Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York Times

Can the Hillary Email Counter-Attack Keep Working?

Anyone wondering how the Clintons get away with things that would sink ordinary political mortals got another lesson this past weekend in how to deflect even the most damning of stories. The revelation reported by the New York Times that the Justice Department is actually investigating the fact that Clinton transmitted classified material on her private email server was shocking news. But the pushback from the Clinton campaign on the latest about the Hillary email scandal was both immediate and forceful. But the question is can a scorched earth campaign based on denial of obvious facts continue to prevail indefinitely? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining whether Clinton’s nomination for president is as inevitable as most of us have long thought it to be.

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Anyone wondering how the Clintons get away with things that would sink ordinary political mortals got another lesson this past weekend in how to deflect even the most damning of stories. The revelation reported by the New York Times that the Justice Department is actually investigating the fact that Clinton transmitted classified material on her private email server was shocking news. But the pushback from the Clinton campaign on the latest about the Hillary email scandal was both immediate and forceful. But the question is can a scorched earth campaign based on denial of obvious facts continue to prevail indefinitely? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining whether Clinton’s nomination for president is as inevitable as most of us have long thought it to be.

As our Noah Rothman noted on Friday, the Times soon began walking back some of its original reporting almost immediately though the basic substance of the charge remained unchallenged even in a completely revised version that was published on Saturday. The retreat continued on Monday with Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s public editor, scolding the news staff for being over-eager and too ready to believe anonymous sources leading to a story “fraught with inaccuracies.” That surrender on the part of a publication that is normally impervious to criticisms of far more substantive problems with articles encouraged the Hillary camp to switch from defense to an all-out offensive designed to brand the story as purely an invention of House Republicans investigating the Benghazi terror attack with Politico dutifully supplying an article that helped feed the notion that the whole thing was a kerfuffle generated by the same wicked “right-wing conspiracy” that has dogged the poor Clintons for many years.

But for all of the tut-tutting on the left about “inaccuracies,” the basic elements remain intact.

Contrary to her public assurances when she initially answered some questions about the email controversy at the United Nations in March, it now appears virtually certain that some of the emails sent on the former secretary of state’s private email was classified in nature. There is some dispute over whether every one of them was classified at the time it was transmitted, but there is no longer any doubt that Clinton lied when she said she used only one device with this email and that apparently there were more than just a few communications that were classified. Nor was her assertion that all of the emails that concerned her work were saved on government servers as opposed to the home email server she employed true.

It is no longer possible to believe her claims that all work emails were turned over to the government. Others, including some with classified information, may well have been kept, but we’ll never know. Despite the subpoenas that were issued to her (which she also falsely denied getting), tens of thousands of other emails were destroyed when she wiped the server.

In doing so, she violated government rules set down by President Obama. But whether the investigation being contemplated by the Department of Justice is “criminal” as the Times originally suggested or merely a “security” probe is a difference without a distinction. The same point applies to the fact that the investigation, assuming it actually takes place, may target subordinates operating under Clinton’s orders rather than her alone. But no matter how this shakes out, anyone who thinks mishandling classified information and violating rules about such material is a minor thing should remember that General David Petraeus was forced to resign as head of the CIA and then humiliated with a judicial proceeding that ended with a guilty plea. Such “inaccuracies” don’t undercut the fact that Clinton broke rules and has repeatedly lied about it. Both the rule breaking and the lying are the sorts of behavior that can and often have landed lesser mortals in deep legal trouble.

Yet the Clinton machine and many in her press cheering section continue to act as if the whole thing is an invention of her foes. And their winning of the news cycle over the weekend to the point where it appeared as if House Republicans rather than the former first lady were the ones in political trouble merely confirms the truism that a good offense is the best defense.

Can they continue to get away with it?

The short answer, at least as far as legal jeopardy is concerned, is probably yes. Despite the leak that an investigation is underway, the odds that Attorney General Loretta Lynch or President Obama will ever sign off on indictments of the Clinton staff for their violations of the law, let alone of the putative 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, are astronomical. The only way this affair will ever lead to prosecutions is if a GOP president and AG order one in 2017, and it’s likely that if the Republicans are running things then they will have enough to do without exacting vengeance on a defeated Hillary Clinton.

As far as the political impact, the same answer may be true in the short run. Most Democrats seem to be as indifferent to Hillary Clinton’s crimes and misdemeanors as they were to her husband’s lack of morality.

But the triumphalist tone of the recent counterattacks from the Clinton camp notwithstanding, she and her handlers cannot be indifference to her growing problems. The email scandal may not land her in the legal trouble she so richly deserves, but it will feed negative poll numbers that can no longer be ignored. The latest CNN poll shows that, for the first time, Hillary’s favorability ratings are underwater. The CNN/ORC survey showed that 48 percent viewed Clinton unfavorably with only 45 percent favorable. That’s the first time since 2001 that she has been in negative territory and a massive reversal from the 63-35 percent favorable ratings she had after she left office as secretary of state in 2013.

It is those concerns, along with the distinct sense among many in the Democratic base that she is an inauthentic liberal, especially when compared to a genuine leftist like Bernie Sanders, that is behind the large crowds greeting Clinton’s leading challenger and the soft poll numbers in battleground and early voting states. Though it would be foolish to underestimate the willingness of the Clintons to do anything to win, it is now almost thinkable that she might actually be denied her party’s nomination.

So while any conclusions from the investigation the Times revealed last week may never see the light of day, the idea that her rule-breaking and lying will have no repercussions is unfounded. The Clintons may have won the last news cycle but the increasing damage to her already shaky credibility means they may also be losing the war.

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Communists Don’t Like Him? NY Times Gives Rubio Candidacy More Help

Do the publishers of the New York Times secretly want Marco Rubio to be elected president? The answer to that question is, of course not. The left-wing and partisan Democratic slant of the Grey Lady’s news coverage (not to mention its equally biased and partisan editorial page) in recent years places Rubio squarely in the category of a candidate the paper wishes to stop at all costs. Hence, the series of background stories about Cruz that bore the unmistakable trademarks of hit pieces intended to chip away at his image. But unfortunately for the Times, their previous stories on Rubio— which focused on the speeding tickets he and his wife had received or the fishing boat that was wrongly labeled a “luxury speed boat” — generated an unintended reaction. It wasn’t just that the tickets reinforced his youthful image. The focus on trivial charges was viewed as biased journalism that generated sympathy for the Rubio candidacy among Republicans and seemed to validate his status as a candidate liberals feared. But whatever the ultimate intentions of those who make decisions at the Times, their latest installment in the category of Rubio hit pieces is likely to produce the same result. By publishing a piece that focused on the reactions to Rubio’s candidacy in Cuba from the communist government’s functionaries or ordinary people whose only knowledge of the senator is from Castro regime propaganda, the Times has once again given him an unwitting boost.

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Do the publishers of the New York Times secretly want Marco Rubio to be elected president? The answer to that question is, of course not. The left-wing and partisan Democratic slant of the Grey Lady’s news coverage (not to mention its equally biased and partisan editorial page) in recent years places Rubio squarely in the category of a candidate the paper wishes to stop at all costs. Hence, the series of background stories about Cruz that bore the unmistakable trademarks of hit pieces intended to chip away at his image. But unfortunately for the Times, their previous stories on Rubio— which focused on the speeding tickets he and his wife had received or the fishing boat that was wrongly labeled a “luxury speed boat” — generated an unintended reaction. It wasn’t just that the tickets reinforced his youthful image. The focus on trivial charges was viewed as biased journalism that generated sympathy for the Rubio candidacy among Republicans and seemed to validate his status as a candidate liberals feared. But whatever the ultimate intentions of those who make decisions at the Times, their latest installment in the category of Rubio hit pieces is likely to produce the same result. By publishing a piece that focused on the reactions to Rubio’s candidacy in Cuba from the communist government’s functionaries or ordinary people whose only knowledge of the senator is from Castro regime propaganda, the Times has once again given him an unwitting boost.

As I wrote last month about the previous Rubio stories in the Times, anyone who runs for president should and ought to expect intense scrutiny. Given the mindset of the liberal mainstream media, that sort of attention is going to be disproportionate if you’re a Republican rather than, say, someone whose last name is Clinton. But the more the Times attacks Rubio, the more likely it is that the Republican voters he needs in order to win the nomination will view him as someone they trust. The Cuba article only reinforces that point.

The conceit of the piece was to probe the reaction of Cubans to the possibility that the son of a couple that fled the island for a better life in the 1950s might be elected president. The responses were entirely predictable. While the Obama administration has decided to re-open a U.S. embassy in Havana as part of a historic rapprochement, the repressive nature of the Castro regime is unchanged. As I wrote last week, though President Obama think U.S.-Cuba policy should not be “imprisoned by the past,” the Communist rulers of the nation have no compunction about jailing dissidents, including prominent artists who speak out for human rights and democracy. Thus, the idea that either ordinary Cubans or government officials speaking on the record would do anything but echo the Communist party line about Rubio is absurd. A Cuban-American like Rubio who has spent his career advocating for Cuban freedom rather than détente with tyrants is always going to be denounced by any resident of the island nation who wants to stay out of jail.

Thus, the predictable denunciations of Rubio by those interviewed by the Times as an “enemy” of the Cuban people “who wants to kill us” ought to be taken with a truckload of salt. But as, Rubio indicated both in his comments to the Times as well as on Twitter after the piece ran, he’s proud that the regime views him as a threat to its continued rule. He rightly pointed out that the rote recitations of regime talking points the Times recorded and dutifully published merely reflects the truth of what he has been asserting about the unchanged nature of life in Cuba. Despite President Obama’s confidence that his engagement with the Castros will open up a new chapter of history, the only thing we can be sure of is that the regime and its supporters will profit from the move and the Cuban people will remain silenced. Moreover, does anyone at the Times think such barbs thrown at Rubio from regime operatives harms his chances of the presidency or diminishes his popularity among Cuban-Americans who largely share his views on the subject? Do they think it helps mobilize more support for President Obama’s proposal to end the embargo on Cuba?

But, as with the other hit pieces on Rubio, there is another unintended benefit to Rubio. Even as Times reporter Jason Horowitz collected attack quotes on the senator wherever he went, he also crafted a narrative that shows just how humble Rubio’s origins truly are. The notion that the son and grandson of working class Cubans could be president of the United States is a “storybook” scenario that awes even those who have been instructed to denounce Rubio. Just as the Times’s focus on Rubio’s supposed flaws (a youthful love of fast cars and a desire to get ahead) makes him more appealing, so, too, do stories that validate his “only in America” life story. Though Rubio tweeted about the Times story with the ironic hashtag #nicetry, he really ought to be encouraging them to do more of these. A few more such “negative” stories is exactly what he needs as he seeks to maintain his standing as a first tier Republican candidate with fierce competition.

 

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The Beatification of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s effort to run among the most anodyne, milquetoast campaigns for the presidency in American history is apparently paying off. A candidate who dares not speak much, and when she does says only aphorisms universally beloved by the left-leaning constituents she is courting, should inspire frustration among those tasked with speaking truth to power: namely, the political press. Instead, when Clinton dares to open her mouth on even a modestly controversial subject, she is lauded as a figure of unparalleled bravery and poise. Meanwhile, those candidates who have traversed objectively stormy seas, navigated political minefields, taken legitimately controversial stands, and stared down their constituents are given sideways glances by their chroniclers in the media. The latest example of this phenomenon from the Washington Post is nothing short of a disgrace. Read More

Hillary Clinton’s effort to run among the most anodyne, milquetoast campaigns for the presidency in American history is apparently paying off. A candidate who dares not speak much, and when she does says only aphorisms universally beloved by the left-leaning constituents she is courting, should inspire frustration among those tasked with speaking truth to power: namely, the political press. Instead, when Clinton dares to open her mouth on even a modestly controversial subject, she is lauded as a figure of unparalleled bravery and poise. Meanwhile, those candidates who have traversed objectively stormy seas, navigated political minefields, taken legitimately controversial stands, and stared down their constituents are given sideways glances by their chroniclers in the media. The latest example of this phenomenon from the Washington Post is nothing short of a disgrace.

Reporters often loathe being accused of crafting or husbanding a “narrative.” For obvious reasons, they would prefer to think of themselves as neutral arbiters of facts and stewards of balance. But the disbelief one is required to suspend to maintain that fiction while reading Washington Post reporters Phillip Rucker and Anne Gearen’s latest dispatch is too much to suffer. Their latest, “While GOP candidates stammer, Clinton directly confronts race,” is not inaccurate so much as it is a transparent hagiography of the prohibitive Democratic presidential nominee. Her accomplishment? Nobly committing to endure the absolute minimum level of discomfort expected of a presidential candidate.

In assessing the political impact of the aftermath of the atrocity in Charleston, South Carolina perpetrated by an anachronistic racist terrorist, Rucker and Gearen make no pretense of their cause: They came to praise Clinton and to bury those Republicans vying to challenge her next year.

Noting, also not inaccurately, that Republican 2016 hopefuls largely “stammered and stumbled,” or even “lacked sensitivity” when addressing the violence, these Washington Post reporters maintained that Clinton “has forcefully initiated a conversation about race and bigotry.” Quite the “contrast,” they add in a piece that is ostensibly straight reportage.

“The candidates have been balancing the political imperative to present a welcoming face to minority and moderate voters with hesitancy to turn off conservative white voters who see the Confederate flag as a representation of their family heritage and Southern traditions,” The report added. “Clinton’s allies said that her focus on race relations was in keeping with her life’s journey. She grew up during the 1960s civil rights movement and has said that going to see the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in Chicago as a teenager was a formative moment.”

It’s almost as if that “contrast” these reporters are observing is one that they are also committed to enabling.

At no point in this piece did the reporters note the Clintons, too, have a complex relationship with the Confederate flag. A Clinton-Gore button from 1992 graced with the Confederate battle flag has led many to wonder if Hillary Clinton’s husband’s campaign endorsed it. But the likely Democratic standard-bearer’s campaign has thus far refused to comment on that matter. How courageous.

There are reasons to believe that Bill Clinton might have embraced this and other campaign buttons that cast him and his Tennessee-based running mate as sons of the South. As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton  signed a bill affirming that one of the stars on his state’s flag would stand in commemoration of the Confederate States of America. Even former Clinton advisor Paul Begala insisted that Hillary Clinton “absolutely” has to answer for standing by her husband’s decision on that matter all those years ago. The Post, however, seems unconcerned with Clinton’s silence on this issue, too.

As narratives go, the Post’s reporters made a conscious effort to embrace one over another equally compelling version of the aftermath of the Charleston shootings. The reporters spent an inordinate amount of time, perhaps reluctantly, noting that Clinton was forced after lagging behind events to praise Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for having the real courage to defy her constituents and demand that the rebel flag be furled forever. Haley is, after all, a Southern Republican governor — a woman and a minority — taking down the flag that was erected first by one of her Democratic predecessors in 1962. Republicans purged the South of the scourge of slavery amid a bloody civil war; Republicans oversaw the dismantling of Jim Crow and the desegregation of the Deep South; and now Republicans, from South Carolina to Mississippi, are flouting some of their more recalcitrant voters and ridding the South of that symbol of rebellion once and for all. The last time Clinton called for the Confederate flag to be lowered in the South was, her campaign insists, 2007. Such bravery.

This narrative didn’t seem to interest the Post’s neutral and dispassionate political reporters. Instead, what captured their imaginations was a speech Clinton gave to a room full of liberal supporters where she lamented persistent racial tensions and gun violence in America. What courage is there to be found in a liberal telling a room full of like-minded fellows what they already believe? It takes an empirical, objective political reporter to see it. For Rucker who was among the many reporters seen celebrating at the wedding of a Ready for Hillary staff member and her campaign’s director for grassroots engagement over the weekend, you would think he would display a bit more decorum. Apparently, modesty and an adversarial relationship with those on whom you are required to report is no longer a value that the nation’s journalistic class is prepared to uphold or enforce with much vigor. Unless, of course, that subject is a Republican.

The Post is not alone in effusively praising the pabulum on race that passes for courage from Hillary Clinton. New York Times reporter Amy Chozick averred yesterday that “frank discussions” on race have characterized Clinton’s whole career in politics, and she will continue those discussions this week. Assertions from Clinton like her pledge to make “voting easier” for African-Americans and her lament that “America’s long struggle with race is far from finished” are not brave displays, as Chozick contends. They are, in fact, rather unsubstantial polemics. There are real hard questions and thorny issues relating to race in America. On specific and potentially alienating policy preferences that would be required to address them, Clinton has largely chosen to remain silent. It should now be clear that this is a feature, not a bug, associated with Hillary Clinton 2.0.

Republicans like Haley, Senator Tim Scott, and Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn who are telling their voters that they are wrong, that they have made a virtue of vice, and to suffer the associated consequences is truly courageous. To preach shibboleths before roomfuls of the already converted is something else entirely. For reporters in desperate need of a story that paints Clinton in a favorable light, however, the latter will do in a pinch.

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The New York Times Targets Marco Rubio and Misses… Again

What is the New York Times doing? In the space of a week, the paper has published no fewer than two exposés on the Florida senator running for the presidency that amount to veritable in-kind contributions to Marco Rubio’s campaign. Though these dubious investigations have prompted reliably credulous pundits to gasp in horror, it’s unclear that they will have any negative effect on Rubio’s presidential prospects. Quite the opposite, in fact; by overshooting Rubio’s bow on two separate occasions, the Times risks making one of the GOP’s brightest prospects a target of sympathy among precisely the voters to whom he needs to appeal in order to win his party’s presidential nomination. Read More

What is the New York Times doing? In the space of a week, the paper has published no fewer than two exposés on the Florida senator running for the presidency that amount to veritable in-kind contributions to Marco Rubio’s campaign. Though these dubious investigations have prompted reliably credulous pundits to gasp in horror, it’s unclear that they will have any negative effect on Rubio’s presidential prospects. Quite the opposite, in fact; by overshooting Rubio’s bow on two separate occasions, the Times risks making one of the GOP’s brightest prospects a target of sympathy among precisely the voters to whom he needs to appeal in order to win his party’s presidential nomination.

The Times’ vetting of Rubio began late last week with an enticing tale of crass negligence on the roadways. The Times discovered that the Rubios were profligate scofflaws when it came to traffic violations. That’s right: speeding tickets. Marco Rubio, we learned, had received all of four moving violations over the course of nearly two decades. That’s hardly a story, and it would not have even made it to print had Rubio’s wife, Janette, not received 13 similar violations since 1997. The presidential candidate even hired a lawyer to try to get those violations expunged from his record and took a banal defensive driving course in order to reduce associated insurance penalties.

This is hardly the stuff that makes the Pulitzer board giddy, but it was not poor reporting. Every candidate for the White House deserves a through vetting, and the Times was well within its mission to print this information. But the political impact of the decision to dig into the Rubios driving records was perhaps not what they had anticipated.

The Washington Free Beacon’s Bret Scher soon revealed that no Times reporter had personally pulled the Rubios’ driving records from Miami-Dade court files, but a Democratic opposition research group recently had. When the Times was asked about whether or not they relied on a tip from a partisan research group for this story – a not uncommon practice, and one which would not have raised many eyebrows – the Times PR shop steadfastly refused to answer the question posed by a reporter with an outwardly conservative news site and instead provided Scher’s answer to Politico reporter Dylan Byers. If nothing untoward had occurred here, the Times certainly wasn’t acting like it.

What’s more, the dragging of a candidates’ spouse into the vetting process, particularly this early in the campaign, does raise ethical matters. For Democrats who of late have convinced themselves that women are routinely subjected to scrutiny otherwise not applied to men, the left has been curiously quiet about the Times decision to target Janette Rubio. Finally, as Jonathan Tobin noted, this story’s impact on the general electorate, much less GOP primary voters, is probably one that Marco Rubio would welcome. It projects youth and vitality (the elderly seldom speed or, in the Clintons’ case, drive at all). What’s more, the story stood as an indication that the former speaker of the Florida House declined to use his influence to hide or get out of these violations.

Almost everyone has been ticketed once or twice in their life, and that minor tribulation is a relatable hardship. Nevertheless, some in the pundit class took the bait. While most rightly dismissed the story, a handful of observers wondered if the GOP had suddenly become the party of lawlessness on our taxpayer-funded roadways. On Tuesday, the New York Times took a deeper dive into the Rubios records. This time, they dug into the couple’s financial history. As evidenced by the overwrought prose, the paper’s editors apparently thought that the details they uncovered could potentially disqualify Rubio from holding high office.

In the Times’ latest unflattering profile, they reveal that the 44-year-old Marco Rubio, a father of four, was not the most frugal parent in his mid-to-late 30s. The Times revealed that the Miami-area resident “splurged” on an $80,000 motorboat that he had always dreamed of owning. Manhattan-based reporters who feign shock at the notion that someone would take a defensive driving class at the request of their insurer might perhaps also be surprised to learn that $80,000 is a modest price for a luxury sea craft. The story goes on: Rubio used his own credit card to pay for campaign expenses. He liquidated a nearly $70,000 retirement account, incurring $24,000 in taxes and penalties, presumably to cover personal expenses. He sold a Florida home for an $18,000 loss after nearly facing foreclosure when he failed to meet the mortgage for five months.

The Times noted that the Rubios have largely righted their financial ship after the Florida senator began to earn substantial sums from writing and selling books. The couple has begun saving for college tuition for thier children, refinanced their home, now have six figures in savings, and even donated $60,000 to charity. Finally, after Rubio’s finances had recovered, they leased a $50,000 Audi. “Experts” who spoke with the Times call this and other decisions “imprudent.”

Predictably, some in the pundit class reacted with theatrically disproportionate astonishment.

“So, is the Rubio argument I wasn’t good at handling my personal finances, but put me in charge of trillions of dollars of others money?” ABC News contributor Matthew Dowd fretted.

“An impulsive, reckless spender who blurs ethical lines,” the National Journal’s Ron Fournier scoffed. “How does this reflect how @marcorubio would lead as POTUS?”

“I’m a bit baffled by the argument that personal fiduciary responsibility is unimportant to the job of being president,” The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump opined.

These and other columnists aghast at the Rubios behavior might be surprised to learn that the power of the purse is the constitutional responsibility of the legislative branch. The fact that the Rubios stretched their finances and, yes, treated themselves on occasion is not something to scold them over. If their behavior is to be condemned, so is that of the vast majority of the American middle class who behaves similarly in order to provide for their family’s immediate needs and desires.

When it comes to his personal finances, no one is claiming that Rubio acted in an unethical or mendacious manner. “I’m not poor,” Rubio once said, “but I’m not rich, either.” Contrast this comment with that of Hillary Clinton who exactly one year ago today declared that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001; a claim at odds with the fact that the former first family earned $12 million in that year alone.

Again, the pundit class is missing the likely political effect of the Times’ hit on the Rubios. The tale of a young family struggling to make ends meet and, on a handful of occasions, spending beyond their means in order to enjoy a bit of the good life is a common story. If anything, the New York Times has made Rubio more understandable to both average Americans and to those Republican primary voters who are deeply suspicious of the Grey Lady’s motives.

The New York Times seems to think that the Rubios profligacy when they were younger contradicts the senator’s present message of fiscal restraint on the macro level, but this is a tendentious contention. If anything, the Times has helped to craft a financial contrast with Hillary Clinton that will only benefit him if he were to emerge the GOP’s presidential nominee. What’s more, the impression that the talented Republican figure is the subject of reportorial persecution, even if that is an unfounded belief, will likely yield some sympathy from GOP primary voters.

The Rubios should send reporters in the New York Times newsroom a thank you card. That is, if they can afford the expense. The “newspaper of record” has done the senator’s campaign a great service.

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Don’t Like the War on Islamist Terror? Trash SEAL Team 6.

Ours is an age dominated by cynicism. That’s especially true when it comes to the way our popular culture has depicted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in spite of that, the country still longs for heroes. That was made evident by the popularity of American Sniper, a biopic about a decorated member of the Navy SEALs, which became the most popular film in terms of box office in 2014. If any group deserves the title of heroes, it would seem to be the SEALs, whose daring operations against terrorists under difficult circumstances would seem to put them on a plane with the country’s most admired defenders, including those who fought in more popular and easier to understand conflicts in the past. But apparently not, according to the New York Times. Their front page feature in yesterday’s Sunday Times depicted a much darker story that portrayed SEAL Team 6, the unit that has attained legendary status for its successful strike on Osama bin Laden, as a “global manhunting machine” staffed by an unaccountable group of swaggering trigger-happy killers. The story leads one to wonder whether the editors at the Times think the U.S. should be fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorists and, if they do, how do think that war should be fought if not with tough warriors like the SEALs?

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Ours is an age dominated by cynicism. That’s especially true when it comes to the way our popular culture has depicted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in spite of that, the country still longs for heroes. That was made evident by the popularity of American Sniper, a biopic about a decorated member of the Navy SEALs, which became the most popular film in terms of box office in 2014. If any group deserves the title of heroes, it would seem to be the SEALs, whose daring operations against terrorists under difficult circumstances would seem to put them on a plane with the country’s most admired defenders, including those who fought in more popular and easier to understand conflicts in the past. But apparently not, according to the New York Times. Their front page feature in yesterday’s Sunday Times depicted a much darker story that portrayed SEAL Team 6, the unit that has attained legendary status for its successful strike on Osama bin Laden, as a “global manhunting machine” staffed by an unaccountable group of swaggering trigger-happy killers. The story leads one to wonder whether the editors at the Times think the U.S. should be fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorists and, if they do, how do think that war should be fought if not with tough warriors like the SEALs?

I don’t quibble with the decision to try and report about SEAL Team 6. The Navy’s special forces have played a key role in fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban since 9/11. Despite the way the Obama administration trumpeted the killing of bin Laden and the success of films like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lone Survivor, which all featured the SEALs, their operations have been understandably shrouded in secrecy leaving plenty of room for enterprising reporters to give us more background and details about how the SEALs work and what they’ve been doing.

The paper sent six reporters out into the field to investigate this unit, and the story they cobbled together was given its most prominent placement and ample space. But what they came up with is a jumble of quotes and anecdotes that doesn’t add up to much. It tells us that a small group of highly trained and motivated commandos have been carrying a disproportionate amount of the load of the wars America has been fighting. But if the best the Times can do is simply tell us that Navy SEALs “tend to swagger” and that in life-or-death situations when faced with armed opponents, things don’t always go as planned, then you have to wonder why the Times bothered to run this piece.

The notion that, of all of the functions of the U.S. government, it is SEAL Team 6 that deserves the kind of negative scrutiny and cynical trashing that makes up most of the substance of this story, tells us a lot about what the Times thinks about the fight against Islamist terror. Though the Times continually asserts throughout the piece, SEAL Team 6 is not being held accountable for its actions, what sort of war does it think America can fight against these terrorists if not a messy one in which people are going to get killed in large numbers under circumstances that are not as easily defined as those in wars where the opposing sides line up on opposite ends of a clearly marked battle field? Does it think such operations would operate more smoothly and with fewer casualties if there were Congressional committees or the Justice Department threatening SEALs with prosecutions for doing their duty under circumstances that defy conventional assumptions about war?

The story’s portrayal of the SEALs as a gung-ho band of killers who aren’t cut from the same cloth as even most of the other members of the Armed Forces doesn’t merit much response. Who exactly does the paper think should be fighting these battles except the kind of highly-trained and motivated forces that make up SEAL Team 6? As such, much of this piece can be merely dismissed as conventional background that tells us nothing that readers didn’t probably assume about the elite group without having to wade through a several thousand-word story.

But despite the way the authors peppered their prose with lines about “secret killings and blurred lines,” there’s very little here to justify all the language that seemed to point toward a portrayal of SEAL Team 6 as an out-of-control band of cutthroats.

There’s nothing to say that the unit has ever done anything but carry out orders from their Navy and Defense Department commanders. Nor is there any reporting that would even hint that the operations it has conducted in tandem with the CIA are illegal. Considering the way that President Obama took credit for SEAL Team 6’s attack on bin Laden’s compound, it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that there is nothing this unit has done that wasn’t at the behest of the people at the very top of the defense pyramid.

Nor is there much here that points to misconduct. There is one story recounted in the piece that speaks of the SEALs killing eight schoolboys. But while the victims in question may have been enrolled in schools, the likelihood that they were armed makes it likely that this incident points to the problem of fighting a war in which the other side doesn’t wear uniforms, not to the Americans being bloodthirsty killers.

The SEALs have also been involved in many attempts to rescue hostages held by terrorists in the Middle East. But even that praiseworthy and highly dangerous activity generated attention from the Times in which reporters managed to dig up a couple of stories in which they might be portrayed negatively. One involved a mix-up during a rescue in which a hostage was killed by a grenade thrown by a SEAL at what he thought was an enemy. Another involved a confusing incident in which a rescued hostage seemed to think one of his captors — who had killed a SEAL rescuer — might have been killed after he was captured rather than before. But even that incident left the accuser awed by the efficiency of the unit and without any firm idea of what exactly had happened.

In other words, in several thousand words, the most readers come away with is a sense that this small unit has shouldered large responsibilities and suffered heavy casualties while compiling a record that appears to stand up very well to scrutiny. Call them a “global spying force” or the Pentagon’s “manhunting” outfit if you like, but does the Times or its no-doubt shocked liberal readership think America can fight terrorists on their home turf without such a force?

It may be that liberal elites chafe at the way ordinary Americans idolize warriors who are asked to operate in the shadows the way SEAL Team 6 had done. But all this sort of story accomplishes is to remind us just how great the disconnect is between the cynical worldview of the publishers of the Times and the gratitude the country feels for these men.

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The Traitor’s Triumph

Would the New York Times have run an op-ed from Iva Toguri (Tokyo Rose) criticizing America’s World War II policies? From Aldrich Ames criticizing America’s cold war policies? Or from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad criticizing America’s policies in the war on terror?

The Times just did the equivalent by running an op-ed by an author identified as follows: “Edward J. Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and National Security Agency contractor, is a director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.” A more accurate description would be “Edward J. Snowden, a defector to Vladimir Putin’s Russia who betrayed the trust placed in him by the US government, is…” Read More

Would the New York Times have run an op-ed from Iva Toguri (Tokyo Rose) criticizing America’s World War II policies? From Aldrich Ames criticizing America’s cold war policies? Or from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad criticizing America’s policies in the war on terror?

The Times just did the equivalent by running an op-ed by an author identified as follows: “Edward J. Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and National Security Agency contractor, is a director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.” A more accurate description would be “Edward J. Snowden, a defector to Vladimir Putin’s Russia who betrayed the trust placed in him by the US government, is…”

But what’s more eye-rolling than the identification of the op-ed is the substance of it. Edward Snowden, you see, is taking a victory lap. He begins by saying that he wasn’t sure his revelations—a.k.a. his criminal disclosures of vital American national security secrets—would have much of an impact. But he’s happy to see he was wrong: “In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.”

Snowden is right—he did trigger a backlash against the NSA’s surveillance. But that’s hardly cause for celebration because the NSA is our front-line defense against terrorists. Snowden is responsible for neutering the metadata program that the former CIA acting director says could have prevented 9/11. All of the lawmakers who just voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act should understand how happy their vote has made this traitor.

But Snowden is untroubled by the implication of his actions. He is positively reveling in his global celebrity, which has come about because of his crimes. He is determined to roll back government surveillance powers and avers himself dismayed that legislatures in Australia, Canada, and France are expanding surveillance powers to fight terrorism. (His tendentious rendering of that is to write: “Spymasters in Australia, Canada and France have exploited recent tragedies to seek intrusive new powers despite evidence such programs would not have prevented attacks.”)

Oddly enough nowhere in his article — which is datelined Moscow — does he mention the surveillance apparatus of his host, Vladimir Putin, which far exceeds in scope anything created by any Western country. As the Daily Beast noted, “The FSB has far more power to eavesdrop on Russian and foreign citizens than the FBI or the NSA.” That would be the same FSB that has taken Snowden into its bosom as it has previously done (in its earlier incarnation as the KGB) with previous turncoats such as Kim Philby.

And, of course, there are no legal safeguards on government surveillance in Russia. Whatever Putin wants, he can do. Another difference: Whereas in the US, surveillance is strictly targeted to catch terrorists, in Russia it’s used to catch anyone who dares to criticize Putin’s rule, much less to rally fellow citizens to seek a change of government.

But of course Ed Snowden is not courageous enough, or stupid enough, to criticize the dictatorship that he has defected to. It’s much easier and safer to criticize the country he betrayed from behind the protection provided by the FSB’s thugs. The only mystery is why the Times is giving this traitor a platform.

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ll come over?” Henry probed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Reverse Iran Deal Ratification Process

The day after the White House waved the white flag on the Corker-Menendez bill that would force President Obama to submit a nuclear deal with Iran for congressional approval some of his press cheering section is still lamenting this defeat. The New York Times editorial page continued to rage about the spectacle of Democrats uniting with Republicans to force some accountability on the president. Meantime, congressional critics of the president were likewise still celebrating and denouncing the administration’s claims that the amendments Corker allowed to be added to the bill substantially modified it as nothing more than cheap spin. But in a classic example of how our political class—both on the left and the right—can be equally mistaken despite holding opposite views, both the Times and conservative Obama critics are wrong. By embracing the Corker bill, the White House has more or less assured that a terrible Iran deal will be ratified.

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The day after the White House waved the white flag on the Corker-Menendez bill that would force President Obama to submit a nuclear deal with Iran for congressional approval some of his press cheering section is still lamenting this defeat. The New York Times editorial page continued to rage about the spectacle of Democrats uniting with Republicans to force some accountability on the president. Meantime, congressional critics of the president were likewise still celebrating and denouncing the administration’s claims that the amendments Corker allowed to be added to the bill substantially modified it as nothing more than cheap spin. But in a classic example of how our political class—both on the left and the right—can be equally mistaken despite holding opposite views, both the Times and conservative Obama critics are wrong. By embracing the Corker bill, the White House has more or less assured that a terrible Iran deal will be ratified.

Let’s pause a moment to note that the Times’s argument against congressional review of the Iran deal is yet one more example of the shameless and utterly unprincipled partisanship of the Democrats’ paper of record. Had this been a Democratic-controlled Congress seeking to force a Republican president like George W. Bush from concluding a foreign agreement without observing the constitutional niceties in which the Senate must approve such documents, the Times would be invoking the need to defend the rule of law and inveighing against a GOP imperial presidency. But since this is a Democratic president facing off against a Republican Congress, they take the opposite point of view and say Congress is meddling in the president’s business. Need we remind the editors of the Times about what The Federalist Papers say about the dangers of a president acting as if he is an “hereditary monarch” rather than an “elective magistrate” again?

But instead of wasting time pointing out the obvious, it might be just as important to tell the president’s critics to stop patting themselves on the back for forcing him to back down on Corker-Menendez. The more you look at what this bill accomplishes, the more likely it seems that Obama will get his way no matter how bad the final version of the Iran deal turns out to be.

Even if we dismiss the concessions Corker made to the president’s Democratic Senate allies as not significant, the basic facts of the situation are these. Instead of the Iran deal being presented to the Senate as a treaty where it would require, as the Constitution states, a two-thirds majority to pass, Corker-Menendez allows the deal to be voted upon as a normal bill. That means that opponents need only a simple majority to defeat it. That’s good for those who understand that this act of appeasement gives Iran two paths to a bomb (one by cheating on it via huge loopholes and one by abiding by it and patiently waiting for it to expire) and needs to be defeated, right? Wrong.

By treating it as a normal act of legislation, the president will be able to veto the measure. That sets up a veto override effort that will force Iran deal critics to get to 67 votes, a veto-proof majority. If that sounds reasonable to you, remember that in doing so the bill creates what is, in effect, a reverse treaty ratification mechanism. Instead of the president needing a two-thirds majority to enact the most significant foreign treaty the United States has signed in more than a generation, he will need only one-third of the Senate plus one to get his way.

By allowing pro-Israel Democrats a free pass to vote for Corker-Menendez the president is giving them a way to say they voted to restrain the president before also granting them a path to back him by either voting for the deal or failing to vote to override the president’s veto. That gives plenty of room for inveterate schemers such as Democratic Senate leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer to make sure the president gets his 34 votes while giving some Democrats, including perhaps himself, impunity to vote against him.

What has happened here is that despite furious effort and hard legislative work all critics of Obama’s pursuit of détente with Iran have accomplished is to allow him the opportunity to legally make a historic and disgraceful act of betrayal of Western security with the least possible support. They may have had no better options and I’ll concede an ineffectual vote on an Iran deal might be better than no deal at all, but please spare me the praise for Corker’s bipartisanship or the chortles about how the White House was beaten. What happened yesterday actually advanced the chances for Iran appeasement. And that’s nothing to celebrate.

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A Bad Nuclear Deal? Never Mind!

Rather than merely inveigh against the seeming betrayal of the U.S.-Israel alliance represented by President Obama’s pursuit of détente with Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is attempting to reason with the administration. It has issued a detailed list of shortcomings with the as-yet-unwritten deal with Tehran that illustrate just how flimsy are the assurances about the nuclear threat the administration has been giving the nation. The president has dismissed some of them but for the most part the White House has ignored, at least in public, the specific problems with the pact. But the New York Times editorial page, which continues to serve as the president’s chief cheerleader, did deign to notice the Israeli list today. And while the editors of the Times acknowledged that all of the Israeli points were troubling, their response was straight out of a classic Saturday Night Live comedy routine: Never mind. While this is quite a commentary on the poor reasoning of the deal’s chief advocates, it also illustrates that their boasts about the agreement’s worth are as hollow as the president’s assurances that it will stop Iran from getting a bomb.

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Rather than merely inveigh against the seeming betrayal of the U.S.-Israel alliance represented by President Obama’s pursuit of détente with Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is attempting to reason with the administration. It has issued a detailed list of shortcomings with the as-yet-unwritten deal with Tehran that illustrate just how flimsy are the assurances about the nuclear threat the administration has been giving the nation. The president has dismissed some of them but for the most part the White House has ignored, at least in public, the specific problems with the pact. But the New York Times editorial page, which continues to serve as the president’s chief cheerleader, did deign to notice the Israeli list today. And while the editors of the Times acknowledged that all of the Israeli points were troubling, their response was straight out of a classic Saturday Night Live comedy routine: Never mind. While this is quite a commentary on the poor reasoning of the deal’s chief advocates, it also illustrates that their boasts about the agreement’s worth are as hollow as the president’s assurances that it will stop Iran from getting a bomb.

Though the Times terms the deal “surprisingly comprehensive,” the most interesting thing about the editorial is that it can’t dismiss the list of problems that Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz has produced. On each point, even the Times, which has been consistently and scathingly critical of the Netanyahu government on Iran as well as every other possible issue, admits the Israelis generally have a good argument.

The Times admits that eliminating Iran’s centrifuges, closing down the impregnable mountainside facility at Fordow, and mandating inspections anytime and anywhere would be preferable to what President Obama has accepted.

On other points, the Times notes Israel’s objections, but disingenuously claims that the agreement satisfies them. One such is the question of the stockpile of enriched uranium that, contrary to the expectations of even critics of the administration’s negotiating strategy, will not be shipped out of Iran and will instead remain under the regime’s control. The Times says that this stockpile, like the continued operation of the thousands of centrifuges that will continue to operate, means that “Iran can’t enrich material for nuclear weapons.” But that is not true since the stockpile can be easily and quickly reconverted to use for nuclear fuel. So, too, can any centrifuges that are being reconfigured for other uses.

Elsewhere, the Times merely engages in wishful thinking. That is especially true in its reaction to the Israelis pointing out that Iran has continued to stonewall the International Atomic Energy Agency on its past research on military use of nuclear material. The fact that the deal does not require Iran to tell the truth about this is a fatal flaw since without knowing how much progress they’ve made, all estimates about the time needed for a nuclear “breakout” are uninformed guesses. To this point, the Times merely breezily pretends that the written final version of the agreement will ensure that Iran does open up on this issue.

That is nonsense, since Iran has already learned that when faced with a refusal in a negotiation, the Obama administration always folds. And that is the entire point of both the editorial and the cogent criticisms that have been made about the deal.

It is true that, as the Times states, negotiations require compromises. But if the goal of this agreement is to ensure that Iran doesn’t either cheat its way to a bomb, or, as is just as likely, get one by abiding by a pact whose restrictions will expire in 15 years, then compromise that allows either scenario to happen is counter-productive.

The administration and the Times claims that to insist on any of the Israeli points would be to scuttle the deal. But all that tells us is that, as has been evident since the start of the negotiations, President Obama’s main purpose was to get a deal at any price, not to insist on one that would fulfill his campaign promises about eliminating Iran’s nuclear program. To claim that a deal that would fit Israel’s parameters is “unworkable” is merely to cravenly accept Iran’s frame of reference about the nuclear issue.

The Israeli objections are a viable alternative because they provide a path to a deal that would actually fulfill the avowed purpose of the negotiations. An agreement that would impose inspections, reduce Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to a bare minimum, and remove all possibility of their ever breaking out would do just that. So, too, would one that wouldn’t expire in a few years which, given the huge nuclear establishment left in place, almost guarantees that the Islamist regime will be in possession of a bomb sooner or later.

The gap between Israel and the United States is not so much about the details but as to goals. The administration and its supporters have abandoned the quest to stop Iran or decided that it’s just too heavy a lift to keep trying. Israel and rational critics of the president in Congress understand that the alternative is to demand a good deal or to ratchet up sanctions and isolation that would force Iran to give way. It is true that in the absence of a leader with the intestinal fortitude to push the Iranians hard and to credibly threaten force, that may be impossible.

But the Times editorial shows us there is no substantive debate about the shortcomings of the deal with Iran. If even the president’s most ardent backers seem to understand that it is a flimsy check on Tehran even if they continue to describe it with meaningless laudatory phrases about it being “groundbreaking” and even having “potential” (a piece of unintended comedy if ever there was one), then how can open-minded observers take their defense of it seriously?

Supporters of the administration understand that their only real talking point is one that claims that even a weak deal is better than none at all. That is not a compelling argument about any issue and certainly not one that involves giving a vicious, aggressive anti-Semitic regime the status of a threshold nuclear power.

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The Conversation About Iran Obama Wants

Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton makes a strong case today on the New York Times op-ed page for the need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to ensure that the regime doesn’t get a bomb. He’s right that those who dismiss the use of force are underestimating the damage air strikes can inflict and overestimating Tehran’s ability to recoup its losses in quick order after it has taken them decades to get this close. But before you give too much credit to the editors of the Times for, in what is an increasingly rare gesture for them, giving space to opposing views, take a moment and think about whether this is the debate about Iran we should be having. For the past year and a half President Obama has attempted to portray opponents of his appeasement of Iran as warmongers when, in fact, most have rightly advocated sticking to the tough sanctions he has discarded in hope of forcing the regime to accept an agreement that, unlike the one currently being negotiated, would actually stop them from building a bomb. Whatever its virtues, the Bolton article merely serves to bolster Obama’s disingenuous arguments.

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Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton makes a strong case today on the New York Times op-ed page for the need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to ensure that the regime doesn’t get a bomb. He’s right that those who dismiss the use of force are underestimating the damage air strikes can inflict and overestimating Tehran’s ability to recoup its losses in quick order after it has taken them decades to get this close. But before you give too much credit to the editors of the Times for, in what is an increasingly rare gesture for them, giving space to opposing views, take a moment and think about whether this is the debate about Iran we should be having. For the past year and a half President Obama has attempted to portray opponents of his appeasement of Iran as warmongers when, in fact, most have rightly advocated sticking to the tough sanctions he has discarded in hope of forcing the regime to accept an agreement that, unlike the one currently being negotiated, would actually stop them from building a bomb. Whatever its virtues, the Bolton article merely serves to bolster Obama’s disingenuous arguments.

One of the hallmarks of the Times opinion pages in recent years is the way its editors have discarded any notion of providing space to contrary views except in rare instances. With respect to the drumbeat of criticism aimed at Israel, the avalanche of columns attacking the government of the Jewish state or bolstering the propaganda assault of the Palestinians and their allies has further tarnished the paper’s reputation as the prime example of media bias. The same is true of virtually any position taken by the Times editorial page including support for the president’s policy toward Iran. In that context, Bolton’s column is a breath of fresh air because it outlines the danger of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon and the certainty that Obama’s offer to Tehran will set off a dangerous arms race in the region.

But by publishing Bolton’s article, the Times is attempting to couch the debate about Iran according to the president’s preferred talking point in which the choice is between his policy and war. That is a prime example of the president setting up straw men to knock down rather than actually engaging the arguments of his critics in a serious way.

The president’s steady retreat from his past promises about ending Iran’s nuclear program has been part of a strategy in which the regime is embraced as a tacit ally against ISIS. He is acquiescing to Iran’s quest for hegemony in the Middle East so as to enable the president to essentially withdraw from the region. To facilitate this rapprochement, Obama discarded the enormous economic and military leverage over Iran and given in whenever the Iranians stood their ground in the talks. The result is a flimsy agreement that could allow Iran to cheat their way to a bomb during the course of a deal that will eventually expire and let them get one anyway. Worse than that, because of that weakness and Washington’s unwillingness to support International Atomic Energy Agency demands for information about their military research, the administration could let them get one even while abiding by the deal.

But the real alternative to the president’s feckless pursuit of détente with Iran is not war. What is needed is a return to the sanctions that the president opposed when Congress first passed them and measures toughening them that, when combined with the collapse in oil prices, bring Iran’s economy to its knees. All it would have taken in 2013 for this to work would have been patience, courage, and leadership on Obama’s part. Instead, he abandoned the isolation of Iran at the first opportunity he got. Were the president to concede that appeasement is failing to stop Iran, he could go back to the path of strength and, with strict enforcement of U.S. sanctions that would make it difficult for other nations to do business with Iran, force America’s allies to follow suit.

Even at the 11th hour, as we may be days away from the signing of a bad deal with Iran, it is not too late for the U.S. to step back from the brink of folly. A demonstration of strength and principle on Obama’s part, however unlikely it may seem today, would be a devastating blow to Iran and perhaps actually compel them to start making concessions that might enable the president to keep his campaign promises about the nuclear threat.

That is the choice that America still has on Iran. That is the debate we should be having, not one of appeasement versus war.

Once the Iran deal is signed, it may well be that the West will no longer have either a diplomatic or a military option for stopping Iran. But until then, opponents of Obama’s retreat must continue to advocate for sanctions and tough diplomacy rather than for the use of force that Obama would never choose under virtually any circumstances. However correct Bolton’s points might be, his article merely strengthens the president’s disingenuous arguments about false choices that are leading us down the primrose path to Iran appeasement.

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What Keeps Palestinian Lovers Apart? It’s Their Leaders’ War, Not Israel

Who doesn’t sympathize with the plight of two lovers separated by a heartless bureaucracy? Certainly not Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times who, with the assistance of one of the paper’s stringers in Gaza, wrote a story published yesterday in which the star-crossed romance of a Gaza woman and a Nablus man serves to highlight Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians between the Hamas-run strip and the West Bank. The situation of teacher Dalia Shurrab and social media marketer Rashed Sameer Faddah is worthy of sympathy. But as much as the story Rudoren has written casts the Israelis as the villain of the piece, the real culprits are not to be found in the Jewish state. Palestinians who would like to see more liberal travel policies should address their anger to their leaders whose war on Israel is responsible for their inconvenience. Those who would like the borders of these areas to resemble the ones that separate Canada from the United States can’t at the same time support the ongoing war to extinguish the existence of the Jewish state.

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Who doesn’t sympathize with the plight of two lovers separated by a heartless bureaucracy? Certainly not Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times who, with the assistance of one of the paper’s stringers in Gaza, wrote a story published yesterday in which the star-crossed romance of a Gaza woman and a Nablus man serves to highlight Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians between the Hamas-run strip and the West Bank. The situation of teacher Dalia Shurrab and social media marketer Rashed Sameer Faddah is worthy of sympathy. But as much as the story Rudoren has written casts the Israelis as the villain of the piece, the real culprits are not to be found in the Jewish state. Palestinians who would like to see more liberal travel policies should address their anger to their leaders whose war on Israel is responsible for their inconvenience. Those who would like the borders of these areas to resemble the ones that separate Canada from the United States can’t at the same time support the ongoing war to extinguish the existence of the Jewish state.

There’s no doubt that Shurrab and Faddah appear to be innocent victims of a struggle that has nothing to do with the efforts of two individuals to find happiness. But when you are a citizen of an area ruled by a terrorist group pledged to fight a genocidal terrorist war against your neighbor, is it really fair to cry foul when the government of that country isn’t particularly interested in facilitating your travel?

Palestinians and their foreign supporters apparently think so. They believe that Israel should let Palestinians from Gaza come and go as they please and settle in the West Bank if they like. In a better and more peaceful world, that shouldn’t be a problem. Indeed, if the Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank and/or the Hamas government in Gaza were ever prepared to make peace with Israel, it might be possible. As Rudoren points out, a commitment to facilitating free travel between the two Palestinian areas was part of the original Oslo Accords. That seems to paint the Israelis as not only hard-hearted but also treaty breakers. But the truth is a little more complicated than that.

Were Israel and the territories as peaceful as the Israelis who helped draft the Oslo Accords assumed they would be once their deal was signed then free passage might make sense. But the reality of Oslo was very different from the “New Middle East” fantasies popularized more than 20 years ago by Shimon Peres and others who championed the accords. Under PA leader and arch terrorist Yasir Arafat, both regions became hotbeds of terror and incitement. Free passage, which was a matter of course during the pre-Oslo period of Israeli rule, was impossible under those circumstances. Once Arafat turned down then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s two offers of statehood and independence in 2000 and 2001 and launched a terrorist war of attrition, it become even less likely. After Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007, even Western nations that were not sympathetic to Israel agreed that the area had to be kept in quarantine lest the terrorists exploit travel to further their bloody ends.

It is in that context that any restrictions on the ability of Palestinians to move between the West Bank and Gaza must be seen. It is true that Israeli authorities have adopted passport policies regarding the West Bank that are not liberal with respect to the ability of Palestinians to come and go as they please. But is there another country in the world locked in a mortal struggle against an adversary that would be more lenient with respect to such policies? The answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

The Palestinians and their foreign friends consider all of the West Bank and Jerusalem as sovereign Palestinian territory from which the Israeli must be evicted. But there has never been such a sovereign Arab state there and Jews have rights there as well. Even if the current Israeli government and its predecessors have signaled a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal from much of this land, that does not mean it has no right, in the absence of a peace treaty, to ensure that Palestinian travel from the Gaza terrorist enclave should be only allowed for humanitarian purposes such as visits to hospitals.

Perhaps one could argue weddings should also constitute such an exception. But does Israel really want to be put in the position of verifying that every Palestinian couple that seeks such a waiver is actually going to be married rather than part of a ruse that might be used to facilitate illegal action? Israel has enough problems dealing with the West Bank without becoming the moral equivalent of American immigration inspectors trolling for information to deny illegal immigrants green cards obtained under false pretenses.

But the bottom line of this issue is not about Israeli rules. It’s about a Palestinian people and its leadership that has consistently rejected every opportunity for peace including four times in the last 15 years. When the Palestinians are prepared to give up their dream of Israel’s extinction and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, free passage between peaceful countries won’t be an issue. Until then, Palestinian lovers stuck in the two areas should send their complaints to Fatah and Hamas and not to Israel via the New York Times.

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Obama Politicized Iran Sanctions; Not Israel’s Ambassador

Ron Dermer came to Washington in 2013 with a target on his back. Israel’s ambassador to the United States was a close associate of Prime Minister Netanyahu and lambasted as not only the “brain” of a leader widely disliked by liberal Jews but also tainted because of his former close ties with American conservatives. So it is not exactly a surprise that much of the criticism that has been focused on Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address a joint session of Congress on the issue of Iran sanctions is being directed at Dermer. But even if you think, as I do, that the decision to give the speech at this time is a mistake, it’s important to recognize that much of the opprobrium being hurled at the ambassador is deeply unfair. While Dermer is being accused of undiplomatic interference in U.S. politics and flouting protocol, it is the White House that has politicized an issue that would otherwise be a matter of bipartisan consensus, not the Israeli Embassy or even House Speaker John Boehner.

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Ron Dermer came to Washington in 2013 with a target on his back. Israel’s ambassador to the United States was a close associate of Prime Minister Netanyahu and lambasted as not only the “brain” of a leader widely disliked by liberal Jews but also tainted because of his former close ties with American conservatives. So it is not exactly a surprise that much of the criticism that has been focused on Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address a joint session of Congress on the issue of Iran sanctions is being directed at Dermer. But even if you think, as I do, that the decision to give the speech at this time is a mistake, it’s important to recognize that much of the opprobrium being hurled at the ambassador is deeply unfair. While Dermer is being accused of undiplomatic interference in U.S. politics and flouting protocol, it is the White House that has politicized an issue that would otherwise be a matter of bipartisan consensus, not the Israeli Embassy or even House Speaker John Boehner.

Even Dermer’s predecessor Michael Oren–whose background was as a historian, not a political adviser like Dermer, and was therefore a less polarizing figure–learned that being the ambassador from a Netanyahu-led government was no easy task in Obama’s Washington. But Dermer was doubly handicapped because of his close ties with the prime minister. That’s ironic because being his confidant made him an ideal person to serve as an envoy to his country’s sole superpower ally.

Dermer is resented by the left-leaning figures that dominate Israel’s foreign ministry as well as by most of the members of Israel’s press corps in Washington, who lean left just like most of their American colleagues. If that didn’t place him behind the 8-ball, Dermer also had been involved in a memorable spat with the editors of the New York Times in 2011 when he publicly turned down their offer—on behalf of Netanyahu—of space on their op-ed pages because he rightly said the avalanche of anti-Israel pieces they publish made such a piece mere tokenism designed to cover up their bias.

So Dermer can hardly be surprised that the Times devoted a piece in today’s paper to piling on the ambassador.

Let’s acknowledge, as I have written a few times over the past week, that accepting Boehner’s invitation to address Congress on the issue of Iran sanctions was a blunder. Such a flamboyant intervention by an Israeli leader into a congressional debate in which the White House was on the other side was asking for trouble. It diverted attention from the president’s indefensible opposition to strengthening his hand in negotiations with Iran by making it clear that the Islamist regime would pay a high price for further delay and refusal to give up their nuclear ambitions. It allowed the administration to change the subject from its pursuit of détente with Iran to Netanyahu and undermined efforts to rally Democratic support for sanctions.

But even if we accept that Dermer and Netanyahu were wrong, it wasn’t the Israelis who politicized the sanctions debate. That was the fault of the White House.

Up until Obama entered the White House, opposition to Iran and support for sanctions was a matter of bipartisan consensus. Though his rhetoric about stopping Iran has always been good, the president has opposed virtually every sanctions bill that has been proposed, including some that he now brags about having brought Iran to the table. An overwhelming majority of both Houses of Congress comprising members of both parties have supported increased sanctions on Iran for the past two years. The only consistent opponent has been the president. It is he who has sought to make sanctions a partisan issue by leaning on Democrats to oppose the measure out of loyalty to him. He has also stooped to exploit the resentment many Democrats feel toward Speaker Boehner as a reason to back his stand on Iran. Though Dermer may have erred by not consulting with the White House about Boehner’s invitation, the decision to turn this into a major kerfuffle is purely a product of administration politics, not an understandable desire on the part of the Israelis to aid those backing sanctions.

Let’s also note the hypocrisy of many of his critics. The same people crying foul about Dermer and Netanyahu didn’t protest when British Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied members of the Senate on behalf of Obama’s stand on Iran. Some of those veteran American diplomats who are piling on are also guilty of having very short memories. One of the key witnesses against Dermer in the Times article is former State Department official Daniel Kurtzer who said it was unheard of for a diplomat to go behind the back of a country’s government and work with its domestic opponents. But Kurtzer and the rest of the peace processers who worked for a number of administrations over the last 25 years have been guilty of doing just that whenever a Likud prime minister was in power. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama have worked tirelessly to undermine and defeat Netanyahu throughout his three terms in office in ways that Dermer and his boss would never dream of trying to do to Obama.

Say what you will about the mess that Dermer and Netanyahu find themselves in and for which they bear some responsibility. But the prime minister’s scheduled speech has become a diplomatic cause célèbre due to the partisan political games being played by the White House, not the Israelis. It is Obama that is undermining the U.S.-Israel alliance by seeking to appease Iran, not the efforts of Dermer to rally Americans behind a stand that is in the best interests of both countries.

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Take Rudoren’s ‘Miracle’ with a Cup of Salt

When inexperienced foreign correspondents arrive in Israel, one of the rites of passage tends to be their being suckered into writing a heartwarming Palestinian story intended to give Israel a black eye. However, the best indication of their mettle as a journalist is not so much whether Palestinians sources/fixers inveigle them into producing one of these atrocities as whether they learn from the experience and try not to get hooked into another obvious piece of pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel puffery. Judged by this standard, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren must be considered a dismal failure. Though she has been in the country for two and a half years, Rudoren has just produced a stereotypical holiday piece about the conflict published today in the paper that should embarrass even the most raw rookie scribe.

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When inexperienced foreign correspondents arrive in Israel, one of the rites of passage tends to be their being suckered into writing a heartwarming Palestinian story intended to give Israel a black eye. However, the best indication of their mettle as a journalist is not so much whether Palestinians sources/fixers inveigle them into producing one of these atrocities as whether they learn from the experience and try not to get hooked into another obvious piece of pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel puffery. Judged by this standard, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren must be considered a dismal failure. Though she has been in the country for two and a half years, Rudoren has just produced a stereotypical holiday piece about the conflict published today in the paper that should embarrass even the most raw rookie scribe.

The article, tabbed as “Letter From the Middle East,” is titled “An Open Door Beckons in the West Bank.” It concerns the experiences of Khadra Zreineh, a Palestinian woman who hosts foreigners and those living temporarily in Israel as part of what Rudoren describes as “off-the-beaten-track tourist experiences often focused on food.” Apparently Zreineh served up some nice stories along with her home made freekeh soup about life in the town of Beit Jala during the second intifada where she lives in what she dubs “the house of the open door,” where both Jews and Arabs have always been welcome.

One in particular entranced Rudoren who made it the centerpiece of her article. It concerned Zreineh’s experience during Easter of 2002 when the area was under curfew as Israeli troops sought to capture Palestinian terrorists who had taken refuge in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. The terrorists held out in the shrine for 39 days secure in the knowledge that Israeli troops would respect the site’s sanctity. In the end, they were allowed to leave unharmed for exile in Gaza or Europe. During the siege, which took place during a time of intense fighting in the West Bank as armed Palestinian cadres waged war against Israel, local residents were given brief periods to leave their homes to get supplies. But after 34 days, Zreineh and some friends decided to defy the curfew and go to church. Instead of stopping them, an Israeli tank crew let them do as they liked and then waited for them to escort them safely home after the service. Zreineh considered this action an “Easter miracle” but then found out that one of the soldiers knew her son from earlier more peaceful times and had been in her home before.

That’s very nice and would, at least on its face, seem to confirm the idea that the only thing that is needed to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs is more contact and understanding with some good food thrown in. But there are some problems with the narrative and the way that Rudoren retold it that tell us more about Rudoren’s poor skills as a journalist than about what’s wrong with the Middle East.

Let’s start with how Rudoren describes what happened to make it less likely that Jews and Arabs would gather in Zreineh’s kitchen:

“We had many Jewish customers,” she said of the days before Israel built a concrete barrier around most of the Bethlehem area and barred its citizens from entering.

That’s true but Rudoren doesn’t note that the separation fence was built after the events that Zreineh describes, not before them. Nor does she mention, even in passing, that the motivation for its construction was not to stop people from having soup in Beit Jala but to stop the wave of suicide bombers that took the lives of over a thousand Israelis during the second intifada.

Just as interestingly, Rudoren tells us nothing about what happened in Beit Jala during the intifada.

Throughout the year before and even after the “miracle” that Zreineh discusses, the town was taken over not by touring foodies like Rudoren but by Palestinian gunmen who forced some of the Christian residents out of their homes and then used them as platforms for shooting at the neighboring Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. During that period, Gilo was under siege as terrorists in Beit Jala fired indiscriminately into homes and apartments as well as passing Israeli cars or pedestrians. The real miracle was that more Jews weren’t slaughtered, though many were killed and wounded and an entire section of the capital (as well as the Christians of Beit Jala who were occupied by Muslim gunmen affiliated with the Fatah group) was terrorized until Israeli troops cleaned out the nests of shooters. In recounting Zreineh’s experiences, it says a lot about Rudoren’s poor command of the facts of the conflict and credulous nature that she included nothing about this in her story. Beit Jala’s role in the conflict is forgotten along with that detail about suicide bombings and the fence.

As for Zreineh’s “miracle,” the assumption underlying the story is that if any other Israeli soldiers had been stationed there and not a couple who knew the soup maker, the Palestinian women breaking curfew to attend mass would have been shot or at least roughed up or harassed. But can Rudoren produce credible stories of peaceful Palestinian women being harmed under similar circumstances? Though the international press has usually swallowed Palestinian propaganda about Israeli beastliness with few efforts to get at the facts (as Rudoren and her Times collaborators demonstrated this past summer during the war with Hamas in Gaza), the truth is that the Jewish state’s military always, as the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey put it, “goes to extraordinary lengths” to spare civilians when fighting Palestinian terrorists. The IDF isn’t perfect and there are instances when it fails to live up to its high standards, but the decision of a tank crew not to fire on six women heading to church is what we’d expect from any Israeli unit, not a “miracle.”

While I’m sure the soup was good, the story that went with it should have struck any journalist worth his or her salt as a crock or at least in need of some heavy seasoning with the facts about Palestinian actions during the intifada if it was going to be written up. But not Jodi Rudoren. She’s as green as the day she arrived in Israel in May 2012 to take up her post. That would be an embarrassment for any foreign correspondent, let alone a Times bureau chief. Readers should keep this in mind whenever they look at her non-food or holiday-related coverage in the paper.

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No Moral Equivalence for Synagogue Terror

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s terror attack in Jerusalem in which two Palestinian terrorists slaughtered four Jews in a synagogue, the international media was forced to change, at least for a day or two, their consistent narrative about the Middle East conflict which centered on alleged Israeli misbehavior rather than the reality of Palestinian intransigence, incitement, and violence. But even under these egregious circumstances, mainstream journalists sought to establish a flimsy moral equivalence between this atrocity and what they sought to claim were comparable Israeli outrages conducted against Muslims. An example of this came in the analysis by the New York Times’s Jodi Rudoren who asserted, “Jewish vandalism against mosques is a regular occurrence.” But while such regrettable instances have occurred, they are not “regular” and pale in comparison to the toll of Arab terrorism directed at Jewish targets.

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In the aftermath of Tuesday’s terror attack in Jerusalem in which two Palestinian terrorists slaughtered four Jews in a synagogue, the international media was forced to change, at least for a day or two, their consistent narrative about the Middle East conflict which centered on alleged Israeli misbehavior rather than the reality of Palestinian intransigence, incitement, and violence. But even under these egregious circumstances, mainstream journalists sought to establish a flimsy moral equivalence between this atrocity and what they sought to claim were comparable Israeli outrages conducted against Muslims. An example of this came in the analysis by the New York Times’s Jodi Rudoren who asserted, “Jewish vandalism against mosques is a regular occurrence.” But while such regrettable instances have occurred, they are not “regular” and pale in comparison to the toll of Arab terrorism directed at Jewish targets.

While much is made in both the Israeli and international media about “price tag” attacks from Israelis, especially West Bank settlers, against Arabs, an Internet listing of all such attacks in the last seven years yields approximately 20 such vandalism incidents against mosques. While each one deserves condemnation and punishment for the perpetrators, an average of two or three a year hardly counts as an epidemic. That is especially true when the same vilified West Bank settlers suffer daily attacks on their persons and property including deadly instances of terrorism as well as mere graffiti or arson. These attacks are so common that they rarely merit news coverage even in Israel, let alone the foreign press.

Among the attacks on Jewish targets in the West Bank was the burning of a historic Jewish synagogue in Jericho and the sack of the synagogue at the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in 2000 at the start of the second intifada. During that assault a Muslim mob assisted by Palestinian Authority policemen desecrated sacred Jewish objects and then burned the building to the ground. Rudoren felt no need to mention these incidents in her attempt to provide historical context for this week’s terror attack.

Yet she did cite the 1994 murder of 29 Muslim worshippers by Baruch Goldstein as an example of how Jews have also committed terror. But that example actually tells us more about the lack of moral equivalence than anything else.

It should be remembered that Goldstein’s insane murder spree was condemned not only by the Israeli government but was widely condemned by a consensus of Israeli society. Goldstein’s act was considered a blot on the honor of the Jewish people by all but a few mad extremists on the far right. Just as important, it resulted in the banning by the Israeli government of Kach, the group of radical followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

By contrast, Palestinian society embraced the two synagogue murderers as heroes this week. Their act of barbarism was celebrated in the streets of Palestinian cities and endorsed by members of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party (though, forced by Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas issued a condemnation) as well as their Hamas rivals. This is hardly surprising since Abbas had praised recent terror attacks on Jews by Palestinians and even said one who attempted to murder a Jewish activist was a “martyr” who went straight to heaven. Moreover, Goldstein’s murders still stand as one of the few examples of anti-Arab terrorism while attacks on Jews in the 20 years since his crime are almost too numerous to count.

The point here is not to excuse or rationalize any violence against Muslims, acts that are committed by only tiny minority and which almost all Israelis rightly condemn. It is to note that violence against Jews is considered praiseworthy by mainstream Palestinian culture. Seeking to treat such acts as if they are merely the other side of the coin from Jewish crimes isn’t merely a distortion of the facts, it is a willful attempt to obfuscate the truth about a conflict in which only one side is committed to the destruction of the other.

As I wrote yesterday, the cycle of violence in the Middle East is fed by a political culture that treats the war on Jews and Zionism as inextricably linked to Palestinian national identity. No amount of false moral equivalence by Rudoren or any other Western reporter can alter the fact that until that changes, we will continue to see more such attacks on Jews. Until the West and its media stops treating the Palestinian commitment to violence as somehow the fault of Israeli misbehavior or no different than isolated acts committed by Israelis, the Palestinians won’t get the message that this has to end if peace is to ever be achieved.

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It Isn’t Just Jerusalem That’s Not Negotiable

Seeking to make sense of yesterday’s horrific terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, the New York Times stumbled across an unfortunate truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Quoting writer Yossi Klein Halevi’s characterization of the violence in the headline of its article on the aftermath of the atrocity, it noted that in this “war of neighbors,” differences are not negotiable. But while Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren intended this surprisingly sober analysis to apply only to the issue of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount or perhaps the city itself, were she to think more seriously about the subject, she would be forced to conclude that the same phrase applies to the entire conflict between Jews and Arabs over this small country.

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Seeking to make sense of yesterday’s horrific terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, the New York Times stumbled across an unfortunate truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Quoting writer Yossi Klein Halevi’s characterization of the violence in the headline of its article on the aftermath of the atrocity, it noted that in this “war of neighbors,” differences are not negotiable. But while Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren intended this surprisingly sober analysis to apply only to the issue of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount or perhaps the city itself, were she to think more seriously about the subject, she would be forced to conclude that the same phrase applies to the entire conflict between Jews and Arabs over this small country.

The infusion of religion into what all too many observers believe is a dispute over land and borders scares many of those who comment on the Middle East. Having spent the last few decades attempting to argue that peace could be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians if only the Jewish state were to give away more or all of the land it took possession of during the 1967 Six-Day War, those committed to this myth seek to divest the discussion about the path to peace of the absolutes of faith that make compromise impossible. Seen from that perspective, the dispute about the Temple Mount is one in which both sides can, as Rudoren does in her piece, be portrayed as being driven by religious zealots intent on blowing up an already combustible situation.

But while it is true that a minority of Jews would like to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount to make it place where both faiths can be freely observed (Jews currently may not pray on the Mount, a stand endorsed by Prime Minister Netanyahu), the hate and incitement that leads inevitably to the kind of bloody slaughter witnessed in a Har Nof synagogue where four Jews were murdered yesterday is not a function of a few isolated zealots or a twisted interpretation of Islam. Rather it is a product of mainstream Palestinian political culture in which religious symbols such as the imagined peril to the mosques on the Mount have been employed by generations of Palestinian leaders to whip up hatred for Jews. The purpose is not to defend the mosques or Arab claims to Jerusalem but to deny the right of Jews to life, sovereignty, or self-defense in any part of the country.

In order to understand the current spate of murders of Jews by Palestinians and why so many took to the streets of Gaza and West Bank cities to celebrate the bloody attack on Jews at prayer yesterday, we have to leave aside the clichés about cycles of violence and even-handed blame assessment and come face to face with the reality of Palestinian nationalism. From its inception early in the 20th century, Palestinian national identity has been inextricably linked to a war against Zionism and the growing Jewish presence in the country. Zionist leaders initially hoped the conflict could be solved through economic cooperation and then embraced territorial compromise as the panacea. But no solution has worked because the real focus of the dispute isn’t about land or a division of economic benefits but something far more fundamental that isn’t, as the Times said, “negotiable.”

Palestinians celebrated this latest horror, as they have been lauding every other recent terror attack and all those that preceded it throughout the last few decades. They did so not because Israel has failed to restrain Jewish extremists (it has done so) but because the basic elements of the conflict are not about details such as where Jews may or may not live in Jerusalem or where they may pray. Removing the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in those parts of the city that Jordan illegally occupied between 1949 and 1967—“East Jerusalem”—won’t end the conflict any more than previous Israeli retreats or the several Israeli offers of statehood and independence for the Palestinians (that would have given them not only almost all the West Bank but a large share of Jerusalem) satisfied Palestinian opinion or its leadership.

Once you understand that, it’s easy to see that the obstacle to peace isn’t specific Israeli policies but the Jewish refusal to be evicted from their ancient homeland or to defend their hold on it. Indeed, rather than trying to interpret Palestinian extremism through the contemporary prism of the spread of ISIS-like fundamentalism, the current violence is better understood as just the latest iteration of the same virus of intolerance that has fueled the war on Israel for many decades.

Rudoren and some of her sources are wrong. The scheduling of prayer services ore entry to the Temple Mount is a negotiable issue if both sides were willing to view it as not being a zero-sum game. So, too, is the question about where the border of a Palestinian state that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state next door would be if parts of Jerusalem were included inside its borders. Nor is the red herring of municipal services to east Jerusalem Arabs, which Rudoren also speciously raised as a potential cause for terrorism, beyond discussion. That is especially true since most residents of Arab neighborhoods are, despite their complaints about Israelis, wary of being lumped in with the other victims of Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank kleptocracy.

But what isn’t negotiable is the demand heard on the Palestinian streets and in the official media of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’s independent state in all but name in Gaza for Israel’s destruction. The praise being heard for this latest instance of “resistance to the occupation” isn’t about Jerusalem’s municipal boundary but the “occupation” of any part of the country—including all the territory that was under Israeli control prior to June 1967. That is what isn’t negotiable and won’t be until a sea change in Palestinian political culture occurs that will make the shocking pro-terror demonstrations impossible. Until the Palestinians give up their dreams of Israel’s destruction, more than Jerusalem will remain non-negotiable. And that is a reality that an American administration and its media cheering section at the Times that has falsely blamed Israel for the failure to achieve peace must also learn to take into account if they are to understand what is really happening in the region.

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The Gruber Blackout and a Partisan Media

It will be some time before we know for certain whether the fallout from Jonathan Gruber’s embarrassingly candid revelations about the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare will have a substantive impact on its future. Given the relevance of much of what he’s said to the Supreme Court’s deliberations about a challenge to the legality of its crucial subsidies, don’t bet against what some are calling Grubergate being considered a turning point in the history of this misbegotten legislation. But no matter what happens in the Court or in Congress, the story has already provided us with a fascinating insight into another kind of pretense: the supposed objectivity of the mainstream media which has, for the most part, ignored this story.

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It will be some time before we know for certain whether the fallout from Jonathan Gruber’s embarrassingly candid revelations about the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare will have a substantive impact on its future. Given the relevance of much of what he’s said to the Supreme Court’s deliberations about a challenge to the legality of its crucial subsidies, don’t bet against what some are calling Grubergate being considered a turning point in the history of this misbegotten legislation. But no matter what happens in the Court or in Congress, the story has already provided us with a fascinating insight into another kind of pretense: the supposed objectivity of the mainstream media which has, for the most part, ignored this story.

The virtual blackout of coverage of Gruber’s remarks in the broadcast networks and major newspapers such as the New York Times is, on its face, astonishing. That so many of these outlets that generally fall under the rubric of liberal mainstream media to have all come to the same conclusion that the Gruber story wasn’t news speaks to the way that members of this herd all tend to walk in lockstep on major political issues. But the defense of these decisions doesn’t wash.

As Howard Kurtz, former media columnist at the Washington Post and CNN said from his current perch at Fox:

On what planet is this kind of embarrassing admission not news? Maybe on that comet where the spaceship just landed.

Even Brian Stelter, his successor at CNN, conceded that the decision to ignore the story was wrong even as he, a liberal as opposed to the more centrist Kurtz, sought to rationalize the decision:

Whenever you think there is a conspiracy it is really just something much more mundane, in this case I think it is the fact that this is a video that is a year plus old, and it is something that, we’re talking about a story that has been debated and debated and debated and so covered endlessly, I think oftentimes in newsrooms, there’s a sense that well, what’s actually new here? But, that said, the quote, the word stupid, that is news. And the way it is being used by conservatives, that is news, so that is why it should be covered by the nightly newscasts and CNN.

As for the idea that there is nothing new, let’s unwrap that contention. Gruber was well known to be a major player on ObamaCare and his statements about deceiving the Congressional Budget Office and counting on the “stupidity” of the American people would, in any context, be considered newsworthy. Anything that casts further doubt on the legality of the legislation—especially since some of Gruber’s comments contradict the liberal position on the King v. Burwell lawsuit—or provide fodder for congressional opponents who will seek to chip away at the Affordable Care Act is in and of itself also newsworthy.

The only reason why editors would chose not to treat it as worthy of coverage would be their desire to help the administration end the debate about its signature legislative achievement. To those who would say that critics of the mainstream media’s blackout on Gruber are indulging in conspiracy theories, I would answer by simply asking them to imagine a similar case in which a Republican administration with popularity ratings as low as those of President Obama in which a key figure in the formation of one of that government’s policies were found to have spoken in such a manner in public on video.

It is simply impossible to imagine that the New York Times would have treated such statements as a non-story. But that’s what they did this week. Search the New York Times website and, as of Friday afternoon, there isn’t a single mention of the Gruber controversy save for one opinion article in its Upshot section in which the significance of the story is downplayed. But there is nothing in the news sections or in the print edition of any part of the paper. Even if, as Neil Irwin wrote in the Upshot, this sort of thing were business as usual in Congress and the government, the Times would not have hesitated to treat evidence of such misconduct—let alone lies told to facilitate an attempt to remake one sixth of the American economy—by conservatives as front-page news.

The broadcast networks similarly shut down the story over the course of the week with no references until the last day and then only in passing. As for the cable networks, Fox has predictably run with it but with the exception of Jake Tapper’s show, CNN also largely kept away from it for days while MSNBC granted Gruber a softball interview with its least journalistic host—Ronan Farrow—whose only intent was to dismiss the whole thing.

That conservative outlets would treat Grubergate as earthshaking and liberal ones would say there’s nothing to talk about is understandable since there are partisan implications to the story. But while Fox and MSNBC are understood to be sources whose political slant is well known and the same is true for print and online publications that make no secret of their editorial missions, newspapers like the Times and networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS still hold themselves out as representatives of objective journalism. That this is an easily exposed pretense has not been much of a secret for a long time. The networks and the Times are as ideologically biased as the Rush Limbaugh Show on radio. The only difference is that Rush and other political talkers and writers don’t pretend to be sitting on Mount Olympus impartially giving the people the news.

Even in the world of opinion writing it is necessary to acknowledge the other side’s arguments if only to disprove them. But for liberals in the mainstream media, news that works against their side is something that must be contained if not simply thrown down an Orwellian memory hole. While President Obama and the Democrats should be ashamed of their role in lying to the American people about ObamaCare, their cheerleaders in the mainstream press should be just as embarrassed. That apologies won’t be forthcoming from either tells us all we need to know about the contempt for democracy and truth that is now routine in these precincts.

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Humanity Lost: Jewish Victims of Terror and the New York Times

Reading this New York Times dispatch on the victims of Palestinian terrorism back in 1995 is truly stepping into a time warp. The story is about the killing of New Jersey native Alisa Flatow, a case that became famous for the Flatow family’s lawsuit against the Iranian funders of Palestinian terror. In the story we read about Flatow, although the focus of this particular piece is on those like her: young American Jews whose pintele yid (Jewish spark/core) takes them to Israel to study. Headlined “Studying in Israel: Shaken Youths, Unshaken Resolve,” the story is inspiring–and meant to be:

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Reading this New York Times dispatch on the victims of Palestinian terrorism back in 1995 is truly stepping into a time warp. The story is about the killing of New Jersey native Alisa Flatow, a case that became famous for the Flatow family’s lawsuit against the Iranian funders of Palestinian terror. In the story we read about Flatow, although the focus of this particular piece is on those like her: young American Jews whose pintele yid (Jewish spark/core) takes them to Israel to study. Headlined “Studying in Israel: Shaken Youths, Unshaken Resolve,” the story is inspiring–and meant to be:

“I have not gotten one phone call from a nervous parent, thank God,” said Robert Katz, director of academic affairs at Bar-Ilan University’s office in New York. “This isn’t complacency. They’re not calling because they’re committed and they’re not going anywhere. The prevailing attitude is this is the place where we are and this is where we’re going to be and we’re not budging.” …

“They’re shaken emotionally,” said Efrem Nulman, dean of students at Yeshiva. “But they’re not shaken in their commitment or their core beliefs. In a nutshell, our students have a deep and strong commitment to Israel in general and to studying in Israel in particular. These students have become accustomed to despicable acts of terrorism.”

The president of Brandeis, Jehuda Reinharz, attended Ms. Flatow’s funeral and said afterward that he had spoken with many of the 50 Brandeis students taking courses in Israel. Her death, he said, has shocked the students, but it hasn’t changed their minds.

These Jews would not be intimidated by acts of terror into abandoning their people and their dreams of Jewish life in the Holy Land. I was struck, however, not by what the Times was writing about these students but by what the Times was showing about itself. Namely, the Palestinian terror campaign had also not shaken the Times; the paper was still dedicated to humanizing the victims of terrorism and celebrating the religious passion that kept young Jews coming to Israel in defiance of their tormentors.

That was a different time, maybe. But it was also a different Times.

A friend in Israel passed along this beautiful remembrance of one of yesterday’s victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, 26-year-old Dahlia Lemkus, written by Sherry Mandell. She writes that although the New York Times put in the effort to learn about Lemkus’s Palestinian murderer, “We learn nothing about 26 year old Dahlia, who was just getting started in life after finishing college, studying occupational therapy so that she could have a job where she could help people who were sick or infirm or disabled to live in a fuller way.” Mandell proceeds to tell the readers all about Lemkus.

Defenders of the Times might try to argue that unlike the students in the 1995 story, Lemkus wasn’t American. But then neither was her Palestinian murderer, and the Times makes sure to humanize him. It’s actually worse than that, though. In today’s story by Jodi Rudoren on a Palestinian man killed by the IDF when he aimed a gun at soldiers, Rudoren reflects back on Lemkus and tells us she was a “female settler,” just to put a thumb on the scales against her. (There is also the passive voice; the lede says “Israeli forces fatally shot” the Palestinian while yesterday’s Palestinian attacks “left an Israeli soldier and a female settler dead.”) When Lemkus is mentioned again in the story, she is again referred to as the “female settler.”

The Times isn’t even humanizing American victims of Palestinian terror anymore either. The American-born rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot last month in an attempted assassination by a Palestinian in Jerusalem. Glick is a nonviolent proponent of equal rights for Jews at their holy site, the Temple Mount, on which Muslims have full prayer rights but Jews don’t.

The first words of the Times story on the shooting of Glick are: “An Israeli-American agitator.” Later we’re told he’s “widely viewed as a provocative figure who has exacerbated tensions between Muslims and Jews.” Around the same time, a Palestinian with links to Hamas was killed while attempting to carry out an attack on Israeli civilians. As our Tom Wilson noted, the State Department, in offering its condolences to the family of the Palestinian, played up the Palestinian’s American citizenship and refused to consider him a terrorist. At the same time, Glick’s family went ignored by American officials.

The Obama administration and the New York Times seem to be rather in-sync, then. The Times is ostensibly the same institution now as it was in 1995. On this issue, however, it couldn’t be more different. Somewhere along the line over the last twenty years, Jewish victims of Palestinian terror stopped being quite fully human to the Times. No doubt those who carry out these attacks feel the same way.

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Democrats’ Pitiful Premature Sour Grapes

Faced with a likely defeat in tomorrow’s midterm elections, some Democrats are in denial and predict an unlikely victory. Others have already started to form the usual circular firing squads, pointing their fingers at either an unpopular President Obama or those politicians that tripped over themselves in embarrassing efforts to disassociate themselves from the administration. But perhaps most telling are those choosing to dismiss the significance of tomorrow’s results even before they happen. Trying to deny the inevitable or to shift blame for it when defeat happens isn’t productive but nevertheless must be termed normal political behavior. The greatest danger for Democrats in the days following their likely loss of the Senate, however, is to pretend that a midterm disaster brings with it no hard lessons for the defeated.

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Faced with a likely defeat in tomorrow’s midterm elections, some Democrats are in denial and predict an unlikely victory. Others have already started to form the usual circular firing squads, pointing their fingers at either an unpopular President Obama or those politicians that tripped over themselves in embarrassing efforts to disassociate themselves from the administration. But perhaps most telling are those choosing to dismiss the significance of tomorrow’s results even before they happen. Trying to deny the inevitable or to shift blame for it when defeat happens isn’t productive but nevertheless must be termed normal political behavior. The greatest danger for Democrats in the days following their likely loss of the Senate, however, is to pretend that a midterm disaster brings with it no hard lessons for the defeated.

In recent days, the New York Times provided its liberal readership with a trifecta of midterm denial. But though these attempts to salve Democratic wounds that had not yet started bleeding were exactly what the paper’s readers want, they are the worst kind of medicine for a political party.

The most absurd was an op-ed by a Duke University professor of public policy and one his students. In it David Schanzer and Jay Sullivan, a junior at the school, argue that it is time to abolish the midterms. According to them, the exercise of allowing the people to have their say about Congress every two years is a nuisance. They say it is a big waste of time that forces members to spend too much time raising money and fundraising. But the real reason they don’t like it is that lately Republicans have done better at them because congressional Democrats don’t motivate the same kind of turnout from those with a marginal interest in politics, as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Schanzer and Sullivan don’t like the “whiter, older and more educated” midterm electorate so they think the best thing is to extend House terms to four years from two and change senators from having six years in office to either four or eight (!) before they have to face the voters.

Like all efforts to change the Constitution in order to manipulate the system to immediate partisan advantage, this scheme is a farce. The reason why the Founders wanted frequent elections for the House is that they rightly believed one house of Congress should be more reflective of the political passions of the moment while the other would be more reflective of long-term concerns. The pair from Duke wish to sacrifice this laudable aim because it doesn’t currently help the party they seem to favor without remembering that it could just as easily flip to help the Democrats as it has at times in the past. While I don’t think many serious people will pay much attention to this nonsense, it does illustrate the willingness of many on the left to do anything to somehow game the system in their favor.

While that piece was just plain foolish, more destructive was the explanation for the likely Democratic loss from Times columnist Charles Blow. The writer tends to view virtually every issue through a racial lens, so it is no surprise that this extreme liberal thinks the Democrats’ big problem remains racial animus toward President Obama. He agrees with Obama that the reason for criticism of his administration is that there are “some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.” Since black support for Obama has not wavered throughout his presidency, Blow naturally assumes that the dropoff elsewhere must be due to racism, something that is accentuated by the Democrats’ reliance on huge turnouts from African-American voters to remain competitive.

Racism still exists in America but this is, of course, the same president who won clear majorities in two presidential elections in which a lot more white people voted than blacks. But despite these historic victories, he prefers to blame his troubles on irrational hatred rather than face the facts that a lot of people have buyer’s remorse about reelecting him after a record of failure in the last two years. While Democrats have resorted to race-baiting this fall in what may prove to be a futile effort to increase black turnout, the party would be well advised to distance itself from the politics of racial grievance once the dust settles. Playing to your base is important, but, as Republicans have shown us, doing so exclusively is a formula for electoral disaster.

But perhaps Nate Cohn in the Times’s Upshot section illustrated the most dangerous variety of Democratic thinking in his piece. In it, he gives us the ultimate sour grapes interpretation by saying that even if the GOP wins in key battleground states outside of their southern comfort zone, it won’t be a big deal if it is a close margin. His point is that since Democratic turnout will inevitably be far greater in 2016, anything short of a GOP landslide means the next presidential election will repeat the pattern of 2010 and 2012 in which a Republican win was followed by an impressive Democratic victory.

While it is true that Democrats have in recent years tended to do better in presidential years, that is mostly the function of a singularly historic figure named Barack Obama. Though the party hopes Hillary Clinton will perform just as well as the putative first female president succeeding the first African-American, her poor political skills (illustrated again last week) make that a chancy proposition. The thing about politics is that it changes all the time. Any assumptions about the next election based on the last few is, in this case, another instance of wishful thinking on the part of the left, not a sober analysis.

What happened this year is that Republicans learned some of their lessons from the past few cycles, nominated good candidates, and stayed on message. Democrats thought they could survive the downturn in Obama’s popularity by playing the same tired themes about a war on women and racism but are finding that it didn’t work as well as the last time. If they lose this week, Cohn’s advice might lead them to think that they have no need to re-evaluate that mistake but should, instead, merely do more of the same in hope of a better audience in 2016.

Whatever happens tomorrow, what the loser must do is to take a hard look at their defeats, and draw the proper conclusions. If Democrats emerge on Wednesday putting it all down to racism or the accident of a midterm, they will be setting themselves up for a far worse surprise in 2016 when conditions and turnout factors may not be as favorable for them as they think.

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Re: NY Times Partially Vindicates Bush on WMD

A recent New York Times article reported that the United States found roughly 5,000 old but dangerous chemical weapons in Iraq. The author, C.J. Chivers, claims the Bush administration covered up these discoveries because the old weapons ran counter to administration claims about active Iraqi WMD programs. As I noted a couple days ago, the Bush administration had always maintained that Saddam Hussein’s old undeclared chemical weapons were part of the threat that needed addressing. On that point, the Times has proved Bush correct. But here’s who it proved wrong: the UN.

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A recent New York Times article reported that the United States found roughly 5,000 old but dangerous chemical weapons in Iraq. The author, C.J. Chivers, claims the Bush administration covered up these discoveries because the old weapons ran counter to administration claims about active Iraqi WMD programs. As I noted a couple days ago, the Bush administration had always maintained that Saddam Hussein’s old undeclared chemical weapons were part of the threat that needed addressing. On that point, the Times has proved Bush correct. But here’s who it proved wrong: the UN.

A USA Today article from 2004 states: “A report from U.N. weapons inspectors to be released today says they now believe there were no weapons of mass destruction of any significance in Iraq after 1994[.]” That report represented a doubling down on the UN’s previous position that Saddam had no active WMD programs, but might still have had unaccounted for chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Americans were beginning to discover and suffer harm from those nonexistent weapons. So much for the reliability of UN inspections.

At the Daily Beast, Eli Lake reports that Karl Rove was the main figure behind the Bush administration’s low-key approach to finding Saddam’s old WMD. The article makes clear three important points. First, many Republicans and Iraq War supporters desperately wanted the administration to go public about the weapons because their discovery constituted an intelligence victory.

Second, according to Dick Cheney’s former advisor David Wurmser, when the WMD were initially uncovered, the administration “quite properly asked it be kept quiet until they track down the source of the weapons so that they can secure it and not tip off Sunni insurgents to go and retrieve them themselves.” Good policy.

Third, as time passed, the administration thought it imprudent to venture a victory lap over this partial victory. In Wurmser’s account, Karl Rove said, “Let these sleeping dogs lie; we have lost that fight so better not to remind anyone of it.” To what fight was Rove referring? It was obviously not the fight over the WMD Saddam was hiding. Indeed, as Lake notes, Wurmser,  Rick Santorum, and others were incensed because they wanted this accomplishment to be well known.  No, the administration had lost the fight over the public perception of the war and of the reasons behind it. The antiwar side, including the UN, had successfully revised history in order to pronounce anything but the discovery of an active WMD program a failure. So while Saddam’s old chemical weapons had always been one casus belli, the public had become disinterested. (Similarly, even though Bush’s freedom agenda had been a fundamental element of Iraq’s liberation from the start, the antiwar crowd managed to paint that as an insincere ad-hoc cause once no WMD programs were found.) Was the administration correct in downplaying the chemical weapons? It’s hard to say. With so much else going wrong in Iraq at the time, boasting about this one issue would probably not have played well. But this was no “covered-up” mistake; it was a quiet achievement.

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NY Times Partially Vindicates Bush on WMD

The New York Times has just published a story by C.J. Chivers that makes some explosive claims about chemical weapons found in Iraq between 2004 and 2011. It’s a complicated article that sets out to do several things:   Read More

The New York Times has just published a story by C.J. Chivers that makes some explosive claims about chemical weapons found in Iraq between 2004 and 2011. It’s a complicated article that sets out to do several things:  

1. reveal that “American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs” in Iraq during this period;

2. document the six American injuries that resulted from dealing with these weapons;

3. make the case that because these were “old chemical munitions,”  and not new ones, they reveal the pre-war intelligence failures and false claims of the George W. Bush administration;

4. expose a Bush administration cover-up that led to the mishandling of found weapons and to insufficient care for the American troops exposed.

What to make of all this? First, the report neither broadly vindicates nor broadly refutes Bush’s WMD arguments for invading Iraq. Yes, many of Saddam Hussein’s old undeclared chemical weapons were found (as has been public knowledge for about a decade). No, the U.S. did not uncover active WMD programs (which has also been squarely acknowledged throughout this period).

The article does, however, vindicate some administration claims. Chivers goes bizarrely wrong in writing, “The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.” In truth, Saddam’s old chemical weapons were always cited as a danger in the run-up to the war. Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 UN speech making the case against Saddam is explicit on this point. Powell said:

If we consider just one category of missing weaponry–6,500 bombs from the Iran-Iraq war–UNMOVIC says the amount of chemical agent in them would be in the order of 1,000 tons. These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for. Dr. [Hans] Blix has quipped that, quote, ‘Mustard gas is not (inaudible) You are supposed to know what you did with it.’ We believe Saddam Hussein knows what he did with it, and he has not come clean with the international community. We have evidence these weapons existed. What we don’t have is evidence from Iraq that they have been destroyed or where they are. That is what we are still waiting for.

The Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988. Colin Powell was obviously talking about the danger of old weapons.

What Chivers fails to relay is that it was the antiwar side of the debate that downplayed Saddam’s old weapons as any kind of problem. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, one of the most outspoken anti-invasion voices at the time, had said, “Even if Iraq had somehow managed to hide this vast number of [chemical] weapons from inspectors, what they are now storing is nothing more than useless, harmless goo.” In the years immediately following the invasion, antiwar figures and media outlets continued to dismiss found chemical weapons as pathetic war trophies.

This makes it hard to credit Chivers’s claim of the Bush administration’s embarrassment. The 5,000 undeclared chemical weapons constitute one of the administration’s few intelligence victories in Iraq. Why, then, the secrecy? Perhaps because Iraq was a leaderless country swarming with jihadists and roiled by civil war, and advertising the amounts and whereabouts of chemical weapons would have made things much worse.

As for the injured Americans, they are first owed our bottomless gratitude. If there is reason to believe that they were unnecessarily exposed to chemical agents or insufficiently treated for that exposure, there should be an investigation and, if necessary, restitution. But six non-fatal injuries in the course of handling 5,000 chemical weapons doesn’t immediately strike me as evidence of gross leadership incompetence.

Here’s what does: Barack Obama withdrew all American troops from Iraq knowing that degraded but dangerous chemical weapons would be left behind. If recent reports are accurate, ISIS has stumbled upon them. Yet Obama’s name appears nowhere in the 10,000-word article.

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