Do We Need a War Hero in the Pentagon?

The effort to sell Chuck Hagel to the Senate and the American public has begun, and so far it has consisted of two distinct lines of argument–both intended to silence dissent about his nomination to be secretary of defense. One involves an effort to discredit and discount the critique of Hagel’s longstanding equivocal attitude toward Israel and its friends that was coupled with a soft stance on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah. This aspect of the battle over Hagel boils down to a campaign to redefine the term “pro-Israel” to mean someone who thinks he was courageous for supporting pressure on the Jewish state by standing up to the “Jewish lobby” while opposing sanctions or military action on the Iranian nuclear threat. Selling that line involves disingenuous pronouncements from Hagel and heavy-duty justifications from Israel-bashers. It’s not clear whether that will work to persuade several pro-Israel Democrats who would prefer not to deny the president his choice but are not comfortable with Hagel.

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Do We Need a War Hero in the Pentagon?

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The DACA Compromise May Be Dead on Arrival

Bipartisanship really isn't popular.

Americans love it when politicians in Washington strike bipartisan deals that make everyone happy. At least, in theory. If that were true in practice, there would be many more bipartisan deals. Political realities ensure that compromise is almost always a fraught prospect. The temptation to eschew concession and consolation in order to court the uncompromising maximalists who hold sway over both party’s base voters is often too great to resist. The illusory consensus around a White House-backed proposal to pursue modest immigration reform is illustrative of this sorry state of affairs. The plan proposed by the Trump White House last week would make everyone happy. It’s a perfect middle ground. That’s precisely why it’s doomed.

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Confusing the Profane for Sacred

Contempt, not compassion.

Befitting our post-literate political age, in which the American president and his courtiers actively deride expertise and activists across the political spectrum reject thoughtfulness in favor of ornery truculence, Donald Trump’s style of reasonably communicative grumbles seems to be supplanting more formal forms of language. The all-consuming presidential cult has now sunk its hooks into the American Dialect Society. The nearly 130-year-old organization of linguists, lexicographers,  and grammarians revealed that 2017’s “word of the year” was “fake news,” a label the president applies to anything of which he disapproves—demonstrable or dubious—that finds its way into a journalist’s copy. But ADS saved a saucier “word of the year” for the internet crowd, and it far better exemplifies the rapid deterioration of the national discourse.

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What the Iran Protests Have Already Achieved

The breaking of myths.

More than 1,700 arrests and at least two-dozen deaths later, the Tehran regime seems to have suppressed Iran’s latest mass uprising. Scattered protests and skirmishes continue nationwide, according to the citizen-journalists who, braving regime violence, continue to post footage on social media. But for now, the demonstrations don’t seem to be growing in numbers or frequency. Yet outside observers tempted to write off the movement should recall that the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the shah began decades earlier. There were lulls through the years, which tempted President Carter at one point to describe the shah’s Iran as an “island of stability” in the Middle East.

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The Bumbling Boycott Machiavellians of Academe

Another BDS faceplant.

On January 5, Modern Language Association Members for Justice in Palestine hosted a meeting at New York University entitled “Palestine and the Future of Academia.” COMMENTARY readers may remember that supporters of a resolution to boycott Israel so soiled themselves last year that the MLA not only voted down that resolution but also voted up an alternative resolution to “refrain from endorsing the boycott.” Some pro-boycott professors very publicly resigned over what one called the “racist,” “ethnocentric” decision not to support a boycott of Israel. Another called the democratic vote to refrain from committing the organization to boycott “anti-democratic” because, you know, his side didn’t win.

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The Cuckoo Coup Debut?

Podcast: A move we'll rue? Or will stability ensue?

On the first COMMENTARY podcast of this week, the hosts note that the groundwork is being laid to declare Donald Trump mentally unfit and that he should be stripped of authority under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment. Also, Donald Trump and Republicans have come up with a border security ask in exchange for passing DACA into law. Is it a gambit or a capitulation? Finally, Oprah-mania sweeps the country, but does she have what it takes to win the presidency?

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