that means things could get better for the Democrats, but also the very real possibility that they could get worse. Either way, the path to an Electoral College majority for Republicans that many on the left have come to see as a fantasy may be far more realistic than they care to think. If, as the Harvard poll illustrates, young voters are up for grabs, anything is possible.

Read Less

Neither Iran Nor the West Intends to Abide by the Nuclear Deal

Very few Iran watchers have tried to argue that the Islamic Republic can be trusted to fully comply with its obligations regarding its nuclear program. But that’s not the most concerning aspect of the emerging nuclear deal. That would be the worry that the West can’t be trusted either–that in its desperate pursuit of a deal at any cost it would overlook Iran’s cheating and even help keep it under wraps, all to protect President Obama’s foreign-policy “ObamaCare” legacy. And now we have confirmation that this will not only happen in the future, but that it’s already taking place.

Read More

Very few Iran watchers have tried to argue that the Islamic Republic can be trusted to fully comply with its obligations regarding its nuclear program. But that’s not the most concerning aspect of the emerging nuclear deal. That would be the worry that the West can’t be trusted either–that in its desperate pursuit of a deal at any cost it would overlook Iran’s cheating and even help keep it under wraps, all to protect President Obama’s foreign-policy “ObamaCare” legacy. And now we have confirmation that this will not only happen in the future, but that it’s already taking place.

Reuters reports that the Iranians have kept up illicit work on their nuclear program. The information was leaked from a secret UN panel report, which stated that the Iranian actions had been noticed by the British. In fact, the Iranian actions were caught by the British soon after the preliminary agreement between the P5+1 and Iran in April. The Iranians, it seems, never even took a break:

“The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it ‘is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)’,” the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran’s compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.

KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities.

Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.

Indeed it does have such a history. And if the West has anything to say about it, that will be Iran’s future too.

The subject of the West’s untrustworthiness has been a sore subject for the Obama administration, which is trying to ignore violations in order to legitimize Iran as a nuclear power. Although the Obama administration is tetchy and whiney about virtually any criticism, the already cranky president tends to get even moodier when confronted with the fact that congressional oversight is necessary in part because the administration hasn’t been honest about its Iran policy.

Last month, John McCain told Hugh Hewitt: “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had. So in a way, I can’t blame the ayatollah, because I don’t think they ever agreed to it, and I think John Kerry tried to come back and sell a bill of goods, hoping maybe that the Iranians wouldn’t say much about it.”

McCain’s point was a very simple one: since the nuclear deal is primarily a plan governing the actions of Iran, how Iran interprets the agreement is the most important indicator of how they will act in the future.

Although the deal on the whole favors Iran and its terrorist proxies over America’s traditional allies in the region, there are aspects of the deal that could make it even worse than it looks. For example, the inspections regime, the verification of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s past work, and the timetable for lifting sanctions all will have an impact on how easily Iran can obtain nukes under the treaty.

The Obama administration offers vague assurances of thorough inspections, and the Iranians laugh themselves silly. Same with verification and especially sanctions. As Max wrote yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave a speech in New York in which he reiterated his government’s understanding that Obama and Secretary Kerry are full of hot air on the treaty, and that Iran has no intention of pretending to play along with their charade.

In other words, McCain was right. Which is why Obama snapped at him that “It needs to stop.” We wouldn’t want the American people getting the right idea, would we?

Now we have more Iranian misbehavior and a nuclear-inspections regime in which even if violations are found, the Western countries involved don’t want to tattle on the nuclear advancement of the world’s premier terrorist state. Back to Reuters:

“The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid any possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations between … Iran and (major powers),” it said.

Despite the lack of newly confirmed violations the panel said that “some member states informed the panel that according to their assessment, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s procurement trends and (sanctions) circumvention techniques remain basically unchanged.”

It cited an example of an unnamed member state saying that an Iranian entity had recently attempted to acquire compressors, a key component in the uranium enrichment process, using false end-user certificates in an attempt to evade controls.

The truth would be bad for the Kerry-led negotiations, so the truth must be hidden. The West, led by the Obama administration, is not only tacitly conceding Iran’s nuclear quest. They are also enabling that quest by facilitating Iranian cheating.

What this means is that the nuclear deal with Iran is itself a lie. In important ways, there really is no deal, and never will be. That’s because no matter what’s written on a piece of paper, Iran will basically be allowed to act in contravention of the deal, and the Western world will help them cover it up.

Read Less

Is the Clinton Foundation Really a Charity?

One of the mantras one must invoke when discussing the Clinton Cash controversy is to say that whatever one might think of the pay-to-play aspects of the former first family’s charitable endeavors, the Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work around the world. But now that more of the press is finally asking tough questions about the Clintons’ activities, it appears that their charity may not pass the basic question donors ask of any philanthropy: how much of the money raised is actually spent on the causes you are supposed to be aiding? Though the foundation has claimed that 88 percent of its expenditures are spent on good deeds, their own tax filings reveal that the real number is about ten percent. But far from being an unrelated, albeit embarrassing, sidebar to the allegations about influence peddling, this data is a reminder that the main point of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is to support its namesakes in a lavish fashion and to allow wealthy donors access to them.

Read More

One of the mantras one must invoke when discussing the Clinton Cash controversy is to say that whatever one might think of the pay-to-play aspects of the former first family’s charitable endeavors, the Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work around the world. But now that more of the press is finally asking tough questions about the Clintons’ activities, it appears that their charity may not pass the basic question donors ask of any philanthropy: how much of the money raised is actually spent on the causes you are supposed to be aiding? Though the foundation has claimed that 88 percent of its expenditures are spent on good deeds, their own tax filings reveal that the real number is about ten percent. But far from being an unrelated, albeit embarrassing, sidebar to the allegations about influence peddling, this data is a reminder that the main point of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is to support its namesakes in a lavish fashion and to allow wealthy donors access to them.

Sean Davis highlighted the discrepancy between the 88 percent figure and the reality of the Clinton Foundation spending ten percent on charity in a recent Federalist article. He followed up with another, skewering a claim by the left-wing Punditfact site that this claim was “mostly false.” As he wrote, the only way to come to such a conclusion was to simply ignore facts, including, most importantly, the filings of the Clinton Foundation that made it clear that it spent very little of its money on good deeds. But Punditfact says we should ignore these basic facts because of “the unusual business model” of the foundation which causes it to spend the lion’s share of the vast sums raised on its behalf on conferences, travel, and staffing.

The two largest items on its list of charitable expenditures are support for the Clinton Presidential Library and paying for the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Library is, like those edifices built to house the papers and glorify the memory of other presidents, a not-altogether-worthless endeavor. But it is a monument to the vanity and the legacy of the Clintons, not the sort of “good work” helping the impoverished of the Third World, as well as the women and the girls, Hillary Clinton is always telling us she’s out to save. It may be a non-profit institution but it is not a charity.

The Clinton Global Initiative is also not a charity. According to the New York Times, it’s a “glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state and celebrities.” Those who attend it may do charitable work. But their main purpose in attending is to see and be seen talking about being charitable. The same can be said of the event itself.

The foundation’s “business model” is that rather than raise money to give to those helping the poor on the ground, its alleged charitable acts are done by those on its payroll. Fair enough. But the controversy here is that the foundation and its liberal apologists want us to think that when the Clintons and their staff scurry around the world talking about helping the poor that amounts to charity.

This is not a made-up argument about how to characterize expenditures. The Clintons don’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor. They are conveners of famous and smart people who supposedly brainstorm about how to do those things. They call this “life-changing” work and no doubt it does some good. But the only ones whose lives we can be certain have been “changed” are the Clintons, their cronies, and their staff. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the foundation yearly is spent on salaries, travel, offices, and other perks. The Clinton Foundation is the ultimate “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” reality show cloaked in a veneer of good intentions and charitable rhetoric. But it is not much of a charity.

What makes this relevant to the Clinton Cash allegations is that most of the money spent by the foundation is geared toward providing access for the donors to the Clintons via the annual celebrity conference and events at the Library. The business model here is all about the show of charity and, as our Abe Greenwald wrote on Monday, primarily interested in lauding a “class of global VIP celebrating its good works.” That doesn’t help many poor people, but it did aid the Clintons in their effort to attract wealthy, self-interested donors who preferred to give to a foundation that could advance their personal political and economic agendas rather than aid the poor.

Technically speaking this isn’t a scam, since the Clintons’ donors know exactly what they are getting. Indeed, many of them may well have gotten their money’s worth of influence by giving money to the ex-president and a sitting secretary of state and would-be president. If so, that is a scandal and one that ought to disqualify Hillary Clinton for consideration for the presidency.

But though it may not be illegal, it is not quite the noble cause to which we’re all supposed to pay homage. What’s more, the “mistakes” the foundation has made in its filings are leading to reasonable suspicions that we have just started to scratch the surface of its questionable dealings. Those liberals that are dedicating themselves to rationalizing and apologizing for the foundation may find that they have taken on a task that is in the process of becoming a full-time and increasingly impossible job.

Read Less

Zarif’s Bluster

Item #1: On Tuesday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats seized the Maersk Tigris, a Danish-owned, Marshall Islands registered container ship that was peaceably transiting an international maritime route through the Straits of Hormuz. The ship is now being held by Iran along with its crew members.

Read More

Item #1: On Tuesday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats seized the Maersk Tigris, a Danish-owned, Marshall Islands registered container ship that was peaceably transiting an international maritime route through the Straits of Hormuz. The ship is now being held by Iran along with its crew members.

Item #2: On Wednesday in New York Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif gave a “blustery and self-righteous” series of remarks which made it seem as if a nuclear agreement is a done deal—on Iran’s terms. Obama “will have to stop implementing all the sanctions, economic and financial sanctions that have been executive order and congressional. However he does it, that’s his problem,” Zarif said, adding that a UN resolution endorsing the agreement would have to be endorsed by the U.S., “whether Senator Cotton likes it or not.”

Oh and Zarif made clear that the lifting of sanctions would occur within weeks of the agreement being signed (contrary to White House claims that sanctions relief would be phased), while also mocking Obama’s claims that sanctions could “snap back” in the event of Iranian violations: “If people are worrying about snapback, they should be worrying about the U.S. violating its obligations and us snapping back,” he said. “That is a point that the United States should be seriously concerned about. This is not a game.”

What’s the connection between these two seemingly unrelated events? Both, I submit, are evidence of Iranian arrogance. The kind of arrogance that Iran exhibits by hijacking a ship registered to an American protectorate and then by lecturing American leaders that they will have to abide by Iran’s terms for a nuclear deal—or else.

This is not the way Iran would talk or act if it feared the United States. But plainly it doesn’t. And why should it? Obama has made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, that he is desperate for a nuclear agreement because the alternative to such an agreement is war—and there is no worse option than that in the president’s mind. So desperate for an agreement, in fact, that the president is willing to overlook Iranian aggression in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen—and even to overlook Iran’s jailing of three American citizens and its seizure of a ship belonging to allies that we are pledged to defend.

It is indicative of where we stand that there has been nary a peep of protest about the hijacking of the Maersk Tigris. The Pentagon even leaked word that the U.S. is not legally obligated to protect the Maersk Tigris, as if the U.S. cannot act to protect its moral and strategic interests even if not compelled to do so under the terms of some piece of paper. From the White House: “The White House said on Wednesday it was concerned about the impact on navigation caused by Iranian authorities’ seizure of the Maersk Tigris container ship in the Strait of Hormuz and said it was monitoring the situation.” Translation: “Ship, what ship? Who cares? The only thing that matters is the nuclear accord.” (Compare this anodyne language, incidentally, with the harsh invective directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for infelicitous campaign rhetoric.)

And yet the very reason why Iran is able to drive such an advantageous bargain—the reason why it has hijacked the negotiations to legitimate its illegal nuclear program—is precisely because the U.S. has spent years turning the other cheek at Iranian aggression. This is not exclusively a problem of the Obama administration—the Reagan administration, after all, traded arms for hostages and did not retaliate for the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks and embassy in Beirut, while the George W. Bush administration did nothing to punish Iran for killing hundreds of American troops in Iraq with its advanced munitions.

But the problem has become much more pronounced under the Obama administration, which sees détente with Iran as its lasting legacy. That’s why Iran’s foreign minister feels free to come to New York and act like a haughty master of the universe, knowing there will not be even a peep of protest from this thoroughly intimidated administration.

Read Less

No, Bernie Sanders Will Not Make the Election a Battle of Ideas

Bernie Sanders is running for president. Bernie Sanders will never be president. These two facts, taken together, represent good news for Hillary Clinton in a week when she could really use it. Sanders will run to Hillary’s populist left, but–spoiler alert–his ideas won’t have much impact. We won’t have a truly important “national conversation” thanks to Bernie Sanders. He will remind Americans that Vermont exists, and then he will fade back into the background with a pint of Chunky Monkey to resurface as an answer to the occasional trivia night question at the pub.

Read More

Bernie Sanders is running for president. Bernie Sanders will never be president. These two facts, taken together, represent good news for Hillary Clinton in a week when she could really use it. Sanders will run to Hillary’s populist left, but–spoiler alert–his ideas won’t have much impact. We won’t have a truly important “national conversation” thanks to Bernie Sanders. He will remind Americans that Vermont exists, and then he will fade back into the background with a pint of Chunky Monkey to resurface as an answer to the occasional trivia night question at the pub.

It’s not exactly controversial to say Sanders can’t win. It has a lot to do with why he’s running in the first place: he was elected to Congress a socialist, and a socialist he remains. It is true that a poll last year found that Democrats approve of socialism at the same levels they approve of capitalism. But that doesn’t mean Democrats will nominate an avowed socialist. If you want to get public policymaking to reflect the dangerous folly of socialism, you can’t call it that. Use words like “justice” and “fairness” and other liberal euphemisms for armed robbery instead.

Now you might think that the entry of a socialist into the Democratic Party primary, at a time when a majority of Democrats approve of socialism, would at the very least make for a lively debate that could pull the eventual nominee to the left. And further, you might think that would be even likelier since the main candidate in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton, is the very embodiment of privilege, corruption, entitlement, influence peddling, and swamping American elections with foreign money.

But in order for that to be the case, two things would have to be true. The Democrats would have to actually oppose cronyism and corruption rather than see them as useful vehicles to attain power. And Democrats would have to be willing, in large numbers, to publicly embrace their inner socialist rather than prize electability over principle.

Neither of those is true.

As the Obama administration’s weaponized IRS and its reliance on lawmaking by bureaucratic regulation have shown, Democrats have fully realized something very important about American politics. If you hold the levers of power–especially the White House–and you’re of the correct political beliefs as far as the traditional organs of the fourth estate are concerned, you can get away with quite a lot. And you don’t really need Congress (though it helps).

As such, for leftists political campaigns are quite different from what the political parties have traditionally thought of them as being. They are not, for the left, about ideas or vetting their would-be leaders. They are simply about winning at any cost so that the unaccountable bureaucracy can go on ruling undisturbed.

And a key part of this, for Democrats, is to never say what everyone knows to be true.

If it were really about ideas, progressive activists would be flocking to Sanders and ignoring Elizabeth Warren, instead of the other way around. Warren, after all, is not really a populist but a demagogue. She merely does the bidding of certain wealthy bank lobby shops instead of others.

The press wants to believe this isn’t true. Hence NBC News tried to claim–bless their hearts–that “Bernie Sanders Won’t Win. But His Ideas Might.” On the matter of preferring Warren over Sanders, NBC has this to say:

Sanders, though, is less well-suited to run a credible challenge to Clinton than Warren. Sanders does not play the part of the typical presidential candidate, both because of his age and his style, which leans toward long, dense policy speeches instead of the more aspirational rhetoric of Obama.

Translation: when Bernie Sanders speaks, he says something. Democrats are far more likely to support a candidate who is not nearly so reckless, and who is instead careful to say nothing at all.

And Sanders’s entrance into the race also obviates the need for another “populist” to challenge Hillary. So by Sanders taking up Hillary’s left flank, he will ensure that a more serious candidate won’t attempt to grab that role for themselves. It’ll also mean that Hillary can position herself as the Democrats’ alternative to staid socialism, since there’ll be an overt socialist running against her. This is all good news for her impending coronation, and bad news for anyone hoping for a substantive debate on the left side of the aisle.

Read Less




Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.