Commentary Magazine


Obama Still Threatening Netanyahu

What does the State Department’s Wendy Sherman do with her spare time when not negotiating weak nuclear deals with rogue regimes? The same as the rest of the Obama foreign-policy team: threaten Israel with diplomatic isolation at the United Nations. Sherman issued some thinly veiled threats yesterday in remarks to a gathering of Reform movement leaders in which she made clear that the administration expects the next Israeli government to do its bidding with respect to supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians. While there’s nothing new about this insistence, Sherman’s language followed the same pattern as other remarks issued by U.S. officials since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected last month. But like all such warnings that have been aimed at Jerusalem from Washington, the most striking aspect of this effort is how divorced these American staffers are from the reality of a peace process that the Palestinians have no interest in pursuing.

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What does the State Department’s Wendy Sherman do with her spare time when not negotiating weak nuclear deals with rogue regimes? The same as the rest of the Obama foreign-policy team: threaten Israel with diplomatic isolation at the United Nations. Sherman issued some thinly veiled threats yesterday in remarks to a gathering of Reform movement leaders in which she made clear that the administration expects the next Israeli government to do its bidding with respect to supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians. While there’s nothing new about this insistence, Sherman’s language followed the same pattern as other remarks issued by U.S. officials since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected last month. But like all such warnings that have been aimed at Jerusalem from Washington, the most striking aspect of this effort is how divorced these American staffers are from the reality of a peace process that the Palestinians have no interest in pursuing.

Sherman, who holds the title of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, is best known for her work on nuclear non-proliferation in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. But her real claim to fame is as the person who naively gave away the store to the North Koreans that helped them get closer to a bomb in the 1990s and learned nothing from that experience before repeating the exercise in the last few years with Iran. She defended the Iran nuclear deal she helped negotiate and assured the Reform leaders that the pact would make Israel and the world safer. But that highly debatable conclusion is less newsworthy than Sherman’s effort to fire yet another shot over Netanyahu’s bow as he completed negotiations to form his next government.

According to the Times of Israel, Sherman warned that if the new government “is seen as stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution,” that “makes our job in the international arena that much tougher.” She went on to note that the U.S. had “repeatedly stood up against efforts to delegitimize Israel or single Israel out unfairly” and that this “would continue to be the case.” But then she added that Netanyahu’s pre-election statements about the unlikelihood of a two-state solution happening had “raised questions” about the premise of U.S. support.

While Sherman’s remarks can be read in a sympathetic manner as being basically supportive of Israel—and there’s little doubt that her audience heard it that way—the message to Netanyahu was clear: any more wavering about his dedication to two-state negotiations and all bets are off in the United Nations.

But while Sherman is right when she says that most American Jews are as obsessed with willing a two-state solution into existence as the president and Secretary of State Kerry, Israelis take a different view of things.

Most of them would also like a two-state solution that would allow them to cease having responsibility for areas that are dominated by Palestinian Arabs. But unlike the Obama administration and its American Jewish cheering section on the left, the majority of Israeli voters have paid attention to events in the region in the last 20 years and know that they don’t have a viable Palestinian peace partner. It doesn’t matter whether most Israelis share the conviction that two states for two peoples is the best possible solution to the conflict. That happens to be the case, but Israelis also understood what Netanyahu was talking about the day before his stunning election victory when he said that creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank under current circumstances was an invitation to a new round of terrorist attacks on Israel.

Israelis remember what happened when their government withdrew every last soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005. Instead of trading land for peace as they hoped (and as they had vainly attempted to do with the Oslo Accords), they wound up trading land for terror. Indeed, for all the talk about the necessity of creating a Palestinian state, what Israelis understand is that the Hamas-run strip is for all intents and purposes an independent Palestinian state. The notion of repeating this experiment in the far larger and more strategic West Bank strikes most Israelis, whether they voted for Likud and its allies or Netanyahu’s main opponents, the Labor-led Zionist Union, as nuts. A two-state solution wasn’t in the cards no matter who had won the Israeli election and it won’t be brought any closer or pushed off any further into the future no matter what Netanyahu says about the idea.

That’s been the basic problem with Obama administration Middle East policy since 2009. The president came into office obsessed with the notion that more distance between Israel and the United States would tempt the Palestinians to negotiate seriously. He’s gotten the distance he wanted and then some, but the Palestinians have never budged. They’re still refusing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has no real interest in being drawn into more talks where he’s faced with the choice of either saying no to peace (which he and his predecessor Yasir Arafat have repeatedly done even when a Palestinian state was offered the by the Israelis) or agreeing to something his people won’t accept. Hamas, backed up by an Iranian ally that has been empowered and embraced by Obama, exercises an effective veto on peace even if Abbas were willing or capable of signing a deal.

But that doesn’t stop the president from sending Sherman to intimate that if the Israelis don’t bow to his dictates the U.S. will no longer veto resolutions recognizing Palestinian independence without first forcing them to make peace with Israel. Clearly, that’s the direction toward which the lame duck administration is moving despite the recent talk of a Jewish charm offensive intended to disarm criticism of the president’s clear animus against the Israeli government. In the absence of significant pushback from a Democratic Party that is still in thrall to Obama, we may find out in the next 23 months whether Obama is bluffing.

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The Left Will Disown Rushdie Too; the Only Question Is When

Ever since Islamist terrorists murdered a dozen at the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, and then finished their murder spree by targeting and killing Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, it was clear a certain sector of the politically correct left was uncomfortable with the identity of the victims. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau and writer Teju Cole, among others, didn’t like linking the cause of free speech with offensive material, which free-speech laws and norms exist to protect in the first place. (Popular speech needs no bodyguard.) Some, like the historian Karen Armstrong, preferred to excuse anti-Semitic extremism as an expected reaction to disagreeable Israeli policies. And now the liberal backlash against Charlie Hebdo has taken a new, dispiriting turn.

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Ever since Islamist terrorists murdered a dozen at the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, and then finished their murder spree by targeting and killing Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, it was clear a certain sector of the politically correct left was uncomfortable with the identity of the victims. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau and writer Teju Cole, among others, didn’t like linking the cause of free speech with offensive material, which free-speech laws and norms exist to protect in the first place. (Popular speech needs no bodyguard.) Some, like the historian Karen Armstrong, preferred to excuse anti-Semitic extremism as an expected reaction to disagreeable Israeli policies. And now the liberal backlash against Charlie Hebdo has taken a new, dispiriting turn.

As the New York Times reports, the PEN American Center had decided to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo at its May 5 event. Organizers have now been taken aback by the sudden reaction of six of the event’s “literary hosts” just a couple weeks before the dinner. Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn their participation.

Of these, Cole was perhaps the least surprising. And the general lack of coherence among this cohort has been interesting not least because it’s shown how difficult a task they have made for themselves in seeking to make those who murder writers and Jews for the crime of free expression the real underdogs. (David Frum’s piece on this in the Atlantic is essential reading.)

But it also tells you something about the liberal crackup. Glenn Greenwald posted correspondence and statements of those involved in the controversy, and Cole’s is particularly noteworthy for what it says about dogmatic leftists’ inability to make their worldview make sense. In part, Cole said:

I’m a free-speech fundamentalist, but I don’t think it’s a good use of our headspace or moral commitments to lionize Charlie Hebdo in particular. L’affaire Rushdie (for example) was a very different matter, as different as blasphemy is from racism. I support Rushdie 100%, but I don’t want to sit in a room and cheer Charlie Hebdo. This distinction seems to have been difficult for people to understand, and any dissent from the consensus about Charlie Hebdo is read as somehow “supporting the terrorists,” or somehow believing that they deserved to be murdered.

I would rather honor Raif Badawi, Avijit Roy, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea Manning, who have also paid steeply for their courage, but whose ideals are much more progressive than Charlie’s. I would like an acknowledgement of the Kenyan students who were murdered for no greater crime than being college students. And, if we are talking about free speech, I would rather PEN shed more light on the awful effects of governmental spying in the US, and the general issue of surveillance.

A couple things jump out. First of all, you knew you were in for trouble when Cole began a sentence with “I’m a free-speech fundamentalist, but… .” Second, does the fact that Charlie Hebdo’s work was of a less elevated literary quality than that of Salman Rushdie mean the former cannot lay claim to the transgression of “blasphemy”? For his part, Rushdie himself correctly points out that Cole et al. have no idea what they’re talking about:

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Indeed. Liberals have apparently graduated from telling Muslims what is and isn’t truly Islamic to telling Muslims (and their victims) what is and isn’t blasphemy. According to the left, blasphemy is not a religious term so much as it just shouldn’t be applied to people who draw yucky pictures. This is, to say the least, a standard that bodes poorly for those who truly do support free speech. Where are their allies going to come from if not from free-speech organizations?

And there’s also something quite hilarious in the don’t-worry-Rushdie-you’re-still-good defensiveness in the anti-Charlie Hebdo group. That may be true today, but for how long will it continue to be true? At what point will the left finally throw Rushdie under that bus? Because that moment is coming, and I suspect everyone knows it.

The other word that jumped out at me from Cole’s statement was “progressive.” He’d rather honor, he said, someone “whose ideals are much more progressive than Charlie’s.” So now to be a martyr for free speech you have to not only be a blasphemer without falling into the ever-changing and elastic category of racism, but you also must be “much more progressive” than a lowbrow satirical French publication.

Salman Rushdie is on the right side of the line–for now. But that line is moving, and not in the direction of free speech.

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Is the Tide Turning Back Against Assad?

After an uprising began in Syria in March 2011, the expectation was that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered. But he managed to hang onto power with surprising tenacity, thanks in no small part to significant assistance from Iran and its Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon. In more recent months the conventional wisdom had gone from “Assad’s a goner” to “Assad’s a winner.” But that latter judgment may be premature.

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After an uprising began in Syria in March 2011, the expectation was that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered. But he managed to hang onto power with surprising tenacity, thanks in no small part to significant assistance from Iran and its Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon. In more recent months the conventional wisdom had gone from “Assad’s a goner” to “Assad’s a winner.” But that latter judgment may be premature.

The recent fall of Idlib city and much of its surrounding countryside to rebel fighters suggests that Assad’s power may be waning. “After seizing most of Idlib province in recent weeks,” the Washington Post notes, “the rebels are pressing south toward the government strongholds of Hama and Homs and are threatening the ­Assad family’s coastal heartland of Latakia.” Other signs also point to a regime not as strong as commonly believed: notably the failure of earlier government offensives against Aleppo and rebel strongholds in the south.

These setbacks have been accompanied by rumors of high-level dissension. As the Post notes: “On Friday, pro-government news outlets reported the death of political security director Rustom Ghazaleh, a longtime Assad stalwart, after months of rumors that he had fallen out with the regime, had been badly beaten up by a rival and was languishing in a hospital. The reports followed the firing last month of the military intelligence chief, Rafiq Shehadeh, another inner-circle loyalist. Western diplomats monitoring events in Syria from Beirut say the two men appear to have clashed with the Assad family over the growing battlefield role played by Iran.” Even Assad’s family appears to be cracking to some extent. One of Bashar’s cousins was fired as head of security in Damascus and fled the country while another cousin was detained “amid rumors that he had been plotting a coup.”

No less an observer than Robert Ford, an astute Arabist who was the last U.S. ambassador to Damascus, writes: “We may be seeing signs of the beginning of their end.”

Of course one must stay skeptical about such reports, which sound so suspiciously similar to reports from 2011-2012 which prematurely wrote a political obituary for Assad. But even if it’s true that the end is nigh for the Assad regime, that’s hardly unalloyed good news.

True, no one can shed any tears over the potential demise of a government that has been responsible for murdering more than 200,000 of its own citizens. But there is a big question as to what comes next.

The losses the government has been suffering lately are not at the hands of the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army, which has been all but abandoned by the United States. Rather, recent military victories against Assad are ascribed to a new rebel coalition called the Army of Conquest. It includes some of the more moderate battalions that make up the Free Syrian Army but its core is the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Its primary patrons are not the Americans or Europeans but rather Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, all Islamist states. Replacing an Iranian-backed regime in Damascus with an al-Qaeda regime would hardly be cause for celebration, even if ISIS, the other major Islamist army in Syria, is even more radical than al-Nusra.

There was nothing inevitable about the triumph of the extremists—it has come about primarily because President Obama missed his opportunity to support the more moderate rebels in a more sustained way earlier in the conflict. If anything, the potential crumbling of the Assad regime should be a wakeup call to the administration that it needs to step up its aid to the Free Syrian Army and to create liberated enclaves, protected by American airpower, where the moderate Syrian opposition, which has been recognized as the true government by the U.S. and its allies, can start to rule on Syrian territory.

But realistically even such steps would not be enough to significantly alter the balance of power on the ground in the short term. If the Assad regime collapses in the near future, it’s hard to imagine the power vacuum being filled by anyone other than Sunni jihadists—unless the international community is prepared to intervene with a large-scale peacekeeping force, a la Bosnia or Kosovo or East Timor. But if the U.S. and its allies failed to send such a force to Libya after Gaddafi’s downfall (as I urged at the time), it’s unlikely to do so now in the far more dangerous circumstances of Syria where foreign forces would be ripe for attack not only from the al-Nusra Front and Assad’s remaining champions but also from ISIS.

It’s hard to imagine Syria—already a war-ravaged land that has become a magnet for foreign jihadists, both Shiite and Sunni—getting any worse after Assad’s downfall. But it’s also hard to imagine it getting any better unless the West steps up to do more than it has been willing to do for the past four years.

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Why Pro-Israel Republicans Get Attention

A lot of attention was focused this past weekend on the annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. The event was depicted, as it has been in the past, as an unseemly assembly of GOP candidates with their hands out to Jewish donors. In particular, the affections and backing of lead donor Sheldon Adelson, at whose casino the RJC meeting was held, was seen as a “Sheldon primary” for which the party ought to feel shame. But while some went there in search of backing and donations, that sort of coverage misses the point about the event. There’s nothing unusual or unseemly about politicians asking for support from a particular constituency. The real question to ask about the way the candidates trooped to Las Vegas is not about Adelson or his money, but why Israel has become a litmus test issue for Republicans while at the same time support for it appears to be waning among Democrats.

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A lot of attention was focused this past weekend on the annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. The event was depicted, as it has been in the past, as an unseemly assembly of GOP candidates with their hands out to Jewish donors. In particular, the affections and backing of lead donor Sheldon Adelson, at whose casino the RJC meeting was held, was seen as a “Sheldon primary” for which the party ought to feel shame. But while some went there in search of backing and donations, that sort of coverage misses the point about the event. There’s nothing unusual or unseemly about politicians asking for support from a particular constituency. The real question to ask about the way the candidates trooped to Las Vegas is not about Adelson or his money, but why Israel has become a litmus test issue for Republicans while at the same time support for it appears to be waning among Democrats.

The upshot of the RJC meeting was not so much that Adelson and other major Jewish donors to the Republicans were still up for grabs as far as a candidate for 2016 was concerned. Rather, it was that virtually every Republican, including Senator Rand Paul who is not known for his support for Israel, understands that alienating friends of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish, is a political death wish for anyone in the GOP. Though Paul wasn’t in Las Vegas (he wasn’t the only potential candidate to skip the event) he has spent the last two years trying to ingratiate himself with the pro-Israel community, including Adelson. Though Paul’s s attempts to create some distance between his candidacy and his extremist father’s stands have not been entirely successful, they reflect the reality of a party where no one wants to be seen as lacking in ardor for the Jewish state.

What makes this so newsworthy isn’t Adelson’s money or that of the other significant donors, though it will be very helpful to the Republicans next year. It’s the contrast with the other party. While leading figures in the GOP can’t seem to do enough to show how much they care about Israel and candidates are mortified when members of their camp join the chorus denouncing the Jewish state (as was the case with Bush family retainer James Baker’s speech to the J Street conference earlier this month), Democrats have increasingly been doing the opposite.

This is not an unimportant point. The press’s interest in the GOP and the Jews isn’t really driven by the rush for donations since candidates do that wherever they go. Adelson has a lot of money and is willing to spend on behalf of his ideological beliefs, but there’s as much, if not more cash to be found by diving for dollars among any number of major industries such as agriculture or pharmaceuticals and other special interests across the spectrum.

No, the “man bites dog” element that makes the RJC newsworthy (other than the principle that holds “Jews are news” under any circumstance) is that the Democrats are not so eager to play the same game.

Part of this is reflected in the latest Gallup poll which showed that while support for Israel among Americans in general is at an all-time high, Republicans are far more likely to do so than Democrats with 78 percent of the former and only 53 percent of the latter expressing that opinion.

But it is even more noticeable as members of Congress have started to split along party lines when the Iran nuclear deal is discussed. President Obama’s efforts to undermine support for more sanctions on Iran and to dissuade members from trying to derail his nuclear deal with the Islamist regime have had no impact on the GOP but have considerably undermined support for sanctions or efforts to allow Congress a meaningful say on the deal among Democrats.

That doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t still count on majority support from Jews whose support for the party’s liberal stands on domestic issues outweighs any affection for Israel. But even though many Democrats, Jewish and non-Jewish, are friends of Israel, there is a difference between them and their conservative counterparts.

Democrats know that pro-Israel liberals won’t abandon them if they take stands that harm or undermine the Jewish state. By contrast, Republicans know all too well that Adelson and every other Jewish donor to the GOP will throw them under the bus in a second if they were to back away from Israel.

That used to be also true of Democrats, but no more. In the age of Obama, where Jewish liberals tend to see conservatives like House Speaker John Boehner or Senator Ted Cruz as worse than Hamas or Hezbollah, it’s clear the old pro-Israel consensus is cracking if not yet broken.

Instead of mocking Republicans for seeking Jewish support, Jewish Democrats need to understand why they do and seek to emulate them rather than continuing to drift away from the pro-Israel community on key issues whenever the president crooks his little finger. The answer about the differences between the parties on this point speaks volumes not so much about any change in the GOP mindset as the one going on among Democrats.

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Do the Clintons Have Enough Scapegoats for an Entire Presidential Campaign?

The latest series of Clinton corruption scandals have allowed voters to get a preview of the way Hillary would govern if she were elected president. Most of that has focused, rightly, on the pay-for-play issues and the way the Clintons profited from taking official actions that harmed American security interests. But now the Clintons have completed the picture by also revealing just how they would handle revelations of misdeeds while in office. In true Clintonian fashion, they’ll pass the buck. The Clintons remain allergic to anything resembling accountability.

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The latest series of Clinton corruption scandals have allowed voters to get a preview of the way Hillary would govern if she were elected president. Most of that has focused, rightly, on the pay-for-play issues and the way the Clintons profited from taking official actions that harmed American security interests. But now the Clintons have completed the picture by also revealing just how they would handle revelations of misdeeds while in office. In true Clintonian fashion, they’ll pass the buck. The Clintons remain allergic to anything resembling accountability.

We shouldn’t miss the significance of the Clintons’ latest effort to dodge the blame for the influence-peddling scandals. What the Clintons are telling us, essentially, is that they are incapable of ensuring the honesty and integrity of any organization over which they preside. And the next such organization would be, if they have their way, the United States government.

Last week, it was revealed that Bill Clinton facilitated deals for donors to the Clinton Foundation, as well as those who paid him directly in speaking fees, to give the Russians control of a huge chunk of American uranium deposits–and that those deals needed Hillary Clinton’s approval as secretary of state, which she provided. Additionally, in an attempt to hide foreign influence peddling, the Clinton Foundation filled out years of false tax returns. And yet, the Clintons’ response to this is the following, via Politico:

The acting chief executive of the Clinton Foundation addressed mistakes that the philanthropic organization has made in a blog post on Sunday, while also emphasizing that its policy regarding donor disclosure and foreign governments is “stronger than ever.”

Maura Pally, the organization’s CEO and senior vice president, women and youth programs, said that the foundation “will likely refile” tax forms for some years after a voluntary external review, which found that it had “mistakenly combined” government grants with other donations.

“So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” Pally wrote. “We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day.”

Pally also addressed the Clinton Foundation’s relationship with Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, who set up an independent charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership.

The fact that individual donors are not listed on the foundation’s site is not an effort to avoid transparency, she said, noting that Canadian law requires charities to get prior permission from each donor to disclose their identities.

Ah yes, mistakes were made. Also, blame Canada. Welcome to Hillary 2016: it’s not only someone else’s fault–whatever it is–but it also might be some other country’s fault.

There is, in fact, nothing shocking whatsoever in what Hillary’s trying to pull here. And that in itself should be shocking.

Hillary’s camp actually previewed this defense somewhat, by saying there was no proof that she personally signed off on the deals that needed her State Department’s approval. Sound familiar? It should: we heard it with regard to Libya as well. An American ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack after months of warnings of such attacks and a request for additional security, all made to Hillary’s State Department.

Yet after the deadly attack–in the aftermath of a war that was fought precisely how Hillary wanted to fight it–we were told that maybe those very important requests and briefings didn’t get all the way to Hillary. After all, she had to do some delegating: maybe the furniture questions, as we’ve seen, were the only ones to get all the way to the top, but the requests for security in a war zone could be handled by Frank in the mailroom. At least she didn’t try to blame Benghazi on Canada.

Hillary uses the complexity of bureaucracy to claim she didn’t know. And that’s why the Clinton Foundation scandals read like a Rube Goldberg rendering of political and financial corruption.

It’s bad enough for officials of the government to use the bureaucracy to insulate themselves from accountability, but they are merely availing themselves of the system’s perks. The Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons’ personal bank accounts, into which speech fees went, are the Clintons’ constructs. They arranged their family enterprise to mimic the way the federal government fleeces taxpayers while shielding those at the top from responsibility for their misdeeds.

The bet made by the Clintons was that reporters wouldn’t be sharp or dogged enough to connect all the dots. And they were almost right. Peter Schweizer, who wrote the forthcoming book Clinton Cash, has been the engine driving much of this. But reporters are building on what he’s uncovered, and putting their resources to good use. There are a lot of dots to connect, but once you connect them, you see a pretty disturbing picture.

Once reporters did connect those dots, Hillary had a fall-gal at the ready: an executive at the Clinton Foundation, as if it were some free-floating entity only loosely tied to the Clintons themselves, when in fact it is not only their family business but also served as a kind of super-PAC for Hillary while she was still at State at which her top aides served simultaneously while on her staff at the State Department.

That was a brilliant stroke, having someone not named Clinton at the foundation admit fault and apologize. But it’s getting a bit predictable, and if the scandals keep coming at this pace the Clintons are going to run out of scapegoats. The public, however, is likely to stop falling for it long before that.

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Like Obama’s Iran Deal, Corker Bill May Be Worse Than Nothing

As the Corker-Menendez bill requiring a congressional vote on the nuclear deal with Iran heads to the floor of the Senate this week, many in the Republican leadership are urging their caucus to pass the bill just as it is without amendments. Having forged a compromise with some Democrats to get it through the foreign affairs committee by a unanimous vote, Chairman Bob Corker believes his bill is still “pretty strong” because it allows Congress a voice on the Iran deal. He and other GOP leaders believe changes that would force the administration to hold Iran accountable for its support for terrorism or even to change it so as to make it a treaty would scuttle the entire effort. They may be right about that since the administration and many Democrats would like nothing better than to let the president cut a deal with Iran without Congress having any say in the matter. But without such changes, it’s fair to ask whether Corker’s assessment of his bill is any different than Obama’s deal. Is a weak Iran bill better than no bill at all? Maybe not.

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As the Corker-Menendez bill requiring a congressional vote on the nuclear deal with Iran heads to the floor of the Senate this week, many in the Republican leadership are urging their caucus to pass the bill just as it is without amendments. Having forged a compromise with some Democrats to get it through the foreign affairs committee by a unanimous vote, Chairman Bob Corker believes his bill is still “pretty strong” because it allows Congress a voice on the Iran deal. He and other GOP leaders believe changes that would force the administration to hold Iran accountable for its support for terrorism or even to change it so as to make it a treaty would scuttle the entire effort. They may be right about that since the administration and many Democrats would like nothing better than to let the president cut a deal with Iran without Congress having any say in the matter. But without such changes, it’s fair to ask whether Corker’s assessment of his bill is any different than Obama’s deal. Is a weak Iran bill better than no bill at all? Maybe not.

The purpose of the Corker-Menendez bill is a noble one. Faced with an administration that was determined not only to press ahead with the most important diplomatic pact signed by the United States in a generation but to do so without allowing Congress to play its constitutionally mandated role to ratify such a deal, the Senate needed to act. What Corker and Robert Menendez, a stern critic of the administration’s Iran policy and the former ranking Democrat on the committee, intended to do was to create a mechanism by which the Senate could act as a possible brake on the president’s appeasement of the Islamist regime.

But over the course of the debate about the bill a couple of things soon became clear.

One was that the bipartisan consensus within Congress about the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program quickly broke down once the president made it clear to Democrats that he considered support for his Iran policy as a litmus test of party loyalty. That was first illustrated by the White House’s attempt to orchestrate a boycott of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on the issue. But even after that effort flopped, the administration worked hard to twist the arms of wavering Democrats in order to persuade them to oppose a tough Iran sanctions bill that would have put more heat on Tehran to make concessions as well as the Corker-Menendez proposal. While a veto-proof majority on both ideas seemed likely a few months ago, once the president laid down the law to liberals on Iran, it was obvious that Corker would have to start making compromises if his bill was going to succeed.

The second was that once the negotiations over passing Corker-Menendez started, it was also clear that it was the president and the not the Republican majority that held all the cards in the bargaining. The president pushed ahead to get a weak framework deal with Iran agreed to by the end of March, a development that made critics wonder if they were going to be able to weigh in on the issue before it was too late.

More than that, the administration realized that the way the Corker bill was structured gave them an enormous advantage. The Constitution requires a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass a treaty. But by calling this far-reaching pact a mere agreement between the Iranians and the West, President Obama sought to evade that rule altogether. He wanted to have no vote at all on the deal but once he realized that even Democrats didn’t feel comfortable going along with a complete abnegation of their constitutional duties, the president’s path was clear. So long as it didn’t declare the Iran deal a treaty, passing Corker-Menendez actually served the administration’s purpose.

Provided the bill was stripped of measures that would provide some real accountability on the content of a deal that offers Iran two paths to a bomb—one by easily evading its weak restrictions and another by abiding by it and patiently waiting for it to expire—a congressional vote along these lines would give a legitimacy to the process that the administration needed. Moreover, the Corker bill created a reverse confirmation process by which the president needed only 34 votes—enough to sustain a veto of a vote that rejected the deal—rather than 67 in order for it to become law. Thus, after loyal Democrats on the committee got Corker to take out provisions that would make it more onerous for the administration to defend a weak deal, the president signaled that he would sign the bill.

The bill is now being praised as a rare example of bipartisanship. But though Corker’s intentions may have been good, the result is not. No matter how bad the Iran deal is, it’s obvious that the president will be able to pressure enough Democrats to back him to sustain a veto. If his bill doesn’t provide real accountability and actually gives the president a path to passage of a deal with only 34 Democratic votes, then all their effort will have been for nothing. Indeed, it will be worse than nothing since Obama will be able to say that he has given Congress a say even if he has vetoed their rejection of the deal. That’s why rather than being another suicide charge in the manner of the 2013 government shutdown, efforts to amend the Corker bill are actually the right thing to do.

In particular, Senator Ron Johnson’s amendment that would force the Senate to treat the Iran deal as a treaty that would require the normal two-thirds majority for passage deserves the support of the chamber. So, too, do measures proposed to require the administration to certify that Iran is no longer supporting terrorism (a point that was strengthened this past weekend as Israel attempted to interdict arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah).

Democrats may not be willing to support strengthening the bill, but contrary to the assertions of its supporters, the “clean” bill as it currently stands may be worse than nothing at all. Efforts to compel senators take a stand on treaty status and terrorism may be the last chance to put them on record as being willing to support a measure that would actually prevent the president from sacrificing U.S. security and the stability of the Middle East on the altar of his vain pursuit of détente with Iran. These amendments may be poison pills, but the real poison is a bill that will give a seal of approval on a tragic foreign policy blunder.

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Why Ed Miliband’s Labor Is Losing the Jewish Vote

Britain’s upcoming general election is fast turning into one of the strangest the country has ever witnessed. Quite apart from the fact that the outcome appears utterly unpredictable, there have also been all kinds of strange anomalies. Both the major parties–Conservative and Labor–are being seriously undercut by a formerly fringe single issue anti-European Union party, while a tiny far-left environmentalist party momentarily pushed itself to center stage in the election debate, and looming over the entire campaign has been the unpalatable prospect of Scottish separatists playing kingmaker in the next parliament. Yet perhaps more surreal than all of this has been the bizarre reality of a Labor party that now has its first Jewish leader, just at the very moment that it is losing the Jewish vote.

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Britain’s upcoming general election is fast turning into one of the strangest the country has ever witnessed. Quite apart from the fact that the outcome appears utterly unpredictable, there have also been all kinds of strange anomalies. Both the major parties–Conservative and Labor–are being seriously undercut by a formerly fringe single issue anti-European Union party, while a tiny far-left environmentalist party momentarily pushed itself to center stage in the election debate, and looming over the entire campaign has been the unpalatable prospect of Scottish separatists playing kingmaker in the next parliament. Yet perhaps more surreal than all of this has been the bizarre reality of a Labor party that now has its first Jewish leader, just at the very moment that it is losing the Jewish vote.

According to a poll carried out by Survation at the beginning of April, just 22 percent of British Jews intend to vote for Ed Miliband’s Labor, whereas an unprecedented 69 percent say they will back the Conservatives. This is quite some turnaround. Historically Britain’s Jews were aligned with the left. The old Liberal party—a sad remnant of which lives on within today’s Liberal Democrats—once boasted many Jewish members of parliament. At the same time working-class Jews from Eastern Europe, concentrated in London’s East End during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, overwhelmingly voted Labor.

In the post-war era it was the familiar story of the Jewish community escaping the slums and joining the middle classes, but old political loyalties often seemed to have remained impervious to changing economic circumstances. Mrs. Thatcher did manage to coax some of the Jewish vote away from the left, with her own north London parliamentary seat containing a large Jewish population. However, Tony Blair’s New Labor soon won many of these voters back, receiving resounding support from across the Jewish community. And so what Miliband’s Labor has achieved in having so alienated Britain’s Jewish voters is really quite something.

While Jews make up less than one percent of the UK population, they could prove more significant in electoral terms, concentrated as they are in a whole series of suburban London and Manchester swing seats that the Conservatives must win if they are to have any hope of staying in office. In the past Labor has benefited from the support of some important Jewish donors. Yet more recently it has become known that several key figures can’t bring themselves to give to Labor this time around.

Under Miliband, Labor has taken a two-pronged approach to scaring off Jewish support. The first has involved the party’s sudden veer to the left with a clear commitment to wealth redistribution, a so-called mansion tax, and now rent controls. Miliband has truly earned his tabloid title, “Red Ed.” And as wedded to “progressive” notions about social justice as many middle-class Jews still are, even they have their limits when it comes to voting against the financial welfare of their own families.

The second, and no less significant factor, has been Labor’s turn against Israel. Despite having once been Britain’s most pro-Zionist party and despite the pro-Israel sentiments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, today Labor’s grassroots are virulently hostile to the Jewish state, and this is an attitude that most believe Miliband shares. After all, the highly political household he grew up in was far more affiliated with the Marxist left than it was with the mainstream Jewish community.

In the past year alone Miliband has whipped a parliamentary vote on Palestinian statehood, spoken at the gala dinner of the pro-BDS Labor Friends of Palestine, and condemned Israel’s acts of self-defense during last summer’s war in Gaza. Things got so bad that the former head of Labor Friends of Israel, Kate Bearman, resigned her party membership. Meanwhile, Jewish actress and life-long Labor supporter Maureen Lipman wrote bitterly from the pages of Standpoint Magazine about why she could no longer bring herself to vote Labor.

When it comes to Israel and the liberal establishment with which they have maintained a longstanding alliance, Anglo-Jewry is undergoing a painful mugging by reality. And it almost certainly isn’t over yet. The Survation poll found 73 percent of British Jews saying that Israel was important to them when deciding how to vote. These people are going to have quite a circle to square if they wish to vote Labor at the upcoming election.

Labor, however, appears not to care. Increasingly, Miliband seems to be pursuing the ethnic minority and Muslim vote, perhaps even at the cost of losing some of Labor’s traditional white working-class base. The Conservatives have gone out of their way to pledge support for fighting the rising tide of anti-Semitism. But Labor has been far quieter on the subject and last week Miliband gave an interview to a Muslim newspaper in which he pledged to outlaw Islamophobia and to “overhaul” the government’s counter-terror strategy, which he implied alienates the Muslim community.

There are, after all, far more Muslims than Jews in Britain, and at the last election 89 percent of these voters endorsed Labor and the Liberal Democrats. With support for the Liberals now having collapsed, that’s a lot of votes up for grabs. If going cold on Israel is what it takes to woo these voters then so be it. One suspects that hurt Jewish feelings are something Miliband is prepared to live with.

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Liberal Thought Police Bully Gay Conservative

Liberals have transformed the debate about gay marriage in recent years from one about the definition of marriage to one about intolerance. That shift seems to have won general acceptance throughout the country and even the courts. But as we saw in the forced resignation of the CEO of Mozilla for his contribution to California’s Proposition 8 campaign and in the reaction to the passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, the cutting edge of the issue now is not so much to rally support for a cause that has already won its case in the court of public opinion but to silence opponents. The latest example of the left’s impulse to mob rule comes in an even more ironic form. A gay businessman who hosted an event for Senator Ted Cruz has been so abused by fellow gays and other liberals for the crime of allowing a conservative presidential candidate a hearing at his home that he has now been forced to publicly abase himself and apologize lest the hotels he owns be boycotted by the same gay community to which he caters. Once again, despite their claims that religious conservatives seek to persecute them, the only people being bullied or silenced on this issue lately are the few who dare to either question the newly minted liberal consensus about gay marriage or even offer a platform to those who do.

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Liberals have transformed the debate about gay marriage in recent years from one about the definition of marriage to one about intolerance. That shift seems to have won general acceptance throughout the country and even the courts. But as we saw in the forced resignation of the CEO of Mozilla for his contribution to California’s Proposition 8 campaign and in the reaction to the passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, the cutting edge of the issue now is not so much to rally support for a cause that has already won its case in the court of public opinion but to silence opponents. The latest example of the left’s impulse to mob rule comes in an even more ironic form. A gay businessman who hosted an event for Senator Ted Cruz has been so abused by fellow gays and other liberals for the crime of allowing a conservative presidential candidate a hearing at his home that he has now been forced to publicly abase himself and apologize lest the hotels he owns be boycotted by the same gay community to which he caters. Once again, despite their claims that religious conservatives seek to persecute them, the only people being bullied or silenced on this issue lately are the few who dare to either question the newly minted liberal consensus about gay marriage or even offer a platform to those who do.

The statement issued by Ian Reisner in an effort to get the gay community to call of the dogs on their boycott effort reads like something a victim of a Communist regime’s “reeducation” labor camp might be forced to recite. According to the New York Times Reisner issued the following statement:

I am shaken to my bones by the e-mails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake.”

I was ignorant, naive and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights.

I’ve spent the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’ statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry. I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees. I will try my best to make up for my poor judgment. Again, I am deeply sorry.

Reisner is apparently a conservative on issues other than gay marriage and seems to have thought Cruz’s economic and foreign-policy stands amenable to his worldview. In particular, the hotelier is a big supporter of Israel, which happens to be one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. But the Texas senator’s belief that states should be allowed to make up his or her own minds about allowing gay marriage and his evangelical beliefs place him beyond the pale for liberal gays. Thus, to the liberal thought police, anyone who hosts Cruz or presumably anyone who holds opinions or religious convictions that were shared by both President Obama or Hillary Clinton only a couple of years ago must be publicly humiliated and forced to recant lest they be exposed to economic boycotts.

You don’t have to oppose gay marriage to be disgusted by this incident.

Gays have every right to express their views about Cruz or anyone else. But their point is not just to pursue their campaign for gay marriage but to silence opponents. The bullying of Reisner is an attempt to send a message to gays and others than no other issue, not the future of the country’s economy or the security of Israel, can be allowed to interfere with efforts to not just defeat religious conservative efforts to oppose gay marriage but also to make it impossible for anyone to try to defend their own views about the issue.

Whether or not you agree with Cruz, the spectacle of Reisner’s apology for daring to think he could back a candidate in spite of their differences on gay marriage bodes ill for any effort to preserve a tone of civility in our political culture. Indeed, his statement seems to bear a greater resemblance to a victim of the Spanish Inquisition issuing a ritual recantation of heresy in order to avoid being burned at the stake.

The irony of so-called liberals, who routinely denounce conservatives for being both intolerant and debasing the political culture with incivility, orchestrating such an intolerant and undemocratic response to an individual’s behavior is lost on the left. Free speech for me but not for thee is now liberal orthodoxy. So, too, is their effort to shame anyone who doesn’t agree with them on gay marriage or even associates with anyone who dissents. As we saw with Mozilla and Indiana, mob rule is ugly but often effective, especially in the corporate world. That may comfort some gays, but it should cause all of us, whether we are gay or straight, religious or irreligious, who support democracy to tremble.

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How the Iran Deal Helps Hezbollah

On Saturday the Israeli Air Force reportedly struck surface-to-surface missile depots in Syria near the Lebanese border. The attack is widely believed to be a yet another Israeli attempt to interdict Iran’s efforts to maintain a steady flow arms and advanced weapons to its Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries in Lebanon. In particular, Tehran has used the chaos of the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to establish Hezbollah bases in Syrian territory to threaten Israel. But neither these strikes nor Hezbollah’s failed attempt yesterday at a terrorist incursion along Israel’s northern border should be viewed in isolation from the aspect of Iranian foreign policy that has drawn far more interest in the West: the negotiations for a nuclear pact. Far from being tangential to the debate about the Iran nuclear framework deal that President Obama has staked his legacy on, the flow of arms from the Islamist regime to a terrorist group illustrates the danger of appeasing Tehran far better than any speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or other opponents of the pact.

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On Saturday the Israeli Air Force reportedly struck surface-to-surface missile depots in Syria near the Lebanese border. The attack is widely believed to be a yet another Israeli attempt to interdict Iran’s efforts to maintain a steady flow arms and advanced weapons to its Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries in Lebanon. In particular, Tehran has used the chaos of the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to establish Hezbollah bases in Syrian territory to threaten Israel. But neither these strikes nor Hezbollah’s failed attempt yesterday at a terrorist incursion along Israel’s northern border should be viewed in isolation from the aspect of Iranian foreign policy that has drawn far more interest in the West: the negotiations for a nuclear pact. Far from being tangential to the debate about the Iran nuclear framework deal that President Obama has staked his legacy on, the flow of arms from the Islamist regime to a terrorist group illustrates the danger of appeasing Tehran far better than any speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or other opponents of the pact.

The Syrian adventure serves a dual purpose for Iran. On the one hand, it has committed Hezbollah and Iranian forces to help bolster its ally Bashar Assad in the war against Syrian rebels (both moderate and extremist) as well as ISIS terrorists. At the same time, it offers Iran a chance to extend its sphere of influence in such a way as to create a second front against Israel for Hezbollah. Hence the Israeli insistence, made clear in the strikes on similar targets in January and the attack this weekend, that it will not allow Iran or its Lebanese proxy terrorists to be able to strike at the Jewish state with impunity.

The Western media tends to view any violence between Israel and Hezbollah, whether along the border with Lebanon or in Syria, as part of an endless “cycle of violence.” From the point of view of the Obama administration and the liberal mainstream media this is a struggle to which there is no end and no beginning and thus no real policy implications other than the fear that a small conflagration could somehow be blown up into a regional war.

The problem with that way of looking at the issue is not so much that such fears are unreasonable as they are a function of Iran’s bid for regional hegemony, not a mere brush fire unrelated to the Islamist regime’s broader goals.

Hezbollah’s stance against Israel is, after all, not a function of an attempt to defend Lebanon or recover that nation’s territory occupied by the Jewish state. Rather it is a military front operated by Tehran’s terrorist proxy that is living proof of Iran’s commitment to Israel’s destruction. The conceit of efforts to set up Hezbollah bases in Syria is to offer the group a way to shoot at Israel without incurring retaliation on Lebanon that would lead the citizens of the country to try and curb the terrorist group’s power.

The reason this is germane to the nuclear talks is that the question of allowing Iran to become a threshold nuclear power is one that directly affects Hezbollah. Iran’s ability to project power across the Middle East via Hezbollah, the Assad regime, as well as Hamas in Gaza (which recently came back into the fold with Iran after a few years’ break because of a disagreement over the Syrian civil war) makes its nuclear pretensions that much more dangerous. If the nuclear deal gives, at the very least, Iran a potential for a bomb, that strengthens its terrorist allies. Critics rightly allege that the loose terms of the deal offer Iran two paths to an actual bomb, one by easily evading the pact’s restrictions because of a lack of tough inspections and one by abiding by it and waiting patiently for it to expire before building a weapon. If that is so, then the Iran deal will not only lead to proliferation and give Tehran the means to threaten Israel’s existence.

But even if Iran never takes advantage of that opportunity or never uses the bomb if it gets one, this deal places Hezbollah and Hamas under a potential nuclear umbrella. That gives the terrorists more freedom to operate and to foment and commit violence against both Israel and the United States. That’s why it’s a mistake for the United States to separate the issue of Iran’s support of terrorism and its desire to eliminate Israel from the nuclear issue.

President Obama’s illusions about Iran reforming itself and “getting right with the world” are foolish enough with respect to the nature of the Islamist regime. But when one considers that this same policy is empowering terrorist groups allied to Iran they become a dangerous error that will be paid for in Israeli, Palestinian, and Lebanese blood.

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Divestment from Israel Loses at Princeton

​On Friday, Princeton University’s undergraduates voted on this question: “Shall the undergraduates call on the Trustees of Princeton University and the Princeton University Investment Company (‘PRINCO’) to divest from multinational corporations that maintain the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, facilitate Israel’s and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and facilitate state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian, and Palestinian Authority security forces, until these corporations cease such activities?”

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​On Friday, Princeton University’s undergraduates voted on this question: “Shall the undergraduates call on the Trustees of Princeton University and the Princeton University Investment Company (‘PRINCO’) to divest from multinational corporations that maintain the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, facilitate Israel’s and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and facilitate state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian, and Palestinian Authority security forces, until these corporations cease such activities?”

​Although the question mentions Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (but not Hamas), the proposers have made it clear that their ultimate purpose is get Princeton “to divest from multinational corporations that are complicit in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip until these corporations cease such activities.” In other words, the sole reason to object to Egypt or the Palestinian Authority is that they facilitate Israeli oppression.

​Fortunately, Princeton’s undergraduates resisted the star power of Cornel West and the urging of more than a few faculty members, and voted the resolution down, 1067-965. The divestment campaign at Princeton joins other recent failed efforts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of New Mexico. But as usual, the pro-divestment side is claiming victory for having opened up a conversation that has in fact been incessant on college campuses for the past decade, when the latest effort to turn Israel into a pariah state, Israeli Apartheid Week, was launched on our campuses.

​It was reasonable, after this summer’s Gaza offensive, to expect a very bad year for the treatment of Israel on college campuses. But in fact, although divestment resolutions have been passed at UCLA, Northwestern, and Stanford, among other places, divestment has done no better this year than last. It is hard to say why, but perhaps Princeton’s undergraduates and others who rejected divestment could see that they were being played for fools. Perhaps they grasped that divestment is an entering wedge for the broader boycott, divestment, sanctions movement, which puts the very right of Israel to exist in question. Perhaps they understood that activists were taking advantage of student government elections, in which few vote, to produce the appearance of a consensus against Israel on campus.

Perhaps, finally, they reacted against the barely disguised anti-Semitism that has been brought to the surface this year. As Rabbi Evan Goldman, director of Hillel at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reported of the lengthy divestment debate at UCSB, one student senator spoke of “the power, money and influence of the Jewish community…. [T]here were audible gasps in the audience.” At least there were gasps. A USCB student in attendance at the same debate was disgusted by “the normalization of anti-Semitic language so casually thrown around at the meeting. In those eight hours, I was told that Jews control the government, that all Jews are rich, that Zionism is racism, that the marginalization of Jewish students is justified because it prevents the marginalization of other minority groups, that Israel sterilizes its Ethiopian women.”

​It is heartening that divestment lost at UCSB, as it lost at Princeton, but disheartening that the vote—reportedly a third attempt at passing divestment at UCSB—was close. Students and faculty, even if they feel no stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, need to get off the sidelines and understand that the use of colleges and universities as weapons in a propaganda war undermines them.

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Must We Ask a Rude Question About the Clintons?

On the surface, it isn’t that hard to understand the Clinton Cash scandal that Democrats are trying very hard to ignore this week. We have a former president making millions giving speeches and doing favors for wealthy foreign entities and nations that give massive sums to the Clinton family charity that subsidizes the lavish lifestyle of the former First Family. He did this at the same time as his wife spent four years as secretary of state where she made decisions that influence the fortunes of those donors. And all this was happening while said former first lady/secretary of state is planning to run for president herself at the next opportunity. No one can deny that this smells to high heaven of impropriety, and the best Billy and Hillary’s court of admirers and apologists can say in their defense is that the evidence of a conflict of interest is circumstantial and that there is no smoking gun proving their guilt. But there is another defense that Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch hints at in a piece published yesterday: their marriage is so dysfunctional that any alleged coordination between the two is unlikely.

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On the surface, it isn’t that hard to understand the Clinton Cash scandal that Democrats are trying very hard to ignore this week. We have a former president making millions giving speeches and doing favors for wealthy foreign entities and nations that give massive sums to the Clinton family charity that subsidizes the lavish lifestyle of the former First Family. He did this at the same time as his wife spent four years as secretary of state where she made decisions that influence the fortunes of those donors. And all this was happening while said former first lady/secretary of state is planning to run for president herself at the next opportunity. No one can deny that this smells to high heaven of impropriety, and the best Billy and Hillary’s court of admirers and apologists can say in their defense is that the evidence of a conflict of interest is circumstantial and that there is no smoking gun proving their guilt. But there is another defense that Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch hints at in a piece published yesterday: their marriage is so dysfunctional that any alleged coordination between the two is unlikely.

As Hirsh notes, to discuss the “impenetrable” Clinton marriage is a difficult task. Upon their arrival on the national stage in the 1992 presidential campaign, Americans have on the one hand been deluged with far more information about the Clintons’ relationship than we wanted, as he confessed to having “caused pain,” while never giving us any further explanations. A few years later Bill plunged the nation into a degrading debate about the definition of sex and whether it’s OK to commit perjury about acts of sexual harassment after his dalliance with an intern in the Oval Office. Since then we’ve been asked at one and the same time to sympathize with Hillary as the long suffering wife while also being warned to keep our noses out of their private business.

Would that we could. As Brit Hume recently noted on Fox, one of the key questions about Hillary’s presidential prospects is whether the “American people want another four, eight years of the Clintons and their weird marriage.”

That sounds pretty harsh and uncharacteristically ungentlemanly coming from the courtly Hume. But he’s on to something that can neither be ignored nor swept under the carpet. Having asked us to take them as a two-for-one package in 1992, the ordeal of watching their odd contortions as a couple has become a long national nightmare that, if she wins in 2016, will have no end in sight.

If the questions about them were merely the prosaic ones about whether their continuing union is one primarily of convenience like some royal dynastic pairing rather than a conventional marriage in which two people strive to love and stay together, any queries about their private lives would be rude and even inadmissible. Whether the Clintons are in any sense a romantic couple is none of our business. But if they are still a working political partnership, then we are entitled to know a great deal about their personal interactions. In particular, we deserve to learn about how large a role Bill played as an advisor to her when she was running U.S. foreign policy. We’re also entitled to know more about her role in their charity’s insatiable campaign to raise enormous amounts of cash from individuals, companies, and countries. In classic “pay for play” style, those donors thought they could do themselves quite a bit of good by giving to the Clintons rather than more established philanthropies that were not run by former and perhaps future presidents.

Other than merely claiming that we can’t prove it to a legal certainty without a smoking gun, Mrs. Clinton’s defense against the allegations raised in Clinton Cash rests on a few shaky limbs onto which her defenders can climb. One is to assert that the actions the Department of State took that benefitted Clinton donors were handled below her level. Which is to say she was, shades of Benghazi, not in the know about crucial decisions taking place on her watch. Which is to say she was an incompetent secretary of state.

Another possible defense raised by Hirsh is that Clinton was completely removed from major policy decisions in the Obama administration. This has a ring of truth to it as Obama distrusts the Clintons and runs a top-down administration in which Cabinet secretaries have little say on important matters, though that doesn’t absolve her on issues that the president did not decide. It also further undermines her claim that her experience as secretary of state entitles her to the presidency.

Yet there is an even more credible defense that Clinton’s clique can’t raise. It is that Bill and Hillary are just so disconnected a couple that the idea that they coordinated the family charity business with her foreign-policy ambitions is absurd.

Is this true? We don’t know for sure and, as with so much else about the Clintons, we may never know. Whatever their personal problems might be, their political and business partnership seems to be intact. Moreover, that defense didn’t work for an equally dysfunctional couple, Bob and Maureen McDonnell, when they faced prosecution for pay to play charges for their actions during his time as governor of Virginia.

Whatever form their personal relationship now takes, it’s too late to say that the vast charitable and political web they have woven is none of our business. Both Bill and Hillary have benefitted enormously from their charitable empire and so have those who donated to it.

Getting to the bottom of the Clinton Cash problem may require us, as Hirsh says, to “unscramble the omelet.” The putative 2016 Democratic Party candidate for president has shown no signs of being willing to speak candidly about these questions and a presidential campaign is a bad time for the pair to sort out their marriage for the public. It might be the best defense she can offer, but Hillary is unlikely to try to acquit herself of any involvement in the Clinton Foundation’s dirty business by telling us the truth about how disconnected the two really are.

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Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Can’t Be Saved

Throughout the last year former Middle East peace processor and Obama foreign policy staffer Dennis Ross has been sounding a note of caution about the nuclear talks with Iran. But after sober reflection, the veteran diplomat is endorsing the weak nuclear deal that has yet to be put to paper. But despite Ross’s optimism about the agreement’s ability to forestall Iran from getting a bomb for as much as 25 years, even he admits that the statements coming out of Tehran about the final written terms of the pact are troubling. Ross concedes Iran’s attitude can, in fact, render the framework a colossal failure if Western negotiators don’t stick to positions demanding transparency about their nuclear program. That’s true enough though why anyone would think President Obama would stand firm with the Iranians now it meant risking a deal he considers integral to his legacy is a mystery. That’s especially true after making concession after concession in order to get the deal. But scholar Michael Mandelbaum has an even better reason why this mess can’t be salvaged. As he explains in an article published in The American Interest, the problem here isn’t just bad negotiating tactics but a fundamental reordering of American foreign policy by Obama that undermines its credibility in enforcing agreements and restraining rogue regimes.

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Throughout the last year former Middle East peace processor and Obama foreign policy staffer Dennis Ross has been sounding a note of caution about the nuclear talks with Iran. But after sober reflection, the veteran diplomat is endorsing the weak nuclear deal that has yet to be put to paper. But despite Ross’s optimism about the agreement’s ability to forestall Iran from getting a bomb for as much as 25 years, even he admits that the statements coming out of Tehran about the final written terms of the pact are troubling. Ross concedes Iran’s attitude can, in fact, render the framework a colossal failure if Western negotiators don’t stick to positions demanding transparency about their nuclear program. That’s true enough though why anyone would think President Obama would stand firm with the Iranians now it meant risking a deal he considers integral to his legacy is a mystery. That’s especially true after making concession after concession in order to get the deal. But scholar Michael Mandelbaum has an even better reason why this mess can’t be salvaged. As he explains in an article published in The American Interest, the problem here isn’t just bad negotiating tactics but a fundamental reordering of American foreign policy by Obama that undermines its credibility in enforcing agreements and restraining rogue regimes.

Let’s give some credit to Ross for trying to learn from his own mistakes. Writing this week in Politico, Ross notes that it would be a blunder to take the recent statements about the nuclear agreement by Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as meaningless rhetoric intended for domestic consumption. Ross says it’s entirely possible that Khamenei’s comments are an indication that the Islamist regime has no intention of allowing rigorous inspections of its facilities or to own up to their progress toward military application of their nuclear research. Just as Yasir Arafat’s statements about his unwillingness to live up to the Oslo Accords should have been taken seriously, so, too, must Khamenei’s lest the nuclear deal wind up being trashed by the Iranians the same way the Palestinians made a mockery of the peace deal with Israel (though it is disgraceful that Ross attributes such complacence to “many of my colleagues” instead of admitting that he was just as guilty of covering up and ignoring Palestinian misdeeds as anyone else).

But, the problem goes deeper than merely having the sense to take your negotiating partner’s threats seriously. Nor is it enough to insist on agreements achieving their stated objectives as opposed to negotiation for its own sake, as appears to be the case with the president’s push for détente with Iran rather than merely stopping its nuclear program.

As Mandelbaum points out, the mistake in the administration’s strategy on Iran is that it is based on an abandonment of American military, political and economic leverage. By stating that the only alternative to a policy of appeasement of Iran is war and that war is unacceptable under virtually any circumstances, the president has ensured that Iran will get its way on every key point in the negotiations:

If the Obama administration is in fact resolutely opposed to the use of force to keep Iran from making nuclear weapons, then American foreign policy has changed in a fundamental way. For more than seven decades, since its entry into World War II, the United States has carried out a foreign policy of global scope that has included the willingness to go to war on behalf of vital American interests. There is no higher or more urgent current American interest beyond the country’s borders than keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of an aggressive, theocratic, anti-American regime located in a region that harbors much of the oil on which the global economy depends. If fighting to vindicate that interest has become unthinkable, then American foreign policy has entered a new era.

Mandelbaum’s trenchant observation illustrates the key flaw in Ross’s facile call for the president to finally stand up to Khamenei in the talks. Having discarded not only his leverage but signaled that he will not defend U.S. interests and will abandon allies in order to pursue an entente with Iran, President Obama has made any outcome but a weak and unenforceable deal impossible. Unless there is a fundamental change in the administration’s approach, there is no saving this deal. That is something senators should remember when they are eventually asked to vote on this fiasco.

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Israel’s President Should Recognize the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian genocide, the centenary of which is marked today, is a wound that has yet to close, perhaps because of the lack of official recognition by some Western countries. So it’s encouraging, as well as interesting from a geopolitical perspective, to note that there are rumors that Israeli President Ruby Rivlin will officially recognize the Armenian genocide in a meeting with Armenian community leaders this weekend. Here, for example, is what the Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren tweeted out overnight:

The Armenian genocide, the centenary of which is marked today, is a wound that has yet to close, perhaps because of the lack of official recognition by some Western countries. So it’s encouraging, as well as interesting from a geopolitical perspective, to note that there are rumors that Israeli President Ruby Rivlin will officially recognize the Armenian genocide in a meeting with Armenian community leaders this weekend. Here, for example, is what the Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren tweeted out overnight:

I happen to think that what was done to the Armenians a century ago by their Ottoman rulers amounts to genocide. I’ve always been a bit less insistent that various congresses and parliaments officially designate it as such, though I do wish they would, and I think individual politicians, even presidents and prime ministers, should say it was genocide if they do indeed think it was (which most of them seem to). This is slightly different than passing parliamentary resolutions, for procedural reasons, but also for reasons of honesty: if you believe something was genocide, and you were asked point blank if it was, then you should say so. Lying about genocide is a less-than-sterling political act.

I was recently recounting my experiences on the “March of the Living,” the annual trip for high school seniors to the death camps in Poland and then to Israel to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day. My most vivid memory has to do with scheduling. After visiting our last of the camps in Poland (I believe for our group it was Majdanek) we went straight to the airport to catch our flight to Israel.

Thousands of kids attend the trip each year, so the different buses break up into groups and have slightly different itineraries, or at least visit places in different orders. My bus had the great fortune of going straight from Ben-Gurion airport to the Western Wall. So my group had gone from the camps to the Kotel with no stops (or sleep) in between.

As you might imagine, it is an overwhelming experience, going from a place that marks the low point of our people to the place that marks the high. But that trip from Majdanek to the Western Wall either goes right through the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (I can’t remember which path we took), or at the very least right next to it. There is some glaring incongruity in that, due to Israel’s non-recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Is that too sentimental a basis on which to make policy? Maybe, but we’re talking about the return of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after two thousand years wandering the earth. There’s really no eliminating sentiment here. (It was Ben-Gurion himself who said that in Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.)

What about geopolitical considerations? Well, they’re not nothing. But if it’s the right thing to do to recognize the genocide, then it’s the right thing to do. Also, geopolitical realities have shifted anyway, and Turkey’s drift into Erdogan’s Islamist nightmare should at least give some politicians an excuse now to lend a symbolic hand to the downtrodden.

Additionally, I believe that recognizing the Armenian genocide is, for the Jewish community, a strategic imperative. The Armenians were first subjected to mass demonization efforts to cast them as disloyal citizens. That laid the groundwork for the argument that they were thus a national-security risk, and that rounding them up was not simple bigotry but a sort of counteroffensive war measure.

There is no community more likely to be accused of imperfect loyalty, even–or especially!–in the “enlightened” West, than the Jews. And in every such country, they are a vulnerable minority. It does not make much sense, then, for the Jewish state to argue that the demonization and isolation campaigns against Jews even in Europe recall a dark genocidal chapter not too long ago, and yet not recognize it as such with regard to others.

Some argue that it could cheapen the designation of genocide to apply it to a situation that may not be so clear-cut. But I think, in the case of the Armenians, the opposite is true. I think it cheapens the term genocide to only use it, as the current American administration has, when it is easy to do so and to drum up support for military action, such as with the ISIS assault on the Yazidis.

It would be appropriate, therefore, for Israel to make this recognition. But it would also be appropriate for another reason. Ruby Rivlin has thus far had something of a remarkable presidency. The office of the president of Israel is mostly ceremonial. And Rivlin has used that to great effect. In October, he became the first Israeli president to attend the annual memorial ceremony for the victims of the 1956 massacre in the Arab village of Kafr Qasem. Israel has to “look straight at what happened in the Kafr Qasem massacre and teach all future generations about it,” Rivlin said. He’s also spoken out movingly against racism.

As a dedicated rightist, Rivlin caught many off-guard when he showed this appetite for atonement and reconciliation. So if any Israeli president were to recognize the Armenian genocide, it’s appropriate that it would be him.

At this point, they’re just rumors. But the reporting suggests that Rivlin is seriously considering it. He should, and he should walk through the Armenian quarter of his nation’s ancient capital with his head held high.

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Clinton Cash and Circumstantial Evidence

A few days into the Clinton Cash scandal and apologists for Hillary and Bill are starting to retreat. After days of focusing on smearing author Peter Schweizer, the investigative reports of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and now Fox News have made it harder to dismiss the discussion about the connection between the massive donations to the Clintons’ foundation and speaking fees for the former president and influence peddling at the State Department. Instead, they are relying on more legalistic defenses and saying that Schweizer and other journalists who have followed up on his reporting can’t prove that Hillary Clinton performed favors for donors to her family charity or those who paid her husband half-million-dollar honorariums. So far, that’s true as there is no “smoking gun” memo in which the Clintons make clear promises of corrupt action in payment for the largesse that had been bestowed upon them. But what Democrats and all Americans should be asking about this argument is why some people get prosecuted for corruption on such circumstantial evidence while others are considered likely to be elected president. If circumstantial evidence less compelling than that contained in Clinton Cash can lead to an indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, why should we dismiss this story as just a political attack?

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A few days into the Clinton Cash scandal and apologists for Hillary and Bill are starting to retreat. After days of focusing on smearing author Peter Schweizer, the investigative reports of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and now Fox News have made it harder to dismiss the discussion about the connection between the massive donations to the Clintons’ foundation and speaking fees for the former president and influence peddling at the State Department. Instead, they are relying on more legalistic defenses and saying that Schweizer and other journalists who have followed up on his reporting can’t prove that Hillary Clinton performed favors for donors to her family charity or those who paid her husband half-million-dollar honorariums. So far, that’s true as there is no “smoking gun” memo in which the Clintons make clear promises of corrupt action in payment for the largesse that had been bestowed upon them. But what Democrats and all Americans should be asking about this argument is why some people get prosecuted for corruption on such circumstantial evidence while others are considered likely to be elected president. If circumstantial evidence less compelling than that contained in Clinton Cash can lead to an indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, why should we dismiss this story as just a political attack?

The Menendez analogy is inexact but nevertheless worth thinking about. The New Jersey senator faces jail for having done favors that benefited the business of his longtime political donor and friend. The donor was a doctor who made a fortune via Medicare and there’s little doubt that Menendez helped smooth his path to riches. But what’s lacking in the case is any hard evidence that showed that this was a corrupt transaction between the two rather than just constituent service or a favor to a friend. Unless the doctor informs on the senator (something the federal prosecutors are hoping to achieve by over-indicting the senator’s alleged partner in crime with enough charges to keep him in prison for hundreds of years), it’s hard to see how they will obtain a conviction. Even if everybody in New Jersey and Washington probably thinks this is a classic example of pay for play, there is a huge gap between what looks fishy and the sort of thing that can put a senator in prison.

The same can be said of all the allegations about the Clintons since it is unlikely either they or their donors will tell on each other absent the possibility of legal coercion.

The latest shoe to drop is the report about the way the Clintons became the “gatekeepers” for any company that wanted to do business in Haiti during the reconstruction effort after a devastating earthquake in 2010. By the same set of curious coincidences that led those who profited from the sale of 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves to Russia to become donors to the Clinton Global Initiative and sponsors of highly paid speeches by Bill Clinton, a different set of “philanthropists” wound up getting contracts to aid reconstruction and infrastructure work in Haiti also after donating fortunes to the ubiquitous Clinton Foundation. The former president, who was co-chair of a recovery commission, and the State Department facilitated such access. One of the most egregious and embarrassing examples came when a company with little mining experience was granted a gold mining permit. By another astonishing coincidence, Tony Rodham, the secretary of state’s brother, was soon named to its board.

In reply to this and the shocking revelations about a Russian state agency acquiring an American uranium mine from Clinton donors, friends of the putative 2016 Democratic presidential candidate can only shrug their shoulders and demand that critics “prove” to a legal certainty that the favors done their benefactors was part of corrupt deal. They’re right. There probably isn’t a piece of paper lying around in which Bill or Hillary say what it will cost in terms of charitable gifts or honorariums to help potential donors. And if it was ever written in an email, we know that email and the server on which it was recorded have since been erased.

All we have left is the circumstantial evidence that shows that some of the nice people who gave to the Clintons’ charity the cash needed to do some good, but also make the former first couple immensely wealthy, wound up having some of their business affairs advanced by government action. Others clearly hoped that this would be so. After all, the Clinton Global Initiative is just one of many worthy causes and others have longer pedigrees and more impressive records of achievement. People gave to the Clintons because of the good they could have done for themselves rather than to merely do good.

But just because a prosecutor isn’t likely to haul the Clintons into court over all these astonishing coincidences (or at least not so long as the Democrats control the Department of Justice), that doesn’t mean their behavior doesn’t smell to high heaven. Nor should it allow their court of apologists to obscure the real issues here with personal attacks and diversionary tactics. The court in which the Clintons deserve to be condemned is that of public opinion. It is there that Hillary’s friends must be, like Bob Menendez will soon be doing in a federal courtroom, reduced to saying that the journalists who have dug up their secrets can’t prove they’re guilty of corruption even if the circumstantial evidence points in that direction. That may be enough to avoid jail, but what we’ll find out in the coming year is whether it is enough to get elected president.

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Young Arabs Agree: Israel Isn’t Arab World’s Major Problem

One of the most positive strategic developments for Israel of the past few years has been its marked improvement in relations with significant parts of the Arab world. Three years ago, for instance, the most cockeyed optimist wouldn’t have predicted a letter like Israel received this week from a senior official of the Free Syrian Army, who congratulated it on its 67th anniversary and voiced hope that next year, Israel’s Independence Day would be celebrated at an Israeli embassy in Damascus.

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One of the most positive strategic developments for Israel of the past few years has been its marked improvement in relations with significant parts of the Arab world. Three years ago, for instance, the most cockeyed optimist wouldn’t have predicted a letter like Israel received this week from a senior official of the Free Syrian Army, who congratulated it on its 67th anniversary and voiced hope that next year, Israel’s Independence Day would be celebrated at an Israeli embassy in Damascus.

Yet many analysts have cautioned that even if Arab leaders were quietly cooperating with Israel for reasons of realpolitik, anti-Israel hostility in the “Arab street” hadn’t abated. So a new poll showing that this, too, is changing came as a lovely Independence Day gift.

The ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, which has been conducted annually for the last seven years, polls 3,500 Arabs aged 18 to 24 from 16 Arab countries in face-to-face interviews. One of the standard questions is “What do you believe is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East?”

This year, defying a long tradition of blaming all the Arab world’s problems on Israel, only 23 percent of respondents cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the region’s main obstacle. In fact, the conflict came in fourth, trailing ISIS (37 percent), terrorism (32 percent) and unemployment (29 percent). Given that respondents were evidently allowed to choose more than one of the 15 options (the total adds up to 235 percent rather than 100), it’s even more noteworthy that only 23 percent thought the conflict worth mentioning.

A comparison to previous surveys shows that this figure has been declining slowly but steadily for the past few years: In 2012, for instance, it was 27 percent, a statistically significant difference given the poll’s margin of error (1.65 percent). But the 2015 decline is particularly remarkable because last summer’s war in Gaza made the past year the conflict’s bloodiest in decades for Palestinians. Hence one would have expected Arab concern about the conflict to increase. Instead, it dropped.

The poll also highlights another encouraging fact: The issues young Arabs do see as their top concerns–ISIS, terrorism, and unemployment–are all issues on which cooperation with Israel could be beneficial, and in some cases, it’s already taking place. For instance, Israeli-Egyptian cooperation on counterterrorism is closer than it’s been in years–not only against Hamas, but also against the ISIS branch in Sinai, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Israel and Jordan cooperate closely on counterterrorism as well, and it’s a safe bet that quiet cooperation is also occurring with certain other Arab states that officially have no relations with Israel.

Egypt and Israel have also ramped up economic cooperation, even manning a joint booth at a major trade fair earlier this year.

In short, the issues currently of greatest concern to young Arabs are precisely the issues most conducive to a further thawing of Israeli-Arab relations.

What the poll shows, in a nutshell, is that young Arabs have reached the same conclusion Arab leaders made glaringly evident at the last year’s inaugural session of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate: Israel simply isn’t one of the Arab world’s major problems anymore, if it ever was. Now all Israel needs is for the West to finally come to the same realization.

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Is Clinton Corruption Narrative the End of the “War on Women?”

Most of the candidates for president in 2016 have turned the announcement of when they’re going to announce into an announcement in itself, to drum up both attention and attendance for the big day. And so Carly Fiorina joined the meta-announcement crew two days ago by revealing she will announce her candidacy for president on May 4. This did not get a ton of attention, in part because the astounding revelations of Clintonian corruption have devoured the news cycle. But this also might not be temporary for Fiorina; she may have to get used to the strange way Hillary’s corruption could affect her own candidacy.

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Most of the candidates for president in 2016 have turned the announcement of when they’re going to announce into an announcement in itself, to drum up both attention and attendance for the big day. And so Carly Fiorina joined the meta-announcement crew two days ago by revealing she will announce her candidacy for president on May 4. This did not get a ton of attention, in part because the astounding revelations of Clintonian corruption have devoured the news cycle. But this also might not be temporary for Fiorina; she may have to get used to the strange way Hillary’s corruption could affect her own candidacy.

That’s because Fiorina is a perfect test case for how the full GOP field will tailor their attacks on Clinton according to the news cycle. This may sound obvious, but in fact it’s not: the media tends to be so far in the tank for major Democratic candidates that it’s a struggle to get the mainstream press to put Democrats on the defensive the way they prefer Republicans to be throughout the election.

But that’s simply not the case this time. Of course, Hillary’s corruption scandals do, to some degree, represent a media failure. After all, the latest revelations are that the Clintons were personally enriched by donors who they then helped access American uranium deposits only to sell them to the Russians, who were also supplying the Iranians while shoveling large sums of money at Bill Clinton, who facilitated the deal and whose wife, Hillary, signed off on it while she was secretary of state.

Which is to say, this is a monumental scandal involving the corruption of American foreign policy for profit while boosting America’s enemies at the expense of our own national security. Had the story come out when it happened, it could have ended Hillary’s political career by forcing her resignation from the State Department, and might have torpedoed President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and derailed whatever remained of the concessions Obama wanted to give Vladimir Putin as part of the failed “reset.”

That’s a worst-case scenario for this round of alternate history, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t at least a possibility.

Additionally, some of this was prompted by conservative researcher and think-tanker Peter Schweizer, who endeavored to connect the dots that were hiding in plain sight. The New York Times, for example, should be commended for putting its resources behind expanding on Schweizer’s investigations. As Politico noted yesterday, “The fact that Schweizer’s revelations have now been vetted and reported out by the likes of the Times, POLITICO, etc., means the Clinton campaign can no longer be so dismissive.” That is true–and also quite an indictment of the reporting atmosphere in which Democrats can get away with far too much.

So the attempts to ghettoize conservative reporting this time around aren’t having much success. The stories themselves are far too explosive, and they’re not all coming from Schweizer either. Reuters, for example, revealed that the Clintons have been filing years of false tax returns in order to hide foreign donations. It turns out the Clintons are following neither the spirit nor the letter of the law, and that isn’t easy to hide in 2015.

And it changes the focus of Republican criticism as well. Now that the Clintons have failed to characterize the facts about their family foundation as right-wing conspiracy theories, the leftist game plan on the election has to be at least somewhat revised. Initial attacks on Hillary centered on her complete lack of accomplishments and sense of entitlement. To this, the left would respond by shouting “sexism!” In general, Hillary would like to steer the conversation toward all manner of “war on women” subjects.

But blatant corruption of the kind we’re seeing here makes it impossible for the Clintons to control the narrative right now. And the corruption storyline gives Republicans a way to criticize Hillary while avoiding the culture wars.

This is great news for the GOP field in general, but less so for Fiorina. As I wrote after her CPAC speech this year, Fiorina was able to talk about social issues and Hillary’s failings in a way that Republican men just weren’t. That’s not all there is to her candidacy; Fiorina speaks with fluency on a range of subjects, and her career in the private sector has given her both executive experience and an outsider’s perspective on government.

It’s possible the Clinton corruption stories will fade, or at least go through a lull at some point. Maybe Fiorina will still be in the race if that happens, maybe not. But if she was hoping for much of a poll bounce after her official campaign launch, she might find Clinton raining on her parade by, paradoxically, giving everybody something to criticize Hillary over.

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Six Reasons Why the Donor Primaries Won’t Decide the GOP Race

For the political left, there’s only one surefire antidote for the depression brought on by the spectacle of the Clinton Cash corruption: talk about big donors deciding the Republican presidential nomination race before it even starts. The focus on donors such as Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers is understandable. The casino mogul and the network of donors connected to the Kochs have the ability to inject tens of millions into the campaigns of favorite candidates. That sort of vital help can keep dying candidacies alive and maybe put strong ones over the top. So when Politico reports that Marco Rubio has “taken the lead in the Adelson primary” or Reuters claims that the Kochs are backing Scott Walker (or, according to Salon, backing away from the Wisconsin governor), it’s major political news. But before we start diving into the usual stories about Adelson and the Kochs deciding the identity of the nominee by writing a few checks, it’s time to take a reality check. Here are six reasons why the big donors won’t decide things for the Republicans:

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For the political left, there’s only one surefire antidote for the depression brought on by the spectacle of the Clinton Cash corruption: talk about big donors deciding the Republican presidential nomination race before it even starts. The focus on donors such as Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers is understandable. The casino mogul and the network of donors connected to the Kochs have the ability to inject tens of millions into the campaigns of favorite candidates. That sort of vital help can keep dying candidacies alive and maybe put strong ones over the top. So when Politico reports that Marco Rubio has “taken the lead in the Adelson primary” or Reuters claims that the Kochs are backing Scott Walker (or, according to Salon, backing away from the Wisconsin governor), it’s major political news. But before we start diving into the usual stories about Adelson and the Kochs deciding the identity of the nominee by writing a few checks, it’s time to take a reality check. Here are six reasons why the big donors won’t decide things for the Republicans:

The Big Donor Track Record Isn’t That Good

I know this runs counter to liberal conspiracy theories, but there’s no evidence that major donors have ever been able to buy an election for a candidate who would otherwise not have been taken seriously. The best example of this comes from Adelson who, next to the Kochs, is the conservative liberals love to hate the most. Adelson very much wanted to influence the 2012 Republican race but in Newt Gingrich, he picked a candidate who couldn’t win. Adelson’s donations kept Gingrich in the race perhaps long after he might otherwise have dropped out. But he couldn’t will him to victory. No amount of money could have.

There Are Too Many Big Donors to Allow Any One to Dominate

Another problem for conspiracy theorists is that America is a very wealthy country with a lot of really rich people, including some who are obsessed with politics. For every Adelson backing a Gingrich, there was a Foster Friess bankrolling Rick Santorum. And if Adelson doesn’t wind up embracing Rubio this time, the Florida senator’s longtime wealthy friend Norman Braman will. The Bush dynasty has their backers. Scott Walker’s small-government principles and battles with the unions may bring him the support of the Kochs, but many big donors who are also associated with their group may back Ted Cruz. Were all the Republican major donors to conspire together and back only one, that might make it hard for a challenger to compete. But that would be a description of what’s going on in the Democratic Party now as the Clinton cash machine enforces discipline on the left. Right now, that’s just not possible in a Republican Party whose donors are as diverse as the Democrats inaccurately claim their party to be.

The GOP Field is Too Big and Too Strong

Mega-donors like Adelson and the Kochs can have a disproportionate impact on elections when the choices are few. But that’s not the case for Republicans in 2016. The deep GOP bench has put forward a bevy of promising candidates with even those that many people think can’t win a general election, like Ted Cruz, demonstrating genuine appeal to a large number of Republicans. That creates an interesting dynamic that makes it harder for an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush to follow the Mitt Romney model of gliding to the nomination as weak opponents fall by the wayside. But it also makes it more difficult for any one donor or set of donors, like the many who fell in line behind Bush when he launched his candidacy in December, to have anything more than a marginal impact on the outcome. All of those candidates are going to need money to be competitive, but that just makes it more difficult for individual billionaires and millionaires to become kingmakers.

Many donors hedge their bets

The notion of a big donor tapping one person to be their personal Manchurian Candidate is the nightmare of leftists who fear Republican money will buy the presidency. But in practice, many large donors hedge their bets and give support to more than one candidate. That’s actually the genius of the group of donors that come together under the Koch brothers umbrella since many spread their wealth around. Given the fact that many of the GOP candidates share a worldview (Rand Paul is the one true outlier on foreign policy), it’s logical that a lot of givers find it hard to choose and don’t. The real impact of the Kochs will be after the Republican nominee is chosen when Republicans will try and unite around their standard-bearer. Until then, it will be a big money free-for-all rather than something in which a few individuals make a decision for an entire party.

Unions and Left-Wing Donors Still Throw Around As Much Money

The obsessive focus of the liberal mainstream media on Adelson and the Kochs ignores a key fact about American politics: liberals can always outspend conservatives. That seems counter-intuitive since it is assumed that most rich people would prefer lower taxes and therefore want Republicans in charge. But there are two problems with that thesis. One is that for every conservative mega-donor who is a libertarian like the Kochs or a foreign-policy hawk and dedicated friend of Israel like Adelson there appears to be a left-wing moneybags dedicated to opposing those views. Tom Steyer spends his money backing politicians who are environmental extremists while George Soros donates his loot to support those who oppose a strong America or Israel (or groups that seek to undermine Israel’s diplomatic stance and political support like J Street). More than that, the unions spend every bit as much as right-wing donors to keep Democrats and liberals in line. Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year, their spending far outranks those of big GOP donors. If anyone is buying elections, it’s them.

Money Doesn’t Guarantee Victory

Liberals justify their ongoing efforts to suppress political speech with complicated campaign-finance laws because they believe elections can be bought. But American political history is strewn with examples of well-funded candidates who flopped or fell short. Would-be presidents like John Connally (1980) and Phil Gramm (1996) are just the most blatant examples of how money can’t buy you love in politics if the voters don’t like what they see. Many wealthy men like Nelson Rockefeller and Mitt Romney have failed to win the presidency. In our modern and chaotic system, it is true that the ability to raise money is a requirement. But in that sense it merely acts as a test of a candidate’s appeal. Anyone who is incapable of inspiring support from a wide range of donors isn’t going to win anyway. But rich or poor, the voters always have the final say on nominations and elections. So while winning the Adelson and Koch primaries doesn’t hurt and can do a candidate a great deal of good, it is no guarantee of success.

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Hillary Clinton’s Bribery Scandal

Earlier this week I referred to Hillary Clinton’s “tangle of corruption.” It turns out I was being generous.

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Earlier this week I referred to Hillary Clinton’s “tangle of corruption.” It turns out I was being generous.

As the politically explosive story in the New York Times demonstrates, the depths of the Clintons’ corruption and avarice is stunning. The facts in the Times story are utterly damning and prima facie evidence of a conflict of interest. If foreign governments, including adversarial ones like Russia, paid the Clinton Foundation and/or Bill Clinton huge sums of money, they assured themselves favorable treatment. (Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was pursuing the purchase of a Uranium One, a uranium mining company.) What we’re talking about looks very much like bribery, as former Governor Mitt Romney told Hugh Hewitt.

It’s worth placing this revelation in context: The Clintons have known for years that Hillary would run for president–and yet they still undertook this transparently unethical and potentially politically catastrophic action. The same is true of Mrs. Clinton’s deletion of 30,000 emails, another breathtakingly inappropriate, and possibly illegal, act. (It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that some of those deleted emails included a discussion of Uranium One, the company the Russians assumed control over.)

All of this confirms what many of us have long believed: The Clintons are, in important respects, unethical and unscrupulous. They think the rules apply to other people but not them. They are self-indulgent, narcissistic, out of control. There don’t appear to be moral guardrails in place. They oversee a brutal political machine that destroys those who threaten their political viability.

The Clintons are so brazen in their transgressions and corruption that they are like figures from a Robert Penn Warren novel. But in this case, we’re dealing not with fiction but real life, not with make-believe characters but real people. One of them wants to win the presidency. But being engulfed by a bribery scandal won’t help her.

A recommendation to my Democratic friends: It’s time for Elizabeth Warren to start warming up in the bullpen.

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Another Jewish Charm Offensive Won’t Fix What Obama Has Broken

After several months of insults (chickensh*!t) and threats about re-evaluating U.S. policy, the Obama administration appears to have awakened to the fact that its feud with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone too far. As the New York Times reports today, the White House is making a conscious effort to play down its anger at the Israeli government, primarily by making nice with American Jewish groups. But what is sounding very much like another edition of the Jewish charm offensive that characterized administration statements about Israel during the year preceding President Obama’s reelection is not going to fix what has been broken by President Obama and his foreign-policy team. The problem is an American government that is intent on creating distance between itself and Israel, not misunderstandings rooted in a personality clash between Obama and Netanyahu. Its only purpose is to disarm Jewish groups and to persuade them to stay quiet during the impending debate about the Iran nuclear deal while still threatening Israel with diplomatic isolation over the Middle East peace process.

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After several months of insults (chickensh*!t) and threats about re-evaluating U.S. policy, the Obama administration appears to have awakened to the fact that its feud with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone too far. As the New York Times reports today, the White House is making a conscious effort to play down its anger at the Israeli government, primarily by making nice with American Jewish groups. But what is sounding very much like another edition of the Jewish charm offensive that characterized administration statements about Israel during the year preceding President Obama’s reelection is not going to fix what has been broken by President Obama and his foreign-policy team. The problem is an American government that is intent on creating distance between itself and Israel, not misunderstandings rooted in a personality clash between Obama and Netanyahu. Its only purpose is to disarm Jewish groups and to persuade them to stay quiet during the impending debate about the Iran nuclear deal while still threatening Israel with diplomatic isolation over the Middle East peace process.

As with the reelection year charm offensive, the administration is doing little to mend fences with an Israeli government that it has slandered and undermined. Rather, it is focused on holding the hands of Jewish groups that face the difficult choice between standing up to the president or keeping quiet in order to maintain their access to the White House.

The administration is rightly fearful that it’s public venting of anger about Netanyahu’s opposition to its push for détente with Iran and their insistence on blaming him and not the Palestinian Authority leadership for the latest collapse of the peace process is exposing the rift between much of the Democratic Party and the pro-Israel community. That doesn’t necessarily threaten the Democrats’ hold on the Jewish vote in 2016, but Obama isn’t really worried about Hillary Clinton’s fate right now. What bothers him is the prospect that a critical mass of American Jews will be sufficiently fed up with the president’s threats toward Israel and insufficiently sold on the virtues of the Iran deal that they will exert pressure on wavering Democrats to vote against the agreement if it is actually signed and then comes up for a vote sometime this summer.

That’s what’s behind the meetings with Jewish groups (though most of those invited to the tête-à-têtes at the White House have been either loyal administration cheerleaders like J Street and other left-wing groups or mainstream organizations that can usually be counted on not to make trouble for the powers that be) and, just as important, leaks from administration sources that lead to articles like today’s New York Times feature intended to calm the nerves of the paper’s liberal Jewish readership.

Despite the talk of recognition that, in the words of former U.S. ambassador to Israel and veteran peace processor Daniel Kurtzer, “anger was replacing policy,” the division between the two countries had little to do with pique on either side of the alliance. The White House temper tantrums about Netanyahu’s prickly personality, his acceptance of an invitation to address Congress without bespeaking Obama’s permission first, or even some of the things he said in the days before his election victory certainly added to the tensions that have been building for six years. But the real source of the problem lies in policy prescriptions not inadequate personal relations.

The president entered office convinced that the U.S. must distance itself from Israel and engage Iran and after years of effort, he finally seems to have accomplished both objectives. To that end, the president has consistently sought to pressure Israel to make concessions and blamed the Jewish state when these efforts failed, as they always have, to entice the Palestinians to make peace. Consistent Palestinian rejections of peace offers have convinced most Israelis that peace is impossible in the foreseeable future and to reelect Netanyahu, but the administration has reacted to the same facts by seeking more distance between Washington and Jerusalem and overtly threatening to abandon Israel at the United Nations.

Even more ominously, the White House has embraced a new bizarrely Iran-centric policy in the Middle East that has alienated both Israel and moderate Arab nations while negotiating an agreement that, at the very least, establishes Tehran as a threshold nuclear power and gives it two paths to a bomb, one by cheating and the other by waiting until the deal expires.

Neither of these problems can be papered over by mere meetings or statements. President Obama’s disingenuous efforts to convince the country that, despite everything that has happened during his time in office that would convince any objective observer to the contrary, he is true friend of Israel ring false even for many Democrats.

But Obama doesn’t need, as he did in 2012, to convince most supporters of Israel that he is one of them. After all that has happened in the last year, let alone the five that preceded it, that isn’t going to work despite his avowals of friendship. All he needs is to neutralize the mainstream groups that could make a lot of trouble for him if they decided to go all out to try and defeat an Iran deal that poses a potential mortal threat to the security of the West, regional security, as well as Israel’s existence. Such an effort on their part might be enough to tip many ostensibly pro-Israel Democrats to oppose the deal even though the president has tried to make support for the deal a test of partisan loyalty.

That’s why Obama says he won’t meet Netanyahu until after the Iran deal is finalized and approved even if he has to get that approval by stopping Congress from overriding his veto.

Supporters of Israel in both the Democratic and Republican parties need to recognize that what is needed are not feel-good meetings but a presidential promise that the final Iran deal will insist on the inspections and other points the Iranians currently refuse to countenance. They should also get guarantees that the president won’t stop backing the Jewish state in the United Nations when the Palestinians and their supporters seek recognition for their state without first being required to make peace.

Anything less than that is a diversionary tactic, not an effort to heal a breach the president has worked so hard to create.

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Hillary’s Bet: Voters Want More ‘House of Cards,’ Less ‘Veep’

One of the central plotlines in Denis Johnson’s latest novel, The Laughing Monsters, is of a couple of rogue NATO-aligned troublemakers attempting to sell stray uranium to some misfits pretending to be Mossad. The book portrays Westerners as cynics seeking to exploit the post-9/11 global security scramble for profit. I thought the plot was basically silly, but it has seemed less so with every new story about the Clintons. With the latest revelation about the Clintons profiting from the sale of uranium to shady characters, needless to say, The Laughing Monsters seems not silly at all but almost restrained and minimalist compared to what Bill and Hillary Clinton have actually been up to.

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One of the central plotlines in Denis Johnson’s latest novel, The Laughing Monsters, is of a couple of rogue NATO-aligned troublemakers attempting to sell stray uranium to some misfits pretending to be Mossad. The book portrays Westerners as cynics seeking to exploit the post-9/11 global security scramble for profit. I thought the plot was basically silly, but it has seemed less so with every new story about the Clintons. With the latest revelation about the Clintons profiting from the sale of uranium to shady characters, needless to say, The Laughing Monsters seems not silly at all but almost restrained and minimalist compared to what Bill and Hillary Clinton have actually been up to.

This raises a question: As much as Americans like their dark and cynical political fantasy, are they really ready to elect the Clintons and make it a reality?

One comparison to which the Clintons are often subjected is the Underwoods of the American adaptation of House of Cards. But I find this one unconvincing, not least because the Clintons don’t (despite some imaginative conspiracy theories) go around killing those who pose an obstacle to their accumulation of power. When it comes to House of Cards, truth really isn’t stranger than fiction.

But House of Cards does provide at least a useful discussion point because it seems to represent the dark fantasy of American politics. President Obama himself likes to joke that he wishes real life were more like the dead-souled politics of House of Cards. As Time reported in 2013: “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama told tech industry leaders. “It’s true. It’s like Kevin Spacey, man this guy’s getting a lot of stuff done.”

It’s Obama’s version of Tomfriedmanism: every so often, a bit of ruthless authoritarianism is worth the further decay of freedom and democracy.

Of course, in real life, Washington D.C. far more closely resembles HBO’s Veep, in which those in power are awkward and bumbling and, well, human. There is perhaps something reassuring in the House of Cards model in the belief that things are a certain way because powerful people want them to be that way. But there is, in fact, not really such a thing as presidential stability, and often the more stable it looks from the outside the more it truly resembles a Jenga tower. (A good example is FDR, the closest thing since Washington that America has had to an indispensable man. Only in death did it become fully clear the democratic rot over which FDR presided.)

But the House of Cards frame is useful for another reason: while the Clintons are obviously not cold-blooded killers, they are unlike any other family in American politics. And as Hillary runs for president, she will be asking the country to vote its dark fantasies into reality. Do Americans like House of Cards for the escapism, or do they secretly wish life was really like that?

There is reason to think they’re beginning to get uneasy with this. As our John Podhoretz noted earlier today, according to Quinnipiac a majority of voters don’t think Hillary is honest and trustworthy, including 61 percent of independents. Here’s Chris Cillizza on those numbers:

That’s a remarkable set of findings — and speaks to the divided mind the public has about the Clintons broadly and Hillary Clinton specifically.  There’s a widespread belief in her capability to do the job she is running for. There’s also widespread distrust in her personally.  People admire her but don’t know if she’s honest.

And that is the central problem for Clinton with this series of stories today. It affirms for people that there is always some piece — or pieces — of baggage that come with electing the Clintons to anything.  It’s part of the deal.  You don’t get one without the other.

Make no mistake: Forcing people to decide whether Clinton’s readiness for the job outweighs the fact that it’s always something with these people is not the choice the Clinton team wants on the ballot in November 2016.

If it’s not the choice the Clintons want people to make, then they’re really not so confident that America’s ready for Claire Underwood. But there’s an argument to be made that such questions are fully irrelevant to the actual election.

For example, Democrats are mostly going to support Hillary, and Republicans will generally be happy to stay on their side of the dividing line. And Democrats are not going to vote Republican just because Hillary is dishonest and untrustworthy. In that Quinnipiac poll, she beats each major Republican candidate. The point is not that those numbers can’t or won’t change but that the same voters who say she’s untrustworthy and dishonest would still pick her over the other guy.

And without a serious Democratic primary challenger, Hillary can continue to rally support based on the premise that it’s either her or the Republicans. The GOP might hope for voter apathy come Election Day, but how many Democrats will stay home when they have another chance to make history?

Clintonian corruption is not a disqualifying factor to a great many voters–at least not yet. But on the other hand, the Quinnipiac poll was taken before the latest revelations that the Clintons were personally enriched by steering American strategic resources into the hands of the Russians (and thus the Iranians) when Hillary was secretary of state. There might be a limit, in other words, to how much voters are willing to stomach. And Hillary’s already making them queasy.

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