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COMMENTARY Needs Your Help

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

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

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The Pope is Right: Anti-Israel Does Equal Anti-Semite

Last week, a controversy erupted after a meeting between Pope Francis and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The encounter came during a celebration of the canonization of two new Palestinian Arab saints and shortly after a treaty in which the Vatican recognized the PA as a state was announced. But whether or not it was due to a misunderstanding on the part of the few journalists present, the Pope was widely quoted as calling Abbas “an angel of peace.” That bit of hyperbole seemed to symbolize Israel’s growing isolation in Europe even if it granted a Holocaust denier and someone who has repeatedly refused to make peace, far more credit than he deserves. But after a week in which the Vatican vacillated about what the pope had really said while not seeking to anger the Palestinians and their backers, Pope Francis has issued not only a clarification indicating that he was misquoted about Abbas but delivering a stinging rebuke to Israel’s foes.

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Last week, a controversy erupted after a meeting between Pope Francis and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The encounter came during a celebration of the canonization of two new Palestinian Arab saints and shortly after a treaty in which the Vatican recognized the PA as a state was announced. But whether or not it was due to a misunderstanding on the part of the few journalists present, the Pope was widely quoted as calling Abbas “an angel of peace.” That bit of hyperbole seemed to symbolize Israel’s growing isolation in Europe even if it granted a Holocaust denier and someone who has repeatedly refused to make peace, far more credit than he deserves. But after a week in which the Vatican vacillated about what the pope had really said while not seeking to anger the Palestinians and their backers, Pope Francis has issued not only a clarification indicating that he was misquoted about Abbas but delivering a stinging rebuke to Israel’s foes.

As the Times of Israel reports:

In comments made to veteran Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman Thursday, Francis was quoted as saying that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.”

Francis was also said to have backtracked on statements he was reportedly heard making earlier this month designating the visiting Abbas “a bit an angel of peace.”

The pope recalled telling Abbas in Italian that he hopes the Palestinian chief might one day become an angel of peace in the future, according to Cymerman — although ostensibly he has not yet reached that level.

This resolves any doubts about whether the New York Times, Agence France Presse and the Associated Press misquoted the pontiff. He says they did, and that ought to be enough to have them issued corrections rather than further articles rationalizing their mistake.

But the pope’s comments about anti-Semitism are far more important than his evaluation of the corrupt and undemocratic head of the Palestinian kleptocracy in the West Bank.

Israel haters have long claimed that their anti-Zionism should not be confused with anti-Semitism. They claim they have no problems with Jews in general, just with those who assert sovereignty in their ancient homeland.

But this formulation is and always has been a false and utterly misleading distinction.

Those who would deny to Jews the same rights of self-determination and self-defense that they would never think to deny any other people on the planet are practicing a form of discrimination. Anti-Zionists assert that Jews are uniquely unworthy of a homeland or any of the other normal attributes of identity. While it is true that Judaism is a combination of faith and national identity, the fact remains that denying the Jews a right to a state that is specifically Jewish singles them out for treatment not given the practitioners of other faiths or peoples. Since the term by which we refer to acts of bias against Jews is anti-Semitism, the claim that anti-Zionism is not a form of prejudice is simply a great lie.

This is a vital point because anti-Zionists aren’t so much protesting specific Israeli actions or making a point about where they think its borders should be located. Rather, they seek to deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, which is to say they want it to be destroyed.

That’s the reason why groups that espouse BDS — boycott, divest, sanction — programs aimed at Israel are practicing hate, not merely putting forward criticisms of the country’s policies. One needn’t support everything any Israeli government does or agree with its prime minister on the issues. But those who say that Israel shouldn’t be a Jewish state and that it has no right to be one should be treated as bigots.

This is a message that Palestinians should heed. Abbas has consistently refused to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. Indeed, even if he wanted to do so, which is doubtful, his people cling to a political culture in which violence against Jews is treated as laudable rather than shameful. The two-state solution to the Middle East conflict that the pope and many others champion will only be possible once the Palestinians stop trying to replace the Jewish state and start learning to live with it in peace. Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat repeatedly rejected offers of statehood in which they would be given control of almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem but refused each time because they could not come to terms with Israel’s existence. Rather than beating up on Israel as the world community continues to do, those who want peace need to take the pope’s message to the Palestinians.

The Vatican did nothing to help end the conflict by recognizing the PA as a state without first requiring it to make peace with Israel as it was required to do by its Oslo Accords commitments. In doing so the Church seemed to be joining the crowd putting unfair pressure on Israel thus betraying the ecumenical legacy of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II who did so much to reverse centuries of Catholic prejudice against Jews. But Pope Francis has now made up for those mistakes with a statement that ought to resonate throughout the world and in history. Let all those who wish to undermine the Jewish state while still pretending to be unprejudiced and all those who excuse or apologize for their hatred pay heed to what he has said and end the charade by which these anti-Semites are treated as decent members of the community. As the pope has now taught us, anti-Zionist will always really mean anti-Semite.

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The GDP Contracts

The revised figures for first quarter show that the American economy shrank by 0.7 percent, January through March. Certainly, part of the reason is that the winter was, for the second year in a row, a brutal one in most of the country. But it’s also the third quarter since the recession supposedly ended in June, 2009, that the economy contracted. (The other two quarters of contraction were the first quarters of 2011 and 2014.) Read More

The revised figures for first quarter show that the American economy shrank by 0.7 percent, January through March. Certainly, part of the reason is that the winter was, for the second year in a row, a brutal one in most of the country. But it’s also the third quarter since the recession supposedly ended in June, 2009, that the economy contracted. (The other two quarters of contraction were the first quarters of 2011 and 2014.)

Virtually all economists think the second quarter, which ends on June 30, will show a rebound. The economy was down 2 percent in the first quarter last year and was up by more than 4 percent in the second quarter. They predict that the economy for the year will be up in the 2-3 percent range. Other indicators, such as jobless claims and hiring, show no sign of an extended slowdown.

But the fact remains that this has been the most sluggish recovery since World War II.  The strong dollar hasn’t helped, as that impedes American exports, and other economies have been less than robust in recent years, including China’s.  The Obama administration’s big-government, big-deficit, big-regulation policies sure haven’t helped either.

One thing is certain, however, the Fed won’t be raising interest rates in June as had once been thought it might. And with interest rates in the cellar, the stock market is likely to remain at near record levels.

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Joseph Epstein: I’d Be Lost Without COMMENTARY

Edward Shils noted that there are four means of education in the modern world: the classroom, bookstores (especially used-bookstores), the conversation of intelligent friends, and intellectual magazines. For me intellectual magazines were more important than any of the other three, and no magazine among them more so than COMMENTARY. I first happened on COMMENTARY as a student browsing in the University of Chicago Bookstore in 1957. I have not missed an issue since. The magazine spoke to my intellectual interests and passions, and still does. As a reader and as a writer, I should be lost without it.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

Edward Shils noted that there are four means of education in the modern world: the classroom, bookstores (especially used-bookstores), the conversation of intelligent friends, and intellectual magazines. For me intellectual magazines were more important than any of the other three, and no magazine among them more so than COMMENTARY. I first happened on COMMENTARY as a student browsing in the University of Chicago Bookstore in 1957. I have not missed an issue since. The magazine spoke to my intellectual interests and passions, and still does. As a reader and as a writer, I should be lost without it.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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The Mercenary Heart of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Charity

The latest story coming out of the Clinton Cash furor doesn’t involve the serious charges of a conflict of interest that have been revealed by follow-up investigations since the publication of Peter Schweizer’s book. Unlike those shocking instances in which donors to the Clinton Foundation sought and may well have received favors from the Hillary Clinton State Department, today’s New York Times feature about the ex-president’s appearance at a far smaller charity’s fundraising dinner doesn’t involve government action. But it does tell us not only about Bill Clinton’s mercenary approach to philanthropy but the way the former First Family’s slush fund disguised as a charity has profiteered at the expense of actual charities. There is no “smoking gun” of corruption here. But what it does provide us with is insight into their character and the raging hypocrisy at the core of everything they do.

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The latest story coming out of the Clinton Cash furor doesn’t involve the serious charges of a conflict of interest that have been revealed by follow-up investigations since the publication of Peter Schweizer’s book. Unlike those shocking instances in which donors to the Clinton Foundation sought and may well have received favors from the Hillary Clinton State Department, today’s New York Times feature about the ex-president’s appearance at a far smaller charity’s fundraising dinner doesn’t involve government action. But it does tell us not only about Bill Clinton’s mercenary approach to philanthropy but the way the former First Family’s slush fund disguised as a charity has profiteered at the expense of actual charities. There is no “smoking gun” of corruption here. But what it does provide us with is insight into their character and the raging hypocrisy at the core of everything they do.

The story involves Bill Clinton’s appearance at the annual dinner of the Happy Hearts Fund in June of last year. Happy Hearts is a relatively small-scale charity — when compared to the billions raised by the Clinton Foundation — that builds schools in Indonesia and Thailand. It was founded by Czech model Petra Nemcova in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in which she nearly lost her life. She had tried to get Clinton to appear at her dinner for years, but it was only last year that she succeeded. How did she do it? By writing a check for $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

There’s nothing illegal about that. But it is, as a scholar who studies the world of philanthropy told the Times, “distasteful.”

That’s true. But actually it’s much worse than that.

Happy Hearts is a celebrity vehicle for Nemcova and the transaction between her and Clinton was pretty straightforward. For a half million dollars, she purchased a few hours of the 42nd president’s time and his far greater celebrity appeal. That raised her personal profile and, no doubt, helped make her dinner a greater social and economic success, though it’s hard to imagine that Clinton’s presence brought in enough contributors to make up for the enormous investment in quid pro quo that Nemcova’s contribution to his foundation represents. But it must be admitted that it shows that while the Clinton Foundation is a thinly disguised political slush fund for the Clintons, its fundraising efforts are not based on deception. Donors pay for the privilege of being around the Clintons or having them do favors which can take the form of appearances at charity affairs like that of Nemcova or assisting — or at least not obstructing — the sale of a uranium mine to Russia. None of his big donors are deceived about what they are buying when they give the Clintons money.

But the main point to be gleaned from this incident isn’t just that Clinton has established a lucrative personal appearance business that beggars anything ever attempted by any other retired public official, let alone a former commander-in-chief. The problem is that Happy Hearts is a real charity that does hands-on good works in the Third World. The Clinton Foundation is, at best, a charitable middleman, that funds events where people talk about charity and how best to strategize its implementation. As we’ve learned since Schweizer’s book appearance, the foundation does relatively little actual charity work on its own. Only ten percent of the vast sums it raises from the wealthy and the powerful around the world is spent on charitable efforts. The rest goes to funding conferences where the Clintons and their donors pose as philanthropists and to pay the salaries and travel expenses of those who work for the foundation. That means the money goes to feather the nests of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and, to a lesser extent, does the same for many of their faithful family retainers such as Clinton attack machine hit man Sidney Blumenthal.

So while the large army of Clinton fans and apologists can say that there is nothing illegal going on here, what they aren’t saying is that the Clintons don’t merely leech off the rich. They also live off of the money they extract from smaller charities that do real good works. That’s not merely “distasteful,” it’s disgraceful and unethical.

It should also be noted that Haitian protesters picketed Clinton’s appearance at the Happy Hearts dinner. His questionable conduct in his role as the gatekeeper for rebuilding efforts since a 2010 earthquake in that country has also gained wider notice since Clinton Cash was published. That effort has done little good for Haitians but others, such as Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary’s brother, have profited from it. As the Times notes, the Haitians jeered the ex-president crying, “Clinton, where is the money? In whose pockets?”

Those are good questions.

This story would be discreditable were it to be the case for anyone involved in such a tawdry affair. But if we have come to the point where such behavior is not considered at least an impediment to election to the presidency then we have come a long way down the road to moral decay even since the Clinton family’s first exploration of what Bill Bennett called “The Death of Outrage.”

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Obama Has Given Up on Iraq

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was busy yesterday commenting on the calamitous situation in Iraq—and in the process making it even worse. Read More

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was busy yesterday commenting on the calamitous situation in Iraq—and in the process making it even worse.

He told Fox News: “The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.”

And then on NPR he rejected calls to send 25,000 or so troops to Iraq, saying:

We are unwilling to dedicate that kind of blood and treasure to Iraq again. We saw what the result of that previous investment was. And that is not discounting the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform – they had a substantial impact on the security situation there. But the Iraqi people, and because of the failed leadership of Prime Minister Maliki, was not able to capitalize on it.

So our strategy right now is predicated on building up the capacity of those local forces and giving them another opportunity to control the security situation inside their own country and to do so with the support of the United States and our coalition partners. But we’re not going to be able to do it for them.

This comes only days after Defense Secretary Ash Carter excoriated Iraqi troops for their lack of will to fight. What does it say about the US will to fight when the White House spokesman is saying that Iraq is so unimportant that we will not take any responsibility for the outcome there? That we are not willing to dedicate American “blood and treasure” to defeat ISIS?

The obvious takeaway is that this White House has little will or desire to oppose ISIS — that this president doesn’t see the destruction of ISIS as an important US national security objective even though that is exactly what he pledged to achieve. Once again, there is a major disconnect between the president’s strong rhetoric (“we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” he promised on Sept. 10), and his anemic actions that can only cause a further loss of American credibility.

Another obvious takeaway is that not even the failure of Obama’s present strategy will cause him to rethink his approach. The loss of Ramadi has not shaken him out of his complacency. He’s willing to send 3,000 advisers and some warplanes under very restrictive rules of engagement, but that’s about it. Beyond that, the Iraqis are on their own. The White House just doesn’t care that much.

That’s quite a message to send to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been deployed to Iraq since 2003, and especially to the relatives of the 4,491 who gave their lives there (as well as the tens of thousands wounded, many severely). Obama, via his spokesman, seems to be saying that their sacrifices didn’t matter much because the US has no overriding security interest in Iraq.

That is also the message that Obama is sending, of course, to those US military personnel currently deployed to Iraq. One can only imagine what it does for their morale to hear the chief spokesman of their commander-in-chief — the man who sent them into harm’s way — explaining how unimportant their mission is.

But the worst effect of Josh Earnest’s seeming sangfroid about the future of Iraq is the message that he sends to Iraqis themselves. They are caught between two blood-thirsty ogres: ISIS and Iran. The US is the only outside force that could conceivably bolster a third alternative — a more moderate alternative — that would have wide appeal to Iraqis. That’s what we were doing until 2012, and with considerable success. But Obama was not willing to play that role anymore. He pulled out US troops and not even the consequent rise of ISIS is causing him to making a serious commitment.

So what he is basically signaling to Iraqis is that they need to choose sides among the outside powers that, unlike the U.S., ARE willing to risk blood and treasure in Iraq. Inevitably that means Sunnis will choose to go with ISIS and Shiites with Iran’s Quds Force.

It’s astonishing that even after all these years in power President Obama and his aides still have not grasped the importance of displaying presidential will in warfare. The lack of that will has already undermined the US mission in Afghanistan (remember that 18-month timeline on the surge that Obama ordered in 2009?) and it is now making progress hard to imagine in Iraq, much less in Syria.

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Are Rick Santorum’s Liberal Economic Preferences Really Smart Politics?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul earned quite a bit of well-deserved grief when he bizarrely and baselessly accused his fellow Republicans of giving life to the ISIS threat. He does, however, deserve quite a bit of credit for advancing the Republican Party’s agenda both culturally and politically in a way that other Republicans do not. Read More

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul earned quite a bit of well-deserved grief when he bizarrely and baselessly accused his fellow Republicans of giving life to the ISIS threat. He does, however, deserve quite a bit of credit for advancing the Republican Party’s agenda both culturally and politically in a way that other Republicans do not.

Paul’s deft defense of his principled pro-life stance compelled the political press to turn the tables on Democratic figures like Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who traditionally demagogues the issue of abortion rights unchecked by a critical media. What’s more, the junior Kentucky senator’s devotion to the cause of minority outreach is exemplary. Both Paul’s mission and his style of execution are worthy of emulation, and the entire 2016 Republican field would do well to consider following his lead.

It is, however, objectively true that Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions do not reflect consensus opinion among his party’s voters. If Rand Paul regards the 2003 Iraq War and the ensuing aftermath as a mistake, he shares that opinion with only 28 percent of his fellow Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released on Thursday. By contrast, 78 percent of self-identified Democrats share the view that the Iraq War was a mistake. The senator’s views on the war and its still reverberating impacts are more closely aligned with the opposition than the members of his own party.

Similarly, another Republican presidential aspirant has determined to tether his political fortunes to a set of policy positions that could be, or at least should be, out of step with the rest of his party.

Sen. Rick Santorum is generally known for his socially conservative views on a variety of divisive subjects like abortion and same-sex marriage, but it is his economic vision that most defines him as a Republican presidential candidate.

“Regardless of what people think about Rick, and I know a lot of people in Manhattan may not like him, he’s got the best message — the best economic message — for Republicans,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough insisted on Friday. Santorum had just joined the MSNBC panel where discussed his economic platform, much of which he espoused in 2012. Some of Santorum’s policy preferences include providing tax incentives to manufacturers, eliminating tax breaks for firms that contract out or ship manufacturing work abroad, casting a skeptical eye toward free trade, and hiking the federal minimum wage.

On the most divisive free trade agreements, it would be difficult to identify where Santorum’s policy preferences diverge from those of Vermont’s self-described socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. In the U.S. Senate, Santorum voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement. Apparently, his views on free trade have not changed in the last 22 years. Though he told Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle that he generally favors trade, Santorum remains opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement because the president who would be negotiating the deal “has not proven to be reliable or trustworthy.” But the former senator objected to NAFTA not because Bill Clinton would sign it (many of the terms were negotiated during George H. W. Bush’s administration), but because it would “produce pockets of winners and losers across the country” and his state would be in the latter group.

In 2014, Santorum told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that his party’s opposition to hiking the minimum wage “makes no sense,” and added that he believes at least 7 and preferably 9 percent of the nation should be covered by the minimum wage. “Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue collar guy but we’re against any minimum wage hike ever,” Santorum said. The presumption that a minimum wage hike helps workers rather than creates incentives for their employers to automate and thus eliminate their positions is fallacious.

Santorum’s policy preferences are based not in sound market economics, but in a gauzy and romantic reflection on an idealized American past epitomized by a manufacturing-based economy that no longer exists. To sustain that fantasy, Santorum would use tax breaks, trade impediments, and market-distorting incentives to retain the low-skill employment opportunities that have already largely gone overseas. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Scarborough embraced the GOP candidate with the most programmatically liberal economic positions in the race.

There are some who contend that Santorum’s policy preferences might not be economically conservative, but they at least smart politics. Republicans suffer from the dubious but prolific perception that theirs is the party of the rich, and Santorum is focused squarely on attracting middle and even low-income voters. There’s just one problem with this theory: The voters Santorum are trying to attract are already in the GOP’s corner.

As National Journal’s Ron Brownstein observed, the majority of the Republican Party’s gains since 2010 have come from predominantly blue-collar areas of the country with a majority white or aging population. “These voters, and particularly those well above the poverty line, began to shift toward the GOP decades ago, but in recent years that shift has become progressively more pronounced,” Emerging Democratic Majority co-author John Judis wrote of the working-class white voters who primarily occupy “blue-collar and lower-income service jobs.” Indeed, one of the most staggering developments of the Obama era is that states like Wisconsin and Michigan, places where the labor movement in America was born, are now Right to Work states. As the labor union movement has dissolved, so has the Republican Party’s appeal to traditionally pro-labor constituencies.

If one were comparing outreach strategies, it’s hard not to conclude that Rand Paul’s is infinitely more valuable to the GOP than is Santorum’s. The former Pennsylvania senator is reaching out to voters who are already receptive to the Republican message.

If Santorum did not hold traditionally conservative views on value issues as well as on foreign policy, it would not be unfair to question whether his policy preferences are a good fit for his party. His economic philosophy is not all that dramatically divergent from the left. Perhaps this is why, now that he is contending with stiff competition for the values vote from candidates like Mike Huckabee, Santorum struggles to even register in the polls of Republican primary voters despite the fact that he won 11 states and nearly 20 percent of their vote just three and a half years ago.

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What the Palestinian Soccer Attack Meant

In the end, the Palestinians backed down on their attempt to get Israel expelled from FIFA, international soccer’s ruling body. Former terrorist Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian soccer federation, told the FIFA Congress today that, under pressure from other countries, he withdrew the request for a vote on Israel’s expulsion. For the moment, that ends the threat the Jewish state will be thrown out of the governing body of the world’s most popular sport. That’s a great relief to Israelis who were rightly concerned about the possibility of a step that would be an emotional blow to the country as well as a highly symbolic move that would accelerate the movement to isolate it. But no one should think this marks the end of the campaign against Israeli soccer. More to the point, it’s important to unravel the origins of this dispute and what it means. The effort to kick the Israelis out of world soccer is just one more indication that the Middle East conflict isn’t about borders or settlements but a desire to wipe Israel off the map.

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In the end, the Palestinians backed down on their attempt to get Israel expelled from FIFA, international soccer’s ruling body. Former terrorist Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian soccer federation, told the FIFA Congress today that, under pressure from other countries, he withdrew the request for a vote on Israel’s expulsion. For the moment, that ends the threat the Jewish state will be thrown out of the governing body of the world’s most popular sport. That’s a great relief to Israelis who were rightly concerned about the possibility of a step that would be an emotional blow to the country as well as a highly symbolic move that would accelerate the movement to isolate it. But no one should think this marks the end of the campaign against Israeli soccer. More to the point, it’s important to unravel the origins of this dispute and what it means. The effort to kick the Israelis out of world soccer is just one more indication that the Middle East conflict isn’t about borders or settlements but a desire to wipe Israel off the map.

In the end, as Ben Cohen predicted here earlier this week, the corruption scandal that has devastated FIFA may have played a role in the pressure exerted on the Palestinians to stand down. With the entire structure of world soccer tottering, the last thing FIFA needed was a boycott of Israel that might have triggered counter-measures by friends of the Jewish state and embroiled it in a dispute that would have done it little good.

Moreover, the core dispute between Israel and those in charge of Palestinian soccer had already been resolved before the FIFA Congress convened. The Israeli government offered to set up a process by which Palestinian soccer players could move more easily between the West Bank and Gaza as well as between the territories and Israel. The difficulties players encounter is an annoyance but was caused by the constant threat of Palestinian terrorism directed against Israel. Moreover, on top of that the Israelis also offered to make it easier to import soccer equipment into the West Bank and to help facilitate the construction of sports facilities for Palestinians. Those moves, which went above and beyond what reasonable observers, would expect Israel to make under the circumstances. But the resolution of the transit issue wasn’t the Palestinian goal since they persisted in their expulsion effort even after these concessions were offered.

This is important because it shows that this dispute is no different from any other element of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Every time Israel makes a concession, whether by setting up the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords, offering statehood as it first did in 2000 or withdrawing from all of Gaza, it not only gets no credit. Israel’s willingness to be compromise only seems to generate more hostility from its foes and their foreign cheerleaders.

The problems of athletes was only a pretext for another straightforward effort to ostracize the Jewish state and stemmed from a political culture that regards the war on Zionism to be indistinguishable from the assertion of Palestinian identity. Indeed, after Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian soccer federation announced at the FIFA Congress that he was backing off on the expulsion effort, his Israeli counterpart Ofer Eini asked him to join him on the podium and shake hands. Rajoub refused and went on to insist on what was really the core demand that he was shooting for: Forcing the Israelis to disband five youth teams that exist in West Bank settlements.

It’s instructive to note that of the five teams, only one (in Kiryat Arba) is located in a place that is not in a Jerusalem suburb or settlement bloc close to the 1967 lines that everyone, even President Obama, concedes would remain part of Israel in the event that a peace deal was ever signed. But what the Palestinians want is to delegitimize these players as well as all those in Israel. Doing so does nothing for Palestinian sports but it does advance an agenda whose only purpose is to falsely brand Israel a pariah state.

As I wrote earlier this month, Rajoub is no former jock or veteran sports executive but rather someone who earned his prestigious post by taking part in and planning terror attacks as well as serving as an aide to Yasir Arafat. For the Palestinians, sport is, like every other aspect of society, just another venue for pursuing their goal of eradicating Israel. Rajoub said himself that “resistance” — which Palestinians define as the effort to destroy Israel and not force it out of the West Bank — will continue. Rajoub’s stand is part of a general campaign among Palestinians to stamp out all efforts to foster co-existence even as Israelis try to reach across the divide between the two peoples.

It is to be hoped that FIFA will continue to refuse to be co-opted into the war on Israel, but optimism about that may be unfounded. The effort to ostracize Israel is fueled by a rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and Asia. If, at a future FIFA Congress, a secret ballot vote is taken on expelling Israel, there’s no telling whether it would succeed. But before that happens, the United States and other Western countries that claim to support peace should send a clear message to the Palestinians that they will pay a price in terms of aid and diplomatic support if they persist in such efforts. The failure to do so will not only ensure future soccer disputes but also explains why the Palestinians believe there is no cost attached to their obstruction of peace talks and support for terrorism.

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Donald Rumsfeld: COMMENTARY’s Defense of Freedom Is Eloquent, Urgent

For more than 60 years, COMMENTARY has been a go-to source on matters of the greatest importance to our nation and our civilization. Today, its full-throated defense of the United States and freedom is as eloquent as it was a half-century ago, and no less urgent. Issues of the day will change, news cycles come and go, but COMMENTARY remains an indispensable authority in the battle of ideas that help to shape our world. Its continued success is both an indication, and source, of the country’s intellectual health.
2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

For more than 60 years, COMMENTARY has been a go-to source on matters of the greatest importance to our nation and our civilization. Today, its full-throated defense of the United States and freedom is as eloquent as it was a half-century ago, and no less urgent. Issues of the day will change, news cycles come and go, but COMMENTARY remains an indispensable authority in the battle of ideas that help to shape our world. Its continued success is both an indication, and source, of the country’s intellectual health.
2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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ISIS’s First Foreign War

The ISIS proto-state knows how to fight a war. Following the group’s successful simultaneous assaults on Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, ISIS is pressing its advantage. On Thursday, twin car bombs exploded in the center of Baghdad. The attacks targeted the Babylon Hotel, a landmark located on the Tigris River across from the massive United States embassy facility in what used to be the city’s Green Zone. The attack killed 10 and wounded at least 30. A third car bomb that Baghdad police found in the hotel parking lot failed to detonate, or the toll would have been higher. Read More

The ISIS proto-state knows how to fight a war. Following the group’s successful simultaneous assaults on Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, ISIS is pressing its advantage. On Thursday, twin car bombs exploded in the center of Baghdad. The attacks targeted the Babylon Hotel, a landmark located on the Tigris River across from the massive United States embassy facility in what used to be the city’s Green Zone. The attack killed 10 and wounded at least 30. A third car bomb that Baghdad police found in the hotel parking lot failed to detonate, or the toll would have been higher.

Foreign affairs analysts have long suspected that ISIS, a primarily Sunni insurgency, cannot capture a sprawling city like Baghdad with its massive Shia-dominated neighborhoods. ISIS’s logistical lines would be too long, the indigenous resistance too fierce, and the cost in lives suffered by the terrorist group’s relatively modest forces too staggering for the city to fall. But others have speculated that ISIS does not need a 10,000-strong occupational force to crush the Baghdad’s will to resist; its present strategy of weakening the city’s defenses with high-yield, low-tech car bombs, and the infiltration of ISIS insurgents into the city concealed in the waves of refugees displaced from Western Iraq will eventually wear down the city’s defenses until the street fighting can begin in earnest.

While ISIS’s threat to Iraq’s greatest city is of grave concern, what should perhaps be more troubling is the Islamic State’s determination to export terrorism abroad. The Sunni insurgency demonstrated that it possesses not only the will but also the capability to mount an expeditionary terrorist campaign.

Last week, ahead of Friday prayers, a Saudi Arabian citizen walked into a mosque in the Kingdom’s Shia-dominated city of Qatif and blew himself up. The suicide assault on the Shiite mosque killed 21 and injured scores more. Shortly after that, the Saudi Kingdom confirmed the accuracy of ISIS’s claim to have orchestrated that attack.

The Saudi foreign ministry soon identified the explosives used in that attack as RDX, a military-grade compound also used in commercial demolition that is the basic chemical used to make C-4 and Semtex high explosives.

It was the largest terrorist attack on the Saudi state since 2004 when al-Qaeda militants targeted a foreign workers compound. “Unlike that attack over a decade ago, Friday’s strike targeted members of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority — a sect that both the Islamic State group and ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia regularly denounce as heretics,” Fox News reported. Also unlike 2004, ISIS was able to repeat the feat just one week later.

On Friday, another ISIS-linked Saudi man approached a Shia mosque in the city of Dammam. Heightened security ensured that he could not enter that religious facility and, faced with insurmountable adversity, the attacker detonated his suicide explosives in the mosque’s parking lot. Four were killed in that attack, but the death toll would have been much higher had the yet-unidentified terrorist been allowed to enter the mosque.

These attacks come just one month after the Saudi Kingdom reportedly foiled an ISIS-led plot to target the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh with a suicide car bomb. 77 of the 93 people arrested in connection with that attack were reportedly Saudi nationals.

The attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority are not just tactically deft; they are strategically shrewd. Saudi Arabia is presently leading what can only be described as a coalition of Sunni-dominated Middle Eastern nations in a proxy war in Yemen against forces funded, trained, and supported by Shiite-led Iran. Exacerbating internal sectarian tensions inside Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and a key Western ally for generations, would weaken the Saudi state considerably.

It is difficult to envision the collapse of the Saudi government amid internal tension and external pressure from antagonistic insurgencies presently occupying territory on Saudi Arabia’s northern and southern borders. It is similarly hard to imagine Baghdad falling to the nascent terrorist state. But ISIS has demonstrated that it does not lack for inventiveness and vision. A strategy aimed at igniting sectarian tensions in Saudi Arabia has the same prospects for success in Baghdad, where the heavy hand of Tehran-backed Shiite militias is acutely felt in the city’s Sunni neighborhoods. By contrast, the West’s luminaries have comforted themselves only months ago with the notion that many of ISIS’s present victories were impossible to achieve. Perhaps it is time for Western leaders to start entertaining the possibility that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophies of those who write for The Daily Beast.

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If Obama Wants a Nuclear Deal, He Must Free Iran’s U.S. Hostages

After having consistently outmaneuvered, out-negotiated and out-waited President Obama during the course of the last two years of negotiations over their nuclear program, Iran’s leaders think they are holding all the cards as the clock ticks down toward a June 30 deadline to complete a pact with the West. They may be right about that but not content with merely taking advantage of Obama’s zeal for a deal as they have throughout the process, the Iranians are also reminding the U.S. that they have other forms of leverage: American hostages. The plight of imprisoned Washington Post report Jason Rezaian has gotten increased coverage in recent weeks as Tehran prepared to bring him to trial on bogus espionage charges before a revolutionary court judge known for harsh sentences. The message to Obama was clear. Don’t try to hold our feet to the fire on key nuclear issues such as inspections or the snapping back of sanctions or we will make Americans in our hands pay the price of your principles. His message in reply should be equally clear: Release the hostages now or forget about the economic windfall that will be yours if the nuclear deal is passed by Congress. That such a response from Washington is unthinkable tells us all we need to know about how the current weak deal was negotiated.

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After having consistently outmaneuvered, out-negotiated and out-waited President Obama during the course of the last two years of negotiations over their nuclear program, Iran’s leaders think they are holding all the cards as the clock ticks down toward a June 30 deadline to complete a pact with the West. They may be right about that but not content with merely taking advantage of Obama’s zeal for a deal as they have throughout the process, the Iranians are also reminding the U.S. that they have other forms of leverage: American hostages. The plight of imprisoned Washington Post report Jason Rezaian has gotten increased coverage in recent weeks as Tehran prepared to bring him to trial on bogus espionage charges before a revolutionary court judge known for harsh sentences. The message to Obama was clear. Don’t try to hold our feet to the fire on key nuclear issues such as inspections or the snapping back of sanctions or we will make Americans in our hands pay the price of your principles. His message in reply should be equally clear: Release the hostages now or forget about the economic windfall that will be yours if the nuclear deal is passed by Congress. That such a response from Washington is unthinkable tells us all we need to know about how the current weak deal was negotiated.

That Rezaian, Pastor Saeed Abedini and businessman Amir Hekmati are all hostages is not in doubt. The trumped up charges on which they are all held are transparent efforts to gain leverage over the United States. As with other cases of Americans held by Iran, we know the only way they will ever gain their freedom is if the United States buys it.

In the past, this has generally been in the form of American concessions to the Iranians on whatever issues or disputes that existed between the two governments. That’s the same pattern that applied during the nuclear talks when Obama steadily retreated form positions demanding the end of Iran’s nuclear program and wound up endorsing a deal that left them in possession of thousands of centrifuges, continuing their research in a pact that will eventually expire and let Tehran do as it likes.

The problem wasn’t just Iran’s tough minded negotiating style but an administration that acted as if a deal that would end the Islamist regime’s economic isolation was wanted more desperately by the United States than the ayatollahs. That’s why Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been laying down markers about the agreement as part of the prelude to the final weeks of talks. By demonstrating his unwillingness to contemplate the sort of inspections and sanctions rules that the president has said are required for the completion of the agreement, Khamenei has dared Obama to walk away from what would obviously be a bad deal. But since he knows that Obama regards a nuclear-based entente with Iran as essential to his vision of American policy in the Middle East, the chances that the president will make good on his threats are small.

The hostages are merely extra insurance for Iran. Just as Iran might allow Obama to get them to back down a smidge on their refusals on inspections to agree to a procedure that would still allow them to cheat, so, too, do they understand that throwing in these victims of circumstances might sweeten up even a bad deal enough to ensure that it gets through Congress one way or the other.

The problem here is not that Obama doesn’t want to win their freedom. It’s that he is going about in the wrong way. Instead of continuing to negotiate the text of the deal with their fate hanging in the balance, the president ought to be issuing some stern warnings of his own. The freedom of Rezaian, Abedini and Hekmati should be the price of continued American participation in the talks, not a present to be given or withheld from the U.S. if its representatives behave themselves in the negotiations. Without their freedom, the deal should not go forward.

Just as important, it should be made clear to the president by Congressional Democrats that he should not even bother submitting a deal for their approval if the hostages are not already safely released. The nuclear pact ought to be rejected on its own merits. But if Americans are still being held in Iran when it is considered, it ought to be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. Even more to the point, unless they are freed before the deal is sealed, Congress will know that the agreement will be one that ought never to have been signed.

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Why Won’t Obama and the Palestinians Push on Netanyahu’s Open Door?

Israel’s critics didn’t need much prompting to damn the latest government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But his appointment of tough-minded figures from his own party and inner circle to hold key foreign policy posts (as I pointed out here and here), has led to an increase of lamentations about the Israelis putting a fork in any hope for a two-state solution. But if they were listening closely to the prime minister’s statements in the last week, they would see he’s leaving the door wide open for a new round of peace. Earlier this week, Netanyahu stated his willingness to enter into talks about defining settlement blocs that would be kept by Israel and leaving open the possibility of settlement freezes elsewhere and with it the possibility of territorial compromise. Today, he doubled down on that by saying the “general idea” behind the 2002 Arab peace initiative was “a good idea.” But we didn’t have to wait long to learn that the Palestinians want no part of any new negotiations with the Israelis. The reason for that tells us more about their intentions than whether or not Netanyahu is being sincere.

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Israel’s critics didn’t need much prompting to damn the latest government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But his appointment of tough-minded figures from his own party and inner circle to hold key foreign policy posts (as I pointed out here and here), has led to an increase of lamentations about the Israelis putting a fork in any hope for a two-state solution. But if they were listening closely to the prime minister’s statements in the last week, they would see he’s leaving the door wide open for a new round of peace. Earlier this week, Netanyahu stated his willingness to enter into talks about defining settlement blocs that would be kept by Israel and leaving open the possibility of settlement freezes elsewhere and with it the possibility of territorial compromise. Today, he doubled down on that by saying the “general idea” behind the 2002 Arab peace initiative was “a good idea.” But we didn’t have to wait long to learn that the Palestinians want no part of any new negotiations with the Israelis. The reason for that tells us more about their intentions than whether or not Netanyahu is being sincere.

Netanyahu’s last minute pronouncement before the March election that a Palestinian state wouldn’t be created on his watch is still held against him by those urging a two-state solution. His subsequent explanation when he walked it back after winning was that all he was saying was that given the Palestinians refusal to talk or recognize Israel as a Jewish state, there was no way a peace deal could ever be concluded. He was right about that, but his bluntness about this obvious fact made it appear that he was opposed to a two-state solution in principle when his conduct during his previous three terms in office makes it clear that he has consistently shown a readiness to talk about the possibility.

So there should be no surprise that now that he’s safely back in office, he’s sending signals to Washington and the Arabs that they should try him. The settlement bloc proposal would, if the Obama administration or the Palestinians were serious about making incremental progress toward peace, be of special interest to them.

The question of the blocs has been part of the reality of the peace talks for the past 15 years. Israel’s retention of them was implicitly endorsed in a letter signed by President George W. Bush as part of Israel’ agreement to completely withdraw from Gaza. And even President Obama implied that Israel would keep them when he endorsed the concept of territorial swaps in the context of his advocacy of using the 1967 lines as the basis for future peace talks.

It is true that defining them would allow Israel to go on building there thus putting a stop to the pointless controversies with the Obama administration that have erupted every time homes are built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem or built-up communities close to the 67 lines. But defining them would also make it clear that all the settlements that are not included in the blocs are essentially on the table for withdrawal. That means a settlement freeze in areas that amount to most of the West Bank. It would also be a clear signal that a two-state solution in which the Palestinians would control that territory was theoretically in reach.

But the Palestinians want no part of it. Instead they repeated their old, tired demands for negotiations that would start on the basis of a complete Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem as well as the release of another batch of convicted terrorists. Moreover, even if an Israeli government was weak or insane enough to agree to negotiations in which they would be committing themselves to giving up all their chips in advance, that still doesn’t seem to be enough to persuade the Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas, to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.

The Palestinians say they won’t recognize Israel’s rights to any part of the West Bank or the parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967. For them, it is a zero-sum game in which they view the retention of any land by Israel, even in the context of a peace that would give them a state as intolerable. That is only understandable in the context of their repeated refusals of statehood and sovereignty over almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. They said no in 2000, 2001, and 2008, and refused to talk two states even when Netanyahu agreed to a U.S. framework for such a deal in 2013 and 2014.

The key point here is that if Obama were as dedicated to peace and defending Israel as he keeps telling us he is, he wouldn’t be lecturing the Israelis to live up to his ideas about them but prodding the Palestinians to take advantage of this opening. The president won’t because he is far too obsessed with scolding the Israelis than in recognizing thata Palestinian political culture that makes peace impossible is the real obstacle to an end of the conflict.

American critics of Netanyahu can be as cynical as they want about him and his flip-flopping about two states. But if they aren’t willing to push on the door he has opened for them, then their laments about his opposition to peace must be labeled as being far more insincere than anything he has said or done.

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An Heir But No Spare

The slow drip of scandal surrounding the Clintons continues apace.

Yesterday, a federal judge ordered the State Department to release the 55,000 emails that Hillary Clinton turned over as being concerned with official business on a monthly basis, all of them by next January, before the first primary. The 300 emails that the State Department released late on Friday afternoon last week (just before a three-day weekend, a classic ploy to minimize attention) proved more than newsworthy, so one can only wonder what is in the remaining 54,700.

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The slow drip of scandal surrounding the Clintons continues apace.

Yesterday, a federal judge ordered the State Department to release the 55,000 emails that Hillary Clinton turned over as being concerned with official business on a monthly basis, all of them by next January, before the first primary. The 300 emails that the State Department released late on Friday afternoon last week (just before a three-day weekend, a classic ploy to minimize attention) proved more than newsworthy, so one can only wonder what is in the remaining 54,700.

It has also come out that Bill Clinton formed a shell company in Delaware as a pass-through to receive income. Even more interesting is the fact that it was formed on December 3rd, 2008, two days after President-elect Obama named Hillary as his secretary of state.

And yesterday as Swiss authorities were rounding the upper echelons of FIFA, which governs professional soccer, for decades of corruption, it turns out that one of the major donors to the Clinton Foundation (between $250,000 and $500,000) is (wait for it!) FIFA. As Paul Mirengoff of Power Line puts it, “where’s there’s corruption, there’s the Clinton Foundation.”

Candidates can suddenly become non-viable. In 2002, Senator Bob Torricelli of New Jersey was running for re-election when it came out that David Chang, who had ties to North Korea, had made illegal campaign contributions to him. He had no choice but to withdraw and be replaced on the Democratic line by former Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Could it happen to Hillary? You bet. There is an ever-growing legion of reporters, sniffing blood, looking into the Clintons’ tangled affairs. The slow drip could turn into a torrent and Hillary might have no choice but to decide to spend more time with her grandchildren.

So it seems to me that the Democratic Party should follow the traditional plan of royalty and have both an heir and a spare.

But who could the spare be? Joe Biden? He would dearly love the job, but he’ll turn 74 in November, 2016, far older than any previous president’s first election, and he’s generally regarded as a bit of a joke. Elizabeth Warren? She’s no spring chicken herself at 65, and she’s so far to the left that she’d be George McGovern in a pants suit. Bernie Sanders? He’s announced, but he’ll be 75 on Election Day and he’s an avowed socialist who advocates a 90 percent tax rate for high earners. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland? Well, at least he’s not receiving Social Security (he’s 52).  But his own lieutenant governor couldn’t carry this deep blue state in last year’s election, despite O’Malley’s energetic campaigning for him. Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia? He’s a centrist, which means the Democratic base would go ballistic (not to mention stay home on Election Day).

Who else is there? I really can’t think of anyone.

The Democrats, in their own self-interest, had better start looking for a spare, in case the heir implodes.

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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.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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.

2015 Pledge Drive_green_thin

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The Small Man in Gracie Mansion

If Vox.com were granted the divine power to craft their perfect politician from scratch, the famously self-assured liberal website could still not have conceived of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A little man somehow occupying a grand office, the mayor occupies himself with every manner of minutia and frivolities – all of which he appears to think are of more importance than managing the affairs of the city he was elected to govern. Read More

If Vox.com were granted the divine power to craft their perfect politician from scratch, the famously self-assured liberal website could still not have conceived of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. A little man somehow occupying a grand office, the mayor occupies himself with every manner of minutia and frivolities – all of which he appears to think are of more importance than managing the affairs of the city he was elected to govern.The progressive’s progressive, de Blasio wages a relentless war on progress. The latest front in the battle to contain the excesses of innovation comes in the form of the mayor’s determination to regulate the competing ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber. In a gift to the city’s Paleolithic livery drivers’ union, de Blasio has proposed compelling these services to cough up $1,000 to the city in order to get approval to upgrade the user interface on their smartphone applications. The proposal is a stab at the heart of these services’ ability to innovate. What is today a process that develops at the speed of thought and ingenuity would, under the mayor’s proposal, become a draconian slog through a bureaucratic morass.

And what problem is the mayor addressing? Only something as comparatively trivial as political constituency maintenance. “The spat puts de Blasio in the middle of a fight between the technology industry, which accounts for about 300,000 jobs and $30 billion in yearly wages, and cab companies that contributed more than $500,000 of the $10.6 million he raised in his campaign,” Bloomberg reported. The aim is not to help the majority of New York City residents make use of this service, but to prevent them from accessing it.

“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The Bill de Blasios of the world are now The Man; the Ubers and Lyfts of the world are the rebels,” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke opined. “We now have a clear choice as to how our future will look: Will it resemble the taxi commissions and the labor unions and the government departments that were founded in the 1930s, or will it resemble Silicon Valley?”

But that’s not the only minor irritation presently consuming parochial liberal bloggers that New York City is compelled to address. A report in the website Gothamist revealed that the latest paranoid fad of the feminist left has actually become something of a policing priority. The Police Reform Organizing Project revealed recently that the NYPD recently arrested two men for the crime of “man spreading,” or the scourge of men failing to demurely close their knees, while riding on the subway.

“On a recent visit to the arraignment part in Brooklyn’s criminal court, PROP volunteers observed that police officers had arrested two Latino men on the charge of ‘man spreading’ on the subway, presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders,” the organization’s report read. “Before issuing an [adjournment contemplating dismissal] for both men, the judge expressed her skepticism about the charge because of the time of the arrests: ‘12:11AM, I can’t believe there were many people on the subway’”

The trivialities that serve as prohibitive preoccupations for outrage-stoking Jezebel bloggers are now the subject of quality of life policing. All the while, actual quality of life policing cannot be performed, lest the city and its police force be accused by those same peevish scribes of some or another form of racism, classism, or “hobophobia.”

A source of graver concern for this mayor should be the spiking homicide rate; a statistic on the rise not merely in the outer boroughs alone. “Murders are way up so far this year in Manhattan,” the New York Post reported this week. “Sixteen people were killed around the borough between the first of the year and Sunday. Over the same period last year, the figure was 11. That’s an increase of about 45 percent. Shootings in the borough have also soared.”

In a city in which the mayor and his police force are forever at odds – a conflict that led to a veritable police strike in protest – you might think that de Blasio would be wracked with concern over the city’s future. You would be wrong.

“After 16 months as mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio seems determined to escape the confines of his day job and to prompt a national liberal movement — even as he leaves himself open to criticism that he is not making problems at home a priority,” the New York Times reported last month. The city’s mayor today spends his time crafting liberal manifestos with the likes of Susan Sarandon and Van Jones, giving mock presidential campaign speeches in Iowa, and reveling in the attention lavished upon him by a brazenly left-of-center press.

Great cities deserve great mayors, and they have a way of making petty men appear that much smaller. Today, it should be perfectly apparent to most observers that there is a very small man in Gracie Mansion.

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Amnesty’s Reports on Hamas Refute Its Allegations Against Israel

Over the past two months, Amnesty International has quietly confirmed nearly all of Israel’s main claims about Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s war in Gaza. Yet the organization still lacks the intellectual honesty to admit that its findings about Hamas completely undercut its main allegations against Israel – made vociferously both at the time and in a series of reports last fall and winter.

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Over the past two months, Amnesty International has quietly confirmed nearly all of Israel’s main claims about Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s war in Gaza. Yet the organization still lacks the intellectual honesty to admit that its findings about Hamas completely undercut its main allegations against Israel – made vociferously both at the time and in a series of reports last fall and winter.

Amnesty turned its attention to Hamas only after months of reporting on alleged Israeli crimes. First came a March report on Hamas’s rocket fire, then one this week on its extrajudicial killings of alleged collaborators. Each undercuts a key claim against Israel.

The most interesting finding in the March report was that Hamas’s rockets killed more civilians in Gaza than they did in Israel. Altogether, Amnesty said, the rockets killed six Israeli civilians and “at least” 13 Palestinian civilians. Where did the latter figure come from? From a single misfired rocket that killed 13 civilians in the Al-Shati refugee camp. In other words, Amnesty didn’t bother checking to see whether other Hamas rockets also killed civilians; it simply cited the one case it couldn’t possibly ignore, because it was reported in real time by a foreign journalist at the scene.

But according to Israel Defense Forces figures, roughly 550 rockets and mortars fired at Israel fell short and landed in Gaza, including 119 that hit urban areas. And it defies belief to think those other 549 rockets and mortars produced no casualties.

After all, unlike Israel, Gaza has no civil defense system whatsoever. A 2014 study found that Israel’s civil defense measures reduced casualties from the rocket fire on sparsely populated southern Israel by a whopping 86%. But Gaza has no Iron Dome to intercept missiles, no warning sirens to alert civilians to incoming rockets, and no bomb shelters for civilians to run to even if they were warned. Thus in densely populated Gaza, with no civil defense measures, those misfired rockets would almost certainly have killed at least dozens, and quite possibly hundreds, of civilians.

One of the main claims against Israel made by Amnesty and other human rights groups is that it caused excessive civilian casualties. Most such groups simply parrot the UN claim (which came straight from Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry) that 67% of the 2,200 casualties were civilians; Israel has consistently said the civilian-to-combatant kill ratio was roughly 1:1. While there are many reasons to think the Israeli figure is closer to the truth, even the UN/Palestinian ratio of 2:1 would be drastically lower than the international norm of 3:1.

But once you acknowledge that some portion of those civilian casualties was actually caused by misfired Hamas rockets rather than Israeli strikes, then the claim of excessive civilian casualties becomes even more untenable. Indeed, it means the civilian-to-combatant fatality ratio from Israeli strikes was likely even below 1:1.

Then there’s Amnesty’s report this week on Hamas’s extrajudicial executions. Its most interesting finding, as Elhanan Miller reported in the Times of Israel, is that “Hamas used abandoned sections of Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa, ‘to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical center.’”

That goes to the heart of the other main allegation against Israel made by Amnesty and its fellows: that Israel repeatedly targeted civilian buildings rather sticking to military targets. Israel countered that these “civilian” buildings doubled as military facilities – weapons storehouses, command and control centers, etc. – and were, therefore, legitimate military targets, but human rights groups pooh-poohed that claim.

Now, however, Amnesty has admitted that Hamas used Gaza’s main hospital as a detention, interrogation and torture center. And if Hamas was misusing a hospital in this way, it defies belief to think it wasn’t similarly misusing other civilian buildings for military purposes. Once you admit that Hamas did so once, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do so again. And, in that case, the allegation that Israel wantonly attacked civilian structures also collapses.

Thus in its reports on Hamas, Amnesty has effectively demolished its two main allegations against Israel. And if it had a shred of honor and decency left, it would admit it. But, needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.

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Does Hillary Clinton Think Bill Clinton’s Presidency Was a Disaster?

If and when journalists get the chance to sit down across from Hillary Clinton, they will have a bear of a time picking and choosing the subjects on which to grill her. From her private email server, to her family foundation’s myriad improprieties, to the increasingly deteriorating global security situation that began its backwards slide under her watch as America’s chief diplomat; reporters have an embarrassment of riches in the form of issues on which to press Clinton. But the Steve Krofts of the world like to take a 30,000-foot perspective in the gauzy profile packages to which American television audiences will be privy, and the granular details above might seem to Clinton’s interlocutors minutia that won’t capture the viewer’s attention. In order to sate the press’s desire to both make news and to ensure the viewing audience doesn’t tune out, I’d submit the following question: Does Hillary Clinton believe her husband’s presidency set the Democratic Party back?

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If and when journalists get the chance to sit down across from Hillary Clinton, they will have a bear of a time picking and choosing the subjects on which to grill her. From her private email server, to her family foundation’s myriad improprieties, to the increasingly deteriorating global security situation that began its backwards slide under her watch as America’s chief diplomat; reporters have an embarrassment of riches in the form of issues on which to press Clinton. But the Steve Krofts of the world like to take a 30,000-foot perspective in the gauzy profile packages to which American television audiences will be privy, and the granular details above might seem to Clinton’s interlocutors minutia that won’t capture the viewer’s attention. In order to sate the press’s desire to both make news and to ensure the viewing audience doesn’t tune out, I’d submit the following question: Does Hillary Clinton believe her husband’s presidency set the Democratic Party back?

Of course, Clinton’s reflexive answer would be an emphatic “no.” She might also posture indignantly for effect, a road-worn tactic that nevertheless retains its inexplicable ability to spook reporters into apologetic retreat. But there is precious little evidence that Clinton really does believe her husband’s presidency was a success. In fact, there are many indications that would lead a neutral observer to conclude that Bill Clinton’s presidency is anathema to modern Democrats.

Bill Clinton was elected to office as a Southern Democratic centrist with the aid of the Democratic Leadership Council, a policy shop designed to help rehabilitate a party brand that was at the time still reeling from the Jimmy Carter-era perception that it had become too liberal to represent the nation. Political observers had every reason to believe that, despite his 370 Electoral College vote victory, Clinton’s election was no mandate for Democrats but rather a rejection of George H. W. Bush. Clinton won merely 43 percent of the popular vote in a three-way race, and only won his party’s nomination after a come from behind victory over the more doctrinaire liberals seeking the nomination. If Clinton had a mandate, it was to govern from the center. With the exception of his pursuit of a significant tax hike in 1993, that’s precisely what he did.

Fast-forward to today, and Hillary Clinton has been compelled on a variety of occasions to renounce her husband’s greatest achievements. In the wake of the unrest in Baltimore last month, Clinton delivered a speech in which she advocated for an end to “mass incarceration” in America. Inherent in that address was her contention, one shared by her husband, that the landmark 1994 crime bill was discriminatory.

During his tenure, Bill Clinton signed into law measures that expanded the death penalty, promoted longer prison terms, funded the construction of new prisons, eliminated inmate amenities, barred felons from living in public housing, and discouraged judicial discretion. “We went too far,” Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin lamented on May 1 when reflecting on the Clinton presidency’s approach to crime and justice. “I think that the results,” Hillary Clinton said of the justice reforms that she lobbied for strongly in 1994, “have been an unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board.”

Surely, only a handful of Democrats lamented the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law just weeks before Bill Clinton was easily reelected. In 2013, former President Clinton expressed regrets for signing that law, but not for running campaign advertisements on Christian radio stations in 1996 bragging about that achievement. Moreover, Clinton’s decision to sign into law federal restrictions on allowing HIV-positive travelers to enter the United States, a ban only lifted in 2009 by Barack Obama’s administration, has long been regarded by the gay and lesbian community as a betrayal.

In a contentious interview with NPR host Terry Gross last year, Clinton lashed out when she was asked why she only came out in support of same-sex marriage after both Barack Obama and Joe Biden. In that argumentative interview, Clinton insisted that DOMA was designed to prohibit the Congress from enacting sexually discriminatory laws by kicking the issue down to the states. As The Atlantic’s Connor Friedersdorf noted, however, Clinton had “distorted” the history of DOMA. “I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages,” Bill Clinton said in 1996, “and this legislation is consistent with that position.”

And what of the signature welfare reform bill that Bill Clinton deftly negotiated with a newly GOP-dominated Congress? That measure was presaged when the 42nd President declared in his 1996 State of the Union address that the “era of big government is over,” and, a decade later, was responsible for a marked decline in poverty rates. So what does Hillary Clinton have to say about this landmark reform? No comment. “A Clinton aide declined to answer whether Clinton still supports her husband’s welfare reform law,” Vox’s Jonathan Allen reported after noting that minority Democrats were and remain suspicious of that package of reform laws. A simple “yes” would have sufficed if that is what she believed. Apparently, the answer Clinton would like to give is more complex than that.

Don’t even ask about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That controversial free trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico has only grown more controversial for those on the left as progressives condemn President Barack Obama and his pursuit of a similar arrangement with a variety of Asian nations. Clinton once vocally supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but she has since moderated her position on the issue by insisting she doesn’t have one.

But what of Hillary Clinton’s preferred approach to foreign crises? Bill Clinton’s approach to containing Saddam Hussein’s post-Gulf War Iraq was to launch attacks on government targets in 1993, 1996, and 1998. Hillary Clinton now insists it was a mistake to topple that vile regime, and she regrets voting to provide George W. Bush with that authority even if the world is better off without Hussein.

Clinton’s husband pursued a policy of rapprochement with Iran by compensating the Islamic Republic for the deaths of over 250 Iranians who died after an American naval vessel in 1988 shot down their plane and by essentially apologizing for the 1953 CIA-assisted coup that overthrew former Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddiq. Today, Hillary Clinton ostensibly supports Barack Obama’s efforts to seal a mutually beneficial nuclear deal with Iran, she is “skeptical that the Iranians will follow through and deliver.” Don’t sweat the cognitive dissonance.

Formerly a vocal supporter of the once vogue academic notion of America’s “responsibility to protect” civilian life (R2P), Clinton justified intervention in the Libyan civil war by noting America has a moral imperative to protect noncombatants when and where it can. This was logic similar to that which her husband applied before committing to multinational foreign intervention in the former Yugoslavia in 1995 and 1998. Clearly, that formerly preferred praxis went out of style the moment Bashar al-Assad began deploying chemical weapons against his own civilian population. While Hillary Clinton has insisted that she would have vetted and armed moderate Syrian rebels faster than the Obama administration, she opposed to introducing American boots into the Syrian conflict as recently as last autumn.

While it takes a fair bit of inference to identify Clinton’s stances on these issues, seeing as she is fond of maintaining vague and amorphous policy positions, it’s clear that Hillary Clinton does not regard her husband’s presidency as one replete with successes. That’s not a personal conviction, of course; you would be hard pressed to identify any sincerely held and necessarily constricting values espoused by the former secretary of state. Her disparagements of her husband’s legacy are solely designed to appeal to an influential subset in the Democratic Party that has veered wildly leftward in the interim 15 years. If Hillary Clinton is to win the White House, it seems that her fellow Democrats will make sure that she is compelled to renounce all her husband’s works in the process.

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Will Hillary Jump Start Fiorina’s Candidacy?

Yesterday, Carly Fiorina went to Columbia, South Carolina intending to ambush Hillary Clinton who was there for a speaking engagement. Clinton was, as is her usual practice, not offering any press availability. So while the crowd of journalists following the former First Lady offered Fiorina a large media audience, they vented their frustration on her and subjected the former Hewlett-Packard CEO to the kind of tough questioning that Clinton has so far evaded. It made for a difficult few moments for Fiorina and the encounter left some observers wondering whether she was hurting herself more than helping by seeming to shadow Clinton. In a race with up to 20 candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination where all are fighting for attention, it appears that being the scourge of Hillary has become both Fiorina’s political identity and her only shot at edging her way into contention. Will that be enough?

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Yesterday, Carly Fiorina went to Columbia, South Carolina intending to ambush Hillary Clinton who was there for a speaking engagement. Clinton was, as is her usual practice, not offering any press availability. So while the crowd of journalists following the former First Lady offered Fiorina a large media audience, they vented their frustration on her and subjected the former Hewlett-Packard CEO to the kind of tough questioning that Clinton has so far evaded. It made for a difficult few moments for Fiorina and the encounter left some observers wondering whether she was hurting herself more than helping by seeming to shadow Clinton. In a race with up to 20 candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination where all are fighting for attention, it appears that being the scourge of Hillary has become both Fiorina’s political identity and her only shot at edging her way into contention. Will that be enough?

Heading into 2015, Fiorina’s candidacy seemed to be pointless. She had no political experience other than an unsuccessful run for a California Senate seat in 2010. Nor had she a claim on the loyalty of any of her party’s key constituencies like the Tea Party, social conservatives, foreign policy hawks or the establishment. But over the course of the last several months, she has parlayed a tart speaking style and clever barbs aimed at Hillary Clinton into some attention if not good poll numbers.

There’s no question that her reception at campaign cattle calls and on the stump has been good. Republicans seem to like her. And they love her ability to call out Clinton. Her stock attack lines about the former secretary of state needing to learn that “flying is an activity, not an accomplishment,” has made her something of a GOP star.

The fact that liberals are starting to attack Fiorina and deriding her as lacking the qualifications for the presidency and merely being a GOP version of affirmative action shows that her arrows have found their target. The resentment against Fiorina from liberals, and especially liberal women, is visceral. Their ire is not so much about her views on the issues as it is the fact that Fiorina’s gender allows her to take shots at Clinton in a manner that no man could do without being excoriated for sexism.

That makes her a useful weapon in the GOP arsenal. But is it enough to make her candidacy viable? The jury is still out on that question.

So far, all the good press she’s gotten hasn’t yet translated into a surge in the polls. The latest Quinnipiac Poll that was published today shows her with just two percent support. That’s not laughable in a field that big and with there being a five-way tie for first place. Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee all have just ten percent. But it still leaves her in a statistical tie for tenth place trailing Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and even the comical Donald Trump ahead of her. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has neither campaigned nor declared his intention to run, is tied with her at two percent.

Being ahead of Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham is not a negligible achievement but it also means she is in great peril of not finishing in the top ten and being, therefore, ineligible for the first GOP debate on Fox.

Thus, while it is fair to say that merely being the Republican’s designated hitter on Clinton doesn’t do much to highlight Fiorina’s case for the presidency, it does get her some attention that she might otherwise never get. The problem is that there is a difference between assuming the role of the thorn in Clinton’s side and being a serious presidential contender.

Fiorina is an impressive speaker and the more she gets a chance to appear on national forums, the better she is likely to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that she hasn’t got a core group of voters or base within the party. So long as that is true most political observers will continue to believe that she is really running for the vice presidency or a Cabinet post in a future Republican administration.

But right now, her goal is to get on the stage at the Fox debate in August. If she keeps hitting Clinton hard while also avoiding gaffes, she has a fighting chance of making the first cut and raising enough money to continue her effort. Whether or not Democrats like it, Fiorina’s anti-Hillary barbs have been hitting home. They may be enough to keep Fiorina in the race until the voting starts next winter. Though it may not provide her with a path to the nomination, let alone the presidency, Hillary is jump-starting Fiorina’s campaign.

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The Left’s Free Trade Freak Out Is Not About Trade

There is perhaps no more prolific liberal conceit than the notion that their concerns are shared by the masses they purport to represent. Take your pick: “women’s health,” AKA access to elective abortions, climate change, police militarization, et cetera. The left has at one point seen each of these as the most urgent of matters, and has insisted that the vast majority of thinking Americans would necessarily agree. Only the latest example of this myopia is the left’s collective freak out over the nature of free international trade agreements, and specifically a proposed trade deal with a variety of Asian nations. But like so many other matters of paramount importance to the left, they simply don’t resonate outside the vast and comfortable liberal bubble.

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There is perhaps no more prolific liberal conceit than the notion that their concerns are shared by the masses they purport to represent. Take your pick: “women’s health,” AKA access to elective abortions, climate change, police militarization, et cetera. The left has at one point seen each of these as the most urgent of matters, and has insisted that the vast majority of thinking Americans would necessarily agree. Only the latest example of this myopia is the left’s collective freak out over the nature of free international trade agreements, and specifically a proposed trade deal with a variety of Asian nations. But like so many other matters of paramount importance to the left, they simply don’t resonate outside the vast and comfortable liberal bubble.

Before we achieve escape velocity and take a look at the world beyond the center-left media complex, it’s worth reviewing the apoplexy that the latest proposed free trade agreement has inspired on the left.

“Free trade isn’t about trade,” The Nation’s Mike Konczal revealed. “Free trade is about bureaucrats. And guns.”

“Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?” a team of Huffington Post reporters asked, citing an element of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that now includes Malaysia despite the prolific human trafficking that occurs in that nation.

Some liberals have even noted without a hint of irony or self-awareness that the pro-trade side of the aisle is guilty of stoking undue fears to advance their agenda. “At a news conference earlier this month, Obama warned that without TPP, ‘China will set up rules that advantage Chinese workers and Chinese businesses,’” The New Republic’s David Dayen scoffed. “Clinton/Obama free trade agreements are not just good in their own right, but models for the world to follow. Veterans of both administrations will admit that didn’t work for NAFTA; why should we believe it for TPP?”

And, of course, progressive icon and Bay State Senator Elizabeth Warren’s ongoing efforts to undermine a Democratic White House that seeks authority to ink necessarily opaque free trade agreements has heightened the left’s sense of urgency on the matter.

The apocalyptic tone of the internecine spat over this relatively parochial issue has been perhaps amplified by the fact that, as this presidency winds to a close, the far left is consumed not with Barack Obama’s achievements but the opportunities he failed to take full advantage of over the course of his tenure.

Now let’s ascend to cruising altitude and take a look at how the rest of the nation views the left’s wildly disproportionate fit of pique over a prospective trade deal. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, the vast majority of Americans are generally favorable toward free trade agreements. 58 percent of all Americans, including a majority of every subgroup sampled, believe free trade is good for the United States. That includes 58 percent of self-described Democrats, and 59 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats.

Interestingly, the groups most predisposed to view free trade arrangements with suspicion are those who identify as conservative Republicans and those age 65 or older. But 50 percent of both of these constituencies still see trade as ultimately beneficial. “There are only modest partisan differences on views of free trade agreements’ effects on economic growth, with Republicans somewhat more likely (40%) than either Democrats (30%) or independents (32%) to say they slow the economy,” Pew revealed.

Given this revelation, where is the uproar from Republican circles over the extension of trade promotional authority to President Barack Obama from a GOP-dominated Congress? While it certainly exists, the concern over free trade is far more muted on the right than the polls would suggest it should be. So, what gives? In part, the energy being expended on the left over a trade deal that Democrats largely support is a proxy war over the future ideological and programmatic direction of the Democratic Party. The fierceness of this family feud is certainly not justified by the general public’s interest in the subject.

So, the next time that you see Democrats engaged in heated debate over the issue of free trade and wonder where the passion comes from given the disinterest outside of media circles, remember that they’re probably not talking about trade.

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Rubio’s Warning on Faith Wasn’t a Gaffe

As far as the many on the left are concerned, Senator Marco Rubio’s comments about the possible implications of the acceptance of gay marriage makes more opposition research about the 2016 Republican presidential contender unnecessary. By telling an interviewer for the Christian Broadcast Network that he believed that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” he supplied liberals with the sort of fodder they used to confirm their stereotypes about rabid, scare-mongering conservatives. If Rubio becomes the Republican nominee, expect this quote to be constantly thrown in his face as confirmation of his bigotry against gays. But while no one can halt the left-wing hate machine from operating in this fashion, it’s important to state now before the quote becomes the stuff of left-wing legend, that not only was it not a gaffe, it was a reasonable statement of fact that serious people on the left, as well as the right, should ponder in its entirely.

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As far as the many on the left are concerned, Senator Marco Rubio’s comments about the possible implications of the acceptance of gay marriage makes more opposition research about the 2016 Republican presidential contender unnecessary. By telling an interviewer for the Christian Broadcast Network that he believed that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” he supplied liberals with the sort of fodder they used to confirm their stereotypes about rabid, scare-mongering conservatives. If Rubio becomes the Republican nominee, expect this quote to be constantly thrown in his face as confirmation of his bigotry against gays. But while no one can halt the left-wing hate machine from operating in this fashion, it’s important to state now before the quote becomes the stuff of left-wing legend, that not only was it not a gaffe, it was a reasonable statement of fact that serious people on the left, as well as the right, should ponder in its entirely.

Let’s start by conceding, as Rubio clearly does, that the culture of the country has shifted on gay marriage. Where only a few years ago, even liberal Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were opposing it, now acceptance of it is on its way to becoming close to a consensus issue. But the question Rubio raises is not a frivolous one or scaremongering.

As we saw with the massive overreaction to the debate over Indiana’s passage of its own version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the culture shift did not stop at mere approval of gay marriages. The opprobrium being hurled at isolated individual store owners who state their religious-based opposition to the concept even if they are willing to provide service and courtesy to those with whom they disagree, is a dangerous sign. We have gone in almost a blink of an eye from such views being mainstream to them being marginalized.

That isn’t the problem. The problem is if those who stick to their religious beliefs about social issues stop being treated as a minority whose views deserve respect to one in which they are, as Rubio says, being treated as no longer deserving legal protection.

As we saw with the debate over the Hobby Lobby case, one didn’t have to agree with opponents of birth control or abortion-inducing drugs to realize that when we compel people to subsidize practices that violate their beliefs we are promoting a new cribbed view of the First Amendment that undermines the concept of religious liberty. If such views are only permissible inside a church or the home but no longer in the public square, then what we will only have is liberty for religious beliefs that are popular and none for those that are not.

Critics of Rubio mock his fears by pointing to the fact that Massachusetts has had gay marriage for years without anyone shutting down Catholic churches in the Bay state. That’s true, but Catholic charities have been driven out of adoption services. If we get to the point where clergy that will not perform gay marriages are viewed as practicing discrimination — something that is no longer unimaginable — then faiths that dissent on the practice will begin to be subjected to the sort of official discrimination that will give the lie to any talk of live and let live.

It would be wrong for anyone to pretend that we are at such a point now. Indeed, as Santorum noted, we are at “the water’s edge” of viewing such traditional beliefs as beyond the pale, is a reasoned debate by which we can accept the will of the majority on gay marriage while leaving room in the public square for those who believe this contradicts their faith and values.

Is that possible? To judge by the mob mentality that forced Brendan Eich out of his CEO job at Mozilla and the way Indiana was ostracized after its RFRA was passed, maybe not. Liberals don’t want to just win the culture war, as their treatment of stray Christian bakers and photographers who dissent on gay marriage indicates, they are not interested in taking prisoners.

That’s a trend that should scare all people of faith, as well as those who do not believe. Though Rubio will take a beating on this from the left and be cheered by social conservatives, his thoughtful and unprejudiced approach to the issue actually stands up to scrutiny in a way that ought to serve to start a productive discussion about how intolerance can come from the left as easily as the right. The illiberal and nature of the attack on religious conservatives ought to give pause to many on the left who once rightly condemned the marginalization of those on their side of such issues. Perhaps by demonstrating, at least to those who are willing to listen rather than merely engage in ad hominem attacks, that this is about freedom rather than bigotry, the senator has given us a chance to have a reasonable discussion about an issue on which tolerance and reason has always been in short supply.

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Yuval Levin on COMMENTARY’s Dazzling Balancing Act

Every month in print, and every day online, COMMENTARY somehow manages to pull off a dazzling balancing act: intellectual but unpretentious, serious but never boring, timely but not fleeting. On the leading questions of the day, it offers fresh and unfamiliar insights. And on the emerging questions that will dominate the years to come, it often sees things first and clearest. It is simply indispensable.

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Every month in print, and every day online, COMMENTARY somehow manages to pull off a dazzling balancing act: intellectual but unpretentious, serious but never boring, timely but not fleeting. On the leading questions of the day, it offers fresh and unfamiliar insights. And on the emerging questions that will dominate the years to come, it often sees things first and clearest. It is simply indispensable.

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